Friends

02 April 2020

THE BUTTERFLY ON THE WALL


The view from the steps was breath-taking, the sea like an ultramarine carpet laid before Vesuvius. Except that Vesuvius was lost in cloud. A good sign, according to the courier. It meant the heat wave was certain to continue. We carried on, treading gingerly from one step to the next, gripping the handrail firmly lest we should skid on the rubble.

The thicket was denser now, obscuring the view altogether. A dank smell rose from the undergrowth making it difficult to believe a charming panorama lingered on the other side. Then, as abruptly as they were upon us, the shrubs fell away, permitting the sun to warm our shivery arms. It was like stepping out of a damp dungeon and finding the world was on fire. I freed the breath I had been holding, astonished to find I had been afraid. Me, who had faced a mugger in the underpass and denied him the satisfaction of snatching my bag. But the underpass was on level ground, not built into a cliff like those steps. As if he knew, Vic took my hand and led me along the bumpy path.

At the next bend we stopped again to take in the awe-inspiring view. Colourful trawlers were moored by the quay, rowing boats and rubber dinghies abandoned by the water's edge. An ocean liner was anchored in the bay, brilliant white and highly impressive.

'That's my kind of boat,' Vic said, raising his binoculars.

Sweat was running down the nape of my neck. A pair of blue tits flew into a nearby olive tree. I scanned the harbour and wondered if the pink building was a cafe and if we would reach it before nightfall. Once Vic got binoculars to his eyes he was quite likely to stay there forever. I told him sharply that I was moving on. It was far too hot to stand around.

We progressed slowly. The steps were sheer and the handrail at this point had gone astray. I hooked my fingers in the single strand of green plastic wire which, presumably, was intended to stop us falling the eighty feet or so to the sea. Unnecessarily, Vic cautioned me to be careful.

*****

The pink house was open, the Signora informed us, yelling her message from the far side of the building. Since he couldn't abide noisy women, Vic strode on until he reached a Taverna near to where the fishermen were mending nets, brown as berries and uniformly wearing T-shirts and mules. They worked to the high-pitched cries of herring gulls circling overhead. Gee-ya gee-ya.

Vic ordered the coffee in Italian, selecting the words from the phrase book he kept in his breast pocket. It didn't sound right to me, but the robust, silver-haired proprietor in the white vest obviously understood for he produced two cappuccinos exactly as requested.

Vic stretched his arms above his head. 'This is the life, Pauline. Can't remember when I last felt so relaxed.'

The last time I felt relaxed was at the top of those steps, before the handrail ran out. A smidgen of apprehension skulked inside me at the prospect of climbing back to the hotel. Tugging the straw hat to a more advantageous position over one eye, I shrugged my misgivings away and settled back on the wooden bench; no good marring the day with pessimistic thoughts.

Idly stirring the cocoa powder into the froth, I watched men on the launches ferrying passengers from the liner, scuttling across the water like red toads before disappearing behind a promontory. A cruise sounded romantic, but with so many steps to negotiate and being hauled into small vessels by rugged seamen it would be hard going. I had enough trouble with my legs without that kind of undertaking. The doctor said it was all in the mind when he inspected my knees. I argued that some days I could hardly bend them, however an x-ray seemed to prove his point. He recommended exercise but he would, being a fit young man who looked as if he worked out every day.

'See that, Pauline?' Vic was eyeing something through his binoculars. 'A batch of butterflies just landed in that hollow in the wall.' He removed the binoculars from around his neck. 'Here, have a look.'

Following his directions, I searched for the spot. Up the ramp at the end of the quay, ignoring the holiday-makers straining to glimpse the offloading of the day's catch; past the quaint houses, their balconies a riot of geraniums; and on to what Vic had labelled a hollow. It was really a sacred grotto, graced with a bust of Our Lady, surrounded by flowers and foliage and an illuminated cross. I adjusted the focus. The Virgin Mary smiled. Disbelievingly, I polished the lens with my skirt and looked again. She was smiling still. Her eyes seemed to beckon. I was surely dreaming, or else my mind had become addled by the sun. Vic surveyed the fishermen, unaware of the peculiar development. A single butterfly fluttered across Our Lady's face. I mumbled, 'Be careful,' then, overcome by a sense of urgency, I thrust the binoculars at Vic and hurried off.

*****

I ran all the way, down the Taverna's wooden steps, dodging the coils of rope and trailers and mountains of nets, past the souvenir shop and its array of tablecloths and postcards, up the cobbled ramp and round the bend until ... until, there she was, the fairy lights barely seen in the strong sunlight, the flowers showing no colour, foliage showing no green. Her smile was colour, her eyes the illumination. My feet were rooted to the scorching cobbles as I gazed at her tranquil countenance. Vic's fingers seized my elbow. I had not heard him come. My knees trembled, but there was no ache. Our Lady's eyes twinkled and I knew why she had summoned me to her cave. Cautiously, I bent one knee to genuflect. Not one twinge assailed me. 'Thank you,' I mumbled, wanting no-one else to hear my words.

Vic pointed to the wall. 'See the butterfly, Pauline. Isn't that a magnificent creature.'

I pushed him playfully and suggested a race to the steps, giving a backward glance as we moved away. A butterfly soared, brighter and more beautiful than the rest. An aerial display of shimmering colour. Yanking my hat into place, I squeezed Vic's arm. I had never felt so alive. 'Come on, slowcoach,' I said, 'or we'll miss our lunch.'

Arm in arm we marched down the opposite ramp, past the vegetable seller and a brood of scavenging feral cats. Canaries bravely sang from the confinement of tiny cages attached to walls in full sun. Beyond an arch of weather-beaten dwellings, the church bell began its forbidding toll. The sun beamed constantly and the butterfly twisted and wheeled non-stop, sometimes alighting on the wall, but mostly dancing ahead to guide the way.

31 March 2020

Hello again

Honestly, I couldn't eat all that!!


Sorry I have been unable to write. Apart from the back problem I am struggling to understand what is going on with our world. The silence is awful. Still, at least I don't have to worry about creating noise and waking the neighbours. 

