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.