Aaargh Oh Knee and Ian McMillan, the Great Punster

OK, so it’s not a great play on words, but I have been listening to the Great Punster Ian Mc Millan, and if your knee felt like mine has been feeling you’d be pleased you could still laugh. Is that self-pitying enough? Bear with me.

My left knee is my good knee. It has been the dependable one since I bashed my right knee in 1993 and spilt the meniscus, cue lots of pain, gradual onset of arthritis, and a sick note for life saying I must not run. Although of course I have run, usually for the bus, but to vary things, sometimes it has been for the train.

Not at the moment. My left knee started to grumble that it had been doing the lion’s share for nearly twenty-three years and it wasn’t happy. I’ve learned to listen to it, to anticipate when my days are likely to make it cranky and take painkillers in advance. It’s been pretty grumbly recently. Though intermittently. It can be fine one day, then feel like a piece of wood has been wedged in it the next. In my abortive efforts to field MasterB from catching the baby wren, I think I wrenched it, so the last ten days both front and back of my knee have hurt, and I’m getting pains running from ankle to hip. My work means I am on my feet a lot, so there’s not been much chance to rest. Continue reading

Wonderful Words

Some great reading this week. At the weekend I finished Penelope Lively’s Ammonites and Leaping Fish, A Life in Time. It’s a memoir, but being Penelope Lively she bypasses all the clichés. It’s a social history as well as her history; beautifully written which is a given with her as an author, and absorbing. It’s perceptive, observant, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. There is a little impatience with the ageing process but never self-pity. The only time Penelope Lively has disappointed me was Spiderweb, which I think was written not long after her husband Jack’s death, so might be forgiven as a potboiler.

I won’t go into all the structure of Ammonites and Leaping Fish. There are lots of reviews you could read. I rather like this one. But this is how the book begins:

This is not quite a memoir. Rather, it is the view from old age. And a view of old age itself, this place at which we arrive with a certain surprise – ambushed, or so it can seem. One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now, and know what goes on here.

I borrowed my copy from the library, but there is so much in it that I want to return to it will soon be on my shelves. Continue reading

Of Aunt and Angela; Two Remarkable Women

Aunt has gone from thin to gaunt. Her eyes look too large for her face. Her shoulders are blade sharp. Weariness is etched in every movement she makes. Her voice reveals the effort speaking costs her. “I know we don’t get to choose,” she said, “but I don’t want to linger.” I told her about A, and that I have to go home tomorrow as it is A’s funeral on Friday, and her memorial on Saturday. I shared memories of A that made Aunt laugh and then look sad.


Aunt’s in bed now, and I am downstairs in the guest room, a reluctant witness to the woman upstairs television tastes. Or a stupid witness. I have my ‘phone, I have my Kitsound pocket boom. Let’s Rock!


That’s better. Good old Snow Patrol.


I have told her I shall take a photograph tomorrow to send to Uncle Bill who has just had a few days in hospital. Offered the chance of early parole, he opted for house arrest. As a family we don’t make great patients. Anyway, it’s his ninety-fourth birthday on a Friday, of course he wants to be at home.

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I should be in bed. I should be asleep. It's late and I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow. But today I got the message I have been expecting; A has died. Maybe I shall give her full name later, but for tonight, just enjoy this poem by her, one I liked the moment she handed it to me to read sometime in the early 90s. My copy still has the creases where I folded it into eight.


I hope it gives you a flavour of her eye, of her humour. Continue reading

Duvet Days and Cultural Craic

It's weather that tells you to curl up on a sofa with the papers or a book. Yesterday I *babysat* the puppy while everyone else attended a funeral. There were three funerals locally. Some wanted to show their faces and pay their respects at all of them.

Cousin lit a fire before she left. Yes it was that cold. Pip thought it was a great idea.

The two adult dogs, no doubt correctly reading the attitudes of the humans around them, also decided it was a day for little activity. A duvet day, Cousin called it.

The puppy, aka the Thuglet, was not on the same page. As Pip and Westie Boy snuggled into warm beds, she had just one idea on her mind; to make them play. She really didn't want to take no for an answer. Even when that no was uttered in increasingly impatient and irritated growls.

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Of Pets and Poetry

Yes, I can go on holiday. Hurrah.

Maybe there’ll be a film, When MasterB Met Julie, and you’ll see a slomo sequence where the two of them see each other for the first time: his perfect gingerness on the stairs in his purple velvet collar from Poundland, Julie proffering treats before I told her he wasn’t allowed them.

He happily showed her how he gets his treats from the catcher; played with the feathered stick when she waggled it; allowed hmself to be petted; sniffed her coat intently and tried to climb into its sleeve. In short, he liked her.

Mainly About Reading, and Some Work

A quick post tonight to keep up with the challenge. I still have some work to finish, and the washing up will not take care of itself.

We had our poetry group meeting in the library. It could be a play. One of the members is very definitely on the autistic spectrum, and tonight he was on speed dial. Celia was placating and calming with regular interjections of “Right, right” delivered in a firm but calming tone. I think he might have had a caffeine boost or similar this afternoon, but last month he was much more connected.

Viv was mildly subversive, and made me think she was probably quite naughty at school in ways she could get away with.

It was fun. I picked a few Simon Armitage volumes at random from the library shelves. One, Seeing Stars, turned out not to be poetry, but short stories and monologues. The first I looked at began:

During the summer of 1996 I was working as a Tattooist-in-Residence on a reclaimed slagheap in the South Pennines.

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Poems for My Mum, Heroic Women and a Brattish Cat

Celia came for coffee this morning and stayed for lunch. That was, I hasten to add, at my invitation and I was delighted she accepted.

She came to read poetry.

Today, Mother would have been 95. I have emailed people to ask them to celebrate her life by reading a poem aloud to someone else, to enjoy some shared reading, just as she and I did. I’ve had some lovely responses. Now it’s time to ask you.

It doesn’t have to be today; spin in out – make December the shared reading month, or 2015 the shared reading year – it may be decades since you sat back and listened to someone read to you, or maybe it’s something you do every day. For many of us, it’s something associated with childhood, something we don’t do with other adults. Yet for something so simple, it is immensely powerful and helps us to connect with each other.

I think this  photo is from the day I started taking reading aloud to my mother seriously. I flipped back through the posts on this blog, and found what I had written. If you are curious, click here, and you can read it too.

Mum 2nd June 2010

Mum 2nd June 2010

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