Somebody at the door.

This is the week the granddaughter comes to stay on her own, her parents deeming her old enough at the age of five to stay so fay away from them.  They may also consider me old enough to look after her, though personally I wonder if I’m a little irresponsible.

The only occurrence booked is a visit to The Children’s Play Village.  There is also Stopping In to get the phone call from the shower engineer on Wednesday about exactly when the shower engineer will be arriving on Thursday to fix the OH’s shower.  He tugged it in exasperation, frequently his default setting, thus breaking a safety doodah, which, having broken, causes the water to cascade down the back of the shower, testing the impermeability of the impermeable (hopefully) panels.

The rest of the time I have had a request for endless art and craft.

When I was a child my mother used to say that she wished they had shares in Sellotape, I got through so much of it.  At the time, in the early Fifties, you could get two types of sticky stuff.  There was clear sticky tape, Sellotape, which was quite expensive and came in a blue tin, in one width.  There was also cow gum of various sorts, which was basically boiled hooves.  It was opaque and came in a bottle with a rubber tip.  To access the glue you took a sharp knife, craft knives not having been invented, and cut along the depression on the angled tip.  When you pressed the tip on a surface, the cut opened slightly, a small amount of opaque glue flooded a little bit on to the surface and failed to adhere anything to anything, except dust.  It was not sufficiently sticky to stick a sheet of paper, with glue applied, facing glue side down, to the lino, even if you stood on it a lot.  I was bought a book, which I enjoyed, about making models with one piece of paper and no glue at all, just folding and creasing.  When I went to stay with my grandmother we stuck scraps in a scrap book with glue made from flour and water, in a saucer, if you’d added a lump of fat and a sprinkle of salt, you’d have had pastry.

My granddaughter has a box of things, bought for her and an entire room full of crafty stuff, bought for me.  Life has moved on.  But the glint in her eye, when she decides she’s going to make something, is me all over again.

Waiting 65 years for me all over again, is such a surprise for someone who came from an orphanage.  If you had parents who were like you and children who were like you, lucky you.  For me, it is a huge surprise.  The S&H is like me in temperament.  He is endlessly patient and can teach computing to dolts without even breathing heavily or changing his tone of voice and he always sees the funny side of everything. His creativity, however was always bound up with the computer; aged eleven, he wrote an entire computer game, called the Garden Game in which you got points for stamping on slugs.  He may well have been watching his mother in the garden.  He can draw and cartoon well but isn’t really interested.

The GDD and me, how will this be?

I’ll tell you next week,when I know myself.

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Seasonal lagging.

Before we get started, I would like to clear up any misapprehensions concerning the title.  Much as I love Australia and assorted rellies therein, this is not a timely warning about getting up in the loft and wrapping bandages round your pipes, on the off-chance of snow. The planet is fractious, no doubt of that.  It got used to a sky full of polluting aeroplanes and rivers disgorging rubbish into the sea and then we went into lockdown and stopped.  It’s like living on sweets and chocolates and then going on a health doodah, featuring mainly water, your skin will react.  Oh yes, I speak as a person with troublesome intestines, who has lost nearly a stone and gained a zit the size of Cornwall.

But it’s not about that, you’ll be relieved to know.

It’s about catching up. It isn’t an age thing, I’ve done it forever.  It’s fashion, diet, prevailing trends, in which I’m always playing catch up.  The reason we are always playing catch up is the global nature of everything on the planet and commerce.  In the sixteenth century you could be a wit in your own village and world famous as far as you were concerned, especially if you never embarked upon the arduous journey to the next village.  What with sowing enough seed to have extra crops so you could sell some to hire a donkey and a pair of shoes, most people never bothered. Like some mediaeval Amazon, peddlers visited, sometimes as often as once a year. To make up for the deficiency, if you had a really massive village, as many as, say, five cottages, there might be several peddlers a year.  They weren’t all fashionistas, though the original haberdasher was a seller of clothing for men.  In a cod piece you never had to worry if you dressed left or right, you dressed up, which makes some of our shocking fashions seem a bit on the tame side.  If you were a village woman a few hundred years ago, you’d be waiting for the chapman to call.  He was an itinerant peddler possibly peddling the ribbons from the narrow weaver, or the stuff to tie all your clothes together, the cord made by the braider.  If you were peckish you’d be hoping for an itinerant kedger, or fisherman, from whom we get kedgeree, which was the one complete dish I could eat in small amounts a couple of years ago, so I’d have been glad to see him.  Less so for the duffer, a peddler of very cheap goods; the borler, who made cheap clothing and the raffman, who dealt in saleable rubbish.

They are, of course, all online now and it’s only a few hundred years since newspapers were invented here, in coffee houses, people not wishing to talk to each other early in the AM even then.  Instantly influencers were on it like a cart bonnet:  buyeth thy panniers, full hoops are so last century! Which must have been a blow to tranqueters everywhere.  These makers of hoops may well have been sunk in gloom, ready to shuffle off their metal coils, not realising they only had to wait a century or so for the crinoline, or another century after that for the hula hoop.  Never give up; in fashion what goes around comes around, eventually.

Which brings me back to the seasonal lagging.  I have it, badly.  It’s not just online influencers telling me purple eyebrows are so last week, it’s a lack of enthusiasm on my part.  I think my desire to look forward in time was depleted by years of writing for magazines, ahead of time.  Six months ahead, mostly.  This is the reason we have Christmas in July on all the shopping channels; they’ve just finished making ten tonnes of fake snow and are bursting to flog it, or have taken delivery of six containers of fairy lights and only have a corner of the warehouse to cram them all into.  Not that I am saying all such televisual peregrinators are raffmen and I do recall sitting in the garden writing a magazine pantomime in a heatwave and wondering if anyone would want it.  When the festivities commenced, six months hence, I was lauded as being on the ball, in the spirit and generally up to speed, though I never had time to bask in the comments, I was too busy inventing beach umbrellas and dressing dolls in bikinis as the snow fell.

