Vale Billie

I wrote quite a lot about Billie when I visited Melbourne nearly two years ago. I told my friend Vicki to warn Billie I’d be relying on her for canine comfort as I’d be missing MasterB. She’s not a cuddlesome dog, said Vicki. But in the wayward manner of pets who like to prove their owners wrong, Billie decided immediately I was someone she’d like to cuddle her, and our bond was established. She was elderly then, her gait a bit wobbly, and made me think of a refined lady who’d had a bit too much Sherry but was still game for a knees up.cropped-photo-201611201341297011.jpg Continue reading


Noel Harrison, MyT Blogging, Circles and Spirals

This is a song that has been going round my head over the last few days. It was strange to look it up on YouTube and see Noel Harrison who I remember as being a heart throb of my older cousins. Innocent times. Mind, it was, I think, part of the soundtrack of the original Thomas Crowne Affair with Steve McQueen and Fay Dunaway, a film that did much to make up for the lack of adequate sex education at school. The film was a lesson in attraction, desire and seduction; a world away from the diagrams of rabbits we had to copy and the Latin names for body parts that seemed a world away from our pre-pubescent selves.

It’s probably a sign of age that the song has not been summoned to memory because of a new or prospective lover, but for reasons of cuisine and technology.

Long, long ago, I had my first blog on My.Telegraph. Some of the people I follow here I first met there. OK, the Torygraph didn’t exactly reflect my political views despite its cracking crosswords, and that should have sounded big warning bells, but I was so pleased to find a blogging site where I could see how you interacted with other bloggers and it didn’t feel like a windowless white room, that that seemed a minor concern. I shan’t go into all the drama, the Sturm and Drang of MyT; at times it was exhilarating, at times it was fun and the best place to be; but there were a lot of very angry people being angry and the site was taken down and our posts transferred to a new site hosted by WordPress. But it was all a bit of a mess, and then was when several of us cut loose and like little fledglings tried to navigate our way around WP. I still have a link to my old blog on my blogroll, but I realised quite quickly that pictures had gone missing, and it wasn’t very satisfactory.

Anyway. It was only rarely that I returned, though I did reblog some early posts on this site. The other week, I had an email saying that MyT was being taken down again. I gather from the grapevine, aka Twitter, that some of the usual suspects who loved to troll and hurl abuse had made continuing the site untenable. Writing that, I am rather wishing I had been there recently to read some of the Trump and Brexit posts. Basically it was a much smaller pond that WP, and some of the pond’s habitants were aspiring crocodiles.

I duly exported my blog to this one. It was supposed to arrive complete with the pics (well, obviously a problem there) tags and all the other bells and whistles. It didn’t. Between working I have exchanging emails with WP, only to get a message today saying they couldn’t help and I needed to conatct My Telegraph, whose contact page seems to have been taken down.

OK. It’s only a blog. But those early posts of mine were when I was adapting to Mother’s dementia, learning about having das Boot, and Cat was accompanying me on both these journeys, so this was a pretty important time of my life, and the support of other bloggers, who seemed to put their anger aside, was invaluable.

I’ll get over it. But if you look back through my archive and find posts with titles and no content, no tags and comments, you’ll know why.

Back to Noel Harrison. Continue reading

Remembering Cat

It’s still light here, BST having started today. We’ve had all the seasons; sun and blue skies; heavy showers of rain; rushing winds.

Tonight I’ll be lighting candles in my windows and drinking a toast to Cat who died five years and one week ago today. I shan’t go into how this started, but if you want to know how Pet Remembrance Day began, read this.

Here he is at Mother’s bungalow, sitting on the mini garden shed and surveying his country domain.

Freddy at Mum's on the shed

Freddy at Mum’s on the shed

Continue reading

Windows in Heaven

Lovely Linda sent me a link to a song on YouTube that she thought might bring me comfort.

It didn’t. It was a rather syrupy ballad of the type that makes my skin crawl. The lyrics were over sentimental, and to my mind, downright creepy. Check them out for yourselves if you can face it. The song is called Windows in Heaven and is sung by Michael English. I’d never heard of him, but if you like Daniel O’Donnell, as Mother and thousands of others quite unaccountably did and do, you’ll probably like this chap too.

I think Linda thought I’d like it as it has references to Mary, the BVM one presumes rather than my aunt, looking down at us from the aforementioned windows.

Instead it gave me the somewhat unsavoury image of the dead being involved in some mass surveillance scheme of the living on behalf of the Almighty, and, if things in heaven are in any way like here below, and according to the song there are windows so the inference is there, it could even have been outsourced to a private company, or the afterlife’s equivalent of GCHQ. A sort of celestial 1984. Continue reading

Death is Overrated

I’ve not seen A for a while. I’m trying to remember the last time, and if the conversation I recall having some time ago was face to face or over the ‘phone.

But late last night I got a text from Nicola telling me A is in hospital and giving me the directions should I wish to see her. Nic said A had been very unwell, so I sent off another text saying I’d like to come and visit and when would suit.

