Friday, 30 December 2011

Oh Good, It's Whinge Time Again !

This horrible old fright is me.  Hard to believe I know, but sadly, true.

Since this has been, like all my recent Christmases, horribly lonely, accompanied by heavy cold this time, flu last year, and since the last time I actually heard a live human voice was Christmas Day morning (the taxi-driver who brought me home from the service) I am greatly looking forward to 2012.

Every year I tell myself, next year will be better, and next year i will have found something to do at Christmas.

Each year that looks less likely, but I am reliably informed, you only have to pray hard enough and believe strongly enough and it will happen.


Unable courtesy of  high temperature, running nose, sore throat and constant sneezing etc. to venture outside apart from feeding the birds, I had to resort to television.

My red eyes and sore swollen lids, are more to do with the latter than with the cold bug.

I have watched and absorbed "Tosca",  the ballet "Alice in Wonderland", several episodes of "Mastermind" (the celebrity version - if that is not an Oxymoron), and almost, it seems, the entire panoply of Charles Dickens greatest Hits.

I have also seen, as previously mentioned Narnia, Merlin and today, unbelievably, The Cat in the Hat, finally reaching rock bottom with "Pollyanna".

Now I wouldn't want you to think I was ungrateful, I am, but I wouldn't want you to think it, but there must be some other punishment I could opt for, even in my bug-weakened state, as payment for my exceptionally sinful life.

Don't say  read - my eyes are too sore, or clean the house - too lazy, or write letters - both the former reasons.

My throat is too sore to scream, and my hands are too sweaty to type much longer so if anyone has a suggestion sensible or otherwise I would be glad to consider it on its merits, (before rejecting it as unworkable).

Roll on 2012 it can only get worse!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Truth in the bottom of a glass

The picture on the left is only marginally connected with the large glass of old tawny port recently swigged by yours truly Daydreamer.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  Is it just the intense loneliness of Christmas (my Christmas), or is it that enough (more than enough) days of my own company bring me closer to the 'edge' than normal.? 

Fleetingly, on the perimeter of my attention I caught a TV advertisement of a 'new' singer, singing "Without a song".

For anyone not of my generation, this will mean nothing, but for me it sent my memories spinning back down the years to my earliest childhood, when this song was part of my father's standard repertoire. 

There were others.  "Trees", and badly out of tune hummed or  whistled, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Music.

We would groan at him to spare our ears, but were secretly quite pleased by his obvious enjoyment of the music of his choice.

"Without a Song" is the one piece I have never heard from those far-off days until today, so all the more nostalgic. 

Having blogged my heart out in recent days, due to the inordinate amount of time with absolutely nothing else to do, and with far less than the usual amount of response, comments etc. I have once again found a piece of  nothing of great importance to write about.

Amazing isn't it, how such dross can stir either immediate and tumultuous reactions, or elicit no response whatsoever.
Bye the way, my excuse for drinking a large glass of port half-way through the afternoon is that I have no excuse whatsoever!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Holy Smoke

At last week's Nine lessons and Carols we  were well rehearsed, in good voice and still relatively fresh.  (Not too many extra services so far).

We had, however, forgotten one important factor of this lovely service - candles.

We each had two books and several single sheets of paper to carry, plus the order of service booklet and.....oh horror, a candle.

Now I must admit that the church, tea lights, small votive candles and larger man-size ones in sconces is a very pretty sight, however, the choir must not only sing by a poorish light, inhale smoke and incense, turn the pages of the books and swap from book to sheet and back again, all while clutching in the other hand a candle, upright, so as not to drip grease everywhere.

This was further complicated by the musical director deciding to move us all over to one side instead of on either side of the chancel, for just two of the numbers.

Now, add holding up robes so not to trip over them (most of them are too long), and crossing the aisle clutching all the aforementioned paraphernalia.   Can you picture it?  A recipe for disaster.

This came in the form of one of the small choristers setting light, first to her papers and then almost, her hair.

Fortunately, it was spotted and dealt with quickly and no-one in the congregation noticed.

Last night, in addition to all the other candles we had tea-lights on the 'shelves' for want of a better word round the pillars near the high alter.

This was very pretty and added to the beauty of Midnight Mass,  until a few of us during the sermon spotted a  small conflagration among those extra tea-lights.  "2 or possibly 3 of them" had merged, and a small bonfire was starting before our startled eyes.

We somehow signalled to the musical director who was seated opposite us at the organ and once he saw what was happening he hopped down from his seat and proceeded to make the flame considerably larger.

He then returned to the organ, grabbed a hefty bundle of music and bashed the fire on the head, which, thank heaven, worked.

Once again, no-one in the congregation noticed and neither did the rector.

When we told him about it after,his response was, "they've had candles in churches for hundreds of years".

Nice to  know the choir have some value even if only as firelighters!

Needless to say we were waiting with baited breath to see what would happen this morning, but, while it was a lovely happy service for all involved,there was no cabaret.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Escaping from Dragons

Downstairs on this Christmas Eve is a dragon, a few minutes ago there was a talking lion and to preserve my sanity (fat chance), i am writing this.

After a lovely "Carols from Kings", always a part of my Christmas Eve, I had a brief break from interminable TV, switched back on 
and got hooked on "Narnia", followed by "Merlin".

Now I can suspend disbelief with the best of them but two giant helpings in one long, long evening is just too much.

At some stage I have to gather my wandering wits and tired body into chorister mode, leaving the house at 10.45 pm, when I ought to be going to bed.  Midnight Mass will see a bunch of tired, pale faced .......well, what would you call them (us)?

Christians? Some, revellers? a few, curious novelty seekers? maybe, but with one common purpose.  To welcome the birth of Jesus.  

Two years ago I attended my first ever midnight mass and was totally bowled over by it.  Last year, a member of the choir by now, I should have celebrated my first midnight mass from the 'operating' side, so to speak, but a dose of flu wiped Christmas off the map.  So this will be my first time as a member of the choir.

At this moment I feel as much like singing as climbing Everest in a bikini, but no doubt the necessary energy will arrive in time and the wonderful atmosphere will do the rest.

As I probably won't be in bed before 1.30 am and have to get up in time for the Christmas Day Eucharist at 10, I will take this opportunity to say to anyone reading this blog. A merry and blessed Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New year to you all.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Infiltration. Percolation. Information

The power (or not) of TV advertising, particularly at this time of the year seems more of a mystery to me than ever.

Millions of pounds are poured into the business of getting our attention with a huge variety of images being used as pulling power.

Every device available is cunningly employed to cajole, demand or try to persuade us that A, B, or C is the best, the most efficient, the must-have product 
to ensure our happiness on the planet.

But, just how effective is all this hype, high-powered hog-wash and manipulative mumbo jumbo? 

