Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Solitude

There is I am learning, a vast difference  between loneliness and solitude.

As I have said many times before, I am very lonely (all together Ahhhhhh!).  While I am doing my best to find ways of addressing the problem, it by no means is meant to imply that I welcome with open arms all invasions of privacy.

This has been brought home to me quite sharply just this afternoon.

Being still beset with cold bugs and not my usual clear thinking bright and sparkling self (ahem), I left a library book on the bus this morning on my way to brass cleaning morning at St. M's.

I tried ringing the depot, no reply.  Left it a few hours and tried again (left message on answering machine).
No response.  Was just moving bins etc back into the garage out of the much too hot sun when a neighbour saw me and having been unwise enough to ask how I was, received the full story, poor girl.

She immediately offered to run  me round to the depot - about a mile away- did so and brought me back.
Would not come in for a drink (tea or other) and brushed aside my thanks as though it were nothing.

Such kindness and offered in the most non-invasive way.  Lovely!

Ten minutes later the phone rang.  After the usual guff about only taking a few seconds etc. she, for it was a she, got down to the nitty-gritty  of trying to sell me solar heating.  She ignored all my protestations about having no intention of taking on that sort of expense at my stage of life and thundered on and on and on.
When she was finally forced to breath I said "no" and put the phone down.

As I did so the doorbell rang.  A fresh-faced young man wanted to sign me up to support a childrens' charity for the deaf.  Having explained that I already give to the RNID on a regular basis and was not able or interested in taking on even more charities than I am currently involved with, he said, as though there could be no arguing with such a statement, "but this is for children".

I was polite but finally managed to say no and closed the door - quite gently - when what I wanted to do was scream "go away and leave me in peace".

Loneliness is not nice, solitude however, is quite another thing.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Cats' Tails (3) Billy

As it is around 4.15 am, and since I have a temperature which is climbing hour by hour (can't be exact since I don't own a thermometer), and as sleep is totally out of sight, what better activity than dredging up more of my life with the 'fur-face' brigade.

For some reason I scanned all four cat pictures together and cannot now seperate them.

From top left clockwise we have Footsie, Billy, Mitzy and Sam.

Some time after the demise of both Sam and Mitzy, when we were feeding ferals both down in the town centre and in our back garden, one morning an 'extra' appeared among the back garden ones. He was thin and bedraggled, black and white (mainly white), and with a very long thick tabby tail.

He was too friendly to be a true feral, so, as we were catless at the time, we made friends with him until he was confident took him to the vet to be checked over, got the all-clear and adopted him, or were adopted by him.

After two or three weeks he was much bigger, with a thick short-haired coat and a fabulous tail.  No-one in the area had seen him around, and we had done all the usual checks to try to find his owner to no avail, so we concluded he had been dumped,

This foul practice was very common at that time.  Jobs were few and far between, Aylesbury was not then the size it is now and many people were losing their houses (negative equity), and their first callous action was to dump family pets.

Billy was a big softy, with a purr which was audible at a hundred yards.  He had though, one odd habit.
When he lay in the sun, or when we switched lights on he would cover his eyes with a paw and sleep like that for hours.

Eighteen months after we took him on he got into a fight one night.  We were woken by a tremendous racket from downstairs, feet racing and the cat-flap bashing shut.  We tore down to find Billy huddled in a corner, lumps of fur strewn around the floor and a strong smell.

We never discovered who or what his opponent had been but, from that day on, Billy became less and less well.  He had after much TLC recovered his nice soft coat, but his eyes looked paler, the colour had changed and he was lethargic and losing vigour.

Thoroughly alarmed by now, we took him for blood tests and a check-up to try to discover the cause.

Twenty-four hours later, Robin, our lovely Aussie vet told us, grave-faced, "I'm afraid it's bad news, Billy is FIV positive".

For anyone who may not know, this is the feline equivalent of Aids.  There is no effective cure and only cats who are housebound and have no access to outdoors and contact with other cats can be kept until their immune systems finally fail.

We were stunned, but sadly had to make the appointment for him to be put down, just as we were really getting to know him.

I held him, and kissed his lovely little furry face as Robin gave him the injection. A few seconds and he was gone and John and I were yet again stumbling out of the vet's surgery with wet faces and aching hearts.

Once again, as so often before, we swore, never again, it's too painfull, why do we do it?

Billy was with us for such a short time, but he left an indelible paw-print.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Perfect Timing

Yesterday was a truly lovely day, warm and sunny and I felt quite light-hearted until about seven in the evening.

Arrived at St M's for choir practice suddenly feeling out of sorts, miserable, generally down.

No idea why until opening my mouth for warm-up exercises found I had a sore throat.

After that, symptoms started arriving thick and fast.

Sneezing, eyes watering, very warm.  Oh no, not a cold, please not a cold.

If this sounds paranoid that't because it is.  I hate colds (not flu please note), because my childhood was dogged by high temperatures, sore throats and runny noses to such an extent that I developed a sort of 'siege' mentality in adult life.

This is not because my colds are any worse than anyone else's colds, just that they last so much longer.  On average about two weeks and almost invariably wind up with a chest infection.

