Such a lot is happening in my life right now that I have decided to go 'off grid' for a few days. Don't worry - I am quite alright but much to sort out. I'll be back.
Thursday 23 November 2023
Monday 20 November 2023
Is it old age (and its moaning tendency)?
I don't know. But this morning I opened a plastic 'tub' of Ovaltine. I ordered it on my Tesco order. I don't have milk in either tea or coffee and often think I should drink a little more milk - I occasionally have Horlicks but tend to make that with water and the same goes for drinking chocolate so I picked up the plastic tub - immediately thinking - 'not as tactile as the tin used to be - but at least its orange '(remember 'we are the Ovaltineys, happy girls and boys'?
Miserable dull day here - elevenses time came round - spotted the tub in the tea/coffee corner of the kitchen, read the instructions, poured the set amount of milk into a jug and popped it into the microwave to heat up. I opened the tub, peeled back the shiny cover on top of the Ovaltine - what a disappointment. I didn't remember it like that at all. Didn't it used to be little brown crystals (can't think of a better word)- my Mum used to tell me off for sucking my finger and pushing it into the crystals and then sucking them off into my mouth.
Well it was a dismal brownish powder. But I put the requisite 5 heaped teaspoons into the mug, poured on the hot milk, stirred well, pushed the mug through to my chair and sat down ready to partake of 2 finger kit-kat and mug of Ovaltine.
It just wasn't Ovaltine as I remember it. Pleasant drink but not as I remember it.
A month ago it was Shredded Wheat. I remember the first time I asked my Mum could I have Shredded Wheat instead of Cornflakes. Shock horror - 'you won't like it', well my friend Margaret has it every morning. 'Well I'll get a box, but you'll have to eat it all. I'm not wasting it - so remember that. Make your mind up.' I adored it and had it every morning for years.
I bought some a couple of months ago. Anticipated fat wheaty 'cushions'. What a disappointment. Smaller, thinner, not at all like I remembered. I ate them but they somehow didn't taste the same.
And then there's Cadbury's Chocolate Finger biscuits. Oh the bliss of big, fat, chocolatey fingers. They seem thinner now, more fragile, only a thin layer of chocolate and half the length I remember.
And the Victoria plums straight off the tree a few weeks ago when I fought with dozens of Red Admiral butterflies for the priviledge. Delicious indeed - but not that mind-blowing deliciousness I remember the last time - many moons ago - when I had access to a plum tree in an orchard (stolen fruit's always the sweetest).
I intend not to put Russet apples on my Tesco order - just can't bear another disappointment.
Off now to make a cheese and pickle sandwich for my tea. Shall try to eat it without thinking about the past.
Could it be the fading of the old taste buds - or the enhancing of a perfectly ordinary wartime childhood.
Answers (to quote John Going Gently) on a postcard please.
Sunday 19 November 2023
I have just renewed my 'Household Combined' insurance policy for another year. Gone up? Of course, hasn't everything?
In all my seventy years of married/widowed/married adulthood I have always - like any good, sensible citizen - been insured. Even my hearing aids are insured. And all those countless sweaters that my Carer complains are so numerous that she can't possibly accept another one to hang on the rail - and in any case I have no unused hangers. (I wonder if they are insured against clothes moth which I read is on the increase - I doubt it. These rich insurance companies who make it sound as though you are important to them("your call is important to us, we are so sorry to keep you waiting - and listen to the god-awful music another twenty times before we break in to tell you just how important you are to us again - ) and then look down the stocks and shares pages to see how well their shares are doing and realise that you are not quite as important to them unless you never make a claim.
I can't tell you how many pages there are attached to the letter telling me the date I must renew by because the pages aren't numbered but I can tell you that I have just measured the depth of the pile of pages and it is 3 cms.
When I rang to renew she asked whether everything was in order and whether I was happy with the details I admitted that I hadn't read through it - I have had the policy with my Insurance Broker for the last don't know how many years so I am sure it will all be alright - I did set it up in discussion with the Broker. She did say before taking my card details that I really must read through (all our calls are recorded for training purposes) - then I read out the card details and- Bob's your uncle - file the whole 3cms and that's it for another year.
