Thursday, 30 December 2010

Oh Yes It Is

A few hours ago I made my first foray outside the house since 18th Dec and the onset of the flu. 

Having been talked into joining a joint Parish trip to "Cinderella" the pantomime on offer at our newly built local theatre, and mentally wincing in anticipation of the expected rowdy formula I found myself instead, caught up with the wildly enthusiastic audience as we followed the plot.

There is a sort of magic about this story, whether the romance of the prince and Cinders, the rags to riches aspect which appeals to most people, or the 'good overcoming bad' heroine triumphing over the ugly sisters,(and boy, were they ugly!)

The kids (and most of the adults) yelled and cheered, booed and hissed as though it really mattered, and perhaps, for a while it did.

Buttons was of course, appealing, Cinderella suitably pretty and the prince, handsome (at least from where I was sitting) and the "furry" godmother glittering and splendid.  The sets and costumes were truly beautiful and for once in my life (I have always hated panto), I joined enthusiastically in the shouted warnings etc.

Perhaps I have had to live this long before becoming young enough to drop all inhibitions and suspend all cynicism and really see this hackneyed and time-worn tradition as it is meant to be seen.

Altogether, not a bad way to return to the outside world.

Monday, 27 December 2010


In early middle age I became something of a wine buff, not a connoisseur, never that, but a reasonably well-informed "wino".

With a good head for quality red wines (not spirits) I deemed it wiser to opt for frequent opportunities (private tastings via wine club membership) to try whatever was considered the best available wine currently on offer - wine merchants, supermarkets, wine retailers - and gradually began to acquire what I thought was a reasonably fine-tuned palate.

In the early 80's shortly after moving to this town, I entered a competition to win free membership for one year of a newly formed wine club run by a local brewery. When to my amazement I won first prize I happily accepted my free 6 bottles of red and free membership of the wine club.  This resulted in many happy tastings of wines I would never ordinarily be able to afford and a continuing education into what was and was not considered good wine.

It also led to my late husband and I buying far more wine than we would ever be able (without becoming alcoholics) to drink in the average year.

We then started to have rather more parties than ever previously, and slowly led to the consumption - mainly on my part - of vats of the red stuff.

When I found on one of our rare dining-out occasions that John, who would never drink and drive, was confining his consumption to one small glass and I was drinking the rest of the bottle in perhaps an hour and a half, I suddenly realised where this might wind up.

The lesson was a salutory one and I stopped drinking overnight, not even accepting the odd glass at an office party for about ten years.  However extreme a reaction this might seem, it worked and over the next few years I drank about the equivalent of 1 bottle of wine and perhaps a glass of whisky or two in every 12 months.

Since John's death I have drunk very little until this Christmas, when, struck down by the fly virus and beset with miserable self-pity over my Christmas loneliness, I opened first of all a very good burgundy I had been keeping for some 10 years or so, and tonight a really lovely Pinotage.  Since my head is now swimming and my eyes are becoming increasingly unfocused, it seems like a good time to wind up this "confession hour" and wait to see what it looks like in the sober light of day, tomorrow!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Home Alone

It may not seem the best time to raise the subject (after all it is Christmas Day), but it is something I need to say, and since that is my raison d'etre where blogs are concerned, here goes:
There are many reasons why people are alone at Christmas and every other day too but I cannot believe anyone really enjoys it.

When my husband died 16 months ago I felt totally abandoned, as though there was no-one in the world who knew me, or cared for me.  Since I have three brothers this is clearly not really the case, but it is how I perceived my situation at the time.  My mother had died on Christmas Eve 2008, just eight months before my husband,  She was probably my best friend in the world yet there was no time to grieve her loss before being pitchforked into John.s last illness.

We had no children though he had a son and daughter by his first marriage, and a grandson through his daughter's marriage.  Neither they, nor my brothers live nearer than 120 miles or so which means rare sightings.

John was not a gregarious type and we had very few close friends, making the sense of isolation greater than it need have been.  Luckily I have made new friends and contacts through our local church and I am lucky in that the neighbours have been simply wonderful, kind, helpfull, sympathetic when necessary and many of them have become really close.  This I know and am gratefull for, however, when it comes to Christmas this is very much, I feel, a time for family and despite invitations from several people I just don't feel it is fair to invade people's precious and rare family time.

