Sunday, 31 July 2011

Decorating

The time has come to admit that my sitting-room is in a bit of a state.

The last time it was decorated was 10 years ago, and it shows!

Currently a sort of clover colour, described as Maddison Mauve, with (then) white paint-work, it is now a sort of greyish mauvish shade of grot, with rapidly yellowing paint-work.

One of the reasons I've shirked the idea of getting someone in to tackle the job is the vast amount of "stuff", which wil have to be moved.

This probably sounds a simple task until i tell you that I have spent the past two hours carefully placing the contents of my china and glass cabinet into four crates and carrying them upstairs into my now mini office.

The room to be decorated is 26 feet long and eleven feet wide in part, only 8 feet wide in the 'dining' end.

Now for those used to modern houses (1980) is that modern?, this will probably sound quite a good size and indeed it was till we started filling it up with furniture, books, records (vinyl) Cds pictures, cat ornaments, glass - both antique and modern (5 decanters)!!!!     Are you beginning to see the problem?

Inveterate collecters of glass and porcelain (we used to 'do' antique fairs, and despite having started to de-clutter  before John's death, there is now enough left to stock a shop.

Much of it i would love to give away, but everyone has gone minimalist, and no-one wants old glass or china any more.  Some of it belonged to my great-grandmother, then my grandmother and then my mother before it became mine.

I have some sentimental attachment to some of it but oh how I wish someone would come and steal it so i could have an easy conscience about  getting rid of  it.

I think most of the rest (tomorrow not today) books records etc. will have to go in the garage.
Since this is home to many arachnids i do not relish this prospect.!

Nevertheless, decorating it needs, and decorating it will get. 

Spare the odd thought for my aching legs and arms when it begins on Tuesday.  (Ihope).

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Just Because I Can (Now)

Believe it or not, that there is a rose wot I grew.
Believe it or not it is also a rose wot I photographed with my digital camera.
Believe it or not I have now magically acquired (I hope) the art of storing and using my own pictures on my blog.

Oh frabjous day (do wish the silly s.. would stop underlining words I have deliberately misspelled in red.

A small price to pay for having added - or, if I'm honest had added - to my computer skills all the above.

This was of course, courtesy  of the wonderful one and only technopriest The Vernacular Curate.  For he it was, who once again reined in my wandering wits and kept them screwed to the 'sticking point' till the above mentioned skills were securely mine.

The unimaginable thrill of actually knowing how to do something probably minute in the scheme of things, but so hugely impressive to technoprat me, is hard to explain, but every new trick is like learning a whole foreign language each time.

Now all I have to do, is learn how to take really good photographs and there'll be no holding me.

The rose in question, by the way, is "Twice in a blue moon".  A lovely blue lilac and well worth growing despite its limited number of blooms.

More piccies to follow!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Happy Blog Anniversay (to me)

It is exactly 1 year today since I posted my first tentative blog, having just bought my first ever computer.

Twelve months on, I hope I've progressed a little, though scrolling through some of my recent efforts that is by no means certain.

Nevertheless, anniversary it is, which led  me to reflect on how certain dates and indeed some months play hugely important roles in our lives while other months pass with no apparent effect.

August is a very 'big' month in my personal calendar, something which hadn't really registered until I started thinking about this.

3rd August 1973 John and I moved from Putney to Northwood
11th August 2009 John died
12th August was my mother's birthday
25th August was John's funeral
26th August was the day we moved to Aylesbury (1980)
28th August was my parents' wedding anniversary and also the day John and I me
29th August was John's birthday.

Coincidence?  Who knows, but it is certainly a 'heavy' month for me.

Blogging has been a rewarding experience for me, if fraught with technical difficulties from time to time.
The invaluable help and encouragement of the Vernacular Curate has made all the difference between trying only to give up at the first hurdle, and sticking with the 'programme' and yelling for help whenever necessary.

I will never be a technophile but at least the 'phobe' is less in evidence than it was.

