Thursday, 19 July 2012


The morning has been spent yelling down the telephone. Now, Liz, herself, has been suffering from a degree of 'could-you-speak-up-please' and secretly plotting to ask the Doctor for a referral to a hearing facility. What I hadn't registered, below the intellectual level that is, where one can have information without knowledge,  was that many  people of my acquaintance were in the same boat. It is discomforting to bellow one's name at top volume to someone one has known since childhood. Indeed, I sequester it in the drawer marked "Growing Evidence of Encroaching Madness".As to that, you must have noticed. There are certain people and certain situations that make you wonder whether you are still in your your right mind. This phenomenon is triggered much more readily with age, I find. One has a very clear memory of an event, a significant, even life-changing event, and The Other, involved in every scintilla at the time, looks at one as if Swahili were the currency of the story when it is recounted years later. I digress: in this technocological age there must be a telephonic device that can be installed at one end or the other - or both - to enhance the volume.  Please, do let me know. As you will have gathered, the Guru, who knows everything that falls under the heading of 'Twenty First Century Living' now lives a life so busy even I feel pressured, myself, if I have to ask his help in navigating the simple electronic everyday. It is actually good for me, in a way, because it forces me to drag myself up the learning curve without him. Which is about the only exercise I'm capable of these days.  All the fuss in the papers about exercise saving our lives: what if the degree of one's mobility makes that a nonsense? A few days ago, a young man shot out of a shop and barged straight in to me. I thought I was being mugged. In fact, that was not his intention, but he sent me flying. Happily, I fell against a wall and not to the ground, so escaped with nothing but shock and hurt pride. Hurt pride, why? Well,  I got the full poor-old-lady-treatment from passers-by. While the help was welcome, it was also galling not to have been able to chase after him and whack him about the head with my umbrella and some unladylike language.

I do sometimes wonder what we oldies could be capable of if push came to shove. Would I have been able to catch him up and do him injury had I, or a loved one, been in real danger? These are eventualities you don't think of until you get there. There is an aura, an ambience around age which is clearly perceived by the not-old. We are a different kettle of fish: a different species. Sometimes, travelling by air, I ask for a wheelchair because the distances are challenging at most airports. I am dealt with as if the chair were empty. My passport and boarding card are taken from me although I could easily reach up to the relevant desks. The attendant is asked "can she stand? The up-side is that many of the potential embarrassments are actually quite funny.  If the people walking through me, barging passed me, letting their eyes roll  off me could hear what my inner voice was saying their wide-eyed disbelief would cause them to call the police or even Social Services. Having survived the danger of being driven mad by those who dont understand Swahili, I could find myself under secure guard, after all, for age-inappropriate language and behaviour. While I do have sufficient faculty, however, I shall resign myself to the loss of  umbrella weilding and learning curve trekking, carry on editing my vocabulary  and concentrate on excercise of the mind instead.

That's enough green ink. (Those of you kind keepers-up will know what I mean by that)  My excuse is that you did sign up for an insight in to life on the outside versus life on the inside of those of us beyond the biblical limit of three score and ten.  The trouble is, at a distance of a few hundred words, can I remember whyever I reached for that ink-pot  in the first place?

ps A.V. Are you still there?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


The point about snow is that once it has gone, it has gone. No-one knows where. No-one can find it again. No-one can prove even that it was there. The same is true for my waist. Now, normally this would be of no interest to anyone but me, but the time came for me to look out the scarlet swimsuit with which loyal followers will be only too familiar, and it doesn't fit. There you are. I've said it. Black and white makes for the scarlet truth. Unfortunately, it can be proved that it was there. There are photographs. I am of the age when bikinis first appeared. I appeared in one. I even knew why they were called bikinis. The provenance of the name was of my era. What's more, I looked alright in one. Now, I should frighten the horses. There are options. I can go and look for another swimsuit that will fit or I can lose weight and fit into the one I already have and love. Currently the jury is out about which is likely to be the more efficient or effective or both. It  encouraged me to think about what else had gone with the snow. My ankles have. Why is it that the elderly lose their ankles? I keep looking. It is true of nearly all the women of my age that I look at.  Should a skirt be essential, I do have little boots which come over my ankles and make a really good job of disguising them. However, they are a bit of a challenge to put on because, guess what, I've lost flexibility in my hands and wrists so, unless I've left myself more time than  scatterbrains usually do, I am obliged to climb in to my trousers after all.

