Friday, 26 September 2014


If you are anywhere near my age prepare to have your gander rise. The situation is thus: the tablets, pills and capsules which fuel the engine of my physical health, arrive in partmentalised boxes, one for each of four weeks. The boxes consist of little spaces covered with film, labelled by day and by time, to wit: Monday, Tuesdat etc., breakfast, lunch, tea and bed. These boxes are called, rather coyly, 'dosettes'. I am sure you are ahead of me, but just for affirmation, the two risks you have spotted are 1) If you drop one you still have to take it, 2) likewise if the cat has been playing football with it, because there is no happy box containing replacements. The 'not only but also' of this frustrating situation is the delivery of these dosettes. Up until this week, I have collected them from the local pharmacy in passing, any of the few days before the due date. Needing plasters - bandaid in Mountview California - I went in to the relevant pharmacy on Saturday preceding the Tuesday when a new four-box allocation was due. I asked for them and was told "Tuesday". I said it was going to be a problem to come Tuesday and here I was, now, so where was the problem? "Tuesday" was the firm response. "We are not allowed to give them before the due date". Irrelevant that I had always had them on or about. "That's the rule. Due date". Dear Reader, I lost it. I ranted that I was a mature, intelligent, responsible person and could guarantee I was not going to take the contents of every single dosette with one cup of coffee in one fell swoop. (What is that, by the way?) I think fear of having to hospitalise me for overwheening rage encouraged the pharmacist and the manager to give in and hand me the four dosettes already elastic-banded together so very evidently ready. Being old is a two-way street. There are huge advantages and equal disadvantages. I don't like the way it makes me feel to be treated as if I were a not too bright four year old, but I welcome the help when I can't easily get in and out of a taxi. But then,a plus, I do indulge in taxis from the profligacy of advanced years. I asked two of the people close to me to point it out if ever they saw signs of dementia in me. "How would we know?" was the response, "You were always eccentric". Humph. I worry that I am often left out of things because other people take the decision about my physical capabilities. I was not invited on one occasion, for instance, where there are steep stairs to negotiate. I would rather creep down the stairs holding grimly on to the banister than endure the feeling of being excluded. As a result, I worry about decisions I took, in the name of good parenting, for my young when I thought they were not equipped to take these decisions, themselves. I hereby apologise. Now I know how it must have felt. It was probably not for me to embargo high heels for a fourteen-year old on the basis that they would ruin her still forming feet. All her friends were wearing them. She was a pariah and I was a Gorgon. A last thought: I have been reading a novel in French, (in order to oil it, silly - the French, not the novel) I was asked by the young if I had had to look up many words. I told them it was not too many. "Google is so good for that" said they. Not for me, I didn't even consider it, remember it. I turned the flimsy pages of my war-time printed French-English dictionary to find what I needed and stuck them back with cellotape when they fell apart. Bore da