These days I just lack enthusiasm because of age. I have retired friends who wonder every year if it’s worth taking the Christmas decorations down.  They are not alone, there’s a plethora of raffmen online who will sell you exactly the same strings of fairy lights for barbeques that they were selling for the tree a while ago.  In fact, it’s the same picture, with a different caption.  It’s always barbeque season somewhere.

I also lack enthusiasm because of weather patterns and changeability.  When I taught at the language college everyone’s favourite witticism, that translated readily and that you could say in class, was that Britain has a lovely climate and dreadful weather.  That really is the reason I am lukewarm and the heating is on.  I can’t buy sleeveless tops in May, it’s just too optimistic.  Thin pyjamas with tiny shorts in April?  I’m not even going to try them on.  But here we are in July and not only do I quite fancy a sleeveless top, the duffers are selling them for next to nothing because they are bursting to fill the chapman’s tray with winter coats.  The other advantage to me is that recently purchased items do not lurk in a bag in a cupboard so that I am discovering a pair of bagged shorts in a clear-out in January.  I retrieve the item from the drive where the delivery peregrinator has chucked it, disinfect the mailbag, don my gloves, get the tongs, open the bag and wear the item in three days, just like that!

There is also the surprise discovery that, as you get older, despite having more relatives than you used to have, you get pickier.  You realise a preference for quality, which, coupled with the knowledge that Raffmen make clothing on the small size to save costs, so that anyone over fifty needs to go up about three sizes to have a chance of even getting a forearm into the trouser leg and waving without breaking their fingers.  Better quality clothing lasts longer; if you still own six really good tee-shirts bought in a sale, why would you want a seventh from the duffer?  Besides which I know I wear the stuff I have and don’t want to end up like Sam Pepys.

The honest (because he wrote in code and didn’t think anyone would read it) diarist bangs on for weeks about a suit trimmed with sliver lace, which he is having made.  There is one very like the description in the clothing museum in Bath. On and on he goes about how he is going to put one over his friends, how very jealous they will be, how extremely keen the cognoscenti will be to be introduced to the man in the silver suit and so on.  By the time he takes delivery of the suit we are all bored to tears. He tries it on, walks up and down his bedroom in it and asks the opinion of the wife, which turns out to be that’s it’s a bit OTT and will make her look dowdy.

He never wore it out.  It possibly turned into his gardening suit, or maybe was donated to a peregrinator, who would not be able to beg in it, not even for cold kedgeree.

There are advantages to lagging.  Not buying the item du jour, only to find by the time it gets delivered it is so last week.

I would like you to remember this, next time you go cruising up the Big River retailer and other places late at night when you are tired. I will endeavour to remember it too and, even, not act upon it! The raffmen now have ethereal container ships, on which they sit with the tills open, twenty-four seven, while we do the peregrinating.

Fashion is the same as it always was; a load of hoopla and tranqueters.  I would sing Anything Goes if I didn’t know that a Col Porteur is a travelling bible salesman.  Which proves there is nothing new under the sun, therefore it’s always better to lag.

Stay on top!  Be behind! Back on out, the lagging is lovely!

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Sharp

How much do you love your writing instruments?

That bad hmm?  Join the club.

I’ve been trying to have a clear out, it’s been going on for days.  I have huge numbers of writing instruments, despite the fact that the writing instrument I usually use is a laptop.  It was years via the typewriter I was given age eight (still in the loft and likely to stay there; it does not possess a semi colon, poor little thing,) the word processor and the first computer, that the pen fell from my hand.

However, a mere flex of the fingers and it is back.  Eleven jars of them sitting on this table.  In the tidy up they have been sorted and categorised, rearranged and regrouped so I can find them. like some ‘take your partners, do see do,’ for pens, which, helpful as is its intention, has not caused the automatic pencil to surface.

It’s a major thing, an automatic pencil.  For years I cleaved unto the cheap plastic ones until I bought a proper one.  This it is, that has turned up missing.  It looks ordinary.  It could almost be in disguise as a ballpoint pen, except that I do not allow ball point pens, anywhere.  They flock, unbidden to the jar on the kitchen windowsill, but I did not buy them, neither did I put them there.  I’m sorry but I do not like them. The barrels are always warm and always feel like plastic.  One of the more difficult requests of my mother’s in her final years was for a packet (a packet!  As if one wasn’t bad enough) of plastic retractable ball point pens.  In different colours!  Horrors and shoctrick shocks.  I thought I had been properly brought up but it turns out I had been adopted.  By ball point pen users.  I had to buy them multiple times, the carers used them and then lost them.  They passed from hand to hand, like good time pens who didn’t give a damn and would stick their nibs out for anyone with a thumb on their button.

A pen is like a cat.  It needs love and stroking and an owner.

I do love teeny tiny 0.1mm fibre tips.  They are a benefit of civilization.  I have an actual box with gold edges I bought off a shopping channel with numerous colours of them, each living in a little silk lined-ish depression.  They are brilliant if you are drawing or painting to outline so unobtrusively, the viewer can be unwittingly directed to look at what you wish to show them.  Glorious.  I do have a working set or six in plastic wallets and am quite likely to keep the posh set for special occasions until they dry out.

Oh where has my nice automatic pencil disappeared to?

It has a buddy who is an automatic eraser, who is missing it and quite bereft.

I first saw an automatic eraser at portraiture.  This was a class run by the local art shop full of artists drawing a hired model in a room altogether, breathing on each other without masks.  Long ago and far away, when we could do such things.  In this class I watched a retired teacher erase an entire portrait with an automatic eraser and thought him louche, at least.  Then like a major drugs hit, one leaped into my hand and I was gone.  Then I bought the nice automatic pencil that was not the cheap plastic one and they looked so good together.  One doing the drawing, one doing the rubbing out, like a drug dealer and his hitman, they wandered into separate  jars from time to time but always ended up together. Now the eraser lurks, alone, waiting for work.

