I have just read this after a period of ten years. I am still alive, 81 now. I find that ten yeas has taken its toll. I see that I managed three evens in a day where now I restrict this to one. At present I am in lockdown 3 of the pandemic so I am not going out at all. I am busy writing, living with my youngest daughter and her family and happy. I do miss seeing everyone else in the family but maybe by August I will be vaccinated and it will all be over. I intend now to use this as a diary as I really enjoyed reading about myself ten years ago! Keeping a record of events is good, isn’t it?
The book I am reading for the club which will be discussed this evening is The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. I read it on my Kindle or should I say I read 25% of it. It is one of those rare occasions where I haven’t finished the book.
I knew I wouldn’t really take to this book. I enjoy a good novel; I even prefer a bad novel, to reading about nature. I’m just not that kind of person. I can look out at my window box and enjoy the cyclamen and pansies bright purple and dark red. I don’t need to go any further than that to as they say to commune with nature.
I was surprised when reading the introduction to the book that I became interested despite him being up a tree at the time. But as I read on I found it all a bit repetitive. How many lakes, phosphorescence lights, craggy mountains and sleeping under the stars can one read before boredom sets in.
The book is more about him than what is around him. He is constantly swimming in very cold waters or climbing dangerous cliffs; making fires and cooking fish; picking up stones and bits of driftwood.. And why does everything have to take place in the depths of winter making his journey all the more taxing. I wonder if it is because these so called wild places might have more visitors in the spring and summer months. He just sounds like a literary Bear Gryls to me.
And I miss people on these journeys. Occasionally he has a companion but still it is always about him and there is very little conversation.
Some of his prose is pretentious. For example, when meeting a man in the Burren who has shot some woodcocks which he has stowed in his pockets, he writes “Bright red domed beads of blood stood out on the waxy sleeves of his jacket, and in one I could see a fisheye reflection of me and the land behind.” And where does he get all the rye bread?
His disdain for the pilgrims on Croagh Patrick was marked. The least he could have done was some basic research and then he would have known that he would not be alone on the day he chose to climb it.
He seems to come to a realisation a third way through the book when he says “Thousands of years of human living and dying have destroyed the possibility of the pristine wild,” which rather defeats the object of his mission. And again in the chapter on the Burren “My idea of wildness as something inhuman, outside history, had come to seem nonsensical, even irresponsible.”
As a 76 year old woman living on a pension, I will never visit any of these places and I suppose I should be grateful he is doing it for me, but I’m not.
I have just been re-reading the blog I created but haven’t come back to for what seems like years. It was a good idea after all because I am reminded of things that happened. For me it is a diary and doesn’t matter if no-one else ever reads it.
The November novel writing is supposed to start today so instead I am going to write each day here.
Told a few people today that I have a blog but don’t post on it anymore. Am trying to decide will I take it up again. What do you think ….. anyone out there.
Padraig O’Morain wrote an excellent article in the Health Supplement of The Irish Times on 8th May and he quoted my blog. I feel I must clarify that what you read below is a short story I wrote in my creative writing course. My children never left me to clear up after them but the bit about Gay Byrne and Ronan is true. As for the librarian in Terenure, chance’d be a fine thing.
I wake up each morning to silence and I still can’t believe it. No alarm clocks ringing. No one running up and down the stairs. No screams of ‘where did I leave my keys?’
In the kitchen everything is just as I left it. What bliss. No half-drunk cups of coffee, no remnants of half eaten toast. No milk left on the table to turn sour. No radio blaring away.
My life now is completely different. I can listen to my jazz records all day if I want. I am not tied to time. Dinner is a moveable feast and sometimes there is no dinner at all. I can eat whatever I like and don’t have to buy that rice milk that Susan loves but I still eat the hummus now and again. My friend Cissi calls sometimes and we go out in the afternoon to the pictures and I can stay out as long as I like. Sometimes we have our tea in the Gresham.
Sunday afternoons I can listen to Gay on Lyric without any slagging or snide remarks. I love listening to him. It reminds me of all the mornings when the children were at school when I would make a cup of tea and just sit there. It was like as if he was my friend, there with me and my problems. It’s funny how things stick in your mind. I remember the day he said that “When you are flushing the toilet you should always put down the lid beforehand to reduce the spread of bacteria”. I’ve done it ever since and always think of him when I got to the loo.
I’m losing weight too. I think that’s down to the dancing. The children were always embarrassed to see me getting up at weddings and parties. I know I’m not the greatest mover but there was no need for all that sniggering. Now I dance whenever Ronan is on the radio. He always seems to play the kind of music that gets me going. Can you imagine if the children came in and saw me dancing all alone, well not all alone, Ronan is there too.
