Tuesday, 30 November 2010

He's a Celebrity - Get him out of here

Celebrity.  How I detest that word.  Ask any wanna-be what he or she wants most out of life and the answer is invariably "I want to be famous".  Not the best at this or that, or even famous for doing this or that, just, "famous".

What a sad empty ambition that is.  I don't want to be known for anything (mostly because I have no recognizable talent of any sort) I just want to be known.

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, there were vast numbers of eager talented young people, some of whom could write, sing, dance or act, whatever their particular gift they all had something to offer, something they did well and of which they were proud,  Sometimes they became celebrated and admired for their ability to entertain, amuse, or bewitch with their performances.

When did this wonderful potential disappear, to be replaced with a "Midwitch Cuckoo" population of grey, personalityless celebrities who have nothing to say, nothing to offer, and nothing between their ears?

Last evening, bored and with nothing much to do I scanned the TV channels to see what was on offer. You,ve guessed it, "I'm a Celebrity Get me out of Here".  Oh  I do so wish someone would!

In the end I wound up watching yet another repeat, but at least a well-acted one with lovely settings, in short "Lewis".  A real programme.!

Anyone for tennis?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

"In the Still of the Night" Insomnia V

Very early mornings have very little to recommend them, particularly if they have not been preceded by at least the semblance of a night's sleep. They have, however, one distinct advantage, there is little likelyhood of disturbance.

Why is it that in a day or evening when there has been no time to get to the keyboard and start 'thinking' aloud, the minute you finally settle - theme in mind - the phone rings.

15 minutes later, having at last persuaded the caller "I just want to ask you a few questions, it will only take a minute or two", that you do not believe he  is doing market research, nor that he really isn't selling anything and that you are not remotely interested in anything he might have to say, when you finally sit at the desk again, every thought has departed at the speed of light and you no longer wish to communicate with anyone (ever again)!

Which begs the question, did you have anything worth saying to say in the first place?

In theory then, the wee small hours should provide the best ever opportunity for you to give birth to your magnum opus, or in my case, magnum 'opeless'.

Just ventured a peep out of the window to see what manner of day I'll have to step out into in about five hours.  "What a mistake to make"!  Everything in sight is covered in thick hard white frost and it's still only November.

I've always maintained that humans are not quite as evolved or else created with serious design faults and unfit for purpose, as we would like to think we are.  If we could hibernate from say, November to April just think what a lovely lot we'd be.  Rested, relaxed, ready to enjoy everything which came our way, eager to meet others after our long respite altogether a better species.

There is for me at least, one serious problem with this theory.  How do I get to sleep in the first place?

Answers on a prescription form please!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Brrrr !

A freezing white Wednesday - day of catch-up household chores - sitting with a large coffee in one hand, having a break and staring out of the window at the icy white world outside.

Watching a female blackbird warily eyeing the frozen bird-bath, finally discover the small oasis where I had poured some boiling water to make a 'lake' for my daily visitors.

First she drank for quite a long time then began dipping first one, then the other wing and finally hopped in and splashed vigorously for a couple of minutes, shook herself and flew off.

The water must have been freezing - felt like taking her a warm towel - perhaps not.

Is it only humans who are such wimps?  Well, this one anyway.  After all, birds don't grow extra feathers in cold weather and though I (and millions of others) put out food for them when it is excessively cold, surely their little thermostats must be a tad overtaxed?

I feel so lucky to have the blessing of a warm house, but can't help thinking of those not so lucky and wondering how they are fareing at this time of year, particularly those sleeping in doorways. 

Spare a thought, prayer and some cash for them.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Sound of Silence

As I waited, chilly and impatient for the long overdue bus to arrive this morning, I was indulging in one of my favourite  pursuits, admiring the delicate filigree 'veins' (sans leaves), of a lovely slender young birch-tree outlined against a cold dark Winter sky.  Reluctantly turning my attention to the offending vehicle I discovered that although there were several passengers on board, the sign above the driver's head bore the message - Sorry, this bus is not in service.

Assuming, since it had stopped and opened its doors, that all was well, I said "town please" took my ticket and sat down.

