Life, photos but not the universe

For what it’s worth

You know how they keep saying that, on beauty product ads, “because you’re worth it“?

It drives me nuts.

Long ago I decided or accepted that no one owes me anything and only I choose what I might be prepared to owe anyone else.  As a child, I was never given to understand that I had adequately earned anything and it has always been hard for me to believe that I could.  I used to think, sometimes that I could con people into thinking I had and then I realised that a lot of  other people are just as bright as I am and so if they thought I’d earned something they were probably right.  None of us needs to believe other people are more stupid than we are unless there’s proof.

Anyway.  What’s with this worth it thing anyway?  I’m worth some crap face paint? Some stuff to fill in cracks and tell lies about my age? My years? My life?  My face?  If I’m ‘worth’ anything, it’s written on my face and in the wrinkles around my eyes and I’m not ashamed of it. Those things are mine.  Aren’t they good enough for me?  If not, that’s my problem and it won’t be fixed with paint and cream.

Self worth now.  Again, worth what?  Am I for sale?  I don’t ever recall offering myself?  And what price can you put on a self?  How many apples is a life worth?  As many as someone will give or as many as someone asks?  Uh uh.  I am, thank you very much, my own self.  If I were to put a value on that I’d be putting a box round it.  Putting a limit on it.  I don’t need that.  I’m priceless : )

(And it hasn’t escaped my notice that quite often when people talk about self worth, they’re really talking about doing things you don’t want to do in order to make yourself feel as though it’ll improve you and therefore is worth doing.  In spite of not wanting to.)

Anyway, feeling decidedly virtuous after a shower and tidy-up and clearing of various tasks and also, having done my hair neatly (instead of scrabbling it into some kind of semi-order as I’ve been doing recently), I decided to add to my virtuousness by taking the dog out and giving him an extra long amble in the field.  (that would be half an hour instead of twenty minutes).  Immediately, as we arrived at the field, a brisk downpour descended upon us and my nice hair was flattened, one of my boots started to leak and the dog suggested that we hurry up and go home (he’s such a wimp about rain).  So much for extra virtue!

Meanwhile, they tell me, Spring is heading this way.  Indeed, the snowdrops are out and even a few crocuses are glowing yellow on the bank.  (I’d take a photo but it’s pouring with rain out there).  What’s more, it’s a good bit warmer today.  I’m really looking forward to Spring.  It’s been a long, cold winter.  An excellent thing I imagine, for the confused and globally warmed wildlife but, well, it’s only natural to look forward to warmth at its proper place and in its proper time – that would be tomorrow then?  No?  Next week?  Next month?

Soon, please.

Oh and today, I opened a bill for heating oil – Oh good I thought, I’ll be glad to get that sorted.  Er, just a minute ….. £4,999.68 ????????????

Ok, back to the phone.

On the subject of Spring though, last night a fellow diner (we went out for diner) said he’d seen a frog crossing the road and today, I notice that the dog is moulting copiously again (he’s been wonderfully, thickly and solidly hairy all winter).  Also, the birds have been singing a lot recently, loudly and in chorus.  Could be good news.

I knew I had a frog somewhere

And I thought you’d like to see the little harris hawk on his way home past the pub.  He didn’t sing much I have to say.

I’ll spare you a photo of dog moulting.  It’s not particularly interesting, take my word for it.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Of devils and ashes and the sea

There’s a devil in the computer.  Well actually, it’s not in the computer, it’s in Barney’s email provider (server, host, whatever you call it).  We do intend to change to another provider (host, server whatever – Oh I do wish I knew what all these things mean).  However, last week, without telling me, they cut us off because our payment details were out of date.  They say they would have sent an email to let us know about this before cutting us off but no email ever arrived.  And I kept checking the account and being told that nothing was due.

So I spent a couple of days, hunting through their site, cursing a lot and sending increasingly frantic emails to Eldest.  Eventually I phoned them (which no doubt cost us an arm and a leg) and renewed their unreliable, suspect and unstable whatever it is that we get from them, being reduced by the concentration required to follow their instructions to near hysteria.  What’s more, I vaguely recall having to go through exactly the same procedure a couple of years ago.

Put the phone down, praying that whatever I’d renewed was the thing that would get Barney’s email up and running again, though it didn’t sound right.  “I don’t understand!”  I wailed to the computer screen.

Now I need to check if I have to do stuff to other domains.

Oh and yesterday an incomprehensible email arived talking about DNS and other stuff which I also don’t understand.  If it’s not all up and running within 24 hours, I should contact them in case it’s something more serious.  Oh!  Ugh!

*faint wail echoing into the virtual void*

By way of escaping from all that and in hopes of recovering some equilibrium, I read two short books today.

