Saturday 28 October 2023

Sorry everyone

 I’m having some health problems, nothing fatal, just very painful. Doctor says it might last a month yet. Speak to you soon.

Love, Friko.

Monday 2 October 2023

Autumnal Thoughts


 Summer's ended, Autumn is here. The cherry tree leaves are turning.

A day of rain and wind today, I've not been tempted to go out at all. The seasons turn so quickly, we had several days of high temperatures earlier in September, now it's jumper weather again. 

Cyclamen are out in force and shrubs are glowing their final hurrah of the year before they settle down for winter. The hedgehog visits the terrace at dusk, almost on the dot of seven now and I must remember to put out food betimes. It'll have to be earlier and earlier I suspect, until they go into hiding for winter. There are often two of them and there may even have been three last night. By morning the dish is licked clean.

There seems to be a trend at the moment for decluttering. I've wanted to do it for a long time but never quite got round to it. I have now, but I'm starting gently, with a drawer full of digital cables and such, all the stuff that comes with new gadgets which you never use. Also theatre programs of the last 30 odd years, London Westend ones, and from all sorts of theatres in the South East, South West of the country, the Edinburgh Festival and the Midlands. My, we must have seen hundreds of plays. I am keeping the Stratford programs for now. I don't know quite what to do with concert and opera programs. They will probably end up in recycling. These things cost a lot of money, yet you buy them, read them and put them into a box somewhere.

A young woman took them. I had asked the local book charity shop if they wanted any. No they didn't but they might know someone who does. All my unwanted programs are going to be exhibits in a tea room in the Shropshire Hills, for customers to look at while they recover from long hikes over a scone and a cuppa. She was a very pleasant young woman, within the first ten minutes she had confided half her life story to me, her past and plans for the future. She and her partner also rescue dogs in the next county, which pleased me no end and made handing over two large boxes full of programs a pleasure. Jennifer, the young woman, is interested in stars of yesterday and has posters of what we used to call 'divas' on her walls, European film stars of the 60s and 70s; I have some posters of opera performances of the period which I might pass on to her. She promised me a freebie in March when she opens up again and it'll be interesting to see what she's done. A quaint idea, don't you think?

My son was here for a few days, one of his regular tri-monthly visits. When he comes, he does some jobs I've saved up for him and he always takes a load of stuff to the local recycling centre, often needing two or three trips to get rid of it. There is also a day in the middle when he offers to take me anywhere I can't get to now, either because I no longer drive or it's just too far. You'd think I'd ask for a trip to somewhere special, somewhere of great interest, somewhere totally out of my reach now. Sad to say, I can only come up with a particular garden centre in spring and summer and a very posh supermarket the rest of the year.  What a sad state of affairs when my heart yearns exclusively for plants and fancy groceries. I couldn't even take him to the restaurant I'd promised him, the place was fully booked and we had to make do with the nice but ordinary White Horse, the local pub.

We spent a few pleasant days together; we don't have a great many interests in common, but we are family and family matters. We have the past, of course, life in Germany, where he spent his formative years, so we always have the German side of the family for reminiscing over. At one point we mentioned his sister with whom he also has little contact and when I asked if a reconciliation between her and me would ever be possible he said  "No Mum, that ship has sailed."

That must be one of the saddest phrases in the English language.

Apart from decluttering I am also trying to sort out financial and legal matters, which meant going through two desks. Would you believe that I have bank statements from over twenty years ago? Not any longer. Neither do I any longer have ancient receipts and invoices and credit card slips. What on Earth was I thinking? Sure, keep them for a year but don't file them away tidily in envelopes marked with the year where such transactions took place. Last century, anyone?

While I've been typing night has fallen and I quickly rushed out with my dish of cat food for the hedgehogs. Now of course I will have to loiter by the back door to await their arrival.

I've been feeling a bit gloomy again hence the delay in posting; Perhaps all this decluttering means that I am tidying away one kind if life and starting another? Who knows.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Who gets to choose, me or someone else?

Recently I went for a meal out in a restaurant with a small group of people. There were six of us. The restaurant was somewhat better than the usual pub style and I was very happy to be able to go. Beloved and I often went out for a meal and occasionally we treated ourselves to a fancier, classier place. Since he's been gone that's happened less and less for me, so an opportunity for a smart meal out is something I enjoy.

One of my fellow diners was new to me, that is to say I knew them but had never been to a restaurant with them. 

