Saturday, 29 June 2013


It seems to me I have already talked about life's full circles in the ways everyone's physicality reverts to baby and childhood.  Recently, I have noticed the most incredible full circle that is peculiar to my life and does not reflect ageing in general. When I first started work iit was with a firm of publishers who specialised in law books. I was engaged to make an index for a book in the pipeline. Currently, I find myself, something like sixty years later, going through the indices of the books in the Patients' Library at my local hospital. If you have been kind enough to keep up, I ask you to recall a post or so ago where I explained that  there were actual cardboard indices both to catalogue the books and to record those that are out on loan. No computers as we speak: they have been threatened for a couple of years but seem to have got lost in the world of One-of-These-Days. So there am I, dealing with  indices all over again. That's wierd enough but I have also been promoted to a second job where I staff an enquiry desk for half a day. My next job after the indexing was at London Airport. I was attached to what was then called Passenger Handling. You wouldn't get away with that, now. It would surely be Customer Services. Anyway, part of the specification was to direct passengers and help in whatever way was appropriate. We also checked them in, manually, of course, pulling the ticket from a slender book of varying usage. A couple of days ago I had the most extraordinary sense of deja vu as I pushed a lady in a wheel chair to a place where there was a little-known lift big enough to take it and its passenger,who was exhausted by waiting and frustrated at the difficulty to find a lift with enough room for her. I just about mangaged not to ask her her final destination and whether or not she had baggage for the hold.

A bit ago my attention was drawn to a poster advertising what seemed to me to read Pan Am Frolics. Now, those of you old enough may well remember the American airline of that name. I might as well come clean: that was the airline I worked for. On further enquiry, it turned out that the sign had actually said Pam Ann and the figure dressed as the Trolley Dolly was, in fact, a drag artiste. To my great sadness, I was not free to attend. Do you think I would have had the cheek to pipe up that present was a really, truly one? Somehow, I think that may not have been seemly in the elderly - not the admission of Trolly Dollydom but the piping up in public. Today, I had the pleasure of watching two more drag 'queens' who were taking part in the Gay Pride event in Trafalgar Square. I was on my own so there was nobody with whom to share what one might politely call the irony of my being there, bringing up the average age  by a considerable factor. Impolitely, one might call it lunacy as I wobbled on my stick seat waiting to be pushed over by the enthusiastic photo takers milling around me. But I bet I was the only one who had danced the jitterbug the first time around as I watched the present day infants jigging about beside the 'lady' on the stage to the period music of the Big Band behind them. Had I somewhere to lay down my stick and pose my handbag I'd have been jigging about myself: not on the stage, you'll be happy to know but around the Square or even in the middle of it. Now I come to think of it, I could have kept my handbag, slung across me over my shoulder and really looked the part as they ran me in. Be calm in your beds Dear Reader: I didn't. Nos da.

Monday, 24 June 2013


Never mind what day it is: I have lost my capacity to work out what time it is. As a younger, working person, I could have told you within the nearest second what hour of the clock it was. Now, as assiduous followers will recall, I depend on my cat's appetite for breakfast to establish when is getting-up time. Summer days mean that it is full daylight from 5am so the light peeping round the curtains mean only that it is not the very middle of the night. Transactions have also changed their timings. For instance, it takes me twice as long to dry my thinning, poker straight hair than it did when it was lush and curly. Making sense of the haystack is time-consuming and infinetly boring - for you, too, I suspect. Every morning I have a competition with myself: how many seconds can I stand, unsupported, on each leg in turn in order to put my trousers on. I do try, I promise. I do exercises standing on a kind of spring board to enhance my balance. I stretch and bend and remember the flexibilty of my youth. Some time ago, I drove in to the centre of London with the Guru. We found a meter on which to park and he started to wander off. When asked where he was going, he replied he was going down the road to buy a ticket while I got out of the car. The cheek of it: but he was only half joking as I lumbered out in the snail's pace he had foreseen.