Oh where is my automatic pencil?

There is a website which I am reluctant to tell you about.  Sign up, they do great emails.  I love them. I will tell you in a footnote, no sooner, or lose you forever and it will cost you, if I push this lot on to you.

I have been lurking.  You can purchase automatic pencils that cost hundreds of pounds.  You can change the currency to your own coinage and it will cost you hundreds of whatever you trade in and they ship worldwide.  Sorry, sorry sorry.

Hours.  I have spent so many hours looking for my next automatic pencil, there may be disappointment if the original pot occupant turns up.  He’ll have to be a back-up if he does.

Yes my writing instruments acquire pronouns.  You already know I think plants are people, are you surprised?

There is little doubt that some writing instruments are herd animals. One wooden colouring pencil alone, is just a lost sheep, regardless of its colour.  Packs of thin fibre tips in differing grades of thinness are a class, take out the ultra thin one and lose it and the others will speedily start wandering round your desk, looking for it.  Some will end up on the floor, lose their caps and just generally behave like the gang who came with the good-looking one (who got a ride in a limo, early doors) at a night club.  The waste bin is their ultimate destination, wasted, inkless, we all know that.

I am trying not to visit this website too often, in case I inadvertently, or, even, advertently, stray into the fountain pen section.

Oh fountain pens!  They’ve come on quite a lot since they used to empty themselves in your blazer pocket.  This was the wool blazer that got dry cleaned once a year.  Only blue ink was allowed in exams. or, to be precise, for any form of school essay.  Black ink was for teachers, prison officers and, probably, counterfeiters. You could express yourself, though it was not encouraged, by your shade of blue.  One girl had pale blue verging on turquoise, she never married, no one was surprised.

Fountain pens are still noticeable in International Diplomacy.  Whichever residence of the head of government the nice table is situated in, the clusterers around it are brandishing fountain pens.  We have not yet reached the point in history where a thumbprint on an electronic device can change history.  They couldn’t give a signee each the device to take home.  What would they do, email it?  The day will come, underline my words, (0.1mm, fluorescent orange) when someone hands the young signee the fountain pen and he doesn’t know how to work it. To be fair, Ancient Egyptian tomb decorators may have made the same joke about chisels, ‘I hear they’re writing with fish juice on papyrus, Honkinhorn, that’s not going to last, is it?  Pass us the number three pyramid end, could you?’  ‘Here, Battersbyisis, you can’t chisel on grass mate!’  (Both fall about laughing, sideways.)

I wonder who designs presentation pens?  The item has to look incredibly expensive but only be good enough for one go.  They probably segue into it from designing kitchen blenders that say they can chop ice and lawn mowers advertised to be able to do long grass.  And have you noticed with the International Peace Treaty (good till next Tuesday) signing pens, they are never given the box to keep it in.  Years later you could be saying: Yes I have the pen that was used to sign the Treaty of Macclesfield, um, it’s here in this drawer, somewhere.  No it isn’t.  Hang on, it must have rolled to the back, let me just…………oh now, that’s pulled the drawer out.  Oh look! There’s my packet of giant blue paperclips, oh good, I’ve been looking for them.’

So I will endeavour not to stray into the fountain pen section, or special offers and deffo, deffo, deffo NOT limited editions.  Or LAST FEW, Nothing has bigger puppy eyes than a lone pen.

The only thing I love more than writing instruments is writing with writing instruments, though collecting writing instruments comes a close second.

Well, here it is, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Get a cup of tea first. www.cultpens.com

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Gate-crashing for the over sixties.

What’s your number?  This is not the same as a chosen ‘lucky’ number.  For years I thought mine was seven and incorporated it in anything, such as lottery numbers, that I felt needed some help from a number that belonged to me and half the world.  My mother, back in the Sixties, flower arranging, came home from one seminal class and announced that flowers were utterly unbearable unless they were arranged in fives or threes.  No one was brave enough to suggest tens or sixes, or, good grief, eighteens or thirties.  Thirty flowers, are you insane?  I am sure you have followed the dictates of the planting police, even if sane with certificates to prove it, and buried your flowering bulbs in odd numbers.

Allowing for all these stringent mathematical considerations, it took me some time, a lifetime so far, to realise my number is two. Things in my life happen in twos.  Having jumped to this conclusion at glacial speed, I have now started putting plant pots on the drive in twos. One big ‘un, one little ‘un, and I have to say, feel very much better for it.

So I was not surprised last week when two cases of mistaken identity followed hot on each other’s heels.  They felt exactly right, given that they were very exactly wrong.

The first happened to me.  I had a dentist’s appointment, planned for months, which at the last minute had to be given over to ascertaining whether the tooth that was so painful I was quite ready to apply the pliers and pull, was abscessed or just the result of grinding due to the usual family difficulties.  An X-Ray having proved the latter, as I was in the next big town with a large clothing Marks and Spencer available and my parking ticket a two hour one, in case of dental awfulness, I headed cheerfully on foot up the main street.  I was after pyjamas; having lost half a stone, mine were actually dropping off my lower half every time I stood up, which can prove quite tricky with the postman early in the AM.  Having purchased two pairs of pyjama shorts and pushed the boat out to include two tops, all in one size smaller than inhabited in the previous twenty years, (this is swanking, but true), I headed back down the street, on my way passing the Victorian Gothic town hall.  A  new sign on the pavement, pointing inside, declared a Covid pop-up Post Office, in the building.  In my handbag I was carrying a card I had made to cheer up the reason for the tooth grinding (one woman charm offensive that I am), so I turned left and began to climb the impressive flight of be-pillared stone steps leading up to the town hall.  I was wearing smart trousers and my newish jumper and carrying a large green plastic Marks and Spencer clothing bag and my handbag and also wearing my sunglasses, a mask, and my blue nitrile gloves.  I thought I looked like ordinary me, out shopping, but opinions, apparently, were divided. At the top of the steps stood the lady mayor, in full rig.  Smart suit, long black robes, huge gold chain big enough to moor an ocean liner, and effusive smile.  She held out her hand.

