Friday, 24 October 2014

Wellbeing

At this point in time - I can't believe I said that - anyway, currently, I can say I am a fairly well being. (Because, Dear Reader, I am allergic to jargon and cliche is why). Having out-run the Grim Reaper two years ago I am in a condition much as you would expect an elderly lady to be. I have not gone back to my pre-condition but I am still quite fluent in the day to day requirements of the 'Survived'. One of the amazing people who saved me at the time told me I should regard myself as having run two full marathons, uphill carrying a bicycle, or some such, on my back. It took me ten days to regain my strength simply having heard her say that. But seriously, the state of one's body and its capacities do take up rather too much time and management the further one moves from the long-distance running days of yore.

If you learn to listen to your body it will tell exactly what the source of the pain may be. I have been talking to a friend who has had an intractable stiffness in her neck for a very long time. When she asked herself what factor was a 'pain in the neck' in her life she realised it was her boss and, in due course, changed her job. Don't laugh. Try it yourself. Another related yarn: someone I know suffered difficulty in swallowing. He spent days with various specialists working, without success, to resolve his predicament, living on soup, mousse and jelly. (Not American jelly but American 'jello'.) In the end, responding to the question " What can't you swallow?" he identified a severe upset with the circumstances of his life and took steps to sort it out. It's fun, isn't it, trying to translate the idiom in to the underlying truth. It reminds me of trying to understand my beloved cat's efforts to inform me. "What kind of miaow?" I would ask her and she would obligingly miaow again and again and again until the stupid two-legger got the message. A woman I met who suffered permanent back ache had frail, elderly parents in another town, a difficult partner and four teen-age monsters. Well, she would, wouldn't she, with the load she was carrying.The difficulty lies in trying to work out what is a bodily expression of some inner world hassle, what is a medical condition requiring qualified treatment and what is down to three score and ten years of wear and tear. My forty-year-old inner voice spends fruitless minutes persuading my elderly outer self that this or that pain is nothing to do with anno domini and should be atended to fifthwith. On the other hand, many General Practioners will collude to dismiss the concerns of the no-longer-young with a sort of what-do-you-expect-at-your-age prescription. I am reminded of the story of two no-longer-young musicians who, on meeting, would start with an organ recital. Bore da

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Omnipotence

One minute I am sure there is nothing new in the world and the next I am driven in to a corner in a darkened room aware that so much is new there is no way I can hope to assimilate it, not even all, but enough to survive in the here and now. (It's kinder not to groan at me: after all, that's what the blog is about. ) I was thrust in to the current realisation because my foot slipped off the clutch pedal of my car. I asked the Guru if there existed such things as non-slip covers for car pedals. He likes driving and is boysie about cars, when he was little routinely taking them apart to see how they worked;(No, silly: his toy cars.)If you are young enough, you won't be surprised that he told me to search-engine it. Well, truth be told, he mentioned the name of the search-engine, but, as I keep telling you, I don't say 'Hoover' either and I am b....y minded about making a verb out of a noun and thereby providing free advertising. (Perhaps that last would do better in green ink. Listen, I can barely use the computer let alone change its colour nor even find its paragraphs.) Bless him, he does persist in trying to drag me in to the world everyone else is living in. Having said that, the Father of my Children doesn't even have a computer. Considering the breadth of his interests and capabilities, this could be surprising. However, he is not good with frustration - who is -and has taken the wise decision not to put himself through it. It may also be that where he lives it would cause quite a stir were he to throw it out of one of the windows.(paragraph) Yesterday, I went to see one of the most human, funny and altogether satisfying films I have ever seen. In the context of this post, I mention it because I had quite a challenging journey to a cinema showing it. To avoid one of the necessary three bus-legs I drove to the point where the second bus started. No problem there: the problem was finding somewhere to leave the car. I do have the right to park on a single yellow line by virtue of my Blue 'Disabled' badge but for three hours only. It took me so long to find a solution I nearly missed the film. The point being that, had I search-engined it, I would have found it showing almost within walking distance of where I live: humph. There is a sort of mysticism about the cyber world. It's as if the phantasy of omnipotence sometimes experiencced by the teenaged young has come true. There is something/someone out there who really does know everything on earth and elsewhere that is capable of being known. I have been honoured to know several young people who indulged in day-dreams of being an oracle, a greek God from whom all knowledge flowed, myself included. Therefore,after three score and a lot more than ten, it's not surprising, surely, that I am finding something weird about this phenomenon coming to pass. One can access car pedal covers, information about a relative living in Hawaii, Marmite - even if it arrives in a jar too big to stand on a shelf- the forgotten maiden name of a college friend not seen for sixty years, the unruly doings of people in the news and, I am told, pictures of the streets where we live. I am aware that this particular obsession of mine crops up with potentially boring frequency. I beg you to forgive me. I am as a child in front of a toy shop window: everything is possible but there is so much out there I feel terrified and have to go away empty handed. It is as if we had so little faith in an all-knowing, all powerful God that we have had to create one. Now I have a headache. I shall go in search of an analgesic without benefit of engine. And so to bed. Nos da

