Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Poetry and Verse

We Need Our Old Letters

I used to think of letter-writing as a creative endeavour and always looked forwards to it. I wrote things in different ways depending on my mood. I assumed most people I talked to read similar books, so it threw me once when I wrote a true short story involving my cats as though it was a section from the bible, and the penpal wrote back to say she didn’t understand it, and what was it about? She was too polite to say, “What IS all this nonsense??” but was probably thinking it. I can’t remember what my response was, but was perplexed at the time — how could she not get the literary reference?

Now I’m less creative, probably because I feel less chatty. There’s no point spinning a yarn when you’re no longer sure it’s of interest. I know there are people who understand that — how you begin life playfully writing a lot to people, then one day look round and realize you don’t any more.

It can’t just be about other people; it’s also about a changing perspective. Sometimes you reread something you wrote years ago and think, “What IS all this? Did I really think that??” and it makes you wary of similar nonsense you might be committing to paper right now.

On the other hand, I’ve written about things that I can’t fully remember any more, so if I look through old scribblings and find these accounts, I will be happy. Last night I was trying to remember something specific that happened, then said to myself “Oh, it’s OK, I wrote about it!” — but now I can’t remember what I was trying to remember.

That reminds me; a few days ago when having coffee with Mum and sister, I said “What would it be like to remember absolutely everything?” I can’t even remember what put that question into my mind, but sometimes I look back with the help of a paper trail of sorts and can’t make sense of the things I was doing, though I know there must have been good reason for certain decisions. I wasn’t making mistakes per se — just doing something different from usual, like an antelope twisting in the air when leaping. Nevertheless, what if we could remember absolutely everything… every letter, every word, every comma? The longer we lived, the more there would be to remember, but what if we could remember it all anyway, and look back over past sequences of events with clear-eyed confidence?

My mother said that would be absolutely awful! Who wants to remember everything? Then she started talking about one of her friends, saying she has an amazing memory. She remembers meals in perfect detail, long after everyone else has forgotten what they had. So my sister asked what I had for supper last night, and I said it was stuffed crust pizza, and I ordered it from the supermarket because it was half-price. Anyway, it’s easy to remember what you had for supper the night before!

Now an old poem has come to mind but of course I only vaguely remember how it started, though it was one of those things you’ve read over and over in a childhood book. “I remember, I remember the house where I was born.”

That’s amazing, when you think about it — how many people must have been able to say “I was born in that house!” but nowadays it’s rare. Most people are born in hospital, which is pretty dreary. Whoever wrote or was the narrator of that poem was from a time long gone, and I feel both awed and sad.

After a few minutes searching online — turns out it was by a Thomas Hood, and the poem itself can be found on the Poetry Foundation site.

Oh, I remember a swing too. It was in our garden, and I used to swing really high – what a rush! Mum said the swing was broken one time and I forgot and went on it before anyone could get to it to repair it, and it was fortunate I didn’t have an accident. That swing was the sort of thing I might tell people about, and especially about the army ants that took up beside the swing one time and jumped on me… but I got put off when one day somebody answering my chatty email said “you talk a lot about your childhood, don’t you?” I didn’t realize till then that it wasn’t considered normal. However, now I’m glad I did, because I’ve forgotten an awful lot of it, so it would be nice to have that little glimmer of light into the past.

The other day I was writing a business communication about something, and Mum took a look at my draft email and said, “Be chatty! Sometimes you can be a little terse.” I was taken aback. If anyone was the king of terse correspondence, it was my father, and my mother isn’t too far behind him in that regard, but I was always inclined to chat a little bit, and finish off with ‘Thanks and best wishes’ rather than something shorter and colder like ‘Yours’. I didn’t think what I wrote was terse in the least, especially as the individual I was writing to is one of the dustiest, most dour people I’ve ever had the pleasure to communicate with… so it was comical to be lectured on how I wasn’t chatty enough.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for tonight… time to sleep. 🙂

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Life and Family, My Cats, Notepad Conversations

Feeling Our Oats in Partial Lockdown

My iPad takes me straight to the last email I received from the family friend who died. It’s not my most recent email, but the iPad is old and glitchy and jumps to old emails halfway down the list. There’s nothing unusual about the email itself, but it makes me sad every time. I keep thinking she’s still out there and we will see her soon.

I was on a chat thread to my sister and mother this evening:

Me: “I feel like having a peaceful Christmas rather than a frantic one.”

Mum: “Are we having one?”

Sister: “Did we have one last year?”

Mum: “Yes”

Me: “Of course. I went mad cleaning and putting plastic hooks on the bannisters. Each one demanded to be pressed on for a minute before moving on, then we had to leave them a while before hanging the lights. Then on Christmas Day I could barely keep my eyes open.”

