Pearly King and Queen

There is a Cockney tradition of Pearly Kings and Queens. You can look it up through a search engine or on-line ‘pedia of your choice. My granny used to tell me all about them when I was small.

Well, on 1 October 2013 Sigoth and I will be a Pearly King and Queen, albeit not of a Cockney variety, and we will be in Copenhagen, not London, for we are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary by spending a few days in the land of top-notch knitwear and construction toys.

Hopefully if I have sorted out the scheduler you will be able to wish us “skål!” on the day itself (subject to the rotation of the earth and your own regularity with WordPress reader or whatever you use). To which we reply “thanks, my dears, and cheers to you too!”.

I met Sigoth at university in Freshers’ Week. I thought he was rather sweet and we used to cross paths every Wednesday evening as we both dashed out of the labs where we were doing practicals to rush for the bus back to Hall. Different labs, different Hall, but same general timing and direction, and friends in common.

Then there came the inevitable Christmas party, the day John Lennon was shot, and so we became an item. Cautiously at first, then more confidently, we grew into each other’s ways and have never yet grown out of them.

We got engaged on the night of one of the university Balls, in February 1982. We only told one friend in advance, confident she would have the news around the rest of the university before we had had our first dance. Imagine our horror next day when we wandered into the bar to meet up with the usual suspects for lunch and no one knew a thing! For the only time in her life she had decided it was a secret and told no one, so we had to broach the news ourselves, with great embarrassment.

The wedding was a home-made affair. The night before the great event my friends came over and we made sandwiches. Another friend made the cake for us, having practised the icing pattern on her mother’s Christmas cake, and it was beautiful. My mother’s friend, Aunty Sheila, did the flowers having taken a flower-arranging course.

On the day itself it was cool and a bit wet. I left the house in my best friend’s father’s car, with my Dad, windscreen wipers going, and worrying about the dress. It was my mother’s wedding dress, which we had cleaned and spruced up, and it looked fine although something happened to the hem in the cleaning process so it was a bit crooked. No one cared.

The rain stopped by the time we arrived at the meeting house, and during the meeting for worship a blackbird sang its heart out in the garden. As Quaker weddings were quite unusual we had a lot of Friends join us, almost all of whom we had never met, but they filled out the room and contributed their worshipful silence.

Meeting house where we married

The wedding vow for Quakers in Britain is a simple one:

Friends, I take this my friend Sigoth to be my husband, promising through divine assistance to be unto him a loving and faithful wife so long as we both on earth shall live.

Sigoth said the same thing, with appropriate amendments for name and relationship. After that we signed stuff and had cake and drank juice and took photos. In a Quaker wedding all those present sign a certificate, which contains the time/date/place and promises we make to each other, and may be either a poster sized document or a booklet (ours was the poster version, and is framed in the hallway). Then Sigoth and I went away to Germany while everyone else went to the pub.

We were young and a little insane. We had no money or jobs – it was 1983, so no one had jobs – but we decided to start a family straight away. Offspring #1 arrived 6 weeks before our first wedding anniversary.

The bare bones are not so interesting really. What makes it special is that my stomach still gives a lurch when I see Sigoth. My heart still beats a little faster while he sleeps beside me, and I feel the warmth of his breath and the beat of his heart. Every day he is there for me and will be so long as both on earth shall live.

I wish you happiness and joy in your relationships, whatever shape or form they take.

Namaste.

 

Together we are stronger

This month’s Bloggers for Peace topic asks us to consider our relationships. My brain ferments such questions. Today I uncork for you some early brewings.

You know how it goes: one minute in the privacy of your head you are thinking deep and meaningful thoughts; the next, someone else, outside your bony skull echoes them in public. It happened today.

To start at the very beginning: I am reading a book. I know, who’d have thought it? It’s about the Civil War, by which I mean the English Civil War in the 17th century. The book itself is a peculiar mix of history text book and historic fiction. It’s a bit peculiar but fascinating.

