Monday, 29 December 2008


Well, it would be wouldn't it? On December 29th, one's thoughts may well turn to resolutions. But I do know I am not the only one to decide that the only reliable resolution is not to make resolutions. However, that, by now, is so unoriginal that I am rising to the challenge and making some that will stand, anyway,a bit of a chance of being kept.

The first and most far-reaching is to kick in to touch the concept of 'for now'. It will do 'for now' I say as I push another jumper in to the drawer without folding it properly and without stacking it, colour-related, on top of its cousins. Throwing things in to the bottom of the wardrobe because you "haven't time" to find another hanger and hang it up and it will do 'for now' is another from-now-on no-no. The fridge is another trap for the procrastinator. A milk bottle is clearly at risk of falling over in the too tight space in the door, but it will do 'for'now'. Of course it won't as you find out when you open the door and it falls in to your arms.
Milk, blood and rice are the very Devil to clean up don't you find?
The other day, I made up my face without much care, thinking, as you have guessed, "that'll do for now" and was invited out to lunch, spontaneously, no time for repairs, by people I would rather have had a proper face on for.

On reflection, many examples do seem to be to do with tidiness and keeping house. I rather like those domestic things and really, truly, definitely I am making a resolution to put things away where they should go and not dump them in a pile, however tidily, just for now. In the melee, fracas, bedlam, whatever word you think would best fit to describe Christmas with many - actually, several - people in a small house, it is certainly a test of one's taste for housework: the' for-now' principal was a very tempting quick-fix. However,as we speak, I can't find anything that I put somewhere "just for now". I have lost two DVDs and a leather notebook embossed with "Profound Thoughts". My hope is that they were muddled up with gifts the visitors took away with them and they will re-surface in due course. Since the visitors do not hail from the UK the things may not re-surface until next Christmas. Oh well, resolution number two, more acceptance, more tolerance.

I think I have spent far too much of the last 75 years trying to put things right, or righter, and/or fretting when I couldn't. That will be the 40year old, who still has that kind of energy and evangelism. I am resolved not to wear myself out trying to replace a broken glass with an identical one. I will tolerate five of one sort and one of another on my table. I am blessed with household help and I have decided to put up with the fact that light bulbs are never dusted or, better still, hoist myself up and dust them myself. What will it matter in the longer scheme of things? The concept of 'Good Enough' is one that I have lived and worked with for what seems like forever, but, suddenly I see that there is a tension between that and the 'for now' syndrome. How can I reconcile giving up 'for now' with 'Good Enough'? I know: 'for now' simply isn't usually good enough. 'For now' is a postponement of best effort; 'good enough' is acceptance of having given ones best effort. Whew: that's a relief .

Last one, anyway for to-day: I am resolved to be more tolerant of other people's life choices. If a dear friend chooses to ally herself to a person some of whose properties I can't, personally appreciate, it is up to me to behave as if I do appreciate them. I do have a much too finely honed insight in to what people are like and what they may prefer not to have me know about them. It is a very uncomfortable trait I'd rather be without. Someone once likened it to being a painter who sees twelve shades of green in a leaf, where I would see only one, but, although it can be maddening for me, I can see twelve 'beneath the surface characterisitics' where I would much rather see only what I was expected to see. That doesn't give me licence to react to the bits under the surface rather than to the public presentation. Ok, OK: I can hear you: I am resolved to improve my manners. That's all that that comes down to. There you are. See you soon.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Homesickness 2

It came to me the other day that homesickness can take rather different forms, even rather sneaky forms. The day came when I was off to hear "Les Contes d'Hoffman" which, you may remember, is the last opera at the Opera House for which I shall have to pay full price, being eligible for a 50% reduction with my disabled parking eligibility. Well, who should be there but he-to-whom-I-am-er-married, with his other arrangements. They were sitting in the same curved block, over to one side and, of course, a pound or ten further forward. It was only too easy to see them, to observe them, though I don't think they had seen me. In fact, moving through the crowded foyer before the performance, the arrangement had actually physically knocked in to me. She clearly didn't notice, being intent on getting wherever they were going, because she didn't look the type who would not have apologised for bumping in to an old lady with a stick, even in a crowd of the more-than-middle-aged, which, sadly, one does find preponderant at the Opera House these days. Himself hadn't noticed me neither so it remained my little secret.

Anyway, there I was, able to observe and assess. I found myself wishing I had not forgotten my opera glasses. ( Actually, truth to tell, I don't use them very often because when you wear glasses all the time, it is a bit of a nuisance to take them off or put them on top of your head in order to accommodate the binoculars, so it is quite easy to come out without them.) But, on reflection, I don't think there would, necessarily, have been any advantage in seeing them through a lens brightly; the distance was good enough. Interestingly, I found I was not primarily watching the lady. What surprised me was my reaction to Himself. He took off his glasses - he was always a glasses wearer - and puffed on them to clean them, taking his hankie from his breast pocket to finish the job. This was something I must have seen him do three million and forty five times when we were together and I was taken by surprise at the wrench it gave my little heart. There he was, exactly the same, but acutely different, if you see what I mean. Why hadn't I registered that he and his way of being in the world would be with him no matter who was sitting beside him? They shared a programme, another feature I, and others, had often teased him for: he would always buy only one programme. Still, we all have our meanesses and that was one of his.

There were two intervals and I was careful about where and when I moved about, feeling I would rather watch and imagine than be introduced and face the reality. But she looked nice enough, unexceptional, dressed appropriately - his appropriate - with pearls just like the first gift he ever gave me. I found I wanted to find fault with her; she was plain, she was badly dressed she didn't look very bright, and so on and so on; all of which would have been difficult to see, really, with or without opera glasses. However, it came to me that it didn't really matter. She was loved and enjoyed and was sharing the life which was very familiar to me and it was that which was causing the homesickness for what might have been, had he and I been more nearly in tune. It was not, simplictically, the man with whom I had shared all those decades of married life whom I was missing .( In any case, from the anecdotes he, himself, tells me he is a very different 'husband' to her at this stage of his life from the one he was to me.) But what I was missing and, indeed, envying, was the sharing of the life I knew so well, missing, perhaps, (and you can miss what you have never had) how he is now, retired, less busy and making things work tenderly and with care.

I remember when I was first on my own and would find myself in a restaurant or other public place, I would look around me and, perhaps, see a woman in a dress so ghastly I couldn't even picture the kind of shop where such dress might be bought. I'd criticise and analyse her and feel superior in my nicely-turned-out self. Then my inner voice, seeing her turned in to her companion, laughing, smiling, would challenge my right to judge her, when she was not eating alone and was well and at ease in her 'ghastly' clothes. Salutory, wouldn't you say?

On a lighter note: if you are in the UK to-day you will know that it is currently very cold, wet and drearyissimo. This morning, I found myself carrying my clothes in to the bathroom to dress under the wall-heater. So what's new? 65 years ago in the winter I would dress under the bed-clothes or run down to the living room coal fire and dress in front of that. That would make me 75 going on 10, would'nt it?

Friday, 5 December 2008


This follows quite naturally from the last post: if you suffer from rejection you are very likely to suffer from homesickness, too. What and where is home? Well, we've been told often enough that home is where the heart is. But the heart can feel at home in a particular physical place at one time and not at another. When you were little you will have felt at home at your Gran's when she was soft and cuddly and had made Welsh Cakes for you and not at all at home when you had been left there - without your permission - when your Mum and Dad had gone away and there were strange night noises and nothing smelt like it did in your own house. You may well have felt at home in your own house until, again unasked, someone provided you with a little brother or sister who, as of right, took over your Mother's lap, your Father's shoulders and was even forgiven for pulling the cat's tail.

