Once, my guitar came everywhere with me and sustained quite a few accidents in the process, the most notable being a crack sustained when the bus I was on jammed the brakes on as I was halfway down the stairs from the top deck. I have taken guitars to Spain and Turkey. I have left guitars behind in order to play next time I was there. One of my guitars has taken up residence in the Anatolian Nomadic carpet shop on the harbour in Fethiye, where I taught the owner his first few chords.
That was the last time I ever took a guitar on holiday. My fingers were falling prey to osteoarthritis and it was getting too painful to form a chord.
Nowadays I am limited to playing in certain keys, so as to avoid chords like F Major which I simply can't manage any more. But while I was up in the Lakes, I picked up my sister's guitar and had a go, and was transported back through the years, to when I had a manager and went on tour and was in the verge of a recording contract with Phonogram. (If only...)
It's now a year since my beloved friend Louise Cooper died and last night, for the first time, I had a dream about her.
I was in her Cornish village and hopped on a bus just to go to the other end of the high street as I was carrying some awkward things; a black box, a book, a parcel, things I could easily drop as I couldn't get them in a properly balanced heap in my hands and I didn't have a bag to put them in. I caught the bus but it didn't stop. I'd made the mistake of getting on a express bus that didn't stop for another four miles and the driver wouldn't let me off.
Stranded in the middle of nowhere, with my handful of objects, I looked forlornly round, hoping to find a passing taxi or another bus, but there was nothing. So I began trudging back towards the village. But as I got close, I noticed it had changed. Instead of low, rolling hills, there were high mountain peaks gloriously lit and outlined by the setting sun. There was a green mound with a huge buddha statue on it, grey-green with verdigris. Then the air shimmered golden and Louise was there, talking to me.
I wish I could remember all the details of our conversation, but I told her I loved her and missed her and I remember asking if it was true that when you passed over, you met all your dead loved ones again, and she said it was. I found myself looking down a long corridor, polished wood panels and floor, and a lady with short grey hair was walking towards me. She looked surprised to see me, as if I shouldn't be there, then Louise said she had to go, as she had a task to do. She said with a laugh that you were just as busy on the other side as you were on this one!
It was so wonderful to dream of her. I woke up feeling comforted. Don't know if I like the idea of having to work after death, though! Wonder if you get paid for it?
A few days ago, I had a dream in which a friend rang me and told me her mum had died. I mentioned it to a couple of people and said I hoped it wouldn't come true. Today, my friend rang and said her mum had had a fall and broken her femur and was in hospital. I got the cold shivers. I hope to God she'll be all right. Now tell me, is this just coincidence, or am I genuinely getting messages from out there somewhere? Whatever it is, I don't like it!
It was Uxbridge's annual street festival today and while it would have been better if they had rerouted the buses, as they do for other events, so that visitors didn't have to dodge the traffic and they could have fitted in a lot more stalls, the bands were great. I was particularly taken with an acoustic trio who called themselves Rub a Dub and had a bubble machine on the platform they were standing on. Anyone who could play guitar in the open air on such a freezing day has to be applauded, and their songs were tuneful and catchy.
Here are a few of the odd sights I saw...
Is she sprinting to celebrate her heart transplant?
A balloon seller whose head has mysteriously morphed into a balloon
Reed... for sale?
Every damsel in distress needs one of these. Yum. Tasty! Wonder if he'd just popped in for more nails for his armour?
It took a man to show me that I'd been hanging out the washing wrongly all these years, and so had the generations before me.
Gran, Mum, then I, had always hung trousers up by the waistband. It seemed the right, sensible and visually correct thing to do. But the other day Mr Grumpy washed some clothes and I noticed, to my surprise, that he had pegged them out by the ankles. (Well, you can't say 'feet', can you? Trousers don't have feet. If they did, you'd encounter jeans and jeggings racing down the road to get away from whatever sweaty, smelly, overstretched fate awaited them!)
"Why are you doing that?" I asked him. "Look and learn," Mr G replied. "The weight of having the waistband at the bottom straightens the trousers so you probably won't need to iron them, you can hang other things between the legs and the wind can blow in and dry the items hanging behind them."
