Wednesday, 24 June 2009


I am so excited. Looking at my site-meter, I see that someone has been along to the blogspot from Melbourne. I do hope they were interested enough to 'see a few below' and that they will come back for more. At this moment I don't know how many they read because I haven't the courage to move from here and have another look at the site-meter, and I was too excited to notice when I was there. Those of you who have been keeping up will remember my terror of the Wizard of Cyberspace. I know, and he knows I know, that the second I move he can swoop in and remove all trace of what I have been doing. Anyway, it is very exciting. It would be lovely actually to meet a reader from Down Under. Do you feel inclined to leave a comment so that I can find out how you fell on this particular blog? Not that I don't value all of you who bother to look at my view of life at 75 when you are quite definitely 30 years younger in your inner world. But I am old enough to see Australia as a very long way away; a different world. So please don't mind if I've been less enthusiastic in the past about, say, Clapham.
That dealt with, I want to go back to something I was thinking about in the last post: the beauty of the performer. There were several comments posted. One suggested that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is a factor, but it doesn't go far enough as I understand it. I have spent so many years as an acute but detached observer I think I may be able to take in to account the eye of the beholder. A thought I would like to add, though, is that it may be something to do with concentration. It may be that signs of wear and tear, personal sadness, worry lines, even fun lines, expressons, are erased in the cause of the intensity of concentration required in performance, be it voice, or instrument or motor vehicle or the giving of life to a group of evidently lifeless wooden puppets. I saw the particular performance of the puppet opera which has so impressed me four times in a row. The wonder was never dimmed. Each time, taking a bow with the singers, the puppeteers brought the puppets on and held their hands and gave them obeisance: I doubt there was one member of the audience who didn't accept this as normal: we were acknowledging all the performers. I recall the adrenalin shock I felt, back stage later, to see these bundles of clothes, wooden limbs and heads flopping all over the place, suspended on a rail waiting to be re-humanised another time.
Perhaps I am talking about magic. Perhaps the Wizard of Cyberspace knows all about giving life to wooden dolls - and taking my work from me. When I was little, I used a device I'm sure you are all familiar with. If Iwanted to forecast an event I would say to myself that if a) happened it would be a way of indicating that b) would, too. You know the sort of thing: if the light turns green before we get to it then the letter I have been waiting for will be on the doormat when we get home. Not to make it happen, you understand, just as prior information. Ok, I'll come clean; I still do it. No, I'm not going to give you the ratio of right to wrong and I'm not even going to mention the prosaic word co-incidence.
There was another kind of magic in my experience, yesterday. I had tea, formal English tea-time tea, in a famous London store. (Never mind which one. You'll all want to go and then there will be a queue and no magic.) We had it all. A cake stand with layers appeared, sandwiches - no crusts - on one level, scones on another and pastries on a third. We were invited to choose from twenty two kinds of tea and offered a glass of champagne. There is no experience to equal it. Had my Mother been there it would have been hats and gloves. She wasn't but it was her scene and mine, too, until we all reached the age of discrimination and weight problems. There was one hitch: my companion found a hair in her scone. Torn between the reassurance that the scones had, really, been hand made and the natural squeamishness she felt at its presence, she called the Manager. A delightful lady appeared and offered her all kinds of compensation, more champagne - she hadnt had any - more scones, more sandwiches, the store. My friend was mollified by the care and the attention. It was enough to know they were mortified. The magic of the occasion was ultimately ratified by the annulation of the bill. Not a sous would they accept. Now, I hope I've done the right thing in telling you. There will be a queue not only for a table but for a stray hair as well. I should have kept quiet. Now everyone is going to want one. Never mind. You are welcome and I don't suppose you are really going to come all the way from Melbourne just to find a hair in your scone. See you soon.

Monday, 15 June 2009


There is a problem. I am sufficiently computer literate to accomplish a number of things which seems to have deceived me in to thinking I can do it all. I can't. When I am not at home I have no way to publish a post on my blog because I wouldn't know where to start in an internet cafe or even in the warm and welcoming 'Business Centre' at an Hotel. The good news is that the Guru will spend some time here soon and it's 'teach me how to compute from elsewhere or go hungry'. Actually, threatening 'go thirsty' might make more sense: likes his tipple does my young guru. I know, I know, I am always making excuses when there has been too long a gap between posts, but they are always real enough to me. One of the things I enjoy most is writing this blog so over-coming technical hassle has got to be a priority. Last time the Guru observed me at the computer, he had a Damascan moment. It seems one of the reasons the Wizard of Cyberspace can get me is because I drop my wrists on to the front of the machine and cut off its blood supply, or whatever it is it needs to keep going. Instantly, I was transported back 65 years. "Wrists" would bellow my piano teacher. "Wrists; lift your wrists if you please". This would be followed by a sharp whack on the back of my hand if it were not the first time of telling. I swear my hands hurt even as I am writing this.

