Friends

21 July 2017

CHORES, LOVE 'EM OR HATE 'EM

Gone are the days when household chores were undertaken without much thought. We just did them. No sweat!

Making twin beds each day was no problem, in fact it was something I enjoyed doing. I was proud of my beds, and the way they were ‘dressed’. To me they weren’t just somewhere to sleep, they were part of the room’s attraction and I intended to keep it that way. This is what living in a bungalow does for me, it didn’t matter so much in the big house because the bedrooms were upstairs and out of sight.

Things change, though. Or rather people do. I gave up the twin beds and got one large. Ooooh, all that room to sleep in was heaven even though it meant more walking, round and round, on a daily basis, when I made up the bed. I can’t remember when the breathlessness started but start it did, and always after the morning ritual of making the bed, which necessitated a daily hike round the bed. That was when I realised I was getting older and things had to change.


Bed-making was eased by the introduction of fitted sheets but, after a while, when those sheets needed washing it got to be a struggle to replace them with clean ones. It’s the back, you know, plus that tendency towards breathlessness.

I dealt with it, as you do, until it got to be a worry. This meant a rethink was required. What to do? I remembered when Joe was quite poorly, and bedlinen had to be changed more regularly, I got into the habit of taking the washing to the launderette. They washed and ironed – for a price – but it was convenient and meant I got the clean sheets back in double quick time. Now there is only me, and only one bed, so I started to do my own laundry again.

Until now.

Two large sheets is all, top and bottom, but they were a struggle to fold and impossible to iron, as well as being a struggle to fit on the bed, not to mention all that walking round and round the double bed.  It got that I was having to sit down between each move so I knew I had to do something about it.

Back to the launderette. By this time the price (£12 UK money) had risen to £15 although that wasn’t the reason for the rethink. The shop is a car drive away and if you asked me to walk there and back it would be like asking me to polish the moon. I began to wonder what would happen when the car was disposed of.

Two weeks ago I saw the mother of Paola, who used to clean my house once a week. Her mother had moved from cleaning houses to taking in washing and still collected laundry from the house opposite. Aha, I thought. I waited for her to come out and went over for a little chat…the sort of chat that sounds like a plea for help.

After explaining what I wanted I was disappointed to learn that she was too busy, but after a while she backed down and said she would do it for £10 per sheet. That made £20 in total for one wash. Well, what else can a body do when desperate? We exchanged phone numbers then went our separate ways.

This week was the turn of Molly Maid to visit. Molly Maid is the name of the
outfit that does house cleaning. Two or three ladies come every third week (my arrangement) and will do anything. The agency stipulates that windows can be cleaned as well as ordinary housework, at a price of £11 extra. They know when they’ve got you in a corner, so to speak. A few weeks ago I mentioned my need to have windows cleaned internally (I have a regular window cleaner who does the outside only) and Tina, who heads the team, said she would do it – FOR FREE, but ‘don’t tell the agency boss’.

Now Tina has come up trumps with the laundry. Changing bed linen is part of their duties but not washing them. We got into a discussion about the price of laundry, something Tina felt strongly about. After a few rants on her part about how physically able people were making money out of us oldies, simply because we had no choice. I nearly passed out when she grabbed the sheets and said she would do them. FOR FREE! Apparently, she was incensed by the way people seem unwilling to help.

So off she went, sheets over one arm and the vacuum cleaner pulled along by the other. She returned the washed laundry three days later.

I can’t offer her money but maybe an occasional box of chocolates? I don’t want to offend her and ruin a good relationship. My way of helping could be to provide things for her regular bring-and-buy stall – something she does to help charities. Books galore are waiting to be disposed of so maybe that’s the way to go. Helping her would help me and hopefully repay her kindness. 

15 July 2017

DON'T GO TOO NEAR THE WATER

‘Don’t go too near the water.’


Little Meg could hear her mother’s voice but the seriousness of the instruction didn’t seem justified. She was a big girl now. And the water looked so inviting.

Meg had been brought here for her birthday, the trip to Morecambe Beach being part of the weekend celebrations. She’d had some super presents, a scooter, and a dolls house with REAL furniture.

A smile played round her lips and she mentally hugged herself. She’d wanted a dolls house for so long. The inside was lovely, the walls were papered and there was carpet in all the rooms. She loved the tiny chairs and tables, the clock on the kitchen wall, and the bed upstairs, and the bath, and the rocking horse in the bedroom. There were even tiny coat hangers on the hook on the door. It was exciting to have her very own dolls house. She couldn’t wait to tell her friends at school.

Meg really wanted to go home and play with the house but since they were here for several more hours she might as well explore.

Surreptitiously looking round, Meg saw her mother talking to Gran, their colourful beach chairs turned away from the sea. She slipped off the blue and white flip flops that had been bought specially for the beach. The sand felt soft against her bare feet, it tickled a bit but she loved the feel of it. If she pressed her feet down she could see the shape of her own feet.

