Ferrero Rocher

For a number of years I’ve sung with a group called Sounds Familiar. About twelve of us regularly sing at residential care homes and day centres, aiming to bring greater enjoyment to the lives of those perhaps less fortunate than ourselves. As the name suggests our songs, from the 30s to the 60s, hopefully sound familiar and people can easily join in if they wish. We love singing and it’s great seeing our passion shared by the people we sing for, either by singing along or just tapping their feet.

We’ve never charged to sing, but any donations we’re offered go to the local Alzheimer’s Association – so far we’ve raised about £3,000.

Occasionally I adapt the lyrics of a well-known song to offer a more entertaining performance both for audiences and ourselves. For the month of December we switch to our Christmas repertoire of traditional songs and carols, and for Christmas 2015 I adapted the words of We Wish You a Merry Christmas to depict what a typical Christmas Day might be like! Entitled Ferrero Rocher, the following lyrics were well received, though because of its mildly rude connotation we only included the ‘Aunty’ verse in settings where we knew it would be appreciated!

You are welcome to use these lyrics in your own performances, in which case it would be nice please if you’d mention my name and website.


Ferrero Rocher  

(To the tune of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’)

 Your poor tree has started flopping

The needles already dropping

The light lead is in a tangle

And a bulb doesn’t work


(Chorus)    Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


A scarf knitted by your grandma

A book that you never asked for

Some socks that you’ll never wear, and

The gloves are too tight


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


Cheap crackers that won’t ignite, pa-per

Hats always very tight, cor-ny

Jokes only make you sigh, and

A small plastic frog


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


The table is fully loaded

You eat till you’ve all exploded

There’s no money in the pudding

And you have to wash up


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


The Queen’s message now of course is

Just before Only Fools and Horses

And a fire starting in East Enders

Brings festive good cheer


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher


Your aunty is soon departing

Spent hours on the sofa far … (tiny pause)

Too much food, and it won’t be long till

You can all go to bed


Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher



 tune)         And wherever you are

Both near and afar

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year



Copyright © Paul Costello November 2015






Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8


Bad Boy

I sometimes get asked whether there’s anything I’d change about my life if I could live it again.This is hard. Apart from the problem of analysing five decades of adult life on the spur of the moment, my response would depend on who’s asking the question and why.

The last person to ask (between mouthfuls of home-made steak and kidney pie, and completely out of the blue) was my 94 year old mum. Earlier I’d asked how often she thought of dad who’d died eight years before. She’d replied, ‘Every day,’ and seemed glad to talk about him for a while. Perhaps, buoyed by this, she’d felt confident to ask me something equally personal. Or maybe she’d realised that even though I’m still ‘her boy’, at 67 I too have a life story to tap into. Anyway, feeling as unprepared as ever and not wishing to offend someone so key to my upbringing, I bumbled a suitable response.

She then gave her own answer to the question by hinting at my behaviour as an angry late-teen fifty years earlier. Perhaps this had been nagging her ever since – one of life’s blemishes she wanted to clear up. To prevent the steak and kidney pie from getting cold, I found it easiest to (rather belatedly) acknowledge any former wrongdoing whilst insisting that my happiness today was the sum total of all experiences, good and bad, throughout life.

There really is very little I would change. In each phase I’ve risen (or fallen) to the opportunities presented, and not looked back. I wasn’t disappointed at being expelled from school (and nearly from home), and I liked my early jobs in bars and bakeries, farms and fisheries. For the first time I had money, new friends and a sense of independence – just what I needed at the time. And later, when I decided to go to university, I wasn’t worried about getting a particular grade or not knowing what I wanted to do afterwards or why I’d chosen economics in the first place. More than anything I was, and still am, stimulated by travel – building a picture of what’s ‘out there’ and revelling in the unpredictable situations travel gives rise to. When at one stage I felt the need to ‘belong’ to an organisation, I happily drifted into paper-pushing in high-rise blocks. And at 40 I did the best thing of all – setting up and running a successful Bed and Breakfast in Shropshire, greeting and pleasing hundreds of lovely visitors and becoming my own boss.