Someone I know well is aware of the capacity to feel at home in the South African veldt while missing his feeling of at-homeness on an island in Scotland, walking on Welsh cliffs, and with certain people no matter where he and they may be. I think I know about the at-homeness with people. I think of the people with whom I feel at home as those with whom I feel entirely myself, no adapting, no modifying, no awareness of self, simply being. Unexpectedly,( for me, that is), I feel very much myself in the context of this blog; I feel at home in it. My heart is in it so home is where etc etc. I don't feel entirely at home on the computer, though. That, as you have guessed, is because of the wizard of Cyberspace. I know he is there, waiting to gobble up my thoughts, or, anyway, my words, the moment I have put them down. I have learned one or two tricks to grab them back before he has gone too far but there is no way I am going to tell you about them because he will prempt those, too. (To prove the point, I first wrote the first 'c' in 'Cyberspace' lower case and was so afraid of retribution I couldn''nt get back fast enough to change it.)

I am really afraid of stuff you have to click on, or, even, not click on, simply do nothing : afraid I will wipe out the entire memory on this thing. It's not helped by my Guru whose repeated "you must have done SOMETHING", I have told you about before. As I said, and keep saying, I have done NOTHING, never. The words are simply not there anymore. How to reconcile my feeling of being at home while writing with my fear of the medium? Perhaps it is symbolic. Maybe one has to fear the medium in which one finds one's heart in case it has the power to wipe the feeling out, to carry it away in to the inner -world equivalent of Cyberspace. Anyway, maybe we have to qualify "home is where the heart is " to "home is where the heart feels safe".

Sometimes, my heart doesnt feel safe out there in the commercial world. My 40 year old self watches my current self opening her purse, searching for money, closing it, pushing it back in to my bag, with horror. It takes FOREVER. That will be the physical stiffness, you see. I am occasionally driven to apologising to the trader or the queue, recognising that I had no patience with people like me when I was not a person like me. (See stationary escaltors and stairs to Ladies' loos in previous posts.)

That's enough tempting fate - and the Wizard. See you soon.

Sunday, 30 November 2008


I have had to read through all the blogs to be sure but, to my surprise, I don't seem yet, to have written anything about rejection. It ranks up there with homesickness as one of the most painful of inner world conditions. (Illnesses may be a better word to describe their effect). People do suffer in varying degrees, no doubt, but it would be very hard to find someone who, hand on heart, could say they had never felt its force.

I confess I have it in spades: well you would, wouldn't you given my marital history and too many other nonsenses to bore you with. One of its manifestations for me is a ridiculously heightened awareness of where it may occur. For Heaven's sake, I have even been known to put in to my shopping basket a battered old grapefruit I had picked up before noticing it was clearly past its sell-by date. I couldn't bear the thought of the pain it would feel if I put it back amongst its healthier brothers and sisters. Actually, I don't do that with bananas. I eat bananas out of a sense of what's good for me and if they are squidgy and over-ripe I can't begin to get them down. Mind you, the state of a banana is much more obviously assessable than that of a fruit that doesn't have a front and back.

For years I went to a dentist who was rather far from efficient. It was many more years before I could bring myself to make other arrangements. That had to be taking the notion that he may not feel lovable enough, of being rejected, just a touch too far, don't you think? A friend with a new(ish) boy friend was telling me how easy he was to get on with, going along with just about anything. This matters because we shall spend time together over the Christmas period. The one thing he couldn't tolerate, she explained, was what she called being left out. I should explain that he is living and working in a country other than his own and doesn't speak the language. She took him to a party where nothing but the native language was spoken and he just freaked out. She was annoyed with herself for not being more observant, assuming he was just thinking his own thoughts quietly in the corner. He wasn't. He was in the corner quietly being seriously pissed off. I have had this experience myself. Actually, now I think of it, it is a doubly poisonous situation combining homesickness and rejection in the one catastrophe: a country whose tongue is closed to you and isolation within the group. Talk about Muggle. During one of the worst cases for me I had to resort to making a call on my mobile phone, tough for someone with a touch of meanness, across several countries and a bit of sea just to hear the voice of a loved-one speaking English; ironic, given his English accent is a combination of Slovak and Irish, but you know what I mean. At that moment he represented the known and the loving: the including.

My friend's fella knew that, in principle, he was with her, part of a mutual agreement, as it were, that they were an item. It didn't make any difference. He suffered. What his - and my - predicament owed to previous life experience, this is not the place to explore. Oops, I think I meant earlier life experience, but who knows, perhaps my unconscious was right, perhaps we do have to deal with rejection inflicted on us in all our lives past. Pause for thought.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


Have you noticed the longer you stop doing something - jogging, pilates, dieting, not drinking, blogging - how hard it is to start again? Well then, you understand my predicament. Do you agree we say no more about it and get on with now and the fact that I am back? I am not at all sanguine that I haven't lost you all but I can only hope.

In the interim, life at 75goingon40 has been more of the same: some worse, some better. Sadly, I am no more accustomed to the dictates (I think I mean restraints) of my elderly body than I was when you last heard, but I have discovered a few more of the advantages. I have a Blue Badge, (makes parking easier for the disabled, if you not in the UK and are not familiar with such things). I found out yesterday, that I, therefore, qualify for 50% discount on some opera tickets! Imagine! Mind you, that doesn't make going to the opera cheaper, only more frequent. I found out while I was booking a ticket for one of my favourites, The Tales of Hoffman, but, of course, an application would take two weeks to process so I had to pay 100% for that one. I shall enjoy it, knowing I never have to pay that much again.

Talking about entertainment, there is a plan to go to a play about Edith Piaf. At my great age I have been able to decide that she is, in fact, my all-time favourite ballad singer, even above Neil Diamond and What'sisname Sinatra. I said to the proposer of this outing, a man about 40, I guess, "being so much older than you, I can say I have actually heard her in the flesh." "Oh really," he came back, with envy. "Did you see Evita?" This was a musical the lass playing Piaf had had great success in some years ago. "No," quoth I, "I mean your actual Edith Piaf, herself ". Oops, potential for red faces but all was well because I know how hard it is for the younger to imagine himself in to the life of the older, and he would know I could take it.

It may not surprise you, in regard to the opera, that the story of a man who falls in love with several women, each of whom represents a particular aspect of womanhood would fascinate me. It seems to me in real life that that works well for many men: Mother and Mistress, not always accommodatable in one woman. (shall I discuss how it works for women another time?). Anyway, that won't be for a few weeks and in the meantime, I am preparing for Christmas. It can be a logistic nightmare so I am making sure to do all possible in advance. Cat food, logs, cleaning materials, none of those goes off, nor does wine, of course, nor beer. All those can be dealt with, ordered or bought in now so that there is more time available for the last minute inevitable crisis.

You may be wondering why I called this blog Interventions. Well, I had intended to tell you some of the reasons why I have been gone so long. I may still, but not in this one because I have run out of blogging time, so, please, don't go away. My name is Liz. I am a recovering not- follower-through, so I need your support. (By the way, do take the recovering thing seriously)
See you soon.

Saturday, 13 September 2008


I owe you all an apology: I went away without saying I was going to and you may well have decided I had given up blogging. I haven't. I just hope you haven't all lost interest and moved on. My Guru will tell me how I can let you all know that I'm back. I seem to have had quite a few little trips since I started telling you what it was like to be a 40 year-old in a body that is 75. This last trip was a real holiday though, not specially to see a loved one or check on unsaleable flats. I have been on what the young call a road trip; touring would describe it for me. I have been touring through France ultimately making for a seaside resort to which I first went in 1963.

It was definitely one of the best holidays I have had; no airport hassle, no limit to liquids, no confiscated favourite nail scissors nor make-up remover, no standing in endless check-in queues, just sitting in a shortish line of other cars waiting to board an old-fashioned ferry with SOMEONE ELSE DRIVING. What could describe bliss better? Actually, someone close to me did describe motoring bliss as a full tank, empty bladder and you own choice of music on the C.D player. I am in very good accord with my recent driver, though, who tells me when we need petrol, is sympathetic about pit stops for the bladder, and whose choice of music is tolerable, considering he is only twenty- one. Anyway, we do have some favourites in common so between his, mine and ours there was lovely music for all of 2000 miles. (I don't really do kilometres so had to do some serious brushing up on my eight times table to convert to miles.)

