Saturday, 26 December 2009

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas eve. Upload has gone crazy!! Sorry.

Glad I had to do the airport run yesterday! The country is a mess and I would not have been able to have even got out to the road with all the extra snow, then loads of roads have been blocked. The airline I use to fly to France for my winter trips crashed one of it’s planes off the end of the runway just missing a major road! The runway was built there because it is one of the most frost free places in the country!

Now have so much snow it is possible to walk about again the ice is buried!

Anji asked how I got my first job, perhaps I did not write about it before in the blog so here goes.

My mother had a part time job working in a large department store which emptied it’s basement for ten weeks before Christmas each year to fill it again with toys and a grotto for kids to see Santa. I was fifteen and my Christmas present that year was a reel to reel tape recorder which my mother bless her thought would help me with my school work. Little did she know how much I hate the sound of my voice, no prizes given for saying why! She organised the purchase which was outrageously expensive then came home to tell me that she had organised a Saturday job foe ten weeks with full time when the term ended before Christmas, this was to help pay for my “present”. I turned up as instructed and was told that my job was to load those wishing to see Santa into seats on a sleigh ride then run the system until it was their turn to be ushered into Santa's presence by one of his “Bunny Girls”! Don’t ask, well I will tell you Santa was off the scale lecherous!

It was an interesting job, you got to see everybody’s look of horror when they entered the uv light and all their dandruff flakes glowed. The kid’s reactions were great to watch especially when the landscape curtains which rolled each side of the sleigh got jammed and required a quick reaction to jerk free. If things were quiet they could be there for ages to keep me company but as things got busy the queue would start out in the street then wind round the shop and down into the basement then it was a personal challenge to get everyone in get a ride and out without feeling cheated and without leaving Santa with time to be interfering with the Bunny Girls. The cheapskates only bought one 7” vinyl record for the whole season! At the end it was completely worn out and embarrassing to have playing. Late on Christmas eve Santa closed his grotto and in the last hour before closing many of the workers came to party on the sleigh joined by the Bunny Girls who had finally escaped. Sad unloved creature that I was I set everything going including their own new pop record and left them to it, my work was done.

Some time in the mid eighties I was bought a smart cashmere and silk pullover which has been my going out smart top ever since! Obviously I have had other clothes since, even I have to keep warm. With my hot flushes I felt I needed something open at the front and for the past year have been scouring sales for such a thing and miracle of miracles after missing so many it finally arrived. AN alpaca cotton and silk kimono style jacket, not my usual bright colours but black and teal. The reaction from Julie was quite interesting as the garment came out of it’s packaging. There was a tinge of jealousy mixed with the emotion of seeing an element of Caroline come alive before her eyes. Suddenly she was concerned that I should have a fitting layer beneath and what else was I gong to wear with it? I assembled the outfit and did the fashion parade, never been asked this before, then came the seal of approval followed by “do you want to borrow one of my necklaces?!”

Julie is quite intrigued by Caroline now, she sees her all of the time and much of the time overtly wearing skirts. I have never said to her “hey this is Caroline” but she has made slight hints about a name and I have asked what names she thought appropriate for a creature of my age but that was nearly two months ago. Just the other day she suddenly said that she felt that she “should” have a name for Caroline! I am still waiting for the list.

Our evolution though slow is sure as my old self fades away and Caroline blooms.

Christmas seems to be getting nearer, the new plastic cards have arrived but oh dear too much snow! At our age and probably for those younger, presents which can be consumed make a lot of sense so we shall have to wrap up a lot of chocolate tomorrow! No chance of getting the tree out of the garden now so I guess I shall seek out a fake which I scrounged from someone about to throw it away! That year we had complements on the beauty of the tree! Pine essence from the sauna helped the illusion so I shall try that again.

Wishing all my readers a Happy Christmas or whatever you are celebrating!

For me it is Christmas Pudding, atheist that I am and I have the Christmas Pudding earrings to prove it!



Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Mad journey

With the landscape a winter wonderland the smartest thing to do would have been to set the alarm for mid morning and hide from the winter. How was I to know the weather would be so ghastly when I was asked if I could get friends to the airport because public transport was going to be a real struggle for their early check in.

