Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Too much time has passed since I found time to write a post: too much for me: you may well be quite satisfied with the interval. Anyway, like most householders at this epoch, I have been Yuletide-focussed. It's not my favourite time of year, for reasons I shall leave to speculation. I have, therefore, to plan carefully and do some loin-girding to get through this month of Sundays. I have worked out that today is Tuesday-Sunday, to-morrow will be Wednesday-Sunday and I have just to get to a week on Sunday-Sunday for it to have got to the eleven- months- until- it- happens-again-Sunday. (Is that Scrooge I hear whispering in the ether?) In trying to do things much as I always have, I have discovered that things are not as they always were. I can no longer knock off three menus with two or more main options, a handful of sides and a reliable selection of puddings and wines with the aplomb of yesterday. Boxing Day-Sunday I finished preparations for eight people only, and thought "Right: now I can go to bed". It was 1110 AM, so, no, not bed time. Considering it was precisely three times the time previously devoted to the same duties, I was seriously troubled. Anyway, after a little sit-down and a large water I did find the strength to stand up and carry on. Lessons have been learned. For instance, the folding stool, relegated to the garden shed since the Guru left to boil his own egg, was sent for so that this old lady could at least sit down to the peeling, chopping and what ever else-ing. Hopeless: damp, rotten, mouse-eaten, a threat to Health and Safety and a risk to limb and bottom (If I fell through it, of course. Why do you ask?) So nothing for it but to struggle womanfully on as before. Some positive lessons learnt, though. I have a rather lovely and not without value dinner service. Fear of dropping and breaking a piece has been with me as long as has the china. No more: with a surge of relief and a shoulder-dropping lightness, I realised that I no longer gave a Rhett Butler about breakage. Let it be someone else's concern. ]Think down a generation and let the young, for whom it probably has no sentimental value and for whose intrinsic value they have no concern, inherit eleven instead of twelve place settings and just eleven cups with nine saucers, and some of those a bit chipped on the rim.

Someone, whom I should recall but can't, wondered, while retrieving his dropped paper from the floor, what else he could do while he was down there. It took me six years to lose the funny side of that. It is not funny: it is practical labour-saving, back-saving, heartfelt advice. Never drop a pepper pot unless you have a collection of let-it- wait-for-a-moment other things to pick up. I now walk over the same mis-placed cat toy forty four times before a dropped tissue and an unidentifiable scrap of rubbish make the bending down efficiency friendly. Buying in bulk has lost its purpose, too. Taking its place is 'if I'm spared.' Why would I leave a cupboard full of Buy-one get Three Frees for someone else to have to rent a skip.. I don't know if they are called 'skips' in Mountain View California. Explanation: when one has an exceptional load of rubbish at any one time one rings a builder to hire one or more of these large open tanks which are then treated as your own personal disposal unit. Illustration: I answered the phone to a nephew at a moment when I was attempting to clear the back log on my desk - and around it, if I am honest.I explained my waste-paper based task. In response to his polite wish not to be an intrusion, I said that, in the fulness of time, my young would be well advised to order two skips even before they rang the Undertaker. His rejoinder: "if they order two skips, they may not need an Undertaker." Quite.

Anyway, the Festive Season has left me with a great deal of previously unacknowledged respect for my former self. I did all that, in triplicate, and danced through the night after it. "Where are the snows of yesteryear?" I ask myself. Down there melted on the floor where I can't bend down to wipe them up. Prynhawn da,

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


The other day, I read that research has uncovered an interesting phenomenon. I can see them now, po-faced, without irony, a slightly puzzled frown, bending over the statistics, coming to this startling conclusion. (Unsurprisingly, my picture is of a pile of papers on a desk: yours is of a bunch of computers, blind pulled down to shield the screens from the sun). The phenomenon?: Ah yes, that sex tails off after the birth of a/some children. The astute - and diligent - among you will have noticed that sex has been rather a pre-occupation in recent posts. First, I have to tell you, at my -any? - age, sex IS somewhat of a pre-occupation, and not only in recent posts. (This is where the Guru decides he has no obligation to read on.) Anyway, some people have noted and published findings that, once women become Mothers, sexual activity declines seriously in a high proportion of cases. Exhaustion, and, even extreme exhaustion, were put forward as reasons. An awareness of the loss of, or, at least, a change in the woman's looks, leaving her feeling unattractive, was another. However, I noticed that the article constantly referred to the woman as 'the Mum' and therein hides the clue. Men are not necessarily set up to find 'Mums' attractive. What's more, women do not readily respond, sexually, to the Mumness in them. You will note, I have spoken didactically although I did not take part in this research. But, more than three score and ten years of life as a female, many of them spent entangled in the complexities of relations between the genders, does give me a bit of a license to didact. At any rate, I have assumed it. Here goes: incest, one of the last taboos, you will agree, does not exactly rear its ugly head so much as give us a sharp prod from the inside. A man lying with a woman who has now joined the mysterious community of 'Mother' may find his inner world confused as to whose Mother. He may even lie in the land of Motherdom under a covering mist which obscures his sight, and be disinclined to make a mistake as to exactly whose Mother he is with: his own? The woman, in the meantime, is immersed in her primaeval role. What with one thing and another, which of us should be astonished at this failure of events to turn? "Oedipus, Schmoedipus," as the Jewish joke goes, "What does it matter, so long as he loves his Mother". And let us not forget Electra.

Despite an attempt to be anodyne and, even, careful, I suspect I have been somewhat contentious. Liz is never comfortable with that position, preferring to be cosily lovable, so I await your brickbats with some tension and some apprehension. As to pre-occupation, it may amuse you to know that, not long ago, I went with a friend to a One Man Show in a theatre in the heart of London. We had seats in the very front row with a raised stage immediately before us. This brought our eye levels just about to the top of the actor's legs. Need I say more? That was an occasion when the forty-year old was rather more in evidence than she of greater age. Mesmerised, I doubt I took in much of what else went on on stage. I was too cowardly to ask my friend her view - no pun intended - but, when, as an acquaintance of his, she suggested we went round to see him, I did feel my imagination might boggle over. What would I say, "I did enjoy my view of....?" As it happened, the queue for this pleasure was long and she decided we'd be better off going home. A contemporary asked my thoughts about sexuality and the likelihood of sex in older age, believing she was the only one plagued with a platonic partner. I asked the one candidate of the right age to whom such a question might be acceptable. He laughed. 'Res ipsa loquitur', as the lawyers say: that speaks for itself. Hope springs eternal.... Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


For those of you who don't have access to UK television, I need to explain that, currently, there is a programme airing called "Pan Am". It is a serial telling the tales of Stewardesses who worked for the Airline in the sixties. I don't watch it, myself, because I wouldn't want to deal with the nostalgia it would engender. "Nostalgia"? you inquire. Well, yes, Dear Reader: nostalgia because I worked for Pan Am, not in the sixties, in the fifties. Nor as a Stewardess because, in those days, American nationals, only, were employed to fly. However,I did fly. I accompanied children under twelve who were travelling alone, but I was not a fully fledged trolley dolly. An introductory documentary went out a week or so before the fictional programme and that I did watch. I can't think why the sixties, not the fifties, were treated as the starting point, but there you are, people of my age are used to invisibility. In that era, I remember we all had our hearing tested so the degree could be registered before the arrival of the new Jet engines and comparisons made if we complained, subsequently, of problems. As ground staff we worked in huts alongside the A4. I did shifts of two twelve hour days, two twelve hour nights and four days off. Accompanying minors was ad hoc so there was always a passport, a tooth brush and some clean underwear in my handbag. I learned a lot from the experience. Much that has kept its operational value more than fifty years hence. The area boss was American. I can hear his voice, still, even if I can't reproduce the accent. "You may have answered the phone a hundred times. The passenger has only rung once", to curb impatience. The current series and the reports of real-life experiences which are running alongside it in the papers, makes much of the requirement for Stewardesses to wear corsets. That didn't pertain to us on the ground but the dress requirements were just as stringent. "The passenger doesn't know, he doesn't care if you are wearing your pants (knickers, to us on this side of the Pond), but WHERE IS YOUR HAT?". And, of course, a corset in the air. In the end, I accepted that such an item would have to sqeeze in to my bag as well as me in to it if I were to go on doing the babysitting trips. By the time the skies were opened to non-Americans, I was engaged to be married and that was verboten for Stewardesses. But I do confess, in the interests of interest, these days occasionally to leaving out the Ground Staff bit and letting it be assumed that I was a total trolley dolley. Mea Culpa!