And, while I'm at it, I will admit I have just bought a new vac - thick instruction book in twelve languages and tiny print that I should be able to read once my cataracts have been 'doctored'- and I haven't read that either. I did start but after peering at page one and trying to match B with 'how to recharge after use' I gave up in despair. When D, my cleaner, came she vacced through and without picking up the instructions picked up a box-like thingy, slotted it in, switched on the power and little blue lights flashed up and down -eureka! done and dusted. I have a special drawer for instruction booklets for all the devices I have bought. I went through them the other day as it was getting hard to close the drawer, and threw out into the paper-recycle bag half of them which were for mixers, cleaners, printers (15 differerent languages - how do the Chinese and Japanese and Russians ever learn to read?) and such like that long ago went the way of all flesh. (and don't get me started on the television manual).
Am I alone? Does anyone read the manual or does everyone use the 'trial and error' method when using new equipment? Please reassure me that I am not the only one who just trusts to luck that it will all be alright in the end - even if it does mean deciding I didn't really want to watch the programme on iplayer - really felt more like switching off the tele and going to bed.
Saturday 18 November 2023
Lovely quiet day yesterday and today I feel back in my thoughtful mode - so forget trivia today and let's get our 'discussion caps' on!
I love days when I can think of something 'serious' to write about because it always promotes heckles, disagreements, corrections and such and we end up with one of those days when I wish we were all in one room with a drink of our choice and all in full voice (sorry - not an intentional rhyme).
One of the advantages of going to bed early (9pm) is that I wake early; early enough to watch BBC television in the hour before Breakfast TV comes on and even then one or two breaks for 'serious stuff'.
This brings me to John Simpson's programme which each Saturday gets my brain going. He is - to my way of thinking, one of the most unbiased interviewers (BBC World Affairs Editor).
This morning he had a ten miinute slot on the situation in the Is rael/Gaza conflict and possible outcomes followed by a similar length slot on the situation in Myanmar, where the Military Dictatorship seems to be breaking down as various factions of the military begin to form about the country.
All good, sensible listening as far as I am concerned.
Then came 'Our World' and a fascinating slot on the mighty Mekong River. A river which rises way up in China and flows through China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia - all countries making enormous use of its water.
Today they looked at Tonle Sap and the floating villages where the villagers make this large inland lake the centre of their lives. The amount of water in the lake is entirely controlled by the ebb and flow of water from the mighty Mekong river.
In recent years China has built a number of Hydro electric dams along the river as it flows through their country. Now these villages - in I think Cambodia - find their whole lives affected. The lake is silting up, the fish stocks are getting smaller and smaller. These villagers rely on the fish as their main source of protein and their main way of making a living - selling the fish to make enough money to be able to pay for their children to go to school. The men they spoke to spoke movingly about not being able to get their children an education - and some days not even getting enough fish to feed their own families.
And I thought of how progress makes us all have to change. Progress is a necessity and it has always been so. Even progression from the Stone Age to the Iron Age meant that man had to progress in order to survive and sadly as always 'progress' means 'survival of the fittest'. Fortune favours the prepared mind and the ordinary 'working man' - working to feed and clothe his family is the last to benefit.
I thought of my own father - as a small boy growing up in the fenlands of Lincolnshire - joining his family when they all had to 'take' a field of beet and 'single' it. Beet-singling time meant a bit more money coming in to the family coffers. Now machinery does the job that took them several days in several hours.
What will the Cambodian villagers do as the fortunes of 'their lake', 'their livelihood' dry up? When visiting the now underwater graves of their relatives (an important part of their way of life) becomes impossible? They, like everyone else the world over, will have to change, have to 'go with the flow' like the mighty river and let their floating village way of life become a thing of the past. Sad - but I guess inevitable.
There will come a day when the old men of the village will sit and recall the days - plenty of chat always beginning with 'I remember when......'
