Wednesday, 22 July 2009


I have just had a delicious lunch with a newish friend. She is about ten years younger than I so rather on the cusp of the mores with which I grew up. We talked about these and compared them with the way the young live, now. Not a lot of scope for originality in such a discussion but we enjoyed it and our personal examples of kicking over the traces. I remember my first break away from "the way things were done" in the parental home. I put a bar of soap at the wash basin and another at the bath. Imagine: no more leaning from the basin over the bath to reach the soap in its little dent on the far side and no more converse leaning precipitously out of the bath for the soap- dish which was, as you would expect, on the far side of the basin. Goodness knows why my Mother did'nt think it proper to have two bars of soap. It may have been to do with the war and rationing, but, logically, one wouldnt use more soap if there were two bars; just use the same amount more efficiently. My first rebellion outside the home was much more dramatic. I don't know how old you are but you have to be quite old to remember the hooded prisons that served as hairdryers until, what seems to me, comparatively recently. The hairdresser, having rolled one's hair, while wet, in to tight ringlets around a wire holder, would then place one under one of these prisons. They blew hot air, very hot air, around one's head, neck and ears and, incidentally, dried one's hair. I say incidentally, because that didn't seem to be the purpose the longer one was under the grill. I know, now, that, in fact, this method is not very good for the hair and dries it out rather than just drying it. I, being well-brought-up, for which read unaturally obedient, would wait, meekly, until the 'stylist' deemed me cooked. My neck burned, my ears hurt and I may have been living isolated from human voice inside this roaring monster for ever, but move: never. Then came the day, I must have been twenty five at least , when I thought ENOUGH, and, gingerly, heart thumping, slid from under the damned thing, craned my neck to reach its works and SWITCHED IT OFF. I sat there waiting for Nemesis, heart still thumping, and all that happened was that a junior came up, moved the machine backwards,and said "Oh, are you dry? Mr Davies won't be long" and, with a smile, left me to cool off. Dear Reader, I never suffered a burned neck again. Now one just has to put up with the roar of the hand held monster blowing dry ones hair but not ones surrounding body parts.

Which brings me to another simplification of rebellion. "Mr. Davies": to this day I don't know what Mr Davies's first name was. When I am in my home town, which, as it happens, I miss very much since I managed to sell the seaside studio, (see below), I drive passed his Salon and think about him. He and the salon have long since vanished and I regularly play with the idea of trying, still, to find out what he was called. His wife was Sheila. I know this because he would instruct her to pass him things or "see to the phone, Sheila" and she would do whatever with a professional nod and "Yes, Mr. Davies". My lunch companion had similar memories although she did know her hairdresser's name because it was over the door of the salon, "Ivan Downes, Hair Stylist". Of course, she never would have called him other than Mr Downes except, she was too timid to call him anything at all. Currently, the young man who washes my hair calls me Liz and when I wished to send a Christmas card to the man who cuts it I had to ring the salon and ask his surname. My friend's first remembered rebellion was to throw away the white gloves her school obliged her to wear whenever she was in uniform outside the school. She was worried that it wasn't really good enough as an example because she did it only on the last day she was ever at the school. Her Mother was really cross having planned that the gloves would be perfectly good enough for church for years to come.

Sadly, in my experience, leaving rebellion too long can result in disaster. For instance, it can be quite hard on a partner if you start, say, married life bland and compliant and during the course of it become sassy and opinionated. My friend and I decided the current young were truer to themselves much earlier. Whether or not that makes them better relationship material it's hard to assess. There may be potential for great pain in the diminution of the duty and obligation, the doing-what-is expected -of-you factor. What do you think?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Shared love

Time flies when you are having fun. No, seriously, I hadnt realised how long it has been since I was at the computer, for nice things, like blogging, as opposed to nasty things like filling in forms on line. As I have told you before, it seems to be a favourite hobby of the Wizard of Cyberspace, stealing my posts before I have published them, but after I have got nearly to the end of writing them. It seems clear that he and I share an attachment to them. It started me thinking about what happens when more than one of you wants/loves the same thing in a way which is not compatible, Today's example is with my beloved cat. Now, she and I are in agreement that she is totally lovable and totally the boss; no dissonance there. To strangers, though, she is not always user friendly and has been dubbed "devil cat" by my son at whom she routinely hisses. The current problem is that we both like the same chair, or, anyway, the fabric covering it. I am very fond of its tweedy look and feel. So is she. However, while I am pleased by its feel and its appearance, she is pleased only by its feel and digs her claws in to it and kneeds and scrapes and tears and pulls and generally makes a meal of it. So, there are we, ad idem about the desirability of the same object but rather different in our approach to it. Indeed, her prediliction precludes mine: it now looks awful. Simarlarly, bed; we both prefer the same side of a bed which is easily big enough to accommodate me and her and several others. Naturally, if she is lying on the best side, I decamp to the other remembering to take with me a portable phone, a pen and some tissues all of which are readily available without moving or effort on THE side. Oh well, as someone once observed, all over the world people are undergoing extreme discomfort in order not to disturb the cat, so I am not the only one.

I can see that there are rather more painful examples of shared love. I think about women who, married for decades, peacefully - apparently - tolerate living in a situation where the husband has a second life/wife running concurrently with her own. I realise that it is comparatively modern in certain circles, for marriages to be based solely on love and for exclusivity to be expected. Previously, marriages had an element of expediency, didnt they? Like, my lands adjoin yours or, between us we have such good genes we ought to propogate. In -loveness was reserved for outside the marriage. In other spheres, as I understand it, it was thought manly to have affairs. This is hardly original thinking, but I do, often, reflect on the potential for pain in the 'run of the mill' relationships where exclusivity HAS been expected and is not forthcoming.

As those of you who have loyally been with me all along may have noticed, I am interested - very - in the effects of sibling rivalry. Now there's an example of a shared love, or a shared love-object, anyway. As I have observed it, it can be one of the most formative of human experiences and usually comes very early. I know a little girl who has scarcely slept since the arrival of her little brother about six months ago. Her frazzled parents have tried everything except the one thing that would do the trick, to send him back from whence he came. You know, even cats feel it. In another life, I had the Mother and two of her little ones. One was clearly the mother's favourite. That did leave me in a special position with the other one, who was timid and quiet and glad of a lap where she was welcome. After the death of the mother, my timid friend came right in to her own. No more quiet naps on my lap or sitting by my feet while the other two cuddled up together on the settee. She fought for her position where she had never dared to sit before and even stuck her nose in to her sister's food if she fancied it. I was totally bowled over by surprise. You'd think Nature had endowed a mother cat with all those tits just so as to avoid the necessity of sharing and consequent rivalry. That could be a good idea for genetic engineering in human Mothers, too. Do you agree?