Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Feel-good Factor

As so often with my posts, this picture is unrelated, except in as much as I find it very appealing and it therefore makes me feel good.

A day when the weather was warm, sunny and spring-like but when I nevertheless was feeling under the weather and distinctly sorry for myself (a subject on which I will elaborate at a future date).

After a necessary shopping trip and a tiny, miniscule amount of easy garden tidying - not to be confused with real gardening - I flopped into a chair with a coffee and turned on the TV.

Having watched the whole of the 6 nations rugby between Wales and England (my side won,) and I then started picking out bits of paper-work that wouldn't wait.

More or less up to date again, I thought "what's on the box now"? and wonder of wonders, found one of my all-time favourites was just starting.  "Goodnight Mr Tom", is in my opinion, one of the best films ever made.
Yes I know it is impossibly sentimental in places and East Anglia - which I love - is made to look like a sort of
post-card Nirvana, but the story is gripping from start to finish, the acting superb and the wonderfully happy ending so uplifting that I am totally addicted.

Sometimes it really doesn't take much to turn a mood around, simplistic though it sounds there are so many ways to experience the feel-good factor.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Lack-lustre, Lethargy and Lent

Feeling distinctly lethargic this morning (officially my house-work day) I found myself in work-avoidance mode which lead to the whole 'cause and affect' thing.

Talking on the phone yesterday to one of my brothers he remarked that my recent blogs seem to have lost their humour.

Now while it is true I do attempt to inject a modicum of (slightly perverse) light heartedness into some of my posts, it is not always possible to be the Pagliacci of the blog world.

Mood, energy, sleep deprivation and a few million other unimportant little things all play their part in the "finished" article.

The older I get, the less settled into a pattern I become.  I know this is the reverse of what most ageing people appear to experience, but then, this is me, non-conformist to the end.

The day after my --th birthday last year, a well-meaning young volunteer in the church asked me "what did you get for your birthday?"

"Older", I replied.

"No, but seriously what did you get, not even cards, or flowers"?  she persisted.

"Oh yes I agreed, a few cards reminding me how much older I was becoming, and, since the one thing I cannot successfully grow is freesias, and since I am of the generation of women who flatly refuse to buy themselves flowers, that was that".

For her, a cause of consternation and amazement, for me just a further, unnecessary reminder of my solitary state.

Don't misunderstand me, this is not in any way a plea for the sympathy vote, simply a statement of the way things are for so many people who have lost spouses, partners or anyone to share their day-to-day lives.

One thing I am becoming more and more certain about is that being on one's own leads to reflections and soul-searching thoughts which would never have found a space in a more fulfilled life.

In my case, naturally lazy and always needing motivation to embark on anything (even house-work), any excuse will do to put off the need for action.

Last night's wonderful Ash Wednesday service at St. M's made me realise just how very fortunate I am in having so many choices still open to me, and further, thinking what I might take on this Lent, realise that while I will and have already given up chocolate, I could aim for something else more positive.

So, while writing this in order to avoid cleaning the house, I have decided that lethargy itself is to be put firmly aside (at least until Easter) and while I will still post my blogs I will not use them as a way of getting out of jobs which need to be done.

So the tone of the blog may change a bit (it's a fine line between pathos and bathos), but at the end of Lent I aim to be a fraction nearer to the person I'd like to be.

Include me in your prayers please, or wish me luck if you will.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

And then there was One

A few years ago (well, rather more than a  few, but time gallops as we grow older), my three brothers and I, all married and all with spouses (spice?). in various states of age and health, had little thought for the time when one or some of us might no longer be around.

Intimations of mortality abound and yet for some reason, we all assume we are immune from the inevitable, and seem to feel it will always be someone else's turn not ours.

True, every human being at some time or another will experience illness or accident severe enough to give us pause and yet there is still this assumption that we are exempt from the rule which affects the rest.

My middle brother lost his wife to cancer back in 1993 - one down, 7 to go.

For a long time after that we retained our 'immunity' and nothing seemed too threatening,  Then my husband died - two down, 6 to go.

That was two and a half years ago, and yesterday my eldest brother's wife died - three down, five to go.

Suddenly it seems we are losing our immunity, death's winged chariot and all that.

True my brother's wife had been far from well for a great number of years, but that too,becomes 'the norm' after a while, and somehow one loses sight of the usual end to a downward spiralling life.

While it is true to say we all expected this latest outcome it still has the power to stop you in your tracks and force you to reflect on the brutality of the end of life.

For those fortunate enough to have a strong faith there is always hope that this is not the end but just the journey taking a different route.  For me, still struggling with my faith, the jury is still out.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Monday, 20 February 2012

.....and the birds of the air........