I had to admit it was a jolly good idea and I wondered why I hadn't thought of it myself, considering that I've been hanging washing out for... well, more decades than I care to remember. Why hadn't my mother, my gran, my great-gran even, thought of it? Why did it have to take a man to devise such a simple way of saving space and the chore of ironing? Or maybe that's the whole point! My ears still ring to the memory of Mr G's smug chortle. How men love to be right, especially when it comes to scoring points off women. Ha! I'll get my own back somehow. Watch this space.
It started when I was packing for my trip to the Lake District. Something told me to take an extra watch with me. It was an odd idea and not something I'd ever done before when travelling, but as my 'little voice', as I call it, had prompted me to do it, I did indeed pack another watch. Over the weekend, the watch I was wearing started slowing down and the day after my return it stopped completely. How did I sense that it needed a new battery? I had no idea of how long it was since I renewed the battery. It's not something I ever think about.
The next thing was the jacuzzi at the spa we visited last Saturday. It looked most inviting but that little voice told me not to get in. I defied it and climbed in and spent quite some time there, chatting to my sister and getting the powerful water jets playing on my aching shoulders. But no sooner had I got home than I felt a burning pain in the nether regions and by ten pm I couldn't even sit down and could hardly bear my knickers on! It was lucky that I brought some thrush cream with me, but it's taken me all week to get rid of the cystitis symptoms. Now, maybe it was the chemicals in the swimming pool that were responsible, but I can't help feeling that it was the jacuzzi's jets hitting me amidships, as it were.
The next day we were going out for an afternoon walk. As I put my boots on, that little voice told me to examine the welts. However, I only looked at the front of the boots, not the back. Had I examined the seam all round, I would perhaps have noticed that the rot had set in, the material had perished and the left heel was about to part company with the upper. And I don't just mean the sole, I mean the entire heel, the innards of which had literally perished and fallen apart.
In the past, I have disobeyed my little voice to my peril. Years ago, it told me not to put on a necklace I was especially fond of. 'Rubbish!' I admonished it and slung it around my neck. Hours later, I was just crossing the main road at a brisk pace so as to beat the oncoming traffic when there was a 'ping!' and the string of the necklace broke and all the beads rolled down onto the road. There was nothing I could do. Buses and cars were bearing down on me. I had to leave them as it was better that they got crushed under the wheels than myself!
What do you think it is, this premonitory instinct? Does anyone else experience it, too? If it's my guardian angel who wants to protect and help me, why the hell can't he or she predict the winning lottery numbers!
The sun wasn't out all the time, but it didn't rain till the last night. And guess what? As we were coming back from our last walk, I had a strange sensation beneath my left heel, as if I had trodden in something squidgy. No, it wasn't what you might think: not on that occasion, anyway! The odd feeling was the heel of my boot parting company from the rest of it so, for the last mile, I had to drag along a flapping chunk of boot. I felt just like Charlie Chaplin and much fun was made of me. I loved those boots. I've never had such a comfy pair. Boo-bloody-hoo!
Here are some photos for those who aren't on Facebook, where I have posted a album. I also photographed the plywood cat I made and painted for my sister. Perhaps I should make a few more and set up a stall! I had to laugh when I saw that sign about the paths. Surely they mean Permitted?
Just got back from a blissful holiday at my sister's place near Ullswater in the Lake District. The sun shone, the stags roared, the trees were just turning red and gold and it was truly glorious. My only regret was that I didn't spot an elusive red squirrel. Photos tomorrow...
I'm going up north to Cumbria tomorrow, taking my friend J. to meet my sister. I've been careful with my diet but this morning I woke up with a dreadful stomach ache and have made lots of trips to the loo.
I love visiting my sister. She's so busy with her riding, climbing, cycling and ski-ing that she and her husband are hardly ever home, so it was great to find a gap on her calender. We are having a spa day on Saturday, so what's not to look forward to?
That said, then why the bad tum? I have thought and thought and come to the conclusion that the thing at the heart of my anxiety is fear of something going wrong with my teeth while I am up there. I have two temporary fillings at present, and that tooth that has been giving me trouble for 18 months, and has prevented me from having any foreign holidays, is still infected.
As I lay in bed last night, I was getting separate twinges in five different teeth! I know most of it is psychosomatic and stress-related, but I haven't been able to banish the thing that I call 'the curse of the what-ifs'. Anyone got any advice, short of having all my teeth taken out?!