What a different world it was! Day shifts started at 7.30am. To get to London Airport from where I lived in North london was not possible on Public Transport that early.I used to take a train to a station called Gunnersbury Park on an over-head railway line and walk from there to a roundabout which no longer exists. I would stand at a 'bus stop which no 'bus served until after 8am and wait for a lift. It never failed: in five years it never failed. Standing in my blue uniform, hat on, all correct, I would be rescued by any number of high-flying gentlemen, or, anyway, their chauffeurs under instruction, and wafted to work in the back of Bentleys, Rolls Royces and even open-topped MGs on a summer's day, hat off and hair flying and no acknowledgement of how these gentlemen may have liked their kindness to be compensated. Would you let your daughter risk that these days? Of course you wouldn't. How innocent I, myself, managed to be. Even over-nighting with the crew on baby-accompanying trips I went singularly to bed after a glorious time in whatever hotel bar. Honest: I did. Thinking back to the last blog post and the lady in the advert who wished she'd had more sex, I absolutely cannot believe I passed up on the high-jinks the TV programme insists we had. Even some low-jinks wouldn't go amiss in to-days'situation. My immediate boss had worked for Imperial Airways. She is still with us, not I fear, computer literate so I shall print this off and send it to her, assuring her, although I am not wearing a hat, I am sporting the other unseen item of clothing. Bora da.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sex and Relationships

The pleasure and excitement of being a Mumsnet Blogger is undiminished. I saw that I was categorised under 'Sex and Relationships'. Now there's a thought. I can't be the only person passed the age of procreation who is only too aware of the minefield of Sex and Relationships. First, should one deal with them separately or together? When I was a girl, as the saying goes, there would be no sex without a relationship. Indeed, no sex unless the relationship were such that the parties involved could be sure not only that there was a relationship but of an enduring, committed relationship. There was a word for it. It was called marriage. I remember an advertisement from not so long ago. I am not sure what it was advertising but there were three elderly women in a cafe, remembering the past. The image that sticks is of one of them, transported back fifty years, rolling on the grass with a comely young man, the voice over wishing she had had more sex. I don't remember what the others wished but it comes back to me, as we speak, that it was an advertisement for butter. The three elderly women were indulging in croissants dripping with butter with no further need to concern themselves about weight and the other impedimenta of beauty and attraction. Those were also the days when men were imprisoned for having a sexual relationship with another man. One of the most toe-curling experiences of a life, (mine) not entirely blessed with dependable tact, was when a well-known figure, who had been in prison for just such a relationship, many years later, introduced me to his daughter and her boy-friend. The fresh-faced boy looked about twelve. I having entered the era when policemen were perceived to be getting younger, said to the father, "Boyfriends are getting younger all the time" and he relpied "My DAUGHTER'S boyfriend ". Oops! No way out of that except to die on the spot and wish sex had never been invented neither for pleasure, which was not gender-dependent, nor procreation, which, in those days, was.

There is no question but that there is a situation - can you feel me avoiding 'issue'? - concerning sex for those of us who find that our insides and our outsides are decades apart. Was'nt there a woman who advertised that she would like some more sex before it was too late? Details escape me, but I think it worked and she had not only a lovely time, with, I believe, Tolstoy read as fore-play, but also the material for a whole book. This is not the forum in which to disclose Liz's own experience in that specific field, (the one in which the lady frolicked in the butter ad? - Get it? Or "geddit" as my six year old son used to say. No, Silly, of course he's not six now.) but I don't at all mind disclosing the importance of relationships for me. One of the in-your-face understandings that turned up with my latest birthday was that there was not going to be much more time to form nor service relationships. The inner forty-year old can protest all she likes but one of these days is, by now, actually, NOW. Last night I was invited to an American Thanksgiving dinner: a first for this Welshman. There was present a mix of ethnic backgrounds and religions - or none - so our host suggested we accommodate this by going round the table each saying for what, in the past year, we would give thanks. Answers were diverse, from "my dog" to "a scholarship" and even the current dinner. In deference to my elder statesman status, I was asked to go first. "Friendship" said my inner voice. So, up I spoke, and I do give thanks for friendship,for relationships, yesterday and every day, including for the huge possibilities of the Mums/Gransnet network. Prynhawn da

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Growing up

It's with some,no great, excitement that I have to tell you that I have become a Mumsnet Blogger. After three and a half years it just seemed like a good idea to spread my wings and try to reach a few more of you. I was accepted, 55 years after I passed my last exam. So, if you are new to the blog, I have some helpful hints for your greater delictation. Basically, things happen to 40 year-old women hiding inside a body that is rather more than three score and ten - more than seventy if you are not familiar with the biblical phrase and as bad at Maths as I am - that can be extremely funny. They can also be tragic, come to think of it. More, they can require wisdom and experience to deal with and they can be embarrassingly awkward when the above items are not at one's disposal. (The wisdom and experience, of course) My job is to recount some of these events when and in the way they happen to me. Often, they echo the experience of many others, who seem to like the identification with me. Often, they are just down to my personal stupidity. Sometimes, they could serve as a warning to those of you who are still Mums in the clean- sock- whats-for-supper-go-to-bed NOW-sense. The intention is to find the funny side of them. Happily, this is often possible. However, life being what it is, the occasional complaint - what I call a 'green ink' situation, in deference to those who used to write letters to the Newspapers in green ink, signed "Disgruntled, Tunbridge Wells" - will creep in. I admit,modestly, mind you, people tune in from distant places: Mountain View, California, for instance. I have no idea whom or how old this lovely follower is. I try to write carefully, so the tone may even seem archaic, as the Guru will call it. Nor is the blog a diary in the conventional sense, so I may tell you about the experience of others, as well. You will notice the appearance of two people of influence: 1) the Guru, who set it all up and looks after my entire computer life. (He also happens to be one of the people dearest to me in my whole life) and 2) the Wizard of Cyberspace, whose duty it is to destroy my best endeavours, steal my work and do his best to wipe me out. Oh, and I am Welsh. It helps to know. Otherwise, you are meant to make up your own mind about the rest of me.

Inevitably, there have been running themes. The blog has been going a while and people have been kind in following it, but, like many television series, or, even literary compendia, one doesn't have to have watched or read them all, nor in the right order. You will soon get the 'voice' and become a member of the Gang. And, if you are one of the many new people who have just come upon '75 going on 40', I hope you will not stop at the top blog post or two. There are lots, even better, below. Take a pin and plunge in to one or more 'older' or 'oldest'. I am not sufficiently computer-literate to know whether or not you have access to the whole catalogue of posts but there are one or two about travelling where the experiences were hilarious in retrospect, hairy in the moment, and a fairly recent one called "Invisibility" where I come close to losing my sang-froid. An elderly lady with a stick, an umbrella and some shopping can find herself somewhat disadvantaged heading for the door of a Post Office along with six able-bodies. She is inevitably forced to the end of a queue and left to smile, sweetly, rather than compound the problem by a shout of "Hey, you. I was here first". You stand more chance of an equal contest if you are visually equal. In my experience, the unseemliness of a stick-waving row is unhelpful in inverse ratio to the age of the waver. Stay with me. C u soon. Nos da

Thursday, 10 November 2011


What a wonderful thing is the unconscious - or, even, the sub-conscious. There was I, thinking about the ways, the unexpected ways, in which the Departed deposit themselves within us, when I remembered that to-morrow is Remembrance day. This day we remember, at 11am, those lost in war. To-morrow, will be a particularly special one : at 11 o'clock, it will be 1100, on the 11th of 2011. Before I was struck by the serendipity, I had just planned to tell you how we can hold on to those who have 'gone before'. At three score and more than ten you would expect me to have some experience of losing important people in my life. Sometimes, their faces fade.I wonder if I can go on keeping them in mind This made me sad until it came to me that their faces were not, necessarily, the sharpest or the only way to hold on to them. As I explored this further, I saw that the ways in which those who have died have woven themselves in to the fabric of my life are as varied as they were, themselves. Almost daily, a dearly loved cousin and friend lives again as I ponder what to do with left-over food and hear her tell me to "put it in the freezer until you don't feel guilty about throwing it out". (Under another post, I suspect I have told you of that advice before. I hope it bears repeating in this special context).

I never turn a 'hospital corner' on my bed without feeling the presence of my Mother who showed me how. I have reason, too often, to think of the effect, on a plethora of situations, of sibling rivalry: the most powerful formative force in the world, I believe.(I wish I were not too lazy/old to research it properly as I believe is now being undertaken). Each time, I hear another loved, lost voice:" People have been having brothers and sisters for centuries", dismissing in nine words my attempt to excuse my warring children by citing the sibling rivalry thing. My attempt to put a hook in the wall from which to append some picture I should never have bought in the first place will always attract the presence of someone close to me who, once, catching me at it, observed: "Ah, a new coat-hook for the next door neighbour". Taken short when out with a male companion one of my oldest friends comes to haunt me with the punch-line of his favourite joke. I shall need to tell you all of it. A little girl was having a picnic with her little male cousin and their families when both were taken short. Together, they crouched behind a hedge to deal with nature's needs. The little girl encountered nettles and other impediments to comfort. Looking over at her cousin, who suffered none of this, she remarked "that's a handy gadget for a picnic." Thus, when desperate for a solution, I look at the surrounding countryside and my companion, and am immediately in the aura of he-who-has-long-since-left-us, wishing for just such a handy gadget.

Not long ago, a cloud- burst inundated the place I kept my photographs. Many were lost, particularly those of the era of my Grandparents and Parents, by now a record much more than a century old. But I have come to realise I don't need my eyes to remember those whom I once knew. I have just to make a bed, observe a squabble, look at the cold roast chicken, need the loo when I am not at home and I am in touch, again, with those loved and lost. I can feel, again, as I felt near them. If I were a quilt each one would be a square of me, even if I can no longer see their faces. That's what makes Remembrance Day significant. I can 'see' no more than a handful of those we are remembering, but I can identify with the loss and 'wear' their presence for ever in the patchwork of my life. Prynhawn da

Monday, 31 October 2011


Why would a carton of Grapefruit juice which could be bought, along with two more, for £5 now be part of a trio that costs £6? Inflation is why. It's rather alarming haven't you found? A few posts ago, I think I told you that I purchased a loaf of bread for £1.65 a few yards from where I had rented a flat for £5 a month when I first worked in London. Since that Damascene experience, I have been alert to the increasing nonsense of what things cost currently. One can't buy a birthday card for less than £1 and anything one would want actually to offer one's friends could be double that. When I worked out of London Airport the flying world was plagued by what were called "creeping delays". This disingenous phenomenon was always presented with wide-eyed innocence ."Pan American World Airways announces a delay to Flight number 101 to New york. A further announcement will be made in thirty minutes." "Due to technical difficulties there is a further delay to Flight 101. A further announcement etc etc." You get the idea. Call it creeping or call it inflated there was to be an indeterminate delay to their flight and passengers were helpless to do or know anything more than that. As time went on, there would certainly be an inflation of their impatience. Now, why did that come to mind? Well, I don't always know. This time, however, I do know. I was thinking about what used to be known as Stewardesses, now called Cabin Crew. These young women had to conform to certain weight restrictions. Not in their hand baggage, silly, in their persons. The idea was that there be no danger of them brushing in to aisle-seat passengers by reason of inflated girth. Can you imagine getting away with that now? In some Airlines a pipe cleaner would have difficulty in avoiding the aisle-seat passenger. Political Correctness, Equality and Ethics rule the skies as well as the rest of the world. And no bad thing, I hear you cry.

