Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Inconvenience of being single

Last night desperately in need of sleep, (I'd had virtually none the previous night), I was disturbed every few minutes by the loud bleep of my downstairs smoke alarm.

The last time this happened (the landing one this time), one of my neighbours - the one who does my decorating - was prevailed upon to come and 'deal' with it.

He is tall and used to electric work, replacing wiring etc but, it took him about 10 minutes to work out how to open the cover, and several attempts before he could detach and replace the dead battery.

I do not subscribe to the gender job specification which was the accepted norm when I grew up, but my late husband was 6 foot 4 inches tall and happy with all things electric so he had merely to reach up a hand to the ceiling and could easily 'fix' whatever was wrong in seconds.  I, on the other hand, as may have been mentioned before, am technically inept and additionally, unable to cope with heights - so no ladders - and was happy to leave him to it.

He had a phenomenal memory for places, even towns we had visited only once and since after a drive of maybe two hours or so, the only thought in my mind was, "where's the loo?", he had also acquired a near-photographic memory for the exact location of said convenience wherever we were and could drive to within a yard or so unerringly.

He would happily sit at his desk for hours while I worked in the garden and it was only when I needed his extra strength to dig out a root, or saw through a branch that I needed to call on him.

I do not drive, he did.  I cannot sit and read an instruction manual for TV or similar devices and make sense of it, he could.

There are a million small daily practical jobs for which I have no natural aptitude, but have had to acquire some.

This morning, I dragged out the two-step ladder and leaning against the hall/sitting room door frame, contrived to reach up undo the cover, remove the old battery and replace it in......less than a minute!

One gigantic step for woman.    Well, this woman anyway.;

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Gather ye rosebuds.........

Reading the comments on my latest post, I was amazed and delighted to find among them a nomination for the Liebster Blog from Pixie Mum @  Pixie is an interesting and varied blogger who has something to say about a variety of things.  Something for everyone I would say.  Thanks a million for nominating me Pixie.

This, much to my surprise, is the 2nd nomination I have received in the past few months.  The first was on 4th November last year and was for the Versatile Blogger award.

Both of these awards require that the nominee 1st recognises and thanks the nominator and then goes on to recommend his/her own top five favourites.

This I did in November in a post headed Transient Glory, so this time I have to find a different five (not easy, since there are so many really good blogs to choose from) and my list is as follows: 

"Perpetually in Transit"    A fascinating glimpse into the life of a much-travelled and lively retired minister. 

Tregear Vean @   The daily events, some sad, some curious, some happy in the whirlwind world of a priest in Cornwall. 

The Ugley Vicar - John Richardson @    The very erudite and informative writing of a very experienced  priest of the evangelican persuasion.  I often do not agree with his views, but could never argue with his logic.  

""  The very different and totally fascinating blog of a well-established icon artist, Constantina Wood.  Apart from her wonderfully spiritual writing, her illustrations  are quite stunning.  

"Tootallburd" Jenni  @  is my last nomination.  She is the wife of a minister in Scotland, has had a very busy life, as a nurse and a mother of a large family, and is wise, witty and always worth a read.

These five and my original five are but the tip of an iceberg well worth investigating, and I commend them all to you.


Friday, 20 January 2012


Anyone who has been reading this blog (and I bless you for your forbearance), for any of the 18 months it has been in existance, will by now  be aware that among other peculiarities, I am a fully paid-up member of ARIG.  (Age-related-increasing-grumpiness.)

Among my favourite hobby horses is TV advertising - yes that again !

Those of you of a delicate constitution, or who are easily shocked or offended had better stop reading here.

In the last hour my eyes and ears have been assaulted by, first of all, a well-known comic actor of stunted growth, who is apparently advertising a food home delivery service, whose name he pronounces as "Woocher",

Now as I've previously mentioned ad's fail with me since I never remember the name of the product, but in this case, were it not written for all to see, i would be completely unable to recognise the verbally mangled version offered up by this diminutive but immensely irritating man.

Next is the unintentionally ambiguous nature of another add, this time for a skin-care product which declares "Every time you shave you can seriously damage your underarms"


Doesn't it rather depend on what or where you are shaving?