Friday, 3 October 2014

Sod's Law

Many years ago, I drafted a law that has continued to rule my life ever since. This was 'Sod's Law'. I am aware it is not the most elegant of titles but it seems the most apposite. "The co-operation of factors which are random and fortuitous operates in inverse ratio to the urgency of the need". To wit: When you have no need of a taxi, three plying for hire will pass you in as many minutes - or fewer. When you are desperately late and it's raining there is no sign of a 'For Hire' from where you are standing right up to the distant horizon. My most recent example pertains to a cancelled hospital appointment. I was to see an Opthamologist some Wednesdays ago. This appointment was cancelled and no replacement offered. I went to the department, I telephoned it and the appointments office for the whole out-patient system many times and got absolutely nowhere. Made robotic by the need to have a problem with one of my eyes resolved, came a day when I spent the whole morning on the phone, an automata with a dialling finger. Finally, I came upon a human who was familiar with the situation and was able to tell me that the person who made appointments was not there but would be in the next day. Noting in my diary to provide sustenance and water for the next day's waiting time I went down to pick up the post which had just arrived. You have guessed correctly: there on the mat was a letter from the hospital offering me an appointment in a few day's time:that wouild be Sod's law in triplicate. Examples come avalanching out so fast the old man in the archives is barely able to keep to his feet. You, too, will have experienced the toothache that goes as you ring the Dentist's door bell: the longed-for invitation that arrives just after you have committed to selling flags on a windy winter street for some charity you didnt even catch the name of. Sometimes it is possible to reverse the effect or create a solution which defeats the letter of the law without actually, criminally breaking it. During the scarlet swimsuit holiday, the Guru and I took a public ferry to an island opposite the bit of coast we were staying at. We drove five miles to the little emabarking port and left the hired car to bake itself in the sunshine. While lunching by the harbour, having a need for a comfort stop I encountered a lady who was staying at the same hotel. She and her husband had come in the hotel's private yacht. When offered a ride back on board with them, I demurred, saying we couldn't because we had left the car at the harbour. Reporting this to the Guru, he looked at me as if I had come from out of Space. "Blow the car," said he, "I will walk back on my knees, if necessary, to get it." While he froze with with hot embarrassment and tried to stop me, I went back to the lady and rescinded my polite refusal with an even politer acceptance. I have now totally lost the thread of where this fits with Sod's law. I think I may have been trying to say that having denied the co-operation of factors offering the Guru and me the unique chance of a voyage on a delightful private yacht I was able to restore the situation and comply with the Law after all. I need some sea air to clear my head. Bore da

Friday, 26 September 2014

Infantalisation

If you are anywhere near my age prepare to have your gander rise. The situation is thus: the tablets, pills and capsules which fuel the engine of my physical health, arrive in partmentalised boxes, one for each of four weeks. The boxes consist of little spaces covered with film, labelled by day and by time, to wit: Monday, Tuesdat etc., breakfast, lunch, tea and bed. These boxes are called, rather coyly, 'dosettes'. I am sure you are ahead of me, but just for affirmation, the two risks you have spotted are 1) If you drop one you still have to take it, 2) likewise if the cat has been playing football with it, because there is no happy box containing replacements. The 'not only but also' of this frustrating situation is the delivery of these dosettes. Up until this week, I have collected them from the local pharmacy in passing, any of the few days before the due date. Needing plasters - bandaid in Mountview California - I went in to the relevant pharmacy on Saturday preceding the Tuesday when a new four-box allocation was due. I asked for them and was told "Tuesday". I said it was going to be a problem to come Tuesday and here I was, now, so where was the problem? "Tuesday" was the firm response. "We are not allowed to give them before the due date". Irrelevant that I had always had them on or about. "That's the rule. Due date". Dear Reader, I lost it. I ranted that I was a mature, intelligent, responsible person and could guarantee I was not going to take the contents of every single dosette with one cup of coffee in one fell swoop. (What is that, by the way?) I think fear of having to hospitalise me for overwheening rage encouraged the pharmacist and the manager to give in and hand me the four dosettes already elastic-banded together so very evidently ready. Being old is a two-way street. There are huge advantages and equal disadvantages. I don't like the way it makes me feel to be treated as if I were a not too bright four year old, but I welcome the help when I can't easily get in and out of a taxi. But then,a plus, I do indulge in taxis from the profligacy of advanced years. I asked two of the people close to me to point it out if ever they saw signs of dementia in me. "How would we know?" was the response, "You were always eccentric". Humph. I worry that I am often left out of things because other people take the decision about my physical capabilities. I was not invited on one occasion, for instance, where there are steep stairs to negotiate. I would rather creep down the stairs holding grimly on to the banister than endure the feeling of being excluded. As a result, I worry about decisions I took, in the name of good parenting, for my young when I thought they were not equipped to take these decisions, themselves. I hereby apologise. Now I know how it must have felt. It was probably not for me to embargo high heels for a fourteen-year old on the basis that they would ruin her still forming feet. All her friends were wearing them. She was a pariah and I was a Gorgon. A last thought: I have been reading a novel in French, (in order to oil it, silly - the French, not the novel) I was asked by the young if I had had to look up many words. I told them it was not too many. "Google is so good for that" said they. Not for me, I didn't even consider it, remember it. I turned the flimsy pages of my war-time printed French-English dictionary to find what I needed and stuck them back with cellotape when they fell apart. Bore da

