Monday, 26 December 2016

As I Was Saying....

Thinking about the title of the last post - no pun intended so maybe I mean 'latest' post - I have noticed an unexpected development: I am, indeed, keeping calm.  It feels as if the rythym of my inner world has settled.  Breathing is  level, the solar plexus restful. It is not that I feel less alert but that the alertness breathes calmly, like the continuo supporting the musical excitement in the intricacies of the work whose sounds we follow perhaps ignoring the under-beat and to which we respond with whatever emotion feels appropriate.

As yet, the lurgie that has been routed out of its secret hiding place in my interior has not produced any symptoms.  I am, therefore, well able to manage day to day as the days currently find themselves. I am, however, as I said, intrigued by the even breath phenomenon. The significance of little things has changed.  To save myself a scalding, I hurriedly put a hot mug down on a polished surface.  Even though I picked it up pretty d..n quick, a mark was left.  About to fuss over and/or polish it, it occured to me that, in due course, the young could deal with it. It was a lovely feeling of freedom, a shift in responsibility. Among the gifts I was given during yesterday's event was a box of three very special bath- size almond soaps, my all time favourite. " That's optimistic" , I said in the fervent hope I did not render uncomfortable those among us who were not in to gallows humour. I am aware, though, that this is all very well and good symptom-free.  I shall, no doubt, have to watch the walk to the gallows rather less flippantly as the lurgie asserts its rights over my body very much more insistently. I have also noticed a readiness to speak the truth instead of prevaricating or keeping quiet.  I actually said to a friend whose life is uber-busy but, evidently, with a corner as yet unused since she asked what she could do to help me, that I would like to see her more often.  Centuries - well decades - of polite reticence ditched in one sentence. I shall have to ask my Guardian Angel to keep a watching brief over these new impulses. Someone close to me who is one of the people I love most in the world gave me a How To Survive Cancer sort of book.  That was thoughtful but the writer, ages younger than I, underwent devastating treatment and her book is geared to those who will do similarly. My instinct is to let nature take its course. Those of you keen eyed and faithful readers may remember me recounting the tale of the musician friend who, overhearing me say I planned to play his recordings at my funeral (before its imminence, of course) asked why he couldn't play live, then added "we'll have to talk dates though.  I am getting very busy".  That's one for the gallows wouldn't you say?  Bore da.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Stay Calm and......

Naturally, it is tempting to complete the injunction: Stay Calm and Carry On.  Unfortunately, Liz has to tell you that she will, indeed, do her best to carry on but nature has put a time limit on her capacity to do so in the form of a tumour which is not given to much co-operation under the current treatment  possibilities. Kind on-going followers may remember the sagas (plural 'sagas' or 'sagae?) of the women sent to help feed me after the last, (quite recent last), operation which, it seems had nothing to do with the present condition.  Anyway, I remember them and they rather predicate against going through a similar experience again even to buy a few extra months.  So, it would seem that Liz is now actually 75 going on 75, though there will be those among you astute enough to have worked out that, in the eight years I have been blogging, I must have moved on somewhat from 75.

Thankfully, it seems there is no tumour on my humour so I can only hope that this will be one area where I can reliably carry on.  Indeed, during the week,, I had lunch with a friend on an occasion when it was my turn to pay.  At some point she disappeared and I assumed she had gone to the loo.  In fact, she had gone to pay the bill.  I protested it was my turn and we agreed it certainly would be next time.  I said "Promise?" and she said "Cross my heart and..." but we decided, unanimously, not to finish that particular saying. No doubt, if I had symptoms which impinged on my life as we speak, it may be possible to think a little more realistically. I don't, so I suspect there may be a tinge of delay in acceptance which makes it easier to be matter-of-fact.  However, it IS a matter of fact so I must be sure to allow myself to catch up with the implications fully enough before too long.  I am going to see a Person Who May Know More and, therefore, help decision-making, tomorrow, so that is the next of the 'one step at a time' proceedures my family and I are undertaking.(Forget the pun). In the meantime, life's other little jokes do carry on. Without my having seen him go in, my jet black cat had settled himself inside the jet black interior of his yurt. (No, I didn't.  I am not that profligate. Two yurts and various other extreme luxuries came with him in a trousseau from his previous owners). My first indication of his whereabouts was the sight of a square inch of pink going up and down, seemingly disembodied, inside the yurt, accompanied with the slurping noise incurred by washing by licking when you don't have an adequate nose.  Prynhawn da

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Unintended Consequences

Those of you kind Readers who were actually taking in what you were reading in the  previous post will have noticed what turns out to be one of the oddest, possibly ironic and innocent pits in to which I have fallen since I started blogging.  Talking about the President Elect of the United States I wondered whether or not there was the equivalent of a Tower in which, either to throw him or for him to throw anyone else who dared to steal his cricket bat. Of course there is: he lives in it.

As it happens, as I have confided already, I sense the possibility that his very election was an unintended consequence and now he has to go on with a play-date he thought someone would surely protect him from.  My whole unseeing stupidy caused me to think of other unwitting outcomes which may well arise from well intentioned intentions. I am reminded, for instance, of Humpty Dumpty who was seriously unlikely to have sat on that wall had he known that, ultimately, it would mean the end of life as he knew it. I remember, as a very young woman, going to an auction with someone who was a serious contender. He was late and I arrived before him and, you've guessed, put up my hand in a wave to show him where I was sitting and found myself the proud owner of a rather pretty mirror.  No problem with the mirror: the problem was I could not afford the money to pay for it. Luckily, the auctioneer was sympathetic to the weeping student beseeching him and agreed to put it in the next sale and refund my  cash if it sold.  It did. I have rarely trusted myself at an auction since that time. As you have heard me going on about before and even befive, the Wizard of Cyberspace affords more examples of unintended consequences than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  There appears to be a 'thing' on the front of my laptop which totally eliminmates every stitch of work if pressed on. I swear there is no visible indication of this er-facility and I have, more than twice, wiped out a whole post or a whole letter of excuse to Parking Finers just as I got to the 'bore da' bit. There is  a sometimes advantage to this particular unintended consequence: the re-write is often more succint and shorter than the original and, therefore, better.  Non of these examples compares, however, with a very old story,  though apocryphal it maybe , best heard in a Welsh accent, of the woman who confessed to her  best friend that her unmarried daughter was pregnant; a disaster in that  day and age.  The friend asked, in horror, how that had come about.  "Oh", was the reply, " She didnt hear what the gentleman said".  Bore da

Friday, 18 November 2016


Sometimes I find myself wishing that the people who make decisions were as old as I am.  I don't mean world changing decions - or, maybe, those too - but minor decisions which seriously impinge on my daily life.

For instance, how has it come about that the broadsheet newspaper I take in order to attempt the crossword, (with a view to exercising my brain of course), has recently started to spread an article across two pages?  More, it prints photographs in the same way. Now, I am not physically able to cope with the spread unless I am reading it at a table where it seems big enough to serve as a tablecloth.  Truth to tell, it is only in convalescence that I have been reading the news in the paper which, hitherto, I simply turned on its back in order to access the crossword.  What a revelation: somehow, the ways of the world seemed to  me more filtered when picked up from radio or television.  Black and white and  the time to read drives home the significance with the force of a pneumatic drill. The Western world can't be about to be led by an unruly, spoilt infant in the guise of a squat man badly in need of a haircut.  It seems to me that the President Elect of the United States had, what in the American language may be called "a ball" during the raz-mataz of the election campaign.  Confronted with the reality of getting what he believed he wished for, it wouldn't be surprising if he were more than a little taken aback.  As in "I will accept the job of Head Boy in your Boarding School, but I don't want to live in and I want my brothers and sisters to be there, full-time, to play with me." The next logical step could well be "off with his head" or confinement in whatever Tower exists in the United States. But details such as the layout of a newspaper and the height - or not - of park benches are never dictated by the needs of the elderly.  (Since you ask, if a park bench is less than a certain height from the ground it is very difficult for the arthritic elderly to rise out of ). Self service eating facilities present more dilemmas. Are you old enough to find yourself carrying a tray, a hand-bag and a walking stick, in front of the cutlery stack wondering how the H... to get what you need without tumbling over - you as well as the tray? But perhaps, until someone offers to help you put on your socks the full force of  outside decision taking can't possibly hit.  ( I refer you back to the jolly old carers who decided 5.30 was a good time for the last meal of the day). I must confess I was never brilliant at taking orders.  For instance, I left a drama group because the Director's decisions about character interpretation were not the same as mine.  However, it seems to me I have had to get on with not a few vicissitudes in all these many decades. Deciding and accepting that I am a cliche of an old lady is both character  building, funny and extremely challenging  Bore da

Thursday, 10 November 2016


 It is now five weeks since Liz had an operation and I am still working on half, well, maybe, two thirds cylanders. One of the conundra is how much is legitimate debility and how much Anno Domini. (Oops, I am reliably reminded that one doesn't say that anymore: it is BCE, I believe:  Before the Christian Era, as I think I have pointed out before. There must be those who might be offended by the use of that time-honoured way of expressing the passage of time, but in view of what may happen to the Western world as a result of events in the USA it pays to be extra careful not to give offence to anyone anywhere.