Both rely heavily (and very successfully) on style of language for effect, both have only a very small cast of characters and both are almost completely contained within journeys.  Also, both deal with love and tenderness and dependence.

Yet they couldn’t be more different if the authors had agreed on it.

One is Cormack McCarthy’s celebrated and quite distressingly powerful “The Road” and the other is Candida Clarke’s lyrical and lush “The Mariner’s Star“.  One is dark and scary and heavy, the other is bright and fluid and shimmery.  One is apocalyptic and the other, visionary.  One is dry and sparse and often horrifying, the other rich and colourful.  One set in a landscape of snow and ash and the other of water and light.  Both are moving and deal with tragedy.

I have to say that the Mariner’s Star is lightweight compared to McCormack’s masterpiece but reading them one after the other was an interesting experience.   I’d recommend both without hesitation (but with a warning that The Road is pretty shattering in places).

I think I’d better go to sleep now.

Good night.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Gathering up the pieces of memory

We will miss the frequent, extraordinarily brief phone calls just to check that we were all well and to confirm that he was.  And the other phone calls with requests for recipes and cooking information – how long would you cook a lamb chop?  Under the grill?  Is it safe to eat a stew I made last week if it’s been in the fridge since Tuesday?  What do you suggest I add to the poached haddock?  Oh and we’ll so miss the calls from, for instance, a trip boat, somewhere out on an estuary where he’d gone for the day with his cousin, or from some hotel in the North where he was enjoying a weekend with friends.

We’ll miss the carefully detailed advance instructions about who should park in which order when we visited him at his home. We won’t miss the very early starts on journeys to be quite sure that we’d arrive before dark – even when he was being driven by one of us.  But I’ll always treasure the memory of the enormous pleasure he took in having discovered a route from our house to his which involved not a single right turn or major roundabout once you’d got onto the motorway system.

I’ll remember with rueful affection the gentle, beaming and mischievous twinkle with which he’d ask “And what delights will you be tempting me with tonight  (for dinner)?” or “Do you have any little sweetmeats for me?”

Then there was the time I went to look after him during a bout of severe food poisoning (which most unfairly, he got from a pie eaten on his 82nd  birthday).  “It’s over-rated, being 82”, he said mournfully regarding a very tiny bowl of porridge.  “I don’t like it much”.  And then after few days he announced (at breakfast time) “I think I could fancy two or three prawns, cooked in butter with a very small piece of brown bread”.  Yay! I thought, he’s on the way back : )

As soon as he was recovered, he was off again, visiting people, enjoying his lunchtime drinks with old friends and making the most of every resource he had.

It was such fun to watch him at gatherings, flirting outrageously but in the most acceptable way with all the ladies.  Yet, his was a restful presence.  We could sit for a good while in silence, reading and just an occasional word would pass between us.  Not to say that he wasn’t great company (always immaculately dressed, even if he was only going to the pub for a pint and a game of crib), interested in people, respectful of them whether they were there or not. He liked a well turned phrase and had a gentle and kindly wit.  The only things which made him angry were injustice and waste but many things gave him pleasure and he was always appreciative of good food and hospitality.  It made him a delight to entertain.

Of all my family, I believe he was the least emotionally stressful.  It is typical of him that in his last few days he made the effort to squeeze hands and make eye contact.  So gentle, so considerate and so determined not to cause any inconvenience.

Not that he didn’t make his needs and desires known.  And indeed he could be absolutely exasperating but searching my memories, I really can’t remember exactly why.  He always managed to be neither self effacing nor obtrusive but had a kind of unassuming dignity which was totally disarming.   He always paid attention, be it to a demanding child or a grouchy daughter in law : )  And made the best of whatever he found.

I think he wouldn’t thank us for making too much of the grief and sadness which his absence will cause.  He always moved on with fortitude and determination from loss and difficulty and illness and he would expect his family and friends to do the same.  I for one, am grateful and proud to have been included in his family and to have had the privilege of knowing him.  I know that wherever he went there are many others who feel the same.  As he lived, so he will be remembered, with deep affection, admiration and respect.

Well, here’s a photo which captures his humour,  joie de vivre and charm (thank you Peter, for making a lovely portrait of him).

What a lovely man.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Chickens and Rachmaninov

So how come whenever the children visit, I end up signed into all kinds of places with all sorts of other people’s names?  Me, I’d sign myself out if I was on someone else’s computer.  It’s just tidier isn’t it?

I was just thinking about chicken stories.  I was reminded about one I read a while ago involving chickens living on the central reservation on a freeway.  They, of course had a very good reason for crossing the road and it wasn’t to get to the other side.  It was so they could develop their own civilisation in peace, discover quantam physics and leave by ftl space-ship for a better world.

