Saturday, 6 February 2016

Nowt nor Somat

As I suspect I have green-inked about this more than once before. Yet I find myself  impelled to do so once again. Yesterday morning my mobile phone (cell) woke me at 7.45. So up I get, track down my handbag (purse) locate the frantic phone, slump back on the bed and answer it. It was the garage advising me my car needed its M.O.T (road-worthiness) test because the current one runs out in two days. I suggested it was a bit early to ring a retired person, offered to ring them back (when my brain was also awake) and would they please, in future, use my land line. This was a request repeated with every contact with them.

As before, they agreed. However, it set me thinking. Just about everyone from toddling to retirement has a mobile phone and this object is carried close to their person in pocket or bag. It means that one can be reached absolutely anywhere. No more hopelessly ringing your home phone in their office hours which exactly co-incide with your office hours. "We have tried without success to contact you a number of times...." which results in being thrown off their list, disinherited, a penalty charge, an appearance at the Magistrates' Court and so on and so forth. To everyone younger than I am it makes no sense at all to use any other means of communication. I can just about remember where the d.... thing is and hear it only when I have my hearing aids in, never mind seeing it as connecting me to the rest of the world.  I have learned to give only the landline number when asked, just as I have learned to say "Mrs. Mountford" when giving my  name if I don't want the teenager in accounts to call me "Elizabeth"  A shaft of light pierced the mist and mobile phones suddenly fell in to their proper seat in the current world. The problem for a 75 going on 40 is how to take advantage of technology without losing touch with things which still work in the old style. How would I be a Mumsnet Blogger without it? How would I acquire  an urgently needed book - for a discussion group, since you ask - without amazing Amazon. How would I fill my mineral water needs and my washing machine needs without the online supermarket?  But I am not prepared to expose my banking needs to technology, nor do I pay bills nor perform any other such delicate duties using it. There must be a way in which I can find a compromise so that I am neither Luddite nor Technolover. At the moment I am neither one thing nor the other, (hence "nowt nor somat"). I an straddling the C20th and the C21st and at serious risk of being torn apart astride those two. I beseech you: advise me how to resolve this dilemma before I am forced to do the proverbial splits. Not a good look on an old lady. Bore da

Saturday, 30 January 2016


The ancient person in the archive was so delighted by the exercise of formulating 'making do' advice that the decision was taken to give you the benefit of even more management tips.  So here goes, with no special order of importance.  You will all have heard the one that says "what else can I do while I'm down here?" to the unfortunate who has dropped her/his mobile phone on the floor. Whenever practical, leave it there until you can amass other reasons for bending down. Milk weighs. Either order it for delivery or get someone else to bring it, leaving you free to carry bananas and other items which would be too heavy to carry along with the milk.

Consider installing handle bars and/or gripping devices wherever there are steps or other hazards. It may be more sensible to have a home that looks like a geriatric ward than to risk tottering over when moving up or down. Recently, I asked an architect friend to assess whether or not it may be possible to instal facilities on the entry level of where I live. It is not. Make sure you are approaching home a few minutes before you planned to so as to leave more time for what used to be the dash up the stairs but is now a time-sensitive scramble with bag, coat, shopping, stick et al flung in a heap on the hall floor. If you live alone don't. I do know we can't all be cat lovers but if you are at least tolerant of them, it is quite wonderful to have an adoring feline greet you and wait for you to lie on the bed so that she/he can lie with you. Be warned: dogs need walking. What happens if you are unwell? I suppose you have to hire a dog-walker. By the way though, a dog is more likely than a cat to sound the alarm if something nasty comes to pass. In an extension to the advice in the post before this one, furnish your kitchen with any make-it-easier tools you can find. The most effective one in my kitchen is the kind and competent lady who comes regularly to 'do' for me. Keep your ears tuned for current use of language. Make sure you know what the unfamiliar words and phrases mean. Above all, don't use them. There is little so toe curling as a person trying to communicate in their own language with people of whose generation she/he  is not. You wouldn't expect a lady, in her ninth decade, to wear torn jeans and a purple streak in her hair, (read 'him', also, for the above)  so be sure to eschew the jargon, too. Likewise, give up the slang/jargon which belongs to your generation. 'Spiffing', 'gosh' and many more such will make you an alien in an unfriendly world. I have just remembered that old age, in so very many ways, turns one back to the earliest years: not much hair, not much colour in it, a propensity to fall over, lack of co-ordination and a threatening sense of insecurity,  and, judging by my almost daily experience, better neither to be seen nor  to be heard. But it's a great life if you can wing it  Bore da
Ps Try to live in a small space so there is always something on hand to hang on to if you fall. I know, I know: you can also bump in to those very things

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Make do and .....