‘Hello!’ she gushed, ‘How absolutely wonderful to meet you!  Utterly delightful. We are so pleased you’ve come here today, it’s wonderful!’

I know I’ve written a blog for eleven years but I don’t think anybody knows about it except you.  Almost certainly probably not the mayor of the next town.

Nonplussed I muttered through my mask, eloquence on wheels, as usual, ‘Um, I’ve just come to post a letter.’

I gestured towards the sign behind her that was helpfully indicating: Post Office.  This Way.

The lady Mayor withdrew her extended hand, squinted at me and repeated, ‘Delightful,’ though, to be fair, her tone was wavering slightly.

We stood and looked at each other, me in my natural position in life, short, carrying stuff, one step down, her, tall, naturally wavy fair hair, slim, in a suit, wearing a gold hawser, with medallions, one step up.  Seasons passed, leaves blew off trees, snow came and went, pages floated off calendars, dinosaurs roamed the earth and then, didn’t.

Behind me a commotion as a short lady bearing a large camera and a clip board arrived on the bottom step and began issuing orders: ‘Mayor, hello, can you stand there please, and we’ll have the Guides half on this level and half on that, third step, I think.’

Without blinking the mayor stepped round me and down, going:  ‘Hello!  absolutely wonderful to meet you!  Thank you so much for coming!’

Chucked aside like yesterday’s underpants I processed up the last step, into the town hall, stopping briefly at the cobbled-together Covid-safe desk with wire screen, to give my name, telephone number, blood group, dates of jabs, contact tracing details, shoe size and voting preferences and thence along the corridor into the even-more cobbled together Post Office, which was another wire screen on goldish legs, a coffee table from somewhere, a pair of brass scales and two large men in shirt sleeves.

‘I just want to post a letter,’  I said, proffering it.

‘Oh, dunno.  Do we do letters, Brian?’

‘Yer.  Put it in a bag, I spose.  That un.’

‘Oh, OK’

I handed it over and left, on my way out inching sideways down the Town Hall steps to avoid being included in the photograph of several dozen children and the lady mayor, still smiling, slightly insanely.

Amazingly the letter arrived, two days later.

The second case of mistaken identity occurred to a friend, whose weekly phone call was much enlivened by the story.

My friend, who I’ll call L, has a friend they all call Chaos Kate, though she probably wasn’t christened that.

Chaos Kate, turning sixty, fed up with all the Covid restrictions, decided to have a very large party, hired a marquee and sent out 300 invitations.

L received hers, and, despite reservations about that many people in one place at once, and having discovered that a friend with a car had also been invited, consulted her wardrobe.  She decided the celebration warranted a brocade dress and a hat and thus attired, was waiting with the huge plate of contributory horsd’oeuvres she had made, as requested by her hostess, at not inconsiderable cost to the guest, nicely arranged on her best serving plate, for her friend’s car.  The exact location had not been specified on the invitation, but her friend, having driven around the local countryside frequently, had a good idea of which country lane was likely to be the ideal spot for a hired marquee.  Sure enough, some way out of town, up a dirt track, the fencing gave way to a huge marquee in a field with adjacent parking.

They parked, disembarked, retrieved the massive serving platter of horsd’oeuvres and set forth.  In the marquee it was plain they were early, so L inquired of the catering staff, who were still laying out the very splendid tables, where to put her gigantic catering contribution.

‘Oh,’ warbled the waitress, ‘It’s not necessary, you know, it’s all catered,’ but she took the platter off L and headed through the far away tent flap with it.

L and her friend were offered glasses of champagne and. sipping cheerfully, began to mingle with the rest of the arriving guests.  L inquiring occasionally if anyone had seen Kate, the hostess, though no one had, but, as the crowd swelled, and the marquee was huge that was not surprising. 

What was surprising was how their mutual friend Chaos Kate. had managed to organise such a sumptuous occasion.  The many long tables, were bedecked with wonderful flower arrangements, with lovely lace and beadwork details, abundant silver cutlery, pristine napery and a little card at each place setting indicating the location of each guest for dinner.  L and her friend wandered the marquee, reading labels, occasionally meeting up to see if either had spotted their names, chatting to the other guests and sipping champagne.

This pleasant state of affairs continued for a most enjoyable hour until it became clear that every label had been read without one single familiar name, even misspelled, having been spotted.  A quick shufty up and down all the tables confirmed the interesting and indeed, growing, suspicion that there was a strong possibility that they were in the wrong tent.

Leaving as unobtrusively as possible, they were just in time, driving out of the field to pass the bride, in a limo, driving in.

Several hundred yards up the country lane was another field, and another massive marquee.  They drew up with a flourish in the mud, and, entering the huge tent found exactly twelve people, one of whom was the hostess in tears.

She was sad because no one had come, including her husband who had a lengthy hospital appointment that weekend.  The others hadn’t arrived because there was no RSVP on the invitation, as well as no address.  That was a pity because the live music she had booked was there and did indeed prove to be some chap with a guitar far away in the corner of the tent, no doubt banking on subsequent bookings from 300 people.

Sadly the venue had been booked for the whole weekend and my friend L and her friend with the car, anticipating jollity, had booked a nearby hotel for the night but were handily on hand for a repeat performance with the box of tissues the following day, when sadly dwindling numbers drew the weekend-long birthday celebrations to a close.

It is very very sad, this sort of thing.  If anyone knows how to get a serving dish back from an unknown caterers, with or without the horsd’oeuvres (which had cost my friend £14 to make), she’d be glad of the information.

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We’ve all gone slightly bonkers.

