Friday, 23 September 2016

Auld Acquaintance

Choose a number, any number, with zillions of noughts at the end and you may well have the number of published books out there ready for you to read.  This 'statistic' comes to mind because I have found myself drawn to re-reading favourites I have already read at least once before. This time, I was aware of an unexpected response.  I had a sort of walking in to a familiar room feeling.  The room was full of people I knew and cared about and furnished comfortably with  no jarring elements to spoil the reunion. Conversation was relaxed and easy even though I may have forgotten some of the events and names of people that cropped up.

Having many years under the belt, (I don't understand that. Where did that saying originate, I wonder.  Do let me know if any of you knows)  as I was saying, under the belt memories seem to have sections.  There are those which are fixed, like your skin you might say. I suppose that would cover essential learning: how to eat, walk, talk for instance and, no, I do not mean to be arch here, because the predicament came to mind of a friend who had to relearn all the above after a severe car crash when she was nineteen years old affected her brain. Then there are the visual vignettes.  I believe I remember picking raspberries with my Mother in the garden when I was three. Of course, I may just  remember remembering. I  see myself holding a rusk in a laterally neutral position in front   of my baby young to see with which hand it was reached for and grabbed.  This was because there were several left-handers on both sides of the heritage. (Since you ask, one leftie, two righties). Then   there are the memories which act as memorials for the Dear Departed.  Every time I look at a potentially too tired item of food I hear a late someone very dear to me say "Put it in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing it out". This section has a b) sub-section: things which recall those who are still very much alive.  "Listen to me, I tell you something..." the opening phrase from a loved one whose first language is not English, now acquired by many of my circle to start a comment of our own. A four-year old female lifting the skirt of a two-year old female to pull her blouse down straight: the catalogue is endless.  But it has just occured to me what this is all about, the re-read books, the recall of recalling and so on and so forth.  It is a way of reaching out to old friends real and fictional and to past happennings as a sort of Goodbye.  Not because that is necessarily  something to be dealt with as a matter of urgency but because, after a very long life, the number of Goodbyes to be got through will take a very long time .  Bore da

Friday, 9 September 2016


When I was at the 'what-shall-I-be-when-I grow-up' stage a job existed which was called "Continuity".  I fear it was actually called "Continuity Girl" but let's gloss over that and get on with the post.  For those of you looking up at us old ones from below the turning point between young and getting-on, continuity was what film makers needed to make sure everything was as it should be in films of a different period from the extant one. Well, actually even in films set in contemporary times too.  For an accurologist like me, it was both annoying, distracting and triumphing to spot the lapses.

I have no idea whether or not this role still exists but it certainly should.  Last night on television  I watched a replay - yes, another, - of a series where more than three murders routinely occur.  Part of it was set in North Wales.  Be prepared, Dear Readers, to be shocked.  The indigenous characters were given SOUTH Welsh accents.  I listened hard, I turned the volume up, I set the cat on 'mute' but, in spite of all that, there was no doubt: the North Waleans were speaking with the wrong accent. I was powerless to do anything to correct this outrage.  That programme was years old and, I think, the series is now filed under redundant.  Simlarly, in a film set in wartime, which I watch a while ago, about an attempt to assassinate Hitler, my continuity of interest was halted every few minutes by observing the German soldiers saluting one another with the sort of curved sweep of the cap practised by the American army.  In the entire three hours there was only one "Heil Hitler". Surely, the people responsible for authenticity must have realised this.  Or  was it a blatant ignoring of how it was, or, shock horror, was it a deliberate decision not to cause possible offence to those to whom Heil Hitler would have had a terrifying retrospective death ring. But, wouldn't it be true to suppose that anyone with personal experience of that epoch who allowed themselves to watch the film would have been prepared for retrospective nausea and fear with the experience?  On a lighter beam: in a 'Waitrose' shop in central London recently, (up-market Supermarket if you are over the Pond or elsewhere than the UK) I had cause to call for the Manager.  "Young man", quoth I, "that sign should read "8 items or fewer", not "8 items or less."  In the same way, checking in at the Out Patients section of a rather glamourous hospital, I spotted a sign which read " It is essential that children are supervised at all times."  To the young Receptionist whose first language was not English, anyway, my pointing out that it should read "be supervised" simply rolled off her back.  But, Oh, what fun to be old enough to say these things and revel in the resultant 'I've got a right one 'ere' response. Bore da