My own experience of the effect of inflation is rather more mundane. It centres on the area between the top of my legs and my chest. See me sideways and I am 'D'shaped. There is no waist. This ballooning occured over-night. So much so that I hastily sought medical advice. Dear Reader, there is no medical explanation for it. The Good Doctor humoured me in looking in to it because, frankly, he didn't really believe it had appeared from one day to the next. The other day,in a Sale, I tried on a coat. The coat was too big but it was a bargain so... The sales person suggested I put a belt round it. Where? There is nowhere to support a belt, nothing on which it may rest. There have to be hips, pre-supposing a waist, to support a belt. Although I could manage without new clothes for the remainder of my days, some things do need replacing and an inflated view of the importance of appearance for an old lady means that I can't be seen in the usual shabby stand-by another moment. I did buy the coat, as much to confuse the sales-person as for any more rational reason (tautology?) but I shall be seriously uncomfortable with its flapability quotient. There you have it: inflated prices make it very challenging to find suitable winter cover for an inflated waistline. C u soon. Prynhawn da

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Before committing myself to this title, I looked at the catalogue to see if I had used it already. Pithy titles do present themselves but it is not a good look for a blog for them to be too repetitious. I havent, (used it before that is), but I did learn that this will be the one hundred and twentieth post. Thank you for your continuing constancy and,I hope, interest. Anyway, what exercised my thoughts this time was the invisibility of the elderly. I have become so used to it that it has become the backdrop to everyday life, the backdrop you don't notice until someone knocks it down and builds something else in its place. Indeed, my senses dived in to disbelief only yesterday when I crossed a road I have crossed more times than you have looked at the moon to see, opposite me, well, nothing. A whole block of buildings, shops I have known all my London life, gone, disppeared, no more. A building site had taken its place. Something in the quality of light had changed, too. A sense of outrage crept in. No-one warned me, no-one asked me, no- one wondered if I could tolerate a change in vista, a loss of the known, as if I were invisible. Of course, in that regard, not only would I have been invisible, but also non-existant. What impinges on my daily life has rather more of a nuisance quality. Take the Post Office, for instance. I actually purchased a stick which converts in to a seat expressly for use in the Post Office, for the queues in the Post Office, anyway. It's true: that's exactly why I bought the thing. I sit there, propped, dragging it slowly with me as the queue snakes forward, well tortoises forward. Sometimes, on a brave day,I might note the back of the person in front of me, move to the front and sit, motionless, until the back has its turn and then take mine.

But I digress. I approach the Post Office with my usual careful snail gait along with any number of others approaching from the same direction or from some other. They overtake. They push passed. They cut me up without even the excuse of road rage. I am not one of them. I am not seen. The outcome is that, in the passage of seconds, there are six people ahead of me in that queue, although we all arrived at the door together. If it is in the middle of the day, before school is out, there may be only three people through the door at the same time as I, but all at a quicker pace. I am left wishing for a fairy's wand to waft them all into invisiblity. Buses: we Brits no longer queue, (stand in line). There was a time when the saying that one Brit waiting for a bus would form an orderly queue was as it was. Now, it's a herd of me-firsts with the longest legs winning and the push-chair and stick encumbriants waiting, invisibly, for the next bus. On London buses seats nearest the door are reserved for the not-so-able. There are picture icons indicating this, and words, too. Invisible, filled with young able-bodies who cant read neither. I am, though shrunk, not all that small. But people serving in shops can't see me. They see only the young,the middle-aged and men. "Excuse me" becomes my mantra, mounting, decibel by decibel to an un-fairylike shriek which has an effect quite different from that which I desired. One day, I shall let out the raving lunatic inside me, dress all over in pillar-box red, paint my face white, discard the fantasy fairy wand and ditch the stick with a seat for one with a broom. Then I shall be through the doors, transported, served and seen like all you visible mortals. Bora da

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Another way of describing the coalescent, melding me in to a whole, effect of my little pot of tablets, capsules and pills, (see below) would be to call it "Prevention". Triggered by the current intention of the European Community to ban all vitamin and mineral supplements, I made myself think about whether or not they worked. Several factors operate here. I had to bear in mind that I am not great at being told what to do so my thinking could well be influenced by the adrenaline rush of defensive anger that filled me as soon as I heard about it. It was along the lines of: "how dare you tell me what's good for me or not. I've been taking these things for years and I am already double your age". There you have, immediately, another factor. Could I risk giving any of them up? Who knows what might fall off, deteriorate or worse - worse? - if I stopped taking whatever? I am also consoled by routine. How would it feel to have breakfast without the companionship of my little pots - one at a time, of course? Every time I go away I prepare tiny plastic bags of the little dears, one per day, to take with me. I avoid, with the determination of the obsessed, anything which needs taking three times a day, even prescribed by AUTHORITY. I have had no success at all in training myself to remember the midday dose. I can just about deal with bed-time, but not reliably. Recently, for an infected toe, I was prescribed anti-biotics four times a day. The combination of poor arithmetic - lifelong - and poor memory, combined with 'won't, shan't can't make me' made for total chaos and indifferent treatment for the poor, black toe. (It's better now, I hasten to assure you).

I digress. The latter was treatment, not prevention. For decades I have been using an anti-wrinkle cream. The cost was always high, even when I was not only working but also had the support of the Father of my children. The cost has now risen to the price of my Father's first car. (It was a Morris, since you ask, registration number ACY 726. Not bad recall at a distance of 70 years). I have denied myself shampoo, lipstick, steak and champagne in order to go on affording, if that's the word, this preventative miracle. Dear Reader, the last birthday has woken me up. I am not particularly wrinkled, as it happens, but it came to me in a blinding flash, it is too late for prevention. (You may wish to point out a Freudian slip: I should have written:"latest birthday"). I have been aware, since the actual three score and tenth, of some creeping hesitation as I forked out for this motor, I mean product, but only now have I seen the light. What a sense of freedom. Concealed at the back of the top shelf in a bathroom cupboard is a quantity of tiny samples of this and that I have been given over the years. Do you really believe a night cream comes out only after midnight, or would you be prepared to use it as a day moisturiser? Eye cream: will it know the difference if I put it on my cheeks? I have decided that this particular carrier bag full of freebie goodies will easily see me through my remaining years, clear my conscience and prevent on-going foolhardiness and penury. What do you think? Nos da

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Before you overwhelm me with shouts of "Repetition: you've used that title before," let me assure you, I know. It was a long time ago and referred to quite a different coming together. We can call the current one 'Coalescence 2' if you prefer. But it is lovely to know you are paying attention. Anyway, as I was saying, coming together. Even those of you as un-gifted as I, mathematically speaking, will have worked out that, given the time this blogpost has been running, I can't still be seventy five. Coyly, I have been referring to myself as ' more than three score and ten'. Actually, as we speak, I am seventy eight. No call to change the title of the blog but, maybe, some explanantion as to how I maintain this huge number is due. Dear Reader, in my kitchen is a small round tray. On this tray stand nine small pots ranged in a circle around the edge. In each pot there is a colourful collection of tablets, pills and capsules. Some of them are there courtesy of the NHS,( UK Health Service to kind readers over the Pond)and some, courtesy of various dietary experts, alternative health carers and sheer desperation. Every nine days I refill the, by now, empty pots and go through the cycle again. The point of the title has emerged. This collection is keeping me together. My coalescence depends on the interaction of pharmaceutics, herbs, minerals and vitamins contained in the little brown pots lying on their tray on the designated kitchen worktop.

The Guru has another Godmother, even older than I, who, one otherwise innocuous day, suddenly decided to stop taking even her prescribed medecine. Nothing changed. Her health continued at the same level it had throughout all the years of pill-taking. Now, I do not aspire to that level of Chutzpah, but, I do ask myself if there may not be a more profitable way to spend the hour or so it takes me every nine days to prepare those potions. The trouble would be dealing with mind over matter. Recently, I was warned there may be a behind- the- scenes problem with my eyes. Naturally, with no test, no confirmation, nothing yet diagnosed, I now don't see as well as I did. (I do have a diagnosis, as it happens, it is called 'auto-suggestion'). Stated baldly, what if my pots do contain the concatenation of my coalescence? Surely, it would be better to go on taking them than to watch bits of me fall off, one after the other, for deprivation of magnesium, propolis, vitamin C and so on and so on. In the first Coalescence post, I gave the example of mayonnaise: a coalescence of eggs, oil, a touch of seasoning and a lot of patience. There would be no mayonnaise without one or other of these components, now would there. You would have a puddle of olive oil, a mess of eggs and a dirty bowl.The mind boggles. Since I wish to be neither a puddle of oil nor unscrambled eggs in a dirty bowl, I have constrained myself to go on taking the pills - and tablets and capsules - until I coalesce in to a pile of ash on the Crematorium floor. Bora da