Kneeling on the sand she felt a splash from a big wave. She didn’t realise she was so near to it. Meg leaned forward to sniff the water and a little bit went up her nose. She sneezed. Tasted the salt.

Fascinated, she watched another wave forming. If she hurried she could duck under it. Scrambling up she darted to the very edge of the water and waited.

It was like being in the shower. Turning her face into the spray Meg laughed happily when the water fell away from her face. This was fun, she thought.

Her mother called again. Meg turned and waved, didn’t see the next wave coming. It was bigger and more powerful, knocked her off her feet and dragged her into the sea. Coppery hair fanned out as she struggled against the water.

She felt herself sinking, down, down, down. She reached out to touch the sea bed but it wasn’t there. Instead she was grabbed from behind, arms gathered her up, floated with her. A piece of driftwood glided past, narrowly missing her nose. She giggled, tried twisting her head to look at her rescuer.

‘Keep still, Meg.’

The voice was squeaky, not one she had heard before. She wriggled in the great arms that held her so tight. They were covered in a red fabric. She didn’t know anyone who wore red.

Further and further they went, moving steadily along the coastline. Meg wedged her chin against one of the huge arms and peered into the gloom, wanted to ask where they were yet fearful of knowing. She couldn’t think why it had suddenly gone so dark. She wasn’t REALLY frightened, just a LITTLE bit trembly.

A few minutes later she saw a shaft of light ahead, coming from an open door. That’s why it was so dark, she thought, they were in a tunnel.

Her rescuer piloted her towards the door.

The cave was breathtaking. Meg took it all in, the splendour of it, cave walls lit by lanterns, glow-worms flitting around the ceiling like moving stars, and the biggest cobwebs she’d ever seen. Right in the middle was a table made of sea shells, the colours glowing in the light.

‘Come in, come in,’ said the King, adjusting his lopsided crown.

Meg was lowered to the seaweed covered floor, her hand held fast so she wouldn’t fall. For the first time she could see her rescuer, a QUITE ugly gnome.

‘She was very good,’ the gnome told the King.

‘Oh I’m hopskippingly delighted,’ said the King. His voice reminded Meg of Freddy, the grown up boy next door. He had the same croaky voice. But the King was a lot older. MUCH older than Daddy. Daddy didn’t have a beard either.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked.

Suddenly the room was filled with more gnomes, hands covering their mouths as they stared at her.

‘What?’ she asked.

Her gnome, her rescuer, whispered in her ear, ‘You should never ask a King how OLD he is.’

Meg looked at the King, thinking she should say she was sorry, but the King had sat down at the rickety table with his back to her. He wore a cloak of green seaweed which had caught in the chair. Meg moved across to tug it out but stopped when the gnomes loudly exclaimed in horror.

‘What?’ she demanded, brushing away a silver fish swimming too close to her face.

As if they were automated the gnomes put their fingers to their lips, shushing her.
Her own gnome whispered again, ‘We do not touch the King.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he’s the King. The Almighty Ruler of the Seas.’

‘Well, I’M going to speak to him,’ Meg told him. Defiance wasn’t in her nature but she didn’t like being told what NOT to do.

Looking fearful, the gnomes huddled together, then shuffled back so she could move to the front of the table. She wanted to ask the King why he didn’t allow people to speak to him.

Grasping hold of a steel rod that was wedged in the ground, she edged forward. The floor was very slippery and she felt something crunch beneath her foot. Looking down she saw a mass of broken shells, heard the gnomes complaining amongst themselves. Meg supposed the King would tell her off for being clumsy.

Slithering and sliding, she at last reached the other side of the table, sat on a chair opposite the King.

‘Ooooh,’ she said. ‘Why are you crying?’

The King raised his head. Tears coursed down his cheeks, his tongue trying to catch them. ‘Too much salt,’ he said. ‘Too much salt.’

‘Don’t you like salt?’ Meg asked, ignoring the horrified noises coming from the gnomes.

‘It doesn’t like me,’ replied the King.

That was a MYSTERY. Meg wondered how salt could take a dislike to anyone. She didn’t like salt but she didn’t think it was offended by what Daddy called her faddy ways. A shoal of fish swam across the table, she wondered if they’d taste good with chips.

Realising the King was looking at her, she returned her attention to him. ‘Why are you crying,’ she enquired a second time.

‘Nobody talks to me,’ the King explained. He seemed VERY sad.

‘Why?’

‘I don’t know.

‘Is it because you’re the King?’

‘I don’t see why that should make any difference.’

‘How old are you?’

In the background the gnomes muttered and tutted amongst themselves.

‘I’m VERY old and VERY lonely,’ admitted the King.

‘How can you be lonely with all these gnomes around?’

‘They don’t speak to me. They don’t make a sound when I come home from my travels. I haven’t got a friend, either.’ More tears spilled out of his eyes.

