The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Monday, 29 April 2013

A Weighty Problem

Or is it?  Is the average person's weight and size the potential crushing blow to self-esteem and good health that magazines, journals, studies and reports would have us all believe?  I am not talking clinical obesity, or worrying thinness, I am just talking a couple of stone here and there, twenty of thirty pounds.

I was a bonny healthy baby, at 8lbs 1lb, then a slightly built child and a slender teenager.  My mother never had any concerns that I was too fat or too thin, I was always just about right, like baby bear porridge.

And since it has been my own responsibility, I keep an eye on my weight, don't get me wrong, but I do NOT any longer strive officiously to control it.  We, it and I, vary with the seasons.  It's long been part of my SAD that I can be 7lbs or 10lbs heavier between October and March than in what we laughingly (maybe even laughably) refer to in the UK as The Summer Months.  Carbohydrate craving cuts in at the autumn equinox, and disappears at the spring one.  It's entirely natural and an awful lot to do with my Scandinavian genes.  My maiden name is of Viking origin, and families bearing it were concentrated almost wholly in the Danelaw counties until the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution created a diaspora of working people.

My weight has also varied with age, again, I believe, totally naturally.  As a young mother in my twenties I ran around like a blue-arsed fly taking care of a large Victorian house over three floors, a toddler, a front and back garden, an allotment and a very demanding older husband.  I wore UK size 10 trousers and never went over 9st 7lbs once I'd breast-fed off my baby weight. 

Then The Daughter started school and I started what is erroneously called Work (what the sweet suffering expletive did everyone think I'd been doing the previous five years?!) which was partly sedentary, partly up and about, but all in one spot, pretty much, so the distance covered was much less than before.  And then I turned 30, and for some strange reason, which I suspect is also entirely natural, the needle swung beyond 10 stones (140 lbs) for the first time ever and has never, ever swung back.

My 30s were a terribly trying time.  I was diagnosed as seriously Bipolar 1 in 1990, and had six spells as a psychiatric in-patient in the following seven years.  Almost every drug I was offered (actually strike the word offered, as had I refused them I would have been sectioned, so let's say persuasively prescribed) had a side-effect of some weight gain.  Some I was on as a maintenance medication, others were added to control acute episodes.  At top whack under this new regime my weight tipped 12st 10lbs and I was still a young woman.  But I had bigger worries than that at the time, and physical vanity was the least of my concerns.

I should add at this juncture that I am 5ft 6in, so a wee bit taller than the UK female averageAnd, as of yet, have not begun to shrink, but it'll come...

I turned 40 and left my first marriage (and took a small flat of my own nearby where The Daughter could visit) and divorced my only child's father whilst she stayed in the matrimonial home and studied for her A Levels.  Instead of cooking for a family of three and providing what the very demanding first husband demanded I only needed to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, if I wanted.  Within six months I'd lost a stone, simply by trusting intuition and listening to my own appetites and urges.

Eventually, I started dating THE Husband, THIS Husband, when I was not quite 43.  We embarked on living together very quickly as we'd both been married before and knew instinctively that this relationship was going to be very different, much more steady, equable and compatible than what each of us had experience before.  The Husband thought every teeny bit of me, inside and out, was gorgeous.  I was not about to start disagreeing with him, so became very happy indeed with who and what I was.  Since I left my first marriage I have never needed psychiatric in-patient care. Go figure, as they say Stateside.

I was 46 years old, 10st 9lbs and a sprightly size UK12 jean when I marred The Husband, not quite ten years ago. I had been slightly heavier in my 40s before that, but the dashing about and last minute organising skimmed off some inches. Now I am 12st 3lbs. I have been more at my peak. Two years ago I was comfortably over 13st, and exceedingly well upholstered, but The Husband has always maintained I was built for comfort, not speed, so what the heck! 

But my proper fighting weight since being in my middle years is about 11st 7lbs. I feel about right when I am that weight, taking size UK14 jeans, and get around a bit quicker.  Maybe I'll be that weight again this summer, who knows?  Stranger things have happened.

