Sunday, 23 February 2014

Deja Vu

 Last night the Guru's Swing Band had a mammoth gig which I went to with some trepidation. Why? Well, apart from me, the oldest person there must have been all of thirty. I went on the 'bus which meant that I approached the door from the end opposite to a snaking queue the end of which was not visible to the be-spectacled eye. Taking my courage in both legs I advanced straight up the couple of steps to the Doorman in control of things. Not unreasonably, he pointed me to the far west where there was evidently an end to this queue. Firmly, waving my stick at him, I said that old ladies with incapacities were not about to line up in the wind and the cold. He must be fond of his Grandmother because he let me in and this post testifies to the fact that I was not riven by those still waiting in the queue. I knew that the band's first set was not until 9pm but there was a great deal going on before that. It turned out that the main opening event was lessons in jitterbugging and related dances from circa the Forties and Fifties. Imagine my excitement: I must have been the only person there who danced those dances the first time around. The girls were mostly wearing the waisted, full-skirted dresses of the time, with trainers, but even a pedant like me was able to accept the practicality of that. My poor feet were itching to get in there and threatened rebellion as I sat, decorously, on a chair provided by another young man who must have loved his Grandma. I honestly think - is there another way to think - that, had I seen a place to pose my stick, I would actually have joined in.

I remember an attempt at a parental embargo because of the risk of underwear-showing as one twirled and pirouetted without caution. The solution was to sew weights in to the hem to hold the skirt down. That didn't work, of course, largely because I took them out away from parental observation. My seamed stockings and ladylike knickers, colour co-ordinated, were, therefore able to enjoy and be enjoyed by the lovely freedom of the boogie. When I told the Guru of my retrospective identification, he nearly fell over. He looked at me as if I had dropped from Venus. Clearly, there was no way to associate the ancient with the modern, in the past and on the present dance floor. ( I have some reservations about the personification of various non-person references above. Please forgive me. I am really carried away by last night's events. But I agree: I don't like 'arch', either.) Memories I didn't realise I had stored swam about in my current consciousness; people, too. I have been here before, I knew, different county, different companions, replicated experience. With my inner eye I could see, clearly, the young me swung around a boy's back, thrown about at the end of his arms and coming to rest in an elegant curtsey at the end. There were no mobile phones - Good Heavens, what else was there none of - so I had to keep looking at the time to be sure to be ready for the parental pick-up. 'Nice' girls did not go home with anyone else, especially not A BOY. Oh Dear, where are the snows of yesteryear? Melted by the hot Chinese herbal pain patch I have to wear to sooth the chronic pain in my back. Prynhawn da

Saturday, 15 February 2014


In the newspapers recently, I have seen comments about the importance of talking to babies and little children so as to encourage their loquacity and hone their vocabularies. Goodness knows why it has taken so long for 'official' comment to draw our attention to the obvious. It won't surprise you that I am fascinated by the attempts of the young to make themselves understood. I have a little heart-sink when I hear that babies have been 'good' because quiet and 'naughty' because of crying. For \Heavens sake, how do we expect them to draw our attention when they are pre-verbal. (Rhetorical). Someone I had a great deal to do with growing up was being fed when it was clear that she was storing up the food in her hamster cheeks. As the surplus spilled out the feeder kept shaving it up and trying to put it back in to the child's mouth. After a while of this in- out exchange, the little one suddenly said "Hello". "Hello, has nothing to do with it" the feeder responded. Thinking about it, it came to me that this little thing had spent a good long moment reviewing her miniscule vocabulary and had decided that the nearest she could get to "Let's call it a day with this food business, if you would be so kind" was 'Hello', regarded as a friendly and connecting word in most people's world. I have a friend across the Channel whose neighbour came to her one day and asked whether her visiting Mother were alright. When asked, the reason for the query was that she had been observed actually to be talking to the baby she was pushing in  the pram.

Irony is a tough one. We Brits seem to go in for it extensively. I overheard a conversation where someone was describing a less than happy restaurant experience. The light was poor, the food appalling, the service indifferent and the toilet facilities a disgrace. "You would'nt recommend it, then" said the addressee. A non-Brit, on the fringe, spoke, with some irritation, "Haven't you listened to a word he said?" A perfect communication between those used to irony: a lapse of manners to the rest. When I was rather ill a while ago, talking was too great an effort. I was aware that loved ones were keeping vigil but had no words to let them know I was grateful and comforted. My inner voice, never at a loss for words, even in those circumstances, kept worrying at the problem. Eventually it came up with a solution. Give them a smile. Communication was thus restored, to everyone's relief.  I was still in there somewhere. It made me realise, again, the essential nature of communication. Perhaps it is right up there with the previous post: .Love and Communication equal life's blood. Why not?  Bore da

Sunday, 2 February 2014


Of course, you are right. That's an extremely presumptuos title. But I shall presume only to cover a smidgen of the subject and that, I trust, with humility. It started after I had written a guest blog for Gransnet. Under 'comment' I found one from the features department of a National Newspaper asking if I were prepared to do a piece for them. Actually, yes, I could find the energy to do that. A day or so went by until we finally spoke when, Dear Reader, with rue and irony, I realised there had been a break in frequency and our wavelengths differed. The young - sounding - lady at the other end had read the guest blog and my thoughts on love being easier at the three score and more than ten than at the forty end of my experience. She had pictured a stream of enlightened romances. I was talking about 'caritas'; the kind of love which sits in the solar plexus and usually doesn't relate to the physical side of things although it is not a written rule that it should'nt. I meant compassion, and warmth and an encompassing alrightness. I find it very freeing and enabling. In the every day sense, it often means that the slings and arrows of this and that slide off me, leaving me positive and whole. For Heaven's sake, I can just be nicer than I was. Stupidly, I told the lady this  - not the' nicer' bit - when a cannier old lady may have said "That's fine. I'll send you a piece about my latest four romances." and had a lovely time making them up. Now I have scuppered my chance to be known in the world and even invited on to 'Woman's Hour'. (This is a daily  UK radio magazine programme if you happen to be in Mountview, California).

The working reality of the question of love was brought home to me in spades yesterday evening when I was speaking on the telephone to someone I have loved dearly for fifty five years. He is widowed, now, after a remarkable marriage of many, many decades. An amazing man, brilliant, experienced, fluent in many languages, well versed in politics and sport but not particularly emotionally intelligent. At least, that's what I had the temerity to assume over all those years. Last evening he suddenly said " You know: love is the most important thing. Nothing else matters where there is love." He misses the touches, the tiny kisses, the walking passed and giving a little stroke. He is seriously old but totally himself in what he gives out and how he sounds. I suppose that sort of love nicely covers all eventualities; the imaginings of the Features editor and  the 'truth' of caritas. Personally, I thought a piece based on the crossed wires of that lady and me would have been a delicious riot of misunderstandings with the polarisation of our different ages. Bora da