Friday, 30 August 2013

Tweet Tweet

One of the great things about being retired is that I have a lot of time to waste, and  I waste a lot of it on Twitter. When I first heard about Twitter I was very sceptical. That's because I have a regretable tendency to intellectual snobbery, and I'm sorry. I am now a convert. 

I have 15 followers. Not a great number, to those among us who boast thousands, but I'm happy with my 15. The comings and goings of my Followers affords me a fair amount of amusement. I reckon I must be one of a very small minority of the human race that has been 'Unfollowed' by Cheltenham. Today, 'Planetproblems ' took off too, which caused me much introspection. Am I not serious enough? Did my photo of a baby octopus cause affront? Did the planet disapprove of my mistaking the Caspian Sea for The Mediterranean? I'll never know. (I admit I should have spotted an absence of Cyprus, but you know, we all make mistakes, and it's not as if I'm looking to bomb anyone... .) 

You can say what you like on Twitter, and that's just as it should be. Sometimes I read things I don't like, but only because I choose to. It's interesting, I think, as I do, to grab an insight into ghastly people's thought processes, even if only as an excuse to repeat the hypocrite's  prayer. ( 'I thank you Lord, that I'm not like HIM') 

One of my Followers ReTweeted this:

@FreeRepublicTXT: Minimum wage employees who whine about their pay should re-think their decision  (to) have illegitimate children by sperm donors who disappear.

This interested me more than somewhat because I had, within the hour of reading this piece of shit listened to a young father who worked four jobs at four different fast food joints to earn enough to keep his family. Seventy hours a week. Not including travelling time. 

But, to be fair Mr TXT, I have to admit poor people do make some very stupid decisions ( I do to, but let's assume Mr TXT doesn't, for a moment.) 

I use Twitter as a contact point for my online serious stuff: I found the Higgs Boson there, without having to study astrophysics and get a job in Geneva ( which is Out of Bounds). I pick up my daily meditation there, and a wealth of visual images that will, one day, be poems, or jigsaws.

I also access, via Twitter,  'The New Scientist'  - the only online stuff I actually pay for - which is where, today, I found this article:

@newscientist: Poverty can sap people's ability to think clearly

It's the cruel cycle of poverty. The many challenges that come with being poor can sap people's ability to think clearly, according to a new study. The findings suggest that governments should think twice before tying up social-assistance programmes in confusing red tape.

Sociologists have long known that poor people are less likely to take medications, keep appointments, or be attentive parents. "Poor people make poorer decisions. They do. The question is why," says Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But does bad decision-making help cause poverty, or does poverty interfere with decision-making?

To explore this question, psychologist Eldar Shafir at Princeton University and his colleagues took advantage of a natural experiment. Small-scale sugar-cane farmers in Tamil Nadu in southern India receive most of their year's income all at once, shortly after the annual harvest. As a result, the same farmer can be poor before harvest and relatively rich after. And indeed, Shafir's team found that farmers had more loans, pawned more belongings, and reported more difficulty paying bills before the harvest than after.

IQ drop

The researchers visited 464 farmers in 54 villages both before and after harvest. At each visit, they gave the farmers two tests of their cognitive ability: a multiple-choice pattern-matching test, and one in which they had to declare the number of digits shown rather then their value: seeing "5 5 5" but saying "three", for example.

The farmers scored significantly lower on the tests before the harvest, when money was tight, suggesting that their worries made it harder to think clearly. In fact, worrying about money impaired the farmers' thinking almost as much as going without sleep for a full night, and was the equivalent of a 13-point drop in IQ.

Looking at the same individuals before and after they received their pay packet meant that the team controlled for other factors that likely contribute to cognitive abilities, such as family background, childhood nutrition, limited education and exposure to lead or other toxins.

Mental bandwidth

The most likely explanation for the results is that people have a limited amount of "mental bandwidth", and financial worries leave less available for other cognitive tasks, says Shafir. If so, then poor people's bad decision-making may be at least partly a result of their circumstances, not due to any intrinsic lack of intelligence, says Smeeding, who was not involved in the study.

Shafir's study is an important advance, says Ann Stevens, an economist who directs the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis. If poverty makes people think less clearly, then even small social programmes to improve their lot may let them devote more attention to staying healthy, being better parents and the like. That could bring social benefits that are not usually counted in cost-benefit analyses of welfare programmes, she says.