... is that it's not quite big enough for Flad! It has to be said that he is a very large cat, built along diplodocus lines with a small head and a bulky body, and very long legs. He has never been a climbing cat. Rather than springing onto things, he clambers his way up using his claws as crampons. So flopping into a nice, warm, soft bed is just his style (note that he still won't be parted from his tea towel). But... how to arrange those lanky limbs?
First, I tried my legs this way...
Then I tried them this way. Oops, my foot's on the floor.
Now my head's sticking out. Oh dear...
The sun's out now and my feet are almost in so I think I'll have a snooze now. But Mummy, please can you buy me a dog bed?
I felt my great charity shop animal print jacket and my leather and lycra leggings were just the thing to hit trendy Camden Town in. Got to the pub way too early, though, and felt like the old wino in the corner, as everyone else was about 20!
Poor old Flad. I dropped a tea towel on the floor and he promptly commandeered it. He slept on it for days and I think it was his way of saying that bare floorboards, no matter how trendy they are, were too hard for his old bones (he's nearly 14).
Mr Grumpy (I bought him some Mr Grumpy slippers from Matalan which have turned out to be too small even though they were Size L, which has made him even grumpier, of course) slung Flad's towel in the wash. I retrieved it. I had an idea... And half an hour later, I'd found a nice, soft cat bed on the internet. My idea was to get him used to it by putting his tea towel on it, which of course has his smell on.
It arrived on Thursday. "He'll never sleep on that," smirked Mr G. Having smelled the nasty chemical smell on it which probably came from the packaging, I agreed. I washed it and put it out on the patio table to dry. But oh dear, the smell was still there.
I was out last night. I stayed with a friend following another friend's birthday (photos on Facebook). When I got back, Mr G told me very smugly that Flad hadn't gone near his bed. Well, Mr G went out. As soon as he'd gone, I rubbed the bed all over with Flad's catnip mouse, laid the tea towel on top, then put the catnip mouse on top of that. A quarter of an hour later, Flad approached, sniffed, climbed in, sniffed some more, washed himself and fell asleep. I call that a result! This time 'twas I who had the smug grin.
Maybe I'll give it a try, though I'm still not sure...
Dentist's again today. I hadn't slept well - got up before 6 - and as I sat on the tube, I thought, at least she's only going to take impressions for a crown; all I'll have to do is open wide while she pops in those nasty, jaw-shaped trays full of green putty.
Wrong. I got the green putty, but then she announced that she had to drill out the temporary filling, sculpt the tooth into the right shape, then take another impression. The first injection didn't hurt at all. 10 out of 10. The second one, on the other side of the tooth, which was that one that feels like it's coming out of the side of your head, 4 out of 10. Then we waited... and waited. My lip just hadn't gone numb enough, so then I got injection number 3, which was around 5 out of 10 on the discomfort scale.
Prior to this, sheer nerves had made me babble on about all kinds of things no normal person would tell strangers (dentist and her nurse, who has a diamond set in her incisor). After my dentist had chatted about her children, I started telling her (or rather, them, even though my words were directed at the dentist) all about how I had found my daughter after getting her adopted. I noticed two pairs of eyes widening like saucers above the blue face masks. Then I couldn't stop my motor-mouth babbling on about how much I hated Hillingdon and how I couldn't write there and how I'd come to be there in the first place (Mr Grumpy). Then I made myself look even more of an idiot by apologising for talking too much and explaining that it was just nerves. They must think I'm a loony old lady. (True, though I still don't think of myself as old, exactly, just erring on the north side of middle age.)
Finally, the drilling started. I was tensed up, digging my nails into the back of my hand, heart pounding, legs shaking, even though I had crossed one of the other to hold it down lest it suddenly kick the dentist in the instrument tray! It didn't hurt. I began to relax. Then came the worst part of all. 'Open wide.' I stretched my creaking jaws as wide as they would go, but they were forced even wider by the sheer bulk of the metal tray filled with vilest tasting putty ever, which was purplish black this time. Don't they make them in small, medium and large? I'm sure she'd used the giant-size one when a small would have done. I felt like a virgin at the gynaecologist's!
She pressed it down and it stretched so far back that it was pressing on the base of my tongue. The gag reflex kicked in and I couldn't swallow or breathe. I felt as if I were choking. 'Breathe through your nose and keep your eyes open, that's the best way of getting through this,' she said. I did it with great difficulty, saliva rattling at the back of my throat and making me feel like I was drowning. It seemed like ten minutes but was probably only three or four before she removed the gadget. Then she had to put another temporary filling on.