We made three stops on the way south and three on the way back so were able to take advantage of minor roads as well as motor-ways, not being in a mad dash. I was remembering that, on one occasion in my other life, our family of five made five stops on the way to the sea and I was left with twenty-five pairs of dirty underwear to deal with when we got there. The following year I issued them all with disposable pants. There was outright rebellion and this is still just about the only thing they remember about their childhood summers and have never let me forget. I rather miss those days of "when-will-we-be-there? I-need-the loo. He/she keeps hitting me." But there are certainly compensations to grown-up touring.

The 40 year-old would have loved to explore some of the ancient places where we stopped much more thoroughly than the old lady had energy for. It is hard to get used to. In some ways I am turning in to a cliche: less capacity for on-foot exploration, a smaller appetite for delicious French food, a touch hard-of-hearing and, Dear Reader, 'D' shaped. If you have been following my posts, you may remember a scarlet swimsuit I treated myself to. Well, the truth is even that couldn't disguise the horrible reality that I no longer have a waist. I am the shape my daughters were when they were between, let's say, two and six. You must have noticed, life is circular; you start off with thin wispy hair, bandy legs and, for girls, anyway, no waist, and that's how you end up. Being careful how I move is hard, too. There is the fear of slipping. My inner voice and I are in constant conversation as she tries to stop me from the riskiest of my too young aspirations. This is all summed up in the spectacle of getting me in to the sea: a helping hand over the slippery slope of the first few feet and then - whoosh: plunge straight in as I always used to and strike out in a creditable free stroke. Only a handful, mind you, before the back rises in horror with the equivalent of " have you taken leave of your senses, woman ?" and I revert to a decorous side stroke. It was huge fun when the sea turned a bit rough and one could get away with playing in the waves. Hair? Oubliez les.

Anyway, I did have a memorably lovely time and will no doubt think of more to tell you another time. Do you know, I might even take a lap-top with me in future so that I don't have to stop the blog. I missed it. See you soon ( or l8tr, if that means more to you)

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


If you would really like to know how I have been filling the gap between this post and the last, I have been back to my apparently unsaleable little sea-side studio to see whether I can move things on by letting it or by changing agents. I don' t think letting will work. When all the expenses have been taken off the rent, including agent's fees, tax and things like service charges - plus VAT as the potential letting agent kept telling me - my financial gain would be minimal and my gain in hassle enormous. To start with, I can't even add the 17 and a half% VAT on to the figures she was quoting so how do I aspire to full-blown landlordship? The bath got through with an "unusual" but the bed which doubles as a settee, (so I can sleep with the sound of the sea in my ears, of course, although part of the overall space has been partitioned off as a bedroom) would have to go and be replaced with a real settee. Oh Dear! more hasselous by the second. Anyway, I don't think either of us was deceived by my "I'll think about it" response.Thinking about it would only underline the lack of fuel in my coping tank and she seemed to sense that, or else she had identified the source of my deathly pallor. Either way, we shook hands in a final kind of way.

Whatever happens to it, I am having to face up to relinquishing my toe-hold in my home parish.I had never seen myself as attached to it before now and the sophisticated part of me is slightly cynical about the wrench I am beginning to feel. People I have known all my life were there with their children and grandchildren, providing a continuity which keeps them forever in touch with our roots wherever they live for the rest of the time. I rather envy that. My own young are too busy and too far-ranging to spend time there and there are, as you will remember, no grand-young, anyway as yet. I don't think I feel 40 inside about this; this is a uniform feeling of both my ages....and a touch sentimental, too, so let us gloss over it and talk about other things.

Though, to be perfectly frank, there has not been as much contact with the inner 40 year-old in the few days I have been talking about. I felt every moment of 75 arriving after six hours in the car on a journey which should have taken three and a half. I felt I had no choice but to travel on a Saturday and August Saturdays, I'm told, are change-over days; people holiday from one Saturday to another, so Everyman, his wife, his little ones, his bicycle, his tent and his dog was on the road. The gantries were flashing 50 mph warnings. No problem: we were only doing 20 anyway,and that on a good stretch. ( I feel better having told you that. If I did'nt realise about Saturday change-over how could I hope to be a letting person?) New ways of coping have to be devised, not only because of age but also because of travelling alone. Four trips to the car with not very much rather than the one trip with lots that I would have managed in the past. (Confession: I did try to carry more but the time spent on picking up the things dribbled on to the path with what my Mother would have called 'a lazy man's load' was a shame-making waste and I am surprised I've told you. Leave a comment so I know you are not put-off.) Where are the strong young rugby players with nice bottoms I have relied on in the journeys of yesteryear? Oh yes: at the airport, of course. See you soon -ish.

PS The query over the title is because I am trying not to believe I am suffering from it.

Friday, 15 August 2008


The other evening, I watched a film made in 1953 when I was 20! It was "Roman Holiday". Now there was, indeed a link between then and now, even before I matured to 40. There was a link because I felt just the same as I remember feeling then: delighted, amused and moved, too. After all, this beautiful, richly endowed and other-worldly young Princess stole out of her gilded cage and spent 24 hours as an ordinary mortal, enjoying Rome. Except she was'nt quite as normal as I would have been in the circumstances because she had Gregory Peck to fall in love with - which, as it happens, I think I did every time I saw him on the screen. The girl, you may well know, was Audrey Hepburn and the film was billed as "introducing Audrey Hepburn". Not bad to be in an Oscar winning film on your very entry in to the business. Two things struck me this time around that would not have been relevant in 1953: she looked border-line anorectic. So thin there must have been deliberate decisions about whether to film her sideways or not. And, of course, there was no what you might call 'consummation' of the relationship which developed between the two characters who did, in all other ways, fall in love. These days, they would have shared a bed and its concomittant activities before you could say "censor". "Brief Encounter" is another such. I suppose that has been one of the more obvious indicators of the revolution in mores since my younger days.

I find myself wondering, however, if abstinence was what was actually practised in real life as it was in films. I think it certainly was to a much greater extent. Perhaps, it wasn't decided by a moral attitude, but by the nearly non-existence of reliable contraception. Anyway, the likelihood of a one-off romantic encounter, with both pairs of feet off the ground that is, being an earth-moving, life-changing experience is not to be relied on either, so, all in all, why not let's leave it either out or to the imagination: dot dot dot as in Victorian novels. Nothing original in any of these thoughts but I still enjoy the reflecting.

During the reflection, in thebackground I have been listening to extracts from "The marriage of Figaro", the bit where the Count asks the Countess to forgive him, (from trying to exercise his feudal rights to 'bed' her maid on the night before her marriage - the maid's to Figaro, that is: you may remember). She does. I do wonder whether anything has changed there. Is the pain of infidelity any different in the 18th Century, the 20th century or now. What do you think?

I can't understand why I have embarked on such a serious question as the changing mores in sexual - or any - behaviour when it is August and, if it were not for the Olympics and Russia and Georgia, the newspapers would be scratching round for material to amuse our holiday mood. I think I'd better leave it for now, particularly since I shall have to find time to clean the front of my pale grey trousers, covered by newsprint from resting said newspaper on my tummy as I lay reading it on the bed trying to avoid the Olympics and trying not to worry about THE FUTURE; scarcely worth it at my age, you will say.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Relating 1

