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

Monday, 28 July 2014

Communication - I think

One of the joyous rewards of having a four-footed friend is learning how mutually to communicate. My hospital Enquiry Desk colleague told me how she fed her cat a necessary tablet of medication. She wrapped it in her favourite food and she and her husband watched while the cat cleaned the whole plate. Giving one another a hug of relief and congratulation, they heard a sound and turned round to see the cat neatly spit out the entire untouched tablet. I suppose one may call that a failure of communication, but from the cat's point of view it was incontravertible: you don;t fool me. That was not cat food and I am damned if I will play along with such a deceit. However, I have to say that there was an occasion when my own dear friend elected to sleep downstairs instead of with me. When I told her she knew where I was if she needed me, I got one of those sing-song not quite miaows that definitely signifies comprehending  acquiescence.

That's enough cat. Not everyone shares the degree of felinitis with which I find myself cursed - or blessed. I do, as it happens, have  an almost compulsive wish to commuicate accurately, even with humans. I just wish my lexicon of possibilities were wider and richer. Of course, not all communication is about words. Noticing is another road to understanding, another way of passing information. I realise that I have made an assumption that everyone notices. I did, from a small girl. It made me worried and guilty and often ashamed of something I had done or not done. In reality, no-one had even noticed whatever it was. To this day, I have to remind myself that not everyone has the mind space to observe, notice and take note. A day or so ago; I asked the person helping me, who had kindly changed the cat's litter tray, if there were any solid matter in it. (On Vet's instructions, the cat is being monitored). She hadn't noticed. How could you not. with eyes and nose at your disposal. Oh Dear: here I am back with that subject. The Guru speaks four languages. Two of them are totally fluent. I don't know what degree of fluency he has in the other two. He is still not always an easy man to understand, to comprehend as a fellow human. Words and deeds are not necessarily the open sesame of communication I would like them to be. There is a catch there, too. It is too easy to spot an economy with the truth when you are a communication addict, with a good enough memory for what had actually been said or done, of course.

The temperature is 29 degrees with what seems like 100 per cent humidity. It appears to have melted my sense of the fun, the irony in the way the world works.  To-morrow promises to be cooler. Watch this space for some jollier communications. Nos da

Friday, 18 July 2014


A friend recently pointed out that my blog is suffused with ambivalence. I assumed she meant between life and death. This I am not sure about but it could be implicit in the title: an ambivalence between the chronology of 75 and the instinct of  40. Thinking about her comment my head started to feel bigger on the inside than the outside Ultimately, I decided ambivalence was one of life's threads for everyone, sown in tiny backstitch along the seam of everyday. Like a good student, therefore, I write keeping the question - sorry, title - in mind at all times as instructed by my teachers those many decades ago.

Take television for instance. I watch rather a lot of it. I have favourites, usually detecting or other puzzlement situations. There is a drawback. Each series comes to its end, presumably so as not to bore the audience or to afford what is called in the North of England 'teachers' rest'. (Half-term down South.)  In this case it would be actors' and technicians' rest, I suppose. or even a fallow period for the sponsors. To me it presents a hazard. What if I am no longer able or around to watch television? As you must know, the series always end with a monumental crisis. There is a very good chance I shall never know what-happens-next. I can't see myself contacting the producers to explain my problem asking them if they would  be kind enough to spill the beans ahead of time. I would, of course, offer my absolute respect of confidentiality, swearing on my life never to divulge to another living soul. Oh Dear, there it is again. I can't swear on my life because that, (my life) is the lynch pin which supports my please-tell-me-now plea. I have grown quite sneaky in this pursuit. I switch on the computer and Search Engine the programme to see if I can devine the future. On one occasion this gave me an awful shock. One of my favourite characters is a lady doctor working at the turn of the century - the last one, silly, all Victorian pre-suffragette. On screen a numbered list of the episodes of the next series told me Dr O was scheduled to die. I spent a horrible period believing the end of the known world was on its way. Dear Reader, when it came to it it turned out it was her Father who was doomed. Since he had appeared only by refrence not by substance, I had formed no attachment to him. I let him go without a twinge and took my first full breath since I had first spied on the what-is-to-come. I am wrestling with how to reconcile myself to letting go what the rest of you are taking for granted. It's rather like knowing I shall never have a waist again while I watch the glorious young tighten their belts - really - and plan the hemline for next year. Or  giving up the race at the half-way mark while everyone else charges on to the end. Still, it is very pleasant to be able to enjoy half way, having had my turn at.  going all the way.  Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


As a matter of habit, when I have enjoyed a book, I re-read it from time to time. It's rather like calling in to see a family of old friends. Occasionally, people take me to task, seeing it as a waste of productive reading time. Usually, I liken the experience to listening to the same music over and over again. No-one seems convinced and I'm not sure, now I come to see it in black and white, so to speak, that I do, either. However, reccently there has been a sea-change. Reaching for an old friend on a top shelf I suddenly had a vision of a pile of books I was given for Christmas - yes, seven months ago - lying on my desk top threatening to fall over. In other words, so many books and so little time. I can see that spending time with past friends at my age precludes my making any new ones. Being me, a Libran, I stumbled upon a compromise. Rather than start on any of my own unread tomes, I borrowed one from the library in the hospital where I work.'Fair dos' as we say in Wales. Mind you, I need to admit something to you: since I was rather ill two years ago I seemed to lack the concentration to take up with book-friends either past or present. Lazily, I have watched television but, lying on my bed to do this, I often fall asleep. In retrospect, I apologise to my Father who regularly did that, except when there was rugby or soccer showing. Then he would wake up with a start and shout "kick the d....d ball you fool." and wake my Mother up, too. I used to berate him for this, I'm sorry.

