Saturday, May 16, 2015

What you know, or don't.

Sometime after her husband died, some started suggesting that M had bounced back too quickly. When I told Pam, she immediately said, "Of course, that is what they say. Unless she takes longer: then they will say that she is wallowing in it, she's unable to move on, she's hanging on to it."
Pam is at least 15 years younger than me, and how she knows such is a mystery to me, but of course it's true.  Perhaps it's because she grew up in small communities, where it's not only Miss Marple who observes and knows people.
For some years the neighbouring house to mine - separated by an empty block - was rented. Sheila was there for some years: An older woman, Sheila with her frizzy dyed orange perm was happy and unselfconscious in her shorts and sleeveless tops despite her withered, stringy  limbs. Cheery, smiley Shelia, head always popping up over the fence, exhuberant. Her partner - let's call him Len - was short and stout, a suitable foil.
Some time after my husband died, I started finding reasons to blame myself. E. G.: I had always served healthy food, I believed, including 3 vegetables. Suddenly I found out that this should have been five.
Guilt. Endless opportunities for guilt, self reproach. (Now, I understand, it's seven).
The next time I saw Sheila she had changed. Gone was the orange mini-afro: she was grey, fringed, bobbed. When I spoke to her she stared blankly, hostiley, accusing. She turned away. She seemed to endorse my guilt.
It was some months later that I read in the daily paper that a man had had a heart attack and died in his back yard. It was Len. I dithered, fearing Sheila's scorn, but wrote sympathetically and popped it in her letter box.
I didn't expect an answer, but there it was, from Sheila's brother, thanking me. "I don't know whether you know that Shelia (sic) had Alzimer's?" he said. "She was a lovely woman." I thought of Sheila then, staring into the mirror at this woman with an iron grey Dutch bob, wondering how her curly orange identity had been stolen by this old woman.
A disputing couple came next. They had excellent social connections, but I doubt any of those would have believed the vituperative exchanges that rang around from morning till late at night. Breathtakingly vicious. .
After them came a solo man who played music so loudly that birds fled the trees once he started. It was not possible for me to hear my television. It was an assault I assumed one had to endure. Vicky knew better. Much younger than me, she also had grown up in small communities.
"He was obviously trying to bait us," she said. He was? I didn't realise that.
Vicky went head on. Having dinner guests one evening and being drowned out by his noise, she crossed the lane to his house, complimented him on his taste in music, asked the name of the album, thanked him for the fact that she didn't have to play any music for her guests because his provided it all. She invited him over one evening to meet her her husband and family.
There was no more loud music. Ever. V peacefully solved what I saw as an unsolvable issue. Knowledge of a variety of people, such as you gain in a small community,  give insights that such as I are blind to.
The house was sold after that. For some years there was a very occasional marijuana plant in my yard, but even they have stopped.
All is peaceful ... which, in retrospect, can sound boring, can it not?  I don't mind at all. Boring gets a bad press.

Independent? Quelle surprise!

