Thursday, 13 December 2012


Liz has been rather under the weather with a bad case of 'cant-be-bothered'. This meant that the distance from bed to computer became rather a challenge so that the gap between posts began to feel like a challenge, too. It seems that 'cant-be-botherdism', in the elderly, very often follows a brush with severe illness. Now, most of my life I have not been elderly, nor severely ill, so this situation was merely hearsay. However, I am here to tell you that it is so. Amongst you kind followers there must be some who have suffered, equally. You know, the sort of mood where, were it not for the calls of nature, the temptation would be to stay in bed for ever. I was having difficulty to decide whether I wanted toast or bread or whether I could manage without bothering to eat at all. The bother-factor now seems to me to be just about the best yard-stick there is to measure mental health. Reflecting, as you would expect, on the state of the bother-factor now and its remembered state when the whole of me - other than just my inner world - was forty, I began to wonder how I managed. The daughter of a dear friend visited yesterday with her little girl and littler baby. There was not one nano second when her attention moved, fully, from one or both of them to her Mother, to herself or to me. That is to say, in spite of impeccable manners, there was no way this young woman could un-bother with regard to her young. I had three of them. For about nine months they were all under six. I once heard the mother of six children who had been under six years of age all at the same time, answer, when asked however she managed, that she missed a whole war: quite. To-day, the phenomenon is beginning to lift and I am devoutedly grateful. There seems to be no sure way out of it, other than time and optimism. Time one has no control over. Optimism is a poor bedfellow of depression.

Do you know, this young lady found herself making free of my kitchen because I had not had the bother- quota to organise for my visitors a cup of tea nor produce the chocolate specially-acquired biscuits. And very grateful I was thinking that she must feel very easy in her skin to be able to that. To-day, I could have  made a better fist of hospitality. What I am less good at is electronic-based gifting. Not that this is a surprise to anyone, but I feel I must confess the most recent betisse.  The Father of My Children professed an interest in a book he thought he would find on my shelves. This was not the case but I made a note of it for a Christmas gift for him. To-day, I duly found the bother to use the search engine to track it down. There were several paragraphs of entry and offers of sale and I trawled through to find what I thought would be best. I made my choice and began the interminable 'page' after 'page' of filling in, keeping an eye out for delayed delivery because of the Festive Season. There was no reference nor warning about this so I ploughed on, proffering my card details for about £20. I was so pleased with myself and waiting to tell the Guru how clever I had been, or,even plotting something rather more 'by-the-way' and casual, when the notice came up:"Your book is ready to read". Oh Dear.I have bought a book in which I have no interest, to read  on-line, which  I have not the slightest idea how to do and, in the bargain, I  lost £20 in the mists of cyberspace and was helpless to go back and cancel the transaction . A concatenation of generational botherdom if ever there were one.(At least I've kept my subjunctives) Prynhawn da

Saturday, 1 December 2012


The astute among you may have noticed two things: there has been a collection , an alliteration of  C's in recent titles/ Conmference, Chaos, Crash, coincidence, I assure you, or, anyway, as far as I know. (Yes, I did see, 'coincidence', too). The crash, howver, was real, and explains why Liz has been a day or so off schedule with posting. Dear Readers, I made the cardinal sin of the driver, I drove in to the back of another car. Given the number of years I have been driving without such an indulgence, it was a bit of a wake-up call. The vehicle two ahead of me stopped suddenly, the car behind went in to him and I in to that car. They were scarcely touched. My car, being elderly, like its owner, was not worth repairing and now I find myself carless, shameful and more familiar with local 'bus routes than I would have wanted. Interestingly, when we drivers were exchanging details, it ocurred to me that the driver of the first vehicle seemed to be taking rather more interest and care of the middle driver than he was of me. So I wasn't all that surprised when my Insurers rang to ask me if I thought they may have known one another. Apparently, there is a current scam where two people agree to stage this kind of incident in order to claim for whiplash. Whiplash is invisible and has to be taken on trust. Well, I have very little trust but totally zero proof. Nor do I  have whiplash but neither do I have a car. Due to its age, as I said, it proved uneconomic to repair so I have a forlorn cheque about the value of a nice bicycle and a worn-out 'bus pass. I have waited a few weeks to confess to you in which time I have walked miles and bussed miles and lost many hours doing the above. Time more or less completely wasted. What do you think. Should I replace the car or should I continue to endure motion sickness doing the crossword on the 'bus? On top of this, I have to go to the shops three times for every one car load because this old lady finds it hard to carry much.

And there's the rub: did I fail to stop in time because there really wasn't time on the busy crowded road I was driving along, because I was dealing with a sneeze or because my driving has deteriorated? I love writing this blog. I really do find it endlessly interesting to accommodate the sprightly young woman inside this doddery old lady but it is decidedly different when the doddery old lady takes control of the srightly young lady and behaves like cliched elderly people are reputed to do. Liz has always found the fun in the dichotomy and tried to pass it on to you. This is not only lacking in fun, it is also potentially expensive. I know, I know. No one was hurt and, as the Father of my children put it, it's just a lump of metal to replace when all's said and done. It's more the crash of my secret way of being in the world, secret even from me, that the inner forty-year old will always win the day. Somewhere, it seems I actually believe that, if I chose so to do, I could run for that 'bus and, what's more, catch it. The 'going on forty' watches the play that is my life and is sure to intervene? I don't think so. Nos da

Monday, 19 November 2012


There you are. There's your clue: for me, 'Blogfest' becomes 'Conference'. When you reach my grand old age, keeping up with developments is not easy. At my age, a 'fest' was something that happened in, say, Germany and was to do with sinking enormous quantities of beer. Last week, it applied to a gathering of bloggers and was one of the nicest and most fun days I've had in a long time. Mind you, I think I highered the average age of participants by at least a decade. There were distances and stairs and low chairs and all the impedimenta which roll off the eyeballs of the young and younger and make my life harder. But there were also friendliness, and croissants and delicious buffet food. Above all, there were seriously interesting people with seriously interesting things to say.

In my professional life I attended more Conferences than I have kept memory of. I have written papers for them and travelled many miles to them. Giving a paper is one thing: one just pretends one is at home reading it through to an attendant cat or a long-suffering partner. One may also picture one's Mother, proudly drinking in every incomprehensible word. Asking a question is another. Dear Reader, that's just what I did. I gave it almost no thought - the act, not the question - so spoke before I could settle back on to the bed of nerves known to paper-givers everywhere. The subject around was, more or less, confidentiality. Now, kind followers will know that Liz's blog is based on her experience of being more  than her allotted three score and ten in the actual world and around about forty in the inner world.. This means, inevitably, making use of daily happenings and interactions with the rest of humanity. Mostly, the interactees are total strangers and I can address them as such even if they are not. The most relevant exception is the Guru, whom loyal followers will know is very real and very significant in Liz's life. He knows. He reads the blogs. He is totally compliant and very encouraging. People who know Liz off the page, so to speak, may well identify him. It seems unlikely that kind followers in Mountain View California could do so. What is more important is that this is alright with him. But do let me know if you know who  is the jerk who said to his companion as I stumbled on ice walking passed them; "That old girl shouldn't be let out on her own".

The reason for telling you this is that I did ask a question. When I was actually forty I doubt I would have had the courage. Well, not exactly a question in the QA sense. I aired the question of the need for the use of personal material which could be done discreetly and anonymously pointing no fingers and hurting no feelings as a sort of 'Why Not?' Thank you all for greeting it so supportingly and warmly and also the learned, dissenting professor who was so incensed I lost track of what she was actually saying for fear of the blue flames which emanated from behind me where she sat. Later,when I was surrounded by well-wishers she came and shook my hand which I took to mean one of us could and should forgive the other. I'm not sure which who was which. Wonderful! Nearing three score and twenty, (must be four score) and still being dressed down by the professor. Bore da.

Friday, 9 November 2012


What ever your age group, you may well be apprised of the fact that getting in and out of the bath requires more and more enterprise and initiative as time goes on. In my age group I am passed  enterprise and initiative. I am in to 'cannot do it'. It needed only one experience of feeling I was going to spend the rest of my life at the bottom of this white plastic - not even porcelain - cave for me to take to the unpleasant alternative of having water pour over my head , down my back and between my toes: id est, to  shower. However, my shower happens to be in my bath. This did not present a problem before my  recent near miss life/death experience. Subsequently, I have been unable to climb over the edge of the bath to place myself under the deluge without help. Help there is. I am still under the eye of a carer. My Bank Manager tells me this has to stop. My pride tells me this has to stop. My body tells me it wants to manage itself. Dilemma: can't climb in to the bath unaided. Solution: remove bath and replace with walk-in shower. Wonderful, simple, a solution to solve the worst of the 'cannots'. Pause for reflection: removing a bath and installing a shower is not like taking out from a drawer a red sweater, having a change of heart and taking out a grey one instead. It involves every room on every floor of a small but three story house. Believe me, there is dust on the lower ground floor where reside a lodger and a washing machine. Both of which are essential to the smooth running of Liz's life.

