Sunday, 15 November 2015

What's More

The "Does He Take Sugar?" phenomenon I put to you in the last post actually has several other faces.  One that features most often in my life could be called "Ignorant, Naughty Schoolgirl".  This occurs when I am seen to have made a mistake, indeed, often have made a mistake. The perpetrator then fixes me with a look which conveys both disgust and impatience - or even patience - and manages to correct me while making me feel a hopeless, inconsiderate waste of space: a naughty Schoolgirl' sensation; all this in a voice of compassionate understanding which feels infantilising in itself

I know, I know: I must take responsibility for my own reactions and I do, but I still don't like the way it makes me feel. One of the concomitant fall-outs is that I lose the capacity to justify myself or point out that I am factually right on the occasions when I am. Perhaps this highlights another potential hazard of older age: confidence, while increased in terms of sticking to a difficult truth, diminishes in terms of perceived tests of friendship and relatedness. In fact, the whole 'naughty schoolgirl' thing tends to depend on ones own particular fault line. Mine seems to be a concern that I may be seen as not-wantable. Yours may be, for instance, that you think only of yourself,  or that the world owes you whatever. At the forty end of my spectrum there was time to 'cure' the fault  that was irritating the other: time for another chance. Now, at this ancient end, the twig may fall off the tree before there has been any opportunity for reparation. How to reconcile that with the elderly  tendency to be direct and imperious is a conundrum I find disheartening and insoluble. Quite often my dodgy steps are to do with an unfamiliarity with the electronic world.  I have been to extraordinary lengths to track down over days information or an object. The Guru taps out a few digits on his phone and has the answer in seconds. To be fair, he  doesn't subject me to 'the look' when I do something stupid and/or old-fashioned.   I did risk buying cat food on the Internet - does it take a capital 'i'? - and was landed with a bag so big there is no cupboard to take it and I doubt my three and a half-year-old cat will have life enough to eat it all even if I have life enough  to serve it.

Someone who was staying with me once accused the cat of being evil and opportunistic. (I think he had used a hand-basin as a facility). "He's a cat" I protested. Me, I'm an old lady, evil and opportunistic as well I might.  Prynhawn da

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Spare Parts

Centuries - well, decades - ago a lady helped in my family's business. She liked to be really busy and whenever she found herself idle would say "Oh dear, I feel like a spare part." Recently I had an experience which came under the same heading but with a different content. Planning a brief break with A.N. Other, the suggestion was made that I should acquire a suitcase whose dimensions fitted the 'hand luggage' requirements of the relevant airline so that we would not waste too much of our mini-break waiting for luggage from the hold.

We duly went together to a specialist luggage shop. The Other explained what we wanted to the assistant who approached us. Without hesitation he addressed himself to the Other in terms of " What do you think will suit her best? How much is she prepared to spend?" and other queries destined to clarify what would be the right purchase for the senile, deaf, dumb and non-English speaker hovering over him. His concerns were answered and a case produced that cost a month's mortgage installment. Accepting the parsimony of the Other he produced some more reasonably priced.  Without once looking at me he showed his compassion, saying "This one is light enough for her. I recommend one with four wheels. She can ask for help to lift it in to the locker" and so forth and so fifth. With some difficulty we managed not to catch one another's eye and so avoided the discourtesy of laughing in his face. Finally, a case was chosen, at which point I asked him what his best price for it would be. Imagine his astonishment. Not only was I alive and well and in his shop but I had the gall to bargain with him. £6 was knocked off the asking price and we and the case rolled out of the shop free to laugh at last. That was fun. It is not so funny when I am an invisible spare part to people rushing past me not giving a d..n that I wobble and could easily fall over. It seems elderly women inevitably  move from eyelash fluttering through stick waving to invisibilty. I have green-inked about this before. Which brings me to another observation you may find relevant: the elderly, forgetting to whom they have told what, inevitably repeat themselves. Blog-browsing backwards I see that I am as guilty of that as the next dotty old age pensioner. Be patient with me, I beg you. However, I have to say there is merit in some spare parts: implanted contact lenses,  hearing aids, anti-pain patches and a third leg. No Zimmer frame as yet  Bore da