Just because you young ones out there are managing your lives with grace and efficiency there is no reason why I shouldn't indulge in a few 'how-tos' to prepare you for the inevitable decline, with age, of the facilities you take so for granted at the moment that you don't even realise you have them.
Keep your teeth in tip top condition. Opening things presents a daily challenge.  Even without arthritic hands there is a weakening of wrist strength and finger pliability. Be ready to clamp your teeth around a bottle top to hold it steady while you turn the body of the bottle to the best of your ability. Better still, acquire a tool which grips  a lid and releases it as you turn a handle. (I know, it is rather difficult to envisage). I have two, one that is huge and stays in the kitchen and one little one that stays in my bag so that I don't have to go through the business of using my teeth in public. That look is not age appropriate.

A long shoe horn is also essential. Dressing one's foot is a long-term project when the floor is rather further down than your back can reach with ease.  Tie your shoe laces in a double bow. If they come loose in the street you will have to choose between the risk of tripping over them and the impropriety of sitting any old where while you do them up again.  Keep your manners in first-rate order. Your inner voice may well wish to tell a kind and willing passer-by who stops to help you while you wobble to your car over-burdened with stuff to go away with dispatch - except it is expressed internally in two words: one of four letters and the other of three. Indeed, watch your language all the time you are out and about. Four letter words are not a good look on the elderly, neither, except perhaps 'diet'.  Instead, say "thank you" nicely and, thus, stop your Mother turning in her grave.  Make friends in your veterinary practice. My aristocratic darling is too heavy for me to carry in his basket. A receptionist will come and pick him up on the few occasions he needs to be seen. If you have help in the house, (which I suggest you consider. It's surprising how hard it is to reach the top of a window from which you could have swung in  the forty days) get that person to peel things for you. It is also a good idea to have her/him wind your watch: stiff fingers, silly. Bathing: here there is a serious potential for hassle. Are you sure you can get out of a bath unaided? No? Then give it up. A shower is but a poor substitute for a bath for the relief of aching limbs but it is much easier to step in and out of. My local council installed an uplifting bath seat for me. This left me with water grazing the bottom of my bottom but left my tummy a stranded bump, sticking out, cold and terminally dry. .Above all, keep cheerful. The viscisitudes of old age have to be preferable to the alternative. Bore da

Friday, 15 January 2016


In a recent tidying up moment I came across several jumpers with what we always called "turtle necks".  For the uninitiated, this did nor refer to an exposure of a  turtle type neck on you but to  the collar of a jumper which came right up to the chin. Had it, thereafter, rolled over, if I remember rightly,it  would then have been called a "cowl neck". I have no recollection whatsoever of my reason for housing them away from the general jumper population but there they were, opening up yet another cash-free enhancement of my current wardrobe.

