Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Before I unravel my theme, for those of you with good memories and the kindness to hold on to some, anyway, of these streams of consciousness, I should like to update you on the question of the girth of my beloved cat. (Her loss of weight was last post's discourse, in case you are as confused as I must often leave you). Concurrently with the concern about her weight, it had become a matter of some urgency to look in to her means of egress and ingress. In the early summer a baby fox came in through her cat-flap and, much more recently, two great Bouncer cats. The cat flap was changed, therefore, for a magnetic one; one magnet on the door, one on the cat. The bad news: it's too stiff for Beloved to push. The good news: her appetite has improved ten-fold. Conclusion: it must be the effect of the magnet attached to her collar. Rush out and get one for yourselves. Your health will be revolusionised.

As I was going to say, however, I have been thinking about strings. If you visualise history - in a microcosm, one's own and that of those with whom we are involved - as being a village and landscape peopled by facimiles of our earlier selves and events, puppets if you will and then picture yourself and the others who shaped that village as holding the strings, you will begin to see what I mean. (I was going to say "past selves" but don't wish to convey any metaphysical significance). I would also like you to know that, in no way, is the puppets metaphore meant to suggest lifeless dolls. It's the best I can do to describe the vivid image of those whom I am bending over, holding strings in the manner of a puppeteer. At first, many people were holding the strings of that history. Gradually, most have left, perhaps to go to a better place and, as I look around, I see that there are now only one or two of us bending over that common landscape. While I, and a few others continue to hold the strings, nothing will be forgotten. Indeed, so much energy is used in the enterprise, that it is not surprising how little room remains in the elderly for remembering things of the here and now. A monumental significance is, therefore, invested in those comrades still holding their strings. There are those from whom life has diverted me, our value to one another changed or diminished. But when we recognise a scene for which we each hold the strings, an encompassing warmth runs over us and there is a richness of feeling from which non-string holders are, necessarily, excluded. But I find I am more and more aware of the strings I hold alone, gathering more and more of the ones dropped by the dear-departed. I rush to pick them up but, soon, my hands may be too full to hold any more, myself. As you know, I have spent some time living with someone of the Grandchild generation. We do hold some strings together, but few, so few. He looks across at those I am holding without him much as I would look at Napoleon's, I suspect. Of all I could imagine about being the age I am, the thinning out of comrades-in-strings was not one that occured to the 40 year old when that was the age I actually was. These thoughts were crystallised by a meeting with old college friends that I went to last week. The strings were not as long as three score and more than ten, but three score and more than ten minus eighteen: long enough. A celebrated alumnus was interviewed by a near contemporary. The interviewee gained a first in Economics and then took to the stage and became a household name. A certain amount of ringing round had been done to ensure a good audience. After all, we are talking more than fifty years and a touch of 'Who He'? In the event, the hall was full and, as you may expect, the interview descended in to chaos from the heckling in the audience. Not a string of his student past left dangling, nowhere to hide, nothing capable of being hidden. I have rarely enjoyed myself so much, dancing a jig with a cat's cradle of memories in company with other likeminded cats.

Which reminds me: why can Beloved Cat remember where food lies, where the litter is, how warm my knees are, but not that it is absolutely forbidden to scratch the furniture? See you soon.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Something rather shocking befell the family recently. A friend who doesn't see her often announced that she thought the Beloved Cat, whom I shall call Daisy for the sake of patient confidentiality, had lost weight. This happened on a Sunday so there was an agonising hiatus before I could contact the Vet and even more time before the one that has known her all her life - nearly twelve years - would be on duty. However, the day did finally come when she was caught, held and poured in to her basket for the terrifying four minute drive to wherever she feared she was being shanghaied. (I have, all of a sudden, serious doubts about the political correctness of that last image: kidnapped, then). Perceiving me closing the door of the bedroom where she had been nestling on an old mohair jumper next to the radiator behind the very table on which I am computing as we speak, she slid from under it, low as a serpent and did her best to slink under the bed. Not possible: slink as she might and smear herself effacingly over the carpet, the one: the cat, was still higher than the other: the bed. However, by the same instinct that had understood the door closing, since all are left open in this house in order that My Lady should have access wherever she will, she saw that her fate was immutable. A combination of that and her heart-breaking trust in me finally resulted in compliance with the indignity of allowing herself to be picked up and thrust in to the wicker cage that had served too many cats before; not even a cell of her own in this Hell on Earth of a prison. I did put a clean towel inside to do my best to make it hers but I may just have to give in to my raging guilt and buy a new basket that will smell only of the shop and of her.