Having stated the stark, I shall indulge in the detail. A film of fine dust has covered walls, ridges, clothes, bits and pieces. To H... with prevarication. There is nowhere unaffected by the 'clever' soluition to the can't- climb -over- the-edge- of-a -bath problem. The bathroom is en suite with the bedroom. The plumbing for the shower lies in a cupboard in the bedroom (Don't ask . I'm a blogger, not a builder.) That cupboard holds all my best clothes. Where are they? On a couch on which a recovering invalid reclines while she regains her strength. Only at the moment, lounging has to be on the bed while an army of men, none of whom speaks English, marches back and forth through the room, with eyes averted,  a tread that shakes the bed and moves the dust about ever more efficiently. I speak neither Russian, Polish nor Latvian and have to wait for the boss, who speaks everything but Welsh, by which time whatever mistake is concreted in for ever. What would you have done? There were options. Keep the carer and the bath for ever - which may not be so long given my recent experience- and break the bank. Struggle over the edge of the bath alone, and risk breaking my neck. Fine if it were fatal, expensive if it were not. Wash bit by bit at the basin. I don't think so. I havent had a strip wash since I was 6 and affected by war-time conditions. Pop in to a neighbour and beg a shower. Come on. We live in the real world most of the time so clearly no option but that which |I chose: remove the bath and put in a walk-in shower which even my cat can get in to without stretching a leg. She will miss the dripping bath tap which she used as a fresh- water fountain but she has had a lot to get used to in the last few months. Even her fur is covered in this dust and she doesnt like the taste. I can feel it under my fingers though I promise you I have kept the keyboard covered ab initio. All my toiletries are dusty, even my toothpaste tube and, yes, I did put them elsewhere. However, there IS no elsewhere. Even the very downstairs linen cupboard was emptied because the on/off taps for the warer supply were in there. It took three women two hours to restore and replace. That's six hours work according to my Maths. The front door is permanently open and I am heating the street.  I do see this may not be of the least interest to you youngsters, but we oldsters who are young at heart and have memories, cling to the one that has us lying in a bath full of lovely hot water with five whirlpool jets and all the time in the world, smelly stuff in, radio on. Where are the ablutions of yesteryear? Gone, alas, like our youth too soon. Prynhawn da.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Have you noticed that how you are dressed will affect how you feel? It seems to me  there are four categories of dress: 1) very casual, i.e., dressing gown, pyjamas, even nightie with track suit over, slippers This is borderline 'stay-in-bed' wear.You wouldnt expect to feel sufficiently competent to deal even with the window cleaner - particularly  not the window cleaner if you hadn't been expecting him. In this garb you would either be very relaxed and happy or decidedly depressed: definitely not on top of things. 2) Casual, i.e. track suit without the night wear underneath.(What IS underneath is my business): trainers. You could deal with the windowcleaner - if expected, greet the postman and accept a delivery. You would feel competent enough but  rather lazy and hoping the chores would go away. 3) Ready for the day, i.e. fully dressed, trousers, top, supportive underwear, proper shoes,make up. ( No: I don't think of trainers as proper shoes and make-up applies only in 3) and 4)). You could go to work, welcome a friend, have lunch in a cafe. You would feel efficient and in a good enough mood. 4)Seriously 'Best.'  /formal, i.e. glitter on top, velvet below, skirt suit with silk shirt and a" foulard" thrown over. You could go to a wedding, out to a very glamorous dinner or lunch in a three-week-wait-for-a-table restaurant.. You would feel beautiful, attractive and interesting to talk to. There is an unmentionable category 5) - see below

I spend much of my life in category three (3). During the hospital stay, it was entirely (1). Much of the time I felt peaceful and without responsibility. More of the time I felt weak and depressed. As I began to recover, I moved from hospital gown to own nightie. Hospital gown is associated with the pits, especially when an example was thrown over my modesty and my boiling self when there was no-one present other than me and the nurse. So strong was the revulsion, I found myself appealing to her relation, The Good Lord, explaining He was unlikely to give a Rhett Butler about my being starkers if I were cool rather than tangled up and roasting - in Hell,  as she would assume I would be. My supply of nighties had to  be quadrupled so now there is no room for them all at home in the drawer marked 'Nighties'. Enough of that. There is a more current dilemma. I have been venturing forth at level 3). I take taxis because my confidence is not quite up to 'bus level. Unfortunately, level 3) seems not to indicate the possibility of  incapacity. You need help in and out of those monsters only if you look as if you need help, that is, in a beige anorak. Believe me, however 'professional' or 'City' I  may look I cannot get in or out of those things unaided. All those yellow grab-handles, none where you need it.  What to do? I haven't a  real category, not even 5) for beige anorak, only 'bin it', so I shall have to keep the formality and suffer the indignity. Nos da

Monday, 22 October 2012


Convalesence is boring. At least, mine is.  Why aren't I doing all the things I longed to have time for when I was still a working person? You may well ask. Laziness, lack of energy contrariness may all qualify as reasons.I can still keep house, or keep it oiled, anyway. It will be clear to the faithful among you that I am not what you may call computer literate. When the hose of the vaccum cleaner breaks - no: it's not a Hoover - I immediately start working out how I can get to John Lewis and would I have to take the carer. The carer, when apprised of the problem, asks why I don't find and buy the part on line. She is thirty. I am the age I am. Fifteen minutes later the part is ordered and we are waiting for the 'dispatched' email. I couldnt have got my out-door shoes on in that time never mind have travelled to John Lewis. (For those of you over the pond or elsewhere, John Lewis is a remarkable household goods and all-you may-ever-need shop, headquarters central London, branches here and there. I love it ). The extraordinary thing is that while I was in hospital for eight weeks, none of the computer literates coming in and out of my house, thought to get the vacuum cleaner mended. Ah well, nice to know you are needed, even if only by the inanimate.

I have close relatives on the other side of the Atlantic and, springing from the aforementioned boredom, idly put their name in to Google. (Google is going to be another Hoover if we pedants aren't careful). Imagine my horror to find them listed there! How does this happen? Who collates for and feeds this information machine? I learned that the lady bit of the couple was the only one with that name in the whole of the United States: the ONLY one. This fact stretched my imagination to snapping point. Out of humdreds of millions of assorted Yanks, as we used to call them when they were over here during the war, she is the only one with that name  .I cant get over it. Of course, she owes this distinction to her marriage. Her original surname was far from unusual and, even combined with her first name, wouldnt have made the records. (Her first name is Shirley. That's all I'm going to tell you). I then put in my own name and found myself, the Father of my children and my children all listed, neatly, one under the other. It's not a feeling I am comfortable with. I thought having someone help me deal with my underwear was intrusive enough. This ranks even more so. How can it help you, me, the world, the universe to have a list of me and my attachments? What is the listing for? And so on and so on . I can always get out the green ink and write my concerns to those concerned, if anyone is in the least concerned about the take-over of communication  by a keyboard and electricity.  While I have been thus reflecting, the light has gone. There's something for me to do, go and put some electricity to good use. Nos da

Monday, 15 October 2012


 The theme of childhood keeps me in its thrall. As I write, I am in the hands of carers. Well, not exactly as I write.  The current good lady is in another room. In principal, however, I am in their hands. It seems that overnight I went from a pretty competent, early old aged woman of some sparkle to a cliched geriatric. In order that (subjunctive to follow) the picture may come more easily to your inner eye, there are certain items of underwear I can't put on by myself. Which? You do know. Why not? Well, I can't bend sufficiently well to bring foot to opening, so to speak. Of course, you are right, I could sit down to do it but I am stubbornly trying to change as little as possible and I never did sit down to put this item on. The bra is different. I simply can't manoeuvre to fasten it so it has to be done up from the  front and then dragged round to the back. Or, worse, the carer does it up for me. Of all the good, kind and sensitive experiences I have undergone, though, I am left, as an abiding impression, with what it feels like to have your knickers and/or tights, yanked up from the waist band. You must remember dressing your little ones: pull the vest down, pull the pants up and a little pat to show it was all over. Quite: I'm glad you would find it infantilising and humiliating, too. I have to say I had a little hissy fit and, before good manners could prevail, snapped "Don't do that, if you please". I have, though, made one effort at solo outing. Yesterday I took a taxi - I know, but I couldnt have done it otherwise - to have lunch with the Guru and his loved one. He drove me home but the loved one, trapped in the back of a two-door, had to push him out of the car in order to help me out. I must be making progress. He has stopped treating me delicately.

As for hissy fits, the Cat - than whom no-one is more important - persistently hisses at one of these carers. Actually, the one of the waist-band yank. Goodness knows how she knows, but she does and is not shy to hiss and tooth-bare when this person comes in to the same room as her/us. What resources would a human little one have against this assault on the ego? Well, tantrums should do it. (Is that the plural? Should it be tantra? But then, should it be mantrum?) Anyway, my predicament has set me thinking about the minefield of actual littlehood and the awfulness of dependence on those who may not have the skills to recognise the potential for hell-on-earth that nestles is the so-called idyll of childhood. The revolution - I was looking for a word to convey more of a revolving, in the sense of coming full-circle - carries so many identical dilemmas that it surprises me I have  any adult recall left at all. Fortunately, I can now manage food so that it doesnt have to be cut up. I am steadier on my feet so the carer has to be near but not attached to me. Along with the pint sizes, I cross the road to the pond, nearby, and watch the ducks. I stopped carer number one from bringing and throwing stale bread because the siamese twin thing would have been  seriously impossible to tolerate. I am not vying for a space nearest to the edge of the water just so it's MY bread the ducks will eat, nor am I going to kick and scream when it is time to go home - at least, not aloud. So where have three score and more than ten years gone? It seems one returns to pass 'GO' without necessarily collecting £200. So there is nowhere else to go but back round. However, on the way one may have bought property, gone to jail, had children, had a job and generally impinged on the lives of others. Throw all you like, my little ones, but remember you have a whole board to play before you can come round for the second time. Prynhawn da.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


