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.

Friday, 23 January 2015


You may have noticed that, one way or another, I do rather keep on about language and the use of it. I do see it as reflective of our way of being in the world. There are rules and permissions and grammar and syntax. I see these as  clearly reflecting boundaries, patterns, containment in every area of life. The other take on this is the one that sees language as a moveable feast with no need for rules or formalised structure so long as one is understood. I read, recently, of an idea to teach children to write as they hear. The mind boggles. It reminded me of my first registered lesson in correct speech. I remembered my Mother teaching me the difference between 'can' and 'may'. "You can have another chocolate; you may not".It is  not only structure wh. should cradle us. What about the rhymes and reasons which pepper our careful language, learnt from the laps of the up-bringers

Looking back, I wish I had better understood the extraordinary power and scope of the parent in educating the young. However, on the positive side, it can be fun. Think of all those old wives' sayings. 'A stitch in time saves nine'.Fair enough: stitch up the inch of dropped hem before it turns in to six. 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'. Rather a long-term prospect, that, I suspect. 'The  sleep you have before midnight is better in quality than sleep that comes after'. I am still working on that one. I must have been a nightmare to bring up. Face value was not my stance of first response. "Because I say so" was 'a red rag to a bull'. There must be some of you old enough to remember being told you couldn't wear your favourite jumper until it was aired. Indeed, I cannot be alone in being brought up in dire fear of the damp. or was that unique to the Welsh? In theory, I suppose, it would be possible to teach a child that black was white or that day was night, such is the power of the parent as the source of all experience. How big a step would that be to arrive at Hitler Youth? Oh dear, Liz appears to have mislaid her sense of the comic and the ironic. Ultimately, calling a spade a spade, the happiest of pithy sayings would have to be' do as you would be done by'. Bore da.
   Ps I forgot to tell you that an example of an 'how to' letter for a writer to send to a publisher - as opposed to an 'how not to' letter - contained a grammatical error in the first sentence. Not only accuracholic but pedantic, too - me, not them, or I not they.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Small Things

Yesterday's crossword had the clue "a quiet small portion" to which the answer was "particle". I know, I know: you have to have a particular mindset to work out this kind of conundra. Sometimes I wish my mindset was more of the "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" ilk. It is quite tiring always to be seeing the complexity of the straightforward. However, the small things I have in mind are not of the simple cigar type. I was thinking more of the way in which age has changed my perspective so that I am measurably more aware of the small pleasures lying about now I am sufficiently freer of crowding  obligations to recognise them.

Indeed, settling down with that very crossword, lying on my bed with nothing expected of me is treasurable in itself. I would have said that the presence of a feline friend would provide the cherry on the proverbial, but the current - no aural pun intended - incumbant is still young enough to remember snuggling up to Mum and would use my hair as surrogate fur if I didn't find that an inch or so too close. It is hard to believe that, for most of my life, there wasn't time to notice the way two birds will 'chat' to one another while sitting on the same branch. There is  a snowdrop in my garden. It feels a bit early but there it is. I stood and started at it until I was reminded this old back would prefer motion to immobility. Every time I answer a query at the Enquiry Desk in the local hospital I have to 'click and tick': that is, press on a little counting machine and tick in a category box. At the end of the shift, when the clicks add up to the same number as the ticks I have a little warm flutter of delicious satisfaction. I am happy when I drink the brown water  that passes for coffee at breakfast and I have got the proportions of grain, water and milk right. ( I no longer have the palate for strong flavours so no longer appreciate the real thing). Endlessly, I watch the little ones as they stagger about trying to make sense of their world. Sometimes they smile back at this funny old lady smiling at them. There is regurgitated pleasure in remembering one of my own little ones, barely verbal, searching for a way to mollify a carer, coming out with "'ello'" as the nearest tool in her tiny lexicon to do the trick.