Mum: “At least they are mostly still there”

Sister: “I think the idea is not to do everything last minute. Ha.”

Me: “Are you writing your letter to Santa now, then?”

Sister: “Still summer.”

Mum: “Give Santa time to write back and say sorry out of stock”

Sister: “Maybe we will all be locked down”

Mum: “Glasgow now”

Sister: “Yes”

Mum: “Goodnight.”

END OF CHAT

I suppose there won’t be crowds in rainy streets to contend with this Christmas, lockdown or no.

Was thinking how I had thoughts and reactions to each bit of the chat but voiced none of them. “I remember watching various things on Christmas Day — there was a Finding Nemo sequel that I thought was awful, though I loved the octopus. There was an animation about a snail and a whale who went on a trip together — I loved it but Mum was bored by it. I ordered things from China in December and they didn’t arrive till early January — a frog brooch, a nightie with a tropical design, gold organza gift bags (for the frog brooch) and an unusually pretty blue scarf. And whadya mean the hooks are mostly still there? I thought they were all still there! Don’t tell me some dropped off? Still summer? Not here… it’s dark, cold and rainy. The autumn winds are blowing and I’m thinking about Halloween. Hey, that’s funny — even Santa will have trouble sourcing goods. He’ll go through the catalogues and everything will be greyed out like on the supermarket website.”

We order food from the supermarket and my sister collects it, but last time when I was looking through our favourite items, a large number were out of stock. Scott’s Porage Oats; Green Giant tinned sweetcorn; shredded duck pancakes; croissants; Tiramasu dessert; cream-filled doughnuts; Tunnock’s caramel wafers; Mum’s favourite bottled water; the better varieties of tinned fruit. I messaged my sister and said, “There isn’t another rush on supplies, is there??”

“Not that I’m aware of,” she replied.

There better not be. Some of those are near impossible to get anyway, but I got worried at the oats and water disappearing. Perhaps people are starting to stock up for Christmas… certainly can’t do this at the last minute this year. My sister found the oats somewhere else, though, so all is fine. It’s just that supermarket that had sold out.

It wouldn’t surprise me if we were the ones buying most of it! Mum has porridge every morning, and it has to be Scott’s Porage Oats. I bought different ones once and she wouldn’t finish them… I had to.

A cat deprived us of our supper last night. It was macaroni cheese and he licked it when we weren’t looking. He didn’t even eat it up, snip snap — Mum said we wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t seen him do it! Tonight we had ham hock gratin, which I covered with an upturned dish. The cat used to think our food was awful and wouldn’t touch broiled fish or roasted chicken, but his taste buds have matured with the years. Next he’ll be helping himself to Mum’s Scott’s Porage Oats. Though perhaps that’s why we get through it so quickly…

Time to sleep.

Posted in Books, Political and Social Issues, Quotations, Reluctant Landlord

Reflected in Books

Written in April 2020 but not published till now.

‘Write about the three objects, books, songs, people, or places that best tell the story of the past year in your life.’

That Discover prompt jumped out at me. Songs can be twisted to mean anything about any part of your life, but I wonder about books. I’m only just getting back to reading now, so am trying to remember what books were on my radar before the virus struck.

(1) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Jung Chang). I took it into my head to re-read this at the start of the year. There it was in my Kindle and I wanted to refresh my memory of it. On 13 January I wrote in an email to a friend: “Reading Wild Swans just now… I read it before years ago, and I’m amazed how little of it I remember. Landlords are mentioned a lot… they were hugely unpopular in China, and they and their families ended up at the bottom of the list for rations in the famine.”

The British Government knew about the coronavirus in China ten days before I wrote that, but I didn’t hear about it till later.

What has happened since then? Disease, death, lockdown. Suspension of industry. Hunger in some places because of job loss, shortages and disruption of food supply chain. Everybody rushing to the support of everybody else, but some in Britain suggested ‘fat cat’ landlords should absorb the loss of rent and expect no renumeration. That’s scary, especially for the ‘poor pensioner’ type of landlord who depends on the rent to get by. Some have been living this way since the credit crunch.

I’m worried by moves to paint some sectors as good or deserving and others as selfish or pointless. For a while at least, one shop reportedly kept certain items at the back and only sold them to ‘the elderly and vulnerable.’ I can understand why, but my sister’s neighbour said ruefully that though she’s immunocompromised and qualifies as ‘vulnerable’, she looks in very good health. If she went into that shop and asked for these things, they possibly wouldn’t sell them to her. No matter how well-meaning such actions are, I remember the Chinese landlords. When you are always at the back of the queue, the shelves will always be bare when you get there.