Well, there you are. I am pleased to see you haven't disappeared while I have been visiting a loved one, at 34c in my scarlet swimming costume. He is there to work so we could not spend all that much time together. He joined me for breakfast on his day off announcing there were not many people he would be up for at 10 o'clock in the morning on his day off. There are not many people I would tolerate 34c for, on my day off or any other day come to that, so we agreed we were 'ad idem' in the fondness stakes, though, I suspect , secretly he did see his as the greater sacrifice. It got me thinking about relationships. Now, I don't want to mislead you: I spend most of my life thinking about relationships, professionally and for pleasure. Gossip and curiosity have been my hobbies throughout my whole life. Perhaps , what I should have said is that it prompted more thinking about relationships when I should have been on holiday and giving my brain a good rest. Anyway, it is, actually, very simple: there are people for whom we would gladly over-heat or for whom we would happily lose sleep , and there are people who make us boil and who annoy us in to losing sleep!
I do get rather over-heated on the subject of the Estate Agent who has been handling the sale of my sea-side studio. (See 'Demandingness') An accepted offer has now fallen through and I am not sanguine about the quality of his interest in selling it with its bath in the living room "not to everybody's taste". At the time we accepted the offer my instinct told me it should not be counted on and I asked him not to take it off the market. I don't know, and he did'nt explain whether this was ethical, or even legal, or not, but he did not do as I asked and made no effort to find another buyer. So we are back to the begining in an appalling state of the market. I was reminded of this when a dear friend was talking about a rather glamorous new boy-friend she has acquired. In the first flush of the relationship he seemed to be everything a girl could wish for, good-looking, gifted, kind, thoughtful, sensitive, not in the least competitive - she is quite something in the glamour/achievement stakes herself - and altogether good news. No grown-up would really expect this to go on being an unadulterated account of the state of the affair and, gradually, the picture has had to be modified; not much, I have to say, but modified, nevertheless. The principal addendum is that he doesn't do long-term committment. My dear friend sees that this, as it happens, suits her, too and they are having a lovely time enjoying the here and now: enjoying living. What amused me was the link with the Estate Agent: although she is, as it were, under offer, that need'nt mean she should come off the market. These agreements do fall through and other prospects could be kept on the books. What do you think? The question of ethics remains relevant, but the point of telling you was more about the parallel with house selling, which amused me, than about the question of right and wrong.

I have just added a 1 to the title. Relating could easily run to 101, but that's as far as we can go to-day. See you soon.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008


Titles are sometimes elusive. It's not as if there haven't been examples in the blog, already, of my having to adapt my 75 year-old self to my 40 year-old aspirations, but it came to me that there is a number of devices I deal with on a daily basis that I have come to take so much for granted that I scarcely notice them and they deserve an airing. For instance, I have been making a Kaftan, as you do if you are going to spend a few days near water and have to make your way there via public spaces. There is a sensible limit to the amount of space and time when your actual swimsuit - however red - should be witnessed by A.N. Others and a full-length Kaftan will hide any number of sins. Anyway, I have been busily stitching for a day or so and am pleased with the result; (also red, dots and shapes on a white background, if you must know). I had to convert two and a half metres of fabric into this garment. That's quite a lot of back-stitching; all the way up two sides, two hems hemstitched and hemstitching around the neckline cut from the top. As I stitched, two forward one back - I think: it is hard to picture without doing it - it reminded me of the way I have to tackle stairs, right foot on the stair, then left foot on the same stair. I can't always walk up them one foot after the other, as in what you might call running stitch. Silly, isn't it, but it amused me.

It also sent me to the stairs to do a bit of practice. I can't be seen backstitching up the stairs in some slightly glamorous hotel at the sea-side, a converted ancient mansion, without the lifts (elevators, if you are over the Pond) which would ruin its integrity. I have to report, Dear Reader, that practice has made perfect and I can now reliably do stairs in the way I didn't even notice when I was your age. I am also slightly ashamed, though pleased because I may yet be able to improve my performance on broken-down escalators (see earlier post!) Ashamed, because Someone-Who-Knows has been telling me for ages that it just needed practice and perseverance to conquer the stairs and strengthen the legs.

Opening things requires ingenuity, too. I use my teeth. I told you about the lovely B and B where I stayed in Scotland, didn't I? At breakfast, cooked while you wait and in any permutation you can think of, conserves were served in little packets. Impossible for arthritic hands so, teeth, mine own, as it happens. Can't think how the dentally challenged arthritic would manage. Anyway, there I was tearing at my honey pack like a dog with a bone, when I realised I was being what you might call, if you were kindly disposed, supervised by an elderly gentleman at the same table. "I'm so sorry, " I tried, helpfully, "no strength in my fingers, to-day". "You did that, yesterday, too". Oops, hadn't even been consciously aware of it yesterday, it seems so natural. Take ring-pulls. Well, I can't. I have to use a tin opener. My cat sees that as a huge advantage. She wouldnt be able to hear me tug at a ring-pull. I have to ravish an envelope to get to what is inside. Often I don't open them if they don't look worth doing time for. Don't even think of trying to change the sim card in your mobile phone if you are me. I have to keep the same one whatever seductive offers come my way rather than keep stabbing the little door that would let me in to its intestines to transfer them to a new one even if the new one will do everything except make tea for me. But I must be honest. I really love my little phone and that's really the reason I don't operate on it. It was one of the first objects I owned in the struggle to join the current world. And, though you haven't actually, asked, I thought you would like to know that I do have a sewing machine. The geography of my house is such that I can't watch television and sew unless I do it by hand, and I have the sort of conscience that prefers to do something while passively watching television, having been brought up to see entertainment in which one wasn't participating as rather decadent. Archaic, or what? See you soon.

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Before I tell you what inspired this particular title, I have something rather exciting for an elderly, computer-illiterate blogger to report: someone in Canada and also someone in Australia has been reading 75goingon40 ! I am so excited, but my Guru is totally unmoved. I got the words of one syllable treatment about World Wide Web and all that and where had I thought my readership was coming from, Goring-on-Thames? Now, I think Goring is a delightful place but it is probably more Home Counties than Where-It's-At. In other words, like me, well-behaved and decorous rather than dare-devil and cosmopolitan and therefore, less, or not likely to do blog reading. ( In case you are still reading this out there in the 'foreign' world, Home Counties may be used, in politically incorrect company, to suggest unadventurous and conventional).

But, of course, there is, nevertheless, a link, if a bit stretched, between what came to me to write to-day and the above. That is, I had to learn from said Guru, how to find out where people were who were logging in. You will have guessed, no doubt, given my transparent ignorance - I was tempted to write 'innocence', but that would be just sympathy seeking - in all matters computer- related that it was the Guru who set all this up and who monitors it and tries to negotiate with the cyber-wizards to minimise my losses and mistakes. He, himself, is not in the UK; he is only a channel or so away, but it had never struck me as miraculous that he was able to read it. There was, however, something more magic about Canada and Australia. Anyway, if you are still out there, Hello and welcome and please go on reading the posts. ( I hope you started at the bottom. If you are in Australia, you probably did, since you will be used to things being the wrong way up!)

To business; I was noticing how influential apparently throw-away, non- lessons could be. About half a century ago, I arrived very late at the point in Paris where buses left for the airport. (Les Invalides, if you must really test my historic memory) Hurriedly, in dodgy but optimistic French, I asked a porter to which desk I should report. I followed his waving arm if not his spoken instruction and presented myself at the wrong desk. Re-directed, I came, seriously late, to the right desk. Words rushing over themselves with relief to be uttered in their Mother tongue, I explained that it was the porter's fault for mis-directing me. " There is always someone who's fault it is" came the response. Dear Reader, I have never forgotten. It was my first lesson in taking responsibility for myself. Well, the first time such a lesson went in and lodged where it was needed .

One of the people whom I have loved most in my life was untidy and unhouseproud almost to the point of slatterliness. Taking my little first-born to see her, I would bring a cup and plate and spoon for his use so he wouldn't be exposed to the unnamed deathly horrors in residence in her kitchen, among her cups and plates and spoons, making up some story about how they were the only ones he could be persuaded to use. I doubt she was deceived for a moment and it will tell you something about her lovely character that she accepted this with grace and good manners. There came a time when she went away . I advanced upon her flat with dusters, polish, abrasives, vacuum cleaner, (you've guessed; she didnt have one), disinfectants, rubber gloves and my pinny and set to work to clean it within an inch of its life. I brought her back from the airport and stood back as she walked in and looked around. " Thank you dear. It will take me ages to get it back the way it was" she said. I think it sank in at last that we are all different and that there is more than one way to peel an apple. (You wouldn't expect me to use the more usual metaphor, would you now?) I don't think it necessarily interfered with my capacity to interfere, though.