  Some things are quicker. Since I have less often to present an outside- the- house persona, decisions about what to wear are less significant and, therefore, quicker. Just between us, I have been known to wear the same clothes for two days, providing,  it goes without saying, they are scrupulously clean and the underpinnings are refreshed daily. Living alone, for the most part I have to rely on eyesight to inspect the condition of my apparel. Never mind "does my b.. look big in this?" For me it has to be "can you see what I had for supper in this?" Ever since I could handle words I have noticed that the days of the week - that is, the names for them, have appeared in colour on my inner screen. There is a name for this but I can't remember it and, in the afflicted, it usually applies to all words, not just one group. Anyway, the rainbow of the days goes round  a great deal quicker than it used to. I both mind and dont mind. Nice things come round more quickly but the sands are also running out more quickly. For my young, the distant past is about five years ago. For me it is about twenty. One of the people I have known longest in my life is the Father of my children. Without his friendship I would have little verifiable past nor history. As I am sure you know or have guessed, I am a believer in who you were being who you are.  Think Russian Doll: all the former yous fitting in to the current presenting you. I am still working to reconcile this belief with the Mindfulness of total 'Now' that I am being trained in. As I remarked, a post or two ago, my cat has proved the best of instructors in this phenomenon. She is absolutely in the Now so that, even waiting for me to provide the flat surface of me on which to lie, she can both anticipate that future and be wholly in the now of her patience. Recently, in passing, I said to someone close to me that I wasn't allowed to buy another book until I had read all the ones already in my possession. Immediately, she responded, that, having nearly died last summer, I should, on the contrary, buy and read anything I wanted when I wanted it. That freedom will take some getting used to. There is more than enough historical precedence for economic wariness in my make-up; brought up in the Second World War, for instance. But I see she is right and time should  be wasted no longer, so  off to the book shop with the hope I shall have enough time left to read all I buy. Bore da

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Recently, I have dropped the odd comment to lead you gently  to the idea that I have started to work voluntarily at the local hospital. What a very old lady is doing in a very large hospital must be hard to imagine. Well, for one thing, I am the rear end of a trolley- pushing job taking library books round the wards. The trolley is heavy, the corridors are vast and I am no longer forty, as we know only too well. The toughest bit  to deal with is bruised pride. The front end of the trolley is staffed by an old volunteer hand. She walks and pulls at a rate of knots. I need not only to keep up at something between a trot and a canter, but also to hide the fact that I am struggling to keep up at all. This particular lady is four foot nothing and very spry. I am convinced she could deal with the thing alone. However, Health and Safety requires there be two of us and we are certainly both needed to heft it over the inevitable little step created by the lift which takes us from ward to ward. (Elevator, in case you have lost your English-American dictionary over there in Mountain View, California). Health and Safety also requires bare arms below the elbow and no jewellery. Exceptions are made for wedding rings. I know, I know, there are anomalies. Why would bacteria keep clear of your wedding ring but not of your engagement ring. Likewise, one has to remove one's wrist watch and loop it around the lanyard bearing a photo and the word "Volunteer" in red letters repeated at intervals of one inch right round one's neck. The biggest anomaly, though, is in the books, themselves. How anyone could describe a library book as bacterium-free has stretched my curiosity to its limits.  Don't misunderstand: I am very germ conscious, especially having spent two months in hospital, myself, last summer. It's the inconsistencies that get to my pedantic little mind.

 The pedantry extends, too, to the card index which serves as catalogue and borrowing record. That's right. You did read correctly: no computer, an old-fashioned card index. It gladdened my old-fashioned heart no end. I know where I am with a feely row of cardboard information.  I am not easy, as you know, with the Wizard of Cyberspace however genial he may appear to all of you. Anyway, the card index: every time I present myself,  I take one letter of the alphabet and put the cards in it in to alphabetical order. Every time I present myself anew, the Wizard of Indexville has muddled them all up again. It's like painting the Forth Bridge. By the time you get to the end it is ready for re-painting at the beginning. (I can't really keep up with the parentheses. I shall have to ask you to Search- Engine the Forth Bridge for yourself). My other challenge is simply the distances to cover. It takes me three minutes to walk from the Library to the nearest call-of-nature facility. The canteen is enormous with bottles of water at one end and glasses at the other. Picture poor Liz, handbag falling off her shoulder, stick in one hand, tray in the other, bottle of water rolling about on it, traipsing forlornly from stage to stage collecting bits and pieces more by their stability on the tray than by their appetite appeal, getting really wound up because minced meat, carrots and potatoes wrapped in pastry are called "shepherds' pie" when they should be called pasties. Aware as I am of the tricks played by the inner world, I still transpose my crossness on to some totally innocent event or source. Like kicking the cat when cross with the spouse. However, the food is good and wholesome and one can always read the signs on the wall telling us how healthy it all is: no bacteria there, then. Bore da.