As I was saying, I was in hospital for eight weeks and have been home for three. The scarlet swimsuit - and the Guru - missed their sea-side holiday and the beloved four-legged friend was left with nothing but depression and memories for all that time, explanations being impossible though the Guru did try. Hospital was an amazing experience. Which is to say, that which I experienced was. Much of the time I took leave of myself and have no recollection whatsoever of where or what I was part of. At one point, early on, I had to change hospitals. I have only the vaguest recall of the father of my children explaining this to me and of drifting awake in surroundings different from those in which I had drifted away. Acres, hectares,even, of time had disappeared. I remember wishing I were unconscious, that I could be given something to remove me from the pain, but, the reality is that I was unconscious a lot of the time. The mind boggles reflecting on what happened to me in that darkness. What about bodily needs, acceptable and unacceptable? Fine when one is elsewhere: distressing if one is present. Eventually, when I was, for the most part, alert, I discovered a method: take yourself out of yourself and observe from above. Things were being done for and to me that had last been done when I was between eighteen months and two years old. I kept thinking of my own little ones and hoping that I had wiped and creamed and cared for with  respect and tenderness enough. I have a clear memory of being strip- washed and the discomfort of being cold and damp at one end while being briskly rubbed down at the other. I used to beg my Mother to dry as she washed. Sadly her empathetic memory provided no tenplate for doing this so I tingled and wriggled in vain She must have wondered what the fuss was about. After all, how long does three feet of human need to be dry all over..
I was fed via pipes and stuff in my veins. I didn't miss food much. I missed my favourite drink, a mixture half of grapefruit juice and half of water. I pictured a glass of this and held on to it through all the terrifying dreams and imaginings. What do the little  ones picture when they are hungry or thirsty? \No words to describe things to themselves nor to catch the attention of The Fount of All  that is both Good and Bad.. You can scream or mew, if that is the sound  your voice makes, but, basically, you are dependant on the intelligence and imagination of those with whom communication is not easy.. My Goodness, how differently I would have treated my little ones had I had this insight at the time they needed it.
 It was strange to be told I had nearly died. I didn't die and now I shall have it all to go through again when the 'right' time comes. Strangest of all, though, is to have gone through a happening that encompassed babyhood and old age  together, contemporaneously and jumbled up in a kaliedescope that shook down at eleven months or seventy nine years or both. Was it the baby or the sick old lady being given a blanket bath or yet both ? Think Russian dolls. Must be some vital philosophical revelation in there somewhere: discuss   Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Near Miss

Liz is back! Not at full power, yet, but back among the land of the living - literally. Two inflamed discs, resulting in kidney failure and pneumonia confined me to hospital for just aboiut two months.  I am told I was on the list as a late blogger but confounded the fates by recovering. Now, I have no wish to bore or drive away any of you who remembers and enjoyed previous blogs so that is as much information as you have  to put up with. Naturally, many funny and bloggable stories came out of the experience but I think I may need another day or two before I can muster enough concentration to write my usual screed.

But I'll give you one example. Where I was incarcerated in an Intensive Care Unit, I was facing a very beautiful blue screen which was behind the nurses' station. Looking at this screen afforded comfort and reassurance. At night, the colours changed and there was movement as if of birds and butterflies. In a lucid moment, I told  daughters number one and two about this phenomenon. They found it very hard to believe and asked a passing nurse. Nothing moved . Nothing changed. It was all in my imagination. Whatever it was I was on began to seem rather desirable to them. Anyway, back \I am. I feel I may need to rename the blog 75 going on 85, and even had another birthday yesterday to strengthen the anomaly.  PLEASE, do watch out for my posts and resume your fidelity and do be in touch so I know you are still there after what the lovely Guru so aptly and in just the right tone called the break in transmission. Prynhawn da.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Transmission Break

We apologise for the break in transmission. Liz has been temporarily unable to post - but she will be back soon.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


The morning has been spent yelling down the telephone. Now, Liz, herself, has been suffering from a degree of 'could-you-speak-up-please' and secretly plotting to ask the Doctor for a referral to a hearing facility. What I hadn't registered, below the intellectual level that is, where one can have information without knowledge,  was that many  people of my acquaintance were in the same boat. It is discomforting to bellow one's name at top volume to someone one has known since childhood. Indeed, I sequester it in the drawer marked "Growing Evidence of Encroaching Madness".As to that, you must have noticed. There are certain people and certain situations that make you wonder whether you are still in your your right mind. This phenomenon is triggered much more readily with age, I find. One has a very clear memory of an event, a significant, even life-changing event, and The Other, involved in every scintilla at the time, looks at one as if Swahili were the currency of the story when it is recounted years later. I digress: in this technocological age there must be a telephonic device that can be installed at one end or the other - or both - to enhance the volume.  Please, do let me know. As you will have gathered, the Guru, who knows everything that falls under the heading of 'Twenty First Century Living' now lives a life so busy even I feel pressured, myself, if I have to ask his help in navigating the simple electronic everyday. It is actually good for me, in a way, because it forces me to drag myself up the learning curve without him. Which is about the only exercise I'm capable of these days.  All the fuss in the papers about exercise saving our lives: what if the degree of one's mobility makes that a nonsense? A few days ago, a young man shot out of a shop and barged straight in to me. I thought I was being mugged. In fact, that was not his intention, but he sent me flying. Happily, I fell against a wall and not to the ground, so escaped with nothing but shock and hurt pride. Hurt pride, why? Well,  I got the full poor-old-lady-treatment from passers-by. While the help was welcome, it was also galling not to have been able to chase after him and whack him about the head with my umbrella and some unladylike language.

I do sometimes wonder what we oldies could be capable of if push came to shove. Would I have been able to catch him up and do him injury had I, or a loved one, been in real danger? These are eventualities you don't think of until you get there. There is an aura, an ambience around age which is clearly perceived by the not-old. We are a different kettle of fish: a different species. Sometimes, travelling by air, I ask for a wheelchair because the distances are challenging at most airports. I am dealt with as if the chair were empty. My passport and boarding card are taken from me although I could easily reach up to the relevant desks. The attendant is asked "can she stand? The up-side is that many of the potential embarrassments are actually quite funny.  If the people walking through me, barging passed me, letting their eyes roll  off me could hear what my inner voice was saying their wide-eyed disbelief would cause them to call the police or even Social Services. Having survived the danger of being driven mad by those who dont understand Swahili, I could find myself under secure guard, after all, for age-inappropriate language and behaviour. While I do have sufficient faculty, however, I shall resign myself to the loss of  umbrella weilding and learning curve trekking, carry on editing my vocabulary  and concentrate on excercise of the mind instead.

That's enough green ink. (Those of you kind keepers-up will know what I mean by that)  My excuse is that you did sign up for an insight in to life on the outside versus life on the inside of those of us beyond the biblical limit of three score and ten.  The trouble is, at a distance of a few hundred words, can I remember whyever I reached for that ink-pot  in the first place?

ps A.V. Are you still there?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


The point about snow is that once it has gone, it has gone. No-one knows where. No-one can find it again. No-one can prove even that it was there. The same is true for my waist. Now, normally this would be of no interest to anyone but me, but the time came for me to look out the scarlet swimsuit with which loyal followers will be only too familiar, and it doesn't fit. There you are. I've said it. Black and white makes for the scarlet truth. Unfortunately, it can be proved that it was there. There are photographs. I am of the age when bikinis first appeared. I appeared in one. I even knew why they were called bikinis. The provenance of the name was of my era. What's more, I looked alright in one. Now, I should frighten the horses. There are options. I can go and look for another swimsuit that will fit or I can lose weight and fit into the one I already have and love. Currently the jury is out about which is likely to be the more efficient or effective or both. It  encouraged me to think about what else had gone with the snow. My ankles have. Why is it that the elderly lose their ankles? I keep looking. It is true of nearly all the women of my age that I look at.  Should a skirt be essential, I do have little boots which come over my ankles and make a really good job of disguising them. However, they are a bit of a challenge to put on because, guess what, I've lost flexibility in my hands and wrists so, unless I've left myself more time than  scatterbrains usually do, I am obliged to climb in to my trousers after all.

There was a time when I had a whole lexicon of words: nouns, adverbs, adjectives, anything you might ask for which the crossword throws up. Gone, like the above frozen precipitation: gone.  You will be familiar, I think, with the old man in my archive pushing his ladder along the rows of information stored in my head, searching for whatever it is I need. Mostly, he  gets there. Mostly, I can produce the word before the need for it is obselete. Often, though, I incur the  cost of phoning the Father of my children whose archivist, although even older than mine,  does remain sharp and reliable. "What's the word for....?" I ask. He tells me. I thank him and replace the receiver. I have another friend of some erudition. I ring him, too. He never laughs at me. He is never impatient. He will search his own lexicon and generously produce answers even of the far from archane. Where do they go, the words I used to have?

Where does love lost go?  Ah there you have it: a mystery. How can one love passionately and forevermore and find, as the song goes, that forevermore is shorter than before? Is there a drawer in which that love will linger? Is there an attic where it is stored with old tennis rackets and broken toys? Of course not. It is lying with the snow of  times that have passed. I have a fantasy that there is a door behind which I will find my children. Not the man and women they have become; their toddler selves. It is as if those were different people, exisiting separately from the people of today. There is no such door. Those toddlers are no more. Where have they gone?  They are in memory. That's where they are. The snows of yesteryear may have turned to slush and gone down the drain. But the words, the waist, all the things that can't be found must just have moved on and out to leave room for the memories we would languish without. Don't you think? Nos da.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