Of course, even the companies making their millions from this industry are aware that what may get one person's total attention will annoy, aggravate, or infuriate other people.

Does that matter?  No of course it doesn't.  Even if an ad' drives you mad that means it has gained your attention.  What is death to advertising is indifference.

I do not claim to be in any way superior to, or cleverer than the vast mass of consumers, and of course I'm aware that there are ad's which irritate me to screaming pitch while there are just a tiny handful which are so appealing and beguiling that they make me smile, even thinking about them. 

The odd  thing is that unless the name of the product is hammered home a dozen times, what is being advertised fails completely to engage my attention, while the image stays with me indefinitely. 

There is a horrible ad, with a greasy-haired, bulging eyed, green caped character whose mantra is "yer buy one, yer get one free",  He is my pet hate, not only because of the appearance unappealing in the extreme, of this man, but because he yells at the top of his voice.  What he is selling heaven only knows.

By the same token, there is a loo-paper ad which loudly proclaims that their product is recycled.

Recycled loo paper!!!!  Help, what kind of mental picture does that dredge up?

On the other hand, for me there are the few really alluring ad's,  the cats with thumbs, the lovely black grouse which appears strutting his stuff every Christmas, the lovely tabby playing first with snow, then big-eyed with the ornaments on the Christmas tree.  What the products are remain a mystery to me.

What I am trying to say is that even the ad's I love and would be prepared to watch endlessly still fail in their most basic purpose, since for me the product is always sublimated to the image.

Anyone know where I can buy a meerkat?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Arms of Morpheus

This is what I'd like to be looking at, a blue summer sky with puffs of white fluffy cloud drifting by.

Instead yet another night dark, Winter Solstice, sky black and starless with sleep evading me yet again.

It is perhaps unrealistic to imagine there  will ever be a time when I will simply rest my head on the pillow and sleep.  This has never been the case and the more I've done in the preceding day, the less likely I am to get the necessary rest. 

Christmas creeping ever nearer is perhaps the root cause of this particular bout of sleep deprivation.  Not my favourite time of year even when there was something resembling a life to be lived and someone to share it with, and now, hectic carol services etc coming to an end and my 3 mornings in the church finished for this week, the yawning gap until Midnight Mass and Christmas morning service, followed by nothing is a prospect which fills me with gloom. 

Last year I had flu, so missed even the Christmas services, and the wait for the world to return to 'normal' seemed interminable, at least this year I've enjoyed the singing and brief companionship.

Each time November looms I think, "this year I'll find something to do, somewhere to go", and each time December arrives I realise it is too late and I'm doomed yet again to four walls for the duration.

Negativity is my middle name, and inertia lends its helping hand so the will to do anything positive cannot be dredged up from the well.

How on earth does one motivate oneself?

No amount of 'helpful' advice causes even a ripple on the surface of the dark pond of my self-absorbed morose perspective, and I'm well aware that the impetus has to come from within.

But at present I appear to be without a within if you see what I mean. 

What a load of dreary piffle. 

Putting it down in print has nothing to improve my mindset, but at least it has used up a bit of yet another night spent evading the arms of Morpheus.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Thanks. Mine's a double.

Have just arrived home from singing with the choir in a pub.

Well, there's a first time for everything.

Actually we sang very well, though I say it as shouldn't.

We had an excellent response from the diners and I'm told received a sizeable collection.

The downside for me, was not eating before, can't sing if I eat, and getting in too late to want to eat.

So I am sitting at the computer with a very large whisky and ginger and slightly blurred sight.

Have just realised that I wrote about rewarding myself with a whisky comparatively recently, but wouldn't want anyone to  think it was a habit as it's the first since then. (if you don't count the three glasses of mulled wine after last night's nine lessons and carols).

Is this the way down the slippery slope I ask?


Well, perhaps, but I'm willing to give it a brief testing period - say 15 years or so - and if it is, then at least I'll have deserved whatever gets me in the end.


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Short and sweet

This was what greeted me at 8.15 this morning.

A very hard frost, white everywhere except on the bird feeders,

The usual gang of blue tits and great tits and on the one isolated feeder, a great spotted woodpecker.

He was slimmer than the one pictured, and his red bits were much more red.

It was as if he was in some sort of trance.  He was totally motionless, very upright and had one claw loosely hanging on to the feeder, while he stared into space.  I ran  upstairs to get my camera and by the time I was  back down he was gone.

Probably not an unusual sight for some people but a rare visitor in this urban locality.  Lovely start to the day.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Shape of Things to Come

This will have to be a pictureless blog since Google refuses to let me download the one I wanted.

This will not stop me describing (since I can't illustrate) the scene I encountered on my way round to the bus stop this morning.

A nasty sleety sometimes thick sometimes thin snow was coming at me hard and fast.  So, an umbrella being worse than useless in such weather, I pulled up my hood (fake-fur lined) around my pinched and frozen face and scurried in to the shelter of the bus stop.

The rooftops were white, so were trees, hedges and passing cars, the road wet and with white curbs.  Very pretty - if you're inside, looking out - less so if you are in the thick of it.

After a hard 2 hours brass cleaning - deferred to Friday courtesy of innumerable school concerts each day this week - I swigged a half pint of strong coffee and headed, fully armed for the great outdoors.

Lo and behold, glittering sunshine is everywhere, snow nowhere.  Good, I thought, library easy accomplished,Orange shop, slightly embarrassingly less easily accomplished.  They could not believe I'd only used £10 worth of calls in over a year!!

Boots, W H Smith and Sainsbury's all easy, quick and painless.

Out into the.......what happened to the sun, it's pouring and very cold, run to taxi, hampered by heavy bags,
fall gratefully into the back and get home 6 minutes later in ........sunshine.

Realising that grabbing my chance was a good idea I hastily put the shopping away, picked up a large and very heavy bundle of magazines and their Christmas card and walked round to the local surgery, only about a quarter of a mile but the busy A41 to cross and a freezing wind to combat,

Back home sun fading fast so grabbed the bundle of cards for the houses in the Close, and took them round each and every one.

By now the sun had gone it was clouding up fast and the bird feeders all needed filling.

That done thought, I'm hungry, must be lunchtime.  It was 2.30 pm. so fed my face and thought just time to write a quick post on the millions of tiny time-consuming activities which fill my day, then I can rest (anno domini catching up) and realised that it is of course, not Wednesday but Friday and I've got to get into town again at 6.30 for choir practise.

By that time it will undoubtedly be Winter again!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Gifts, visits and good intentions.

It's here again, that time of year when everyone thinks of family, friends past and present and whether anyone will visit or we will go to see someone perhaps unvisited for a long time.

As I've said before, Christmas is not a happy time for me, but I try not to let other people know how I feel, and just hope they won't ask me a straight question, face-to-face.