Other than to work for myself, I had no career goals or vocation. I certainly wasn’t cunning or conforming enough to be a corporate success and would ultimately have hated myself for becoming like some of the people I shunned. A steadier path would no doubt have pleased my parents, whose perceived straightness I vehemently rejected in my youth. I’m now accepting of this as having come from a military-minded father himself raised in Victorian ways, and at least it created a secure environment from which I could express myself and prepare for the independence I craved. We each find our own way, and I’m happy with the route I chose.

Nor would I have changed much about my personal life. Two marriages and a number of other serious relationships, interspersed with extended periods alone, were all good in their time. Even my unhappiest live-in relationship served to convince me that I preferred living by myself – for as long as I can remember I’ve been content in my own company. And I feel privileged, following an early adulthood during which I professed a desire for anything but a family, to have landed up with such a lovely daughter.

I’ve often wished that, as a younger adult discovering sex and sexuality and finding my place in life, I’d already had the knowledge and self-assurance that only came later. I might have offered greater respect to certain people and sought fairer treatment from others. But it’s chicken and egg. Without the maturing effect of exploration, learning from each success and failure – each delightful do and disappointing don’t – I might not feel so at ease with life now.

Bad Boy 1966

Bad Boy 1966

But if only I could eradicate some specific incidents from that fraught period of 16 to 18 …

Bad things I did – which really don’t matter now except that they’re a blot, like a tiny chip on a valuable old vase. Mum had alluded only to my general teenage behaviour, but these other ‘things’ are for me alone to know – and be haunted by.

Of course, if someone plied me with copious amounts of alcohol, fine cuisine and other favours, I might spill.

Or am I being bad suggesting this?

Copyright © Paul Costello October 2015

Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Chance Encounters

What’s the chance of meeting someone you know in a random location miles from home? Well, the odds might be surprisingly high. A couple of Saturdays ago I had my fourth such experience in recent years.

Tessa and I were in The Albert, a busy gastro-pub in Llandudno, on the first night of a short break. The menu looked promising and with real ales called Try Time and Scrum Down we were all set to watch England v Wales rugby on the big screen. As I headed to the bar a figure stepped in front of me and said,

‘Hello Paul, how are you?’

I recognised him immediately as the former manager of Boscobel House, an English Heritage site near Telford where I’d worked as gardener. Peter had lived in staff accommodation at Boscobel although his home was in Lincoln. We’d got to know each other well, but since our relationship had never extended beyond work we hadn’t stayed in touch after he left.

In the 60s Peter had been drummer in a band playing covers in dance halls across the UK. Periodically he’d pull out a set of drumsticks and perform elaborate rhythms on the oak counter of Boscobel’s reception. It was still in his blood. And only he knew the tune he was tapping along to. Before he retired from English Heritage he insisted on tailor-making me a CD from his enormous vinyl collection – Helen Shapiro, Bobby Vee and the like, plus a bonus track by his own band. His wife told us that even now he played the kitchen work surface at home.  Strangely, Peter looks a lot like the Shadows drummer Brian Bennett. Maybe he missed his true vocation.

Tessa and I had travelled the 150 miles from Ledbury to Llandudno and Peter and his wife the 170 miles from Lincoln on the same weekend. Of the many restaurants in Llandudno, we’d chosen to eat in the same pub on the same night at the same time, having not seen each other for eight years.

On another occasion, around the time Peter left Boscobel, I’d experienced a similar chance encounter on a week’s holiday with my brother in Goa . As we tucked into a spicy Indian lunch on our first day, a voice called from a table across the small dining area,

‘Hello Paul, what are you doing here?’

