Tuesday, 29 November 2011


For those of you who don't have access to UK television, I need to explain that, currently, there is a programme airing called "Pan Am". It is a serial telling the tales of Stewardesses who worked for the Airline in the sixties. I don't watch it, myself, because I wouldn't want to deal with the nostalgia it would engender. "Nostalgia"? you inquire. Well, yes, Dear Reader: nostalgia because I worked for Pan Am, not in the sixties, in the fifties. Nor as a Stewardess because, in those days, American nationals, only, were employed to fly. However,I did fly. I accompanied children under twelve who were travelling alone, but I was not a fully fledged trolley dolly. An introductory documentary went out a week or so before the fictional programme and that I did watch. I can't think why the sixties, not the fifties, were treated as the starting point, but there you are, people of my age are used to invisibility. In that era, I remember we all had our hearing tested so the degree could be registered before the arrival of the new Jet engines and comparisons made if we complained, subsequently, of problems. As ground staff we worked in huts alongside the A4. I did shifts of two twelve hour days, two twelve hour nights and four days off. Accompanying minors was ad hoc so there was always a passport, a tooth brush and some clean underwear in my handbag. I learned a lot from the experience. Much that has kept its operational value more than fifty years hence. The area boss was American. I can hear his voice, still, even if I can't reproduce the accent. "You may have answered the phone a hundred times. The passenger has only rung once", to curb impatience. The current series and the reports of real-life experiences which are running alongside it in the papers, makes much of the requirement for Stewardesses to wear corsets. That didn't pertain to us on the ground but the dress requirements were just as stringent. "The passenger doesn't know, he doesn't care if you are wearing your pants (knickers, to us on this side of the Pond), but WHERE IS YOUR HAT?". And, of course, a corset in the air. In the end, I accepted that such an item would have to sqeeze in to my bag as well as me in to it if I were to go on doing the babysitting trips. By the time the skies were opened to non-Americans, I was engaged to be married and that was verboten for Stewardesses. But I do confess, in the interests of interest, these days occasionally to leaving out the Ground Staff bit and letting it be assumed that I was a total trolley dolley. Mea Culpa!

What a different world it was! Day shifts started at 7.30am. To get to London Airport from where I lived in North london was not possible on Public Transport that early.I used to take a train to a station called Gunnersbury Park on an over-head railway line and walk from there to a roundabout which no longer exists. I would stand at a 'bus stop which no 'bus served until after 8am and wait for a lift. It never failed: in five years it never failed. Standing in my blue uniform, hat on, all correct, I would be rescued by any number of high-flying gentlemen, or, anyway, their chauffeurs under instruction, and wafted to work in the back of Bentleys, Rolls Royces and even open-topped MGs on a summer's day, hat off and hair flying and no acknowledgement of how these gentlemen may have liked their kindness to be compensated. Would you let your daughter risk that these days? Of course you wouldn't. How innocent I, myself, managed to be. Even over-nighting with the crew on baby-accompanying trips I went singularly to bed after a glorious time in whatever hotel bar. Honest: I did. Thinking back to the last blog post and the lady in the advert who wished she'd had more sex, I absolutely cannot believe I passed up on the high-jinks the TV programme insists we had. Even some low-jinks wouldn't go amiss in to-days'situation. My immediate boss had worked for Imperial Airways. She is still with us, not I fear, computer literate so I shall print this off and send it to her, assuring her, although I am not wearing a hat, I am sporting the other unseen item of clothing. Bora da.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sex and Relationships