One more 'lesson-by-default', for this time, anyway, shorter, less portentous and, in many ways, most useful. Advice from one who knew, about what to do with doubtful left-overs: put them in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing them out. Think about it: the reverberations are without limit. See you soon.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Making demands

Demanding: moi? Of course not. The problem - perceived by others as a problem, I mean - is that I find I am able to ask for and do things at 75 the 40 year old would have dreamt not of. However, the combination of age and singularity (I have noticed the ambiguity) seems to invite a level of patronising and, sometimes indifference, I was rarely shown as a younger woman and that's what really causes the so-called demandingness: I am not so prepared to put up with it, now. If I have asked for my steak rare or my lamb pink and it turns up disguised as undyed leather I send it back. I am rather Victorian in my manner, and in my manners, too, but I do send it back. (By the way, have you noticed that, often, when you are having chicken and you companion has ordered beef, only one jug of gravy turns up?)

If I am trying to sell a tiny sea-side studio and my carefully chosen Estate Agent seems not to be on my side, I keep after him. I feel him sigh when I announce myself on the phone, but I still keep after him. Now, to be fair, I haven't made his job any easier because, in the living room of this small space, I have installed a bath. Yes. Dear Reader, a bath. It's not that the room is poorly furnished in other ways. It has armchairs, even a rocking chair, and a couch all facing the sea. But you can lie in the bath and watch the sea crashing on the rocks below or, should you have left your bath until dark, you can watch television and soak at the same time, with bath salts and candles and the whole seductive scene. Decadent or what? (Not, I suspect, if you are actually 40, but at my age?....) However, this is not customary in the region where the flat finds itself and the agent saw it as a really serious disadvantage: "not to everybody's taste." I requested and then instructed him to describe the bath in a positive way to viewers: eg" You can watch the sea etc etc." Not a quiver of response; just another of those 'I've-got-a right-one-here' looks to which I am, after more than seven decades, becoming rather accustomed. I wondered if I could reasonably take his silence for assent. It wasn't. How do I know? I have a confession. I asked a local friend to pose as a prospective purchaser to find out what he would be told. "There's a bath in the living room. Not to everybody's taste". Perhaps it was short-sighted to indulge myself with this bath. When I took the place over, I asked a plumber to come and work out how it could be installed; you know, pipes and things. With his head under the sink in the kitchen bit, he asked "where are you going to put it, then?" " Here", I replied, indicating a space occupied, as I spoke, by some rather awful 'L'-shaped cupboards. Out came his head from under the sink and I got ' the look', but, also, this time, a pronouncement. "You're not from round here, then, " he said, and went back to his pipes under the sink. As it happens, I am from round there, but I didn't feel it would be right to disillusion him with regard to his powers of deduction. And in case you are worried, there is also a conventional shower room,with basin and lavatory, behind a door as it should be.

However, I see that when it comes to it, I do feel better if I can be project manager, with my hand on the wheel, since, at the time, I seem to be the only one who can count to ten . The trouble is, most situations need someone who can count to twenty, at least, and no one could accuse me of being able to do that. What I do seem to be good enough at, though, is seeing around corners and working out alternative ways of doing things, sometims obvious and sometimes, admittedly, a bit off the wall, but, surprisingly, effective.
At this point, you have my permission to add arrogant to eccentric and demanding when making your check list about me. Oh dear, is it too late to reform? Perhaps we should just call me difficult and leave it at that.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


Where have I been? Well, I have been in Scotland, visiting someone close to me two trains and two ferry rides away. I came back two days ago but by the time I had persuaded the cat I was here to stay, sorted the post - mail, that is - done the washing, got over the shock of travelling eleven and a half hours, all in the same kingdom (queendom?) to get home and moved back in to my everyday handbag, much time has passed.You know what I mean about the handbag. Even on holiday in the UK, if you take a special hand bag to travel, everything has to be taken out and sifted when you get back so you are left with only the rubbish you carry as a matter of routine and can dispense with the 'in case' bits and pieces you were sure you couldn't do without even in darkest Scotland.(Mind you, there are magnificent National Trust places in Scotland and I had managed, with all I did take, not to take my membership card: costly mistake). The whole re-entry thing takes so long you are tempted to wonder why you left home in the first place.

Which brings me to something which fascinates me. I don't know what all of you would call it. I call it transitionism. It's the state you are in when you haven't yet left where you are and haven't arrived where you are going. It can begin quite a long time before the first stage, the leaving, but doesn't necessarily last so long at the arriving end. It is very discombobulating; a sort of otherness. It is a place that is just in your head. People are talking to you but there is not the relevance of the 'Im-still-here-state' so they may find you absent from yourself. Things are happening around you but your inner self is not participating even if your outward self believed you were deceiving everyone, no difficulty, and you seem to be participating normally,( or what passes for normal if you are normally seen as eccentric by those around, as I am). I am finding it quite hard to put into words so I do hope you know what I am talking about, have even experienced it. A good, fairly universal, example would be boarding an aeroplane. You have left where you have been but you are not where you are going. The journey, itself, has not the same significance; it is a phenomenon in itself. The state I am talking about is how it feels when you know you can no longer be said to be where you are, whatever the eyes of the others might see, and are palpably not in the next place, however strong the imagination: pre-occupation might cover it; pre-coccupation in no-man's land. It can seem noticeable to everyone else who may wonder if you are depressed or fed up with them or related states. The further end of the condition is called re-entry. Thus you have presence, absence, re-entry = transitionism. Got it? Anyway, if the truth be told, that is also part of the reason why I haven't been back to my blogspot until now.

As to the trip itself, it was really lovely. I went to a ceilidh! Those of you familiar with my clubbing experience won''t be surprised. But it was Gay Gordons and Tripping the Willow all over the place. There was a delightful moment when a tiny thing, not more than two, burst throught the door and immediately started jumping up and down in time to the music. "Is this where it's at" improvised my companion on her behalf and we were all laughing so hard it was not easy to hear the caller calling out the steps. If I tell you it was 9 degrees and blowing a force 9 gale outside, that might not surprise you either. But the weather was not all bad and we sat outside with lunch on the island off the island, watching the sheep safely grazing beyond the low wall. Getting me on and off what wasn't so different from a cockle shell boat - such a boat is called a coracle, I believe - was something else, too, and I am tempted to gloss over that, but you do deserve the whole truth. Trains are fine. There are people to help. Big, grown-up ferries are fine too. (You will no doubt remember rugby players with fine bottoms; well, the same principle applies. If you don't remember, see below!) It is the little ferry that presents the problem, the boat with St Vitus Dance. This creature is boarded via a slippery slope, or, worse, slippery steps or, worse yet, both, and disembarked the same way. The stick was no help. It was slipping more than I was. Dignity and aplomb have to be left on the shore. The best a 75 year old going on 40 can hope for is simply to accomplish it. I did, Dear Reader, I did and lived to have a wonderful time in that special other world.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Dressing Humpty Dumpty

Ok, so the time has come. I have rather dreaded it, but I've decided to be brave and face up to one of the more significant problems - I don't really do issues - about being 75 going on 40: clothes. Now, if you are female and in to noticing these things, you will have registered that for the last six years, five months and two days, at least fourteen 'seasons' that is, trousers have all been designed to end on the hip, at the top, that is. They still end at the foot at the bottom. So what, you may ask yourselves. Well, hipsters look lovely if you are slender and actually 40. I look like Humpty Dumpty. Picture it. No, don't, if it is a meal time, but, seriously, an egg in an egg-cup is not a good look for an elderly lady with aspirations, not even to elegance, suitability would do. But I have evolved a style, I think, which comes pretty close to satisfying the going on 40 bit without causing toes to curl in the young people in my life who believe I am entirely 75.

The problem is finding the clothes to do the job. Think no waist no ankles and upper arms that can be viewed only by those that are medically qualified. That means trousers which come up to the waist and shoes that are designed, basically, to be neither seen nor heard and forget cap, short or no sleeves. A young person of my acquaintance recently asked me what I missed most about being young. To my surprise, my inner voice - always the first on the you've-got-me-there scene - supplied "my figure". And I was surprised. I might have expected " dancing with a man". (It cropped up at my friend's wedding, see 21st Century Living, below) or even other things involving a man, like mending fuses, or bringing in the heavy cat litter and taking out the rubbish when you are too pregnant to do those things yourself, or even contributing to getting you pregnant in the first place.( I see you have just remembered, when I was young, before the re-balancing of the genders, men did those things for you even if you were neither pregnant nor lazy nor incompetent) But, no, my figure; I missed my figure. It was easier to dress it. Things fitted and hung well, and supremely important, looked good sideways.