Reconciling current experience with long-term expectations is proving quite a challenge.  The saga of the Council-sponsored carers continues. Liz has to reconcile  herself to a complete stranger poking her head around the door and saying "Hi Liz".  The demand on my conscience and charity is beginning to outgrow the supply. One lady  came up four times from the kitchen to ask such basic questions I began to wonder whether this was some kind of test of the degree to which my mind had given up the ghost.  One couldn't use the microwave oven, One couldn't use the oven oven. One - the one who couldn't use the microwave but hadn't time to wait for the oven to heat - forgot the frozen peas which had been the subject of Liz's descent  in to the kitchen, herself, to point out freezer and the peas therein, along with a saucepan very used to holding boiling water and some vegeatble or other. At one moment, the degree of exasperation was such that I actually asked one carer what she, herself, ate.   You don't need to know.  On an occasion when I resorted to Fish Fingers  (a child's form of goujon in case you are not familiar with them.  They are about three inches long and one inch wide, usually cod covered with bread crumbs).  Looking at the plate in front of me, I picked one up and let it fall back on to the plate. Crash, Bang, a mini-brick: I might just as well have thrown a pebble on to thin ice.  Oh Dear!  This is sounding so ungrateful.  I am not.  It is just that the 'care package' is such a good idea in principal. However, it is a huge waste of resources because  it fails in the execution - something I would gladly have performed, with a kitchen knife, if someone close to me had not turned up and taken over the kitchen in what a little person of my acquaintance once called "The knickers of time."  Bore da

Post Script.  Liz is desolate to have too little strength to attend the annual Mumsnet Blogfest. Enjoy and profit by it: I always do

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

As I was saying...

The break in transmission of which you were advised has lasted rather longer than I had hoped.  Originally, it was to allow time for recovery from an operation to remove a tumour that had no business to be where it was.  This was accomplished well with no need for further treatment. Since then, I confess, I have been lazing around reading, trying the crossword and being generally a bit of a bed potato.  
Came a day when I saw that a jumper and trousers were not so very different from pyjama top and bottom so discarded the latter and put on the former.  Today, I added some underpinning.  Next will be make-up and then Liz will be back to her pre-op self.  In the meantime, much amusement has been afforded by the carrying out of the Council's Care programme. It seems to me to be geared to those who are so sick they can make no contribution whatsoever to their own care.  Although, through the offices of kind friends, I need help only in the evenings to prepare a light meal, at least one, and sometimes three, people turn up three times a day to help with dressing, medication and whatever else doesnt need doing since, in the morning for instance, I am manifestly dressed and breakfasted when the Carer arrives.  I do welcome help with a light supper.  There is never the same person twice so the littany of where is the kitchen, where is this that and the other has to be repeated eveningly. Light food is interpreted differently by each one.  One can't cook fresh pasta for five minutes in boiling water and one can't prepare a 'ready meal' - bought on the advice of a canny daughter - a) because it can't be microwaved or b) because it won't go in to the oven. There was one lady so scary I had to ask her to leave.  She must have been fortyish, witch-like, dressed like a teenager with reality difficulties and not a word of English.  Even the cat hid under the bed which was, in a way, quite reassuring because he is black and, had she really been a witch, surely he would have taken to her.  There was one ocassion when three people stood in front of my bed at the same time listing how I would be helped to dress, to take medication and various other infantilising ministrations.  Dont misunderstand me.  The Council's care scheme is, in principle, a miracle of need-meeting and I am blessed to be in its net.  It is in the commission that it falls down. The patient - I -feel like a list to be ticked off without scope for variation or individuality. Still, it has provided me with tales enough to keep blogging for the  next little while and that's a positive since I am, for now, cocooned from the world the rest of you inhabit.  Bore da

Friday, 23 September 2016

Auld Acquaintance

Choose a number, any number, with zillions of noughts at the end and you may well have the number of published books out there ready for you to read.  This 'statistic' comes to mind because I have found myself drawn to re-reading favourites I have already read at least once before. This time, I was aware of an unexpected response.  I had a sort of walking in to a familiar room feeling.  The room was full of people I knew and cared about and furnished comfortably with  no jarring elements to spoil the reunion. Conversation was relaxed and easy even though I may have forgotten some of the events and names of people that cropped up.

Having many years under the belt, (I don't understand that. Where did that saying originate, I wonder.  Do let me know if any of you knows)  as I was saying, under the belt memories seem to have sections.  There are those which are fixed, like your skin you might say. I suppose that would cover essential learning: how to eat, walk, talk for instance and, no, I do not mean to be arch here, because the predicament came to mind of a friend who had to relearn all the above after a severe car crash when she was nineteen years old affected her brain. Then there are the visual vignettes.  I believe I remember picking raspberries with my Mother in the garden when I was three. Of course, I may just  remember remembering. I  see myself holding a rusk in a laterally neutral position in front   of my baby young to see with which hand it was reached for and grabbed.  This was because there were several left-handers on both sides of the heritage. (Since you ask, one leftie, two righties). Then   there are the memories which act as memorials for the Dear Departed.  Every time I look at a potentially too tired item of food I hear a late someone very dear to me say "Put it in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing it out". This section has a b) sub-section: things which recall those who are still very much alive.  "Listen to me, I tell you something..." the opening phrase from a loved one whose first language is not English, now acquired by many of my circle to start a comment of our own. A four-year old female lifting the skirt of a two-year old female to pull her blouse down straight: the catalogue is endless.  But it has just occured to me what this is all about, the re-read books, the recall of recalling and so on and so forth.  It is a way of reaching out to old friends real and fictional and to past happennings as a sort of Goodbye.  Not because that is necessarily  something to be dealt with as a matter of urgency but because, after a very long life, the number of Goodbyes to be got through will take a very long time .  Bore da

Friday, 9 September 2016


When I was at the 'what-shall-I-be-when-I grow-up' stage a job existed which was called "Continuity".  I fear it was actually called "Continuity Girl" but let's gloss over that and get on with the post.  For those of you looking up at us old ones from below the turning point between young and getting-on, continuity was what film makers needed to make sure everything was as it should be in films of a different period from the extant one. Well, actually even in films set in contemporary times too.  For an accurologist like me, it was both annoying, distracting and triumphing to spot the lapses.

I have no idea whether or not this role still exists but it certainly should.  Last night on television  I watched a replay - yes, another, - of a series where more than three murders routinely occur.  Part of it was set in North Wales.  Be prepared, Dear Readers, to be shocked.  The indigenous characters were given SOUTH Welsh accents.  I listened hard, I turned the volume up, I set the cat on 'mute' but, in spite of all that, there was no doubt: the North Waleans were speaking with the wrong accent. I was powerless to do anything to correct this outrage.  That programme was years old and, I think, the series is now filed under redundant.  Simlarly, in a film set in wartime, which I watch a while ago, about an attempt to assassinate Hitler, my continuity of interest was halted every few minutes by observing the German soldiers saluting one another with the sort of curved sweep of the cap practised by the American army.  In the entire three hours there was only one "Heil Hitler". Surely, the people responsible for authenticity must have realised this.  Or  was it a blatant ignoring of how it was, or, shock horror, was it a deliberate decision not to cause possible offence to those to whom Heil Hitler would have had a terrifying retrospective death ring. But, wouldn't it be true to suppose that anyone with personal experience of that epoch who allowed themselves to watch the film would have been prepared for retrospective nausea and fear with the experience?  On a lighter beam: in a 'Waitrose' shop in central London recently, (up-market Supermarket if you are over the Pond or elsewhere than the UK) I had cause to call for the Manager.  "Young man", quoth I, "that sign should read "8 items or fewer", not "8 items or less."  In the same way, checking in at the Out Patients section of a rather glamourous hospital, I spotted a sign which read " It is essential that children are supervised at all times."  To the young Receptionist whose first language was not English, anyway, my pointing out that it should read "be supervised" simply rolled off her back.  But, Oh, what fun to be old enough to say these things and revel in the resultant 'I've got a right one 'ere' response. Bore da

Sunday, 21 August 2016


Those of you who have been faithful followers for all the time I have been 75 going on 40 will be sure of two things: one, I can't possibly be 75 still and, two, I have lived in awesome fear of the Wizard of Cyberspace since the beginning and on-going.  (It's extraordinary how the inner voice will still pop up with some long-out-of-date information.  I was about to write 'ab initio' when some shame-backed reticence stopped me.  But it's a phrase I havent thought of since University days which were well before your parents were born). The point is that, recently, I have experienced the Wizard in a positive and magical, as a Wizard should be, mode.