Geoff and Colleen had been neighbours and good friends for seventeen years, although I’d not seen them for three years since I left the B&B I’d run near Shrewsbury. They’d retired from farming a few years before I left and visited warmer climes whenever they could. Goa is 6,600 miles from Shrewsbury and has a holiday season of eight months – between monsoons. There are many resorts in Goa and hotel growth had proliferated over the previous ten years. What therefore were the chances of our staying in the same hotel at the same time? We only got together once or twice during our stay, but the conversation was rich with nostalgia and gossip – as if I’d never moved away.

A third coincidence took place one summer a few years ago on a family coach outing to Sidmouth with Ledbury Community Choir. Late afternoon, as the sun came out after a violent thunderstorm, my teenage daughter and I made our way towards a teashop in the town’s colourful clifftop garden. Coming through an archway a man stepped across my path and said,

‘Look who it isn’t!’

Chris had been stage manager for a Malvern Theatre group with whom I’d performed a few years earlier. During the three months of rehearsal and performance we’d become well acquainted. Now we’d met again, randomly, under a stone arch in the small garden of a seaside resort 130 miles from home.

In an even more bizarre happenstance in the late noughties, en route from Ledbury to visit my mother in Brighton, I was scanning the departure board on the packed concourse of London Victoria railway station when a voice next to me said,

‘Fancy seeing you here!’

It had been five years since my acrimonious parting with a Shrewsbury girlfriend and there’d been no contact since. Luckily, after an awkward three-minute exchange the lady had to dash for an imminent train to West Sussex where she now lived.

But it didn’t end there. Having initially earmarked her train for my trip, I abandoned the idea in favour of a train leaving ten minutes later. With great relief I settled in a carriage halfway along my twelve-coach train. Glancing, as you do, into the window of a train on the adjacent platform (delayed, as it turned out) I was shocked to see her sitting opposite! She hadn’t spotted me so I ducked below window level and waddled to another seat – a precious snippet for Southern Rail CCTV.

Her journey was 220 miles to Sussex from Shrewsbury where she’d been visiting friends. Mine was 170 miles. We’d crossed Victoria at exactly the same time. There was no evidence that I’d been stalked, though for a while I chose that interpretation. It was simply a preposterous (double) coincidence.

That episode aside, I find these chance meetings reassuring. Past friends and acquaintances never seem totally lost, and compared with dreams or déja vu the experience is at least tangible, albeit fleeting. I now keep a lookout on the off chance that an old friend is on the same plane or is sitting a few rows down watching the same West End matinée.

Perhaps like-minded people with similar backgrounds tread common social paths, making the chances of meeting greater than we think. In any case, despite a world surface of 510 million square kilometres and more than 525 thousand minutes in a year it’s bound to happen sometime!

So cheerio for now. I’m sure we’ll meet again. Don’t know where, don’t know when.


Copyright © Paul Costello October 2015

Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Battered Hat

Giant stacks of crisp new hats
Beg to be rescued from endless racks
Of dreary seaside tack.
 Porkpies and trilbies,
Leather fedoras,
And Wimbledon’s uniform –
Pure-white straw hats.


Too bad, I say back.
I was once pristine,
But now I’m battered,
A concertina
With history and charisma,
And you can’t beat that!
He’s taken me places that you still dream of –
Australia, Malta,
Hyde Park, Gibraltar,
Gatwick and Catterick.
In fact, any place
Where the sun puts on its flame-throwing act.
Squeezed in the rack on train and plane,
Scrunched in his rucksack when it starts to rain,
Or is plain cloudy.
I gladly soak up Factor 30 each day,
And Vanish to take the stains away.
It’s all in a day to be blasted with sand on breezy beaches,
Blown into puddles on platforms or pavements.
And I always spring back!
My straw is rotting and starting to snap,
My weave is fraying, my rim is splaying,
But I can’t be discarded, I’m not finished yet.
I’m him, he is me;
A battered hat,
A comfort blanket that won’t be sacked.


Copyright © Paul Costello August 2015

Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8


I wasn’t settled enough for BBC Springwatch or Dinner Date on ITV. A few Butty Bachs in the Talbot Inn had energised me like Duracells. I needed to keep going, and a pack of San Miguel was a good place to start.

