Colour Savings Time

Snooker

Friday night in the Seventies didn’t get any better!

One of my happy routines as an Electronic Bag Teen was to watch snooker with my dad. I know, I was really living la vida loca back then! We also watched showjumping, Tom & Jerry and Dr Who, and if possible any silent comedy films starring people such as Chaplin, Keaton or Lloyd. My father was a discerning television viewer who would quite literally turn on for a three minute cartoon, then turn off again.

During the Seventies, which is when all this crazy was going on chez Bag Teen, Friday night didn’t get any more exciting than Pot Black, a half hour performance of snooker showmanship. All the big names were there, such as the great Fred Davis, Cliff Thorburn, Dennis Taylor, Ray Reardon, Terry Griffiths and eventually a very young Steve Davis. And you really had to learn the how it worked because back in those days we were on colour-savings time and mostly everything was in black and white. Believe it or not, I didn’t find out my eyes were blue until the Eighties.

For those of you not familiar with the phenomenon, colour-savings time (or “CST”) was invented in order to manage an orderly transition from the Age of Monochrome to the Age of Multichrome. Colour had of course been invented some years previously, resulting in general excitement with a tendency to hysteria and significant economic success for traders in smelling salts. The population gradually became more alert to the opportunities of a nuanced colour scheme in their everyday lives, but initially it was considered a social shift of cataclysmic proportion which needed delicate management. For centuries colour had been as theoretical as the Higgs boson, and until someone invented the equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider (it was actually called the Large Pantone Collider and patented in 1928 by Ingrid Bergman’s uncle) there continued to be savage debate over such contentious issues as the colours to be found in a rainbow, or the actual colour of the Red Sea and its implications for biblical epistemology.

Nevertheless, demand was high; the world expected colour in every last nook and cranny, although early attempts were clumsy as armies of painters (or “colourists” as they were known) were deployed globally to render key landmarks and treasures in red, green, or blue. The discovery by Howard Carter in Tutankhamen’s tomb of the colour gold, for example, caused quite a stir. The colourists started with works of art and later moved into cinema. Their early enthusiasm was prone to excess, and indeed one colourist was so carried away when updating the Book of Kells that he was forcibly sectioned for the greater good.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKellsFol032vChristEnthroned.jpg

The new phenomenon of colour resulted in some extremely vibrant pages in the Book of Kells

Gradually colouring became mainstream and coloured versions of everyday items made it into the shops, such as blue jeans and itsty-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot bikinis. Following the psychedelic period at the end of the Sixties, the world was mostly transitioned but the BBC lagged a little behind due to a limited budget. It couldn’t afford a complete colour output and snooker balls were last in the cue.

As a result, my father taught me the rules of the game the old-fashioned way: keen observation to memorise the placement of balls on the table. Snooker nowadays is a garish game, but then it was all shades of grey, and not in a kinky sense. Now there is the green baize, and balls of white, red, black, pink, blue, brown, green and yellow.

The important thing to remember with snooker, the really important thing, especially if watching in monochrome, is that apart from the white and the reds, all the colours have a home spot marked on the baize. They return to it throughout the game, like salmon to the glens or pigeons to their lofts. It is a game of physics: angles, velocity and spin. The goal is to clear the table by potting all the balls in a certain order, ending with the black. Only the white must never vanish down the rabbit hole. There are hideous forfeits if this happens. Hideous.

Knowing these rules and paying attention to play, it made perfect sense then for whispering Ted Lowe, the television commentator, to murmur “and for those of you watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green.”

What were your favourite TV moments as a teenager?

Namaste

Santa made me cry

Saturday night in front of the telly and my evening’s viewing was disrupted by a noise outside. I put my glass of wine down carefully and tweaked back the curtain. It was the Lions’ Christmas float, cautiously inching past the cars on the bend in the lane and blaring out carols while people in high-vis vests ran about with buckets to collect money. There were lights and music and cheery greetings, and goodness me, there was Father Christmas, taking time out from his busy schedule to parade through our hamlet. The elves must have everything under control back at base while the wily old gent scouts out the terrain ahead of the Big Night. Mind you, the elves are pretty experienced and the wily old gent has been doing the rounds on floats for as long as I can remember.

Sometimes he sub-contracted.

If you are a big devotee of Father Christmas and write him imploring letters every year, do not read further. It may be distressing. If you are not sure what to do, check with your mum or dad and take their advice.

Meanwhile, all I can tell you is one of the sub-contractors was my own dear papa, and in fact this is why as a child I never believed in Father Christmas (although I do believe, perhaps more foolishly and childishly, in peace on earth and that Christmas tree smell; my eyes are still full of tinsel and fire).