But there's the rub. Putting one on I chanced to look in the mirror, (applying lipstick, since you ask), and discovered, horrified, that I did, in fact have the sinewy neck of a turtle: not a good look on an elderly lady however charming her neck may have been when she was forty. Of all the things someone seventy five going on forty has to adjust to, perhaps a changed appearance may be the most astonishing.. I don't mean the phenomenon is astonishing. I mean I am astonished when I am forced to recognise it. Having had obedient, curly brown hair with tones of russet, I now have listless, recalcitrant hair the colour of which my Mother and her friends used to call "pepper and salt".There is a slight hiccup of 'is that me?' every time I have to deal with it. Having worn with pride a bikini - at the time called a two-piece swimsuit - I now hide in the longest one-piece swimsuit I can find and that only to run in to the sea and submerge until invisible. (That's a lie. I stagger in to the sea supported by the reluctant Guru's reluctant hand and procrastinate, tentative about moving off in full view of an amused but invariably courteous collection of pretenders-not-to-notice with whom I shall, in due course, be having dinner). Oh, and waist: what waist? At forty I was - or thought I was - full of interesting ideas, thirsty for knowledge and a touch pedantic in the search for it. Well, actually, obsessively pedantic in the search for it. And it was not only knowledge. As I have disclosed in an earlier blog, ( the repetitiveness of old age) veracity: it's name was chocolate to me . "No, it wasn't 5 o'clock, it was 5 05 o'clock" I might say to a companion, not by way of correction for the sake of correction but by way of accuracy for the sake of accuracy. Not surprisingly, correction was heard as just that: a pointing out of a mistake in The Other. It's a wonder I held any friends at all in my fifth decade. With a mixture of compassion, a sense of proportion and laziness the elderly me lets all these 'mistakes' go by, the inner voice and the man in the archives noting, nodding and shrugging conspiratorially with a tolerance they rarely showed four decades ago. Anyway, I would far rather be The Mock Turtle than The Mad Hatter though there are some who would swear I was both   Prynhawn da

Friday, 1 January 2016

It's That Time Again

Those of you who dare to be as old as I am may well remember a radio programme called "It's That Man Again" popular in, I think, the Forties and Fifties. Of course, I don't recall the name of That Man but only that it was a comedy programme that we all followed faithfully and felt the better for it. Yes, I do: it was Tommy Handley. There you are, you see, a tee-total New Year's Eve has left the old man in the archive fit and chirpy to push his library steps briskly up to the correct files.(That kind of serendipidy pleases me, as you will understand. I do appreciate the workings of the inner world, mysterious and unpredictable as they are. Incidentally, my American spell-checker has constant catniptions faced with my UK english).

Anyway,  the time that has come round again is  for the making of New Year Resolutions. Here are a few: 1]  I will re-organise  (US spell-checker interfering once more, wanting a 'z', I suppose) my clothes cupboard and a) throw some of them at a charity shop b) find my wardrobe renewed by items heretofore hanging at the back or hanging in the wrong place.  11]  I will groom my long-haired cat diligently every day in spite of his antipathy to being done underneath and suffer the consequent wounds of war.  111]  I will return the books I have taken out of the hospital library and stop counting on the fact that I am the one who deals with the 'books-out' index to hide the fact that I am overdue. 1V]  I will arrive on time at the hospital and report to the Volunteers' office, as I should, rather than sneak straight to my post on the first floor. V]  I will stop eating croissants and cheese for supper and find a healthier way to avoid cooking. V1]  I will take more exercise and cease deliberately to avoid thinking about the person close to me who goes routinely to Boot Camp, which makes me feel guilty, inadequate and stiff.   V11]  I will go regularly to Eire to see my dear friend who lives there and not grumble about the exigencies of current air travel. I will cease to  be too mean to stay over-night in an hotel because, as it happens, the young are worth far more than I am and are certainly not awaiting an inheritance.  V111]  I will endeavour to differentiate between appropriate interventions in the affairs of strangers and those that are a b....y cheek. eg It is acceptable to smile at and encourage a young Mother with a screaming baby on a full flight but not to tell off the lout who leaned over his chair to ask her what sort of Mother she was. On reflection, it was wrong to tell him off: it had consequences.  Murder would have worked better .1X]  I will do my best to accept my calendar age and grow up from the forty of my phantasy age.  X] The thing is, the only resolution I have any hope of keeping is the one not to make any New Year Resolutions.  Bore da and Blwyddwyn Newydd Dda ( Can you imagine the reaction of the spell-checker?)

Monday, 28 December 2015

No Room in the Inn

Thinking seasonally, it suddenly seemed to me that the story of the search for a place for Mary to give birth may actually be as significant as the birth, itself.  No, don't protest yet: see what you think after I have had a go at explaining. The whole question of acceptability and confidence which comes with knowing who and where you are must be fundamental to human well-being, don't you think? The symbolic possibilities in the situation in which the Holy Family found themselves are endless. As we can't help but notice, there is currently a mind-blowing number of people on this planet without homes. More than just being without, they are exiled and destitute. It must be inconceivable to live any kind of 'ordinary' life in these circumstances. Giving birth on a dinghy will surely have echoes of giving birth in a barn.

