Sunday, 28 July 2013

Life May be Hard but no Cause to be Miserable.

    I've been blogging for around four years, posting roughly weekly. Not sure why I blog, but it's a personal and somewhat addictive pastime that keeps the old braincells working. Having said that, I find it difficult at times to find something interesting to say. Are you, dear readers the same?
    For some time I have attended physiotherapy twice a week at a local hospital and am struck at how our little group (around 20 people) is a world of its own. 'We' have become a group isolated from the 'real' world; we don't care, at least for ninety minutes what is happening beyond the walls of the centre; neither do 'they' know or care about us. We peddle, we pump, we sweat, swear and toil yet the rest of the world doesn't know and doesn't care as to our efforts. We are in the main at least middle aged; we are nearly all sporting replacement knees and we are trying, oh so hard to return to the world of less pain and more mobility.
    These are harrowing afternoons. Painful in the extreme, usually followed by at least as painful following days. Doubt and uncertainty often rule; I frequently doubt my progress and it shows; yet in a way it's an experience not to be missed. The staff, occupational and physio therapists are without exception brilliant, caring people. Professionals whom it has been a privilege to meet. Plus knee replacement groups are made up of a random cross section of the population. Thus memories will no doubt linger on long after our afternoon efforts return us to 'the land of the living'.
    Whatever the stage in life we are at, however fleeting the moment, there are always people who help in our 'time of need'. Michael, discharged last week is such a man. A cheerful if diminutive man, very Irish with legs that would have no chance of stopping a pig in an entry; born one of nineteen children, he maintained academic prowess had never been his strong point in life. I will particularly remember Mick and the physic classes with affection, particularly for two stories, tales that Mick related to me during our all too brief acquaintance. (I know, I know, we were supposed to be working ALL of the time! Old men can 'chatter as well as old women; perhaps even more so!)
    Michael went into a Derby glaziers for a pane of glass. He carried with him no measurements. He indicated the size he required by holding up his hands and indicating a pane of glass that was 'roughly', very 'roughly' fifteen inches 'squarish'.  The glazier was not impressed but attempts at obtaining more accurate measurements from Michael fell on deaf ears. Somewhat miffed, definitely unimpressed, the glazier disappeared into the back, eventually reappearing with a pane of glass 'roughly' of the size indicated by Michael. Michael took the pane of glass, paid for it and turned to go. As he did so, the glazier, obviously thinking he was dealing with a customer of inferior intelligence to himself said, sarcastically, 'I hope it fits.' Michael stopped for a moment, turned and retorted to the 'superior' glazier, 'Oh, it will for sure. I haven't made the frame yet!'
    I was fascinated by Michael and his 'Irish history. ' Evidently the grandfather of Michael served with distinction in the Royal Irish Fusiliers in the Great War. But it would seem that those of Irish descent were often rated as inferior by those  English upper class leaders prevalent in all aspects of the British Army. Thus they were 'tested' on occasion by some eager to gauge the mettle of Irish soldiers.
    The two battalions were engaged in fierce close fighting on occasion. Each forced the other back but any gain was often short lived. It was imperative that the strategy of the Germans be obtained if progress were to be made. Pigeon carriers were often used by the Germans but were open targets and often finished up in the No-Mans Land situated between the two front lines. It was imperative that the British retrieve at least one of the German messages. And who of course volunteered for this important mission?
    Granddad Michael bravely entered No-Mans Land and diligently searched at great risk to himself until a body, complete with message was discovered and recovered. Triumphantly granddad placed the body in his rucksack and returned quickly to his battalion. His commanding officer was ecstatic, the Lieutenant- Colonel was summoned and granddad was presented before him.
'Well done, my man' said the Lieutenant-Colonel. 'And what does the message say?'
'Coo, coo, coo coo, coo' said granddad Michael! 
    Thanks Michael, you're a star. Now if your children suggest you 'should get out more' I'm not suggesting you join a 'knee group' in order to meet people. But if you do 'join' don't be too despondent. As the saying goes, 'Every cloud has a silver lining.'

Friday, 19 July 2013

'Its All About Image!.'

