Thursday, 29 July 2010

Butterflies in my tum

Tonight I'm meant to be reading three poems at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. I have only read a poem in public once before and I was so scared that my voice disappeared and I could hardly read from the quivering page in my trembling hands.

It's now 11.30 am and my reading is six hours off, but my heart is pounding and I feel sick and I'm praying for a sudden Tube strike. What a wimp!

Are they in love?

Psychologists use the term 'mirroring' to describe something we do unconsciously when we're attracted to someone, which is that we copy their movements. When they cross their legs, fold their arms or cup their chin in their hand, so do we. Look at these two cats, Flad and Chimimi. Is this is an example of mirroring? Or are their washing routines exactly the same?!

Chimimi is an elegant cat. She poses and seems to choose places to sit that naturally make for a good photograph. She should be in Cat Vogue. I'm sure she knows that by sitting on the stepping stone, she is beautifully camouflaged against the pebbles.

As for Flad... Elegant? Not!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

My working week

I really miss the part-time job I had last week. I was working as receptionist for my chiropractor, which involved booking people in, rearranging bookings, filling slots where people had cancelled, taking payments for both the chiro and the massage therapist, which were different for different people and different lengths of treatment, making phone calls, running errands... but above all, meeting, greeting and chatting. The two ladies I was working for were fabulous. I know the chiropractor well, of course, as I am one of her patients. It was wonderful to be with people instead of stuck all on my own in my hot, sweaty attic. (Well, Mr G's, not mine.) Now, everything feels flat. Maybe I should look for another job...

You'd be surprised how many hunky men you meet in a chiropractor's practice. I had a few fantasies, I can tell you, and had to keep reminding myself that they all had bad backs!

I've updated my wildlife blog with lots of photos, so do have a look.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Flad and the lodger

We call Chimimi from next door 'the lodger', as she's semi moved in, but although Flad tolerates her, they're not exactly best buddies. This is because when he moves towards her to give her a friendly hello, she always hisses at him, the little minx! The other day we threw some leftover chicken out for the foxes. Flad always sits guarding any food that lands on the lawn, but he didn't seem to mind Chimimi pinching a few scraps. (She's not supposed to eat anything but hard biscuits, as she's had a stomach operation and is on a special diet. Anything other than biscuits makes her sick, but she still can't resist the lure of meat and fish, just as I can't resist chocolate even though it gives me indigestion!)

I was relaxing in the hammock when suddenly something descended on me from a great height. Chimimi. She didn't like the way the hammock swung, and soon scrambled out, having dug twenty claws in me first.

Guitar in the garden

I bought this new garden swing and Mr G put it together for me. It assembled quite easily until he got to the canopy, which just wouldn't stretch over the frame. Mr G rapidly realised that the pockets on the corners had been sewn in the wrong position, which is probably why the swing was on special offer! While I was at work on Monday, he cut them off and re-sewed them so now it fits perfectly. Yesterday afternoon, I got out the guitar for the first time in about a year. I was very rusty and a bit afraid to sing in case the neighbours heard, but I still managed to warble my way through Tracy Chapman's 'Sorry' and that old folk standard, 'Will ye go, lassie, go.' (Changed to 'laddie', of course.)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A working woman!

I have three days work this week, covering for the chiropractor's receptionist who is on leave. Tomorrow will be a very long day, 8am to 7pm. Hope I can take breaks! Last time I did it, it was mid-winter and their boiler had broken. The place was freezing. It should be more pleasant this time round. I loved meeting and greeting people, though. It made me feel as if I had a role and a purpose in society again, instead of always being cooped up at home. Well, not MY home - Mr G's home, as he never fails to remind me....

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Not much better a day

Today I travelled for two hours to view a flat which turned out to have a north facing terrace
(no bloody good), a pocket handkerchief of a garden, also north facing and... wait for it... not even attached to the flat! You had to go outside, walk a few yards and open a door in a fence. Plus, a lane down the side led to a building at the back which was a hardware warehouse, hence an endless stream of builders' vans. So much for the nice, quiet writing pad.

Had a very nice lunch with friends, got back as far as Kings Cross Station with no trouble, was waiting for the Met Line train which takes 50 mins to get to Uxbridge when whaddya know, an announcement comes over the loudspeakers informing us all that the trains had stopped because a tree had fallen across the line at Farringdon. Oh joy! There was a stampede towards the few tube lines that were still working. I galloped towards the Piccadilly Line platform. And waited... and waited... Five trains came for Heathrow and eventually an Uxbridge one turned up. It was packed and roasting hot. I had begun my journey this morning when it was cool and raining and was wearing a PVC mac with two layers under it. Phew!

