Friday, 24 September 2010


As you will have worked out, the Guru, as well as mediating between the Wizard of Cyberspace and me, at the moment also serves as tester of ironing, taster of meals and replacer of dud light bulbs. This means that we spend a certain amount of time together, giving me the opportunity to learn a little bit about how life is for the young in 2010. It seems very clear. Life is divided in to 'cool' and 'boring'. What is more difficult is how to tell which is which. Obviously, I could give you a dry list. It would be seriously truncated. Why: I haven't fathomed the criteria which put an item or an event on to the one column as opposed to the other.

However, I will have a go. A list, in its limited impact, might look like this: rice is boring, pasta is boring, sun glasses are cool, no coat is cool, (well, in autumn and winter it would be wouldn't it). St Tropez is cool. West of it is boring. Salad is boring. Stir-fry is cool. To be fair, I wouldn't want you to think I am actually quoting the Guru. My examples are drawn from the wildness of my imagination doing its best to work out how to work it out and not disgrace the elderly whom I am obliged, via anno domini, to represent. But simply not being too sure what does qualify may be boring in itself. I suspect the elderly are, per se, more boring than cool. I do try my best. For instance, does eccentric qualify as cool? No, you don't know either. Since to-day is my birthday, I am in a specially good place to think about the importance of cool as an influence on developement. Perhaps it is a factor in the search for identity. Birthdays do bring up the question of who-am-I, or who have I become, don't you find? I have come through many trials, fire, water, you know the kind of thing, and I do have a feeling of recognition in the mirror of my inner world. What I can't know is who I might have been (whom?) had I grown up in the Now. Manners are different, for instance. I've been mystified, and even complained, about this before. I can't get used to letters that start "Hi". Mine still start "Dear X". Come to that, there are no letters. I should have said emails that start "Hi". It must be cooler, surely, to keep up with current idiom. People don't stand up when you introduce them to one another or are introduced to them. However, by the time I've creaked to my feet it would'nt be surprising if the introducee was already bored out of his or her mind, anyway. You know what? I'm thoroughly confused and bored with the whole cool/boring thing.

Reflecting on my several more than three score and ten, I do understand, however, that, even when I was young, I didn't follow the dictates of cool and boring. Eccentricity was more my style then, too. Perhaps, the answer is that the real criterion for what is cool is not to be cool at all. And it is boring to go on about it. Back soon

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


How are you about throwing stuff away? I thought so: just as bad as I am. In a day or so I shall be a year older. Somewhere, deep down in my inner world, I have realised that less is now more. I have started to look around me with new/old eyes and realised that sentiment, which I would really like to call nostalgia, has filled my cupboards and drawers with stuff. Stuff that I shall never use or need again. Ah, but there's the rub. I might use or need it again. In other words, my storage capacity and my inner world are stuffed (sorry) with 'in cases'. I have been without help in the house for a while - too long, since you ask - so have been in to corners normally left to the regard of others. For instance, in my living room, next to a china cupboard, stands a small, hand-held vacuum cleaner. ( I have difficulty carrying the grown-up one from its downstairs hideyhole so the little one is essential if it is I who must do the sweeping). For aeons, it has been lying in a corner, by day hidden partly by a curtain and hidden not at all when the curtains are closed. This morning, I looked for a way to put it inside the cupboard. The cupboard is filled with china. When I say china, I mean porcelain, old-fashioned, thin beautiful porcelain. There are cups and saucers and small matching plates, and big matching plates on which to serve thin bread and butter, and scones and home-made fruit cake. I don't serve those things. What to do? The china belonged to my Mother and some of it to her Mother. My young will be about as interested in having it as they would be in inheriting a penny-farthing bicycle: less. At least the bicycle might be sold for a profit. While admitting the exquisite pleasure of drinking from fine porcelain, they would ask themselves - I having left the purlieu of answering questions - where on earth they would keep the damn stuff. But I cannot throw it, nor give it for that matter, away. It is part of who I am. It tells a story. It is a given, a proof of living. It is the history without which one would have to doubt one's existence.