Life is a little flat at present but as soon as inspiration reasserts itself I'll re-emerge in print.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Surprise Visitor

Just a brief late day mini blog.  No, the picture is not one I took - still haven't mastered the adding pictures from my camera technique - just a particularly accurate one of what i have just spent five transfixed minutes staring at.
How's that for a badly constructed sentence?

Have I mentioned that one of my nerdier hobbies is garden bird watching?
Yes, I thought so.  Nevertheless, I reiterate being a member of the BTO garden bird-watch scheme is part of my day-to-day routine, and has been for about ten or twelve years.

Most of the time a casual glance out of the window is rewarded by half a million starlings, slightly fewer house-sparrows a few tits and finches blackbirds and the odd robin and blackbird.  Every now and then however, my vigilance is rewarded by the sighting of something much rarer.

For the afficionados among  you (or fellow bird-nerds), this has included over recent years, a pea-hen,
a male pheasant, several reed-buntings (now a regular winter visitor), a greater spotted woodpecker - yesterday - a jay and today for the first time ever a beautifull male bullfinch.

Crows, jackdaws and red kites pale into insignificance by comparison with this bright little fellow.

I would add, my garden is tiny and an urban one, not a half acre rural one so this is a real cause celebre.

Forgive my enthusiasm, but my day has been a dull one filled with dreary household chores and this has brightened my spirits beyond belief.

Sad, I know, and i don't expect a cure any time soon.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

My Ears are Burning

Returning from an averagely irritating morning in St.M's my usually peacefull homeward journey by bus was shattered by the loud jangling 'music' of a mobile phone.

"I'm on the bus" bawled the massive blond in front of me, "yeah, I know I did, but I was eld up wasn't I"?

Would have taken a crane to hold her up, was my less than generous thought.

I'm not gererally quite so sour, but i wanted a quiet journey in which to reflect on some of the morning's more challenging happenings and with 'rent-a-mouth' sitting in front of me that was not going to happen.

What is it about this infernal invention that encourages otherwise apparently normal people to become public address systems, hell-bent on passing all the most private pieces of information imaginable on to the world at large.?

The average walk in town will let you in to the most secret and personal (and unwanted) information about the day-to-day lives of everyone you pass whether you are interested or not.

"I'm in the supermarket, just by the pharmacy, what did you want again?"

"I'm not buying you those, you can get them yourself"

As she heads into the Ladies loo still talking, I wonder briefly just how far this running commentary will go.

All these people, at a quick glance. look perfectly normal, it is only on closer inspection, and when they briefly remove the gadget from the side of their heads that you realise their ears are much larger, much redder than they should be,

Will future children be born with ten fingers on each hand - the better to text- and Spock like ears large and pointed to accommodate the permanent phone-dock.

And, what about the rest of the population, will we have an in-built switch to turn off unwanted, intrusive mobile monologues from unknown passers-by?

Why must we have every bit of our own space invaded by other peoples' lives?

Interest in our fellow man is one thing, in-yer-face, live cinema is something else.

End of today's rant.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Ravages of Time


Having had my night's sleep cut short once again, this time by the local Tom cat uttering  the most hideous sounds I've ever heard at the top stretch of his lungs, and this, at three am, I am less than sparkling today.

If I were not an insomniac of the first water even this 10 decibel urban serenade might have merely made a brief break in my night's slumber, but since sleep, once woken, is never retrievable for me I do not appreciate even the most operatic of moggies' finest efforts.

I filled a glass jar which i keep in the office (more on that later) with water and chucked it in the direction of the 'music'.  There was a scuffle and then, silence.

Too late for me, but at least some of the neighbours probably managed to go back to sleep.

Peering into the mirror at about 5.30am I was struck by two things, firstly that my left eye was blood-shot, and the second even more depressing thought was "oh boy, do you look old".

Never fond of examining my face at length I tend to go for quite long periods without really seeing what I look like, then suddenly I find myself facing this baggy-eyed, hollow cheeked old face with lines where there never were (or at least not that I'd noticed)

Overweight by five stones for at least 25 years, I had the single advantage of that state, which is a smooth unlined face.

Now, having lost that five stones I find my face is really showing my true age as never before.

