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......