Limited mental bandwidth also means governments should be careful not to add too much paperwork to poor people's burden. "A typical poor citizen comes to you poor in money and poor in bandwidth," says Shafir. "When you give them a 30-page application form [for social assistance], you're putting a pretty massive charge on their bandwidth." 

I think it would be wonderful to engage the brain of Mr TXT with the science that refutes his ideology ... But he's incapable of taking it in. I've chosen to read some if his other stuff, and I know this. This man is a fascist and a fool. His bandwidth is taken up with inflating his pathetic little  ego with ignorant ranting. I like to think my ranting has a little more class... . 

But I know, and can now explain what poverty does to a person's ability to function, and whether this makes any difference doesn't matter. It's that HIS  isn't the only opinion out there that matters. A lot. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Joining The Awkward Squad

'I don't do God comfortably...'

I am listening to 'Hard Talk', which is giving  air-time to the views of the former Anglican bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway. He threw his mitre into the Thames because the church is a cruel place to be, and he no longer wanted to be part of it. 

I don't do Church comfortably. I can't. 

I have wandered aimlessly between the denominations, wondering all the while, why I never seemed quite cut out for any of them.

 I really, really liked being an Anglican. My first and most profound 'spiritual' experiences happened when I was an Anglican: Baptism in the Holy Spirit,  speaking in tongues, healing and being healed, becoming a head teacher... . All very satisfying. 

The reason why I left does me no credit, but I'm not sorry for it. 

My next foray into institutional faith was a comic one. I became a Pentecostal. You want ego masquerading as God's Will? Watch a Pentecostal minister in action. I left because I was asked to stop praying for people. MY ego was having none of THAT! 

So now I'm a Roman Catholic. Not a good one, I hasten to add, but then, what sort of Roman Catholic would I be, if I said I was? Being 'not good'  is a given, even Jesus refused THAT compliment, " Why do you call me good? Only God is good... ." 

I'm still going. I don't stop thinking. 

I was talking to a fellow-Missioner, Dennis, last Wednesday. "You make Catholicism sound attractive", he says. "Well Dennis, " I reply, "When I was an evangelical Protestant, I was paddling in the shallows." I amazed myself. I would add two other thoughts:

1. My catechist, when I was in training for Catholicism, said,"I don't know why anyone wants to be a Catholic. It's too hard." 

2." If you're going to get in the lift, why get out before you reach the top floor?"

(That's a big IF though.) 

So that was last Wednesday. Where am I today? Immensely grateful to the Catholic Church for opening me up to the possibility of Mystery. Of helping me realise that the certainties I seek are unknowable, and that no church can do my soul-work for me. Finally, and most profoundly, of revealing to me my true purpose, which is to know that I am and can simply be, the 'image of God'. 

You can be a better Catholic than me by NOT learning those things, of course. Many get by on simply eating Jesus and following the rules. 

Being made in the image of God opens the Old Testament, in the Creation myth, and the New Testament, with the embodiment of God in Jesus. ( Who, like me me, wasn't always sweetness and light.) 

Both events say, "Look, this is who you really are!" I often think the Bible should have stopped there, because much of the rest of it describes the mess we made of trying to invent God in our own  image. 

Who am I REALLY then? 

Stepping Out

I am good.

I refuse to be named
In your harsh words, 
Or inhabit the terrible worlds
Inside your head.

You, who know me, and have 
Touched part of me
And laughed
Or cried. Listen! 
It's good. All good. 
Don't cry.

I am good 

When the sun shines
And I am pleased
With you, and Everyone,
And Everything 
When I am fed, and loved
And have cause to smile.

I am good

When I am mad at you
And at me
For indolence, 
Greed and the killing.
It's that - and disease,
And children dying - Yes
It's death that gets to me. 

As it must, and all of us.

I am good

Because I see
With more than these eyes
And can walk upright-
Even in my petty
Degraded self
Which I am - 
Sometimes, yes, often, I Am 
THAT small.

I am good

Because on bright days
I laugh and life's a dance
And I give you ALL
What you want, because
I want to. 

Oh! and how I smile! 

I am good 

Because I am made
In the image of God. 

All of THIS
All of me. 

I started on this meander with Richard Holloway, who left Church because it's cruel. I think I might stay for a season, because I'm afraid of speaking out and losing what I love about being Church. I know that a crisis is coming in me, because I'm not sure that I can keep quiet much longer about the casual cruelty of Church against those it chooses to pick on - gays, women, dissidents... . 