The back has been playing up something rotten and sitting at the computer doesn't help. I have to type a bit and move out, type a bit and move out, type.... oh you know what I mean. The silence here is killing. I would love it if people broke into song, but I guess there's a law against singing as well as everything else. 

It's very strange not having anyone to talk to, except the cat. Neighbours are scared of what might happen if they hang about too long. They would probably get arrested.
It really is an appalling state of affairs. I got a bit scared thinking about what might happen to me now that I am all alone., so persuading big son to phone every day to check on me was a good idea. So far, so good. The thought of having to suffer alone was preying on my mind so I had to do something. So, what he and his partner did was contact the people next door to me and arrange actions if anything happened to me. It's all a bit morbid but I feel better knowing that people will know if anything does happen and can act accordingly. The knowledge made me feel good.

I am sure you and yours are just as fed up with the way of the world right now. Since all shops are closed I bought a load of stuff from Amazon, cat food mainly. Well, I cannot see my pussy cat suffering. It cost a bit but my pussy cat is worth it.

So how are things with you? Have you acclimatised to this new world of ours? 

Will dash off now, the phone will be ringing any minute. Take care.


27 March 2020

My point of view



Present conditions remind me of the war years, when food was short and life uncomfortable, but at least people stuck together. Now we are avoiding passing the time of day or getting close to passers-by. Gone are the days when we felt able to greet our neighbours with a smile. I happened to be outside when my next-door neighbour came out of her house, took one look at me and rushed back inside, slamming the door as if I had insulted her. Although I knew the reason, it didn’t make me feel any better.

Coronavirus!

Back to the loneliness of life!

As I live alone and cannot do much in the way of helping myself in the outside world, loneliness takes over and I pray that someone somewhere will say Hi, Val, how ya doing? Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Yesterday, it dawned on me that if I was taken ill or something nobody would know. My son and his partner live a good distance away so we use the phone to communicate. Not often, but the opportunity is there. So, yesterday I suggested they keep a check on me by phone, at least once a day. They went one better. They spoke to my next door neighbour and arranged to keep in touch on a daily basis. As a result, the neighbour would check that I hadn’t fallen or something. It remains to be seen if good intentions continue.

Okay, I know the family should have used their own initiative and not waited for me to shout ‘Help’.  I can only thank the good Lord for giving me the brains to write a blog, something that gives me the incentive to carry on carrying on. I can still do most things, but slower than when I was young and fit. No problem, until along comes coronavirus and world wide panic. I am grateful that I have no sign of worrying symptoms and my heart goes out to those who have suffered and died.

Wishing you all a sackful of patience in these troubled times. God bless.


20 March 2020

Just a few words....



Okay, so I’m on my own! My only concern is if the grocer stops delivering food. Charlie the cat and I are okay. We’re on our own. Neighbours don’t bother checking to see if I’m still alive and I don’t bother letting them know that I am. Well, I could hardly notify them if I had passed on, lol.

The situation in our world is worrying but I am definitely not going to worry unduly. ‘What will be, will be’. It is no use me worrying myself silly, I might just as well sit back and relax. I keep abreast of things by watching television, but not too often – it’s too depressing.  

Actually, I feel good. The sun is shining and walks around the garden are something to look forward to, and treasure. The birds sound happy, even those who like to fight. I still put bird food out for them and enjoy watching them scramble to the bird table in search of their favourite seeds. It is all very uplifting. Would that mankind could be as happy as the birds.

Well, I wish you all well. No matter what transpires in the coming days. let’s all try to stay happy. Let’s think and pray for those less fortunate than ourselves. God bless us all and keep us safe.

14 March 2020

UNEARTHLY PRANKS


Perched on precarious stepladders, Sarah Gamble interrupted the shelf cleaning to sniff the air. She had earlier thought she had imagined it, but it was no fantasy - the ghastly stench of fermenting fruit was back. Without hesitation she jumped to the floor and wrenched open the airing cupboard door, hauling out neatly stacked yellow towels and white diapers. In the flurry of activity she thought how awful it would be if her second child's apparel began to disappear.

When the last item had joined the others on the quarry tiles Sarah examined the cupboard, eyeing the timber board which hid the hot water tank through which not even the flimsiest towelling bib could escape. She began to chew her lower lip as recollections surged of past experiences, strange smells and mysterious losses, toys and clothes finding their way out of the apartment never to be seen again, and Jimmy's stories of someone breathing on his arms. Sarah shuddered at the memory. Leaning against the steps, screwing the yellow duster into a ball, she recalled that first Christmas when the ordeal started.

Sarah and Jacko were delighted with the apartment, Jacko in particular liking the river view beyond the garage. If we had a dog, he'd say, whenever he parked his great bulk in front of the French windows, I could walk him along the river bank. Sarah was thankful they didn't have a dog, or a cat, or a budgie. All her time was taken looking after Jimmy, running the home, and doing a full time job. Tending pets did not figure in her daily programme.

The apartment was on the ground floor of one of those huge converted Victorian dwellings, once the residence of a well-to-do family if the servants' bells were anything to go by. Jacko thought the misshapen rooms were grotesque until he got used to them but Sarah loved the alcoves and crannies which gave the rooms character. Jimmy took to his new quarters with the eagerness of a three-year old on the threshold of discovery.

'Still love the place, Sarah?' asked Jacko, six months after they moved in. They were reclining on the rust-coloured three-seater taking a breather from installing Christmas lights.

Sarah shifted her nude legs to a more comfortable position on Jacko's lap, absently fiddling with her blonde fringe. 'Moving here was the best thing we ever did,' she said. 'It’s great for Jimmy to have a garden to play in.

Jacko reached across to stroke her cheek. 'It's a pity there are no other kids around. He'll get lonely later on.' Playfully he tweaked her nose. 'Unless ....'

Sarah cuffed his arm. 'Don't get ideas, Jacko. I'm not ready for another kid.' She swung her legs to the floor to avoid her husband's nomadic hand, primly straightening her skirt and adjusting the neckline of her hand-knitted pink top. But she didn't object when he seized her face and began to devour her lips … and she cursed when Jimmy called out that he wanted a pee.