As you will no doubt be aware, there is nothing civil about a Civil War, and the English variety was no exception. It tore apart the country, respecting no person, destroying trade, harvests and cities, families and friendships. It was as uncivilised as war can get, with civilians being used as human shields or hostages, or just target practice. Your immediate neighbours, with whom you had lived cheek by jowl all your life, might suddenly mutate into the Opposition. One man was for the King, his brother for Parliament, and they were followed for better or worse by daughters, wives and children. Both armies, and their camp followers, slogged through ice and snow, rain, sun and mud, starved, died of fever, disease and trench foot (this war was fought in trenches in some cases, just like the calamity in the Somme in the early 20th century), as well as wounds and quaint medical practice.

At the end of it all we, the people, killed the King for treason. We had a contract, you see, where in return for his life of privilege and riches, we could expect his service through good governance and a dedication to our collective welfare. He believed he had a Divine Right, but it turned out he was mistaken, fatally so.

The execution of the reigning monarch would have sent shock waves through an already fractured society and across the Channel throughout Europe. As everyone returned wearily from the years of war to try and rebuild their lives, it would have been hard to trust their neighbours again. During this period a number of extravagant and radical religious groups flourished, in part by offering to replace the lost trust and sense of community desired by a shocked and stricken populace. Among them were Quakers.

It didn’t last, of course. In the end we brought back the king, a new one, whom we held to account. Well, it was that or give up Christmas, and as Narnians will tell you, that is not much fun. The English reserve as their inalienable right the opportunity to celebrate a mid-winter festival. It’s the long, dark nights, you see. You have to take your mind off them, preferably with alcohol.

In my more old-fogeyish moments I sometimes feel we are experiencing similar upheaval today, as communities fracture under the pressures of modern life. There seems to be a lack of connectedness which, I think, can result in the total lack of love for others evidenced by bankers, care workers and certain celebrities. Obviously, many bankers, care workers and celebrities are kind, nurturing people; it’s just we hear about the others. Equally these behaviours are not new.

Whatever the causes, or not, and whether it’s true, or not, people do like to feel part of a community. Some communities may be closer than others, but no one likes to feel alone always and forever.

So there I was, sitting in Quaker meeting and thinking about how we are the same as those distant forebears of the 17th century, when someone stood up and said:

How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.

Well now! There’s a thing. Because I had been brooding over Isaac Penington’s letter from 1667, which begins like this:

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand, if there has been any slip or fall

Isaac lived through a terrible period of history and he, like others, wanted to leave behind all war and occasion for war. He was a religious man, and saw love and peace and tenderness as a calling from God.

These times are not as religious as then, although it seems superstition is rife instead. We have learned so much and most of it is magnificent, as Professor Brian Cox likes to point out in excited tones.

Reason is a mighty instrument, but reason without love is empty. Reason does not soothe tears or smooth away bad dreams. Compassion and wisdom, as some might say, are the way to enlightenment. Or as Bill and / or Ted would have it:

Be excellent to one another

Namaste.

 

Aunties, aunties everywhere

I seem to be in a real wallow of nostalgia at the moment, as the last few posts demonstrate. Never mind, it was part of the reason I started this blog anyway, to note down some memories before I lost the will to tell them or the means to share them. Nowadays I am assuming the old folks’ home will have Internet access as standard, but who knows?

The other day I wrote about my memories of Auntie Brown and so unsurprisingly she has been uppermost in my thoughts. She kept on writing to my mother for years after she moved to the Land of the Long White Cloud. She was certainly still writing after my mother moved up north to be near us, back in 2000, and must have been well into her eighties. At some point she may have died, but I don’t know because my mother will not have remembered to tell me (if she knew, but I think the family would have been in touch). My mother was already getting more forgetful than I realised, even in those days.

I felt a bit sad about that and thought about my other aunties. What you need to know at this point is that the term “auntie” is more an honorific than a genealogical title. These women were simply my mother’s friends and neighbours. There were associated uncles but in some cases I don’t think I even knew their names. They did not feature in my young life because they were out winning bread, while we women and children lived in a separate, parallel world.

