Sunday, 29 May 2016


The exhausted memory prompter inside my head reports a general feeling, but not surety, that I have touched on this subject before. Then again, conversational repetition is another congenital aspect of growing old. What I have in mind is finding ways to get round and manage the hiccups and vicissitudes of physical - and mental -  handicaps that go with the elderly organism

The famous one is. of course, "What else shall I do while I am down here?" My trick when offering my short dark handsome housemate some food or drink on the tray permanently awaiting his delectation, is  to drop the empty plates from a not too dramatic height and then throw the food - dry of course - on to one of them. Milk is trickier so requires another inch of bentability to achieve the same goal. Water is lowered from a glass in to a waiting bowl and the subsequent splash cleaned up by he who drinks . I recommend a shower  above a bath. Most unfortunate would be to find you can't get out of the d... thing once having scrambled in. In the same vein, take a telephone in to the bathroom with you and, if single, wait until a friendly other is also in the house. Mind you, that other would have to be unshockable given the lack of glamour in the elderly appearance. Trousers work better than skirts because you can wear socks with them and thus avoid the contortionist requirement of pulling on tights. If desperate to wear a skirt, you could try pop socks. But I should warn you that many a laugh - usually kindly - has been prompted by the sight of a pale, creased knee peeping from the edge of a rather too short and/or too tight skirt.  You will need a shoe-horn with a long handle to put your shoes on.(What does that make you think of?)   Otherwise, should the vicinity lack such a thing, an ordinary table knife will do, but, obviously,  a kitchen knife may lead to a new problem: how to apply a plaster (band-aid) to the back of your foot when you can't lift it  up as far as your arm will reach.  In the UK a badge is issued to people with lessened mobility which entitles them to more flexible parking possibilities. Don't leave home without it. Women, make sure you have a tinted foundation to hand. Age does nothing for the colour of your skin. Well, actually, it does do something: it makes it sallow and dreary. Again, don't leave home without it. Ultimately, stick as close as you can to what is real. Dyed hair, stage make-up, denim trousers, baseball caps: don't leave home with them.  And when your stick falls to the ground for the double-umpteenth time, smile at the nearest able-bodied, least likely to be a mugging murderer and ask if she/he would be kind enough to pick it up. Bore da

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Pros and Cons

Yesterday I underwent an MRI scan. The idea was to see if a picture emerged that would show more about what was going on in my spine and, thus, to find new ways of treating the discomfort. Among you Dear Readers out there there may be those who have not experienced the pleasure of being entombed or, rather, encoffined, in a cold room full of unidentifiable bits of machinery and rather a lot of white-coated attendants. In order, presumably, to make it more palatable one is offered a selection of recorded music to play through the headphones which are, primarily, meant to enable the technician to communicate with the patient.  I chose Bach. This was a mistake of some sizeable proportions.  If there are some of you out there without  the experience, I should explain that the procedure is noisy. At least, that is the position in the UK.  With usual British understatement, though, I have hesitated to say that by 'noisy' I mean that a pneumatic drill with bells whistles and knobs on playing at the side of the bed on which you sleep would seem like a baby's lullaby in comparison. I was acutely aware of Herr Bach wobbling in his grave swearing to bar me for ever from any further relationship with his music.

Of course, it is edifying and a blessing that this modern  method may contribute so much to one's well-being: likewise the X Ray machine and the other bits and bobs which keep us living in good health long after our goers-before would have dropped off the tree. Even the laptop and, I suppose, the Internet, which makes it possible for me to chat to you would have felt like science fiction even to my parents' generation. (Remember I am very old, therefore my parents would probably have been born when your great grandparents were).  The problems arise when these things break down. If you have committed your life to your computer and/or your mobile telephone, (cell) and the devices are lost, stolen or fall in to the bath you will soon learn the true meaning of Chaos and, no doubt, further manifestations of the anger of the Gods and the Wizard of Cyberspace.  I am seriously worried about the dependence on technology, no, the inevitability of technology,  that my young and the generation of the Guru, who is younger than my young, accept as the norm. I can see human beings turning in to automata who simply cannot function in the way many of us actually still do  It reminds me of a time when Himself and I were in transit from Hong Kong to Nice via London. The incoming flight was late and Himself asked an attendant at the Transit Desk to let Air France know we were on our way. The young lady explained their computer was not compatible with hers. "Try telephoning" enunciated Himself very slowly.  Goodness knows if she did or not but we did make the flight. Prynhawn da

Friday, 13 May 2016

If only....