Last Christmas was truly dreadfull and at one stage I spoke to no-one for 10 days, this year despite all my planned activities being bashed on the head by a hefty dose of flu I do not feel half so bad.
Pondering on the reasons for this I've come to the conclusion that becoming a Christian (I was baptised and confirmed early this year) so late in life, has given me a new perspective and perhaps injected a vein of courage into my feeble self-pitying view of the future.

However unrealistic it may be, it seems to me that there actually is some type of life waiting to be lived and having been given the chance it would be churlish to throw it away untested.

I think ultimately what I have come to believe is that loneliness is a state of mind rather than a condition imposed from outside.  Heaven knows I'm no Pollyanna, but I am glad to have the opportunity to try to overcome this affliction. 

Merry Christmas every one.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Alternative Carol

Since the flu bug decided to make my Christmas the opposite of what I had planned, hoped for, and since it is now a Grinch Festival and lastly, but by no means leastly, Christmas Eve afternoon is the 2nd anniversary of my mother's death I have had plenty of time to ponder the real feel of Christmas.  Here then from my nasty insomnia-ridden early Christmas Eve morning is a different Christmas Carol:

Deck the Malls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
What is life but human folly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Christmas is a Shopping Trolley
Fa la la la la, la la la
Why on earth should we feel jolly

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Midnight Musings

Sitting once more at 3.00 am (when all good folk should be abed) wondering why, flu-ridden, sweating, pale-faced and bleary eyed (not a pretty sight), why oh why does the siren-call of the computer lure me
as no other tempter, human or inanimate can do?

Lacking even the germ (pun intended) of a theme for this blog, yet still with shaky hands drawn to the keys
I have no choice but to succumb.

Reflecting on my friends' children all tweeting, texting and keyboard bashing apparently from birth, I feel
like the dinosaur - incompetent, hesitant, nervous, that I am.  A willing enthusiastic dinosaur but still a
total novice.

My rather more competent youngest brother keeps advising me to experiment, Google this or that, press
keys, see what happens, but I am in mortal fear of losing the small amount of control I have acquired and
never being able to retrieve my golden prose as it disappears into the ether.

How much of that is conceit and how much sheer cowardice I don't know and am unwilling to discover.

Can't help wondering if future generations will be born with extra fingers as we, and technology evolve.
Perhaps speech will disappear altogether and frantically flying fingers be the only means of communication.

Just paused for my usual early morning look out of the window,  Wish I hadn't,  Yet more snow seems to
have fallen.  No chance for what is already there to vanish before the next lot lands.  Oh the joys of a British Winter!

Haven't left the house since last Saturday - Wednesday now - flu and weather, what a wonderful combination.  At least it puts me in my place, did I really think all the choir-practice, Christmas-lunch
meetings, other plans were going to be allowed to happen.  The best laid plans of mice and men........

Heaven only knows what kind of Christmas this will be if the freeze continues.  I have been around long
enough to have seen it all before but that doesn't make me any more prepared than the next helpless
hapless human.

Time to replace my sweat-soaked nightie with yet another clean dry one, hardly worth bothering as that
one will be just as bad in an hour.  Too much information?  Sorry my wits are wandering.  More anon!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Heads - We Lose, Tails - The Weather Wins

Today I should have been at St M's twice.  First for the sung Eucharist this morning and this evening for the Nine Lessons and Carols service.  Sadly, despite every effort and much rehearsal, the weather won!

Yesterday's blog saw me just about making it to the church and back, before the really heavy white stuff descended.  Overnight set the snowfall into a giant frozen blancmange, quite impossible to manoeuvre round.

Having heard from my usual 'lift' that there was no possibility of getting the car out I then rang two taxi firms and got no reply from either number.  Rang our Musical Director and discovered that the evening concert was to be cancelled and told not to worry, "no-one would expect me to try to get there for the morning service".

As I put down the phone there was a loud click and all the electricity went off.  It was still quite early so I rang the only near neighbour who was likely to be up and got no reply.