I was sitting at one end of the table and the waitress came to me first to take my order; I gave it and chose a glass of wine to go with the meal. It honestly never occurred to me to wait and see what everybody else was having, as we were all going to pay for our meals and drinks ourselves.

Gradually I became aware that ordering took the others rather a long time and there was much discussion as to what everybody should have and which wine to choose. And the new-to-me person decided that they should choose the wine and buy a bottle rather than for everybody to have a glass of their own preference.

As I had already ordered this did not apply to me and I kept quiet. The waitress had gone and promised to be back once the table was ready to order.

Eventually the discussion ended and the meals plus a bottle of wine were duly ordered. Embarrassment over, for now.

The meal was good and we had a pleasant evening with everybody happy to talk and laugh.
Until it was time to pay up. Again my bill was relatively easy and straightforward. I paid, added my tip and awaited events. 

There was now a great need for debate on how to pay; should everybody pay for their own meal and share the cost of the wine, or add up the cost of the total bills and wine; one person would pay by card; they would then get out their calculator and work out how much everybody's share came to. That also meant that everybody would have to have the exact amount of cash in their wallet to reimburse.

The waitress had disappeared once more and I was embarrassed all over again. Eventually they sorted it out somehow, I am not sure how they did it in the end. I went to the bathroom.

What would you have done? Waited and consulted everybody else?  I get to go out so rarely nowadays that I feel entitled to choose my own meal and drink. I also heartily dislike the kerfuffle arising when it comes to paying. I eat and drink what I like and pay for it myself.  

Right? Or bad manners?

Monday 28 August 2023

Correction and retraction of previous post -- Power Cut

If you want to understand what is going on I suggest that you read the previous post.   I will remove it in its entirety within 24 hours.                  

'' my neighbour's builders cut through my electric supply cable"

Late last night I found a letter from my neighbour on the mat wherein he asks for an apology for and retraction of the above statement. It seems that my neighbours somehow got hold of my blog and even read it. Could they be the only people in Valleys End to do so?

In any case, I am happy to retract the above statement. After the National Grid engineers had finished next door they came to me and explained what they had done, showing me a photograph of the underground cables before and after repairs and pointed out the work they had done to the meter on my outside wall.

It was this engineer who was of the opinion that builders had caused the damage to my power supply. "Someone probably put a spade through it," he said. I accept that I did not see any of the damage myself, only a photograph, which would have told me very little. I simply took the engineer's word for it. He seemed to base his opinion on the age of the material used as shown in the photograph. The engineer also stated that whoever had done it had "done a bodge job". His words, not mine. I have no idea who carried out the work.

My neighbour kindly called on me the day after to assert that the fault could not possibly have been caused by his builders. I appreciated the visit; I took it for a sign that there might be a thaw in our relationship and under no circumstances do I want to imply that he might have been wrong. Whatever the truth of the matter, I have no personal knowledge either way and hereby apologise for my statement. I am sorry that I accepted the engineer's explanation over that of my neighbour.

This is the letter I received from my neighbour, all names and addresses removed:

27August 2023

Dear …

You have recently published some incorrect comments in your blog which I am concerned may cause yyou some embarrassment, and I felt you should have the opportunity to correct your inaccuracies as soon as possible.

You may recall (although perhaps you don’t), the day after your electricity supply was restored I came around to your house to ensure that the repair was sound and your electricity supply had remained intact. I explained that, contrary to the obvious conclusion, the damage to your electricity cable was not recent, and the builder’s activity in my drive was not the cause of the disruption.

However, your memory does appear to be selective, as you stated in your blog that it was our builder’s activity that had caused the damage.

I’d be grateful if you could publish a retraction of your earlier statement with an explanation of your original mistake. Otherwise any local readers of your blog who are not in full possession of the facts may draw the conclusion that I am a person of dubious character who is willing to tell lies and mislead, and that the building firm I have been using is cavalier and incompetent, which it is not.

I would also be grateful, in the future, you choose to pass comment on me or my activities, that you check with me first to ensure you don’t write something about me which isn’t true and which may cause offence.

Yours sincerely

PS: italics and highlighted phrases mine

Friday 4 August 2023

Mood Swings, from the Garden to The Swan

Those of you who have commented on my state of mind in the previous post are quite right. I do indeed sound sad and unhappy. Rereading the post has confirmed that I really must do something to retrieve my mojo before it is too late.