Then a stroke of luck happened in the form of a nice youth who took pity on an old wrinkly and gave me his seat. What a gent! That saved me from having to stand for 29 endless, boring stops. I reached Uxbridge one hour and 20 minutes later and for some reason my footsteps carried me into M&S and right up to the wine section where I treated myself to a nice bottle of Californian Zinfandel. I felt that I deserved it.

Oh, forgot to mention that I had a free health check at the local chemist on Tues - height, weight, body mass, blood pressure, checks for diabetes and cholesterol and was pronounced fine and only at medium risk of stroke or heart attack. 'If you'd had the same results and been 15 years younger, I could have put you in the low risk category,' the pharmacist said. 'So what happens in ten years' time?' I enquired. 'Oh, we don't test you at all because however well you do in the tests, we'd still have to put you in the high risk category, just because of your age,' she said. Hmm. Something wrong somewhere. I think they need to re-categorise their tests and use different age-brackets, so you can be low-risk for 60, 70 or 80, even if compared to a 45-year-old, you're done for!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Another bad day

Last week I was eating some parsnip and beetroot crisps (lovely!) when all of a sudden there was something hard and unbiteable in my mouth. I spat it into my hand and it looked horribly like a piece of tooth - though it could have been a bit of hard parsnip of course! But, just to be on the safe side, I made an appointment with the dentist for 2.30 today. (2.30? Tooth-hurty? Groan!)

I left the house at 12.30 and Mr G gave me a lift to the Oxford Tube coach which goes straight to Victoria where my dentist's is. We waited, and waited... Almost half an hour passed with no coach, though they are supposed to be every ten minutes. By then, I was in a state of nervous agitation as it was too late to get the tube and I faced having to pay a £25 fine for missing an appointment.

But at last a coach loomed up and I scrambled on. In London, we hit traffic and I discovered that each time the driver braked, the engine cut out and he had to restart it, resulting in nasty sounds and much juddering from underneath the chassis. But we got there in the end, with 20 mins to spare.

I was thirsty and drank two paper cups of water from the machine in the waiting room. I was praying that the dentist would discover that there was nothing wrong and the object I'd almost broken a tooth on really was parsnip and not... a broken tooth! But my prayers weren't answered. It was.

50 minutes later, I was still in the chair. I'd had two injections and there had been so much drilling, with so many different drill heads of various sizes, that he seemed to be creating a masterpiece for Tate Gallery rather than excavating my old filling that had been there for - oh, at least thirty years! My heart pounded, I sweated and shook and he kept telling me to relax, just as if could. "If you don't relax, you will become exhausted," he said in his thick Greek accent as I nearly bit his finger off and kicked him in the Acropolis!

He took two impressions for a crown and was about to embark on the next state when I realised I couldn't cross my legs for much longer and had to ask for a loo break. Embarrassment! "It's just nerves," I told the dentist and his assistant, not mentioning the two cups of water.

An hour later, the temporary filling was in and I staggered out in a daze and was halfway to the coach stop when the heavens opened. I was drenched to the bone and could hardly walk as my leather sandals were so slippery inside that my feet were skidding all over the place. The coach came and would you believe it was the same one, with the same driver and the same dodgy engine... and the seat I chose was right above the braking mechanism. There I was, wet through, my face numb, my jaw aching, having had nothing to eat since breakfast and it was now 4pm, being jolted to bits every few seconds as the driver rammed on the brakes as he inched forward in heavy traffic. By now, the sun had come out. Talk about timing!

Somewhere up Park Lane the traffic lights weren't working, so it took an hour to cover a distance that should have taken ten minutes. I got off the coach two hours later and stood waiting for the local bus to the end of the street. And waited... and waited. 25 minutes later, it came. By then, I was drooping with exhaustion, and bitterly remembering the dentist's words.

I rang Mr G who said he'd come down the road to meet me. Hooray! I can cover the last 3/4 mile in the car instead of walking, I thought delightedly. But guess what? He appeared five minutes later - on foot. Yes, he'd fancied a walk.