Naturally the local council, the county authorities,  and passing drivers all wanted to remove the possibly hazardous chickens from the reservation and to dismantle the curious structures that appeared to have sprung up there with no obvious manufacturing source.  Obviously it didn’t occur to anyone that the chickens were responsible for creating objects that seemed to have some very strange properties – too strange in fact for the scientists to understand but interesting enough for the FBI and other authoritative bodies to get slightly excited about.

I may have the details wildly screwed up but I think I remember the gist of it.  It was a good story.

A quick search for chicken stories led me to a illion google entries about chickens living on the freeway.   Also to this informative and valuable article by the late, revered Douglas Adams but no sign of the story above.

Meanwhile, family discussions on an order of service for Great Grandad’s funeral led me to spend some time listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the Ave Maria and Rachmaninov’s 2nd  Piano Concerto.  This led to an evening admiring Rachmaninov’s tremendous scope and lyricism.  I went from concerto to vespers to prelude and back to more vespers and quite frankly, I could have gone on listening to his work all night.   Wow!

But first I went for a walk in Winterbourne

and later the sun went down.

And now I’m tired so sleep well all

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

No title.

A couple of days ago, we went to see Great Grandad.  He held our hands and tried a weak half a smile.  And was very, very keen to be given refreshing mouth swabs and reluctant to let them go.  Got hold of them with his working hand and held on.   Darling, brave man.  He died last night, peacefully, as far as we know.

Meanwhile, messages and well wishes are pouring in.  Friends have been ringing one or other of the family every day to ask how he was – he was a very well loved man.  His Macmillan nurse visited him every day (he recovered from cancer a few years ago but she still kept in touch with him).  All Barney’s friends from the pub asked after him – they all love him too just from the times he comes to stay with us.  He was a great gentleman, kind, considerate, witty and gallant.

We’ll miss him so much.  But we wouldn’t have wished him the kind of life he would have had to endure if he’d lived through the stroke.  So, rest in peace darling  Dad.   We have been greatly privileged to know you.

With his daughter at the Family party last year.

February 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

No fire without smoke therefore no heat without smoke.

I notice that while we were really not very interested in the little hairy visitor, being more concerned about Great Grandad, our surviving cat has made it very clear that this is her territory and any whippersnapper of an ignorant, interloping, spaniel puppy can take it as read that CAT is (in every way that matters – cat is in fact tiny and spaniel is quite large) BIGGER and MUCH MORE DANGEROUS than spaniel*.  It’s just one of those relationships where age and experience count. Tosca is making it count and Jess is waiting politely and nervously in doorways until she has permission or a human escort to go past CAT WHO MUST BE OBEYED.

I suspect that when Jess goes home to her own people she may well want to ask them if she could have some new spectacles so she can work out how big a very small cat really is.

The fact is, that down to earth stuff like heating, animals, and the infuriating chirping of the smoke alarm letting you know that its battery is flat, just keep bringing you back to the practical present.  You might want (and I do) to think solemn thoughts about LTU& death but the heating suddenly becomes much more important than anything else.  If it happens to have run out of fuel.  Which it has.

We spent most of Sunday afternoon obtaining various parts for the movable gas fired room heater and then taking them back because they weren’t right.  It’s a very old heater.   And dealing with a large excitable puppy.  And cursing the chirping smoke alarm.  And forgetting to change the battery.

This morning I discovered that although I have remembered how to fire the dummy gun thing, I don’t always get all the bits quite pushed in enough.  Also that someone has put some empty cartridges in the cartridge box.  So several of my brave shots didn’t happen at all and several more were just damp squibs and flopped the dummy into the mud a few feet away.  Then, although I can handle**  the kick, after struggling with cartridges and muddy bits of gun for ten minutes, my fingers won’t push the cartridges in properly as they’ve gone numb and lost all their push.

So I may have to resort to mile long walks to keep the excitable puppy effectively wearied enough to live with.  In which case I shall have all kinds of shoulder problems as she darts and dashes and suddenly pulls the end of the lead more stressfully than the gun kicks!

The heating oil should arrive this afternoon.  Perhaps the boiler will immediately and happily fire up.  But then perhaps it won’t.

So the other thing I need to do is keep the home fires burning.  I’m so glad I gave Barney a pair of bellows for Christmas.  They’re really useful when you’ve forgotten to keep piling wood on the fire.  And they make a lot of very encouraging smoke.

Speaking of smoke, yesterday a steam train went through Newbury.  Rather than moping and hanging around by the phone, Barney went to watch it.  He took some rather good photos and  I was a bit envious : )

Great Grandad is holding his own.