But, hang on a minute. Must I? However we happen to feel at any given moment, are we not free and entitled to do so? These feelings are our very own and are we not allowed to feel them? If not why not? Who says? Since Beloved's death six years ago now I have missed him tremendously and, in spite of being a person who enjoys solitude, I often feel lonely. Agreed, it is not good to overindulge in the "poor me" side of things; on the other hand I am not going to feel guilty for allowing myself a heartfelt, deep sigh now and then.

However, thank you for picking up on my unhappiness; it means that you gave attention to my post and felt close enough to say so. Thank you. I appreciate it.

If only I could get my hands back into the earth. August is a slow month in the ornamental garden, although spring and early summer have left gaps and tired patches, high summer brings exuberance and colour, and even though it is all a bit wild and woolly, I don't want to mess with it until September. I've been pruning the shrubs that flowered early, leaving them ready for next year . But the real hard work  must be left for now. In September hedges will be cut which means piles of bonfire material. From October onwards herbaceous clumps will have to  be divided and replanted. 

Hm, writing this makes me look forward to the work. Perhaps my mojo will return? I told you it is all a bit of a wilderness, very English cottage garden.

Have you ever allowed yourself to be shamed into reading a book? I have. The 2020 Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction was 'Hamnet' by the esteemed Irish writer Maggie O'Farrell and several friends were praising it to the skies. I had actually started to read the novel, the part-imagined life of Hamnet (Shakespeare's son) and the effect his early death from the plague at the age of eleven had on Agnes (Anne Hathaway) and the family. But I had given up  fifty pages in; although able to appreciate O'Farrell's  luminous language I simply found the casual violence and brutality of the 16th century hard to take; perhaps I was in one of my 'delicate' phases when only escapism would do. 

The review in The Guardian was glowing and I trust The Guardian's critic to get it right. 

"Hamnet is evidence that there are always new stories to tell, even about the most well-known historical figures. It also confirms O'Farrell as an extraordinarily versatile writer, with a profound understanding of the most elemental human bonds – qualities also possessed by a certain former Latin tutor from Stratford."

What finally persuaded me to read it was that friends and I had been lucky enough to get much coveted tickets for the adaptation of the novel  for the stage. The whole run was sold out and this was the show chosen to reopen The Swan in Stratford after two years of Covid closure and extensive refurbishment. Tickets were like gold dust and my friend had booked our seats almost twelve months earlier.

That meant I simply had to read the book. I picked it up and started from the beginning and found I could not put it down. I think I must have read it in maybe two or three sittings. It is a wonderful book. Even those whose interest in Shakespeare is less than mine will find something in it. The one thing you do have to have to read it is a an appreciation of good writing and a deeply human story.

We had quite a good time in Stratford, I'll have to get back to it. The first outing away from Valley's End for two years!

Friday 21 July 2023

Did you think I had given up? well, nearly.

 Is there any place on this, our one and only home planet, where the inhabitants are not dreading each new day's weather? And if you are a climate change denier don't bother to tell me, the science and the poor blighters who fear for their continued existence are against you. As are the young, your children and grandchildren, whose protests are drowned out by the fossil fuel industry, run by fat cats who will all long be dead when Earth becomes uninhabitable.

I am so tired of it all. Even my garden gives me less and less pleasure. The plants that didn't die during last winter's unusual week of hard frost gave up when the temperature climbed to unseasonable heights and prolonged drought in late spring. For six weeks I worked like a maniac to get it all done, at least on the surface, for the Open Gardens weekend. And ended up with a wilderness of volunteer plants and weeds instead of a finely graded display of colourful perennials and flowering shrubs. The people who traipse round the gardens don't look too closely, luckily, but simply stroll through and throw a vague "very nice, thank you" at the owners. I don't really care all that much anymore. I will chat with the few knowledgeable ones who ask intelligent questions or praise a particular arrangement, the others can come and go with as much attention as they pay the space I have worked so hard on.

So, May and June were almost completely taken up with outdoor work. And when I wasn't working outdoors I was inside, out of the heat, my feet up and devouring books. Mostly rubbish, but there were two which I really liked, a Louise Penny Inspector Gamache thriller and a delightful book from an author hitherto unknown to me, namely Stephanie Butland's 'Found In A Bookshop'. It deals with the lives and misfortunes of a group of people during Covid lockdown, mostly unknown to each other, some sad, some uplifting, all very human. And all connected to each other via a bookshop struggling to keep afloat during this most unhappy time. 'A perfect summer read', says the blurb and I agree, although it would have pleased me just as much during any other season. I must warn you it really is for true book lovers only. At the end of each chapter you even get a list of books suitable to cure the particular heartache the chapter deals with. It will not be the last of her novels I read.