Sunday, 21 August 2016


Those of you who have been faithful followers for all the time I have been 75 going on 40 will be sure of two things: one, I can't possibly be 75 still and, two, I have lived in awesome fear of the Wizard of Cyberspace since the beginning and on-going.  (It's extraordinary how the inner voice will still pop up with some long-out-of-date information.  I was about to write 'ab initio' when some shame-backed reticence stopped me.  But it's a phrase I havent thought of since University days which were well before your parents were born). The point is that, recently, I have experienced the Wizard in a positive and magical, as a Wizard should be, mode.

Some weeks ago, one of the people dearest to me in the whole world was granted an Honorary Master of Arts degree from a very presitgious University.  Glossing over the fact that he neglected to tell me in time for me to attend - some over-protective decision that it would tire me, a decision not really his to take - he did tell me how to access some photos of the event. Now, as you know, thanks to the Guru, I can just about turn this machine on and I can even do some rather more sophisticated things with it,  I don't entrust it/me with my banking, but then I don't entrust any system with my banking. With considerable effort and exhausting concentration I  found the stamp-sized collection of photographs with the help of Mr. Google.  Scrolling relentlessly down I found two of my friend.  Dear Reader, hold your breath, I was able to print them off. With more thanks to the Guru I have an idiot-proof print and copy machine, except that this idiot forgets every time what to do and ends up pressing this that and the other with hope in her heart and eyes closed,  Suffice it to say, eventually it worked and I made several copies for other near and dear who may like to see them. (Since you ask, I had to print them one at a time because I have forgotten how to change the number- needed digit).  Anyway, there I was with adequate copies on adequate paper.  However, when presented to the Numero Uno in this little circle, he announmced he would like them in a form he could frame. Yes, and I could deliver them via Jupiter, too.  Step in the Guru yet again and this brings me to the point of this post and the good old Wizard of Cyberspace. From my mobile phone Guru found the photos - don't ask: I can't even guess. We were in a restaurant at the bottom of Baker Street in London, He researched a copying shop at the top of the street and sent the photos up there ready to be passed on to photo quality paper.  Yes, REALLY   I can't begin to guess about that, either. We duly went to the shop. A size was chosen. A number agreed on and, in one minute and three quarters I was holding two copies of two photos that could have been taken with coloured film on my Brownie camera. If I am honest, I am still in shock and that was a week ago. The Guru, not surprisingly, doesn't see what all the fuss was about. He was just teaching his Godmother to suck eggs. Prynhawn da

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Plus some

It is only too easy to keep noting, and even laughing at, the wheelbarrow of things you can no longer do in the upper decades of Anno Domini.  (Did you know one is supposed to call it 'Before the Common Era', now.    Political Correctness takes up rather too much room in any old wheelbarrow). But it is also comforting and even rewarding to treasure what one can still do or even acquire the skill to do in a companion wheelbarrow.

