Monday, 28 July 2014

Communication - I think

One of the joyous rewards of having a four-footed friend is learning how mutually to communicate. My hospital Enquiry Desk colleague told me how she fed her cat a necessary tablet of medication. She wrapped it in her favourite food and she and her husband watched while the cat cleaned the whole plate. Giving one another a hug of relief and congratulation, they heard a sound and turned round to see the cat neatly spit out the entire untouched tablet. I suppose one may call that a failure of communication, but from the cat's point of view it was incontravertible: you don;t fool me. That was not cat food and I am damned if I will play along with such a deceit. However, I have to say that there was an occasion when my own dear friend elected to sleep downstairs instead of with me. When I told her she knew where I was if she needed me, I got one of those sing-song not quite miaows that definitely signifies comprehending  acquiescence.

That's enough cat. Not everyone shares the degree of felinitis with which I find myself cursed - or blessed. I do, as it happens, have  an almost compulsive wish to commuicate accurately, even with humans. I just wish my lexicon of possibilities were wider and richer. Of course, not all communication is about words. Noticing is another road to understanding, another way of passing information. I realise that I have made an assumption that everyone notices. I did, from a small girl. It made me worried and guilty and often ashamed of something I had done or not done. In reality, no-one had even noticed whatever it was. To this day, I have to remind myself that not everyone has the mind space to observe, notice and take note. A day or so ago; I asked the person helping me, who had kindly changed the cat's litter tray, if there were any solid matter in it. (On Vet's instructions, the cat is being monitored). She hadn't noticed. How could you not. with eyes and nose at your disposal. Oh Dear: here I am back with that subject. The Guru speaks four languages. Two of them are totally fluent. I don't know what degree of fluency he has in the other two. He is still not always an easy man to understand, to comprehend as a fellow human. Words and deeds are not necessarily the open sesame of communication I would like them to be. There is a catch there, too. It is too easy to spot an economy with the truth when you are a communication addict, with a good enough memory for what had actually been said or done, of course.

The temperature is 29 degrees with what seems like 100 per cent humidity. It appears to have melted my sense of the fun, the irony in the way the world works.  To-morrow promises to be cooler. Watch this space for some jollier communications. Nos da

Friday, 18 July 2014


A friend recently pointed out that my blog is suffused with ambivalence. I assumed she meant between life and death. This I am not sure about but it could be implicit in the title: an ambivalence between the chronology of 75 and the instinct of  40. Thinking about her comment my head started to feel bigger on the inside than the outside Ultimately, I decided ambivalence was one of life's threads for everyone, sown in tiny backstitch along the seam of everyday. Like a good student, therefore, I write keeping the question - sorry, title - in mind at all times as instructed by my teachers those many decades ago.

Take television for instance. I watch rather a lot of it. I have favourites, usually detecting or other puzzlement situations. There is a drawback. Each series comes to its end, presumably so as not to bore the audience or to afford what is called in the North of England 'teachers' rest'. (Half-term down South.)  In this case it would be actors' and technicians' rest, I suppose. or even a fallow period for the sponsors. To me it presents a hazard. What if I am no longer able or around to watch television? As you must know, the series always end with a monumental crisis. There is a very good chance I shall never know what-happens-next. I can't see myself contacting the producers to explain my problem asking them if they would  be kind enough to spill the beans ahead of time. I would, of course, offer my absolute respect of confidentiality, swearing on my life never to divulge to another living soul. Oh Dear, there it is again. I can't swear on my life because that, (my life) is the lynch pin which supports my please-tell-me-now plea. I have grown quite sneaky in this pursuit. I switch on the computer and Search Engine the programme to see if I can devine the future. On one occasion this gave me an awful shock. One of my favourite characters is a lady doctor working at the turn of the century - the last one, silly, all Victorian pre-suffragette. On screen a numbered list of the episodes of the next series told me Dr O was scheduled to die. I spent a horrible period believing the end of the known world was on its way. Dear Reader, when it came to it it turned out it was her Father who was doomed. Since he had appeared only by refrence not by substance, I had formed no attachment to him. I let him go without a twinge and took my first full breath since I had first spied on the what-is-to-come. I am wrestling with how to reconcile myself to letting go what the rest of you are taking for granted. It's rather like knowing I shall never have a waist again while I watch the glorious young tighten their belts - really - and plan the hemline for next year. Or  giving up the race at the half-way mark while everyone else charges on to the end. Still, it is very pleasant to be able to enjoy half way, having had my turn at.  going all the way.  Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