Two things have evolved to brighten my life as I have grown even older. 1) I absolutely don't have to eat my greens and 2)  I don't have to hold back on some of the ripostes and/or deeds which, before, would remain politely unsaid or un-done. So you can be sure you have the gist, an example would be that approaching the outside steps to the entrance of my local hospital I veer to the right because on that side is a complete hand-rail. On the left it starts short. Inevitably, some able-bodied lout/ess will attempt to pass me on the right. Yesterday, I swivelled round and said icily "You will find there is more room on the other side of me".

It is worth bearing in mind that visitors to the Out Patient clinics whose enquiry desk I staff are, perforce, stressed and anxious. Nevertheless, they are also too often rude. When someone barks at me "Where are the stairs?" I meekly direct them to the closed doors behind which there finds itself a staircase. Under my breath I spit "Where it says 'Stairs' ".I now allow myself to say it above my breath. This is reckless in the extreme and likely to be a sacking offence. There is no real excuse for rude to be met by rude whatever the age of the combatants. However, the sign is two feet tall and bright red and it gets a bit (lot) wearisome when, out of 181 queries 50 of them are for the stairs. (Because we are issued with a clicker to press for each query, of course. What did you think? ) I have recently been known to march to a lovely window table in a restaurant where I was  being shown to one next to the toilet facilities. I have waited all my adult life just imagining this defiance. Last week I actually told the man who cuts  and dresses my hair that I found it too fancy. Normal practice would have been to pop in to the nearest public loo and brush it in to something more sedate and age- appropriate, as the Guru puts it. Sadly, some of the 'I-wish-I-hads it is now too late for. Family pressure stopped me buying a motor bike when I had a holiday studio outside my home town, where the 'bus service was unreliable and, in any case, didn't go from door to door. This meant that I was obliged to drive two hundred miles in order to have wheels when I got there. Now, even I don't think an old lady with balance problems ought, at this stage, to be riding a motor-bike.. Oh dear, I wish I had danced more. I wish  had done more naughty things. Gap years were the times your elderly Grandfather forgot when he had done what so there was no round-the-world exploration and no frolicking in the moonlight in far away places. Someone close to me has told me of an article suggesting that cannibis was good for pain. My Doctor agrees but is not able to prescribe it. So how to go about acquiring some. I can't ask the young in case they assume I assume they are using it. So, picture Liz, at Camden Town Underground station, for instance, with paper money clutched in her hot little hand, a very old lady waiting to see from whom she may score,( which, back in the day, meant netball.). I don't think so.   Bore da

Sunday, 1 May 2016


One of the current customs that most emphatically brings out the green ink in me is the one where a total stranger, whose call you have neither initiated, expected nor welcomed will address one as Elizabeth, and even more presumptuous in my aged eyes, ask me how I am. I assume this is a taught device to make me feel cared about and interesting to the caller. I cannot possibly type the words my inner voice erupts with but, rest assured, they are words guaranteed to over turn anyone's Mother in her grave.