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Acts have consequences. I know: you learned that at your Mother's knee. The concept came to mind recently as the result of a bizarre and disturbing accident. I was grilling some fish. The grill is inside the oven on my cooker so it can't be seen from the outside. In due course, I lifted out the tray to test for doneness. Around me were a couple of flies one of whom droppped on to the grilling pan. I watched in horror the inevitable and unavoidable demise of the fly against the inferno of the pan. It was unbearable on several levels. Imagine if it actually felt the pain of death by frying. I must say, Liz's normal capacity to bounce back from the awfulness of this and that in her life was severely tested. It gave me an opportunity to think about other things done without thought - or realisation - of the consequences. Sunbathe without protection and you, too, will burn. (My Goodness! It does make you believe in the unconscious. What an example to pop in to mind straight after the fly tale). Moving swiftly on, let us consider the consequences of ageing. After all, a blog which considers the dichotomy of a seventy-year-old body housing a forty-year-old soul is what this blogpost is about. Last night I went to a concert. I needed a snack before the start and presented myself at the queue for this facility. Picture it: stick, tray, handbag the weight of a small toddler, programme too big for inside the bag and ticket sticking out of my pocket. From near the front of the queue spoke up an American voice. "Here, Dear. Take my place."
I accepted, gratefully. As I was struggling with impedimenta to find cutlery and so on, she reappeared, telling me she had collected all those necessaries and found me a table. There you are with a great example of the consequence of ageing. The sting in the tail being that she looked about the same age as I. (Pedantry may be another consequence)

I threatened you, last time,with the promise of more travellers' tales. In fact, that all seems so long ago I think I may bore us all silly with going back to it. But I do have a connected confession. I came home with the wrong suitcase. I don't suppose I shall ever know how that happened. Mine has a band going right round it with my last name embroidered every few inches. It had a Frequent Flier label, making identification easier, and a hand-written label logging the current flight details. This last was red. I cannot believe I accepted it off the carousel and walked it through Customs without noticing that what I was dragging had none of the above appendages. Two contributory factors: the wheelchair had failed to collect me on arrival - again - and the ordered Mini Cab was not represented by its driver as I emerged in Arrivals. As a consequence of the former, I was in pain and a bad mood, concentrating on getting out of the dratted place. As a consequence of the latter, I was irritated and in a worse mood. As a consequence of all that, I could have mistaken the bag for mine, I suppose. However, when the driver did turn up he left me to fetch the car from its distant parking spot. I got talking to a small girl trapped in her push chair and didnt notice him come back and load the/a bag in to his car. Did he pick up the wrong one? Did I retrieve the wrong one? Dear Reader, we shall never know. The consequence of all that is that this elderly lady, exhausted and upset, after hours of telephoning, including to irate owners of the wrong bag, had to go back to the Airport, taking the wrong bag and going through hoops to get back the right one. (Are there elderly lady terrorists, I ask myself) Several Airport, wheelchairless miles later, I finally made it back to my car and the dear friend who had driven me there six full hours after my original return. Dottiness must be the consequence of more than three score and ten. Today is my birthday. It can only get worse. Prynhawn da

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


More than two weeks since I last appeared! But I am home again after six days by the sea,then three days at home followed by four days of culture. (Those of you on my blog-alert list may well remember that the Guru, the scarlet swimsuit and I were setting off together for a little sun and sand because I took the liberty of warning you that you would have to do without me for a while). We have been doing this trip for a few years, now, and it gets better and better. I get older and stiffer and in need of more help and he gets older and more handsome and in need of more refreshment from the bar. But, honestly, the current arrangements at airports having been deliberately designed to put off any but the most intrepid of travellers, I am aware it would be a very different undertaking without him. The one risk of disharmony came up on a day of uncertain weather. Prudently ,we had hired a car. I am not sanguine about the staying power of a man, the sole representative of his age group, at a venue where, without him, the average age would be high, to say the least. Actually, I have never known him restless. On the contrary, he enjoys switching off from the active, bibulous life he normally leads, but, as one's Mother would say, better safe than sorry. Anyway, off we went to explore the possibilities of a more exciting town further up the coast. He had heard of THE place to go, just outside it. I listened to its details and felt like he had opened the door to my idea of Hades on Earth. This was a place where one could expect to be sitting next to anybody and everybody who was anybody. Every film and Pop star was au fait with its delights. He failed to persuade me that lunch would be fun at such a venue but I agreed to a drink on the way back. Dear Reader, I was wrong. I have reached the age where I find I can pull up next to Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Ferarris and other cars whose names I can neither spell nor pronounce, in a down-market hire car with dignity and aplomb. I am now so old that the golden, gorgeous, exquisitely dressed clientele roll off my eyeballs without a trace of envy or capacity to compete. And the Guru has the look, anyway. So next year, if I am spared, we shall have lunch there and I can count on my increased dereliction as a kind of cache to disguise my otherwise claim to no fame at all.

After a short do-the-washing-and-upset-the-cat few days at home, I set off for a lovely long weekend of amazing music. (Well, because she thought I was home to stay, of course). Perfect in every aspect, I can't remember an idyll like it: two concerts in a row, musicians I know and the warmth of friendship. There you are, spoiling indeed.
But,I do have to face the real reason for the title of this post. Travelling: I can no longer cover the distance on foot from start to finish at airports these days. I ask for a wheelchair and am pushed along, doing my absolute utmost to look like a person having a lovely time. It actually is fun if the Guru is there to make jokes and play along with it. On my own, it has to be a bit of a pantomime. All very efficient when it is very efficient. An absolute disaster when it is not. Waiting in a sort of Members lounge on the outward leg of my second phase holiday , I was forgotten. 'Go to Gate' flashed up and I was still a ten minute walk away. I'll tell you the short version. I abandoned hope and set off down lifts along paths through passageways on to a main concourse. I saw a sign that my flight was closing. What to do? I saw a chauffered - I know, I can't think what else to call it - buggy thing approaching, leapt in front of it, lost two minutes arguing with the man because I was not on his list, thus motorised was taken a bit further, dropped off with yet steep stairs and another long passage to negotiate and finally arrived at the Gate in such a state as to set the staff wondering who on earth was the lunatic with the flying hair, flying stick and no voice because no breath: a security risk at the very least. But, persuaded I was the missing wheelchair passenger, I was ferried out in a car, everyone else having gone and, Dear Reader, upgraded on board so all was well that ended well. As fate would have it, it happened on the way back, too with even more of a disaster attached. I think that story should wait for the next post. However, my belief is that, frustrated by the efficiency of the new computer, the Wizard of Cyberspace has been in touch with his cousin, the Wizard of Airspace, and is continuing his vendetta through him. "Suite a la prochaine",as it says in the French magazine, just as you get to the exciting bit. Nos da.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Yet More Adapting

It's not surprising, given the nature of the blog, that there should be considerable material referring to various ways in which the inner forty-year old has to adapt to the restrictions imposed by the immoveability - in all senses - of the more than three score and ten- year old. Some are concerned with usage, some with conditions, mental and physical and some with mores. I checked the complete list of posts and, indeed, there are several called "Adapting" or words to that effect. (I would have said "there is a number", but the Guru already calls my expressions "archaic" so I've spared you that one.) To-day's prompt came because I went to a shop to buy a present for a forth-coming baby. Why is that remarkable? Well, it is remarkable because of the method of making this purchase. The options were, first, to buy online. This would have been simple. Put the item in to Google: 'a contraption to wrap around a baby in order to carry him/her clasped to your body'. I don't think so. Try 'baby carrier'. Better, but I was faced with tiny pictures of what looked like ruck-sacks, for front or back, Mother or Father. Then there appeared tiny pictures of what looked like winding sheets. Possible, but hard to determine from a postage stamp. So, give up on the possible bonus of having the item sent straight to the new Mother, keeping dry in the prevailing thunderstorm, and try something else. Second option: telephone a baby goods supplier and describe what I thought the Mother wanted. "Yes Mrs Mountford - at least I didnt get "Liz" - I think I know what you mean. Gone for at least 60 pence worth of telephone time and back with the suggestion that I come in and look at them. Third option: find a local baby shop, see the item, choose a colour - Oh the responsibility - pay and go. All that was so familiar I really enjoyed it. Once home, wrap in gift paper, enclose a note, find a padded bag big enough, up to the Post Office ready for the queues with my stick/seat and off to go. I know, I know, had I stuck to option one, I'd have been home and dry with no rain, no wrapping paper and no queue, but would I have felt like a person buying a present. No I would not.

Alright, I am now prepared to let you in on a situation of some delicacy. You may remember the Guru's astonishment - g.bsmacked would be nearer - at the urgency with which I prevailed upon him to mend my computer. He simply would not let go of the opportunity to point out how this old lady computer-phobe had become so dependent on the enemy. In vain did I explain that it was not the disfunctional computer that disturbed my equilibrium. It was the fact that there was something not running smoothly in my life. Younger, I could handle disfunction - objects, not mine - with aplomb. Now, I am ill at ease if a light bulb goes, if I see dust where I can't reach, if a tap leaks. The routine of computer use, emails, blogposts, search engine, (no, I try not to say Hoover neither. I say vacuum cleaner. Google has the same affiliation although you could, with justification, say: see above) if once disrupted, changes my approach to the peace of everyday. I see there is a subtle difference, only, between being troubled because the computer is breaking down and being troubled when anything at all is not as it should be. But difference there is: agree? Anyway, Guru found the solution, a new computer. And you are among the first beneficiaries of its incarnation. Naturally, it was he who set it up and it works nearly enough like its predecessor that I am down to just fourteen queries for when next he has time to talk to me. I think the Wizard of Cyberspace is lying low for the moment, risky though it may be to say so. He has, however, sent a few apprentice wizards - small 'w' to signify - to test my patience and perseverance.