Later that evening when Jimmy was asleep, snoring gently and clutching the leg of a majestic brown bear, Sarah pushed a lock of flaxen hair from his freckled brow and rearranged his quilt. The resemblance to his dad was uncanny even at this young age. Both had deep blue eyes and both knew how to use them to good effect. She prayed that when finally she allowed herself to conceive she would produce a daughter with the ability to resist the roguish good looks of Jacko and his son.

Back in the lounge, Sarah settled beside Jacko on the couch. The television was on low, a game show in progress. Two single lamps were reflected in the window. The coals on the fire burned bright orange. When small pieces of charred wood shot onto the hearth Jacko put out a restraining hand to stop her from jumping up. 'Leave them,' he whispered, pulling her close and nuzzling her neck.

But Sarah's ever-alert ears detected a sound. Thinking Jimmy was in the room, she glanced over Jacko's shoulder. One of the lamps had gone out which accounted for the phut sound she heard. Bulbs don't last five minutes she thought as Jacko probed her ear with his tongue. The next instant, stiffening with alarm, she pushed him away. On the opposite wall, over the stereo, an independent streak of light was slowly circling an unopened bottle of Bristol Cream sherry. The beam had no obvious source and maintained its shaft-like shape even as it toured the bottle's curves. Fearfully, Sarah nudged Jacko's chest and pointed.

Without a word Jacko rose and left the room. Sarah heard him unlock the back door and go outside. The shaft continued its orbit … up, across, and down. Jacko passed the window and disappeared into the dark. For a moment Sarah worried in case he didn't come back but he soon reappeared, giving a comical grin as he pulled a silly face and pressed nose and finger-tips against the cold glass … eleven ghostly blobs that somehow had the power to dismiss the light shaft and leave the bottle intact.

On his return, Jacko explained his assumption that a child was responsible for the illusion (angling a mirror at the light was a trick he played on sister Fran), but he’d found nothing in the garden to confirm his theory. No glass, no kid. He had forgotten that the garden was solidly fenced, the gate locked and bolted, and the area devoid of offspring.

On Christmas morning Jacko opened the sherry while Jimmy tore through his presents like a whirlwind, casting aside a new blue coat and a pillowcase of assorted toys in order to play with a sizeable red train, a gift from the paternal grandparents. By mid-morning the apartment looked like a tip, causing Sarah some embarrassment when Mr and Mrs Biggins, the elderly couple next door, came to contribute a colouring book and crayons to Jimmy's acquisitions. They stayed for mince-pies and sherry and listened to the tale of the spooky visitation.

Mr Biggins squatted on the floor to play with Jimmy's toys, a move which for the first time drew Jimmy's concentration away from the train. Mr Biggins leafed through the colouring book but Jimmy showed more interest in a plastic cone that fired balls into the air. One ball, to be exact. Knowing his son's prowess for losing small things Jacko had hidden the other five. Mr Biggins showed Jimmy how to fire the ball then catch it in the cone but Jimmy's co-ordination was as yet unformed and the second time he tried the ball rolled under a dining-chair. Seeing his face crumple Sarah promptly moved the chair to retrieve it. There was no sign of the white celluloid ball.

Leaving his sherry glass on the table Jacko crossed the room and stood at Sarah's side, gawking in disbelief at the place where the ball had disappeared. Mr Biggins wondered if it had bounced behind the radiator - an ineffective one situated three feet from the ground - but their probing was abortive. There was no opening big enough for a ball to get through.

Jimmy was lamenting his loss. While Sarah held him in her arms, as much for her benefit as his, Mr Biggins and Jacko searched the area. They examined the skirting board but nothing could have rolled through a quarter-inch knot-hole in the wood. There was no hiding place on either the chair or the adjacent stereogram. The carpet was firmly fixed to the floor and, unless there was a concealed trap door, the wall was intact. They had literally watched the ball go.

'Hope you don't mind my asking,' said Mrs Biggins, ‘have you lost things before?'

At first Sarah thought the question was an accusation and was about to word a denial when Mrs Biggins spoke again.

'The previous tenants lost things. In fact, he left her because of it. Said he couldn't take her carelessness any longer. They had a dreadful row. We heard it quite distinctly with the windows open.'

'Well I won't be leaving,' gasped Jacko, breathless from lugging the stereo to its rightful place.

Mr Biggins reinstated the chair in front of the radiator. 'Glad to hear it, lad. Can't abide marriage break-ups. Young 'uns these days don't have enough commitment.'

Sarah was quiet, reflecting on other objects that had gone astray: toys from Jimmy's room, his pants and cotton tops from the airing cupboard. All Jimmy's things! Incredulously, she shook her head as it occurred to her that the airing cupboard was in a corresponding position to the radiator on the other side of the wall. She turned to Mrs Biggins. 'Jimmy's stuff goes missing. Clothes and toys. Did the other couple have children?'

'No, but there was a family here before them who had a daughter, a lovely, curly-headed child. She was five when she died. Drowned in the river.'

'How tragic,' Sarah said, making a mental note never to allow Jimmy near the river alone. Maybe the child's ghost was purloining Jimmy's stuff. She quickly suppressed the idea as ridiculous. Ghosts didn't steal. Neither did they wear clothes.

It was a week into the New Year when Sarah noticed strange smells around the airing cupboard, inside and out, like over-ripe fruit. Unable to find the cause, she began supervising Jimmy's fruit intake, sitting with him until he finished and personally trashing the core. But the smells persisted, notably when Jimmy was around. Only traces remained when he was at nursery school.

She discussed the matter with Reg Phipps, the guy who lived on the upper floor, a bruiser of man, scaffolder by trade. She mentioned it because of his habit of hovering in the communal yard, nibbling the last remnants of apple before tossing the core in the bin, speculating on the possibility of a link. Considerately, Reg offered to investigate and the following Saturday he arrived at the back door armed with a tool box. Jacko was taken aback, but agreed with Reg that all avenues should be explored to trace the cause of the smell. Between them they completely dismantled the cupboard. They found nothing, neither an apple pip nor a piece of orange peel, yet the fruity fragrance pervaded the kitchen as fresh as if newly released from its skin.

'That's that,' said Jacko as he tightened the final screw. 'There's nothing more we can do. The smell remains a mystery.'