I can't look someone in the eye and lie, so avoiding the "what are you doing for Christmas"? question has become a well-honed skill.

Yesterday, I had a visit from a kindly, well-meaning fellow, an almoner from my late husband's lodge. (He was a freemason and a member of two lodges).  This man had come from the lodge with a gift of expensive chocolates and a pot-plant in a basket plus a lovely card for me.

When I protested that I "wished they wouldn't", while thanking him profusely for his kindness, he seemed at a loss to understand why.

It is difficult not to sound ungracious and I hope I managed, but, I really do wish they wouldn't.

I am not and never will be an admirer of freemasonry and find the avuncular attitude of its members to the 'widows' of their late members, patronising and squirm-making.

While I appreciate the kindness of the thought, I'd prefer it to stay just that, a thought.

Today, my middle brother (of three) came to see me.  The first time since John's funeral on 25th August 2009.  He had come to bring me a gift from his son and himself.  It is an Ipad 2.  Wonderful I can hear you say, and so it undoubtedly is.  Also extremely generous, but since neither he nor I were sufficiently clued up technically to get the thing up and running, it is at present residing in all its pristine glory in its box, where it will remain until I can find someone who can at least set it up for me so I can attempt to make use of it.

Years ago my mother who knew me better than anyone before or since, said "from now on every birthday and Christmas you will get a cheque, no-one could ever buy the right thing for you".

This is not really because I'm hard to please, I'm not, a spray of freesias from the local market would make my day, but I am not acquisitive or materialistic and don't need 'things'.

By the same token, my great nieces and nephews also get money with instructions to their parents to buy them some little thing they really want.

This is not laziness just that I hate waste, and so many Christmas gifts wind up being passed on to someone else that it is surely better to let the recipient choose.

As for visits, anyone who comes to my door empty-handed will be welcomed in for coffee and or a drink, but woe betide he or she who comes bearing gifts.

Signed  Ebenezer Scrooge,

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The truth about depression

Many times since i started this blog I have debated whether I would ever find the right time to write this post, but several things this morning have made me recognise that if I wait for the perfect occasion, it may never come.

Lately I have felt more than usually depressed and this weekend reached a low which I recognise from many years ago.

If someone tells you they are feeling depressed, or 'a bit down', or that Winter is dark and depressing, all these things may well be true, but they are not real depression.

When you feel yourself on the descending spiral steps leading down into total blackness, when misery is the state of mind in which you wake to greet the day (assuming that you have slept), and when nothing anyone says touches you in any way, then you are in the opening throes of true depression.

There can be a million triggers, or sometimes just one.  It can creep up on you when you think your are reasonably comfortable emotionally and knock your feet from under you.

You might find yourself in tears for no discernible reason, the feeling of being absolutely alone and friendless, no-one to talk to or more importantly to listen to you may be overwhelming.

You may feel suicidal and start to cast around for ways in which to accomplish your exit.

None of these things are 'over the top', or culled from some piece of romantic fiction, they are statements of fact.  Yes I am speaking from experience and yes the signs are there to be seen by a truly observant eye.

The facetious comments made by the despicable Jeremy Clarkson simply highlighted for me attitude of the disinterested and ignorant.

While for some, organisations like  'The Samaritans', may have a role to play in "talking down" someone in the uncertain stages of this state of mind,  for others the depression is too deep, the grip too strong to enable them to speak to anyone.

Yesterday I felt as low as at almost any time in my life and was very aware that somehow a way of climbing out of the pit was necessary before it became too difficult even to attempt.

After a night awake,  to get ready for church was nearly impossible, but, knowing it might just make the difference I did so,

The church was empty when I arrived, decorated for Christmas and looking beautiful and I hated it.  Felt like howling aloud but hearing footsteps quickly started to 'robe up'.  As more people arrived, and we had the choir run-through I thought, "I know the anthem better than I thought".

A tiny, tiny glimmer of satisfaction, but enough to get me through the service to half-way.

Then we sang a hymn which to my amazement, our lovely choir coach didn't know.  She said so, and I immediately revved up my voice a few notches and sang with more than usual gusto.  The feeling of satisfaction grew.

After the service, the woman whose husband has just died came to talk to us about the music she would like for his funeral later this week and suddenly I felt such warmth  and love for her that every other consideration vanished.

Reflecting on the huge lift in mood I realised that most basic of all lessons, that when we forget ourselves and put ourselves in other's shoes, however briefly, we are at our best, and that if there is any kind of antidote for depression it may have to to with divorcing ourselves from self-obsession.

Had the sleeping tablets or whatever been to hand when rock-bottom was reached, there may have been no way of coming back.

On a grim, but lighter note, I once read "The trouble with suicide is it plays havoc with your career prospects".

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I am NOT unreasonable ! ! !

Look at that face, soft, gentle, tranquil (OK so I was only 19 at the time), but, is it the face of an unreasonable, bad-tempered, termagant?

So what happened.  When did that sweet, placid quiet girl become the impatient, grumpy, intolerant old woman I appear to be now?

Take this morning for instance, usual hard work cleaning badly finger-printed brass pulpit rail, budgie (of previous post fame) and the two massive High Altar candle sticks. plus a few odd brass plates around the walls etc.

The church was cold and draughty, noisy (some scaffolding was being erected by electricians), more people were underfoot than usual but that only set the mood for the rest of the day.

Several long (and lovely) conversations/interruptions later I hurried out, about half an hour later than usual, into the freezing gale to do some necessary shopping on my way  home.

Why were the shops so busy and the town so full ?  Oh of course, the day of industrial action meant a lot more people were roaming around with time on their hands.

Finally reaching the bus stop settled down for a ten minute wait - which proved to be 15 minutes - struggled onto a crowded bus with heavy bags great, job done.

Disembarked into gale force wind again, up to front door to hear the phone ringing.

Struggled with shopping, hand-bag, keys and dropping everything on hall floor breathlessly gasped hello into the receiver.

"Are you Mrs Ray Barnes"? a thin nasal male voice enquired, "have you got a few minutes to answer some  questions"?

"Not a good time, I've just got in and have a few things to do, can you call back later" I asked.

"It won't take a minute madam, we would just like to ask  you about some products of ours .......

"No, I yelled, I don't want  to discuss anything  you might want to sell me, I'm cold, tired and want a coffee
go  and  make someone else's life miserable"

And with that, I hung up.

Yes I do know, patience is a virtue.  Just not one of mine.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Melancholy Advent - mixed feelings

This morning was a lovely 1st Sunday in Advent, we had lots of lovely music and used St Anne's Mass for all the usual Benedictus, Sanctus Agnus Dei etc.

It was a happy service, well attended and the Sunday School children enjoyed the lighting of the Advent Candle.

As so often happens, once the service is over, a reaction sets in.