***If you want to see my wall friend Diego go to newnatalie.blogspot.com
Friday 17 November 2023
Sorry for the gap. Slight lack of inspiration plus several days which have filled up with nothing special but time-consuming, here I am again - sitting at my computer on (at last) a morning of bright sunshine and blue sky.
Yesterday was a typical day when I really got nothing done but every minute was full.
Once my dear carer had gone I sat down with a coffee and waited for the paper to pop through the letter box. After the fiasco earlier in the week when the paper boy put about two inches of The Times through the letter box on a pouring wet morning and I had to peg pages on the line and leave to dry before I could read it (does beg the question - did I really want to read it?) I had an hour to spare as the paper was late. Only two inches through again - not raining luckily.
Did the Mind Games and the quick cryptic crossword. Read the depressing first few pages of the main paper and as it was ten o'clock by this time I thought I would do a few needed chores before coffee and kit kat time.
I needed new ink for my printer. My computer kept telling me that it couldn't find the site I always use - www.cartridgediscount.co.uk so I popped over to Amazon Prime - too compicated. Rang my son - he found cartridge discount immediately and sent me a link. By this time 10.30.
There are hundreds of different printers/models/numbers etc. I trawled through, found the Canon section, clicked what I wanted, filled in endless details, got to the end and it told me to go back to the beginning as I was already a customer - or carry on as a 'guest'. Stupidly decided to go back to the beginning - had forgotten my password! Chose to let them give me a computer generated one. After trying to copy it into my password book several times and missing out a dash or an exclamation mark or an asterisk - I abandoned the idea and decided to order as a guest, Filled in everything again - got to end and it told me there was a mistake with my e mail address. There was but I couldn't delete it for some reason.
At this point the phone rang. I answered it It was the dear Tesco delivery man (the one in the orange pom pom hat) who said he had arrived with my order but was I alright as he couldn't make me hear . Ten out of ten for Tesco delivery men who are without exception wonderful, caring and helpful.
He offered to put my frozen stuff in the freezer for me but I had defrosted it and needed to start again - my carer is away next week and much of it was frozen Charlie Bigham meals. So had that to do before going back to computer. The order had disappeared of course!
Rang the company (why didn't I do that in the first place?). Lovely chap answered "How can I help you today?" My reply, "You can hopefully prevent me having a nervous breakdown!" Two minutes later he had put me up on screen, rectified the error I had made, checked that I had ordered the correct cartridges (probably though 'poor old dear I'd better check') and Bob's your uncle all done and dusted.
I put the Tesco order away, microwaved my lunch, sat down and ate it. Switched on the News, drank a quarter of my cup of coffee, fell asleep, woke up as I was pouring the other three quarters on to my trousers!!
Need I say more in explanation as to why I didn't put on a post!!
** There is an error somewhere in here but having read it through again I can't find it. Apologies but now coffee time (might even allow myself two two finger kit-kats - or maybe a toasted crumpet with marmalade ). See you all tomorrow.
Tuesday 14 November 2023
Yesterday was quite a day here. First of all the storm arrived (forgotten whether we are still with Storm Debbie or whether we have moved on to the next letter of the alphabet). With the almost 24 hours of heavy rain came ferocious gales blowing from a slightly unusual direction. It was a really unpleasant day - even the usual dogs didn't come out until mid-morning when there was a 10 minute break of sunshine which coincided with a visit from my Chiropodist which gave me a legitimate excuse to sit with my feet up and view what was going on outside. Then the storm came back if anything stronger than before.
When I went into the garage to take something into the recycling bin quite a sight awaited me. The garage is a brick one and is attached to the side of the bungalow. The wind had blown the rain into a gap in the flashing and water was trickling down the wall which houses all of the electrics. I feared a sudden stop to all heating and lighting.