And Louise Penny? I just love Chief Inspector Gamache, a man after my own heart. The characters, mostly the inhabitants of the hamlet of 'Three Pines', are people with whom I would love to be friends. 

Apart from physical work and eye strain from reading I have been utterly lazy. There are piles of correspondence gathering dust on my desk, even my solicitor felt it incumbent upon her to threaten me with the imminent "closure of my file" if I didn't reply to her last letter within two weeks. Sad to say she has reason. This is still about my new will and provisions for such time as I am no longer able to take care of myself. Do we ever seriously consider a time when we aren't master of our fate? I hate the thought. My problem is that, for one reason or another, I feel there is really no one who deserves a share of the spoils. I am not rich but my house is worth a fair bit. I can't actually see my daughter being willing to take an inheritance from me, she quite clearly wants nothing to do with me. Or is inheriting money a different matter? My son would gladly take as much as I am willing to leave him, he is the only one in the combined family who needs it. In his case the problem is our differing philosophy and the fact that I have little sympathy for his way of life. I think I am being unreasonable to some extent, his way of life is entirely his own decision. However, seeing that God will get all the credit for whatever I do for him irks me. Beloved's lot will get a just percentage, not that I have any close contact with any of them but fair's fair. As for the rest, there's the charities which have seen me  and my pets through some hard times.

It really shouldn't be as difficult as all that to make a final decision, should it? I think that I am using this post to gain clarity in my own mind; also to get some things off my chest that have been bothering me for ages. It is six years since Beloved up and died on me, the rotter. I hate that I am entirely on my own and have no one to consult; the thought of a long dark lonesome winter frightens me. I have an acquaintance, also a German, who lost her husband only at Easter time. She has already booked herself a cruise for this autumn and people tell me she is never at home, always on the trot. After more than fifty years of marriage. It really takes all sorts to make a world and all of us react differently to the vicissitudes of life.

What was it someone said? At the end of life we regret the things we didn't do more than the things we did.  Ah yes, that wise old bird Mark Twain.

Sunday 30 April 2023

An Unhappy Blogger and a Happy Gardener

 Oh botheration! Now what's wrong? I am fast losing interest in blogging. First, Google takes over and messes up the system, removes followers and makes commenting into a problem. Not to mention adding photographs. What used to be so easy always takes many attempts now.

And then it starts removing my posts. Apparently some of my posts are offensive and must be taken down. Eh? One of them is a poem, fully in the public domain and not in the least offensive. There are two others which are purely history and deal with people surviving killing cold in post war Germany. Where on earth is the offence? These posts are 10 years old and more!

And when I opened my blog today I find that I have 45, yes 45, items of spam. Naturally, I checked and found that 43 of them were bona fide comments, going back to 2013! The remaining 2 were simply from people who wanted some attention.

Who is it who is messing with my blog?  And why? Does anyone else suffer this fate? I see a sad little old person hunched over a screen and painstakingly going through years and years of blogs, trying to find something to wet themselves over. Somebody with the mindset of the parents who consider the greatest sculpture ever, Michelangelo's David, a biblical figure, to be pornography? Or could it be somebody who has a grudge against me personally?

I expect not, I expect it's simply an algorithm which homes in on certain words. 

So let's go out into the garden for now.

My helpful son took me to several nurseries, patiently following me around and pushing trolleys without complaint. I bought a lovely lot of goodies, most of which have been planted but here's a picture of some remaining.

This is only a very narrow strip of raised bed, it's amazing what you can cram into it if you take care of it, feeding and watering when necessary.

Here's my "ballerina tree", the leaves out now, even if they are still small. The strangest thing, I had never before noticed that there is blossom too, but of course there must be, it's real name is 'weeping pear' and pear trees, ornamental or purely decorative, have flowers. The white flowers peering through near the ground are more of my dreaded daffodils. I must have got rid of thousands and still they come. The blossom on the cherry tree to the left are almost finished and the new rusty red leaves dominate that end of the garden now.

And some tulips, just for fun.  I like tulips but, like daffodils, they die horribly, messing up their beds in a very rotten (literally) way. Proper gardeners will dig them up and store them until autumn, when they replant the bulbs, but I can't be bothered. I am already storing enough plants over winter in the conservatory and I simply don't have enough space for more. I am a bit old to install a greenhouse now.


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