I get a taxi home, have a coffee (or three), and gloom descends.

Today was cold and windy so no chance of doing any work outside and the unwelcome but oh so familiar, Sunday loneliness set in.

Trying to pin-point the actual cause of imminent depression sometimes works for me, so I searched my memory of the morning to see if I could find a starting point, and realised what it was almost instantly.
One of our congregation whose husband has been ill for some time has, sadly, become our newest widow in the last couple of days.

They were both good friends of St. M's and many tributes were paid to this man's contribution to the life of the church on several levels.

I know and like his wife but never met him since he had become ill around the time I became a part of the community, but he was well loved and always spoken of with admiration and affection so I felt I knew  him by proxy.

In itself, the loss of a member of the church 'family' tends to cause a change in the atmosphere and this I suppose combined with my own aloneness (always more intense at weekends), was the reason for the  lower than usual dip in spirits.

Whoever said "every man's death diminishes me" said something very profound, in that when we encounter change, we change.

For those of us of a melancholy persuasion, it is difficult to shake off the cloak of sadness, where our lighter-hearted brothers and sisters are able to put events in perspective more easily.

Time to stop I think.  I didn't intend to depress the entire world.  Too much looking inside should not be encouraged.

More cheerful next time.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Drink your milk, it's good for you

This week I'm feeding one of my neighbours' cats.  This one is a fairly sorry-looking article, white and tabby and unpredictable.

He was once called Pepsi, but after he decided to move a few door down and live with someone else he was renamed Morris.

He has, among other charming habits, a way of bolting his food in ten seconds flat, only to regurgitate it a minute later.

I have known other cats who have this sort of feline bulimia and usually they have been half-starved early in their lives and I suspect, have had to fight to get their share  of whatever was on offer.

In addition he is one of the numerous cats who are milk intolerant - or, more precisely - lactose intolerant.

There is a fairly common assumption that all cats love milk.  Not so.  There are vast numbers who thrive on water (preferably nice and muddy) but who become ill and in extreme cases, even die, if fed milk.

I sympathise.  Not so far as I'm aware, lactose intolerant, just a natural hater of milk, I've spent half my life trying to explain what I mean by, "just a tiny drop of - preferably skimmed - milk, in tea and coffee, and  none at all in anything else.

My breakfast cereal gets the absolute minimum of skimmed milk, just enough to dampen it, and the smell of full fat milk turn my stomach.

Centuries ago, when in primary school (known as infants school in those days), we were given free milk every morning, and my poor innocent mother who knew her crafty daughter not at all, was pleased to think at least one part of her childrens' diet was taken care of by the new "Welfare State".

I used to sell my bottle for a half-penny or if I had no takers, give it away,  And, if that failed, pour it down the drain in the playground.

The vast sums I collected, in the average week about a penny, were spent on carrots from the greengrocer I passed on the way home from school, and added to my mother's vegetables for the week.  She never seemed to count her carrots and it was not until she was about 60 that I owned up.

"Oh" she said, "but you always liked rice pudding"

I explained that half a ton of golden syrup, sugar was rationed, plus handfuls of sultanas and grated nutmeg on top compensated adequately for the less acceptable part of said pud.

We often talked, and eventually laughed about it, and my mother's theory was that since she and my father were desperately poor when I was a baby, she breast-fed me until I was ten months old and though I thrived it must have left a life-long impression in my brain that milk was a 2nd rate food.

Whatever the reason it is not only cats who turn up their noses at this most basic of foods.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Smile........if it kills you.

Sad to relate, the beautiful smile on the left is not mine.

Never was, never could have been.

Teeth, in my opinion, are a pain, often from the very beginning.  Even more so as time wears on, and sadly for some, a distant memory as life's cycle is complete.

Mine were fairly good until the age of 14 when I had my
first close encounter with a dentist.

No-one had warned  me, so I took my seat in his 'chair' with only minor trepidation.  A mere 30 seconds later
my agonised shriek had met with a savage "For heaven's sake it's only a drill", and my life-long terror of dentists was born,

From the day my tortured teeth inadvertently closed on the thumb of that same dentist, I have feared and shunned the company of even the finest practitioners of this form of legitimate torture.

Having to 'see' a dentist and my hatred and fear of drills has resulted over the years in my demanding that the offending gnashers be removed, rather than filled.  This has not always succeeded and I have at least six teeth with fillings, plus as many gaps where teeth once were.

When John, who had very poor teeth, and had had 'plates' with false ones most of his adult life, had to have almost every last one removed, he was lucky enough to find a truly wonderful dentist.  She was very local, and was a lovely human being, as well as a very good dentist.

A tiny (5 foot, and about 7 stone), South African, she was gentleness personified.  Both John and I adored her, and I continued to see her once a year for my check-up after his death.

Yesterday, during the Sunday service at St. Mary's I found it increasingly difficult to sing, and by the end of the service had quite severe pain in a tooth at the top left right at the back of my mouth.

Since I had believed this tooth, which is crowned, to be 'dead' I was a bit worried, and instead of doing my usual Monday morning stint at St. M's, rang the dentist and got an emergency appointment and headed off to see my little South African friend, only to discover she has left the practice and returned back to South Africa.

All my old fears started up again and warning the young man who invited me to take a seat in the 'chair', that I was a devout coward and inclined to yell before I was hurt, I was told not to worry, that he would guarantee not to hurt me and that I should just raise a hand if I wanted him to stop.

Needless to say he was just as gentle as his predecessor and took an Xray, removed a bit of 'plastic' which was tight around the tooth - no idea how or where - and gave me some anti-biotics just in case.

Sometimes I have to admit, even my well-practised cowardice is totally unjustified.

Sorry about the change of script/font  whatever, don't know what happened.  No surprises there.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Generation Game

The tattered copy of a copy of an old photo of me was taken on a beach in Guernsey in about 1964.  I was 29 and well able to walk on my hands, (something which never struck me as in any way remarkable until quite recently.

Youth and the quality of youthfulness are comparative terms.  While it seems natural for  instance, for one person to be able to do at 50 what they could at 20, for others it is not merely physically impossible, but unthinkable that they should wish to do so.
The quality of agelessness is one which has its source in a host of different things, but for me, it has something to do with having an interest in anything and everything.  Never closing one's mind totally to any idea, however bizarre or unlikely and being open to persuasion.

Another reason for the sometimes childlike behaviour of some fairly ancient people has I believe more than a little to do with still having parents, even at quite an advanced age.

In this way, despite the relentless march of time, you are still someone's child and there is still the feeling that not all of life's problems are yours to solve alone.

Even if the actual input of the remaining parent or parents is minimal, there is still the feeling that there is an older (wiser) generation to  turn to if the need arises.

