Friday, 31 December 2010


I am a sandwich. You are a sandwich. He is a sandwich, too. That's enough conjugation. I was just making the point that we are all sandwiches. We are the past and the future with the present the meat in the middle. Should you be vegan or vegetarian, you will have to put another metaphore in the middle. You get the idea. Past, present, future are all essential to making us who we are. One thing that concerns me is whether or not we/I make enough of the present. After all, it would be rare for the bread to give greater pleasure than the filling. And yet, the filling can sometimes be taken for granted. The temptation is to remember the past and wait for the future; not to live completely in the NOW. A Buddhist I know well is eloquent on this subject. It is not exclusive to Buddhists, of course, but dealing with it has become a speciality for them. When it is called "Mindfulness" it has a vogue far wider than among Buddhists. Under that name, we are encouraged, taught even, to stay with the present, to concentrate on the present, on what is happening NOW. I have been confused, I think, about the significance of this. As we speak, I see it as a will to deepen one's experience of the NOW, to be fully aware of it.

But how I do this depends on how the past has shaped me, doesn't it? Isn't my awareness inevitably influenced by the Yes-but of the past. For instance, I dealt differently with the freezing cold of the last few weeks than did the younger - much- Guru. There is familiarity about it. When I was a little girl I would have to dress under the bedclothes, my breath making cloudy puffs above the blankets. There was a winter, in the forties, I think, when windows froze closed and my Mother devised a sort of hot-water bottle for the milkman to put the milk in on the doorstep. When first I had a one-year old, he couldn't be left in his pram in the garden during his first winter in the '60s. We would have had iced baby. Central heating was not ubiquitous and we simply put on more clothes and huddled. It is how things were, so not questionable. I found that made me more tolerant of the recent conditions that were fazing the much younger. It influences my thoughts on global warming. I have been cold before. So help me understand what's new. You may remember, if you have had time, inclination and generosity to keep up - and tell your friends - that I was much moved by a TV programme about shop-keeping during the war in the 40's. I have done without things before, before they were dependant on snow on the runway for non-delivery. What does the future hold, then? The Guru has a relative who was near to restraining him physically when he proposed to use a car for what, in the interest of the planet, was regarded by the other as too short a journey. Petrol was rationed when I was little. Journeys restricted themselves. Past and future have that in common.
A more immediate future is overwhelming a dear old, and aged, friend of mine. Someone who is charged with looking after her told me, to-day, that she is very frightened. She will no longer speak on the phone and says, simply,"thank you" when the carer conveys my or anyone's love. She doesn't know whose love. I hope that doesn't matter and that she can still feel that present love as she moves inexorably in to the future. There is someone else close to me who says we septagenarians are all in the Departure Lounge. (He is just a few months off the next decade.) My very dear and fearful aged friend is already waiting on the tarmac. I pray she gets clearance for take off very soon, safe in the knowledge of an experienced pilot, perfect conditions and nothing to fear. Nos da and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Friday, 17 December 2010


What I'd like to know is whether or not you have managed to keep up your routine during the run up to the looming 'C' word. I am not even going to have to cook on Christmas day but I have accumulated forty nine parcels to wrap and assorted other meals to cook even without the turkey and you-know-what -else. Anyway, if you can call those reasons, that is why I have not been to my blog station for far too long. ( I know, I know, I leave it far too long far too often. On the other hand, I dare not risk boring you with them). What I need is a routine, a day which is write-a-post day. Dilemma: since I stopped working - paid working: housewives' work is never done - I have suffered a routine allergy. I am incapable of doing anything on a set time basis. As I think you know, I signed up for Advanced French and Begginers' German classes. Did I keep my Wednesday lunch-time appointments? No I did not. Not for more than a term, that is. The nature of my work was such that, in many cases, it would have been positively harmful for me to have altered my routine. If I said I would be there then there I would have to be. It has become a sort of 'yah boo and sucks' to that way of life for me to avoid anything, now, which ties me to a specific duty, or even pleasure, at a fixed time. The thing goes so far that I am having problems making up my face. Normally, you would expect to get up, wash your face and wherever else you feel the need, clean your teeth and on with the slap. Now I just have to vary it. Sometimes, I go down and feed my beloved, change her litter and even have my own breakfast before coming back upstairs to disguise the ravages of age. It has been known for me to feed her, make up and then eat. But today I discovered another aversion. I am averse/allergic to the routine order in which the slap, itself, actually goes on. Truly, if you are female, you will know that there is not much scope for variation; foundation, colour here and there, powder to seal it all and off to go. And there's the rub: vary it if you can. I have been doing this for sixty years or so. There must be a way in which I could do it differently. There is the option of not doing it at all, of course. Don't be daft: it would frighten the children - and the horses.

One of the difficulties is the usual one: that phenomena all have their pros and cons. Routine can be both irritating, infuriating, even, and also comforting and reassuring. A baby learns about alrightness in life when he/she can count on things being the same every time she/he experiences them. On the other hand, a certain amount of the unexpected is necessary to expose them to change and chance and coping with that. Have you ever changed your routine route to work or wherever just because you couldn't stand the sight of that hoarding with its posters another moment. And didn't it feel friendly and reassuring when you resumed your old path after a long absence away? I find myself dredging for examples which has thoroughly confused my inner world because it's rather a favourite hobby horse of mine, the yes and no of just about everything. Another inhibiter has been the dear old Wizard of Cyberspace. A while ago he swallowed the entire second paragraph and I have had no luck in reinstalling it. I am now working from the 'edit' edition on my blog site and absolutely terrified because it hasn't got the familiar 'save' option. I use this after about every second word as a matter of routine and am now in constant fear that the entire thing will be lost, permanently this time. Oh well, routine for the Wizard - who has also been known to be a Guardian Angel. Back to routine cellotape, ribbon and label. In which order?

Thursday, 2 December 2010


No irony intended in the current title. I do understand that my inner world consists almost entirely of a huge cupboard of rememberings. The other day, those contents were seriously challenged to move over and make room for a whole lot more. On television, I watched a programme which is, evidently, part of a series. A group of shopkeepers is transported back to various epochs in history. I did not see any of the others, which, I believe, started in Victorian times. The one I saw was war-time Britain. You won't need to be adequate at Maths to work out I was there. A baker, a grocer and a dressmaker were set up to run businesses in the physical representation and the garb of the time. I was overcome by such a sense of deja vue and recognition that I had to keep checking that the Guru, very much a figure of the 21st Century, was actually in the same, here-and-now room with me. I remember the way the shops looked; the sacks of provisions on the floor, the scales, and the scissors which the shopkeepers used to cut the coupons out of our ration books. I remember the queues and the cold standing outside waiting to be served. Things were a touch easier for us in some ways because my Father kept hens and we were able to benefit from more than the one egg a week ration, when they chose to lay, that is. Their rations were not rich, either and, though my Father filled them with love enough to lay their eggs in his hand, they were not so robust they could lay copiously and reliably. Some American Forces were billeted in our town and my Father, having been overseas in the forces in the First World War, went in to their Post Office and arranged to 'adopt' two men who were working there. He felt it was his way of re-paying the local hospitality he had received all those decades before. In this way, we also had supplementary chocolate and treats that were familiar and forgotten to my Mother and sister and fascinatingly new to me. Occasionally, they offered - wait for it - nylon stockings. The older females in my family swallowed their guilt, washed off the black line that had simulated a stocking seam on the backs of their bare legs and wore them as if elevated to Royalty in one silky gesture. Guilt was a real issue among the adults. There was unbearable conflict between the wish to do the best for one's family and the knowledge that one was indulging in unfairness, a sin above many others at that time. I doubt there is a way to make the young to-day feel, empathise with, the altruism and the strength of acceptance of the 'other' that helped keep us afloat in the chaotic, sterile and decimated era of that war. Stuck in a recent snow-storm, how could being told they were sharing in the "spirit of the blitz"mean anything to anyone under 70ish?

In the programme, the grocer was found guilty of serving people " under the counter". Should you, Dear Reader, be of the wrong epoch, this meant he sold goods over and above the ration allowance. This was not only immoral, it was illegal. I remember the collective guilt if one had benefitted from this practice, and the perpertrator was caught and seriously fined. However, if one had not benefitted, one was obliged to collude in ostracising the guilty one. Talk about a no-win situation. What a strange set of morality and rules of community I must have absorbed and what an odd old lady that makes me, to-day. I apprehended the Guru looking at me in a way I couldn't read. Perhaps it was the way I would have looked at someone whom I knew had taken part in the Charge of the Light Brigade. History was sharing the living room with him. How rum is that? (Actually, he was probably wishing we were watching "The Apprentice" or something else with contemporary relevance. I must ask him.) I experienced the rippling chill of the air-raid siren when it was reproduced: the chill, but also the excitement if you were a little girl pulled out of your bed in the huge dark of the middle of the night. I re-felt the hands of my sister helping me zip up my siren-suit with its bunny- eared hood. (For those of you lacking a Grandma or acquaintance of the age, a siren -suit was just like a baby- grow but for all ages. The Prime Minister wore one. It covered you and your nightie from tip to toe and kept you warm in the air-raid shelter). When you are a little person, your way of life simply is; everything after is change. Perhaps I never really moved on from that time. In future, shall I have to call this blog "75 going on wartime"? C U soon.
PS My gas mask was Minnie Mouse shaped. Go on: you do know what a gas mask is.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

More love

You don't need me to tell you that it would take more than one blogpost to cover the question of love. It has taken me this long, though, to recover from the shock of my temerity in discussing it at all a post or two ago. I did suspect at the time that I would be drawn in to discussing it some more. This time, there is the magnet of lost love. Is there any quality of love, through circumstance or choice, (see below if you are new to 75goingon40), which can be counted on as rock solid? It's possible that the love of one's children could be expected to overcome no- matter -what. Equally, the love for one's children.But, big but, don't we all know of situations which can , nevertheless, be categorised as 'never-darken-my-door-again'? A fictional one comes handily to mind. Do you remember "Fiddler on the Roof"? Briefly, this was the story of a very poor Jewish family of Father, Mother and five daughters living in Russia at the time of the pograms. The story was not the most subtly developed, but none the less potent for that. There was a progression, seen through the eyes of the obdurate, traditional Father, from his ultimate acceptance of his oldest daughter's right to chose her own husband to the marriage of a younger one to a Christian. Between, there was a middle daughter's alliance with a radical whom she followed to Siberia. Faced with each abomination, he first disowned and then came to reconciliation with them. Non-specific experience tells me that it is less likely the other way around. It seems to me that children are less inclined to accept, or even need, the rock solidarity of the parents' love, anyway, on the surface. One doesn't know the effect on their unconscious, that is, as P.G. Wodehouse, puts it, if they had one. I can think of instances, however, where a parent has 'sinned' by all rational measures of that crime, and is still loved and related to by his/her young. Indeed, the greater the 'sin' against love, the stronger the pull to have it back.