I am currently supporting by telephone two people caring for others with dementia.  The idea, after the dementia diaries, that I would have to engage with the effects of this destructive disease again is quite depressing.

Both sufferers are depressed and gloomy.  All one of them could say for several days on the phone was that she just wanted to die.  The effect on family members who are carers is also to depress and remove hope and any joy in being alive that there may be.  As you have read the dementia diaries, which you may have done if you’re a regular (Hello, how are you?  What’s your weather like?  It’s absolutely chucking it down here, in June, I ask you!  Not sufficiently heavily to dislodge the lily beetles currently making holes in the lily leaves.  I went out to squirt them, because if you leave them on the leaves, to leave them to their own devices, they can strip all the leaves, leaving no leaves. just a bare stalk, in a day or two and then, the gits, if left, they leave parcels of digested leaf waste all sticky and ‘orrible down the stems.  I ‘ate lily beetles, they are one of my number one garden pests, closely followed by the slugs, who are very excited the dahlias are on the verge of bursting into bud, because they, the little SH 1 Ts, throw dinner parties in my dahlias, all nighters.  You can practically lean out of the bedroom window and hear the chomping.  Anyway, nice to see you.)

Everyone who I talk to about their dementia, or the dementia of their liked one (you’d be crazy too if you still loved them with a sparkly eyed intensity)  goes away uplifted and cheered.  I, however, need a minute to myself, or an hour.  I have learned not to phone one particular person too close to bedtime, or even late in the afternoon.  I had a dentist’s visit which had to be given over to XRays to determine whether the agonising tooth was an abscess or just the result of grinding my teeth in my sleep, having taken everyone else’s problems to the land of nod.

P6281072 (2)

Here is a cheerful card, which someone will receive sometime.  These are largely Stamperia products.  Yes I am still making stuff to stay sane.  I am having difficulty writing comedy because there is nothing comic about people dragging you down.

So why, you well may ask, do you do it, you banana?  Why not stay off the phone and let them help themselves?

As I’m sure I mentioned, a wider family member did take his own life some weeks ago, and I’m not having anymore of that.  And also, I had no one cheering me up through cancer and I wish I had had that.  Actually that is not totally true, a friend did ring and chat about nothing and I was glad she did because I was getting negative support at home.  And I did get ecards from readers, thank you, thank you, and I was glad and cheered up.

It is difficult but it is worth doing.  Stopping someone else going completely bonkers is a very good thing to do.  Sometimes I need a good couple of hours making cards or gardening (when it isn’t raining on the lily beetles) or working out just to get my head in the right place again.

It feels like a massive effort and it doesn’t even burn calories.  You would think after dragging someone’s mood uphill in an hour-long effort, that you would have noticeably slimmer calves, for example, or have dropped a bra size and be sloshing around in your cups like two pints of cider in an empty barrel, but so such luck.

And if you are someone, who, like me, is cheering and supporting by phone, sending random cards, happy emails, or even just smiling at the misery on the supermarket checkout, I salute you!  I salute me, I salute anyone under difficult circumstances keeping their pecker right up and I salute those who cheer them on and help directly.

Remain buoyant (or girlant), keep busy and present a moving target at all times.

And, of course, squirt your beetles when the rain eases off.

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I have a cunning planner

You’re meant to plan your life, these days.  I know this because there was this inspirational couple (who were very inspiring because they’d lost weight and she’d had her teeth fixed, so they started lecturing, as you do) who issued a list of ten ways to get stuff under control.  You are what you eat was one, which might explain my dodgy knee, and Plan Your Life was another.

So I bought a planner.

These are big business at present and I saw the one I bought on The Craft Store channel, which used to be Hochanda.  Our Leonie was waxing lyrical about it and showed us the planners of other presenters and told me I needed this in my life, so I bought one.  (I am an advertiser’s dream, I really am.)

I was too old to do the Filofax thing.  These, as I understand them, were a huge diary with bits falling off that you carried around in your handbag.  Then, said Leonie, you got a smart phone and all the stuff went on that.  I may be puzzled because these are two vital steps for the Modern Woman that I completely missed out on.  The entire planet is connected by mobile phone, except me and a couple of old men deep in the Amazon rainforest and a logging family in Alaska, who can’t get a signal.

Why do you need to be connected to everyone else all the time?  Why is it that the OH gets upset when TV channels disappear?  He watches the same 1980s legal dramas continuously anyway.  I can join in with the dialogue as I pass through the lounge without even looking at the screen.

Planning your TV viewing is pointless, which coincidentally is the name of a TV quiz show, and a description.  No one would ever need to write that down in a planner. it’s just the thing that is on when you’re waiting for the news.  I am willing to bet substantial amounts (6d.) that round the world the thing that is on before the news on TV is some bit of vacuous filler. Nobody ever deliberately watched the programme before the news.  Back in the day when the S&H was a child and considerably more effort was put into the content of television, there were some very entertaining programmes for children on before the news, Dangermouse, the Magic Roundabout and Blue Peter spring unbidden to mind.  Parents and children watched them together before it was realised that television was an unpaid babysitter and there were a million channels and nothing to watch. I am so old I remember the interlude between black and white television shows.  This occurred while they were winding up the cameras again and was a soothing piece of footage of The Potter’s Wheel, a waterfall, a Windmill and assorted country scenes.  Aged three I sat, amazed.  (You have to remember that the only other family entertainment was my mother on the piano, stuck on lesson two, or lighting the fire with rolled up newspaper and a can of paraffin.)

So, whilst I enjoyed the Radio Times, I never used it to plan my viewing, I was never sufficiently senior to make the decisions.  The only TV viewing decision I made was to get up early enough on Saturday morning to watch TISWAS when I was a young teacher and Lenny Henry was thin.

I shall not be using my planner to plan my television viewing therefore.