Friday, 19 September 2014

Indian Summer

Unless you have been very unlucky, you will have been enjoying the most delightful and cherishing Indian Summer: late-ish September and warm sunshine and lovely pale blue skies with little brushes of white. The early mornings and the evenings are cool to cold so it's a cardigan on and presently taken off. Nighties, cotton but heavy and with sleeves and a dilemma about whether to re-instate the duvet or not yet It comes to me that this is a very edifying metaphor for old age. Old age, as I experience it, is warm and pleasant in the middle, with serious disadvantages at either end. Discomfort and disability nibble early and late. If I sit for long - not even too long - I have to get up very carefully and stand still a second or two to gain equilibrium before stepping forward. At night, I can no longer sleep in my preferred and habitual position on my right side because that now hurts my back. So I sleep on my back, which fancy tells me, is why I have psychedelic dreams. But the days, as I said, are warm and welcoming and full of lovely sights. The trees are turning slowly in to their autumn colours and there are Worcester Pearmain apples, if only I could find the shops which sell them. The metaphor, as you will have noticed, conveys the sense of small pleasures, well-known but no longer easy to access, subject to the threat of early frost in spite of the sun. (Picture a new paragraph, if you please). When the trees begin to lose their leaves, I shall have to think of contemporary friends who have also dropped off the branch. A few weeks ago, with the Father of my Children, I had dinner with college friends who now live in the States, whom I hadn't seen for sixty years. Actually, that's not quite true. I had seen the lady but not her husband. The Father had not seen either. Three minutes after we met the other three were deep in political discussion and I was reminded of the passion of those cocoa evenings when we were all about twenty or so. I kept rather quiet, being parsimonious in the political interest field. Then I was asked a direct question about my response to the contested actions of a certain politician. Trapped, I said the first thing which came in to my head:"He must have known something I didn't". Dear Reader, I got away with it. In the Spring of my days I was no more politicised than I am now in the Indian Summer so I was left both relieved and guilty because my response could have arisen from deep and prolonged consideration rather than from fright about how I was going to mask my disgraceful ignorance. (Picture another paragraph if you don't mind). Just as some activities don't work when it is no longer summer, so it is with some activities now that one is in the winter of one's life. "I could have danced all night" was then. not now. The other day I went to hear the Guru's band play in the ballroom of the Festival Hall. People were dancing to the music and I suddenly realised I had been dancing on those very same boards sixty one years before. Good Lord, that was before anyone else in the crowd was even born. The thing is, at this end of my life, I couldn't join in the dancing, but I could, and did, enjoy and swell with pride at what the Guru has achieved and was giving to us all. So, there is no anticipation of a winter of discontent in this glorious Indian Summer and, anyway, it is exactly two years since I survived to leave hospital so, Happy Anniversary. Bore da PS It occurs to me, rereading the above, that my delight in the Indian Summer metaphor left me vague in articulating it. Quite simply, I meant that the new - or newish - pleasures and re-experiences of exceedingly old age are mirrored by the summer warmth of the autumn sun. Prynhawn da

