Thursday, 21 January 2010


My washing machine has given up the ghost. As any of you who keeps house to whatever degree, five people under five, three teenagers, a Company Director who needs her/his shirts immaculate and NOW, or yourself and the Guru, young but nevertheless pristine, this is a disaster. (A serious note: the above has to be taken in the context of the - mostly - lighthearted life of someone 75 going on 40, not in the context of what is going on out there in the world of God- Forbid- level disasters). Anyway, as I was saying, no ghost. To some extent it would wash, but to no extent would it spin. Sometimes stuff came out feeling a bit slimy as if there were still some soap left in; no rinse, then neither. The big Ah Hah to this story is that I am insured. For all the seven years of its life up to now I have been paying for the little darling to be safe and covered in times of difficulty and, you know what, never called an engineer out to it: not once. Now was the time. Some days and many phone minutes later came a very nice man with much equipment and a train to catch. I know this because he was so quick my feet scarcely touched the ground keeping up with him. He put the machine on, added a little soap, pressed this and that, watched for a nanno-second and reported, inter alia, that the pump had gone and so had the spinner. It turns out, since there would be more than £400 of repair costs,it was not worth repairing so I was to be offered "like for like" a new machine.

Before you get lost in your 'lucky you' space I am here to tell you that that isn't to be taken literally. I did. I should not have. Because it doesn't mean that I may have the same mark from the same maker from the same shop for no charge. It means that I must have the make and mark dictated by the Insurer and precure it from the shop of their choice, I must pay certain obligatory charges and I must wait for the letter authorising this. Trying to be open-minded, a week later when the letter duly arrived, I trudged out to the north of London - that WAS literal: there was snow - and in to the most gargantuan warehouse it has ever been my displeasure to get lost in. Not only I; the whole of the bored and snow-sick, road-difficult, fed-up with staying in population was there, too. This is relevant because it made it very difficult to get help. We all wanted some. However, the story can be shortened. I fell in hate with the prescribed machine, or one with a slightly different reference number, and reconciled myself. After all, how different could it be? They must have suggested something that would, at least, do the damn washing. The "more than my job's worth" story really begins six days later when, having paid a take-away charge, and arranged for someone to disconnect the defunct machine - "our men are not allowed to do that" - and, more important, a charge and an extra fee to pin them down to a four hour delivery slot on Saturday afternoon when the Guru would be there to supervise, we waited in vain for my like for like, more than £100 lay-out free new washing machine to arrive. Eventually, it did. By that time the Guru had had to go out and I was uncomfortable with hunger. (Well, you wouldnt risk being in the middle of cook/eating when they came, would you?) I hardly dare describe the scene. You are going to have difficulty to believe me. It is something between a cliched sick joke and an old lady's nightmare. The 'leader' looked around. "No one told me there would be stairs." They did. I did; at least I told the 'service operator'. There is even a turn on the stairs, all spelled out to the authorities. The old machine is several inches bigger than the new but they got it out and in to the rain where the new one, stripped of its wrapping, was also standing; not a job for an old lady but they did it and survived. Now for the new one. What went out must come in and vice versa, you'd think, especially a touch smaller. Actually, no: a shelf must come off, but they are not allowed to do that. Good cop negotiated: bad cop sulked. The door to the laundry must come off. They are not allowed to do that either. See above re good and bad. Further, Health and Safety means they cannot lift it over the turn in stairs. See above, as before. By this time, I am 100 going on 5, stamping my feet and screaming very loudly, indeed, banging on the wall with frustration: all in the inner world, of course, sweetness and light on the outside. Immeasurable time passed until we get to a happy ending - of sorts. In the end the new washing machine was installed. There was mud all over the hall and stair carpet, there was unimaginable mess in the little laundry whose usual impedimenta had been strewn all over the house to facilitate access, but in it was and bad cop and good cop could go. I witheld the £5 tip I had had waiting in my pocket and spent it on a pizza delivery, which I don't ever do. I hate them. But hate was the evening's theme. It was just as well the Guru was out. The story doesnt quite end there but I am hungry again and, overcome with the memory, I have gone on too long, I fear. Suite a la prochaine as they say over the Channel, or the rest next time.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


There are times when it seems an advantage to be chronologically 75. I do remember the winter of 1947 that broadcasters and newspaper writers are currently describing with something like awe. But, in case you are reading this other than in the Northern hemisphere, I should explain we are experiencing a period, weatherwise, of extremely cold, snowy and, worse, icy weather in this usually benign part of the world. In 1947 it snowed and froze for the best part of two months, January and February. I remember getting dressed under the bed-clothes. We were comparatively affluent but that did'nt run to central heating. Indeed, it was not until I refused to bring my tiny baby in to a house without heating and no washing machine that things changed. Believe me, those refinements were for wimps and, now, I am coming round to something like sympathy with that view. I am torn. The 75 year-old is wishing people would get on with it, put another jumper on, go to bed early, buy some galoshes, or all of the above, rather than wingeing and whining and complaining about the lack of grit, but at least, my age gives me experience of this kind of hardship - amongst others - so I am better prepared to keep smiling and carry on. The inside youngster is throwing snowballs and skiing down the road.