There was a sudden image. Knowing what I had in mind to put to you, I waited for a title to turn up. I saw a row of doors and that did the trick.  The doors are to represent a stage of life. You are not supposed to open the  one next to where you find yourself until it  is the right moment to do so. It's simple, really. The significant example which comes to mind  finds behind it clumsiness. Throughout my middle years I would stand, with impatience  politely concealed, in a queue behind an elderly lady paying for goods. Two minutes to undo the zip of her purse, three minutes to count out the money - if she were particularly adept, several more for her to accept and accommodate the change and then do up her zip again. Remember to step backwards as she lumbers round to move away, dropping her stick in the crush. Sometimes, there'd be a hint of rueful smile, as if she knew, but rarely. Thanking Whomever I was not thus incapacitated I would rush through my own transaction and get on with my day .Not any more. That door is open and I am on the other side it. The queue is behind me and, this being the 21st Century, there is rather more obvious impatience breathing down my neck. I was constantly bending down to pick up elderly dropped walking sticks. Would you like to see the batter and bruises on mine?
Another door is marked 'invisibility'. Honestly, I can't remember if I walked straight through the invisible Elderly, pushed passed them and cut them up at the entrance to the Post Office. But I doubt it. Manners were better because they still mattered. Even when the root of good manners is a wish to be acceptable to others, the effect is a good one. Goodness knows why they have, for the most part, ceased to matter. The Guru, very much of this Century, would doubtless postulate that they do still matter: they have just changed. He was jolly cross when I brought out a crossword to do when we were eating together and he brought out his phone to send a text message on it, or receive one. Who knows. It was, in any case, a parallel conversation to the one we were supposed to be having. He could understand the'rudeness' in the crossword but found his own behaviour totally normal. I got one of those eyebrow up, right-one-'ere looks. There are  two doors there: 'invisibilty' and 'manners'. It is clear to see, on a daily 'bus queue basis, how I have walked through the door to 'invisibilty': a definite disadvantage. I may still be on the right side of'' manners', though, unless I've walked through  the disguised 'it-was-much better-in-my-day' door. How restless I would become on the fringe of a conversation between my Mother and her friends which would inevitably include quite a number of 'good old days' lamentations. Whatever the Past had held, it was certainly a much better place then the Present.  I am currently in charge of the scripts of those conversations and regularly read them aloud. Incidentally, I am also invisible in many restaurants. Whether that is age or the woman-on-her-own syndrome or both of the above is irrelevant. I  have taken to wearing a dash of the outrageous just as a ya boo and sucks statement. (Is that a ladylike expression?) What do I mean? Well, a scarlet jacket or multi-coloured beads give one a certain  je ne sais quoi. Yes I do know: a certain eccentricity. It may be threatening instead but that beats invisible any day.
I once saw a play the set of which consisted of a row of doors. Throughout, the characters dashed in and out of these doors, creating, anyway for me, total chaos and confusion. That's it: a metaphor for life, mine anyway. Prynhawn da

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Having done my research, as a good writer should, I find that I have written about frustration before. Those of you kind enough to have been thorough camp followers may well have noticed this so it seemed prudent to let you know I knew. (Liz has always been haunted by the imagining of being found out. Actually, I  doubt whether any of you has really got the bother quotient to hold the title of my blogposts in your memory. I havent.) Anyway, frustration: my computer stands on a table in front of a window in my bedroom. As it happens, it is more of a bed-sitting room because, alone, it's where I do most of my living. There is a very nice view of trees, a studio in the adjacent garden my neighbour uses for singing lessons, and, if I crane my neck sideways, a sight of the major hospital just down the road. I can also see the ivy covered shed in my own garden under which a family of six foxes has made its home, (of which, more another time). Over the windows is set a pair of grilles fastened by an 'I-mean-business' padlock. This security measure seemed reasonable when I was a proper person working  and leading an organised life. I am at home a great deal more in retirement so present and possessed of a walking stick should an intruder fancy having a go at breaking and entering on the off-chance. I digress. When the Wizard of Cyberspace chooses to drive me to the edge of forebearance and the drive moves on to a desire, nay, a need, to throw the machine out of the window I would first need to move things off the table and draped over it to reveal the drawer in which I keep the key to the padlock, shift the table forward a goodly bit so that I can get in behind it and in front of the window, unlock the padlock, push open the grilles, undo the latch on the window and lift it open sufficiently to accommodate the defenestration of a computer. In winter, I should have, furthermore, to displace a sleeping cat from the environs of a hot radiator which also occupies the fore-window space. By the time these manoeuvres are complete the feeling has gone. Therefore, I give up and the computer lives to frustrate another time.

Were all such frustrations so fortuitously dealt with. My mobile phone got wet. No, I don't know how, either. The Guru came out with his habitual "you must have done something" which grows even less helpful as the years go by. The facts are that it was fine when I switched it off one night and covered in mist next morning. I tried the hair-dryer, I tried blowing.  I tried soft-hankie wiping.  Nothing worked. I crept  to my supplier and confronted the reality that this would be Good-bye. I would have to accept a new one. What I hadn't taken in was that I would lose not only my friendly phone whose systems I knew and could work, but also all the numbers of my friendly - and ex-directory - friends. It is not easy for an old lady to adjust to such new phenomena, however forty she feels. I had to learn some numbers are stored. Some are not. It's no good explaining this to me. Everyone has tried and I still can't work out how, why, who makes these storing decisions. Therefore, if you know I love you and am likely to miss you if there is no communication between us, please send your number to my new mobile phone - my number hasn't changed - and tell it to register itself in such a way that the next time the Wizard of Cyberspace spills damp moondust on it overnight it shall  be kept in the forever compartment where there are quite invisible grilles and padlocks to keep it safe. Nos da.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


No, I am not going to go on about  a way of viewing films you missed in the cinema nor complete runs of your favourite television series. In fact, I don't even know what the initials stand for in that context and the Guru, my 21st century expert, if asked, is so busy he wouldn't have the time to respond to anything unless it were a  life and death crises. (Mind you, that has to be better than the torpor which sometimes sets in to this retired old lady's life. But I don't think he would think so as he struggles to find some hours in which to sleep) The DVD I had in mind was Death versus Divorce. This is a big question, one that comes to mind often. Naturally, at more than three score and ten one does think routinely about Death - always with a capital 'd' it would seem because  this particularly typing of it acquired the capital 'd' without my conscious input.  I have noticed, since my last birthday, how much nearer heart than head the thinking has become. Death is no longer an intellectual concept but a possibility that has me attacking my drawers and cupboards and rationalising purchases and investments. The attack on the drawers is ruthlessly to eliminate things which will never be used again. One of these days is now so there is no longer an option with that name to allow the preservation of short- or  no- sleeve jumpers. High leg swim suits and low neck tops are also passed their 'use-by' date. In reality, I need a new car. Twelve years, or even thirteen, is a long time in the life of a car. At the moment, I depend on driving for a  way of life which is still quite lively. At my age, that could stop without notice. This would contra-indicate the investment in a new one, wouldn't you say?

But the thrust of what I wanted to say was more to do with the death of others. You would expect me to have lost quite a few nears and dears by now. The world narrows. There is a funnel effect with the number of loved and liked ones squeezing through to the end being hugely fewer than the number who crowded in at the beginning. There is pain. The pain is not only for the empty space but also for the acknowledgement that some things cannot be remedied. There is no cure for death. There is no putting it right, getting round it. It is, however, a clean pain once the cataclysmic acceptance has been acquired. Divorce is different. To the pain of death one must add the pain of rejection, of failure, of exclusion, of 'what-ifs'. When the divorce is from a child it seems survival depends on an intrinsic parental love, if you are the kind of parent who feels like that,which, on-going,  rejoices in the child's survival, his/her well-being in the world:  a concept unfathomable to the child if he/she is childless him/herself, I suspect. (Political Correctness is not known for enhancing the rhythym of a sentence, is it?.) The idea that someone whom you carried inside you for nine months, who clung to your breast, who lightened at the sight of you, who took your sleep, tested your patience, made you aware of a love beyond imagining, (if that was your experience ), should  end up not liking you may be rather worse than death.   Currently, I am reading a Buddhist book on death. It is a book I first read when I was nearer forty than eighty. It says much more to me now than then. Perhaps, the answer is that calm acceptance of life and death must also come to include divorce. Let me remind you of  something I put to you many posts ago: death robs a relationship of its acrimony. Divorce robs it of its tenderness. What do you think?
 Liz's job is usually to laugh wryly at the irony of outer 75 versus inner 40. Thank God, Buddha or anyone in whom you have faith - or none - that is so possible most of the time. Occasionally, though, one must let a wise old witch have her say and, I fear, the witch is better known for her cackle than her giggle. Anyway, I wouldn't know where in the machine to slot the DVD to watch it even if it were one of "The Murdoch Mysteries", my favourite of all time, so who am I to pontificate? Nos da.

Monday, 4 June 2012


Those of you on Mars or some other Planet of the inner world, may not have registered that, in the UK, we are in the middle of celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth 11. Well, we are. This is the third of four days of celebrations which have encompassed just about all forms of representation.   It both suits me and disturbs me. It suits me because, to someone who likes, needs, even, for things to be as they are expected to be, the sheer competence of the arrangements, the thought-throughfulness of every miniscule detail pleases and sooths me. I am left feeling there may be an alrightness in the world after all. For this to pertain even when the Gods saw fit to pour water  on our presumption from a black and determined sky , I found so settling I am tempted to analyse whatever could have left me so in need of the reassurance. It's OK. Read on. I am going to do no such thing.I was not actually there. I was just glued to the television set.  But there was something so completely natural, normal, about the little finale choir on top of a boat singing their patriotic hearts out, their hair plastered to their heads, rain dripping off their chins that I was left with an acute awareness that the basic nonsense of life is what makes sense of it. A spirit of  'I said I would so I will' assailed both Monarch and Choir so that the one, nearer 90 than 80, and the other, undergoing torture by water, were joined by a committment that, for me, gave meaning to what we are here for.

You must'nt think that I have lost that essential focus on the question the examiner has set: 75 going on 40.
Because I have been there: where? I was on the edge of the Mall, for the Coronation. It rained. I was soaked. I was separated from my friends. . There were no mobile phones. No way, so taken as normal  in this, the Electronic Age, to re-establish contact. I had'nt lived in London long. I was tempted to be panic stricken. But the spectacle took over and I was able to talk myself in to a belief that all would be well in the best of all possible worlds. It was. I found a phone box and telephoned my landlady, telling her where I would make for if my friends rang to ask. That is what they did. Communication was not easy but it did hone one's ingenuity. The bigger difference, though, is that I was there. It was with a shaft of  deep sadness I realised that I was not really up for it sixty years later. The Guru, who was planning a riverside picnic with his Dear-One and family, seemed horrified at the thought I might want to join them. Dear Reader, I did, so much want to. My forty-year-old spirit was drawn like breath from my old,old body. It was pushing down to a vantage point, wrapping a water-proof around me, improvising. I could 'see' the whole scenario. However, good sense and a sense of propriety did prevail. Apart from the physical daunt, there would have been the embarrassment of being looked after and considered: more dampening to everyone than the interminable rain. The Mother of the Dear-One is younger than my older daughter! That gave a new perspective to my pretensions. I recognise that I am fighting the reality of age at a more significant level than I was. Liz may laughingly imagine that 40 will prevail in the end, or over all. It won't; at least, not physically and that, inevitably, has an affect on the spirit. So now you know why the celebrations disturb as well as suit me: I am forced to look at a different level of reailty.  I am 75 going on 80. But that should be fun, too. Bore da.

