Friday, 31 December 2010


I am a sandwich. You are a sandwich. He is a sandwich, too. That's enough conjugation. I was just making the point that we are all sandwiches. We are the past and the future with the present the meat in the middle. Should you be vegan or vegetarian, you will have to put another metaphore in the middle. You get the idea. Past, present, future are all essential to making us who we are. One thing that concerns me is whether or not we/I make enough of the present. After all, it would be rare for the bread to give greater pleasure than the filling. And yet, the filling can sometimes be taken for granted. The temptation is to remember the past and wait for the future; not to live completely in the NOW. A Buddhist I know well is eloquent on this subject. It is not exclusive to Buddhists, of course, but dealing with it has become a speciality for them. When it is called "Mindfulness" it has a vogue far wider than among Buddhists. Under that name, we are encouraged, taught even, to stay with the present, to concentrate on the present, on what is happening NOW. I have been confused, I think, about the significance of this. As we speak, I see it as a will to deepen one's experience of the NOW, to be fully aware of it.

But how I do this depends on how the past has shaped me, doesn't it? Isn't my awareness inevitably influenced by the Yes-but of the past. For instance, I dealt differently with the freezing cold of the last few weeks than did the younger - much- Guru. There is familiarity about it. When I was a little girl I would have to dress under the bedclothes, my breath making cloudy puffs above the blankets. There was a winter, in the forties, I think, when windows froze closed and my Mother devised a sort of hot-water bottle for the milkman to put the milk in on the doorstep. When first I had a one-year old, he couldn't be left in his pram in the garden during his first winter in the '60s. We would have had iced baby. Central heating was not ubiquitous and we simply put on more clothes and huddled. It is how things were, so not questionable. I found that made me more tolerant of the recent conditions that were fazing the much younger. It influences my thoughts on global warming. I have been cold before. So help me understand what's new. You may remember, if you have had time, inclination and generosity to keep up - and tell your friends - that I was much moved by a TV programme about shop-keeping during the war in the 40's. I have done without things before, before they were dependant on snow on the runway for non-delivery. What does the future hold, then? The Guru has a relative who was near to restraining him physically when he proposed to use a car for what, in the interest of the planet, was regarded by the other as too short a journey. Petrol was rationed when I was little. Journeys restricted themselves. Past and future have that in common.
A more immediate future is overwhelming a dear old, and aged, friend of mine. Someone who is charged with looking after her told me, to-day, that she is very frightened. She will no longer speak on the phone and says, simply,"thank you" when the carer conveys my or anyone's love. She doesn't know whose love. I hope that doesn't matter and that she can still feel that present love as she moves inexorably in to the future. There is someone else close to me who says we septagenarians are all in the Departure Lounge. (He is just a few months off the next decade.) My very dear and fearful aged friend is already waiting on the tarmac. I pray she gets clearance for take off very soon, safe in the knowledge of an experienced pilot, perfect conditions and nothing to fear. Nos da and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Friday, 17 December 2010


What I'd like to know is whether or not you have managed to keep up your routine during the run up to the looming 'C' word. I am not even going to have to cook on Christmas day but I have accumulated forty nine parcels to wrap and assorted other meals to cook even without the turkey and you-know-what -else. Anyway, if you can call those reasons, that is why I have not been to my blog station for far too long. ( I know, I know, I leave it far too long far too often. On the other hand, I dare not risk boring you with them). What I need is a routine, a day which is write-a-post day. Dilemma: since I stopped working - paid working: housewives' work is never done - I have suffered a routine allergy. I am incapable of doing anything on a set time basis. As I think you know, I signed up for Advanced French and Begginers' German classes. Did I keep my Wednesday lunch-time appointments? No I did not. Not for more than a term, that is. The nature of my work was such that, in many cases, it would have been positively harmful for me to have altered my routine. If I said I would be there then there I would have to be. It has become a sort of 'yah boo and sucks' to that way of life for me to avoid anything, now, which ties me to a specific duty, or even pleasure, at a fixed time. The thing goes so far that I am having problems making up my face. Normally, you would expect to get up, wash your face and wherever else you feel the need, clean your teeth and on with the slap. Now I just have to vary it. Sometimes, I go down and feed my beloved, change her litter and even have my own breakfast before coming back upstairs to disguise the ravages of age. It has been known for me to feed her, make up and then eat. But today I discovered another aversion. I am averse/allergic to the routine order in which the slap, itself, actually goes on. Truly, if you are female, you will know that there is not much scope for variation; foundation, colour here and there, powder to seal it all and off to go. And there's the rub: vary it if you can. I have been doing this for sixty years or so. There must be a way in which I could do it differently. There is the option of not doing it at all, of course. Don't be daft: it would frighten the children - and the horses.