Yesterday, a cousin rang me with the sad news that  his father (my father's last remaining brother) had died on Monday.  He would have been 103 had he survived another five days.

My father's parents had eleven children, my mother's parents four, and this was the very last of them, which suddenly brought home to me the realisation that we, my brothers and my cousins, are now the senior generation.  Suddenly we are not children any more.  Suddenly we have reluctantly to grow up.

A salutory thought, and one I don't relish.

While I am not about to try to stand on my hands I really don't want to be 'old' just yet.

I'm racking my brains to find another way to 'kick over the traces', just give me time, I'll find something.

"You are old father William, the young man said, and your hair has become very white, and yet you incessantly stand on your head, do you think at your age it  is right"?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Remembering all our dead

Today has been a very busy one.

Beginning with our shortened version of the Eucharist.  Not quite as much singing as usual, followed by the procession through the cobbled streets of the old town, to the market square for the Remembrance Service.  A lot of singing, fortunately for once, in brilliant sunshine.

Aylesbury has a huge turnout for this service with all the armed forces heavily represented, the British Legion,
Salvation Army, Boys Brigade and just about every other service, uniformed and otherwise,  The local MPs Town Councillors and past councillors are all there to swell the crowds.

The service itself is led by our (that is, St. Mary's) rector and other clergy all have their part to play.

By the time we stumble back over the cobbles, everyone tends to be tired and in need of sustenance.

This year, the Rector had kindly arranged for us to be fed and watered, greatly appreciated and giving us the opportunity of resting in comfort before this afternoon's Service of Light.

While many others of my age lost relatives in the 2nd World War, the afternoon service gives us the chance to remember all those others who have touched our lives, significantly or fleetingly, and who are no longer with us.

I found the  prayers interspersed with beautiful chants wonderful and very moving, with the lighting of individual candles open to all.

This is remembering in a very special way and for me the mix is just right,

A lovely, sometimes very sad, but spiritually uplifting way to honour all our dead.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Me and my obsessions or Deeply, Deeply, Shallow

Having just - by way of a celebration - treated myself to a double whisky and ginger, followed by a brief, usually to be avoided, TV viewing of the jewellery channel, I now feel sufficiently emboldened to admit to one of my greater obsessions.

Yes, I do know, it paints a less than pretty picture of who and what I am, but we are all, yes, even you, made up of many component parts.

From the earliest days of my impoverished youth I have loved precious stones, and had anyone been unwise enough to ask me in those days what my wish/dream was, the answer would have been to own a fabulous emerald.

Nothing could have been further from my lifestyle but the secret obsession was always with me.

My first engagement ring was ruby and diamond, very pretty, but  like the engagement, short-lived.

It was returned to my fiance with the refusal to go through with the marriage.

Enough of that!

All through the years of my civil service/opera singing life I studied Smith's" Gemstones" (the 'bible' of the trade) with the idea of one day perhaps working in Hatton Garden.

When, during rehearsals for whatever opera was in progress, the remainder of the chorus would be exchanging the latest gossip, I would have my nose glued to the largely incomprehensible pages of said book.

Further, when I was working in Greys Inn Road, I used to spend most lunch breaks looking in the windows of the fabulous jewellers of hatton garden, almost physically hungering for the more beautiful stones, and emeralds in particular, in their very exclusive displays.

When John and I married we hadn't a bean between us, so there was no engagement ring.  Frankly, I was never very materialistic anyway and didn't mind in the least.

Nowadays, I suppose I could, if I so wished, treat myself to a fairly small emerald, but my hands are the same age as I am, and look even older.  Additionally, I would have nowhere to wear such a thing, so too late.

But........Now and then.......just now and then, I allow myself the luxury of looking at that most beautiful of all precious stones, the Colombian emerald.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Cold Wind Doth Blow

The picture (stolen), is not a true reflection of today except in my head.

I woke several times in the night, as usual, and was unusually for me, feeling cold, but thought no more about it until 6.00 am.

Getting up I was aware that the house was chilly so whisked downstairs to check heating thermometer.

Suddenly realised that not only was it only about 58 degrees, but there was no sound from the boiler.

Head finally working realised the central heating was not working, so tried all the tricks I knew to encourage 'life' to no effect.

Hastily scrambled through messy files to find British Gas maintenance details, phoned them and was told the earliest they can get an engineer out to me is tomorrow (Friday).  They can't be certain whether it will be am or pm but will 'try' for am.

Deep joy!

Brought up in a house with no central heating, and having lived to the age of 35 without ever having a centrally heated home, I've always considered myself to be fairly tough.  Ha!

Really don't know whether it is thinning blood (age), or simply the result of having lived in a comfortably warm house for 31 years, but, whatever the reason, I am now a fully qualified wimp.

This made me reflect on the fact that many people (of all ages), never experience the luxury of a warm comfortable home, where pushing a button can, on most occasions, either increase or decrease the level of warmth.

There are so many things we, the privileged ones, have to be grateful for, so many things we take for granted, as our 'right'.  Yet for other less fortunate people, such things are totally beyond reach.

I will stop shivering and put on another woolly.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Party time in The Close again

The ominous storm clouds from my office window were photographed about two weeks ago.

Today it has been too dark to take pictures at all.

Typical!  Just when the close is looking festive with balloons and banners (shriveling in icy blast) in preparation for this evening's 'jolly'.

One of the neighbours, Mike is 50 today.  He is the husband of lovely Karen , parents to four children,
two cats and the dog Ziggy about whom I wrote a blog last year (Soggy Doggy Bloggy).

A huge crowd of  us, family and friends are going to an Indian Restaurant, then back to the close for fireworks and then the usual house or road party, wine and beer flowing freely, lots of noise, laughter and fun.

I suppose it really was too much to hope the mild weather could last, and of course it hasn't, but that will make very little difference as the evening progresses and we all disappear at intervals to add another layer until we all reach roasting point.

Starting the evening looking fairly glamorous, it is downhill all the way thereafter.

Must remember to go easy on the wine, so I can be suitably sober and proper for tomorrow morning, when for once, I will not be in the choir at St. M's, but attending a Baptism of a 14 year old with my Baptist neighbours.  As this will be the first time I've ever seen an adult Baptism complete with immersion I want to note every difference from Anglican Baptism.

Altogether a really different weekend.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Transient Glory

Yesterday to my astonishment I discovered that Perpetua of "Perpetually in Transit", had nominated me with four others for the Versatile Blogger Award.

In all humility, I really cannot imagine why but her post explains how it works.

Apparently there is a requirement that you list five quirky facts about yourself and then proceed to nominate your own five potential winners.

Not an easy  thing to do, because the minute you try to name five facts about yourself you instantly become the least interesting person on the planet, and supremely self-conscious too.