During the week I read an article by Helen Garner, recounting how tired she was of being patronised because of her white/grey hair. I knew exactly what she meant.
I think it was P.D. James who said that she was ignored at  functions until people heard her name, at which point they flocked to her.  As an older woman, the assumption from her appearance was that she was of no interest. Why is this? Do they think she will try to teach them how to crochet? Or, sew lavender bags?
Today I went to the book fair. When my collection became too heavy, I paid for it, thinking I might put it in my car and then return for more. I bought an omnibus of 5 Muriel Spark novels, "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne", Robert Dessaix's "Night Letters", Stephen King's "Dolores Cläiborne," "For Love Alone"by Christina Stead and her biography by Hazel Rowley, (One of the finest biographies ever written about and Australian  - The Age). "Asta's Children" by Barbara Vine, Deborah Mitford's "Wait For Me,"  "Behind the Scenes at a Museum," (K.A.). and "Death in Kashmir" by M, M. Kaye. Some of these are errors: I don't need anything as sad as Judith Hearne, so I won't read it. Deborah is no writer - I read a chapter here and there, and, eg, although she speaks of the close association with JFK, her visits to the whitehouse, inauguration etc, Jackie seems absent on each of these occasions. Why is this? It's possibly the most interesting aspect of well recorded occasions. The Dessaix is not the one I thought it was, but I will still re - enjoy it.
My books cost $45.They weighed a little over 10 kilos.$4.50 a kilo! What a bargain. (irony alert).
I really was hoping to find some Barbara Pym's or Elizabeth Taylor's, neither in the library these days.  No chance.
"Would you like someone to carry them to the car?" the man asked.
"No thanks. I'm fine,"I said.
"Ah, fiercely independent," he said. Everyone else in the hall, save those in wheelchairs, were independent. Why single me out?
Fiercely. Fiercely. There's the rub.
Perhaps I should have said, "Yes," and he could have seen me as "gently dependent".  Perhaps I could play on this and ask if there is someone who might like to vacuum my house. Cook my meals. Launder my clothes. Do all the chores I have no interest in. Perhaps I could soulfully and dependently suggest that they pay my bills as well.
Until six months or so ago I posted on a partisan political blog. I gave up this addiction because I thought I was often intemperate, immoderate. By chance I clicked on it this week when some were nostalging about the past, and my name came up - (I posted under my own name). "Stalwart and courageous", said someone.  "What a dame," said someone else. "Quite a dame," was another comment. Some remembered how I had defended them. Happier appraisals than "fiercely independent."
Helen Garner recounts in her article how she accosted a badly behaved teenager who was bullying passers by, yanked her ponytail, sent her on her way. I don't have the kind of courage that would allow me to do that.
On the other hand I suspect that if I were hauled before the beak on such a charge, my grey/white hair might prove to be a totally mitigating factor.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Just another day ... and that's good enough

C. rang this afternoon, and I'm flattered that a 28 year old wants to talk to me.  She has a perfectly good mother (and father), but they have difficulties at the moment, so she could tell me of issues that she might feel might burden them at present: I am happy to be a surrogate. She is leaving her prestigeous city job and going to work near a remote country town (population: 9).
I went to the library and immediately came across 2 books that I had been going to reserve, Good fortune! After, I went to the supermarket....urgh. I'm not quite sure why I say that: the routine, perhaps? Mundane, I suppose. I find the checkout assistants to be energetic, polite, quite sweet really. Insincere? Not really. How sincere can you be to a passing stranger? I assume that they feel goodwill for that instant. What else could I ask of them?
Some assistants - (lord, I don't want to call them checkout chicks) -I have known for years. Before I went away in 2012, one, a woman in her fifties told me how she had bought a new (2nd hand) car and was planning a trip to Hawaii. When I returned, 15 months later I asked how the trip had been. "Oh, that was ages ago," she said. "Since then I've been to -(I forget where) - and Dubai. 
Everyone I know travels. "How was the trip to Turkey?" I asked June. "Wonderful,"she said. "But since then I've been to - (I forget where) - and Paris. Next week I'm meeting friends in Bali." 
Andrew and I were talking of this travel frenzy at the supermarket. Andrew is grizzled, forthright, down to earth, an independent spirit. On their retirement, he and his wife - one of the earliest women to obtain a doctorate in her field of agriculture - bought a run down farm and took to farming. He spoke with delicious irony of advertisements offering European river cruises "with your own private butler".
"Your own private butler" used to be the Goanese stewards on all P and O ships.
Some time later friends told me about their glorious time on such. Their "own private butler" enhanced it, of course. Different folk, different strokes, as they say.
Easter Island, Myanmar. El Camino Real, either on foot or on bicycle ... people have a hunger for travel/experience that I simply don't share. Don't understand.
David Lodge, who Relatively Retiring introduced me to, has some interesting insights into travel.

Leaving the supermarket I thought: "It is probably 5.10." Looked at the clock and it was 5.09. I think many can estimate time like this, without quite knowing how.
For some months I have been waking around 6.40 a.m., rather earlier than I want to. I assumed that when daylight saving ended this would turn into 7.40...however, it, whatever it is,  immediately put its clock back, and I still wake around 6.40. Evidently I have an inbuilt snooze alarm, because I find it easy to sleep after this until, say, 7.30. which is when I choose to get up. I think that we are odder than we know.
This year I have been getting occasional hand cramps, locking my fingers into mildly painful, quite unuseable shapes that make typing or handwriting impossible. I googled, and tried the first, absurd suggestion: hold a cake of soap. It worked/works. The cramp vanishes before my fingers have closed around the cake. How odd is that?