Sunday, 22 March 2015


As a trained observer I have noticed, not suddenly but gradually, how much more often I need to say "thank you" than in yesteryear. Subtly, the small things that I didn't even register when I was a middle-aged youngster, have become large things for which I need help. In some cases, it becomes quite costly. If the nice taxi driver gets out of his cab to help me out, I feel I have to double the tip I would otherwise have given him. Equally, I subtract the tip if he doesn't get out and I am faced with the cliff-hanger which is the measure of the gap between the taxi step and the road outside. Taxi drivers, in my experience, rarely stop close to the pavement (sidewalk) so the descent is even longer than it need be.

My walking stick has a penchant for the floor. Inevitably, thankfully, someone bends down to pick it up for me. Someone with whom I am sharing a table at the hospital canteen will see me put my  bottle of water to my teeth and offer to open it simply with a grip I just about remember exercising. As it happens, I once caught sight of myself using this method of opening a closed top and it is not a pretty sight. It has definitely to be relegated to the no-no register of elderly elegance. From time to time, I am allowed to jump the queue to pay in the canteen. This is a dispensation for which 'thank you' is scarcely enough. A loaded tray, water bottle rolling about and lid of salad container bouncing uneasily around when one hand is holding a walking stick is almost Jugglerdom in the skill it requires. Recently, I went home to Wales with someone close to me. At his suggestion, we hired a wheel chair so that I could process a little further than would be possible on Shank's pony: (on foot, if it's not a phrase with which you are on usage terms. I try to be cognisant of my American-cousin-readers and translate and explain wherever I have the knowledge to do so). I found it an excercise in both acceptance and denial. I accepted that I could not walk as far as a favourite  headland and I was denying the otherwise humiliating and dependant nature of the enterprise. Actually, it was not denying so much as lifting myself away from the way it could have felt to be back in a push chair  with a fountain of 'thank yous' to those whom we displaced on the path and to the Pusher who, five decades or so ago, would have been the Pushed. It seems that somewhere, Someone has a sense of humour. How else could one accept the circular irony of the Pushed turning Pusher? Humour provides a serendipidy for which I can only say a thousand times 'thank you' or even Diolch.  Bore da

Saturday, 14 March 2015



Those of you kind enough to keep up will have noticed that I keep referring to drawer-tidying. This is partly  a wish not to burden the young, in the fullness of time, with more than is reasonable, partly a way of avoiding the inclination of the elderly to hoard and have in reserve - running out of tangibles being a metaphore for running out of life - and partly a way of sculpting the essentials from the block of clutter which has built up for a lot more than three score and ten years.

The unexpected, or even astounding, discovery in this activity is that I come across clothes I had long forgotten I had. Last week it was the jumper drawer. Right at the back, pristine in its original plastic protection, was a soft white jumper in the style of a blouse. This means that it had a collar and cuffs. On top of it was another softie, a 'goes-over' that makes a layered look that is the one current fashion even I am not too old to follow. (My canny Mother used to say about fashion that, if it came round a second time, you were too old to wear it). Buried deep were also some jumpers in jewel colours that hadn't seen the light of day for years and years. I am very excited about having as-if new clothes without shopping and without expense. The same with books. I am in the middle of a project to count my books. Since you ask, no reason other than curiosity but, perhaps, also to help with the posthumous decision of how many skips (dumpsters) will be needed for the ultimate clearout. There are 120 in the bedroom alone.  I may well be counting the last one  concurrent with ordering the skip in the first place. A few days ago, at the hospital where I work, I helped a patient find the out-patients' clinic he was looking for. On his way back he stopped and thanked me. "They told me not to start War and Peace" he said and was gone before I could blink. Humour, bravery, denial, untrue, which would you say it was? Anyway, if we happen to pass in the street and you start thinking I am always wearing something new and must, therefore, be very rich, please go home and tidy your drawers and you can be very rich, too. Alternatively, you can take a leaf from the book, counted or not, of the Emperor whose new clothes were guaranteed to keep him cool in summer and cold in winter. Prynhawn da

Sunday, 8 March 2015


There has, I acknowledge, been a slight break in transmission. This occured because my handbag was stolen. Among you there will be scores, nay, hundreds who have endured this experience, all of us with our entire transactional lives in our world-carrying accessories. I exaggerate not when I say that it took me eight days, when I was neither sleeping, eating or working at the hospital to unravel the tangle and restore the status quo ante. Even at the hospital I spent my lunch break on the phone. Anyway, I am up and running again now although my new credit card, verified, signed and activated is still being rejected by  old friends who seem unable to give up and mourn the old numbers and condescend to honour the new. The mechanisms of twenty-first living are wondrous to behold to those born the familiar more- than- three- score and ten years ago and Hell on Earth when they trip up. In the forty minutes I took to order cat food online with my new card I could have been down at the Pet shop and back twice and a half.