Maybe, there's the rub. Is it that we forgive and accommodate sins against love because of our need to find a rock solid one, at all costs to avoid its loss? I think, often, about the ramifications of divorce, for instance. Is it possible that the love, whatever its quality, that brought to people together in the first place, simply ceases to exist after divorce? Where does it go? In to the ether, down to the other place, is it transformed in to hate or indifference? Does it linger, in dreams, in cupboards, in the stuff we consign to Oxfam? Someone I know and love loathes her ex with a passion that can be almost scary. But, she dreams, with desolation, that she has lost her wedding ring. Is it the 'ghost of love lost' rather than 'hate found' that is hiding in her inner world? Death is different. It may be that there is not such an 'if only' possibility in the loss of love through death. Death clears our relationships of acrimony: divorce of tenderness. In the past, I have been careless with love, thinking it rock solid when it turned out not to be. There is a sort of see-saw in it: the 'no-matter-what- I-do I- can't-lose - it' against the 'no-matter-what-it-costs I'll -keep- it'. This morning it cost three different kinds of cat food to get it. I know, I know: no boundaries, no shame, no leave-her-to-it-and-if-she's-hungry etc etc. But rock solid it certainly is; for the moment, anyway. Bora da

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


What good practice it is to find a title that is succinct and pliable; one that will enable me to stick to the subject in hand but be not so specific that it will force me to run out of steam after two sentences. As I was saying, timing: I seem to have spent my entire life being too late to shop early for Christmas. Very little has changed this year except that I am even more aware that November is only just within the bounds of shopping early - my bounds, anyway. But I have made one purchase, that is, a real one, one that involved going in to a shop, asking a question, examining the goods, making a decision and paying, and, wait for it, going back out on to the street with a little package in my hand. I have also made two on-line purchases. (Stop it! This is no laughing matter. I bet your Grandmother isn't Christmas shopping on-line). I do not see this as a real purchase. I have touched nothing, exchanged words with no-one and certainly not wandered anywhere with a package in my hand. This is a cyber-purchase and if I ever see the goods no one will be more surprised than I: I, the pedant, that is. I am off on a little trip for five days and, who knows, perhaps there will be two tangible packages when I get back, or two cross notes from the postman saying he tried to deliver such and such without success and would I please present myself with all dispatch at an unfindable location at times which don't exist; oh, and bringing proof of identity. As if I didn't find it hard enough remembering who I am, myself, from time to time, without having to prove it to others. One other concession to shopping early: I have cut down on the number of presents I am going to buy.

However, the underlying inspiration for these reflections is rather more serious, I fear. I have left it too late to get it right. ' It' what? you may well ask. Life, actually, is the nearest I can get to it. At the weekend I went to a party, a mixed-age party. Present was a breast feeding Mother, her husband and, of course, the baby. At about eleven o'clock, having heard stirrings from the monitor, the young Mum slipped out of the crowded room. Moments later, the baby's Father followed her. I found the implications of this very moving. He was clearly going to take in the spectacle of his loved wife feeding their lovely small daughter. My mixed feelings, of pleasure and delight and, it must be said, sadness, were because it is now too late to have a Father for my children who would have felt able to do that. I must add, at once, that this would be largely generational. When my littles were little, going on for fifty years ago, Fathers would have been rarely seen and never heard of in the basic environment of child-birth and very early rearing. It is equally too late to breast feed them for as long as Mothers currently do. At the other end, it is too late for me to be better to my own Mother than I managed to be when it was right I should have been. Most of what was done was done from duty. Will she have known this as a child knows when its parent is only simulating love? There is even a lesson on this kind of verisimilitude from my above young friend: she speaks to her baby as if she were a fully cognisant human being. Sometimes, she even tells her the day has been difficult and she is feeling rather cross. What confidence in herself, her baby and their mutual understanding is shown by this way of communicating. How sad I am it is too late to be that kind of Mother. Now, I have the experience and the confidence and the ability to feel the tenderness for my own Mother I couldn't allow when she was alive, but, sadly, one can't re-do mothers who have passed on. We'll gloss over what kind of wife I was. Definitely too late to do that again and differently.

The order I put in for my life then, must, though I didnt know it, have been done on line. You type in what you want, furnish your credit card details and leave it to the Wizard of Cyberspace to deliver. You can't see the goods in advance, you can't question their viability and they often turn out to be very different, indeed, from what you expected when you put the order in. You can, of course, send them back, so there the analogy has to end. Happy shopping early for you-know-what.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Ok: there's no need to shout. I am perfectly well aware of the presumption of writing a post entitled "Love". Nevertheless, that's just what I am going to do. I have been thinking about love for the best part of three score and more than ten years. Recently, I came to the conclusion that love could be columnised in two lists. There is love by circumstance and love by choice. Love by circumstance would include ones children and ones other relatives. By and large, these are people one loves simply because they exist. Surely you have come across the phenomenon of the prodigal son. I thought so. For my purpose, though, it would need some modifying. What I had in mind was the impossible behaviour of the breaking-out teenager, with which we are all familiar. Short of murder, manslaughter, arson, you know, the sort of behaviour which tends to bring in the outside world, often dressed in blue, to deal with it, I have observed parents going on loving the most dastardly little darlings who are ruining the lives of all with whom they come in touch. Parents tend to forgive rudeness, unkindness, indifference without losing the pull at the heart which is the best I can do to categorise love for the moment. I suppose this may also be true the other way around: children forgive parents who abandon, abuse, neglect and are indifferent to their young. When I was little, I had an Uncle whom I now realise was a sandwich or two short of a picnic. (Not a blood relative, I hasten to aver: married to one.) He was a horrible little man whose idea of one good joke was to play the sound of an air-raid siren on his fiddle in the middle of the night. (I don't feel able to tell you the really bad ones). He had a sqeaky voice, which should have made him sufficiently to be laughed at by me and my cousins - other than his own children - that the sting would have been taken out of his power to fighten and undermine. Do you know, we actually believed we loved this man because he was our uncle. We certainly kept going back to his house although his wife, my actual aunt, whom I suppose I did sort of love, made the worst Welsh cakes in the country. I was seventeen when I announced that, not only did I not love Uncle D, I hated him. The ensuing parental argument was along the lines of " of course you don't hate him: he's your Uncle".

To love by choice is a quite different kettle of lobster. Definition, description, everything defies possibility. From best friends in the playground to partners in life, those we choose to love, or, rather, the reasons we choose to love them, have to be recorded under 'enigma', anyway, by me. I am prepared to talk about the pull at the heart, but, in the last resort, is'nt one just left with the 'you know what I mean' option? Take the Guru - no don't, I need him to out - face the Wizard of Cyberspace. Love is a word good enough for my response to him. Why? He is no longer an enchanting toddler, an interestingly clever five-year-old. We negotiated teen-age well enough. We do have some similar ways of looking at the world but not enough to fill a questionnaire. I am left with the possibility that we were somehow related in another life. That would/could make him loved by circumstance, though, depending on HOW we were related. What about my cat? I certainly love her, which, considering how rotten she is to almost every other human in her world, doesn't immediately qualify her as eminently lovable. Perhaps I love her because I can interpret her way of being in the world as including love for me. I am the provider of the safe haven in which she lives, but I don't know if that is sufficient to explain the way she follows me and waits for me to provide a lap or a tummy to climb on to and miaows if I am too long about it. Her little head rubs against my hand and - that's quite enough. The rest is private. If I think about those I love through choice, I begin to suspect they do have one thing in common, though: what you see is what you get. There is no organisation, manipulation of the personailty to confuse or deceive. A spouse/partner starts as choice and in due course becomes circumstance, a relative. Of course, the loved by circumstance and the loved by choice may each induce the same phenomenon: the 'Ah/Yes' that stirs your heart and waters your eyes and delights your soul. Blood is incidental then. Each is just joy. See you sooner.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I suspect I really mean dualogue. What I have in mind is mimicing a duck. A calm, polite, co-operative conversation is going on on the surface and a frantic, angry, border-line unpublishable contra-flow is going on below; like a duck skimming smoothly across the top of a lake,while underneath, running, unseen, a being demented, to catch the last bus ever. For instance, to-day, at lunch time, I underwent some tests on my heart. They were deemed necessary after the flurry of heart overkill that took me to hospital a couple of months ago. An event which ended by distracting all the nurses in A and E. (See below for the Guru-effect). This was not a proceedure to which I was looking forward. I am rarely a happy bunny when arrangements are made for me that mean I have to skip lunch. Just because the practitioners are prepared to sacrifice their midday sustenance doesn't mean the patients are. But I duly presented myself and thus began the dualogue of which the title. Political correctness dictates staff should explain every move they/you authorise/make. "Remove all upper garments and put on the gown, tying at the back. That blue and white garment is the gown". Inner voice:" I've put on more gowns than you've had hot dinners, idiot". Outer voice: "Shall I leave my things here?" "Yes, except your bag, of course." i.v. "Actually, my bra is more valuable than my bag". o.v "Thank you Nurse." Head pops back in: "No, gown to the front on this occasion. I have to attach terminals to your chest." i.v. "Make your b....y mind up". o.v. "Thank you, Nurse". "I'm not Nurse. I'm the Radiographer". i.v. "I don't give a d..n who you are." o.v. "Oh! sorry. What about my trousers?" "You can leave them on. Elastic-waisted are they?" i.v. "No, they are certainly not elastic waisted. Do I look like the sort of woman who would wear elastic-waisted trousers. Leave me my last vestige of elegant womanhood you stupid radiographer." o.v. "No, they're not. They have buttons and a zip." "Well, we'll just roll them down then". Once in the operating theatre - in the non-invasive sense: the room where things will happen - every nut and bolt is explained. i.v. "Just get on with it. This is more information than I need to deal with. Yes, I have been fasting: why?" o.v. "Thank you. I understand. I'm fine, just a bit hungry. Oh, I see. No food in case the injection of dye makes me sick" i.v. "You infantilising nincompoop. I've had this sort of injection before. I'm not going to mess up your lovely white clinic." Three tries by junior radiographer, then senior, at placing a canula in a vein in one arm then the other. Doctor called. He manages to get it in to a vein in my hand. i.v. "At least look at me and greet me before your tear my hand to pieces, and where are your sterile gloves?". o.v. "Thank you very much", when he succeeds where others have palpably failed and left me sorissimo. (I do know that's not a word. Would you have left the 'e' in for greater clarity or put 'exceedingly sore'?) Anyway, there I am. The semicircle of magic machine is in front of me, I am taped in to a canula, my back is uncomfortable and the tourniquet is biting in to my wrist. "Everything alright?" i.v. " Why would it be, Stupid? Has anyone ever done this to you? Yes, I do remember the dye will make me feel hot. This will be the fourth time you have told me in the last three minutes. Trying to impress Sir?" o.v. "Fine, thank you."