As a matter of habit, when I have enjoyed a book, I re-read it from time to time. It's rather like calling in to see a family of old friends. Occasionally, people take me to task, seeing it as a waste of productive reading time. Usually, I liken the experience to listening to the same music over and over again. No-one seems convinced and I'm not sure, now I come to see it in black and white, so to speak, that I do, either. However, reccently there has been a sea-change. Reaching for an old friend on a top shelf I suddenly had a vision of a pile of books I was given for Christmas - yes, seven months ago - lying on my desk top threatening to fall over. In other words, so many books and so little time. I can see that spending time with past friends at my age precludes my making any new ones. Being me, a Libran, I stumbled upon a compromise. Rather than start on any of my own unread tomes, I borrowed one from the library in the hospital where I work.'Fair dos' as we say in Wales. Mind you, I need to admit something to you: since I was rather ill two years ago I seemed to lack the concentration to take up with book-friends either past or present. Lazily, I have watched television but, lying on my bed to do this, I often fall asleep. In retrospect, I apologise to my Father who regularly did that, except when there was rugby or soccer showing. Then he would wake up with a start and shout "kick the d....d ball you fool." and wake my Mother up, too. I used to berate him for this, I'm sorry.

At some level I am also doing new things. I see that has two aspects. One: I am making sure to do certain things while I still can and two: I am saying a sort of Goodbye to things. An evening or so ago I went to hear a couple of friends performing in the same concert. The venue was distant and hard to reach. The Minicab company I use was able to help only on the outward journey because most of its drivers are Muslim, it's Ramadan and later in the evening, homeward bound, they would be breaking their fast far from their vehicles. As I thought about these difficulties, it came to me that the chances of hearing this combination of friendship and music were necessarily limited. They belonged to a dimension I have to ration severely - the future. Dear Reader, I went and it was one of the most rewarding I have been to in a long music-appreciative life. Having worked out that I shall not need any more clothes, other than those which it is essential to replace through wear, for the rest of my life, I also have the urge to buy something that catches my eye because it may be the last frivolous purchase I shall ever make. I am searching madly for the word that describes this phenomenon. Do, please, click on the 'comment' facility and supply the word if you have it. I doubt I shall sleep until I know. (Ambiguity, perhaps?)  Not having a substantial future is, in itself, a new experience. Oh Dear, I do need that word. As it happens, I am feeling like blogging for a long time yet so there's possibly still  time enough to explore the new and value the past. For those of you faithful followers who will remember its significance, I am working up to seeking out the scarlet swimsuit once again. The Guru has kindly agreed to come, too, so no need to seek out the half-backs around the baggage carousel. I bought a new floaty thing to go over it, so there we are again, whatever that b....y word will turn out to be. Nos da
PS July12th, I think it ios 'dichotomy' so there you are. Nos da, again

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sine Qua Non

Far be it from me to show off:  (note the title). It is, simply, that seven decades or so ago when I was at school, we were all treated to lessons in Latin as a matter of course; rarely part of the current curricula it would seem. Heaven forfend I should be expected to read and understand it now, but there are a few phrases which the old man in the archives will still throw up from time to time. The fact that 'num' expects the answer 'no' is a frequent one. It took some getting used to, I remember, that there was no 'yes' nor 'no' in Latin, only a way of putting a question that expected either the answer in the negative or one in the positive. ('Nonne' for positive if you are still interested and I have remembered correctly.) A for instance might be "you are not hungry are you?" "No, I am not" Or, "I note that you are hungry""Yes, I am". It fascinated me to learn that the same applies in Mandarin. "Hot, not hot?" "Hot.". would serve to illustrate. No, I don't speak Mandarin. Someone close to me does. Anyway, back to today: I am in a mood to tell you that with which I cannot do without. We can start with breakfast. Of course, none of us can do without breakfast - or shouldn't anyway. What I had in mind was what went with breakfast, namely twelve tablets, all white and one capsule, yellow. This conglomeration, or whatever one calls a collection of tablets and one capsule, are meant to keep me going and on an even keel. These I swallow daily, matitudinally, and am, so far, still with you. Then there is the patch. This is applied once a  week and is intended to help with the chronic pain caused by the wonky back.The packet contains instructions to note the exact time of day at which I apply the patch so that it can be replaced at precisely the same time next week.

