Friday, 22 August 2014


The Oxford Dictionary seems to me rather cautious in its definition of 'irony'. It reads something like expressing a view in terms the direct opposite of that which you actually mean. Personally, I use it to describe the cheek of, say, the Wizard of Cyberspace when he hijacks my work and whisks it off in to the ether. It is as if someone with a rather malicious sense of humour presents you with a seemingly rational declaration which is the opposite of what you were expecting and is really meant to humiliate and flatten you, back to your ignominious status as a raving idiot. Today, what brought it to mind was my eyeliner. It is sold on the basis that it is virtually indelible. (When I say 'eyeliner' I mean for the bottom rim of your eye not for lining the bottom edge of the eyelid). Anyway, I find that it is not in the least indelible and is very soon lining a quarter of an inch of the skin below my eye. The irony is that from there it IS indelible and requires a good six minutes to erase, not to mention stretching the delicate skin of that area. "I wish you luck with that" can often mean "there's an ice-cube's chance in Hell" of whatever it is you are wishing for coming to pass. "You don't say" means "you have spoken but I don't believe a word of it". Problems are inevitable when an ironist is in intercourse with a pedant. The one is mischievous, the other precise. As you can imagine, the chorus of such an exchange would be a series of " But you saids". My Mother used regularly to say it was a good drying day when it was chucking it down with rain. We didn't call it irony but it did rather cease to be funny after the first ten years or so. There's another point: it is often intended to be funny in a positive way, as, surely, my Mother meant it to be. "The squirrels are enjoying the figs" is a regular comment about a friend's garden where a large fig tree, given to her by her daughter when she moved in, is heavy with fruit which is eaten by the dear litle furry things (!) before she can harvest them, herself. I can't think why we British emigrate. Irony rarely translates in to another language never mind in to the mores of elsewhere. I suspect we are seen, ironically,as rather impolite in our politeness. Visiting a relative in the States (not in Mountainview Ca, I hasten to aver) I quickly earned a reputation with which I was not really comfortable, for being difficult to understand in conversation. Ironically, so were they. I was not good at the literal in spite of being a seaker after truth, precision and exactitude in my striving to be comprehensible. There's an irony in spades for you Bore da

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Behind one's back

The other day, I broke a long-standing rule: I responded to an advertisement that promised an instant, lasting cure for age-related wrinkles. It was very expensive, but what the H..., you are only old once. After several days of using it my skin did, indeed, look smoother so I began to be reconciled to the price and even started to use it more liberally.  By chance, in a friend's bathroom,  I came upon a magnifying mirror. Dear Reader, my skin is not smoother. My eyes are weaker; so much for vanity. It seems I have to put up with the status quo now and relinquish the status quo ante.

In that vein, prudently, I have been taking 'end of life' precautions. The young have been given lists of this and that and told where to find one thing and another. During this process, when my desk was covered in supposedly relevant papers, a relative rang and asked if it were a good time to talk. While describing the state of my desk I added that, before telephoning an Undertaker (Mortician, if you are in Mountain View California) the young should order two skips (Here, my American language skills fail me. I don't know what a recepticle for rubbish is called. (Yes I do: it's a dumpster. Hurray for the man in my language archive; a fast mover when the need is really urgent). He replied that if they ordered two skips, they may not need the Undertaker. I rather enjoy what we call Gallows Humour, don't you? Well, actually, I enjoy any kind of humour. It feels like the oil which smooths the sluggish engine of my existence. My colleague and I, on the Enquiry Desk at the local hospital, keep telling one another funny stories and even  jokes in general circulation. Recently, it was about her three cats. Caught outside, in a cloudburst of rain, they dashed, together, for the door to the inside. Two of them got wedged side by side in the rush, stuck and intractable. The third, having been pipped to the post, saw his chance and leapt over the pair of them. It's not a helpful image to have in your mind's eye when someone is asking where is the Intensive Care Unit.  We find ourselves laughing so hard the enquirers have to speak up and apologise for interupting us, but, please, don't tell that to our manager. I have also been setting out my wishes for my funeral. Looking at it, nicely printed from my laptop, I saw that it was virtually a programme for a concert. I am really disappointed that I won't be there to hear it. A very dear friend is a celebrated performing musician. Ages ago, before I was up in the bracket that has to take these things as imminent, he overheard me saying how many of his recordings would form part of my memorial. He said he might well play the pieces in person. "But", qouth he, "we'll have to talk dates because I am getting very busy". Bore da

Friday, 1 August 2014

As You Were

If my parents - and yours - were suddenly to find themselves back among the quick, it is certain that they  would think themselves landed on Mars or even a planet not yet discovered. "We pressed the button marked Planet Earth" they would complain to Mercury or whomever had been responsible for their travel arrangements. "Our daughter is expecting us. What do you mean she didnt get our letter. We should have what-mailed? Used a social network? We don't want to meet her entire network of contacts, just her." Having visited four major stores in London looking for the face powder I habitually use, I found it was out of stock in all four. Bravely, the Guru, unseen, breathing down my neck, I decided to order it on-line. Forty five minutes later I had completed the transaction  The next day, an email arrived asking me to email them a bill for gas or electricity not more than three months old.  It was a  question of security. They needed to verify my identity. I thought they must be joking. They were not. I emailed back along the following lines: I am a very old lady. I could just about manage to order than d....d thing on-line under the guidance of the wonderful Guru. I could no more email a document  to you than manufacture the item in my own kitchen. Back came an email virtually on its knees: most apologetic, Forget it, the request is on its way. It hasn't arrived yet, so watch this space.

Even from watching advertisements on television I become totally confused. What is broadband? What is an app? Why won't my phone turn on the central heating? Do birds still twitter? Is Skyping scraping the barrel of communication?  Someone to whom I once risked skyping - again, thanks to the omnipotent Guru - came to her computer stark naked. Mine doesn't have a camera so the world is spared that particular horror. The imagining of the bewilderment of the last generation suddenly seems apposite to me and mine. I spend hours - and money - on the phone looking for information I could  simply have Search Engined. (I don't say 'Hoover'' either). It just doesn't come to me to look online. Sometimes, when I have done so, partly out of guilt because I am grateful for the Guru's attempts to pull me in to the current century, and partly out of shame at my Luddite behaviour, I am confused by the list of the choices offered to me. Usually, none covers exactly what I need. Oh dear:What  I do need is to lie down in a darkened room and perhaps wake up back in the nineteenth century. However, some automata do enhance the universe. At the hospital where I volunteer, the loos have a flush system which responds to the approach of one's hand. Very hygienic it is, too. The loos, themselves, however, have fallen foul of domestic cut-backs. You have a hands free flush, a hands free water supply, a scruffy floor and a paper towel holder that is nearly always empty. Hot air? In that situation? No thank you. I should say I am grateful for the hands free 'tap'. How often have I found myself with soap on my hands and the tap too stiff to turn. Prynhawn da