She is right. The dye does make me feel hot and swirls round in places of more intimacy than I dreamt would have been involved. I am in and out of the machine like a cuckoo clock. Each time, I dutifully hold my breath and pray she remembers to tell me to breath normally in due course. Mostly, she does. To be fair, there is only one occasion when the breath-holding seems over long. "Alright?". i.v. " Must have as much breath control as a mezzo soprano. But it's not your business to assume that. What if I'd had the breath control of an angry infant? Hurray for me." o.v. "Fine thank you. What stage are we at?" " Nearly finished." Then a lot of step by step explanations about what will happen next, even to putting my clothes back on. i.v. "She means well; but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Shut up and get me out of here." o.v. "Thank you. That's very helpful."

But out of there she does get me. "You've done very well", she says, carrying my bag, my stick and my raincoat - how did that get in to the 'theatre'. i.v. "Done very well, have I? perhaps I'm a swan after all." o.v. "You made it very easy." Oh Dear, is nothing as it sounds in this world? See you before too long.

P.S. Before you label me economical with the truth, both the i.v and the o.v had its degree of verisimilitude; the i rather more than the o to be wholly honest.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Adapting, again

The 'Coolth' post had me thinking, in a slightly aslant way, not just about what the young consider 'cool' versus what's 'boring', but also about simpler ways in which Now differs from Then. This sidewise- with- a- difference examination led me to register other ways, lacking in the fashion element of cool and boring, in which the elderly have to adapt. Telephones: how many times have I dialled a number and waited, and waited, and waited for a connection until I remembered you have to press a button before or after you dial in order to get the purr which, in my old life, used to be the automatic response of the lovely big instrument you could tuck between your ear and your neck. What's more, you got your purr the moment you picked the dear thing up. I know, I know, you can walk around with the non-purring kind. This is a good thing?

To-day, the Guru and I indulged in a little frozen yoghurt. It was quite delicious. However, I like to eat it seated in the local cafe which supplies it. He likes to eat and walk. He, of course, is not holding/using a stick - cane - and wouldn't need a third hand to deal with the tub and the plastic spoon that, of necessity, comes with it. Rather than put him through the boredom of sitting in the bright pink cafe, I did receive the deliciousness in an old-fashioned ice-cream cone. In principle, this should be manageable with one hand. In practice, it dribbles, the yoghurt disappears down the cone and the cone, itself, defeats one of life's rare guilt-free exercises by being inordinately sweet. Someone will have to adapt. Either someone will have to remain static in the cafe, against his/her inclination, or someone will have to come home seriously covered in chocolate frozen yoghurt.

Last time, talking about coolth, I did touch on changing manners. I see I find it quite hard to differentiate between current manners and current mores. I find it bad manners to have conversations with those not present, otherwise known as texting, when dining with those who are present. I am reliably informed, ( you will note that I often find myself reliably informed) that this is perfectly acceptable behaviour, therefore, mores not manners. As I recall, "Dear X" as opposed to "Hi" was another example from that post. Is that 'acceptable' form of address now mores or manners? I think there must be a whole blogpost possibility in this. When - and how - do manners become mores and, because of that, oblige the elderly to adapt to them? Discuss. Some things don't change. A friend who is almost three years old - the friend, not the friendship: well, both, actually - took me to the Circus last week. By far the most reveting item was the look on this little one's face as he took in the proceedings. What could his inner eye have pictured in advance when his Mother told him he and she and Liz were going to the Circus. What unlikely experience could he possibly have had to help him to anticipate it? It was utter joy to watch him, sideways on as I was. I was not distracted/attracted by what was going on in the Ring until my eye was caught by one man jumping over the head of another while both were standing on a rope about a mile high at the top of the Big Top. By which time, my friend was more entranced by his flashing butterfly than by the death-defying antics of the men in the air. What can you say... plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose; reassuringly, no need to adapt to anything new in the mores of little children. Nos da.

Friday, 24 September 2010


As you will have worked out, the Guru, as well as mediating between the Wizard of Cyberspace and me, at the moment also serves as tester of ironing, taster of meals and replacer of dud light bulbs. This means that we spend a certain amount of time together, giving me the opportunity to learn a little bit about how life is for the young in 2010. It seems very clear. Life is divided in to 'cool' and 'boring'. What is more difficult is how to tell which is which. Obviously, I could give you a dry list. It would be seriously truncated. Why: I haven't fathomed the criteria which put an item or an event on to the one column as opposed to the other.

However, I will have a go. A list, in its limited impact, might look like this: rice is boring, pasta is boring, sun glasses are cool, no coat is cool, (well, in autumn and winter it would be wouldn't it). St Tropez is cool. West of it is boring. Salad is boring. Stir-fry is cool. To be fair, I wouldn't want you to think I am actually quoting the Guru. My examples are drawn from the wildness of my imagination doing its best to work out how to work it out and not disgrace the elderly whom I am obliged, via anno domini, to represent. But simply not being too sure what does qualify may be boring in itself. I suspect the elderly are, per se, more boring than cool. I do try my best. For instance, does eccentric qualify as cool? No, you don't know either. Since to-day is my birthday, I am in a specially good place to think about the importance of cool as an influence on developement. Perhaps it is a factor in the search for identity. Birthdays do bring up the question of who-am-I, or who have I become, don't you find? I have come through many trials, fire, water, you know the kind of thing, and I do have a feeling of recognition in the mirror of my inner world. What I can't know is who I might have been (whom?) had I grown up in the Now. Manners are different, for instance. I've been mystified, and even complained, about this before. I can't get used to letters that start "Hi". Mine still start "Dear X". Come to that, there are no letters. I should have said emails that start "Hi". It must be cooler, surely, to keep up with current idiom. People don't stand up when you introduce them to one another or are introduced to them. However, by the time I've creaked to my feet it would'nt be surprising if the introducee was already bored out of his or her mind, anyway. You know what? I'm thoroughly confused and bored with the whole cool/boring thing.

Reflecting on my several more than three score and ten, I do understand, however, that, even when I was young, I didn't follow the dictates of cool and boring. Eccentricity was more my style then, too. Perhaps, the answer is that the real criterion for what is cool is not to be cool at all. And it is boring to go on about it. Back soon

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


How are you about throwing stuff away? I thought so: just as bad as I am. In a day or so I shall be a year older. Somewhere, deep down in my inner world, I have realised that less is now more. I have started to look around me with new/old eyes and realised that sentiment, which I would really like to call nostalgia, has filled my cupboards and drawers with stuff. Stuff that I shall never use or need again. Ah, but there's the rub. I might use or need it again. In other words, my storage capacity and my inner world are stuffed (sorry) with 'in cases'. I have been without help in the house for a while - too long, since you ask - so have been in to corners normally left to the regard of others. For instance, in my living room, next to a china cupboard, stands a small, hand-held vacuum cleaner. ( I have difficulty carrying the grown-up one from its downstairs hideyhole so the little one is essential if it is I who must do the sweeping). For aeons, it has been lying in a corner, by day hidden partly by a curtain and hidden not at all when the curtains are closed. This morning, I looked for a way to put it inside the cupboard. The cupboard is filled with china. When I say china, I mean porcelain, old-fashioned, thin beautiful porcelain. There are cups and saucers and small matching plates, and big matching plates on which to serve thin bread and butter, and scones and home-made fruit cake. I don't serve those things. What to do? The china belonged to my Mother and some of it to her Mother. My young will be about as interested in having it as they would be in inheriting a penny-farthing bicycle: less. At least the bicycle might be sold for a profit. While admitting the exquisite pleasure of drinking from fine porcelain, they would ask themselves - I having left the purlieu of answering questions - where on earth they would keep the damn stuff. But I cannot throw it, nor give it for that matter, away. It is part of who I am. It tells a story. It is a given, a proof of living. It is the history without which one would have to doubt one's existence.