The pleasure and excitement of being a Mumsnet Blogger is undiminished. I saw that I was categorised under 'Sex and Relationships'. Now there's a thought. I can't be the only person passed the age of procreation who is only too aware of the minefield of Sex and Relationships. First, should one deal with them separately or together? When I was a girl, as the saying goes, there would be no sex without a relationship. Indeed, no sex unless the relationship were such that the parties involved could be sure not only that there was a relationship but of an enduring, committed relationship. There was a word for it. It was called marriage. I remember an advertisement from not so long ago. I am not sure what it was advertising but there were three elderly women in a cafe, remembering the past. The image that sticks is of one of them, transported back fifty years, rolling on the grass with a comely young man, the voice over wishing she had had more sex. I don't remember what the others wished but it comes back to me, as we speak, that it was an advertisement for butter. The three elderly women were indulging in croissants dripping with butter with no further need to concern themselves about weight and the other impedimenta of beauty and attraction. Those were also the days when men were imprisoned for having a sexual relationship with another man. One of the most toe-curling experiences of a life, (mine) not entirely blessed with dependable tact, was when a well-known figure, who had been in prison for just such a relationship, many years later, introduced me to his daughter and her boy-friend. The fresh-faced boy looked about twelve. I having entered the era when policemen were perceived to be getting younger, said to the father, "Boyfriends are getting younger all the time" and he relpied "My DAUGHTER'S boyfriend ". Oops! No way out of that except to die on the spot and wish sex had never been invented neither for pleasure, which was not gender-dependent, nor procreation, which, in those days, was.

There is no question but that there is a situation - can you feel me avoiding 'issue'? - concerning sex for those of us who find that our insides and our outsides are decades apart. Was'nt there a woman who advertised that she would like some more sex before it was too late? Details escape me, but I think it worked and she had not only a lovely time, with, I believe, Tolstoy read as fore-play, but also the material for a whole book. This is not the forum in which to disclose Liz's own experience in that specific field, (the one in which the lady frolicked in the butter ad? - Get it? Or "geddit" as my six year old son used to say. No, Silly, of course he's not six now.) but I don't at all mind disclosing the importance of relationships for me. One of the in-your-face understandings that turned up with my latest birthday was that there was not going to be much more time to form nor service relationships. The inner forty-year old can protest all she likes but one of these days is, by now, actually, NOW. Last night I was invited to an American Thanksgiving dinner: a first for this Welshman. There was present a mix of ethnic backgrounds and religions - or none - so our host suggested we accommodate this by going round the table each saying for what, in the past year, we would give thanks. Answers were diverse, from "my dog" to "a scholarship" and even the current dinner. In deference to my elder statesman status, I was asked to go first. "Friendship" said my inner voice. So, up I spoke, and I do give thanks for friendship,for relationships, yesterday and every day, including for the huge possibilities of the Mums/Gransnet network. Prynhawn da

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Growing up

It's with some,no great, excitement that I have to tell you that I have become a Mumsnet Blogger. After three and a half years it just seemed like a good idea to spread my wings and try to reach a few more of you. I was accepted, 55 years after I passed my last exam. So, if you are new to the blog, I have some helpful hints for your greater delictation. Basically, things happen to 40 year-old women hiding inside a body that is rather more than three score and ten - more than seventy if you are not familiar with the biblical phrase and as bad at Maths as I am - that can be extremely funny. They can also be tragic, come to think of it. More, they can require wisdom and experience to deal with and they can be embarrassingly awkward when the above items are not at one's disposal. (The wisdom and experience, of course) My job is to recount some of these events when and in the way they happen to me. Often, they echo the experience of many others, who seem to like the identification with me. Often, they are just down to my personal stupidity. Sometimes, they could serve as a warning to those of you who are still Mums in the clean- sock- whats-for-supper-go-to-bed NOW-sense. The intention is to find the funny side of them. Happily, this is often possible. However, life being what it is, the occasional complaint - what I call a 'green ink' situation, in deference to those who used to write letters to the Newspapers in green ink, signed "Disgruntled, Tunbridge Wells" - will creep in. I admit,modestly, mind you, people tune in from distant places: Mountain View, California, for instance. I have no idea whom or how old this lovely follower is. I try to write carefully, so the tone may even seem archaic, as the Guru will call it. Nor is the blog a diary in the conventional sense, so I may tell you about the experience of others, as well. You will notice the appearance of two people of influence: 1) the Guru, who set it all up and looks after my entire computer life. (He also happens to be one of the people dearest to me in my whole life) and 2) the Wizard of Cyberspace, whose duty it is to destroy my best endeavours, steal my work and do his best to wipe me out. Oh, and I am Welsh. It helps to know. Otherwise, you are meant to make up your own mind about the rest of me.

