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.