Friday, 1 August 2014


While my mac was away from home for a bit of R&R I felt utterly bereft. Every time I passed the empty desk there was a tiny jolt. Fine, I said to myself, so you can’t go online to blog but you could prepare a blog post or catch up on emails. For a moment I was quite serious about that, eagerly making for the computer corner, until I realised that, no, I can’t do that either. I use the mac for writing, researching and blogging, ipads have small keyboards, they’re of no use to me for ‘proper’ writing.

There was definitely something missing to which I have become seriously addicted. How do people who say they have no need of a computer manage to live with themselves?

After an absence of a day and a half mac’s R&R was over and I could fetch him (him?) home. Mike the macman explained that all was well again and that he’d added an extra 2Gb of RAM to the measly 1Gb available on such old (old? OLD?) desktop computers and that that would speed it up a bit and that he’d sorted out a lot of inconsistency on the hard disk. I felt exactly as I do at the Vet’s when I pick up Millie after a minor op. I embraced my mac as I embrace Millie and put him on the back seat. Millie only gets to ride in the boot (of the hatchback - last time I mentioned that Millie rides in the boot somebody threw up their (blogging)-hands in horror at the very idea of such cruel incarceration).

But here comes the contrary bit: once I’d carried the mac upstairs to my study and set him up on his desk, I reconnected everything, checked that all was in working order and promptly ignored him for the rest of the day.

A bit like a man; it’s nice to know they’re around to use anytime you need them.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A Friend

Many of you praise the friends you have and how you would find life without them much less rewarding. You speak of the support they give, how they help out when there is need, how you enjoy each other’s company, the hours you spend together for no particular reason, just being friends.

I always say I have acquaintances, not friends. Being able to make friends seems to elude me, it’s not one of my, admittedly few, talents. It doesn’t occur to me that anyone would want to seek my company, although I am quite reasonably polite and not altogether socially inept. Just not madly forthcoming.

And yet, to my surprise, there are people here in Valley’s End who want to spend time with me, just like that. Not for any ulterior motive. Even an intolerant old grouch like me finds that gratifying. There was an Open Studio event the other day; a dozen or so of the many artists living here opened their doors to give the rest of us an idea of how they work (and perhaps sell a few pieces). Not only did somebody suggest we accompany each other on these visits, but I was also greeted by a few people I hadn’t seen socially for some time with warmth and pleasure. All most encouraging. Thank you.


My mac is going to a nice man  for a little bit of care and attention tomorrow morning. Some gremlin has moved in who greets me with a stupid ditty of “this is what you want, this is what you get” when I go online and he needs to be evicted before he does further damage, or invades other computers. I hope all will be well again soon.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Women in Medicine

They say you can tell you are getting old when you see policemen getting younger. You know you must be old when your doctor, who is younger than you, retires.  In our time here the head of our country practice has always been a woman, although we also have a much appreciated and very popular male doctor. My lovely female doctor has retired, another female practitioner has taken her place. Even the most old-fashioned and hidebound countryman now accepts these providers of medical care without turning a hair.

From earliest times, women have nursed the sick and cared for newborns and the elderly in their homes. Childbirth was entirely in the hands of trained midwives; but it was not until the 1900s, and after much struggle, that women won the right to study and practice medicine in the same way as men. Even so, this right is still not granted in all parts of the world.

Women have always been central in providing medical care, whether in the home, nursing or acting as herbalists. However, the medical profession has been male dominated for most of its history. In Europe this came about from the 1400s, when many cities and governments decided that only those trained in universities were allowed to formally practise medicine. As women were not allowed into the universities they could not gain a licence.

In my copy of 'The Portable Medieval Reader' I found The Case Of A Woman Doctor In Paris. (1322)  A certain Jacoba Felicie was prosecuted by the medical faculty of the University of Paris for practicing without their degree of the Chancellor's license. :

“ . . . . in the inquisition made at the instance of the masters in medicine at  Paris against Jacoba Felicie  and others practising the art of medicine and surgery in Paris and the suburbs without the knowledge and authority of the said masters, to the end that they be punished, and that this practice be forbidden them . . . . . “

The Court produced a whole range of indictments, i.a. that Jacoba visited many sick persons, afflicted with grave illnesses, touching, feeling, holding their pulses,  examining body and limbs, and inspecting their urine.  Not only that but she also said to these sick persons:  "I shall make you well, God willing, if you will have faith in me”, making an agreement concerning the cure with them and receiving money for it."