By this time, since the bottom shelf was the one under contemplation, my poor back was aching. I could persevere, move the china out and push the cleaner in, or I could leave the status quo until some help was available again. The answer was to leave things as they were, in due course to re-assign the china without relinquishing it and then hide the vacuum cleaner. I have an outfit that is 27 years old. It consists of a short, straight grey skirt and a grey, long jacket with a faux waistcoat sewn in. (Nonsense, you can picture it perfectly well). The skirt won't go round my waist, even if my elderly ankles made wearing a skirt a good look. The jacket has had shoulder pads in, shoulder pads out and various other up-dating ruses. It still looks wrong and would not go over anything other than its own non-fitting skirt no matter how hard I closed my eyes. Throw it in to the charity box? I couldn't. It is actually part of the wall-paper. It would be like moving house to relegate it. Oh Dear!.. What to do. And if that were the only example..... I don't really live an evening life anymore. Why do I need all those going-out clothes? I don't. Oxfam? OK, one of these days, but not to-day. Yesterday, I needed my pressure cooker. Good Heavens, does anyone still use such a thing in this day and age? No; not even war-time brought -up me. that's why it was 'stuff' I had managed to get rid of, ages ago. But I wanted to make chicken soup quickly and, somehow, the microwave and chicken soup felt like an oxymoron. So a quiet simmer it was and no time to cool it and remove the fat before offering it to the invalid for whom it had been made. Why is it I/we throw away only those things for which we quickly find we do have an urgent need after all.? I am never going to need four black evening bags in varying degrees of loveliness. Why didnt I put them in the pressure cooker and throw them out together? Life is a conundrum. I am reminded of the wisdom of a dear departed friend of which I may have told before: on left-over food " Put it in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing it out." It's the guilt which needs throwing out. C u b4 long

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


I have had to leave the ironing and run back to the computer because I found I could neither rest nor iron smoothly until I had told you a crunch factor about my recent holiday. The fact is, I came back paler than I went. How is this possible? Well, the inner 40 year old took a look - accidently, I assure you - in a full-length mirror just as she stepped out of the bath a few days before the start of the holiday and didn't like what she saw. Instantly, two remedies sprang to mind. First, change the position of the mirror, second, get a fake tan. It takes much courage and a switch-off button to appear in a swimsuit at all at my chronological age. I would much prefer a nice Victorian bathing costume covering the pale, the wrinkled, the mis-shapen, but, on balance, grant that such an outfit may draw even more attention than the top of thigh to top of bosom cover-ups I currently use. The scarlet swimsuit helps; one can hardly look elsewhere. However, one can't wear that without interuption. A wet swimsuit, slowly drying on a damp, clammy body is not a good look, so I do have several, none of which is as distracting as number one scarlet. Anyway, there was my inspiration: a fake tan. I read the magazines, I follow the trends: no I don't, I read about them. Never mind how, what matters is that I knew such a thing exisited. I dressed hastily, rushed to the phone and dialled the local beauty salon which had once been owned by a friend of mine. The response was uber-normal. No-one flinched or gasped and an appointment was made for the last possible moment before I left so that I would get major benefit until the end of the holiday

Picture this: dressed in a close approximation to jeans, an old top and some bottom clothes, as one of my young used to call her knickers, with pop socks and slip on shoes, I duly presented myself at the salon which still bears the name of my friend. Just as well I was not more comprehensively dressed. I was shown in to a cubicle containing a stained hand basin and half a conical pipe. A towel that had seen better days was placed on the base of this cone, there was a hook on the wall by the door and that was it. If you are more than 65, or have back problems you may have had some experience of taking footwear off standing up. You, or anyway I, can't do it. Dilemma: go back out and sit down in Reception, which would mean replacing the above garments, or struggle on, leaning on the door at risk of falling down with every manoeuvre. (Now I come to think of it, that wouldn't have been a problem; there wasn't room to fall). Finally, when the choice was take them off or have them tanned, too, I did manage to strip everything, including footwear. The young beautician, who had banged on the door several times already, finally forced herself in and proffered a paper thong on the clear assumption that I was not preparing myself to sunbathe in the all together. I wasn't. I queried the suspect towel, which was duly, and with a snort, turned over displaying another seedy side, and, with the sang -froid of one about to enter a no-escape clause, I submitted myself to a chocolate all-over spray. Not quite all over, of course: there was the thong. In a day-long couple of minutes it was over, but not before I had turned round for my back to be done and seen a gaping crack in the half-capsule which did not a lot for the feeling of 'what about hygiene' I had had from the moment the door opened. Thereafter, a cold fan was turned on and I was told to stand still for five minutes. Two seconds later, Miss came back and switched it off. I knew I was nowhere near dry but the need to get out of there took over my entire mind and body and I rushed back in to my clothes as if at the scene of a fire. Well, rushed as well as a non-bendy person could in a confined space with no stool. I retained enough presence of mind to take my footwear out in to Reception to sit there to re-shod, trailing smudges of chocolate foot-prints and incurring the sort of vibrations you would expect on a crowded Underground train when you take the last seat.

Later that day, I noticed that I looked like Blackpool Rock - a sticky stick of peppermint flavoured toffee with the name of a town printed through it, should you happen to be outside the UK - which is usually made of two intertwining colours, in my case beige and chocolate brown. I had dried streaky and that's how it remained. My friend, the former owner of the salon with her name still over the door, would have been mortified. No treatment prevailed. I scrubbed and scrubbed, behind elbows, behind knees. All my moles and freckles and other blemishes were dyed black/ brown and more blemishes had appeared. I had thrown out a pair of bottom clothes and some pop socks and had the telephone in my hand - black so as not to stain a white one - to tell the Guru we weren't going anywhere when it occurred to me this was pure vanity and I must just count on the endemic invisibilty of the old. Over the next few days, at home and abroad, I continued to scrub, to leave brown marks on hotel towels and to curse the beautition. It did wear off, eventually, to be replaced by the sort of light creme brulee I usually turn and that's how it is that I have come home lighter than when I left. See you soon, but not quite this soon.

Monday, 6 September 2010


As you can see, my scarlet swimsuit and I are back from our only too short sojurn by the sea. I am cross because I was obliged to acknowledge an even more restricted physical capacity than last year. That's a reality. As it happens, just between us, the small hotel to which I have been going for too many years to admit to, was rather more like a convalescent home this time. There were four walking sticks - canes, if you are over the Pond - two wheelchairs, one pair of crutches and sundry obvious disabilities, such as lost limbs. Since there are only forty rooms this is quite a high proportion of the less-than-whole, and, accustomed as I am to a life of gossip, (Welsh, you see), I actually enjoyed being told the stories behind them all. (I have to bear in mind that we will be objects of gossip, too, of course). Still, it is a lovely place in which to be less than whole and talked about. On one level, idyllic would reliably describe the entire experience, paricularly the surroundings.

However, life being made up, as I have found, with positive and negative aspects to just about everything, the reality also included jelly fish in the sea, wasps on the land and the Mistral wind blowing over both. The latter is particularly sneaky because it whips the temperature off the sea, the sand in to your eyes and hair and, indeed, everywhere else exposed and less exposed. One such blowy day was lost to the holiday. There could be no shade because the parasols all blew over and no swimming for this delicate lady because the sea was colder than it is in Wales - no, I am not exaggerating; I've tried both and I know of what I speak. On another rather cloudy day we took off to a fairly near, much more fashionable and exotic resort. This provided a further reality check. The Port is unbelievable: yachts the size of most houses moored on one side and grim tourist stall/shops, and 'watch-out' restaurants on the other. Though, to be fair, had I not driven the pace by being seriously hungry and, thus precluding a more intensive search for a watering hole, I am sure there would have been more acceptable solutions somewhere off that strip, or even on it. The hinterland was a different kettle of champagne: lovely to look at shops and jaw-dropping people to go with - and in - them. The Guru was with me and we took a boat trip around the bay at his sensible behest. Now, instead of yachts the size of houses we saw houses the size of palaces. In three languages we were told who had and who did own the grandest of them. More gossip, I loved it.

Overall, it was a great day finishing with yet another fantasy/reality check. The volume of traffic on the road going back to our quiet little secret was London rush hour in school time, times a hundred. Being familiar with the area over decades, I encouraged the Guru, who was, of course driving, to leave the main road and follow the coast road. We had no map and he, with good reason, was not happy to trust that I knew what I was doing, nor, even, where we were going. I was actually using my familiarity with the names of the places by-passed by the right road in a run which had been routine for me since before his Mother was born, never mind himself. This stunningly lovely route was followed in tense silence while he gave out 'we-shall-be-in-this wilderness-for- the rest of time', and I gave out 'wish-I could-enjoy-the-beauty-but he'll-be-so-cross-to-miss dinner-though-I-suspect-glad-to-find-me-wrong'.
Dear Reader, we did get back in time for dinner and for the rather more rewarding gossip of a small hotel where most people have been coming for ever. How do you think I knew about the background to the illnesses and injuries? Garden wall stuff, of course. To soon...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


From time to time, I re-read the odd blog post - do I hear the mutter that there are more than one that you would classify as odd? - in an attempt not to be too repetitive. It comes to me that if there is a repetitive tendency it is in a hint of complaint. Let us be clear and reiterate that the very thrust of this blog is to throw in to relief the condition of those of us who are, in real life, pushing eighty but whose inner worlds are just as they were when we were forty. I know, I know, you haven't forgotten, well, not all of you have forgotten, but I did feel the need to remind you that the good examinee will always keep in mind the need to focus on the question/title to which one has been asked to respond. It seems to me a time must come when we find our selves. We establish the self, recognisable and basic, ready to expand and adapt, but which is, essentially, the who-we-are. This person is ageless. The physical self cannot arrive and stay in the same known, secure place. It is not ageless. On the contrary, it wears out. It moves on. It declines in strength and capacity. The delightful 'ah yes' which signifies growth in the inner world is counterbalanced by the sad 'but no' of the failing body. It is one thing to know this intellectually, another actually to experience it in three dimensions, in the heart of you. Thus, I blog on in the hope that you will read with magnanimity my accounts of the inconsistencies and frustrations occasioned by this human condition, accepting that they are merely the recognition of what is, and not a moan in disguise.