I am ashamed that I have kept quiet this long.

Is it enough to face the day just being me? I don't know. It's a Mystery.

Monday, 26 August 2013

WHAT Day Is it?

I am writing this from bed. I could get up, I probably should, but as I have everything at hand, and no urgent errands to perform, I see no reason to budge.

My lovely little cottage is under attack. Benignly so: It's having a new kitchen fitted. I contemplated re-locating with my daughters, you know, doing an old-style 'Royal Progress' from Jen's in town, to Kate's in Droitwich, finishing up in Bristol with Hannah. This may still be necessary, but for the time being, I am making do with a field-kitchen in the spare bedroom. 

It's Bank Holiday Monday! I hope the cafes in town are open, as I am contemplating giving one my lunch-time custom. I had forgotten the day, and don't know the date. I am thinking a lot about senility as David's funeral approaches, and wonder if I should be worried about forgetting that today is a public holiday. I decide not. When I was working, the public holidays always arrived  smack  in the middle of school hols, and therefore had no impact. I'm pleased for those of you who fall upon these havens of respite with relief bordering on ecstasy, but  for me, they've  always been an irritant. So many of you are out and about enjoying yourselves, that you've clogged up the roads and confined me to my home. 

Returning to my self-indulgent introspection on the health of my wits:

'Are you losing it?' Questions that would land me in hot water. 

Q: "What day of the week is it? 
A: "Haven't Cared Since I Retired, Unless it's Friday

Q: "Who's the Prime Minister?" 
A: " Haven't Cared Since The Children Took Over" 

Q: "What's The Pass Word To Your Bank Account" 
A: "Oh! Come On! I'm Not That Stupid." 

The answer to that one, is actually, "I Don't Know." I don't handle the accounts. Ray's not that stupid either... . 

I almost always do a little relevant research  in the writing of this Blog - for my amusement, you understand, your education is your own affair - so I searched for the ACTUAL questions that a health professional might ask me when tackling any decline  in my mental acuity. Couldn't find any. Though I did find reams of material on the Mental Capacity Act of 2005, which is an amazingly reassuring document. Granny's not getting deprived of her eccentric lifestyle until she's well out of it. Being Granny, I'm well pleased about this. 

I did, in the course of my research, find an online 'Test Your Own IQ' Site.    

As a retired professional brain-wrangler, I could see that it was as sound as they come
 ( which isn't THAT much of a recommendation, actually, as I have no respect for IQ Tests, but 
what the heck, I'm old and wanted to see just how past it I was getting.) 

HO HO!!! I'm not going to reveal my score, but I'm feeling a whole lot less depressed than I was 
when I started out this morning! 

Take comfort. You can forget what day of the week it is and STILL be a genius!


June 6th 2009

I am in a reflective mood today. I have flowers to arrange for a funeral tomorrow, and I am, in consequence,  contemplating mortality. 

 David Mourdant

I didn't know David well, and not at all before senile dementia began its stranglehold over his life, which it slowly, agonisingly, robbed him of. But when I first met him, he could still follow the Mass, read the hymns from the hymnal,  and hold his place in the small informal choir of the church I was about to join.

Soon, I was finding the hymns for him and watched, helpless, at his confusion because what he was looking at, made no sense to him. Later, he took to wandering the streets, unable to remember who or where he was. Sheltered housing followed, then when he became aggressive, a secure hospital:  there was nothing recognisable then, of the man who'd built up the church, who was known for his gentleness and his generosity.

Don't ask me today, if I believe in God, or of a benign purpose to the Universe. I don't like the answer I would give you. 

Here's the entry from my Online Diary that preceded this blog. 

6th June 2009: David's Lilies

It is tipping down with rain. Steady, heavy, unmitigatingly wet; possibly the heaviest and most sustained rainfall of the year.

Di 'phoned to say that David has some lilies to put in the sanctuary.  'Oh Good, I won't have to buy any flowers this week!' 

I balanced a collecting bag, secateurs and an umbrella and cut some supporting greenery: rushes to give height, japanese anemone leaves for weight and bulk and some scented lemon balm to fill. As an afterthought, I picked a length of hop vine for twirl.

I drove through town to David's house and caught him smoking in the potting shed. I've come for the lilies,' I said. David was very pleased to see me.  He is a bit forgetful these days, which at ninety he is entitled to be, but by a lttle judicious waving of the secateurs he quickly grasped my errand.

