Wednesday, 26 March 2014

In Memorium

On Remembrance Day a couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the unstructured, unexpected, surprising even, vignettes by which we remember those who have died before us. Since then,   many more examples have come to mind, all of which seem to leave an imprint rather more meaningful than a headstone or an obitury. Many years ago, our GP friend told how, coming back from the seaside with a car full of tired and sandy little ones, he came upon an accident. In spite of the need to get the children home, he stopped to attend to the injured. In moments, he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard a voice say "Stand aside. I'm a ,  Doctor". Quietly, he stood up and drove his family home. The other day, someone came up to me at a 'bus stop and, addressing me directly, asked whether all the 'buses from that stop turned left at the top of the road. From further down the queue, a voice piped up "Oh no. One of them turns right". The voice went on to explain   at great length, all the routes from that stop. There was our friend, firmly in mind again, though I doubt I shall ever see where he is buried or where there may be a formal memorial. A friend from childhood  once pointed out that I must be rather impatient. This is not at all how I see myself and, indeed, had patience enough, when I was working, to do the kind of work that was, necessarily, slow and painstaking. But every time I wish that something would happen more quickly than it seemed to be, I hear his observation again and he, anew, lives for me for a moment.

Naturally, there are some people who provide lots of little  film - memories  When I was very small, I had the habit of  trying to kiss and hug my Father when he was at table. "Never interfere with a man when he is eating" was his contribution to our little ritual. I swear that my cat says exactly the same thing when I bend down to stroke her while her   nose is in her feeding bowl, and I am five years old once more. I have the feeling that I may have told you before about a person very dear to me who kept rather a messy household. When, in her absence, I gave her home a thorough turn- out, her comment when she came back was that it would take her ages to get it back the way it was. Over the decades, that episode has stopped me interfering with someone else's effort a thousand times with her voice in my ear. A casket with her ashes or a rose bush on her grave would have much less impact in memorium. Every time I come across a case of sibling rivalry, I hear the voice of my lovely Mother-in-law dismissing my analysis of children squabbling with the succint words "People have been having brothers and sisters for centuries". I wonder what small movie might recall me in death to those who have been close to me in life. There was an occasion when I described the new wife of a family friend whom I had just met as rather eccentric. All the young, in unison, shouted "You, calling her eccentric." The thing speaks for itself. Nos da.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


How lovely to watch the little ones as they try to make sense of the world. It is something which I have always done but, retired, I am giving it even more time. When you think of what has to be learned in order simply to function in an every-day life, the mind has to boggle. How much has to be learned and how much can be known through instinct? How long does it take to be sure that someone will come if you scream? How do you acquire that skill? How fortunate are those whose carer will take the trouble to interpret the screams. (I resisted the impulse to write 'Mother'. I am aware of the obligation to watch out for political correctness though I am not brilliant at it.) I remember taking the risk of approaching a young mother who dragged her three-year-old son from the restaurant where we all lunching because he threw a tantrum when she obliged him to sit, not next to her where she had installed her baby, but next to his Grandmother whose perfume had already caused me to break out in a fit of sneezing. When I came up to her she was standing by her car with the child inside. I expressed the hope she wouldn't hit me or call the Police and pointed out how limited were her son's resources. He couldn't say "You've gone and got another baby instead of me and I can't stand the way Grandma smells." He could only produce the kind of tantrum that makes the fondest parent wonder what on earth they had done in the interest of procreation. Her eyes filled with tears and she said that she had never thought of that. This interfering old lady went on her way with  intervention neither from the law nor the fist.

I see the little ones eyeing my stick as they are pushed passed me. Do they think some big people have three legs? I believe I have told you before about the little one on his Father's knee outside a cafe who was staring at a neighbouring dog. I waited for as long as I dared for Father to say "That's a dog. Say 'hello' to the nice dog". It didn't happen. I am in awe of the expedience babies use in cracking this-business-of-living code. Someone I knew as a child has a French father and a British mother. He solved the two-language problem by speaking French to men and English to women. One baby I knew would say "Carry you. Carry you" because that's what was said to him each time he was about to be picked up. What process did he go through to learn he needed the second not the third person? For a long time, a little boy of my acquaintance called any food he could hold in his hand 'apple', because a segment of that fruit was the first thing he was aware of feeding to himself. I watch my cat intently because she has even more complex communication skills than a baby. If I am at home when she deposits solid matter in the litter tray she scarcely covers it up. If I am out it is very thoroughly hidden. This can be only because she has learned that, if I am on hand, I will clear it up forthwith. For those of you in Mountview California, I should explain that London taxi drivers have to undergo what is called 'The Knowledge'. Every street, every building of interest, every station has to be committed to memory. Can you imagine, in a city that size? It beggars belief. Still, if a baby can do the equivalent, so can they. Bore da.

Sunday, 9 March 2014


You may have been wondering where I have been since the last post. Last post is actually more accurate and ironic than I expected: it feels as if I have been listening to the trump of the last post while I have been trying to access the account that deals with 75 going on 40. The Wizard of Cyberspace has instructed the Powers That Be to send me, in red, a notice that my email and password are incorrect. I do have two accounts and have changed the passwords  of each several times. No combination  worked until, suddenly, it did and now I have forgotten what the successful combination was. I really shouldn't be struggling with the 21st Century. It's not safe.for me. I clicked the 'back one page' and found the email address I had used. The password was just a series of dots. Of course, you knew it would be.

 The other day I did a round of a good many electrical suppliers trying to find an old-fashioned light bulb that wouild give these tired eyes the lumens they longed for. If you feel you'd like to know, by my bed, on the side  where I sleep, is a lamp with a 150 wattage bulb in it. I know, I know, I just have to hope that none of the many people of my acquaintance who is ecologically aware is going to read this particular post. I do feel horribly ashamed, but then, at my age, it comes to lumens or literature. Anyway, I exhausted myself and suffered increased pain in my dodgy back all to no gain. When I complained to the Guru he asked why I had not tried online. Hours of traipsing round a city battered by rain, hale and wind produced no 150 watt light bulbs. Five minutes online and I had sourced and ordered some, warm and dry as, not the bulbs. 'Online' would simply not have entered my head by itself. Anyway, they duly arrived: ten of them. Sourced I may have done. Understood the illustrations, I did not. The good news is that I feel free to leave the light on while I run - I wish - downstairs for whatever reason. I don't have to conserve every moment of its useful life. They are marked "for industrial use" so I suppose that if I do the crossword with the light on that would represent the required industry.Were that the only denial of the here and now, I would be a very happy person. It is not only my clumsiness in the 21st Century, when I do remember its conveniences. It's that I so rarely do remember them. I have not been to the cinema for a very long time, much as I love films, because the weekly magazine that provided the listings for films, plays and music which was my can't-do-without reference book, stopped publishing and resorted to a website which I can't find and  couldn't follow even if I could find it. Up until very recently a website was where a spider made his home. I fear, for me, it still is. Nos da