There are, however, advantages. Intermittent faults: in my bathroom there is a noise. It is not a welcome noise. It comes from behind the wall, an outside wall, in front of which is the lavatory and its cistern and the hand-basin. It sounds like a drip. It can, sometimes, be stopped by giving an extra lift to the handle of the cistern. This can't be classified as a scientific way to deal with it so wit's end is in sight. A dear friend who helps me in the garden and looks after my Beloved (Cat, of course: who did you think I meant?) if I am away, crawled in to my roof space and out on to the roof to see if he could identify the source. This was no mean feat. He is enormous, scarcely narrower than the trap door he squeezed through. He found nothing untoward and I was left to worry. And thereby hangs the advantage. The time one has left to worry is palpably less than it was nearly forty years ago. In principle, I can leave my heirs to worry. In my car a red symbol turns up occasionally. It never turns up when I drive, with decorous speed, to the garage to show them. "Intermittent faults; they're the worst". I know. But I dont have to put up with such things as long as, say, the Guru, on his first own-car. The same with my heart. You may remember the rush to A and E with my personal George Clooney look-alike. (See below if you are in doubt about the reference.) I am in process of going through a number of investigations to pin down and treat what caused the rapid heart-beat. It simply won't happen when we need it to, to make the job easier. It is intermittent. Funny thing: I saw this as an advantage. The Medics would prefer some current evidence of what has been described as an electrical fault... no pun intended: my unconscious chose the word. You know that I pass some time as a spy/mystery shopper. One of the companies for which I work has suddenly instigated a questionnaire, by telephone, to test whether or not you have remembered details of the 'brief' you have been emailed. This annoyed me. I cant think why. Yes I can. I have been reading and understanding for three score and more than ten - minus the first five - and I don't need any more exams. More, I am a very experienced observer and reporter. The advantage is that I am now free to turn down that work if I dont feel suited to doing it. As the elderly Maurice Chevalier assured us in the lovely film "Gigi", "Forever more is shorter than before": the ultimate advantage.
Anyway, that's my attempt to redress the balance of moan versus yah boo and sucks. (Is that a polite expression for a ladyof my generation?) My scarlet swimsuit and I are going to the seaside for a week again in a little while. If I dont see you before I go, I'll see you as soon as I can when I am back.

PS. The 'drip' has been tentatively diagnosed as air in a pipe.


Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Telling you about my adventures with the on-line reporting which took several years off my life last week, I had an insight which gave me some degree of comfort. I am sure that most of you kind readers are fluent in their own and, no doubt, at least one other language. I, myself, see myself as a fluent French speaker with a smidgen of Italian, Spanish, Portugese and even Welsh. Yes, yes, I am aware of the lack of modesty, but I tell you the simple truth. Of course, we may have to define 'smidgen' in order to get the full flavour of my capacity. I suggest you see it in terms of what we used to call, during the second world war, "bread and scrape". For those of you nearer 40 than 75, this was a slice of bread over which one's Mother - or one's self if old enough - had passed a knife on which was a portion of the two ounce per week butter ration we were allowed. This application left more of a glisten than a rich yellow deposit and, as you will have realised, the resulting tartine, ('tartine': french, slice of bread and butter ; viz Bell's Concise French Dictionary) came, for that reason, to be called "bread and scrape". Anyway, I have a bread and scrape of Spanish, Italian, Portugese and Welsh and a rich smorgasbord of French.

I'll tell you where this is leading. How many of us can say we are as totally fluent in a language other than our native one as we are in that? I guess most of us are like me: definitely good enough where I have any fluency at all, but, even so, several degrees from absolute equality with the Mother tongue.( The Guru has a Mother tongue and a Father tongue. He is almost equally fluent in both, but, since he no longer lives in his Fatherland, may not be fully au fait, for instance, with current idiom). My revelation concerned IT. I understood that I am capable only of bread and scrape dealings with the language of the web, the internet and everything else in the purlieu of the Wizard of Cyberspace. I suspect that even the Guru can manage only up to a smorgasbord of IT though, to me, it seems as if it is his native tongue. Only the Wizard and those who hack in to American Intelligence are 100% fluent. Perhaps, if I look at it as a foreign language, available if I would only take the time and trouble necessary to master - mistress ? - it, I could and would gain sandwich proficiency, if not smorgasbord. The one thing my present language status does demonstrate is that, other than Welsh, the others are Roman tongues and lean on my having done Latin to A level.( Don't bother with the Maths: it was 60 years ago). I very much enjoy language and its means of communication. This can sometimes be a minefield. There was an occasion when I met a famous Welsh bass-baritone in an Airport lounge. I addressed him with a 'Good Afternoon' in Welsh and was rewarded with a stream of that lovely language of which I could not make out one word. Embarrassing?: it still haunts my nightmares.
I realise I am doing some verbal showing off in this blog, but I am really happy finding the 'mot juste' and varying the ways in which I express myself. Good Heavens! that must mean I have come some way in my effort to achieve smorgasbord in the English language, anyway. I am also doing not too badly in Cat and my cat is not doing too badly in Human. She has just alerted me to the need for a clean litter tray. See you soon. Nos da.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

More eccentricity

Before I get on to my confession of yet more evidence of what one may, with kindness call eccentricity, with realism dottiness, I learn from the comments added to the last post - no irony intended - that I have risked some confusion. The shoe horn in the bed: there was a shoe horn in the bed because I tend not to strip and remake it at the weekend. Mattresses are a bit heavy if you have a dodgy back. And I do old fashioned sheets and blankets which need to be tucked in. I don't do duvets. (I sleep too restlessly to keep a duvet on the damn bed, if you really want to know). Anyway, the bed is remade only on days when a kind person comes to help me with the housework. I sat on it in order to put on my lace-up shoes and simply put the shoe horn down in/on the open bed after I was shod: simple, no? The other query was about the role of the Nanny who let her little Princess- charge run about in the restaurant without control. I think it may be difficult to know who should be doing what if both parents and Nanny are in attendance. When I encountered the females of the group in the Ladies, the Mother was removing the nappy, (diaper, if you are over the pond), and the Nanny was passing the wet-wipes. My instinct is that Mother is not often on bottom, or any other,duty and rather enjoyed the opportunity. Nanny may have been unused to sharing and not sure about the way the hierarchy worked. Anyway, that's the best I can suggest.

Dottiness: You may recall that I have been doing the occasional stint as a Myster Shopper. You know, a sort of spy employed by an agency whose clients want to know whether their employees are doing what it says on the tin. Casinos were among the more interesting I have told you about, see below. This time, I was asked to take two bus tours around London and a river cruise on the Thames. I picked up the first bus at a stop I had identified before and took it
as far as the pier where the river cruise was to start. I cruised to the Tower of London and back and alighted to find the bus for tour number two which I had been told would be right there. I had, however, and inadvertently, got the wrong boat back - wrong company, that is - so was not disembarked at the same pier. Therefore, there was no sight of the right bus. Resourcefully, and rather hungry by now, I took a taxi to where I knew there would be a stop for the right bus and also a couple of adjacent cafes. So far, so good. I then took the right second bus tour to finish my assignment. (With me still?) By the time I had done and seen and heard enough to fill in the report forms, this elderly lady was somewhat worn out. Like a good person, though, I staggered home and immediately started by filling in, on line, the 15 page report form for the tour on bus 1. Dear Reader, the Wizard of Cyberspace was at his worst. Three times I lost it all and had to start again. Then, when I did manage to complete it and move on to fill in the form for the river cruise, I neglected to press 'submit' and lost it all again! I know, I know; shouldnt be let out on her own. The Guru, appealed to by text message, actually took the rare step of responding with a call. He told me to do nothing until he got home. I ignored this, not really understanding what he meant, and proceeded to the form for the tour on bus 2. to do "in the meantime". Of course, when he did get here, there was no way he could retrieve what I had lost because I "had changed the web-site". No, I didnt understand how that worked, either. Anyway, two and a half hours after I had started I was back to the beginning, doing bus 1, yet again. This time, half way through, one of the questions that had rolled off my eyeballs the other times leapt in to relief and, wait for it, I saw that I had boarded the wrong bus for tour 1, thus done the wrong tour number 1 and was completely f....d. The only thing to do at this point was feed the Guru, grab a bite and retire to a dark corner to think dark thoughts about encroaching dottiness. The whole fiasco had taken from 10.30am to 9.30pm., from leaving home to switching this machine off. But, and it's a big BUT, I came to see that the Wizard had actually been trying to warn me by wiping out all the early efforts and, if he is that aware of my state of mind, there may be a way in which he is actually my Guardian Angel in disguise. See you soon.
P.S, I did the right number 1 bus tour the next day.

Sunday, 1 August 2010


Last night, in the middle of the night, coming back from a necessary pit stop,(comfort stop if you are not in to motor racing), I came upon a shoe horn in the bed. I had been in bed something like four hours without noticing this intruder - or even extruder - so I am forced, as you will be, to accept that I am no Princess. Now, supposing your childhood was very different from mine, I had better draw your attention to the nursery story which tells of a young girl
who tries to impersonate a Princess who had been kidnapped by witches when she was a baby. This chancer was by no means the first comely young girl to have had a go at the deception, so the Palace authorities had devised an infallible test: under several mattresses in the Royal Bedchamber was secreted a pea. None of the pretenders complained of discomfort so each, in turn, was discounted as the real thing. Eventually, of course, after many adventures, the 'real thing' does find her way home and is very soon belabouring Housekeeping for the carelessness of the bed-making. There was joy and celebration throughout the Kingdom. The lost-one had finally come home. She goes on to marry her fairy-tale Prince and live happily ever after. However, there the similarities with my situation stop, at the pea in the bed.