(2) A Winter Book (Tove Jansson). Went on to read this after Wild Swans. Read it twice before but was in need of comfort. At this time of year it was the perfect choice but I abandoned it halfway through and have only just got back. There was a post on Facebook yesterday that asked a random question… if you had to do the job of the main character of the last book you read, what would it be? Writer and artist who lives alone on an island — sounds perfect to me. 🙂 In the chapter where I abandoned the book, she is worrying about the arrival of a squirrel on her island. It just floated up one day, and because it returned to sit on the jetty, she’s afraid it’s disappointed and intends to leave the same way it came. That’s like me with my blog, perhaps… scattering breadcrumbs in a hope to draw like minds, but, oh look — they might leave!

When I started reading it again, I immediately thought of the lockdown. Anyone who’s lived on one of these islands must laugh. I’ve no experience of it myself, but I imagine you would need to keep good stocks. You can’t just leap in your boat and go shopping at a whim, especially when there’s a storm. You would need to think ahead and obtain all kinds of things for emergencies, repair and maintenance as well as food. You need your comfort items to keep yourself happy, so books, games and sweets are as essential as anything else. You would be by yourself or with your family, and there are certain things it’s only polite to do if visiting someone else’s island.

Listen to me rabbiting on! I don’t know about any of this, but a lockdown must seem like nothing new if you’re used to living this kind of life, especially when a storm hits.

(3) Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Theodore Dalrymple). I read this before the other two books, and absolutely loved it. It fits in beautifully with my own feelings about things, especially concerning recent events. I could quote bits of it and never have enough, but all I can say is, ‘read it for yourself’. It finishes with the following line from Pascal:

Travaillons donc a bien penser. Voila le principe de la morale.
‘Let us labour, therefore, to think well. That is the principle of morality.’

Posted in Life and Family, Notepad Conversations

Keeping Track

We sat outside today — nice and sunny. It’s strange how the great outdoors has a cheering effect on a person — must be all that Vitamin D streaming down. My sister has been hard at work getting the garden neat and tidy, whereas I tend to do the indoor chores. I told Mum one of the things that drives me nuts is putting a thousand-and-one bits of cutlery into the dishwasher, then putting them all away again when they’re clean. She said it used to drive her bats as well. It helps to leave the cutlery basket out and put cutlery straight in while waiting for the dishwasher to fill up, but then everything collects again on plates and in dishes when the dishwasher is running, so it’s not something we can do all the time. Maybe I can get a spare cutlery basket from somewhere and exhort people to put their own cutlery in.

Just when everybody was saying lockdown would be a great time to start keeping a diary, I stopped writing mine. I’m not a consistent blogger either but could try to combine the two for a while. I’d like to write a little every other day.

I was saying in my last blog post how we haven’t been out, but when people from another household were allowed to visit if they kept their distance and preferably if we sat outside, we had a friend over for coffee in the garden — not today; a little while ago. Like the one who died, she took us out for coffee sometimes before the lockdown, and wrote conversations with me. I enjoyed these because we have similar political views and she has a good sense of humour. I had a notepad with me at the patio table but mostly kept quiet and let them talk. Joyce wrote a note to say they were talking about how easy it is to lose track of the days during lockdown. I sat and thought about this for a while, then wrote that if Death in Paradise wasn’t on TV, it was probably Saturday. She smiled and went on talking with Mum, and after a while I wrote on the pad that if there was a bucketload of Columbo on television, it was more likely to be Sunday. We smiled, then laughed a little, then disintegrated and laughed a lot. I didn’t intend it to be that funny, but we got a little hysterical. Probably anything would seem amusing when we finally got company!

Sometimes I worry I live too much in my own head — for instance, if there is a group of people online and a few people talk while others read and remain silent, you think maybe everyone agrees with those who are speaking. You think if they didn’t agree, they would say so. I don’t think that is true, though, and we have to keep alternative realities in our heads as we go along. Perhaps the people speaking are the only ones who think something while everybody else is just ignoring it and letting things pan out. I found myself wondering about this in the empire-building game today. A few people were being quite outspoken about how things should be arranged in the group. I thought the leaders might object, but they said very little. One person left without a word, but I suspect he was planning to go somewhere else anyway. Did he leave because of what the other people said, or did it have nothing to do with it? Lacking any kind of feedback, we can’t make assumptions, but I have a bad habit of constructing narratives of what might be going on. Perhaps we can’t help but do that in trying to make sense of our world, but we stumble through the fog and make wrong turnings.

I used to wonder why people would listen to things they didn’t agree with and say nothing whatsoever, but one of the reasons could be that they wish to avoid it turning into a slanging match. Debate rarely seems to work and people never change their minds — at least not when others are looking! Actually, I’d be wrong — people do change their minds, but only if they find new information that they trust.

