Tuesday 29 January 2013

I'm Ninety Nine You Know.

Much of my time is spent writing. At the moment I am involved in writing four short, non too serious plays; I am on number four. I am not even sure as to why I am doing this. This play is based on my grandmother who died in her ninety nineth year.
Any comments and 'what happens next' welcome. At the back of my mind the idea of plays of mine being performed on stage greatly appeals; I can but dream. (The photo is of my grandmother and wife in our courtship days. We have been married just short of forty three happy years!)

“There are so few who can grow old with a good grace.”
- Sir Richard Steele, 1672-1729

                          I’m Ninety Nine You Know
Scene set in an old fashioned country cottage. An old lady sits in an armchair. She is knitting and hums to herself. She wears a shawl over a cardigan and woollen dress, She has on long woollen stockings, black lace up shoes and horned rimmed spectacles.
NOTE             The whole play can be EITHER acted out as a monologue OR as a play with a second actor, in which case the second actor is a young reporter in a business suite.

Come in. I heard you knocking. The old eyes may be a bit rheumy but me ears still work. I’m not too bad, thank you, all things considered.
Sit down and we’ll have a cup of tea. Now what is it you want to know?

Old? I suppose I am. And you want to know what I can remember about my life? I don’t know about that but I’ll try.

I were born in 1906, it seems a long time ago. I don’t remember much as a little girl though I remember everyone being excited when a great big ship were lost first time out. Terrible it were, all those people drowned. What were it called, Gigantic, or Colossal, something like that.

School were all right, but strict. A slate and some chalk in the infants, a real pen and ink in the seniors.
The boys had plenty of rulers on the knuckles, but we girls were usually spared that. The three ‘R’s were what we did most, Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. And we learnt about the Empire. It weren’t just lessons you remember. Hop Scotch, marbles and ‘What time is it Mr Wolf?’ were great. Plus skipping games. How did it go? ‘Salt, vinegar, mustard, PEPPER!’
Happy days.

Went into service at the big house. Seven shillings a week living in. Up at six, black-leaded the stove, polished the brasses, made the beds, washing, ironing, never stopped ‘til bedtime. Allowed two hours off on Wednesday afternoon, we loved that. Went back home on Sundays and gave me mam and dad me wages. Were allowed to keep sixpence for myself.

The Big War, yes I remember The Big War. The first Big War. So many men in the village never came back, God rest their souls. I remember thinking, it’s always men that cause wars. If it were up to women to decide, they’d be no wars. I remember some women trying to get women the vote. Chained them selves to railings they did, and one threw herself under a horse. What was her name, Mrs Sandhurst, Mrs Panhurt, something like that. I thought she were very brave, though I daren’t say so. Dad wouldn’t have liked that.

Dad believed everyone one had his place in life, women included. Mind you, he had his standards and he kept to them. He would proudly walk our mother to chapel, twice of a Sunday, in their Sunday best. Mind you, if it started to rain dad would take his cap off and put it in his pocket.
Why did he do that? Well, there were no way he were going to sit in the house all night with a wet cap on!

Married, yes I married Baxter when I were twenty three. A fine, God fearing man were Baxter. Hardworking, he were, a plumber, and a painter, and a sign writer, plus he were the village lamplighter. I don’t know where he got his energy from. Mind you, it couldn’t have done him no harm ‘cause we had eight children! Nine if you count the little one buried in the chapel yard, poor mite. Six weeks old, that’s all. All that time ago and I still think about her. And I took on our Barbara’s baby when she died.
Only four weeks old it were. It were a hard life but what else could you do? The doctor had strong words with Baxter when I had me fifth. I weren’t very well at all. Plus the fact that money were scarce, no child allowances in them days.
“If she has any more, it may well kill her,” Baxter were told. But he were having none of it. “If the Lord sends them, we’ll provide for them,” were Baxter’s answer. And that were that.