Mind you, I was never much in to what everyone was wearing. I preferred to go for what you might call 'outre'; a nod in the direction of fashion but nothing that wouldn't do next year because it would be a)recognisable and therefore a bit of a bloomer and b) not good value for money. Anyway, as I was growing up there was a war on and clothes were not high on anyone's agenda. Nor was there a teen or young peoples' fashion market. We dressed as our Mothers did. Come to think of it, that look might do me nicely, now. Twinsets do have a habit of covering up the arms and I still search out wide-legged trousers. I know, I hear you groaning," wide-legged trousers that come up to the waist". Thats right; think Katherine Hepburn if you are old enough to have heard of her. But if you can picture Humpty Dumpty in narrow-legged trousers you may stop groaning and envisage an egg in an eggcup, with pipe- cleaner legs.

Yesterday, inspired by the thought that I may actually be going to a place with sun and warm -ish- water later in the year, I went looking for a new swimsuit. The last ones were bought about a stone ago, (14 pounds if you are in the USA, roughly 6 kilos if you are in continental Europe), and cant be got away with one swim more. First, I went to a specialist lingerie shop; lovely 'fitters', lovely try-on cubicles, air conditioning, perfect. Nothing; all for 14 -25 year-olds weighing 7 stone (you do the maths this time if you are in the USA or continental Europe.) I looked at the bikinis and grieved for the time when I would have looked quite the part in one. In fact, when they first became popular, I was a married lady who had had three children, but, catching sight of myself in the mirror in the bathroom one day in my bra and pants , I thought,"I could do that bikini thing. There's life in the old cat yet". And, Dear Reader, there was.

But back to yesterday: Finally, we all gave in and I was waved sadly out. I crossed the road to a large - very large - department shop that was having a Sale. I know, Iknow. Younger, stronger women have been known to stay away but Desperate was, by now, my middle name. How often can one woman take off her shoes, her top, her trousers and her bra and creep and heave herself in to an elasticised sausage prison? Forty three by the last count. But this time I was successful! Not 100%, but then little in life is 100%. There was an arrangement of mirrors so that one could see one's back and front and sideways, too and what a fright that gave me. So I took what I think is the bravest decision of my life: I bought a scarlet bathing costume on the basis that the colour would have such an impact that no-one would have the temerity - nor the incentive - to look at any of the lumps, bumps and bulges it was straining to contain. So there: I just hope none of you is going where I'm going and I urge you not to approach an elderly lady in a scarlet costume in case it isn't me.

Finally, for this time, should any of you know where I can find, routinely, clothes with high waists, wide legs, sleeves at least to the elbow and necklines not too decollete, with jackets not too nipped in at the waist - what waist? - in lovely lady-like fabrics, i.e. not too bright and not too patterned (and, here, I am quoting my Mother, can you believe it. What have I come to?) I would be for ever grateful to find names and addresses under the comments bit of the post. .Although, I should warn you, I have already managed inadvertently to delete a comment. The Good Lord knows how. Unless it was the Wizard of Cyberspace, of course. (Go on pressing older posts until they give in and stop, but only if you haven't been keeping up already of course).

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Between the Centuries

I would like to start by inviting you, if you are new to this blogsite, to move down to the bottom and keep clicking the 'older post' button until it stops appearing. The thing is, there is a sort of theme to what I have been writing and some of it won't make sense unless you've read them all. Goodness knows how that is going to work if I get to 95 and am still writing, thirteen and a half yards later. Oh well; there must be a way. Currently, I am on post 9, I think. That should'nt be more than you can chew in one go, and, by the way, last is first in the upside-down world of the blogsite.

Now that is one of the ways in which I am between the centuries; in the 21st century I am writing to you on a blogsite. In the century in which I was born I would have kept a diary and, had it involved camels and long-distance travel, all alone except for a few bearers and a ream of paper, it would have been published as a book and gathered dust in antiquarian bookshops ever after. (Mind you, better that than lingering in cyberspace in a file marked "older posts").The more serious aspect of this is that I am in a sort of no-man's-land where I can turn the computer on, find my way to my blogsite and start to write, but, and it is a huge but, I can do very little else with any confidence. The other day I tried to book train tickets on-line. Try not to laugh. In the time it took me to persevere and then give up I could have taken a slow boat to the nearest main-line station and bought the damned things over the counter. Undeterred - determined is more like it - I tried, today, to re-insure my car on-line. Twenty two 'pages' later I was faced with making a decision: to go for it or not to go for it. I went for lunch. I know I shall end up ringing my last insurer who wants the same money NOT to insure my 21 year-old co-driver as the on-liner has suggested to include him, too.

Again, don't imagine I can't see the advantages of emails, but last century during which, amongst other things, I was 40, people wrote letters to each other. You could tie them together with pink ribbon - and then confine them to a file marked "older posts"! But the truth is, my little heart still leaps to see a handwritten envelope on the doormat along with all the brown or windowed ones that have either to be binned or paid. Actually, I can't truthfully see all that much advantage in emailing. I have to print things off if I want to feel sure that they can be safely kept.

I work really hard to think myself in to the minds of the young, where they certainly, were they to realise it, would'nt want me with my torch and my inquisitiveness, but the current world is nearly as inaccessible to my 75 year-old self as my "there's-a-war-on/put- that-light-out" world must be to them. Hang on:" Put that light out" is equally pertinent to them; ecology and all that. Don't you just love the arc of it?
Anyway , how it feels to be straddled between the centuries can be summed up by the way people address you these days. "Hold on Liz" I get from the 12 year old on the phone in accounts whom I've never met and will end up never wanting to meet. "Mrs. Mountford to you", hisses my inner voice . You can feel the grit in my teeth. Even " Elizabeth" would show a bit more respect for an elderly stranger in a new world of familiarity.

I can see that "between the centuries" is far from exhausted, but I am, what with the worry that the Wizard of Cyberspace will steal my post before I click 'publish', indeed, has already stolen eight of them, and the fact that it is 28 degrees out there and I DONT LIKE THE HEAT. See you soon.

Saturday, 28 June 2008


Good Morning. I would have been here the day before yesterday but, just as I was about to click on Publish Post, the entire post disappeared. I tried everything, I promise, from backward arrows to 'drafts' to shaking the laptop, plus things I'm not prepared to tell even you; anyway, lost for ever. So, if any of you is wandering about in cyberspace and sees a post entitled "Coalesence" looking rather aimless, please scoop it up and return it to Liz. I promise not to be cross, although I was very cross when it went awol. I shall have to re-write it before the subject matter goes passed its sell-by date so it will just have to deal with the sibling rivalry.
I am not sure about the title . On reflection, 'coalescence' is probably more about the coming together of eggs, oil and mayonnaise than fits what I have in mind. But there has been a coming together: of my 75 year-old self and my 40 year-old self . I went to hear Neil Diamond. He said "I have been doing this for nearly 4 decades" and I can certainly testify to that because I've been there through them all. Neither of us has changed all that much - in a way, she added, hastily. I had feared he would sing mostly new songs, to promote a new album, but all the oldies were there, too. And yes, I did stand up when he asked us to, and I did jig about and wave my arms and even sing along (my companion turned away, slightly at that point. I wonder why). My current 75, in essence, reacted to him just as my 40 self had done. He was on stage, non-stop, for 2 hours and 10 minutes. Only 8 years younger than I. I have difficulty sitting down at the dinner table for that long. His kindly, American voice-over marshal had told us Mr Diamond would perform without"remission", which I took to be a Freudian slip for "intermission" What he meant, I supose, was that Pit Stops would be at our own risk and on our own time. If ND could go through, then so could I, I vowed, but I couldnt, so I have to confess I did miss 90 seconds of the performance.( 'Remission' also makes it sound like he was inside for something for which he wasnt going to get remission: murder? of the English language, perhaps, because his rhymes and images are not always without query - see Carol King, for example. But I don't care; I don't need my idols to be perfect.) I might have missed one last song, too, because, after the third encore, I began to feel a huge daunt at the thought of leaving the O2 Arena, which is not too far from the end of the Thames in London, with 19,998 other people, all heading for the same underground station at the same time. I dragged my seriously reluctant companion away to find that several thousand others had had the same thought and were all wasping towards the station, which mollified him. On a whim, we turned the other way and ran - picture it, old lady, stick, propelled by excitement and her companion's decisive arm - to the quay where we just caught the water bus back to Waterloo, running past the Jobsworth trying to stop us, ticketless, while he tried to work out whether to run after us and lose some other prey or put it down to experience. My heart was thumping, not only with euphoria but also from an atavistic fear of authority shouting. But it was all worth it. (We must talk about Jobsworths another time).
Lovely, and, yes, since you ask, we did pay on the boat.