There was a hard white frost this morning, and as I stood in the dark garden filling up the wells in the bird-table with seed I heard a cry in the silence.  This single sound was quickly answered by others and finally there was the heavy wing-beat of a huge invisible skein of geese as they flew overhead.

There is something magical about the sound of geese flying, the leader calling and a follower from the ranks replying, as they constantly re-align and reposition themselves in a perfect V.

I assume the leader checks that his 'troops' are in formation by the direction from which the answering cry comes.

For this huge convoy to pass in total darkness is beautiful but quite eerie and the oddness of the sound just goes to heighten the affect.

A bird lover all my life, it is only since I retired  that I have had time to really appreciate what a huge difference these fascinating creatures make to everyday life.  Since becoming involved with the British Trust for Ornithology Garden Birdwatch scheme I have paid ever closer attention to sound, colour, habits and all things birdy.

I posted about a visiting woodpecker a few weeks ago, have since had my usual winter contingent of reed buntings, and today, for the first time for many years a male blackcap.

My garden is small, but i feed the birds all year round, varying what I give them according to the season and prevailing weather conditions.  My reward is a hugely varied stream of feathered visitors and all it takes to gather these riches is a glance through my back door a dozen or so times a day.

Recording these visits takes only a second (I have drawn up a daily record sheet which lives on a kitchen work-surface) and I keep binoculars handy at all times.

This information is recorded weekly, then returned quarterly to BTO headquarters and thus a reliable count is kept by all the countrywide participants.

Since the lovely geese were unseen and merely doing a fly-past, not a pit-stop they will go unrecorded except here.

There are so many lovely creatures in our world, it's a pity they get less attention than the not so lovely ones.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

tThanks a Million Penny

tThis is a very brief but heartfelt thank you to Penny who told me how to access my keyboard.
obviously it will take me some time to discover how to use the remainder but this here is proof that I do absOrb some information. I will not be using this IPad to write my blog, it takes too long and the print is too small, but it is lovely to be able to do it should I wish.

I don't appear able to download or access my pictures, but that's probably just me.

Crawling. soon be walking.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Throwing in the towel

Yesterday, amid the much detested chores of bed-changing, washing etc. I found myself wishing I had been born into the IT era.  Not least because I have a (quite expensive) lap-top whose many uses I have barely touched on, but also, because my Ipad has sat in its box for 2 months unexamined.

At that very moment th ere was a ring at the doorbell and my neighbour's lovely teenage daughter stood there.  "Mum says she has been reading your blogs and would you like me to show you how to use your Ipad?"  

Would I?  After nearly snatching her arm off we trooped off upstairs to the 'office'.  An hour later, dazed and supremely grateful I thanked her profusely (she, being the wonderful girl she is, had refused to accept any payment) and waved her goodbye.

Wow, I thought, now I can really begin to get to grips with this technology thing.  Not today of course, too much housework to do.

This morning I sat down and switched the magic machine on, tapped in my blog (Nicole had set it up for me) and found it would not accept me without my putting in my password.  Duh!  Could not remember how to call up the keyboard so, after half a dozen attempts, gave up and returned to the lap-top.  At least the keyboard is no problem with that.

This is not a light-hearted post, I don't think it's funny, just very very sad.

If it were not for the fact that so many people think I'm brighter than I am I would give up now, but of course that is not an option.

Why oh why can I not get even the basics to 'stick'?

Is the entire population cleverer than me?

It seems that these days I am a one step per lesson person.  At this rate I'll be 200 years old by the time I'm reasonably competent. 

Do they do brain transplants yet? 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


That made you look didn't it?

No, not that kind of whiplash.

According to an item in this evening's TV news, Britain is the whiplash centre of the world.  We have apparently cornered the market in insurance claims for whiplash injuries - many of them spurious.

We, the tax-payers are, according to this news item, paying through the nose in order that claims for 'fake' neck injuries may be compensated for generously.

It was said that proving the claims are fake is almost impossible and that companies are paying out massive sums on a huge scale.

Now  it just so happens that I actually had a real, genuine, not made-up whiplash injury back in 1972.

It was Christmas Eve, John and I had each left our respective offices at mid-day, work finished until after the Christmas break and were driving back home to our flat in Putney.  The traffic was very heavy and progress very slow, stop start type of thing.

We were almost home when once again the traffic came to a stop, nothing was moving ahead so we put our brakes on waited.  As we stopped, there was an almighty bang behind us, we were pushed forward into a mini in front, my head hit the windscreen by which time, John was already out of the car and running onto a garage forecourt on our left, yelling at me to "get his number".

