Tuesday, 21 July 2015

These I Have Missed


Having offered you 'These I have Loved' and 'These I have Loathed I felt moved to proceed to These I have Missed   It's perhaps not surprising that there are things  one misses in the 75 not 40 category. One of them, for me for instance, would be my waist. I haven't seen that in years .Arms would be another .Actually, I have seen them but they are a long way from being suitable for public viewing. I simply don't do them so am always on the look-out for sympathetic sleeves. Ankles have also  gone walkabout. I need to choose between a total disregard for skirts or a total disregard for the elderly predicament of no difference in width between knee and foot .As it happens, I do find, as the days hurtle by, that I am less and less troubled by what the eye of the other is seeing so have been out in a dress and fat ankles.

I find I miss longhand. One of my nicest possessions is a fountain pen of such refinement it ranks more as an 'objet d'art' than a wordsmith's tool. There will be those among you who have never filled a fountain pen nor scrawled a love message in blue-black. . However, in a cloud of lost yesteryear I see I have rather romanticised the longhand thing. An error made at the top of a hand- written page incurred a fine of huge proportions: one had to re-write the whole page.However, the advantage of the electronic conveyer of that which must be written down is that what it promises in practical error-removing and re-think possibilities, it loses in malfunctioning. As we speak, the short line curser which shows you where your letters are has joined the nomads so I am having to guess where the print will start and am doubtful about the length of sentences and paragraphs. The Wizard of Cyberspace never interfered in my earlier writing life.

Babies: I miss living with and looking after little people. I miss the feel of a small body against my chest and the gummy, smiley greeting at picking-up time .Truth be told, I miss the absolute sense of purpose the twenty-four-seven -fifty two  the role assumed. I miss good manners and find my own exagerated in a sort of 'yah boo and sucks' compensation. I do know, Gentle Reader, things were always better in the country where one was forty, but I am not the only green-inker who thinks the snows of before were whiter than  the snows of today. With some ruth, I miss forward planning. Recently a television programme I enjoy came to its season's end. Just think, I can see what happens next only,  as a dear, elderly friend used to say when I tried to arrange a meeting for a specific date, "If I am spared, Dear" Bore da

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Casualties

Today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist bombings in London which killed fifty seven people and injured many more. Someone in my circle lost a leg. How it feels to  be him is beyond my imagination, but he shows us all a warmth and health of spirit that shames  anyone grumbling about a tricky computer for instance, in to the incontravertibly old-fashioned solution of counting their blessings. I have always advocated that a trauma has to be measured holistically, in the context of the sufferer's way of being in the world. A baby whose toy lies outside her/his reach is within  her/his rights to carry on as if deprived of a loved human being. To an obsessive tidier a plant pot spilt on the carpet can  feel like a car crash to a differently wired personality. However, this having been said, in the interest of what degree of sympathy to offer, it must be acnowledged that the loss of a limb is,   nevertheless, a gold amongst bronze disasters and should be treated as such without any 'yes-butting' about our own disasters

It is no secret that I am a World War Two child. ( Anyone who can add up must know that). It seems to me that my generation has a response to disaster tht is laced with the wine of a remembered state of mind. Disasters were daily events, particularly in the big cities. As it happens, although I didn't live in a big city, I did come from a town with a very important port which was an early and frequent target of German bombers.  I had been disaptched - I want to say 'abandoned - to boarding school for my safety so had to contend with the breath-holding worry that my parents may not have survived from one night to another. Imagine: no mobile phones, not even direct dialling. How was one of a hundred little girls to find out about her family's fate when such an odyssey had to go through Matron to a form teacher, to the Head and then through a telephone exchange whose lines were mostly taken up with essential and hush-hush emergency calls. Shortages and deprivation of material as well as emotional necessities were simply the way things were. Stoicism became the yeast in our bread, essential but virtually unnoticed, a condition which my lot lives with to this day. And now, especially, the blessing-counting is necessary in the wake of indescribable horrors in the rest of the world.
 .I know, I  know: what has this got to do with being 75 (more than) going on 40? Well, we shall just have to call this post "75 going on 6". Bore da