Getting dressed under the bedclothes was fun: vest, liberty bodice, knickers. Socks were harder because you had to make a bigger tent to reach your feet and that risked letting the cold in. I bet none of you has ever made steam breathing out as you lay in bed. If you forgot an item of clothing in the stash beside the bed you would have to get out and fetch it on feet that then wouldn't warm up the whole of the rest of the day. You ask about a liberty bodice. Well, it was a sort of waistcoat, cotton, worn over the vest, buttoned down the front and under the next layers, blouse and school jumper. If you took vest and liberty bodice off together you got in to trouble because that would prevent them from airing: a disaster not to be contemplated in a well-brought up household. There is a wall heater in my present bathroom and I have been taking my clothes in there these last days and dressing in front of it. Less 'cosy' than in bed but easier on non-bendy joints.
Yesterday, I ventured down to the local shops; crept, would be rather more accurate. It was snowing on top of the extant deposit so crawl might be even nearer. Anyway, sensibly I had put my purse in my pocket so no handbag to control, mobile phone in the other, in case of emergency and off to go. Passing a man and woman outside a cafe, I heard them say:" that old lady shouldn't have come out. She'll fall and we'll have it to deal with. Where's her zimmer frame? That would be more sensible." I turned back, smiled sweetly, and told them it wasn't easy, but I would be sure they had nothing to deal with and, in spite of frailties, I wasn't deaf. They were very sorry, had meant no offence and so on and so on. I did'nt tell them that one of my first thoughts on registering the conditions was about elderly friends and how they were managing. It took a moment to remember I was one of them. The 40 year old was out there meals-on-wheelsing. (For loyal readers outside the UK, meals- on -wheels is a social service delivering meals by car to the house-bound elderly. Don't ask: delicious, no doubt). I do still have a little shock every time a stranger sees only the external me, addresses the external me. I AM one of the elderly, I qualify for meals, I don't deliver them. I constitute a danger to myself on the ice, I don't skate on it. Ah well: hurrah for central heating, washing machines and dishwashers and hurrah for a touch of the wimp.

PS An anonymous writer challenged my treatment of eccentricity. She/he said it was a choice. This is not how I see it. One just IS off-centre. It seems like the only logic if you happen to be it. You dont choose to do things differently if that is your constitution. You just do them that way. Of course, a choice can be made to do things differently, but that is not eccentricity: eccentricity is in-built and, crucially, to the eccentric, it feels centric.

Friday, 1 January 2010


Happy New Year! I am a very pleased person because the Guru has collated all the blogposts so far, from 2008 and 2009, and presented them to me, spell-checked, in a beautiful bound cover. That makes it appropriate for me to start this year with the first of the new series. Mind you, I could have done without the spell-check. I always saw myself as a good speller and even, long ago, earned my living as a proof reader and sub-editor, so I was not best pleased that he did find spells to check. I do, as it happens, even read over the posts, myself and still, it seems, the little blighters escape. Never mind; nothing is fool-proof even if you are both the fool and the proof reader. To the point: since eccentricity is a flavour that permeates all my blogging, it does seem superfluous to give it a post all of its own. However, for want of a more direct nomenclature, eccentricity feels the kindest compromise as things stand. So, I had better tell you how things stand. First, I simply can't believe a month has gone by since I last wrote. I have looked at the sitemeter and, to my horror, see that that have been zero vistors this week. What can I say? Please, do all come back. I can't think how to alert those of you whom I don't automatically alert but I shall just have to hope that in Australia and Canada and wherever else I am privileged to have followers the Wizard of Cyberspace will relent and send waves you can't fail to pick up. Anyway, eccentricity: lately, the scale of my ' I- can't- believe -I -did- that' activities has been increasing to the stage where something official had to be done. You know the sort of thing, keys in the fridge, cheese on the doorstep; telephone a friend and find quite another one in your ear. No, seriously, I put in a rate-buster code for Austria so as to pay only 2 pence a minute, dialled the number and heard the voice of a beloved friend in Ireland, with a totally different rate-buster code, whom I could have reached for 1 pence a minute. In a court of law I would have sworn that I dialled not only the Austrian pre-code but also the Austrian number. The scale of my forgetfulness is just about border-line funny. One more occasion and I'll be over the border before you can say " what was I saying."

What to do? Well, I arranged to have a dementia test with my lovely GP. He seemd sanguine about this, like he has dotty old women taking this test every time he has a surgery. It started rather inauspiciously: I got the time of the appointment wrong. No, don't laugh, although the Doctor had difficulty not to. This mistake left me rather flustered even though he was kind enough to see me anyway. Dear Reader, I scored 29 out of 30. The fluster was my excuse for not holding on to one of three words I was asked to remember as the first question. Other than that, I got everything right, even counting backwards in sevens. Neurotically - I am, you will have judged - I still doubted the veracity of the outcome. I was asked the date. It was the birthday of a close friend so very much in mind. But, temperamental doubts allowing, I did well enough and have been greatly helped since then, when the 'eccentricities' have multiplied, eg leaving my keys in the front door for 12 hours or so until the Guru came back in the middle of the night, (he's young) and found them. He said he couldnt see any blood on the stairs and a lovely silver jug I have was still there so he stopped worrying, wrote me a HUGE stern note to find when I got up in the morning and took himself to bed. But, now, when I do some thing dottissimo, I can comfort myself with knowing I am eccentric, but not demented....yet.