Rotary Float in 1967

My Dad was the local Rotary Club’s Santa. His costume would be hanging up to dry in the kitchen throughout December and I knew that Dad was all there was (it was more than enough) and other kids were deluded. I didn’t tell anyone though; it would have been unkind.

So he would go out on the float at night, and when I was a little older I was allowed to go too and help with the collections. I always got a good haul because people were sentimental about a small child lisping her way through the spiel about raising money for the poor and elderly of the locality. It also meant I got to go on the annual coach trip to the seaside with the old dears, who spoilt me thoroughly with toffees and boiled sweets.

me as santaI even wore the costume on Christmas Day to hand out the presents.

It might help to explain what happened when I saw the float on Saturday if I tell you a bit about my week, or rather my Thursday. Recently the nurses found that my mother’s blood tests were indicating a lack of iron. As she has a good and varied diet the doctor decided she was bleeding internally, although he didn’t know why. She seemed well and was eating and drinking without problems. So we stopped her anti-coagulants, which would be exacerbating any bleed, and waited a bit. Her blood results have been improving steadily so she is no longer bleeding. Excellent news.

Except she is no longer taking her anti-coagulants, which means she is at increased risk of stroke and as she has vascular dementia, at increased risk of more vascular incidents which will further melt her brain.

The doctor and I talked it all through on Thursday. The bleed may have been a temporary problem highlighted by the anti-coagulants thinning her blood; it may be caused by some disease of the bowel; or it may be bowel cancer.  To find out would require difficult, uncomfortable and potentially inconclusive investigations, which she would find inexplicable and terrifying because she can’t understand what is going on. Even if they found the cause, which is not guaranteed, we would then be faced with a decision around whether she is strong enough to take any treatment, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. She isn’t, and even if she were, the trauma could be either damaging or fatal by stressing her too far.

So I decided we would let her alone. We’ll restart the anti-coagulants when her blood tests indicate she is back to normal, hoping she doesn’t have a stroke or vascular incident in the meantime (it should only be a couple of weeks). If her blood tests then get worse again, we will have to decide whether to risk stopping them or not.

So it had been a stressful Thursday.

There I was 48 hours later looking at a Christmas float pass by and waving to Santa, who waved back and boomed out a “Merry Christmas!” and I fell apart at the gate, in the dark and cold, where no one could see.

Because last year my mother saw the float and we remembered how Dad used to be Santa. She cannot now.

Because I wanted my dad here to help me. He cannot now.

Because whatever the blood tests tell us, nothing will be good or beautiful or gentle. Yet I must choose.

So I cried silent self-pity in the dark and cold where no one could see, then wiped my eyes and went back into the warm house and sat with Sigoth by the fire.

Because I have joy as well as sadness.

On Joy & Sorrow

Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Namaste.

How long we live, how long we take to die

One of my hobbies is researching my family tree. I’ve been at it since I first saw some old sepia photos of forebears when I was a teenager and my Dad was looking for something in a cluttered bureau. For once he was willing to talk about his family history and I scribbled names on the back with a pencil in my flowery teen-girl handwriting.

My family came alive to me. The great-uncles who died in the Somme suddenly became faces of real (albeit antique) people, gazing solemnly into a camera. My own grandmother, wrinkled, toothless, crippled by arthritis, was a beautiful young woman in a lacy Victorian blouse. Her fiancée looked like a film star. My very serious uncle was a tiny baby kicking his feet as he lay on a rug. My Dad’s sister who died when she was seven, and whom my grandmother occasionally mistook me for, stood clutching a teenaged Great Aunt Lettie’s knee and looked like just like me.

Lettie with Alf and Winnie Tricker

In this way my family still lives on. I never really knew them. They are my inherited ghosts. But from then Armistice Day did have meaning.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them

So life goes on, and we all carry our ghosts with us, some more than others, some gladly, some sadly. Yet still they matter.

My dad died very suddenly on 26 September 1992. This week was the 21st anniversary of his death and my mother missed it more utterly than ever before. Even last year she was vaguely aware of it, and I was able to remind her so we had a few moments together remembering that kind and gentle man before her melted brain turned back to the weather as a topic of conversation. Dementia robs the person and their family of memories, including memories of those no longer with us.  In this way it exterminates the sufferer and their family line. There is a Maori concept of whakapapa which relates to the identity of a person as part of a cultural heritage, and I feel that remembering our predecessors is important to us in a similar way.