Daily I have unsolicited emails which start with my given name. I know, we all do. It is the kind of recognisable manipulation which has me grinding my teeth. I have a vision of some P.R guru teaching his client what is most likely to capture the consumer.  I have noticed, for instance, that politicians, at the moment, are saying about the UK "our country". "Our country will be this or that if we do this or that for our country". I suppose one of the examples we come across pretty early on in life is the price-tag which shows a sum of money one penny short  of the next higher pouind level. You know what I mean: £39.99, which is £40 as far as the Bank Manager is concerned. Even being aware of this contrivance, the inner eye will sometimes register £39 and feel it is getting a bargain. There is an advertisement on television as we speak that pushes a product that eliminates wrinkles. Look very closely and there is a tiny disclaimer flashing at the bottom which says "temporary effect".I can't quite remember but I think I must have told you recently I bought a new car. I am delighted with it but it has one - at least - design fault. There is a radio which forms part of the dashboard but the CD player is in the glove compartment: yes, really. When I challenged the salesman he told me, waving his hand across the gap in front of the passenger seat, that it was to make more room inside the car. It actually means the car was never intended for someone who usually drives alone nor on a motorway. "I'm sorry, Officer, I just stopped  here in the middle of the M4 to change the CD". I don't think so.  No, the salesman wasn't being ironic, he was deadly serious. So, there was I, being taken for a fool in a manipulation that would not have worked for a toddler. I don't doubt that there are scores of examples when even a cynic like me won't have noticed the half/non truths but I really, truly object when the manipulation is in my face. It is both the humiliation of being had and the annoyance of being no further forward with the truth. Someone of my acquaintance will change significant arrangements at the drop of a better offer and excuse it by saying "things change". Perhaps you can hear my teeth grinding from where you are. Bore da

Friday, 22 April 2016


If there is one thing guaranteed indubitally and speedily to evoke my green ink reaction  it is what I perceive as the deterioration of manners. Once a week I staff the patients' enquiry desk at the out-patients' clinics in my local hospital. The clinics are busy and the flow of queries constant. I will have been at my desk only four minutes and be in process of answering a where-is-it query when another enquirer will cut across the extant exchange and demand information about something else. Without fail, each session, a young Doctor will stop at the desk, put her/his papers down, pick up the internal phone and make a call. That concluded, she/he will pick up that which was dumped down and move on. After several years of this I have recently taken to calling " you are welcome" after the offender. I have no way of knowing if this registers or not and, so far, I have received no complaints from Management.

Walking down the street close to any passing wall, inevitably, some strong young person will overtake on the wall side and then shoot in front of me in to a passing  shop. The other day I went for a simple procedure to a well-known London hospital. I was collected by a porter who was to take me upstairs to the day-patient unit. While waiting for the lift we were joined by a young man speaking on his telephone. When the lift arrived, he strode right passed me and straight in to the lift. I glared, well you would wouldn't you? Did he apologise? No, he did not. In revenge I placed myself in the middle of the lift so that it would be impossible for him to get out before me. Two young school girls were seated in the ' less able to stand' reserved seats on a crowded 'bus. They left a heavily pregnant and a rather old lady standing. As I reached my stop I asked them what school they went to. Dear Reader, I wrote to the Head Mistress and suggested there may a better way to promote her school. In reply came a postcard which more or less dismissed me as out of touch with reality. The examples are endless. Two little boys were rushing about with wooden swords in the waiting area of  my GP practice. The Mother was reading the paper. Eventually, the tried and tested Receptionist leaned out of her box and told them to sit down and keep quiet, this was not a playground. the Mother continued to read the paper. How did this all come about? I am by no means the only one to have noticed this phenomenon. What is it about current life that permits us to treat one another contemptuously and without considerstion? Why is it that my friends and acquaintances of all ages do agree that manners have just about ceased to exist and yet there is no sign of amelioration? Perhaps it is a subliminal fear that the world, as it is, may come to an end and us with it so 'self'  must be preserved and put first regardless. It would be good to know what you think. In the meantime, I must make sure what it is I have actually touched with my foot before I apologise to my black handbag thinking it is my black  cat. Bore da

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Little Things

Have you noticed how, when lives are seriously busy, it is only too easy to neglect the chore of putting small things to rights? It is a long time since I was that busy but I have not lost the habit of leaving in the 'to do' list anything which doesn't immediately risk a conflagration or, worse, the departure of my unfed cat.  (Nonsense|: he gets fed a great deal more regularly than I do. I was just looking for dramtic effect).