From old-fashioned shopping to 21st century communication: what a journey. However, I have just had something of a revelation. For centuries, Welsh women carried their babies in shawls. One end was wrapped around the baby, the other around the mother. One single piece of fabric,one simple solution, one simple purpose, or even papoose. So what IS new? Nos da

Thursday, 18 August 2011


Oh Dear! Feedback has suggested that "Planets" doesn't read as clear and smoothly as I had assumed it did. A little elucidation: What I hoped to create was an understanding of one way to manage the unmanageable. Let's say that circumstances had contrived to make her way of being in the world intolerable for our imaginary friend. Say we see her world as Planet Reality. Our friend realises that the only way to survive the weight of the emotional pain she feels there is to move to a different world. Planet Survival, I called it. The imagining then follows her, via a budget airline, from the one Planet to the other, listing the sort of things which would be likely to be packed in hand baggage, and others in checked-in (hold) baggage. Obviously, a lot has to be left behind. Life would be narrower,more restricted but feasable on the new Planet. Once there,a new way of being in the world develops and she manages really well. There are still glances back, ties,short visits to Planet Reality but, by and large, the only way she could hope to cope at all would be to establish herself on the lesser but viable Planet Survival and do her best to pretend it's what she wants and enjoys. Simple, yes? However, the computer having succumbed to The Wizard again, I have VERY little and limited access to it and may not even be able to reach you all at all. With hope, Liz

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


As you will have noticed, it is the really funny side of a three score and more than ten external life being lived by an inner forty- year old that fascinates me and, I hope, Dear Reader, you, too. However, sometimes, it has to be acknowledged, real life is not always that ready to afford us the fun. This came to me, recently, after a conversation with someone in the position of being something of an expert in the matter. The matter is survival. (You will come to see its relation to the planets as you read on). This lady sees herself as exisiting on a very small planet circling, as it would, around the main, huge one. She moved there some years ago when life on the main planet became unmanagable. I believe she would find it fair if I told you just a little about how that came about. She was living what she saw as a pretty normal life, in pretty normal circumstances with the usual expectations of the present and future and a clear enough view of the past with its dark and light, joy and disappointment: an ordinary woman with an unexceptional story, millions like her out there on Planet Reality. Over some time, she suffered a number of losses. Some were sudden, some were gradual, some could be incorporated and some, well one in particular, she would need to accept were incapable of incorporation. What to do? She made valiant efforts to continue her life on Planet Reality. Weighed down by the excess baggage of the grief and pain she suffered, feeling unsupported, afraid and at risk of becoming too demanding of the good, reliable things still available to her, she decided to decamp to a much smaller planet, just to the North West and still in sight of Planet Reality.

This was Planet Survival. As everyone of you will know, travel is far from easy, these days. The only direct route to Planet Survival was via a budget airline. Not only that, her new home was not going to be big enough to accommodate anything like the bulk of her possessions. Two such predicaments will need some ingenuity in the resolution. What to do? What to take? What to leave behind? Having booked a flight, the priority was to plan the actual trip. As, yet again, you will be aware, one is allowed only 100ml of liquid in hand baggage on any flight. It was clear that tears would have to be left behind, or, anyway, strictly rationed. 100ml - I hope kind readers over the Pond will excuse the metrics - is not much liquid so that would take some getting used to. Vulnerability had to go in hand baggage, too, much as she would like to have left it behind. As for hold baggage, one suitcase weighing 15 kilos was the limit. Thus, most of her history, in its heavy books, would have to be abandoned or, at best, archived so that she could access it should things ever change enough to make it possible either to glance at or even read some of it, again. Sadly some friends would, inevitably, remain on Planet Reality . She could take only those of whose love she was sure enough, even if love was more realistically evaluated by a capacity to speak the same language as she.Ah!love: too difficult to make a decision. No doubt there was some love that was there and might have gone with her had it but known. It was so tied up with tears, though, she would surely have exceeded 100ml. If ever she reached a sensible decision about love she could always send for it. Loneliness: some left behind, some must be taken. There was room for only minimal family. That went on the very top of her hold baggage, love squeezed in beside it. Next, she packed her sense of fun and laughter. Fortunately, they were light enough that there was an enormous amount in before she got to 15 kilos. After that, music, filling all the remaining gaps: not too many slow movements and no Lutoslawski.

I gather she has been living on Planet Survival with great success. She can see Planet Reality and, truth be told, has been known to spend the odd week-end there. Sometimes, a phone call, a sighting in the street, some seemingly obscure reminder, will pull her reluctantly back to the feel of life on Planet Reality. As things stand, though, she does not see herself going back to live there, permanently. She is happy and, for the most part, secure on Planet Survival. At any rate, her postcards back to Planet Reality make sure there is no hint of anything but the Good Life she is thoroughly enjoying, refreshed by new and exciting elements never available to her on Planet Reality.

Now, it is absolutely no good you trying to guess, even if you thought you had enough data, of whom I speak. I made it all up. It was, though, triggered by the predicament of several acquaintances and former work associates and an imagination too used to seeing things in visual images. But next time you glance at the night sky, blow a kiss at the smallest planet as it circles a big one and think of Tinkerbell. Bora da

Monday, 8 August 2011

Hassle Avoidance

As you will know, if you have been kind enough to keep up, the latest post was called "Hassle". It turns out to have been the toe of the Giant's shoe, the hair on the elephant's head, the tip of the iceberg. Since then, I have been subjected to the Emperor, the Juno, the ultimate definition of all hassle. The Wizard of Cyberspace came and stole everything. My emails, my googles, my Mystery Shopper work, my profiles - that's what Guru says; I wouldn't know a profile if it was sitting on my lap as I write - all disappeared. Even the seascape wall-paper I enjoy during the wait for things to warm up upped anchor and crossed the channel. Worse is to tell. My blogposts had gone. Every single one, ab initio. The short version of the outcome of the last four days is that Guru has been able to restore its basics but everything is much more complicated to access than before and I have to wait patiently - I know, I know, patiently is not what I do best in many respects - until he has a window to come here and mend it in situ. (I tried lugging it to him. That was the just partial success I have described). He has had two - at least two - identifiable reactions. 1)He is delighted that I have become so computer-dependent (not even secretly delighted) 2) He is increasingly, but quite sweetly, impatient with my, to him, incomprehensible panic and demands on him. He knows everything is still there, somewhere. I have nothing but my faith in him.

The crisis rather pre-empted my scheme. I had intended to write, straight after the latest post, a piece about hassle avoidance. So I shall move on from the above red ink outburst and give you the suggestions that came to mind. Hassle can be avoided in numerous unsuspected ways. For instance, take the lock off your mobile phone. Instantly, you have one less step before you can activate it. Guru is concerned about what an unlocked phone may get up to in womens' handbags. Take a chance. Live dangerously. Live longer with one hassle less. If the number you rang is engaged, use the 'ring-back' service. It saves your dialling finger and you can go on with the ironing while you wait. (I don't do this. I don't have patience enough to wait, nor ironing since Guru left.) I called in an electrician to arrange for a ground floor switch to operate a lower ground floor corridor light, left on for security, so that I didnt have to 'run' down the stairs every night to switch it off. I have two gadgets to operate the radio in my bedroom, which is also where I've installed my desk and the computer. Why? Well, so I have neither to get off the bed to find it beside the desk, nor leave my desk to find it by the bed: simple, no? My hair-dryer, which used to lie on the floor in the cupboard I call, with all seriousness, my dressing room, now hangs from a hook on the wall. Why? so I don't have to waste the expenditure of an eye-watering sum of money spent on acupuncture continuingly bending down to pick it up. There is a land-line phone in every room. Now you know why: so that I don't have to rush round looking for one. I have been known even to throw money at a problem, so great is my hassle-avoidance drive. Well, taxis, if you must have a for-instance. Yesterday, caught in an unexpected down-pour, I bought an umbrella from a shop I was sheltering near. It makes the 23rd I own: honestly. But no getting wet hassle. Having been advised by the Chinese doctor responsible for the above acupuncture, to sleep with my ankles higher than my hips, I have put redundant phone books under the mattress rather than spend the night chasing the pillow I was supposed to put directly under them - my ankles, that is. I even put nine days worth of tablets in to little pots so I don't have to search them all out, one by one, every morning. (Because that is the number the tray will hold, since you ask.) The list is endless, obsessive even. But I have only so much energy, I am considerably more than three score and ten by now and every little helps. Clearly then, the most efficient way to avoid hassle in my case, would be to throw the computer out of the window. There I've said it. The Wizard is listening. You are listening - I hope - and that's the answer: I am accustomed to having you out there. I don't want to have to do without you, so I shall go on avoiding little hassles in order to keep enough hassle-capacity to cope with the technocological revolution that keeps me in touch with you, Dear Readers, and with loved ones on islands off islands in the far north. Anyway, by the time I have found the key to unlock the padlock that holds the grilles across the window and moved the table to reach the grilles and the window and struggled to open it, the feeling has usually passed. Prynhawn da.

A ps to amuse you: listening on the radio to a pianist playing as I typed, there were about five seconds when he and I were fingering in precise tandem. Awesome.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


Hassle is a word fairly new to me. I can't remember what the phenomenon was called when I first recognised it. It wasn't hassle. Nuisance, perhaps: bother, aggravation - not aggro - annoyance, would all have conveyed the same frustration. Hassle it is currently. I need to define what I mean by the word and leave it to you to see if you are ad idem and, particularly and, to put your own betes noirs under the comment bit at the bottom. (I understand that's a hasselous proceedure in itself). Hassle is that which interupts the smooth flow of your life. It can be active or passive. The most efficient route to a place it's not easy to reach at any time can be impeded by road works and diversions. That's a passive hassle. Active hassle is finding an alternative route. The light has gone out over your make-up mirror and, without it, you can't use its magnification to make sure you've put the eyeliner, accurately, just above your eyelashes . Wonky eyeliner is not a good look on those who are more than three score and ten. The broken light is passive hassle. Climbing on to a chair to remove and replace it is active hassle. My printer is broken. This fact furnishes a pot pourri of hassle. I can't print anything. I have to go through the hassle of moving various impedimenta to reach the back of it to make sure that both the black and the grey cables are plugged in. They are. I have the hassle of contacting the Guru, who is probably at work, to ask if he can sort it. I said 'ask'. I really meant I had to choose whether to go down on one knee - the only one that works - and throw myself on his mercy or say, casually, "when you next have a moment, I wonder if you could look at the printer. It's not working". I tried the latter. I was put through the you-must-have- done-something routine, told to re-check the cables and get on with it. When I reported that its little light was on, the cables were in and all looked well but the message was still 'Printer off-line", I was laughed off the phone. The hassle of being the wrong generation for the current state of the world almost goes beyond hassle to the upper limits of disaster.