Some weeks ago, one of the people dearest to me in the whole world was granted an Honorary Master of Arts degree from a very presitgious University.  Glossing over the fact that he neglected to tell me in time for me to attend - some over-protective decision that it would tire me, a decision not really his to take - he did tell me how to access some photos of the event. Now, as you know, thanks to the Guru, I can just about turn this machine on and I can even do some rather more sophisticated things with it,  I don't entrust it/me with my banking, but then I don't entrust any system with my banking. With considerable effort and exhausting concentration I  found the stamp-sized collection of photographs with the help of Mr. Google.  Scrolling relentlessly down I found two of my friend.  Dear Reader, hold your breath, I was able to print them off. With more thanks to the Guru I have an idiot-proof print and copy machine, except that this idiot forgets every time what to do and ends up pressing this that and the other with hope in her heart and eyes closed,  Suffice it to say, eventually it worked and I made several copies for other near and dear who may like to see them. (Since you ask, I had to print them one at a time because I have forgotten how to change the number- needed digit).  Anyway, there I was with adequate copies on adequate paper.  However, when presented to the Numero Uno in this little circle, he announmced he would like them in a form he could frame. Yes, and I could deliver them via Jupiter, too.  Step in the Guru yet again and this brings me to the point of this post and the good old Wizard of Cyberspace. From my mobile phone Guru found the photos - don't ask: I can't even guess. We were in a restaurant at the bottom of Baker Street in London, He researched a copying shop at the top of the street and sent the photos up there ready to be passed on to photo quality paper.  Yes, REALLY   I can't begin to guess about that, either. We duly went to the shop. A size was chosen. A number agreed on and, in one minute and three quarters I was holding two copies of two photos that could have been taken with coloured film on my Brownie camera. If I am honest, I am still in shock and that was a week ago. The Guru, not surprisingly, doesn't see what all the fuss was about. He was just teaching his Godmother to suck eggs. Prynhawn da

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Plus some

It is only too easy to keep noting, and even laughing at, the wheelbarrow of things you can no longer do in the upper decades of Anno Domini.  (Did you know one is supposed to call it 'Before the Common Era', now.    Political Correctness takes up rather too much room in any old wheelbarrow). But it is also comforting and even rewarding to treasure what one can still do or even acquire the skill to do in a companion wheelbarrow.

, In my experience though, there really are scarcely enough of these pluses to fill a wheelbarrow.  What about a nice wide drawer instead?  Anyway, the first thing that springs to mind is what I may call a 'yes but'. In earlier times I would have chimed that it wasn't Tuesday, it was Wednesday.  It was not he that said that. It was the other.  You get the drift.  Now I just let these disparities go and feel more comfortable for it. I never enjoyed the physical aspect of housework but I did it emphatically.  Now I indulge in paid help and dust the top of the light switches myself. It is a special treat to have supper in bed on a tray, watching television, crosswording or knitting.  You can't do that at an earlier age: decadance is less of a sin up here where I am. I can permit -  I lie: encourage -  the cat to sleep on the bed.  This would have been non-negotiable when there were two other legs in the bed. I must say that there was a time when I dreamt I was being fanned across my face by a  slow leafy tree and woke to find it was a hairy Persian tail right beside me on the pillow. Then there are the things one has a duty to do.  Sifting the 'must' from the 'should' is another freeing situation.  Indeed, a day when there are neither 'shoulds' nor 'musts' can bring a feeling of non-entitlement very restoring in itself.  When I was younger, there were no distinctions between those two and I wore myself out trying to fulfill them all. (Can you have 'all' when you have just mentioned 'two'?)  I am more profligate: yes, really.  Stuff I would have seen with desire and with envy  but consigned to the wishful-thinking bin I now consider in real time and very often give in.  I have what was a very expensive radio/tape player. The remote control which governed it doesn't work.  Yes, I have changed the batteries. The maker is no longer interested but wants me to buy a new model at a breath-stopping price, all for want of a remote control.  However, an advertisement came through the post about a special offer radio, CD, and vynal contraption that was half the price of the other and, no doubt, with remote controls that work: because I don't want to get off the bed to turn it on or off, silly.  Bore da

Sunday, 24 July 2016


One of the ways we observe, note and enjoy any  babies passing through our lives is by anticipating their inevitable stages of development. She/he has smiled. There is a tiny white line on her/his gum: Heavens above, a tooth on its way.  In the meantime, she/he will have sat up insupported, then raised her/himself to her/his feet clinging on to the side of the cot, (crib). Soon will come the attempt to walk holding on to a caring finger or a table top or whatever comes to hand - which falls to the ground, both the support and the baby. There is a delicious anticipation of  the pleasure of seeing her/him feed her/himself, of holding a bowl of porridge over her/his head crying "all gone" as the remains dribble down her/his chubby cheeks. Hair has appeared and is fine and whispy. We know that  nursery and then 'big' school will follow.  All this is true even if we are semi-detached grown-ups watching friends, neices, nephews, children on the 'bus on the way to and from unavoidable school.  Each time the little one comes upon another milestone one or more will have been left behind. One cannot, except in certain tragic circumstances, unlearn how to stand, how to walk, how to feed oneself.  That is a positive outcome. These steps are of the essence.  We have some idea of the rites of passage, even if we have not bred the young ourselves.  We may even have noticed them in our own history and inner worlds. However, by and large, the milestones are mostly for the best and may  be expected to lead to a mature and integrated grown up person.

The thing - one of them - about growing old is that the  milestones work the other way round.  Instead of going forward towards more prowess, more participation we start to leave things behind, to go backwards down the road relinquishing what was, marking the way to whatever will be at the end of it. The Guru, amongst other things, runs a swing band. I have had to pass the milestone of a significant gig in a huge venue because there would be nowhere to sit. Once down on the grass there would be nothing short of two tall men to get me up again. When bikinis first appeared on the summer scene, I wore them. Another milestone passed.  Kind readers who follow me may remember the scarlet swimsuit.  Believe me, it covers as much of me as is practible and emerges from its cover-up on the very edge of the sea and not before. I no longer hike along the banks of the Ure - nor anywhere else for that matter. On my last visit 'home' with someone close to me, we borrowed a wheel chair to move me around. When asked how he managed to push me up the hills, my motivator replied that that was no problem and he would let me free-wheel down!

 What I have been telling you is very visual in my inner world: something circuitous about the journey as if I would approach the milestones backwards, losing teeth, failing to walk, to stand,  hair whispy and so on. It's hard to know if a little one knows whom she/he is.  I believe I do. In passing back along the milestones there is a constant and it is me. Nos da

Afterthought:  of course it's not circuitous.  It is the same, straight - ish - road I trod but going in the other direction.  Good night again

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


This year, as always, I failed to watch Wimbledon. (For those of you Dear Readers who live on another planet, this is an annual lawn tennis contest which takes place in the south west of London). There is a very good reason for this: some fifty five years ago I was confined to bed conserving an embryonic first-born whom we hoped would not miscarry as several had before.  To while away the time I listened to the commentries,  on-going as play proceeded.  Ever since, I can neither hear nor see the tennis without feeling a pregnancy nausea.

No doubt you all have similar physical memories which don't always have any inner-world words to go with them. On the occasions when I carry a tray on my hip, (to have a hand free for the bannister, of course), I feel the sway of an aircraft on a windy day.  If ever I am carried away knitting too long for arthrtic hands, the ache takes me back to hours spent practising the piano some seventy years ago.
I can't light a gas hob on my cooker without an inner jumping back against the time the jet seemed to explode and set fire to a pan handle awaiting its turn for the heat. On the rare occasions when my aristocratic, sweet tempered but otherwise rather aloof cat allows me to hold him, I have a lovely warmth in my chest and remembered posset on my shoulder.  Recently, I underwent some tests to determine why my body wobbles at the hint of an excuse.  I was asked to close my eyes and lift my legs up and down as fast as I could.  For a cyclist - or anyone, come to that - Wales is full of hills. I don't need, in that case, to give you my psychosomatic reaction to that particular exercise. Of course, there are countless examples of illnesses which spring from a problem the inner world is having difficulty to process. Sometimes, the background story is not a happy one.  I was acquainted with a man who, all his life, had had a problem with one of his knees.  As a child he had been unable to pursue a sport or even engage in much physical play.  After many years and in rather special circumstances it emerged that he had had a stillborn twin who was delivered holding on to my acquaintance's knee. Sudden loud bangs bring up the walls of the cellar under my parents' house  where we sheltered from the bombing raids, and, yes, even the smell of the cosy 'siren suit' I slept in the quicker to take cover if there were a raid.  However, the sight of an ice-cream cone leaves me not only hot and prickly with remembered sand  but also, because I do indulge, joyous with the reproduced heaven of the soft, sweet, deliciousness trickling down my childhood fingers.  Bore da.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


Picking up a handbag upside down can prove very educational.  The contents obligingly fall out and give you the chance to evaluate what you have heretofore regarded as without-which-not to carry around.  It made me think about how this has changed over the stages and decades of a life lived 'in case'.