Add too little sleep on a regular basis, to the equation and there you have a perfect candidate for a halloween mask.  "They flee from me that sometime did me seek".

I know we all to some degree fall to bits as we age, but it is quite hard to accept that - on a good day - feeling bright and healthy and about 30 years old, - the exterior and interior versions differ quite considerably.

Oh yes, and that glass jar in the office (otherwise known as the 'little room', box room or very unrealistically the third bedroom), is part of my 'painting' equipment.

When I retired I decided that one of the things I'd like to do was learn to paint, watercolours for preference.
Accordingly I started to collect a series of magazines, an entire course for beginners, with the added bonus of one free tube of paint or a brush or pastel with each issue.

For about 18 months I collected this stuff, bought a small easel stored it all in 'the office', and there it remains to this day, untouched by human hand, except for the use of the glass paint-brush water jar.

One day...............

Monday, 11 July 2011

Amazing Grace ?


This morning watching our dearly loved curate balancing about 20 feet off the ground on the top of a ladder, I was struck, as I have been many times before, by the ease and grace with which some people manage to perform acts which are totally impossible for others of us.

There are a fortunate few who have naturally good balance, good spatial awareness and agility and who can make anything look easy.

Then there are the rest of us who muddle through as best we can, with only the occasional serious accident, but never without letting the rest of the world know we are doing something which for us, does not come with the 'packaging'.

My late father was a supreme example of the 'un'-handy man.  He set about every task with vast energy, total confidence and no skill whatever.

His intentions were always of the best, it was just the execution which was not up to scratch.

On one occasion he and my mother were spending Christmas with John and me in our flat in Northwood.
Father, ever anxious to help, decided that our massive 20 foot wide and ten feet high window (the whole of one wall), was badly steamed-up and needed drying off.  Very laudable, except that when we went back into the room we found him holding back dozens of metres of net curtain - we had had one huge one specially made - with one hand and mopping furiously at the glass with an old towel.

Nothing wrong with that, you might think, except that the hand holding the curtain was also holding a huge havana cigar.

Yes, that's right, he had burned a  hole right through the curtain, roughly about two metres in from the end.
So, guess who had a tightly stretched, barely wide enough curtain for the next six years.

When he walked through the flat shutting doors behind him the resulting crash could be heard 100 yards away.

He also was the only person I have ever known who contrived to snap off, not one, but two car door handles.

My favourite (not) of all his accidental acts of vandalism, was when he stayed with us here in Aylesbury, collected seed from a huge variety of hollyhocks and asked for packets or envelopes in which to keep them so he could separate them into types and colours.  Having duly supplied his needs I left him to write on the envelopes the description of each one.

To my great pleasure I discovered on my return that deeply embossed in the softwood inlay of our Regency style table, were the words, deep pink double frilly.

After the initial shock it later became quite a talking point for any non-family visitors who were unaware of the dangerous propensities of dear papa.

The odd thing was that despite having all the grace and delicacy of you average elephant or hippo, dad was able to grow the most beautifull roses, sweet-peas, clematis, peonies and all the other lovely fragile flowers and he could also arrange them well in vases.

I suppose there really is room for all of us in God's wonderfull world, it's just that some of us need more than others.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Howzatt?

Have just watched England's One Day side win the series against a formidable display of batting from Sri Lanka.

Not everyone's favourite game, nor is the one-day version every cricket fan's favourite form of the game, but I love it.  Quite why is a bit of a mystery to me.
It could conceivably have somethoing to do with my early childhood annual summer holiday visits to my maternal grandparents in South Wales.

Grandpa was an engine driver on GWR and other than his dog Patsy, his garden and steam locomotives the other great love of his life was cricket, and to be more specific, Glamorgan.

His first words to us  on the annual visit would be "who's winning then"?  If, as was often the case, his beloved Glamorgan were playing Warwick, there would be much (supremely ill-informed) discussion about who was the likely winner. 

Since we lived on the edge of Birmingham loyalties were divided between his team and the local one.