Let me get us both that cup of tea and we’ll talk while I’m making it.
Why am I cutting up the tea bags?
‘Cause I can’t be doing with putting bags of tea into the cup. It don’t seem right to me. The only thing I reckon you dunk into a cup of tea is a nice Rich Tea biscuit. How many sugars?
No sugar? I don’t know how you young ones survive, I really don’t. Too many fads today, if you ask me. We used to live on bread and dripping and plenty of fatty bacon. Didn’t do us any harm. There you are love, Now where were we?

What do I remember most?
I remember The Second War. I remember thinking, here we go again! All those young men, what a waste! Two of my brothers went and both came back; many didn’t. Hard times once more. Men getting us in trouble again. They never learn!

Politicians? Had enough of them. If it’s not war it’s womanising. I used to like Lloyd George until he found too much time for the ladies. That Major man were just the same. At his age too! Ought to have known better! At least this other fellow seems to look after his wife. What’s his name? Bloor? No, Blair, that’s it, Lionel Blair.

I remember how many things there were for you to catch. Ringworm and impetigo, measles, mumps and chicken pox. If you didn’t get one you got the other. And some children had rickets, poor things. Mind you, everyone had nits, but you didn’t die from nits. Now scarlet fever, whooping cough, and diphtheria, they were really horrible. Chapel yard’s full of children who didn’t make it to five.
What did you say, were it all bad in the old days?
Like I said it were hard, certainly but we were happy as well.
Bath nights were funniest, the old tin bath in front of the fire. The water were filthy by the time it were your turn if you were youngest. And you had to remember to get out on the fire side if you wanted to keep warm.
Fetching the accumulator from the shop for the wireless. Listening to Donald Peers and Joseph Locke, they weren’t half smashing. And Vic Oliver and Rob Wilton. How we laughed!
There were no televisions in them days. I never had one until the children grew up and bought me one. I liked it in a way but I were never sure of them, what do you call them, channels. I used to wait for the children to come and change them. It used to say sometimes ‘Normal Service will be Resumed as soon as Possible’ I often wondered if it were just mine or if next door were the same.

Things in the old days were made really well, made to last you might say. Some of the modern stuff’s rubbish! My children try to make me modern but its too late. They put all my food in containers, Tupper something they called it. I put some in the oven and you should have seen the mess. And the smell, I’m sure it were intoxic. Is that the word? I heard a man say it on the wireless. Mind you, my children didn’t half shout at me when I put the ashes from the fire in a bucket they bought me. I took them out to the bin in the yard but only me and the bucket arrived. The trail of burning ashes nearly set the house on fire. Rubbish, this modern stuff, plastic do they call it? What’s the matter with good old-fashioned tin?

How do I pass the time at my age?

I still gets to chapel of a Sunday and I read, though me eyes aren’t what they were.
What do I read?
Not the papers, that’s for sure. Can’t be doing with them. Full of rude pictures and bad language! I reads me Bible every day. My daughter says I’m studying for me finals. In a way she might be right. Dad’s long since gone and so has Baxter. But they’re both up there waiting for me, that’s for sure.
I have a nap in the afternoon and a little tot of whisky at night. For medicinal purposes of course! I signed The Pledge when I were eighteen, but I’m sure a little to help my constitution don’t count. Would you like to join me?
You’ve got to go. Well thank you for coming.
And will you come back next year when I get me letter from the Queen. I’m ninety-
nine you know. It’s still Victoria, isn’t it?
I’m only joking, my dear, I may be old but I’m not senile yet!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Understanding Technology, No Chance.