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Friday, 19 June 2015

Continuity

There has been a breach of continuity, nothing too serious. Some posts back I told you that I discovered my weight loss only when I came to do up my trousers without having to yank the edges of the waist band together. In a subsequent post I said that I was still egg-shaped which, to the accuracologist in me didn't accord with the waist band bit, In fact, both are true. It is just that there is a smaller egg.
Before lack of interest causes you to lose the will to live, I thought you may be interested in the subject, anyway. As you can imagine, to someone who bores for England in the dotted 'i' and crossed 't' field, the business of continuity is pretty absorbing. As a young person I was fascinated by the job of the continuity girl on the film's acknowledgement- credits Whatever they are called now, it doesn't seem to be that and, in any case, would need to have a neutral gender reference:continuity person? To this day, fast forward seventy years, I am still fixated by the question. My pleasure in any well-loved series on television is always 'yes-butted' by sloppy continuity. Yellow lines on a 50s road, phrases imported from our American cousins in a Victorian drama, American characters eating with both knife and fork etc., etc. I am inclined to be somewhat obsessive about this, (I do know you have noticed) and find myself wondering why. It seems to be to do with the security of truth. If things are as they purport to be then everything must be alright in the best of all possible worlds.  I know of families where the most profound information is kept secret: siblings with one different parent, for instance. Sometimes the offspring of a different parent from the younger ones do know but are barred from telling the others. Sometimes only the parent in common knows. Many years ago I had the acquaintance of a man who had been born with a still-born twin clinging to his knee. This came to  light only when he sought help to explore the reason for a difficulty to form stable relationships. His whole life and character had been an  obsessive odessy to 'find' his lost brother. One wouldn't find a difficulty to trust surprising in a background of secrets and lies. And, no, I don't think the nature of human beings was predicated by a stolen apple. Bore da

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Appearances

A salutary experience:  the other day some people started work painting the outside of my house. Very early - too early for a retired old lady - the door bell rang and I staggered down to answer it. After a few minutes of greeting , explanations and location-guidance, I crept back to my room and prepared myself for the day. About an hour later the bell went again. I opened it to see one of the workmen who asked if he could speak to Mrs. Mountford. There you have it, I looked so entirely different fully dressed and, let's face it, fully made up, that he didn't recognise me. There was a nano second of  one discussion while I wondered whether or not to foster this assumptionm that there were two women paying him to brighten up their exterior or to bow to the inevitable and confess that I was she. I chose the latter on the basis that he and his mates would be seeing me in all manner of stages over the coming weeks and that truth would out one way or the other.

I do confess that it has been quite testing getting used to the physical appearance of ageing, though. Lately, I have lost weight, quite a measure of weight. Thrilled, I tried some clothes I haven't worn since longer than I have courage to tell you. There was scarcely any difference in put-on-ability. You see, the weight had not been lost from the middle where the egg-shape still prevails. If I were a disciplined and dedicated doer of all the 'shoulds' I would undertake some exercises to put this anomaly right. I am not. Life is too short to touch one's toes. (I see that this is, currently, more than a figure of speech. At my age life really is too short to touch my toes). Since you ask, the weight has been lost as an unexpected side bonus of giving up chocolate and sweets. Hand on heart I swear I hadn't seen that coming and was so proud of being on the wagon I noticed nothing else. (I have a faint recollection that I have told you this already. The man in the archive is running after me flapping the relevant post and trying to stop me committing yet another old-lady fault,  repetition). There are also certain clothes embargoed: shorts, short skirts, short sleeves, low necklines, the exotic - unless you are an exotic woman in all other respects, too. I have a very dear friend whose appearance is gloriously exotic and always has been.  She suffers the opposite trial from me, invisible and prone to be bumped in to. She is constantly noticed and, she suspects, given a wide berth. Long hair and dyed hair is another no-no Framing an elderly face it looks desperate, as if denying the march of time and the deterioration of locks. Best of all, though, is the change in facial appearance. Made up or bare the  face has reached an equilibrium that is somehow without age - except for the picture in the attic. Bore da

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Inevitability

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

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

Friday, 22 May 2015

Larceny

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

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

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Volunteering

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

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