Auntie Brown was also called by her first name sometimes, Auntie May. However, the woman on the other side of our house was never an auntie. She was a Missus: the subtle clue that we did not get on. She was often very nice but liked to show off all the time, and as we were not very well off it was usually at our expense. On the rare occasion we were allowed into her house, she would literally be plumping up the cushions in the sofa as soon as we stood to leave. It was unnerving.

The next few paragraphs are probably for the girls. Chaps, you may wish to skip them. They involve lady stuff. It’s entirely up to you. To skip, look for **.

One time my mother and I went to see her because they had just had a new boiler installed to provide central heating. This was pretty uncommon, although we did have a coal-fired boiler in our house which had been a major bonus in the winter of 1962 but was pretty inadequate to the task of heating radiators. Nevertheless there was always hot water. Anyway, Mrs Next-Door proudly showed off the clean new boiler, all white and shiny and not coal-dusty at all.

“So how do you burn rubbish?” I asked, in my innocent child fashion.

By rubbish I was not really sure what I meant but I knew we did sometimes burn additional items on the boiler. We had no open fires in the house, so it was a handy means of waste disposal. What I didn’t understand, although later I learned and was very pleased, was that mostly the rubbish consisted of sanitary items. Let me tell you, girlfriends, when I went to university I had no idea how to dispose of such items as there was no incinerator in the residence. I soon got over the rather quaint prejudice the teachers at school had instilled about ladies not using tampons. Honestly, when I left home it was like I moved centuries as well as geographies!

Mrs Next-Door cottoned on to what I was talking about and she and my mother went red. I soon got a nice drink of orange squash and a biscuit to shut me up. So she wasn’t all bad.

** Welcome back fellas. You only missed some menstruation chat.

Anyway, aunties.

Realising that I have probably missed Auntie Brown’s demise, I quickly catalogued the other key aunties to make sure I knew their current status. This brought about the realisation that I was blessed with aunties even though my actual family was pretty small. I also realised that mostly they are now dead.

Auntie Peggy was a marvellous, hearty woman who always complained about her health, I learned the word “hypochondriac” before I was 10. It eventually turned out she was an undiagnosed coeliac. She died of cancer. She was bright and beautiful and always talked to me like I was a human being. She didn’t have children but she had a real niece she doted on and she spoiled me too. She had a huge laugh and dressed like a film star, usually in cherry reds or something bold. She spent her life helping other people, caring for elderly neighbours, growing and giving away vegetables on an allotment, volunteering with an old folks’ day centre. She was always honest and cheerful, even when the cancer was over-whelming her.

Auntie Sheila is living in the West Country now; we wrote to each other at Christmas. She and my mother met in maternity hospital and she had a son my age, and later a daughter. I loved playing with one or the other of them but as they always fought I couldn’t play with both at once. She was a kind, intelligent, creative woman who did the flower arrangements for my wedding. I spent a lot of time at her house in the holidays, although sometimes we had to be very quiet because Uncle Ian (there was an uncle here, and he was great to me but strict with his kids) was asleep after night shift as a policeman.

Auntie Marjorie was like a person from an old novel, like in an Agatha Christie story, a real lady in the old-fashioned, quiet English way (only not murdered or murdering of course). There was Uncle Malcolm too but I didn’t see very much of him, although he had a cute little white moustache and dressed like a proper gent. I don’t think he was, it was just their era, and everything was smart and tidy and lovely. The house was chintzy and had very thick carpets and heavy oak doors. She taught me how to make toad in the hole. After the first Offspring was born we went to visit, and I was shocked to discover Auntie Marjorie had had two sons; they both contracted measles and died when they were 5 and 3, the elder catching it at school and infecting the younger.