*I really wish wordpress would let me do different sizes of typeface.


February 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The balance of things

I will be even more erratic than normal for a while.  My beloved Father in Law has had a major stroke and is in hospital..  Much frantic family driving up and down the country to visit him (visits much complicated by the fact that the hospital is closed to visitors because of Noro virus).  Further complications include an extra dog and  our heating oil having run out.  Ah well.

He’s eighty odd and the latest information suggests that he won’t live a lot longer.

So there’s a lot of driving and dog walking to be done!  And, when we’re allowed in to see Dad,  hand holding and love to be offered.

Also a lot of phone calls to old friends who haven’t been able to visit because of the virus.  There are always lighter moments to be found.  Barney was going through a list of people to phone and we’ve agreed to put one at the end of the list – he’s very deaf and it somehow adds a note of semi farce to be shouting the news down the phone.  This does none of us any harm!

Curious that he had the stroke the day after learning about Middle Girl’s baby.  Some sort of cosmic balancing there.  And so good that he did get to hear the news.

February 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

May be away for a while

A day which began with snow and sunshine and should have ended with a birthday dinner (not mine, Barney’s).  It has ended a little differently than we had imagined.

Just as we were about to, leave, we got a phone call to tell us that Barney’s Dad was in hospital, having had a possible stroke.  Not a lot of information and we couldn’t decide whether to rush off or wait till tomorrow when we could go together after sorting out animals and such like.  But during dinner, we got more messages and it seems he had a massive stroke.   Not really likely to recover soon, if at all.

We skipped pudding and went home and Barney has gone, a two and a half hour drive in the snow.  Just in case.  Tomorrow I shall deposit various animals and cancel assorted engagements and follow.

Various phone calls have been made to grandchildren and each other.  It’s never easy to deal with the conflicting practicalities and emotional demands of these things.

Well, a couple of hours ago, he was sitting up and winking at the nurses even though he couldn’t speak.  They are surprised, after such a big stroke, that he’s conscious at all.  We aren’t .  He’s the perfect gentleman and a very tough old bird to boot.   He wouldn’t dream of being unconscious when people are looking after him.

Damn, damn and double damn.  I hope I get to see him soon.

February 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A very important announcement!

Finally, I’m allowed to tell the world!

We are going to become Grandparents again.  Middle girl is having a baby.  In fact she texted me after seeing the scan yesterday and said ”

it’s amazing – we really are having a baby!!!”


And they’ve found a new place to live – no icicles on the kitchen window and enough room in the kitchen for both  – in fact, all three of them : )


I’m temporarily speechless.  So I’ll go and make coffee : )

February 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Beethoven, don’t roll over just yet

My fiddle teacher wants me to play something at the end of term concert.  Please bear in mind that though I went though a period of intensive practice a few(lot of) years ago I now only play about once a week and that rather randomly.  So I was a trifle disconcerted when she suggested the Beethoven Romance No 2 in G major!

However, nothing ventured and all that.  So we plodded and stumbled my way through it a couple of times.  Then, just out of, um, a vague need to know what the real thing sounds like (I kow the tune but I can never remember how all the very fast, very high twiddly bits ought to sound because I never play them up to speed and when real players do them I don’t recognise all the notes because they make them sound so easy) I looked it up and found this.

Nice isn’t it.

I wonder if I could attach little ladders to my violin for my fingers to run up and down?

It’s snowing.  Just a bit.  And there’s a man outside pulling bits of metal fencing out of the hedge opposite.  He must be getting awfully cold hands.  I have a feeling he’s the man to whom I should be giving the water meter reading but somehow I feel that he might not want that just now.  Anyway, reading the water meter involves emptying a whole cupboard and removing the shelf and then crawling into it with a torch, a notepad and pen and a cobweb removing implement.  Indeed, every year I wonder if this will be the year I just get stuck in there for good. One year, the cat got stuck in there and had to be prodded out backwards with a cat removing implement pushed at her from the cupboard under the sink (and she didn’t even have the sense to read the meter while she was there).  If I get stuck it will be more a question of fastening ropes and haulage implements to my rear end and pulling!

Then there’s the contents of the cupboard.  Kitchen gadgets and useful plastic containers.  Lots and lots and lots of those.  I just can’t bear to throw them away.  Stacks of used soup cartons, and stacks of lids.  Lots of really neat little takeaway boxes and other boxes and sunflower spread boxes and more heaps of lids.  Isn’t it a shame that plastic packaging comes in so many shapes and sizes that the lids aren’t interchangeable?  Every so often I throw out all the ones I can’t find lids for.  Shortly afterwards I find the lids  – for which there are no longer matching pots or boxes.

I may be gone some time.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments