Sunday, 24 July 2016

Milestones

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

Psycho-Soma

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

Handbagged

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

Conundra

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

Precautions

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

Trends

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