Matters of the Heart

Celia is in the running for hospital visitor of the year. It’s not something she planned, but over the last few weeks it’s been something of a revolving door with her husband Charlie repeatedly admitted with heart problems.

He went back in again a few days ago, and is undergoing something we are not allowed to call electric shock treatment to get his heart beating to the correct rhythm. I think it’s called electrical cardioversion.

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Time Off and Time Out

I worked eight days in a row after returning from my hols and boy was I glad to have a couple of days off. I love my work, but it can be a bit intense at times, and I definitely needed time to recoup. I am rereading Milkman by Anna Burns for book group next month. However, my recuperation required doing a jigsaw, and having more credits than I know what to do with with Audible, I decided to buy the audio book so I could listen and solve simultaneously. It works really well. I’m switching between the audio book and the print version according to where I am and what I’m doing. It’s a multi-sensory experience.

This afternoon I left both the audio book and the real one at home and headed to Tate Britain to see the Frank Bowling exhibition. I am so glad I did. It is wonderful. I took some photographs once I realised it was allowed, so maybe I’ll post some of them tomorrow. His work is abstract and I found it tremendously uplifting, though I can’t say why. It made me wish I lived in one of those loft places which are murder to keep warm but which have vast walls. There were several paintings I think I could happily gaze at for the rest of my life. Continue reading

Love London

The new layout at the airport confused me. I could see the shuttle bus I needed to take to the railway station, but not how to get to it. So I wasted several minutes going in the wrong direction and the bus I had seen departed. Fortunately another arrived almost immediately. It was nearly empty, as was the train to London. Until we reached St Pancras. I looked up from my book and saw a sea of faces on the platform. Not all those people boarded the train, but as travelled through Farringdon and City Thameslink stations the train filled up. I got off at Blackfriars and made it to the bus stop just in time to see my bus pull away. Joggers dodged the pedestrians; commuters talked earnestly into mobile phones; the Thames flowed sweetly under the bridge. It was a beautiful evening.
After being the countryside I was struck, as I always am when I return home from less populated areas, by the hustle; the sheer number of people; the energy. I couldn’t decide whether I was pleased to be there or not, though I was increasingly impatient to see MasterB.
He was more interested in going into the garden. Within seconds I realised his pleasure at seeing me was more that I could let him out of the flat and into the big wide world than in an emotional reunion. Ah well, he made up for it later, and this evening. Continue reading

Timing

When I booked my flights to Belfast earlier in the year I wasn’t to know my departure was going to coincide with the almost certain elevation of Boris Johnson to the post of Prime Minister. I’m not going to go on about it. Marina Hyde expresses the whole fiasco so much better than I could here. Though I can’t resist adding a link to the very wonderful Michael Spicer and his latest YouTube on what is fast becoming known as kippergate.

It’s people like Michael Spicer and Marina Hyde who give me hope that my country is not totally beyond redemption, and at some time in the future may rediscover reason and self-respect.

It so happens my departure also coincides with a heat wave I am very happy to miss. I am less happy that the forecast for almost all my stay in Co Derry is for rain. But hey ho, I’ll take the waterproofs and it’ll be ok. Of course I shall be still be in the UK, but with Johnson running (sic) things, the break up of the Union may be close. I have my Irish passport now, as well as my British one, but at this rate I’m going to have an English one before very long. Never mind, it’ll be dark blue. That is, I am told, what matters.