By this time, since the bottom shelf was the one under contemplation, my poor back was aching. I could persevere, move the china out and push the cleaner in, or I could leave the status quo until some help was available again. The answer was to leave things as they were, in due course to re-assign the china without relinquishing it and then hide the vacuum cleaner. I have an outfit that is 27 years old. It consists of a short, straight grey skirt and a grey, long jacket with a faux waistcoat sewn in. (Nonsense, you can picture it perfectly well). The skirt won't go round my waist, even if my elderly ankles made wearing a skirt a good look. The jacket has had shoulder pads in, shoulder pads out and various other up-dating ruses. It still looks wrong and would not go over anything other than its own non-fitting skirt no matter how hard I closed my eyes. Throw it in to the charity box? I couldn't. It is actually part of the wall-paper. It would be like moving house to relegate it. Oh Dear!.. What to do. And if that were the only example..... I don't really live an evening life anymore. Why do I need all those going-out clothes? I don't. Oxfam? OK, one of these days, but not to-day. Yesterday, I needed my pressure cooker. Good Heavens, does anyone still use such a thing in this day and age? No; not even war-time brought -up me. that's why it was 'stuff' I had managed to get rid of, ages ago. But I wanted to make chicken soup quickly and, somehow, the microwave and chicken soup felt like an oxymoron. So a quiet simmer it was and no time to cool it and remove the fat before offering it to the invalid for whom it had been made. Why is it I/we throw away only those things for which we quickly find we do have an urgent need after all.? I am never going to need four black evening bags in varying degrees of loveliness. Why didnt I put them in the pressure cooker and throw them out together? Life is a conundrum. I am reminded of the wisdom of a dear departed friend of which I may have told before: on left-over food " Put it in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing it out." It's the guilt which needs throwing out. C u b4 long

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


I have had to leave the ironing and run back to the computer because I found I could neither rest nor iron smoothly until I had told you a crunch factor about my recent holiday. The fact is, I came back paler than I went. How is this possible? Well, the inner 40 year old took a look - accidently, I assure you - in a full-length mirror just as she stepped out of the bath a few days before the start of the holiday and didn't like what she saw. Instantly, two remedies sprang to mind. First, change the position of the mirror, second, get a fake tan. It takes much courage and a switch-off button to appear in a swimsuit at all at my chronological age. I would much prefer a nice Victorian bathing costume covering the pale, the wrinkled, the mis-shapen, but, on balance, grant that such an outfit may draw even more attention than the top of thigh to top of bosom cover-ups I currently use. The scarlet swimsuit helps; one can hardly look elsewhere. However, one can't wear that without interuption. A wet swimsuit, slowly drying on a damp, clammy body is not a good look, so I do have several, none of which is as distracting as number one scarlet. Anyway, there was my inspiration: a fake tan. I read the magazines, I follow the trends: no I don't, I read about them. Never mind how, what matters is that I knew such a thing exisited. I dressed hastily, rushed to the phone and dialled the local beauty salon which had once been owned by a friend of mine. The response was uber-normal. No-one flinched or gasped and an appointment was made for the last possible moment before I left so that I would get major benefit until the end of the holiday

Picture this: dressed in a close approximation to jeans, an old top and some bottom clothes, as one of my young used to call her knickers, with pop socks and slip on shoes, I duly presented myself at the salon which still bears the name of my friend. Just as well I was not more comprehensively dressed. I was shown in to a cubicle containing a stained hand basin and half a conical pipe. A towel that had seen better days was placed on the base of this cone, there was a hook on the wall by the door and that was it. If you are more than 65, or have back problems you may have had some experience of taking footwear off standing up. You, or anyway I, can't do it. Dilemma: go back out and sit down in Reception, which would mean replacing the above garments, or struggle on, leaning on the door at risk of falling down with every manoeuvre. (Now I come to think of it, that wouldn't have been a problem; there wasn't room to fall). Finally, when the choice was take them off or have them tanned, too, I did manage to strip everything, including footwear. The young beautician, who had banged on the door several times already, finally forced herself in and proffered a paper thong on the clear assumption that I was not preparing myself to sunbathe in the all together. I wasn't. I queried the suspect towel, which was duly, and with a snort, turned over displaying another seedy side, and, with the sang -froid of one about to enter a no-escape clause, I submitted myself to a chocolate all-over spray. Not quite all over, of course: there was the thong. In a day-long couple of minutes it was over, but not before I had turned round for my back to be done and seen a gaping crack in the half-capsule which did not a lot for the feeling of 'what about hygiene' I had had from the moment the door opened. Thereafter, a cold fan was turned on and I was told to stand still for five minutes. Two seconds later, Miss came back and switched it off. I knew I was nowhere near dry but the need to get out of there took over my entire mind and body and I rushed back in to my clothes as if at the scene of a fire. Well, rushed as well as a non-bendy person could in a confined space with no stool. I retained enough presence of mind to take my footwear out in to Reception to sit there to re-shod, trailing smudges of chocolate foot-prints and incurring the sort of vibrations you would expect on a crowded Underground train when you take the last seat.