All the way into town I watched with amusement people's puzzled stares. quickly followed by realization that the sign was a mistake and waited for someone to say something.  Nothing, zilch, nada not one single word from anyone.

Arriving at my stop I said to the driver as I alighted " do you know your sign says this bus is not in service?"
He replied "I know love, get's 'em talking don't it"!

Bubble Bubble Toil and ..........

Among my other "close to nature" hobbies - trees, birds, sunrises and sunsets, there is also an all-consuming preocupation with 'weather'.  Often in a period of 24 hours, the only TV I watch will be weather forecasts.

Sad, but true, I will hop from one channel to another just to look for variations on a theme.  This is combined with a totally unscientific ability to fairly accurately predict what extremes of climate we may expect in the next 48 hours or so.  This I ascribe to a close affinity with 'things natural'.

Recently I remarked to a young acquaintance that we were in for a spell of very cold weather and that this would begin on a given day.  "How do you know"? he asked nervously, "because there will be a full moon that night, and the weather always changes on the full moon" I replied.

Is it only we Celts (I'm 90% Welsh and 10% Cornish) who observe nature's foibles closely and react accordingly.?

Can I hear the sound of a large crowd coming this way, what's that they're chanting? "Burn the witch"?
I'll just call the cat and get my broomstick!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

To Be or Not To Be

Recently, two people whose blogs I read regularly have written one on abortion, the other on the subject of child neglect/cruelty.  In my opinion these two subjects are quite closely related.

In a world where extreme cruelty to tiny helpless children is fast becoming endemic one has to ask the question why?

Sometimes the parent(s) is completely unable unprepared or unfit to raise a child (often because of drug or other addiction or mental incapacity).  Occasionally because he/she is still a child himself, but also sometimes because economic and home circumstances are totally insufficient to support even the parent(s) never mind an unplanned for and unwanted infant.

How much better therefor in my view that the pregnancy be aborted before the welfare and safety of the child is jeopardised and the prospective parent criminalised. 

Just as, in my opinion, no-one who does not really love or want an animal as a pet, should be allowed to have one, so, a million times more so, no-one should ever give birth to an unwanted child.

I have no intention of pointing the "moral" finger at any one particular group whether Pro-lifers, religious fanatics or welfare organisations, this is an issue which could potentially affect anyone and the terrible suffering and horrendous consequences of ignoring it are being daily brought to our attention in TV and newspaper reports from our law-courts.

Time to make a change in some of our thinking, or am I flogging a dead horse?

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Stuff Of Dreams Insomnia 1V

After a night of sleeping in short snatches, followed by long periods awake, finally fell heavily asleep at about four-thirty only to have yet another of my "lost" specials.

Once again, somewhere in Holborn with my late husband a shadowy figure in attendance the inevitable turning the wrong way into an unrecognized area leading to asking advice began.  This is a familiar pattern/theme of these nightmares and always leads to increasing fear frustration and panic.

This time, as so often before, every person we met and asked directions from turned out to be a visitor to London and pointed us in the wrong direction as we got further and further lost.

Somehow we ended up in a house with a huge party of people who had apparently rented it for the night,
we were trying to find a room when I found myself alone and struggled through a maze of rooms untill I was suddenly outside surrounded by marsh.

This was full of farm animals, all happily splashing about in water and in the distance I could see the Tower of London.

A passer by told me the best way to get back to Holborn was to "keep travelling East".  Trying to discover how to do that from my watery prison with increasing panic I woke, hot, sweating and full of rage.

I know the human mind is a morass of weird ideas, half-formed thoughts, instincts and memories but really this makes me think I should be in therapy!

Where on earth do these extraordinary dreams stem from and what, if anything, should I glean from them?

Having spent twenty-eight years of my working life in London I felt I knew - at least the areas in which I worked - reasonably well, so just why my dreams/nightmares are full of hitherto unknown places is hard to imagine.

In case anyone should think the answers are plainly to be seen, I should point out that I had these dreams when John was alive too.