     I had few preconceived ideas as to what myself and 'her indoors' might choose as our new transport. (Though I had read many, many reviews\reports so I reckon I was pretty 'au fait' with what was available.) Not that that makes much difference when it comes to the crunch. the choice is mind bending.  So we wandered the showrooms, read, listened and looked; and our search finally ended.
    The showroom was bright, glitzy, modern, the cars on offer gleaming, the many (six) young salesmen scurrying hither and thither equally so. A young salesman, very presentable caught the eye. 'Jonathan', he introduced himself, 'Can I help you.' So began a very interesting, very informative discussion. Jonathan knew everything conceivable about cars; and a fair bit concerning customers, though not so much concerning geriatrics! His self assurance was amazing though not offensive. Mind you, if he'd been in my class when I was a teacher I'd have sat him in the front where I could keep my eye on him!
    Very early in our 'chat' I remember Jonathan mentioned six things to put into order of preference: Performance, Safety. Reliability, Image, Comfort, Economy. Now I rated IMAGE as being highly relevant. Strange you might find this where 'geriatrics' are concerned. But not strange in my eyes. As George Burns once said, 'You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.' Similarly  John Greier put it; 'You're only young once,  but you can be immature forever.'  Gone are the days when old men chose rather staid Rovers and nothing else. So a car evolved which suggested fun and frivolity foremost. We left the showroom some time later having ordered the car of our dreams. The car, a SEAT, for we were indeed in the SEAT Derby showroom; the model, Ibiza; but not any old Ibiza.
    We had considered a red car but decided black always looks smart and doesn't date. What was it Henry Ford used to say, you can have any colour you like as long as its black. Something like that anyway! The standard seats were ok, nothing more; I remembered bucket seats in my youth so bucket seats it has to be. Plus an automatic is a priority in our condition; its not exactly fun getting old! Tinted windows plus a stripe down the side, imagine an old man or his wife driving such a vehicle; so tinted windows and a stripe it also had to be! Not forgetting a spoiler, just the car to have a spoiler! Add mud flaps, reversing sensors, sports suspension, various paint treatments and and extra posh boot/trunk coverings (the boot is big enough to house a zimmer I trust) and you have hopefully one special, now unique motor. You couldn't of course put all this on any old model, so a top of the range FR model it also has to be. Good move, Mr Salesman, test drive them in a top of the range model. (Plus petrol engined after years of diesels; I suspect diesel engines are becoming unpopular with governments.) Jonathan completed the paperwork and we finally went home for a lie down, excited, and a little apprehensive; a truly busy, busy day at our age!
    We were informed that our purchase had arrived in Derby and we waited, somewhat impatiently as the extra 'bits and pieces' were fitted to the car. Finally, just over two weeks later we were informed our new car was ready for collection. Like children at Christmas two excited old people arrived at the showrooms. Just inside the showroom entrance was a bright orange cover, obviously hiding a motorcar. Labelled 'Mr and Mrs Stevens' it was an unexpected but very much appreciated gesture. Well done Jonathan and Seat!
    We had almost forgotten what we had purchased. Taking off the cover revealed a gleaming, sporting, individualistic vehicle that really looks the part. (The tinted windows  reminds me of a gangsters car, brilliant.) We're thrilled to bits. And do you know what really sets it off? The number plate I purchased some years ago, ready for such an occasion. 0009 RAM. Correct, we belong to that ever optimistic band of people, Derby County Football Club supporters!
    Jonathan efficiently completed the paperwork and patiently.instructed us in the complex matter of mastering all the knobs, dials, levers etc that are part and parcel of modern motoring. Most of which I promptly forgot, hence my wife drove our purchase home! 
    We have owned 'Rammy' for several days now

and the original excitement is still there. My oh my, the technicalities of modern vehicles is mind bending. Suffice to say I feel more like a pilot than a car driver. Out of curiosity I will 'post' later concerning our experiences. If anyone suggests senior citizens should adopt a more serious attitude in life, think on. I might be over the hill, but thats better than being under it. Whatever your age, whatever your aspirations, do it now, there are only so many tomorrows. As a wise man once said, 'Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.'

Friday, 12 July 2013

When Times are Hard, Find a Distraction.