But I am happy in my own skin, and don't want to make myself miserable with self-criticism. I find self-criticism goes hand-in-hand with diets. And quickly becomes self-loathing. So I intend to carry on eating what I want, when I want to. It suits my personality. And drinking what I want when I want to. That suits it even more!

Life is too sweetly short to count every calorie, and we are such a LONG time dead...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

OK, Then, So I Lied...

...I wasn't actually at death's door yesterday.  Well, I know I didn't claim to be on here, so maybe it was mostly in my own feverish mind that I was going through the checklist of symptoms of pneumonia and wondering how close I was to it.

I am not sure if it can have been flu' either, as today I feel far too human, now the pounding headache has gone.  So I must, I suppose, put my hand up to common-or-garden chesty cold, or just possibly bronchitis.  Whatever the hell it is/was it is a doozy, and I cannot remember feeling so laid low by a bug since I caught norovirus in Watford General when I had a hysterectomy in February 2006.

The Husband had this about ten days ago, and took to his bed for a short while.  He also at the time had a very sore shoulder where he dislocated it once back in the days when he did karate, in the dim and distant past when he was young and fit and lithe and supple.  Yeah.  I remember those days as well, when I was young and fit and lithe and supple.  But for both of us those days are twenty of thirty years ago now.  So we are wondering is it that this virus is particularly nasty, or is it that we are now old crocks and can withstand such things so much less well than we would have done even ten years ago.

Whatever it is, I don't want to undergo what I just underwent in the past three days again in a hurry. So next winter we will have the flu jab (in case that is what it was) like I used to do in the days when I was teaching in schools, because the little darlings were filthily buggy and I am moderately asthmatic.  We were both offered it last autumn, but it got overlooked because we were so busy fitting the new kitchen, etc.

Dur!  WRONG!  Do NOT make that silly mistake again, Goldenoldenlady.

It only remains for me to thank my blogdom interlocutors for their kind concern yesterday, and then I can finish typing this and think about actually doing something today to make up for the fact that yesterday was a write-off.  My ribs are still very sore, so coughing and sneezing hurt, but if I stay very still, or move very slowly, it seems so far this morning that I am much less likely to do either.  So it's a sluggish tortoise sort of a Sunday in prospect for me.  

But still so much better than the Saturday which preceded it.  For which relief, much thanks.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

ME TIME; an addendum

Further to yesterday's jaundiced assessment of Me Time so often equating  to Spending Money on Me Time these days I am in an odd position now, as since I typed that what was then an irritating dry tickly cough is now out-an-out flu or bronchitis (hard to decide) so I now have Me Time coming out of my achy ears.  Justifiable Me Time.  Pretty much compulsory Me Time.

I am right proper poorly, as my mother used to put it when we girls were little.  If I could do something else I might, but so far all I've managed today is to fix myself poached eggs on toast for brunch, and dissolve a couple of sachets of what we in our family call Phelgmsip and stir in some honey, one at 8.30am.and one at 12.30pm.  Oh, and have a hot bath (for the steam) and got dressed and up and vertical, so I was sitting with a fired-up laptop on my knee by about 1.30pm.  Exhausted!

That might be IT from me for today.  The sofa calls.  So does Racing on Four.  And later I may mull some red wine with cardamon pods, sliced ginger, cinnamon, cloves and honey.  Because at least two of those will be a handy analgesic for the little mouth ulcers I now have on the tip of my tongue.  Did I mention I also have neck glands like golf balls? And sinusitis dental pain?  And a cricked neck, headache and sore intercostal muscles?  Are you getting the picture?  If not check this out

I am just like that only with sweatier, damper hair, much MUCH more coughing and very bravely not wearing PJs.  For now.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Why does ME TIME have to mean SPENDING MONEY ON ME?

There's been a huge rise in recent decades in the utter total tosh myth that women who "juggle" work/family/house etc deserve pampering in their time off.  Pampering perforce means a beautician's appointment, a spa day or a spray tan, or an expensive hair-do. Or holding a botox party.  Or maybe an indulgently expensive piece of clothing.  Or noo shoes, especially noo shoes.