Auntie Betty, I fear, was an exception in the pantheon of Good Aunts. Whenever someone uses the word “waspish” I think of her. She lived on her own with her cats for company. The cats scratched, inevitably. One was Siamese. When she came to our house she was incredibly nosy; she went into my bedroom and looked in the drawers and rearranged things. I was livid, of course, and even my mother ticked her off. Dad and I would hide when she was coming, and one weekend I went to stay over at a friend’s to avoid her. We spent the morning making each other up with glitter and stars and all kinds of glam rock goodness. Then I realised I had forgotten something and had to pop home to pick it up. Auntie Betty nearly fell off her chair and shrieked when she saw me, and my parents nearly died laughing at her. The poor old dear, she was sad and lonely, but she didn’t help herself. My mother eventually didn’t let her know her new address because she couldn’t stand the complaining. I’m sad Auntie Betty ended up that way really.

Big Auntie Kath was another loud, funny, extrovert auntie, like Auntie Peggy. She also died of cancer, and it’s hard to tell you more about her because she was a force of nature, and how do you describe that? She was lively and happy and kind and boomed into the house when visiting. She did exciting things like going abroad for holiday or colouring her hair.

Little Auntie Cath was a school teacher and the sister of my mother’s best friend, after whom I am named. She used to test me on spellings and times tables, but she also took us to the zoo and the seaside in her terrifying jumpy mini. “I put a kangaroo in the tank!” she would yell cheerfully as we lurched along the road and my mother sat in the front seat white-faced and gripping her handbag in terror. I thought it was hilarious, of course.

Having two auntie K/Caths was educational in its own right. I learned two different spellings, which was one way to tell them apart. Fortunately they were also physically inches apart in height, hence the nicknames.

There were also all the aunties who were the mothers of my friends: Auntie Meg, who used to tell my friend to behave more like me but let us watch Pogle’s Wood, which my mother thought was too scary; Auntie Hazel, who took me to church to save my soul and wouldn’t let us ride bikes on Sunday, but also took me out all the time and gave me tea and meant well; Auntie Grace, who gave me pocket money to buy sweets and let us ride tea trays down the stairs for fun.

There were very few men involved in our children’s world. Reading Kozo’s post the other day also reminded me that my aunties were wonderful, for the most part, but that I missed out on uncles along the way. Perhaps they too missed out on us.

So here’s to uncles Dick, John, Bill, Ian, Malcolm, Pat and the rest: thanks for the go-carts and kites and lifts to and from parties. Thanks for the bread you won, the days out we shared, the fireworks and bonfires and the footballs and punctures repaired. You were an important part of our lives, but we didn’t see it clearly enough then.

Namaste.

 

B4Peace: Art, peace, memory

This month’s Bloggers for Peace Challenge from Kozo is about art. I am not artistic, but I do like to look at stuff.

“Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think.”~Yoko Ono

For the month of May, we will focus on art. I believe that art has the ability to transform the soul. If art can change a soul, then it can change the world. What piece of art makes you a more peaceful person?

As I was growing up we had a most wonderful next door neighbour. In fact we had two, but mostly he was at work, so I knew her better. Auntie Brown was from Aberdeen and talked in a strong Scottish accent. She was bright and cheerful and very down to earth. She had a grandson about my age, who visited occasionally and played; he kept a rabbit at his grandmother’s but it was a mean rabbit which bit, so I didn’t like it very much. My friend Joanne had rabbits and they were cuddly and much nicer.

Auntie Brown would take me out when she went to the shops, just for the company. She listened to my stories and talked about all kinds of things and taught me to make cauliflower cheese. I would often visit when I came home from school as a teenager because we could share a cup of tea, and my own house was cold and empty with my parents both out at work.

Her husband worked at the local undertaker’s. Once when I was doing a school project on trees I went to see him at work to ask about coffins, so he took me and my friend into the workshop to see the caskets in various states of completion and told us all about how they were made. Apparently elm was the best, although this was before Dutch Elm Disease put paid to that. I remember worrying about how people would be buried without enough elm trees. I was a strange and introspective child.

One day Auntie Brown saw me coming in from school and called me into her house. They were planning to emigrate to New Zealand now Mr B had retired, to be closer to their family who had moved there some time before.