Friday, 25 May 2012


You were warned. I did say I was going to do a course in touch typing and,   surely,  I would want to tell you about it .Well, I have done it. I am not touch typing yet. We were taught the rudiments and it was built in to the day that success would depend on subsequent practice. Now, we all knew, or if we didn't, the Guru did and he would have told you, what the likelihood of my practising was going to be: on a scale of one to ten, about one and a half. The funny thing is, part of me really wants to crack this. It is just fighting with the part of me that is sinisterly in to 'won't, shan't, cant make me'. I really will. I will. One of these boring days I'll click on to 'word processor' and pretend it's a clean sheet of paper waiting for me to fill it with qazwsxrfv etc etc.

And there's the rub. The conflict is actually between the current three score and a lot more than ten and the forty-year-old. The instruction was in modern-speak. No sitting down with a blackboard or a chart with a diagram of the keyboard. No paper: no cover over the keyboard while we felt around underneath it trying to relate the keys to the diagram. You see:  I did start such a course. I do know of which I speak. It was exactly sixty years ago and I had decided attending a Secretarial School for Young Ladies would be more interesting than University. It was'nt. I lasted three days and, thanks to the forebearance of my parents, hurriedly took up a place I had been offered  at University which, by great fortune, was still available to me. (That story is too long. I'll tell you another time.) Anyway, this time the instruction was what I might call narrative. It was narrative accompanied by actions. There was a 'story' illustrated by speech and movement. Each little group of letters was dealt with in this way. I'm sure there are copyright issues so it's not easy to describe in a way that will bring you in to the experience. But picture a group of diverse grownups standing, shouting using their hands in what reminded me of that game where one person mimes the title of a book or a film while the others guess what it is. Only this wasn't mime. It was noisy, wordy and uninhibited.  It was not my most comfortable scenario. Indeed, some of the required activity I proved totally unable to get round at all. I gave myself a very stern talking to.  I tried to switch reason off and join in."Liz," I said, "get on with it. What have you got to lose?" (The fee, for instance.) Nothing worked. I was paralysed. I resorted to writing down the 'story'. (I had to stop myself translating that word to 'content'). The Trainer, bless him, tried to stop me. "The best way to learn is to do, not write". Not for me it's not.

 It is worrying for a Blogger who believes her essential struggle is with the reality of housing a forty-year-old spirit in a very old frame, to find that there is also the problem that she is, in part stuck in the actual era when she was forty - or younger. It just seemed an infantilising and disrespectful way to teach adults. Perhaps, it's not. Perhaps this is good change. Perhaps it is a more effective and impressive - in the indentation sense - method of teaching.  I am not proud of my reaction. I am not proud of being reactionary - although I am quite proud of the pun.  Do your best, though, to picture Liz, in her lighter moments on the course, waving her arms and singing ,in soldierly fashion, in repetition, following the sergeant major leading us:  (I made up the words.They are'nt the ones we actually sang. ) "Do as  I say and we will win" " Put your scepticism in the bin".  I don't think so. But, touch type eventually I will. I will. I wsx. Nos da.

Saturday, 19 May 2012


Before I start, I'll explain, as requested by the one who left a comment on "Mistakes", what the Guru did to make paragraphing possible. At the top left hand corner of the new site it says 'compose' and 'html'. Apparently, I had been on 'html'   when I should have been on 'compose'.  It is pointless to ask me to elaborate. I can   understand 'compose' from my old life as a pen and ink writer but I havent the slightest idea what  'html' means and, no, I don't know in what way it is different from 'download', both of which appear when you want to print something off and, of course, I don't know  what the letters actually stand for. Go on. Tell me. The whole thing was a disaster, if you ask me and I am beginning to think it would make more sense to do a computer course than a typing course. Stop: my inner voice is going bananas. "Your life  is hard enough. You can't possibly be serious about flying to Cyberspace. For Goodness sake, you aren't even strong enough to undergo the injections and vaccinations you'd need, never mind learning a whole new language even to buy a bar of chocolate there." Quite right: I'll stick to touch typing, though the Guru, who went to the trouble of looking at the website of the Provider, tells me he doubts I'll  be disciplined enough to do the routine, regular pracitice which, it states quite clearly, is part of the course. Oh Dear: the pros and cons of being understood.

That's  enough explaining .Awkwardness:  I have developed an addiction for a certain kind of Japanese cooking. It is the kind where the food is cooked in front of you. I must distinguish between the large tables where strangers all sit , together, around a table which consists of a major hotplate, Teppanyaki I think it's called, and small tables where each little party has his, ok or hers, own small hotplate. It is the latter which has hooked me. I find myself making excuses to be in the area where one of the two extant in London exists.  There is a big disadvantage. Seating is on benches back to back with the next table. Nothing moves. Once you have clambered in, you are marooned until going home time. This is all  very well if you are 25,  or even 40, and flexible. At three score and a lot more than ten, clambering may well  be one of the skills you've left behind. By now I am warned. I have experience. The first time, needing a comfort stop, I went to get up and out to find I couldn't. My foot was trapped inside a sort of trestle arrangement. There was capacity neither to push the table forward nor to push the bench backwards. My companion was too embarrassed to laugh. I was not. Unfortunately, laughing didn't help.  In the end, I turned sideways, lifted one foot on to the bench and managed to get it, from there, over on to the floor.   Can you  picture it? Let's just say  it was possible only because I was not wearing a skirt. Those of you kind enough to keep up will have gathered that I do rather miss the smooth flow of movement I took totally  for granted in my youth and still, in my inner world, expect, now. A glimpse of this old bag lumbering along, swaying from port to starboard, , comes as such a shock I can't actually connect  that shop-window picture with your actual Liz.  Forget Typing.  Forget Computing  It's a course in  Etiquette and Deportment which I need. Nos da.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mistakes: with paragraphs omitted, perforce

Just to bring you up to date on the situation described in "Bells", the previous post, I still can't make paragraphs, and the tinnitus has become part of my life so I am less aware of it. It's like being in an airconditioned room: after a while, you don't notice the hum. The other point is that I have re-thought the touch-typing thing. I realised that parking fines and fees for the course were totally without connection. It was a sort of punishment for having incurred the fines to make myself pay a similar amount: the kind of inverted logic that has played rather too large a part in my life. The Father of my Children used to say I had a 'rent box' mentality. I think he meant, money I had put aside in one tin couldn't be used to pay a debt due from another. The above logic - if you can call it logic - would have been a related example of the phenomenon. Anyway, I have found a course that, realistically, I can afford and I am really looking forward to having another arrow in my quiver in the fight against the Wizard of Cyberspace and his acolyte, the cursor. ( Picture a paragraph here, please.)

 I experienced a strange happenning after "Bells". A well-meaning friend moved the blogpost to her personal email and edited it. In spite of being one of the people on 'alert- to- a- new-post' list who were warned there was a problem making paragraphs on the newly designed blog site, she told me the post needed paragraphs and broke it up for me, to show me how. As it happens, the breaks she made were more to do with the number of inches and appearance than the sense of what was going on so not at all helpful. There was also a degree of misunderstanding. She assumed my system underlined typos in red. It doesn't, so I have to do some careful proof-reading to deal with mistakes. Clearly, it's not careful enough and she was, as she said, itching to put it right. I felt just as if she had told me my baby's nappy was on upside down and that there was gin in the bottle insead of water. Now, honestly, wouldn't you have felt like that, too? Friendship is about ignoring gin-fed babies - or telling you about it: discuss. As it happens, one of my babies did experience such a mistake. On a boat on a river at a lock, all the adults busy with ropes and engines and what it takes to get a boat through, this two-year-old helped herself to a tall glass of clear fluid standing, momentarily unsupervised - both the glass and the child - on a surface at her eye level. Before you could say "what the H... has she got in her hand?" she had downed the lot: (gin and tonic, of course, with a slice of lemon. What did you imagine?) Dear Reader, she was transformed, there and then, in to a clock-work mouse who did not wind down, I swear, for twenty four hours. Father, brother, baby sister and visiting adult cousin, whose glass it had been, slept the night through. Mother kept vigil while two-year-old buzzed and ricoched around a small river cruiser and finally collapsed in an exhausted heap the next day. No, sit down; it is too late to call Social Services. She is in her forties. None the worse for it unless you want to count rather too great an on-going fondness for the Demon Drink. A word of elucidation for kind readers over the Pond: in UK English, "momentarily" means "for the moment". I understand that in US English, it means "in a moment". When I travelled to the United States with that same child, by then a teen-ager, she was somewhat alarmed to hear the Captain of the flight announce that we would be taking off "momentarily". (See above re paragraph).

 Finally, you should know of one more - were it only one - mistake. My Italian lodger told me he would be going to Italy "next weekend". I forebore to change his bed on the due day, thinking it would be nicer for him to come back to a clean one, forebore to replace the milk for his breakfast cereal and ran out of croissants on the relevant day. I was wrong. "Next weekend" meant the one after the one we were headed for so picture me rushing about looking for a late-opening shop to repair the gaps and provide what was necessary. Maybe I need an editor after all. Nos da
ps The Guru has fixed it!