Further texts from Nic made me realise the extent of very unwell. Dying. Cancer, though what type I do not know. Maybe that does not matter.

No reply from A to my text, but today a flurry of exchanged messages with Nic who had been to see her and found it hard. Near the end was a phrase she used in one of these messages. I brought forward my plans from Wednesday to tomorrow. Continue reading

Dementia Revisited

Home from book club and I am tired, but my mind is alert and I know if I go to bed now, I am going to be wakeful, eyes shut against the darkness while my thoughts rebel against sleep.

The book we discussed was Elizabeth is Missing. A remarkable first novel from a a young women who seems to have garnered uncanny insights into the minds of those living with dementia.

Obviously it triggered lots of personal responses. I am not the only member of the book club who has (had) a close and dear relative with dementia. Without Michèle to keep us on the straight and narrow and keep the discussion to the literary merit of the book, the conversation was wide ranging, anecdotal and personal.

Initially, I didn’t think I could read this book. The first few pages brought back clearly and painfully the dealings with outside bodies when we were trying to manage Mother’s dementia. So I bought an audio version and largely listened to it. That seemed to give the words space, and allow my thoughts to range freely.

It reminded me of things I had forgotten; how Mother, the world’s biggest declutterer and tidyupper – you only had to leave a cup of coffee on a coaster for a moment for it to be whisked away, so that when you went to take another sip the cup was already washed up and restored to its place in the cupboard – turned hoarder and lax washerupper; how she wrapped odd items in tissues, napkins; how she disappeared her glasses and other objects – we once realised she was walking about with a knife up her sleeve; how none of these things made her stupid. She was often confused, lost and frightened; trying to make sense of a world which had suddenly and inexplicably become alien, but she could still have moments of startling clarity, moments when I would look into her eyes and see the woman who was my competent, industrious, capable mother. Continue reading

The Pictures Unposted

When I first started blogging my strap line was Landlubber Afloat. That was in the DT days. But it underlines how I thought being on das Boot was going to be a main reason for writing. And even now, when I am afloat, my urge to record the days is far greater than when I am home. Blogging became about other things, but Mother, Cat and das Boot were by far and away the most important parts of my online journal.

Now Aunt is looking at her life to come in terms of months, and taking her to the places she wants to go, helping her to see the flowers and landscapes she wants to see has brought a new focus to my visits East and to my posts.

In time to come these pictures, these words will remind me of the strange path we tread now. I say that with some confidence, as when I reread the posts about Mother they take me back to feelings, good and bad, I now often find difficult to recall. Some people say that photographs disrupt the process of memory. I can see that that is possible, but photographs also capture a moment and can bring back a time and its attendant emotions with startling clarity.

Slow evenings like tonight (though I have little hope that there is even the slightest chance of uploading this post until I am back at home) watching the sun go down on the river, listening to the birdsong, watching MasterB, take me back to Mother dying and after.

They don't make me particularly sad, though understandably there are moments. Rather, I feel a closeness to her that is precious. Maybe driving around an East Anglia in its spring clothes will in the future bring Aunt back too.

Our memories work in strange ways.

So you may enjoy these photos, and I hope you shall, but they will doubtless have an entirely different resonance for me.




Less Than Perfect, and All the More Loved

In films and books, characters connect the dots and have lightbulb moments in nano seconds. Maybe I am a bit slow, or maybe it’s just that my  life narrative doesn’t have to fit into a prescribed amount of time or pages, but my own joining the dots tends to take longer.

Last week I went to a talk which was, in part, to do with conservation. One of the challenges conservators face when restoring an object is deciding how close to new that conservation should bring that object.

The patina left by people’s hands; the dirt from the homes where it was kept; the general wear and tear that any object has in its life, is part of that object’s story. Yet look online and you’ll find objects in ‘mint’ condition, from coins to Matchbox toys, achieve the highest prices.

My home has many objects from my parents’ house. I moved to this flat at about the same time they downsized from a three bedroomed house to a two bedroomed bungalow, and as well as the furniture from my bedroom, they passed on a book table, my mother’s nursing trunk, a lady’s chair. Continue reading

Postcards to Myself

I have been thinking for a while that so often when I am blogging it is about putting a post-it note on a thought, a place or an event, a memory alert: something that can take me back to a moment, a feeling or an observation I might otherwise forget. Post-it notes tend to be small, so postcards might be more appropriate, or, on occasion, letters.

I was making lunch, and while the lentils cooked with the onions and mushrooms, I thought to use the time to check out some poems for Tuesday’s poetry group meeting. I have a long list of tasks today, and this seemed a good way of maximising the time.

The theme this month is weather. There is a striking number of poems about snow, which doesn’t seem appropriate in August. I found one in a collection by Christopher Reid called Flowers in Wrong Weather, which I thought, to begin with, was about the unseasonal blooming of plants in winter, only to be caught in the last stanza when it became clear the poem is about loss and death. My heart lurched.

I turned the pages, pausing now and then to stir the saucepan’s contents. Continue reading