Dazed and not too sure what was going on I realised that the car which had hit us was revving wildly and as I slowly realized that the mini driver was getting out and coming towards me, the rogue vehicle shot round us and hared off as the road had now cleared.

The mini driver only then realised that we had been pushed into his car and that we had no choice in the matter.

Luckily a woman with a couple of teenagers in tow, came over to me and said "I got his number" and "if you need me I will talk to the police."

The short version is that he was caught by the police on Putney Bridge where he had broken down, his radiator was leaking.

We gave our statements and so did the witness and the mini driver, and eventually the man was convicted of drink-driving, failing to stop after an accident etc etc.

He was jailed, lost his licence and I would imagine, his job too.  (it turned out, he was a vehicle examiner for London Transport and was about four times over the limit, having just come from a party.

Our car - company car - was a write-off, John was angry but unhurt and I wore a collar for about 3 weeks then forgot about it except for whenever I was in a draught getting neck ache for years after.

Oh yes,and it ruined our Christmas.  We had been taking my brother and his wife up to my parents in East Anglia to spend Christmas, instead of which my father had to come down to us and collect all four of us, crammed into his not-very-big Ford, and drive the round trip, late on Christmas Eve.

That was forty years ago, and it would never have occurred to me to make a claim, though I still get a stiff neck when exposed to draughts.

Different days, different ways.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Finding my feet

Today is exactly  two and a half years since John's death and on a freezing, still only minus 4 degrees at 11,00 am, morning, it set me wondering what differences there may be on this Saturday from those that went before.

For one thing, the day being so cold would have elicited one and only one response from John, had I had the temerity to suggest we might actually go out and do something.

"Whatever for" he would have growled, "it's freezing, why go out if you don't have to?"

He was happy to sit at his computer, read, or watch TV (am or pm made no difference) and could and did go for hours without making a sound.

This was possibly the biggest difference in our natures.  His, taciturn and reactive, mine, volatile and pro-active.  Sometimes the cause of conflict but always an illustration of our uniqueness.

When we had somewhere to go, the boot was on the other foot,  John was all feverish activity, busy organisation and impatient "get a move on woman, we'll be late".  While I would simply quietly get ready and wait for the dust to settle, unmoved by the storm being created around me.

My mother used to say that we, (he and I), were chalk and cheese - never did find out which was which - and used to wonder, sometimes aloud, how we made our marriage work.

Well, the answer to that was in the question, we did 'make' it work.  This inevitably called for considerable compromise on both parts, and often left one or the other, sometimes both of us on the wrong foot.

John was I am now sure, often shaken out of his peaceful unadventurous lifestyle choices, and I was often left feeling bored and flat and disgruntled by his failure to respond to my wilder flights of fancy, but on the best of days, we could both laugh at our very individual and separate attitudes and happily settle for a middle course.

Since his death my whole existence has suffered a 'sea-change', and slowly little by little, the old Ray has begun to emerge from the fog of bereavement, loneliness and change.

Late, very late, in the day, distant aims and ambitions are beginning to re-emerge, old interests slowly climbing out of their boxes and a very different person from that of the past 40 years is starting to show signs of life.

That is not to say that the past 4 decades have been wasted, simply that what I have learned in that time can now be added to my pre-marriage experiences and the combined collection of trial and error, successes and failures, happiness and misery turned to good use (I hope).

When John died I believed that was the end for me too.  I didn't think there was any possibility of any kind of satisfactory life left for me.

It was quite a surprise to discover that religion, which I had thought to be closed to me for ever, was a new and wonderful path to investigate, and that music which I had also thought beyond all hope of resurrection in any active sense, was also still available.

Of course there are far more things of which I have no experience  than the few I have mastered, but that too is a challenge and is full of possibilities for exploration.

The blog has been, and is still, something I really enjoy and which I regard as a form of therapy, though my IT skills are still in their infancy (and of course, I have yet to even begin to use my Ipad), but it has opened up a whole new world and one I would not want to lose.

So in summary things have changed dramatically from my perspective, though the world at large would probably see little or no difference, but I am beginning to find my feet.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Decluttering and Throwing out the Baby with the Bathwater

Part of my on-going de-cluttering saw me frantically searching odd corners of the house in order to rid it once and for all, of all those 'might come in useful one day' items.

A hoarder, both by nature and nurture, I find it very difficult to force myself to part with anything in good condition whether useful, ornamental, old, new or just plain 'spare'.

Some of this comes I know from my poverty-stricken childhood and wartime earliest memories when it was regarded as positively sinful to part with anything which might be 'recycled' in any way at all.