Meg felt bad. He seemed a nice old man, and his white beard was beautiful. It made her want to push her fingers into it, curl it into ringlets. ‘I could be your friend,’ she said. ‘I always speak to my friends.’

The King beamed at her. Suddenly he stood up. ‘Let’s dance,’ he said.

Meg had never danced before but she went round the table to join him. She held out her arms, eager to see what dancing was like. But the King didn’t take them, instead he stood by her side, put his gnarled hand on her shoulder, and jigged on the spot. Meg jigged as well. She started to giggle, and the King giggled too. Her rescuer joined in, and then the gnomes. And the cave was a riot of laughter.

The King yelped with delight, ‘At last,’ he cried, ‘the gnomes have found their voices.’

Meg didn’t like to say they hadn’t lost them.

They jigged the afternoon away, and the gnomes joined in. Meg was so tired at the end; she just collapsed on a bank of seaweed. I’ll just have five minutes, she thought, using her mother’s words.

‘Wake up, wake up.’

Slowly, Meg opened her eyes.

Oh there you are, young lady. I thought you were going to sleep forever. Your chips are waiting. You’d better hurry up before they get cold.

Rubbing her eyes, Meg tumbled off her bed. Her picture book fell on the floor. ‘Can I have salt on my chips,’ she asked, wondering why she suddenly had a desire for it.

09 July 2017

SQUIRREL WATCHING

SQUIRREL WATCHING

Charlie has the patience of a saint, although I don’t think saints were ever into watching squirrels. Patience was on my side as well because I wanted to see the great catch but it was taking ages and I thought my patience would soon run out. Squirrel was frozen to the spot; not once did I see him move but neither did Charlie. I can’t count the number of photographs I took, every one identical. No movement, no twist of the head or twitching ears on either party. Holding the camera at the ready was making my arms ache. A couple of times I had to lower the camera purely for a rest, but quickly reverting back to position on a just-in-case basis.

It was Charlie who gave up first. He must have heard something in the flower bed to the left because he turned his head and then his body to get a better look. Squirrel seized the opportunity and jumped to freedom. I know squirrels can run fast but this time I think he broke all records.

Charlie took it all in good part but I didn’t. I had been stuck at the kitchen window, both arms aching, for half an hour waiting for a good shot and what did I get? Zilch. Nothing. It was an absolute waste of time. I shan’t bother again! The two creatures can go into a proper brawl if they like, I won’t turn a hair, and certainly won’t stand waiting for the final blow.

Well, I don’t think so………………….

02 July 2017

WILD GARDEN

view from kitchen window, the rest of the garden is behind those big shrubs at the end
I have shown pictures of my HUGE garden before but they were taken when everything in the garden was lovely. The time came, though, when neither Joe nor I could manage the upkeep so, after a lot of thought, we let it run riot. Well, maybe not all of it, just the bottom part that is out of view from the house. Every day I would go down there with birdseed and just toss it on the ground. What the heck, I thought, I can’t see it. We did have one bird table but it wasn’t in good condition. Now there are two tables but it’s a stroke of luck if the birds ever get the food I put out. Why? Because the squirrels get there first.

We did eventually get a gardener but he only came once a fortnight and although he did a good job on the lawn he never bothered with the bottom end. Now I have the services of a father/son company who also come once a fortnight but they have superior equipment and get the job done, including the bottom end, in no time at all.

Now that the garden is beginning to look respectable I have been looking round at the surrounding areas where nature has been allowed in. Those areas where once upon a time were filled with trees and tidy shrubs. The trees and shrubs are still there along with a new growth of wild flowers. Some may think it looks untidy but I love it.

Every day I wander round and thank God for nature having the ability to plant what IT wants. I should have taken pictures when the first blooms came in the Spring but I’ve got a bit lazy about taking photographs – especially since the camera on the new phone isn’t as good as the old one. Still, there’s always the internet where pictures are available without much effort on my part. I have another camera but, honestly, it’s too heavy and too complicated for me to bother with.

Apologies, I am getting away from the topic of gardens.

To resume.

Some days I think of all the work people do to get their gardens looking pretty and there’s me, who does nothing but still gets flowers to delight the senses. Weigela, flowering current, mahonia, rhododendrons, philadelphus, viburnum,
mock orange, deutzia, camellia, wild roses, lilacs, azalea, rhododendron, spirea, and more, all have a place in the garden and in my heart. Bluebells and daffodils bring on the spring, then there’s the lily of the valley, and violets that creep up from cracks in the path, foxgloves that tower over low lying plants, and wild roses that hitch onto fences. There are plenty more with names that elude me … thank goodness the flowers don’t.

I have all that yet don’t lift a finger to provide it … and no hard work either. How lucky can a girl get?