The Guru and I treated ourselves to Sunday lunch in a restaurant today, rather a nice one since, for reasons which are really irrelevant to the current topic, we deserved a treat. Also lunching was a small girl, about eighteen months old, who was a little Princess of the first order. Although initially imprisoned in a baby chair and pretty escape-proof to my eye, she very soon prevailed upon the three adults with her to let her out. By prevailed, I should explain, I mean screamed so loudly it was let her out or let the rest of us out. She was attractive in her own right, though, and scarcely her fault that she was border-line out of control. She proceeded to run, unchecked and a loose cannon, through the restaurant and under the waiters' feet. I did wonder what the legal position would be if she tripped a waiter up and was injured by falling china or even glass. Does any of you know? Being a gossipy nosey-parker and having turned those characteristics in to a way of earning my living, I soon set about deciding who was what to whom. The three adults were a man and a woman no longer young and a much younger woman. The man had an oriental appearance echoed in the lovely chocolate eyes of the little one. The older woman put me at the disadvantage of being half behind a pillar so it was hard to check a resemblance. There could, just about, have been a resemblance with the younger woman but she didnt seem close to the others. If she were the Mother, where was the Father? I concluded the young woman was the Mother and the older two were the parents of the missing oriental father, no doubt away on business elsewhere. However, later, meeting the females in the Ladies', it began to seem more likely that the young woman was the Nanny. Rings on fingers were no help and even I held back from actually asking. Anyway, where is the detecting fun in actually asking the protaganists?
Dear Reader, in the end I cheated and with the collusion of a possibly indiscreet waiter, ascertained that the older couple were, indeed, the parents and the younger the Nanny. I should say that this information was gleaned while the said waiter, who does know me well, it has to be asserted, was wielding a brush and pan to clear up the bits and pieces habitually left by little Princesses - and Princes, for that matter - under the table in restaurants. I would not be surprised if you all know of little Princesses having grown up to be big Princesses, who continue to achieve what they want by shouting and running circles around the people close to them, but I doubt if any of them has gone to sleep with a shoe-horn in the bed. See you soon.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

More semantics

Considering the difficulty most of us have in commuicating accurately with one another, it continues to amaze me how closely related but diametrically opposed, (nearly typed "diabolically") some words, or the use of them, can be. On the other hand, it may be the meaning with which we imbue the words that is the challenge. Example: recently, I was charged with the sin of vanity. Heaven forbid; I assure you, I have no grounds whatsoever on which to base vanity. What is really going on when I show over-concern for my appearance or curse the wind which has blown my entire morning's work in to a haystack, is a lack of confidence. I do feel more confident tackling a challenging world with tidy hair, don't you? When I put this to the Guru, who was detained on one occasion behind my despairing clutch of the mirror at the front door, he was generous enough to admit that this was the case for him, too. Now, those of you who have been kind enough to keep up, may remember that I was rushed out of A and E and on to a ward at the local hospital because his exceeding good looks were distracting the busy A and E nurses. He has much to be vain about. However, this is not how he sees himself. One example does not constitute a thesis, I know, but think about it. Real vanity must involve a degree of confidence that over-rides all doubt. It may even go against the view of the rest of the world with regard to the attributes of the vainglorious. That makes me think of pride. It must be permissable to have pride, even in one's appearance, without being vain. Mind you, no-one can be held responsible for his/her looks. Surely, they are a gift of Nature, or whatever you happen to believe in. You can take pride in keeping things in the best condition you can manage, but is that vanity? As it happens, I can see that I am vain in retrospect. I promise this was not the case at the time, but, now, I am vain about the figure I lost too many years ago. Dear Readers, as we speak, I am 'D' shaped. I am much the same shape I was carrying the last - and the other - of my children. Well, there you are. Next time you disparage someone for vanity, look and see whether or not he/she is afraid of the dark, addressing a meeting or going to a party made up largely of strangers. If so, you are very probably looking at a lack of confidence.

Similarly, (is it?), I am exercised by minding one's own business. How do you feel when you have been asked a question that seems intrusive or impertinent? Affronted, you may well respond: yes, indeed. But, a big but, what if your interlocutor's interest in you was a loving and concerned interest, not at all prurient ? You have to see that there is an essential difference. For instance, were I to ask a young woman of my acquaintance whether or not she, herself, had had too much to drink at a party she had described as totally out of control and 'neighbour-call-the-police' debauched, she may well reply it was none of my business, angry with it. The situation could be diffused if I were to point out that the question in no way sprang from judgementalism but from a loving concern in her well-being and an interest in how she lived her life. It is still none of my business? No doubt many people would agree with you. Subtly though, the shades of semantic difference are what makes for good relating: Prurience and judgement are not the same as benevolent interest. "Life's too short", I hear in the ether. Life is never too short for a precise and varied use of language. What do you think?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Sticking plasters

In various places over my torso and on the front of my shoulders are some round and some square sticking plaster marks. I expect you will want to know why. Well, I have been strapped up to a monitor via a number of electrodes the base of which act as sticking plasters. In a way that proved a little challenging for this elderly lady, I was whisked in to hospital because my heart was beating about twice as fast as it was engineered to beat. These palpitations started about tea-time and I lay on the bed with my book patiently waiting for them to stop. I tried various ways of breathing around them but nothing seemed to work, so I relied on the patience. The Guru did his best to persuade me there must be a more scientific approach and that the sensible thing to do was to ring the Doctor. Personally, in all my three score and more than ten, I have never encountered a health crisis other than latish on a Friday, that is after Surgery hours, at a weekend or on a Bank Holiday. This one was no exception. After the poor man had been up the stairs about forty three times, seen his beautifully presented open sandwich rejected and reminded me this business had, by now, been going on for five hours, I did ring the out of hours medical service and was finally convinced my omnipotence in relying on myself may well lead to my being 75 not-going-on-anywhere. I fussed about the disagreability of waiting hours in A and E, (ER to kind readers over the Pond) but, as it happened, I did not wait long enough even to have found a seat in the reception area. A wheel-chair, double doors, a corridor, much noise and a few seconds later, found me in a cubicle surrounded by a group of people none of whom looking in the least like George Clooney. Forfend that I should risk boring you. Let it just be known that, after several what one may call homely methods had been used and failed to kick start a more reasonable heart rhythm, I was given an injection that actually stopped my heart. As you will have guessed, that was momentary and, presently, it started up again at 90 to the minute instead of 180. I know all this because the kind Guru had stayed with me in A and E, (see above if you are still on the other side of the Pond) and was watching the monitor with a degree of fascination possible only in the intelligent young. Hence the link: I and the monitor were married via the sticky electrodes and a quantity of different coloured whatsits.

Other than the rings and bruises from things stuck in as well as on me, I am my old self again. I cant recommend a night in hospital, but I can certainly recommend the A and E experience. The heart-stop bit left me feeling as unwell as I can remember, thinking death might be rather better, but it was only a minute at the most. Nor did I encounter bright lights, nor loved ones that have passed on. You know, it was almost fun and even provided the Guru with an insight he might otherwise have had only from the Telly. The staff were in such good spirits in spite of what you can imagine was going on in the middle of a week-end night: people having been drinking as if there were never to be another opportunity and, indeed,some of them having met with accidents that put such an opportunity seriously at risk. When it was decided I must be found a bed, the Registrar who had been attending me, said that, in any case, we had to get the Guru out of A and E because, being rather better looking than George Clooney, he was distracting the nurses. There was another lovely moment when a male nurse, middle-aged and pony-tailed, an ER bit-part player, having established that I was to be kept in, that is, was alive enough to be kept in, turned to go, and, light as a feather, dry as a bone threw at us " Ah well, another life saved"; lovely. As it happens, I am pleased to have been saved. I just wish I could get rid of the sticky rings and squares - and yes, I have had several baths since. Two more things: any ideas about how, and diolch yn fawr Guru.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

More Keeping House

And another thing, how often do you think one should wash one's net curtains? I do have several, I confess. They are not so much to peep from behind to see what is going on in the world of the neighbours. They are more to stop the neighbours from seeing what is going on in my world. One pair is internal and covers a glass door between my little guest room and the room in which I used to work. Finally, there are some covering a window on a half landing. These serve as a sun-shield, otherwise my little house would be a little oven before you can say over the horizon. Governed as I am by the mores of another generation, another way of being in the world, I do feel the need, eventually the guilty urgency, to take the damned things down and wash them. You will of course, have gathered that, physically, I am not the most flexible acrobat in the circus. Picture it: I am up a ladder, two steps are all I can risk, trying, with arthritic fingers, to extract some miniature hooks from the tentacles determined to grab on to them. The door bell rings. What to do. Clamber down from the ladder, replace my shoes and totter to the door? I could pretend I haven't heard - not unreasonable, my hearing is deteriorating as we speak. (When the Guru rings with his office voice I have either to behave as if I have heard and end up making a dinner he has rung to cancel or bellow at him to speak up. A conflict erupts between office decorum and old lady reality.) Or I could prepare an abject apology for taking so long to answer. You've guessed; he/she who was there is no longer there, anyway. Take off my shoes, again, clamber back up the ladder, feel for the little tentacles, again, and so on and so on. Do you remember the Gerard Hoffnung story of the builder and the bricks going up and down in the hod? Well, you are well on the way to visualising my grubby- curtain dilemma. Last time, I prevailed upon the window cleaner to get them down for me, since he was up there, anyway, and definitely more flexible than I. I did have to put them back, myself, but what the H..., who ever said getting older, in housework terms, would be easy?