Friday, 19 September 2014

Indian Summer

Unless you have been very unlucky, you will have been enjoying the most delightful and cherishing Indian Summer: late-ish September and warm sunshine and lovely pale blue skies with little brushes of white. The early mornings and the evenings are cool to cold so it's a cardigan on and presently taken off. Nighties, cotton but heavy and with sleeves and a dilemma about whether to re-instate the duvet or not yet It comes to me that this is a very edifying metaphor for old age. Old age, as I experience it, is warm and pleasant in the middle, with serious disadvantages at either end. Discomfort and disability nibble early and late. If I sit for long - not even too long - I have to get up very carefully and stand still a second or two to gain equilibrium before stepping forward. At night, I can no longer sleep in my preferred and habitual position on my right side because that now hurts my back. So I sleep on my back, which fancy tells me, is why I have psychedelic dreams. But the days, as I said, are warm and welcoming and full of lovely sights. The trees are turning slowly in to their autumn colours and there are Worcester Pearmain apples, if only I could find the shops which sell them. The metaphor, as you will have noticed, conveys the sense of small pleasures, well-known but no longer easy to access, subject to the threat of early frost in spite of the sun. (Picture a new paragraph, if you please). When the trees begin to lose their leaves, I shall have to think of contemporary friends who have also dropped off the branch. A few weeks ago, with the Father of my Children, I had dinner with college friends who now live in the States, whom I hadn't seen for sixty years. Actually, that's not quite true. I had seen the lady but not her husband. The Father had not seen either. Three minutes after we met the other three were deep in political discussion and I was reminded of the passion of those cocoa evenings when we were all about twenty or so. I kept rather quiet, being parsimonious in the political interest field. Then I was asked a direct question about my response to the contested actions of a certain politician. Trapped, I said the first thing which came in to my head:"He must have known something I didn't". Dear Reader, I got away with it. In the Spring of my days I was no more politicised than I am now in the Indian Summer so I was left both relieved and guilty because my response could have arisen from deep and prolonged consideration rather than from fright about how I was going to mask my disgraceful ignorance. (Picture another paragraph if you don't mind). Just as some activities don't work when it is no longer summer, so it is with some activities now that one is in the winter of one's life. "I could have danced all night" was then. not now. The other day I went to hear the Guru's band play in the ballroom of the Festival Hall. People were dancing to the music and I suddenly realised I had been dancing on those very same boards sixty one years before. Good Lord, that was before anyone else in the crowd was even born. The thing is, at this end of my life, I couldn't join in the dancing, but I could, and did, enjoy and swell with pride at what the Guru has achieved and was giving to us all. So, there is no anticipation of a winter of discontent in this glorious Indian Summer and, anyway, it is exactly two years since I survived to leave hospital so, Happy Anniversary. Bore da PS It occurs to me, rereading the above, that my delight in the Indian Summer metaphor left me vague in articulating it. Quite simply, I meant that the new - or newish - pleasures and re-experiences of exceedingly old age are mirrored by the summer warmth of the autumn sun. Prynhawn da

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Transmission resumed

It has been scarlet swimsuit time. For those of you new to the site and without time to browse backwards, scarlet swimsuit time is when I take that item and other relevant ones on holiday to the sea-side in France. The Guru came with me which made the whole thing manageable. I see that, in my life, there have been five stages of travel management: the first as a single person breezing through controls with a few pairs of clean underwear, an extra blouse (no 'T' shirts then),and a hairbrush packed in to a small carry-on case, swanning through with the Father of my children taking charge, hand baggage and baggage in the hold, muddling through with small people in tow,nappy -filled hand baggage and baggage in the hold, back to a singleton, eyeing a likely strong arm to help me take my cases off the carousel and, finally, wheelchair pinned with medication safely in hand baggage on my knee and baggage in the hold. Anyway, it was a lovely short - too short - break and the Guru, who generously helps me in and out of the sea, avoided dropping me under the waves this time.The scarlet swimsuit also brought to mind another one I had when expecting one of the young. This one had a black top to under the bosom and was red below that, rather baggy as I recall. Some months pregnant, when in the sea, the swimsuit filled up with water via the ill-fitting leg part and left me in danger of having a boat tie up to me in the reasonable belief I was a bouy. It is not easy, remembering the snows of yesteryear, to settle for the constraints of now, but I am not doing too badly as is regularly re-inforced when I am working at the local hospital and see rather much of what people have to endure simply to get from breakfast to bed. In that line of thought, the other day I noticed a piece in the paper which said that one's waist ought to measure no more than half one's height if one were to live a long life. (Goodness knows how these statistics are arrived at. How many people were stopped in the street by a human with a tape measure and asked to stand up against a lampost with a nick in it to show the ideal distance from the ground?) My waist is nearly half as much again as is allowed by this dictum. I had a moment of panic, picturing my imminent demise then suddenly heard my inner voice bellowing "Good Lord, woman: what are you worrying about? You are extremely old already". No chance of narrowing the waist nor delaying the inevitable then. As it happens, demise is rather sadly in mind. Those of you on the blog-alert list will know, already, that my beloved four-legged friend died a few weeks ago, so forgive me while I tell the others. She is profoundly missed and lies under a semi-circular head stone near the gate on the path to the front door. Bringing the scarlet swimsuit home had a poignant newness to it. There was no-one winding in and out of my legs, purring and tearing at my suitcase with her claws. No-one who loves and is loved on a basis of total trust and little disappointment - for her, none for me. I have managed to stop feeling guilty about the depth of the loss. She was a huge part of my life for more than fifteen years and the pain is a reality which I am allowing to be perfectly appropriate. She had rested at the Vet's for a few days after the event and came back in a white cardboard box, covered with painted flowers and inscribed with her name. I couldn't want anything different for myself, though I think it had better not be in the garden by the gate. Whatever would the young tell the Estate Agent? Bore da