15 December 2015


I have posted this many times because it once brought me fame! The reason for this repeat and more to come is due to domestic circumstances not being what they once were due to Joe's medical setback. Hope newcomers to this blog will enjoy this story.

A MAN IN MY LIFE (Lady Denman Cup Winner 1988)

The room is so quiet that if you stood outside the door you would suppose it to be unoccupied; but there is an abundance of sound: crackling firewood, squealing chair springs, the vibrating window when a plane takes wing, the tap of steel needles, and the expletives when I drop a stitch. You might hear these sounds if you listen hard but you would not see Jeffrey's wicked endeavours to make me lose count, my voice rising with each enumeration as I walk two fingers along the pin, determined to outwit the arm-waving comedian and cursing the misfortune of being saddled with an imbecilic brother. The mantel clock proclaims its own opinion, issuing dull thuds, which are supposed to be reverberating chimes. Two o'clock, and the rest of the day to get through. Even the fire-logs serve to emphasise the hour, a pair of charred timber chunks spilling to the hearth. I toe to safety the smithereens of charcoal and inhale the intoxicating smell of burning wood as I study the flames, remembering my youth, when Jeffrey persistently devised new ways to destroy my concentration and the strife at school when homework was inadequately completed.
The dreadful clacking of Jeffrey's dentures infiltrates the reverie, transporting me to present time like an exploding bomb. First I am ensconced in daydreams, then, suddenly, I encounter reality head-on. Unexpectedly, my brother's grinning countenance brings a swelling to my throat. Family features: grizzled hair, bristly brows and pointed nose, except that Jeffrey now has pendulous jowls, skin dark with liver-spots, and hazel eyes mottled with age. At eighty-five he should be past indulging in puerility, but it is too late for him to change and, anyway, I am fond of his desultory ribbing. Occasionally.
While he gazes at me in his silly fashion, I set the rocking chair in motion, anxious to start the next stage of the complicated pattern yet hesitant in case Jeffrey renews the struggle for power. He looks docile enough, sitting erect like a spectator waiting for the show to begin, but I never know when he will embark on another wild prank. In two minutes I could be despising him; in three, I could be storming to pack his bag and return him to the home from which I delivered him, beseeching the dear Lord to explain why a man in my life is so essential.
My confession might shock you. If you could witness this scene of cosy domesticity you might think I am satisfied with my life, that my days consist of snug tête-à-têtes and happy reminiscences or that the daily woman's duties give me ample time to knit and amuse my brother. But how can I expect her to clean the mess that incontinence affords, or supervise his eating, and encourage him to aim for his mouth instead of his shirt? And yet, on reflection, your assessment could be right. Beneath the grievances, you might detect a glimmer of the affection I feel, for despite intensifying bouts of wrath and irritation I love the old fool to pieces.
Pleased that Jeffrey has settled to read I resume my occupation. Pins clicking furiously, my thoughts roam the years, evoking instances of his outlandish behaviour. Though his impaired mental state drives me to distraction he can be enormously entertaining; like now, as he absorbs the printed word, contorting his lips and nose as if they are moulded from rubber.

In the shadow of a frivolous father and two ebullient brothers, Jeffrey grew vague and bewildered before his time. As a consequence he relied on me for support, seeing me as an island of sanity in the midst of a chaotic existence. That's why I never married. The concept of leaving my guileless brother to fend for himself was inconceivable, though lately I long to be free of obligation. Notwithstanding, the good days outweigh the bad. In fact, until the onset of true dementia, most were agreeable; funny even, if an old man's waywardness can so be called.   
As dotage accelerated, Jeffrey became quite adventurous. At seventy, equipped with his pensioner's pass, he toured the county for bargains. But his logic left much to be desired. He once travelled a distance to save twenty-pence on melon, then spent ten times that amount on chocolate. I still remember his gleeful look when he produced the melon and the box of chocolates, and my incredulity.
The fingers are flying now and the rocker's going like a swing as I call to mind that day we waited in Woolworths for our brother to end a discourse with a chum. Thirty minutes trudging round counters, failed attempts to resist Jeffrey's pestering at the photograph booth and the endless wait for obscure pictures. Secretly chuckling, I recall Jeffrey's restlessness and his entreaties for a go on the weighing machine - several times - for the sheer joy of cramming weight cards in his pockets, which on the journey home were distributed among the passengers on the bus, his laughter so infectious that the whole of the upper deck joined in.
My feeble eyes are filling up; it always happens when I reproduce the images of bygone days. A pity they couldn't stay the same.
You should see Jeffrey now, playing peek-a-boo around the Daily Mail. I pretend not to notice his buffoonery. I could curb him but he's been in enough trouble since the episode next door. Unbeknown to me, on the days when I allowed him out alone, he developed the custom of going in the neighbouring gate and walking into Miss Smedley's house demanding tea. Initially she humoured him with biscuits or a cake, but when he burst in and ordered tea and toasted soldiers, with no regard for her undressed state, she ceased to think it amusing. He's now on tight rein lest the woman carries out her threat to call the police.
The room is dimming now that the winter sun has disappeared, and the fire needs banking. The clock thumps its message home. Four o'clock, it says. Time for tea. My daydreaming has taken me to girlhood and back, through teen-years to adulthood. And Jeffrey's cardigan is almost done. If the Almighty is willing I will finish it tomorrow, that is if Jeffrey deigns to let me get on. But then I'd worry. Since silence is an alien characteristic I wouldn't know if he was behaving or indisposed. Oh, if you could see him playing his game, retreating behind the paper like a guilty schoolboy whenever he catches my eye. I cannot help sniggering at his expression, a fooled-you kind of look, the sort meted out when my counting goes completely awry. I am tempted to teach him a lesson and leave his cardigan sleeveless but I cannot succumb to spite. You see, he won't have many more birthday gifts, and I won't have the foolish fun that life with him has brought.
See his face, see the way he peers at me like the simpleton he is. My throat constricts at the sight of him. Dear God, don't take him yet. For my sake, give him a year or two more.

