Friday, January 28, 2011

Little dears

Daughter 2 phoned me for a chat yesterday lunchtime as she was having a walk near her office in (very smart) Chelsea. She met a nice cat and was giving it a pat; I could hear the cat miaouing to her.

Then things became noisier, with lots of voices. "It's the local primary school - they've been let out," she said.

"Is it a posh school?" I asked.

Pause. "Well, the uniform is burnt-umber corduroy plus-fours* with yellow long socks and a bright green jumper [ie sweater]."

That would be a yes, then.

* plus-fours are knickerbockers, by the way. But four inches longer, evidently. (Thanks, Mr Google.) You also get plus-twos, sixes and eights. Didn't know that. I imagine the children were actually wearing knickerbockers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hoppity hop

Now, I've worked with young people all my life and I'd like to make it clear that on the whole I like them. I liked them when I was one of them and now that I am a Fairly Old Person I feel privileged to be among them: their glowing skin and their glossy hair and their laughter and good humour. So I'm not really going to turn into a Grumpy Old Woman quite yet.

Today I got a bus home. I had decided this week that I could do without my crutches but when I got on the bus, I immediately regretted that I no longer carried these badges of disability because it was crowded and I had to stand - at the door end of the bus, facing the seated multitude - balancing on my good leg with my moon booted limb at an awkward angle out in front of me. Now, I know that most people don't sit on buses examining the legs of ladies of a certain age, but I can't help feeling that the odd young person, sitting comfortably on his or her seat, might have noticed my appliance. But apparently not.

Then this old chap suddenly leapt up - well, heaved himself up - and, saying in ringing tones, "My goodness, I've just noticed that you've got a bad foot," offered me his seat. I hesitated (he was clearly a lot older than I) and he said, again loudly, "I'm nearly 90 but I can still stand." So I sat down, thanking him profusely, beside the young man in the other half of the seat, who took out his mobile and began texting. After a while, the old chap bent down and proclaimed, "I'm so sorry it took me such a while to cotton on." Young man gazed firmly out of the window.

Eventually the lad got off and the old chap sat down again, gazing after him. He shook his head. "The mores of the young," he sighed.

"You don't look 90," I said. (Actually he did look quite old but hey, he gave me his seat.) We had a nice little chat. He showed me his shopping bags.

"I've been taking advantage of the sales," he said, "to buy some advance birthday presents for some of my 11 grandchildren."

I like that: think ahead even when you're 90. Assume you'll be still be around for the birthdays.

"I still play golf," he said. I murmured admiringly. "I'm not very good, of course," he added, and then after a pause said, "but then, I never was."

Two discouraging thoughts, then: 1) I look more in need of a seat than a 90-year-old; and 2) I may never get any better at (for example) tennis than I am at this age. And that's pretty rubbish, let me tell you.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just cats and things

We've started the biscuits. Very nice, though it feels a tiny bit wrong to eat a koala.

Some self-indulgent pictures of cats. This is Cassie, reading the Sunday papers via her bottom. She's an intellectual.

Cassie to the left, Sirius to the right. He's sitting in the Australian box, specifically on the packets of biscuits, warming them up nicely with his bottom. They survived intact.

Here's Daughter 1, the one who's going to make us grandparents in July (if all goes well), tickling Sirius under the chin. She has long hair, hasn't she? And won't the baby enjoy pulling it? Sirius is snoozing on my mother's coat. Comfy.

And this is Cassie cuddling into Mr Life. If you actually asked her to lie with her head considerably lower than her feet, she would protest in no uncertain terms. But since it was her choice, she seemed to be enjoying it. As was Mr Life.
Extract from an essay today:

I would like to be a radio presenter but in reality I would like to be a basketball player or an actor or an internet sensation on YouTube.

What would you like to be? Or? Or? Or?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tea and sympathy

A few posts ago I was bewailing (as is my wont - sorry) Daughter 2's departure to London. Whereupon HerHimnBryn of Accept All Offerings -
(keep forgetting how to do the linky thing - must learn it) and Secret Hill Mosaics - left a comment saying that she wanted to send me some tea and sympathy from Australia.

Just the offer, never mind the actual tea, was so heartwarming. But then a parcel arrived. (The black cat is just incidental, covering the address so you don't all think I'm canvassing for free gifts...)

I was so touched that someone who only knows me through my maunderings about cats and flowers and students and departed children should sympathise and bother to do anything about it.

Look! Beautifully wrapped little thingies and biscuits and tea - the biscuits are Tim Tams and koala shapes!

Not just tea and biscuits but a wee plate too, with Australian flowers!

So pretty.

And thoughts.