In September Sarah knuckled down to night school studies and on alternate evenings Jacko played darts with Reg. Sometimes Sarah took advantage of Jacko's absence by studying history in a hot bath, holding her revision book free of lavender-smelling suds. It was the ultimate in luxury for the bath was sited in the warm kitchen with the telephone near to hand.

One Tuesday, during a leisurely soak, the telephone rang. It was Marie, a friend from work. Outside a storm raged. Listening to Marie's version of an incident at work, Sarah sipped her coffee, then ran the hot tap, slithering down until her shoulders were covered with foam. The blinds shivered at the window, reminding her to get a draught excluder fixed before winter set in. While Marie rattled on about the boss, Sarah heard a noise above the wind. Someone entering the yard. She strained to listen, hearing the dustbin lid scrape open, then clang shut, and the gate forcibly drawn to. She was thunderstruck since Reg was the only other person to use the yard and he was out playing darts.

Swiftly cutting the call, she abandoned the phone and climbed out of the bath, donned a cotton robe and hurried to the bedroom window which had to be passed to reach either the road or the front of the house. Seeing no-one, she put it down to the wind playing tricks with her imagination. Yet as soon as she returned to the kitchen and heard the same noises she knew she was wrong.

Metal on metal, wood against wood.

Once more she raced to the window; again there no-one was there.

Clutching her robe to her, she checked Jimmy's room. He was sleeping peacefully, one hand tucked under his chin, his teddy tucked under his neck. As Sarah eased the toy away, she glanced through the window. The kitchen light shone through the transom over the door, illuminating the gate. As expected it was closed, bolted at the top as well as half way down. Sarah was suddenly scared. Only a giant could have unbolted and rebolted the gate from outside. Even Reg wasn't that big. Her eye alighted on the refuse bin, its black rubber lid secure … and wondered how long it had been since the metal bin with the noisy lid had been replaced by plastic.

A year after the first encounter with the unknown, Reg came up with the idea of calling the spirit's bluff, believing the whole thing was nothing more than a young spirit wanting to play. Though why a spirit should want to play with Jimmy's things was beyond Sarah’s comprehension. The stink of seasoned fruit had continued to come and go, dependent upon whether Jimmy was in or out. Parts of his train set had strayed, all but three of his vests had walked, and a lace vanished before her eyes from one of his trainers. Seeing Sarah upset over that prompted Reg to suggest that she ask for its return and see what transpired. He’d been discussing the matter with someone at work, someone who knew about psychic matters. Against her better judgement she agreed to give it a go.

She chose an evening when Jacko and Reg were out, taking two glasses of whisky to give her courage, bravely deciding to ask for the return of the original ball and work through the other items if nothing developed. Tremulously, she ventured into the kitchen and stood centre-stage, feet apart, one hand resting on a chair, eyes cast upwards. 'Please can we have our ball back?' she said, feeling utterly foolish as the words left her mouth.

Nothing happened, not a rumble nor a groan let alone a promise to stop thieving, but Sarah was sure the smell grew stronger as she spoke. Moving nearer to the airing cupboard she tried again, drawing herself to full height and adopting a masterful approach, threatening the spirit with extinction if the ball wasn't immediately given back.

Nothing!
Just an incipient citrus smell.

Two days later, outside the greengrocers, Sarah bumped into Mrs Biggins. 'How's Jimmy,' asked the old lady, stuffing a cabbage in her bag.

'He's fine, thanks.'

'I thought I heard him in the garden the other day, but then I realised he'd be at nursery. It did sound like him, though. I was looking after next door's cat while they were away, feeding it and letting it out to do its functions. When I came to call him in the rascal wouldn't come. I called 'til I was nearly hoarse. Someone said, He's here, Mrs Biggins. Could've sworn it was your Jimmy.' Mrs Biggins transferred her shopping bag to the other hand. 'It was definitely a child's voice and I naturally assumed ... except, come to think, it sounded more like a girl.'

That afternoon, dressed in jeans and a couple of warm sweaters, Sarah toured the garden planning what vegetables to grow. Daffodil shoots were already an inch out of the ground. A watery sun shone, giving the place a premature springtime feel. She stooped to uproot a tuft of grass from the border, tugging it free of hard soil, and there, nesting in the weeds, was a white celluloid ball, grubby but unharmed, still bearing the imprinted trade mark of Jimmy's toy.

Returning the last towel to the cupboard, Sarah chastised herself for being over-sensitive. If the child's spirit was pilfering baby things, it must mean the poor thing was making Polly welcome. Jimmy was never hurt so why should Polly be at risk? Lifting her eyes to the ceiling, she cried, 'Okay, little one, choose which bib you want and I'll iron it for you.'

Sarah could have sworn she heard a faint chuckle when Polly's bib, the one with the parading yellow ducks, fell from the top of the pile and floated to the table, where it lay in a crumpled heap alongside the iron.

13 March 2020

Hello again

the letter.jpg

Things weather-wise are looking up. Had a call from the gardener to say he would be coming today to mow the lawn. I don’t think it will take him long - the grass hasn’t really got going in the growth stakes. He’s put the price up but it’s still not expensive.

That peaceful subject is better than this one: my regular battle with Apple over passwords.  I spent nearly three hours doing what they told me to do but still I couldn’t satisfy that company. I wouldn’t mind but I don’t need it. My phone is a PHONE and doesn’t need a password, it isn’t used to go on line, although I could use it if I wanted to - which, of course, is the reason for all the fuss. I don’t want it but because I have it I am obliged to use a password. I have a book full of passwords, but teaming them with the current problem would take many hours. 

I have tried ignoring it but am pestered every time I switch the phone on. So, as soon as possible I shall call in at the Apple store and let them sort it out. Trouble is, I can’t go yet. My country is plagued by some sort of disease that shows up as an infectious head and chest cold, or should I say virus?.

I have a book full of passwords, but teaming them with the current problem would take many hours. 

I must NOT break my example of not catching a head or chest cold. I haven’t had one for many, many years – can’t remember how many but it’s a lot. I used to sympathise with Joe when he had his frequent colds and coughs, but I never caught his germs. People laugh at me and ask what my secret is. Well, I don’t have one and I am ever so proud of my cold free status. I will probably get one now, as judgement for bragging. Watch this space!