“I want you to have this,” she told me in her rather high-pitched voice.

198310 photo of painting

She indicated the picture on the wall. It was quite large.

“I love this picture, but it’s too big to take with me and I would like to think of it going to a good home. Your mother said she didn’t want it, but I knew you liked it…”

There was hope and desperation in her eyes, and her voice was all trembly. It was also true that I did really like the picture.

“Thank you,” I said. “I love it. It can go in my bedroom.”

And my dears, that is just where it went. My mother complained and my dad put up a nail for it and there it stayed until I got married. Then it lived with us for a long time.

It was not a high quality print, and was a little ruffled from the damp in Auntie Brown’s old Victorian terraced house. The frame was falling apart and all skewed, and the backing was warped.

I had always liked it and I loved it more as time went by. I loved it because auntie Brown had loved it and then had trusted me with it. I loved it because it reminded me of her. I loved to sit and stare into it and make up stories about what was happening off in the distance or to the side. We spent many happy hours, that picture and I, listening to music and dreaming teenage dreams and living adventures when the dull suburbs were too tedious to bear. It moved from house to house with me, hanging drunkenly in the living room or dining room, wherever there was wall space, until one day it simply became too old and tattered and worn to last anymore and we had to say goodbye.

It’s imprinted on my brain. It lives on in my memory, more clearly than some people I have known and more clearly than Auntie Brown’s face (although her voice and her love are still sharply in focus). I like the picture in a generic way because I think autumnal woodland scenes are pretty; I love it because of the people and memories it shows me, like ghost pictures within itself. When I look at it I see the trees and water, but I also see myself making cheese sauce on Auntie Brown’s cooker (always use a wooden spoon!) or sitting in her narrow garden with a tea cup and a biscuit, or walking to the shops in November fogs (hold my hand so you don’t get lost!), or shouting greetings over the six foot fence as we both went up our respective paths, or most ridiculously and desperately spooning whisky into my poor old catfish in an attempt to revive him (whisky will make him better; it makes everyone better!) or trying to make sense of Jane Porter’s “The Scottish Chiefs” (William Wallace was a great man, you know; they ought to teach you about him school, like back home!).

A picture can tell stories when words may fail. You know the quote. Sometimes we have no words for what we want to say (although I seem to have hurled quite a few in my attempt today. Yet still they don’t tell you half of it.)

Perhaps all I need to say is this: when I look at that picture I remember feeling loved, and peace is all around me.

Namaste.

For more, please read:

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/float-upward/

http://fishofgold.net/2013/05/01/remaking-the-peace-symbol/

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/04/29/monthly-peace-challenge-art-thou-peaceful/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

100th item in bagging area

My dears, please extend a warm welcome to our 100th WordPress follower who has joined out little corner of yon t’Interweb.

Yarntospin – it’s lovely to have you, and I hope you enjoy your visits. I certainly look forward to some conversations about the value of knitting as a means of creative living and creating peace and tranquility, internally and/or externally.

Namaste.

 

Knitting Zen

A friend phoned me the other day and we talked about how we were both coping with our various issues and troubles and woes. Sometimes it’s good to talk about them instead of just being brave. Sometimes you need to look those little scamps right in the eye and call them out for being what they are.

As we talked she told me about how she was starting to do more creative activities as a way of coping with the stresses and strains of living. Given that I have been adopting this strategy myself over the past few months, it was a conversation close to my heart.

Sometimes it seems those stresses and strains just need to be sung to sleep with a lullaby, or painted into a corner, or sewn into a pocket. You can’t let them run around creating havoc. You need to create a space to hold them, through music or art or cooking or whatever you feel is right.

It emerged she had taken her needles back up and was knitting and purling her way to equilibrium.

“It’s like meditation,” I said.

“Exactly!” she replied.

My dears, that is indeed what it is like, as I have said before, and probably will again. It’s my Great Discovery. You count and focus and keep present in the moment, otherwise your knit becomes purl and your increase a decreases and your cable in back a cable in front, and before you know it your lovely new cushion cover has turned into a beret.