And a hand-made card. HerHimnBryn makes beautiful mosaics - do go and look at them at

I'd never heard of a Bronze Wing Pigeon.
Thank you so much, HHnB.

PS ankle coming on well, thank you. Now hobbling considerably faster.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Extract from a boy's essay in defence of video games:

One good point about video games for today’s generation, who spend more time inside than their parents did when they were young, is that when they do get out, their senses are more refined than other people’s, which could be an advantage.


I've just been out with some friends. One was commiserating with me about the ankle. "I had a festive injury too," she said.

She'd been out at a work Christmas event and had become slightly merry. She'd also won a prize: a HUGE bar of Toblerone. She really likes Toblerone so this made her even merrier.

"You know how it is when you've had some wine," she went on. "You can only think about one thing at a time. So when I got a taxi home, I kept thinking, Don't leave the chocolate in the taxi. You can have some when you get home and it'll counteract the wine."

So she clutched it to her bosom all the way home in the taxi, got to her front door safely, opened it and was met by her enthusiastic dog. "I was pleased to see him too," she said, "so I rushed to give him a hug and dropped the enormous bar on my foot. I couldn't walk for days and it's still bruised."

"So you threw the Toblerone away in disgust?" I asked.

"I was so angry with it," she said, "that I ate it."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thoughts from my moonboot

It’s really quite salutary to be mildly disabled on a temporary basis. It’s changed my behaviour. For example, I find myself planning my movements. Instead of strolling from the kitchen to the living room with a watering can, dealing with the plants and then wandering back for a cloth to wipe up the spills, I set out armed with the cloth in case I might need it. I think before I open the fridge and then I take out all I might need to cook the dinner, instead of dotting back and forth as things occur to me. When you hobble, crossing the kitchen is an expedition.

At work, people vary in their behaviour to me. On my first day back, several of my workmates offered to make me a cup of tea from the kettle in our office. No, alas, this didn’t last... (It was nice while it did, though.) They do open the (heavy) workroom door for me if they’re in the vicinity and I’m carrying stuff and at least one crutch.

I have two crutches but I can’t carry anything if I’m using them both, so I tend just to use one if I’m plodding to a distant classroom with books and papers. There are various heavy fire doors on the way. Remarkable numbers of students just let these swing in my face – not out of malice but just because they don’t notice me tapping my way along behind them. But an equal number are very helpful and hold them open.

In the street, people are solicitous to those on crutches. They let me go first through narrow gaps, smiling sympathetically. But I went to the ballet on Thursday with my mother and decided that the crutches would be a nuisance, so I took a stick instead. Immediately the sympathy evaporated. This could have been because about fifty percent of the audience were old ladies with sticks, so I just became one of the masses and had to take my chance.

The foot is a lot less swollen now and the bruising is fading, but it’s still quite achey. I’m quite fond of my moonboot (“You should have got a pink one” said a particularly girly student). It’s lovely to take it off last thing at night but on the other hand it gives me a certain security to put in on again in the morning – it definitely supports the ankle. Thank you to whoever invented them – so much better than a plaster that's with you all the time.

I haven’t been for a walk for sixteen days now and am feeling horribly unfit. Can’t drive, can’t walk more than a few hundred yards, take a long time to go up and down stairs. How pleased I shall be when it heals completely. I won’t be taking two working legs for granted, certainly for a while.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Presentation skills

It's not a humorous topic, I know, but a student was giving a very solemn presentation yesterday about AIDS, and he kept on saying that one of the symptoms of HIV is "ammonia". I assume that he meant anaemia.

I didn't argue. It cheered up the talk. He's not planning on a career in medicine. Fortunately.

Monday, January 10, 2011

At the fracture clinic, a nice young doctor (who looked about 20 – the world is run by peachy-faced people nowadays, but I suppose this is good because I certainly don’t want to run much of it) offered me the choice between having a plaster on my leg (a stookie, as we call it in Scotland) or “a moonboot, like the footballers wear”. I’d never studied footballers’ legs, injured or otherwise, but when he said that I could take it off to have a bath – what an easy decision! So I’m now moonbooted up and while I couldn’t claim that it’s hugely comfortable, it’s tolerable.

He also said that I could put weight on the foot to a limited extent, which was very cheering, because let me tell you, swinging around on crutches while keeping one foot off the ground is not as easy as it looks. Easy for a slender young man with good upper body strength, possibly. I am not that slender young man. Apart from anything else, it’s impossible to carry anything, which rather restricts one’s usefulness about the place.

“I can go back to work now,” I said.

“What do you do?”

“I’m an English teacher.”

“My mum’s an English teacher.”

“My son’s a doctor.”

A nice parallelism.