There are also several things you already know about without which I cannot do. My stick seat is one. It is invaluable as a walking stick and half valuable as a seat. Because, silly, if I open up the top to access its seating property, I run the risk of being tipped off it by any passing dog or scooter-fired toddler.. Around my house are several aids to safety or wobble-avoiders, like grab handles here and there, mostly in the shower, and a sort of bar thing slid under the mattress at the side of the bed that I grasp to lever myself out of it - the bed, that is. A process of elimination applies to the opposite of 'without which not', which I understand as "with which not". Shorts would be one example. No matter the heat, the locality or the company, shorts are not age-appropriate. Forward planning is another. Fellow volunteers at the hospital where I work are given an award according to the number of years they have worked there. The honour starts at five years. I may, just about, make that. The ten year badge is extremely likely to be outside my time span. Lovely shoes are also a with which not. I just can't risk falling over so am resigned to sensible what my Mother would have called 'cuban heels'. Such shoes don't come fancy. Romantic love qualifies: definitely 'with which not'. But love of the caritas kind is deeper and richer and more widespread. There is also less anger, less injury and less offence. However, I am even less inclined to obey rules, the 'without which not' of other peoples' ideas of how things should be, even pain patches. Come to think of it, the greatest of all the ' sine qua non' has to be, as above, love. Never mind the tablets, the capsule, the sensible heels, the real ' without which not'' is simply love. Bore da

Saturday, 21 June 2014


Perhaps you, too, have been noticing that life is inclined to meet itself coming back; that is, that what was true about the beginning is often true of the end. A few posts ago, you may remember, I told you how my professional life had come full circle: from Airline Enquiry Deak to Hospital Enquiry Desk and from part-time trolley dolly in the air to part-time trolley dolly with books around a hospital ward. I have been thinking of more subtle harkings back, though. For instance, I remember scrubbing floors immediately before the birth of my babies.'Nest building' the Old Wives called it. Now, at the other end of life I find myself not scrubbing floors but tidying drawers and cupboards and making 'where to find it' lists for my young. The wispy hair of a baby is not unlike the wispy hair of the aged, without the reassurance that the hair will soon thicken and even curl....the baby's, that is. For lots of us whatevergenerians we  have similar walking problems as those toddlers. As I watch the just -learning little ones stagger from one support to the next I see myself making my way down the road with stick and hope, jerky and unreliable but without a steadying parental hand.

I have lost my sophistication of palate and find my current favourite food to be buttered toast with apricot jam. As I remember it, little ones also eat buttered toast, soldiers with their boiled eggs. I wouldn't have fed mine curry. Now, I can no longer eat spicy food, myself. Some things are not prone to circularity, though. Babies tend not to have cupboards full of clothes they wore a stone ago - fourteen pounds if you are in Mountview California. The sheer amount of STUFF I've accumulated overwhelms me. I was looking for a small basket the other day. I found one full of shoe-cleaning kit. I haven't cleaned my shoes in years. No, not because I am a slut, but because the ones I habitually wear are patent and are managed with a wipe down with a damp cloth. My heart sank on behalf of those I shall leave behind. A month off work for each of them will only nibble the surface. I need help to muster strength to do at least some of it before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Lying on my bed with my cat on top of me is not a fair division of the end of life chores I, and the young, have to become familiar with.  What if I were to do a drawer a day?  Were I to count the drawers I may find I would need to live to a hundred and seventeen to have enough of them  - days, silly, not drawers. I have been watching a programme on television set in the early 1940s. The war is on and every aspect of people's lives is affected. Dear Reader, I was there. I feel at home with the programme. I feel strange when it is over and I have to turn off the computer and shut down the air-conditioning and even the television set, itself. None of those things existed in my 'real' life time. I understand shortage and tolerance of situations we go on strike for in the present day. Don't get me wrong: I am comfortable and somewhat blessed in the present. It's just that my present is like my past only in matters of hair and mobility. The past seems to be where my real home is and I am just a visitor in the here and now. However, I'd like the visit to go on for a little while yet. Nos da

Friday, 13 June 2014


Last week, finding a pint of milk rather too heavy to add to my carry-home shopping, I ordered it 'on-line' with the goods that my Mother would have called 'dry goods'. That would be cat litter, washing powder and anti-bac hand wash, for instance. I duly found some pictures of milk containers and duly clicked. Dear Reader, what arrived was the biggest container of milk I have ever seen. So unlikely am I to get through it before it goes off that I was tempted to throw most of it away there and then. Had I kept the pint/litre plastic container that I had finished, I might have refilled it. It had, however, already disappeared in to the re-cycling bin. Unforunately, this was not the first on-line ordering disaster. In my 'fridge is a jar of Marmite - a sort of yeast based spread, if you are in Mountview California  - which one loves or hates - the size of an about to deliver pregnant tummy. There is also a slice of Parmesan cheese that's too hard for me to grate and more sea salt than there is in the Atlantic.  I hear you: I should be more vigilant but I am not very good at pictures and icons and, I suspect, part of me treats the computer like an assisstant in a grocery shop who is listening to me and, well, assisting. "Does Madame want one litre of milk or two?" for example.