Last year he'd called someone, on-one knows who, who had collected his lilies and disappeared with them, not having quite understood their purpose, apparantly.  David had been most upset when they'd consequently failed to appear in church.

He waved me over to a distant patch where I could see quite distinclty through the curtain of rain that there were FOUR blooms. Four.  

With a log, a drape, some ladies mantle and white campanula to say nothing of the hop vine and lemon balm I created a passable arrangement that is a esoteric fusion of classical piety and an exhuberant wilderness.  I sincerely hope it lasts, and that David is pleased with it!


Marylyn died in October 2008.  I was privilidged to be by her side in the hospital when the respirator was turned off and she slipped peaceably away from us. 

She was just 70 years old, no age these days.  Her last words were, 'Make it a good one.' when someone offered to pray for her.  I'm sure it was.

Marylyn wasn't conventionally  religious, she was just good. She gave herself up in the service of others and was always loving, smiling and THERE.

Although she was my first cousin, we were raised more like sisters because our mothers were very close. She was fifteen years older than me and she showered love and affection on me from as far back as I can remember.

Because I spend far too much time thinking of myself, part of my grief at Marylyn's passing was this thought - she was the last person alive who held me as a baby, who could speak to me of my childhood, who could share memories of my parents.

Fifty years ago today, she married Geoffrey Purveur, whom I also loved.  I was a eight years old and a bridesmaid. I wore blue and carried sweet peas. 


My best friend.  This is her anniversary.  She died on this day in 1992, aged 64.  She is now in heaven, free from the pain that afflicted her twisted body, of which she rarely complained. I suspect she is praying for me; she'll know I need it.

She used to plan her funeral to the last detail until the day she said, 'I always want to be in control, even of my own funeral! - well not any more.  Do what you want!' 

I picked her wild flowers from the wasteland behind our estate and wreathed them in ribbons.  I read from Romans Chapter 12 and I cried buckets.


Thursday, 22 August 2013


Once upon a time, a potential blogger set out to find a Name that She Could Use, and drew a blank. All her favourite words had been gobbled up by the same unscrupulous merchant who had tricked her brother out of their cow in exchange for for a handful of beans.

Just as our heroine was about to give up the quest for a Name She Could Use, there was a loud rap on the door. 

"I wonder who that could be? " she mused.

Astonishingly, there was no-one there when she opened the smart green door to her tiny cottage on the edge of Fairyland. ( There's nearly ALWAYS someone there, you see, in Tales of The Supernatural, usually a Magicperson in a pointy hat wearing a black cloak.) 

"Goodness!" Exclaimed the chief protagonist. And, "What's this?" As she bent down to pick up a shiny red apple that had been placed (enticingly) on the coconut mat with, "Welcome" imprinted in the weave. (Of the mat, not the apple. Keep up.) 

Briefly, she considered,, and you know, it might have worked, but somehow... No. Redrosyapple? No. The quest resumes with our Seeker unscathed by the poisoned fruit, which went straight into the compost bin.

(Aside: The garden produced a rather unappetising crop of mushrooms the following autumn, which, because they were small and brown, went unnoticed, and uneaten, except by one unemployed carriage rat who took a nibble and turned into a footman. He now has a job as a town crier in the City of Gloucester.)

Time for tea. Polly, (not her real name. She knows to be careful of revealing her true ID on the WWW) put the kettle on, her feet up, and, placing the Namequest aside for a moment, she took a sharp knife to a Tesco's Finest Battenburg cake, with 'eat me' carved into it's handsome marzipan overcoat, and prepared to cut herself a large slice. 

Too large, as it happens, for the chemical constituents, not usually impregnated into a Tesco's Finest Battenburg, were supposed to be ingested in the minutest quantities. Too little, and you maybe grow just the tiniest bit more credulous, too much, and WOW! You are ready to swallow any old load of cobblers.

"Golly!" Thought Polly. "I am feeling a little strange... . I think I'll go and open the dictionary at a random page and see what turns up." 

And we all lived happily ever after.

The end. 

[Middle English, from Medieval Latin quodlibetum, from Latin quod libetanything at all : quodwhat; see kwo- in Indo-European roots + libetit pleases, third person sing. present tense of libere to be pleasing; see leubh- in Indo-European roots.]