Monday, 7 May 2012


It seems the tadpoles have spread the word. I now have bells: in my ears, of course. I believe it's actually called tinnitus. And it is not so much bells as sizzles. I have sizzles in my ears. Well, anyway, in one ear. Sometimes it's worse than others. At the moment it is bacon frying. Yesterday evening it was your full barbecue. I have tried discreet plumbing, olive oil and cotton-wool buds. Nothing works. So here I am, 75 going on 40, with many of the age-related disadvantages and few of the young middle-aged advantages. Which reminds me: some barriers are intractable. The other day, the Guru, who now adds running a Jazz Band to his multifarious accomplishments - two Jazz Bands, actually, a big one and a little one - was explaining to me that he had had a "really cool" request for a gig. He was interupted in the telling and, when he got back to me, spoke of something else. "The cool booking?" queried I. "That is age-inappropriate language" quoth he. It was'nt. It was a quote. But, there you are. There are rules about these things and, it seems, 75 must prevail over 40. I think I am allowed 'gig'. Perhaps, if he reads this, he'll be good enough to let me know. I am perfectly prepared to tell him that my musician friends, professional, of all ages, genders and capacities, also refer to 'gigs'; so there. I wonder what the etymology of gigs is. Do, please, tell me. I have several word-smith readers, I know, so I prevail upon you to lighten my darkness in this matter - or any matter, for that matter. As you will have picked up, I really enjoy 'blogging'. The one downside is the number of typos I have to deal with before I can press 'Publish'. There are two categories, at least. One is the simple hitting of the wrong key. The other is the cursor. I don't touch-type. If your eyes are glued to the keyboard, you can't see when the little devil has stepped off the straight and narrow and lodged itself in the preceding sentence or even gone off the screen entirely. Go on: laugh if you like. At my age I have to ask myself if it's a good use of my remaining time to be unpicking misplaced words from the otherwise impeccable tapestry of my thought patterns. There is a solution. I have signed up for a touch-typing course. Several gegabites, or whatever you call them, of information have appeared in my received- mail box. The author makes the course sound more like a day at the Fair than a day of serious learning. Where I pictured a row of desks and blinds at the window, he has described fun and games and not touching a key-board until at least 2pm. Politely, he asks whether stairs would be a problem, so I have to assume his particular catchment is not 18 to 25. Recently, I received two fines for parking in 'Load and Unload' spaces while I did just that so I worked out that, if I could find £130 to pay those fines, I could find nearly £200 to make my blogging life easier.(No euphemism intended). Further, I am in the early stages of writing a book with a friend so envisage even more possibilities for typos. (No, it's not the same as the blog. It is a grown-up treatise on something which affects many of you youngsters out there). There are, however, serious impedimenta to our endeavour. One: she lives in a different country. Two: on the rare occasions when we can work together, she 'writes' straight on to her laptop. I use an A4 'legal' writing pad. I work best with music in the background. She needs absolute silence and would sack the vacuum cleaner,even if deployed by someone else in another room, if I didnt keep an eye on her. I suppose the sizzle in my ear could count as background music at a push, especially if I up-graded it to bells, so, what with one thing and another the typing course couldnt have come at a more propitious time. Prynhawn da.

Friday, 27 April 2012


I am quite discombobulated. The 'Blogger' format has changed. At my age all change is guilty until proven innocent. I've established that there is still a 'Save' click-on and still a 'Publish', all up instead of down and much paler than I remember. Maybe ink is costing more or it's cost-effective to discombobulate or both of the above.It also says 'Preview' and 'Close.' What on earth could they mean? Anyway, if the Wizard of Cyberspace allows me to get to the end of this post, we shall discover if what you see out there, particularly in Mountain View California, stays the same. Seriously, though, change is practically non-negotiable when you are seven score and more than ten years - much. The change which got me to the computer is about tadpoles. One of Liz's eyes now houses two tadpoles. This is change in spades - well, baby frogs, let's say. The Father of my Children had this same experience and was then discovered to have a detached retina. Because of what he went through,it was Post Haste to the Doctor. From hence booked in to the eye clinic; on Saturday morning, if you please. That surely makes it serious, doesn't it? No, of course it doesn't, merely precautionary. I am quite happy to house un-serious tadpoles, or even frogs, come to that, but I'd rather not detach my retina. Himself spent weeks upside down on his bed. What would happen to my beloved four-legged best friend? Equally, my lodger, my campers, the washing machine? I did try washing them off my fringe, wiping off my mascara, putting drops in my eyes. Nothing worked. Thus, to the medics went I. (Something to do with Shakespeare's birthday, I suspect in my verb inversion) Think of me, to-morrow morning, no make-up - because they put drops in your eyes, silly - and no car because you can't see properly for several hours after they look in to the nethers of your optics. Which brings me to another change. Walking down to the hospital, I shall catch sight, in the various shop windows I pass, of this waddly old lady lurching along, the be-prammed babies staring at her third leg, and wonder where went the elegant stride of yesteryear; off with the melted snows, I suppose. I watch people walking on the open land opposite where I live and follow the known paths with my inner eye - the one without the tadpoles - and feel quite jealous. More, my curly hair has stopped being curly. It has more or less agreed to keep its colour but it has given up its mojo. The man who cuts it has at last given in and given it a shape that doesn't depend on curl. Relief all round, though a very different look in the mirror and a very different technique with the brush. I like it. Not one person dear to me whom I have seen since this catastrophic reversal has even noticed. I am both changed and invisible. A waddling, three-legged tadpole-housing eccentric blogger with straight hair who can't tell, from the new format, how much she has written. Perhaps, when I eventually turn in to a frog someone will kiss me and turn me in to a Princess. That'll do nicely. Nos da.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


There's a thing:in more than three score and ten years, you'd expect me to have experienced more than a few misunderstandings. I confess, I would more readily expect them to have occured in my forties than my seventies. However,it seems age offers no protection and the part of me that is still forty is more than capable of suffering them, currently. Example: friends invited me to the National Film Theatre at the weekend. We went to see "La Grande Illusion". I was passionately in love with the lead actor, one Jean Gabin, in my susceptible teens. I saw it, then, many times, for that reason. Now, it was time to see it as a work of art and an ageless plea for what I can only and simply call peace and, sadly, the illusion, only, that this may be possible. For reasons I won't go in to, the day had had its stresses. Some of them had translated in to a great deal of physical movement involving cardboard boxes, cars, storage and the like. Geographically, this had left me, lunchless, quite near the NFT, but early: time enough to eat. There followed two battles. One with the jobsworth keeper of the barrier in to the complex including the NFT and the National Theatre. He didn't want me to come in without the ticket my friends were holding. That battle I won by the little old lady method. It can work even better than the eye-lash flutter used to. Battle number two was to get the tea I craved in a restaurant that, 23 seconds before, had started its dinner menu. More little old lady. I won again but three waiters and a Manager later. Hunger satisfied it remained only to negotiate the NFT's many stairs. Needing a response to Nature's call, I was thrilled to see a door, on the same level, with the Disabled symbol on it. I rushed over in and for relief. I was intercepted by a large man who, again, asked for my ticket. Appalled, I said, again, that my friends were waiting outside with it. Patiently it was explained I could'nt go in without a ticket. My Russian blood - as my Mother would say - was up and he suffered a diatribe about little old ladies and disabled loos. Without a word, he opened the door and I saw the inside of the Theatre. No loo, no stairs, simply an entrance for those who couldn't manage the climb. Oh Dear.

The next is even more lost in translation. To-morrow, I am responsible for a poetry reading during lunch hour. These events are usually attended by two women and a cat but require the same preparation as one would afford a National Theatre production. My inner world has created many impediments to doing this properly so it has been a very last minute pulling myself together. The good, patient lady who is the over-all organiser was to print programmes. She needed the material. I had made five, yes, five attempts to collate and type the list presentably, fighting with the word processor facility all the way. It even had the nerve to take over the enumeration when it hadn't been asked to. Anyway, at the fifth attempt, I left all numbers out and, at last, managed a fair copy. I rang her to see how I could get it to her. "Email it", quoth she. From Word Processor to Email? Not in my lifetime. Print, read out,fax, drive over, but re-do it on an email? A bad joke. (I know: no verb).Dear Reader, she actually managed to talk me through how to transfer from one medium to the other. Not, however, before the MISUNDERSTANDING. "Put the cursor in the middle of the space where you would normally send an email". Yes dear. However, this brought the material into the space for hiding recipients, BCC I believe it's called. It took more than a few goes but, having, at last,tried putting the cursor in the top left hand corner, where I normally start "Dear Guru", for instance, it worked. I wish I could say I was proud. I'm not. I'm exhausted.