For a singer, this is not good, and now for an ageing singer, is considerably worse.

Last weekend we had two services on Sunday and this weekend we also have two services.  Just about perfect timing to lose one's voice.

The 'siege mentality' refers to my now deeply ingrained habit of, at the first sniffle, going shopping and laying in a huge store of fall-back items like lemons, honey, tissues, paracetomol and soups of all kinds. 

Nowadays with no chaufeur/husband to rely on I buy as much as I can reasonably find space for and get a helpful taxi-driver to act as donkey with my marathon shop.

I do not claim that this is reasonable behaviour, nor do I advocate it for all and sundry, but it satisfies my need to be prepared for the worst - even if it never happens!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Return to the Dark Ages

I have just watched a part of a news report on the disgusting 'entertainment' of Cage Fighting.

This barbarous return to the age of unenlightenment
was made even more worrying in that the two protagonists were aged eight and nine years old respectively.

The crowd (it was not made plain whether they were a paying audience) consisted almost exclusively of middle-aged men.

I have no idea where this took place, was too perturbed to watch any more, so possibly missed some mitigating factor, but the fact that it happened at all is enough to ring alarm bells in any right-thinking adult.

That children, without the right training, tend toward a sort of natural savagery, is well documented, but the active involvement of 'caring' adults in this apparently legal form of human  'bear baiting' is truly frightening.

True, I haven't all the facts, frankly, nor do I want them, but I saw enough to convince me that something needs to be done, and fast, to remove the legality of this form of child abuse.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Now is the Winter of our discontent......

Once again an unrelated picture, just one of the endless stream of poor, unfocused evening skies I have taken from my bedroom window recently.

I hasten to add not This evening.  This evening was distinguished by very heavy rain which is often the case as Autumn lowers the temperatures and the available light.

Caught up in my usual weekly fix of "Holby City", I had forgotten that not only had I not drawn the upstairs blinds but had foolishly neglected to close the casements.
When I finally got upstairs and headed for the 'little room' alleged third bedroom (presumably for a small rodent) I suddenly spotted high on the wall by the open window..........yes, my bete noir, a large, very black spider.

For those of a nervous disposition (The Vernacular Vicar for example), I will refrain from a detailed description of the arachnid in question.  Suffice to say, I retreated at speed, headed for my trusty 'dust buster' and with only a mild hysterical screech lifted the invader and flicked it out of the window, which I then closed at the speed of light, pulling the blind down and still shuddering left the room.

Generally speaking, I like Autumn as a season, but, it is alas the season when 'things' like to enter warm dry houses to escape from the rain and wind and hopefully, take up residence. NIMBY or rather, not in my house thankyou.

It is quite useless to explain that they are more frightened of me than I am of them.  I would dispute that with my last breath, should i be able to take one.  Irrational it may be, but it is clearly 'that' time of year again and I will very quickly remember to close windows and pull blinds down while it is still light - having first examined minutely every nook and cranny first.

Much as I love most small living creatures I am quite prepared to make an exception in the case of  THEM.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Rusting Vocal Chords

This is a not very good photograph of some of the detail of our lovely west window at St. M's.


The backdrop to our choir rehearsals on Friday evenings, in the lighter evenings when the sun is shining through into the gallery where we rehearse this is a really wonderful sight.


After our break (no choir throughout August), there is a tendency for our vocal chords to sound in need of oiling when we recommence for the Autumn, and tonight was no exception.


Only the childrens' voices sound much the same as before the break.  The rest of us need 'tuning'.


As probably the oldest member of the choir, I have at least the excuse of anno domini to explain some of the odder sounds I make.  The rest have no such excuse.
Since we all, without exception use our vocal chords each and every day, (some of us to excess), it is strange that singing makes quite different demands on the vocal equipment.


When I was taught to sing - back in the dark ages - it was made abundantly clear that breathing was the all-important factor in good voice production, but since we all breath, all the time, that would appear to be a
misrepresentation  of the truth.


We breath and we speak, therefore we can all sing, yes?   No!


I am Welsh and it is often said (inaccurately), that all Welsh people can sing.  I would amend that statement to read "all Welsh people do sing".  Some of them quite horribly.


There are times when even I with all my delusions cannot fail to notice a decline in the quality of the sound I make as compared with those of 30 years ago, yet no-one has ever given a satisfactory explanation for the decreasing quality of even the most beautiful of voices.


And why is it that some old people acquire what I call 'budgerigar' voices, which are totally unlike the robust clear tones of younger people?


After considerable thought I have decided it is due to rust, and since rust when found on metal can often be cured by oiling, the logical conclusion is that a weekly throat-spray with WD40 or similar should effect a cure.


If someone out there has a severe case of rust and would like to try my cure I would be happy to publish the result.


Any takers?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

I am unequal to this task

Once again a picture that has nothing to do with the post, merely that it gives me some comfort.

It is a white hibiscus which appeared in my garden next to the blue one, used in a previous post.

I didn't plant it but it is very welcome.

Back to the post I intended to write, having returned yesterday from a really good weekend with my brother and sister-in-law in Kent which was relaxing and very pleasant,

I was very nervous about the return journey since it is the first time I've been on a train for seventeen years.