Some may notice that I made no mention of the fish pond and that’s because it has been thoroughly neglected and is now home to a variety of weeds. The system was there when we moved into the house and for many years I tended to it and the Koi carp that swam there. The water was refreshed frequently but as the years went by the system faltered and so did I. I keep wondering about calling in the professionals but if I do that it will still mean lots of work for me, not to mention the cost. There’s always a downside, isn’t there? But still, for what time I have left I still have the flowers and birds to keep me satisfied, and the pond is enclosed by shrubs so is only noticeable to those who know it’s there. It is easy to forget about whilst rejoicing in everything else in the garden and I still say I am lucky to have had the pleasure of it for so long.

30 June 2017

PARCEL DELIVERIES - AGAIN

Delivery companies are certainly tightening their game. The other day I received a parcel, handed to me by a friendly young man who asked for my full name. The Parcel was addressed to Mrs D but that wasn’t enough for him, he wanted the full Christian name. I told him, but in the same breath I asked why he wanted it. After he had written the full name against the item in his little blue book, he explained. 
Apparently, the system (a new one with his company) is to check the name of whoever takes in the parcel, neighbour or whoever. Surnames are not enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we’ll be asked for our date of birth! Seriously though, it makes sense to record the receiver of parcels, it certainly makes life easier for the delivery people.
Proof of delivery is so important these days, with so many crooks trying to get something for nothing. I thought this practice was almost as good as the one where the delivery guy took photographs of the parcel lying inside my porch, but it went against the grain a little. Not sure why except that I’m not one to reveal my name to all and sundry. Something must have happened in my past to make me feel secretive with strangers. Thinking cap at the ready… wish me luck!
Oh, I forgot to mention a casual meeting with the postman. I don’t normally see him or her. This one time I startled Mr Postman by opening the inner door just as he was putting the mail through the letter box in the outer door. There was a whole porch between us but it didn’t stop him offering me a toffee which I accepted with good grace.
How’s that for service? I must tell him next time that I prefer fruit drops.

Valerie

25 June 2017

IRKSOME STUFF!

The new iPhone has caused me more angst than anything I’ve ever known. And it’s not as if I’m a stranger to them. I’ve lost count how many years I had the other one and right from the start I sailed through like someone born to be iPhone queen. Still, I guess even queens have their problems.
Thankfully, I have Luke. He is the odd job boy young man who comes once a week to do - odd jobs. I don’t know how I would have coped without him especially as he has a memory similar to the one I could brag about not so many years ago. I lost all recollection of one of my passwords so I sent him a text pleading for assistance. He didn’t need to come to the house, he knew it after only hearing it once. Hmmm, shouldn’t we avoid people like that?!
So, Luke saved the day once again. My friend, Judy, is asking if I can spare him one day to sort out her IT affairs. Gerroff! Sorry, matey, he’s mine and mine alone, anyway he lives too far away from you.  
I know you’ll be fed-up listening to my IT problems so I’ll move to the subject of furniture.
But first, the painful back.
After suffering for years the back has finally decided that ongoing pain is something I have to put up with. Except now it’s worse than ever, until … I’m always happy when there’s an ‘until’….
After Joe died I took over his chair, one of those that recline at the press of a button. It once belonged to my aunt and when she died it came to us.
It struck me that after a few sessions with legs extended my back would feel some sort of relief. Wrong. The pain worsened. Something had to be done other than constant visits to my chiropractor. Getting personal now….
A few pushes and prods in the painful area had me realising that tummies are meant to be held in. Not so in my case, I could only hold mine in by pressing hands FIRMLY. There was no way I could hold tummy in without help yet when it was helped the pain disappeared. That decided me to purchase some girdles… not hefty things like women wore in olden days, but with enough pressure to hold the tummy firm. It seemed to work in the shop but after a few hours the pain was agonising. Now they look pretty in the drawer where they will probably spend a few months or years.
One day, in desperation I flopped onto the sofa, a piece of furniture that I never used, and stayed there for a couple of hours until I realised the pain had lessened.
AND THEN IT DAWNED ON ME – the problem wasn’t with the tummy, it was the
Picture taken where chair now rests,
on patio.
Sunlight seemed to remove the
lovely green colour but not in real life. 
damn chair all the time. Close inspection made me see the reason. The padded upholstery was all wrong. The back of the chair was designed to look attractive, but the middle of its design was a receding square panel much deeper than the rest. And that was where the painful spine rested, day in, day out. No wonder it got worse. The picture cannot portray the depth of the annoying section but I promise you it is quite an indentation. Oh my poor back!
The chair had to go.
Luke called round and shifted everything to where I wanted it and the culprit chair was put out on the patio until such time as it can properly be disposed of.
Brilliant.
It’s not easy to get rid of furniture but he has a friend with a van who, he thinks, might dispose of it for me. I am still waiting to see if anything transpires with the friend with a van!
You will have worked out by now that Luke is a godsend, in more ways than one although I have my doubts about the friend with the van.
I still have the spine problem but it’s nothing like as painful. Now, if it starts up I sit down for a while until the pain goes away and of course there is still my lovely chiropractor to see me through. 