The other day a Consultant who had cared for me during my near fatal illness walked passed me as I worked in the hospital. "You shouldn't be here" said he, not meaning at the Enquiry Desk but in the Universe at all. That gave me pleasure but \I can't measure the size of it. Bore da

Monday, 29 December 2014

Past snows

Have you ever had the experience of preparing for bed so late you feel, in the morning, you don't need to clean your teeth again? This happened very often in my fortieth decade but I had rather got out of the habit by my ninth .Over the period of two weeks of Sundays, in the middle of which we currently find ourselves, this phenomenon occured twice. It brings with it any number of contingencies. Taxis are in to their highest fare bracket, but there is much less traffic so the journey is quicker. Were I better at Maths, I could tell you if the latter redresses the former. Perhaps one of you will tell me by pressing 'comments' at the end of the post. Personally, I find it harder to sleep if I go to bed passed my bedtime. One should never let the children get overtired on the premise that over-tired children make for an over-tired - for which read 'irritable' and unreasonable' - parent. This year it was not the case of over-tired little ones: I was irritable and unreasonable off my own bat.

I have forgotten who asked the invaluable question about the whereabouts of the snows of yesteryear. The words come so often to mind that I feel rather guilty that I can't attribute them. It feels rather like keeping a library book passed its original return date without renewing it. I use the words without paying my dues to their author. This year I broke a tradition that has served my circle for thirty seven years: I failed to give a party marking the winter solstice and the start of days that don't turn in to night at 3.30 pm. There was such a feeling of daunt that my spirit crumbled. However, to my great joy, the young turned out to have inherited a sense of tradition, had saved the date and arranged to have dinner en entire family instead. Save the date next year, please, because, on the back of the pull of tradition/habit, the young will do it for me in 2015 - if I'm spared, of course.

 The wrench of giving things up is inevitable at my age. Tights for instance,(pantyhose over the pond): my wonky hands can't pull them on, so it's socks and long-johns. This precludes wearing a skirt or dress because the glamour of on top is seriously let down by the bag-lady of below.  Bathing is also part of the past. I can't be sure of getting out of it once I have clambered in. (Please don't worry. I do shower so am properly pristine). First courses have had to go. I wouldn't have room for the main course. Puddings have gone. I have a love/hate relationship with sugar. I remember a time when I used to eat cubes of the jelly - jello - befire it was joined by the hot water which made it the centre piece of trifles and the incarnation of  baby rabbits at the table of the very young. But there are gains, by George there are gains. A peaceful inner world, a tank of tolerance where there had been a tea-cup and,  probably best of all, I no longer have to eat my greens. Bore da, and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Let me start by saying that I make only one resolution: not to make any resolutions. I have spent too many years with the guilt of failure that sets in on January 2nd and lasts until the next January 1st. I should make one very significant one, though. I should resolve to give up sugar. Rather than giving up sugar, however, I find it easier to give up resolving to give it up. The guilt of eating it is more bearable than the guilt of renegging on my word to myself. With me so far?

 One of the excuses I give myself is that there are two new years and it wouldn't seem fair to resolve on one and not the other. In my experience the more signifant new year occurs in September. It is the academic new year and a restart of routine life after the non-month of August. When I was involved in Academia, or, rather, its exigencies, there were new school uniforms to think about, new teachers to admire or commiserate over, new timetables to stretch the ingenuity, finding ways in which to be at two sporting matches at the same time, for instance.( It may interest you to know that Liz is one year older every September, and that's been going on for a very long time, now). There are practical advantages, too. Shops and offices begin to operate as usual and, for the first week, anyway, the big city is a joy to move round because August holidays have dribbled over and there are still fewer cars and people crowding one's progress. But scarcely has one allowed oneself to enjoy the freedom of a less crowded world, as it was when I was a gal, so to speak, than it is the second week in September. This is one definition of Hell on Earth, I suspect. Everyone is back, in their cars, on the Underground and the supermarket flaunting their tans and annoying those of us who have not deserted the Metropolis in favour of idleness and warmth but have made it our own for the preceding umpteen weeks. There is one resolution I might have to keep, though I don't know whether to call it a resolution or a duty and/or a task:. I must confront the clutter I call home and make it as nearly young-people-friendly to deal with as I can before I leave it too late. Were you to see the borderline chaos of cupboards, in particular, you would be sending flowers not of condolence but of encouragement to those who will have the job of sorting it out. I refer you to the oft quoted mots justes of someone close to me:" If they hire two skips (dumpers) they won't need to call an undertaker (mortician)" - translation included for Mountain View California. Bore da