I rang British Gas emergency line (well as far as I was concerned it was an emergency to me) but they were not at all helpful and told me to contact an electrician. (I buy my electricity from British Gas)
Luckily I always use the same chap - P - who lives nearby. I rang him. By this time my relief carer had come to help me get ready for bed (I sit in my dressing gown in the winter evenings) but I said I would ready myself as I didn't fancy standing in the garage with P without at least a cardigan and shawl on.
Half an hour later P arrived, surveyed the situation and took emergency measures of rigging up a sheet of heavy-duty plastic which covered the electrics and diverted any trickle of rainwater out on to the garage floor (it wasn't a constant trickle, only when blown in by the gale). He said he would return this morning.
Instead he rang me to say A, a roofer, would call and survey the scene. At lunch time A arrived, got out a ladder, took out the flashing all the way along where the garage joins the bungalow (not raining by this time) and re did the flashing with a waterproof silicone. He surveyed the roof and said the felt did need replacing but really not at this time of the year. So this is in his book for early Spring but he assures me the felt will be alright until then. He also looked at the ridge tiles along the bungalow roof and says they are in urgent need of re-conreting in. This he will do at the first available opportunity - ie a gap in this awful weather and a promise of a couple of frost-free nights.
I paid him for the work he did this morning, he promised to send me quotes but I told him to put both jobs in his "Jobs to be done" book anyway.
It proved one thing to me. If you find a good, trustworthy tradesman (my son recommended P, the electrician, who does any electrical work for him - and now for me too) stick with him. Now P has recommended a good, reliable roofer,A.
I can't tell you how relieved I am today and how grateful I am to them both for jumping in during an emergency. I shall sleep well tonight. I have just sent both a thank=you text.
Monday 13 November 2023
Living alone my friends are very important to me. I have various kinds:
Dear, special friends who live near, who visit regularly, who sit and chat and make the days go by, often at a cracking pace if two or three call on the same day. Because I have had carers morning and evening for the past four years I count my carers in this category. J, the one who has been coming the longest, is very dear to me - almost like the daughter I never had. W, an evening carer who live very near, is in hospital at present having a very major operation. The morning after she had it she texted me at 6am (she knows I get up then) to say the op had gone well and she was out of 'recovery' and back on the ward. She knew I would be worrying about her.
Telephone friends - one an old infant school friend - phones every couple of weeks and we have a long chat. Others who visit when they can but live too far away to see every week or fortnight.
And of course there are all of you. One or two I have met - Sue in Suffolk, Margaret (who no long blogs but we communicate on facebook - me from North Yorkshire, Margaret from the San Juan Islands off the coast by Seattle,) Elizabeth who also no longer blogs but uses Facebook - we met in New York when she kindly showed us round for the morning. Others who live fairly near but we have never got to meet - folk like Thelma who lived on the North York Moors, Gerry who lives on the edge of the Lakes. It certainly stimulates the imagination chatting all over the world doesn't it? Talk about widening one's horizons.
I wonder if we were to meet whether we would be like we are 'in the flesh' so to speak or whether we would all get a shock when we met face to face!
Now I have a new virtual friend. I was hoping to show him to you by copying and pasting him. With that in mind my son took photographs of him yesterday but sadly my copying and pasting is saying 'no'. So I shall have to tell you about him.
I only have his head and it sits in a little box 11cms by 16cms and he is made of wood mainly. He is made by the London artist Natalie d'Arbeloff. He is now on my wall alongside the two pencil drawings of heads I have had for many years. He has a 'bubble' coming out of his mouth saying 'ASK ME SOMETHING. ANYTHING.'
Already - since I received him by post on Saturday morning - it feels like an extra person in the house. I know that sounds daft but those of you who live alone will see things in a different light. No - I am not going daft but he is a real personality, I suppose a similar feeling to having a pet (although they are much more 'in your face' and a very much more real presence.) But I am happy to add him to my list of friends - virtual and real. I don't intend to hold a conversation with him, but I shall certainly throw any thoughts I wish to ponder on his way. You never know - perhaps he will throw a few thoughts back my way. I am calling him Diego after Diego Revera, the husband of Frida Khalo, the Mexican artist. 'My' Diego sends his regards by the way.