I've just read through this and feel that though it might be wiser to scrap it, there was obviously some reason why it felt necessary to set it out in print so, for what it's worth warts and all - read , and shudder!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Dip your Lights - You're Blinding Me

Woke this morning for the 2nd day running, to freezing fog. Dark, very cold unappealing in the extreme, in fact the only reasonable response to such days is Brrrrrrr I'm going back to bed!

Arrived, reluctantly to the place where I do the odd hour as a volunteer only to find there was virtually nothing to do.  Brief revival of better spirits on receipt of warm hug from lovely friendly cleric, followed by self-centred 'why can no-one else see how miserable I am'?  After a firm self talking-to about such an attitude felt briefly more cheerfull - for all of ten minutes - then gloom descended again.

Returning home found a statement in the post from a company I have never dealt with, telling me I owed them £83 pounds.  Spent a half hour sorting that out on the phone sat with a huge mug of drinking chocolate with 3 spoonfulls of sugar (don't take sugar), and contemplated my navel while staring miserably out of the window at a cold, misty uninviting garden.  Deep joy!

I know, I thought I'll go and read my emails.  Ha! should have known better.  No internet access - again!

Switched everything off (almost including my life-support machine) and unplugged the router, then the phone rang.  The caller was a very good friend calling from the Netherlands, a friend moreover from whom I had almost given up all hope of ever hearing again, due to the fact that he was apparently terminally ill with a very aggressive form of cancer.

I had prayed repeatedly for him without any real hope that he would survive and had shirked all idea of trying to contact his lovely wife for fear that the news would be the worst possible.

To my amazement, he sounded much his old self, cheerfull, wise-cracking and up-beat and says that though the treatment - which he describes as "chemical poisoning" was fairly dreadfull he now feels quite well and is looking forward to a family Christmas.  He had rung to ask how I was!!!!

What a wonderfull piece of news and what a lesson to me in how not to behave.  Needless to say my spirits have rocketed and the light at the end of the tunnel is not merely visible, it is possitively dazzling.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

"Written on the Wind"

A week when frost and rain have alternated daily the only constant has been a gale-force wind.  This irritant reminded me of just how much a force we can neither see, smell nor touch can influence our lives.  As with other great forces; Christianity, love, hate jealousy etc., while invisible in themselves they are only too visible in their effects.

Looking at a very new baby, how often have you heard, "Oh look, he's smiling" "No it's just wind"
"Can't eat that, it gives me wind!"

Leaves swirling in an Autumn gale like a russet dervish.

Wind singing in the trees or more devastatingly, mowing them down with effortless ease.

Wind in a conche shell sounding like the trumpets of doom

Wind sending skittish cats chasing their tails in lunatic circles.

Artfully removing roof-tiles from strategic places so that just the right amount of rain will drip through.

Stretching the fluffy white clouds into long thin strips against a dark blue background, and changeing the faces in the passing clouds from skeletal hollow-eyed horrors into beatific bearded old men.

Drying billowing lines of washing far too quickly, for the ironer to keep up. and tearing cherished balloons from the star-fish fingers of wailing infants.

Drying the ripened corn ready for the farmers' next move.

Providing just the right thermals for birds, paragliders, hot-air balloonists and other airborne creatures to sustain their flights.

All these, and a million other "gifts" provided by an intangible invisible force reinforces belief in the Supreme Creator.

One last thought.  Where does the wind go on a still day?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Waste not Want not

Sitting in Wetherspoons this afternoon watching my step-daughter toying with and finally discarding a huge pastry crust from her chicken pie, and her soldier son photographing (not eating) the truly massive plate of mixed grill he had chosen, I suddenly found my initial amusement turning, first to anger, then to distress.

Carefull to show neither reaction I was nevertheless at a loss as to where it had come from.

At a few hours' distance it is suddenly much clearer.  This is undoubtedly a throw-back to the post 2nd World War attrition which was the back-drop to my childhood.  We were, even by those days standards a poor family and the everywhere visible injunctions to waste nothing were totally unnecessary since there was absolutely nothing to waste.