NOT theological debate, though sometimes it might look like it. NOT a light-hearted medley of popular tunes, because I can't hold a tune, but 'Anything at all that pleases me.' It works, doesn't it? And thank you all, for reading it! 

And Finally:


1. rubbish; nonsense a load of old cobblers
2. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Anatomy) another word for testicles
an exclamation of strong disagreement
[from rhyming slang cobblers' awls balls]
Usage: The use of cobblers meaning ``nonsense'' is so mild that hardly anyone these days is likely to be offended by it. Most people are probably unaware of its rhyming-slang association with ``balls'', and therefore take it at its face value as a more colourful synonym for ``nonsense''. The classic formulation ``a load of (old) cobblers'' seems to be particularly popular in the tabloid press

Monday, 19 August 2013

Democracy in Action: Update

Remember the letter I wrote to my Member of Parliament two weeks ago? Not even an acknowledgement. I'd like to think it's because he's thinking very hard about what to say in reply. Or that he's snowed under by constituents protesting about the illiberal actions of the UK Borders Agency.

What are the chances?

Politics? I'd Rather Talk About Sex!

... Or even Religion, come to that! 

I used to believe in politics. I even joined a political party once - for a year, until the subscription ran out and it became 'The Liberal Democrats.' Today I'm a Fabian, and I like being one of those. Having my opinion heard and my vote count. Of no earthly use, of course. We Fabians are idealistic, we believe in causes whose time has both 'past'  and 'not arrived' simultaneously. A 'Quantum Party'. I like that.

It's not a question of belief, you realise that, it's a question of Hope. Which well-meaning group of do-me-gooders will clear up whatever coloured mess (blue or red) that the last lot of do-me-gooders of the other persuasion left behind. Sit on the see-saw Tweeledum, and let's see what difference it makes. 

None, of course. But that's OK, both ends of the spectrum have managed, through God knows what slice of good luck, despite indifferent management,  to keep the wagons heading roughly west. I know this, because I have been a political animal since the sixties, and I have become  riled and elated in turns: caught up in the eternal disappointment that awaits us if we think that  Westminster, Washington or Brussels will make much of a difference to our lives. We soldier on. We become disillusioned. We opt out. 

I am worried though, right now. I think the the Wagons are about to enter the Donner Pass, and some of us will only survive through devouring others.

(Sorry. That was a piece of self-indulgent metaphor-bending. I go too far.) 

I thought we Brits would be OK because there was a consensus on both sides of the Rockies (Stop it! This is serious!) that whichever Party held power, the weakest and most vulnerable would be cared for.
Perhaps you think they are. Government ministers will quote you statistics that prove it. Trouble is, I see what they don't. 

I have written appeals for really, really sick people who have had their benefit taken away by an agency doctor paid to do just that. I have listened to despair, unbelief, desperation... 

I have served meals on a Monday to people who have eaten nothing all weekend because their benefit was stopped because they missed a pointless interview at  a Job Centre that has no jobs, or because they failed to turn up at a Training Course because the public official at the Job Centre gave them the wrong time. 

I wouldn't believe this if I hadn't experienced it,  but it's true - our benefits system uses starvation as a tool  to make the unconform-able conform. What else would you call it? 

Nobody intends this. I don't believe for one minute that any mainstream politician would advocate or approve such a policy, but it's here. It happens. 

Funnily enough, I'm not going to rant about it. ( I haven't have ? I - checks - No.) I'm thinking about how the unsolvable becomes manageable only when it becomes apolitical. We ALL have to think beyond our pet ideologies - as long, of course, that they don't embrace  letting people who can't cope, go hungry. 

I'm really going to have to stop there because I have no answers. When I do, you can be sure I'll let you know.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Me And The Beautiful Game

It's a lot easier to fix memories now that we have Google. 

Matson, Gloucester. The rec.  I am ten years old, and a string of gorgeous sounds are rolling around my head and sliding off my tongue as I pull myself higher and higher on the hard wooden seat of the least rickety of the swings. "Tott- en -nam  Hot-spur, Tot-n'm Hots- pur ... I repeat to myself over and over again as I sail into the clouds. 

I just checked out on Wikipedia. In the 1960/61 season Tottenham Hotspur became the first club in the 20th Century to complete The Double. Which I have gathered over the years,  means winning two Important Football  Trophies. 

So I WAS ten, then, and would have been eleven the following October, supposing that League and Cup Finals would have been over and done with sometime in May 1961.