The game developers brought in a new feature that was unpopular. The very first day it appeared, I called it a hamster wheel, saying it was too much work to be fun. One of the group leaders sounded a bit cold, saying more advanced players needed something extra to do, and the feature was optional — we didn’t have to do it if we didn’t want to. I had to acknowledge that was true, though secretly I was disappointed by the unfriendly response. I kept quiet for several days, then suddenly the same person accepted a bunch of my trades. He’s been a bit absent and hasn’t been playing the game much, so I wasn’t expecting it — wondered if it was an olive branch. I don’t know. I’m probably guilty again of sketching out a narrative that isn’t true! Maybe we all do, all the time. Maybe he didn’t mean to sound cold just as I didn’t mean to sound grumpy, and maybe he needed these goods for something.

It’s just a game anyway; I don’t take it that seriously. It just interests me how it shadows real life, causing me to think about human interactions.

Time to sleep.

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought

The Year That Never Was

Summer has gone, more or less. It’s raining a lot and cold winds are beginning to blow. A Hercule Poirot drama about a Halloween Party was on television this afternoon. It felt right for all sorts of reasons. At the end he said something about Halloween being a time to light the candles for the departed, and I liked that. We make it into a horror event, but perhaps it’s more about peaceful contemplation and acknowledgement of all those who have gone before.

I have barely been out since lockdown hit, and it’s hard to believe the year is nearly through. So much happened globally, yet so much has not happened at all. My mother said she sometimes forgets about Covid-19 and all the restrictions, and it takes an effort to remember. I find the same, but at the same time we have been so locked away that it’s been a year of almost complete blankness… that’s not normal. It’s as though everybody we knew died long ago and are now just existing in our memories.

When somebody does die, the lockdown makes it worse. A friend used to take us out for coffee. We talked about how we would all go out for coffee again when the lockdown was over. I got emails from her, offers to shop for groceries, even flowers for my birthday, but haven’t seen her in person since January or February. Suddenly she’s gone — died during the night. She was one of Mum’s friends, around the same age, but would write me conversations when we were out — very sweet, bright and cheerful. I feel a real sense of loss. It complicates it that we were going to meet again when life started to get back to normal, and I looked forward to it, but now that coffee will never be.

I didn’t even realize how much I looked forward to it till it was gone… you just take it for granted it will happen, the same way you assume you will be getting up the next morning.

I asked Mum why Anne was so kind to so many, and she said maybe it’s because she’s a writer; used to be a journalist and is curious about people. Many will miss her.

Recently I’ve been playing an empire-building game online. Despite my determination to play my own game and keep to myself, I find myself increasingly drawn in to the community there. Somebody I never spoke to but who was part of our group suddenly announced today that he had gone so far in the game that there was nothing left that was new or fun, and he couldn’t do it any more. He was henceforth leaving, but he bade us all a kind farewell and hoped we would all continue to play and enjoy the game.

Nobody said anything in the public threads, and just carried on with normal business, which was reassuring… a form of ‘life goes on’. I looked at this name and that, thinking “I’m glad X, Y and Z are still here!” It really felt as though he had thrown himself off a cliff (which of course he hadn’t… he just went back to normal life and found something else to do and people in his own environment to talk to).

As the day went on, I grew more and more gloomy, thinking about Anne, my father, grandparents and others who have gone. It’s as though the game player’s departure had triggered those thoughts, which is apt, as his username is Trigger… what else?? I went to look at his city to make sure he hadn’t deleted it outright, but it’s still there. I don’t know this person but don’t like being left by anybody… life is cold enough. The more people who leave for whatever reason, the worse the world seems. Is that normal, though? It’s the normal state of being, isn’t it? We can’t all be there for everyone forever.

I feel distant from everything — from my past, my old hobbies, from people and from everything that used to matter. It’s struck me that big families are important. You need to have a big, supportive family who know you very well, preferably not living halfway across the world from you. I know this is an ideal scenario and some people might feel their families are not that supportive or kind, but life isn’t perfect and it’s still the ideal.

I find it difficult to write on my blog because I get cold feet even when I’ve written something I was happy with. Sometimes it’s difficult because I re-read things and wonder “why do I always sound morose?” or “I sound more angry there than I actually felt”… which is bad writing, perhaps. I wrote a post about books I was reading, then couldn’t bring myself to publish it, but that was because of recent political events.

I said a few paragraphs back that I feel distant from everything that used to mean anything to me, so perhaps it says something that I still blog now and then. My blog is a big part of my life despite the multiple cold feet I grow here. 🙂

For several days the song in my head has been Son of My Father. I used to play the song a lot as a schoolgirl, so it’s a link to a time when life seemed straightforward.

When I was younger, anything dramatic seemed wonderful or unusual. Life was ordinary and nothing spectacular happened to anyone, so if anything happened in my life that seemed like it was out of a book or a film, I had to tell everyone about it. Now it seems entirely the other way, and nothing is worthy of note, least of all my own thoughts. What was light and normal with rare notes of dark and drama is now chaos and darkness with brief flashes of light. That’s how it’s always been, but I didn’t have enough experience to see it.