Friday, 23 October 2015

Forward Planning

The other day I received a telephone call from the Box Office of a concert venue I frequent frequently. It seems I hadn't sent back an application form for tickets for the season January to March 2016. I am what is called a Patron Member so warrant such a call. When I asked myself why I hadn't done so, my inner voice explained that it didn't tempt fate by forward booking. This is a fairly new experience and takes some getting used to. After all, "see you next week" was just as much a reality as breakfast in days gone by. I found myself calculating the cost of the tickets I then ordered and wondering whether or not it was a worthwhile investment in a future I may not have.  It was.

I listen to the news with a different ear. It seems unlikely I will either benefit or lose from projected government intervention in whatever 'in the next five years'. Dragging myself in to the technical C21st is begining to feel less important. May be I could scrape through with one foot in and the other behind for the number of years I may have left. Tidying cupboards is another manifestation. It seems my inner world wants to rid itself of the unecessary, the not- needed. It is actually true of worries, concerns and irritations, they are taking the external form of busy-housewifeness. There is an extra bonus of having 'as if' new clothes, wearing items I had forgotten about in an over-crowded watdrobe, (closet, across the Pond). This busy-ness may also make it easier for the young who will have to sort me out in absentia when the time comes. In a half-jesting way, I find I have started to respond "if I'm spared" when someone proposes an assignation a bit further on in the diary. It occured to me that I now don't have time to revisit all the friends I have made in the books I have read and re-read. Like many women of my generation, I was in love with Lord Peter Wimsey, the 'hero' of  Dorothy Sayers detective stiories. I have them all but if I re-read all of them will there be time for "For Whom the Bell Tolls"?  Working at the Out Patient enquiry desk at the local hospital I stepped outside the prescribed short answer to help a patient actually down to the clinic he needed. On the way passed, after his appointment, he stopped at my desk and said he had been told not to start "War and Peace". He was gone before I could comment. Anyway, what could I have said? It reminded me that I was talking about funerals at a gathering of friends at the end of a concert given by a close musician friend. I was saying that my wishes for my funeral included mostly recordings of him   He heard this and asked why I didn't want him there, live, at once adding "we'd better talk dates, though. I'm getting very busy". Bore da

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Now that title may well turn out to be a word I have invented. The condition I certainly have not and I am struggling between regret that I am still living in the last century and delight that one of us, at least, is keeping up with old traditions. It is risible that an old lady has to make as much effort to 'learn' the C21st as a reluctant student of, say, Mandarin. I still write thank-you letters. One of my friends, contemporary minus nine years, said, without rancour, that an email was more immediate. Ah, yes, but you can't stand it on the mantlepiece or file it under 'miscellaneous' in your overwought filing system. What about love letters? Do they just turn up on Facebook and Twitter? Not that I have access to either. The Guru thought it was appropriate Luddism to bar me from those two modern communication systems. But what to do with the pink ribbon in which they should be tied? Leave it for the cat to play with, I suppose.  Surely conveyance of condolence has to be by letter. One would imagine that the bereaved are a long way from bothering to open their electronic mail at such a heart- rending moment. On the other hand, a round robin of text messages conveyed the news of a recent demise - not, I hasten to say - originated by the family but a hodge podge of friends and colleagues.