One of the difficulties is the usual one: that phenomena all have their pros and cons. Routine can be both irritating, infuriating, even, and also comforting and reassuring. A baby learns about alrightness in life when he/she can count on things being the same every time she/he experiences them. On the other hand, a certain amount of the unexpected is necessary to expose them to change and chance and coping with that. Have you ever changed your routine route to work or wherever just because you couldn't stand the sight of that hoarding with its posters another moment. And didn't it feel friendly and reassuring when you resumed your old path after a long absence away? I find myself dredging for examples which has thoroughly confused my inner world because it's rather a favourite hobby horse of mine, the yes and no of just about everything. Another inhibiter has been the dear old Wizard of Cyberspace. A while ago he swallowed the entire second paragraph and I have had no luck in reinstalling it. I am now working from the 'edit' edition on my blog site and absolutely terrified because it hasn't got the familiar 'save' option. I use this after about every second word as a matter of routine and am now in constant fear that the entire thing will be lost, permanently this time. Oh well, routine for the Wizard - who has also been known to be a Guardian Angel. Back to routine cellotape, ribbon and label. In which order?

Thursday, 2 December 2010


No irony intended in the current title. I do understand that my inner world consists almost entirely of a huge cupboard of rememberings. The other day, those contents were seriously challenged to move over and make room for a whole lot more. On television, I watched a programme which is, evidently, part of a series. A group of shopkeepers is transported back to various epochs in history. I did not see any of the others, which, I believe, started in Victorian times. The one I saw was war-time Britain. You won't need to be adequate at Maths to work out I was there. A baker, a grocer and a dressmaker were set up to run businesses in the physical representation and the garb of the time. I was overcome by such a sense of deja vue and recognition that I had to keep checking that the Guru, very much a figure of the 21st Century, was actually in the same, here-and-now room with me. I remember the way the shops looked; the sacks of provisions on the floor, the scales, and the scissors which the shopkeepers used to cut the coupons out of our ration books. I remember the queues and the cold standing outside waiting to be served. Things were a touch easier for us in some ways because my Father kept hens and we were able to benefit from more than the one egg a week ration, when they chose to lay, that is. Their rations were not rich, either and, though my Father filled them with love enough to lay their eggs in his hand, they were not so robust they could lay copiously and reliably. Some American Forces were billeted in our town and my Father, having been overseas in the forces in the First World War, went in to their Post Office and arranged to 'adopt' two men who were working there. He felt it was his way of re-paying the local hospitality he had received all those decades before. In this way, we also had supplementary chocolate and treats that were familiar and forgotten to my Mother and sister and fascinatingly new to me. Occasionally, they offered - wait for it - nylon stockings. The older females in my family swallowed their guilt, washed off the black line that had simulated a stocking seam on the backs of their bare legs and wore them as if elevated to Royalty in one silky gesture. Guilt was a real issue among the adults. There was unbearable conflict between the wish to do the best for one's family and the knowledge that one was indulging in unfairness, a sin above many others at that time. I doubt there is a way to make the young to-day feel, empathise with, the altruism and the strength of acceptance of the 'other' that helped keep us afloat in the chaotic, sterile and decimated era of that war. Stuck in a recent snow-storm, how could being told they were sharing in the "spirit of the blitz"mean anything to anyone under 70ish?

In the programme, the grocer was found guilty of serving people " under the counter". Should you, Dear Reader, be of the wrong epoch, this meant he sold goods over and above the ration allowance. This was not only immoral, it was illegal. I remember the collective guilt if one had benefitted from this practice, and the perpertrator was caught and seriously fined. However, if one had not benefitted, one was obliged to collude in ostracising the guilty one. Talk about a no-win situation. What a strange set of morality and rules of community I must have absorbed and what an odd old lady that makes me, to-day. I apprehended the Guru looking at me in a way I couldn't read. Perhaps it was the way I would have looked at someone whom I knew had taken part in the Charge of the Light Brigade. History was sharing the living room with him. How rum is that? (Actually, he was probably wishing we were watching "The Apprentice" or something else with contemporary relevance. I must ask him.) I experienced the rippling chill of the air-raid siren when it was reproduced: the chill, but also the excitement if you were a little girl pulled out of your bed in the huge dark of the middle of the night. I re-felt the hands of my sister helping me zip up my siren-suit with its bunny- eared hood. (For those of you lacking a Grandma or acquaintance of the age, a siren -suit was just like a baby- grow but for all ages. The Prime Minister wore one. It covered you and your nightie from tip to toe and kept you warm in the air-raid shelter). When you are a little person, your way of life simply is; everything after is change. Perhaps I never really moved on from that time. In future, shall I have to call this blog "75 going on wartime"? C U soon.
PS My gas mask was Minnie Mouse shaped. Go on: you do know what a gas mask is.