Many witnesses came forward to testify that Jacoba had indeed healed them whereas, although enduring the care of very many expert masters in the art of medicine, they had not been able at all to recover from the illnesses, although the masters applied as much care and diligence to these as they were able. And the said Jacoba, called afterwards, had cured these sick persons in a short time, by an art which is suitable for accomplishing this.

In their wisdom the medical faculty accepted defeat and Jacoba was allowed to continue to cure the sick. It is a pity that it took the medical profession another 600 years to come to the conclusion that women could do more than wipe a fevered brow.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

High Summer

It’s hardly credible,
a very rare year,
but summer continues.
Temperatures in the mid to high twenties,
little or no rain except for the occasional thunderstorm,
bringing ever more sticky conditions,
and a garden which threatens to burst its borders.
There’s no way I am going out to work in it.

Garden gates are overgrown,

roses flourish 

as do herbaceous borders.


Behind this window lies the coolest room in the house.

I am finding it very hard to keep my cool; 
between lunch and tea it’s siesta time, and I do as little as I can.

High Summer is here with its languors and absence of stimulus; it's rather difficult in these drowsy, breathless days to keep the flag of high-minded culture and meaningful employment
flying strongly from Sleeping Beauty’s bower.

Believe me, 
I realise that for many of you these would be pleasantly balmy days;
but do take into account that, in normal summers, 
I wear rubber boots (wellies) and mackintosh,
and that a run of weeks of good weather 
is an enormous shock to the system. 

complaining about the weather is the national sport.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Who Cares

except me,

that the grass in the lower field, where Millie and I walk daily, is finally being cut and I can actually see her again  rather than just follow a movement in the grass,

and that a nice farmer is turning the rows to dry them prior to baling the hay, all out of the kindness of his heart - I really can’t see the Duke of Norfolk, who owns the land, paying to have it cut - and for the sake of the village carnival at the beginning of August,

and that the garden is a perfect wilderness and my despair, but that Paul is back and is hard at work cutting hedges and trimming shrubs and that he and I are planning to dig up lots of herbaceous plants this autumn and replace them with shrubs to lighten the load for future years,

and that after a very hot period today was actually made quite pleasant by the addition of a few clouds but that a heatwave (i.e. nasty and sticky weather with thunderstorms) is forecast for the weekend, and that that means that I will once again have to disappear from view and hide behind a book and a tall, cool drink,

and that I’ve been to a vernissage and bought a couple of water colours for which I have yet to find the most suitable space in the house,


Image Source: Sticky Wallpapers

although, come to think of it, there may well be a few million other people who do care about the latter. I sat up half the night watching the celebrations on German TV, wishing myself to be part of it. And I’m not even a football fan. (I lost a follower the night of Germany v. Brazil;  if you are a Brazilian, I am sorry; 7-1, what on Earth happened?)

It’s been too hot to blog, there’s been Wimbledon, the Football (soccer for you in the US) World Cup, some theatre, an informal party or three, a bit of gardening in early morning and late evening and not a lot else.  Nothing to blog about. I wouldn’t want to admit to reading rubbishy thrillers and very light-weight novels for hours on end, so I won’t mention doing that. Absolutely nothing to blog about.

After all, who cares about other people's boring recital of the banal doings of their daily grind. Just pretend you hadn’t read any of this. Sorry to have been wasting your time.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Brain Boxes

What comes first: a great intellect or a great memory? Can you have one without the other?

We have just waved goodbye to a couple of visitors, family, who are doing a tour of the UK and came for a flying visit lasting less than 24 hours.  Eve is of ordinary intelligence, artistic, Adam's the brain box.

It’s impossible to have an argument with Adam. He’s read every book on every subject remotely connected with natural sciences, history, the environment, literature, etc. etc. He remembers them all and can quote every argument expounded in them. It’s most tiresome.

Not every book written is worth the pulp it’s made from, whether wood, cloth or grass. New research unearths new facts and findings all the time; some last, others are overthrown.  My mum used to say “paper is a patient medium, you can tell it anything, it never complains”.