Finally: there are three young men living in the house. (Don't even go there. The explanation is more than my blogsworth). A cry from one of them, the longest incumbant; where are his violet underpants? Text messages all round but, clearly, neither of the other two is in a position to look and see if he has misunderstood whose underpants are whose. Nos da

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Love, again

It wouldn't be surprising if someone of my great age would feel she had plenty to say about love. Those dear, faithful readers who have been kind enough to keep up will remember that there have been previous wanderings in to this particular minefield. However, there will be more to say on the subject than is dreamt of in anyone's philosophy and I don't see why a concern about presumption should inhibit me.
As I was saying: love. Today's impulse was occasioned by a recent paschal visit to my homeland.That visit deserves a post all of its own. After all, not everyone is driven eighteen miles out of town to buy a leg of Welsh lamb from the best butcher in the Principality. That will have to do for the moment, though. During the visit, my chauffeur and I met some old friends of his who have, I am delighted to note, become friends of mine. Indeed, they undertook to be guardians to my rocking chair when I made the final move from the domestic toe-hold I had kept in the land of leeks and daffodils long after it had ceased to be economically viable. Pause for a green ink moment:in that town, there is an embargo on the hiring of cars by those of us passed the middle of the eigth decade, so no train and car combo possible. Driving all the way from London is exhausting but a car is virtually essential at the other end; result: stalemate or a generous son who also has a touch of hiraeth for the old place. He drove. During dinner with our friends, it emerged that, recently, the lady had had a difficult time. She had lost her parents only a few months before. She told us that having been extrememly close for nearly sixty years, they died on the same day. Someone of my temperament, or any nosey-parker, for that matter,would have found it very difficult to leave it there. I didn't. I asked how that had happened. She told us her Mother telephoned her from the town 50 miles away where she lived, to say that she had called an ambulance for her Father because she was very concerned about his health. This lady was of the nature that simply never felt able to bother the Doctor so my friend at once understood the real severity of the emergency. She alerted her sister who lived near their parents, That lady went straight round to her parents' house. Receiving no reply to her knock, she assumed her Mother had gone in the ambulance, too, and drove on to the hospital, believing she would find her Mother there. She was not. The news was broken that her father had died actually in the ambulance so she rushed back to the parental home. Letting herself in, she found her Mother dead on the floor with the telephone, open, in her hand. It is more than likely that each had died at the same moment as the other.Thus, each was spared the knowledge that the other had died.I am tempted to say " the conscious knowledge" because who knows what the depth of their loving connection might have made possible? The story appeared in the National newspapers. I don't think I saw it but then I would not have been aware of my friend's maiden name if I had.
I found the story beautiful and poignant and full of hope. I was envious, too. How blessed one would be to experience such a profound, mutual love no matter from what source. The awareness that it is too late, at more than three score and ten, to expect to be blessed with some of life's most exquisite experiences remains intellectual, stays in the head, until such a story emerges. Then it moves from the head to the heart. Bore da

Friday, 30 March 2012


It wouldn't be surprising if funerals were to come to mind from time to time at my interesting age. Well, I find age interesting. I am living with a monkey on my shoulder with a degree of interest which borders on compulsive obsessive. He watches my life as if it were his sole source of nourishment. For all I know it may be. (I can just see the fellow, with his bright, intense eyes, and he is clinging to me as if his life depended on it). I have already planned my funeral with great care. Actually, I planned it some time ago and it may be that the details will need up-dating. Indeed, the nice Welsh minister I had in mind to conduct it has retired and gone to live a long way away. Recently, I attended a funeral other than my own. It was a lady I had met but not really known. One of her sons is a friend of mine; a good friend, a friend in need. When a drain is blocked or the downstairs is flooded, there he is, six foot in all directions and equally strong. (His is, of course, help in addition to the Guru's. In fact, I didn't know how nuch the Guru did for me, outside of Cyberspace, until he moved out and stopped doing it). Anyway, I went in order to support my friend. Before the interment, there was to be a service at the Chapel in the grounds of the cemetery.The day was foul: driving wind and rain and really cold. What's more, finding my way is not what I am best at. Even having, eventually, found a Chapel, I couldnt be sure it was the right one.But, I spotted a group of men and women, each one six foot in all directions and hoped this may be a reliable clue. Indeed, I had stumbled on the right Chapel and was soon being interrogated by the largest and clearly the lead quizzer of the bunch. After a few questions, which I was beginning to find border-line cheeky, I realised I had been mistaken for the lady- friend they knew my friend had recently acquired whom none of his family had yet met. Since he is in his forties, I was seriously flattered. Having clarified my role, we all relaxed and chatted like old acquaintances until the hearse and other family cars arrived.So far, so ordinary.

I found the service touching and effective. Three huge sons, a sister of normal proportions, and assorted relatives I had no way of placing assembled and prayed and sang and listened and gave what had clearly been a good and worthwhile human being a fitting send off. There were no surprises and, in due course, the Minister invited us to bring our cars and follow the hearse to the burial plot which was some distance away. At this juncture, it seemed prudent, having done my duty by friendship, to slip away. No point in exposing another old lady to the vicissitudes of wind, rain and mud when my presence had been noted and my respects paid. Therefore, I took the opportunity to find the door to the Ladies at the back of the Chapel and attend to a need which had become rather urgent given the extended length of my journey there and so on. Duly found, I got on with my business, tidied my weather-blown hair, taking my time, and prepared to leave and drive back home. Dear Reader, to my horror,emerging back in to the Chapel I realised I had been waited for. Hearse, Minister's car, kin cars and kith cars all waiting, just for me. Up there with the most embarrassing moment of my life, it was. Anyway, no hope of retreating for home and a hot bath. Back in my car and meekly follow the procession miles and miles round the cemetery to the interment, like a good girl. Naturally, I was last so last in a long line of cars on a single lane road. It was clear the way out was ahead and around so there I was trapped, hopeless. The shorter version of this sorry tale is that I, following the example of Another, backed down the approach road and managed to get away before the assembly had an opportunity to berate me for holding them all up and what- did- it- matter- what- my- hair- looked -like anyway? I promise to have my funeral on a dry, windless day and I'll forgive you if you miss the actual interment because of Nature's needs. I'm sure my friend's Mother would have, too. Nos da

Friday, 23 March 2012


If you think that Marriage can be dealt with in a single blogpost you are probably not married. If you think I would have the temerity to cover it in one post I must have misled you, grossly, about who I am. At any rate, I do intend to make a start on a subject I have avoided up to now although it exercises, often, my mind and because, yesterday, it leapt in to focus in a rather unexpected way. To begin at the beginning: the mores of marriage are amongst the greatest changes observable in the years between age 40 and 75. Obviously, one great change is what might be called 'non-marriage'. Two people of opposite genders living together without benefit of clergy, as the saying goes/went, in the 70s when I was in my 40s, were regarded as Living in Sin. The woman was no better than she should be. The man was on to a good thing. The waterfall of reasons, ideas and philosophies inherent in that and, more important, in the acceptance of the current status quo, would take a dam of unimagineable proportions to control and exploit. At risk of drowning, I shall, nevertheless, approach and hold a jug under the flow to analyse just a litre or so. Marriage must have seemed the only solution which would both protect a woman and give her an acceptable role in a world where she was largely excluded from professional gratification. This solution would have lost its attraction as women gained more and more freedom and stature in the world of work. I have watched this erosion with mixed feelings. I am both pleaased for and envious of women who are currently 40. But I am also concerned. I do see value in tradition and containment. Whatever went on behind closed doors, men, women and children, too, for that matter, knew what was expected of them and, more or less, how to carry it out; no bad thing, surely.
Yesterday, I took part in a discussion which was, loosely, about comparative religion. The significance of woman was raised. An idea was put forward that there may be an intrinsic fear of women, of their power. A power that may be implicit in their fundamental and essential faculty to feed the young. From Nature's point of view, before the arrival of teeth - and Formula - civilisation could not survive without the milk of the Mother. The fact that without the man there would have been no conception in the first place got swallowed up in the overwhelming awareness that things would have progressed no further if there had been no means of nurturing the new-born baby.The point being that this dependence on the woman for survival made her threatening beyond tolerating and, as I see it, led to all the sublimation of that gender that we know about. Simplistic? yes, indeed. What it incontravertibly (?) shows is that there is essential necessity for both genders. Does equality follow, I ask myself: I ask you? Anyway, this may well prove to be quite the wrong forum to raise the matter. I suspect the Guru switched off a hundred words ago. Why should a man for whom a mobile phone is as ordinary and accepted as are his ears, his hands, be caught up in the mind-blowing development of the role of marriage between the time when his Godmother was married and the present day?
The story may have a happy ending. A couple, married 62 years, attended this meeting having travelled by 'bus. The lady got off first, at a particular stop and walked through a passage to reach the top of the road where the venue was. The man continued on the same 'bus, up through the village and down again to a stop at the bottom of the venue road. This was done with complete unanimity and acceptance. No argument about efficiency, no marital sniping, no "I told you so" by the first to arrive, just the independence each to do what he/she thought worked better. Who would want it any other way? Prynhawn da

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Just a Minute

Yesterday, I took the minutes for a meeting of my Doctor's General Practice Patients Group. There were about a dozen people there. Now, I live in a community that is highly articulate, educated and political. The latter not necessarily in the sense of allegiance, more in the sense of involvement in what's going on in our community and in the country. Proudly, I drew a little map of the table so I could note not only the names of those who attended, (absolutely not: I refuse point blank to call them attendees, so there), but also where they were seated, to make it easier to ascribe comments. This is an occupation in which I have indulged before, however, not for more decades than it would be decent to remember. I tell you this because I was under the impression, when I offered to stand in as a one-off for the appointed Secretary, that my earlier experience of committee note-taking and my ordinary student experience, when the notes of the Professor became the notes of the student without passing through the head of either, as the old saw goes, would be all I needed to keep the pen on the paper. I suppose I was also thinking of my later professional need for note-taking. Crazy: the making of headline notes in a 50 minute consultation when 45 of those minutes consisted of a profoundly constructive silence has nothing in common with a room full of jabbering interested parties falling over one another in their eagerness to be heard. No, I don't do shorthand. I did attend a Secretarial School for Young Ladies sixty years ago when it was the thing for well-brought-up young Welsh girls to do if they wished to leave the Principality (Wales, if you are over the Pond)and set themselves up in the Smoke (London, ditto). I left on the third day and managed to resucitate my offer of a University place and embark on quite a different path. All this would be of little interest if I were as young as last I was in this situation. I am not. I don't hear as well, I don't write as fast and I don't, after all, remember those things that seem so obvious they don't need writing down. To cap it all, when I made my egregious offer, I was unaware that there was to be a guest speaker.
Thereby lies the rub. A youngish, prettyish woman, a highly qualified medic, buzzing with enthusiasm, energy and evangelism arrived to address us on the part she, the practice Doctors and we were to play in the re-organisation of our National Health Service. Dear Reader, she dived from a height straight in. I was utterly drowned in her words. I have hung on to a few of the Pitman shorthand symbols, learnt in those three days, (Does Pitmans even exist now, I ask myself; I ask you?) and the improvised shorthand I used for lecture note-taking - no vowels, for instance - but none of my resources was equal to the flow of fact-packed, urgent and essential information emanating from this gifted and unstoppable person. What to do? I put down my pen, wiped my fevered brow and decided to fall back on my facility for recall to fill in the gaps at home. But I couldn't. My mind is/was a blank. I have suffered the guilt, the shame and the inevitable. I could tell you what she was wearing to the last button but what she said is mush in my ears. It is Phillip Glass where it should be Mozart. I ask you to pray with me, that the Practice Manager is in a good mood, on good form and with a good memory when I report back to her on Monday. Otherwise the minutes will simply have to read: "there was a guest speaker." Nos da