Far, far more serious: a tissue infiltrated the washing machine. The Wizard of Cyberspace has allies, his trainees, the laundry fairies. They eat socks, too. But you know all this. You will be wondering why I didn't check all pockets for whatever. I swear I did. This tissue got in disguised as a handkerchief. Are there any fellow sufferers out there? Tissues in the washing machine are like blood, milk and cat litter: they get everywhere when spilled. I shook, I swept, I took the cat-fur remover to everything and then I sat down in a darkened room until I felt better. It's all very well, but the Guru is supposed to look the part when he's at work so bits of unidentifiable white on his professional apparel are totally unacceptable. What's more, one of the duties of the no longer young is to look pristine: eccentric is fine, scruffy is out. So please, Wizard, would you be so good as to ask your apprentices in the laundry to move their plague of white, clingy bits to the machine of my worst enemy?

I have just realised that we are very near my Mother's birthday. This may well explain my rush of housewifery. She has been in mind. She was a very good keeper of her house, and mine, come to that. When I was at University in London she would come up to see me with, I jest not, some rubber gloves and a couple of dusters - oh, and a pinny. The most embarrassing aspect of this was subjecting my house-mates to the sight of everything drying over the shower rail in the communal bathroom after she had done her worst/best with them. And yes, she did get me to take the curtains down and held the ladder while I did so. Back to work; it's never done.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


How presumptuous, I can hear you say. I did think long and hard before giving this post that title. I started by envisaging everyone who had written on the subject, from the inception of the written word. It was a funny thought. It was soon an hysterical thought as the examples tumbled over one another and ran in pairs along my inner eye. However, I don't intend to define love, I intend just to chatter on about it for a paragraph or two. It all began when my cat was sitting in front of me at table, the other day. (This is not a Health and Safety discussion, so you can gloss over that bit.) We had both just had breakfast, she on the floor this time and me at the table, just to clarify what you are picturing. She was staring me in the eye and miaowing, her long 'you-havent-got-it-yet' miaow. There were fresh food, fresh water, clean litter, what could I have overlooked? So I told her I loved her, as often I do. I got the tail-flick response I have come to expect when she hears those words but still, and also, the miaows, which got longer and longer and longer. She must have been a mezzo-soprano in another life; in that the case, she has certainly retained the breath control of a professional singer and her voice is quite low compared with other felines of my acquaintance. Anyway, telling her I loved her was not what I had not 'got'. Then it came to me that one cannot live on love alone even if that were what my beloved cat had been asking me for. So, of course, I got up and found her a little something more to supplement and pacify. Guess what: the miaowing stopped.

It made me think, though. If you cannot live on love alone, can you die without it? I think you can. You wouldn't just lie down and be, as it were dead, never get up again, you'd probably contract an illness which, although curable, somehow wouldn't be cured. Damn it! I don't know exactly how you would do it but it wouldn't be surprising if many ill people were, if the truth be unveiled, quietly fading from lack of love. I do know it is possible to be as if dead inside. Life goes on apparently unchanged, on the outside. A three dimension version of you operates without any noticeable inconsistency; rather like a Stepford Wife, in fact: a facimile of the real thing. There was a film along similar, but kinder and more profound lines: Lars and the Real Girl. Brilliant, see it. But much must depend on the cause of this death by non-love. Rejection will do it every time, wouldn't you say? Being subjected to a pretend love, particularly parental, would be another good way to experience it. We, surely, all know people who are so desparate for love that their lives become distorted with the effort to acquire it. You know, the Mother's Little Helper people who are the first at the scene in a crisis and who are able to devine - and provide - what you want before you are even aware you want it. Sainthood may arise from that very phenomenon. I'm not proud of the way that sounds. It sounds condescending and even pejorative. Forgive me. I don't like myself for interpreting/noticing a hunger for love in those whom I am fortunate to know as really kind people who will do anything for anyone. I don't believe it detracts from the value of what they do: it just serves, anyway me, as an explanation for why they do it. I can't see how I could have the gall to leave the subject there, but, for the moment I must go and check what my beloved miaowing mezzo wants now. If there is anything I can do for her, you would expect me to do it wouldn't you, craven seeker for love that I am.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


The wizard of cyberspace has been laughing all the way to the delete box. This time he surpassed himself. He took not only the blog but all the functions of the computer that needed the internet, plus the television service. In short, no service of any kind from my service provider . Naturally, this happened at a week-end and stretched in to one with a bank holiday tacked on. By the time the non-service provider had reached me on his list of frustrated and bereaved electronic dependants, a long time had passed. "No signal" was the fullest explanation the screens were in a position to furnish. At last, arrived an engineer who went back to his car with a visitors' permit to park and came back a very few minutes later to say he just wanted to check that all was well. "All is not well", protested I, wondering why he thought he was here at all. "Oh yes," quoth he,"I've fixed it." And so he had. He wouldn't tell me how so I am left with the imagining that he and the Wizard are allies and, together, had decided I had been punished long enough. I do know that I could have taken my laptop to a nearby coffee shop or found an internet cafe and, thus, blogged to my heart's content. Pause: do you really see me as a person who would or even could take all the wires out of the back of this machine and expect to re-assemble them in another location when I don't even enjoy coffee, never mind an internet cafe where I would raise the average age by about 5o years and have to ask for help even to switch the damned stranger on. No, of course you don't. Anyway, here I am and I hope not too many of you have given up on reading me ever again. (Mind you, I have one non-fan who informed me she didnt read my blog because she couldn't stand other people's on and onings; nice phrase, I've decided to acquire it.)

Talking of gaps, I'd like to stretch the concept to include slots. My local Post Office, a grown up one with a site all its own, not shared with a shop nor anything else - those, nearby, having been closed by authorities running a competition as to who can boast the longest queues in the remaining ones - has closed the two posting boxes sited on its outside wall. This is for Health and Safety reasons anounces the unblinking appended sign. I enquired further, well you would wouldn't you, and was told this was because the post collector had to bend down to take the letters out of the box. I know, I know; when I was a gal, etc etc. But it does make you wonder where it is all going to end and whether those of us who still have a sense of humour can hold on to it in the face of the humourectomy apparently undergone by the rest of the world. During opening hours, one can post letters in a box inside the Post Office. Later, one must just find a red what used to be called pillar box. I can't see that they are any more back-friendly than those on the wall, but then who am I to bring logic to a strange and po-faced world?

A more interesting gap has been in my contact with a young, sort of related, man. I hadn't seen him for about eight years: from little boy to early man. He had the ethereal look I remember from his childhood and the hair and appearance of the University student he is, currently. I think we both found it harder to re-connect than we would have done had our statuses (stati?) been the same as when we last met: he a child and I less of an old woman. The progression made it rather more difficult. I had never met this young man and could only sense the child I had known well. I think we both found it difficult to communicate after the facts of the gap in time were filled in. He seems a man who plays his cards rather close to his chest so even I, who rather prides herself on her white witch self with a well-honed intuition, could'nt say whether or not he enjoyed the reunion and would be prepared to repeat it. I did enjoy it but was, later, assailed by a sense of the loss of the years in between. They can never be regained. The legions of little stories, and big ones, for that matter, which had influenced and interested him, formed him, were lost to our common history. I would love to have had a visual and audio diary of the little nonsenses and big momenti that we should, automatically, have shared had things gone differently. What can I do, at this late stage, to bridle my over-romantic idea of the continuum and importance of relationships with no gaps? Grow up, I hear you say. Life is full of no signals. Prynhawn da.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


The vacuum has been caused by a visit to a loved-one in Scotland. I still haven't found the courage to take my lap-top with me, even if it were sensible to add weight to a bag I have to rely on others to lift on and off trains for me. I missed you all, so am happy to be back. But Scotland is delicately exquisite in May. Where I was, there are hundreds of lambs with black faces and protective mothers. Everything is in bloom and proliferating. Hedgerows are full of primroses and bluebells and campions, all at the same time. I have never seen primroses and bluebells blooming together. Still, many a less expected liason has been known to work well.

The loved-one and I had many good conversations. During one, it emerged that what I saw as 'support' he saw as'collusion'. It struck me that there were quite a few split-hair possibilities of this kind. How this one came about: casually. I referred to someone I don't really know and he does as "what's-her-name". Suffice it to say that she has a way of life that, on a bad day, I could easily envy. He knows this and does not approve. After a moment - a long moment - he supplied her name, which, of course, I knew perfectly well. I went in to a thing about expecting his support and he replied that, on the contrary, I had been looking for him to collude with me in my view of her impact on my world. Thinking about it, still, I can't see how support can avoid being collusive on occasion. What do you think? Now , this is quite personal stuff to illustrate semantics so let us move on to the more intellectual. How about the difference between interest and curiosity? Interest seems rather benevolent. Curiosity can be tinged with that lovely, but naughty, Welsh past-time: gossip. I suspect that when we are curious about the doings of others there are a few ounces of malice in the mix. I suppose, though, the two are not so far apart when it comes to things of the intellect. There one can have a healthy curiosity, hurtful to no-one, and sufficient interest to do something about it. In my own experience, I find I am curious when not particularly fond of someone and interested when I am.

Fear and wish are worrying bed-fellows, too, but harder for me to see as interchangeable in daily use as, perhaps, the other examples are. You will be, naturally, conversant with the expression that one should be careful what one wishes for; the whole poisoned chalice thing. I have heard tell of a lady who married rather late in life having had the aim to be wed since she was six. It seems her spouse would not have been the easiest of people even had she been accustomed officially, to sharing her life with someone. Anyway, when asked some time later how she was enjoying her new life, she is said to have replied," Be careful what you wish for". Oops. The one I am really uncomfortable about, though, is beware of what you fear. Fear of loss, at its gravest, actually seems to attract loss. Illness, divorce, bereavement: I havent the statistics at my finger tips (literally, since I am typing), but observation confirms that the fearful do seem to suffer more than the breezily confident. When I was young, cancer was always referred to as 'C'. Sadly, many of those so afraid they couldn't say the whole word, did contract the disease. A woman who used to look forward, eagerly, to the friendship of her children when they were adults, always feared they may end up in Australia, as many Welshmen do. They did, or anyway, some of them did. She feels desolate, estranged and without accesible grandchildren. Self-fulfilling prophesy will probably cover it. We can't see electricity so there is no reason to expect to see the force of attraction that draws like a magnet our profoundest longings and direst fears.