Someone close to me has emailed a request for some printing, the material having been sent in an attachment. The Guru assumes it is a pose. That I pretend not to know how to deal with attachments so that laziness may prevail under the guise of ignorance. I do suspect there is an element of unconscious manipulation in my attitude but if you had asked me to print off some attached music for you, you'd be very suspicious if you received only half the score. Fortunately, I remember how to read music so I am fairly confident I got it all. My whole email system has been terrorising me. It keeps telling me my session has ended. No, it hasn't and why is it making those strictures now when it has been co-operating well enough for the last umpteen years. I watched a TV advertisement last evening which promised I could turn my heating on and off  on an Underground train by phone. My washing machine could be commanded thus, too. Oh dear: I can just about use my mobile phone as a landline to call and receive calls. I have been known to send the occasional text,  not always to the intended recipient but appearing under 'sent messages' in due course. Another person close to me won't even attempt to text but will read the ones received and then telephone if a response is required. I lack C21st mores. I don't use my mobile phone at dinner, or anytime, with friemds. Much out-of-home food is beyond me since I can't eat chillie. (Can I even spell it?) I am stuck when I am addressed on the 'phone by my first name and have taken to announcing myself as Mrs. Mountford to obviate the possibility. This is  not a snobbish or pedantic reaction but an emotional one: my inner world is jolted by the use of my first name by a total stranger. First names, for me, are like 'thou' in the languages that use the second person singular. Still, when all is said and done, a rose by any other name....Prynhawn da   P.S. Is there a C21st  way to keep the cat off the table?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

No, they don't...

In case I have cast you in to a den of confusion, the title is meant to follow on from the last post (no pun intended). "The more things change..." and you had to supply:"The more they stay the same). Well, they do not.  My current green ink frenzy is stirred up by the use of an adverb when there is no connecting verb. You will know at once what I mean: 'importantly', as in 'more importantly, the English language has no need of this mistake'. By all means: ' the English language is ( the verb) importantly accent-free', clumsy as my over-stretched example may be. Do you follow a calendar? It no doubt shows you fixed events/chores. Some of us still have a diary: a note of daily obligations not a map of months, weeks and days, full moon and High Holy days included. For those of you who follow an itinerary it seems no transport is required. We can just distort the root of the word.

Recently, I fell foul of an audiologist to whom I had complained that my hearing aids made my voice sound to me as if it was coming from outside. "Oh," quoth she, "you mean there is an echo". No, I don't. I mean my voice sounds as if it is coming from outside, not that it is sounding twice in my ears: echoing, you could say. However, it seems that in the world of audiology, an echo doesn't mean an echo, it means your voice sounds to you as if it is coming from outside. After my exasperated "you are not listening to me", you could say our relationship fell apart, or, more important, I was sent off with hearing aids that didn't work as they had been paid to do. In a restaurant it has been my misfortune to hear "can I get a whatever?" I am sure the orderer is not offering to stand up and precure a bread roll for her/himself. She/he means she/ he would like the person whose job it is, to bring one to the table, subsequently - more important - to be paid for. 'Not spicy' now means 'will hurt my tongue'. 'Spicy' means red chilli and acute intestinal discomfort. 'I'll catch you later' ceases to mean 'if you fall down'. It means ' I will communicate with you later.' There is currently an advertisement for a firm of solicitors - yes, officers of the court - which suggests that if something has been mis-sold to"you and I" this firm will sue on your behalf, (or, maybe, prosecute). Would you trust your court experience to a firm that is not sufficiently educated even to instruct its advertising agency in nominative and accusative? No doubt they are thrilled by the attention the mistake has arouised. Any publicity is good publicity. However, I would be very surprised if this publicity did more than cause a few derisory chuckles, and, more important, no new clients. There will a mass of you out there wondering why on earth it should matter. Language evolves. So it may, but, more important, it also represents clarity and boundaries, form and harmony in our entire way of being in the world. Do you enjoy the wrong notes played in a piece of music? Do they strike your eardrum with shock and horror? That is how a  mistake in the spoken phrase may effect some of us. But how important is that? I ask myself. I ask you.  Nos da

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The More Things Change...........

