Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Like many people with lives similar to mine, I watch rather too much television. Programmes I find I enjoy are often American or American-style thrillers which come in series. There are some cracking British ones, too, and the characters quickly morph in to friends whose well-being will be of some serious concern. Now, here's the rub: when a series ends, as usually it does, on a dramatic scene of life-threatening crisis in the life of one of your best friends, how are you going to survive comfortably with the awareness that you may not live to see the start of the next series when the crisis will be resolved and you can breath freely again. Or even, hold your breath if the pertinent character is still in crisis?

The predicament doesn't stop there. Think of all the young people whose development is too far ahead to be accessed by the like of us. Who knows, that toddler grandchild of your second cousin once removed could be Prime Minister one day. You may well be saved the experience of a world ruled by a mahogany-faced lunatic with scraps of orange hair or the propagation of a race evolved from pigs' bladders and pieces of well-oiled technology, but you will also miss the crowning of King George or even King William.  (I am rather expecting I might witness the crowning of King Charles since Her current Majesty is even older than I am).  It would be good to think that a cure will be found for all the inhibiting niggles that come with three score and more than ten. I expect, though, to be long gone before someone waves a  magic wand over my arthritic bits and pieces, my aching frame and disobedient muscles and makes them forty again.  I am counting on the assumption that we all, of whatever vintage, would hope to see, while we are  extant, cures of the currently incurable, clean water for the millions who don't have it and, dare I presume, peace where war prevails. Instincts  along those thought lines must go without saying.  The Guru is a really gifted man. I am sad that I won't be here to witness where his abilities have taken him in, say, ten years time. I do wonder, too, whether my four-footed, short, dark, handsome bed-fellow will go on to be twenty two years old as did the beloved cat of someone close to me. I shall, however, be gratefully pleased to share  with him whatever time we may still have in common.

Which brings me back to my opening exposition: it is with the profoundest gratitude that I note that the finale episodes of my two best companionable series, breath-holding with potential disaster, did end with happy-ever-after resolutions. One of them had our heroine leap out of an unconscious hospitalised state to stride a horse and gallop off, holding her wounded side, to save her life-threatened husband and the other gave a seven- years-after - the- villains -had- apparently- succeeded -in- annihilating- our- heroes scene, a final scene of  blissful domesticity with rather a lot of miniature human beings created in their image.  Now I can not know what-came-next with aplomb and satisfaction, alive or not. Bore da

Friday, 3 June 2016


A life covering a number of decades will have experienced/witnessed/adjusted to many changes in fashion and trends, or even fashionable trends if you like. Some are inspired. Some are useful and some are downright codswallop.

Take fish: why on earth would you serve it skin-side up? By the time you have turned it over you will have scattered all its accompaniments and splashed its sauce, should it have one, over everything else on the plate. Likewise, the tower. Meat or fish topped with potato topped with a field mushroom topped with two sprigs of broccoli. Often in the time taken to dismantle this the food is cool and/or too much for the horizontal space on the plate.  That is, of course, if you have been given an horizontal plate. What factor enhances solid food by serving it in a soup bowl? The knife slides up and down the slope.  There is not enough space on the flat part to do an efficient job of cutting up  and there is a sense of the Chef having, somehow, won in the battle of supremacy between her/his genius and your discernment. In the interests of civilisation, I do look around at eaters in a tower-building restaurant. Believe me: we all dismantle the nuisance edifice.  Even if you could cut through it, whose jaw is capable of accepting a four inch multi-  layered bite?
 What and why are twice-fried chips?  Anyway, what has happened to 'twice'?  Has it gone the way of 'thrice' because, only too often, I am hearing 'two times' whenever there is a 'twice one'. Years ago, there was a saying that standing by a 'bus stop, an Englishman would form an orderly queue of one. Graceless saying, in my view, but useful to describe the good manners which prevailed in some place in some forgotten era. I could green ink about manners for the rest of my days without being sure if the lack of them is a trend or fashion or just the idleness of a 'me first' collective unconscious. I have a dear friend, a musician, who threatens to compile a list of restaurants that don't play music. Whose idea was it that, without choice, (willy nilly, as it were), a diner is subject to whatever carry-on the manager dreams,or nightmares, up to make discourse between friends just a bit challenging? Dear Reader, I have just noticed one of the most pervasive trends of them all: the demise of the subjunctive. So let me rephrase that. "Whose idea was it that a diner be subject to whatever etc etc. Bore da