Thank goodness for Poirot with his ‘light the candles’… We can take that thought with us into the dark, and yes — I will light mine.

Posted in Blogging, Health Issues

In Lockdown: Old Blog, New Approach

Seeing my blog in a new light. Took a longish time off because, because, because…

One day I read something that scared me and I locked it down so no one could access it. Now I’m back again. When it comes down to it, it seems I still have the need to write, and I still like reading blogs in this corner of the blogosphere.

Wow, that word! I haven’t thought of it in so long. Blogosphere. It reminds me of innocent days when we thought more about blogs, coffee, psychology, going out, watching films and reading books than we did about viruses. To me it feels like a long time ago.

I see it in a new way.

A long time ago I deleted my WordPress app because it evolved too far and stopped working on my old iPad. That meant WordPress notifications stopped arriving and the blog retreated still further from my conscious. No more of the little elbow-jogs: “We’re here; still talking.”

Yesterday I posted my first post for a long while then realized I missed the notifications. Probably no one was reading it; they would all be gone. Still, I wanted the app back. I have a new smartphone now, so downloaded the WordPress app to that. Will continue to write posts on the iPad as it’s easier, and use the smartphone for notifications and Reader. Typical convoluted way of working — that’s me all over! Nothing new there, folks.

Looking at my blog from my phone IS new, though. Adds a little something to my life. Perhaps it will help keep my blogging on track.

I do have lockdown blues of a sort, but I think it’s deeper than just the lockdown or even the virus. The word ‘just’ doesn’t apply to that. It’s not ‘just’ a virus; it’s an evil little beast. It’s blighting the lives of millions in every corner of the world. It’s almost too large a thing to contemplate — here we sit in our bubble, eating our meals and watching TV, and nothing much seems to have changed, even while a lot is missing. I went out in the garden and a blackbird was pecking around. It turned its back on me and kept pecking, even though I was tramping around on the same lawn, taking photos of a magnolia. I wondered if it would always have done that, because I don’t remember. I think it’s used to nobody really being around any more. Perhaps I’m a slightly shattered human variation of that blackbird. Whatever this is, it’s not just lockdown blues.

What caught my attention is how this tiny microbe is so enormous a catastrophe that we can’t see all of it. It reminds me of that bit in The Sword in the Stone — the battle between Merlin and the witch — I can’t even remember her name. In the end he changes into a microbe and wins the battle. Madam Mim, says Mum! That was her name.

Old film, old story. One of my favourite books. One of my favourite authors.

Today I found that an 86 year-old member of one of my Facebook groups has died of the virus. It’s a shame because he wrote very good, very well-considered, very intelligent posts. I never talked or wrote to him but his photo became familiar. I suppose that’s going to happen… good people will be taken before their time. I’m surprised how upset I am, but there’s definitely a space there with a cold draught. I don’t want this to happen in my family and I’m very sorry it has happened in someone else’s. It’s a loss to all of us.

I’ve developed a nervous twitch!

My mother went to bed but returned and silently handed me a paperback — ‘Requiem for a Mezzo’ (Carola Dunn). I don’t know why, but it was consoling. Time to start reading again. Time to start blogging again. Time for a new phase in this lockdown.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, Political and Social Issues

Lockdown Blues

Three weeks of lockdown in Scotland have passed by. Three more weeks lie ahead.

I’m more used to staying at home and keeping to myself than many others in the wider population, but their distress disturbs me. It’s reassuring when I see that people have the same thoughts and the same struggles, but this situation is different. A couple of people have said on TV and social media, “You know, this is what our lives have always been like,” and I guess I feel that too.

That doesn’t mean I have no frustrations and fears about the lockdown; I have plenty.

I’m lucky in many ways, really. For instance, I’m not alone in the house. I’m not in one of the most vulnerable groups health-wise, but can’t go out in case I bring the virus home to my mother. We stay in isolation and my sister brings shopping. The rest of the time we get deliveries. People are having trouble obtaining delivery slots from local supermarkets, so I haven’t even tried — we get ours from local shops and Amazon.

I’m careful to space out deliveries because banks have been freezing the cards of people who’ve never shopped online before. I’m not in that bracket but am careful not to order from too many different places all at once. The last thing I need in the middle of a lockdown is for my card to be frozen! Others can unfreeze their cards by picking up the phone but I can’t do that.

Apparently the supermarket shelves are less bare than they were, though still have their moments. I really miss being able to look for things myself. I love impulse buys and being able to choose between one product and another. These days you have to take whatever’s available. I write a list for one shop by email, for example: 1x bacon, 1x apple juice, 1x Earl Grey Teabags, 1x veg box. I don’t specify brands or weights for fear of not getting things at all.

