Monday, 30 March 2015

Still struggling

I was going to brag and ask for a round of applause because
I cracked Yosemite and was successfully updating app after app.
Then suddenly up pops a window shouting "bug alert' and the screen froze.

I tried all the Mac Helpline advice on de-frosting to no avail and finally gave
in and took the iMac to the Macdoctor. It may be a week before I get
her back.

Hold the applause for now.

I am  typing this on my iPad, which is a right royal pain.

See you anon.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The woman just won't learn

Can't ever leave well alone.

The Mac was working beautifully, a bit creaky and aged, maybe a bit slow; but it worked, and it and I had come to a satisfactory coexistence.

No , mess it all up, why don't you, cause a rift by installing the new OS, namely Yosemite. And thus causing the poor old Mac to throw up it's keys and not only go on a go-slow but refuse to entertain usage of my dearest and most used's all over between us, divorce lawyers have been notified and if mediation doesn't work, a new partner has to be found.

Oh dear me, I never thought that's how it would end with us. An honourable retirement of a much loved friend would have been much more the thing. But this?

Will you ever forgive me, old friend?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

A Walk On The Mild Side

An early spring day,
soft and mellow,
a slight haze in the air;

too good to spend all of it indoors.

 We start off at the confluence of two small local rivers, just beyond the castle
and what was once the castle fishponds.

 They’re streams really,
but we call them rivers,
the Clun and the Unk,
which should, by rights, become the Clunk,
but the Clun wins out.

 we’re following the Unk upriver now.

 Just Millie and me,
aunt Josephine’s walking stick,
a small camera,
and Eva Cassidy.

Sheep have been here before us, leaving gossamer strands of fleece behind
on sere bramble fronds

Eva often comes along on days like these,
her bitter-sweet voice is just what I need.

Millie walks ahead,
as usual following her nose
and the delectable scents only she can detect.

We meet nobody;
it’s just us, all the way.

 Eva is still with me,
but quietly enough so I can hear the birds;
they are making good use of this day too.
Each one is marking out his territory,
the robin loudest of all.

 And all the while there’s the sound of the river,
gently flowing and tumbling over rocks,
pretending to be a waterfall.

Somebody died here,
a hen pheasant probably.
There’s nothing left of her apart from a handful of feathers. 

Millie takes a cursory sniff, but quickly loses interest.
Some other creature has eaten all there was.

We haven’t gone far at all,
an hour maybe,
but it’s been worth it.

Just the other side of the castle is home.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Shadows of One Sort and Another

I was quite pleased with myself last week. There are few weeks when I can sidestep the black hole altogether, and keeping a black cock hatched in March as a protection against evil spirits - it is said they are terrified of his crowing - isn’t on the cards as I don’t keep chickens, so feeling good about myself and the world around me was surprisingly pleasant. I must try it more often. This week started a little less bright but at least the weather wasn’t all bad. Afternoon sun threw shadows across the field, and the river sparkled. Paul and I chucked a couple of hours' work at the garden too, another first for the year. I’ll get those pesky endorphins moving yet. In fact, I’d better. A winter of sitting on the sofa reading books and eating chocolate has done my shape no favours at all. I got on the scales the other day and took a quick look over my shoulder to see if anybody behind me was putting a foot on; but no, it was all me. A lot of me.

The reason I was feeling proud of myself last week was a very simple one: I rediscovered the joys of going outside my comfort zone. In a previous existence I depended on no one but myself for everything, child raising, money earning, household keeping etc. All the obligations of adulthood landed on my shoulders. Not a state of being I’d wholeheartedly recommend. With Beloved it all changed; the children had grown up and left - that blissful state all of you whining about empty nest syndrome will one day come to appreciate - and I became not only a kept woman but one who found a solid presence beside her at all times. 

And now that solid presence isn’t quite as solid as it was and I am having to relearn being the one who not only does, but also makes a lot of the decisions to do what, when, where and how. It happens. Take driving to town and going shopping. Any kind of driving, in fact. Beloved didn’t feel like coming  along, so I went off by myself.

“I am a bus virgin”, I said to the uniformed driver of indeterminate gender, as I stepped on board the ‘park-and-ride’ in the county town - s/he had a kind of curly halo of dark hair and I didn’t want to stare - “please tell me how this works.” I always find people are willing to teach you anything provided you act dumb and ask nicely. 

Shrewsbury is a lovely town, with steep lanes and smart little shops. Once I’d completed the main errand, collecting a watch from the jewellers’, I decided to roam. I bought some new undies, a lipstick, some smart notepads, a few tasty treats at the delicatessen’s and made various other totally unnecessary purchases, only limited by having to carry them to the ‘park-and-ride’ which would take me to the car park on the edge of town, the supermarket for boring groceries, and thence the hour's drive back home to Valley’s End. 