When I was working I used, occasionally, to throw money at a situation to mitigate its hassle-value. An example would be to ask the person who helps me with cleaning to do some ironing. It does not make sense to a well-brought-up old lady to spend money on something one can do oneself so it was'nt a request she was used to. The iron needs its periodic rinse-out. This is active hassle. It's a semi-professional iron with a huge tank separate from the bit that actually strokes the clothes. It is heavy and awkward and really hasselous to tip and rinse. However, it spits brown spume over everything on the first press of the 'steam' button if you dare to ignore it's routine requirement. I thought that asking someone else to do the ironing would obviate the need for me to deal with its ablutions. I was wrong. She left me a note saying she couldn't do the ironing because it was spitting brown spume - only she said "muck" so it must have been thicker. Explaining how things work produces more hassle than doing whatever oneself. But, I was guilty not only of deception in not explaining the need and asking her, outright, to rinse it out, first, but also of a costly avoidance technique. It would have been hassle-cheaper to have come clean, explained and enlisted her benign co-operation. Instead, I did the ironing, myself, giving the iron the opportunity to spit at an unremarkable rag before starting to iron the real stuff.
A dear friend caught in the usual humungous hassle of selling and buying property, has to choose between losing a house he likes and is in process of buying or paying an extra sum of money because the Vendors have just discovered they have a mortgage penalty and want that cost, for the time lag between now and when the mortgage would end without penalty, covered. He is torn between the reality of what this means to his innocent self and the reality of where to go and where to put his stuff if he can't move in as planned. I probably have to find a different word to encompass this: calamatation? Last night I arranged to meet a friend after work. I was outside his work. He was outside his home. That's not hassle. It's a failure in communication and almost in friendship. What was hassle was beating a way through the rush hour traffic to reach a rendezvous which we had mutually understood and agreed. That could have been hassle, nuisance, bother, aggravation, annoyance all in one. Oh Dear. Prynhawn da.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


A dilemma: what can a person do who struggles with what she is pleased to call truth or reality or 'see it as it is' when confronted with the imagination of a present - and for a long while past - director of works of Theatre or Opera? At the weekend I was privileged to hear a performance of Handel's Rinaldo at Glyndebourne. Now, this is, indeed, privilege. First, one has to have accumulated the cost. The cost will include tickets, travel and dinner for two. Second, one would have to have the interest in Opera and in one particular Opera. Third, one would need a serviceable companion, with a dinner jacket if male and a best frock if not, and fourth, one would have to have a stout pair of shoes and a strong umbrella for the habitual, prevailing conditions at the venue. In total , you will agree, this amounts to privilege in spades. Anyway, I did accumulate all of the above and we presented ourselves in due course and in due dress. So far, so comme il faut. That which was not comme il faut was the way the director saw fit to present the spectacle. In case you find a prod helpful, I will remind you that "Rinaldo" is a tale of the Crusades. There are winners and losers, goodies and badies and love and thwartation. (I know, but words must have been invented at some point by someone). Nothing too difficult there, then. The music is exquisite, delicate, exciting and fitting to the story. Nor is it too difficult to suspend disbelief. However, the director found all this below his capacity to interpret. It left him with not enough to do. Therefore, he set the scene in a current Grammar school. An adolescent boy is being bullied. He is also the butt of his teacher's sick humour and, what's more, his whipping stick. At some stage in this unhappy situation, staring at the blackboard, he visualises the characters in the stories of the Crusade he is meant to be studying. They emerge as real people. So far, so creative. However, the ethos of his dream is pure pornography. (I know, I know. But why can't I take oxymoronic license, too?) Now, if a young boy/man is to let us in to his dreams we mustn't be taken aback if those dreams turn out to be pornographic. It may even be called 'fact'. Where we are allowed to be taken aback is when the charm, the adherence to the Trinities and the glorious music are subjugated to the whim of a puerile director with no original work to back him up. His evident lack of intelligence and sensitivity was overwhelming. Nor could one close one's eyes and just listen. Well, since you need to ask, people of more than three score and ten find that the inner world regards closed eyes as a signal for bed-time. So, Dear Reader, I watched as well as listened and could find solace only in the knowledge that the Guru, whom you rightly guessed was my companion for the occasion, would probably find the production more interesting than if it had been true to Handel's intention and the mores and the dress of the actual epoch.

Talk about green ink. (Those of you who have been faithfully keeping up, may remember that I wrote about green ink and Disgruntled Tunbridge Wells, a post or four ago). I am aware that the very fact of complaining could have me categorised as retrograde and stick-in-the-mud. But
I was not alone. For the first time in my life I did something I could never have done at forty. I posted a comment on the Glyndebourne website, where I found numerous others, and I put my name to it. The inner mind is still blogging. (Oh dear: does that qualify as a pun, I ask you? Or is it just a Freudian slip?). Blog or boggle, I remain amazed at my timerity. Having confessed it, you may like to know that when I looked to see if my comment had got passed the Glyndebourne censor sergeant, I found it had but it had been attributed to 'Anonymous'. Incensed, I telephoned in my 'look here, my man' voice and climbed hastily down when I learned it was a website glitch and those of us who had the courage to make public our views under our names would have this corrected as soon as possible. However, it remains one of the sorest of trials for the elderly to find that cherished and even revered spectacles have been vulgarised and shorn of their integrity in the service of the new and the inventive and, let's acknowledge it, the vainglory of those with too little humlity to seek out the essence of a work and give it the power to attract the current audience they think is diminishing - and may well be for that matter. Why does the production have to leave the 'script'? People have been coming back to music, and, for that matter, to books, they have heard and read many, many times without expecting them to have a different cardre or a different ending or be thrillers instead of love stories. Please, tell me where the added value is in changing all those things when producing plays - Shakespeare, for instance - and, more often, Operas: thrills for thrills sake? So, what is a person to do? Close one's eyes but then - sleep, sleep perchance to dream. Aye there's the rub: and there we are, back with our director in spite of ourselves.

Now, those pedants among you will have noticed that the green ink never managed a capital letter when referring to the director. Intentional, that was, if below the conscious at the time. Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Yesterday's snow

As a little one - well, twelve or so - I was fascinated by the idea of lost snow. Confession: I have been messing about looking for a way to express this without sounding superior, but I give up. I was born in an era when education was taken as a given, if you see what I mean. It was tough, could be boring and it was impossible to avoid. There was so much of it you felt drowned in that very realisation. I used to have a fantasy that, one day, I would know all there was to know. I mean an active fantasy. I would lie in bed and picture myself the Fount of all Knowledge. People would have to make appointments to consult me. And no, it wasn't going on up to last year. Actually, it stopped when I was about fifteen, I guess; I hope. Anyway, all that, just to tell you that I was introduced to the French language at an early age and one of the things that stood out and has remained sticking out over all these years was the idea of the snows of yesteryear. " Ou sont les neiges d'antan?" Well, where does the snow go? It is just too mundane to say it melts. It's a mystery. I came to believe that it was a metaphor for memory. Let's say, for the sake of argument, it is a metaphor for memory. So does that mean that memory doesnt really exist, it is just a puddle on the pavement? If it's more where is it stored? Is it in the ether, in the imagination? I can see that in the post below, the one that remembered the vital importance of having memories restored by a resumed friendship with the Father of my children, I saw the ancient snows as residing in him. But I held his history, too. His past had been with me. He can tell his friends about his earlier life, but I was there: I have the substance. I see sculptures. They see pictures. I think he sees snow as a commodity to shovel, to avoid slipping and to ski on, so it wouldn't be helpful to ask him. Sometimes I tell the people dear to me about people and events that mattered to me or affected me in the dim, distant past. This doesn't make them shared memories. This makes them anecdotes. No repository of snow found in the present then - even if their eyes haven't glazed over by the time I could ask them, and yours too, for that matter.

To-day, I had lunch with some women friends. One I feel particularly close to and two of her friends from a life not common to both of us. We were roughly of an age, within a decade or so and we reminisced. (Subject of another post: the difference between reminiscence and gossip - discuss). Something that emerged - I am avoiding "issue" - was how much experience we had in common, although one was born in Europe, Continental Europe, that is, although we didnt have to put it that way until comparatively recently, and the other three in very different parts of the UK. By the time lunch was over we could have made a whole snowman with what had come back to us. Not all we talked about would have been relevant to the forty-year old inside me. It was from earlier. Amongst other things, we talked about 'Make do and Mend', very much a second World War thing. (I still do - make do and mend, that is). Of course, we talked about the change in mores and how the young live their lives so differently from ours. There has been a cultural revolution - or three - since I was forty, never mind since I was fourteen. Does it signify? If so, how and why? Is there room in a memory that is more than three score and ten to hold all the personal and world events and changes? Maybe, it is right and healthy that we don't know where the snows of yesteryear have gone. There would be no room to live for to-day, to play with the babies, to worry about phone hacking and the sanctity of cyberspace. Ah! that's what's happened. That's the answer. The snows of yesteryear are in the safe-keeping of the Wizard of Cyberspace. Nos da.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Thin lines