Now I can hardly open my jaw as it is so stiff and sore. No, not a good day. And I have a cost of at least £200 for my tooth crown to look forward to. Why weren't we born with stainless steel teeth?


Foot update

I didn't get to visit my friend with the broken foot yesterday as I thought it was best to rest and keep putting the ice pack on my own foot, as the chiropractor had instructed. Today it is much less painful, but still a bit swollen and with a nice purple bruise. But now I can feel the result of what she was attempting to do. I can place my foot flat on the ground without rolling my ankle. My whole balance feels steadier. I feel more firmly rooted. I have pains in the muscles and tendons going up my leg as everything learns to work in a different way.

Today I have to put the foot to the test as I have to go to the dentist, which involves getting a coach to central London, then walking about three quarters of a mile. Heavy rain is threatened and I can only wear flipflops as anything else presses on the painful part of my foot. Flipflops in the rain... Sounds like a song title!

Monday, 12 July 2010

A Very Bad Day

Some days, it would have been better to have stayed in bed. Today is one of them. I have a whole load of things to do this week, all requiring a lot of walking as I don't drive. Tomorrow I have promised to have lunch with a friend who has broken her foot. Wednesday I have to travel to Victoria to see the dentist about the tooth I broke last week. Thursday I am trekking round looking at property in North London. So, what happens? I hurt my foot!

I have a dodgy left ankle. It's been sprained badly twice, it has a damaged ligament, a fallen arch, a trapped nerve, metatarsalgia and it was also ripped open in an accident and glued and clipped back together as the cut was too jagged to stitch it. I also damaged a ligament in the foot five years ago, which was excruciating and took three months to heal.

Last week, I asked the chiropractor who treats my whiplash after-effects to take a look at it. She pressed it in some acutely painful places and it actually started to feel much better. Today she was meant to be doing some more manipulation and also giving me some acupuncture. The needles went in... and promptly came out again as I couldn't take the pain. I told her her a hated needles. 'But why did you tell me you'd been looking forward to the treatment?' she asked. 'I was dreading the actual needles, but was looking forward to feeling better afterwards,' I replied.

She cricked and cracked my back, then concentrated on my ankle, twisting it and applying sudden pressure which caused a cracking, graunching sound and a scream from me. The pain wasn't in my ankle, it was in my foot, on the left, amongst the small bones below the ankle bone and just where I'd sustained the bad cut. I tried to stand and couldn't. She said if a bone had actually snapped, it probably meant I had osteoporosis. She then tried to put a positive spin on it by saying if I had, then she'd helped me find out and it was a good thing because I'd get treated sooner. Huh!

She kept telling me not to panic and to calm down. I wasn't panicking, I was thinking of all the things I'd have to cancel, including going to see my friend with the broken foot who lives about a mile from the bus stop! She then said that what she thought had happened was that she'd cracked some old scar tissue inside the foot. She made me lie down for twenty minutes with an ice pack on it, ten minutes over the foot and ten minutes under. After that, I hobbled to M&S, who were keeping a bag full of goods that I'd tried to buy earlier but couldn't as the queues at the tills were too long and I'd be late for my chiro appointment.

I then hobbled home with instructions to use an ice-pack every two hours. I rang my friend, who said she had another friend with her who'd also damaged her foot, so had another friend, and one of her sons had just damaged a ligament in his ankle. It must be bad foot week!

Then, in hobbling, I twisted my back. I have taken one of Mr G's heavy duty painkillers and applied lots of arnica gel.

To cap it all, I've started having toothache in a tooth that's ever hurt before (not the broken one), and on switching my computer on, found an email from the mag I write a horoscope column for every month, asking if they can drop the column I've just supplied for September and use it for October instead, as a large ad has come in and taken up the space. I emailed back saying that they can't possibly use September's stars in October as I've worked out all the aspects and they only apply to September. So... no pay for the ones I slaved over last week. It's only a measly £120 but it's regular and I need it.

What a bloody horrible day! Oh, and a cheque for £220 which I paid into the bank last Monday is not showing in my account. I stuck it into that bin with the pull-down handle where you can deposit envelopes of cheques and cash. Has some long-armed orangutan been in and raided it? Hey, call myself an astrologer... I certainly didn't see all this monkey-business in the stars!

Bengal cat movie clip

They are so cute and intelligent, and they look so like Chimimi - who is still our part-time lodger.

Traumatic night!