If I went out, though, I’d need to stand in spaced-out supermarket queues. My sister took a photo of one winding round the car park. Anyone following my ‘panic attack’ adventures would know I’m practically allergic to queues. Also I believe people should be wearing masks in public spaces, but here in the UK we are discouraged from doing so. In some sense I’m waiting for authorities to accept that wearing masks is a better idea than not. I was joking in an email that I would choose a black scarf to wind round my mouth as it’s a nice respectable colour, but I don’t think I have one. It would have to be white with teddy bears. “Very you,” commented the neighbour.

There was a bin disruption… the council decided they were going to pick up certain bins and not others. Now they’ve decided to start picking it up again, but we have to keep checking the bin calendar because they change the rota every week. The bins aren’t the worst of our worries, though; that’s just a minor issue. One of the side effects of lockdown.

Facebook has become hard to bear. People and groups who were on your side all through the Brexit era are suddenly voicing opinions you don’t agree with. Most of the time I absorb different opinions, try to make sense of things and say nothing… but there’s so much unkindness. They say these are times that bring out both the best and the worst in people, but I’m not sure I see any difference. The best and the worst have always been there. Often the best is more subtle. The silent majority; the person who takes a little time to be kind; those who have the patience to stick around; those who work responsibly and without fanfare. Also kindness begets kindness — it’s easier to be kind and accepting when others are less acerbic and judgemental.

A queen wasp came into the kitchen and prodded the ceiling thoughtfully. She said if only there were chinks between the panels there might have been a nice little cave behind for wasps to lock themselves down in. I opened the back door to let her out, and forgot all about the incident till a few days later she came back for a second viewing. Why us?? Hasn’t she found anywhere she likes yet?

My hands are so dry… not just from hand-washing but from washing everything else more than usual. Soaping all the milk bottles and groceries and keeping handles clean. I’m glad we have plenty of hand cream. I found a huge pot of E45 sitting around that I bought years ago.

Non-perishable groceries are left aside for a few days before we put them away. I ordered a parcel from Amazon and left it in a cupboard weeks ago. If there was any virus on it, it’s died a thousand deaths by now, but I still haven’t gone in to open it. It’s a batch of kitchen rolls. I offered some to the neighbours, who politely said they have plenty, thanks, and suddenly the parcel seemed a little less shiny and exciting.

Mum squirts our letters with anti-bacterial spray, though I don’t think it kills viruses. Things drop through the letterbox, get a soaking, then are left for a couple of days before being picked up. They are statements and bills with the odd pizza circular.

Boris Johnson wrote us all a letter and told us in advance he was sending it. He posted a copy on his Facebook page but I didn’t read it, as that would have spoiled it for me. For ages mine didn’t turn up. I started to lose hope, thinking someone in Royal Mail might have been anti-Boris and threw it in the burn, but it eventually turned up… only to be squirted by Mum and her bottle of anti-bacterial fluid. Now it looks pimply, but not too bad… my letter from Boris!

Oh, but the days he landed in hospital were the worst. The majority of people were shocked and upset, and I could barely speak. I’ve been reading that the U.S. and even China tried to save his life by offering drugs, so perhaps they were upset too. I felt annoyed every time someone began their commiserations with “Whatever you may think of his politics…” it’s such a grudging remark, as though he’s not their Prime Minister, only ours. I’m glad he’s recovering now, but he’s greatly missed.

The song going round my head over the last few days is The Old Rugged Cross. I didn’t think about it till now, but it must be because of pictures I saw over Easter.

People talk about what they do at home; they connect online or read books or tidy their gardens. I envy them because I can’t concentrate on reading; I can’t relax enough to watch a film or a drama or to listen to music, paint or do anything pleasant. I’m not sure why. I seem to be looking for something — perhaps better news. Like some kind of batwoman I crouch on a ledge and wait, surveying the empty streets below.

Metaphorically, of course. 🙂

Posted in Lost in Thought

I Still Don’t Have a Bullet Journal

I’ve been trying again to write a bullet journal. Decided to start simple — won’t buy a beautiful expensive notebook and illustrate it. Won’t fill it with habit trackers, mood charts or ‘collections’ to fill in every day. I won’t even waste time numbering pages and writing dates. Start small…

Even that appears to be beyond my will. I have plenty of cheap notebooks of different sizes that I could experiment with. I like the idea of a little notebook that’s always with me, and I can reach for it whenever I remember something I need to add. I like the thought of only having to reach for one notebook for various purposes, whether it’s something I need to do, buy, or record for posterity. I even like the idea of doodling in it so that it ends up being vaguely arty anyway.