The other day, someone accused me of vanity. I was astounded. Old ladies who have long worked with and struggled to establish reality, whatever that is, are hardly likely to be vain. One might be 'D'-shaped, where one had had a good figure, straggly, where one had had nice hair and stiff where one had tripped the light fantastic. These things, amongst others too raw to mention, go a long way to preclude vanity in a realist - or anyone, come to that. It got me reviewing the basis for this comment. It arose when I insisted on a last minute change of clothes having noticed a disagreeable stain on the jumper I was wearing. This threatened to delay the departure and therefore the arrival at a concert: time sensitive, you might say. Intense reflection, during which I did see that there could be a modicum of vanity in an otherwise totally realistic approach to life, brought me to a revelation. This was not a question of vanity. It was a question of confidence. In order to go out in to a harsh and challenging world, a girl disguised as an old lady, will need her confidence. I was not prepared to face the outside universe with a dirty jumper, not even covered, as it would have been, by a clean cardie. I would have known. My companion of the delayed set-off would have known, and I bet the Wizard of Cyberspace would have known. Now, he is the last person in the world I would allow in to my habitual thin-skinned habitat, so you can see how seriously I am taking the accusation and the rebuttal thereof. I am, therefore, desperate to point out the thin line between vanity and lack of confidence. Now, there's a thing. A young man of my acquaintance who doesn't live in London is obliged, on occasion, to accept hospitality from me. I put it like that because he and I are inclined to prowl round one another somewhat warily. We have rather different ways of being in the world and I think that makes each nervous of the other. An instance: when asked to switch off the hall lights, he has been known to press a panic button near the front door. The bad news is that, before you can say "that's not a light switch" the alarm is ringing to wake the dead, the house is surrounded by police, the neighbours are banging on windows and the alarm company is ringing incessantly on the phone. The good news is that, before you can say "that's not a light switch", the alarm is ringing, the house is surrounded by police etcetera, etcetera. The system works. Anyway, this young man takes one hour and seventeen minutes in the bathroom. Uncharitably, I have been guilty of putting this down to vanity. Now I understand that he needs every hair in place - I assume that's what he is doing - in order to face a complex and barely fathomable world. This confidence building method works and, as a result, he is able to achieve wonderfully well out in a world he must see as designed for everyone but him. (As it happens, he does try to change it - the world, that is.)
Having got myself thinking, (Oh dear, a voice from seven decades ago: "Get is not a true verb. Don't use it") I was faced with another example; acceptance and conciliation. When I feel I have been treated badly I have options. I can accept the situation with grace and understanding or I can just appear to do so in a way which is, frankly, conciliatory, simply to avoid hassle and/or putting myself in a less than appealing picture frame. An example: I had expected to be invited to the wedding of a friend's daughter. I was not. I was full of empathy, the numbers, the distance the 'you know what the young are like' and so on, and so on. This was, as it happens, uber-conciliatory. I hope it sounded like acceptance. It wasn't, but it does underline the damn thin line between the two.

It reminds me of a story I may well have told you before. Forgive me if I have. I don't suppose you are inclined to re-read all the below, either. It is attributed to Nathan Milstein. " You think I am a great violinist", he is alleged to have said. "I'm not. I just sound like one." Me, you think I'm a confident woman. I'm not. But I behave like one". Prynhawn da

Monday, 20 June 2011


Now, Liz's duty is to amuse. However, life with three score and more than ten years on the clock will be bound to have dents and bumps and a few scratches on the bodywork and, more important, -no: important is correct. I refuse to adverbise it - on the inner workings. Yesterday, Sunday, a dear friend, whom I have known for fifty one years, slipped quietly away from this life. We had a conversation last Wednesday which I ended by telling her I was sending her some love. Thus, the last thing she ever said to me was "Oh! Then it will cross with mine on the way". She lived some distance from me and, at her daughter's suggestion, I went to see her on Saturday afternoon. It's unlikely she was aware of this, but I was grateful for the chance to say Goodbye and spoke to her as if in no doubt she could hear and understand. It brought to mind a story, told by another dear friend, of her husband's last days. His oldest friend was sitting at the end of his bed chuntering on about nothing much, simply keeping him company. He was trying to remember the name of a lady golfer who had them in stitches with her far from appropriate apparel and behaviour at a time when such things mattered and were noted."Was it Molly, Millie; what was it?" "Maudie" came a voice from the prone figure on the bed that had been silent for three days. So, we can't be sure of the degree of consciousness of those preparing for a journey we are obliged to let them take without us. What we can be sure of is the sense of loss, of the piece that is missing from the jigsaw of our own lives. In this case, the image is of a child's jigsaw with ginormous pieces. One would certainly be missed, may even spoil the sense of the picture. In a grown-up jigsaw, it could even be possible to be less aware there was a piece missing. No, that's rubbish. One would have a feeling of dis-ease, at least, and be conscious of something less complete than it should be and was. What a number of incomplete jigsaws there must be in the life-cupboard of the elderly.
Lose, loss, love: powerful words to be linked by a letter. The significance of History may be
underlined by these words. To lose someone one has known for more than half a century means one has also lost the common history. The slice, wedge, of life shared with her is unique and irreplaceable. When the Father of my children and I, who had met at University, became friends some time after our separation, I had a physical sense of recovery. A part of me, a far from obvious part of me, had been taken away and was, without even having been consciously acknowledged as missing, restored. He who had known my parents, my homeland, my growth, my babies had taken the incontestable element of memory of those things with him. Without his affirmation, I could no longer be sure of them. I had rendered them contestable. Crazy isn't it? I wonder if this has a truth for you, too, out there at the other end of the computer. A few posts ago, I said that change was the second cousin once removed of loss. I think they must be closer relatives than that. All change involves letting go what was. That's also loss. And all loss involves change. I have been used to ringing my friend just about daily. That has changed. She is no longer there to answer. I am coming round to seeing loss and change not as twins, but certainly siblings, even if not very close in age.
There is, however, music. On Sunday I went to hear the farewell recital of a singer I have enjoyed for many decades. I was not sure how good an idea it was in the circumstances. It was a very good idea. The programme notes assured us she was not giving up singing, simply stopping the exposure of solo recitals. A sense of relief rather too great for the situation came over me. Some things were not going to end, then; changed but not lost. Great and sensible Irish lady: she finished her otherwise serious and very moving recital with three encores from the Emerald Isle. The last was "Phil the Fluter's Ball" which had us all in hoots, singing along and letting her go with laughter and shared joy. Nos da.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Green Ink

Since the last posting I have been laid low with an infection that required treatment by antibiotics. I then went through the phase where the infection is less of a nuisance to put up with than the effect of the antibiotics. I do hope this is not in the category of more than you need to know. I offer it by way of explanantion as to why I have not had enough 'bother' to sit at the computer for a bit too long. From yesterday evening I've begun, anew, to feel I can be bothered, so here I am.

Mind you, it wasn't all antibiotic lassitude. I lay in bed watching "Roman Holiday" for the - I'm ashamed of how manyth - time. I desperately wanted to be the Princess who steals out of her palace, gets her magnificent, long hair cut off and has a day as a 'normal' young lady out and about in Rome. Since this includes falling in love with Gregory Peck, the fantasy could not have been bettered. Naturally, in that epoch of one foot, only, off the ground, their affair did not end, nor even middle, the way it would to-day. Duty and committment prevailed and each returned, intact, to his/her allotted life-slot. My enjoyment and identification with the film and the fact of television, prompted me to see the green ink effect in the last blogpost immediately below. For your elucidation, the green ink effect, or even the Green Ink effect is a term applied by someone close to me for what people of my generation called "Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells". Simply, someone who was always writing letters to the papers complaining about matters as serious as the continuing propensity of the 1127 train from Waterloo to arrive at TW one minute and thirty two seconds late. Something should be done about it. Anyway, below was a bit complainy and I feel obliged humbly to redress the balance, starting with television in bed when you are poorly.

When I was little, bed-rest entertainment consisted of someone reading to one, if they had time. You had time. You had twenty four interminable hours in which to be read to. What were they doing Down There? Had they forgotten you were all alone in an antibiotic- free Up Here unable to do anything for yourself? Enough, or we'll be back to Green Ink.
Take mobile phones. At a time when they were no more than a twinkle in some geek's ear, One New Year's Eve I was called upon to rescue someone else close to me from a situation she felt she couldn't handle. Over the telephone - landline, you'll bear in mind - and sotto voce so her host would not hear, she gave me the address. What neither of us realised was that the address belonged to a small row of houses on an unbroken street with a different name. Not clear? Well, let's say she told me she was at number 3 Elm Terrace. Elm Terrace then turns out to be part, without demarcation, of Southlands Road. (Some names and places have been changed to preserve anonimity.) Now, you can see where this is going. There was I, driving round and round more and more desperately and there was she getting more and more in need of saving. A mobile phone would have dealt with all that in a nano second. Washing machines: forty nine years ago I had to threaten my poor Mother that I could not darken her door again until she installed a washing machine. (Because we lived 200 miles apart, since you ask). The thought of the smell of a boiler full of soiled towelling nappies was enough to have produced an even more Draconian threat, if I could have thought of one. (As we speak, the Guru in his bachelor pad is living with a broken one. So what is happening about his washing you ask? Don't ask. You know). Of course the list of things to be glad about must be at least three bags full. More than even Pollyanna could have counted. I suppose, if I, grudgingly, allow myself a smidgen of honesty, we have to see antibiotics as counter-green-ink. Good Heavens, lying there waiting for the fever to break with no telly and no microwave to warm up a bowl of sick-room soup leaving no saucepan to wash up, this old lady is very glad, indeed, for the good things of the twenty first century. Prynhawn da