My father, and all men of my somewhat limited acquaintance, back in 1961, were either cricket or rugby fans. The rec where I swung, climbed and scrumped  my early years away, shared the green space with Matson Rugby Club- in my day, adjacent, as you may have gathered, to an orchard. Not now though: Farmer Peacey sold out, and Peaceys Farm is now a housing estate and Country Club. His meadows and woods, a ski resort, God forgive him. 

So that's why, in part, football did not much dwell in my heart, or impinge upon my consciousness when I was young. Add to this the quaint habit in those days, of separate boys' and girls'  playgrounds, and you can see that I didn't even get to watch a game! Girls participation was a complete no-no. We girls did handstands that showed our knickers and threw two balls against the schoolhouse wall and chanted:

'Down Lover's Lane
The people are so funny
If you want to see then you have to pay some money
Soldiers half-a- crown
Sailors half-a-guinea
Big Fat Men
Two Pound Ten
Little girls a penny!' 

Psychologists these days would have a field day with THAT one, to say nothing of the criminal justice system via the Safeguarding Office. Fortunately, decimalisation killed it off  - and all my attempts to revive it via my six year-old granddaughter, have fallen on deaf ears. As did this skipping rhyme:

'I know a boy who's double-jointed
He kissed Mary and made her disappointed.
All right, Mary, I'll tell your mother
Kissing Graham Wright 
Behind the counter.
How many kisses did you give him? 

One ... Two ... Three ...'(And so on until you mis-step and are OUT.) 

It's just dawned on me what an impact my aural past has on my present. ( I write, dragging myself reluctantly back to Football.) 

My father then, did not follow football, but he did The Pools.

I expect The Football Pool is still running in a more sophisticated form today My dad would pick eight numbers that would correspond to the number on a list of FA games being played on any given day. There were 92 clubs, so around 45 games played then. At least. Every Saturday tea-time, we'd sit down round the table watching dad check his coupon,  all ears  glued to the Results programme on the TV. James Alexander Gordon, with his golden-syrup voice would read the scores with a thrilling cadence of more of those wonderful, lilting sounds:

Bolton ... One.   Crew Alex-AND-er TWO! (Away win, Two Points!!  ) the object of the exercise was to pick eight draws ( the magic 24 points) to win the Jackpot! Which, as advertised by Littlewoods on every bus for EVER stood at £75 000. 

Dad never won the Pools, but that's how the Sound of the Game took precedence in my mind over the Fury. 

The Scottish teams are best: Queen of The SOUTH  ... Heart of MidLOTHian ... Fantastic.

I have grown bored. I'm afraid football does this to me. So I shall stop there, and send you off to You Tube so that you can listen to James Alexander Gordon for yourself. Just Google it.

This is Matson, Gloucester. The Rugby Club is pinned, and if you head up a-ways, you'll find Capel Rd, where I grew up. second house on the left. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Invincible Summer... .

Thursday afternoon... . Warm and beautiful. I don't have the words to describe the thousand shades of green I observed, or the poignant quiet of this beautiful place peopled by gentle ghosts. 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Here Comes The Bride's Mother

The best thing about public transport, from the point of view of a writer, is that it puts you in close proximity to the public and gives you the opportunity to read The Guardian. I am a natural Guardian reader, and I heartily approve of the publication, but I only read it on trains. If it goes under or gets sold to Amazon, I only have myself to blame.

I couldn't start writing earlier because I was listening, open-mouthed, to a woman whom, I would surmise, never reads the Guardian, as she recounted with peppery language and a lot of feeling, the break-up with her live- in.

"I told 'im I'm off till he gets his (mild korma) act together,  the (red-hot chilli peppering) idiot."

I expect the frosty distancing of love-grown- old ( and past it's use- by date) in a  palace, has it's fascination, but the full- bloodied soap- opera that this lady's life has become, is far more interesting. She didn't so much air her dirty linen in public, as send it to the cleaners with a 'wear me' label attached to it.

Talking of soap- operas, I began my sally into Guardian'sville with a glance at the cultural section. I am a Philistine, and admit to no shame about it. I get my culture from following @willshagspeare on Twitter, and I tell you, you could do worse. Contemporary culture is an alien land on another planet: I do not comment on it, however, firstly because I'm too ignorant to do so, and secondly, because  I made a solemn promise, fifty years ago, not to turn into my mother.  

