Thursday, 28 March 2013


It's all very well for you youngsters, but keeping warm is not that easy for those of us in the eighth decade. During a drawer clear-out I came across some stockings. There is no way I could bear to be bare between stocking top and knicker bottom, now, but I don't remember even noticing the gap when I wore stockings half a lifetime ago, before tights were invented.  This is the longest winter I can recall and I am both getting used to it and getting tired of it.  The aforementioned gap is covered by long-johns. Just in case they are called something else in Mountview, California, I should explain that long-johns are like the underwear our Victorian male forebears wore, up to the waist and down to the ankle.  They can be made from wool and do the job of a tight but rather better. One wears socks over the feet, since you ask.  (As it happens, in the 'adapting to age' process, I have had to give up wearing tights because arthritic fingers don't do a good enough job of peeling them on) That arrangement necessitates wearing trousers to disguise this particular adaptation. Further, one is wearing rather more items underneath the top cover so that dressing and undressing takes longer. Meeting certain natural needs also takes longer. By the time this and that have been pulled down and pulled back up again, if one is out there in the town, the queue for the facility is reaching unmanageable proportions. The answer is, don't wait for the last minute but allow time both for the off and on and for the queue. I have taken to wearing one of my few jumpers with a highish neck every day. This means a late night hand  wash and an early morning rush for the iron although the black dog is still doing its best to keep me in bed at all costs.

As it happens, it is actually a hungry tabby cat that gets me up. She stands on top of me with escalating meows until I give in and shrug the covers off. Yesterday, there was a variation. She hit me. Her claws were sheathed but it was a slap on the face just the same. Her solution is to spend her life glued to one of two radiators. There is no room for me or I'd join her like a shot.  Confession: the heating is timed to go off between noon and four o'clock when I am usually out. These freezing days I leave it on so that my dear friend's radiator retains its friendly warmth without interuption. I know, I know, the planet must be saved but the best I can do is to have a bad conscience but go on trying to keep me and my loved- one warm. I have a sheep-skin jacket; another breech of political correctness in itself. It is forty years old and orange, which was fine when I was also forty, but I am not too sure of the propriety of an elderly lady, stick in hand, rolling over the snow and ice in a  bright orange wrapping with the collar askew because a handbag has to be slung across the chest to free up the hands for balance duty and that disturbs the lay of the collar. When I catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window there is a temptation to turn myself in to a witch and disappear in a puff of smoke. Everyone I know has taken off - no, silly, not the layers I talked about above: gone away - so, Dear Reader, you are the only one I can complain to. But enough is enough and if you don't hear from Liz for a while it's because the meows and the smacks have failed and she is lodged in her bed for the duration. Bore da

Thursday, 21 March 2013


Many years ago I was staying  in the United States with someone to whom I am very close when I glanced at her cookery book shelf. It was lined with what looked like twenty identical volumes. These turned out to be individual books, each with a sort of theme. However, on closer inspection, it was clear that the purpose for volumes that added up to two feet wider than the Larousse cookery bible was to accommodate repetition. For example, the recipe for a white sauce appeared in volume 1.  It also appeared in volumes 11,111 and V11. (Except, they were numbered 2,3 and 7 - I am, obviously, a word snob) I asked why the reader was not referred back to  the first volume, as in 'see volume 1 page 44', rather than re read the thing every time a basic white sauce was needed. Repeating it made it easier to access, I was told. Along with 'Mozart's Greatest Hits', this phenomenon started my war with "making things easier".  My most recent gripe is with 'mediaeval'. It has lost its 'a'.  Now, I, and my school friends, spent a considerable time learning how to spell 'mediaeval' and I am not pleased that all that effort has gone for nothing. Guru tells me there are often spelling mistakes in these blog posts so I don't want to pose as an impeccable speller, but typos and ignorance are very different from having life made easier for one when life is hard and every lesson with that in focus has to be a welcome one. To return to Mozart: isn't it a touch infantilising to presume that there are those among us who can appreciate a pretty tune but not have the staying power to hear the development of a whole piece? The argument runs that the" more acessible" pretty tune at least brings Mozart to more of us. Heaven forfend that I should advocate no Mozart for the great unwashed but why not a whole Mozart. More accessibility is essential, but so is education. A generation before mine, born, say at the end of the nineteenth century -  for instance my Father - often left school at twelve years old. Letters and old school books show that those youngsters were literate and well-informed with no need for accessible short cuts.