It’s not just the dancing that’s getting the weight off. I bought an exercise bike for myself. I seem to have more money to spend now that they’re not around. I can leave the bike in the kitchen and there is no one to make snide remarks. I usually do a half an hour a day while I’m listening to the play on Radio 4.
Gerry gave me his old laptop before he left. He was being kind and tried to show me how to use it. He wanted me to go on Skype so that I wouldn’t be lonely for him. He’s a lovely lad. I went to computer classes in the community centre and got the hang of it. Being able to type was an advantage although the last time I had used a keyboard was before the children were born. It’s like riding a bicycle. The internet was all a bit much at first but it’s not rocket science after all. I saw Gerry was on line last night and skyped him. He nearly fell off his chair but he was delighted to see me. I showed him my bike and he said how well I was looking.
Vodaphone rang last month and offered me a Smart phone for free. I said yes but when I got it I was wishing Molly was here to help me. It’s very complicated and it took me three days and a session with the man in the shop before I could use it. But I have it working now and it’s like having the world at your fingertips. You can google and look up anything while you’re sitting on the bus.
The phone is great and I need to be contactable at all times now because I have a new friend. I got tired of dancing all on my own so I signed up for a dance class in Parnell Square. He’s a widower and we hit it off straight away. Patrick is his name and he works in the library in Terenure. We both love dancing, the same kind of music and reading so it was a match made in heaven as they say.
He stays over most weekends and I suppose you could say we are in love. I don’t know what the children will make of it all. But do you know what, I don’t care.
I joined a creative writing class last year. Each week the facilitator gives us a topic. Up until now I have written upbeat, amusing (I hope) pieces but this time we were asked to write on CONFUSION and this is what I produced.
Look at me, I’m in a terrible state. Big white lump of plaster on my leg. Don’t know how that got there. Wait a minute, yes I do, my leg, all that blood, I suppose they’re fixing it.
I’m in a hospital but I don’t know which one. They say I fell in the supermarket. If it was Tesco’s in Sandymount this would be St Vincent’s but if it was Lidl in Glasnevin it would be the Mater. I know all the hospitals and I’m good at supermarkets too but they only asked me silly questions like what day it is and who is the President of Ireland, I don’t know, I told them, go and find out for yourself. But the supermarkets well I know them all: H. Williams, Superquinn, Centra, Spar, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and then there are the ones in England Sainsburys, Waitrose, oh I know them all but no-one seems interested in supermarkets.
Doesn’t matter, they are all very kind and tell me I can go home soon only I don’t know where home is. I told them 17 Dagenham Road, Leyton, London E.10 but they said that can’t be right. Why I don’t know. Just as I was getting a bit angry with them, a nice man helped me fill in the forms and answer all their questions, he seemed to recognise me. Maybe he works in Tesco. Quite fancied him actually but he’d be too old for me. Funny, the nurse said he was my husband. Silly girl that can’t be right, he’s old enough to be my father. But he isn’t. I don’t know why they think he’s my husband.
They keep telling me I’m confused but I’m not. It’s all very straighforward I fell over somewhere and cut myself and broke my leg in one of the supermarkets and now I am in one of the hospitals. I don’t know which one but it doesn’t matter. My mum will come and take me home soon. I wonder where she’s got to.
Lovely girl came in with daffodils and asked me if I knew who she was. Very sorry, I told her, give me a clue. She started to cry so I asked her to leave, can’t be doing with that kind of thing. She said she’d come back but I told her not to bother as I would be going soon. I don’t know what’s keeping Mum.
I don’t know when I am going to get something to eat. It’s 2 o’clock and I haven’t had anything since yesterday. They must have forgotten me. When I shouted they took no notice and that big one told me to be quiet and said I had my dinner half an hour ago, but that’s a lie.
They all have Irish accents here all except the black doctor. I can’t understand him at all. He asked me my name and I said everyone knows their name. That’s easy. I know my name I told him. I told the girl already, it’s Vera, named after Vera Lynn I am. My mum loves her, she’s beautiful. She sings that song – We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, don’t know ….., don’t know …………, don’t know….……., don’t know …………….
The gods of electronic reading material (GERM) are not on my side.
My son in America asked me what I wanted for Christmas. A Kindle, I said, or one of those Sony Readers. Lovely boy bought me a Nook in a wonderful lime green suede cover. Thing is the actual Nook device had been stolen in the airport on the way over so on Christmas Day when I opened it all I had was the cover. He organised a replacement and it arrived very quickly. I was overjoyed.
It is truly amazing. It is in colour, it has a built-in dictionary, battery lasted for long enough to read a 800 page book and there was access to over 2,000,000 books. Only there wasn’t at least not for me because you can only purchase ebooks for the Nook if you are in the US. They wouldn’t even let me download the free ones.
The son was very upset and tried all ways to get around this but to no avail. The Nook had to be returned.