Monday, 30 May 2011


With the most exquisite music in the background, I can't think why 'disharmony' came to mind Well, perhaps I can. It would be the contrast, wouldn't it? Further, I can see that what I have in mind is also an extension of 'change', ( about which see below). Anyway, I have been noticing how irritated I let myself become when things are different just for the sake of innovation, or, worse, to indulge some directorial whim or an ego that rides rough-shod over the integrity of the original, music, theatre, whatever. Take food. The other day I ordered a dish in what seemed like a perfectly conventional, unpretentious restaurant. The dish's Cv described it as chicken with saffron mash and mixed vegetables. It came in a pile: spinach at the bottom, carrots next, mash on top of the carrots and chicken balanced on top of the mash. Now you tell me, what is the advantage of this as against laying them side by side on a plate as my Mother, and, indeed, I, would have done - and still do, of course - in the days when Art was for the walls and not the table. I dismantled this layer cake and placed the items alongside one another before partaking. I felt some embarrassment to find my companions all watching me, but, you tell me, how is one supposed to eat such a pyramid? Another speck in my eye is 'pan-fried'. I suspect I have gone on about this before. Bear with me. The very nature of irritants is that they go on irritating. But you show me an item which has been cooked first on its bottom then on its top that didnt undergo this proceedure in anything other than a pan. I suppose some venues may use a dustbin lid. Personally, I would find that grossly un-hygienic. The Guru, who, although no longer sharing a roof, still has plenty to contribute to saving my sanity, explained that things were either pan-fried or deep-fried. Deep fried in a dustbin lid, then? A plea: can we go back to grilled, roasted, poached, boiled or fried, (with a modicum or with lots of fat) and take the d....d containers for granted? Speaking of cooking on bottoms and tops, I have a confession. Well, it's a confession which hides some pride. In honour of guests whom I had the wish to honour this week-end, I decided to make Welsh cakes. For those of you deprived of the experience, I should explain that these delicacies are flat cakes cooked on top of the cooker on a flat bakestone, not, in other words, in the oven. The mixture is of flour, sugar, eggs, sultanas and a secret. I have lost my bakestone and usually make them on a frying pan; pan-fried: yes. However, this takes forever because it is too small for efficiency. Dear Reader, I bought what I thought was a modern replacement for my bakestone and proceeded. Total failure ensued. The mixture collapsed, it hated the ridges to which it was not accustomed and fell out of its rounds in to a middle puddle. With the speed of light, I greased a mince-pie tin and pushed the half-cooked mixture in to the several indentations of which it consists. (With me still? I have a nephew who says he doesn't read blogs because he is not interested that Whomever went to make a cup of tea. Do read on, Dear. I'm nearly there.) I did end up with little cakes. They didnt taste like Welsh cakes and they didnt taste like rock cakes. They were a long way from fairy cakes, having the consistency of paving stones but they were eaten with stoicism and politeness by people who appreciate that adaptation and a new approach can apply to Welsh cakes as well as to pans and pyramids.

Having got that off my plate, I'll go on to something else which disturbs my sense of cohesion: television. I watch too much. I usually enjoy what I watch and always want to know who has given me the pleasure. Eagerly, particularly when it is a film of a certain age, I wait to see who the players were. Sometimes, I even need verification of the name of a remembered face. In a flash, the readable cast of characters diminshes to the size of a parking fine's small print and a trail of another programme with an accompanying jolly voice-over pre-empts nine tenths, no, nineteen twentieths, of the screen leaving a passing ant to read the credits of the programme I have just been absorbed in. My sense of helplessness in the face of militant forces not only outside my control but also ignorant of the scope of their powers to destroy a moment is overwhelming. I lose contact with the next programme while I lie there thinking about ways in which I can overthrow the dictatorship of the Telly-rulers and emerge the heroine of the next daring-do science fiction/thriller, to rule the world of bin-lid cooking and lost captions all by myself with the odd - very odd, you may say - trusted one to enforce my bidding. Prynhawn da.

Friday, 20 May 2011


There's a catch-all title for you. After all, life is change. What's more, change is a second cousin once removed to loss. As I write, change in this house means that the Guru has moved out to his own nest. This takes a bit of getting used to. I have to remember to buy a small container of milk and not a tall one. (That's change in itself. I nearly wrote '"bottle of milk "but we don't do bottles of milk any longer, just cartons. Goodness knows what the cows make of it). A neighbour who saw us piling the car with Guru's belongings asked me who would do my D.I.Y from now on. (Do-It-Yourself, as in mending, making, repairing, painting, if you are from a planet other than the UK and are not used to the initials or perhaps the concept). My response was that that scarcely presented any angst: I was far more concerned with who would sort my I.T. You will have great difficulty in believing this, but the very day after the Guru's removal, the Wizard of Cyberspace turned up and switched me off. He did it very subtly by creating a catastrophic fault at Headquarters. He couldn't fool me, though. It was clearly designed to show who was ultimately boss and to underline that I was now without the meanest protection from him. To his credit, Guru, although domiciled elsewhere and, further, trying to be a working person , kept checking in - no, I didn't ask where, how and to whom - and reporting that things would be fixed by whatever time came and went without things being fixed. Anyway, as you see, I am up and running, again, and you can understand why this post is at least a week later than it should have been. I think you should know, too, there was a rather unseemly relish from Guru at the thought of this old lady going in to what he called "melt down" at the loss of her Internet facility.

It is quite sad to go into his room, though, and find it so empty. Mind you, more of his stuff has been left behind than he took with him. It is stashed under this and behind that where it will have to remain until he gets a bigger place than this first 'own home'. For me, it is back to the Council Tax reduction for single occupancy and the freedom not to watch "Glee" and "Desperate Housewives" if I would really rather not. I can keep the radio on all the time and eat from the tin of baked beans if I so desire and never cook again, for that matter. It is discovering that IKEA is quite user friendly if someone else does the carrying. But, as the song goes, I've grown accustomed to his face. In more than three score years and ten I have lived with any number of people and, I must say, Guru is among the few that made it a pleasure. Thinking back, I was never brilliant at change and advancing years have heightened that sensitivity. Is it that any change may be seen as a herald of the greatest change of all: between life and death? Change has its lighter side, though. If you have been keeping up - and thank you if you have - you may remember that I had some difficulty getting out of the bath. A moving chair lift has been installed. One raises it, sits on it, swings one's legs over it and then lowers oneself on it, in to the water; piece of cake, or so I have been told. It has been here several weeks now and I have not yet found the gumption to use it. Bravely, I did so when the nice man from the Council came to check on it, and me, but he was present and I was fully clothed and, thus, less vulnerable. ( For those whose imagination is boggling, I am able to use the shower for which a grab rail has been installed). As someone who has spent an aggregate of decades lying almost flat in lovely warm water this situation is change in spades. The forty-year old watches ruefully, and regretfully and, sometimes, risibly. She longs for those muscle mending bath routines of even the recent past, but she is capable of being patient and compassionate and right behind - inside? - me. Indeed, if it were not for her encouragement and determination I would still be in the stuck-in-the-bath position I was in when it became clear something in the world of ablutions was going to have to change. Prynhawn da.

Thursday, 5 May 2011


There was some inner world discussion about the title of this piece. Should it be 'Accidents' or 'Mishaps'. As you see, Mishaps won. The inspiration came from a potentially unpleasant happening. Actually, now I come to think of it, it was unpleasant, at the time. It morphed in to funny when it was successfully over. By now, you may well be asking what is 'it'. 'It' is me stuck in the bath. Several times before it has been a d..n close run thing but residual strength and a modicum of fear have ultimately levered me out; two parts residual strength and one part fear, I'd say. Anyway, came the occasion when the residue was minimal and the fear an impediment. Stupidly, I was alone in the house. Sensibly, I had vowed never to have a bath if I were alone in the house, (Heaven forfend that it be the Guru who was in. I'm not convinced , generous and kind though he be, I would want to put him through hoiking an elderly, unclothed lady out of her bath. On the other hand, I could always have sacrificed a towel to the waves in the interests of decorum. But the Gods be thanked, we were not put to that test.) How sense had become idiocy I havent yet had the heart to analyse , but alone I was. I tried as many times as I have digits on which to count, but my arms and shoulders were no match for those slippery slopes. After much too long, I sat back, took breath and stock and remembered the telephone I had brought in to the bathroom with me.( Not all stupidity, then) But whom to ring? I knew the Guru was inaccessible and I was not yet sufficiently frightened to call in the nearest neighbour who would be young and strong enough to hoik, on the unbelievably self-centred grounds that, a famous novelist, she would put me, identifiable, in her next book. Dear Reader, the combination of fear, shame and freezation eventually gave me the impetus to do my own hoiking. And, as you will have gathered, the thing speaking for itself, I emerged, intact, to write the tale. Further, as I write, a nice man, sent by the Council, has just installed a seat-lift in the bath. Another nice man will come, when summoned, to give me what he called 'a dry run' in its use. Nothing has more incontravertably alerted the 40 year old to the naked, stark reality of this truth: I am more than three score and ten, in constant danger of being wet, cold and stranded. The Gods forfend that I should ever suffer a humourectomy or an overgrown sense of shame because I suspect this may just be the first of many such age-related mishaps. Keep Calm and Carry on: yes, indeed.

On the same lines, the Guru, whom I had not seen for a while, came in one evening while I was still awake. I was really pleased I could see him but I was not suitable for viewing and leapt - yes, leapt - off the bed to fetch my dressing gown. I fell. First, I stumbled, then I fell, off the end of the bed where I had taken refuge after the stumble. At this point, Himself reached my door. He did try hoiking, he really did, but he was alarmed and I was laughing and neither condition helped much. Then, the instructions of a great sports masseuse came to my remembering ear. I rolled on to my knees and thrust myself up with my hands, supported by the very bed that had been my downfall. Poor Guru was treated to a sight of black underweared behind and rather too much flesh but he seems to have survived and, other than a multiplicity of bruises, so have I. (It was the underwear that was black. There were no bruises at that point.) A dear friend, of similar years, found herself in the bath situation in a far country. She, too, employed the knee manouevre, handicapped by the fact that one is damaged and more in the way than co-operative. However, she, too survived though now sworn off bathing for the rest of her days. Be warned: be very warned. It's upper arm and wrist strength you need to cultivate when you are fortyish. You will need that very much more than you will need a six pack or waistline three decades from now. And beware a man bearing a chair-lift for the bath. He has "you are a very old lady" written all over him. To cleanliness which may be instead of Godliness......