Woke at six to find a fresh fall of snow on top of the compacted snow and ice! Getting up onto the icy road was not something I had ever bothered trying so the test was to drive up a ski slope with front wheel drive and turn onto an icy road then try and slide down the hill onto the gritted main road. Getting back again I did not even want to think about.

I could have dug down to the ice beneath the snow but what use would that be? Instead I got as far back in the garage as possible and with six feet of secure dry ground I made the quickest start I could and hit the slope as a ballistic missile into the snow storm and just reached the entrance and no more. From there it was slipping and sliding at less than one mph just to survive, thank goodness the rest of the town was still asleep.

I told my passengers not to worry too much about the conditions since my first proper job had been driving Santa's Sleigh! You probably think I am joking but for once I am not!

The 130 mile round trip through falling snow and freezing fog was quite an adventure and with heavy snow forecast for the high ground of my return route I decided not to take advantage of a visit to Edinburgh. The scariest bit of the journey was the last 200 yards especially reversing off the ice into a steep driveway which now had even more snow over the ice so I was thankful that my aim was true and I slithered half out of control back into the garage where the brakes finally worked.

We will have to walk about half a mile to get our Christmas dinner so I hope for a thaw otherwise not going far for the next week!



Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Things we do for friends...

Woke to a strange metallic gassy smell in rooms with no gas and it was the wrong smell for the gas supply. It took quite a long time to work out that the camping cooker kept for emergency use was stored in a cupboard and had not been seen for years. It had decided that it’s seal with the gas can was too old to work and just let a whole lot out. Lucky it was far from any source of ignition but it was spreading. I have no idea how long it has been waiting there, at least ten years! From now on this sort of thing is going to be kept in the shed, just don’t know which one!

Last night we were in a time warp as a group of about a dozen carol singers stood on the doorstep in the snow singing their hearts out. I had got word that they were going to be out and about so had phoned in a request for “In the deep midwinter”, Julie’s favourite, I also requested something with a disco beat for me but all they could do was something with a trombone. Never thought I would ever see such a scene ever again and they were such an interesting bunch, as interested in us as we were with them. Naturally it did not cross my mind to have a camera handy, then again some of these sorts of images are etched into the brain better than a photograph.

Have to be up at six to drive a friend and their son and son’s girlfriend to the airport, one which still seems to be open. I have just looked out and the sheet of ice has melted. Fine if it stays that way, hell if it freezes since it is a steep drive out of my garage up to the road which has been a skating rink for days. I have been out for a practice taking broken arm girl to a party, thankfully she got a lift home s that I was able to fully enjoy myself. Tomorrows trip is not an adventure I would have chosen but for a friend...



Tuesday, 15 December 2009


We ached from laughing after I received this card for my birthday!

Yes this has happened and yes it is happening to another shed in the vegetable garden but not so fast that it is a complete disaster but far enough gone to have to fall down before it can be fixed! Well isn’t it lucky I have a spare shed!! My friends know me well and I will scavenge their cast offs for use later on. Lucky I have friends who throw away stuff which is better than I can buy. I was cleaning up before the party and needed some encouragement in the form of a driving pop beat. Usually I leave a disc in the car player for months but my navigator finally forced me to eject a Madonna greatest hits disc, I had been listening to it on the iPod then the car but on the house system through the scavenged speakers wound up to “11”, that is 350 watts per channel I finally found out what it she really sounds like. Work done in double quick time!

Out there in the “good” shed I found what I was looking for, a perfect double sink and drainer which will fit better than what was there before and with a rounded corner is less likely to do us permanent harm. All we need to do is decide if a powered waste disposal machine is really necessary. No would be the best answer the I would not have to find a way to get power under the floor. Mind is buzzing with design options, starting to think of it less of a disaster and more of an opportunity. The archeology shows that this will be the third major sink development in this new extension to the house. The first would have been heavy ceramic sinks, like some I have in the garden as planters! And just reach my crotch (can I type that?), I would have had to kneel to use them! They lasted about 75 years before being replaced in the early 70’s by the unit which has just come out so I guess my replacement will be torn out in about 20 years from now. There is of course an empty space in the shed, I tried to collect the give away gas stove I was offered but it weighs a ton and will need two to move it, lost a fair bit of strength this last year, more than the literature says I think.