My first handbag was in the shape of a sun-flower and similarly coloured. Inside was a penny, a hankerchief - that is, a piece of linen about six inches square which preceded the paper tissue with which the inside of a contemporary bag is usually littered - rather more money than a penny when I had grown enough to be sent to buy bread or butter. Milk was delivered and, today, carrying the weight of it, I remember the milkman and his horse and cart with nostalgia, and a postage stamp: don't ask.  Oh, and as soon as I was allowed to go to the corner shop by myself, my phone number in case of a crisis. I graduated to a bigger one, square with short handles, which I wore on my wrist from my dozen through my early  teens..  This one contained a purse with proper money, a mirror china-backed with a  picture of a tabby cat, again a handkerchief  and, strictly without my Mother's knowledge, some pink-tinted lip gloss.  Make up was absolutley forbidden until eighteen years had passed so the subterfuge was essential to give a little glow to pale lips.  By now there was also a comb but I remember using it only when I thought I may bump in to the boy who interested me. There was also a season ticket for the 'bus in to town.  Next came a grown-up bag.  By now there were a lipstick, a powder compact with a mirror, a miniature hair brush, a pair of stockings - in case of a ladder, sillly, a pen, which often leaked the fluid ink which worked it,  a diary/ address book, {some of them in code), letters to be posted and a season ticket for the Underground to get me to college.  There was a separate brief case which carried college stuff. Things remained much the same for a few years with the addition of a passport  and some tights until I came to need a rather bigger one. In this I carried, as well as all of the above, tissues, cotton-wool, plasters, scissors, a little packet of bribes - er, I should say sweets - and enough small money to use a public telephone in a crisis. Currently, there are all the things that constitute 'above' in the examples  above , plus a Blue Badge disabled drivers' permit to park, a 'Freedom Pass' for public transport travel, a mobile phone, countless crumpled credit-card receipts, a credit card, a debit card should I run out of cash and a purse with such cash. There is a lipstick, which I no longer bother to use, a hair brush which I do, no tights because I usually wear trousers, a pen with solid ink for doing the crossword when eating alone and a nourishing nut-bar because hunger is uncomfortable.  Like Ernest, my life begins in my handbag.  I trust it won't end there. Prynhawn da

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


A subject I have often touched on, emphasised or  brought to your attention subtly or in your face, green-inked or simply typed is the vicissitudes of coping with the two edged sword of singledom and old age. The scenario seems to me to be inexhaustible.  Yesterday, I made an excursion right in to the city in order to buy a special gift for a special person.  Naturally, fortification was needed after the strain of choosing, paying and carrying so I dropped in to a cafe for a little something.  Came the moment when I needed the facilities. Picture Liz, handbag, precious gift and various add-ons strewn about her person trying to fit in to a miniscule space and find the room to deal  efficiently with the call of nature.  Oh for a companion to mind the goods while I went, free-wheeling, to the back of the place

Younger, I don't remember there being a problem.  Either I would be accompanied and could leave stuff in safe keeping, or I was agile enough to deal with it myself. Clothes that did up at the back necessitated a Resident Other. Roast chickens did for one shared meal. Currently, I am glad to see the back of it after the best part of a week. "Hold this." "Open that" "Close the other" are all redundant. I have not the slightest intention of taking a cruise: been there, done that.  But it is remarkable how all the advertising, offers and enticements are geared to two people sharing. I do remember, though, telling you, quite early on, how, travelling alone, I station myself at the baggage carousel, next to a likely-looking rugby player and affect shock horror when my case sails passed before I can reach to pull it off. Inevitably, kindness and brute force do come to my rescue.   If her/his bag comes before mine I simply find another qualifying candidate. It is by no means all hasselous, though.  I have the whole bed to myself, if you don't count the occasional feline visitor on the pillow next to mine. (I wouldn't mind at all except that he is Persian and has the concommittant bushy tail.  Fingers crossed that he faces the other way round when there are only his no-nose snores to accommodate). I can eat rubbish, buy ready-made, have cereal for supper and salad for breakfast. ( I wrote that for effect: I don't actually do it). There are potential problems if, for instance, I have an elderly lady's fall. It still surprises me how difficult it is to get up from the floor and I am grateful to be living in a small house where there is nearly always something nearby to grab on to. One helpful thing I have learned, though, is that you have to be in very good health to suffer the ills, diseases and impossibilities of old age singledom   Bore da

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Like many people with lives similar to mine, I watch rather too much television. Programmes I find I enjoy are often American or American-style thrillers which come in series. There are some cracking British ones, too, and the characters quickly morph in to friends whose well-being will be of some serious concern. Now, here's the rub: when a series ends, as usually it does, on a dramatic scene of life-threatening crisis in the life of one of your best friends, how are you going to survive comfortably with the awareness that you may not live to see the start of the next series when the crisis will be resolved and you can breath freely again. Or even, hold your breath if the pertinent character is still in crisis?

The predicament doesn't stop there. Think of all the young people whose development is too far ahead to be accessed by the like of us. Who knows, that toddler grandchild of your second cousin once removed could be Prime Minister one day. You may well be saved the experience of a world ruled by a mahogany-faced lunatic with scraps of orange hair or the propagation of a race evolved from pigs' bladders and pieces of well-oiled technology, but you will also miss the crowning of King George or even King William.  (I am rather expecting I might witness the crowning of King Charles since Her current Majesty is even older than I am).  It would be good to think that a cure will be found for all the inhibiting niggles that come with three score and more than ten. I expect, though, to be long gone before someone waves a  magic wand over my arthritic bits and pieces, my aching frame and disobedient muscles and makes them forty again.  I am counting on the assumption that we all, of whatever vintage, would hope to see, while we are  extant, cures of the currently incurable, clean water for the millions who don't have it and, dare I presume, peace where war prevails. Instincts  along those thought lines must go without saying.  The Guru is a really gifted man. I am sad that I won't be here to witness where his abilities have taken him in, say, ten years time. I do wonder, too, whether my four-footed, short, dark, handsome bed-fellow will go on to be twenty two years old as did the beloved cat of someone close to me. I shall, however, be gratefully pleased to share  with him whatever time we may still have in common.

Which brings me back to my opening exposition: it is with the profoundest gratitude that I note that the finale episodes of my two best companionable series, breath-holding with potential disaster, did end with happy-ever-after resolutions. One of them had our heroine leap out of an unconscious hospitalised state to stride a horse and gallop off, holding her wounded side, to save her life-threatened husband and the other gave a seven- years-after - the- villains -had- apparently- succeeded -in- annihilating- our- heroes scene, a final scene of  blissful domesticity with rather a lot of miniature human beings created in their image.  Now I can not know what-came-next with aplomb and satisfaction, alive or not. Bore da

Friday, 3 June 2016


A life covering a number of decades will have experienced/witnessed/adjusted to many changes in fashion and trends, or even fashionable trends if you like. Some are inspired. Some are useful and some are downright codswallop.

Take fish: why on earth would you serve it skin-side up? By the time you have turned it over you will have scattered all its accompaniments and splashed its sauce, should it have one, over everything else on the plate. Likewise, the tower. Meat or fish topped with potato topped with a field mushroom topped with two sprigs of broccoli. Often in the time taken to dismantle this the food is cool and/or too much for the horizontal space on the plate.  That is, of course, if you have been given an horizontal plate. What factor enhances solid food by serving it in a soup bowl? The knife slides up and down the slope.  There is not enough space on the flat part to do an efficient job of cutting up  and there is a sense of the Chef having, somehow, won in the battle of supremacy between her/his genius and your discernment. In the interests of civilisation, I do look around at eaters in a tower-building restaurant. Believe me: we all dismantle the nuisance edifice.  Even if you could cut through it, whose jaw is capable of accepting a four inch multi-  layered bite?
 What and why are twice-fried chips?  Anyway, what has happened to 'twice'?  Has it gone the way of 'thrice' because, only too often, I am hearing 'two times' whenever there is a 'twice one'. Years ago, there was a saying that standing by a 'bus stop, an Englishman would form an orderly queue of one. Graceless saying, in my view, but useful to describe the good manners which prevailed in some place in some forgotten era. I could green ink about manners for the rest of my days without being sure if the lack of them is a trend or fashion or just the idleness of a 'me first' collective unconscious. I have a dear friend, a musician, who threatens to compile a list of restaurants that don't play music. Whose idea was it that, without choice, (willy nilly, as it were), a diner is subject to whatever carry-on the manager dreams,or nightmares, up to make discourse between friends just a bit challenging? Dear Reader, I have just noticed one of the most pervasive trends of them all: the demise of the subjunctive. So let me rephrase that. "Whose idea was it that a diner be subject to whatever etc etc. Bore da