18 June 2017

POLITICS? NO DISCUSSION!


My Mom and Dad supported different political parties and they would never discuss the matter. I can understand that, imagine the arguments that could ensue. In all the years I lived with them I never knew who supported which party. Unlike today, when people shout their preferences from the rooftops.

The past experience did something to me because now I will never discuss politics with anyone. I won’t advise or cajole or even listen, except when a debate or discussion is shown on television. Joe was the same. He and I had different views, but we didn’t want to fall out over politics so we kept quiet. Arguing wasn't our thing.

In my younger working days, because I was employed by a Government body, I was required to go counting every time there was an election. I loved it. There was such an air of excitement as a count progressed, or when a count went wrong, or results were too close which meant we had to start again. Yet none of us revealed which party we had voted for.

The room was closely guarded. Naturally the candidates and their henchmen were not allowed in but most would remain by the door and do their best to try and work out if they were on a winning streak, almost hopping from one foot to another as they tried to anticipate the outcome.

These days I have postal votes and every time I fill in the necessary form I remember how a chosen few had to attend the counting station to open all the envelopes and do a separate count. That was prior to the standard vote count.

Before all that took place we had to attend a meeting at the Town Hall to pledge our silence and confidentiality.

I was never detailed to attend a polling booth, but was always present at the count and whenever there’s an election I remember those days. Sadly, it is doubtful if peaceful polling days will ever return?

PS
Just letting you know that..........
Alex did come back!



11 June 2017

FORGETFULNESS - OR SOMETHING!

Recently I had a visit from a guy I have known for a while but didn’t see often rarely saw. In fact, I’ve probably only seen him three times in three years!
It was Alex. Alex from a now ceased trading carpet-shop, Alex who laid the wooden flooring in the hall, Alex who laid the wooden flooring in the new shower-room. Yes, it was Alex, who I couldn’t remember. How embarrassing is that? He took it all in good part, well he could hardly do anything else, could he?

Can you imagine how awful I felt? Embarrassed isn’t adequate enough. I really wanted the earth to open and swallow me wholesale. Even his good looks didn’t help. I mean, how could I forget a handsome, good looking man with an excellent physique, nice manners and friendly,

He obviously guessed my predicament because he went on to say that he had
done some jobs for me… including fixing the central heating timer. That last should have been enough to remind me since we had such a laugh over it.

Under the pretext of closing a door to stop Charlie getting out (I don’t allow him near passing traffic) I moved away and tried to get the brain in working order. Eventually I went back to where he stood, outside, and somehow felt brave enough to confess that I didn’t remember him. Then, as I spoke, it all came back. OF COURSE, I remembered him. He was the guy who helped me when I had that fall, made me a cup of tea, and settled me down while he proceeded to do the job he came to do.

I couldn’t apologise enough and he took it in good part, or seemed to, goodness only knows what he actually thought.

The daft thing is that he had been on my mind because I needed someone to do some work for me, yet when he appears unexpectedly at my door I don’t know him. Saints preserve me and everyone else who suffers with severe forgetfulness.  That’s my worst experience so far, please God don’t let there be more!

Alex is going to fit a carpet for me, that’s if he turns up. In his shoes I would want to keep well away from someone who seems to be rather mad.



04 June 2017

PLAYING SAFE


I am a most security conscious person. Even when Joe was alive I was the one who double checked doors and windows, and still do. These days you can’t be too careful.
The last job of the day is to check all doors and make sure keys are in their rightful places, the last doors to check are at the front of the house.
I have an inner front door and an outer porch door facing the road, both of which need careful checking since they are the main entrances. Outside the bungalow there is a lantern light that goes on at night.
As you can see, the porch is narrow.  Not quite big enough to sit in even though it greets the sun and provides plenty of heat. Last night I checked both doors at around 10 o’clock, making sure they were both locked so I could sleep easy. I don’t go to sleep that early but I like to have good long read. By this time, Charlie was out and about in the garden or wherever it is he goes.
I drifted off to sleep at around 11 o’clock and the next thing I heard was what I thought was someone knocking on the inner front door. It was 2 o’clock. Jeez, I was petrified. Then I realised it was the inner porch door that was being knocked. Whoever it was must have broken a window to get in the porch.
I thought it better not to move for a while. If I went to the door I would be seen through the frosted glass. I waited, all was quiet. Still I waited, wondering what to do. Then I heard it, a very loud Meow.
I have never moved so fast in my life…. 
Charlie must have slipped into the porch when I was locking the front door and there he had to stay, from 10pm until 2am. No bed to lie on, just a cold tiled floor. And I never heard a peep. Daft thing is every night I check that he hasn’t slipped past me…. every night except that one. 
Valerie