Well, I spent all night reading about how to make bullet journals, then all morning trying to plan what I want in mine. The problem is, I scrapped so much of the recommended structure that it’s not going to be an actual bullet journal. It won’t even be a planner — just something to write lists in. I won’t ‘migrate’ items… they will stay where they were written the first time. I don’t want to waste the notebook by leaving lots of blank space. I don’t want to tear pages out or write items to be scored out later, like a temporary grocery list.

There’s a proper ‘shopping list’ kind of notepad I can use… just write ‘milk, butter, potatoes,’ then tear the pages out when done with them. It still seems a waste… I’m likely to do what I’ve always done: write lists on scraps of paper and put them in my coat pocket.

Well, I don’t have to put grocery lists in my bullet journal if I don’t want to. How about To Do lists? I rather liked the idea of writing them for a specific month. October 2019 — halloween decorations, Christmas shopping, plan scrapbook. It still seems like a waste. It’s not as if I have children or a packed social calendar — having to remember to go out to dinner, make sugar plum fairy costumes etc. I’d have things like ‘pick up electoral ID from council,’ as I’m one of those sad people with no form of photo ID. I can’t drive; I’m not an OAP; I’m not a student; I don’t travel.

I still wanted a bullet journal, but the thought of making a genuine one with an index, future logs and monthly logs drives me up the wall. I could have a section in mine for an inspiring quotation, but find that idea annoying as well. Is the artistic bullet journal the modern day version of a sampler?

For a while I seriously considered daily logs in which I would write one sentence a day, fleeting thoughts or…. but I already have a diary. I also have an ‘Ideas Journal’ for creative inspiration, and there’s no need to duplicate that.

It leaves me wondering what I’m going to do with all these blank notepads if I’m not going to write in them at all? Future Ideas Journals, perhaps. Conversations with mater or handwritten diaries.

My iPad diary is for fleeting thoughts and memories.

The blank shopping list notepad is for shopping lists; otherwise I can use scraps of paper anyway. There’s also a magnetic pad on the fridge, though there’s never a pen nearby!

I have a Things app for reminders (including when the bins have to go out).

Those are all I need. And yet…

Posted in Political and Social Issues, Videos

As I Lay Sleeping

Monday 7 October 2019

Sat up at 5 to watch a video in Youtube (‘A Message to the United Nations from a little old lady‘), then got up. Initially I was in the mood to clean, but felt so sleepy all of a sudden that I fell asleep on the sofa. It was cold and dark, raining hard. The clouds were leaden grey, though I woke eventually around 12 and bright sun had appeared.

Good news: a court in Edinburgh ruled that it’s unnecessary as well as inappropriate to force Boris Johnson to ask the EU for an extension. However, the following from The Spectator is the best thing I read all day: ‘How Number 10 view the state of the negotiations‘ (James Forsyth).

It was jaw-dropping to read, and I was thinking “we would never have got such a frank response from Number 10 while Theresa May was in charge.” I was also wondering who the contact was who had written this (though possibly the words weren’t written by the contact but supplied by someone else). There was a whiplash sense of humour in there, but no bad language, though if there had been, it would have been edited out. I decided it wasn’t Mark Francois, because (swearing or lack of it aside) the punctuation was better. He puts too many commas in. It could have been JRM, but I don’t think so — not sure the type of humour matches up. Boris could have written it himself, and there’s something of him in it. Dominic Cummings is my main suspect, however — I think he’s capable of that kind of openness and tended to be a bit sparse with punctuation (if I remember right).

Of course, it didn’t have to be from anyone in the public eye; could have been from someone lesser known or not known at all.

I suppose it doesn’t matter who wrote it, but it was so unusual. This isn’t a formal speech or a non-committal response… it was a direct communication. I found myself wondering if Boris and his team have been watching how Trump, Farage and others talk directly to people and how that works so well for them. It’s the politics of the future. May didn’t do it, though she made an attempt at it one night, doing a formal, rather stiff video from her sofa. Direct communication doesn’t work well only for the leaders, of course; it works for all of us. This is where honesty and full information can be found, because if the speaker is lying, or manipulating people against their own interests, that will quickly become apparent.

“We are winning” is another thought that went through my mind. Are we? It’s been such an uphill battle, and I worry about Boris. I hope he will not be made ill by the stress and bad treatment he’s had. I know that the EU is determined not to lose their grip on power, and that’s why I fear we might still lose.

What effect has the diary (or template) had on me today?: I’m thinking of giving it up again. I need and desire to write, yet feel resistance against writing. The thought that annoys me the most every time is having to type the date in manually!

On Facebook and in videos I keep seeing it said that we have to show happiness even when we don’t feel it… there are good reasons; it helps us and not just others. I was amused at one video yesterday: ‘Nigel Farage Meets Rod Liddle‘. Rod was starting to slide into self pity, then caught himself and said he didn’t want to be that person, and Farage was laughing openly… well, it was funny. I have to say I agree. I used not to; I considered if people felt sad or annoyed they had to tell others, but now I don’t know. Anyway, it leaves me with the dilemma of how to write future blog posts.