I have had to close my eyes for some time, now, against the chaos on my desk. One of the contributing factors to this mess was the disappearance of my stapler. Since this old lady does very little online there is inevitably  much paper necessary to cover my way of being in the world.  Yesterday, I gave in and bought a new one. When pitched against spinal injections and various anti-pain remedies, a stapler can't possibly represent much significance. Dear reader, it does. In next to no time half the chaos had been sorted and it was only my stomach's capacity for this particularly dreary task that stopped me sorting the half of the desk where there are papers and so on of less pressing urgency. If you are of a squeamish disposition please jump a few lines now. Ready?  My cat has been known to use a bidet for certain essential natural matters. Easy: turn the water on and rinse it out. Not so easy: for too long the water failed to drain efficiently from the bowl.  My 'one of these days' was turning in to rather a nasty state of affairs. All I had to organise myself to do was to go downstairs, fetch the Drain Busting lotion and pour it and some boiling water down the plughole. Hey Presto, clean bidet. Mind you, Himself was offended by the unfamiliar smell and wandered off to find a more congenial venue. Don't ask: I haven't located it yet. I suspect cat hair, since he is Persian and has rather a lot of it. The small hand held screw and bottle top openers I bought after months of waiting for a nurse or someone else likely to have cleanish hands to open my water bottle as I staffed the Out Patients Enquiry desk at the local hospital have changed my life. There is one in my hand-bag and one in my go-to-work bag.  The little thing in this case being the purchase of the second one so that one alone would never be in the place where I was not.  (I may have told you this before: senior moment). But best of all, I have brought up to my room, where I usually live when on my own, a shaker of sea salt   so I can adjust the flavour of the supper I have brought up on a tray without the drag of tackling the stairs or eating food which is blander than suits. Not quite best: I have  also bought a car with automatic gears. This is rather a bigger than littler adjustment to life but, having trained my left foot to keep quiet and learnt what its incessant beeps are trying to tell me - the car, not my foot - I am now drifting around this crowded city with cramp in the right foot and boredom in the left. Bore da

Saturday, 19 March 2016


Browsing through a book in the hospital library where I volunteer, I noticed the phrase "She rose to her feet in one graceful move". In my case, this would read "She lumbered to her feet in four clumsy heaves". It came to me that there must be a multitude of similar examples of the out-of-date. "He drew her to him in an embrace that foretold of wonderous things to come". "He gave her a peck on her cheek, helped her in to a taxi and sent her on her way". "Her bosom swelled with the need she felt for him". "She was a touch breathless having climbed the stairs to the Restaurant he had chosen". Mind you, it is true to say I was working in the section labelled 'Romance' at the time.

However, it doesn't stop there. "This desirable property is a five minute walk from the Underground". No, this desirable property is a fifteen minute crawl from the Underground. (Helping a friend re-locate, since you ask). "It is quicker by Underground". No, it is not. Covering the distances and dealing with the stairs in all the London Underground stations takes seven times as long as the journey itself. Yes, I have actually timed it. "Goods are cheaper if you buy them on line". Only if you have read the detailed small print - if you CAN read the small print. Which seriously old lady needs a pot of Marmite the size of a football?  "The wind blew around her hair in a golden halo". "The wind made such a mess of her wisps she was obliged to turn back to put on a beret". "How lovely to sit in the sun and gradually toast". "How stupid to sit in the sun and risk wrinkles on your wrinkles and other injuries to your skin". "An all night party? What fun!" "An all night party. How can I possibly get out of it". "This is definitely the latest in popular music". "What on earth is making that ear-splitting racket?" A while ago there was a musical play on the life of Edith Piaf. It was a revival of a production from a number of years before that. I went with a friend to whom I proudly confided that I had heard the original. "Oh", he responded with the awe I had hoped for. "You actually heard....." and mentioned the name, which I have forgotten, of the artiste who had appeared in the previous run. "No," said I with a red but patient face. " I have actually heard Edith Piaf". You are beginning, I suspect to get the thrust. Yesterday, I spilt some soup on the kitchen floor. What with my lack of balance, my cat's curiosity and the presence of a visitor it was imperative I clean it up. I filled a container with water, found the mop and got to work. In a very small galley kitchen, my foot encountered an impediment - literally.   Dear Reader, I had kicked the bucket. Bore da