I had a series of disturbing dreams last night. In the first, yet another of my friends had died and I was in floods of tears and being comforted by my friend Barbara, who kept digging lovely clothes out of her cupboard and asking if I remembered giving them to her, which I did. I was always sending Barb clothes and items of jewellery and in return, she would scour the charity shops and source interesting items for me. Yet Barbara died three years ago, so it was odd that she was comforting me in the dream. I woke up hot and sweaty, terrified that the friend I dreamt about was going to die in real life. I suppose the reality of the loss of your 'chosen ones' which is what your friends are as opposed to family, who you are landed with whether you like them or not, gets more acute as you get older. I just can't emotionally afford to lose another friend.

Eventually, I got back off to sleep and had another bizarre dream. In it, I was with a new-agey kind of man (I love the type), handsome, in his forties, very into astrology, spiritual things, healing etc., and was very attracted to him. He offered to give me a massage and led me into a room with a massage table in it, and brought in a bag of essential oils. Meanwhile, I had stripped down to my knickers and felt ashamed that I was wearing boring cotton ones instead of something more glamorous. Suddenly, he decided there were some people he had to introduce me to, so, despite my efforts to grab my clothes, he hauled me down the corridor topless and into a room where several people were gathered. They didn't bat an eyelid at my semi nudity, but I was very uncomfortable and ashamed. We then went back to the massage room and suddenly, we were kissing. It was a gorgeous kiss, skilled and sensitive - with no tongues, in case anyone is wondering!

Next thing, I was dressed again and in another room with him, with yet more people, and it suddenly dawned on me that he had psychically linked with me. It was like a physical sensation, a kind of tickle inside my head and I realised that to forge a psychic link, you needed a physical one as well, which he had achieved with that kiss. He had his arm round me and I knew we would end up making love that day, but guess what? I woke up with a start and a shudder because something - spider, fly - was walking over my bare back! I leaped out of bed, shook the bedding, then flopped back onto the mattress. It was starting to get light, the blasted magpies were making a racket in their nest outside the bedroom window, and I lay and dozed for a couple of hours, then got up.

I'm now pondering what the dreams might have meant. The first is obvious, I think. My friends and I aren't getting any younger and I really don't know how I can stand the grief of losing anybody else. The loss of both Barbara and Louise affected me very, very deeply.

The second dream pinpointed another fact about aging - that I hate my body now. When I was thirty, I would have been embarrassed about being seen topless, but I was proud of how my body looked, slim and perky. Now, everything has sagged and drooped and the only place I don't mind showing it off is in a darkened room! As for the psychic link - I think that harked back to the Seventies when... oh, it's a long, long story. But I was linked psychically to a man and some very odd things happened. And he was my late friend Louise's first husband!

Yes, it was a very weird night.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Next-door's cat

Chimimi, the pedigree Bengal, seems to have moved in. One of her kittens, Snow, died two days ago - she's 13, he was about 12 and a beautiful cream colour. He got something wrong with his digestion and couldn't absorb any nourishment from his food and the vet had to put him down. The lady next door is dreadfully upset as of all four cats (Chimimi, the mum, and her kittens, Snow, Junior (the bully-boy who fights Flad) and timid little Mimi), he was the one she had bonded with most.

Chimimi spent the last two days meowing and wandering about as if looking for him. I've given her lots of fuss and attention and the lady next door said yesterday, 'I think she's your cat now!'

From the way she sits by Flad's bowls waiting for her share...

... and the way she curls up next to my typing chair...

... I think our neighbour might be right!


My tomato plants are like triffids! I have six plants, five different varieties, and my golly they're growing well. I've never seen such thick stalks. I've had to prune them and tie them up to stop them toppling over. It will be most interesting to compare the different sizes, shapes and flavours. I'm doing battle with whitefly, blackfly and aphids. That's where a spray-bottle of soapy water comes in handy.

The flowers I planted out in pots are doing well.

Have you ever seen a colour like this petunia? Blue? Violet? I could drown in it.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The gender of cars

Ships are always referred to as 'she', probably because they carry people in them, like a mother carrying her children. If that is the reason for that particular gender assignment, then are planes female, too? I must remember to ask the next pilot I come across. I think of farm and building machines like tractors and cranes as definitely male, if they have a sex at all.

But how do you think of your car?

