Monday, October 31, 2011
Please don't think that I have anything against America and its traditions, but I am slightly sad that Hallowe'en here seems to have become a bit Americanised, presumably through the influence of films and tv. Not that I've ever heard of anyone actually doing the "trick" bit here. But the media seems to refer to "trick or treating" as if it were a British tradition, which it never was.
Another thing we used to do at Hallowe'en was to make turnip lanterns, not pumpkin ones. I tell you, it was very energetic work, hollowing out a hard turnip - it used to be the father's job because only he had enough muscle power to manage it. You never saw pumpkins in our shops in those days. I would admit that pumpkins are much easier, though a tiny bit of me thinks it's a bit feeble to do it the easy way... The other disadvantage of turnip lanterns was that they smelt revolting if they got a bit singed, as they tended to do.
At Hallowe'en parties in my childhood, we used to "dook" (duck) for apples - I wonder if modern children do this? My brother and I used to do this sometimes at my grandparents' house and sometimes at ours. There was a zinc bath that got filled with water, and apples from our or my grandparents' apple trees - none of this buying-them-at-the-supermarket nonsense - and with nuts, which we never had at any other time of year except Christmas. Then the apples and nuts were whooshed round and you had to kneel down and use your mouth to extract an apple or a nut or two when it was your turn. We did this at Guides as well, and the more obstreperous Guides would sometimes shove your face under the water as you struggled to bite into an apple. We also had a jammy or treacley piece (sandwich or scone) on a string and you had to try to get a bite, again without using your hands.
Innocent fun. I feel slightly uneasy when I see lots of Hallowe'en costumes and decorations in the supermarket and I never did like skeletons and ghoulish things. But there we are. Times change.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I didn't eat it. It was too like the toadstool that we used to dance round at Brownies. Though smaller.
Amazing what you see at this time of year when you're not spending all of your life marking.
I almost miss the marking on a few mad occasions, one of which came yesterday when my ex-colleague (who's still working in college) emailed me the first line of a poem that a student wrote for her:
"The qualmless quiver of the waft rewinds around the strain.....".
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
My nephew and his friend have set up a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/#!/IambYourFather)
to retell the plot of Star Wars in blank verse, as used by Shakespeare and others. You will remember that blank verse involves iambic pentameter, the rhythm of which goes de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM - ie 5 de DUMs).
Once you get this particular beat into your head…
It’s hard get iambics off your brain.
It’s getting late and I must go to bed,
Though first I’d like to eat a piece of toast
But – woe! - I am already fat enough.
I wish I could be skinny like my mum.
I wonder why I look more like my dad?
Blank verse is easy - since it doesn’t rhyme.
No wonder Shakespeare churned out such a lot,
Though unlike me, he made his language soar.
(He also wrote of envy, lust and death,
Which added to the drama, I suppose,
But I have no desire to do the same).
The Bard did put rhymes, sometimes, at the end
Of scenes, which on the whole I can commend.
Monday, October 17, 2011
I do have vivid memories of wondering what they'd be like. When they were little, I used to imagine walking along a road behind them as grown ups and willing them to turn round so that I could see their faces. But I could never make them do so, not even in my imagination. I don't think I ever speculated about anything but their appearance, though. I don't remember imagining careers or spouses or children for them.
The cats don't bother speculating, which is perhaps wise.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
She's still a bit confused. Yesterday she had the fixed idea that the problem had been with her liver.
Various remarks through the day included:
"They've taken my liver out."
"It's sore where they took my liver out."
"They thought they might have to take my liver out but they didn't."
"The doctor took out - what was it? - my liver?"
"Why do I keep thinking that they took my liver out?"
So that shows progress, I suppose.
Though I've spent much of the week at her bedside in the high dependency unit, she doesn't really remember much about it. Which is just as well. I don't think it's been much fun. Being a squeamish person, I haven't found it much fun either (in a lesser way). I have to focus my attention on Mum's face rather than the various drips and drains going in and out of her. I'm particularly phobic about ... can't even type it, really... the pink stuff that we're all full of: bl--d. Gah. And she's needed some extra units of this, going down tubes (argh) into her.
Moving on... I had an afternoon off yesterday to accompany Daughter 1 and Grandson into town for her to buy a few things. These included boots. We were in a shoe shop when a girl came in wanting black boots. The shop had the right size in the ones she chose, but only in tan, so she tried them on. She liked the fit.
"We could order them in black," offered the assistant.
"Hmm," mused the girl. "I'm not sure what they'd look like in black, though."
I'd have thought... much the same but... black. But I'm not known for my stylish dressing so maybe I was missing the point.
The girl bought the tan boots. Daughter 1 got her boots too. And I got to hold the baby, who is much more interesting than footwear of any colour.
Monday, October 10, 2011
I had never seen it before. Where has it been for the past 60+ years?
"I'll take it to a charity shop," I said.
"Oh no," said Mum, "I might need it after my operation."
Hmm. I don't really think so. Can you imagine being unwell in that department of your anatomy and having to sit on a very hard, cold, shiny device like this? I now realise that this is why plastic was invented.
Plant pot, anyone? Available in a charity shop in Edinburgh from tomorrow.
Sunday, October 09, 2011
On Saturday Daughter 2, who is an organised person, decided to tackle the bedrooms that used to belong to Son and to Daughter 1. (My mum is now occupying Daughter 2's room.) Both rooms were somewhat full of the possessions of 1) Daughter 2, who didn't take all her stuff down to London when she left home and 2) Son, who didn't take all of his stuff to Perth when he did. She has now thrown some things away and packed her remaining possessions into cupboards. This was a great improvement, or at least it's an improvement unless you want to put anything else into the cupboards.
Saturday, October 08, 2011
For example, we’ve had birth (Grandson), marriage (Daughter 2) and death (my confused aunt, for whom I was the chief carer or at least the person who organised the care).
We’ve had engagement (Son), retiral (me), life-threatening illness (my mother).
We’ve tried and failed to sell a house (my mother’s). We’ve moved her in here (though her house is still full of her stuff – we quail at the thought of the further stress to come when we try to dispose of 89 years’ worth of rather copious possessions).
We’ve lost Daughter 2, when she moved permanently (or for the foreseeable future) to London, which has been so sad. And now, for the second time in two years, she’s lost her job. The architecture firm she worked for in Edinburgh more or less collapsed because of the financial crisis and then she moved to London for a six-week job which turned into an eleven-month one. But now that firm too has run out work. So – back from honeymoon, one week’s notice and that’s that, apart from a little freelance work to finish off a project.
Since she’s married an actor who doesn’t get all that much work, this means that they’re both now seriously impecunious. And the country’s financial position seems to be getting worse and worse.
Luckily, Grandson just beams affably despite it all.
I suppose there’s got to be a plot twist at some point. You think?
Can't I just be a cat? No? Well then, I'm complaining.