As the house was already beginning to cool down I layered myself in woollies, leggings and wellies and went out to fill up the bird feeders.  A couple of unusually large (puffed up against  the cold) sparrows eyed me warily but didn't fly away.

I then went to the back garden feeders, the snow over the tops of my wellies, and treated the feeders there to a refill.  This time it was a (usually very nervous) reed-bunting which hopped off a little way until I had finished then returned to have 'first dibs' at the seed feeder.

Tried clearing some of the snow to make a clear pathway to the shed but defeated by the sheer volume of snow gave up and went back inside to thaw.  Good, I thought, I'll have a hot drink.  Idiot, no electricity!
OK house still nice and warm, can't vacuum (hooray), I know, I'll go and read my favourite blogs.


Luckily the power cut lasted only about an hour and a half so normal service was resumed quite quickly.

Makes you think though doesn't it, just how much we rely on having power on tap?  There's a lesson there somewhere.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

All White on the Night

Last evening I picked a careful route to the bus stop on lightish snow which was beginning to freeze.  It was very cold but the bus turned up on time and off I went to choir rehearsal.  Two and a half hours later, back home courtesy of a lift from a kindly local chorister we were first of all unable to open the door of her car, it was frozen all round the edge, and then had to scrape frost off the inside of the windows.

The temperature was around minus 8 at this time.

This morning it was much much colder and I very gingerly picked my way once more to the bus stop. and waited and waited......after about 25 minutes, shivering and turning pale blue had decided to go back home and call a taxi when a neighbour stopped his car and gave me a lift into St. M's.  When we had completed our gift-wrapping for the "punters" for the free Christmas Day lunch someone suddenly noticed it was snowing - quite hard.

This time I was taking no chances and called a taxi which crept and crawled in the snow which was getting thicker every minute.  Home in the warm  watching the heaviest snow-fall for many years I suddenly wondered why we do this every year.  Somehow we always forget that Christmas might just have to be put on hold if the weather so decides.

I am old enough to remember well the 1963 great freeze and the awful disruption that caused and also (please don't do the maths) the truly terrible winter of 1947.  I was one of four small children and we spent at least 2 months living in the kitchen of our freezing semi in Birmingham.  The snow lasted from mid-December to the end of February.  Coal supplies (no central heating then), ran out.  There were almost daily power-cuts, gas supplies were nearly exhausted and transport at a standstill.  By comparison this is negligible.

Somehow people seem to contrive to do most of the things they really want to do, however difficult, while failing totally to do the things that are expected of them.

I do so hope we won't have to let our Christmas Day guests down.  We'll see!.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Technophobe or Technoprat?

Have I mentioned that I don't "do" technical?  Strange I felt sure I had.

This morning I had a power cut.  Well, I thought it was a power cut, and waited for some 'good fairy' in the land of 'power' to put it right.

When nothing had happened after about half an hour I rang a neighbour who is home from work with flu, only to discover that her power was OK and that one of the people further up the close had a garage light on (she could see it from her window as she lives opposite, therefore I couldn't....oh never mind)

Since she has a brain which works she suggested I ring the emergency number of my supplier.  Why such an unlikely solution had not occurred to me, I...yes I do know.

Five minutes later, having been talked through the process of checks - trip switches and the like - I simply  turned every switch off, then back on and voila - light, warmth and sanity were restored.

There is no way of knowing what had caused the system to trip but at least there is now another notch on my learning belt.  How I've managed to get through a fair amount of life knowing so very little about so many things is a complete mystery to me.

Is it just a woman thing, or am I alone in the universe?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

No-one is Indispensable

Working as a volunteer (with a very small "v"), for a few hours a couple of days a week obviously makes me an indisputable expert on the subject of indispensability!

Nevertheless I feel qualified to offer my unsought opinion (for a change) for what it may be worth.

I am currently in the rather awkward position of having to decide whether or not to continue with the little tasks I perform - which are a necessary part of the day-to-day smooth running of St. M's - or to opt out since a big part of my original volunteering was to relieve someone of a little of their over-load.