My three brothers and I were never hungry, never lacked for companionship, never went unwashed to bed but there were no frills, no luxuries and no paid-for entertainment ever.  My mother made my father's tiny wage stretch to unbelievable lengths and worked from morning to night to keep the house clean and as warm as possible while drying all laundry (hand-washed ) on bannisters chairs airers - no washing machine, tumble dryer, central heating or other luxuries.

We ate what we were given without question and usually without complaint and did our share of household chores with only occasional rebellions and if we were not outside playing with friends because of bad weather or because it was too dark we had our own made-up games, quizzes devised by one or other parent, or now and then a radio programme to occupy us.  We all joined the local library as soon as we could read and I lived out my fantasies based on characters in whatever I was reading at the time.

When our local school was bombed we had to move to another, further away.  Long walks to and from school and indeed everywhere else were just part of life and we never gave any other means of travel a seconds thought.

As I was the only girl, my clothes were usually new - though made by my mother and very basic - my brothers were not so lucky and garments were passed down the line, altered, repaired until beyond all further use when they went to the rag and bone man for a few pennies.

My father grew all our vegetables and we wasted nothing. What was not fit to eat went to the pig farmers via a waste-food collection scheme, and other bits went on the compost heap which in turn fed his roses (my father that is not the pig farmer).

All my life the habits ingrained in me in childhood have influenced the way I discard (or fail to discard) things which are no longer of use, and it is only in very recent times that it has become possible to deliberately give away something I no longer want , simply because it has lost its appeal.

Even now, I never throw food away, if it can't be eaten by the neighbours' cats, it goes out for the birds.  My step-daughter and grandson grew up in a different world.  Different, not better!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

"Love Actually"

Massive subject - miniscule input!

Talking this morning to a lovely, kindly, supportive and well-intentioned member of the clergy, who having spotted that I was less than full of joy informed me that I was loved by many people including him.  This as a relatively new Christian still leaves me feeling at a loss as to how to respond.

The idea that one's social contacts, I hardly dare call them friends as yet, feel love for all their peers, still is a weird concept for one who has never used the term lightly.

While recognizing that there are many types and degrees of love, the christian brotherhood/sisterhood variety still feels alien to my upbringing and the idea of publicly acknowledging the existence of such a bond fills me with nervous trepidation.

Never a demonstrative type (in public), and with a healthy respect for others' "space", I nevertheless find since the loss of my husband, that one of the most important losses after the initial greatest one, is the loss of human touch.

For me this is a pretty steep learning curve and whether I'll ever be a ready "hugger and kisser" is doubtful, but I greatly value the loving kindness of those who are not so afflicted and have to admit to feeling better for the hugs, handclasps and smiles which come my way quite unsolicited.

Is it really love or is it the desire to empathise with those seen to be in need of visible overtures of friendship?
I don't know, the jury is still out, but whatever it is, it is heart and spirit warming and - by me at least - very welcome.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Nocturnal Niggles

Yet again the Sandman has failed to do his job and I find myself peering out over the bags under my eyes at a moonless world.

Yesterday saw me in Oxford for the first time for some six or seven years.  Cathedral - Debenhams - Phillips Books - Cathedral again, all in all a lovely day: tinged with sadness, since it was there that I spent my honeymoon in 1971.

Walking through Christchurch Meadow, the scene of many of our early photographs was suddenly quite a gut-wrenching memory and I found myself very close to tears.  Strange how small things trigger enormous reactions.

For me there has always been something magical about Oxford.  A combination of incredibly beautiful buildings, lovely green settings, bookshops and coffee shops and the teeming thousands of visitors, students and locals, together with a touch of Morse/Lewis make it immensley attractive.

The sonorous tones of "Tom" recording the hours is also one of my earliest and best-loved memories of this most charismatic of cities.

My late husband and I often did the "favourite places" thing, with Canterbury then Oxford top of his list and York then Oxford top of mine.  Is there something special retained in the ancient stones of these places, or possibly some inherited memory from previous centuries which flits in and out of our conscious minds.?