Sunday, 29 May 2016


The exhausted memory prompter inside my head reports a general feeling, but not surety, that I have touched on this subject before. Then again, conversational repetition is another congenital aspect of growing old. What I have in mind is finding ways to get round and manage the hiccups and vicissitudes of physical - and mental -  handicaps that go with the elderly organism

The famous one is. of course, "What else shall I do while I am down here?" My trick when offering my short dark handsome housemate some food or drink on the tray permanently awaiting his delectation, is  to drop the empty plates from a not too dramatic height and then throw the food - dry of course - on to one of them. Milk is trickier so requires another inch of bentability to achieve the same goal. Water is lowered from a glass in to a waiting bowl and the subsequent splash cleaned up by he who drinks . I recommend a shower  above a bath. Most unfortunate would be to find you can't get out of the d... thing once having scrambled in. In the same vein, take a telephone in to the bathroom with you and, if single, wait until a friendly other is also in the house. Mind you, that other would have to be unshockable given the lack of glamour in the elderly appearance. Trousers work better than skirts because you can wear socks with them and thus avoid the contortionist requirement of pulling on tights. If desperate to wear a skirt, you could try pop socks. But I should warn you that many a laugh - usually kindly - has been prompted by the sight of a pale, creased knee peeping from the edge of a rather too short and/or too tight skirt.  You will need a shoe-horn with a long handle to put your shoes on.(What does that make you think of?)   Otherwise, should the vicinity lack such a thing, an ordinary table knife will do, but, obviously,  a kitchen knife may lead to a new problem: how to apply a plaster (band-aid) to the back of your foot when you can't lift it  up as far as your arm will reach.  In the UK a badge is issued to people with lessened mobility which entitles them to more flexible parking possibilities. Don't leave home without it. Women, make sure you have a tinted foundation to hand. Age does nothing for the colour of your skin. Well, actually, it does do something: it makes it sallow and dreary. Again, don't leave home without it. Ultimately, stick as close as you can to what is real. Dyed hair, stage make-up, denim trousers, baseball caps: don't leave home with them.  And when your stick falls to the ground for the double-umpteenth time, smile at the nearest able-bodied, least likely to be a mugging murderer and ask if she/he would be kind enough to pick it up. Bore da

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Pros and Cons

Yesterday I underwent an MRI scan. The idea was to see if a picture emerged that would show more about what was going on in my spine and, thus, to find new ways of treating the discomfort. Among you Dear Readers out there there may be those who have not experienced the pleasure of being entombed or, rather, encoffined, in a cold room full of unidentifiable bits of machinery and rather a lot of white-coated attendants. In order, presumably, to make it more palatable one is offered a selection of recorded music to play through the headphones which are, primarily, meant to enable the technician to communicate with the patient.  I chose Bach. This was a mistake of some sizeable proportions.  If there are some of you out there without  the experience, I should explain that the procedure is noisy. At least, that is the position in the UK.  With usual British understatement, though, I have hesitated to say that by 'noisy' I mean that a pneumatic drill with bells whistles and knobs on playing at the side of the bed on which you sleep would seem like a baby's lullaby in comparison. I was acutely aware of Herr Bach wobbling in his grave swearing to bar me for ever from any further relationship with his music.

Of course, it is edifying and a blessing that this modern  method may contribute so much to one's well-being: likewise the X Ray machine and the other bits and bobs which keep us living in good health long after our goers-before would have dropped off the tree. Even the laptop and, I suppose, the Internet, which makes it possible for me to chat to you would have felt like science fiction even to my parents' generation. (Remember I am very old, therefore my parents would probably have been born when your great grandparents were).  The problems arise when these things break down. If you have committed your life to your computer and/or your mobile telephone, (cell) and the devices are lost, stolen or fall in to the bath you will soon learn the true meaning of Chaos and, no doubt, further manifestations of the anger of the Gods and the Wizard of Cyberspace.  I am seriously worried about the dependence on technology, no, the inevitability of technology,  that my young and the generation of the Guru, who is younger than my young, accept as the norm. I can see human beings turning in to automata who simply cannot function in the way many of us actually still do  It reminds me of a time when Himself and I were in transit from Hong Kong to Nice via London. The incoming flight was late and Himself asked an attendant at the Transit Desk to let Air France know we were on our way. The young lady explained their computer was not compatible with hers. "Try telephoning" enunciated Himself very slowly.  Goodness knows if she did or not but we did make the flight. Prynhawn da

Friday, 13 May 2016

If only....