Sunday 12 November 2023
It is probably four years since I stopped driving. I firmly believe that mid eighties is the time. One's reflex actions slow down, eyesight begins to be a bit shaky. Then a broken hip, followed by epilepsy made the decision for me.
This means I rarely get an opportunity to go shopping. I love clothes but it hasn't stopped me buying them - on line means no tiresome changing rooms and using the same sources - Sea Salt, The White Stuff, Hotter, David Neiper, Lakeland Leather, Florence and Fred at Tesco - means I have honed details of size down to a fine art and rarely have to return articles because they don't fit.
My main carer provides my mid-day meal to heat up in the microwave so I manage a fornightly on line Tesco delivery. I miss the local Deli but have one or two friends willing to bring pate, quiches, cold meat etc. and a friend who happily shops there for me.
Tescos sell stamps (and now I realise they put them in a brown envelope I don't accidently throw the baby out with the bathwater.)
Another friend tops up fruit at the Friday market and also collects my prescription drugs from the Pharmacy once a month.
Am I at a disadvantage? Reading the papers and listening to friends who call, I honestly don't think I am missing anything. In fact I think I score hands down. Reading today's Times just emphasises that.
Booths - the Waitrose of the North West - have just stopped having 'check yourself out' tills apparently and are going back to a nice long friendly line of 'Till Girls/Boys'. My carers go to the local Tesco to shop (we have a large Tesco as we live within three miles of the largest garrison town in Western Europe) and come back with horror stories of trying the check yourself out and then being stopped for a spot check.
Our local Post Office is located at the back of the Co-op and opens - in theory - on about three days a week but is under staffed so doesn't always open as promised.
Both HSBC and Barclays have closed our local branches (the buildings both lie closed, neglected, weeds growing out of the cracks between walls and footpaths.)
Luckily since my farmer died I have not travelled by air - and shall not do so again but our last flight together was to Amsterdam from Tees Valley - a small, friendly venue but even there going through a computerised check in defeated us and we had to call for help. Heaven help me at Gatwick these days.
Richard used to be my chosen check out till in my go to Tesco days. Sadly Richard was killed in a car accident a few years ago so I wouldn;t even have him to chat to - even if there were enough tills to allow him time for a friendly chat.
So, in answer to the question of my title - No I don't think I am missing anything at all by sitting on my bottom in my chair and looking out of the window and chatting to everyone who calls in on me - nice friendly chats too. I hesitate to ask, "What is the world coming to ?" But can anybody answer my query?
Thursday 9 November 2023
I have never really thought all that much about light until the last few years. Maybe since I moved back into the Countryside after living for almost thirty years in towns or cities suddenly I have become more aware of it.
This morning when I got up it was just getting light. When I unlock I always open the front door to see what kind of day is dawning. Bits of the sky were a light navy blue, other bits were black with heavy cloud. The rooks were just flying over from their rookery to their feeding grounds - only visible when they passed over the bits of navy blue sky - when they were flying where there was black cloud they still let me know they were there with their constant cacophony of morning chat.
Because my chair faces a large South-facing window my life on most days is completely governed by light. This morning, as the still quite warm sun broke through the cloud, it lit up the waste ground (often inspiration for my blog posts I know) opposite my window - the silver birch whose leaves have turned a beautiful golden (just to defy its name), the ash - a youngish tree - which has lost half its leaves leaving the other half to hang despondently awaiting their fate and another young tree I can't identify and keep meaning to look up whose leaves seem to have gone from green to dark brown almost overnight.
We see more stars here than I ever saw living in urban environments in The Midlands (I 'm sure the Lincolnshire countryside of my childhood had wonderful large skies - and I do remember my father pointing out the planets) and this mornimg, in one of the patches unclouded Jupiter shone incredibly brightly - shouting out to be noticed.
Several nights this week the Aurora Borealis has given a display right down the South of the country. Some of our fireworks watchers on Saturday night - those who had gone to the top of Penn Hill- photographed the firework display with a background of the Aurora.