Not sure where I'm going with this, nor even sure it's worth setting down but insomnia has it's own way of dictating behaviour and busy fingers (even if the brain is barely present) follow their own directions.

Four twenty am and possibly worth trying to get an hour 's sleep before the day officially arrives.  More anon!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Right to Vote

The latest piece of politico/law orientated insanity has my head turning 360 degrees.  What can the mere man/woman  in the street do to change EU edicts which are apparently designed to overthrow all the most carefully constructed legal systems in Europe.

As a life-long socialist I would never normally condone the infringement of anyone's 'human rights' but what exactly do we mean by human?

Just how far outside 'normal' behaviour does an individual have to go before he/she becomes a social pariah, and at what stage can they be deemed to have forfeit the right to take part in everyday activities?

While I would never try to remove the 'comforts' obtained - often after quite a struggle - which make the daily life of those incarcerated for the good of the community, there surely must be some level at which such "goodies" reach a peak.

The right to vote was won by enormous and sustained effort and suffering by dedicated individuals of both sexes and is in my opinion one of the greatest privileges available to British citizens,  Not ever to be casually taken for granted by anyone, in or out of prison.

Has the concept of earning or deserving a privilege disappeared from our way of life?

At the same time, are we now to reward even the most evil of offenders rather than punishing their crimes?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Great Chain-saw Massacre Continues

Disturbed by a tremendous racket quite early this morning, I decided the 'bin men' must have been unable to sleep for once (they usually turn up about 1.00 pm) and thought no more about it.

Busy with bed-changeing, washing, all the usual mind-numbingly boring chores of a day at home, I paid no attention to the constant roar from outside.  Until stepping outside to fill up the bird feeders I was dazzled by the amount of extra day-light and realized that yet another tree had been murdered by Heaven knows whom and my previously well sheltered garden is now minus yet another of its protectors.  This time the tree was a very tall eucalyptus which lived in the corner nearest my house.

Never my favourite tree - constantly shedding tons of strap-like leaves which were useless as compost - it was also perilously close to the corner of my sitting-room and I had often wondered just how big a root-run it might have.  Nevertheless, it was quite gracefull, and had the merit of providing a screen from my neighbour's windows.

Now I have the undeniable benefit of much more light, together with the rather less welcome, too close view of the houses at the back which were previously invisible.

The problem now is what to plant (find space for) in my garden to replace the screen while not obscuring the light, all the time nervously keeping an eye on my changeing sky-line to see where the axe will fall next.

One thing no-one has even considered for a second is the dismay and consternation caused to the bird population.  My friendly morning robin has failed to show so far today and I fear there will be other abscences soon. 

If I have to live in a tree-less world I think I'll emigrate.  A rain forest might be good!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

"Woodman Spare That Tree"

Before leaving home this morning at around 9.00 am, I was struck by the lovely colours in a huge Acer at the back of the house. The sun through the still plentifull leaves was a glorious bronze/red and although the tree in question keeps the sun from my garden in the morning, I thought it a small price to pay for such a dazzling sight.

On my return, some 4 hours later I was at first puzzled, then shocked and horrified to discover that some blind philistine had cut it down.

My first reaction was fury, closely followed by an almost physical anguish at the loss of a beautifull and long-familier part of my personal landscape.  This tree had become a friend of many year's standing.

Anyone who doesn't have this 'tree' thing will never understand the depth of feeling involved.

Many years ago, working in Grays Inn Road in London, I waged a one-woman battle to try to save a young Plane tree when the now ITV building was being renovated from its Sunday Times past to its present place in London's media life.

Having bearded the site-manager in his Portocabin office, followed by a visit to the Camden Tree Officer, I had finally obtained a promise that this young tree would remain untouched by the work in progress.  Imagine how it felt to return to work one Monday to find a gaping crater where the tree had been and a pile of building materials dumped alongside.  Apparently no-one had passed the protection information on to the work-force.

I spent most of that day in floods of tears, much to the amazement/amusement of my colleagues who clearly thought this hormonal half-wit was more to be pitied than scorned.

Even my late husband, well used to my 'tilting at windmills' way of life said "it was only a tree" !!!