Thursday, 8 March 2012


Yesterday, I attended a Focus group organised by a huge and very well-known clothing manufacturer and retailer. The subjects were knickers and bras. With a degree of mischief threatening to become unmanageable, I found my inner voice chanting "vicars and tarts" to itself as I did the bustling necessary to arrive on time. I'm sure my Mother would have been as horrified at the thought of a forum discussion on knickers and bras as she would have been had she been invited to a party with a theme of vicars and tarts . My naughty response will suggest to you that my own mindset is also not that far behind. Since I am, however, really only 40, I did feel equal to what I expected to be quite a challenge. The system was for some fourteen women to sit around a table with a Focus group specialist, a designer, a structural engineer and,in the morning, a knicker expert and, in the afternoon, an expert in bras. As it happens, I have attended one of these gatherings at this institution before. It was led by a man. He, having written the email of invitation, was unwell and, therefore, not in. Very sensible, I thought. Schoolgirl giggles could have been the only possible outcome if the ensuing process had been led by a man; even this man who seemed unlikely ever to watch a woman dress and undress. The instruction was to say which of our knickers we liked best and why and which had disappointed. Purchase from another source was to be acknowledged along the lines of ' what are they doing better than we are?' I was sitting where I was second in the round. (This matters, as will emerge). Now, Liz wears what I can describe only as 'school knickers': fitting round the backside, over the bulge and up to the waist. I love them. I have progressed, through the years, from this firm's pretties to this firms sensibles. My comment was that, pure cotton as they may be, they had shrunk. Time had been spent in selecting a pair that had and a pair that hadn't, to prove my point. Dear Reader, the entire team was round me like a piece of elastic. My undies were photographed, felt and recorded and the upshot was that my address was taken with the promise that I should receive replacements at their expense. Of course it matters, silly. If they shrink they are no longer capable of covering the bulge. They rest in an uncomfortable squeeze in the middle of it. This dilemma is meaningless to you young ones, but it is jolly disconcerting to the elderly aspirant to some degree of elegance - the line, silly, the line. You have probably guessed, but the relevance of being second emerged as we went round the table and the most frivolous, lacy, racy bits of nothing were displayed and examined, in colours I had walked passed with eyes averted when I was in the shop. I would have slunk out leaving my sample behind had I been any further round the bend...double entendre intended.
The afternoon was even more of a challenge. I was forced to confess I didnt buy their bras. I tried and they don't work for me. Expecting to be thrown out, I suffered even greater shame: the attempt to persuade me to have another go. If you have been at the receiving end of a concerted campaign by expert marketeers to get you to buy their product, you will have some idea of what I went through. Charm, discretion and a brickwall politeness finally exhausted me to a point where I agreed to a new fitting and another try. Well, you would wouldn't you when they are half the price of what I had bought and there are so many to choose from? But, actually, no. There were so many to choose from I was quite overwhelmed.....and exhausted. What kind of a world do I live in, I asked myself, that I can spend a whole day focussing on my underwear when the outside world is as the outside world is. Death, destruction, cruelty, tragedy: what can it possibly matter? How can a group of women, a group of experts and their employer call this Focus? But when I had run out of green ink, I realised that this particular employer gave work to more thousands of people world-wide than my imagination could encompass. So, drown your scruples and focus on that. Bore da
PS Mountain View, California. Do, please, put me out of my misery! Who are you?

Friday, 24 February 2012


It seems only fair, having used "Under Milk Wood" and my view of the Welsh character, to point up the need in all - most - of us for a bit of bad news gossip, that I should counter-balance this with an example of quite a different take on the world. If you have been kind enough to keep up, you will know that I have a fairly strong connection to the way things work for Buddhists. Recently, I was at one of the Buddhist centres around London. I was greeted by a young, female Nun in a state of great excitement. She was off to Scotland in a 'bus over night that very night. She had'nt done that before and her pleasurable anticipation was palpable and rather touching. After she had left me, her arms full of things to take with her, several other people came up to me and gave me the same exciting news. Her joy in her adventure was shared and delighted in by the entire community. For myself, the thought of a night in a 'bus brought up the opposite of joyful anticipation. I do prefer a room and a bed and a ticking clock and not too many other people to share my night, anyway, with two legs. I had taken with me a little offering of snowdrops, plucked from my small garden. He- to- whom- they- were- offered found an egg-cup to house them and then put them on the desk of the presiding Lama. It seems a blessing lies in giving someone the chance of doing a good thing for another. This blessing is called a Merit. Two people benefit. One, in this case me, from creating an opportunity to obtain a Merit - the giving on of the flowers, and the other for the one who chose not to hold on to the gift but to present it to someone else. Still with me? I suspect I have taken us through this complex, simple notion before. It still fascinates me. Perhaps it is not unlike the Hebrew 'Mitzvah'. But there was none of the eager 'what happened next' thirst of the thrill-seeking Gossips of my youth. No secretly cynical view of the Nun's innocent excitement at what may have been seen as a fairly prosaic and not very comfortable way to spend a whole night.
Thinking of cynicism has brought to mind one of the most blatant examples I have encountered in my celebrated more than three score and ten years. Two months ago, turning left at lights, a car which had been waiting beside me in the right lane also turned left and went in to me. So far so straight forward, or left turning, if you will. I stopped, with damage to my wheel arch. He continued for a few seconds with the result that his car was damaged along the entire side. It now turns out that, in his account, he has up-ended the map of the location where this occured. He avers we were on the opposite road coming from the opposite direction. He says I was in the left lane, and that I tried to turn right and thus went in to him; all this on the other side of the intersection from where we actually were. The enormity of this chutzpah is beyond my capacity to take in. I have offered to swear under oath to my version of events so we shall see what happens next. In fact, I also offered to ring up the Queen if that would help, getting quite Alice in Wonderland in my frustration, but my Insurers felt she probably had enough on her plate what with Jubilees and Olympics. You must be thinking that Liz too often loses her capacity to see the fun in stuff. I promise to try harder to laugh at life if you promise not to look for the bad news too often. Prynhawn da

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


The difficulty with'amateur' is that it has picked up a pejorative significance. I am thinking of it more literally, as something done for love. I do love Dylan Thomas's play for voices," Under Milk Wood". Recently, I took part in a rehearsed reading of it put on by a local amateur theatrical group. (I can't think why you are so surprised. Liz is not nailed to the computer thinking up blog posts, you know). Anyway,that is what happened, I took part. What wouldn't surprise you is that "Under MIlk Wood" should rank second only to Messiah in my must-have list. In case you have no reason to be aware of its provenance, I should explain that it is about a day in a Welsh Village inhabited by what this Welshman has always seen as typical Welsh characters. A harsher, more dispassionate evaluator, may see the characters as borderline stereotypical but, so what. There is rather a thin line between essence and stereotype, wouldn't you agree? Anyway, going with the essence approach, there are, represented, many figures only too recognisable from a life up to late teen-age spent among them. It's the gossip which springs primarily to mind. As a matter of fact, both gossip and Gossip. Even after I left my parents' home to go to University, during weekend visits I was expected to go to the local Cafe and rendezvous with my Mother's friends to hear and furnish the news. My observation was that these ladies enjoyed my news only when it was bad. Good news was greeted with a thin smile and an instant implication of 'let's move on'. Bad news was greeted eagerly, excitedly with a demand for more details. These were not basically bad people. After all, in our hearts, we all know that bad news is more gripping than good. They were just unconsciously innocent about letting it be seen that it were so. There is irony, meanness and also compassion in my experience of the Welsh character. They may gloat, not all that secretly, over your downfall but they would fall over each other with bowls of soup were you to be too ill to make it for yourself. The Welsh couldn't claim exclusivity in the area of compulsive, obsessive behavior, neither. However, there is rather a lot of it about west of Bristol and north of Chester. In the play, Mrs Ogmore Pritchard, widow, twice, of Mr.Ogmore and Mr Pritchard presents a portrait of obsessive, compulsive disorder which out-clarifies all the psychiatric definitions I have ever come across.For instance, "Put you pyjamas in the drawer marked pyjamas". "Before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes". Get it?
Sadly, the stock of the soup of Thomas's work in this particular production had nowhere near the intensity it not only needed but deserved. The several exceptions served only to unbalance the whole by pointing out how things could and should have sounded. It is hard when someone takes the ball of your passion and runs away with it to play a game foreign to you. I doubt I behaved as I would have liked. In fact, I gave up and detached myself, torn between my instinct and familiarity with the work, and the direction, which I allowed to take away my spontaneity so that I did neither what I was told nor what I had been able to do so often in the play in the past. The venue was icy and the outside temperature only a touch warmer. The audiences were, therefore, not huge and I am not aware of the presence of any that were Welsh. So, not that serious, then. There you are, you see: As I told you, news is interesting only if it's bad. Therefore, I must now add that there was fun in it and new friendships and I learned a great deal. For instance, amateur must always mean 'for love', not 'unprofessional'. I must do as I'm told. I must carry on blogging.I must be less obsessively compulsive about, well, everything, and I must name a drawer'pyjamas' so I can put my pyjamas in it. Prynhawn da
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