I've already had my rant about the glaring-eyed, greasy haired, loud "Yer buy one, yer get one free" fellow, so let's off-set these with my current favourite. No, really, there are at least 3 ad's I actually like.

This one has the superb meerkats in a new situation.

Lovely old Sergei obviously thinks he is about to be retired.  His sorrowful dark eyes and trembling little furry chin speak volumes, only to be transformed to ecstatic paw/hand clapping as he realises he is being given a new computer to save his waning energies.

The appeal of these cleverly devised little creatures goes way beyond most advertising techniques and your heart would have to be very hard not to find a soft spot for them.

Nevertheless, I still am not sure what they are advertising.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sight and Sound

Reading a post on the part that music plays in his life, by The Vernacular Vicar rang many bells with me today.

For many years (until I was in my 30's, I ate drank slept and breathed music.  To such an extent that it almost excluded everything else.

Had anyone at that time said "you are going deaf, and soon will never hear music again", I'd have wanted to die.

My mother, who also loved music, was just as passionate about books.  She read voraciously, anything which could be termed literature, and was never without a book in one hand, whatever the other might be doing.

In her late seventies her sight began to fail.  As she did with most personal ailments, she ignored it as long as she could and by the time we (the family), and everyone else who knew, had prevailed upon her to see a specialist it was too late.

Gradually her sight became poorer and poorer, at first needing stronger and stronger spectacles, then using a magnifying glass and any other aid available, and finally declared officially 'blind', she never stopped trying to read.

My father devised endless exercises for her during this time, making postcard-size letters black on white background and getting her to read them, until eventually even that became an impossibility.

She had for many years, some peripheral vision, odd, unreliable and prone to materialising at quite unexpected times.  "Oh, she would say, "that's a lovely colour, it always did suit you", and we would look at each other amazed.  That, however, finally vanished too and she was left able only to distinguish shapes and light and dark.

My late sister-in law introduced her to the world of "talking books", and at first reluctant and inept with the fiddly mechanism, she suddenly took to them like a duck to water and was never without a 'book'.

As her hearing began to fade too, the older she became, she started to use hearing aids, of increasing strength much as she had with her 'spec's'.

She was a small frail but unbelievably courageous woman, who never allowed anything to defeat her.  Neither arthritis, leaking heart valve (pace-maker assisted), broken hip (pinned ate the age of 102,) right to the end of her life a year later.

When my father died five years before she did, she went to live, first with one, then with another of my brothers and it was only then, that after almost 70 years of marriage, she finally lost some of her enthusiasm for life.

Never a noisy or boisterous character, nor overtly joyous, she nevertheless, had a quiet tranquil and contented nature in even the most trying and distressing times.

I inherited the love of music and literature from both parents, but sadly, nothing of my mother's accepting and stoic attitude to life.

The photograph of her above, was taken a few days after my father's death, when she retreated  into her "talking books" as a means of escaping the huge change in her life.

Sight and hearing are so very precious and those of us lucky enough to have them should guard them like the jewels they are.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Scaredy Cat

One evening during the week I found myself reacting in a rather out-of-character way to a ring at the doorbell.

It was not late, perhaps 7.30 or so, but it was dark and in general people do not call on me unannounced.  So I put the chain on the door and opened it about 6 inches.

A young man carrying Sky ID stood there and started to explain why I should sign up to his company for phone, TV, and broadband.

I told him I was happy as I was and had no interest in changing and additionally, that I do not like cold -calling and prefer to talk to people in daylight.

He persuaded me that he was not trying to pressure me in any way, but said hew could offer me a better deal than I have with my current supplier.  I asked h imm to come back the next afternoon, and he agreed to do so.

Just as, in  a previous post I said I cannot be moved by TV ad's, so also, no-one can persuade me to buy anything I don't want, so I don't encourage salesmen.

When  he left, I locked the door and thought, "am I being super-cautious, or am  I afraid to open the door to someone after dark?"

On reflection I think a bit of both and only two days later, I read in the local paper of a man who opened his door to a caller one evening and was stabbed by two complete strangers.  This was only half a mile from me and I hadn't even read the paper the evening I got my visitor.