I am also more than willing to enter the apostrphe war. Yesterday I met a friend for lunch in a restaurant that boasted "todays" specials. She had to hold me down and confiscate my red pencil to prevent me running round altering all their menu cards. I do believe there is a way in which accessibility becomes tantamount to not bothering. I am quite prepared to have a discussion about civilisation losing its attention to containment and form, becoming sloppy round the edges where it is sloppy round the edges of its literacy. If the underprivileged young of the century before last could handle 'mediaeval' why can't we?  I do see that I am a cliche of an old woman in many ways, as in "things aren't what they used to be". But they are not and I am not convinced they are better. (Nonsense, of course they are. You don't see me down at the stream doing the washing).  By the time one is reconciled to three score and a lot more than ten there is a huge amount of stuff in the archive and some of it in corners too remote to reach with any reliabilty. In the same 'todays' restaurant, I saw a face I recognised from forty years ago when she ran a restaurant, herself.  After a long wait my archivist found her name which enabled me to approach her.  It was, indeed, she and, more astonishing than my memory, she remembered me, and by name. Perhaps I ought to leave more space for this kind of past and leave the mediaevals and the apostrophes to legend. What do you think? Prynhawn da.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Pros and cons

Thank  for your patience. Liz is on a path midway between black dog and normality. Actually, it feels more than midway: probably two thirds towards what passes for normality in this eccentric old lady. As it happens, blog posts form themselves in mind all the time. The spirit to send them to you sometimes drags a bit. There is a mental image of the black dog straining at the lead (leash if you are over the Pond) pulling in a direction different from the one Liz wants to take.  Anyway, during the silence, I have been musing on more of the advantages and disadvantages of three score and rather more years. After all, that is one way of expressing the theme of the blog. This morning, I sat on the bed to pull on some clothing. If I had one pound for all the times I have heard/said "do not sit on the bed. It ruins the mattress" I would have money enough to eat caviar and drink whatever once a week for a year. But I no longer care. This mattress will see me out and, if it doesn't, I shall simply have to buy another and ruin that. If I want cheese on toast for both lunch and dinner, I eat it. The voice of my conscience is well aware of what constitutes healthy eating but I choose to ignore it with confidence and delight. As it happens,  black dog doesnt do much for the appetite. The plus is that I now have rather an extended wardrobe with items fitting that have been relegated to the back of it for many a year.That's another pro: fashion ceases to matter.  On the contrary, one would look ridiculous in a short skirt and bizarre combinations - not Victorian  combinations, silly, though those, too.
As for the disadvantages, life is probably too short to catalogue them all. And the blog posts could serve as a reference volume for quite a few.Some are worth reporting, however. The other day, I was faced with a glass jar of coffee and its fitted lid. It would neither turn nor be prized open. Tentatively, I banged it against the wooden kitchen counter: to no avail. I applied the 'grip and turn' gadget supplied by a loved one: nothing, niente, nada, nicht. By this time, a sensible person would have settled for tea or cocoa. Not Liz: the determination to get inside this jar overcame all sense of proportion. It was a battle between equal forces.  There was only one solution, to go in to the street and stop the first passer by who looked young and strong enough to do the deed. I made for the front door and opened it to find the postman on the step. What he thought is not recorded, but he opened the jar without jolting the contents all over the threshold and honour was saved both for the jar and for Liz.
Ironically, while there is confidence to sit on the bed, confidence in other areas has been badly upset and to some extent lost. In fact, it feels rather like the business of the coffee jar. You will, of course, have had the experience of opening something in such a way that the contents spill out all over the place. It seems the summer's illness opened my jar of confidence in such a manner as to splatter it everywhere.It must be possible to retrieve some of it and, unlike coffee, put it back in to the jar. Any thoughts about the most efficient way to do this would be very welcome. In the meantime, Liz will enjoy the pros of not giving a damn - or, anyway, not much of one - and the cons of recalcitrant coffee jars.  Bore da