Saturday, 21 June 2008

Singledom 2

You may well have been asking yourselves where I have been for the last week. Well, I have had visitors and I have'nt yet mastered the art of doing all the work that requires and keeping up with the blog, too. I have been speaking sternly to myself and I promise better time management in the future.
During my time slaving over a hot stove, I saw a newspaper article about life as a single woman,( actually, I may have told you that, already) one of my areas of expertise, as you may have noticed. The writer said quite a bit about how men behaved, the upshot of which seemed to be that the entire undertaking, dating, dining, whatever, was geared to bed. Now, having exchanged my eyelashes for a walking stick as a tool to achieve what I want, bed, in the sense of sexual activity has become something of a desert, a desert, with no sign at all of any charted oasis. Which is not to say there is no experience of the mirage effect, neither.You will remember from your geography lessons being taught how people, dying of thirst, lost in the desert, IMAGINE they have seen an oasis, just over there in the distance, always just over there, in the distance. Well, mirages of oases in the desert of the 'physical life', (she said, coyly), there are in plenty; it's the reality that's just as the geography books warned you. By and large, however, there are advantages to being a demand-free zone in that respect: it is possible, now, at my age - external age, that is - actually to have friendships with men, and to take liberties that would have been unthinkable earlier, of which more another time.
That is not where I experience the problem of being a single woman or out with another woman. This area of passionate interest is in the way restaurants treat women on their own. There is a whole book in that, never mind a single blog entry, but I will do my best. Think near the kitchen, think near the lavatory, think invisible, think can't get a table in the first place and you are beginning to get the picture. Now, in fairness, I have to say that there may be something in the presumption that a woman on her own is not likely to eat as much as a man and, in my case, may drink less and, Heaven forfend, even tip less, (tip less: moi? I don't think so), but that must not serve as a reason not to give her the benefit of the doubt before you have even found a table for her or even decided not to. Having been told there was no room at a local inn one Saturday evening when I rang, I prevailed upon my male companion to have a go, himself. "Ah yes, Mr B. Would you like a table upstairs or down?" I wish, fervently, that were a unique example.
You may have gathered I live in London. I went in to a renowned fish restaurant at twelve noon recently, not one where I was known. Fully booked. I could see the reservations book with several bookings for 1.45 and 2pm. It was not beyond the bounds of possibilty that I, starting just after noon, could have been out by then. Adamant, still no room at that inn neither. The manager, maybe sensing a potential 'issue', hove as I was putting that option to the brick-wall young woman keeper-of-the-portcullis. "I'm writing an article on how restaurants treat women on their own", I said, to him. "Of course, Madam. Come through. Here's my card, ask for me any time you want a table and remember to ask for table 40: it's the best, by the window." At a much humbler level, I wanted a quick lunch at a French bistro look-alike. Hidden behind a pillar I had to get up THREE times in search of service and, finally, for the bill.
"I'm writing an article etc etc" You know what? The bill was cancelled. But it's hard work and I deplore the effort and rarely enjoy the hard-won occasion. I have been known to use the name of He-to-Whom-I am Married when booking. That works to procure a table, but changes nothing when you turn up without the Mr. bit. Think kitchen, think lavatory,etc. See above.
A handful of restaurants where I have been going for many years does treat me beautifully, and I am very grateful to them. (The gratitude, in itself, is highly politically incorrect , I know). I have no idea how they treat other women on their own.
Incidentally, I have it on the best authority that children are even more despised than women on their own. They drink no alcohol, not much is ordered for them to eat and most of what is ordered ends up on the floor, along with the sticky contents of their glasses. A waiter's nightmare of time-consuming, no- profit clearing up after them. Goodness me, I am talking myself in to the privileged position of being a woman alone in a restaurant.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Russian Dolls

I was thinking about how hard a baby works. Every waking moment something has to be noted, something has to be understood - or mis-understood; interpreted, made sense of. At the other end, with age, there is so much information in the memory that taking in something new feels like pouring water in to a bowl that is already overflowing, fitting a quart into a pint pot, or decanting perfume in to an antique scent bottle - they have a name, but I've forgotten it! Inevitably, there has to be spillage in order to make room: a piece of information relinquished. Call it a 'senior moment' if you will, but it is really just overflow. Perhaps a more positive image would be of a suitcase stuffed to the brim; if anything were to fall out, it could be recovered, picked up, put in a safe place in case of future need, after all, we do get some thought-to-be forgotten knowledge back. Rescuing spilled perfume and putting it in another bottle, less full - I dont think so, so it has to be lost forever.

The other day I watched a baby dealing with his first solid food, some baby rice on a spoon. No surprise, he tried sucking it. Did'nt work. He tried again. The rice remained external, his hunger internal. He stared hard at the circle of fans around his high chair, all with their tongues out, making loud num num noises. The encouragement was palpable. There must be something he didnt know, a missing link. Suddenly, light shone, his tongue came out, too, and he licked the spoon. Such a look of triumph as he tasted the food and exalted in the cheering of his adulators. However, the next day when offered food on a spoon, again - rebellion. No question of a talent to amuse, to-day. We had had our fun and it was back to the breast or else.

I tell you this because it seems to me we are like Russian Dolls, all the people we ever were incased inside one another, so that baby will, later, be nestling inside the next doll which is nestling inside the next one and so on and so on. The scenario becomes more complex if one of those trapped people needs some attention, let's say about a situation that wasnt effectively dealt with when it should have been. We shall have to wait to see how my baby friend reacts to rice in later doll incarnations, but it could explain MY current Wont, Shant, Cant Make Me when confronted by The Right Thing To Do: it is my inner fourteen-year old who, at the time I WAS fourteen, was what you might call 'bland and compliant'. ( In that case,the mind boggles with the struggle to imagine what the forty year old is currently trying to sort out.)

I do try to inhale the scent of now but, it seems, it has to be at the expense of lost drops of the scent of then. It's not that I am just geriatrically forgetful.
Anyway, that could be the true explanation of what you may come to see as my preoccupation with the young: letting some air into the tight chambers of those Russian Dolls.

PS. I've retrieved the word for a perfume bottle: atomiser! There you are. It was on the floor behind the suitcase all the time.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Sod's Law

I did say I would tell you about Sod's Law in case you were new to it.
"The co-operation of factors which are random and fortuitous operates in inverse ratio to the urgency of the need". A simple example would be that, on a day when you are walking virtuously home, with no thought that you have earned a taxi after a hard day's work, six roll by, free. When it's raining chats et chiens and you are wearing your Jimmy Choos and have just had your hair done, nothing, niente, nada, rien, nicht; indeed, more like: taxi: what's that? Useful law, is'nt it? I have patented it.