There have been some successes, though. I ordered some hair-spray on-line and, after waiting for help to open the parcel, found the item I wanted and had accurately ordered. You may recall I also bought a note-book that way. Sadly, it was only a close approximation of the one I couldn't find in a real live shop but I am too mean - cheap - to discard it.  I have been known to buy tickets for events on-line. I say this with overweening pride, but, why spoil a good story with the truth? Were I to tell the truth it would be that I get as far as the pay page and then the transaction falls apart. I am reduced to telephoning the venue, difficult if it is around midnight when the mood takes me. Aside from one totally marvellous venue with an old-lady-proof website, I can't even select a seat competently. I have found myself in 'prestige' seats and in the ' Gods', too far up to see the stage, let alone the people on it. If I were to be alerted by the price as to the high  or low of my choice things may go better. By the time I realise there is a mistake I can't retrieve the pay page. Nor can I find my hard goods order again if I remember something I forgot to order in the first place. "Your order can be revised until 6.17 pm the day before delivery". No it can't. The transaction is lost to me. I know, I know. I appear to have forgotten the Curse of the Wizard of Cyberspace. I truly thought that, by ignoring him, he would leave my life: no chance. Out of thought simply means more vulnerable. In a rather up-market boutique I saw a perfect dress. It didn't exist in my size. The lovely lady in the shop suggested I try on-line. Not being in confessional mood, I acquiesced. I felt rather grown-up and courageous even in the attempt. Two hours later I knew a very great deal about confusion, had not seen even a whisper of the item I craved on the hundreds of click-ons and was ready to throw away the computer. Prudently  - though serendipidously - I installed a grille over the window behind my computer table. By the time that would be unlocked and opened and the window, itself, dealt with the urge for destruction would have defused - of the computer, that is. I might still have lost the will to live, myself. Tell me that I am doing well enough for more than three score and ten, I beseech you. Any solace is worth the pain. Nos da

Saturday, 7 June 2014


Alright, I confess. Today I went to the Mumsnet Workfest. As we all know, this event is intended for young Mums wantng to go back to work or start their own businesses. I am so far from being a young Mum that my age would run right off the page. In fact, I am not even a young Grandmother. One or two of the Grandmothers I know are young enough to be my Grandaughters.  However, I went for two reasons. One, was the chance of meeting, again, an editor/publisher who was there last year,  to talk about the possibility of making a book of my blogposts  and, also, some guidance about publishing the book I am writing with a friend that I have told you about. Two, was the pleasure I get from seeing a crowd of intelligent and lovely faces - and that's just the babes in arms who have been brought along. Just kidding: it is the Mums who appear so lively and interesting. Sadly, the lady was not there this time so I am resigned to research on the internet when I get back my strength.  I have something of a rarity value on these occasions  so people come up and talk to me. It is really exciting to hear their aspirations and their intentions  I was impressed with the break-out sessions I attended and rather wished I were in a  position to profit from them in a current, productive way. Still one never knows....  I should say that the whole affair was immaculately planned and carried out but I did jump ship early to take my two buses home with lots to think about.

However, for those of my faithful followers who may have no interest in the above, I shall return to the theme of 'Where-Are-The Snows-of-Yesteryear'.  I have a red, full length, glorious silk coat. I wore it for a very special birthday party to which I was invited. Dear Reader, it was too long and I had to keep hitching it up. This rather detracted from its elegance.. I told myself I had formerly worn it with high heels. The truth is, I haven't worn high heels since long before the advent of the coat. I have shrunk. The coat trailed because I am at least an inch shorter than I was. I was forced to remember that, as I write, one of my young looks down on me when I was used to looking her straight in the eye. The phrase 'little old lady' takes on a whole new dimension. Nothing to be done although my inner voice did have a go at suggesting I might try high heels now. To the danger of tripping over my hem would be added the danger of falling flat on my face - or, if I am in luck, on my backside. I find myself opening a ring-pull tin with a tin opener. (Can, in Mountview, California). No-one warned me of the little losses one would have to find a way around. Never mind: the sense of what's funny inevitably makes everything tickety-boo. I leave you with a story. A little boy, aged seven, lived alone with his Mother until came the day when Jack moved in. Several months later, the child was heard to say to Jack "When you came to live with us, Mummy and I needed you a lot. But we are alright now, so you can go back to your own house." His Mother, unsurprisingly, remonstrated with him saying he had hurt Jack's feelings and asked why had he said those things. The child replied that he had thought long and hard about what to say, adding "I could just have told him to f.... off." Nos da.