Last weeks book launch we went to was full of my old clients and everyone I spoke to asked what I was up to these days! Well not doing any work for ANY of them that’s for sure. It was good to talk to some of them who I had not met for a year or two in most cases. At least we got something out of the evening and have an invite out for a meal tonight with one I did not get a chance to talk to. Perhaps I will find out how he can afford to spend his retirement driving round in a Mercedes sports car, probably because I never charged enough!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Strange days

Fooled a lot of friends by deciding to have a party on my two sisters birthday instead of my own the day after. If they had all come then we would have been in trouble, 14 was enough to cater for with the limited resources available at the moment. The parsnip and brussels sprout fest was a great hit and I did not have to have the embarrassment of opening more than a few presents, most had no idea why the event was on since they were not the usual birthday crowd. Having eaten our less rich diet for the past couple of months the rich roast has been a little heavy to deal with, back to soup and beans soon. The largest box of handmade chocolates I have ever seem was produced as my present but they are destined to be handed round to visitors, they certainly liked them last night! Julie seems to have done all her christmas shopping in Royston this year so no surprises if you are on her christmas list.

My real present was long lingering caresses this morning which meant that we got up just in time to go out to lunch. I often wake Julie up with caresses and a cuddle and have been suggesting for about THIRTY years that I was interested to know what being woken up like that would feel like, not exactly quick to take a hint it has take till now for her to give it a try. At least that is what I thought the other day but on mentioning it later discovered that she thought I was awake already!

A drive into the muddy countryside took us to lunch at a country mansion where one of Julie’s committees was having a meeting to discuss the naming and launch of a guided missile destroyer over lunch. Nobody flinched at the appearance of this strange creature with fire red nails. The PR for the builders was a powerful young woman who would not say how much this boat would cost just that it seemed to be the electronics which cost most and £billions seemed to be available for the fleet.

Once she headed for the airport with her project manager we sat round the fire beneath the Tintoretto! For coffee and more general chat then it started to become a bit more surreal as James who’s house we were in and his two naval friends started to compare towns round the world founded by their forebears who all seemed to have been commanding at Trafalgar or Waterloo. Then it turned to reminiscing about when Prince Charles and Diana used to come every year to stay for the polo and the wild parties they had had on the royal yacht or in Buckingham Palace pulling the odd princess out of bed in the middle of the night to go swimming till dawn. Clearly if I had been a tuff military type with aristocratic connections I could have had an interesting time too. No no no, what am I saying, that would have been horrid, my quiet sheltered life has not been too bad thanks.

Visited a glassmaker friend on the way home.She was trying to get a final proposal for a public sculpture commission ready and was glad of someone to bounce ideas off and get awkward questions and a few ideas. As we drove away I said to Julie that this was the sort of thing I used to do all the time when I was reasonably busy as a photographer, 90% was socialising and playing with ideas over a glass of wine or mug of coffee, wee lump in throat for changed times.

Half a dozen friends have dropped in this afternoon and evening, I think word has got out about the chocolates.



Saturday, 12 December 2009

Plumbing hell

My life is just vanishing at the moment. It started with trying to clear a sluggish sink which led to a broken seal which led to a snapped screw which I thought I had fixed but...

Now the whole sink and unit it was on have been ripped out to repair the faulty outlet installed forty years or more ago. Water does not drain up hill!

Plumbing ruins the nails and rips off bits of skin. Got commiseration from Aly while she electrified the few remaining hairs around the lips mostly. Then she gave me a new file because I had given my glass file to an aged relation having difficulty with cutting nails. then she said I should take some oil for the cuticles and while I was at it why not a few jars of face cream and no she did not want paying! I think she is just glad we have got through this project, she usually only did smaller areas mostly women with hirsute problems. Some birthday present!

Room looks like hurricane has just passed by and days have been lost on this "simple job". What is it with drains and parties? I thought I was being smart by having a not quite my birthday party on Sunday for lunch, nobody expected that! half can't come but in a way that is good to get a different mix. best they don't know it is almost my birthday so not obliged to bring any presents, we can just have fun. Shame we will not be able to wash the dishes!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Letting go

Out for morning coffee with girl friend which led to lunch and a walk back for four. Day gone again! Was not much of a day so well worth missing for a bit of cheer. Amazing how the smell of smoke gets in your clothes even though nobody has smoked, she is practically the last one we know but still needs an occasional fix. What a change from when I first came to this country and had to go to movies in the middle of the day to be able to breathe. Little wonder I was so bad at socialising, clean air was unheard of.