On hearing my plight Brother Ron said I could have his Sony Reader ebook which he no longer used, having upgraded to the iPad. It came in the post and I was mightily impressed. It looks very neat and unobtrusive with its brown leather cover. It is as light as a feather and fits into my handbag perfectly.
He had already purchased and downloaded over 100 books. Unfortunately Ron’s reading tastes and mine are not the same. You can have too much of John Grisham and Tom Clancy.
I went on the computer, selected Room by Emma Donoghue, paid my money and then went through the process of downloading the Reader Library and Adobe to make it all work. The book landed on my desktop and all I had to do was download it to my Sony. But I can’t because I am not the ‘authorised’ owner.
Maybe it’s a sign from the aforementioned gods to give up my fancy ideas and return to the Library.
I went to see my GP on Friday. He smiled when I walked in the door and said he was glad I had come to see him. I was surprised by such a welcome and asked him why. Because, he said, I like to hear from my patients firsthand rather than read about them in The Irish Times. She was only doing some research on behalf of my blemish as she calls it, I said. Would I ever bypass you? Besides it’s free with the medical card to see you and that clinic on Sandymount Green would probably charge an arm and a leg.
It’s only a smallish brown mark and if I use a concealer it hardly shows, but it does seem to be getting bigger.
It’s not that I’m vain or anything, well only a little bit, but people have been saying weird things to me lately. Is that a bruise on your forehead or it’s a bit early for ashes or I’d get something done about that and one elderly lady said “they used to call them tea stains in my day”.
My good GP is referring me to a dermatologist. It will probably take an age to get an appointment meanwhile I might have to grow a fringe.
That’s not me by the way, in case you’re wondering, just some beautiful model from Google images.
I’ll keep you posted.
I was watching something on the television recently which made me recall my brief experience of war time. I was born ten days before the war started and was six when it ended but even though I was so young some things I will never forget.
I suppose it was one of the first disappointments of my life. I thought it was a special present. Opening boxes was supposed to be fun, even if they were brown cardboard ones. Daddy had bought me a red and blue Mickey Mouse version; nothing was ever too good for Baby Ann. Everybody else’s was black. But I hated it nevertheless.
I don’t know if it was once a week or once a month we had to do the gas mask drill in school and I dreaded it. The smell of the mask made me sick. It was so hot and stuffy that I felt I was suffocating. The feel of the rubber against my skin made me itch. My breathing was not that great then as it was a few years later that I had to have my adenoids and tonsils removed so I constantly thought that every breath inside that mask was my last.
The boys in the class seemed to like the drill because they found a way of blowing out through the rubber to make rude noises. Looking around at my classmates was frightening too. We all looked like aliens.
I learned years later that it was an unnecessary exercise anyway because the enemy never used gas warfare. They just bombed the place.
I could have been scarred for life. In fact I never thought about it for years until I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Now every night I have to wear a mask and whilst it doesn’t make me look like Mickey Mouse and it isn’t black or rubbery I still can’t warm to it.
Thinking about gas masks reminded me of the air raid shelter. My father, like many other people in East London, had an Anderson air raid shelter constructed in the garden. It was dug into the ground and was made of corrugated iron which was then covered in clay. It felt like going into a grave. Earwigs were all over it and the smell of the damp earth all pervasive.
I can’t remember using it that much because my mother tried to get away from London as much as she could to visit my Great Aunt in Devon where she lived at the time.
We were in Torquay where Great Aunt Em lived and on my birthday I was asked to carry a piece of the cake to a neighbour and being me nibbled a bit of the icing on the way. Unfortunately, it was the same piece of icing on which a bee had just alighted.
But that’s another story …….
It’s been a sad week in The Windmill. Too sad really to talk about.
The only thing that has kept me going is the marmalade. It has to be made in January or early February when the Seville oranges are available. My son Michael kindly bought me some oranges and daughter Rachael gave me sugar so it has practically cost me nothing except time and energy.
It is therapeutic in its own way, all that squeezing, chopping and boiling but very time consuming. It can only be made in batches of six jars so the whole process has to be repeated over and over. I finally lost it at the very last batch as the molten marmalade boiled over. The cooker was a sorry mess.
Marmalade making was just what I needed to cope with the situation. Why is it always food that keeps me going and why on earth do I think it will help anybody else? One of my daughters and her husband were made redundant the same week some years back and they came to tell me. I fussed around and made them a splendid meal, everything that I knew they liked best. All they really wanted was for me to sit down with them, talk it through, give them a kiss and a cuddle.
I think I do better now and with the pungent background odour of marmalade boiling I gave lots of much needed love and attention and received it back in abundance.
Lots of the marmalade will be given away. It makes a good present for those who like it. Here at home it will be a constant reminder of a sad time in our lives. Nevertheless we will look to the future and January 2012 when the next batch will be made.