The gap occured because I have been away. I spent two days in Germany to hear my favourite opera conducted by my favourite musician. As those of you who have been kind enough to keep up will know, I do tend to find airports difficult. This time I was travelling alone and the journey required a change of flights, so, four airplanes in two days. That's an awful lot of manoeuvering and managing of bags in loos and so on, and so on This time, it was also in a foreign language so I was in constant danger of wrong- place wrong- time syndrome. I have, however, made a useful discovery. If one orders a wheel chair life becomes somewhat easier, even without a rugby player with a nice behind. (see beow) It is not unmitigated ease. The down-side is that one instantly becomes the subject of infantilisation. One's passport and boarding-card are confiscated, presumably on the assumption that, if one can't walk, then one's arms are too short to reach up to the relevant agents and hand over the documents oneself. Imagine: you have spent the best part of seventy five years managing yourself and other people very well, thank you, and suddenly you are not capable of managing two bits of paper and have to ask permission to go to the loo. The good news - and there IS, of course, good news, is that your bits and pieces are all looked after by Nanny while you deal with Nature's requirements and, a big AND, you can use the Disabled loos which are big enough even for Pavarotti and his carry-on baggage. In fact, I have taken to using those loos anyway when I have no baggage-guardian to help me. Now, you may have gathered over the blogspace that I can quite enjoy being in a 'special' position but it is certainly rough with the smooth if the stand-out quality involves a wheelchair and an airport.

Seriously though, there is a market niche for someone to train 'helpers' in the wheelchair world. I am humbled that this is not a permanent way of life for me but I still felt my gorge rise when two - yes, two -huge men strapped me in to a kitchen chair with wheels to wheel me from one section of airport to another. I did suggest, in the little German I could muster, that, even though this was not your conventional wheelchair, I was not going to fall out. I got a 'jobsworth' response that brooked no discussion. In the cold light of intellect I can see they had a point: their fault if the passenger fell out and, Heaven Forfend, might SUE the airline, but what has happened to discretion and taking circumstances in to account? It is fifty years since I worked for an Airline. What were the regulations then? Can't remember. Is it rose-colured glasses or were we more human, more flexible and less, well uniform, then? Maybe we just had more time.

Anyway, I am safe back having had a really good time. After the performance I was invited to the 'pub' with the musicians. There is this strange phenomenon I have noticed before. On stage you are aware of great beauty and aura. In the pub, they look like the rest of us, good- or not so good- looking, ordinary people, plumbers, teachers, whatever. Once, I saw a puppet opera where the puppeteers were all on the stage, part of the performance. I remember wondering how the director had found such without- exception beauty in the faces of his cast; how much auditioning both for talent and for grace and loveliness. Later, in the post performance restaurant, there they were, normal, some good-looking, some, downright plain. It is fascinating. On one extraordinary occasion, I saw the late Ayrton Senna in his car in the moments before his visor came down: transformed. What is this radiant beauty, what causes it where does it go? Discuss. See you soon.

Friday, 5 June 2009


Yesterday, a friend I have known for exactly 50 years died. She died in another country and it was her wish to be cremated quickly and with only her blood relatives to send her off. My head is respecting that but my inner self is confused never having seen blood as a necessary part of feeling related. I had been in daily touch, except for yesterday. This is both irony and, perhaps, fate, so I found out only when her son-in-law telephoned, this morning, to tell me she had died and had already been cremated. Poor man has had to deal with the reaction of countless people when they realised they were being told after the event. Clearly, this was the only way to be sure the family was not swamped by those who have known and loved her as long and longer than I have. I am having to face two apparently divergent aspects of friendship: to offer up in sacrifice my instinct to say goodbye, in view of her wishes, or to see a natural and automatic expression of love in attending her funeral.
Either way, this time, it was never a real choice, just a philosophical one. English was not her first language and we laugh often at her response to my then six-year-old son when he corrected something she had said;"Hm, there vas a time I taught YOU English." She was good and wise and other-worldly in the depth of her awareness. Hand on heart, I can say I never heard a malicious or ill-judged word from her. Her serenity shone through adversity I wouldn't have room - or courage - to tell you about. What can I say? We had her a long time. It makes it harder to imagine a life without her.
Her death set me thinking about friendship in a wider way. How would I measure it? For instance, looking at myself in the mirror as I dried my hair, to-day, I wondered how many of the people I think of as friends I could consider submitting to a sight of me wet and bedraggled and, worse, without make-up. An elderly lady without make-up is not a pretty sight. You should know that I wear very little, I add, hastily, just enough to even out the colour and give myself eyes. On reflection, (oops, pun just spotted), there are not as many people as I have fingers whom I would subject to the experience. The poor Guru is here so often it's unavoidable for him. He is so young I suspect he can't see any difference between 75-year-old me and Methuselah. Old is more than thirty, no degrees , no sub-divisions. Poor lamb: not much of a positive role-model in me with my creaks and wobbles, whatever age I may feel on the inside. Anyway, I came to the conclusion that greater love has no elderly woman than she may lay out a sight of her naked face for another. (I'm not sure of the propriety of plagiarising the laying down of ones life for another, but, myself, I enjoyed the allusion.) Anyway, should we meet in the street and I am not wearing make-up, you will know I love you.