Good excuse to heat up the sauna and loose myself for an hour. This has been one of the places where project “ In Search of Lost Time” has been undertaken. The other has been lying in the wakeful hours in the middle of the night. Memories locked away and frozen over for decades have been thawed and analyzed. I had to be in this new state of happiness to deal with this and it has been fascinating how much I had deliberately locked away, mostly melancholic or just plain sad from decades in limbo, occasional moments of joy else I suppose I should have been long gone.

There was the constant drip drip sound from the moisture oozing from my pores then suddenly there were extra drips added as I was hit by a wave of emotion which had an untold number of facial muscles aching then the achey feeling spread like a spiders web down the neck shoulders and arms. It was like the final purge of negative energy leaving and the body saying “that was some torture, thank goodness it’s over” I have done with the past. It has been suffered and is gone, time lost, wasted but lessons learned. This last year has been a revelation. I never thought that I should ever feel this degree of comfort within myself, emotions freely expressed, with tears if necessary and mind clear and free of the poisonous testosterone which had so tormented me. The fat redistribution has been a positive side effect which is also enjoyable though I am sure many out there would say that compared to them there are no soft curves at all. This is the end of one leg of the journey, another birthday looms then a few weeks of socialising into the start of next year when I reencounter the Nasty Hamsterwheel of Suffering or NHS as we call the UK health system. Typical nothing which I have been told would happen is happening but I have the mystery appointment which entails over two hundred miles of unpredictable winter travel to the other side of the country rather than the ten I was promised. Not to worry, anything could happen but something is going to change and who knows they may get something right for a change! I have never fitted into boxes but if they want rid of me they have to give me the drugs I want to try. Two years ago I knew one step I needed to take but could not have imagined how I would feel at this moment in time, to not try the next step would leave me for ever wondering so unless health intervenes another goal is now in sight, another leg of the journey commenced.

The Proustian search for lost time is past, now hopefully I enter the new book in the series, Time Regained. This is now about a year since I started to post to the blog. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about even though I had hardly written more than a shopping list for over thirty years. Some have commented that they enjoy reading which has given me an unexpected joy. I feel as if this is a moment of weightlessness before the gravity of the new phase starts to tug at me unencumbered with the irritations of the past. Where will I be on the journey at this time next year? I can’t imagine...

Saturday, 5 December 2009


It has been staring at me for a week now.

A simple questionnaire about my experience of the general practice which I attend for health care. This is not a new problem and is really down to the fact that I read the questions written by highly paid fools and realize that they cannot be answered in a way which is unambiguous because of the way a question was phrased or I just do not fit into ANY of the boxes options. The classic one, and I am sure most of my readers are ahead of me here, is the “M” or “F” box. Most have just been put in by unthinking fools who do not even need to know, It was even on the online guarantee registration for a camera which I purchased even though they first declared that they did not require to know your GENDER! Then they made it a required field to be filled!

Q21 on this questionnaire ABOUT HEALTH CARE asks:-

Are you male or female?

Please tick ONE box only

Exactly as you see it!

They clearly have had or expect people to tick both!

So much for the answer my wife said to give!

What exactly are they asking me here? Was I born with and still have the reproductive apparatus as expected for “M” or “F”? Or, What is your perceived gender expression? Or what?

No doubt the thing will be fed into an automatic reader and all “answers” will be mangled into statistics bent to their will. If I create a third box of my own it will be ignored as will any not of approbation for their gall and stupidity!

Q22 is just age at last birthday, better finish this soon then or I shall gain a year!

Q23 Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself? Please tick ONE box only.

(Clearly the bold capitalized ONE shows their paranoia )

1 Heterosexual / straight

2 Gay / Lesbian

3 Bisexual

4 Other

There is clearly an attempt to ignore the wide range of human expression here without clearly having the understanding of sex and gender. As a group we will vanish! Will not even register as 0.01 % of the population, we will not exist and how we see ourselves will not be discovered!

On the other hand there are 11 choices for religion and 21 for ethnic group!!!!!

Perhaps I should respond to Q28 Do you need an INTERPRETER or other HELP TO COMMUNICATE?