I remember my Dad. I have stories about him, some buried in this very blog, which I tell my children. He died the weekend I went home to visit and tell him about his latest grandchild, due to be born the following Spring, He was so happy with the news, but still he died a few hours later, after he got home from work and before my mother and I got back from a concert. It was unexpected.

Twenty one years is a long time. The grandchild is now at university. His wife is fading slowly and excruciatingly.  His only daughter is still misses him on a daily basis. It feels like he is in the next room, or about to phone. We were very close, and in a sense still are. He has been dying for twenty one years, in a sense, and will not completely pass away until I, and possibly the children, can no longer remember him.

What will become of more modern generations? How long will my blog be archived after I am no longer around updating it? I’ll be a wispy little ghost in the machineries of the Web. Every now and then my shade will whisper to you…

“Namaste.”

Eleven Questions

Fish of Gold recently posted eleven questions, should you choose to answer them. Well, they were kind of fun questions, so I thought I would give them a pop. The alternative was to rant about Beeching, seeing as yesterday was the 50th anniversary of his report’s publication and the devastating effects are still crippling people in rural communities today. Ut it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

So take a deep breath, and here we go with something more convivial. Brew up some tea and relax for a while with me while I ramble.

  1. Do you remember what it was like to be short? I don’t mean adult short, but kid short, like 2 feet tall. (I don’t that’s why I’m asking.)

This is probably why I decided to take these questions. I have a freakish memory, and my earliest is hanging onto the fireguard because I am wobbly on my feet still. I know that might apply to any age where alcohol or drugs are accessible, but in this case I was also quite tiny and not at all like Alice down the rabbit hole. I remember gazing up at the giant furniture and letting go of the fireguard, and then my mother whooshing in and grabbing me and I flew up into the air and all the furniture was below me. It was a bit like the feeling on a swing when you go really high and your tummy gets butterflies. My mother says I learned to walk when I was 14 months old.

  1. How tall are you?

I am only a few inches tall when lying down.

  1. What is your favorite genre of movies?

I am old fashioned enough to enjoy plot, character and good scripts. However, exploding helicopters can make all difference. I would often take “The Princess Bride” as one of my top films, but also “Casablanca” and “Die Hard”.

  1. Do you drive to work or take public transportation? How long does it take you?

I work at home (smug face). Otherwise I use public transport to get to Head Office which takes about 2 or more hours. Until the last few months I have not been able to see well enough to learn to drive. If things go well maybe I will.

  1. What is your favorite moment of an average work day? For example, mine is getting home to see my dog.

I like it when either I finish a thing or get given a new thing. I like to feel the satisfaction of completing something, or the excitement of a new project I can start planning out. I do actually enjoy my job! It has its moments which are a pain, but on the whole, it’s scary-fun, like going high on a swing.

  1. What was your favorite candy as a kid? Is it different now that you’re an adult?

There were horrible sweets when I was little. People get nostalgic about Fruit Salads and Bootlaces and Black Jacks and Flying Saucers, but I shudder now. At the time I knew no better and the sugar rush was fab. Now I like little pieces of fancy chocolate – just one small piece a day is fine, although I might take a second in extremis.

  1. If you could pick one food item to eat as much as you want without any health consequences for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

Fancy chocolate is a contender, for sure, but I do love cheese. There are so many types and tastes! When I was little a delicatessen opened in town, and my Dad would buy a new cheese every Wednesday for him and me to try out. It was fun, although some of them were disgusting!

  1. What actor or actress would play you in the story of your life?

I’d like Meryl Streep but suspect I would be best with Jennifer Saunders.

  1. How far do you live from where you were born?

About 242 miles, according to Google. However, the hospital was 9 miles from where my parents lived, and their house is 241 miles from my house now. Do I need to triangulate? I only did Geography O-Level, and that was mostly colouring in. I thought these were going to be fun and now I’m orienteering!

  1. I’m going to write a check to your favorite charity. To whom should I make it out?

Well, I should think so after all that geography! Thank you kindly. Make it out to Mind, please.

  1. Do you like your first name or do you wonder what the H your parents were thinking?

I absolutely hate my name. With. A. Passion. My mother was going to call me a sensible name, until she had a dream about her dead friend and I was named after her. She had a freak name. So I got a freak name, which meant I was teased at school, and I was named after a woman who died aged 21 from cancer. Way to go.

Well, that ended badly. Apologies for that; perhaps I should have stuck with Beeching. If you are thinking of naming a child, I recommend a plain and common name, and then they can find their own unique soubriquet themselves, if they want one.

EBL – educating the nation’s parents since 1962…

Thanks to FOG for a great set of questions!