The pub music still circles round my head – Sister Sledge, Donna Summer, Bee Gees. I know every word and note. Cue for a rare dip into my vinyl collection. CDs are easier, but tonight only vinyl will do. Not just the sound, but remembering when and where I acquired these wonderful 33s and 45s. And what mattered to me at the time – in life and love.

San Miguel to hand, I sift through alphabetical LPs in the black trunk which serves as a side table. 70s/80s disco perhaps – carrying on where the pub left off. Sister Sledge – ‘Music Makes Me Feel Good’ – great track! Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing and Saturday Night Fever. And Real People by Chic, a 1980 album whose sleeve sports a young guitarist Nile Rodgers, dazzling us still on Daft Punk’s 2014 hit Get Lucky.

I swig beer and sway to the beat, wildly, like ‘Dad at the Wedding’. Tweaking the volume to 23, I recall people I shared these sounds with way back, wondering which of today’s friends might enjoy them. Julie and Dave are always singing. And Carol – she knows the words to every tune written. I could invite them round to reminisce. Eight or ten people perhaps – dinner and nostalgia! Tim and Cathy – they’re fun! Me and Tessa of course, and Michael – he’d be up for it. Oh, and the Johnsons. I make a note of the ideal ten!

Four Tops Greatest Hits is next. I open another can, party plans and San Miguel in full flow. I’ll do that crabby/prawny starter with spicy mayonnaise; they’ll love that. And a chilli con carne with veg chilli option. Basmati rice and toasted pitta. And my prize-winning Lemon and Orange Cheesecake!

Four Tops have finished ‘reaching out’, so time for 45s. My singles, skimpy paper sleeves long perished, are protected between the glossy pages of old ‘Personnel Management’ magazines. You can tell how old they are – it’s been called ‘Human Resources’ for decades. The collection has moved home about twenty times, in a battered Mackenzie Whisky box.

I discover Michael Jackson, some early Stones and Beatles, and Barry White’s Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe for which I nudge the volume to 27. Retro! Perfect party music! Trouble is the tracks only last a few minutes. Part of their charm, but it does tie you to the turntable. I’m lucky my 1980s music centre has a turntable; an added party novelty! Shame there’s no drop-down feature where you stack a dozen singles and they fall in turn, like my first record player – a Bush.

I fetch a new beer. As I swig and jig madly on the red rug dance area I remember Don and Jenny. Of course they must come too. And the Wilsons, and Frank and June. That’s sixteen. Perhaps a buffet would be better; food in the kitchen and dancing in the living room. A soirée. I could ask all the neighbours – that’s another  fourteen. And people at choir. And the man who runs the garage opposite – he’s friendly. And people I once worked with – a sort of reunion. I slurp excitedly. And the folk at Ledbury in Bloom, and the Canal Trust in Worcester. And my friends in Sussex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Scotland and London. And my brother in Haywards Heath, and all my nephews and nieces. I could put them up. They’d love to come!

Vying with max volume 31, I shout along to Marvin Gaye’s Heard It Through The Grapevine, which like the other singles takes me back to a particular time and place – when life was perfect. Pausing only for liquid refreshment, and a frequent change of 45s, I keep adding to the list. I’m up to seventy-five, but assuming a third can’t make it that’d leave fiftyish – just right!

A last San Miguel. Batteries are running down. Finish planning tomorrow. Perhaps a spam sandwich before I crash out. I eventually hear the front door bell on repeat. The lady next door in off-white dressing gown.

‘Hello,’ I say, keen to reinforce my newfound neighbourliness.

‘Can you please turn it down?’ she says, doing a switching hand movement while mouthing the words. I bid her goodnight with reciprocal sign language and turn the music down. It’s not even ten – bit early to complain? Perhaps I’ll knock her off the list.

Next morning, after a gallon of tea, I fire up the laptop. Nearby I see a list of names. A few look familiar, most are like doctor’s writing – impossible to decipher. Who are these people?