When I was a child I was as my family put it "scared of my own shadow", but as I grew up became less and less wary.  To the extent that, one evening after a late rehearsal in London, having missed the last train, I set out to walk home to Bromley, a distance of 10 miles!

Most of this walk was undertaken in the middle of the road, I didn't like the shadows at the sides, and I passed no-one for at least an hour and a half.

When I reached Catford, about 2 miles from home a police patrol car stopped and asked me if I was OK.
On being assured that I was and had (only) another two miles to walk, off they went!

I have to point out that this was in the late 1960's and even if I were capable of such a walk these days I wouldn't consider it for one second.

This is a very different world from the one I grew up in.

After John's death, any trace of nervousness at being in the house alone vanished.  I suppose I felt that the worst had already happened, and that nothing worse could befall me, however, recently I have found myself checking doors and windows in a way never previously thought necessary, and the chain on the door action was the end result of this change of habit.

Of course I'm not a complete idiot and would not take unnecessary risks but when does caution become fear and where should we draw the line?

I'd be interested to  know how other people feel, perhaps particularly those who live alone?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ageing - How we cope with the Inevitable

This faded photo, like the subject, has seen better days.  It was taken in the mid 60's, in the grounds of the Tower of London.

A rehearsal of Yeomen of the Guard, for the London Summer Festival was in progress, a few of us were bored with hanging around waiting for our cue and took photographs of each other.

I was singing in the chorus (on loan from New Opera Co) at the time, hated the costume (particularly the bonnet) and was generally fed up with the way I perceived my appearance.

My male counterpart did not agree and thought the picture would change my mind.  It didn't!

Looking back on it after all these years, I am amazed that I could have had such a poor opinion of myself.  Compared with the old crone who looks back at me from my unfortunate mirror these days, I was positively good-looking.

Appearances aside, because they unfortunately change beyond recognition as time passes, there are other aspects of advancing years which are infinitely more important.

Ist of all of these, in my opinion, is health.

So many people simply allow time to decrease their mobility, kill off their interest in living, and let their grey cells curl up and die.

Ill-health is not always something that can be avoided, but there is so much we can do to remain reasonably fit and well within our limitations that I thought I'd make a list of ways  to stay part of the 21st century rather than an onlooker. 

At the risk of being accused of being a Pollyanna they are:

1,  Do not over eat or drink - or if you must, do so only occasionally.

2.  Do not smoke, ever!

3.  Try to eat as much fresh food as possible, and reserve dry or packet or tinned foods for 'siege' occasions.

4.  Take some exercise every day of your life, even if it is only walking up and down stairs.

5.  Be interested in what is going on in your immediate surroundings, and  in the wider world, and perhaps most  of all, in people, especially those who are lively and interesting. 

6.  Try, however inhibited or shy or reluctant you may be, to join in some sort of social activity.

7.  Never neglect the spiritual side of your personality,  even the tiniest glimmer is worth fanning into a flame.

Last, but not least, trust God to support you if you find yourself flagging.

Needless to say, this  is only what I think is important, not necessarily how I live my life, but I am trying and hoping.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Rev and the Reverse Psychology Gherkin

A revered rev of my acquaintance very recently posted an impassioned treatise on the subject of the noble gherkin.

He described it at length in terms so derogatory as  to turn any undecided nibbler off the tasty little item for life.

He reckoned however, without the vast number of gherkin afficionados around his cyber table, who let it be known in no uncertain terms that, far from despising and rejecting the humble green peril, they rated them highly and in glowing terms.

So much did his unwarranted attack rile me that I instantly, well, almost instantly headed for my kitchen cupboards where I knew a very large jar was quietly lurking in a dark corner.  It was indeed very large, so much so that I couldn't open it (arthritis in my hands), until I found my trusty battery-operated jar opener and gave the treasured jar into its safe keeping.

Now even I would not claim that gherkins go with everything, but once opened, a large jar has to yield up its contents on every feasible occasion to prevent their 'going off'.'

Yesterday I had sliced gherkins with my smoked salmon on granary roll, and very nice it was too.  Today, I had egg and chips, green beans and gherkins and tomorrow I shall have a cheese and gherkin and tomato salad with granary for lunch.