    A strange week indeed. My computer went funny, real funny. Funny fonts, writing, distorted, big, useless, unusable. I'm not clever enough to tell you properly the problem. we, my wife and I pressed every conceivable button/key (I bet that helped) and then contacted friend Russell, the closest person to a genius I know. He tried for two hours, said something about a card and is still on the case.
I know I sound totally vague but my understanding is tiny. I don't even like computers but am amazed how involved I am with the things. Plus when they 'break' you can't look on the internet for a new one!
    I write reviews for a paper. I cannot send them without emailing. I am still writing, e-books etc. All the information I need/use is on the internet. I send and receive e-mails. I do a weekly blog and read other peoples blogs. It is my window on the world. I never realised I use a computer almost everyday of my life and will presumably continue to do so until the day I die. I have been blogging for four years. I have seen many fall by the wayside, some of longstanding fame. It is only now I realise what a mind numbing committment it is. And when blogging becomes a chore enough is enough. (I love it in the main but I can see the problem.)
   I wonder if technical wizz kids, people with more aptitude than me (virtually everyone, certainly in the western world) realise how incomprehensible it all is to seventy plus year olds who have only just mastered the light switch. An example; Cameras, computers talk about 'default settings'; how the heck am I expected to know what that means? HTML, I understand that is 'computer talk' but it's gobbledy gook to me and always will be. All the instructions the computer threw up as we tried to fix it I have already forgotten. Suffice to say they were foreign to me. As incomprehensible as Arabic (I speak no Arabic!) Yet the 'thing', when it is working has become a big part of my existence; I cannot imagine life without it.
   I know computers, like boxes, can get full up. (I thought that might be my problem.) Mine has many, many files duplicated, I am terrified to do anything about it for fear of doing the wrong thing. (I understand some people have someone employed to 'manage' their computers. Sounds a good idea!) I often think of life in similar terms. At my age 'the box' is pretty full and I occasionally think there is no more room to store anything else, but we seem to manage.
    We live in a very technical age, progress is fast and getting worse. Strangely enough I don't have a mobile phone. I understand many people cannot imagine their life without one. What on earth do they find to text and talk about I wonder. Where will it all end? How far will it all go? When did you last go a day without using a computer or a mobile phone; watch television or listen to the radio?

    The pace of progress is quickening. We'll come back to this theme another day, in the mean time I thought you might like to see three items from my 'museum' that I remember in use. (All three I personally used. The stereo cards were grannies, much treasured when we were children.) And I'm a mere seventy three, not seven hundred and three!

Monday 14 January 2013

Thoughts of a Nobody from Nowhere Important.

    I'm never sure whether the next post will come easily. Do you have the same problem? My life smacks of a somewhat repetitive humdrum existence (my choice in the main) so finding something of interest is often difficult. Today's 'action' on which to 'pontificate' thus was gratefully received.
    I happened to see the BBC's Star Gazing Live 'starring' Professor Brian Cox. (It coincided with Derby University unveiling a copy of Sir William Herschel's (1738-1822, the discoverer of Uranus and its moons.) telescope that has been proudly built on the university campus.) Wonderful except that fog prevented any view of a single star! We might be clever, but control of the weather has a long way to go.The models of the universe were brilliantly done, I learnt things (you must never stop learning) that made me view things in a different light.
    I looked up some facts and figures. Mostly beyond this geriatric's comprehension; the following has stayed with me.
    Out there is our universe. There are billions, not millions of stars in the Milky Way of which we are apparently a part. There are close to a trillion galaxies and that's just in the Observable Universe. The universe is around 13.75 billion years old; I'm 73 years old by the way, years that is! The edge of the Observable Universe is about 46-47 billion light years away. (Some parts of the universe are probably, since the Big Bang, too far away for the light emitted to have arrived yet.) From earth to the edge of our known Observable Universe is 46 billion light years in any direction. (Religious people, did God create all of the aforementioned, or just earth, the place on which we reside?) One other statistic stays in my mind. Evidently an Apophis Asteroid is going to collide with earth in 2036. Not 2022, 2032, 2042 but 2036.I find such knowledge mind bendingly difficult to take in. As I say so many times, 'What's it all about, Alfie!'
    My family and I (how very Royal) travelled to St Anne's for the weekend. A distance of around 115 miles each way. We visited Fleetwood, Blackpool and Lytham; all very enjoyable, quite an adventure. It made me aware what a confined, cocooned existence we live nowadays, my wife and I.