I am trying to lose weight without dieting but I am an entire lifetime past writing down recipes.  Now, there’s a thing and an entire industry of a thing.  Weight loss recipes, a multi-million pound oxymoron.  Making people who wish to be thinner focus on the food to the extent of buying special ingredients and spend hours in the kitchen doing stuff with them, is just school playground bullying with focus.  Give us your dinner money, or else, and as well, we’ll make you fatter, fat kid.  Focus on the thing you want more of, eg thighs.

Food will not feature in my planner.

I don’t think there’s going to be much writing because the time you spend planning writing in the planner you could have actually been writing, rather than writing about writing.

I am beginning to suspect that planners fall into the category of: those who can do, those who can’t, plan.

House makeover?

Been there done that.  (I still have one pair of curtains to make, which I intend to get on with rather than writing about.)

Gardening.  Well, it’s June,whatever it is should be in the ground now.  I did have a plan for the damp bottom corner of the garden, you know shade loving ,wet loving plants but then the OH went and planted a shed there.  Any day now he is hoping the carpenter will pop round to advise him about getting rid of the water under the floor.  Ideally before he and his heavy machinery fall through the rotting bit.

Clothes planning?  Absolutely not, I am a slave to QVCs clothing department as it is.  I am completely allergic to any shopping for clothing that involves getting changed in a tiny fitting room with strange lightbulbs and peculiar mirrors that light up my varicose veins like Blackpool illuminations.  And as for communal changing rooms, which existed for a while, there is no better time travel to get you back to the worst bit of school sports, which was the pavilion, a brick outbuilding that you could have made ice lollies in during a heatwave just by putting  fluid in a container and lying it on the bench for five minutes.

So I will not be planning my apparel.

Money?  I have discovered that all is well providing you stop spending prior to running out of money.  When I first left home I did keep a financial planner of sorts.  In a book keeping book I wrote down every penny coming in and going out, for and from three of us in a flat.  At the end of term I divvied up the spare and everyone was happy.  After fifty years of that I can now do it in my head.

Not money in the planner.

You see the real problem with a planner, as in life, is that you can only plan what you will do.  There is sadly, absolutely no way of planning for the damn fool stuff that other people do.  You simply cannot.  People going round sneezing on other people in a pandemic cannot be planned for or accounted for. The idiots who had early Covid parties have taken themselves out of the planner and off the planet.

People who leave you vomiting blood after cancer surgery to go and get drunk, how can you plan for that?  People who wish to be politicians because they have a shoulder full of chips, becoming politicians and then acting like politicians and making stupid laws, well, you simply can’t legislate for that.  Somebody rummaging round in your stomach and knotting up your intestines while you are under anaesthetic and unable to tell them to stop, can’t plan for that.

You cannot plan for other people or natural disasters or other people causing disasters.

You cannot, in short, plan for entropy.

The world, indeed, the entire universe, tend towards chaos.  Entropy rules KP?  It’s nuts but there you are.

I have ordered some stickers.

I will stick them in the planner so that I have the illusion of curing entropy.

The planner has a (I think) unique system of removing the punctured pages from solid disks down the side of the book very easily.  So you can stick the stickers on and then rip the pages out with ease and shred them without jamming the shredder on staples.

Now that, I approve of.

If you can plan not to spend three and a half hours of your life unjamming the shredder, that’s three and a half hours you’ve got back, to be writing in a planner, or sticking stickers in it, or, just, you know, living.

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I’m OK

It’s nice to put the main event in the title.  I am sorry for the recent radio silence.

I thought I had the cancer back again, after alarming signs.  I was fortunate to get a hospital appointment with the good specialist, who knows what he’s doing.  Yes hospital staff are wonderful and how anyone wants to work there in the first place is beyond me, but last check up I got a trainee, who didn’t listen, she was so keen to tell me, and dismissed something I thought was major and for which I’d been referred by my doctor who also thought it was major.

This time it turned out not to be anything to worry about, though prior to the midday appointment, the secretary rang to say they were moving me up to first thing in case plans had to be made.  This struck terror into my heart, which was already fairly terrorised.

I like to think I do not frit easily.  Some time ago I read a magazine article in which some experts well known for thinking, posited the theory that the worst thing that could befall anyone was a completely happy childhood.  If everything is pleasant and easy and you have sane and accomplished parents, who not only have no issues but admire your every move, they suggested, this is not the advantage it first appears. As a teacher I was quite alarmed when it was announced that schools were going to ban sports day on the ground that someone has to lose.  If everyone is equal and winning, what’s the point of trying?  Sports day is a metaphor for life.  It’s where you find out if you are going to come last in the egg and spoon race because you weren’t fast enough, because you dropped your egg and tried to pick it up just with the spoon with your other hand behind your back, because you cheated and used the other hand and then held the egg on the spoon with a finger, or because you stopped to help someone who had dropped their egg and then burst into tears, or because a sudden spasm of your elbow chucked your egg into the crowd where it hit a parent who is also a high court judge who is going to sue your parents next week.  Make a rule that everyone has won without running the race and you lose all that valuable information and pointer to the reality of life to come.

The radio pundits also extolled the virtue of a hesitant start in life and some useful reverses.  They toughen you up a bit, they said, they help you to realise that life is not a bed of roses (which I’d like to point out would have to be thornless, otherwise that could be very character building as well.)

It isn’t.  No matter who you are, reverses are going to occur in your life at some point.  As any royal watchers know, you can even be born royal, never have to wash a cup up in your life, want for nothing, marry a prince or princess, have parties every night and still have things go horribly wrong.  You can still get diseases, suffer from addictions, get thoroughly betrayed by those you thought you could trust or just turn out short, fat and ugly, though obviously, nicely dressed with expensive shoes that don’t hurt your bunions.

And if everything had been lovely and a row of gilded flunkies had applauded every turn of your little fat knees in your gold pedal car and continued to do so up to every last scrap of hair arranged over your shiny pate, and onwards, how very shocked you would be when things went wrong.