MasterB will be in the tender care of the Young Relative. She visited again on Friday evening and he made clear his pleasure at seeing her. The family of the ginger female down the road, who gave birth to five ginger kittens a couple of weeks ago, is also on holiday, and their own Young Relative is in residence to cat sit, so these two YRs may meet up and socialise. On Friday it was YR, Octavia, Celia and me at the local Lebanese. B&J would normally count as back up, but they mega Prom fans so will be at the Royal Albert Hall every night for the next few weeks. Actually both Octavia and Celia are away the first week of my holiday, so I am glad there is the other YR for support close by. I am also glad I invested in a sod stream lat weekend so she has easy access to fizzy water, and I have an extraordinarily good little fan from Lidl which I hope will help on hot nights.I don’t think I am going to need it in Co Derry. Continue reading

This Week I Shall be Mainly Visiting Hospitals (and Singing)

If ever there was a day designed for staying at home and clearing out the cupboards it was yesterday in London. The tail end of Hurricane Miguel caught us and was less Flaming June, more bloody hell as temperatures dropped and rain poured out of the sky with grim determination. Visitors to england have strange ideas about the weather. They often seem to think it rains almost constantly and heavily. The reality is that our rain is generally light, frequent, and short lived. Or it used to be. Climate crisis has introduced even these islands known for their temperate (some would say unexciting) weather to bizarre swings and abrupt changes, and flooding in parts of the country has become the annual norm.

So I knew rain was forecast but as I had spent Sunday in my shirt sleeves, and Octavia and I had eaten supper outside in her garden as the grey Ninja swarmed up the trellis onto the walls and posed beautifully against a blue sky, I foolishly thought it would still be quite warm. It wasn’t. I had the misfortune to be working outside all morning. My hands got colder and colder and Raynaud’s Disease soon drove the blood from my fingers. On the bus journey at lunchtime I sat with my hands clasped between my knees waiting for warmth to return. To add to the misery, my erstwhile trusty waterproof shoes leaked. My socks were damp and unpleasant. Thank goodness the company was good.

In the evening the Young Relative who is going to look after MasterB when I am with Cousin in NI came round. We had a lovely evening. MasterB honed his technique for keeping her under his paw. We ate, drank, talked family stuff. Before she went home I took her to the local Turkish deli. The original plan had been to show her around the area, but the rain rather dampened that one. At the deli we met J. He is the son of Celia’s good friend Lata, who is visiting from Australia, and J should have been flying home to the US today. However, as Robbie Burns so eloquently put it, The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley. Continue reading

To Blog or to WhatsApp?

My friend Octavia has been away for five weeks and is due back tonight. I’m hoping to see her tomorrow if jet lag doesn’t claim her. It was Celia’s birthday on Friday, mine tomorrow, and we are meeting up with a small group of mutual friends to have lunch in a local, unpretentious gaff at Borough. Yes, there are unpretentious places at Borough if you know where to look. I took my cousin-in-law to the same place for lunch when she was over with Food NI last month, and she loved it.
While Octavia was away, she sent me WhatsApp messages with photographs of stunning views. I suggested she start a blog. After a few days she said that it took her minutes to WhatsApp some photos, whereas it must take me much longer to write a blog post, (I assume she meant the type of post I am writing now), and when she had time to spare, she wanted to relax, not write.
Fair enough.
It did get me thinking though. I use WhatsApp sometimes to send photos too. I think it’s a great medium for quick communication. But as a record keeping app, it’s lacking. It became quite frustrating getting tiny photos to see on my ‘phone when I should much rather look at larger ones on my laptop screen. Continue reading

In Which Celia and Isobel Go for a Walk in Search of Bluebells

I have so many posts half composed in my head, but unwritten and unposted: stray cats, blogging v WhatsApp, Brexit (again), amazing books, homelessness, climate crisis, MasterB. You get the picture. Maybe in time. But tonight, as we come to the end of Easter weekend, and the sun is shining, the blossom is still blossoming, the air has a gentle, mellow air, quite at odds with the political climate, I want to write about yesterday’s walk in Surrey.

Above the town

Above the town

Farm building

Farm building

Lush

Lush

I was born in Surrey and grew up there. I took its hills, its green fields, its bluebell woods for granted. You still get to enjoy these things in Surrey when your parents aren’t stockbrokers.

