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