Another problem with taxis is that they have got higher than they used to be, further from the pavement. I find that with stairs, too, steeper and more of them than erstwhile. I was making my way down a flight of them to the Ladies in a restaurant, recently. I discerned a drift of heavy humph behind me and turned round to see a young(ish) woman pretend-patiently coming down behind me. You may have come to expect my sweet old lady smile by now. I smiled it and said " I used to hate getting behind an old lady like me when I was your age." Bright red, she did manage, "Not at all. Take your time". I did.
Rather worse, since I was not the only one affected, was a time when the down escalator from a first floor cinema was broken. With my long-suffering Godson's support I started gingerly down. "Just let these people pass" he said, ever the gentleman, after an eternity of ice-pick crawling, holding on to me. After the first thirty-five had done so, I decided that was enough good manners and resumed our painstaking, courageous dealing with this treacherous escarpment, almost off- piste in its treachery, as if we were alone on it. We made it to the bottom, turned round to see what was going on behind us and saw the escalator black with people, double-parked, on the steps and queueing right back in to the cinema. Now that is
mortification, in spades, if you are twenty-one, or any age, come to that, but in a nano second he - and I - saw the funny side and laughed all the way out of range of reprisals. Since you ask, it was "Sex and the City";audience all 40s, except him, and me of course.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

singledom 1

I doubt if you have stopped to wonder why "singledom 1" . In case you have, it's easy: there's more than can possibly be said in one blog. It seemed a good idea to start tackling it to-day, though, because a columnist in the paper, yesterday, asked for readers' views on the subject. Since there was a real possibilty that she would end up feeling really sorry she had asked if it were I who complied, I thought I would keep my observations to myself - and to you, of course.

Where to start? The Airport would be a good place. In these days of high security nothing can be left unattended anywhere. Take the need for a Pit Stop. Now, a coat, an overnight bag a stick and a sizeable handbag have, therefore, all to be fitted in along with your good single self in a cubicle designed for someone the size of a slender man (or woman) with a wife (or husband) sitting in the concourse keeping her (or his) eye on all your bits and pieces. Don't even think of putting it on a trolley. Get the picture? I do not joke when I say that I have to plan my travelling equipment with due consideration for whether it will fit in to the lavatory or not. Similarly, on arrival; going to the Ladies before your baggage arrives whether you need to or not, means that you wont have your coat, your overnight bag, your stick and your sizeable handbag AND your checked-in bag to deal with when the urgent need to go develops just when you pull the bag off the carousel, as, according to Sod's Law, it surely will.

When I imply I pull the bag off the carousel, myself, I lie. I position myself next to what looks like some rugby-playing youngster, reach out lamely - a second or two too late - squeek "oh Dear" with a careful measure of despair and helplessness as my bag rolls insouciently passed and wait for the "let me do that for you" which, thank God, almost always follows. If it doesnt, I just have to change rugby-players and try again on the next circuit. For the use of a trolley in those circumstances, see above. (It gives me great pleasure to write "see above". One of the difficulties for me,actual age 75 etc., writing in cyberspace, is that all that went before is now below. After seven decades of writing "see above, " or "all of the above" , I have to think in terms of "see below", or "all of the below". The world has been stood on it's head: there is no more room for doubt.)
Travelling with a companion is, thus, such a joy that it's tempting to hire one: " wanted, strong and vigilant male person to navigate dotty old lady through airport hassle while she admires your behind. Rugby player preferred but quiet old gentleman would do. Forget the behind." Dont get hurt in the rush. (That ad now looks border-line sexist but I'm not really so impressed by female behinds.)
Sod's Law next time - did you think I had assumed you understood?

Friday, 6 June 2008

Helping Hands

Last night I went to a performance of "Der Rosenkavalier". As you will know, the opera is about an older woman and a young man. The Cavalier of the title is only seventeen - and a half - and the Princess a grand old thirty four or so;( seems not without advantage to me). Was maturity measured very differently then? The Cavalier, in the same day that we hear him declare his life-changing, undying love for the Princess, falls in love with the girl his own age to whom, as 'ambassador', he has presented the silver rose which was the engagement present of the elderly and somewhat gross nobleman her social-climbing Father had bought for her. This lad who would, these days, just be doing his 'A' levels, thus becomes, himself, the young woman's intended. Can't think of a current seventeen-year-old who would be ready for marriage and all that; well, maybe, all that .

Anyway, to tell you about the helping hand; I was seated at an aisle, much easier for me than having to creep past umpteen people with stick, bag, picnic and so on: (long Opera, early start before dinner.) However, not so easy for me when the rest of the row is having to creep past me to get in, and out in the intervals, of which there were two. The first time, I swung my legs in to the adjoining gangway and smiled bravely. Standing is not so comfortable so I repeated the tactic when they all came back, not so smiley. The second interval I did my bit stoically although I am in a position to tell you, people who like Opera generally have pretty big feet. Thinking they were all through, I had swung my legs back in front of me when two more ladies appeared, threatening to want to get out. With a very bad grace I was making a huge show of the difficulty of putting myself out to accomplish this when one of them asked if I would like her to bring me back an ice-cream. Mortified, I declined, indicating my as yet uneaten suitable picnic - nothing frivolous, you understand - but thanking her, profoundly. I felt thankful. Instantly, and still, I regret that decision, so, if you were at the Coliseum in London last night and offered to get an ice-cream for an elderly and static old lady, she is very sorry for the refusal (declension?)and would have loved an ice-cream so don't let it put you off offering again.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

21st century living

As I was saying, what does he mean by 'archaic'? Well, I say " how do you do?" when introduced to someone. The correct 21st century response, according to this styling guru, has got to be "Hi" or, at a push, "nice to meet you". The 40 bit of me is quite happy to be dragged in to the current century, but it doesnt seem to have particularly good manners.
Thinking back to clubbing I remember that I have been dancing, recently. At the wedding of a young friend, I was quietly drumming my walking stick along with the beat when I was yanked on to the floor by a cousin of hers, a gorgeous, sexy yorkshire lass. I was having a whale of a time, jigging about, bouncing the old knees to rest my behind on my ankles, as you do, and got within a few feet of them, too, showing off, when she asked me to show her how I would have danced when I was her age. "Can't do that ", I said. "Need a man for that". She thought it was the strangest thing she'd heard since the Immaculate Conception. Why would you need a man to dance? Made a note to find out her birthday and send her a DVD of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
Showing off is all very well, but is it worth how the back feels next day? This was one of the biggest shocks of being old: how it actually feels to have non-bendy, aching joints and stiff muscles; not an intellectual concept anymore but the impossibilty of running for a bus or picking up a sliver of something from the floor - thick is easier. Rain is the Devil. Try managing a stick, an umbrella,your handbag and your shopping. A conundrum isn't it? For a person who values elegance and grace, I have to see the funny side of the spectacle of me, determined, (obdurate) not to succomb to a plastic hood, catching my death, as my mother would have said,by abandoning the umbrella in favour of seeing where the Hell I'm going. Hair, as a result? Don't ask. Sometimes, people do stop and ask if they can help. "Thank you", I say, sweet old lady fashion. But the inner voice is telling them to buzz off and come back later, when I am older. However, I accept graciously and make them laugh all the way to my gate so that they can see I am just incapacitated; I have'nt had a humourectomy, and actually, it is quite a funny situation.

Sunday, 1 June 2008


I suppose in a way I AM a zimmer-frame-clubber, since, in case you were not absolutely clear from my profile,, I have been alive 75 years, it's just inside that I am 40 and would love to go clubbing. Anyway, I dont actually have a zimmer frame (yet) and I dont - often - go clubbing. The last time was two years ago in a town which shall be nameless where, at 9.30 pm the only place to get some food was a gallery above a night-club, where the DJ was stationed. I was with my then 19 year old Godson, strange enough picture in itself since he certainly qualified for down-stairs. The order for food had to be written down and the most urgent need was for a teacher of sign language. The inside of my head was taken over by the outside and I couldnt even hear my inner voice: my constant and faithful companion. Lovely food, though, and when we'd eaten enough just to survive we stood up to go. The DJ apologised for the noise - to me, not to the 19 year old, at least, I thought that's what he'd said, so with a presence of mind that astounded me, I suggested he turn it up so I could hear it better next time.

What more about me? More incongruity: I am married, but not married. I've been married, twice, to the same man. Now we dont live together - he has other arrangements - but we've been in one another's lives for 56 years and are very good friends, relatives, you might say. I live alone, but not alone. My beloved companion has two legs more than I have, with lots of tortoiseshell fur and a loud purr. She is not a happy friend when I want to turn over in bed and she has just got comfortable on top of me. (Bed things are definitely an issue if you are 75 on the outside and 40 on the in.) Three children, but not children, all middle-aged, no grandchildren but several surrogates. Said Godson says I am archaic. How can that be when you are really only 40?