Two things have evolved to brighten my life as I have grown even older. 1) I absolutely don't have to eat my greens and 2)  I don't have to hold back on some of the ripostes and/or deeds which, before, would remain politely unsaid or un-done. So you can be sure you have the gist, an example would be that approaching the outside steps to the entrance of my local hospital I veer to the right because on that side is a complete hand-rail. On the left it starts short. Inevitably, some able-bodied lout/ess will attempt to pass me on the right. Yesterday, I swivelled round and said icily "You will find there is more room on the other side of me".

It is worth bearing in mind that visitors to the Out Patient clinics whose enquiry desk I staff are, perforce, stressed and anxious. Nevertheless, they are also too often rude. When someone barks at me "Where are the stairs?" I meekly direct them to the closed doors behind which there finds itself a staircase. Under my breath I spit "Where it says 'Stairs' ".I now allow myself to say it above my breath. This is reckless in the extreme and likely to be a sacking offence. There is no real excuse for rude to be met by rude whatever the age of the combatants. However, the sign is two feet tall and bright red and it gets a bit (lot) wearisome when, out of 181 queries 50 of them are for the stairs. (Because we are issued with a clicker to press for each query, of course. What did you think? ) I have recently been known to march to a lovely window table in a restaurant where I was  being shown to one next to the toilet facilities. I have waited all my adult life just imagining this defiance. Last week I actually told the man who cuts  and dresses my hair that I found it too fancy. Normal practice would have been to pop in to the nearest public loo and brush it in to something more sedate and age- appropriate, as the Guru puts it. Sadly, some of the 'I-wish-I-hads it is now too late for. Family pressure stopped me buying a motor bike when I had a holiday studio outside my home town, where the 'bus service was unreliable and, in any case, didn't go from door to door. This meant that I was obliged to drive two hundred miles in order to have wheels when I got there. Now, even I don't think an old lady with balance problems ought, at this stage, to be riding a motor-bike.. Oh dear, I wish I had danced more. I wish  had done more naughty things. Gap years were the times your elderly Grandfather forgot when he had done what so there was no round-the-world exploration and no frolicking in the moonlight in far away places. Someone close to me has told me of an article suggesting that cannibis was good for pain. My Doctor agrees but is not able to prescribe it. So how to go about acquiring some. I can't ask the young in case they assume I assume they are using it. So, picture Liz, at Camden Town Underground station, for instance, with paper money clutched in her hot little hand, a very old lady waiting to see from whom she may score,( which, back in the day, meant netball.). I don't think so.   Bore da

Sunday, 1 May 2016


One of the current customs that most emphatically brings out the green ink in me is the one where a total stranger, whose call you have neither initiated, expected nor welcomed will address one as Elizabeth, and even more presumptuous in my aged eyes, ask me how I am. I assume this is a taught device to make me feel cared about and interesting to the caller. I cannot possibly type the words my inner voice erupts with but, rest assured, they are words guaranteed to over turn anyone's Mother in her grave.

Daily I have unsolicited emails which start with my given name. I know, we all do. It is the kind of recognisable manipulation which has me grinding my teeth. I have a vision of some P.R guru teaching his client what is most likely to capture the consumer.  I have noticed, for instance, that politicians, at the moment, are saying about the UK "our country". "Our country will be this or that if we do this or that for our country". I suppose one of the examples we come across pretty early on in life is the price-tag which shows a sum of money one penny short  of the next higher pouind level. You know what I mean: £39.99, which is £40 as far as the Bank Manager is concerned. Even being aware of this contrivance, the inner eye will sometimes register £39 and feel it is getting a bargain. There is an advertisement on television as we speak that pushes a product that eliminates wrinkles. Look very closely and there is a tiny disclaimer flashing at the bottom which says "temporary effect".I can't quite remember but I think I must have told you recently I bought a new car. I am delighted with it but it has one - at least - design fault. There is a radio which forms part of the dashboard but the CD player is in the glove compartment: yes, really. When I challenged the salesman he told me, waving his hand across the gap in front of the passenger seat, that it was to make more room inside the car. It actually means the car was never intended for someone who usually drives alone nor on a motorway. "I'm sorry, Officer, I just stopped  here in the middle of the M4 to change the CD". I don't think so.  No, the salesman wasn't being ironic, he was deadly serious. So, there was I, being taken for a fool in a manipulation that would not have worked for a toddler. I don't doubt that there are scores of examples when even a cynic like me won't have noticed the half/non truths but I really, truly object when the manipulation is in my face. It is both the humiliation of being had and the annoyance of being no further forward with the truth. Someone of my acquaintance will change significant arrangements at the drop of a better offer and excuse it by saying "things change". Perhaps you can hear my teeth grinding from where you are. Bore da