The Vet is big and jolly with a loud bass voice. His surgery is well run with two adjoining areas. An arrow points to "Cat waiting area", another to "Dog waiting area". These are both ignored and, no, I don't know where the rabbits and hamsters wait. We, that is, Daisy, my son who is visiting, and I, waited quietly in the wrong place while I held Daisy's paw and my son walked about reading all the notices. Finally it was our turn. The Vet listened to the presenting problem and looked at his screen. Daisy, who hates the basket, had to be dragged out of any port in a storm in the interest of the consultation, weighed, compared with the info on the screen and pronounced, indeed to have lost weight, a tenth of her former body-weight. This and that and the other were prodded and examined and, with heart in boots, I agreed to blood and urine tests to establish the, no doubt, terminal cause; thyroid, heart, cancer, whatever. Casually, I asked whether he thought it may be life-threatening - no, he didn't believe the light-heartedness either - and was less than reassuring when he said he couldn't know, yet. He warned us he may be some time as he went outside with the love of my life. But they were back in surprisingly little time and there was no more to do than wait for the results - this was Thursday, so no proper breath taking until Monday. Dear Reader, all was well. Come back in six weeks to eliminate irritable bowel syndrome - and another several hundred pounds: sterling that is - and stop worrying. Maybe she had just lost weight and we could review her diet. "Sometimes a cat can just lose weight ":Vetinary Surgeon. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar": Sigmund Freud. Nos da.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


There is any number of possible headings for to-day's blog thoughts. What I have in mind is the lacuna between the perception of a phenomenon or event that someone of three score years and more may have and that of a younger person. How to categorise 'younger': anyone who is less than seventyish would do, I suppose. Nothing new in that, it's what the blog is about and, as you know, I do try to keep focussed on the issue as stated. (I bet my English teacher never dreamed she would be so awesomely respected at a distance of sixty years). Anyway, the present concern is birthday cards. As it happens, two of the people who are closest to me have a birthday on the same day, not the same year, just the same day. I duly sent off cards, one from me and one from my beloved cat - of course, what did you expect? - then, since one of them is the Guru who is staying with me at the moment, waited with some vicarious excitement, to see what else the postman would bring. Nothing, nicht, rien and so on and so on. Since he has the widest circle of friends of anyone I know, I was surprised to the point of disbelief. Indeed, so affected was I that I took him for a meal about forty times as grand as I could afford, to make up for the shocking neglect of all the other people in his life. During the course of this gourmet indulgence, he, borderline forgiveably, looked at his mobile phone. "That makes sixty two birthday texts and more on Facebook", he announced, with some warranted satisfaction. Had he actually received that number of wishes in the form of cardboard designs and stamped red envelopes, the local postman would have sued for displacement of his most important disc. Where perceptions come in is that the Guru found this quite normal and could not get his mind around my view of it as strange and, more important, transitory. How can you keep, in your box of special preciousness, sixty two text messages? I do have, still, in my special box, the cards from my seventieth birthday and from my seventy fifth. If you really need to know, I also have the congratulatory cards sent to me when each of my children was born. I know, I know, in due course they will be the ones who throw the things out, with a ripple of amused intolerance for a Mother too sentimental to know better: their perception.

I am reading more and more comments in newspapers about the sterility and empty nature of electronic communication. There does not seem to be anything we can do to stem this tide. The thing is, the young do not perceive it as sterile. It is what they know. My cards seemed quaintly old-fashioned to those who received them. My 'Thank you' notes seem dated. I go in to shops to find what I need. I don't look on-line. It makes me feel disorientated, ghostly. I am in danger of losing my perception of the world as a more or less friendly place, peopled by others more or less like me - Heaven forfend, but nevertheless..... I work hard to think myself in to the way the current generation perceives the world, the speed of it, the knowing of newsworthy events almost as they happen, the obsolescence of stuff that was new the day before yesterday. Why do we need to get to Birmingham fifteen minutes faster then we do at the moment? (For those kind readers over the Pond, a road is being built which cuts through swathes of one of the most beautiful corners of beautiful England in order that one may get to Birmingham 15 minutes sooner than one can at present). I begin to suspect that we are in danger of running away with ourselves - or from ourselves? But that is how I perceive it. Someone somewhere must perceive it differently or it wouldn't have happened. You know what, I have the feeling that, older or younger, I am going to be perceived as a green ink writer of letters - not yet emails -to the papers. Is it even possible for 75 going on 40 actually to become, to transmogrify in to an accurate perceiver of the world as it is perceived by thosewho are truly 40 or less? Should I be giving a d..n? What do you think? C u soon.