Sunday, 29 May 2016


The exhausted memory prompter inside my head reports a general feeling, but not surety, that I have touched on this subject before. Then again, conversational repetition is another congenital aspect of growing old. What I have in mind is finding ways to get round and manage the hiccups and vicissitudes of physical - and mental -  handicaps that go with the elderly organism

The famous one is. of course, "What else shall I do while I am down here?" My trick when offering my short dark handsome housemate some food or drink on the tray permanently awaiting his delectation, is  to drop the empty plates from a not too dramatic height and then throw the food - dry of course - on to one of them. Milk is trickier so requires another inch of bentability to achieve the same goal. Water is lowered from a glass in to a waiting bowl and the subsequent splash cleaned up by he who drinks . I recommend a shower  above a bath. Most unfortunate would be to find you can't get out of the d... thing once having scrambled in. In the same vein, take a telephone in to the bathroom with you and, if single, wait until a friendly other is also in the house. Mind you, that other would have to be unshockable given the lack of glamour in the elderly appearance. Trousers work better than skirts because you can wear socks with them and thus avoid the contortionist requirement of pulling on tights. If desperate to wear a skirt, you could try pop socks. But I should warn you that many a laugh - usually kindly - has been prompted by the sight of a pale, creased knee peeping from the edge of a rather too short and/or too tight skirt.  You will need a shoe-horn with a long handle to put your shoes on.(What does that make you think of?)   Otherwise, should the vicinity lack such a thing, an ordinary table knife will do, but, obviously,  a kitchen knife may lead to a new problem: how to apply a plaster (band-aid) to the back of your foot when you can't lift it  up as far as your arm will reach.  In the UK a badge is issued to people with lessened mobility which entitles them to more flexible parking possibilities. Don't leave home without it. Women, make sure you have a tinted foundation to hand. Age does nothing for the colour of your skin. Well, actually, it does do something: it makes it sallow and dreary. Again, don't leave home without it. Ultimately, stick as close as you can to what is real. Dyed hair, stage make-up, denim trousers, baseball caps: don't leave home with them.  And when your stick falls to the ground for the double-umpteenth time, smile at the nearest able-bodied, least likely to be a mugging murderer and ask if she/he would be kind enough to pick it up. Bore da

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Pros and Cons

Yesterday I underwent an MRI scan. The idea was to see if a picture emerged that would show more about what was going on in my spine and, thus, to find new ways of treating the discomfort. Among you Dear Readers out there there may be those who have not experienced the pleasure of being entombed or, rather, encoffined, in a cold room full of unidentifiable bits of machinery and rather a lot of white-coated attendants. In order, presumably, to make it more palatable one is offered a selection of recorded music to play through the headphones which are, primarily, meant to enable the technician to communicate with the patient.  I chose Bach. This was a mistake of some sizeable proportions.  If there are some of you out there without  the experience, I should explain that the procedure is noisy. At least, that is the position in the UK.  With usual British understatement, though, I have hesitated to say that by 'noisy' I mean that a pneumatic drill with bells whistles and knobs on playing at the side of the bed on which you sleep would seem like a baby's lullaby in comparison. I was acutely aware of Herr Bach wobbling in his grave swearing to bar me for ever from any further relationship with his music.

Of course, it is edifying and a blessing that this modern  method may contribute so much to one's well-being: likewise the X Ray machine and the other bits and bobs which keep us living in good health long after our goers-before would have dropped off the tree. Even the laptop and, I suppose, the Internet, which makes it possible for me to chat to you would have felt like science fiction even to my parents' generation. (Remember I am very old, therefore my parents would probably have been born when your great grandparents were).  The problems arise when these things break down. If you have committed your life to your computer and/or your mobile telephone, (cell) and the devices are lost, stolen or fall in to the bath you will soon learn the true meaning of Chaos and, no doubt, further manifestations of the anger of the Gods and the Wizard of Cyberspace.  I am seriously worried about the dependence on technology, no, the inevitability of technology,  that my young and the generation of the Guru, who is younger than my young, accept as the norm. I can see human beings turning in to automata who simply cannot function in the way many of us actually still do  It reminds me of a time when Himself and I were in transit from Hong Kong to Nice via London. The incoming flight was late and Himself asked an attendant at the Transit Desk to let Air France know we were on our way. The young lady explained their computer was not compatible with hers. "Try telephoning" enunciated Himself very slowly.  Goodness knows if she did or not but we did make the flight. Prynhawn da

Friday, 13 May 2016

If only....

Two things have evolved to brighten my life as I have grown even older. 1) I absolutely don't have to eat my greens and 2)  I don't have to hold back on some of the ripostes and/or deeds which, before, would remain politely unsaid or un-done. So you can be sure you have the gist, an example would be that approaching the outside steps to the entrance of my local hospital I veer to the right because on that side is a complete hand-rail. On the left it starts short. Inevitably, some able-bodied lout/ess will attempt to pass me on the right. Yesterday, I swivelled round and said icily "You will find there is more room on the other side of me".

It is worth bearing in mind that visitors to the Out Patient clinics whose enquiry desk I staff are, perforce, stressed and anxious. Nevertheless, they are also too often rude. When someone barks at me "Where are the stairs?" I meekly direct them to the closed doors behind which there finds itself a staircase. Under my breath I spit "Where it says 'Stairs' ".I now allow myself to say it above my breath. This is reckless in the extreme and likely to be a sacking offence. There is no real excuse for rude to be met by rude whatever the age of the combatants. However, the sign is two feet tall and bright red and it gets a bit (lot) wearisome when, out of 181 queries 50 of them are for the stairs. (Because we are issued with a clicker to press for each query, of course. What did you think? ) I have recently been known to march to a lovely window table in a restaurant where I was  being shown to one next to the toilet facilities. I have waited all my adult life just imagining this defiance. Last week I actually told the man who cuts  and dresses my hair that I found it too fancy. Normal practice would have been to pop in to the nearest public loo and brush it in to something more sedate and age- appropriate, as the Guru puts it. Sadly, some of the 'I-wish-I-hads it is now too late for. Family pressure stopped me buying a motor bike when I had a holiday studio outside my home town, where the 'bus service was unreliable and, in any case, didn't go from door to door. This meant that I was obliged to drive two hundred miles in order to have wheels when I got there. Now, even I don't think an old lady with balance problems ought, at this stage, to be riding a motor-bike.. Oh dear, I wish I had danced more. I wish  had done more naughty things. Gap years were the times your elderly Grandfather forgot when he had done what so there was no round-the-world exploration and no frolicking in the moonlight in far away places. Someone close to me has told me of an article suggesting that cannibis was good for pain. My Doctor agrees but is not able to prescribe it. So how to go about acquiring some. I can't ask the young in case they assume I assume they are using it. So, picture Liz, at Camden Town Underground station, for instance, with paper money clutched in her hot little hand, a very old lady waiting to see from whom she may score,( which, back in the day, meant netball.). I don't think so.   Bore da

Sunday, 1 May 2016


One of the current customs that most emphatically brings out the green ink in me is the one where a total stranger, whose call you have neither initiated, expected nor welcomed will address one as Elizabeth, and even more presumptuous in my aged eyes, ask me how I am. I assume this is a taught device to make me feel cared about and interesting to the caller. I cannot possibly type the words my inner voice erupts with but, rest assured, they are words guaranteed to over turn anyone's Mother in her grave.