Nevertheless, for what it's worth, here are my five:

1  I am probably the only person in Britain who has never ordered a take-away of any description.

2  I have enormous respect for people who have 'done things'with their lives, but do not number them among  
    my friends.

3  I have nothing but contempt for those who exploit other people for financial or personal gain, but also
    secretly despise those who allow themselves to be so treated.

4  I laugh like a drain at QI  but sit stony-faced through virtually all stand up comedy.

5  I  have a 'thing' about eyes, and firmly believe they say far more than words if you learn how to read them.

There are a huge number of blogs I read regularly, not all of which I would nominate  for a number of reasons, but, after some thought this is my list:

"The Filey Gardener"  Full of everyday wisdom without being cloyingly homespun

"One Cannot have too large a Party"  An American perspective on life through the eyes of a warm and loving Episcopalien  Minister.

"Trying to be me"  Reflections on the need to try to stay up-beat and positive while gallantly swimming against the tide of a problem filled life,

"Vic the Vicar"  A varied and usually good -humoured account of life as a clergyman in a busy parish.

"The Vernacular Curate/Vicar"  Can't remember what he calls himself now.  A bursting with life day-to-day struggle  by one, slightly barmy clergyman, his problems, successes, occasional battles seen with often piercingly clear insight.

I could add  at least another five, but rules is rules.

Read and enjoy.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

What will I be when I grow up?

For those of you with extra good sight (and plenty of imagination) the picture on the left is a very poor photograph of the rainy sky over the 'other' side of the close, complete with a broken rainbow.

Once again it has little to do with this post - but I did warn you - and indeed feel uniquely  entitled to be as contrary as I choose since I have now written 200 posts.  Loud fanfare!!! Ok  quiet cheer, oh alright then.

I've just accidentally watched the tail-end of the Alan Titchmarsh show.  I know, serves me right, but it finished with a very pretty young girl singing a newly released recording of the "Downton Abbey" theme which has now been given a lyric of sorts, to go  with its rather haunting melody.

The girl who sang it is called Mary Jesse, probably wrongly spelt
and has a very unusual thin high voice, for me, reminiscent of the young Sarah Brightman.

This lead me to wondering where she might end up, how well she might do, how famous she might become and whether she is 'built to last'

Few of us I think have any real idea of where our lives will take us, though of course we all dream.

Some just wish, others work for a particular goal and many, I'd say most, just drift.

On Monday I had a singing lesson with my excellent teacher, theoretically just to keep the voice 'up to scratch' rather than 'screech', but actually because i have never quite given up the dream of a new singing career as a contralto.

This could be just a part of the 'Peter Pan' approach of one who despite advancing years, has never really embraced the idea of being an adult, a kind of arrested adolescence, or perhaps an unwillingness to admit that there really is no longer any hope.

Being told one is young for one's age, is not necessarily a compliment, because while growing up is inevitable, being grown up, is quite another thing and means we have to take responsibility for our own lives.

Whatever my own level of maturity or immaturity might be, as I sang Schubert's Du bist die rue I wondered just fleetingly, where I might perform it and the other two pieces I'm currently working on, Elgar's "Where corals lie" and Tchaikovsky's "None but the lonely heart".

Please, don't wake me up.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Cats Tails (1V) - Footsie

This is a skewed as usual, scan of our late lovely Footsie.

This is the second attempt I've made to write this post but as with my previous one it vanished half way through.

I hate it when this happens because 2nd attempts lose the spontenaity of the original effort.

However, the story, for the second time goes like this:

Walking back from the pillar box one morning a few years ago, I spotted on a doorstep an unfamiliar little black and white cat which was miaowing very loudly.

Half amused, and half concerned I continued on my way.

A few days later, walking the same route I once again saw the cat on the same doorstep, door firmly closed and seeing this time how very thin the cat was, walked up to the door and rang the bell.

Having tried several times with no success, I went to the house next door and rang their bell.

The woman who opened the door explained that the cat was a stray which had appeared a few days earlier and had obviously headed for a house with resident cats in hope of being fed. Her neighbour had fed the little soul but could not take it in as her two cats were very aggressive towards it.

By now the little bony creature was winding itself round my legs and I was able to see that it had and old collar which was dangling on its bony shoulders like a mayoral chain, with the empty end of an identity cylinder attached.

Since it was a screw-in container the useful bit had clearly been removed so that the owner could not be identified.

Thoroughly concerned by now, I headed back home to tell John about it and to my surprise the cat came too.
He simply trotted behind me right up to the front door which John opened.  When he spotted my companion he groaned "oh no, not again", followed quickly by "he's very thin isn't he?".

The rest, as they say, is history.

Footsie lived with us for nearly 11 years, during which John grew to love him so much that every time we took him to the vet, and there were dozens, he used to lift him out of the cat-carrier and cuddle him while we waited to be seen.

He was never well, had numerous operations, dozens of treatments, but in the interim was always a most loving and sweet-natured little creature.

I had wanted to call him fingers, he had tiny white mittens on his 'hands' and big white boots on his 'feet', but John wouldn't let me.  He said it made him sound like a Mafia hood and insisted on his feet being the focus of his name.  So Footsie, he was.

Among his less agreeable habits was his hobby of single-handedly (I use the word advisedly) demolishing first a beautiful three-seater sofa, then the superbly comfortable chair which matched it, before turning his attentions to the two-seater sofa, companion to the other two items.

Thoroughly fed up by now, I cut from the arm-protectors of the big sofa, a piece of carefully matched material which I then fabric-glued to cover the first attempts by the furry terrorist to ruin this survivor of his attacks.

I watched him sneak up to the sofa sniff, back off, sniff again, then "bingo", he departed tail like a ram-rod, disgust in every muscle and he never went near it again.

These days it wears a tailored loose cover, which i wish I'd thought of in time to save the other two victims of our demolition expert.

This was nothing, however, weighed against the years of pleasure he gave us.

When his increasing ill-health became too much for him to cope with and he was visibly struggling we had to make the horrible decision and with Robin our lovely vet said our last goodbyes to him, leaving the surgery just about able to stand up and vowing that 'never again' would we give our hearts so completely to another needy heartbreaker.

Since this was only a short while before John's final illness,  I have never yet found the courage to take on another creature in need of love and care, but there is still time.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Irritation and Patience (2nd attempt)

Sitting this morning doing some necessary sewing and not therefore in the best of moods, I found my patience becoming more frayed by the minute listening to the hysterical yapping of the animated dish-mop which thinks it's a dog in the garden of a house at the back of mine.

My irritation grew to the point of implosion and as I opened the back door ready to turn the hose on the offending hairy mouse I saw that it was doing its tiny best to warn anybody/somebody that there was an intruder about.

That the intruder in question was a window cleaner at the top of a ladder some three doors down made not one iota of difference to the minute would-be gladiator which was by now virtually screaming.