There was a time when I had a whole lexicon of words: nouns, adverbs, adjectives, anything you might ask for which the crossword throws up. Gone, like the above frozen precipitation: gone.  You will be familiar, I think, with the old man in my archive pushing his ladder along the rows of information stored in my head, searching for whatever it is I need. Mostly, he  gets there. Mostly, I can produce the word before the need for it is obselete. Often, though, I incur the  cost of phoning the Father of my children whose archivist, although even older than mine,  does remain sharp and reliable. "What's the word for....?" I ask. He tells me. I thank him and replace the receiver. I have another friend of some erudition. I ring him, too. He never laughs at me. He is never impatient. He will search his own lexicon and generously produce answers even of the far from archane. Where do they go, the words I used to have?

Where does love lost go?  Ah there you have it: a mystery. How can one love passionately and forevermore and find, as the song goes, that forevermore is shorter than before? Is there a drawer in which that love will linger? Is there an attic where it is stored with old tennis rackets and broken toys? Of course not. It is lying with the snow of  times that have passed. I have a fantasy that there is a door behind which I will find my children. Not the man and women they have become; their toddler selves. It is as if those were different people, exisiting separately from the people of today. There is no such door. Those toddlers are no more. Where have they gone?  They are in memory. That's where they are. The snows of yesteryear may have turned to slush and gone down the drain. But the words, the waist, all the things that can't be found must just have moved on and out to leave room for the memories we would languish without. Don't you think? Nos da.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


There was a sudden image. Knowing what I had in mind to put to you, I waited for a title to turn up. I saw a row of doors and that did the trick.  The doors are to represent a stage of life. You are not supposed to open the  one next to where you find yourself until it  is the right moment to do so. It's simple, really. The significant example which comes to mind  finds behind it clumsiness. Throughout my middle years I would stand, with impatience  politely concealed, in a queue behind an elderly lady paying for goods. Two minutes to undo the zip of her purse, three minutes to count out the money - if she were particularly adept, several more for her to accept and accommodate the change and then do up her zip again. Remember to step backwards as she lumbers round to move away, dropping her stick in the crush. Sometimes, there'd be a hint of rueful smile, as if she knew, but rarely. Thanking Whomever I was not thus incapacitated I would rush through my own transaction and get on with my day .Not any more. That door is open and I am on the other side it. The queue is behind me and, this being the 21st Century, there is rather more obvious impatience breathing down my neck. I was constantly bending down to pick up elderly dropped walking sticks. Would you like to see the batter and bruises on mine?
Another door is marked 'invisibility'. Honestly, I can't remember if I walked straight through the invisible Elderly, pushed passed them and cut them up at the entrance to the Post Office. But I doubt it. Manners were better because they still mattered. Even when the root of good manners is a wish to be acceptable to others, the effect is a good one. Goodness knows why they have, for the most part, ceased to matter. The Guru, very much of this Century, would doubtless postulate that they do still matter: they have just changed. He was jolly cross when I brought out a crossword to do when we were eating together and he brought out his phone to send a text message on it, or receive one. Who knows. It was, in any case, a parallel conversation to the one we were supposed to be having. He could understand the'rudeness' in the crossword but found his own behaviour totally normal. I got one of those eyebrow up, right-one-'ere looks. There are  two doors there: 'invisibilty' and 'manners'. It is clear to see, on a daily 'bus queue basis, how I have walked through the door to 'invisibilty': a definite disadvantage. I may still be on the right side of'' manners', though, unless I've walked through  the disguised 'it-was-much better-in-my-day' door. How restless I would become on the fringe of a conversation between my Mother and her friends which would inevitably include quite a number of 'good old days' lamentations. Whatever the Past had held, it was certainly a much better place then the Present.  I am currently in charge of the scripts of those conversations and regularly read them aloud. Incidentally, I am also invisible in many restaurants. Whether that is age or the woman-on-her-own syndrome or both of the above is irrelevant. I  have taken to wearing a dash of the outrageous just as a ya boo and sucks statement. (Is that a ladylike expression?) What do I mean? Well, a scarlet jacket or multi-coloured beads give one a certain  je ne sais quoi. Yes I do know: a certain eccentricity. It may be threatening instead but that beats invisible any day.
I once saw a play the set of which consisted of a row of doors. Throughout, the characters dashed in and out of these doors, creating, anyway for me, total chaos and confusion. That's it: a metaphor for life, mine anyway. Prynhawn da