Daily I have unsolicited emails which start with my given name. I know, we all do. It is the kind of recognisable manipulation which has me grinding my teeth. I have a vision of some P.R guru teaching his client what is most likely to capture the consumer.  I have noticed, for instance, that politicians, at the moment, are saying about the UK "our country". "Our country will be this or that if we do this or that for our country". I suppose one of the examples we come across pretty early on in life is the price-tag which shows a sum of money one penny short  of the next higher pouind level. You know what I mean: £39.99, which is £40 as far as the Bank Manager is concerned. Even being aware of this contrivance, the inner eye will sometimes register £39 and feel it is getting a bargain. There is an advertisement on television as we speak that pushes a product that eliminates wrinkles. Look very closely and there is a tiny disclaimer flashing at the bottom which says "temporary effect".I can't quite remember but I think I must have told you recently I bought a new car. I am delighted with it but it has one - at least - design fault. There is a radio which forms part of the dashboard but the CD player is in the glove compartment: yes, really. When I challenged the salesman he told me, waving his hand across the gap in front of the passenger seat, that it was to make more room inside the car. It actually means the car was never intended for someone who usually drives alone nor on a motorway. "I'm sorry, Officer, I just stopped  here in the middle of the M4 to change the CD". I don't think so.  No, the salesman wasn't being ironic, he was deadly serious. So, there was I, being taken for a fool in a manipulation that would not have worked for a toddler. I don't doubt that there are scores of examples when even a cynic like me won't have noticed the half/non truths but I really, truly object when the manipulation is in my face. It is both the humiliation of being had and the annoyance of being no further forward with the truth. Someone of my acquaintance will change significant arrangements at the drop of a better offer and excuse it by saying "things change". Perhaps you can hear my teeth grinding from where you are. Bore da

Friday, 22 April 2016


If there is one thing guaranteed indubitally and speedily to evoke my green ink reaction  it is what I perceive as the deterioration of manners. Once a week I staff the patients' enquiry desk at the out-patients' clinics in my local hospital. The clinics are busy and the flow of queries constant. I will have been at my desk only four minutes and be in process of answering a where-is-it query when another enquirer will cut across the extant exchange and demand information about something else. Without fail, each session, a young Doctor will stop at the desk, put her/his papers down, pick up the internal phone and make a call. That concluded, she/he will pick up that which was dumped down and move on. After several years of this I have recently taken to calling " you are welcome" after the offender. I have no way of knowing if this registers or not and, so far, I have received no complaints from Management.

Walking down the street close to any passing wall, inevitably, some strong young person will overtake on the wall side and then shoot in front of me in to a passing  shop. The other day I went for a simple procedure to a well-known London hospital. I was collected by a porter who was to take me upstairs to the day-patient unit. While waiting for the lift we were joined by a young man speaking on his telephone. When the lift arrived, he strode right passed me and straight in to the lift. I glared, well you would wouldn't you? Did he apologise? No, he did not. In revenge I placed myself in the middle of the lift so that it would be impossible for him to get out before me. Two young school girls were seated in the ' less able to stand' reserved seats on a crowded 'bus. They left a heavily pregnant and a rather old lady standing. As I reached my stop I asked them what school they went to. Dear Reader, I wrote to the Head Mistress and suggested there may a better way to promote her school. In reply came a postcard which more or less dismissed me as out of touch with reality. The examples are endless. Two little boys were rushing about with wooden swords in the waiting area of  my GP practice. The Mother was reading the paper. Eventually, the tried and tested Receptionist leaned out of her box and told them to sit down and keep quiet, this was not a playground. the Mother continued to read the paper. How did this all come about? I am by no means the only one to have noticed this phenomenon. What is it about current life that permits us to treat one another contemptuously and without considerstion? Why is it that my friends and acquaintances of all ages do agree that manners have just about ceased to exist and yet there is no sign of amelioration? Perhaps it is a subliminal fear that the world, as it is, may come to an end and us with it so 'self'  must be preserved and put first regardless. It would be good to know what you think. In the meantime, I must make sure what it is I have actually touched with my foot before I apologise to my black handbag thinking it is my black  cat. Bore da

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Little Things

Have you noticed how, when lives are seriously busy, it is only too easy to neglect the chore of putting small things to rights? It is a long time since I was that busy but I have not lost the habit of leaving in the 'to do' list anything which doesn't immediately risk a conflagration or, worse, the departure of my unfed cat.  (Nonsense|: he gets fed a great deal more regularly than I do. I was just looking for dramtic effect).

I have had to close my eyes for some time, now, against the chaos on my desk. One of the contributing factors to this mess was the disappearance of my stapler. Since this old lady does very little online there is inevitably  much paper necessary to cover my way of being in the world.  Yesterday, I gave in and bought a new one. When pitched against spinal injections and various anti-pain remedies, a stapler can't possibly represent much significance. Dear reader, it does. In next to no time half the chaos had been sorted and it was only my stomach's capacity for this particularly dreary task that stopped me sorting the half of the desk where there are papers and so on of less pressing urgency. If you are of a squeamish disposition please jump a few lines now. Ready?  My cat has been known to use a bidet for certain essential natural matters. Easy: turn the water on and rinse it out. Not so easy: for too long the water failed to drain efficiently from the bowl.  My 'one of these days' was turning in to rather a nasty state of affairs. All I had to organise myself to do was to go downstairs, fetch the Drain Busting lotion and pour it and some boiling water down the plughole. Hey Presto, clean bidet. Mind you, Himself was offended by the unfamiliar smell and wandered off to find a more congenial venue. Don't ask: I haven't located it yet. I suspect cat hair, since he is Persian and has rather a lot of it. The small hand held screw and bottle top openers I bought after months of waiting for a nurse or someone else likely to have cleanish hands to open my water bottle as I staffed the Out Patients Enquiry desk at the local hospital have changed my life. There is one in my hand-bag and one in my go-to-work bag.  The little thing in this case being the purchase of the second one so that one alone would never be in the place where I was not.  (I may have told you this before: senior moment). But best of all, I have brought up to my room, where I usually live when on my own, a shaker of sea salt   so I can adjust the flavour of the supper I have brought up on a tray without the drag of tackling the stairs or eating food which is blander than suits. Not quite best: I have  also bought a car with automatic gears. This is rather a bigger than littler adjustment to life but, having trained my left foot to keep quiet and learnt what its incessant beeps are trying to tell me - the car, not my foot - I am now drifting around this crowded city with cramp in the right foot and boredom in the left. Bore da

Saturday, 19 March 2016


Browsing through a book in the hospital library where I volunteer, I noticed the phrase "She rose to her feet in one graceful move". In my case, this would read "She lumbered to her feet in four clumsy heaves". It came to me that there must be a multitude of similar examples of the out-of-date. "He drew her to him in an embrace that foretold of wonderous things to come". "He gave her a peck on her cheek, helped her in to a taxi and sent her on her way". "Her bosom swelled with the need she felt for him". "She was a touch breathless having climbed the stairs to the Restaurant he had chosen". Mind you, it is true to say I was working in the section labelled 'Romance' at the time.

However, it doesn't stop there. "This desirable property is a five minute walk from the Underground". No, this desirable property is a fifteen minute crawl from the Underground. (Helping a friend re-locate, since you ask). "It is quicker by Underground". No, it is not. Covering the distances and dealing with the stairs in all the London Underground stations takes seven times as long as the journey itself. Yes, I have actually timed it. "Goods are cheaper if you buy them on line". Only if you have read the detailed small print - if you CAN read the small print. Which seriously old lady needs a pot of Marmite the size of a football?  "The wind blew around her hair in a golden halo". "The wind made such a mess of her wisps she was obliged to turn back to put on a beret". "How lovely to sit in the sun and gradually toast". "How stupid to sit in the sun and risk wrinkles on your wrinkles and other injuries to your skin". "An all night party? What fun!" "An all night party. How can I possibly get out of it". "This is definitely the latest in popular music". "What on earth is making that ear-splitting racket?" A while ago there was a musical play on the life of Edith Piaf. It was a revival of a production from a number of years before that. I went with a friend to whom I proudly confided that I had heard the original. "Oh", he responded with the awe I had hoped for. "You actually heard....." and mentioned the name, which I have forgotten, of the artiste who had appeared in the previous run. "No," said I with a red but patient face. " I have actually heard Edith Piaf". You are beginning, I suspect to get the thrust. Yesterday, I spilt some soup on the kitchen floor. What with my lack of balance, my cat's curiosity and the presence of a visitor it was imperative I clean it up. I filled a container with water, found the mop and got to work. In a very small galley kitchen, my foot encountered an impediment - literally.   Dear Reader, I had kicked the bucket. Bore da

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Lock-Down Sesame

You would need to be nearly as old as I am - than whom only Methusalah is older   - or, sadly, afflicted with arthritis, or a similar affliction, to be obliged, as I am, to get up half an hour earlier than would appear necessary on paper in order to have time to open things up. Occasionally, I fancy some nursery food such as cheese on toast. For this treat I buy ready sliced Dutch cheese which fits nicely on top of a square piece of bread. However, labelled as it is with " peel here", I have to allow a good ten minutes to coax the relevant corner out of its recalcitrance and oblige me with access to a slice of its contents. Next, there is the argument with the jar of instant coffee. (I know, I know, how decadent can one sink). Myself, I carefully just  replace the top on the jar, remembering to pick it up by its body next time or be prepared to use it from off the work-surface or the floor. There is someone who helps me with house keeping. This diligent lady replaces the top as it should be, down firmly and sealed to keep the flavour, and the grains, securely inside. On days when this has happened I drink jasmine tea which I keep hidden so that it escapes the sort of closure with which I can no longer cope.