If I could think of a way to add it to my breakfast cereal I would.  Or, perhaps not.

Even cats have been known to eat gherkins - see picture above.

When I eat a veggie-burger I always add as many slices of onion and gherkin as possible, (drained of course) and will happily send by return of post, a few slices to anyone asking for some.

Slice  of gherkin cake anyone?

Is it time to get up yet?

Yet another date with the sleep thief.

Today was busy.  Bed changing . washing, shopping, paper-work and this evening an excellent choir rehearsal, 1st of 2012.

We did almost two solid hours of hard work including our first look at the Agnus Dei from the Faure Requiem which will, hopefully, be sung at Easter.

For a change, I am singing with the 1st tenors, easy for me vocally, no stresses on any part of the voice, and I think we will sound good.

Got home at 9.00 pm watched the concluding part of "Public Enemies" followed by QI. then toddled off to bed feeling sure such a hefty schedule would result in equally heavy sleep.

Not a hope.  Too tired to sleep, my mother used to say.

Read for an hour, then went down and made some tea and switched on the TV.  Oh dear, if day-time choices are often pretty limited, nightime ones are infinitely more so.

Channel hopped for an hour or so,  turned out the under-stair cupboard and went back to bed even more tired than before.  Stared into the dark for a while and thought, I know, I'll just see if anyone is around the blogs.

Deserted.  All tucked up in their little nests like good little boys and girls.  What does that make me?

If it were June rather than January, it would be beginning to get light and I could creep around the garden with secateurs, but being confined to barracks restricts physical activity.

It's times like these that I wish I could play solitaire.

Suddenly remembered something one of my reader friends (Perpetua I think) had suggested a week or two ago, fished out one of the radios which proliferate in this house and not very hopefully, expecting flat batteries, switched on.

It was an interview with a footballer.!!!

Have now completely lost the will to live.  It's still only 3.55 am I can't get up yet.  Oh I am up already aren't I?

The only sound apart from the faint hiss of this lap-top is an owl - a tawny I think - hooting faintly as he hunts in the tree-lined railway at the end of the close.  Not even any traffic yet on the distant A41,  Too early.

Might have something more interesting to impart by the next time - a few sleeps away - I surface, but for now goodnight er morning er day.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Cross-dressing Eagles

This is a very poor photograph of Eddie the Eagle (aka The Budgie), who, for some reason best known to himself, has become a not very feminine version of Mother Goose, or perhaps, Jemima Puddleduck.

Fed up with his unadorned brassy glory he opted for the 'lacy' look.   The Rector has misgivings,  The rest of us hysterics.

Sadly his fetching little bonnet will have to be removed after 12th Night.

Am trying to think of something extra special to add to his/her wardrobe next year.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Down to the cardboard

Life is like a loo-roll.  We use it up, sheet by sheet, carefully, carelessly, parsimoniously, extravagantly but never with the thought that one day it will run out.

Each year as it begins, fills most of us with at least some expectations, hope, dreams, ideas, resolutions, and each year, as it ends finds some or sometimes none of those anticipations have come to fruition.

That is not to say that we have failed, or that life has failed us, merely that as time passes and events overtake dreams we lose sight of our earlier plans.

I had vowed never to make a New Year's Resolution again, at least, not publicly, but since I have exposed some of my more personal thoughts, reflections etc. in this blog many people have, in their comments brought about a change of perspective.

2011 saw more of my inner conflict opened up to public view than I had originally intended, while still I kept my most personal emotions for the privacy of my large - very large - diary.

This year I have abandoned the idea of keeping a written record and will try to give my daily angst a good shower and brush-up before exposing (some) of it to the readers of this blog.

This morning, still not well enough to venture out to church, I decided instead to get my on-paper life in some sort of order and have just finished shredding last year, so to speak.

Whether this will result in a more positive attitude remains to be seen, but at least I can no longer wallow in my private miseries and read and re-read them to reinforce their miserable message.  

Many of the people who read (and comment) on this blog have given good advice over the past 12 months, I hope to try to take some of it, and if I fail, will do so publicly.  A salutory thought!

To all of you, whether readers, or reader-commenters, a very Happy Healthy and Blessed 2012.