Please tick ONE box only.


Simply, yes GP service is quite good once you get past the appointment system. Where it goes wrong is when they pass you into next stage of mismanaged health care.

For a year my loverly GP has been trying to get the local teaching hospital to see me about possible HRT and has been messed about like you would not believe possible, they even suggested testosterone! Then after nine months said:- “hey we don’t do that you have to see someone else but luckily they come here for outreach clinics”

This translates into a winter round trip of over 200 miles to a city on the other side of the country to see someone about who knows what in the middle of January. Must be part of a cunning plan to kill us off in winter crashes to further massage the statistics!

Friday, 4 December 2009

lost friend & photographs

In the past I had very little will to live. That experiment at least proved that it has no negative effect on reducing life span. Plan “A” involved a huge funeral pyre to destroy all evidence of my ever having spent time on this rock! Over the last year I have been giving away car loads of bagged wood which I had collected in various places, nearing the end now and the last lot has partly earned me a gas fired stove and all the chimney liner I need to have it installed, probably next spring. In a way it is a shame, my end would have been quite spectacular, Oh well! Also a shame that I cant trust the chimneys in this house, I could have got a lot of heat out of all that wood!

Must write about cute computers much more, that post has attracted more comments than anything else in the little over a year I have been tapping away here. Seems my baby’s name has got lots of minds working out there. Some tempting ideas though I quite fancy Sophie since I hope it will fill up with wisdom! Still a while to wait.

We are off to a friend’s book launch tomorrow. We were shown the final proofs for this some years ago, sadly on the last visit we made to see him just before he died. Bit of a nuisance this growing older, your christmas card list gets shorter all the time. At least Bill's book has finally found it’s way into print and I look forward to seeing how it has been change since his death. It will be a good reminder amongst all the other books of friends departed. Part of me also wants to know if any of my photographs of his work have found their way in. He was hopelessly indecisive about what he wanted reproduced for any project we worked on so I always allowed three times as much time as would normally be required when I visited. We would sit for hours drinking his excellent coffee and munching through packets of biscuits talking about anything and everything and occasionally bits about what we were supposed to be doing. Really what I did back then could hardly be called work it was so much fun and all my clients, if they were not already friends soon became so. At business I was hopeless, I just wanted to do the job as well as anybody else could if not better and charged less than I should have done since it was so embarrassing asking for money! From that point of view I am glad that the digital age has made me effectively redundant. We found out about the book launch by accident whilst negotiating the stove deal and had decided to just turn up. Nowadays we are so far out of the loop we were not surprised to have been missed off the list so it was a pleasant phone call which enquired if we had got an invite, not forgotten after all.

Strange how something which was once an absolute obsession has been killed by the new image gathering medium which just holds so little fascination compared with the magic of the old silver prints. Now I have learned to make casual snaps of everyday happenings like a rough diary using a horrible ugly box with broken bits which has to be held at arms length if I am to see the screen assuming it is not so bright nothing can be seen anyway! My favourite way is to hold it close for a blurry impressionistic view if the scene, quite the opposite to my previous obsessive working of every square millimeter with especial attention to edges and corners!

Well I do have enough negatives in boxes for several lifetimes of printing fun, at least that is what I tell myself.

Couple of snaps of river traffic for your delectation.


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Plastic cards

Another Caroline commented that she too was a Macaholic, even worse case than mine though you would have to go a long way to find someone who would commit quite such a high proportion os their miserable wealth on just one purchase as I have done. Thought the credit card had found me out and stopped the transaction because they knew just how little I have and regretted giving me such a high limit but no they were just blocking the transaction until they were sure I had made the purchase. having decided that it was me fool enough to do this they unfroze the card but would not just pay up! Get in touch with apple etc, phone calls, time wasted etc... OK. Three days latter credit card company calls again!!!! I want to help save the world economy by letting my money slush about and let people make things ( of beauty ) and sell them and deliver them so everyone is busy and happy but it is just so hard!

So I am several days further back in the queue for my beautiful baby, probably behind a lot of other Carolines waiting for the gestation and birth of their wee beauties on the other side of the world then we have to wait as they count the batteries on each plane since there is a limit! So this a wee bit like waiting for a birth but it will arrive eventually I am sure.

All I need now is a name!