This finally reached the ears of his owner who opened the door and yelled at him in her native Hungarian to shut up.  He did, and all was silent again.

Although this was a reasonable response to a perceived threat the noise had got to me, and combined with my underlying exasperation at the none-appearance of my repair man (tumble-dryer) who had promised to come late morning or very early afternoon and who has still not shown at 3.45 pm, is sufficient to warrant irritation on the Richter scale of about 9.

I always understood that as one grew older ones levels of patience increased, while the ease with which we are irritated decreases at the same rate.

So far this has not proved to be the case with me.  Never one of my virtues (if indeed I have any), patience appears to be a 'bridge too far', while the causes of irritation, annoyance and sheer bad temper seem to be on the increase day by day.

Has anyone a magic cure?

Oh, and by the way, the repair man is still nowhere to be seen.


Disappearing posts

I have just spent half an hour writing what I thought was a reasonably good post only for it to vanish as i pressed the publish button.
This has happened previously to comments I've tried to make on other people's blogs but I have never lost a whole post before.
Has anyone else experience of the blog thief?  and if so, how do I prevent more of my magnum opus from becoming a magnum 'opeless'?

Irritation and Patience

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

My second greatest addiction - Holby City.

Have just watched another excellent story from the 1st rate "Holby City".

As ever, there were two or three separate stories running concurrently, one being the dilemma of two brothers, illegal immigrants, one of whom had suffered a serious stab wound.

The second story was of a nun who had lived in an enclosed order for 40 years and her decision to re-enter the world outside the convent.

In the background there was the ongoing fight for the survival of the hospital's Trust Foundation status with the business 'jackals' sharpening their teeth while the enigmatic but of course, noble, Henrik Hansen, on the side of the angels, strives to protect 'his' hospital.

Each of the stories was well developed and the characters totally believable.

This is highly addictive stuff and has the merit of always keeping at least one foot on the ground, so that some sympathy can be afforded even the least likeable characters while the others are slowly acquiring cult status.

The love and/or sexual tensions which thread their way through the series are always realistic and believable and if i sound like the number one fan/addict of this series, that's because I am.

Sometimes it  is good to just put ones feet up and enjoy some really good TV.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Things are not always what they seem

I spent some time yesterday in a hospital waiting room awaiting a scan and passed the time, as I often do, in people watching.

There were all the usual suspects, those who were clearly ill and in pain.  Those who were fearful of results. Those who were there to accompany patients, including one small boy of around four years of age.

He was quiet and subdued, pale and thin, and on his upper arms were great black bruises.

Familiar scenario to those of us addicted to Casualty and Holby City.  Though not necessarily a good guide to the child's problems.

Watching with interest to see who would call him in to be seen, I was surprised to hear "Mrs X, we're ready for you now".  Whereupon a small even paler woman in a wheelchair turned to the child and said "xxxx bring my handbag love" and wheeled herself, closely followed by the boy into the consulting room.

Later, she was wheeled on a trolley into the room for her scan and her little boy chatting away to the nurses with them followed carrying her bag.

Now none of this proves anything, merely that it is easy to misread a situation at a casual glance.

It reminded me quite suddenly of an occasion some seven or eight years ago.

I was, as usual, running down the stairs at home when for some reason I lost my footing, pitched forward and fell down the remaining two or three stairs.  I fell forward hitting my face on the front door and collapsed in a heap in the hallway.

John, who had been watching TV ran out to scrape me up, whereupon I fainted.

When i came round, he had opened the front door and was getting the car out of the garage, deeming it quicker to take me than to call an ambulance as our local hospital is only about three miles away.

I was shaky and my head and face hurt but otherwise alright.

On being taken into A & E we got a rather strange reception, I was heaped onto a trolley and put in a side room while John was taken to one side and questioned closely about the accident.

An ECG, blood-pressure, temperature taken, and face photographed age later, we were reunited and as the nurse in the room began to bathe the forehead which by now hurt like h... we realised that they had jumped to the conclusion that I was a 'battered wife'.

Once they grasped that John was the gentlest of men and wouldn't hurt a flea, let alone me, they suddenly became overwhelmingly sympathetic, brought us tea and made all manner of soothing noises.

When I saw my face in the mirror at home I realised that the huge, ostrich egg sized lump, my black eyes and bruised arms had perhaps had something to do with their hostile reaction, but it made me think just how easy it is to make a mountain out of a molehill and completely misinterpret what we are apparently seeing.

A lesson there I think.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Things that go Squish

The picture of the one and only bloom my Romneya produced this year is unrelated to this post, except that it is pretty and a refuge from some of the less attractive inhabitants of my tiny, desperately overcrowded garden.

Lured out (rather too easily) from a housework day, by the warm sunshine, I have spent quite a bit of time and energy this morning trying to reduce the number of weeds in my jungle.

I know how much I've done, but I rather doubt anyone else would notice and I was just stepping back onto paving from the tangled flower bed when I felt/heard that most ominous of sounds, a crack followed by a squish,

Ugh!  I have just stepped on a snail!  Horror, disgust, pity, guilt, what a mixture of emotions.

For some inexplicable reason snails and their second cousins, slugs, turn my stomach to such a degree that I will avoid an area where I know they are to be found for days, weeks even.

A gardener friend picks them up and puts them in a heap then stamps on them with his gardening boots.
Nothing on earth would persuade me to follow his example.  First of all, they have  a right to live (i think), even though they are disgusting.  Secondly killing anything fills me with guilt, and thirdly, I have no big gardening boots and even if I did have, would never be able to stamp on them.

Actually I fear there may be far worse things lurking in the terribly overgrown wilderness that was once a well-kept garden, such as mice or even rats.

Although it is almost certain we will have very few more such lovely warm days this year I just can't face going out there again today.

Does this put me in line for wimp of the year, or am I one of many?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Burning the Midnight Oil

The lovely Spock has nothing whatever to do with this post (no change there then), but I have the picture in my file and as it is about 1.30 am and I can't sleep, I felt like a quick peep at his beautiful ears.

Well you know how weird I am by now!

Sometimes insomnia can have its benefits.

The wind is currently rattling the blind on the one and only open window - soon have to shut that one too - and the noise is reminiscent of scurrying feet.

Odd how strange ordinary sounds become in the wee small hours.

Just an averagely boring day despite a good service this morning - no, I mean yesterday morning - the rector having returned from retreat in fine form and a goodly number of children for him to 'play' with.

I made a brief foray into the gale-swept garden and fought briefly with an unfriendly rose bush.  Too windy to stay out for long so gave up, as is my wont.  Sorted  my linen cupboard for want of something better to do and discovered I have an enormous collection of old but still good bed-linen to dispose of.  Now I have no excuse I'll have to find an organisation which needs or can use it.  Wish I hadn't started.