I have progressed in to the 21st century sufficiently to order things 'on-line' and have them arrive by post or deliverer: much painful leg-work thus avoided. However, I have to wait for someone else to be available to open  the d..n thing up. I have been given a gadget which unscrews bottle tops. This is great while I am at home but it is too heavy to carry around so I have had to use Nature's openers, my teeth, when I am out. I assure you, this is not a good look on a lady of a certain age, nor, indeed, on a 'Lady' of any age. But the Gods have been good. By chance, I discovered a really small device, made by THE French kitchen company which is transportable and Dentist-proof. I have one in my hand-bag and one in the carrier which is kept ready to take to the voluntary job site. Hearing aids take batteries which are so miniscule they are barely visible to the naked eye. New ones have a tiny label stuck to them. At least ten minutes have to be allowed to peel this off. Fortunately, while the aids are not in place, I can't hear myself cursing as I pinch my ancient thumb and first finger together to get the label off. This time I can't use teeth. The batteries are singularly indigestible. The famous and ubiquitous everyone's favourite store sells, I am told, delicious soup. I have to take this as reputed. I can't open the containers myself. Apparently, you pull back a strip then lever. Forget it. I can neither pull nor lever. I can't even remember how many pairs of scissors I have all over my house and kitchen knives used to prise and poke rather than slice and scrape. By the time I have the protective cover off a sticking plaster, the bleeding has stopped. Please don't put my shopping in the boot of my car. I don't have the magic words to open it when I get home. But you would be surprised how many things are open-friendly. The front door, for instance: the door to fresh air and a certain freedom. All my cosmetics are openable, simply because I don't close them properly. The yes-I-can list is almost as long as the no-I-can't list, as I think about it. If only "peel here" would respond like "open Sesame" life would be almost perfect. Bore da.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


It has occured to me that the thrust of this blog may have given the impression that there is little or no acceptance of chronological age, that the inner world has stuck at 40. I hasten to disabuse any of you faithful followers who may have come to that conclusion. Where the 40 bit matters is largely in the physical. My inner forty-year old fights the restrictions various painful conditions impose. There is a certain irony in having to choose a cinema I can reach, by public transport or car, that deposits me near enough to avoid a - for me - long walk. Indeed, one of my locals has steep steps up to one screen and steep steps down to the other. In the same vein, restaurants with facilities on the same level as the tables are a necessary first choice. The 'going on 40' section of my title is still dancing through the wee hours, going to jazz clubs and walking three miles home after public transport has stopped. That part of me doesn't expect to be invisible to people who bump in to the old lady as if she were not there at all.

If I am really honest with you,  if I were still forty, I could join in the lives of the young people close to me in a way I would really relish. As it is, their stories are mostly a closed book to me and I would be in serious danger of a painful rebuff if I pushed too hard to be allowed in. (Too many metaphors, I fear). My toes curl at the memory,  when I was young, of my elders attempting to be one of the girls when my friends and I were in to the cocoa- and- biscuits- sitting- on- the -floor stage. At the heart of the matter, though, is the way it actually feels to be the age I really am. I am who I am. That's the best bit. I am, as the French would have it, comfortable in my skin. There are huge advantages in this condition. I know what I mean and can find the exact words to express it. I am confident to say that I am not about to stick to a regulation that doesn't make sense to me and is, at bottom, an expression of power in she/he who laid it down. I find I am willing to have a look - alright, analyse - my responses and reactions particularly when they are negative, thus cutting down the number of times I do or say something inappropriate and/or foolish.

 The other evening I went to a gig the Guru's band was playing at an extremely illustrious venue. His music is swing and jazz: my era for certain. They gave one set in an hour of pure excitement and joy and were well cheered to the over-air -conditioned rafters. There was an 'after party'. Me, I am no longer forty. I went home. Bore da

Saturday, 13 February 2016

More Snows of Yesteryear

A strange phenomenon has been brought to my attention.  There is a way in which the world seems to be divided in to mentors and those who are mentored. (Can you imagine Liz writing 'mentee' ?)  There are those who are blessed with an intuitive understanding of what people are capable of and a talent for showing them how to achieve it.  There is, however, an uncomfortable consequence: the mentor is usually left behind as the fledging fledges leaving her/him behind, no longer wanted.

I suppose the inevitable starting point for this would be parenting. From help with shoe laces to help with Higher Mathematics - the latter not in Liz's household, I hasten to point out - there is a range of lessons and supervision which it would be not only impractical but tedious to recite. Then comes the day when the young are, if not wiser, at least fuller of contemporary knowledge than their erstwhile teachers and mentors. Currently, this must be truer than ever before. Planet Earth has exploded in to an orbit of technology unrecognisable to many of us who are seventy five going on forty. Any spirit fortunate (?) enough to think of returning to this planet would be tempted to sue for wrong delivery, finding themselves expected to twitter and face the book and to choose their onions sight unseen and delivered by a vehicle primed by a computer. The mentoring phenomenon becomes rather more unexpected when it moves from actual parenting of the young and very young, sprung from the mentor's loins, to any random adult hovering outside her or his potential, unable to take the plunge in to what seems to be the unsafe world of the possibly possible. A mentor may act through the physical, as when an accident or Fate have produced a malfunction. I am thinking of physiotherapists, nurses, speech therapists and so on. Mainly what I have in mind, though, is mentoring of the spirit. Think of a young person who, because of conditions over which she/he had no control, emerged in to young adulthood without the confidence to buy a loaf of bread, for instance. A handy mentor would find a way to instil the ability to undertake this seemingly mundane chore so that confidence would sprout and enable the 'student' to undertake even more tasks previously thought of as out of reach.
This rather simplistic example may be at one end of a spectrum which ends with the confidence to apply for a significant job, marry, perform and so on and so forth. However, in all cases, the mentor must watch as the 'student' plunges in to fulfilment and is soon out of sight while the mentor is, equally, soon out of mind. How often would YOU think back   to the person with the starting gun as you race, without her/him, to the finishing post? Prynhawn da

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Nowt nor Somat

As I suspect I have green-inked about this more than once before. Yet I find myself  impelled to do so once again. Yesterday morning my mobile phone (cell) woke me at 7.45. So up I get, track down my handbag (purse) locate the frantic phone, slump back on the bed and answer it. It was the garage advising me my car needed its M.O.T (road-worthiness) test because the current one runs out in two days. I suggested it was a bit early to ring a retired person, offered to ring them back (when my brain was also awake) and would they please, in future, use my land line. This was a request repeated with every contact with them.

As before, they agreed. However, it set me thinking. Just about everyone from toddling to retirement has a mobile phone and this object is carried close to their person in pocket or bag. It means that one can be reached absolutely anywhere. No more hopelessly ringing your home phone in their office hours which exactly co-incide with your office hours. "We have tried without success to contact you a number of times...." which results in being thrown off their list, disinherited, a penalty charge, an appearance at the Magistrates' Court and so on and so forth. To everyone younger than I am it makes no sense at all to use any other means of communication. I can just about remember where the d.... thing is and hear it only when I have my hearing aids in, never mind seeing it as connecting me to the rest of the world.  I have learned to give only the landline number when asked, just as I have learned to say "Mrs. Mountford" when giving my  name if I don't want the teenager in accounts to call me "Elizabeth"  A shaft of light pierced the mist and mobile phones suddenly fell in to their proper seat in the current world. The problem for a 75 going on 40 is how to take advantage of technology without losing touch with things which still work in the old style. How would I be a Mumsnet Blogger without it? How would I acquire  an urgently needed book - for a discussion group, since you ask - without amazing Amazon. How would I fill my mineral water needs and my washing machine needs without the online supermarket?  But I am not prepared to expose my banking needs to technology, nor do I pay bills nor perform any other such delicate duties using it. There must be a way in which I can find a compromise so that I am neither Luddite nor Technolover. At the moment I am neither one thing nor the other, (hence "nowt nor somat"). I an straddling the C20th and the C21st and at serious risk of being torn apart astride those two. I beseech you: advise me how to resolve this dilemma before I am forced to do the proverbial splits. Not a good look on an old lady. Bore da

Saturday, 30 January 2016


The ancient person in the archive was so delighted by the exercise of formulating 'making do' advice that the decision was taken to give you the benefit of even more management tips.  So here goes, with no special order of importance.  You will all have heard the one that says "what else can I do while I'm down here?" to the unfortunate who has dropped her/his mobile phone on the floor. Whenever practical, leave it there until you can amass other reasons for bending down. Milk weighs. Either order it for delivery or get someone else to bring it, leaving you free to carry bananas and other items which would be too heavy to carry along with the milk.