Must go, the gardener will soon be here.

12 March 2020

I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.....


I didn't intent to bore you but I needed to get this off my chest. It is a lesson learned and writing about it made me see it as it really is. Disgraceful!

For the last few months I have been looked after by a firm of helpful people who visit the sick etc. One very nice lady was selected to visit me, a bit like visiting the sick, only I wasn’t sick, I was very much alive and kicking.

Seriously, it started with boredom on my part, not having anyone to talk to except Charlie the cat. Neighbours where I live are very much into solitude which is no good if a neighbour wants or needs to have a natter. When I was told about the company I though what a brilliant idea it was to have my own visitor who was willing to chat.

I was surprised when I applied for consideration that I was immediately put on the firms books and a lady found to visit me a couple of times a week. How lovely, I thought, and how super was the lady chosen for companionship.
What I didn’t know was that it didn’t come free but I went with it anyway.

The lady allocated to visit me a couple of times a week was lovely and we hit it off straight away. Now and again she would help with a chore but mostly we sat and talked. That was fine by me, and welcome. It meant that twice a week I felt like a normal person.

So, what went wrong? Well, nothing went wrong, but the cost of it all was more than I anticipated. I should have known … you don’t get something for nothing these days.

I rang the office today and told them I wanted to cancel the visits. I meant forthwith but that wasn’t to be. I was told that I needed to keep going for a further two weeks. I was taken aback… pleased that I would see my visitor for two more weeks, but horrified at the way the company worked.

I will not be singing their praises in the future and that’s definite. 

10 March 2020

MORE THIS AND THAT...


1. Next door neighbours have started to look after me and Charlie the Cat approves of the cuddles he gets. Yes, good neighbours have I. Carol and Janice are particularly helpful. Carol has also taken over any problems I have. I was never good at sums and the older I get the more setbacks I have.

2. Too much screaming on TV!  A few UK programmes have loud screams for half an hour non-stop, and they wonder why folk stop watching.

3. Did you know that cats are show-offs?

4. "Everyone knows that the world is full of stupid people." This was on a leaflet pushed through my letterbox.

5. Bushes that have been in front garden over 30 years or more have finally produced white flowers. Hooray, I live long enough to witness a miracle.

6. It comes to something when I apologise to the cat.

7. Finally ran out of paperclips but Amazon soon came to the rescue. I now have paperclips a’plenty in a plastic jar with magnetic lid. All being well I should never lose another paperclip.

8. Chip and Pin. Does anyone know what that means?

9. My little carry-me-anywhere iPhone finally died. I replaced it with an up to date but not easy to use phone. I can’t even switch it on, but girls next door can do it!

10. Meals on wheels just delivered. Methinks that calls for an early lunch.



09 March 2020

Current Grouse!


Once upon a time, something like two/three years ago, I had a problem that I couldn’t solve. It occurred when I tried to enter a password that Apple didn’t approve of. It had all to do with passwords. Have you ever mislaid a password? I hope you haven’t because all hell lets loose when that happens. I guess, like me, you will have recorded all passwords. The thing is…. I didn’t record enough information about how, when, or where a password came into being. I could write a book on the subject. Did you know I write stories haha.

The theory was that because I once had an account with Yahoo I should use a password used on that long forgotten account.  Can you remember passwords, even those recorded in your little red book? I have loads in my red book but there’s not enough information to go with each one.

Frustrated tears couldn’t save my frustration, although to be fair Google did it’s best to get me out of a real fix. I can’t remember why it was required but required it was. Threats loomed which didn’t help the situation. Memory failure was at full blast and so was Apple. There was nothing for it but to keep well away from the computer. Somehow, though, I plucked up the courage to face the threats…. and threats they were… but Google was there to help push my brain into remembering that I was once with Yahoo and so a password must have been used. It sounded a bit queer to me, so unfamiliar. I guess Google made it up…. well, I’d like to think that was what happened.

And now it happens again. Just because I bought a new phone and Apple was once again involved in another unknown password saga. It’s back to the Yahoo drawing board…. !!

‘Why they can’t accept who I am’ is my main thought. I could produce my birth certificate but I guess travelling from blogland to my house is out of the question. However, deviate to getting in touch by using the phone or laptop and all hell is let loose.

It took me a while to sort out in my mind the reason for it all. I can go on line using the computer and nothing will happen, the road is clear if you know what I mean, but going on line by using a phone leaves us wide open to unknown nasties.

So there you have it, or rather I have it, and quite honestly I am sick of it all. I can use my phone and laptop… I don’t need anyone’s permission, certainly not Apple. However, that stupid thought doesn't change anything. I'm stuck with it.

07 March 2020

Neighbours who care for each other


Last evening, I looked out of the window and saw an ambulance parked half way across my frontage and half way across next door. Now, the sight of an ambulance meant someone was ill or dying. Next door neighbours are almost as old as me (not quite) and the man of the house suffers with heart problems. Naturally, I thought the ambulance was there for him.

I rushed outside and questioned the ambulance driver, starting with… Is it serious? The driver said No and at that point next door neighbour shot out and asked me if I was all right. Behind her was her husband who was in fits of laughter. Apparently the ambulance driver and his mate were just having a rest!

This silly incident is proof positive that neighbours care about each other. What a joy!

06 March 2020

A NOTE TO MY FRIENDS...



I had a moan, mainly to get a few things off my chest.  And what did I get? I got sympathy, I got advice, I got words to cheer, I got commonsense, I got words of wisdom, but mainly I GOT YOU.  All of you. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to get in touch with this cry-baby. So what if I can't get out. So what if sometimes I go down instead of up. So what? I learned that people care, they go out of their way to make me see sense, but just by being there for me was the medicine I needed. I love you all. 

Someone once said that blogging was a waste of time ... that someone should think again. 