As  it happens, I didn't intend my explanation to include another green-ink rant, but there you are: needs must when the Wizard of Cyberspace is in the ascendant. Which reminds me, my horoscope this week tells me there will be a new love interest in my life. This is seriously unlikely. At my age I am lucky to hold on to the people I already love - and they to me, come to that. It made me think about how one - I - express love. The first thing that came to mind was whether or not I wash my hair on the day of a meeting with someone in my life. If this is a loved one then, yes, I do wash my hair. (The significance of this is that it needs doing every other day so has to hide under a hat if I have to miss a wash to accommodate the relevant date; a problem in summer, actually). So my life is divided, perforce, in to clean-hair-friends and it-will-have-to-do friends. When I was a young woman this dictum was set in concrete. Now, I do occasionally let a loved one in to the secret of scraggy hair. I was reminded of what, by now, must be a very old film: "Love Story". There was this famous- infamous? - line which went "Love means never having to say you are sorry." Rubbish: love means you can say you are sorry without embarrassment or fear or loss of face, safe in the trust of the loved one not to score points or punish. Well, perhaps to score points but with warmth and tenderness. I can't imagine who thought up that upside down pernicious statement. Was it the original author, Eric Segal, if memory serves me - which it still does from time to time? Was it ironic? I don't think so. In my experience irony gets sea-sick on the Pond so it must have been meant with insight and passion. Which brings me back to my horoscope. I think that was ironic if you must know. Nos da

Friday, 20 February 2015


No-one likes to be left out, unless, of course, it's for an unclothed swim in Norway in winter. I have  noticed, however, that, in my inner world, I take this condition a bit too far. The other day, I was offered a  bread basket from which to choose a roll or whatever. My eye was caught by  a crunchy-looking white one at the far end. However, nearest to me there was a rather dull looking, squidgy brown one. Dear Reader, I took that one so as not to put it through the experience of being rejected. I feel bound to swear that I exaggerate not. A trip to the green-grocer is an exercise in compassion resulting in a fridge full of crooked carrots, bruised apples and some over-ripe bananas. Clearly, this particular neurosis needs attention more urgently than any of my others.

It may be possible to exorcise it simply by confessing. Let us see. I have to be very careful in a book shop, for instance. A book, once browsed, will have to be bought so as not to hurt its feelings. (Somewhere inside me I do know that books don't have feelings, thank you very much. That's what this bleet is trying to address). As I grow even older the habit seems to be managed in one of three ways. One: I smile indulgently at myself and go on apologising to but not buying the tasteless little red water-carriers masquerading as tomatoes, buying some more expensive ones instead,  two: I go the whole distance and simply buy the costly vine-grown ones or three: I go straight for  the water-carriers and their tastelessness. After all, over-breeding is not their fault. Broken biscuits, the heel of a loaf can all count on me to rescue them. My current feline friend turns up in the middle of the night waking me by crouching above and on my head where, presumably, my hair reminds him of the fur of his Mother. This is not a sensation that pleases me, not only because of the touch of  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I endure, but also because I can't believe that cat-dander is good for my coiffure. I have to rouse sufficiently to lift him down to the level of my shoulders, not an easy feat, raising one's arms above one's head and relocating an unwilling, resisting log of fur to where he doesn't want to be. Turf him right off?  Give him an experience of rejection? You are joking, of course.  Truth to tell, though, the last couple of nights, I have drifted up to find him already established where I prefer him to be. Not so stupid that one. For weeks, now, he has been using the facilities appropriately; no more 'accidents' in various wash-basins and carpet corners. But, he and a friend who is living here, have had to declare war on one another. Well, I did think that she had declared war on him. In fact, it's mutual. Last Sunday, when I had already changed a tainted litter tray, he shot in to her usually door-shut bathroom and performed again in the basin. She, understandably, was livid and accused him of being opportunist and evil. I protested that he was just a cat and, thus, couldn't be accused of such heinous intention. No, I don't believe that either. Bore da

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Now you see me......