Thanks to everyone for reading.

Namaste.

 

Happy Feet

There are days my feet hurt me. They really do. Some days I can’t walk very well. Other days are better. Today, for example, has been reasonably mobile.

I don’t know why my feet have taken against me in this way. I have always worn sensible shoes, apart from a brief flirtation in the 1970s with platforms. To be fair, they were some of the most comfortable shoes I ever owned, because so long as you could keep your balance, they were actually quite flat. It was my ankles at risk, not my feet.

For most of my adult life my feet were enrobed in Doc Martens or trainers or the kind of court shoes that have a heel no more than an inch or so high. I am person of vertical surfeit, so I don’t need to buy heels to make me taller. I can look down on most people in my stockinged feet.

It’s true that as a child I wore bare feet rather a lot. I ran about the garden and up and down the street without shoes because it was more comfortable. I liked to feel the grass or earth beneath me, or obtain solid purchase on the tree trunk as I swarmed up into its welcoming branches and dangled haphazardly over the stream. I liked the mud sucking at my feet as I waded into the murky waters on the hunt for stickleback or frogspawn. I was less fond of the leeches which clung to my feet and legs while I did this, but they were soon pulled off. My mother harangued me regularly and told me that I would regret it one day, and perhaps my feet heard her and fell for it. I don’t know.

I used to spoil those feet rotten when I was little.

I let them try on my parents’ shoes. My Dad’s shoes were particularly hilarious, as he had large, size 12, galumphing boy feet. When he wore his shoes they were so big I could stand on top of them, like a mobile stage, and we would dance around the room together until I fell off from laughing so hard.

When my mother wanted the parquet tiles cleaning in the hallway I tied bright yellow dusters round my feet and skated up and down until the floor and my face shone with joy, and I fell down out of breath from sliding fast and laughing like a hyena.

We laughed all the time in those days…

What happened, feet? We never laugh any more. Not together anyway. I hobble, and maybe you smirk at me. Doctors poke at you and make me yelp, and maybe you smirk at me some more. I don’t know. The hospital gave me insoles for my old lady shoes, which you seem to like. Perhaps you like me having to wear old lady shoes; perhaps that makes you smirk.

Or perhaps you are sad and tired, worn out from all that fun we used to have. We have walked miles together, in the same shoes, over the years. We know each other. We climbed hills and splashed in puddles and scuffed up the drifts of autumn leaves. We strolled and shopped and even marched in time to the band. We jumped and ran and danced. Have I worn you out too soon? If so, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do it.

There are still things we can do together, don’t be downtrodden! We can soak in a hot bath with fancy smelly bubbles and posh oil with funny names. We can stretch in yoga and feel renewed. We can paddle in the summer seas, and feel the grass again sitting in the garden sipping tea instead of running about like a hot and sweaty loon. I can wrap you in snuggly socks, and paint your nails with pretty colours. Maybe for our birthday we can find a reflexologist.

I felt we had grown apart, feet, but then I realised you were just out on a limb. So let’s put the best you forward, and promise not to fight again.

Namaste.

 

Smells like film

At the weekend I did a thing I have never done before. You’ll think this is madness, but I had never been into the loft until this Sunday. Not just this loft either, but any loft. I have stuck my head through hatches over the years, so I had an inkling of what the terrain looked like. I had just never actually finished the climb. There were always other people around to do that kind of thing.

It started, as so many things do, when I was a kid. Kids were not allowed in the loft, for lots of very good reasons, such as stepping on the wrong bits which would result in not being on the loft any more. The loft in my parents’ house was not boarded, and Dad would wobble from beam to beam as he negotiated the piles of junk he hoarded up there. There were teetering towers of old 78 rpm records, broken televisions and radios, old furniture, Christmas decorations, and probably Shergar hiding out with Lord Lucan.

Our own loft was not very different. So, as previously advertised, we have been decluttering. In order to be efficient, Sigoth suggested I go up into the loft and we could decide what needed to go and what could stay without him having to shout down the hatch at me all day. I was sceptical. The loft entrance is a bit tricky and I don’t like ladders. Besides which, lofts are a man thing, Lay-dees don’t do lofts.

Sigoth persuaded me that Michael McIntyre was not presenting a documentary, and that the loft whores were actually very welcoming.

I climbed the ladder and the damage was done. I discovered a magical new world and today I even went back up on my own while Sigoth was at work. His last refuge is utterly destroyed.