My shoulders and neck were aching from tension. She has booked me in for next Wednesday to have the crown fitted. I am going up to my sister's in Cumbria on Thursday. And guess what? I clean forgot to ask how much the crown was going to cost. At least five times as much as my previous dentist would charge, I'm sure. But do I fancy going back to The Beast? No, no. I prefer the gentle touch any day. And I'd rather have her neatly manicured hand and smooth wrist in my mouth than that big, hairy Greek one!
I've been searching for the perfect pair of brown boots for a very long time. Because of my dodgy feet, they have to be flat with spongy soles and comfy, padded insoles. The leather must be soft and flexible and mustn't rub, as my heels and toes, skin, bleed and blister at the slightest suggestion of a seam, a ruck or a too-hard surface.
The kind of boots I've seen in the shops were somewhere north of £100 (ouch!). I scoured the charity shops, and finally went onto ebay where - oh joy! - I found them. A pair of brown suede Timberland boots in that oh, so elusive size 5 1/2. There were 16 bidders after them and I put in the highest bid, at £39.75 plus postage. That style are around £145 new and the seller said she'd only worn them once, so I reckoned I'd got a bargain and couldn't wait for them to arrive.
This morning, the postie rang the bell and said I had to sign for a parcel. It was the boots! I put the package in the bedroom and worked up my anticipation by finishing twiddling with some photos on the computer. Then, unable to wait any longer, I hacked my way into the parcel.
The boots were perfect. The sole was just the right height and squidginess, the insole was perfectly padded, the suede supple and a gorgeous chocolate brown. But... what was this? My foot wasn't going in. I gave the zip an extra tug and tried again. Still no luck. With a nasty sinking feeling, I compared the size of the boot sole to the size of my foot. It was smaller. I peered inside the boot. 'UK size 5 1/2, Eurpean 38 1/2', it said. 5 1/2, my foot! I measured the shoe and found it to be 23 cms, then went onto an international shoe size site which proclaimed it to be a size 4.
Fury surged through me. I'd been cheated! Robbed of over £40! Livid, I stomped upstairs and opened up the seller's email. 'No returns', it said. What a rip-off. That woman must have known damn well that those boots had been wrongly sized. She'd probably bought them at some factory outlet place for seconds, or even been ripped off on ebay herself.
I sell a lot of my 'mistakes' or clothes that no longer fit, on ebay and am always scrupulously honest, telling people if they are a large 14, or tight under the arms, or have a mark somewhere. Not so this woman, though. I have sent her a stiff email and have re-listed them on ebay as a size 4.
But now a nasty, niggly thought has occurred to me. What if they are snide Timberlands and I get the counterfeit goods police contacting me? Could I get prosecuted for selling counterfeits when I bought them in good faith? I hope not. I also hope a lady with nice, small feet will give me at least half my money back. Any offers?
These photos should really have been put into my wildlife blog, but as I'm not sure if you all read that, I decided to pop them in here. Every evening, anytime from six onwards, the fox comes sniffing round the lawn to see if it can find anything tasty, then sits and waits, gazing at us through through the patio doors.
What a very fine brush it has. Wonder it doesn't trip over it!
How about this? The new dentist is on the fringe of Harley Street, the most fashionable London location for private medics of all persuasions (there's even a brand new haemorrhoid clinic which, shudder, I may have to pay a visit to soon; I think I'd have been tempted to call it Piles of Smiles!). When you think of the money they rake in (I was quoted... wait for it... £5,600 for an inplant plus temporary bridge while the jaw is being prepared), you'd think they would be the very model of efficiency. And so, as I was leaving yesterday, I gaily fluted, "See you tomorrow."
The dental nurse frowned and flicked through the book. "I haven't got you down," she said. I produced the appointment card on which was written, Friday Oct 1, 12 noon. "That's my writing," she said. "Oh well, we'd better see you on Monday." No apology, no explanation for her failure to write it in the book. Just imagine if I'd arranged a day off work, or was coming a long way and had booked a rail ticket in advance!
Just heard on the radio that there is a threatened rail strike on Monday. So they won't be seeing me! All the same, it does not bode well...