, In my experience though, there really are scarcely enough of these pluses to fill a wheelbarrow.  What about a nice wide drawer instead?  Anyway, the first thing that springs to mind is what I may call a 'yes but'. In earlier times I would have chimed that it wasn't Tuesday, it was Wednesday.  It was not he that said that. It was the other.  You get the drift.  Now I just let these disparities go and feel more comfortable for it. I never enjoyed the physical aspect of housework but I did it emphatically.  Now I indulge in paid help and dust the top of the light switches myself. It is a special treat to have supper in bed on a tray, watching television, crosswording or knitting.  You can't do that at an earlier age: decadance is less of a sin up here where I am. I can permit -  I lie: encourage -  the cat to sleep on the bed.  This would have been non-negotiable when there were two other legs in the bed. I must say that there was a time when I dreamt I was being fanned across my face by a  slow leafy tree and woke to find it was a hairy Persian tail right beside me on the pillow. Then there are the things one has a duty to do.  Sifting the 'must' from the 'should' is another freeing situation.  Indeed, a day when there are neither 'shoulds' nor 'musts' can bring a feeling of non-entitlement very restoring in itself.  When I was younger, there were no distinctions between those two and I wore myself out trying to fulfill them all. (Can you have 'all' when you have just mentioned 'two'?)  I am more profligate: yes, really.  Stuff I would have seen with desire and with envy  but consigned to the wishful-thinking bin I now consider in real time and very often give in.  I have what was a very expensive radio/tape player. The remote control which governed it doesn't work.  Yes, I have changed the batteries. The maker is no longer interested but wants me to buy a new model at a breath-stopping price, all for want of a remote control.  However, an advertisement came through the post about a special offer radio, CD, and vynal contraption that was half the price of the other and, no doubt, with remote controls that work: because I don't want to get off the bed to turn it on or off, silly.  Bore da

Sunday, 24 July 2016


One of the ways we observe, note and enjoy any  babies passing through our lives is by anticipating their inevitable stages of development. She/he has smiled. There is a tiny white line on her/his gum: Heavens above, a tooth on its way.  In the meantime, she/he will have sat up insupported, then raised her/himself to her/his feet clinging on to the side of the cot, (crib). Soon will come the attempt to walk holding on to a caring finger or a table top or whatever comes to hand - which falls to the ground, both the support and the baby. There is a delicious anticipation of  the pleasure of seeing her/him feed her/himself, of holding a bowl of porridge over her/his head crying "all gone" as the remains dribble down her/his chubby cheeks. Hair has appeared and is fine and whispy. We know that  nursery and then 'big' school will follow.  All this is true even if we are semi-detached grown-ups watching friends, neices, nephews, children on the 'bus on the way to and from unavoidable school.  Each time the little one comes upon another milestone one or more will have been left behind. One cannot, except in certain tragic circumstances, unlearn how to stand, how to walk, how to feed oneself.  That is a positive outcome. These steps are of the essence.  We have some idea of the rites of passage, even if we have not bred the young ourselves.  We may even have noticed them in our own history and inner worlds. However, by and large, the milestones are mostly for the best and may  be expected to lead to a mature and integrated grown up person.

The thing - one of them - about growing old is that the  milestones work the other way round.  Instead of going forward towards more prowess, more participation we start to leave things behind, to go backwards down the road relinquishing what was, marking the way to whatever will be at the end of it. The Guru, amongst other things, runs a swing band. I have had to pass the milestone of a significant gig in a huge venue because there would be nowhere to sit. Once down on the grass there would be nothing short of two tall men to get me up again. When bikinis first appeared on the summer scene, I wore them. Another milestone passed.  Kind readers who follow me may remember the scarlet swimsuit.  Believe me, it covers as much of me as is practible and emerges from its cover-up on the very edge of the sea and not before. I no longer hike along the banks of the Ure - nor anywhere else for that matter. On my last visit 'home' with someone close to me, we borrowed a wheel chair to move me around. When asked how he managed to push me up the hills, my motivator replied that that was no problem and he would let me free-wheel down!

 What I have been telling you is very visual in my inner world: something circuitous about the journey as if I would approach the milestones backwards, losing teeth, failing to walk, to stand,  hair whispy and so on. It's hard to know if a little one knows whom she/he is.  I believe I do. In passing back along the milestones there is a constant and it is me. Nos da

Afterthought:  of course it's not circuitous.  It is the same, straight - ish - road I trod but going in the other direction.  Good night again

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


This year, as always, I failed to watch Wimbledon. (For those of you Dear Readers who live on another planet, this is an annual lawn tennis contest which takes place in the south west of London). There is a very good reason for this: some fifty five years ago I was confined to bed conserving an embryonic first-born whom we hoped would not miscarry as several had before.  To while away the time I listened to the commentries,  on-going as play proceeded.  Ever since, I can neither hear nor see the tennis without feeling a pregnancy nausea.