03 March 2020

SILENCE IS NOT ALWAYS GOLDEN


Losing a husband is bad enough but losing the ability to succeed in life is even worse. When Joe was alive he did it all, paid the bills, organised the money, and wouldn’t let me lift a finger. He has been gone a few years now and I have learned to cope … successfully, I might add. The only trouble is that family live too far away and neighbours really don’t want to know when folk are alone. It’s as if they are scared of something, as if an alone person will rob them of both time and money.

I got on okay, but health problems magnified the solitude I lived in. Occasionally the girls next door would do something for me but not very often. They had their own invalid to take care of, in the shape of an elderly aunt who lived alone.
To overcome the burden that solitude brings I became interested in an advert for local help. I had never heard of it before but it seemed to be something everyone knew about. That organisation is quite big and has lots of people working to help the sick, the frail, or the lonely.

When I decided that loneliness was too big a cross to bear, I contacted the organisation. Overnight  my solitude was removed. Well, not quite, but I did have companionship for an hour a day, twice a week. And enjoyed it! It was someone to talk to, laugh with, and discuss things. Great!

What I omitted to say was that it cost me money. £25 for an hour’s chat, £50 for two hours. But the cost soon rose to £27.95 an hour. Rather than lose the companionship I put up with the cost, that is until today when new pricing came into force. I received a letter to say that in total my weekly fee for eight hours would be £195.65 - every week.

Much as I love my hourly visitor it rather looks as if she must vacate my sofa and let me take charge of my own money and all those little jobs she helped me with. Sad, because she was what kept me ticking, so to speak, but now I feel doomed to spend the rest of my days in silence. 

29 February 2020

Hooray

Some time ago, when I mostly used the mobile gadget, I was forced to provide proof of identity, something I found difficult to do considering I was required to give a password long since abandoned. Apple would not accept any of my efforts to prove my ownership or identity, but eventually Google came to my aid, I was obliged to return to the old Yahoo and reopen a long forgotten association. Somehow Google and I managed to convince the powers-that-be that I was a genuine person. 

Two years later, it starts all over again. This time because I had a new phone that didn't allow me to post comments or whatever to MY OWN BLOG. It was no use even trying to remember a password of long ago. All passwords are recorded in my little red book, but none of them fit this particular bill.

I gave up. It took a while for me to discover that using the laptop produced no setbacks such as those just written. My blog was accessible, and when I tried, so was everything else. But not on the phone....

27 February 2020

The Wildlife Menu

I have noticed one or two birds hovering expectantly
so I thought it was about time I put the menu in the garden.
Remiss of me to forget but I reckon the regulars will forgive me
Wildlife Restaurant

(open all hours)

Noted for high quality food
and excellent 24 hour service


Mixed seed to suit all tastes

Meal worm when available

Peanuts

Prepared suet concoctions

Fat and seed cake

Fresh fruit during winter

Fresh water daily

Fresh fruit during winter season

Accommodation and bathing facilities provided

25 February 2020

MORE THIS AND THAT

1. Comes to something when I apologise to the cat!

2. Now the workmen have gone the house seems very quiet.

3. Winder cleaner came today. He reminded me that he’s been cleaning my windows for over 20 years.

4. Ready prepared dinners delivered, so much better than starving!

5. The war with bin men seems to be over. At last they collect, empty and return the bins. Mind you it took a few months to get Council management to achieve it, all due to my neighbour’s determination to succeed.

6. Our weather is playing tricks, bright sunshine in the morning and heavy snow in the afternoon.

7. I needed paper clips, but all mine had disappeared. Ordered more from Amazon … delivered same day. What would we do with them?

8. New radiators are working well.

9. Valuables locked in drawer, I thought I knew where I’d put the key!

10. Must go, it’s feeding time. 


20 February 2020

PROGRESS REPORT...


I am NOT used to modern equipment. I mean, I was happy with the old water/room heating system even though it was antiquated. However, when things start to go wrong it is time to change. I am sure the guy is fed up with answering questions several times over until I understand what he is telling me. It’s the brain, see, it’s worn out

The engineer is still here, finishing off. I bet he will be glad to get out of the way of my continual questions. Actually, I don’t know why I ask when I don’t even understand the answers!

Well, I guess I will get used to it, and the girls/ladies next door are expert at answering queries.

Catch you later!

18 February 2020

WISH ME LUCK


PLEASE, wish me luck and send lots of patience. The whole house is going to suffer a mighty upheaval. Why? Because  I am having a new whole house heating system and today is the day. Wish me luck. Actually, the guy who came first painted a dire picture but the working man just told me there would be little upheaval.

Brrr! It's cold.

See you when I see you.

13 February 2020

Testing, testing



Honestly, my brain is only worth throwing away. Forgetfulness is just a nice name for it. A few swear words are much better, they seem to relieve the inner feelings much faster.  It isn’t just the forgetfulness, though, its interpreting what all the little notes mean. You might guess that once written forgetfulness takes over and the mind has to decipher what the hell I was thinking about when writing the note. It’s a reminder! Yes, but what was it reminding me about?

One instance is a note found by the laptop with the words TOILET PAPER ALTERNATIVE. What the hell was that, I wonder. I spent a good hour trying to fathom it out. I mean, why would I want an alternative to toilet paper? It wasn’t as if I needed to buy more, there’s a fair stack of toilet rolls in my supply cupboard.

Whilst typing this I noticed a delivery man park his van opposite my house. He was loaded with parcels for three of the neighbours and guess what … not one for me.

Oh well, this was/is my attempt at writing a proper blog and testing the typing skills. The skills need sorting. Gone are the days when I could do hundreds of words per minute and get praised for achieving top marks. I can still type blindfolded but if I dare to look at my fingers everything goes haywire. Answer: keep eyes on screen at all times. 

08 February 2020

THIS AND THAT IS HERE AGAIN




1. Got fed-up with having to go in an ‘outside’ room (conservatory) to get stuff from the fridge so my helper helped me move it to an inside room. Much better.

2. A letter telling me my car insurance was due….my response made them laugh when I told them I hadn’t driven or owned a car for four years.

3. Accepted invitation to join group that helps people living alone. What a shock to find out I had to pay highly for the privilege especially as it all happens in own home.

4. Wish I could find an easy way to make a double bed without having to walk miles round and round.

5. Colourful cats in my garden, black, white, ginger, grey, black and white, not all at once but all friendly. How unusual would it be to have them all at once?