I turned the pages in fascination, mind-blown by the cover photo of  young woman in black and purple, on a motorbike, with a cape and mask, whose name I was too over- stimulated to notice:  I can't tell you who she was, because I left her behind in the waiting room.

I was SO relieved, if somewhat surprised, a few pages later, to find a review of 'Coronation Street' and I fell on it with glee. 'Corrie' as we sometime and fickle fans call it, is a popular drama peopled by strange northern folk with highly alternative lifestyles, and unenviable fates. I put this in for the benefit of my Russian readership (128 pageviews last month, thank you) who may be out of the loop on British soaps.  

As half the male cast is off-air strenuously denying allegations of sexual misconduct, the writers appear to have to be making do with the "River Island Caligula,"who, "Isn't the smartest bread-stick in the basket," David Platt.

(You would 't get THAT quality of metaphor in The Sun! )

I have followed David's sociopathic career with interest. I approve of all his loathsome schemes in the hope that one day he will murder his God-awful mother, Gail. It can only be a matter of time. The entire nation will petition the production company for clemency on the  grounds of, 'justifiable homicide' .

It doesn't matter what he's up to.  'No good' covers it.

Good Lord! Bristol Temple Meads station already. Excuse me, I have to alight.

Endpiece 19:17

The reason why I deposited £7.40 into the pockets of First Great Western in return for a ticket to Bristol, was a consequence of the upcoming nuptials of my youngest daughter. She, me, future mother-in-law and future sister-in-law, headed for a high class frock shop in Clifton for the purpose of H trying on a variety of wedding gowns, and an expensive range of accessories, some sparkling with diamant√© and others  frothy with lace. All costing a great deal more than the £5 I paid for the multicoloured paisley patterned minidress, that I bought,'off the peg' from Marks and Spencer's back in 1971.

The consulting room was like a courtesan's boudoir, with huge gilt-edged mirrors, stripey chaise-longue and plum-coloured loopy curtains. I was impressed. When my daughter emerged from behind the plum-coloured loopy curtains, in dresses 1,3, 4 and 7, I was overcome with emotion and moved to tears. Numbers 2, 5 and 6 proving not quite so tear-jerking. 

No decision was made. Further outings are planned for Newport, and Birmingham, where, I am told, the Wedding Fair (Entrance By Ticket Only) is a cross between a three-ring  circus and a rugby scrum.

I am home now, and waiting for the delivery of a glass of red wine and a bowl to soak my feet in. Wedding shopping is an arduous and exacting pastime. I have a lot coming to me. You may expect a blow-by-blow account - especially if the dash for bargains in Birminham proves to be as militant as my informants tell me it is... . 

The Bride's Mother.   24.04.71

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

What I Am Trying to Say...

This poem, by Mary Oliver, wraps up what I was trying to put into words yesterday... . 

Monday, 5 August 2013


My inner- writer will give me no rest until I do this. That is, write a Statement of Faith. 

This is SO HARD. What possible purpose would it serve? Who knows or cares? 

I'm time-wasting, because as of this very moment, I have no idea what I'm going to say. So it's down to my subconscious to bail me out again: I shall take this opportunity to give my Right Brain the reins, and let rip: 

I know that the Cosmos of which I am a speck, is more than 99% void. I look upon the void with wonder. I wonder  that I am matter, and I wonder that I am conscious. Life is of inestimable value, conscious life even more so. I, you, everyone: so rare, so precious. 

There  rises from deep within me a profound gratitude for Being. This gratitude is unfocused, but real. I delight in every manifestation of life, especially in those three lives I helped to bring into Being. My children. 

I have searched and searched for meaning, and for a purpose in my life, and have not arrived at any conclusions. This is what I think today, tomorrow I shall be as happy as I am now to write something quite different.

As there are as many purposes in life as there are gurus to tell me what they are, I may as well invent my own. Like you, I will do this in accordance with my personality, my  upbringing and my circumstances. 

I discovered that ' I believe ' is too passive. So I ditched it for, I will. And maybe I will. I hope so!  Here I am: 

 I will do what brings me peace.

I will pursue happiness.

I will revel in adventure. 

I will make myself laugh, and in doing so, I hope to make others laugh too.

I will endeavour to gladden the hearts of those I meet, and I will not always succeed.

If I have to be angry at all, it will be FOR others, and not with them.

I will try always to be kind.