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Transmission resumed

It has been scarlet swimsuit time. For those of you new to the site and without time to browse backwards, scarlet swimsuit time is when I take that item and other relevant ones on holiday to the sea-side in France. The Guru came with me which made the whole thing manageable. I see that, in my life, there have been five stages of travel management: the first as a single person breezing through controls with a few pairs of clean underwear, an extra blouse (no 'T' shirts then),and a hairbrush packed in to a small carry-on case, swanning through with the Father of my children taking charge, hand baggage and baggage in the hold, muddling through with small people in tow,nappy -filled hand baggage and baggage in the hold, back to a singleton, eyeing a likely strong arm to help me take my cases off the carousel and, finally, wheelchair pinned with medication safely in hand baggage on my knee and baggage in the hold. Anyway, it was a lovely short - too short - break and the Guru, who generously helps me in and out of the sea, avoided dropping me under the waves this time.The scarlet swimsuit also brought to mind another one I had when expecting one of the young. This one had a black top to under the bosom and was red below that, rather baggy as I recall. Some months pregnant, when in the sea, the swimsuit filled up with water via the ill-fitting leg part and left me in danger of having a boat tie up to me in the reasonable belief I was a bouy. It is not easy, remembering the snows of yesteryear, to settle for the constraints of now, but I am not doing too badly as is regularly re-inforced when I am working at the local hospital and see rather much of what people have to endure simply to get from breakfast to bed. In that line of thought, the other day I noticed a piece in the paper which said that one's waist ought to measure no more than half one's height if one were to live a long life. (Goodness knows how these statistics are arrived at. How many people were stopped in the street by a human with a tape measure and asked to stand up against a lampost with a nick in it to show the ideal distance from the ground?) My waist is nearly half as much again as is allowed by this dictum. I had a moment of panic, picturing my imminent demise then suddenly heard my inner voice bellowing "Good Lord, woman: what are you worrying about? You are extremely old already". No chance of narrowing the waist nor delaying the inevitable then. As it happens, demise is rather sadly in mind. Those of you on the blog-alert list will know, already, that my beloved four-legged friend died a few weeks ago, so forgive me while I tell the others. She is profoundly missed and lies under a semi-circular head stone near the gate on the path to the front door. Bringing the scarlet swimsuit home had a poignant newness to it. There was no-one winding in and out of my legs, purring and tearing at my suitcase with her claws. No-one who loves and is loved on a basis of total trust and little disappointment - for her, none for me. I have managed to stop feeling guilty about the depth of the loss. She was a huge part of my life for more than fifteen years and the pain is a reality which I am allowing to be perfectly appropriate. She had rested at the Vet's for a few days after the event and came back in a white cardboard box, covered with painted flowers and inscribed with her name. I couldn't want anything different for myself, though I think it had better not be in the garden by the gate. Whatever would the young tell the Estate Agent? Bore da

Friday, 22 August 2014

Irony

The Oxford Dictionary seems to me rather cautious in its definition of 'irony'. It reads something like expressing a view in terms the direct opposite of that which you actually mean. Personally, I use it to describe the cheek of, say, the Wizard of Cyberspace when he hijacks my work and whisks it off in to the ether. It is as if someone with a rather malicious sense of humour presents you with a seemingly rational declaration which is the opposite of what you were expecting and is really meant to humiliate and flatten you, back to your ignominious status as a raving idiot. Today, what brought it to mind was my eyeliner. It is sold on the basis that it is virtually indelible. (When I say 'eyeliner' I mean for the bottom rim of your eye not for lining the bottom edge of the eyelid). Anyway, I find that it is not in the least indelible and is very soon lining a quarter of an inch of the skin below my eye. The irony is that from there it IS indelible and requires a good six minutes to erase, not to mention stretching the delicate skin of that area. "I wish you luck with that" can often mean "there's an ice-cube's chance in Hell" of whatever it is you are wishing for coming to pass. "You don't say" means "you have spoken but I don't believe a word of it". Problems are inevitable when an ironist is in intercourse with a pedant. The one is mischievous, the other precise. As you can imagine, the chorus of such an exchange would be a series of " But you saids". My Mother used regularly to say it was a good drying day when it was chucking it down with rain. We didn't call it irony but it did rather cease to be funny after the first ten years or so. There's another point: it is often intended to be funny in a positive way, as, surely, my Mother meant it to be. "The squirrels are enjoying the figs" is a regular comment about a friend's garden where a large fig tree, given to her by her daughter when she moved in, is heavy with fruit which is eaten by the dear litle furry things (!) before she can harvest them, herself. I can't think why we British emigrate. Irony rarely translates in to another language never mind in to the mores of elsewhere. I suspect we are seen, ironically,as rather impolite in our politeness. Visiting a relative in the States (not in Mountainview Ca, I hasten to aver) I quickly earned a reputation with which I was not really comfortable, for being difficult to understand in conversation. Ironically, so were they. I was not good at the literal in spite of being a seaker after truth, precision and exactitude in my striving to be comprehensible. There's an irony in spades for you Bore da