6. A good friend wasn’t well but I didn’t know she had gone into a home. She doesn’t know people anymore, including her husband. So very sad.

7. Cottage pie for lunch today…. Oh I do love it. 

8. More problems with central heating. Guy says he will come out to sort it but doesn’t show.

9. Ladies next door are the helpful kind. Not sure what I would do without them so I hope they never move.

10. It’s awful quiet on line, where is everybody?

03 February 2020

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT





I sit alone, breathing in the silence of early morning. Outside the dawn is beginning to break. From where I sit, huddled against the cold, I can just make out the awakening light through the trees. Soon there will be bird noises. The tiny creatures will need to fluff their feathers to keep warm. They’re lucky it didn’t snow in the night although it would make a nice scene for me to look at.

All my nights are spent in this chair because a recurring dream dictates that I do not go to bed. Did I say recurring? The word should be used loosely because each one has a difference.

Have you ever had a nightmare, one so scary you dare not shut your eyes again? Did you experience the cold sweat of relief when you realised it was just a dream? That’s how it used to be with me but now… now there is no reprieve. I am doomed to spend my days and nights in fear.

It started a year ago, after the office dinner-dance. I had been dancing with the handsomest man in the party, presumed to be an invited guest from another branch of the firm. Yes, I fancied him. And why not? We were free agents. Newly freed, both divorced from our partners, both childless and living alone.

His name was Nick. Friends laughingly referred to him as Old Nick because he was older than most of us by about twenty years. With his dark looks, age didn’t matter.

That evening I fell for the smouldering eyes and the way he held his head to one side when he spoke. You may think there was nothing remarkable about that, but you can’t see what I did. The gesture seemed inviting and I was determined to find out to what I was being invited.

I wore black that night, a strappy, slinky number that suggested more than it showed. I know he liked it by the way he fingered the straps as we danced. I’d only ever danced inches away from a partner but with Nick I was held close to his body, the way I’ve seen in films. We moved in unison, swaying, his body moulded to mine. I didn’t know I was that lithe, to be honest.

It was like that all the way through the evening. I had the greatest time and as the night wore on I began to think about what might happen at the end. Would he want to take me home? Would I invite him in? Of course, I would. He’d got me rearing to go and I was determined to see it through.

You can imagine my frustration when he left me after the last waltz. ‘Catch you later,’ was all he said before disappearing through the double doors to face the moonlit night alone.

~~~

It’s a man thing, I realised, as I lay in bed and went over the evening events. Even so, ‘catch you later’ was very off-putting. A girl didn’t know whether he meant it or if it was merely an opt-out. Later on that night I was to find out.

Nick came to me as I slept. In a dreamy state I welcomed him in my arms. It was him, yet he looked different, older. The handsome face was, well, odd. If I told you it was distorted you’d think, yeah, that’s how dreams are. I tried to recall how he looked at the dance but those striking features eluded me. Now all I could see was pockmarked skin and bloodshot eyes.

Although his suggestion that we go on a train journey was met with surprise, I agreed. How we got there is a mystery but, yeah, that’s how dreams are. We were comfortably seated in a compartment, the only two people there, when he suddenly got to his feet, dragging me up as well. The next thing I remember was being hustled along the corridor. I dropped my bag and began to fret about losing the valuables, credit card and cash, but Nick wouldn’t stop. Instead he dragged me further along until we reached the door. The train was rocking with speed as he pushed it open and tried to throw me out.

I woke up screaming. My face and throat were wet with sweat. The duvet was on the floor, pillows strewn on top. It took a long time to regain my calm and grasp that it was only a dream.

Normally I forget dreams the minute I wake, but this one lingered. It haunted me through the tea and toast, it bothered me while I dressed, and worried me even more when I was ready to go and couldn’t find my bag. Had I left it at the hotel? Still somewhat taken aback by Nick’s sudden disappearance I’d walked home, trying to analyse the whole thing. There was no need for money and my house key was hidden under the pot in the garden. I never took it with me when I went dancing.

~~~ 

The first thing I did when I arrived at the office was to ring the hotel. No, Madam, no lost property was handed in. I went round the staff, asking questions. No, Maria, they said, they hadn’t seen anything lying around. Perhaps you didn’t take it to the dance, suggested my closest working companion. I was pretty sure I did.

So I reported the loss to the hotel, the office administrator, and the police.

It bothered me that I should lose a bag in a dream and then find it really was lost.

After doing the important things like notifying the bank, I settled down to work. In fact I worked extra hard in the hope that the awful day would end quickly.

~~~ 

There wasn’t much of interest on television but I carried on watching until my eyes began to blur. A hot shower and an early night would be good, I thought, and then to bed

I climbed in, hugged the comforting duvet to me, tugged the pillow into position, then went straight to sleep. For once my overactive thoughts left me in peace.

~~~ 

He came again that night, his presence announced by repeatedly uttering my name. Ma-reee-ya, Ma-reee-ya. It made me shiver. He was dressed in black with a white silk scarf knotted at the neck. Facial growth covered his chin, dark whiskers that made him look older than his years. His distorted features were now quite grotesque, sunken cheeks, a lopsided nose, swollen lips, one eye open, the other closed. He was friendlier than before, although his grip on my hand was vice-like as he invited me to accompany him for a walk.

Because the evening was on the cool side, I slipped a shawl round my shoulders. A gift from a friend, beige coloured, embroidered with peacocks and my initials MD in the middle. We took the path that led to the lake, pausing now and again to kiss, and for me to suffer the rising nausea each time he pressed his lips against mine. I had no choice but to surrender since his hold on me was like steel. I remember it so well. I also remember his hysterical laughter as he pushed me into the lake.

Struggling to keep my head above the murky water, I screeched and screeched that I couldn’t swim.

Then I woke, still shaking with fear, horrified to feel so drenched. My rose patterned nightdress was soaked with perspiration, the duvet wrapped so tight I sweated with the heat.