At some level I am also doing new things. I see that has two aspects. One: I am making sure to do certain things while I still can and two: I am saying a sort of Goodbye to things. An evening or so ago I went to hear a couple of friends performing in the same concert. The venue was distant and hard to reach. The Minicab company I use was able to help only on the outward journey because most of its drivers are Muslim, it's Ramadan and later in the evening, homeward bound, they would be breaking their fast far from their vehicles. As I thought about these difficulties, it came to me that the chances of hearing this combination of friendship and music were necessarily limited. They belonged to a dimension I have to ration severely - the future. Dear Reader, I went and it was one of the most rewarding I have been to in a long music-appreciative life. Having worked out that I shall not need any more clothes, other than those which it is essential to replace through wear, for the rest of my life, I also have the urge to buy something that catches my eye because it may be the last frivolous purchase I shall ever make. I am searching madly for the word that describes this phenomenon. Do, please, click on the 'comment' facility and supply the word if you have it. I doubt I shall sleep until I know. (Ambiguity, perhaps?)  Not having a substantial future is, in itself, a new experience. Oh Dear, I do need that word. As it happens, I am feeling like blogging for a long time yet so there's possibly still  time enough to explore the new and value the past. For those of you faithful followers who will remember its significance, I am working up to seeking out the scarlet swimsuit once again. The Guru has kindly agreed to come, too, so no need to seek out the half-backs around the baggage carousel. I bought a new floaty thing to go over it, so there we are again, whatever that b....y word will turn out to be. Nos da
PS July12th, I think it ios 'dichotomy' so there you are. Nos da, again

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sine Qua Non

Far be it from me to show off:  (note the title). It is, simply, that seven decades or so ago when I was at school, we were all treated to lessons in Latin as a matter of course; rarely part of the current curricula it would seem. Heaven forfend I should be expected to read and understand it now, but there are a few phrases which the old man in the archives will still throw up from time to time. The fact that 'num' expects the answer 'no' is a frequent one. It took some getting used to, I remember, that there was no 'yes' nor 'no' in Latin, only a way of putting a question that expected either the answer in the negative or one in the positive. ('Nonne' for positive if you are still interested and I have remembered correctly.) A for instance might be "you are not hungry are you?" "No, I am not" Or, "I note that you are hungry""Yes, I am". It fascinated me to learn that the same applies in Mandarin. "Hot, not hot?" "Hot.". would serve to illustrate. No, I don't speak Mandarin. Someone close to me does. Anyway, back to today: I am in a mood to tell you that with which I cannot do without. We can start with breakfast. Of course, none of us can do without breakfast - or shouldn't anyway. What I had in mind was what went with breakfast, namely twelve tablets, all white and one capsule, yellow. This conglomeration, or whatever one calls a collection of tablets and one capsule, are meant to keep me going and on an even keel. These I swallow daily, matitudinally, and am, so far, still with you. Then there is the patch. This is applied once a  week and is intended to help with the chronic pain caused by the wonky back.The packet contains instructions to note the exact time of day at which I apply the patch so that it can be replaced at precisely the same time next week.

There are also several things you already know about without which I cannot do. My stick seat is one. It is invaluable as a walking stick and half valuable as a seat. Because, silly, if I open up the top to access its seating property, I run the risk of being tipped off it by any passing dog or scooter-fired toddler.. Around my house are several aids to safety or wobble-avoiders, like grab handles here and there, mostly in the shower, and a sort of bar thing slid under the mattress at the side of the bed that I grasp to lever myself out of it - the bed, that is. A process of elimination applies to the opposite of 'without which not', which I understand as "with which not". Shorts would be one example. No matter the heat, the locality or the company, shorts are not age-appropriate. Forward planning is another. Fellow volunteers at the hospital where I work are given an award according to the number of years they have worked there. The honour starts at five years. I may, just about, make that. The ten year badge is extremely likely to be outside my time span. Lovely shoes are also a with which not. I just can't risk falling over so am resigned to sensible what my Mother would have called 'cuban heels'. Such shoes don't come fancy. Romantic love qualifies: definitely 'with which not'. But love of the caritas kind is deeper and richer and more widespread. There is also less anger, less injury and less offence. However, I am even less inclined to obey rules, the 'without which not' of other peoples' ideas of how things should be, even pain patches. Come to think of it, the greatest of all the ' sine qua non' has to be, as above, love. Never mind the tablets, the capsule, the sensible heels, the real ' without which not'' is simply love. Bore da