And before I leave the subject - don't we all feel better on a sunny day. In desert lands where the sun shines almost all the time I suppose they don't notice it - it rises every morning - keeps its face over them all all day and then goes down at night. Here - certainly during the last month of wet weather - any glimpse of the sun, however rare, has been met with at least mental applause.
So join me in a round of applause for our dear, dear friend the sun .
I don't want to go on about the Israel/Gaza war - I try not to 'do' politics - but when I think of the thousands of innocent people - men, women and children - dying or being horribly maimed and damned to a lifetime of suffering if they do survive - and I see on the News all the hundreds of trucks held up at the border - trucks containing food, water, medical supplies, tents - things to help appease their suffering - I am a coward. I switch off. What can I do apart from sending money and all that does is for a while ease my conscience.
So many in the world - those on the News and many many more hungry, living in alien environments, suffering because of religious hatred, warring tribes - the list is endless. Appropriately today in a Times Obit to M S Swaminathan a 'celebrated plant scientist who developed miracle grains enabling India to become self sufficient in food production' who spoke at a conference in 1982 and said in a sentence more than I can say in a hundred posts:
"As we depart for dinner this evening what could be a more satisfying and joyful feeling than knowing that every member of the human family will also go to bed after a nourishing meal? Until such a wholly attainable world becomes a reality our task remains unfinished."
Then there really would be LIGHT.
Tuesday 7 November 2023
That is today's - or rather tonight's question.
Yesterday I watched and listened to Barbara Streisand talking about what she intends to do with her life now that she is 81. One thing above all else - she intends to "have fun." She says she has never had 'fun' in her life (she had a tough childhood) and now she is 81 she intends that to be her top priority.
Now today in Times2 Robert Crampton speaks of making sure we are aware of what is 'fantasy' and what is 'reality' and also of opting for 'contentment over 'fun' now that he is 59.
He writes about his Bruce Lee fantasy of becoming a black belt in Karate - faded long ago, along with his aim to master two or three languages and his 'pootling around the Caribbean on a yacht'.
Of course for us 'ordinary mortals' real life does tend to get in the way of having much of a choice.
When I and my friends were teenagers - the traditional age to have fun - the Second World War and its aftermath tended to overshadow the 'fun' element. Fun definitely in the days of swimming in the River, fishing for tiddlers in the beck, having 'kissing games' at Sunday School parties but we 'sophisticated' teenagers - as the New Look (remember that?) came in - the nearest we got to good old fashioned fun was Saturday night dances at the Co-op Hall in Lincoln. Dances at The Drill Hall always sounded much more 'fun' but were forbidden to us 'Chapel' girls - soldiers went there to pick up a girl friend! 'soldiers' were absolutely forbidden fruit for us - it was Co-op Hall or stay at home.
Then work to earn money - none of my friends went to Uni - none of us even contemplated it - money was short in all of our families. You left school at 16 and you got a job. You paid your mum for your food and lodging and the little you had left from your wages (few if any of us had 'salaries' - that was for the posh girls) you saved up for clothes and the somewhat limited make-up we were allowed to wear. (Many's the time my father, without taking his eyes off The Lincolnshire Echo' he was reading, would tell me to 'go back upstairs and take some of that 'muck' off my face before I went out!' - and I would do it (no argument)
I don't think you can equate fun with enjoyment - we 'courted' we 'married' we had 'babies' and enjoyed (hopefully) the experience. Then when our children were grown up and flown the nest we had what we called fun (boring more like for our kids).
Can't think when I last had 'fun'. Do know that most of the time I live a very contented life full of friends, little - not too tiring - outings, good books, looking at my garden, watching Monty Don working in his garden, just gazing into space and thinking nice thoughts, trying to not think about the mess the world is in.
As for fun - even in lower case letters rather than capitals - no thanks. Far too tiring. Maybe Barbara Striesand will find that out - seems Robert Crampton already has.