Sunday, 31 May 2015


Strictly speaking, this post doesn't chime particularly with the as- if exam question, "Inner 40 as opposed to outer stopped- counting": discuss. However, what has been exercising my mind is the number of situations,  which, once started, can't be stopped. Washing one's hair comes to mind. Once it is wet there is no going back. You may dry it without benefit of shampoo, but, once comprehensively wet, it does make more sense just to carry on.  You can't unopen a letter, nor can you unpost it. I have long tried to teach myself to keep a letter overnight in case, come daylight, I have changed my mind about posting it at all. It doesn't work, not even for the ones written in green ink.

Should you be among the carriers of the future, you can't stop that, either. Labour, once started, has to be followed through to the - hopefully - glorious end. The first time I realised this, on the stairs of the maternity home where number one was born, it was a life changing moment. I saw, that without seeing,  I had been a border-line control freak and this was my initiation in to something over which I had no control. Alright, alright, one can control the course of labour to some extent. You cannot stop the actual event absolutely, tell it to fade away until you feel more like it or when the stars are more propitious. As it happens, number one was arriving as the first man was walking in space. I don't suppose he could stop that either. "Oops, I've remembered a prior engagement. Put me down at once": probably not. Fainting is another example. I remember, heavily pregnant, carrying the toddler in my arms, knowing I was going and trying to control things so that the little one landed on the one who was still in utero. Modesty prevents me from listing obvious other intervention-impossible experiences. No doubt you are working those out as we speak. As it happens my habitual use of hyphens always brings to mind a dear and old friend, a noted journalist, who encouraged my writing and was a fully signed-up hyphen user, himself. Sadly, he recently shuffled off this mortal coil and I suspect, like birth, there's no stopping that, neither. Nos da.

Friday, 22 May 2015


Somehow, somewhere, I must have annoyed the Wizard of Cyberspace. My computer is behaving like a recalcitrant teenager or, worse, a newly verbal toddler: "won't, shan't, can't make me" about covers it. My 'toolbar' diappears, typed letters appear a couple of seconds after I've pressed the keys and the screen goes misty blue and static at the squeek of a mouse. Much worse, after the business of my stolen handbag, two days ago my car was stolen. I am begining to adjust to the years of  my life which have to be devoted to telephoning and otherwise organising matters in the wake of these disasters. Who would want a four-year old Polo in need of a wash, I asked myself. The child-policewoman who came round with her 'Victim Support Card' told me it was a desirable get-away car because it was so inconspicuus. Thank you very much, always keen to do a service, even for car-thieves. No doubt I am far from alone in this experience but it is decidedly freaky to come up to the parking bay in which you left your four-wheeled friend to see a stranger in it. It's like the nightmare where you have the right key but the door opens in to the wrong house. I don't know about how you would have felt, but the experience took me many seconds before I could re- believe  in my sanity: yes, I had left the car on that very disabled bay, no, it hadn't changed make and registration, there was a cuckoo in my nest and my bird had flown.

It set me thinking about forgetfulness and other vicissitudes of old age. (Well, it would do, wouldn't it?) In the past, if my car had a puncture, I would stand by it and flutter my eyelashes until some nice, strong rugby player came by and offered to change the tyre.  There was a gap in middle age when that didn't work any longer and I had to deal with it myself, but now I simply wave my stick and, hey presto, Age UK sends a carer with a spanner and I just lean against a wall and watch. In a big London store the other day, I spotted a sign suggesting a treatment that would delay the ageing process. I don't need that, I have aged. In my Welsh home town there are two car-hire companies. Neither will lend to  anyone over seventy five so homesickness has to wait until someone close to me who lives north of the border ventures south and drives me - or did before my car was stolen. And, no, I can't just take the train because I need a car at the other end to visit and revisit where the 'bus service is really just a figment of one's imagination. But, by and large, and on balance and whatever other cliche comes to mind, it's not so bad up here in the mighty 80's. At forty I would have been close to a breakdown at the outflow of hassle from the vehicular theft: what about the little ones at the school gates, all different schools coming out at the same time, what about the stew in the oven, what about the night's supper in the boot (trunk) with milk going off in the summer heat? Now it's just funny, faced with that cuckoo and managing to rationalise it and hop in a taxi. It no longer matters where one could find the snows of yesteryear. Bore da

Saturday, 9 May 2015


Recently, circumstances have given me pause for thought about volunteering. You may have noticed, of course, that I drop in, from time to time, the information that I volunteer for work in my local hospital. I am  thankful that I have skills which can be put to use in that context. Volunteering is a time-honoured arm of the need for service, sometimes ad hoc and sometimes permanent. I see it, inter alia, as a back up for paid workers who simply haven't time enough to do all a situation requires. There are probably two streams: one that uses the volunteers professional skills, say, when nurses go temporarily to an area where there is a severe out-break of disease   to do their usual work, and the other where the skills may well be professional but are no longer used in gainful employment. More often than not the work is not the result of a crisis. In that case, the volunteering is often open-ended. and can continue ad infinitum.

When I was in paid employment, one of my duties was to train and supervise volunteers who worked with the public in what has come to be called "the helping professions". They were usually people who were still gainfully employed but who were happy to give time where they felt they could offer something valuable enough where there was a need for it. A conclusion we came to which was incontravertible, was that what they were doing was a professional job without pay. The vital element was the 'professional'. To-day, I still see that as the foundation of the phenomenon. However, there is a vital difference between that sort of professionalism and the paid sort: volunteers, being without monetary recompense have a different relationship with those who manage them - if any. While the volunteer must give of her/his utmost, the management should bear in mind that the usual strictures and sanctions on paid employees may not be equally appropriate. Apart from serving as adjunct to professional, i.e. paid, staff, there is also an enormous band of people giving time for what one may call more mundane causes, like, for instance, staffing an enquiry desk at the out-patients clinic at a hospital. Inevitably, the corps of people available to do this, year after year after year is made up of those who are retired and often of a generation which took the need for this service for granted. They may have had mothers who rolled bandages during the war, or who made tea and sandwiches for refugees from the bombing and destruction. If I were able to state a viable demographic it would probably produce a picture of a middle- to late-aged woman or man with a certain level of education and, possibly, time- though not necessarily cash- rich. This would fly in the face of the need for diversity and equal opportunities, essential elements in the world of today. But, wait a minute. Is this absolutely a no-no?  Of course, if we keep the age, the level of education and the freedom from earning, diversity and equal opportunities must easily be accommodated. Where there could be problems is if the diverse and equal do not have a history of volunteering and are also youngish and on a possible career path with a C.V. to consider:('resume' if you are over the Pond) I think that one of the foundation stones of  'professional'  volunteering is long-term dedication and the gift of experience. I know, I know, it does sound more like a band from the Womens' Institute, or rather, the country's somewhat patronising view of it, but these volunteers can work for as long as they and their marbles  can handle it. The young will be  short-term, moving on to finding a way to earn a living and add to the store of expertise - or, even humdrum - in the outside world. Prynhawn da