For several days now I’ve been feeling guilty for ignoring my blog; yes, I’ve been busy, but not that busy. I’ve gardened, walked the dog, read books and even, once, a magazine for the over 50s. Take last night, for instance. I was going to come upstairs straight after supper and start composing. Instead I decided to see what’s on TV and 2 ½ hours and a whole 100 gram bar of chocolate later I finally switched it off. And got ready for bed instead of switching my computer on.
Talking of getting ready for bed: when I went to the loo the seat unexpectedly cracked under me and bit my bottom. I knew I shouldn’t have had that bar of chocolate. Whenever I use the upstairs bathroom now, and until we have a new seat, I have to be very careful. Perhaps we should get one of these elevated loo seats they advertise in the magazine for the over 50s. And while we’re at it, perhaps we should check out walk-in baths and showers, stair lifts, Zimmer frames, motorised scooters, beds and chairs that tip you out when you press a button on a cord. The magazine is full of good advice on expensive holidays, investment opportunities, retirement apartments and leisure activities. All interviews are with glamorous and famous people of a certain age, who lead interesting lives. The letter pages are written by smarmy, self-congratulatory pensioners in need of a friendly slap to remind them of the reality of a penurious and frail old age which is the lot of so many of the ancients.
At Friday’s poetry group meeting I was confronted with another side of reality: old people who find themselves not only hard up but also isolated and lonely because of an inability to cope with modern life. When Lorna first mentioned them I misunderstood and said something unfeeling and flippant like: 'well, hadn’t they better learn to live in today’s world?’ It turns out that this inability to cope is not self-inflicted as in unwilling to learn to use digital media and smart phones, but due to EHS, or electromagnetic-hypersensitivity.
We’ve both considered Lorna to be a bit of an eccentric - well, to tell the truth, a regular fruitcake in some respects - but it seems that many of her idiosyncrasies are due to the symptoms she experiences when exposed to mobile phones, for instance. One side of her bungalow is swathed in yellow draperies over walls and windows. It’s like swimming in a murky aquarium. She has a strict rule that no mobile phones are allowed inside. Once I forgot to leave mine outside and after no more than ten minutes she became restless and red in the face. “Someone has brought a mobile in,” she said. Naturally, I apologised and took it outside. When she uses her computer - only ever for a very short time and mainly for emails - she covers exposed skin in aluminium cooking foil.
EHS is not recognised by the medical establishment. Wikipedia says: The reported symptoms of EHS include headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin symptoms like prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pain and ache in muscles and many other health problems. Whatever their cause, EHS symptoms are a real and sometimes disabling problem for the affected person. However, there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to electromagnetic field exposure.
Lorna and the members of her self help group are often unable to go out at all 'because there are more and more masts around' she says, and she won’t visit anyone else’s house because most people have numerous digital gadgets. The other day she fell on her steep and stoney garden steps and hurt herself rather badly but she refuses to use ambulances, doctors and hospitals. “They’d kill me’, she says.