Tuesday, 29 October 2013


The mysterious question of mind over matter: I have been thinking about this for as long as I can remember. It really is the most challenging of phenomena. (Actually, I suspect the true plural of 'placebo' to be 'placebi', but I am not going to get off my chair, find the dictionary and look it up - nor search-engine it. Why not the latter? Because, the moment my back is turned, the jolly old Wizard will take this page away to the waste-paper basket of Cyberspace to which only he, and sometimes the Guru, has the key. Good Lord, he may even shred it.) That having been acknowledged, I will proceed. Before my illness of last year, I had taken to the application of Chinese Herbal pain patches, placed directly on and over an area of pain, inevitably on my back. Having fulfilled the prophesy that it would take me a year fully to recover, I found myself, twelve months later, in the course of a little tidy up, confronted by the bright orange packets in which they came. Delighted, I immediately applied one. It occured to me that it was thinner than I had recalled but, never mind, my back felt instantly better and I did my trolley-dolly thing with the hospital mobile library much more comfortably and came home much less achy. Then I  took the patch off in order to shower. Assiduously, I went to replace it once clean and dried - me, not the patch. Dear Reader, I had applied straight to my skin the sticky plaster that was meant to keep the patch in its place. Of course it was thinner than I remembered. It wasn't the goods at all. Now, I had enjoyed a day of minimalised pain through the medium of a sticky device designed purely as a fail safe for the nice thick, herby patch otherwise at risk of detachment every time one pulled one's underwear up or down. There you have it, incontravertable, the placebo effect. In defence of my inner world,  or unconscious as some may have it, I should tell you that the real thing did make my back feel even better - or was that the placebo effect times two?

I suppose the first palcebo effect comes with a baby's dummy. (I forget what that would be called in Mountview California: comforter, perhaps). I do wonder what the pre-verbal little one makes of this substitute for Mother's breast. Is he/she aware that this is not the real thing? Is there an inner world discussion, in pictures, of course? For example: " I am confused. It felt softer and smelt nicer and produced the goods more readily - at all - that time before last when it was too dark to see but everything smelt correct" I have to confess I can't picture those pictures. But the child does feel pacified by this device, at least for some of the time and for some varying periods. In retrospect, I have a bad conscience about offering these to my children. I can see how it could sew the seeds of disaffection and lack of trust once the capacity to tell one from the other evolved. Oh dear! I seem, inadvertantly, to have uncovered a major factor in the struggle between the generations. As in: " My Mother misled me in to believing that great thick rubber thing was, truly, the Holy Grail of babyhood when it didnt even taste the same." It doesn't bear thinking about. At my great age substitutes are harder to come by.  I think I'll go and have a cup of coffee - no, I don't smoke - and pray for the placebo effect. Bora da.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Perhaps someone out there will tell me if I have just invented the word "compassless" for my title or whether it is already tried and true. No, I am not going to have recourse to the dictionary. It's allowable for help with the crossword but, otherwise, the rule is I have to rely on memory and the old man in the archive of my internal lexicon. I don't know why there is such a rule. I simply obey it. The truth is I find my self lost in cyberspace without benefit of compass. To expand: recently I sought to order some provisions on-line. I had in mind disinfectant wipes that are very useful in any cat-owned home. Looking at the little pictures accompanying the choices, I opted for a special offer pack of two. That's what I thought I opted for. What turned up in the delivery was a huge box containing fifty of the damned packs. Never mind open it, I couldn't even lift it. If my beloved cat and I were to live to one hundred and fifty four we would just about get through them. The next hurdle was telephoning the supplier to see if they could be given back. Don't laugh. I wager there is not one among you who has not spent half a lifetime ringing an organisation with thirty eight options to press in the comforting knowledge that they value your call. Some considerable time and three Customer Servicers later, they had agreed to take them back.  By this time, the cost of the 0845 phone call had crept up to the cost of the goods. Well, I exagerate, but I am sure you know the feeling.

Far more serious was my attempt, myself, to book a flight on line. Everything went swimmingly right up to "your order is confirmed. please print etc etc". I was so keen to show off to the Guru I telephoned him at work, making his praise rather curter than I would have liked. Several days later I gathered the print-off to put ready in my going-away handbag. Dear Reader, I had booked the wrong day.  I put in the right date but the wrong day, as in Sunday 14th, when Sunday was the 15th. Naturally, the Wizard of Cyberspace, or his amanuensis, picked up the date and not the day. I know, I know. You don't know anyone who could have been that witless. On my knees, even tough unseen by them, I begged the Airline to let me change the ticket. Absolutely no chance. I tried many times, hoping to reach a flexible human on one of them. I even went up to the Airline's desk while on a different trip. They were more helpful. I could change my ticket for 700 Euros. The cost of an extra night in an hotel would be much less than that so that's what I settled for.

I see myself in a misty forest in Cyberspace, watched by the Wizard who is laughing at me and gloating over his mastery of me. If I were younger he may have more compassion or, at least. the hope that I would find my way in the end. I have a friend who says if you are hungry and can read, you can cook. (To read the cookery books, of course).  I am hungry for communication and I can read. I can't compute. Bora da.