28 May 2017

CHARLIE... STILL MY DARLNG

We’ve always had foxes but never one as brave as the latest visitor. It comes right up to the house to drink from the birdbath. I thought this was amusing and didn’t mind a bit. It was only a young animal, it would soon learn where it could and couldn’t go.
However, a few days later I saw Charlie the cat running towards the house. Not an ordinary run, this was fast as lightening and scared looking. I can only think he was scared by the fox but whatever it was frightened the daylights out of him. He wouldn’t go out at all, not even to do his business. He stayed indoors for quite a few days and I couldn’t entice him out. Then one day he did venture out but only onto the patio while I was putting bird seed on the bird tables a short distance away. No amount of coaxing could persuade him to join me further down. As soon as I went into the house, he was hot on my trail.
I remember thinking it might be the end of his garden adventures but deep down I wondered if the time would come when he forgot about the fox (who hasn’t been seen since) and go out as normal. He has been out since but doesn’t stay out for long. Still, it’s a start. Encouragement, encouragement, that might do it.
In the 15 months that I’ve had Charlie he has always been timid. It took him a while to settle when he arrived and absolutely ages before he would venture onto my lap. He jumped nervously and went into hiding at the least loud noise and when new people came to the house he freaked out. As time went on he relaxed a bit more but still keeps his distance from people he doesn’t know.
I don’t know his background but I wonder if he was ill-treated at some time. Because of this I’ve shown him a lot of love and care, which he would have had whether or no. It seems to have worked but not a hundred percent. A quick and unexpected move can send him scurrying for cover.
What do you think? Will the time come when he is totally settled and back to chasing birds?

Valerie

21 May 2017

MY WINNING STORY


The room is so quiet that if you stood outside the door you would suppose it to be unoccupied; but there is an abundance of sound: crackling firewood, squealing chair springs, the vibrating window when a plane takes wing, the tap of steel needles, and the expletives when I drop a stitch. You might hear these sounds if you listen hard but you would not see Jeffrey's wicked endeavours to make me lose count, my voice rising with each enumeration as I walk two fingers along the pin, determined to outwit the arm-waving comedian and cursing the misfortune of being saddled with an imbecilic brother. The mantel clock proclaims its own opinion, issuing dull thuds, which are supposed to be reverberating chimes. Two o'clock, and the rest of the day to get through. Even the fire-logs serve to emphasise the hour, a pair of charred timber chunks spilling to the hearth. I toe to safety the smithereens of charcoal and inhale the intoxicating smell of burning wood as I study the flames, remembering my youth, when Jeffrey persistently devised new ways to destroy my concentration and the strife at school when homework was inadequately completed.

The dreadful clacking of Jeffrey's dentures infiltrates the reverie, transporting me to present time like an exploding bomb. First I am ensconced in daydreams, then, suddenly, I encounter reality head-on. Unexpectedly, my brother's grinning countenance brings a swelling to my throat. Family features: grizzled hair, bristly brows and pointed nose, except that Jeffrey now has pendulous jowls, skin dark with liver-spots, and hazel eyes mottled with age. At eighty-five he should be past indulging in puerility, but it is too late for him to change and, anyway, I am fond of his desultory ribbing. Occasionally.

While he gazes at me in his silly fashion, I set the rocking chair in motion, anxious to start the next stage of the complicated pattern yet hesitant in case Jeffrey renews the struggle for power. He looks docile enough, sitting erect like a spectator waiting for the show to begin, but I never know when he will embark on another wild prank. In two minutes I could be despising him; in three, I could be storming to pack his bag and return him to the home from which I delivered him, beseeching the dear Lord to explain why a man in my life is so essential.

My confession might shock you. If you could witness this scene of cosy domesticity you might think I am satisfied with my life, that my days consist of snug tête-à-têtes and happy reminiscences or that the daily woman's duties give me ample time to knit and amuse my brother. But how can I expect her to clean the mess that incontinence affords, or supervise his eating, and encourage him to aim for his mouth instead of his shirt? And yet, on reflection, your assessment could be right. Beneath the grievances, you might detect a glimmer of the affection I feel, for despite intensifying bouts of wrath and irritation I love the old fool to pieces.

Pleased that Jeffrey has settled to read I resume my occupation. Pins clicking furiously, my thoughts roam the years, evoking instances of his outlandish behaviour. Though his impaired mental state drives me to distraction he can be enormously entertaining; like now, as he absorbs the printed word, contorting his lips and nose as if they are moulded from rubber.

In the shadow of a frivolous father and two ebullient brothers, Jeffrey grew vague and bewildered before his time. As a consequence he relied on me for support, seeing me as an island of sanity in the midst of a chaotic existence. That's why I never married. The concept of leaving my guileless brother to fend for himself was inconceivable, though lately I long to be free of obligation. Notwithstanding, the good days outweigh the bad. In fact, until the onset of true dementia, most were agreeable; funny even, if an old man's waywardness can so be called.