Since the said person, whom I like and admire, is leaving both the position and the area, it is now a question of whether I owe loyalty to an individual or to the organisation.  Like most people change is not something I greatly welcome but by the same token, is a part of my day-to-day life since losing my husband, and not to be avoided out of cowardice.

Perhaps, as  it is obvious the wheel will continue to turn, no matter who is at the helm, it is just a question of accepting a change of bosun.  Which in turn makes me question my reason for volunteering in the first place.

I have always maintained and still do, that volunteers are never quite as altruistic as they sometimes appear, since there is always benefit to themselves as well as the organisations/individuals for whom they work.

This is very much, as all my blogs are, a thinking aloud process, which can help to clarify problems by seeing them in print.

So........having read through the mish-mash so far, the question appears to be "The singer or the Song?"
On balance, selfishly, the answer will I think, have to be "The Song".

In other words, no matter how great an influence for good, no matter how well performed their role, no matter how well-liked in the end, no-one is indispensable.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy For...............

Yesterday I broke a vase.  Simple little statement, or is  it?

The vase in question was of purple glass, an antique, if anything over a hundred years old is an antique.  It was one of the few things I had kept from the days when my late husband and I spent nearly every weekend either buying or selling antiques.  Not greatly valuable, maybe worth about £70 or £80, but it was, in my view, beautiful.

Wednesday being one of my 'free' days I tend to clean, wash etc., in order to avoid exhaustion on the busier days, and for some reason I decided to wash all the glass on display in the house.  (As opposed to the stuff fillings cupboards and cabinets).  I reached for the vase - on a top shelf of course - knocked a more solid item over which hit the vase and sent it crashing to the ground.

Silence ! followed by a banshee wail of disbelief and then I burst into tears.

Having cried for a good ten minutes I got the dustpan and brush and dropped the late lamented beauty into a bag then into the bin, waiting for collection by the refuse collectors.

Next feeling shaken and wretched, I did what I never do, poured myself a large (very large) whisky and ginger. The first for about 12 months, and swigged it down in about two minutes.

About an hour later, when I could see straight, I looked at the gap where the vase had been and to my amazement, found myself heaving a sigh of relief that there was one less bit of clutter in the house to gather dust.

Every item we bought over a period of thirty years had been, for a time at least, the most beautiful thing we had ever seen.  How then, has it all become just so much tat?  Am I at last developing a sense of proportion so late in life, or perhaps at last what really matters is slowly filtering into my recently whisky-soaked brain.

So many emotions and all in one day, at least life is not too dull while I have the ability to demolish half the house in a moment, and then to laugh at my own antics.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Man's Innate Goodness ? ? ?

If' as we are taught to believe, we are created in God's image why are we not perfect?  For just how much of the mess many (most) of us make of at least parts of our lives, are we to blame?
Why are we not invariably able to select the true path and why are we not unfailingly good, kind, considerate and helpfull to others.
Why does so much that is bad flourish and pure evil sometimes go apparently unpunished?
Don't say we have free will.  There is often no such option available.
If all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  Why is even the most determined opposition to enforced evil so often crushed under the weight of wickedness.
Of course even the worst of men usually have some saving grace.  Mussolini loved cats!  It's entirely possible that Pol Pot loved his mother!  Adolf Hitler loved Eva Braun!  No, that really doesn't work does it?

If we are created in God's image we must have at least as much capacity for good as for bad, so why is it so hard for most of us to see our own actions as they are and mend our ways accordingly?

There are, it's true. those who deliberately live their lives like unopened packages, but this is not a good life surely, it is rather, a waste of life.

Others relish and revel in every opportunity offered, usually choosing to manifest their enjoyment in odd ways

None of the choices come with lables (a la Alice in Wonderland), eat me, avoid me, choose this or that way and you will get your reward in this life - and possibly the next!

This is not intended to provoke any particular response, merely a jotting down of random thoughts on a theme which often occupies my rag-bag mind.  A sort of musing on some of the times when I have taken a wrong turning.  Given a sharp or unfriendly response when a pleasanter one would have been quite easy. Done things of which I have been deeply ashamed.  How nice it would be to be able to wake one morning and find that a sort of  'Ebenezer Scrooge' type of personality change had happened overnight.

I won't hold my breath!