My eye is drawn towards a browning paper note taped to the laptop lid.

“No texts, emails, Facebook or any communications late at night!”

With trepidation, I go into Outlook and check my ‘sent’ folder. Phew, nothing for two days! I slip the list into the recycling along with loads of empty cans – leftovers from a terrific party.

Paul Costello Copyright © July 2015

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 Paul Costello – Writer       Website:       Twitter: @PaulCostello8




When She’s 94

In A Last Banana I reflected on my feelings when Dad died. Too often it’s only after such loss that we feel able to express our emotions – when, perhaps, it seems safe and normal to do so. So this New Year I write a living tribute to my Mum, alone seven years aged ninety-four …

… whose brilliant smile welcomes me in when we’ve not met a while. Who in all sorts of weather sets pots of pink fuchsias and waves of white heather. Who daily ticks the Guardian Quick. Who knows all the scores – Wimbledon, Old Trafford and Lords – and still bowls a winning wood indoors. Who correctly predicts the winner of Strictly, and “did all those dances with Dad in the fifties”. Whose diary is filled with visits and trips. Whose faithful old heart is put to the test, just like her bus pass getting no rest. Who stumbles and falls, yet hauls herself up, with a thin-blooded bruise. Who sings all the hymns on Songs of Praise and polished pews. Whose spirit nourishes the branches beneath her. Whose Thursday perm rests on my chest when she squeezes goodbye with a hug so strong it lasts long beyond my departing.


Copyright © Paul Costello  January 2015

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. A hilarious Bed and Breakfast memoir set in deepest Shropshire. Order through bookshops or direct from

Website:                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Out of my Way! I’m Old!

Like a hatching chickI break out from my curled-up comfort. My head emerges first, before I unfurl my back, straighten limbs and tumble from the protective duvet. Like a dishevelled fledgling, I then take the first tentative steps.

There the likeness collapses. The baby bird will soon be hopping its Duracell way through the day, whereas I tackle my tottering with a line of tabs, each colour shoring up a different part of the body.

It’s a wonder

I ever come out of

the foetal position.

I sleep eight to ten hours a night, topped up with daytime naps. Friends worry; they think I should see a doctor. Some suggest it’s a waste of life. But this can’t be true if it’s something I really like doing. I’ve enjoyed this amount of sleep since I was a lad. I mean ENJOYED! I love the act of falling asleep – a surgeon’s ideal patient!

I’ve always asserted that sleeping and what some see as ‘doing nothing’ are life’s entitlements. Sitting on a park bench people-watching, or just thinking and snoozing are stimulating and rewarding pastimes, as is daytime television. Legitimate and deliciously self-indulgent.

When I recently retired, the most annoying question was:

‘What will you do now?’

Oh, COME ON! Spare the cliché. Okay, when I’m not doing nothing I’m obviously going to sleep more! In fact my avowed aim is gradually to sleep a greater proportion of each twenty four hours so that by the time my body finally pegs out I probably won’t notice. Seriously, that is a crass question. Although many retirees don’t have a plan, it’s never long before their hectic life spawns the other cliché:

‘I don’t know where I found the time before.’

For me, retirement means more of what I love – exploring, writing, singing, drinking tea, going to the pub, seeing friends and yes, sleeping and doing nothing. Perhaps doing something charitable. Definitely having a nice run out on the bus (free) or train (third-off), knowing that on the train I can now gloat when I see sweaty executives slaving over tablets and laptops and taking and making numerous calls about  sustaining and maintaining and finding a window, being needlessly noisy about bottom-line prices and blue-sky b****y thinking.

A friend of mine approaching 60 says he’ll never retire – loves his work too much. His wife who is retired is as driven as him. I get exhausted watching them overstretch themselves, and wonder if they’re really fulfilled. But that is no more my business than it is for others to comment on my idleness. Everyone is different. This is not a blueprint for retirement or growing old; it’s simply my take on it.

Being idle is great!