As I pondered our conversation later, in the small hours of the night, I became a little fanciful. That’s what the small hours are for, I think, a chance to let our imagination gambol for a while before the everyday world requires a halt in chaos, and demands sensible behaviour.

It seemed to me that we are the stitches of a greater whole, fitting into the warp and weft of the Goddess’ Great Project, not a tapestry but maybe a sweater for Christmas. Perhaps I am a little stitch or even an absence of stitch, an artfully placed hole in the lacy bit, so to speak. Some of us may be a little knot in the yarn; we try to keep the knots at the back of the work, but sometimes they insist on poking through and creating a stubbly disruption in the pattern, for better or worse. If Shakespeare had known more about the mechanics of knitting I’m certain there would be a good quote from him for just such an occasion. Sadly you are left with me.

I’m glad my friend is finding solace before the needles. She is far more creative than I am, and has already made socks. I countered with a cabled jacket, and raised her a knitted Dalek, and then we moved on to designs for knitted covers: gadgets, teapots and sundry small storage containers. She will no doubt create amazing patterns while I continue my love affair with fair isle and further my plans for a Sarah Lund jumper before the next millennium. (Of which there may be more in due course, should you care.)

I think I have discovered that great as these hobbies are, and calming as they may be for the fractious brain, having someone who shares them to talk to is even greater.

Think then on this; it can be your homework for the day. Answers below in comments please.

If I drop a stitch when no one is there, does my cry make a noise as it falls?

Namaste.

Brain Hurt

It is true that I have been slipping recently, reneging on my promises. As the year grows more mature, my good intentions begin to feel the strain.

A few months back I decided to try and spend less time watching TV, because it rotted my brain, and more time doing life affirming activities. I made a list, because, well, lists are Good. What I discovered was that I liked doing some of the things more than others, and I have kept on doing them more and doing the other things less.

“No problem,” I decided. “It still is better than TV.”

I have also been watching some TV, but it’s TV I want to watch ie DVDs, rather than just switching on and seeing what Auntie can serve up.

So it’s all going well.

Did I sound convincing? Were you fooled? Even for a moment?

No, neither was I. Sad face.

I have been knitting more, and am enjoying it. I have also been reading a bit more and revelling in being able to do so. What has been slipping is the yoga.

I don’t do exercise. I was the fat kid always chosen last for the sports team. I wasn’t unfit, as such. I cycled a lot. I walked a lot. Actually I was good at shot put and javelin and discus. I’m guessing I have some kind of Viking heritage somewhere back in the ancient past.  I was probably a Valkyrie in a former life. It’s all coming back to me now – the mead hall, the sagas, the thundering hooves and corpses.

Yoga, then. I started doing that last year and found it useful, if frequently hilarious due to being middle aged and unable to stand on one foot without falling over. I liked the gentle pressures and the link to breath and the meditation.

I have not kept up with practice, and I don’t know why. I do know I will have to stop for a few weeks following the operation. This was very frustrating last time. Perhaps I am preparing for that again. However, I suspect I am just inherently lazy and slipping back into my comfort zone, and this morning I paid the price. I watched TV.

Instead of getting up to do my practice I watched the news. It featured Nigel Farage. If you are from the UK I need say no more. If you are not, he is a politician who appears to think Britain is some kind of super power, possibly of the imperial variety, and therefore be living in another century.  If you really must, you can probably Google him, but be warned, he is not for the faint-hearted.

He makes my brain hurt.

It will not surprise regular victims of the Bag of Bits ™ that EBL, your friendly neighbourhood blogger, is of the woolly liberal, tree-hugging persuasion. I have views which can be described as left-ish. On occasion, in my rather nice, middle-class, bleeding-heart way, I can be radical about some things, such as pacifism, the value of education for its own sake, and the Disestablishment of the Church of England.