On the days I routinely work at the out-patients enquiry desk at the local hospital I regularly witness a series of flotillas comprising a leading man followed by two ladies in full burqah and nihab. The sequence is rather like the one you see of migrating birds which appears as a sort of triangle with a leader in the van and a graduating breadth behind. I am struck by what I see as the irony of this arrangement. As I perceive it, the cover-all garments are intended to protect the modesty of the wearers and render them more or less invisible. As you will have realised , the effect is, in our western culture,  exactly the opposite: the women are infinitely more conspicuous by very reason of the total concealment of face and form. A friend recently reported her young Grandson as having asked how his little friends at the school gates would recognise their own Mummy. I have to assume it is either by a pre-arranged position or by voice. Anyway, there are no dramatic reports of  any small people being inadvertantly fed at  the wrong table

I have put to you many times one predicament of the elderly. There is a way in which we become totally invisible. I find myself bumped into, cut across, overtaken in to the lift and 'bus and enduring coats hung on a hook immediately behind my seat which is intended for the incumbent, only, of such seat. No "Do you mind", "excuse me" or anything indicating that there is an awareness of the presence of another human being.The Hospital provides yet another illustration. On the corner of the Enquiry Desk there is an internal telephone. Frequently, a young medic will appear, pick up the telephone, have a long consultation, put the phone down again and walk off as if leaving an own  phone. The three hundred and forty fifth time this happenned, I took my courage in both hands and called after the offender "You are welcome". Not a hair was turned and, indeed, it was I who was left in the wrong for the heinous crime of churlish intervention. Not long ago, I was walking on the right of a narrowish corridor at a concert venue in order to be well-placed for the lift to the auditorium which was situated to the right in a lobby further along. As I emerged in to this lobby, I was confronted by a young woman and her male companion heading in the direction from which I had just come. I, being more than three score and ten with a stick, stopped. So did she/they. For what seemed like a very long moment this woman, half my age  with no walking aid and I maintained a mute stand-off. Eventually, she did take a step backwards at which point, as I proceeded liftwards, I heard the man say, fortissimo, "I can't believe what manners have come to these days". I wish I had had the b...s to go after them and clarify who had which manners. I didn't .Clearly, there is only one thing for it: I shall Liz forth and equip myself with Burqah and hijab and let my cloak of invisibilty serve to make me as visible as the nose on your face. Prynhawn da.

Sunday, 1 February 2015


Yesterday, I was looking for something in what I call the present cupboard. There  finds itself wrapping paper, string, labels. tissue paper,  bubble wrap and potential presents. There is, therefore, no excuse whatsoever for resorting to a book token on a nice card with its own envelope rather than the latest Le Creuset stick-proof frying pan to be posted wherever. This chore having been done, I discovered that it was exactly one hour later than I thought it  was, leaving me in a get-up-and-go-NOW position with the floor littered with all the paraphanalia I had tossed out in the interest of my research. What a dilemma: leave it until I got back or risk being late for a concert and tidy it up before I went. The problem with great age - one of them - seems to be an obsessive need to leave the house visitor/stranger - proof. Suppose I don't come back. Would I want the last impression of me to be that I was a degenerate slut who left scraps of wrapping paper and a carrier bag full of carrier bags all over her bedroom floor? Well, clearly not.

Now there's a dilemma of a different ilk. The accuracholic in me is not comfortsble with those last three words. Are they a sentence? There is no verb so that rules that out. If I put a colon before them what happens to the question mark? Should it read "...bedroom floor: well, clearly not?..." Answers on a postage stamp, please, or by pressing 'comment' at the bottom of this post. I may have told you that there is a plan to go through every drawer and cupboard in order, in the fulness of time, to spare the young many, many months of irritating sorting and disposing. To this there are two approaches - at least. Do I hold on to stuff that has significance, from habit and sentiment, though it is  aeons passed its sell-by date and will never, ever be of use to me again? Or do I keep only the real necessaries and have a poorer environment as a result? As the process proceeds, I am dumbfounded by the quantity - and quality - of what fills my house. I have my Mother's sewing box. It is full of buttons and pins and needles and ribbons and rainbowic reels of thread.Today, I mended a jumper of a rather rare and luscious green with a reel of thread from my Mother's box which matched exactly. Were I to begin to take in sewing I would still never get through it all, with the addition of my own sewing tools,  collected before the inheritance from my Mother. (I have seven  tape measures, since you ask). Similarly, I have ounces and ounces of wool, and part finished knitting, including the back of what must have been an embryonic pullover or jumper in a complicated pattern for which I no longer have the pattern. Knitting was a passion but arthritis intervened. There shouldn't be a problem with books and music and clothing. There are recognisable avenues of disposal for those. It's the this and that (detritus?) of three score years and more than ten that may easily faze them.

 However, all this has made me aware of the delightful richness my stuff represents. I could throw out the television set and give up volunteering at the hospital and not be bored or idle for a second using all those resources. Perhaps not: maybe I should just  hold on to the pleasurable knowledge of the gold that surrounds me, keep up the passive pastimes and, above all, keep things tidy. Prynhawn da.