As dotage accelerated, Jeffrey became quite adventurous. At seventy, equipped with his pensioner's pass, he toured the county for bargains. But his logic left much to be desired. He once travelled a distance to save twenty-pence on melon, then spent ten times that amount on chocolate. I still remember his gleeful look when he produced the melon and the box of chocolates, and my incredulity.

The fingers are flying now and the rocker's going like a swing as I call to mind that day we waited in Woolworths for our brother to end a discourse with a chum. Thirty minutes trudging round counters, failed attempts to resist Jeffrey's pestering at the photograph booth and the endless wait for obscure pictures. Secretly chuckling, I recall Jeffrey's restlessness and his entreaties for a go on the weighing machine - several times - for the sheer joy of cramming weight cards in his pockets, which on the journey home were distributed among the passengers on the bus, his laughter so infectious that the whole of the upper deck joined in.

My feeble eyes are filling up; it always happens when I reproduce the images of bygone days. A pity they couldn't stay the same.

You should see Jeffrey now, playing peek-a-boo around the Daily Mail. I pretend not to notice his buffoonery. I could curb him but he's been in enough trouble since the episode next door. Unbeknown to me, on the days when I allowed him out alone, he developed the custom of going in the neighbouring gate and walking into Miss Smedley's house demanding tea. Initially she humoured him with biscuits or a cake, but when he burst in and ordered tea and toasted soldiers, with no regard for her undressed state, she ceased to think it amusing. He's now on tight rein lest the woman carries out her threat to call the police.

The room is dimming now that the winter sun has disappeared, and the fire needs banking. The clock thumps its message home. Four o'clock, it says. Time for tea. My daydreaming has taken me to girlhood and back, through teen-years to adulthood. And Jeffrey's cardigan is almost done. If the Almighty is willing I will finish it tomorrow, that is if Jeffrey deigns to let me get on. But then I'd worry. Since silence is an alien characteristic I wouldn't know if he was behaving or indisposed. Oh, if you could see him playing his game, retreating behind the paper like a guilty schoolboy whenever he catches my eye. I cannot help sniggering at his expression, a fooled-you kind of look, the sort meted out when my counting goes completely awry. I am tempted to teach him a lesson and leave his cardigan sleeveless but I cannot succumb to spite. You see, he won't have many more birthday gifts, and I won't have the foolish fun that life with him has brought.

See his face, see the way he peers at me like the simpleton he is. My throat constricts at the sight of him. Dear God, don't take him yet. For my sake, give him a year or two more.

14 May 2017

CONSEQUENCE OF MEMORY LAPSE


Chaos reigns but not where you would expect it. In this instance it applies to a chaotic mind, where confusion and anxiety go together.

It all started the day I broke my iPhone. Really, I should use the word SMASHED rather than merely broke. It was all the fault of an unexpected caller who literally crept up behind me, causing me to drop the phone onto a tiled floor. You should have heard the crash! You should have seen the mess! You should have seen my face!

Later, but not much later, I got in the car and drove to the o2 shop. o2 is an offshoot of British Telecom, which of course won’t be of any interest to you. I’m just writing this story as it is.

So the short long story goes like this……

I needed a phone, although looking back I ask the question WHY? I have a house phone, which is seldom used except by nuisance callers, and an iPhone in case someone needs to get in touch when out of the house. However, an iPhone isn’t just to make calls on, it is a diary, notebook, timer, news reader, list maker, and a load of other things, like reading email, but … a phone?  So, in order to continue something I was used to having, I needed another one.
 
The model I chose, still an iPhone, is smaller than the last and fits in the pocket easier but everything else is going to need a lot of getting used to.

But I am jumping the gun here…

One thing missing from the phone was the game of Scrabble, which I love, and which goes some way to keeping the mind functioning. I had to replace it, which proved easier said than done.

You will have noticed earlier that I mentioned email. I have three accounts and one of them was the one that kept me in touch with Apple, and Apple in touch with me. Trouble came when my new phone wasn’t recognised by Apple or the other email providers. Even though email addresses were the same, the phone had really upset the apple-cart (a UK expression and nothing to do with Apple the company).

I tried and tried to get through on the old password, but they weren’t having it. No, I had to provide a new one. Several times. Apple needed a new one, Yahoo needed a new one, as did Google. Fortunately AOL and Google were easy to deal with, no problem and as straightforward as they come. Yahoo and Apple needed new passwords because they were linked to each other by me, and Google because..... well, because it was Google! 

I panicked, then panicked a second time. By the end of several more panic sessions I decided to call on Luke. Luke, you may remember, is the young man who does odd jobs for me. It struck me that at his age he would be able to deal with the likes of Apple without the fear I felt.

It took Luke a couple of hours to convince them that I was a genuine case but eventually he managed it. What’s more he downloaded the Scrabble. GREAT!

I am okay now, but goodness only knows for how long. Apple keeps asking for my password as early as switching on the ipad or phone but I have to ignore it because Luke didn’t write down the various passwords! Now I’m wondering how long before it affects me. Next time he comes I will ask if his memory is good. 