I am a lifelong non-driver, but my dad always gave his cars female names. He finally passed his test at the age of 51 on his 13th go (this was 1956), and promptly bought Chloe, a shiny black 1949 Ford Prefect with a small back window. That car always seemed a bit claustrophobic and coffin-like to me. The numberplate was ACM 909, and Dad insisted the letters stood for Ain't Chloe Marvellous. To us, she was. She was cleaned and polished every weekend - those were the days when people who were lucky enough to afford cars stood them out in the drive and polished them proudly where all the neighbours could see their visual sign of prosperity. Others, such as fridge, washing-machine, TV, were shown off discreetly to friends and relations in private. It's strange to think that what we now deem necessities of life were once luxury items. My mother managed all her life with an old gas boiler which had a handle to 'agitate' the clothes with. The next stage was using the mangle to extract the water, then taking them out to hang on the line, or drip on our heads from the rack and pulley attached to the kitchen ceiling. No wonder our mothers had no bingo wings!

But back to the car...

Nowadays, people use their cars for every journey but back then, in the post-war years when petrol was expensive in comparison to wages, they were used on special occasions. To be offered a run out in the car was a real thrill. We would drive to Chester Zoo or Delemere Forest and have a proper day out, but the shopping was still done by foot and bus. As Chloe couldn't go very fast, and couldn't go up steep hills at all, getting to Wales or the Lake District for a holiday in a rented cottage still took all day from our house in Liverpool. Scotland meant an overnight stay, usually at a B&B near Stirling, where supper was trout caught fresh from the loch. Inevitably, seeing that we always holidayed in mountainous regions, the shout would always come to get out and walk while Chloe, with Dad geeing her up, lumbered upwards with our luggage while we plodded behind in the rain. And yes, rain it always did, the worst time being a week in a caravan in Pitlochry with rain drumming like shrapnel on the roof, and the loo being across a muddy field.

When our auntie decided to sell her white Ford Consul, we sold Chloe and acquired Fifi (her registration letters being FHF). Fifi was much better at hills, but didn't have nearly so much personality. Dad's final car before being forced to give up driving at the age of 84 as his eyesight had got so bad, was a handsome maroon Wolsely saloon. I don't think it had a name and to me, it was definitely a male.

Bicycles... I suppose their gender depends on whether they have a crossbar or not. Motobikes? Male, they've got to be. I've always called my vacuum cleaners 'he' when I've needed a little talk with them - normally a stern one when they have refused to go round a corner or pick up some cotton from the carpet.

But cars... maybe it depends on the type. Is a Ferrari a smooth, purring female panther or a roaring male lion? As for Smart Cars - well, with their nippiness, their perkiness, their fashionable colours and exhibitionist 'look at me' personalities, I think they're all gay!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Worrying dream

I had a disturbing dream last night that is preying on my mind. It starred close friend called Barbara, who died of a stroke aged 59, three years ago this month. I miss her greatly as she was a unique, talented, supremely witty woman, a complete one-off, stubborn and feisty, an RAF officer's daughter who ever suffered fools gladly. The fact that this was the first time I had dreamed about her since she died feels significant, somehow.

In the dream, I was in a bronze car with her, which matched her bronze coloured coat. For some odd reason, she was disguised as rabbi, with long black ringlets, yarmulka and a straggly beard, and black-rimmed glasses. She said there was a reason why she was in hiding but she wouldn't tell me. She was driving me away but I didn't want to go and asked to be let out of the car. Then she said she needed to speak to my partner. I got out and she drove off (very badly, I may add, on the wrong side of the road; in life Barbara, like me, never learned to drive). She came back with Mr G in the back seat and I stood by the window talking to her. In a low voice, she asked if the papers he had signed that concerned me were legal. Suddenly, I knew she was talking about his Will. He downloaded a form off the internet and got the neighbours to sign as witnesses, so I don't know if it is legal or not.

She took off her false beard and wig, revealing a hair-do that looked very like my own. I tried to climb into the back seat next to Mr G, but she said no, and took off in a hurry, leaving me with one foot in the car, hanging onto the open door. I fell off onto the grass verge and they disappeared into the distance. Then I woke up.

It's got me rattled. I hope it wasn't a premonition that something bad is going to happen to him...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Muntjacs again

While I was pounding away on my keyboard this morning, my partner shouted that there was a muntjac fawn in the garden. I missed it, and so did his camera, but I hope it comes back. I also hope I get a chance to photograph the fox cub I saw last night. I tried, but it was late and dark and all I got was a smudge!