Since the death of my husband 2 and a half years ago, I have slowly been realising that all that I previously regarded as necessary, and precious and which I thought enhanced my day to day living, were in fact just 'things' and with no real value in the scheme of things except, maybe, a momentary flash of pleasure in ownership.

My first gut reaction was to throw out or give away anything which was not my own personal 'stuff'', and all John's clothes, watches, cameras, computer and accessories etc, were handed on to family, friends and charity collection schemes.

Next I began to sort through hundreds of photographs taken over a period of 38 years and ended with my retaining about 70.  My thinking at the time was "there is no-one now who would recognise these locations, and they would not be of interest to anyone but us".

Very soon I discovered that the overall affect of all this 'weeding' was barely visible to the casual eye and had not really had the desired affect on me either.

After a few months I found I needed to get rid of more clutter in order to maximise the small amount of space in my very small house so, where to go?

I moved the furniture around a bit, found one or two things would not be missed and got rid of them.

Now that the sitting-room has been re-decorated it looks larger and rather better than before, so where next?

My bedroom was last decorated (by John), about 10 years ago, so that is the next project.  This will include getting rid of twin beds and buying a small double as a replacement.  Making about four feet more space to play with.

This, in turn, will necessitate buying new bedlinen and I will then be able to virtually empty my brimming over airing cupboard of its sheets, duvet covers etc.  A real de clutter.

Laudable though all this may appear, I am under no illusions that what I am avoiding is .......ssshhhh!   My wardrobe.

As I have said before,  I've lost five stone in two and a half years and rather than recycle the larger sizes I have simply added to the bulging wardrobes, which are full of clothes now too big to wear along with those so many sizes smaller that I can only just get into them.

Yes, I do know the golden rule, "if you haven't worn it for a year you are not going to wear it again" Get rid of it the voices are saying, but, "it might come in useful some time" is the feeble rejoinder.

Has anyone a large bottle of make your mind-up pills to spare?

Why is it I can be so utterly relentless with some things and throw them out or give them away without a qualm and yet be so completely hopeless about clothes?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Frozen Assets

Last evening, standing in our huge barn of a church, trying to get to grips with the music for the next couple of Sundays, plus another brief (very), look at some of the Easter music a strange idea entered my frozen skull.

Is it perhaps because our churches are so cold that attendances are falling off and not for all the reasons currently under the microscope.?

The temperatures in Buckinghamshire are quite often much lower than other parts of what is vaguely described as "the South".  This I imagine is because we are geographically in the middle of the two 'sides' of the country and are often in receipt of the fall-out
from weather fronts from opposing directions.

Sorry, it sounds as though I've swallowed the dictionary.  What I am trying to say is that where the warmer fronts from the West meet the much colder ones from the East is just about where God saw fit to put Aylesbury.

Now I can't really believe he meant us to suffer unduly, just that, as "Eccles" used to say, "Everybody got to be somewhere".

As we struggled to sing through chattering teeth I wondered why, since we have our share of 'well off' folk in this area, no-one has apparently considered writing a cheque (admittedly a huge one), simply for the purpose of heating our blessed barn so that the congregation, and we others might survive the rigours of church attendance in Winter.

I don't believe it is a deliberate punishment but.................

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mundane Mutterings, Whimsical Witterings and Transient Thinks!

I know I've used this image before but I like it!

Having nothing in particular to say seems to me a good time to just grab a passing thought or two and transfer it to print before it escapes again.

Since discontinuing my daily ( A5 size) diary, I find myself missing the habit of jotting down odd daily happenings, ideas, reflections etc and since I said I would now treat my blog in similar vein, read on....

From what I saw on TV news tonight it would appear that an essential requisite for would-be America's First Lady is the ability to perform 25 press-ups (preferably on TV).

Then there's Chris Hoone ?  Hune ? Whom?  Truth they say is stranger than fiction - it's just knowing the difference that's the problem.

Harry Redknapp?   Does anyone know the name and phone number of his accountant?

Why  is February (a month I could happily do without), often the coldest of the year?

Where did the myth that birds start mating on St Valentine's day come from.  I must say they appear not to have heard that particular one in this neck of the woods.  There have been signs of early partnerships in the mild spell a fortnight or so ago.  (Bet they regret it now it's bitterly cold ).

What makes some people think it is alright to put their cat out at night in these temperatures, when the poor little beast has been indoors by the radiators all day?

Someone pointed out the other day that  I don't appear to read my blog posts before publishing them.  The main reason for the comment was the inordinate number of typos which go unheeded.

No, I do not read them, after all I wrote them, I know what drivel they are.

AND,        is it my fault if my lap-top is dyslexic?