13 December 2015


2014 - WI members went for their pre-booked Christmas lunch at Westfield Court Hotel, a venue that had been used for several years. Every Christmas we booked again for the following year. It was surprising, therefore, to be told that in future the numbers attending would be a minimum of 30. Bearing in mind that we only went there once a year it was impossible to know if we could reach the required number. ‘Bring friends,’ was the sarcastic response when I said we might not be able to make it. Not the response one would expect from someone running a business. To my mind it would have been better to raise prices if money was the issue.

So after a lot of thought and asking round the area we came up with two alternatives: the local carvery and the local golf club... investigation to follow since Christmas events have to be booked WELL in advance.

The members were given the choice, which we thought would be based on cost, but the vote went for the dearest one... the Golf Club. Apparently wedding receptions are held there, along with special birthdays, and several people told me that the food and venue was good. With so many folk emphasising the good points, it was only natural to opt for the Club.

2015 - Christmas arrived with more excitement. It wasn’t often we ate at a golf club so the enthusiasm was understandable. On the day at the end of November we turned up in our Sunday best and were ushered into a very smart room with a wonderful view of the golf links from two enormous windows... obviously a place for spectators. There were three large circular tables with decorations swaying over each. Place names indicated our choice of food (we’d had the choice of three for each course) and little silver boxes containing balloons, party poppers and whistles ... the sort of touch that make you feel you’re somewhere special.

And then it was time to eat. Some of the girls treated themselves to wine, I stuck with water
(honestly) as I was chauffeur to another member. The soup arrived, which was excellent, and then the main course. I had chosen turkey since it was a Christmas meal, and I have to say it was cooked just right. I had my favourite panna cotta to finish and that too was excellent. All in all it was a good occasion, one to be repeated next year.

Or so I thought!

It wasn’t until I received a phone call from a member, during which she said how awful the food had been (she chose a different course to me) and that she was going to write to the Club to complain, that I realised all had not been well. Further enquiries revealed that other members didn’t care much for the food either. What was mine, then... was it a special for the President? I couldn’t see that happening but I did see that next year’s plans would have to be changed. Maybe the carvery could offer more quality for less cash. I have been there before and enjoyed it, and am invited to another so I’ll find out. Otherwise... oh dear, I can see a few head-scratching months ahead for yours truly.  

06 December 2015


Following on from last week’s post about eyesight, I have another issue that I’d like to share. Not literally, of course, although...... no, perhaps not!

Every month I have my feet seen to by a podiatrist, once known as a chiropodist. Just like the opticians we knew and loved are now known as optometrists, and most physiotherapists as chiropractors. But I’m getting away from the point.

Friday was the day of the appointment so I went happily along knowing that pretty soon the feet would have respite, and so would I. Don’t misunderstand me, my feet aren’t bad, in fact, the podiatrist, oh to hell with it, let’s call him by his proper name, Steve. Steve often tells me the feet are pretty good for my age. I agreed with that until the following day when I woke with a chronic pain in the right foot. Pain, swelling and redness at the base of the big toe. And they were only seen to the day before!

By this time, of course, it’s weekend and no-one to consult. The pain got worse, and there was a certain amount of numbness in the toe. I could hardly walk. Well, I could, but a walk was more like a stumble, with arms gripping furniture en route. Laughable if you’re a spectator! Believe me, it went on all day and I was understandably fed-up as well as worried. On top of this, I had trouble getting a shoe or slipper on and that worried me even more in case I was making it, whatever IT was, worse.

(picture form internet)
It’s a bunion, I thought, and actually convinced myself of that. I checked with Google and found a site filled with advice on what to do. Separate the toes, it said, put a wad of cotton wool there to keep the toes apart. I did and I could swear I felt some relief. I remembered there was a family connection with bunions, my mother having had two removed, and that didn’t bear thinking about either. She couldn’t walk for weeks after the operation and had to wear black surgical boots which she hated. Perhaps it runs in the family, I thought, hoping against hope that it didn’t.

That night, I couldn’t sleep for the pain and in the end I swallowed a couple of paracetamol in the hope that they would help me get to dreamland. They did ... what a relief.

A friend who popped in on Sunday morning asked what Steve had done to the foot. Like me, she blamed the expert. The pain was even worse and I was really beginning to fret. There was nothing for it ... I had to go back to Steve.

8 o’clock Monday morning, I phoned and told him the tale. ‘Drive straight over,’ he said. Always assuming I could drive!! No worries there, I could drive better than walk. Actually the pain seemed to have subsided a little although the area of complaint was still an unhealthy red.

After a fleeting examination Steve declared ‘It’s not a bunion’ and then decided to keep me guessing which was, of course, impossible since my mind was hell bent on thinking only of bunions.

‘It’s GOUT!’

Gout? What the hell was he talking about?

Then he told me that without a doubt I’d had an attack of arthritis (which I do
get in other areas) aggravated by the very damp weather, and it had pinpointed the toe area. Hence the gout! He recommended a stiff course of paracetamol and ibuprofen for one day which should remove both redness and pain. ‘Go all out,’ he said, ‘knock it on the head.’ I couldn’t get to the chemist fast enough.

I have always associated gout with overweight, heavy drinking males, which I’m not. Just fancy, a slim thing like me afflicted with gout. Whatever next?!

In order to add a bit of colour to this post I looked on the internet for suitable pictures. I found some of bunions ... wowee ... so now I'm thanking the good Lord that my problem was gout!