We went through endless boxes and crates, and found all kinds of exciting things from our childhoods. In particular we found my Dad’s old projection screen for watching cine films. I remember that screen. It had a smell to it. I’m not sure what it was, but it was not unpleasant. It wafted about the living room while we sat huddled together remembering holidays or even watching cartoons (you could borrow them by post, a kind of precursor to video or DVD rentals). Dad used to splice the films together and add captions, and even experimented with music. He had worked in cinemas in his earlier days as an engineer, where he looked after the Nevelin’s rectifiers.

Back to the smell though. Isn’t it amazing how smells evoke memories? For a few happy moments I was back in our room, squashed between my mother and grandmother, reliving whatever antics Dad had filmed. The curtains are drawn, the projector is buzzing away from its precarious perch on the ironing board, and the screen is leaning drunkenly in front of the sideboard while the grainy footage shudders past.

Similarly if you waft a ham sandwich in front of me, once I have explained that I am vegetarian, I will soon be listening to the football results on Saturday evening while I wait for Basil Brush to come on. We had fresh ham cut from the bone on Saturday evenings as a treat. Mr Knight in the corner shop cut it with a scary-looking machine, while his Dalmatian dog, Dotty, sat on my foot and panted in my face. She was at least as tall as me, and terribly friendly, but a bit heavy on my toes. I preferred her to their corgis though. They could be a bit snappy.

Those football results were great fun too – does anyone remember? I had no idea what the man was going on about; it could have been an incantation to the hordes of Satan for all I was aware. We were not a footballing family. But the announcer made such enormous efforts to make the results interesting. His voice would rise and fall with excitement as he read the scores out breathlessly into the microphone and the viewer watched the ticker tape coming through with more scores as matches finished for the day. They never finished fast enough for me. I wanted Basil and Uncle Derek.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who has these flashbacks when I detect a certain smell. What are yours? Are they as vivid as mine still seem to be?

Namaste.

NaNoWriMo Day 14 – looking back in tinsel

It’s half way through the month and also nearly Christmas. I’m not ready for either the fat man in red with the reindeer fixation  or the end of NaNoWriMo, yet both are hurtling towards me like some disaster movie asteroid propelled by a vengeful god on amphetamine.

The novel: well, these are the numbers. Yesterday I wrote 2388 words bringing the total to 41,153. Now if all I was trying to do was write 50,000 words, then I would be feeling pretty good right now. However, I put my hands on my hips, throw back my head and laugh at 50,000 words. Indeed I do, in my most piratical hat.  My reasons are two-fold and I will reveal them now.

Firstly, I’m going to need more words than that to get this thing sorted out. It’s the story that keeps on growing, as I realise belatedly that my readers are unlikely to know all the things I know but haven’t got round to writing down yet. It looks like my mythical readers are going to be even more troublesome than my characters. The latter have certainly been looking at me askance lately and saying things along the lines of “that just doesn’t make sense” until I fill in the critical piece of information they need. Honestly, I live under the very yoke of tyranny.

Secondly I feel I have to be honest. I blame my parents, it was the way they raised me. I didn’t sign up for NaNo at first, then, in a fit of exuberance, I thought maybe I would after all. Foolishly I put in my word count total for the novel – but, you see, some of it was already written. About 10,748 words in fact, as at day 3 when I joined. So really I need to write 60,748 to play fair. I will need them though (see Reason the First above, in case you have poor memory or don’t read chronologically) so I think it will be OK in the end. And that, friends, is the definition of the triumph of hope over adversity.

As for Christmas – well, the fat man in red had better send an Ideas Elf pretty soon. Every time I think about 25th December, I blank on what is going to be inside those pretty parcels. Sigoth and I have agreed on a joint gift we can share, so that helps, but the offspring all want a surprise, damn them.

We love to do a big family Christmas. Birthdays are not very special in our house, but Christmas is sacred, in that other sense of “not actually or literally sacred but incredibly important”. When I was a kid my father went into overdrive at Christmas. He loved to play jokes, and would hide small presents around the house then claim he had seen Father Christmas just now, or heard the reindeer on the roof, so I would chase about trying to catch him out. I never believed in FC, you see, because I knew Dad was Father Christmas (he used to dress up and do the Father Christmas in the local dairy in town, as well as the Rotary Club float), and all Fathers Christmas were just men dressing up to confuse gullible kids. Here he is in fact.

It looks like this year Sigoth and I are going to do a frantic rush around town on a Saturday. Yon t’interweb is going to be a friend in need too. I really didn’t expect it to get harder as the children got older!

Any ideas for gifts for a bunch of twenty-somethings of assorted gender would be appreciated.

And yet it’s all downhill from here, my hearty Nanos; write speedily and well.