Fell asleep on the sofa at least three more times before bedtime. Was nodding off from time to time during something on TV about fake news by that fellow whose name I can never remember. Ian Hislop, that’s it. I found it interesting, though, so managed not to sleep too long! I would close my eyes for about four seconds then suddenly open them and suspect it was more like eight seconds, as a whole chunk of the talk would have gone by.

Diary written anyway… time to sleep properly.

Posted in Reluctant Landlord

Wrestling with a Radiator Brush

Spent all summer preparing my house for renting out. New kitchen, new blinds, new curtains, new lampshades, new beds, new vacuum cleaner, new garden tools, new stuff, fixed stuff, replaced stuff, redecoration, dead garden rejuvenated and replanted by sister (she has gardening experience, which I don’t, and chose plants for their hard-wearing quality).

Cleaned the place myself rather than get a cleaner in. The last tenants were in the house for ten years, and I’d forgotten whatever I learned the first time. It wasn’t till I was nearly finished that I noticed a lot of stuff down the radiators. I had to buy a new radiator brush as my original brush had disappeared, and it was shocking what was down there! Every single radiator spat out at least one sock. When people blame the washing machine for eating their socks, are they sure it was the washing machine? As well as dust, I found supermarket leaflets, cardboard packaging, oil-soaked rags, dried orange peel, pink wool, desiccated rubber bands, pencils, hair grips, a 5p coin, a National Health Service card, small toys and a pair of silver angel wings.

The radiator brush wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped. The first time I pushed it down the middle, it jammed as though caught by a steel trap. That frightened me till I worked out why it was getting trapped and how to release it. The wire was bent into a flattened hook at the tip, and it was this that was catching on the bottom edges of the radiator. I can understand why it was designed like that, as you wouldn’t want to leave the wire tip sharp, but it’s a difficult brush to use. I could only push it down a little way so it wouldn’t catch again.

Worse than that, it was poor at excavating the dust, which would fly out briefly and go back in. One tight crevice was stuffed with an oily rag (I couldn’t see what it was till it was out), and the brush managed to get trapped in that. It was a nasty few minutes till I was able to extricate the brush, after which I swapped over to a bamboo cane to push the rag down the rest of the way. Even then the rag was stuck at the bottom, and I had to weevil it out with my fingers. Yeuch.

The bamboo cane was definitely better at getting the junk out. The brush was useful for bringing up dust to the maw of the waiting vacuum cleaner… brush in one hand, vacuum nozzle in other, and plenty of sweary words whenever the brush got stuck.

My main frustration was that it was difficult to find time to clean the house. I would walk over early in the morning, but all too soon had to take off again to make supper for us at home. Things always took longer than I thought they would, the radiators being a case in point. I had a happy vision of myself sweeping out the dust in minutes — wasn’t expecting all of the debris and difficulties, and of course had to clean the floors afterwards. Even obtaining the bamboo cane wasn’t as quick as you’d assume. No canes in the shed, so I tried the loft. There was one the right length, but it was in a dark corner where there were no floorboards. The last thing I wanted to do was bring down the ceiling, so I crawled very, very carefully…

Having inched back to safer ground clutching my treasure, I was horrified to spot something else that had to be sorted out. You think you’re nearly finished, then yet another problem rears its ugly head! Everything takes longer than you think, or perhaps I’m just very bad at cleaning and organizing. Either that or I’m a Scottish version of Anne Shirley, listening to the Pachelbel Canon and dreamily washing sitting room windows in sunshine… felt as though I had all the time in the world.

I was annoyed with myself — felt a real rookie. Imagine if I’d got everything squeaky clean and beautiful, and proudly turned it over to tenants, blissfully oblivious of ten years of dust and rubbish still baking away inside my radiators. At least none of the debris was mine, because I can remember cleaning them when I originally moved out.

Meanwhile, I’ve become a radiator brush connoisseur. Pounced eagerly when I noticed the local garden centre had a beautifully made goat’s hair one with beech handle. So soft! Warily checked the tip for a hook — thankfully none! Cost three times as much as the other, but it’s a better, slimmer brush that’s less likely to cause problems.

The new tenants are due to move in later this week. I should celebrate, but after accepting them I felt even more stressed and worried, and wondered if I should have seized the chance to give up being a landlord and run like the wind. It should be a huge relief that somebody wanted it, but there’s still so much that could go wrong. To rent or not to rent? Either way could lead to disaster — sailing between Scylla and Charybdis.

I’m not pleased with myself — I should have been able to sort the house out an awful lot quicker, but next time I will remember the lessons learned. Just hope it won’t be another ten years that go by before I can visit my old home again.