I will react to the suffering of others - in all it's manifestations - with compassion, and I will,when I can, do what I can to alleviate it.  

I will retreat into silence from time to time to connect with Gratitude, and give thanks for Being.

I will never forget how to play.

I will accept that this form will fade and die. Whether there is another form to come, doesn't matter: this one flawed, but perfect, life will have been enough. 

I will make every day count by continuously calling myself back to being conscious and present in every moment. 

I will remember love: that it is the most lavish and beautiful of gifts, that it never dies,  and is never wasted.

I will try to remember how flawed I am, and bring no judgement down on others. 

I will forgive myself for my imperfections, and offer the same gift to others.

And finally:

I will remind you, wherever you are, whoever you are, that you are loved. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Letter to My MP

Dear Mark Harper,

I am deeply disturbed by the tactics used by agents of this government with regard to apprehending illegal immigrants.

If, as it appears, men and women are being targeted for arrest based on the colour of their skin, I object most strongly. This is not the behaviour of a civilised nation, and it is NOT done in my name. 

I cannot approve either, of the 'Go Home' message that is being trialled, I understand, in areas of London. It has awful fascist undertones, even if not by design. 

Those who came to live here illegally are often dismissed as 'economic migrants' and so they may be, but many have escaped from unsafe homes, the very kind that I doubt you or I would care to see them returned to. 

Apply the law by all means, but let's proceed with methods commensurate with our national values of fairness, justice and compassion.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Francis

"If Women Over Sixty...

... Said what they really thought, there would be an outpouring of wisdom" 

So a nice lady called Marianne, Tweeted today and I laughed! Lord! How I laughed! Marianne says sweet things, and I do too sometimes, because they do no harm. As to whether they do any good, why, that's another matter entirely. We hope so, Marianne and I. 

Ekhart Tolle says that if humanity was a person sent for a psychiatric analysis she would be declared insane, and I thought about this for a bit, and I think it's true. Stupid, brutish, greedy, fearful, deluded, miserable, manipulative ( and manipulated) unconscious and ... . 

What am I thinking, that could make me so disgruntled? ( What a lovely word! Will I ever be "gruntled"? What are these "grunts" I am dissing?) 

I am thinking of the people who use Twitter to threaten and abuse. I am thinking of the 'Go Home' advertisements being trialled in areas of London, and then I have to stop thinking, because so many other and worse thoughts lie just beyond reach where I want them to stay. 

How does the wise-woman in me, now that I've reached the age of  wisdom, deal with the insanity of my kind? (Presumably, as I have been over-sixty for nearly three years now, I already am... Dealing with it, I mean. )

"Ninety seconds" is the answer. I will deal with it for ninety seconds. See, this is how it works. Your brain senses something that is going to upset you, and releases the bio-chemicals that are going to make you feel mad, and they will flood through you AND DISSIPATE in ninety seconds. How do I know this? Because I have just finished reading, 'My Stroke Of Insight' by Jill Bolte Taylor: she knows because she's a neuroscientist who did the work, and I know because I'm a wise-woman-in-training who did the reading. 

So for a minute and a half you just have to let the body do its  thing, and then the cave-person can go and lie down again and you can choose. I have been mad for a minute and a half, because that's how this body of mine works, and now do I want to go on being mad? That's the choice, and that's where being sixty- plus comes in handy. I have been mad many, many times before and I know it serves little purpose other than  to give me migraines. 

Being mad at a fool who tweets obscene things isn't going to stop him. Expecting the current administration to think with its heart isn't going to happen. I know this, you know this. So I'm just going to let the cortisol or whatever it is (I'm guessing) wend it's way out of my bloodstream and I'm going to accept my futility, my culpability, Then I'm going to do what I CAN do. 

I can write to my MP, calmly, quietly, and say that when your government attempts to further increase fear and insecurity in a woman whose home may not be safe, like yours, you do not do it in my name. When you arrest a man on suspicion of illegal activity because of the colour of his skin, you do not do it in my name. ( I guess, cynically and accurately, the idea of 'trialling' this behaviour is to find out whether ordinary people like me, are willing to stomach fascism, or whether we'll speak out against it.) 

I can resolve to be sweet on Twitter, and always wait ninety-one seconds before I decide not to respond to a madman. 

 Wisdom indeed. Will it get better as I get older? Not so much, I hope, I want always  to be open to the possibility of doing foolish things...