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, 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

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

These I Have Loathed

If any of you kind keepers up is as old as I am you may well remember a radio programme called "These I Have Loved". It was a programme of recordings chosen by well-known people who also gave the background to their choices. There are several programmes like it now, with selectors being interviewd.  Then, the subject just got on with listing and playing all by him/her self. Re-creating such a programme would be relatively easy and, indeed, I have known it as a sort of parlour game among friends dining together. However. the other side of that particular coin has to be "These I have loathed".

This category has been triggered by work going on in the adjoining house. The new owner, having told the neighbours on either side that he was just going to alter the patio doors at the back of the house is actually gutting the entire interior of his Grade11 listed dwelling with a drilling and a banging such as you have never heard even in the dentist's chair during root-canal work. This morning I went to see the foreman because a friend had come, in some distress, wanting  conversation and support and I couldn't hear my thoughts never mind her words. I was told, in a bland and indifferent voice, that certain work had to be done in a certain time framework and basically, by inference, to take my unreasonable self off and never darken their  door again. So, drilling on the wall common to both of us is definitely loathable. Mind you, I should confess that when I moved in a builder friend arrived to find me drilling a hole to place a picture hook. "Making a coat hook for next door, are you" he said. The next current loath is a cleaning product advertised by a loathsome man who promises "Bang and the dirt is gone." I would rather live in the dirt than use the product. I loath my aged lapses of memory and the slowness  of the man in my archives  finding the answers and even dropping some before he can deliver them.  I am not too fond of the Wizard of Cyberspace but  would be afraid of loathing him for fear of repercussions. I don't like sniffing unrelated to a cold, jars I can't open, waiting in out-patients, the condition of many public toilet facilities, intractability and people who find my external more- than-three- score- and- ten appearance an excuse for lumpen rudeness and a total disregard of  my presence in their space.  Desist: as it happens, aside from the drillers, I confess I have had rather a hard time finding things I loath. Honestly, if  it were not for the perceived need to follow a theme, I could have stopped long ago. So much for the calm tolerance of now as against the angst of yesteryear. Oh, and by the way, the man in the archive has just produced the name of the "These You Have Loved" producer: Doris Arnold. Don't you just love when a jigsaw is complete? Bore da  PS., Milk bottles on the table

Friday, 10 April 2015

If Only

My name is Elizabeth: I'm a recovering chocaholic.  I know, I know: it is only two minutes since I confessed to being an accuracholic. Well, to be quite accurate, it was about a month or five weeks ago. Sadly, the two conditions are not mutually exclusive.  Last January 20th I took the decision to climb on the 'no chocolate, no sweets' wagon; this being a more acceptable alternative to drastic medication measures that were being proposed for reasons of health. (Just how drastic can be surmised from the concommittant nature of the sacrificial alternative ). This decision had a totally unlooked for add-on bonus. One morning, taking both sides of the waistband of  my trousers in both hands and yanking them to meet in the middle, I found I had over-shot. The hook on my right side by-passed the loop on my left by about three quarters of an inch. (You work out the centimeters, or ask the Guru). I clambered on to the scales to find I weighed, fully dressed, that which I had weighed with no clothes on a day or so before. Indeed, next morning, once again in the alltogether, I found that I had lost nine pounds or roughly 3 kilos. How an eight-ounce bar of choclate can produce at least two pounds in weight is beyond my understanding. But there you are, the proof of the pudding is in the non-eating.

This brings me to another bit of green ink. "Things" as the saying goes, "are not what they used to be". Last week, I was introduced to a young person where I work. We chatted for a bit, while she observed what it was I did and how it was I was doing it. She was awsomely qualified with several first degress and further degrees and very impressive CsV. As it happened, I had occasion - or it seemed to me I had - to use a proverb, or, even, so as not to give it airs above its station, a saying. I am not prepared to take an oath but I do believe it was "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush":utter blankness, not to say incomprehension.  I had a stab at explaining: I got politeness,. I tried "A stitch in time saves nine". A what-have-I -let-myself-in-for look ensued. I couldn't say how I looked but I couldn't get my head round the fact that this delightful, intelligent, educated young person had never walked passed a proverb in her life before. I am aware that life was always " better" when we were all forty, but I am still going to stick my neck out and aver that, currently, current education is  proof of that. I have the feeling that those of  my young who have already put in  half a century were the last to be taught grammar in any formal sense. The accuracolic chocaholic in me still feels faint in the presense of "I" when it should have been "me". Indeed, there is an advertisement - for solicitors, no less -  on television at the moment where the speaker uses "I" glaringly discordantly. It may not surprise you that I rang the number referred to and asked to speak to someone responsible for advertising. Dear Reader, I got nowhere. It must have been "People in glass houses should not throw stones". Prynhawn da

Friday, 3 April 2015

Confusion

Have you noticed how school labels the days and the times for us? Attending school, one knew which day it  was because, for instance, the weekend was over so it must be Monday. Mother has reminded one to take one's gym kit so it must be Wedesnday - at least, in my school. The weekend is coming so it must be Friday and home smells of baking on that day. It was Tuesday when I went in to the town and had tea with my Mother and her friends in a place which doesn't exist anymore. (For Heaven's sake, when Hitler had finished reshaping out familiar landscape, why did we have to start pulling things down ourselves?). Later, the days are identified by other peoples' school routine; the inner notepad nagging to get the gym kit dried in time.  Machinations were required to be in two places at the same time on football/cricket days. Leave the sportsman, muddy and worn out, to wait until the littlest one has been picked up, or leave the little one to wait in the rain while the muddy one is picked up? Ironically, at one level, although I could name games' days, on another, looking after a number of other very busy people, the days all ran in to one another and I had to stop and give them their names in an attempt to hold on to the pattern required to save everyone, not just me,  from spinning in to chaos in the tumble dryer of every day..

This split turns up as we speak, the knowing and not knowing what day it is.You have Sunday every day of the ten days of Christmas. There is also Good Friday Sunday and Easter Saturday Sunday and Sunday Sunday. That  is your one true Sunday: on Easter day. I work on Mondays and Thursdays so Tuesday after Monday, could easily be Friday and it is hard to grasp that Friday actually is Friday after Thursday has passed. Ever since I  was a little girl, the names of the days have turned up to my inner eye in colour. There  is a name for this phenomenon which I can't remember. Can you help? I know it attaches to every word for some who are afflicted. However, as I was saying, the days have colours and part of the dayname muddle is the way the colours run in to one another when I am struggling to identify on which day of the week I have  made the current mess-up. Are you sure you want to know? Very well: Monday white, Tuesday dark brown, Wednesday green, Thursday light brown, Friday grey,Saturday yellow and Sunday blue and, no, since you ask, I don't have the faintest idea why. On the radio programme to which I habitually listen Sunday afternoons, are taken up by boring, talky magazine programmes. I have been typing away thinking how much more musical it is this afternoon. Good for them, bowing to popular demand. Well, actually, not so. No doubt it will bore for England when it will be Sunday: today is Friday. Prynhawn da.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Gratitude

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

Emperors

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 metaphor 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