Posted in Hearing Loss, Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Notepad Conversations

Ask Me No Questions


Hail Fellow Ill Met

A few weeks ago:

When we were going home on the bus, I was writing a message to Mum on our conversation notepad. An elderly man got on the bus and stood for a while, tucking his ticket away. I felt his eyes on me and looked up, and smiled. Then I went back to the message I was writing. Mum jerked her head towards him suddenly, and gestured apologetically, with a half-turn of her head towards me. I could imagine her saying, “I’m sorry, she can’t hear you.” He sat down across from us, where I couldn’t see him, and for the rest of the journey they talked politely, their voices lost in the roar of the bus. After a while I put my conversation notepad away, my message unread.

When we reached our stop and Mum moved towards the exit, I glanced at the man, intending to say goodbye. But he sat with his head turned away, so I said nothing. I didn’t ask Mum who he was or what they were talking about, and she didn’t mention him… he was just a passing ship.

Two days ago:

We were walking in single file along a narrow footpath, when we came across a bearded man on a ladder who was preparing to trim a hedge. He and Mum exchanged jolly-sounding greetings. Powered by her presence, I breezed past in my turn with a cheery smile. But I thought about how, on my own, I would either not look at him, or would raise my hand in a polite salute.

A little way further along, when we came onto the road, another man stood nearby. Again he and Mum made friendly noises. “People are so kind!” said Mum, as we passed on.


We went into Costa’s for coffee, but it was quite busy. All that was left for us was a small round table for two, wedged between a lady in the corner (reading a newspaper) and two gossiping boys. The woman looked up and smiled, and she and Mum talked for a little… I wondered if they knew each other. Then the lady went back to her newspaper, and Mum and I wrote to each other in our conversation notepad.

“It’s hotter than I thought,” said Mum. “Have you noticed that the students get younger every year?”

“I never looked,” I said.

Mum rolled her eyes good-naturedly, while I thought about the old man on the bus, along with years and years of students passing me by, unseen.

After a while I said, “You know why I don’t look at people? I don’t want them to think they can speak to me just because I smiled.”

Mum laughed and shook her head at me. “They don’t always — and don’t smile,” she said. “Just observe.”

A small mystery cleared up:

When we left, the woman reading the newspaper didn’t speak to us again — she was a stranger after all. But Mum later volunteered the information that she’d told us (when we came in looking for somewhere to sit) she’d been watching a single student taking up a table meant for four.

Oh, I so know the feeling! Especially when we are meeting my sister, and the three of us have to huddle (with two shopping trolleys) round a tiny table for two, while a skinny kid stretches out blissfully in a tasty piece of café ‘real estate’… and stays there forever.

Lady next to us — I share your frustration.

Posted in Rants

Coffee Shop Mumble

I’m still away on Planet Zog, but I’m sending a quick postcard.

Since the students came back, we’ve been finding it harder to get ourselves a place in a coffee shop. There’s one place in particular we’ve not been in for a while. Mum is still mumbling that she doesn’t know how students can afford it, as none of us older students never used to! Even in the 90s, there was a student I knew who couldn’t afford instant coffee after the price rose. I suppose a good cup of coffee is now seen as a necessity… and laptops and mobile phones may have changed the student culture altogether.

I’m reading the book Starbucked now that Cleopatra has finally died — she was with me so long in the novel Memoirs of Cleopatra that it was like losing a family member! Starbucked is extremely interesting, particularly in its history of coffee and coffee shops, though I still have a rooted dislike for the corporate world….

Anyhoo, we finally found a couple of seats in a local coffee shop today… Mum went to the counter to order, leaving me to hold the seats. There were dirty plates and cups so the seats looked recently vacated. There was also a newspaper on the seat, and two students sitting opposite us.

I used the newspaper to swat a few crumbs off the couch, and sat down with it, then a woman suddenly turned up with a coffee and said something. I didn’t know if she was saying “do you mind if I sit here?” or if she was saying it was her seat in the first place. I said my mother would be sitting in the other seat, but she didn’t say anything… just took the newspaper from me and plonked her mug down anyway. Well, they say actions are louder than words, and that’s when I knew she wasn’t asking to sit there; she had bagsied that spot beforehand with the newspaper!

If Mum had already bought our coffees, we would have been up Shit Creek without a paddle, as there was nowhere else for both of us to sit down, but fortunately she hadn’t reached the head of the queue yet. I rushed up there and stopped her, and we went somewhere else for coffee.

The next place we went to was Costa’s, where we love the coffee anyway, but it was very crowded there too… so stuffy that my specs were steaming up!! Again we left…

Finally we got a little table in a gift shop. It seems incredible now that one of our coffee shops in this town had to close down during the quiet summer months because nobody was visiting it. We missed it before, but we’re missing it even more now.

Over our coffee in the gift shop, I was talking about how the woman in the other place had bagsied the couch with nothing but a newspaper. We both assumed it was left by whoever had just gone away from the used coffee mugs on the table. Mum said, “we don’t do that in this town. I usually leave a coat and a daughter.”

I couldn’t help thinking “yes, but they didn’t work this time, did they!” 🙂

Posted in Current Affairs, Political and Social Issues

Things I Meant to Blog About

There’s so much I keep meaning to blog about, but time moves on and things fall behind. These are three things I’ve had in mind recently:

Micro shoplifting

We’ve had recent brushes with a particular variety of shop lifter. Not the type who will take an entire packet of something and walk out with it, but who will take something out of the box and leave it to someone else (us!) to buy.

My mother bought 5 or 6 small bottles of a refreshing juice from the local supermarket. At home she found the top of one of them was loose, and the level was lower than in the other bottles. Someone had taken a swig of it and put it back on the shelf.

I told her about buying a couple of pads of lined A4 paper from Woolworth. Got them home and found someone had torn a sheet out of one of them.

Then Mum bought me some hayfever relief tablets in Boots… you would think that would be pretty safe, but a tablet had been pinched out of one of the foil strips.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve not come across this before; it’s like a new form of shoplifting that targets other customers more than the shops themselves. I said to Mum that maybe the people who do it will have it done to them one day, and will find out what a kick in the teeth it is… though I would prefer if they understood this already without having to experience OR do it!

Trans fats must go

I know I don’t think a great deal of some ‘nanny state’ laws and attitudes, but I would back a Scottish ban on trans fats from food. To me it’s like smoking… there’s far more harm than good in it, and it doesn’t make sense to me that it’s offered as a choice.

More lovin’ needed

Town is quite busy with holidaymakers now, but our favourite coffee shop in town has lost trade. Our initial suspicion is that the students who usually go there (and sit around with their laptops) have gone home, but I’ve been realizing that a lot of the locals are on holiday (not just students), whereas the holidaymakers don’t know the smaller coffee shops and probably just head straight for Starbucks and Costa’s. It’s got so that there’s a blackboard outside the smaller coffee shop saying “Looky here, we need loving ALL the time!” You go in, and there’s nobody else there.

My suggestion is: look out for the smaller shops, even in an unknown town… they need your trade and are probably quieter and friendlier than the chain stores. They aren’t all tables and chairs; the smaller shop we’re talking about is predominated by padded chairs and sofas, whereas the Costa’s here only has one sofa in the corner, and Starbucks has a couple of cushy areas (generally with someone else in them already) and that’s it. I love Costa’s coffee, but to me there’s no contest about which shop I would rather be in. The little one that all the crowds are walking past and not loving.