All my life i have absolutely detested all team sports with cricket being the sole exception.  These days I know a little more about the game and never miss the chance to watch Test Cricket on TV much to the amusement of most of my family, who know if i was offered the best seat at Wimbledon or a ticket as a gift to the England footbal final I would "throw a sickie". and if dragged along willy-nilly would die of boredom before half-time.

Whether it is just the game itself or something to do with the image - immaculate green grass, perfect pitches warm sunny days, village greens, or The Oval or Lords, I really don't know, nor do i greatly care.  For me cricket is the only game worthy of the name.

Just one more weird facet of a rather weird personality.

Eeh but I am glad we won!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Woodland Burial

Today I attended the first ever woodland burial I have ever seen.

Frankly not very happy at the thought of such a farewell, and feeling decidedly apprehensive as to what it might entail, and furthermore with rain forecast, I feared the worst.

Having just returned I have to admit it was one of the most inspirational settings I've ever encountered.  Beautifull old woodland, wild flowers in abundance, bird-song a constant background and a feeling of tranquillity not to be found in any conventional cemetary.

The celebration of the life of the deceased, whom I had known only slightly was a very well planned and executed one.  There was a huge attendance.  He had been a man well known in many different spheres and there was a much larger number than usual of clergy in attendance also.

All the seats were filled and as many more stood throughout the hour-long service.

Despite the obvious sadness of those closest to him,  this man's life had had so many moments which were embossed on the minds of those who knew  him best that he 'came to life' in a quite unexpected way through the many tributes paid to him , so that we who knew him less well were able to see him as he had been.

I have seldom seen 'pictures' so clearly painted and it left me wishing i had known him better.

If a funeral can be said to be a pleasant experience, this one was.

The Wind of Change

His Royal Vernacularness The Vernacular Curate scared the wits out of me this morning with his post on changes to Blogger.
Needless to say I trotted over to my dashboard in fear and trembling only to discover, absolutely nothing new.
Is my leg being pulled, I wondered?
No, I suspect that being blogging 'small-fry', the mighty machine has not yet got round to my insignificant workroom.
Time will tell.....Holding my breath......

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

This is my second attempt to write this post, this time without the uncooperative image i was trying to use.

Lying on my bed reading 10 minutes ago, on the verge of dropping off to sleep - not much sleep last night and a hard morning's brass cleaning - there was first of all, an ear-shattering noise, followed by a police helicopter flying so low, and so close to  the window, I wondered if the pilot could read my book.

Ha, I thought, clearly i am not intended to take it easy today, I know, I've got a picture of a helicopter in my computer (not downloaded by me I hasten to add), this is a chance to use it.

The image in question is of a military war machine, an appache, if I remember correctly, but it would have served a purpose.

Why is it, whenever I try to be clever, the wretched computer outsmarts me every  time. Please don't answer that.

Sleep, for me, is the impossible dream.  Elusive, fragmentary, only really ever easy to achieve at the wrong moment.  Like the occasion in my last year at work, when called to a staff meeting in mid-afternoon, having very unusually for me, had a whisky in the blue lion over the road at lunch time.  The CEO's voice, soft and with a 'Highland' burr, had been going on at length, the room was warm, there were too many people using too little oxygen and I nodded off.

A jab in the ribs from my neighbour brought me swiftly to wide-eyed attention to muffled giggles from those nearest.  "I'm sorry to bore you Mrs barnes" came the sarcastic tones of the not-very amused CEO.

Blushing and apologising I muttered something about the heat of the room and thought that was that, until leaving on my way back to my office, he leaned over from his imposing 6'6'' and said "more water with it next time".

Luckily, he had a sense of humour, and out of the office we were on good terms, but how he knew where I'd spent my lunch break I've no idea.

In case anyone should think this was how I spent my working life I would say, hand on heart, it was a rare break with tradition and one I did not repeat.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Reflections

Musing on just an ordinary day when nothing much of note happened I was suddenly aware just how much my life has changed in the past 18 months.

January 2010, cold housebound, snow thick everywhere, bored, lonely unhappy and finding nothing of beauty in the silent white world outside my window.  Only five months since my hiusband's death, still numb and not really able to respond naturally to even the friendliest of overtures, at that time it seemed my life also was over.