We were talking about the theatre. Beloved and I are enjoying a particularly rich period of play-going, mostly Shakespeare. We love it.

“Ah”, says Adam, “ did you know that there are great doubts that Shakespeare wrote the plays?”

Yes, we had heard. Theories as to who wrote ‘Shakespeare’ are as old as the hills.

Most people are content to accept that an Englishman with that name was born in 1564, died in 1616 and wrote plays, sonnets and poems in the interim that changed English literature forever.

Some, however, see things differently. They don't doubt that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon existed, or that the plays attributed to Shakespeare are foundational and sublime. But elements of the Shakespeare canon are incompatible with his known biography, they say. An intimate knowledge of court affairs. Fluency in French. Familiarity with Italy. Shakespeare, they claim, was not written by Shakespeare.

Not only that, but  no hand written manuscripts are in existence and his signature appears only twice, with different spelling.

It seems that a Stanford Physics Professor has developed a scientific way of evaluating Shakespeare.

Adam had obviously either read the new book or detailed reviews of it. We hadn’t and aren’t likely to do so. He had us silenced pretty quickly. I couldn’t even work out if Adam himself believed in the theory he threw at us, or if he was merely playing Devil’s Advocate. Don’t you just hate it when somebody’s superior intellect and phenomenal memory grind you into the dust?

There were other debates and arguments, none of which we won. We are exhausted.

Eve spent a lot of the visit texting and phoning.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Where Are My Socks?

Or Aunt Josephine’s walking stick?

I don’t know about you but my short-term memory seems to have gone on a long holiday, perhaps it’s even moved out entirely.

So when the nurse taking blood to check for some malfunction or other said: “Erm, we are running these memory tests. Nothing too serious, you’ll walk through them. Would you be willing . . . .?”
I thought, why not, perhaps we’ll even find that mislaid memory stick.

Question 1: “a name and address, to be repeated instantly and then recalled at the end of the process.” John Brown, 42 High Street, West Kensington - easy peasy; I’ll never forget the gentleman and his fictitious address now, not ever. But what about the walking stick?

Question 2: “what’s the date today?” It was lucky that I’d checked the date before coming out to the surgery. It doesn’t do to present yourself when you’re not wanted. Normally I don’t even know what day of the week it is, much less the numerical date.

Question 3: “What’s in the news at the moment ?” Ah, that I do know. The horror of it! So I came back with “apart from football? What’s not in the news: Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, people fleeing impossible hardship, war, hunger and disease, Africa, children dying . . . . . .”

She stopped me, “Yes, but what about London, what’s happening there?” Well, as far as I know London is quiet apart from the insane noises politicians are making. So I nearly but not quite scratched my head. “London? Nothing much?”

“Yes, yes,” she said and clicked her tongue, tick-tock-tick-tock, while batting her hand from side to side.

“Oh, London, Wimbledon, the tennis you mean?”

She beamed at me. "Yes, Wimbledon”!

Friko, get your priorities right!

She asked two further questions, which I answered correctly; sadly I have forgotten what they were.

Aunt Josephine’s walking stick and the socks were found, peacefully cohabiting, on the newel post.

Somebody - could it have been me? -  moved the socks from the rail around the AGA, where they were drying after I’d got my feet wet in the tall grass, and had hidden them under Beloved’s cardigan, which had also found a temporary home there.

I thought I remembered that I had slipped the walking stick inside through the open door, while I took my shoes off and promptly forgotten all about it. When I came to look for it next day it was not to be found in any of its usual places: not hanging from a rung of the ladder in the shed, not slipped over the towel rail in the scullery, not in its proper place in the umbrella and stick stand in the lobby. Somebody had moved it. Or had I lost it on the way home yesterday and never brought it in at all?

It’s my favourite stick, fits into my hand and is high and sturdy enough; Aunt Josephine was as tall as me and the stick saw her through many an arduous hike in the mountains. It’s handy for whacking nettles and fighting off axe murderers. I needed to find it and therefore went out and retraced every step of the walk of the previous day. Nothing.

And then I found the socks.

As for John Brown? He’s still at 42, High Street. West Ken. And ever more shall be so.