It ocurred to me that, in some ways, the world, or rather, the people in it, is going round in circles. I asked the Guru what an emoticon was. It seems it is a sort of picture to describe an emotion. Well, our ancestors were conveying information via drawings on their walls quite a bit before emoticons were 'invented.' Aboriginal communication, as I understand it, depends on messages going, as it were, through the ether.  Remind you of anything?  Whenever I grumble to the Guru about something lost on my laptop he explains, sometimes with more patience than others, that stuff is stored in cyberspace, not physically on the computer. Aboriginies, you have been right all along: bush telegraph by any other name...

Is there really that much difference between woad and tattoos? Isn't there  merely a change in geography when babies are currently carried strapped to a parent's tummy as opposed to strapped to the back of ancient women working in the fields or around the house? Taking to the sea when you  believed the earth was flat and you might fall off the edge would seem a familiar adventure to men - or women, of course - flying in to space.  Maybe Colonel Glenn and Vasgo de Gama did have a thing or two in common. I was in labour with number one when the first man arrived in space. Other than the officious nurse who stopped me leaning forward to pick up the sticky new arrival - not sterile - I had done nothing, (indeed, the baby and I), that had'nt been done  for several millenia before us

I am tempted to go on with this. It's fun thinking of more 'nothing's new' examples, but I feel I have to tell you, now, why there has been such a gap in transmission. It has been scarlet swim-suit time. The Guru and I went off for our annual look at the sea in foreign parts and it has taken me longer than the time we were away to get back in to my routine life. Before we left I treated my feline boss to a spa day, (so that his minder wouldn't have to worry so much about his physical care, silly). He had a sauna, (dry shampoo bath), a hairdo, (thorough brushing, nether parts included), and a pawdicure, (self explanatory). He came home looking like a picture book cat and immediately started grooming himself, presumably to show how it should be done.  The more things change.... Bore da

Saturday, 15 August 2015


Have you ever been to bed so  late you felt you had no need to brush your teeth in the morning?  I have had several of those nights recently and 'more than 75 going on 40' feels more like '75 going on 108' As I believe I keep pointing out, great(ish) age turns up some totally unexpected contentions - I think I mean things with which to contend. For instance, as well as getting tired, it never occured to me that a walk which has taken six minutes for the same number of decades gradually begins to take fifteen. . The phenomenon is so gradual that it doesn't register immediately but, having once been noticed,  I determined to increase my pace. No chance: the joints and screws and various other items needed for propulsion had simply stopped co-operating.

Nor did I expect deafness. There was nothing heriditary that suggested I may lose some degree of hearing. I have had some funny - both odd funny and humourous funny - experiences as a result. At the Out Patients' Clinic Enquiry Desk where I work at the local hospital I had a question from a pleasant looking man whose words I didn't catch. Granted, someone was moving squeaky equipment passed the desk at the same moment but the poor man had to repeat himself rather more than once. In the end, I cupped my hand to my ear and asked him to have one more go. "Audiology", he bellowed, "which clinic?". To my good fortune we both fell about laughing and my fears of being reported for conduct unbecoming trickled away. On his way back, passing perforce, the desk again, without stopping he pointed at me and said "I've made an appointment for you." I did, however, learn the lesson and determined to better the NHS hearing aids which, between you and me, I was already wearing, with some a little more sophisticated - also, they whistle. You may say, at my age, it's hardly worth the expense. My view is that I don't want to fade away without knowing whether those around me are blessing or cursing me. So yesterday, I duly presented myself at an audiology facility and underwent some tests which involved pressing a button in response to various high and low pitched bat and mouse noises. A diagnosis was made which I doubt took in to account the 'did-I-or-didn't-I' dilemma of what had or had not been heard. A situation which is not easy for an accuratologist who , in an ideal world, needed time to work out the yes or no of it. At any rate, a prescription was offered at a price so ridiculous I agreed to it much as one might have agreed to fund a scholarship in the Hearing Arts, in absolute expectation one would never be called upon to honour it. Scarlet swimsuit time is nearly upon us again, so the incentive was to have the aids in time to hear the waves crashing on the shore. If the Mistral blows I'll take them out. Prynhawn da