The slow gradual awareness that if I didn't make a positive move to find some sort of social outlet for my frozen emotions I would rapidly become beyond rescue.

Then the warmth and kindness of the St. Mary's 'family' the chance to do the odd few hours as a volunteer, be it only answering phones, shredding unwanted paper, chatting to the odd visitor to the church and soon after, joining the choir.

Starting to sing again after so many years break and discovering a totally new voice - these days a contralto - and the singing lessons from our first class voice coach, beginning to find something to do with my life and best of all, being baptised and confirmed and experimenting with a completely new way of life.

Now I take all these things in my stride and they are just part of a normal day, week, month and time is slipping by seamlessly.

This morning I was 'trapped' in the office, which is in the corner of the church behind the chancel, where a funeral was taking place.  When this happens all the busy corners of St. M's become silent and doors normally open are kept closed so not to intrude on the service

Unable to leave the office I simply sat and joined in the service, only the second one I've ever witnessed here. 

For all the mourners it was a momentuous day and yet for those of us who work there it is part of the pattern of church life.  Not something I would ever have considered in my old life.

Later in the day I had a singing lesson.  The day was close and humid and getting to grips   with Elgar's "Where corals lie" was tiring but so worthwhile.  It is so gratifying to hear the occasional good sound issuing from what I had thought to be an extinct volcano.

Returned home, I took the secateurs and removed some heat-crisped rose heads then filled up the bird feeders for the second time today.

I saw my neighbour's brand new baby daughter and wondered briefly what her little life will hold, and realised that despite my occasional descent into gloom and depression, my life is so much more interesting now that it was 18 months ago.

Not a wildly exciting existence but so much better than then and with so much more to look forward to, life actually seems to have at least the glimmer of interest I had almost given up hope of seeing.

It's twelve minutes past eleven pm and one of my neighbours is watering the garden in the dark!

Time to log off.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Quality of Mercy is not Strained

Watching the umpteenth re-run of Lewis the other evening, this one entitled "The Quality of Mercy", I was reminded of an audition I did back in about 1951.

An enthusiastic (schoolgirl) actress, with a half a dozen performances of various kinds (and qualities) under my belt I was quite convinced no-one could teach me anything about Shakespeare.

Dedicated nerd that I was I read his plays intensively for pleasure, rather than because they were required reading.

Never having set foot in the professional theatre, all I had as a point of reference was the very occasional film - Hamlet, Richard the 3rd, etc.  Since in my mind, there was no difference between my agonisingly amateurish performances and those of the greats (Olivier, Burton and so on) there was no reason to cringe at the thought of auditioning for the part of Portia.

Merely a question of learning the words and declaiming them I thought.

The company which was holding the auditions was a travelling repertory company called "The Osiris".
Two pieces were required both of them classics.

How much more classic than our William could one get I thought?

Having taken poison and died extremely theatrically as Ophelia, I then launched into Portia's great speech,
The quality of mercy is not strained it droppeth etc.

The two women who were holding the auditions somehow contrived to keep straight faces and asked me gently whether I had any actual theatre experience.

No, not on the professional stage I said I'm only sixteen and will be leaving school in a couple of months.

They asked me if I would be prepared to work as a stage hand, dresser etc.

Of course, I had to say yes but 'what a cheek, ' I thought.  Fancy asking an ACTRESS to do that sort of thing.

Eventually they offered me the chance to work backstage with occasional small parts and I would receive the princely sum of three pounds a week and my food.  I would sleep in a caravan with other members of the company and tour the Midlands.

Full of enthusiasm despite the fact that I was mysteriously not being offered the lead, I rushed home to my astounded parents to tell them about my great career opportunity.

Still stunned they assured me that I would do no such thing, that I was underage,needed and would not get, their permission and with the further assurance that i would be working in an insurance office in a month or so and could reconsider my options in about five years time.

Sadly, that was the end of that particular attempt, but even now I sometimes find myself quoting the great 'mercy' speech (just in case I ever need to audition again).