Without at least one of these a week it seems the magazine-devouring plate-spinner who is The Modern Woman would capsize under the weight of what the word expects of her.  Her husband or partner will find her burnt out husk in a little dry pile behind the bedroom door and the children will scratch their heads and wonder who will drive them to and fro now, and nervously ask one another how much a taxi costs.  She will have imploded and be no use to man nor beast.  The only thing that could reconstitute and re-inflate her might be a stately home hotel weekend with seaweed wraps and saunas.  Nothing other or else will do!

How I ever got to the age I am without all this I have no idea.  I have only ever had a couple of therapeutic massages when suffering from chronic back pain. I've never had a facial, even self-administered. I colour my own hair. I cut my own fringe. I tan my own skin, slowly and gradually, sitting in my own garden. I fail to moisturise any part of body, even my face, most days. I paint my own toenails, and cut and file same, but only in the sandal season we laughably call summer here in the UK. My fingernails are rarely enamelled or adorned, as I am busy in garden or house most days so what is the point as they will be ruined within minutes? Cut and clean is enough.

But do like a decent haircut every once in a while. If going through a short hair phase this will be three times a year, if growing it, not at all. The pooch receives more pampering. As does the car which is valeted more often than I am, as some things I draw the line at and washing and hoovering a mere vehicle is one of them.

Me Time? Do I ever have any?  Yeah, LOADS.  It's every time I lie down for a little stretch out and an idle think when I've just changed and made up the bed (a brief reward, but very appreciated after twenty minutes of what I call duvet-struggling).  It's the moment each night when the dog and I curl up for a cuddle at the end of the day.  It is any and every snatched minute of a day when it is quiet enough to think my own thoughts.

It's enough. I truly believe the real me resides between my ears, and in my lumpy but delightfully familiar old body, not on the surface where I am most visible to others So long as I don't frighten the horses I'll DO, unless it's a Very Special Occasion, and if one has too many of those the risk is they cease to be special at all.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Oh, Why Didn't I keep My Big Trap Shut?

Glancing over it again, re-reading it almost a week after I typed it, it now seems that there is something slightly smug and self-satisfied about my last post, the one where I look back on the first six months of our full-time residence and retirement in rural Wales.  I had tried hard not to let it descend into a orgy of "ooh, look at us, livin' it large, in our rural idyll!"  but nevertheless, I still tempted fate.

I held back from congratulating myself on a half-year of easy-going ease-taking leisure (even though we've had quite a bit of it we've had our yikes! moments as well, when a well-laid plan occasionally fell at the first hurdle), but instead I tried to describe the day-to-day, the DIY, the quietly bumbling hobbies, the simple contentment, rather than any heady highlights and jollity.  It was an account of our retirement, alter all, not an over-excited primary schoolgirl essay entitled What I Did on My Holidays.

I should have been even more careful, as despite my best endeavours to avoid over-egging the pudding, it seems it has nevertheless still turned into a bit of a cautionary tale of pride coming before a fall.

Not our fall.  Not mine, or The Husband's, or even The Dog's.  Our Ma - my 95-year-old mother-in-law, who lives in residential care back where we used to live in Hertfordshire - has had a serious fall.  She took a tumble last Sunday and broke her hip.  

Our Ma in her room at the home, in April 2011, soon after moving in

Now I do realise the fact she broke her hip was entirely caused by frail bone abruptly meeting a hard floor, by her age, her gender and her pre-existing osteoporosis, and is not directly attributable in any way to my being a little bit pleased with myself when last I typed. 

Events in life do not have that sort of causality, not literally, however well-worn that axiomatic phrase about over-confidence leading to slip-ups may be.  This is not a matter of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Rather it is just one of those things that Conspiracy Theorists find themselves utterly unable to believe in - a coincidence.  It is nothing but an innocent occurence following another innocent occurrence, without being occasioned by it whatsoever.  It is random happenstance.  But when I read my previous post it still feels a mite ironic, and I chide myself now for being ever-so-slightly complacent. 