    Its been a torrid year, at least from a health point of view. What with my wife being diagnosed with glaucoma and having a stent fitted, my replacement knee making only slow, painful progress and my 'dodgy heart' syndrome; as Victoria might say, 'We are not amused.'
    I don't know about you all, but we find we need a distraction when times are rough. Our old car is fifteen years old, money is sitting doing nothing under the bed, large white fivers  and there are no pockets in shrouds so an attractive distraction was mooted. Lets buy a new car!
    Now I'm seventy three, have never bought a new car in my entire life and am not renowned for spending so everyone and his dog were most surprised. Particularly my daughter Alison, who views her fast diminishing inheritance with less than childlike approval. But who nevertheless likes her ageing parents to be happy; when I'm less than grumpy, the family is happy! Thus began a fascinating few weeks.
When I was young and single, I was into Cooper S's, bucket seats, spoilers and the like. I was also into traffic police disapproval, cautions, tickets and youthful rebellion. Then I got married and was into bringing up children, Mosvich cars and poverty and hand me down clothing. (I did think of registering my family as a charity.)

    'In the country of the blind the one eyed man is king.' H G Wells. The last few weeks remind me of this saying so much. I first posted concerning buying a new car on the 26th June. Next Tuesday we fetch our new vehicle. Hallelujah!!! Not bad going for two somewhat clueless geriatrics! We visited showrooms. We viewed cars at the bottom end of the market, Skodas, fine, nearly purchased, to Lexus, expensive, ok, but somehow not really 'us'. We were blinded by science, bombarded with figures (the going rate for discounts would appear to be around 8%.) Everyman and his dog (Yes the same dog that was surprised at our rash spending) gave us advice. Which of course we in the main ignored as is our style! Anyway, the die is cast, the deed is done. We fetch our new motor on Tuesday, God and the manufacturers willing. So what have we purchased. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Good Old Days

There seems to be a deal of interest television wise in the past at the moment. What do they say, 'Nostalgia ain't what it used to be'. An obvious choice I suppose, especially as the years roll by and we look, sometimes with rose tinted spectacles at our past experiences.
A two part look at Workhouses, (Secrets From the Workhouse) was a case in point. Featuring actor Brian Cox and actress Felicity Kendal and author Barbara Taylor-Bradford, the programmes showed how three 'celebrities' had family connections with Workhouses that were moving in the extreme.
Workhouses were severe, austere institutions that affected the lives of the poor, the destitute, those at the bottom of society for the whole of the Victorian era and some distance beyond. The Workhouse System ran from 1834-1929 and affected the lives of millions of people.
     Several of the instances related in the programmes were of personal interest.  (I was orphaned at the age of thirteen) and I viewed the hardships endured by the relatives of the 'celebrities' with fascinated horror but I could not get out of my mind an aspect of it all that must be common to many.
    We, especially those of 'senior years' have memories of childhood, of an era long since gone. Memories of family, of events that make us cry, laugh and occasionally wince; not too often the latter I hope. We remember mums, dads uncles and aunts. And hopefully granddads and grandmas, and perhaps great uncles and aunts. Then the fun starts! Great granddad and great grandma; and great great granddad and great great grandma and so on. What do you REALLY know about your ancestry. There seems to be a fascination for researching family trees. (I have always suspected the people who research hope to find they come from 'superior stock'. (My father is\was unknown. A funny feeling when you are seventy three! It has been suggested my father was someone who 'visited the big house.' My mother was a 'skivy' for the rich for much of her adult life. She died aged forty six or seven.)
     In the years after war some of my contemporaries had 'dodgy credentials. Dad was really uncle. No dad present but who was the  bloke who brought stockings for mum when he called and often seemed to stay the night. The village where I lived, called Ockbrook is very sought after, very, expensive and 'posh' nowadays. Now why does the term used by an old relation spring to mind. ('All fur coat and no knickers.')
One particular point concerning the celebrities centrals on their workhouse connections. All are now famous people in their own right. All knew little of their ancestry beyond, say, a third generation. So, once again I ask, why do you REALLY know about yourself.
(If anyone is interested, click on the book 'A Childhood Revisited' at the top of my blog. It will take you to the book on Amazon. The book will appear. Click on it and you can read the first twenty pages for nothing!)

An apology
To those kind individuals who have replied to recent posts. I am struggling to hold things together after the surgery. Hence the spasmodic posts. I have read all comments. Replies will recommence in time. thanks to you all.