Next sorted glassware cupboard.  Have enough glass to stock a small shop.  One of the problems of being a magpie.

Settled to watch Downton this evening, thoroughly enjoyed it but felt wide awake instead of ready for bed. Ominous sign and sure enough followed by midnight perambulations.

It's times like this I wish I lived in a really huge house, at least there'd be somewhere to walk round.

Thirty years ago I'd have dressed and gone for  a walk.  Wouldn't even consider it these days.

I might have to think seriously about taking on another moggy since they are naturally nocturnal, perhaps  we could be bored and wide awake all night together.  The only problem is he or she could make up for lack of sleep by day, while I have to live what passes for a life these days.

No, not a mog then.  Perhaps I could move in with a colony of bats.  One more would scarcely be noticed.

Normally I don't read my posts, I finish them, press publish and away they go, warts and all, but reading this for a change it reads as though I've finally lost the plot.  Or as though I'm 'on' something.  Perhaps that's the answer to insomnia, not sleeping pills but something like wacky baccy?

I know that when it's time to get up (if I were not already up), my baggy eyes will be ready to close and the dawn will feel distinctly unwelcome but that wouldn't really matter if my brain would operate efficiently.
Unfortunately as my day begins my one remaining 'little grey cell' shuts down and reasoning and logic become Olympian feats while a sense of humour is a totally foreign concept.

If anyone has any suggestions  which might help I'd gladly consider them.  Decent ones only please.

Friday, 7 October 2011

There's Nowt so Queer as Folk

Since my spider phobia is now (to the point of screaming boredom) well documented, I feel it is time to admit - after all it is Friday - to another curious phobia/foible.

I have a fear of heights.  I know, so what?  Not just that simple though.
This fear, quite common in its can't climb anything and look down form, is accompanied by an equally overwhelming fear of high buildings.

This is really very weird and has been a part of my life since childhood.  Since which time I've tried many times to rationalise and overcome what I  assume is part of the same phobia.

The last serious attempt to break the mould was when I persuaded John to take me up the Dome of St Paul's Cathedral to the 'whispering gallery'.  Drastic, but I thought probably as good a way as any to kill it off once and for all.

John, who was not all that keen on enclosed spaces, agreed reluctantly to tackle the spiral stairs with its several billion steps, I following closely behind him and hanging on to his jacket.  This apart from being pretty exhausting - we were then in our early sixties - was ok up to the point where the steps  narrowed and we were able to look down as well as up.

My heart started to hammer, I was cold and clammy and felt as though I might die.

John seeing the state I was in  said, "we're almost at the top, only a few more steps".

I couldn't answer and as we reached the last step, gasped "you go out there, I'll wait here for you to come and get me", and clung to the wall, back pressed against it and eyes tight shut.

A minute or two later, it seemed like hours, back he came, grabbed me firmly and we began the descent.

It was infinitely worse going down than the ascent and when we reached the bottom my legs gave way and I sat on the floor and cried.

John nearly died of embarrassment and declared there and then that this was the last time I was ever to attempt to beat this fear.

That however, is only one facet of this malady, the other, being the fear, absolute horror of tall buildings.

We spent a lot of our time in the Netherlands on short holidays over a period of years, and the last one we ever did was to Utrecht, which has the tallest Cathedral tower in the country.

There was a song recital we wanted to attend on one of the days and we duly arrived about 10 minutes before it began.

I cannot even begin to describe the affect the sight of this immense dark tower had on me, and in the end the only way we could get into the building in time was for me to hold on to John shut my eyes and let him lead me in.

When we left after the concert he wanted to photograph the building so I just turned my back and waited until he could once again collect me.  I didn't look back until we were about a quarter of a mile away when it had retreated to a more 'normal' size.

Yes, I do know I'm weird.  What's your excuse?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Elephant in the Room

A post I read today by Jonathan Hagger resonated strongly with me in that it dealt with "turning the other cheek".

This is a difficult concept for many of us to come to grips with, since it demands what feels like a totally unnatural response from an incensed and aggrieved individual to the perpetrator of an injustice perceived or real.

In the church community to which I am happy to belong there is an individual whose prime objective in life appears to be upsetting and causing offence to as many people as possible in any one day.

The first time I was the object of such an attack, my response was swift and unthinking.  Angry and unaware of having said anything in any way provocative, I fired back on all cylinders giving as good as I had got.

After the "fiery angel" had departed slamming the door almost off its hinges, there was a brief silence, then, to my amazement a howl of laughter from the two other people in the room.

"Oh dear", said one of them, "you will know better next time".

Understandably annoyed, I asked what on earth they meant, and further, what had I done to deserve it.
Nothing at all they said - almost in unison - you were just in the line of fire and when this particular person is on a 'mission' the only sensible response is none at all.

After witnessing the same treatment being meted out to other unfortunates, who were perceived as easy targets I began slowly to see a pattern emerging, and over quite a long period of time, have learned to accept that this particular individual has no idea of the hurt, anger embarrassment and sheer unpleasantness they create and that the only possible response is indeed silence.

It is not easy when a particularly sharp stone is hurled at  you, on a vulnerable day to maintain an air of total indifference, but it does work, and over a period of time can become your response to all attacks/slights and  has also the great merit of leaving you with the moral high ground.

It is with a bit of hard work, possible to see that the problem lies not with the victim, but with the attacker.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Blissful Oblivion

Lucky you.  You are gradually getting to see every picture of a sunset I've ever taken from my bedroom window.

This latest in the original, had the most amazing mix of beautiful colours, but, unfortunately they have not down-loaded well.

Well, that's my story anyway.

Today it has been almost too hot to breath.  Not my favourite weather by any stretch of the imagination, but I did what housework I had to do early, very early, before it was light.

The dawn chorus means nothing to me, the birds get up so late around here.  Putting out food before they've opened their beaks goes largely unappreciated.

At around 9.30 judging it to be late enough not to waken my weekend snoozing neighbours, I was out chopping bits off my front garden shrubs,  All very unscientific, but necessary in order to see out of my front windows.

After a brief chat with one of the neighbours who informed me it was "a glorious day" I retreated to the comparative coolness of the garage where I had intended to start throwing out some of the accumulated junk of 20 years, only to find large numbers of arachnids lurking in every corner.

Beating a hasty retreat into the already too warm house, I opened every window, upstairs and downstairs,
swigged about a pint of cold water, kicked off my shoes and sprawled on the bed.

The post crashing through the letter-box woke me from my anaesthesia with a jump and I looked incredulously at the clock - one fifteen - am or pm I wasn't sure for a minute.

By my reckoning that was about two and a half hours of total oblivion.  Pure bliss.

If only it were as easy to sleep at night.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


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?