Bluebells

Bluebells

In leaf

In leaf

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Keeping it Sane

It’s been a busy week and a productive one. No, I am not talking about Brexit, though a new extension has been granted by the long-suffering EU until October. It sounds a good amount of time, six whole months, but once you subtract the days the house isn’t sitting it’s more like three. Mark Francois has made an arse of himself (again) by making threats to the EU and reading poetry aloud very badly, yet some people think he should lead the Tory party. Hello? Theresa May, whose air miles must be enough to get her to the moon and back by now, returned to the house and made the same speech again. Is it obstinacy, lack of imagination, or a plan to just wear people down? She does an aggressive upward look, reminiscent of Princess Diana, across the floor of the house to anyone who dares contradict her. Whatever the question was, Brexit is not the answer. Tonight, when the news was on, I deliberately left the room to avoid seeing the Farago announcing his new Brexit party with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata on side as a prospective candidate. Some huge percentage of the adult population says it is suffering from Brexit related stress and anxiety. Tell me about it. I wake up from dreams about it.
Anyway, it’s Friday night and time for a bit of a break, though I fully intend to watch Have I Got News For You at nine o’clock, and I have already listened to the News Quiz. It’s like a itch I can’t help scratching. As though Brexit anxiety wasn’t enough, I have been worried about MasterB for the last couple of days. He has been under the weather, sleeping hugely, not nagging me much to play, taking only a cursory interest in his food. This morning, before I went to work, I rang the vet practice and talked to one of the nurses, describing his symptoms. If she told me to keep a close eye on things once, she told me a dozen times. Being Chief Litter Tray Monitor, I am well versed in MasterB’s bowel movements. Normally his digestive system functions admirably well, just the odd pungent smell from his hind quarters when he is sitting beside me, or the popping sound of wind breaking in tiny bursts. So I was able to say that yesterday’s deposit was less solid than usual. Today’s was even less solid than yesterday’s, so it seems something has upset his tum. I’m hoping he’s on the mend now as he has just led me to the kitchen and had a few mouthfuls of the wet food in his bowl, and his interest in biscuits has definitely returned. So long as it’s nothing serious, a few days of restricted calories might be just what he needs to shift the stubborn superfluous 500g he’s carrying.

 

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New Toy

MasterB has a new toy. He likes it very much. It’s a gift from Octavia who read about it in a magazine at the vet surgery where she had taken the Grey Ninja for her annual check up. Normally Octavia would not read the magazines on offer, but she had forgotten her ‘phone. It’s a good thing I was sitting down when she told me: Octavia without her ‘phone? Unbelievable. I thought at the very least surgery would have been involved to achieve such a scenario.
It was a good outcome for the Grey Ninja and MasterB though as, in the said magazine, Octavia read about honeysuckle wood, an alternative to catnip, and something most cats love. As I said before, MasterB’s opinion was positive. It was also immediately evident.

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Finding my inner anorak

A couple of weeks ago on a gloriously sunny morning three of us joined a group of people on a platform at Ealing Broadway.
I don’t think I have been there before. We were given orange wristbands and then stood about, peering down the track, amid a buzz of happy chatter and an array of serious cameras.

On the platform

One of us was wearing an anorak, but it’s fair to say just being there our spiritual anoraks were on show.
For those of you not familiar with the term, an anorak is a lightweight waterproof jacket favoured by trainspotters. I’m presuming trainspotters exist the world over. If not, they are enthusiasts, usually male, who spend their free time on railway platforms noting the type and registration number of the trains arriving and leaving the station. They are not heroin addicts despite Danny Boyle’s celebrated film Trainspotting.

Like the term anorak, the film’s title has a wider meaning: people with a simple and often single-minded obsession with a single subject.
looking around we were surprised at the wide demographic represented. Some people had dressed up. We were going to ride on a 1930s tube train, one of the last journeys it will make on the network before new signalling makes it impossible.
These trains went out of service in the 1970s, I will have travelled on them on journeys across London, but by the time I came to live in the capital they were gone.

Later generations of underground trains shared some of the same features: the wooden floors like duckboards, the wooden panels, the hanging straps which look like upside down mini punchballs, the rounded profile, the red paint. All this brought on waves of memories.

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