Saturday, 26 March 2011


Now there's a challenge: reality. The word affords as much clarification as averring that one man's meat is another man's poison. What is reality to me can easily be fantasy to everyone else. However, what I'd like to put to you, as we speak, is the kind of reality that, for instance, sees itself in the mirror. Yes, I do realise that I have touched on this subject in various guises before and even before, (see below, I say), but, when your inner world and your outer world are vulnerable to a confusion of generations, it has to be useful to examine it, again, from time to time, don't you think? Anyway, pursuant to a delicious lunch which had had a certain measure of spinach and other green goodies, I went to clean my teeth. There ensued a debate you will be familiar with - the females amongst you, that is - whether to do a thorough job and disturb the makeup around mouth and chin, or whether just to pass the brush gingerly across the teeth, doing the minimum to remove the debris and preserving the status quo ante of the paint work. It was at this point, gazing in to the mirror, that I noticed my gums. The metaphor for age that calls it 'long in the tooth' is wrong. One is actually 'short in the gum'.

Last night, I was invited to dinner. I enjoy the experience of dressing up and putting one's best dress forward. There were seven of us. The sum total of the age of the others just about added up to my age. Well, I exaggerate, but not by much. Among the group was a young man whose profession I won't divulge. You would recognise his characteristics instantly if I were to and then there would be no point in my going on. Suffice it to say that, having been introduced to me, his eyes swept over me and his back swivelled towards me. Written on a sign across him were the words:" No interest there. Old lady, must be her (hostess) Mother. Not worth my bother." Now, there is another reality. The old are invisible. The young specimen of whom I write, though, was something of a cliche, himself. His arrogance manifest in trick questions. You know what I mean. He asked questions to which he thought only he knew the answer and the rest of us were left, in failing, thus to reaffirm his superiority. Dear Reader, I won. Only once, but I did. He asked if anyone knew where the headquarters of a certain car manufacturer could be found. I knew and named the place. He actually had the gall to turn round and look at me properly for the first time. With surprise, Dear Reader, with surprise, he agreed I really did know of which I spoke. I didn't know whether to be more annoyed by the surprise or by the blatant writing of me off. It was, in the end, too funny to be annoyed at all. Reality is reality. I am old and invisible. He is young and obnoxious.

The other day I went shopping with someone dear to me who happens to be stunningly beautiful. Whatever she tried on looked amazing on her. However, there was one hitch in the smooth running of the outing. She has made up her mind what size she is. Irrespective of variations of model and make, she knows, intractably, what size she is. Good, makes everyone's life easier. But does it? Let us suppose she has decided she is a size 12. What happens when size 12 Jaegar turns out to measure the same as size 14 Marks and Spencer? I tell you what happens. She walks away. She doesn't wear size 14. " So what?" you may ask. Well, she may well miss an item that would have enhanced her appearance even more, she leaves baffled and confused salespeople in a little trail behind her and she leaves me facing, anew, the question of reality and when is a 12 just a 14 in another language. As I have said, this lady is beautiful. There is a strange phenomenon of which you will be aware. In the mirror our faces are distorted. We never do see ourselves as others see us, unless in a complex arrangement of several mirrors. (I speak here of the physical. The statement is too often true of the character,too). So, it seems I have talked myself out of my starting premise: it is not reality which is found in the mirror, it is only the remains of a good lunch. Prynhawn da.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Knowing what I wanted to draw your attention to, I asked my inner voice for a title and the one you see popped up. Hopefully, we shall all know what it means by the time I get to the end of this essay. What I had in mind was some sort of inversion of what was to what is. Example: You will have noticed that womens' underpants are fuller in the back than in the front. (This may well be true of mens', too, for all I know, but I am excused ironing duty on underpants so haven't had the same opportunities to assess the situation). I have always understood that this is to accommodate the greater girth of the human sit-upon as opposed to the curve of the part the cat sits upon. Well, Dear Reader, prepare for a shock: when, inadvertantly, I put said garment on back to front, it fitted. I shall spell it out in case shock has stilled your visualisation faculty: my front tummy is now bigger than my back bottom. There was a touch of what I can only call 'rue' in my laugh as I struggled to right the situation, going through the pantomime, again, on my feet struggling to lift a foot ,bend my knee and so on and so on to get the damn things on the right way round. I could, of course, have sat down somewhere, but this seems such an elderly approach and a definite giving in.
I had a similar experience with my hair. My hair is cut by an expert whom I have come to trust and depend upon. Each time I go the fact that I can't afford him is washed down the sink by the concomitant fact that old age is intrinsically a visual challenge as it is, so the cut of one's hair becomes of crucial importance. (That's what I tell the accountant, anyway). Along with the Guru, the haircutter is always trying to drag me in to the here and now. Why don't I dye it blonde? It's muddy brown/grey. Why don't I have it spiky? It's flat and droopy. The tension between mutton -dressed -as -lamb, as my Mother and her friends would say when really gunning for some unfortunate over-kill acquaintance, and dragged- through -a -hedge- backwards is not easily resolved, in my experience. Anyway, through a mixture of skill, scissors and sorcery, my hair emerges wildly fashionable and effectively tumbled one month's mortgage after each visit. Then I wash it myself. The result: cut by a madwoman with pinking shears in the dead of night with her eyes closed.
But my age group is not the only one given to inversion. I was walking through the flag-ship store of an extremely well-known British retail company the other day. I like looking at babies and little people. I am fascinated, watching them trying to make sense of the world. A Mother was bending over the end of the push chair - buggy, for kind readers over the pond - of one about nine or ten months old. She was pushing a fat little foot in to a leather slipper, trying it for size, I assumed. This was not easy because the companion shoe was attached to the one she was trying. Not much room for manoeuvre. I looked to see how Cinderella was coping with this. Peacefully: she had one of a similar pair in her mouth and was happily chewing on it. This life-long professional interferer was instantly charged with what to do. Draw the Mother's attention? Tell a member of staff? Call a Medic? Do nothing. The vignette was complete. The Mother had undisturbed time to try the sizes, the child was content, the second pair of shoes was ruined and I had relinquished the kind of intervention that had been automatic, normal to my ageless inner self.
I have just registered that hourglass refers, primarily, to one's figure. See above for how that would apply to me. Bora Da (A.V., thank you!)