Later that day, I noticed that I looked like Blackpool Rock - a sticky stick of peppermint flavoured toffee with the name of a town printed through it, should you happen to be outside the UK - which is usually made of two intertwining colours, in my case beige and chocolate brown. I had dried streaky and that's how it remained. My friend, the former owner of the salon with her name still over the door, would have been mortified. No treatment prevailed. I scrubbed and scrubbed, behind elbows, behind knees. All my moles and freckles and other blemishes were dyed black/ brown and more blemishes had appeared. I had thrown out a pair of bottom clothes and some pop socks and had the telephone in my hand - black so as not to stain a white one - to tell the Guru we weren't going anywhere when it occurred to me this was pure vanity and I must just count on the endemic invisibilty of the old. Over the next few days, at home and abroad, I continued to scrub, to leave brown marks on hotel towels and to curse the beautition. It did wear off, eventually, to be replaced by the sort of light creme brulee I usually turn and that's how it is that I have come home lighter than when I left. See you soon, but not quite this soon.

Monday, 6 September 2010


As you can see, my scarlet swimsuit and I are back from our only too short sojurn by the sea. I am cross because I was obliged to acknowledge an even more restricted physical capacity than last year. That's a reality. As it happens, just between us, the small hotel to which I have been going for too many years to admit to, was rather more like a convalescent home this time. There were four walking sticks - canes, if you are over the Pond - two wheelchairs, one pair of crutches and sundry obvious disabilities, such as lost limbs. Since there are only forty rooms this is quite a high proportion of the less-than-whole, and, accustomed as I am to a life of gossip, (Welsh, you see), I actually enjoyed being told the stories behind them all. (I have to bear in mind that we will be objects of gossip, too, of course). Still, it is a lovely place in which to be less than whole and talked about. On one level, idyllic would reliably describe the entire experience, paricularly the surroundings.

However, life being made up, as I have found, with positive and negative aspects to just about everything, the reality also included jelly fish in the sea, wasps on the land and the Mistral wind blowing over both. The latter is particularly sneaky because it whips the temperature off the sea, the sand in to your eyes and hair and, indeed, everywhere else exposed and less exposed. One such blowy day was lost to the holiday. There could be no shade because the parasols all blew over and no swimming for this delicate lady because the sea was colder than it is in Wales - no, I am not exaggerating; I've tried both and I know of what I speak. On another rather cloudy day we took off to a fairly near, much more fashionable and exotic resort. This provided a further reality check. The Port is unbelievable: yachts the size of most houses moored on one side and grim tourist stall/shops, and 'watch-out' restaurants on the other. Though, to be fair, had I not driven the pace by being seriously hungry and, thus precluding a more intensive search for a watering hole, I am sure there would have been more acceptable solutions somewhere off that strip, or even on it. The hinterland was a different kettle of champagne: lovely to look at shops and jaw-dropping people to go with - and in - them. The Guru was with me and we took a boat trip around the bay at his sensible behest. Now, instead of yachts the size of houses we saw houses the size of palaces. In three languages we were told who had and who did own the grandest of them. More gossip, I loved it.

Overall, it was a great day finishing with yet another fantasy/reality check. The volume of traffic on the road going back to our quiet little secret was London rush hour in school time, times a hundred. Being familiar with the area over decades, I encouraged the Guru, who was, of course driving, to leave the main road and follow the coast road. We had no map and he, with good reason, was not happy to trust that I knew what I was doing, nor, even, where we were going. I was actually using my familiarity with the names of the places by-passed by the right road in a run which had been routine for me since before his Mother was born, never mind himself. This stunningly lovely route was followed in tense silence while he gave out 'we-shall-be-in-this wilderness-for- the rest of time', and I gave out 'wish-I could-enjoy-the-beauty-but he'll-be-so-cross-to-miss dinner-though-I-suspect-glad-to-find-me-wrong'.
Dear Reader, we did get back in time for dinner and for the rather more rewarding gossip of a small hotel where most people have been coming for ever. How do you think I knew about the background to the illnesses and injuries? Garden wall stuff, of course. To soon...