Friday, 26 September 2014


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, 12 September 2014

Friday, 22 August 2014


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

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Behind one's back

The other day, I broke a long-standing rule: I responded to an advertisement that promised an instant, lasting cure for age-related wrinkles. It was very expensive, but what the H..., you are only old once. After several days of using it my skin did, indeed, look smoother so I began to be reconciled to the price and even started to use it more liberally.  By chance, in a friend's bathroom,  I came upon a magnifying mirror. Dear Reader, my skin is not smoother. My eyes are weaker; so much for vanity. It seems I have to put up with the status quo now and relinquish the status quo ante.

In that vein, prudently, I have been taking 'end of life' precautions. The young have been given lists of this and that and told where to find one thing and another. During this process, when my desk was covered in supposedly relevant papers, a relative rang and asked if it were a good time to talk. While describing the state of my desk I added that, before telephoning an Undertaker (Mortician, if you are in Mountain View California) the young should order two skips (Here, my American language skills fail me. I don't know what a recepticle for rubbish is called. (Yes I do: it's a dumpster. Hurray for the man in my language archive; a fast mover when the need is really urgent). He replied that if they ordered two skips, they may not need the Undertaker. I rather enjoy what we call Gallows Humour, don't you? Well, actually, I enjoy any kind of humour. It feels like the oil which smooths the sluggish engine of my existence. My colleague and I, on the Enquiry Desk at the local hospital, keep telling one another funny stories and even  jokes in general circulation. Recently, it was about her three cats. Caught outside, in a cloudburst of rain, they dashed, together, for the door to the inside. Two of them got wedged side by side in the rush, stuck and intractable. The third, having been pipped to the post, saw his chance and leapt over the pair of them. It's not a helpful image to have in your mind's eye when someone is asking where is the Intensive Care Unit.  We find ourselves laughing so hard the enquirers have to speak up and apologise for interupting us, but, please, don't tell that to our manager. I have also been setting out my wishes for my funeral. Looking at it, nicely printed from my laptop, I saw that it was virtually a programme for a concert. I am really disappointed that I won't be there to hear it. A very dear friend is a celebrated performing musician. Ages ago, before I was up in the bracket that has to take these things as imminent, he overheard me saying how many of his recordings would form part of my memorial. He said he might well play the pieces in person. "But", qouth he, "we'll have to talk dates because I am getting very busy". Bore da

Friday, 1 August 2014

As You Were

If my parents - and yours - were suddenly to find themselves back among the quick, it is certain that they  would think themselves landed on Mars or even a planet not yet discovered. "We pressed the button marked Planet Earth" they would complain to Mercury or whomever had been responsible for their travel arrangements. "Our daughter is expecting us. What do you mean she didnt get our letter. We should have what-mailed? Used a social network? We don't want to meet her entire network of contacts, just her." Having visited four major stores in London looking for the face powder I habitually use, I found it was out of stock in all four. Bravely, the Guru, unseen, breathing down my neck, I decided to order it on-line. Forty five minutes later I had completed the transaction  The next day, an email arrived asking me to email them a bill for gas or electricity not more than three months old.  It was a  question of security. They needed to verify my identity. I thought they must be joking. They were not. I emailed back along the following lines: I am a very old lady. I could just about manage to order than d....d thing on-line under the guidance of the wonderful Guru. I could no more email a document  to you than manufacture the item in my own kitchen. Back came an email virtually on its knees: most apologetic, Forget it, the request is on its way. It hasn't arrived yet, so watch this space.

Even from watching advertisements on television I become totally confused. What is broadband? What is an app? Why won't my phone turn on the central heating? Do birds still twitter? Is Skyping scraping the barrel of communication?  Someone to whom I once risked skyping - again, thanks to the omnipotent Guru - came to her computer stark naked. Mine doesn't have a camera so the world is spared that particular horror. The imagining of the bewilderment of the last generation suddenly seems apposite to me and mine. I spend hours - and money - on the phone looking for information I could  simply have Search Engined. (I don't say 'Hoover'' either). It just doesn't come to me to look online. Sometimes, when I have done so, partly out of guilt because I am grateful for the Guru's attempts to pull me in to the current century, and partly out of shame at my Luddite behaviour, I am confused by the list of the choices offered to me. Usually, none covers exactly what I need. Oh dear:What  I do need is to lie down in a darkened room and perhaps wake up back in the nineteenth century. However, some automata do enhance the universe. At the hospital where I volunteer, the loos have a flush system which responds to the approach of one's hand. Very hygienic it is, too. The loos, themselves, however, have fallen foul of domestic cut-backs. You have a hands free flush, a hands free water supply, a scruffy floor and a paper towel holder that is nearly always empty. Hot air? In that situation? No thank you. I should say I am grateful for the hands free 'tap'. How often have I found myself with soap on my hands and the tap too stiff to turn. Prynhawn da