I live in a bungalow on the outskirts of the town of Derby. In a normal month I will shop, visit doctors and dentists, the theatre, the library, the pub and friends etc within a five mile radious. Some days I will write, eat and sleep solely within the confines of my home and garden; all within around thirty paces.  I have one daughter and family who lives in the same street; their house is around one hundred yards away, (Note, no metres allowed in my life!) Within the year I will visit places of interest but it is unlikely any place will be over two hundred miles from home. No criticism of any of you leading exciting lives or visiting exotic places. My life might, to some, be somewhat pointless, but is, after all, my life. I hope you are as happy and at peace with the world as myself.
      Life is for enjoying, not to be taken too seriously;  if we can raise a smile and help each other, how ever parochial as we pass through, that is indeed a bonus. My/our purchases from our recent excursions might give food for thought.  The photograph was taken in Blackpool's Madame Tussauds. I know, I know Christmas has come and gone but we couldn't resist the reindeer. One final thought. As I moved 'Santa' from the shop, the two of us seemed to cause both consternation and hilarity as I carried him to my vehicle. Come to think of it, my appearance seemed to attract comment as I wandered around the north west! But never mind, if insignificant me can bring a little cheer, why not indeed!

Sunday 6 January 2013

Anyone 'Normal', Please Raise Your Hand!

    What makes us what we are. What makes us do what we do; what makes us tick, so to speak. The old 'nature versus nurture' debate. Both what we inherit intellectually and our physical circumstances as we grow up obviously affect our development to a greater or lesser degree. I am not clever enough to pontificate scientifically on the subject. The only thing I will say is that we are obviously not born equal.
    In the 21st century we like to put labels on everything, especially concerning 'medical' conditions that have probably been with us forever. Dyslexia comes to mind. Much better to be termed dyslexic than thick, slow or dozy, as was often the case in my childhood. OCD is a term frequently mentioned nowadays; I can still see people with OCD symptoms from my childhood in my 'minds eye'; though the term OCD was yet to be invented, certainly in our village. Presumably Autism has always been with us, albeit under another name. I had an aunt who used to 'wander' the village. We knew something was wrong; we called it 'old age', the term dementia was unheard of. I have a friend who is 'biopolar'. I have known him for many, many years; he used to be referred to as a manic depressive. In my school teaching days I taught many children who were successively referred to over the years as ESN's,  Remedials or the Less Able.
    Of any case, is there such a thing as normal. Different, maybe but nornal, surely it doesn't exist.
'Normal--conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.'
     Amazing in a way, all these musings were brought about by a television programme I watched recently concerning the lengths some collecters/hoarders go to in their daily lives. One lady in particular caught my eye. She hoarded many things, particularly food. She had in the house/fridge/cupboards over 700 tins of food, some many years old. She had also  many, many items of unworn clothing and a multitude of Christmas items including seven Christmas trees. The programme employs a psychologist who specialises in 'hoarders', a not uncommon occurrence. It was soon established that the lady in question had experienced a particularly deprived childhood, particularly where food was concerned. I experienced an extremely strong empathy with this lady.
    I experienced a difficult though not unhappy childhood. I was born in the first year of the war, a time of real austerity and I was orphaned young. I can still vividly remember certain childhood possessions,: a Dinky toy lorry, a  tiny cannon that fired matchsticks and a nine millimetre gun (that fired cartridges. Definitely not my style in later life); a stopwatch (a 'swap' if I remember right which I promptly dropped), a second-hand bike and a subbuteo set. All these and more of no great monetary value but important to me. Partly, somewhat obviously because I and many children like me had little; what we did have we valued.
    Four years ago I bought a bungalow. It had an outbuilding 'going spare'. I instinctively knew what it was to be. It is now 'Granddad's Bar' a geriatric bolthole in which I write, ponder and let the world go by. You might be interested in the 'decor'. You know the modern term 'minimalist'. Well my 'bar', minimalist it certainly is not! The psychologists would have a field day! And do you know what, I don't care. Plus it certainly isn't finished yet, there's plenty more room if you look carefully; the ceiling's untouched for a start!

    We're all different in our little and sometimes not so little ways. (Amongst my many eccentricities, much to everyone's amusement I invariably make a humming sound when I am occupied and relaxed. So did my mother and she was a wonderful woman.) What have you inherited or been 'given' to make you that unique individual that I am sure you are.