Insertion: Did I say Google wasn’t a problem? Well, since writing that comment it has changed its mind. It has decided to BE a problem. Password not recognised – and the brain can’t remember, and it wasn’t written down. I think another call to Luke is due.

All this has affected the brain. I get nervous for all sorts of reasons, mostly silly ones. My friend – who is two years older than me – said it is quite normal and that it would (might?) diminish. She made me feel better, bless her. As for the brain, I guess there’s no hope of it ever behaving like it should. Forgetfulness is now the norm but thank goodness I can still write.

If only I could remember passwords!
A few hours later: Consultation with Luke revealed the password that I'd forgotten. Now noted in black ink, several times. All he does is press a button, whereas I have to sweat it out and get nowhere. Oh to be young again, even a jaunt back to my sixties or seventies would help me out. 

Anyone want to buy a new iPhone?
Valerie

07 May 2017

FORGOT... AGAIN!

Heard on quiz show but which I think applies to us oldies: give a wrong answer, get it out of your mind and move on, do not dwell on it. It is so easy to worry about our mistakes.
A case in mind was when I was asked the name of a certain president in the WI, I gave the answer and was immediately pounced on by others because I had got it wrong. I knew immediately that I was wrong and felt a terrible shame, but I was too slow… the pounce came before I could do anything about it. Okay, I know the others in the group had to correct my mistake and I did try to laugh it off and put the error down to my ageing brain. Actually, in a way I was right, it’s just that I had the wrong WI in mind!
However:
Coping with my mistake wasn’t that easy. My mind dwelled on the incident and the embarrassment I felt. Yes, the matter had to be corrected but the way it was done could have been better and might have prevented hours of anxiety about where my brain was going. Young(er) people don’t understand about
ageing brains. Come to that, neither do older folk!
As a matter of interest, I checked ‘forgetfulness’ online and discovered that it could be the onset of dementia and other alarming conditions that affect the mind, so I settled on the following extract, on the grounds that I am (usually) perfectly normal. I can reason things out, I can do things, I can write, I can compose, I can do jobs around the house (albeit slower than usual), I can cook, feed the cat, talk to neighbours, enjoy music, read books, and go shopping. Here’s the extract:
It's completely normal to become a little forgetful as you get older, however, it can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious, so seek medical advice if you are in any doubt.
Memory loss, also known as amnesia, is unusual forgetfulness. It may affect your ability to recall new events or to remember events in the past - or both. Memory loss can develop slowly or suddenly and may be either short term or permanent. It may involve words, phrases or thoughts only, or affect motor memory - when the ability to perform certain motor skills (movements) is lost.
Mild memory loss is usually a result of the normal ageing process while more dramatic memory loss is usually associated with trauma, such as a blow to the head or a condition, such as diabetes or dementia.
Unfortunately, ageing forgetfulness is something we have to learn to live with and can be dealt with by writing things down, keeping lists and other reminders. Spur of the moment errors are not so easy to deal with and neither is the ensuing embarrassment but we must keep smiling and looking at the positive side of life.
Valerie 

30 April 2017

POTS OF TEA

I thought I would give you a funny…. at least I found it amusing which under the circumstances is a good thing. It goes like this….
Lately I have had trouble with tea, rather the placement of same. I have three kinds in the kitchen, peppermint, lemon and ginger, and ordinary everyday tea. The peppermint is for after dinner, lemon and ginger is an early morning drink and the ordinary tea mostly for visitors, although I had started to have a cup in the evening because someone told me I should drink more milk! Go on, have a laugh. Seriously, though, I can’t drink milk on its own. As for the variation in tea, well, I used to drink only lemon and ginger but the peppermint crept in as a cure for indigestion. I actually gave up the ordinary everyday tea because I gave up milk. Are you with me, so far?
So, what’s the problem, I hear you ask.
The four containers looked good as a group so they were always kept that way, and later joined by the two extra pots for herbals. I have a stupid streak for things looking nice and rarely change them. And that’s how it stayed for several years … until the age thing occurred.

I tried hard to get it right but more often than not I would select the wrong one simply because they stood together, shoulder to shoulder in attractive containers that once belonged to my mother and which I liked enough to keep. The problem needed urgent attention and I came up with the answer: separate them and put them where needed most. I did. In fact I had a complete overhaul of stuff in that area.
Every time I examined the contents of a cupboard I would decide that they would be better elsewhere. Of course, that meant finding a new home for the stuff I was turfing out. I adopted a practical and sensible plan for all categories, a plan that would save time and energy. Take tea, for example. Tea is better located near both pot and kettle, food related items near the preparation area, etc. It was great fun sorting it all out and I wondered why I hadn’t done it years ago.
Now I can’t remember where anything is! Yep, it’s banging head time but never fear I WILL sort it. Watch this space in about six months to see how I get on. 
Valerie