Consider installing handle bars and/or gripping devices wherever there are steps or other hazards. It may be more sensible to have a home that looks like a geriatric ward than to risk tottering over when moving up or down. Recently, I asked an architect friend to assess whether or not it may be possible to instal facilities on the entry level of where I live. It is not. Make sure you are approaching home a few minutes before you planned to so as to leave more time for what used to be the dash up the stairs but is now a time-sensitive scramble with bag, coat, shopping, stick et al flung in a heap on the hall floor. If you live alone don't. I do know we can't all be cat lovers but if you are at least tolerant of them, it is quite wonderful to have an adoring feline greet you and wait for you to lie on the bed so that she/he can lie with you. Be warned: dogs need walking. What happens if you are unwell? I suppose you have to hire a dog-walker. By the way though, a dog is more likely than a cat to sound the alarm if something nasty comes to pass. In an extension to the advice in the post before this one, furnish your kitchen with any make-it-easier tools you can find. The most effective one in my kitchen is the kind and competent lady who comes regularly to 'do' for me. Keep your ears tuned for current use of language. Make sure you know what the unfamiliar words and phrases mean. Above all, don't use them. There is little so toe curling as a person trying to communicate in their own language with people of whose generation she/he  is not. You wouldn't expect a lady, in her ninth decade, to wear torn jeans and a purple streak in her hair, (read 'him', also, for the above)  so be sure to eschew the jargon, too. Likewise, give up the slang/jargon which belongs to your generation. 'Spiffing', 'gosh' and many more such will make you an alien in an unfriendly world. I have just remembered that old age, in so very many ways, turns one back to the earliest years: not much hair, not much colour in it, a propensity to fall over, lack of co-ordination and a threatening sense of insecurity,  and, judging by my almost daily experience, better neither to be seen nor  to be heard. But it's a great life if you can wing it  Bore da
Ps Try to live in a small space so there is always something on hand to hang on to if you fall. I know, I know: you can also bump in to those very things

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Make do and .....

Just because you young ones out there are managing your lives with grace and efficiency there is no reason why I shouldn't indulge in a few 'how-tos' to prepare you for the inevitable decline, with age, of the facilities you take so for granted at the moment that you don't even realise you have them.
Keep your teeth in tip top condition. Opening things presents a daily challenge.  Even without arthritic hands there is a weakening of wrist strength and finger pliability. Be ready to clamp your teeth around a bottle top to hold it steady while you turn the body of the bottle to the best of your ability. Better still, acquire a tool which grips  a lid and releases it as you turn a handle. (I know, it is rather difficult to envisage). I have two, one that is huge and stays in the kitchen and one little one that stays in my bag so that I don't have to go through the business of using my teeth in public. That look is not age appropriate.

A long shoe horn is also essential. Dressing one's foot is a long-term project when the floor is rather further down than your back can reach with ease.  Tie your shoe laces in a double bow. If they come loose in the street you will have to choose between the risk of tripping over them and the impropriety of sitting any old where while you do them up again.  Keep your manners in first-rate order. Your inner voice may well wish to tell a kind and willing passer-by who stops to help you while you wobble to your car over-burdened with stuff to go away with dispatch - except it is expressed internally in two words: one of four letters and the other of three. Indeed, watch your language all the time you are out and about. Four letter words are not a good look on the elderly, neither, except perhaps 'diet'.  Instead, say "thank you" nicely and, thus, stop your Mother turning in her grave.  Make friends in your veterinary practice. My aristocratic darling is too heavy for me to carry in his basket. A receptionist will come and pick him up on the few occasions he needs to be seen. If you have help in the house, (which I suggest you consider. It's surprising how hard it is to reach the top of a window from which you could have swung in  the forty days) get that person to peel things for you. It is also a good idea to have her/him wind your watch: stiff fingers, silly. Bathing: here there is a serious potential for hassle. Are you sure you can get out of a bath unaided? No? Then give it up. A shower is but a poor substitute for a bath for the relief of aching limbs but it is much easier to step in and out of. My local council installed an uplifting bath seat for me. This left me with water grazing the bottom of my bottom but left my tummy a stranded bump, sticking out, cold and terminally dry. .Above all, keep cheerful. The viscisitudes of old age have to be preferable to the alternative. Bore da

Friday, 15 January 2016


In a recent tidying up moment I came across several jumpers with what we always called "turtle necks".  For the uninitiated, this did nor refer to an exposure of a  turtle type neck on you but to  the collar of a jumper which came right up to the chin. Had it, thereafter, rolled over, if I remember rightly,it  would then have been called a "cowl neck". I have no recollection whatsoever of my reason for housing them away from the general jumper population but there they were, opening up yet another cash-free enhancement of my current wardrobe.

But there's the rub. Putting one on I chanced to look in the mirror, (applying lipstick, since you ask), and discovered, horrified, that I did, in fact have the sinewy neck of a turtle: not a good look on an elderly lady however charming her neck may have been when she was forty. Of all the things someone seventy five going on forty has to adjust to, perhaps a changed appearance may be the most astonishing.. I don't mean the phenomenon is astonishing. I mean I am astonished when I am forced to recognise it. Having had obedient, curly brown hair with tones of russet, I now have listless, recalcitrant hair the colour of which my Mother and her friends used to call "pepper and salt".There is a slight hiccup of 'is that me?' every time I have to deal with it. Having worn with pride a bikini - at the time called a two-piece swimsuit - I now hide in the longest one-piece swimsuit I can find and that only to run in to the sea and submerge until invisible. (That's a lie. I stagger in to the sea supported by the reluctant Guru's reluctant hand and procrastinate, tentative about moving off in full view of an amused but invariably courteous collection of pretenders-not-to-notice with whom I shall, in due course, be having dinner). Oh, and waist: what waist? At forty I was - or thought I was - full of interesting ideas, thirsty for knowledge and a touch pedantic in the search for it. Well, actually, obsessively pedantic in the search for it. And it was not only knowledge. As I have disclosed in an earlier blog, ( the repetitiveness of old age) veracity: it's name was chocolate to me . "No, it wasn't 5 o'clock, it was 5 05 o'clock" I might say to a companion, not by way of correction for the sake of correction but by way of accuracy for the sake of accuracy. Not surprisingly, correction was heard as just that: a pointing out of a mistake in The Other. It's a wonder I held any friends at all in my fifth decade. With a mixture of compassion, a sense of proportion and laziness the elderly me lets all these 'mistakes' go by, the inner voice and the man in the archives noting, nodding and shrugging conspiratorially with a tolerance they rarely showed four decades ago. Anyway, I would far rather be The Mock Turtle than The Mad Hatter though there are some who would swear I was both   Prynhawn da

Friday, 1 January 2016

It's That Time Again

Those of you who dare to be as old as I am may well remember a radio programme called "It's That Man Again" popular in, I think, the Forties and Fifties. Of course, I don't recall the name of That Man but only that it was a comedy programme that we all followed faithfully and felt the better for it. Yes, I do: it was Tommy Handley. There you are, you see, a tee-total New Year's Eve has left the old man in the archive fit and chirpy to push his library steps briskly up to the correct files.(That kind of serendipidy pleases me, as you will understand. I do appreciate the workings of the inner world, mysterious and unpredictable as they are. Incidentally, my American spell-checker has constant catniptions faced with my UK english).

Anyway,  the time that has come round again is  for the making of New Year Resolutions. Here are a few: 1]  I will re-organise  (US spell-checker interfering once more, wanting a 'z', I suppose) my clothes cupboard and a) throw some of them at a charity shop b) find my wardrobe renewed by items heretofore hanging at the back or hanging in the wrong place.  11]  I will groom my long-haired cat diligently every day in spite of his antipathy to being done underneath and suffer the consequent wounds of war.  111]  I will return the books I have taken out of the hospital library and stop counting on the fact that I am the one who deals with the 'books-out' index to hide the fact that I am overdue. 1V]  I will arrive on time at the hospital and report to the Volunteers' office, as I should, rather than sneak straight to my post on the first floor. V]  I will stop eating croissants and cheese for supper and find a healthier way to avoid cooking. V1]  I will take more exercise and cease deliberately to avoid thinking about the person close to me who goes routinely to Boot Camp, which makes me feel guilty, inadequate and stiff.   V11]  I will go regularly to Eire to see my dear friend who lives there and not grumble about the exigencies of current air travel. I will cease to  be too mean to stay over-night in an hotel because, as it happens, the young are worth far more than I am and are certainly not awaiting an inheritance.  V111]  I will endeavour to differentiate between appropriate interventions in the affairs of strangers and those that are a b....y cheek. eg It is acceptable to smile at and encourage a young Mother with a screaming baby on a full flight but not to tell off the lout who leaned over his chair to ask her what sort of Mother she was. On reflection, it was wrong to tell him off: it had consequences.  Murder would have worked better .1X]  I will do my best to accept my calendar age and grow up from the forty of my phantasy age.  X] The thing is, the only resolution I have any hope of keeping is the one not to make any New Year Resolutions.  Bore da and Blwyddwyn Newydd Dda ( Can you imagine the reaction of the spell-checker?)