So that was all good. Now I have to see if I can hobble round the corner tomorrow morning to the house of a kind colleague who’s agreed to give me a lift to work; and then shuffle round the college all day from room to room with the necessary stuff.

The great thing about teaching is that it takes one’s mind off one’s pain and sadness. At least while it lasts. But I do miss our distant offspring.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


You may remember that we climbed Blackford Hill on New Year's Day and I slipped and fell on the way down. It was memorably sore but I thought I'd just sprained it and spent the week hobbling about. However, it remains very swollen and bruised, so today I saw sense and went to the hospital and they x-rayed it and it's broken.

I've now got crutches and am not to put any weight on it. I have to sit with it higher than my heart all weekend. This is very boring. I've got an appointment at the fracture clinic on Monday morning, where doctor Son says that they may give me a weight-bearing plaster, which would make walking easier. And by the way, he's got engaged to his young lady.

So far this year:

I've broken my ankle
I'm going to be a granny!
Daughter 1 and SIL plan to move house (before the baby arrives in July)
Daughter 2 has moved to London
Daughter 2's getting married
Son's engaged
My mother's going to move in with us, selling her flat and somehow getting rid of her extremely numerous possessions.

It's all a bit exhausting for a person who likes a quiet life.

Fortunately, Cassie and Sirius Cat are taking it all calmly. And Mr Life is nobly rallying round.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Kate Atkinson

We never got comics when I was a child but sometimes read copies belonging to friends, so I dimly remember The Beezer and its strip The Numskulls. I've been rereading Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog and enjoyed this paragraph:
The face of Vince Collier's mother was familiar. Jackson tried to remember why but the tiny people who resentfully ran his memory these days (fetching and carrying folders, checking the contents against index cards, filing them away in boxes that were then placed on endless rows of grey metal Dexion shelving never to be found again) had, in an all too frequent occurrence, mislaid that particular piece of information. This sketchy blueprint for the neurological workings of his brain had been laid down in Jackson's childhood by the Numskulls in his "Beezer" comic and he had never really developed a more sophisticated model.
So that's the explanation, is it?

I do love the way Kate Atkinson writes. And her plots are amazingly complicated - which is why I had to reread the book. A lot of ends are left untied, though, so presumably the next in the series is on the way. Now, if I can just remember what's been happening long enough for her to write it and get it published...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

If I need any milk, I'll yell

For once, I don’t know what to write. My inclination is to post a huge cry of pain because Daughter 2 went back down to London yesterday. But who wants to read that? Her temporary job is going to continue at least for a while, which means that she has to rent out her bedroom in the Edinburgh flat she bought a year and a bit ago and has decorated beautifully. She needs to rent it partly because her flatmate lodger has lived for the past six weeks on her own, which Daughter 2 feels bad about; and partly because Daughter 2 needs the rent money in order to pay for the flat that she’s taken on for four months in London. So she spent a long time over the last two days bringing all the stuff from her room and some of the stuff from her kitchen, back here. Where most of it sits for the moment in boxes in her room in our house.

So she’s gone to: a job which might (or might not) end soon; a flat which she has for four months; and her actor fiancĂ© – whom she loves. In London, 400 long miles away. And we miss her. And we wish that things weren’t quite as they are. And I’m sure she misses us, though she has friends in London apart from the actor fiancĂ©.

But Daughter 1 and lovely son-in-law came back from visiting his parents today, which was good, and we have the Grandbaby to look forward to, which is wonderful. A life-saver, really.

And I know that this is just the way life is and she has to do what she has to do, so I’m filling the few days before I go back to work with social events. Loth ( came to coffee today, which was very enjoyable; Mr Life and I visited other friends in the afternoon; I’m lunching with work colleagues tomorrow; entertaining another friend on Thursday; and going out to lunch with former colleagues on Friday. I just have to fill my head with other things and ignore the sadness and worry. Don’t think don’t think don’t think don’t think. It’s the only way.

We climbed Blackford Hill on New Year’s Day and I slipped and sprained (or something) my ankle. My ankle and foot are now puffy and decorated with blue bits, my toes like slightly mouldy sausages. So I’m hobbling about and can’t drive. None of which matters all that much but it doesn’t exactly help.

Still, I enjoyed listening to Sandi Toksvig on the radio last night. For the purposes of the programme she’d watched her first ever football match, which she found somewhat tedious. As she pointed out, all the players have to do all day is to practise getting the ball into the goal, which they hardly ever managed in the game she saw. She felt it would all be over more quickly – and thus be more exciting - if they moved the goals closer together and gave the players a ball each.

Very true.

Onward and upward. Don't think don't think don't think.

(I hope none of my Australian bloggy friends are affected by the terrible floods. Oh dear, what a way to start the year for the poor people who've had to leave their homes!)