There is a theory, which any life will blow out of the water, that we are all born equal.  Speaking for the undertall – no.  Speaking as a mash up of two nationalities, which I think I knew all my life, despite only finding out three years ago, – no.  Speaking as a woman – no.

No one is born equal because we’re all born different.  This is an evolutionary precaution so that a virus, or similar, will not wipe out the lot of us in one go, for example.  Some of us have it and don’t know it, which is not helpful under the present circumstances but would have been had vaccines not existed, or Edward Jenner not been born.

For myself (who is who I can speak for) my unfortunate start, in a children’s home and my unfortunate out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire adoption by my looney mother, who had so many issues she was almost a walking textbook, was a very bracing beginning.  Every time my mother reminded me how lucky I was to be adopted, usually before she did something dreadful to me, made me so reflective I could almost have turned out to be a writer.  How I avoided being a major philosopher is anyone’s guess, though keeping me at home under the thumb, instead of letting me take up my university place was a good start..

Then of course I brilliantly married an alcoholic and then bankrupted myself caring for his demented mother until I had cancer the first time.  Cared for my demented mother with the ‘help’ of the OH until I had it the second time and so on and so fifth.

All of which was good training for the last ten years.  The previous experience of my life had lead me to believe that A) you cannot trust humans, they are unreliable B) if it can go wrong it will and C)

There is no C).  That’s it really.

So when I asked the doc if it was normal for a cancer hysterectomy to go so wrong it was followed by ten hospital admissions and three and a half years of intense pain and he offered the opinion that no, I was just very, very, very, unlucky, I did not lament my fate.

I did not cover my hair in ashes nor wrend my garment asunder, neither did I bewail my lot or weep and cry: Why Me?

I learned long ago that I will try to put the egg back on the spoon one handed and then stop to help someone searching in the long grass for their egg, get in last and then write about it.

But I do believe, in my belief system, which is entirely idiosyncratic, that I have done my ten years of awful and I am now due for something better.

P6151067 (2) Lady of Fortune, a stamp set by Blue Fern Studios, imported by the Craft Store.com.

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Later………..

I will post later in the week.  I’m having a bit of a health worry and I have a ton of catch up gardening (which stops me worrying).

If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, enjoy the sunshine, if you’re in the Southern hemisphere, enjoy it stopping, catch up later.

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The seven signs of ageing

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that I visited this topic previously many years ago.  As this blog has been going so very long, there is a possibility I was a mere child in my fifties when I did the writing.  I recall (vaguely, like watching a black and white film through custard) that I considered the principle sign of ageing to be a fondness for wearing cardigans.  I may also have waxed lyrical about the possibility of scarves and slippers.

The French have a saying about it which translates as: If youth only knew, if age only could.  Droit dans, soeur!

With the stupidity of youf and, obviously, from this point of view, I didn’t take into account bits dropping off. 

Bits dropping off becomes a major topic of interest when you get well past retirement.  I always thought the purpose of retirement was to give you time for hobbies.  It’s not.  It’s because you can’t do an honest day’s work without falling asleep in the middle, or, bits, dropping off.  Fingers and toes are top of the list.  These are underappreciated until age and arthritis sets in.  For no reason your thumb hurts, swells up and refuses to help you take the top off a bottle. Toes just go on strike.  I have a toe that sticks up because I broke it when I was in my twenties and the Xray missed the hairline fracture so I continued to wear high heels and it set.  Up.  Last November, still in sandals and trying to prolong the lockdown summer, I walked into a drawer, broke it again and didn’t go to hospital, which I’d heard was full of people sneezing.  My toe went an interesting shade of black and purple as if it was auditioning for a limp-on part in a Gothic novel.  It was interesting colours and awfully painful for weeks.  So I loosened my orthopaedic sandals and carried on.  But I forgot to tighten them again, so, in a few months, my other foot fell into the hole I’d created.  I kept waking up with a swollen ankle. thinking I had sprained it. I did arch strengthening exercises for weeks (toes like a duck, up on your points, sloooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwly down.) to no avail, still waking with a sprained ankle and by now walking on the wrong side of that ankle instead of the foot and gardening like a deer run over by a tractor.

Then I remembered and did my sandals up.  Der.

You see, your what’s it called goes.  Um.  Thingy.  Memory!   The part of your brain that hasn’t dropped off is asking: why are we limping?  No, really, why are we limping?  Have we always walked on our ankle, like this?  This hurts!  Is this normal?

Readers who also have shortened memories, (quick quiz: what did you have for lunch yesterday?  Me neither.) will recall me going on a not diet a week ago when the OH bought a new pair of scales that actually work and tell the truth, which is, obvs. a shocking thing for a pair of scales to do.  I don’t really want to know and I am the woman who, at my last bone density scan found myself plea bargaining with the nurse about my height.  That drops off as well.  So, even if you stay the same weight, if you’re losing height, you’ll be overweight.  Get short enough and you’ll look like you’ve been sat on by an elephant.  How fair is that?

I took heed of the treacherous item, climbed upon it three times a day (never get weighed at teatime) and behaved accordingly.  Two days ago my intestines played up and I had a couple of days when I couldn’t eat anyway.  So I have lost weight.  Ten years ago, I would have been delighted and amazed, triumphant and obnoxiously self congratulatory.

Now, however, what I am mainly, is wrinkly.

Fat makes you look round and youthful.

Wrinkles make you look wrinkly.  There’s a character in the Simpsons who is very very wrinkly, if she goes on strike I could be a stand-in.

Everything loses collagen, including your bladder and the capacity of your bladder.

