Thursday, 26 January 2012


Have you noticed how your memory works in pictures? Well, anyway, mine does. What brought it to my attention, was that that particular camera appears to have a fault. The other day, I lost my handbag. It would, actually, be more accurate to say I had lost track of it. I had lunch with the Father of my children before going on to the cinema. A delightful outing, incidentally, to have late lunch and afternoon cinema, or early evening cinema then dinner. Three treats: a meal, a film and not too late a night. I digress. Normally, I would offer my passenger my bag to put in the footwell in front of him/her to have it accessible for extracting the Blue Badge which allows some freedom of parking in the EU. (Seriously, it works in every corner of the EU. Across the Pond, I would have to rely on luck, I suppose.)On this rainy occasion he had brought his own car so no impediment at all to the footwell. And I put it - where? Panic: I struggled to picture myself at the restaurant picking up what my Doctor, after a consultation when he gallantly bent down to retrieve it from the floor for me, called the weight of a small toddler. I could 'see' that. I could 'see' it, indeed, 'feel' it on my shoulder but there the film faded. Himself was in his car so there was I, alone, with the shutter gone and all the undeveloped film inside. At that point, The Good Lord send a blast of rain so I leaned in to the back of the car for my umbrella preparatory to crossing to where I could see my companion, to tell him I was going back to the restaurant for my bag. Well done! You've guessed. There it was in the footwell of the rear seats. Cross my heart, I would have sworn on my life it could not be there. I had no picture of putting it there nor any reason to. I suppose if a camera has been working more or less non-stop for more than seven score years and ten you would expect it to have faults. But that's the trouble - one of them - with age: one fails to anticipate the fallability of things as one use to. Does any other of you oldies say to her/himself: "I must be careful to capture the picture of where/what I have done with my bag, those bills,my keys,the butter, the cat."? No, I don't suppose you do.

Locally, my AmDram group is putting on "Under Milk Wood". Next to Messiah, it is probably my very favourite work of art. Well, it would be would'nt it. I am co-opted to help with Welsh accents. And pretty hopeless it seemed at audition. This is where what you need in your head is a recorder rather than a camera. I have the feeling that nothing can really teach an English man/woman the Welsh lilt but the words themselves are written in a Welsh accent so I have every hope that things will right themselves, Willy Nilly,when we get to the actual read, semi-staged performance. We shall be visible though it was written as a play for voices, unseen, on the radio. Thus the Director was put under some casting pressure. There were ladies of a certain age pointing out it was written for unseen voices, who wished to play the nubile Polly Garter, and very few looking as if they may pass for Welsh. It would be nice to have reached an age where I could stop 'yes-butting' and sacrifice the image for the substantial.
As it happens, I should very much like to know if image-making works for your memory,too. I cannot 'see' where I have put my special occasion jumper. It is bright red and border-line saucy. I shall need it for the land-mark birthday of one of my young in a few days. I started to look for it as soon as I realised I could no longer count on my inner-eye camera to tell me where, safely, I had put it. I can't find it. I can't see where to look, the forty-year-old has gone to sleep and it's too late to go digital. Help!

Friday, 20 January 2012


As you will have gathered, since the Guru moved on and out, I have been living alone. No, of course I havent, I have continued to live with she-who-had-been the third member of the household, the CAT. ( Why capital letters? To signify her importance is why.)Now, you will also have noticed the increase in computer and, indeed, other- generated hassle since his departure. This category of learn-to-manage will be common to all of us who live alone so add the mobility problems of the elderly and you will have a clearer picture of the constant challenge of everyday life in Liz's current household. Example:I have a microwave oven. It is nicely built in to a special recess in the kitchen. Except it isn't. For some reason beyond my capacity to fathom, it has slipped backwards in to its recess.This has made evident that it is standing on a platform. The platform hadn't moved, at least until I interfered with it. The Micro is, therefore, balanced half on and half off its platform; teetering would be the word were it to regress even further. What is needed is one pair of hands to steady the platform - do I mean shelf? - and another to lift the oven so that the shelf can be secured in its staus quo ante and the micro replaced on top of it, flush with the surrounding fittings. I know, I know: too much information. Suffice it, then, to say that I am having to deal with the aesthetic discomfort and efficiency deficit in my kitchen every time I go in there. On top of that, a collection of many years of dust was exposed as the machine crept ever further backwards and the revealed space is thinner than the hand which wants to get in and clean it. There is good news. The machine, itself, continues to work so that I can defrost bread and reheat left-overs without interuption.