Saturday, 12 October 2013


It's a point of curiosity to me whether the word should be 'drawbacks' or 'drawsback'. What do you think? In consequence of the recent unbelievable birthday, I have been rather forced to consider them wherever you put the 's'. Take arthritis. Stiff hands cause inevitable embarrassment in public lavatories. Why? One can't turn the locking device is why. Having been interupted in flagrante derilicto on occasion, I now prop my stick against the probably -not- properly-locked-door. It falls with an alarming clatter and a multitude of apologies. Following the same train of thought, it is a nightmare to give amnesty to the paper imprisoned in its cage with just its tail prodruding. If it has been put in there the wrong way round, that is with its tail hanging from its backside instead of from its tummy, there is just one solution: forget it. Arthritic fingers don't scrabble sufficiently well. As I've noted before, museums are viable only with a companion willing to push a wheelchair.  That is not so much because of the walking as the standing. One doesn't nearly shuffle off whatever because of an infection in the back and recover subsequently to stand still for more than a nano second. (Is that one word or two? There were'nt any nanoseconds when I was a girl. Or perhaps there were but we called them 'split')   In order to keep the engine operative a startling amount of medication is necessary.  It is humbling and gratifying that a satifactory fuel has been devised for me. The drawback is that it has side effects. To quantify: the bonny old thing you see bouncing around the Hospital being a volunteer is actually feeling rather nauseous. When a further fuel is aimed at pain control  the bit of me you can't see is bouncing around half asleep. Oh for the days when I walked 'one two, one two'  along the banks of the river Ure. (You know the one: it turns up in crosswords all the time) .And 'one two, 'one two' has to be recited quicker than it can be typed to get the feel. My work depended to a great extent on my memory. Mixing up and transposing the names of the siblings/spouses and so on of the people with whom I was working was definitely not good for business. It was right, therefore, that I stop when I did. But, where confusing was a professional drawback, the honing of my memory in all those years, impaired as it became, leaves me now with a great deal more recall than I deserve as I wait on the tarmac for the final departure.

No ankles, no waist, thin hair: what a lot has been left behind on this journey we call Life. In spite of the drawbacks, though, it does seem worth the bother to enjoy my huge amount of more than three score and ten. Well, to tell the truth, it is now actually four score. I know. You guessed. I can't have been blogging for five years and still be seventy five going on forty. I like the title, though, so I shan't be rebranding as 80 going on 45. I wonder what is ahead. I suppose some loss and more deterioration. But never mind the drawbacks. Pull up the drawbridge and let them drown. Nos da

Friday, 4 October 2013


For some reason I haven't taken the trouble to analyse, recently, I find myself gazing at a toddler with open-mouthed disbelief that two such infinitisimal entities have combined to make such a lively and interesting human being. Imagine my stupor, then, at the contemplation of a whole adult. Last night, at supper with the father of my children, we spent a satisfying period watching a tiny being learn to negotiate a step between two sections of the cafe. Eventually, her foot having hovered above it several times while we held our breath, she sat and bumped her bottom down it. I do, so much, love to watch little ones learning how to do this business life. Think: every single item and atom that makes a way of being in the world has to be learned. The other day, at another cafe, I watched a little boy on his Father's knee, gaze down at a dog at the next table. His face quite clearly registered " what the Hell is that?" I do hope someone enlightened him in due course.  My preoccupation at this time must stem from my own recent and rather momentous birthday. There's a lot to be said for being this far up the ladder.  I can afford to  be much nicer. There really isn't time to take offence. I can afford to be wicked. There really isn't time to mind my 'ps' and 'qs'. I can afford to speak my mind. There really isn't time to think through the alternatives. I cannot afford to be sloppy in my appearance. There really isn't time to correct an impression of 'couldn't care less'. I cannot afford to spill my food. There really isn't time to keep changing my blouse.  I cannot afford to be forgetful. There really isnt time to remember or be reminded of what I got wrong. I had a little gathering to mark this occasion and told my friends that which you, Dear Reader, already knew. I told them about the serendipidy of my work life, where I, inter alia, had gone from part-time airborn trolley dolly to part-time library book trolley dolly. Someone commented that there had been rather a lot in between.  Indeed there has. There are so many memories that many of them have fallen out for lack of accommodation in my overstacked archive.

For the occasion, someone emailed me a copy of Julie Andrews' "These are a Few of my Favourite Things" adapted for her 79th birthday.  I found it hilarious. I am not sufficiently computer literate to find it and quote it to you while keeping hold of this blogpost at the same time. You can imagine that it has a lot to say about the infirmities and inconveniences of advanced age. My favourite things included the handful of people who helped me celebrate, although there were inevitable exceptions. For instance, the venue would not have countenanced the presence of my beloved cat. She it was who brought me my first present: a mouse. She stood in the doorway of my room with this offering in her mouth but, attempting a meow at the same time, dropped the poor thing. It ran like mad under the bed but I decide to get in and leave its fate  to chance and the morning. My lovely friend and helper next morning did crawl about with a torch looking under the bed: to no avail and to no mouse. So whence it went and whence it came I know not. But, unlike the cat, it didnt end up on the bed with me so I hope it lives to match my three score and, by now, a very great deal more than ten. Prynhawn da