Inevitably, there have been running themes. The blog has been going a while and people have been kind in following it, but, like many television series, or, even literary compendia, one doesn't have to have watched or read them all, nor in the right order. You will soon get the 'voice' and become a member of the Gang. And, if you are one of the many new people who have just come upon '75 going on 40', I hope you will not stop at the top blog post or two. There are lots, even better, below. Take a pin and plunge in to one or more 'older' or 'oldest'. I am not sufficiently computer-literate to know whether or not you have access to the whole catalogue of posts but there are one or two about travelling where the experiences were hilarious in retrospect, hairy in the moment, and a fairly recent one called "Invisibility" where I come close to losing my sang-froid. An elderly lady with a stick, an umbrella and some shopping can find herself somewhat disadvantaged heading for the door of a Post Office along with six able-bodies. She is inevitably forced to the end of a queue and left to smile, sweetly, rather than compound the problem by a shout of "Hey, you. I was here first". You stand more chance of an equal contest if you are visually equal. In my experience, the unseemliness of a stick-waving row is unhelpful in inverse ratio to the age of the waver. Stay with me. C u soon. Nos da

Thursday, 10 November 2011


What a wonderful thing is the unconscious - or, even, the sub-conscious. There was I, thinking about the ways, the unexpected ways, in which the Departed deposit themselves within us, when I remembered that to-morrow is Remembrance day. This day we remember, at 11am, those lost in war. To-morrow, will be a particularly special one : at 11 o'clock, it will be 1100, on the 11th of 2011. Before I was struck by the serendipity, I had just planned to tell you how we can hold on to those who have 'gone before'. At three score and more than ten you would expect me to have some experience of losing important people in my life. Sometimes, their faces fade.I wonder if I can go on keeping them in mind This made me sad until it came to me that their faces were not, necessarily, the sharpest or the only way to hold on to them. As I explored this further, I saw that the ways in which those who have died have woven themselves in to the fabric of my life are as varied as they were, themselves. Almost daily, a dearly loved cousin and friend lives again as I ponder what to do with left-over food and hear her tell me to "put it in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing it out". (Under another post, I suspect I have told you of that advice before. I hope it bears repeating in this special context).

I never turn a 'hospital corner' on my bed without feeling the presence of my Mother who showed me how. I have reason, too often, to think of the effect, on a plethora of situations, of sibling rivalry: the most powerful formative force in the world, I believe.(I wish I were not too lazy/old to research it properly as I believe is now being undertaken). Each time, I hear another loved, lost voice:" People have been having brothers and sisters for centuries", dismissing in nine words my attempt to excuse my warring children by citing the sibling rivalry thing. My attempt to put a hook in the wall from which to append some picture I should never have bought in the first place will always attract the presence of someone close to me who, once, catching me at it, observed: "Ah, a new coat-hook for the next door neighbour". Taken short when out with a male companion one of my oldest friends comes to haunt me with the punch-line of his favourite joke. I shall need to tell you all of it. A little girl was having a picnic with her little male cousin and their families when both were taken short. Together, they crouched behind a hedge to deal with nature's needs. The little girl encountered nettles and other impediments to comfort. Looking over at her cousin, who suffered none of this, she remarked "that's a handy gadget for a picnic." Thus, when desperate for a solution, I look at the surrounding countryside and my companion, and am immediately in the aura of he-who-has-long-since-left-us, wishing for just such a handy gadget.

Not long ago, a cloud- burst inundated the place I kept my photographs. Many were lost, particularly those of the era of my Grandparents and Parents, by now a record much more than a century old. But I have come to realise I don't need my eyes to remember those whom I once knew. I have just to make a bed, observe a squabble, look at the cold roast chicken, need the loo when I am not at home and I am in touch, again, with those loved and lost. I can feel, again, as I felt near them. If I were a quilt each one would be a square of me, even if I can no longer see their faces. That's what makes Remembrance Day significant. I can 'see' no more than a handful of those we are remembering, but I can identify with the loss and 'wear' their presence for ever in the patchwork of my life. Prynhawn da