As such, I endured him for a few moments, then discovered I agreed with something he said, felt defiled and decided to do my yoga after all. To be fair, the thing he said was that Cameron was not to be trusted, so I was not quite as lost and depraved as it may seem. However, my entire practice was spent with my breath hissing through clenched teeth. My meditation tried in vain to get past him. He was there, at every breath in, and breath out. I inhaled his ghastly pronouncements, and exhaled his dreadful smile. He rose within my fevered brain like the Eye of Mordor.

Finally I asked the universe for a hug.

Do I sound needy? At that moment I was, my dears. And at that moment, I also was hugged.

So now I hug you, whether you want it or not. I hug you all.

Namaste.

 

Operation

I finally received an appointment for the second cataract operation.

Previously on ElectronicBagLady’s Blog….In case you don’t recall, or missed the first one, I am between operations to replace the lenses in my eyes. I don’t have fully formed cataracts yet, but I am myopic (“pathological myopia”, they told me) to an extreme level, so much so that the optician can no longer correct the problem fully. So they are giving me new plastic lenses in the eyes which should correct the vision and also prevent the further development of cataracts (they are beginning to form). The first operation in October was very successful but in the interim I have been suffering headaches and vertigo and nausea from having one eye very slightly long sighted, and the other so short sighted it’s almost looking behind me. And now the story continues…

There was a great deal of fuss involved in sorting out how to get to and from the hospital (not that easy from where I live), arranging the pre-op assessment (again a whole day to get there and back for a five minute MRSA swab – annoying but necessary) and many colleagues to calm down because it will be a week before Project Go Live and about 24 hours after I sign off Go Live, assuming that I do, in fact, sign off Go Live.

Well, that was all gobbledegook, wasn’t it? In English then, I will be going in for an operation at a Very Awkward Moment for everyone at work. However, being a Project Manager of some competence, I had recorded the possibility in the Risk Log and we all had agreed what to do if it happened (which is what a risk is). So there was no excuse when I held everyone to account, looked them in the eye down the phone line and said, “So you know what to do, right?”

Bless their hearts, they did. After the initial shock everyone admitted they might be able to manage, which soothed my ego nicely. I am sure they are cheering really because I have been so neurotic over the last few weeks they will be glad to get rid of me. The other item in our favour was that we finally signed off the documentation yesterday, by which I mean the planning documents, policies, joint procedures and so on, and have more or less finished running the Disaster Scenario tests.

Oh my dears, I will be so pleased to have this operation over. I hope the second eye will be as successful as the first (although it’s a different surgeon so I am a little nervous). They had said the wait would be 6-10 weeks, and that was a few months ago. God bless the NHS and all who sail in her, but they are lousy at timing, although in this case it has worked out better for my work life, even if it has meant a period of nausea and vertigo which was longer than hoped.

I don’t really have much to say tonight; I just wanted to share with you about the operation, and to say I am not sure if I will be able to see well enough to post for a while. If I do, I pray you will indulge the many typing errors (as opposed to the hopefully lower number that slip through during normal service).

I can’t touch-type. I wish I could now, but when I was more nimble pf brain and finger, my school took the attitude that we girls should not learn to type because that was what less academic girls did in order to become typists. We were destined to do greater things, attend university and marry well so we could entertain our husband’s business colleagues amusingly and intelligently. That was why girls went to university, don’cha know?

It didn’t work out. I fear I have let Sigoth down terribly. I am most ashamed. If he ever brought captains of industry home for supper, I shudder to think what would happen. Much would depend on their conversational ability, and the level of casual –ism of choice (racism, sexism, homophobia, which is an –ism really, or their position on hanging, which will have some –isms attached somewhere, probably by a reef knot).

On the other hand, if I bring home strays from work, as I used to do back in the day when we didn’t live in Ultima Thule, Sigoth can whip up demon veggie lasagne and we have a right good laugh. Even that time I invited my boss, we forgot he was coming and ate everything before he arrived. He enjoyed his Indian takeaway very much though so I think we got away with it.

Namaste.

Slippery thinking

I don’t know what prompts certain memories. It’s a bit like getting a tune stuck in your head all day, but without the music. For no good reason my thoughts have been sliding around sliding, and ultimately why butter is bad for you.