And so it goes on. Every night he tries to kill me, each attempt different to the last. His face is skeletal now and the more gruesome he gets the worse the torture. The fear is so great I am afraid to sleep lest he should succeed.

~~~ 

The man called Nick, whom I met at the dance, rang me not so long back. He apologised for leaving me so hurriedly and suggested we meet up for a night out. I turned him down. I could no longer be sure if he and my ‘dream’ man were one and the same.

The psychiatrist had lots of explanations about my state of mind, none of which I understood. I mean, I was normal before all this started. Wasn’t I? Anyway, the psychiatrist reckons that dreams are figments of imagination. You know, I would believe that if it wasn’t for the fact that my handbag was found beside a railway line some 90 miles from where I live. I suppose someone, somewhere, is wearing my lovely shawl since it is nowhere in the house and I am not careless enough to mislay things without knowing.

So I sit here breathing in the silence of early morning. Outside the dawn settles in. From where I sit, huddled against the cold, I can see sunlight filtering through the trees. Soon there will be bird calls. They are lucky it didn’t snow in the night. It doesn’t matter to me; I’m too tired to go out these days. Since sleep is something to dread I sit here, alone with my thoughts, and wonder how much longer I must exist in this dream, doing nothing else but link figments of imagination until they resemble life as it was.

If I could differentiate between fantasy and reality things would be different. Maybe I should turn the tables, take the lead, form a plan; a successful one. My best friend thinks I am incapable of rational thought; she may be right but it would be good to try and prove her wrong.

Elusive thoughts often flutter through my head, ideas on how to bring an end to this mental incarceration. Perhaps I should not have turned Nick down after all. Maybe a daytime rendezvous would help me see things more clearly. What’s that old adage? Do unto others as they do unto you? Ah yes, now we’re talking!

It’s quite light outside now. The birds are fighting each other for food. A woodpigeon lands on a slender bough in the cherry tree, see-saws until the branch comes to a stop. A feral cat lurks behind the hydrangea, waiting, watching. I too am watching … and waiting. A chance is all I need, I think, as I turn to gaze at the phone. ‘Hello, Nick,’ I’ll say. ‘How’re you doing?’

31 January 2020

DES RES FOR SALE



FOR SALE


Dearly beloved,

I can’t wait to show you my new home, hopefully soon to be our new home. It was on one of my restless days that I found it, when I was wondering how much longer it would be before we were together for all time. I’d felt agitated since my arrival. Not having you by my side is something I have to get used to but, my dearest, it is going to be hard. In an attempt to calm my soul I went to explore the hills and valleys of this unusual place.

As you know, walking has always been hard for me but strangely it now feels easier. It’s difficult to describe the sensation, it’s almost as though I’m weightless. I know that’s challenging to the imagination considering my size, but it’s true, I seem to glide rather than walk. I’ve put it down to the conditions, with air as pure as this I’m bound to feel different. Tell you one thing, though, I can breathe easier. There must be a no smoking ban here as well. The environment is considerably healthier, the grass is greener and the sky is a heavenly shade of blue. Oh and the everlasting scent of flowers is divine.

But I digress. I’m sure you’re dying to know about the house.

I had wandered away from the beaten track and almost missed the notice secured to a mossy bank by a twig. In my opinion it was a silly place to put it, I mean how would people know there was a house for sale when the paper was almost obscured by foliage?

‘Desirable Residence in Heavenly Location’

The word heavenly attracted my attention. I wondered where it could be. There was no place on earth that could be described as heavenly, not in this day and age, yet that was the portrayal that captured my imagination. Since I was destined to stay in this new territory I decided to check it out.

The agent, a kindly man with a striking white beard that tumbled from chin to portly chest, told me that the abode had been vacant for a long time. I assumed it was because there were no near neighbours, something that didn’t bother me as I am quite keen on solitude. At least I was until the day I found friendship of a different kind. With you, my darling.

As soon as I entered the unusual structure I knew it was exactly what I was looking for: comfortable, relaxing, soothing, and above all a million miles away from reality. Don’t misunderstand me; I am happy with reality but this place with its pure white freshness, gentle curving surrounds, strewn pillows, and an ambience ripe for love was perfect for dreaming.

Breathing in the calming atmosphere I wandered around, nosing in light and airy cupboards that smelt of roses, half expecting to find hidden secrets. All I found was an engraved talisman, vibes from which produced strange inner sensations. Happy people were here, I thought, and happy people would come again for at that stage I had almost decided to go ahead with the purchase.

The bedroom was extraordinary. No bed, just mattresses on the floor. Not mattresses as we know them, my love, these were soft and downy, like huge feather pillows. I admit to lying on one to see how it felt. Dreamy is the only way I can describe it, but that wouldn’t anywhere near conjure up the true experience. If you can imagine the far-away sensation that comes after a bout of flu you might be more aware of what I’m trying to say. It was like lying down and forgetting everything.

It was the bathroom that really brought the decision to a head, a pristine white tiled palace with gold taps sitting proudly at the end of a bath made for two. Two cotton robes draped on a chair and soft white towels neatly folded on a long tasselled stool convinced me that the room was waiting to be used.

And so it would be. I remember thinking this is where I would take my lover. We would indulge each other in warm suds, searching, soaping, drying each other with fluffy towels, then move as one to the array of plump white cushions. There I would place my lips on his in an emotional demonstration of desire. That was the effect of the newfound accommodation.

It is cool and sunny, in fact quite a pleasant day. My purchase is complete. I sit outside wondering how best to describe the new quarters to you, hoping you will like them as much as I do.

The sky is so blue a few small clouds like cotton wool stand out in 3D style. Lazily leaning back against the willow tree, I’m contemplating our future, wondering how you will take to this heavenly place. I’ve called it Cloud Nine, reminiscent of the fantasies we shared.

Signing off now, sending all my love and hoping your journey won’t be too painful or tiring. And please, God, don’t let it take too long. 




29 January 2020

DRIVERS NIGHTMARE

Drivers nightmare

(written a few years ago)


Green light says Go
Indicate, turn right
Foot down, hurrying
Home for the night
Ball speeds towards him
Just a game
Football crazy, future fame?
Parents’ tears shed
On fragrant flowers
He wouldn’t be told
That son of ours
Who can they blame?
Who was remiss?
There should be a law
To stop upsets
Like this