I am not sure that this situation qualifies absolutely under the thesis heading 75 going on 40. After all, the problem would be the same whatever the chronological age of the householder living alone. It's just that I didn't live alone when I was chronologically 40. Another thing that impacts on my life is a shortage of support. A few nights ago I went to a concert. The venue was not full and I was sitting in an aisle seat with a short empty row beside me. In front of me was a man in the same position, aisle seat, empty short row. He had placed his raincoat over the back of his seat and it was resting on my lap. With the utmost courtesy, I leaned forward and asked him if he would be kind enough to move his coat which was visibly resting on my knees. He swung right round, dragged his coat away and said " and that's a ghastly hat you are wearing. Thank God I don't have to look at it". I should explain that Liz wears a beret when her hair is not fit to be seen in public. The beret is black, innocuous and infinitely more appealing than elderly hair due for a wash. With presence of mind I would have given a month's salary for back in the day, I replied that it was, indeed ghastly - I lied - but better than what was underneath and, in that he didnt have eyes in the back of his head, he shouldn't be too worried. What I forbore to tell him was that my little heart was thumping and I was left feeling thoroughly nauseous. At this point, I could have done with a supportive companion to look-here-my-man him. Whatever button I had pushed to bring that on my head - literally - I can't imagine. The story has a happier ending than that of the microwave, as it happens. At the interval in the concert, the man turned round and asked me how I had enjoyed the second, potentially challenging, piece. This was one of the more innovative ways I have encountered in more than three score years and ten of saying "I was out of order. Please forgive me." Anyway, I did forgive him, though I was tempted to say that I didn't want to engage with a man who had shaved his head down to a micro-millimetre of grey hair and had the gall to talk to a lady whose evening he had done his best to ruin. There is a rather nice synchronicity between the microwave struggling to do its thing with some grave handicap and the 40/75 year old with a similar struggle. The microwave oven still works, though on a rocky base. Apparently, so do the manners of a well-brought- up lady on an even rockier base. Prynhawn da.

Saturday, 7 January 2012


I am a conflicted person. Well, you know that. Anyone who is more than three score and ten on the outside and forty on the inside would be, would'nt she? To-day's conflict is between the advantages and the disadvantages of current technology. You'd think there'd be nothing new to say on the matter. There is. There is my experience of it. Yesterday, my computer decided to exclude me from my emails. Normally, after I have logged in, a red screen appears with the announcement that it is loading. Yesterday, there WAS a red screen. The announcement, however, was "Goodbye. Come back soon". I tried this that and the other thing. (No, I did not ring the Guru. Even I have some sensitivity about his availability some of the time - some of the time I'm sensitive, that is, not he is available some of the time). After a considerable and frutrating aeon, my older self clicked in. I rang my server. When I was a girl, as the saying goes, if an appliance went wrong, you telephoned someone. So I did. I found a number and I used it. It was an 0845 number which, on this side of the Pond, is very expensive But there is a system for finding cheaper alternatives. I used that. By this time, I was already considerably nearer meeting my Maker in terms of time passed, but I got through. There were 5 options. I pressed one of them. There were 5 more. I pressed another. There were 5 more. When I finally did reach a human, after repeating this process thrice, I had gone in to a trance and forgotten why my ear was stuck to the phone in the first place. However, this story is nearly over. As instructed by the human, I held on in an interminable silence waiting for the "someone will help you in a minute" and, 57 minutes from the beginning, was told the server's whole system had crashed in my area. Thank you very much. How about "system crashed" instead of "Goodbye. Come back soon"? A neat illustration of the two ages of Liz but draining, to say the least.

Which brings me to my printer. That has crashed, too. The Guru did mend it once and left me the 'Printer Test' sheet to prove it. Then it refused to use its ink tank nicely and started printing over itself. It told me it was 'offline' then it said it was 'online' when I had moved neither a finger nor a mouse. I put 'Printer' in to my search engine. Yes, I did. I'm not entirely without resource, whatever the poor Guru - and you - has come to expect. The problem with that degree of enterprise is that I then fall upon instructions for cleaning or testing parts for which I don't recognise even the names: stalemate. It's like knowing enough Portuguese to ask the way but not enough to understand the answer.
Were you to be familiar with my arthritic handwriting, you would know why the printer is important to me. Anyway, in his wisdom, the Guru has decided to buy me a new one. He didn't confer. He just did. More conflict: I like, where help is concerned, both to be me Jane: he Tarzan, whomever is helping me, but also I like to be asked to think before expenditure. However, I trust the Guru with my passwords and pin numbers so why wouldn't I trust him with making unilateral decisions on my behalf? Throughout the Christmas and new Year period, the post has been erratic, to put it at its politest. Thus, with 45 options and no printer I am beginning to regret having sacked the carrier pigeons. Happy New Year, even without a verb.