 From those thoughts evolved  thoughts about  rejection, of feeling not wanted anywhere by anyone. People who find themselves in the wrong body, those who turn out to be a disappointment to those supposed to love and like them most must  constantly feel as if  forced in to an out-building on the farm of life. At all levels and in countless predicaments this feeling proves the rocky bed on which survival scrambles to take a hold. I have watched a cat of my acquaintance, who had an unsettled and unreliable early start in life grow from anger, fear and unreachability, even using his host's carpet as a litter tray, in to a joyful, lovable master of all he surveys. He lies unguarded, all the yard (meter) of him, on forbidden surfaces and greets in-comers with a sweet welcome and an invitation to play. I am not sure that humans with similar backgrounds would be able so genuinely and completely to overcome such an unpromising early life. It seems to me that not feeling wanted becomes a sort of fault-line. Thereafter, it is only too easy to regard a perceived rejection as being due to an inadequacy or characteristic in oneself that makes one unwantable. The pivotal thing about Mary, I think, was that she had the support of her husband and a batch of kings and assorted others who turned up in time, it seems, to find her clean and tidy holding a Baby who, according to most depictions of Him, had the look of a baby at least three months old. There is never a sign of blood and gore nor the exhaustion one would have expected after such a difficult and insanitary confinement. Nor does Joseph ever look to me to be someone with the presence of mind and resourcefulness to cut the umbilical cord. Ah well, in such a story anything can be made possible. Veracity is not always preferable to imagination, or, as the saying goes, why spoil a good tale with the truth?  Bore da

Friday, 4 December 2015

Received Wisdom

It was a toss up, whether to call this post  "Received Wisdom"  or "These I Have Learned", or, even, " Wisdom Received". Anyway, the intention is to address myself to all you youngsters out there to help prepare you for 75 on the outside and 40 where it matters. 1) Forget running for that 'bus. Catch the next one. 11) Allow enough time for 'bus-missing. 111) Either throw away your belts or keep your waist beltable.  1V) Do not drop things on to the floor. Your middle hinge will be too rusty to retrieve them. V) Do your best to help maintain standards, eg 'i' before 'e' except after 'c', See above. Do not use 'get' or its relatives. Supply a verb which will do the trick accurately.  Do not add words for emphasis, eg very unique. Is it unique or isn't it.  Kill off  'importantly' unless it is in a clause with a verb to which it applies. Remember your manners - literally keep bringing them to mind. In your older years you will find yours is the only generation which has any.

V1)  Clothes provide a whole catalogue of their own. Here what the Guru calls "Age Appropriate" applies. Throw out the denim. Throw out the narrow-legged trousers - women, and the baseball caps - men. If you must dye your hair pay through the nose so that you, your hairdresser and the junior who washes it are the only ones who know. If you are determined to do it at home, don't. No more bikinis and if you say you still look good in them, I find that very hard to believe. Watch out for swollen ankles - women - so that skirts may not do it for you if you have them: swollen ankles, that is. Watch out for droopy trousers - men. You have shrunk. Have them shortened. 'T' shirts are just about alright, particularly with sleeves at least to the elbow. If they have words on them bin them even if the words say "Keep Calm and ask Mum" or "Dad". No decolltage -women: Don't tell me your neck area is not a touch wrinkled. No chest hair - men. Do up that top button . No more bare arms - women, No ill-fitting false teeth - both. Use nothing which is a) shabby b) not pristine nor sparkling clean. Keep your glasses clean; you will need all the help you can acquire to see where you are going. By the way, I mean spectacles but you should keep your drinking glasses clean, too, (See under 'pristine').

V11) Do not try to flirt.  Throw out archness. It is toe-curlingly embarrassing to observe the elderly dealing with A. N.  Other as if they were still in their teens or twenties. Indeed, throw out any device which looks good on a young person: it will not be a good look on you post middle-age.Above all, keep learning and do let the young teach their Grandmother to suck eggs. Bore da