When i was working I travelled all over London on foot, by underground, or by car (not driving), and was familiar with all the transport systems.  I used to run down the escalators, dive into trains just as the doors closed and quickly mentally re-routed when one underground line was fouled up for some reason.

I never gave it a second's thought, because it was familiar and routine.

When I retired life changed totally.  John drove us wherever we went, and if we were flying anywhere on holiday we would get a taxi to Heathrow and back.

Little-by-little, I bacame unused to public transport and increasingly used to dorr-to-door comfort.

Since his death I have become aware daily just how much I relied on John, and have had to readjust to a totally different means of getting around.

When my brother invited me for the weekend I refused at first because I found the prospect of the return journey so daunting. (they were picking me up and taking me back home with them on their return from holiday).

Having discussed this at length, we decided that they would take me to Headcorn station where I would catch the train to Charing Cross, and then, rather than the series of underground trains I'd have had to take (new automated system) I would get a taxi to Marylebone and the train to Aylesbury then a taxi home.

This sounded easy so I agreed, thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the family again and visiting interesting local areas (including church service at Biddenden on Sunday morning).

The return journey was fine and went without a hitch until I got to Aylesbury.

The taxi driver didn't know where my address was, didn't know his left from his right and by the time we got there I was in such a temper I could have cheerfully brained him.

Nevertheless, i was home much earlier than I'd expected so almost my first act was to fire up the computer.

DISASTER.  BT will not let me onto my site and keep asking for information which they then reject.  I haven't screamed yet but.........

I am seriously thinking of giving up blogging.  This one was only possible because I had kept my old access through "favourites".

It seems it is not safe to turn your back on your computer even for a weekend.

Why wasn't I born 30 years ago????

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Trivia or the stuff of life

The picture   is of a climbing rose I've had for about 15 years.  It is fairly undistinguished, pretty, slightly fragrant, not much to write home about but its name is apt for this post.  It is called "Breath of Life".

For some reason I feel quite pleased with today, so what? you might say.
 So nothing much, except that I don't have many such days so it caused me to wonder why.  What is so good about today.

An average brass-cleaning morning in St. M's, with the rector in fine, mickey-taking form.  Quiet, few helpers in, even fewer visitors, but getting off to a good start with morning prayer,  no distractions from cleaning routine, pleasant chat with one or two people, even a brief, very brief, glimpse of sun through the stained glass.

Someone came in to 'do' the flowers, found there were a lot of half-dead ones in the flower room, not yet used and was about to throw them out, when I protested I was asked if I'd like them.  Yes please i said.

So have now two large vases of pale yellow gladioli to brighten my abode, and all free!

Opened my mail and found my broadband and landline supplier has reduced my monthly direct payment by  nearly £20 per month.  Can't believe it, but I'm not about to query it.

Nipped  out in a brief bright spell and did a half an hour's dead-heading and got rid of all the debris (in my bin) before the refuse collectors turned  up.  Luckily, no-one looked in the bin - green waste verboten - got away with it.

On Friday my brother and sister-in-law will call in on their way home from a week's holiday and take me with them down to Kent for a few days.  Life is really starting to look almost attractive, today anyway.

It really is for me, anyway, the little things in the day's routine which make or break the value of life.

God has me under his wing.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Knowing what is real and what is not - recognizing the difference.

No, this post is not about cats (for a change).  Just an illustration of my point
Her name is Lady Penelope, she was bought from the Tuesday antiques market in Aylesbury about 15 years ago.  She is not REAL.

Yesterday,  I had one of my all-too-rare visits from John's daughter and grandson.  Technically I suppose, my step-daughter and grandson, but this is not how I have ever thought of them.

John had a son and a daughter from his first marriage and both children were brought up by his ex-wife and her partner.

We saw them about once a month after our marriage and took them out for the day usually to the coast, since they lived pretty far down in Kent.

We ceased to see the son many years ago - no details since this is not the place and it is not my story - but continued on a fairly irregular basis to see the daughter.  When she married and had a son we saw them both much more frequently and became closer as a family.

The grandson became an army cadet and joined the regular army at the age of about 17.  He is a lovely boy and both his grandfather and I were very fond of him.

He has been to Iraq at the age of about 20 and then after a spell back at base went to Afghanistan.  He has a pretty action-based profession and is (unfortunately) once more in line for a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  He is now 23 with a wise head on young shoulders and looks life straight in the face.

His mother is (rightly) very proud of him, his progress  has been rapid and he never fails an exam or test, but she is of course, worried and fearful for his safety.

I, perhaps more than most people, tend to live in a fantasy world.  When life becomes too difficult to cope with I tend to retreat into a dream-like existence where anything can be what I want it to be.

Most of the time, I am able to snap back to hard reality, but, lacking close companionship find this form of retreat works for me.

I don't think I'm any less balanced than most other people, but have found this 'safety-blanket' a useful tool when situations around me would otherwise cause too much stress.

So far, and I hope for ever, it has always been possible to snap out of 'escape' mode and step back into the real world.

I do know the difference, just sometimes make the easier choice.