Out of the blue I started remembering about the tea tray game from when I was little. My friend and I would dare each other, successfully I’m afraid, to slide down the stairs on a tin tea tray. We only did it at her house because (1) her mother didn’t seem too worried about it and (2) she had the tray. Both of these were critical success factors. Also her stairs were straighter and the hallway a little bit longer. It was the perfect combination for successful tea tray related activity in a semi-perpendicular (yet stepped) environment.

Obviously this led me to also recall the other sliding we did as children, down the side of the flyover on cardboard. If we were lucky. Otherwise it was grass stains and grazed knees, and on one memorable occasion a broken collar bone for a boy who got carried away with how clever he was at sliding down backwards. We would hurtle down the slope into the ditch at the bottom, and you had to aim just right else you hit the nettles. The drivers going over the flyover seemed less concerned than my friend’s mother did about the tea tray.

SlideI suppose it all started when I was even smaller and we used to play on the slide in the park. It was a very high slide, built a bit like the watch towers at a prisoner of war camp. There was a wooden platform surrounded by wooden planks that were too high to see over unless you were at least seven, and the slide itself was taller than our parent. We went down it forwards, backwards, tummy side down or up, in pairs (although not all of those things at once). Sometimes the slide was not very slippery so we greased it with butter (or marge, in extremis) to make ourselves go faster. We took it in turns to steal the butter for home.

There was a crater at the end of the slide where we all shot off and landed, occasionally feet first. If it was raining it turned into a large, muddy morass, and landing in that was definitely too slimy for words, so on wet days you had to be able to build up enough speed to jump over the crater as you came shooting off the end of the slide.

I cannot begin to tell you the trouble we got into for the state of our clothes.

And that, my dears, is why butter is bad for you.

Namaste.

Unique

We are all special, each in our own way. Some of us make the world a better place and some of us just cope with getting by. A handful of people contribute a net disbenefit, so to speak, but I am firm in my conviction that they are the tiny minority, even if they do occasionally seem to make the most noise.

Today there was some discussion of the child within, the unique person who can be seen emerging from the infant and growing into the adult, and latterly peeping out from the eyes of the elderly through their force of personality. We continue to feel much the same on the inside while our bodies start to ache and our brains become increasingly puzzled by the latest mobile phones.

My friend went on to propose that how we treat our children, by which she meant how society, as well as the actual parents or carers, treats its children, will create a secure child who feels loved or an insecure one who grows up with problems. I felt she was right. My own upbringing, while far from tragic, was also far from ideal and I am very insecure. The resulting chronic depression I live with is evidence in favour of my friend’s argument.

However, I decided to avoid that particular old chestnut today, and focus on the wonder that is a human being. This is probably because I watched my Cirque du Soleil DVD last night and am still in awe of what some people are able to persuade the body to accomplish. On the other hand I can touch my toes, so all is not lost.

Naturally, I cast my mind back to my youth in the green days of the last century. One text book I studied on Child Development had a poem by Aldous Huxley, which bizarrely I read the once and instantly memorised. My brain used to do that back then, just remember things for fun without me even asking it to do so.

“A million million spermatozoa,

All of them alive:

Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah

Dare hope to survive.

And among that billion minus one

Might have chanced to be

Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne –

But the One was Me.”

The Fifth Philosopher’s Song

There is a final response verse which is less uplifting, but don’t worry about that here. The point is the same: we are each unique. Some of us (not you, obviously) may be uniquely appalling, but most of us aren’t. My tutor in Child Development would make that point, adding “Children grow up to function well in society, usually despite their parents rather than because of them.”

So here I am, and possibly here are you, and here are all the rest of us, getting by, each in our own way. We cannot mourn the possibilities that never were, but can only make best use of the ones we have. Where individually we have weaknesses, together we have strength.

Who needs another Shakespeare anyway? As he said himself, you can have too much of a good thing:

“If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die.”

Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1

Namaste