It was nothing, most of you do this daily, but I’ve been leading my life in tandem for many years now and going it alone is a whole new, slightly scary but not unpleasant, departure. Throughout the week I kept up this determination to step out of the twosome. We had dinner guests, a meal which I planned, shopped for and cooked - something usually goes wrong, this time I burnt the roasted vegetables. Prof. Tony was kind enough to say that he preferred his vegetables crispy - ; I drove us to a theatre one night, only a short journey, but I’ve been avoiding night driving for a long time;  going to a restaurant on my own was something I did all the time years ago, now I am doing that again too. Beloved will still accompany me on many outings but sometimes he feels the effort is too much and not worth it.

The shadow of old age encroaching on daily life is something we must all face eventually, but it needn’t be the death knell of all endeavour, singly or jointly.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Parents’ Song

Children leave.
it seems not long ago 
they still ran in by the open door, 
and, united in dispute,
each took their chair around the table.

Children leave,
there was the long ago time,
when troubled hours,
hours of pain and illness,
filled the parents' day and night.
When black marks at school,
fights in the playground,
friends falling in and falling out, 
knees grazed and 
small hearts broken, 
were carried home 
and healed. 

Children leave.
Sons find wives,
daughters take a man.
At times, there is a letter,
a message, short and to the point, arrives.
Busy lives allow for brief visits,
now and then.

Children leave.
Something they always take away with them, 
parents are poorer, children are free,
and step by step
the clock marches
round the empty table.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Mum, I’ve got a Penis

and guess what, you’ve got a China.

When Kelly’s Georgie was six he had sex education lessons at school.  Nothing but the most basic facts and a few diagrams, and, according to Kelly, very little in the way of sniggering, but great excitement. The moment Georgie's dad came home from work he too was treated to this staggering revelation, as was Georgie’s sister Chloe. “Dad, I've got a penis and so have you and Chloe has a China. “ Georgie just couldn’t get over it.

This little gem came up because Kelly told me about an exciting week with Chloe, who is twelve and has just started her periods. Chloe is miffed because she can’t go swimming this week but otherwise she is taking it in her stride. She is annoyed at being the first in her class but Kelly has assured her that she’ll therefore be the coolest among the girls and she’ll be the centre of attention for a while.

How times have changed. We had one lecture in my all-girls-school, for all ages, from 10 to 16 year olds (16-18 year olds were excused, presumably because they already knew the difference between boys and girls and the fun you could have with that difference). A man, he may have been a priest in my catholic grammar school, or less likely, a doctor, stood in front of row upon row of giggling girls in the school’s assembly hall and held forth about the birds and the bees and how kissing was sinful and the first step on the road to perdition. Come to think of it, he must have been the school priest, surely no doctor would have spouted such nonsense even in the unenlightened days of the late 50s?

I was one of the youngest and my knowledge of all things physical and carnal was still zero after the lecture. Menstruating for the first time was a frightening experience for an innocent like me, I was sure I was about to die. My mother, who never made any effort to explain the facts of life to me, blamed the school for not having done so.

Dear Aunt Katie, with whom I was staying at the time, just smiled reassuringly and when my mum came to collect me, told her to speak up, finally. All my mum managed was, “you’re alright, you’re not dying. That’ll happen every four weeks now.” Poor mum, she just never could overcome her inner straitjacket.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Curiosities and Millie

Striking catkins dangling on a hazel tree are a reassuring sign that spring is on its way. These catkins are all male; watching them dance in the wind is a pretty spectacle all on its own, but knowing that this dance is also a fertility rite, and that the wind is busy pollinating them, gives added meaning to the display.

Squirrels have made good use of the fruits resulting from this annual period of mad procreation. Peering into a hollowed out fence post I found this cache of emptied hazel nut shells. I wonder if squirrels used the hollow for storing their autumn loot or if they came here to crack them open and eat the tasty kernels, leaving the shells behind?

A toothless tree witch watches over it all. Deep eye sockets, a bulbous nose and petrified braids of grey hair complete her picture. A sight to frighten children.

Millie isn’t frightened of anything, not even having her stitches removed. The vet and a nurse got hold of her between them, turned her over forcibly and went to work. Her hind leg trembled a bit but her tail kept thumping the floor. Funny girl.

The lump removed from her groin is a malignant Fibrosarcoma; the good news is that the likelihood of metastases is low and the sarcoma is not particularly invasisve. The vet has removed all of it, including a few millimetres of healthy tissue, which means that she is now probably clear of cancer. I sincerely hope so, both my previous labradors developed terminal cancer. As Millie will most likely be our last dog (famous last words) I hope that the lab report’s final sentence is true: ... "long term prognosis is good”.