I hope you have been interested rather than curious and will support my efforts to communicate the hidden complexities of our language to you - in my experience of it, anyway. Please, do collude with my wish for your goodwill by leaving a comment sometimes.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


Last time, I indicated that I had had a brush with the demon Gambling. At the outset, I should make it clear that I haven't had so much fun for years, and, certainly, not since I was an inadvertant attendee at a night club in Portsmouth - see below, well below by now. Having established that, I must explain that I went on a purely professional basis, to establish whether or not the company concerned was doing what it said on the tin. (Yes, M'Lud, it is an unlikely explanation but it does add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing tale.) Anyway, there I was, at 5.30 in the afternoon, presenting myself for membership of an institution with a narrow door and a vast interior. The door was staffed by the biggest man I have ever seen and, from having been doubtful about the verisimilitude of turning up at old ladies' tea time, I swung to intense relief that it was still broad daylight and I was unlikely to be taken for a ne'er-do-well addict or any other kind of trouble maker. Neither was it an optimum time for real ne'er-do-wellers who might take a fancy to making trouble for me. The Guru was with me because there was less likelihood of my being mistaken for a spy - which I was - if I were accompanied by a young man who knew the ropes. (Don't ask: personally, I'd rather not know how he knows about a lot of things, one way and another).

It was surprising I passed the inside vetting. Having being apprised of the need for a passport or driving licence as proof of identity, I was horrified to find, that in the interests of having less to carry and less to lose should I have been attacked by said ne'er-do-wells, I had taken out of my handbag the wallet, habitually carried, which houses my driving licence. I know, I know: I should not be let out on my own. Of course, I wasn't alone, but the Guru can really be responsible only for my relationship with the Wizard of Cyberspace and his instrument of torture, the computer on which I lean as we speak. Dottiness is my own responsibility. As it happens, my 'bus pass proved acceptable and in we went with the mildest of reproaches and a request that I bring my passport next time. ( For faithful readers outside the UK, a photo- pass is issued to the over 65s which entitles them to free travel on public transport, 'bus or train, within a certain radius of the home town. Very encouraging it is, too). Although something of a stranger to slot machines and other instruments of addiction- relief I registered in a sweep of the extensive premises where we found ourselves, I am familiar with Roulette. So, we headed for the familiar, bought some chips and one minute and seventeen seconds later, I was £35 richer then I had been when we went in. Following the lessons learned in an earlier way of being in the world, I pocketed my original outlay and went on playing with the winnings. I have to tell you that it was one of the rare times in all the years of his life that I've known him, that the Guru was driven to absolute silence. Whether or not my luck continued, I am not prepared to tell you. Suffice it to say that I am a bit of a witch, myself. The Wizard of Cyberspace can't be allowed to win them all. Guru is, however, seriously concerned that it has got me hooked. He sees this as even worse than the choclate addiction he is already aware of. (I havent told him that I have had to leave in my car some chocolate treats I have bought for little people I shall see in a day or so. Even the very little would notice if the packets had been opened already). As it happens, I think I may be 'hooked'. I haven't done all that well in the money-making stakes in my life. Maybe I could redress the balance at the tables. See you soon, if I am not weighed down by the little round chips I have been carrying with me.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


A dear friend has had a sudden sharp attack of empty-nest syndrome. It's not that her young have just left home. One of them more or less left seven years ago to go to school in another country. He went back only for holidays and has now made his home overseas. The other left to go to University abroad, and that's where the emptiness has crystallised. Son number two is about to graduate and seems not to have plans to move back to his home town. His Mother has, thus, had to face up to the loss even of the 'Oh -well, he'll -back- for -the- holidays' comfort. As I was doing my best to help her deal with this and even to identify what it was that seemed to be pulling her down, I had an unexpected revelation of my own. I am suffering from empty-diary syndrome. There you are, I've said it. Don't misunderstand me: it was the right time to retire and there are many advantages, but there is no getting away from it, my life is not an ideal shape for retirement given how habituated I had become to a life of work.

In an ideal world, a retiree needs a retired companion. Sometimes, when I have occasion to go to a busy railway station, I see couples of a certain age, each with a small wheely bag, anxiously scanning the departure boards and I suffer the tiniest squeeze of envy. Other than the phenomenon of the single woman and the restaurants, (see below - ad nauseam, no doubt), when I was working, singledom was much less intrusive. Indeed, the over- wheening nature of the work actually became one of the 'good' reasons to stop it. The responsibilty to be where one had said one would be, when one had said one would be there, was getting weighty. Weddings were missed. Latterly, funerals were also missed and life was constantly lived with one eye on the watch. Those things obscured a different slant on reality, id est, without the work, there may well be hectares of unused space in the diary. Feast or famine, that would cover it. When you are permanently in a state of being busily 40 the only way a blush of another reality impinges is when running for a bus starts to take longer, bits of paper fallen to the floor constitute a back hazard and you have to ask people to repeat what they have said. Otherwise, there are few externals to remind the internals that something has to change sometime. I spent the first months exploring freedom and making a lovely, tidy house. However, there is only so much re-organising a small house can take and only so much of organising I can take, too. (Though, I have to tell you, an old air-raid shelter at the back of the garden has been cleaned and damp-proofed and made in to an ideal storage area for all the stuff my young will throw out the moment the undertaker's back is turned).

That having been done, (gerund?) what shall I do now? Music, books there are in plenty. What I hadn't noticed was how few people were around in the to-play-with sense. My friends are either young enough to be working while I am still alert and awake enough to play, or as old as I am and not keen to trust themselves to the evening air and certainly not to public transport in the evening air. While I was working strange hours and evenings, too, I somehow fell out of some of the circles of which I had been part. All these add up to a need to get out there and do something about it if I want the kind of diary that allows for new entries a minimum of three weeks ahead of the time of being asked. But do I? I would, as it happens, like to make time to go back to the Casino to which I was introduced at the week-end. (No, I am not joking. I'll tell you next time) My inner 40 can't wait for that. But my outer 75 quite likes supper in bed, my cat waiting for me to move the tray away from what she considers her lap so we can watch television together. There is a vixen and her two cubs in residence in her garden so she is scared to enjoy the spring sun newly out there. I have had to grow some indoor- cat grass to fill the garden gap. We'll both be delighted when that nest empties. Maybe the emergence from winter, as nature and man wake up, will help the empty diary syndrome, too.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Keeping house

When I was small, there were intractable rules about keeping house. Beds must be made with sheets taken from the bottom of the pile or, in better regulated households, sheets fresh from the wash must be placed in the airing cupboard underneath those already there. At some very early point in the household's rule-setting, a decision must have been taken about which. Heaven forfend: if both methods were used, however inadvertantly, the same sheets would be constantly in use and wear overall would be seriously uneven. There is indisputable sense in this, but the nice lady who comes to help my arthritic hands with various tasks that require a degree of flexibility I am now rather short of, gives me one of those 'I've -got- a right- one-'ere' looks when I explain this proceedure, and, I suspect, puts the sheets where it is easiest to get them out of her hands. Why do I suspect this? Because there is one sheet with inky evidence of my having done the crossword in bed that keeps coming round far more often than its real rotation should allow. Another test is to do with humidifiers. It is built in to my way of being in the world that dry air is bad for you. (I guess that the Welsh have to believe this. By and large, the ambient air in Wales could not be described as dry). Anyway, with the advent of central heating, largely from what, in those days, we accurately called "the Continent" and from our American cousins, dry air became an ever present concern. The remedy was to append a humidifier. In case you are quite prepared to live with dry air and don't need truck with such a thing, a humidifier is a sort of jar with a hole at the top of it for a hook. Filled with water, you append this contraption to your radiator. The water evaporates in to the air and there you are, saved from the unmentionable effects of dry air. The test of good house keeping is whether or not all your humidifiers are consistently filled with water. Many an hotel in a cold climate has been crossed off the five star list because the humidifiers were empty.

One of the - many - difficulties about being 75 going on 40 is in reconciling what was with what is. I am unfailingly self-conscious when I say "continental Europe", obediently bearing in mind that I am also, on my island, living in Europe. Few people have time or inclination to furnish themselves with humidifiers, let alone traipse around with a jug filling them up. (I hasten to say I did do this even when I was working, so there.) The other Mother-proof test is light bulbs. Do you dust yours? No? Well, you would be more ecologically sound if you did so, since more light will get through, than if you use those don't-get-me-started-on-them energy saving bulbs. Hygiene is another issue. I have what is politely called a galley kitchen. As you know, this actually means there is room for only one person and a cat in it. If you are very fond of another and he/she is slender, you could manage two at a squash and worth the contortions if you would like him/her to mash the potatoes or drain the spinach while you make the gravy. There is totally and absolutely no accommodation for a bin dedicated to food waste. Even if there were room to change things round for it, in less than a day it would smell like a ripe durian. I know it risks showing off, but the stench of that Eastern fruit sampled when I, in another life, wandered through Malaysia trying all the delicacies offered, comes back to me in every evil nightmare my mischievous inner world dumps on me. As it happens, if you can hold your breath and swallow at the same time, the durian tastes very nice; it's not exactly nectar, but the diametric opposite of its smell. What enemy it is conditioned to ward off, I can't imagine, but it must need that smell for something. The point of this is to express my horror that I am going to have to separate my food waste from the rest and keep it in a bin of its own until the ONCE FORTNIGHTLY refuse collection. Is this good house-keeping, I ask myself. In my childhood home the rubbish was collected daily. Things are'nt what they used to be. I'll be back.