I am the idiot who redesigned a house so I had a walk-in wardrobe.  Anyone with intelligence (I remember having intelligence – or was that someone else?) would have designed a walk-in toilet rather than having to trek along the landing six times a night.  Any senior reader who wishes to write saying:  Six times a night!  Only six, that’s luxury that is, wait till you’re eighty, sunshine, may.  I will definitely publish all polite comments about how often we leave the warmth of bed for the long trek, we need to know this stuff briefly before we forget it forever or until we are eighty, when I will be writing about the wonderful exercise available to eighty year olds during the night time and the necessity of teatime being the last cup of tea for the next five hours. Like the motorway petrol station in the back of beyond that warns you :  Last petrol for fifty miles, fill up now, three gold bars per pint and for a diamond necklace we’ll sneeze in your tyres too. And you think they’re just trying to drum up business until you run out in a particularly lonesome stretch with wolf noises.

Have I mentioned memory?

Then there’s memory as well, of course.

You already know about my cataracts affecting my poof raiding, so I’ll not bing ern a pout thait.

Then there’s tinnitus.  My friend lived in a house haunted by constant whining noises.

It was actually her mother unable to find the bottle opener, but she did have tinnitus and said the drink helped her forget.

I have broken off two weak fingernails that I was just beginning to grow, gardening.  So I have coated them with the strengthening stuff and now have two shiny nails, that gouge out lumps of skin every time I blow my nose and all the rest plain, but fortunately odd nails are fashionable.

I have been gardening for a week straight, apart from a day at the hairdressers, re-laid a lawn, dug everything and planted whatever I could lay my hands on or wrest off the slugs.  Ten years ago I would have felt, fit, trim, worked-out.

Now I feel about a hundred and three, with wrinkles. I have wrinkly arms, swollen ankles, a wrinkly chin, a tight grey perm and a big fat thumb.

So I’m going to have a cardigan, a scarf and an early night with six loo breaks from sleep to hobble down the corridor, in the hope I can remember exactly why I am hobbling down the corridor on my ankles in the middle of the night.

Seven signs of ageing, upon consideration, may have been somewhat of an understatement.

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Weighty matters

If you are a reader from the beginning of JaneLaverick.com (and for the sake of anyone new, this is my real name, who would invent it?), well done!  In September it will be twelve years.  The first thing I wrote about, the very first funny column, was how to get weighed to weigh less than you actually weigh.

Weight and the losing of the extra, has been a hot and miserably itchy topic with me since the 1960s, when my dear flat chested mother, alarmed at the way things were developing with me, decided to diet me and weigh me every week  For my 18th birthday. prompted by my mother, a cousin (who I have not spoken to much, since) bought me a pair of scales which I am still using.  There they sit in the wardrobe, covered in 1960s flower power stick-on plastic.  The enemy.

I wrote, as you will recall, if you are the loyal reader (you and me against the world, naturally) of interesting techniques involving getting weighed standing in the wardrobe, with one hand on the garment rail, flex the bicep, take the reading, relax, back handspring, double full dismount, shove yer arms back, bow.

Also, step on scales breathe in, taking care to only inhale lighter air molecules.  The necessity of sleeping as heavily and sweatily as possible and getting weighed first thing, after blowing your nose.

I did not touch on assisted weighing, as practised in clinics, I have heard, where paper-thin girls, dressed in lab coats of great brevity, assist you on to the scales by elevating parts of your anatomy (legs, arms, stomach, etc.) so that you get your core weight (Cor! Is that all?)  And, of course, only getting weighed on a Flatterday, at any time during the month of Yesvember.

And all was well, up to a point.  I knew where I was and what I was, or at least what one leg propped up on the door frame was, then the OH, who has spent the lockdown eating, spoiled it all  by buying new scales.

I got weighed on the new scales.

Horrors.

There is nothing for it, I will just have to bite the bullet.  Or, to be more exact, bite the bullet but under no circumstances masticate and swallow.

Three and a half years of intestinal troubles, following five years of sitting in a car to and fro (see Dementia Diaries) have done me no favours.

The only good note is that my intestines are on the mend, at last, and this year, when I grow cucumbers, I’ll be able to eat them, instead of giving them all to the neighbours.

In fact I might just do that, eat what I grow. I did it when I was young and thin and had a greenhouse.

If you are a good friend you will not email recipes.  There is a massive and profitable world-wide industry based on recipes for people who wish to lose weight.  No one seems to have spotted that the cooking is the problem.  Move away from the frying pan, dear, put the bottle of oil down. Well done, good giant!

I have read that to change the world you need to change one thing to begin.

So I am going to stop eating after seven at night, which is knocking back an hour and a half.

I am going to stop Internet shopping late at night.  Paddling up the Big River with chocolate in the canoe is right out.

And I will cut down every meal by one spoonful.

And I’m going to put the birthday chocolate, mine and from the S&H, in a cupboard until the new, traitorous scales are singing a different tune.

Just that – I’ll let you know.

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Erroneous beliefs

Anything eaten standing up has no calories.

Anything eaten whilst standing behind an open fridge door has no calories.

It is a good idea as you get older to have extra padding in case you fall over.

Ice cream eaten from the tub, with a dessert spoon, has no calories.

Gift chocolates do not count.

Butter is emollient and rushes through, leaving no trace.

Burping after a fizzy drink releases the calories into the air, harmlessly.

It is not fat if it is encased in elastic shapewear, it is smooth.

Fat on the buttocks is helpful because it has evolved over eons to assist fast running and will be fuel when you enter a marathon.

Thin chips are less fattening than wide chips.

Any fried snack loses calories in the factory when it is put in the bag.

Sitting still but breathing a lot can assist weight loss.

You should eat a lot of sugar, otherwise dentists will have nothing to do.

Having massive knockers is a sign of great beauty.

A double chin can assist in weight loss by preventing you looking directly at the plate.

Food eaten in restaurants does not count if you have to wait between courses.

Sweets were invented in antiquity, to refuse them draws fire from the gods.

Most of the developed world is fat, so it’s OK to join in.

Fat people are cuddly, if your arms are long enough.

If you don’t sit for hours watching television, people will stop making programmes and chairs.

And…if you don’t eat as much the sewerage system will lose interest and close up.

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