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Have you noticed a phenomenon by which you become the person the other person expects you to be? I have experienced the magnet, which pulls you in to a world to which you do have a key in some aspect of yourself, but which in no way opens the door fully to who you are. Any relationship or contact which does not exert this pull becomes, therefore, significant, in that you are left free to feel exactly yourself. For example, I have been known to make the odd comment which qualifies as a wise reponse to whatever is going on. If I am with someone who likes and respects me, in the sense that he/she knows accurately enough who I am, I feel wise and confident enough to carry the discussion forward. If, however, I am with someone who sees me as presumptuous and tending to suggest a waste of space, I become diffident and awkward. Any on-going discussion is stilted, adding nothing to what has gone before. In my life there are some who see me as self-centred and, therefore, lacking in empathy and understanding. In that milieu I become those things. Stories I want to tell , as I see it, to support the contention we are talking about become a dilution of the issue, drawing attention back to me. What I see as an expansion of the argument becomes a narrowing of it, relating just to me. With those people, even before an apparently dispassionate debate, I am awkward, feel out of myself and lumber in clumsily to confirm their view of me. I can be kind and generous except when in a situation where I am believed to be self-seeking. Then I really do look to see which behaviour may be in my best interest.

This phenomenon is like a wardrobe. Without premeditation, without the what-shall-I-wear the 40 year old would have asked before embarking on any situation at all, internal or external,
I find I put on the clothes of the expectation of the other. Because of the, no doubt, universal need to be loved and approved of, I am certainly not alone in this. We are demanding and whingy in the company of those who see us that way but outgoing and explicit to those disposed to see us thus. Just as we are capable of feeling different according to the clothes we are wearing, so can we feel different according to the characteristics perceived in us. A certain level of expectation and excitement comes with what one wears to an evening in the theatre. A tee shirt and track-suit bottoms will produce something quite other in the inner world's approach to the external world, don't you agree? With more than three score and ten years the sadness comes when it is too late to change the perception of onself that certain others hold, even in the face of what you, yourself, may see as incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. And there's the rub: no matter how incontrovertible the evidence in your awareness, your aura, it seems to me, may still give out the 'badness', the ' not much of a human being' the other has imposed on you. As I have put to you further up , there does need to be something of a hook already within you on which these contradictions can be hung, but, for myself, I wish I could unhook myself from the complicity with which I slide in to the clothes so beguilingly laid out for me.

I was once asked about my good , intense, but platonic friendship with a man who, more usually, very much enjoyed all aspects of friendship with women. "He makes me feel like myself", I heard myself explain. There's not a lot of that about. You'd think I would have hacked it by now, but, if at one level you are only 40, there could still be time wouldn't you say?