Wednesday, 21 January 2009


I know: it has been a while. While I do have certain computer skills, I have not yet mastered the art of writing the blog when I am away from home. If it would involve taking the lap-top with me, then that would be one more thing to carry and another reason to rent a young man for help around the airports or train stations or wherever. (See previous posts if the reference eludes
you,) and the thought of going in to an internet cafe or the business centre of an hotel scares the life out of me. How would I even get on to the site? ( That question was rhetorical but if you are really moved to tell me, then, please do.)
But to get on with what has been frustrating me. Writing this post is a case in point. I have no idea how it will look when I click on " publish post", but as it stands at this moment there is half a sentence lounging in the middle of the page. This has been going on since I started and I have got round it by typing busily on so that the words slide obligingly to the left. However, that ceases to work when I need a new paragraph. At last, it occured to me to 'align left' but how the h... did it get centralised in the first place?. Hey Ho. As the Guru says, I must have done SOMETHING (No, I did'nt. It was the wizard of cyberspace, but the Guru is never going to believe me).
To get on with frustration: while I was away I sent a text to my travel agent asking him to pay a premium for a 'leg room' space on the return journey. Five and a half hours on a charter flight in an ordinary seat is not good news if you are any bigger than, say, 4'11''. (Can't do the metres) I used to be 5'7'': seven and a half, actually, but I can't find a half sign on the keyboard. I am quite a bit less than that, now, but even so, it was seriously cramped. The agent sent an email to the manager of the hotel saying that I could not have such a seat "because of her age". Apart from the fact that it took three days for the email to filter down to me, I was incandescent with rage at the ageism of it. I can sprint with the best of them when life is in danger, if that's the concern, and, given that it may be a concern, at least take each case on its merits. Anyway, what do you think about using a company that feels able actually to print the words "because of her age"?
I have been applying for work as a Mystery Shopper. This means you go in to various commercial projects and find out if they are really offering what it says they do on the tin. You are employed by the Head Offices of these concerns via an intermediary who is the one who 'sources' you. I am an excellent spy, having been a nosey parker all my life, and earned my living by it for 43 years. I am also an acutely trained observer and reporter for the same reason. Ideal, wouldn't you say? The jobs offered so far - all done via the internet - have had an upper age limit of 65. What's a girl to do when she is only 40 on the inside and can't get used to the world's view of her as too old for leg room and too old for espionage?
Further more, I can no longer hire a car from the two companies that operate in my home town. 74 is cut-off point. That means I have to drive 200 miles, which is tedious, and robs me of a nice read on the train, because it would be hard to manage without transport when I got there. This post IS called frustration, it's true, but that's enough of it for now, we are all thinking.
Talking of transport, we were beside a river, the Nile, actually, so a lot of movement was by boat. Now, those of you who have been keeping up, will know that I have had to do quite a lot of Scottish island boats and could be said to have got away with it, nicely, but getting away with it from a narrow strip of rocky bank, via a plank, if you please, on to a small rocking boat is frustratingly difficult if your legs are not as obedient as they used to be. My inside person so much wanted to go, I had to give myself a few good talkings-to to overcome my terror and, Dear Reader, overcome it I did
But one good old-age thing: I have no hesitation in speaking to strangers any more, as I had when I was 40, and, thus, met some very nice people on my week's break. Twice I guessed correctly the occupation of fellow guests and gave the Guru further evidence I am a white witch. I suppose that would entitle me to agelessness. Witches surely don't have ages. But it doesn't do a lot for the frustration age seems to incur in the world of Muggles!

Thursday, 1 January 2009


I have been thinking how inevitably we must each go back to our beginning. Now, there is no way I could claim that as an original thought but I think I have found a few original aspects of it.
First, let's look at the unoriginal: hair, for example. We start with very little and end with very little. The colour of ones hair does that 'back to the beginning' thing, too. It starts off without much colour, once you have lost that primaeval mop you pop out with, and what's remains is left without colour as you prepare to spend your last days on this earth. Accessible, recoverable memory starts off in a limited way. Babies do have memories but not so much capacity to store them, so those they can reach are fewer than subsequently they will have the capacity for. I believe, wholeheartedly, that the birth experience memory is retrievable but unlikely to be consciously accessible even when we have learned to speak words to describe it. You dont need me to tell you that that is a very recognisable place for an elderly person to go back to: gaping holes in the memory with unreliable conscious access to them.

I have a very dear friend who is 95. She has every single marble, and a few more than most, but she is physically not very able any more, nor can she see very well. Life is hazardous. There are things to fall over, (just as there are for a small child.) Now, I have banged on interminably about the discrepancy between the inner 40 year old and the outer old lady who has to admit to 75, and I think my friend feels the same. What made us laugh together, though, is that she has an au pair living with her, now. As it happens, she and her husband could not have afforded to feed another mouth when her children were little and, anyway, they were for the most part, war time babies when there was no help available of any kind and, what's more, her husband was away fighting in it. But, toward the end of their childhood, husband back and prospering, she did take in the daughters of foreign friends who learned english at the expense of a little child-care and ironing. Well, she has such a person to look after her now and the irony did'nt escape us. Not that her au pairs are necessarily learning english: at 95 she doesn't feel she can spare too much time while she waits for them to be communicado - communicada? - so her helpers are drawn from a pool of Antipodeans, or from South Africa. They tend to go walk-about when it starts to warm up so there has to be quite a bit of changeover. She is sanquine about this. Telling each successive girl how she likes things to happen is, at least, more interesting than watching paint dry.

When I had little ones I was fortunate in this respect, and was in a position to have some help, at least by the time I had more than one. I do remember a distraught figure with a toddler under her arm, first day fright on her face, running to find me to ask me what was a potty and where she could find one. There were also some hiccups over mis- translation. I was informed, by a delightful Portugese young lady, that she didn't feel she should look after the children on one occasion, when I had rather hoped to go to work, because she was "constipada". Feeling as sympathetic as I could manage, I ministered a laxative. Next day, inquiring in my baby portugese, how she was, she said she was still constipada but also, she now had an upset tummy. And thus I learned the portugese word for a head cold.

So there is another back to the beginning: acquiring language. ( Strictly, this is not a true parallel with babyhood and old age. You can speak a foreign language with the skill of a toddler at any age, but since it came to me, I thought I'd put it in for your contemplation. ) I do find I am losing words, which may well equate with having not yet acquired them. A picture came to me of a very old man in an archive, pushing his ladder ever more slowly, climbing up it even more slowly and finally, when I have given up all hope of ever retrieving the lost word, with triumph, finding it and bellowing down to my inner ear long after I and my companion have moved on to another subject. "Derision" I shout while he/she has quite forgotten we had been talking about scornful laughter and thus feels confirmed in his/her belief in my madness.

Just another word about au pairs . A mistress may serve as au pair for a perceived as over -demanding husband! I am not the first to have thought of that, I must admit, not wishing in any way to plagiarise, but it's a good idea, isn't it and worth exploring. What do you think? See you soon.