Every day, as I squeeze out of my foetal wrap, I think:

‘What shall I do today?’

Starting with:

‘When shall I get up?’

And later, in my dressing gown:

‘Is it worth getting dressed now that it’s dark?’

Such luxury! I’ve spent forty-five years earning my modest pensions, thirty as an employed slave, fifteen grafting for myself. I now have freedom to decide.

I shall do anything and nothing.

Because I can.

Given that I’m into the last third of my life, I have thirty or so years still to indulge this passion for freedom – that’s assuming I don’t go early. I’ve never been afraid of dying. Que sera, sera. Okay, I might have ideas about good or bad ways of going, but since it’s a hundred percent certain that I will, I’ve never felt inclined to spend my waking life worrying about it. That’s for others to do, and I offer you my condolences in advance – you’re all fab, and do sell this article to fund the celebrations! Hey, I really am a surgeon’s best friend – I not only love going to sleep, but if I happen to die on him it’s no great shakes! Perhaps I should make that clear on the disclaimer. What a way to go – gently into eternal sleep.

I doubt I’ll age with dignity.

My dad did, bless him. To his dying day he was the cee aitch in charm. Yet he wasn’t beyond a trick or two. I remember him saying how, when he wanted to cross the road, he’d wave his walking stick (which was for comfort not necessity) high in the air, and the traffic would grind to a halt with drivers acknowledging his oh so innocent smile.

My mum, mid-90s, is more ‘say it as you see it’. I heard somewhere that the first brain cells to die are those that help you respect social norms. Inhibitor cells, perhaps? Without these, in a room full of pink-haired people you’re allowed angrily to declare:

‘I don’t like pink hair!’

Or in a TV lounge, yell:

‘Why are all the Arsenal players black?’

What a great excuse! No-one can possibly take offence.

‘It’s just my inhibitor cells!’

If you can’t speak your mind at that age, when can you? See it as alternative humour; there’s far more offensive material on the comedy circuit.

I have these joys to come.

I too shall raise a stick to traffic. I too shall greet people with, ‘How lovely to see you again’, even though I can’t remember who the hell they are. I too shall berate the lawn man who doesn’t trim my edges neatly. And I too shall growl, ‘Out of my way!’ to innocent pedestrians as I mow them down on my mobility scooter before freewheeling home down the centre of the road with my legs in the air.

I shall say ‘pah’ to Michael Parkinson for asking me to fork out my funeral expenses up front when people could perfectly well club together after I’ve gone. ‘Yah boo’ to the stooges on McCarthy and Stone hoardings who promise ‘A Greater Life in Later Life’ if you buy one of their apartments. (Yeah right). ‘Grrr’ to Saga Magazine for overusing both Angela Rippon’s smile and the term ‘Golden Years’. And I shall yawn openly at bronzed elderlies who mechanically recite their tick list – Australia, New Zealand, Tibet, Argentina, Brazil, China and Borneo ‘done’ so far – or bang on about Glucosamine Sulphate and Condroitin, or have dinner at exactly 6.30 every day and lunch at 12.

Each day I shall decide what I’d like to do. If anything. Because I can. For the next thirty years I’ll feel as free as that young chick – as I slowly shrink, and stoop, and bend, back towards the foetal position where it all began.

Copyright © Paul Costello May 2014

Related blogs:  A Last BananaThe Commandments for Older People – Thou shalt …Warfarin Junkie;  Programme Notes from Les Miserables.

Related material: Chapter titled: Caught Napping, in my Bed and Breakfast memoir Utterly Undiscovered.

Latest Project:  Terms and Conditions Apply – a play by Paul Costello. A sharp-witted comedy about a 5-year coalition government, seen through the eyes of ordinary, suburban households and, in stark contrast, the rose-tinted spectacles of politicians. Director Bob Maynard. Ledbury Market Theatre 31st July to 2nd August.


Note:  Any promotional material that appears below this article has been placed independently and is unrelated. I have no views on its content.