Thursday 7 January 2010


There are times when it seems an advantage to be chronologically 75. I do remember the winter of 1947 that broadcasters and newspaper writers are currently describing with something like awe. But, in case you are reading this other than in the Northern hemisphere, I should explain we are experiencing a period, weatherwise, of extremely cold, snowy and, worse, icy weather in this usually benign part of the world. In 1947 it snowed and froze for the best part of two months, January and February. I remember getting dressed under the bed-clothes. We were comparatively affluent but that did'nt run to central heating. Indeed, it was not until I refused to bring my tiny baby in to a house without heating and no washing machine that things changed. Believe me, those refinements were for wimps and, now, I am coming round to something like sympathy with that view. I am torn. The 75 year-old is wishing people would get on with it, put another jumper on, go to bed early, buy some galoshes, or all of the above, rather than wingeing and whining and complaining about the lack of grit, but at least, my age gives me experience of this kind of hardship - amongst others - so I am better prepared to keep smiling and carry on. The inside youngster is throwing snowballs and skiing down the road.

Getting dressed under the bedclothes was fun: vest, liberty bodice, knickers. Socks were harder because you had to make a bigger tent to reach your feet and that risked letting the cold in. I bet none of you has ever made steam breathing out as you lay in bed. If you forgot an item of clothing in the stash beside the bed you would have to get out and fetch it on feet that then wouldn't warm up the whole of the rest of the day. You ask about a liberty bodice. Well, it was a sort of waistcoat, cotton, worn over the vest, buttoned down the front and under the next layers, blouse and school jumper. If you took vest and liberty bodice off together you got in to trouble because that would prevent them from airing: a disaster not to be contemplated in a well-brought up household. There is a wall heater in my present bathroom and I have been taking my clothes in there these last days and dressing in front of it. Less 'cosy' than in bed but easier on non-bendy joints.
Yesterday, I ventured down to the local shops; crept, would be rather more accurate. It was snowing on top of the extant deposit so crawl might be even nearer. Anyway, sensibly I had put my purse in my pocket so no handbag to control, mobile phone in the other, in case of emergency and off to go. Passing a man and woman outside a cafe, I heard them say:" that old lady shouldn't have come out. She'll fall and we'll have it to deal with. Where's her zimmer frame? That would be more sensible." I turned back, smiled sweetly, and told them it wasn't easy, but I would be sure they had nothing to deal with and, in spite of frailties, I wasn't deaf. They were very sorry, had meant no offence and so on and so on. I did'nt tell them that one of my first thoughts on registering the conditions was about elderly friends and how they were managing. It took a moment to remember I was one of them. The 40 year old was out there meals-on-wheelsing. (For loyal readers outside the UK, meals- on -wheels is a social service delivering meals by car to the house-bound elderly. Don't ask: delicious, no doubt). I do still have a little shock every time a stranger sees only the external me, addresses the external me. I AM one of the elderly, I qualify for meals, I don't deliver them. I constitute a danger to myself on the ice, I don't skate on it. Ah well: hurrah for central heating, washing machines and dishwashers and hurrah for a touch of the wimp.

PS An anonymous writer challenged my treatment of eccentricity. She/he said it was a choice. This is not how I see it. One just IS off-centre. It seems like the only logic if you happen to be it. You dont choose to do things differently if that is your constitution. You just do them that way. Of course, a choice can be made to do things differently, but that is not eccentricity: eccentricity is in-built and, crucially, to the eccentric, it feels centric.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(Second time, I hope this one gets through),
Love, Brian