No doubt you all have similar physical memories which don't always have any inner-world words to go with them. On the occasions when I carry a tray on my hip, (to have a hand free for the bannister, of course), I feel the sway of an aircraft on a windy day.  If ever I am carried away knitting too long for arthrtic hands, the ache takes me back to hours spent practising the piano some seventy years ago.
I can't light a gas hob on my cooker without an inner jumping back against the time the jet seemed to explode and set fire to a pan handle awaiting its turn for the heat. On the rare occasions when my aristocratic, sweet tempered but otherwise rather aloof cat allows me to hold him, I have a lovely warmth in my chest and remembered posset on my shoulder.  Recently, I underwent some tests to determine why my body wobbles at the hint of an excuse.  I was asked to close my eyes and lift my legs up and down as fast as I could.  For a cyclist - or anyone, come to that - Wales is full of hills. I don't need, in that case, to give you my psychosomatic reaction to that particular exercise. Of course, there are countless examples of illnesses which spring from a problem the inner world is having difficulty to process. Sometimes, the background story is not a happy one.  I was acquainted with a man who, all his life, had had a problem with one of his knees.  As a child he had been unable to pursue a sport or even engage in much physical play.  After many years and in rather special circumstances it emerged that he had had a stillborn twin who was delivered holding on to my acquaintance's knee. Sudden loud bangs bring up the walls of the cellar under my parents' house  where we sheltered from the bombing raids, and, yes, even the smell of the cosy 'siren suit' I slept in the quicker to take cover if there were a raid.  However, the sight of an ice-cream cone leaves me not only hot and prickly with remembered sand  but also, because I do indulge, joyous with the reproduced heaven of the soft, sweet, deliciousness trickling down my childhood fingers.  Bore da.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


Picking up a handbag upside down can prove very educational.  The contents obligingly fall out and give you the chance to evaluate what you have heretofore regarded as without-which-not to carry around.  It made me think about how this has changed over the stages and decades of a life lived 'in case'.

My first handbag was in the shape of a sun-flower and similarly coloured. Inside was a penny, a hankerchief - that is, a piece of linen about six inches square which preceded the paper tissue with which the inside of a contemporary bag is usually littered - rather more money than a penny when I had grown enough to be sent to buy bread or butter. Milk was delivered and, today, carrying the weight of it, I remember the milkman and his horse and cart with nostalgia, and a postage stamp: don't ask.  Oh, and as soon as I was allowed to go to the corner shop by myself, my phone number in case of a crisis. I graduated to a bigger one, square with short handles, which I wore on my wrist from my dozen through my early  teens..  This one contained a purse with proper money, a mirror china-backed with a  picture of a tabby cat, again a handkerchief  and, strictly without my Mother's knowledge, some pink-tinted lip gloss.  Make up was absolutley forbidden until eighteen years had passed so the subterfuge was essential to give a little glow to pale lips.  By now there was also a comb but I remember using it only when I thought I may bump in to the boy who interested me. There was also a season ticket for the 'bus in to town.  Next came a grown-up bag.  By now there were a lipstick, a powder compact with a mirror, a miniature hair brush, a pair of stockings - in case of a ladder, sillly, a pen, which often leaked the fluid ink which worked it,  a diary/ address book, {some of them in code), letters to be posted and a season ticket for the Underground to get me to college.  There was a separate brief case which carried college stuff. Things remained much the same for a few years with the addition of a passport  and some tights until I came to need a rather bigger one. In this I carried, as well as all of the above, tissues, cotton-wool, plasters, scissors, a little packet of bribes - er, I should say sweets - and enough small money to use a public telephone in a crisis. Currently, there are all the things that constitute 'above' in the examples  above , plus a Blue Badge disabled drivers' permit to park, a 'Freedom Pass' for public transport travel, a mobile phone, countless crumpled credit-card receipts, a credit card, a debit card should I run out of cash and a purse with such cash. There is a lipstick, which I no longer bother to use, a hair brush which I do, no tights because I usually wear trousers, a pen with solid ink for doing the crossword when eating alone and a nourishing nut-bar because hunger is uncomfortable.  Like Ernest, my life begins in my handbag.  I trust it won't end there. Prynhawn da