Whatever happened to that insouciant sense of cosy well-being I felt last week?  For the moment it has been sidelined somwhat by Our Ma being in hospital, having emergency orthopaedic surgery, spending three hours under general anaesthetic, and all of it happening the best part of two hundred miles away from us.  It was a very anxiety-provoking couple of days, but The Husband's sister and the ward admin kept us in the loop.  Our Ma got through the op, and hasn't needed a hip replacement.  The head of the femur was cracked, not shattered, and so metal strapping and pinning will hold it together enough to be weight-bearing, the surgeon says.  She will need another week in hospital at least, at the age she is, and maybe that will be followed by in-patient physio in a specialist unit for a while, until she is able to walk again.  Assuming she will be able to walk again.  At her very great age, nothing can be certain.  Well, at anyone's age, nothing is certain, but this uncertainty seems to be of a higher order, because she is so very frail a a little old lady now.

She has advanced vascular dementia, hence her being in residential care.  Eventually, all things being equal, she will return to her to the care home and its familiar lay-out and friendly faces, even if she has to rely on a wheelchair more and her walking frame less in future. 

Maybe the dementia is a blessing in disguise, as she is very unlikely to have made lasting new memories of the trauma and the disturbing confusion of winding up on a busy general hospital ward.  She will have a scar and bruising, but I doubt she will spend much time, if any, looking at it.  She may wonder why she is more halt than she was, and need reminding, but she won't recall the fall itself, or the pain and discomfort of it.

We will remember this week, of course.  But as outcomes of these sorts of cases go, she's doing very well so far.  Very well indeed.

I guess the experiences we've undergone between blogs will serve as an apt and timely reminder to us that being retired at a relatively early age (The Husband is 57, I am 56 next month) and in reasonable health is a boon beyond words, so let's not squander it, eh?  It also staggers me that my mother-in-law is almost forty years older than me, and yet is still staggering on. No, buggering on, in the classic, obdurate, we-don't-scare-easy Churchillian manner befitting a woman who drove an ambulance in the Blitz.

Nuff respect, Our Ma See you on Monday, when we stop by to visit Meanwhile, no chasing handsome young doctors along the corridors, OK?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Thoughts on Enjoying Our Unique-to-Us Retirement

Practising Guitar by Candlelight during Earth Hour

"Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others."

The Husband is teaching himself the guitar, since he re-strung his old folk acoustic last month. He uses apps on his phone for tuning and chord positions. He practises in the living room most mornings, and sometimes again in the evening, while I sit pooting or reading (zoning in and out). I have always been surrounded by musicians practising so this is no problem for me. It feels quite usual.

He is making good progress. He has also taught himself to bake bread, and even bagels. He is building me a wonderful new project, but that is a secret for now, and will be the subject of a later post.  Since retiring he has also refitted our kitchen with my help, and put in fitted furniture in our bedroom.

I have redecorated both rooms. He helps me and I help him. It feels good that way.

I have joined a local festival choir, but haven't been to all the rehearsals.  My SAD makes it very tough to leave the house after dark and go out into the cold.  Sometimes I just cannot force myself to do it, but I don't beat myself up about it.  It is what it is, an episodic condition.  It'll pass, and reappear.  I work round it.  I don't want choir to be a chore, and anyhow I am a good sight-reader and a fast study.  When concert day comes I'll be as ready as anyone else.

Sometimes we spend social time with other humans, but not often. We have The Dog and The Birds and they make their presences felt. Sometimes we even leave the house, but not often, and mostly for provisioning. Or a trip to the seaside, because it is there...

And so has passed our first retired Winter in Wales.  It wouldn't suit everyone, but it is a description, not a prescription.  We have found we have fallen into it rather well.  But we may do everything completely otherwise next winter, who knows.  A lot can change, and almost certainly will.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Benefits Budget and How It Is Spent

This is all from a Facebook page, a public post going the rounds of being shared.  Click here to read the original post and see the comments it is getting.  You don't have to have a Facebook account to see it.  The sentence I like best I have put in bold.

What do you think of the following?  Were you already aware of the distortions in some parts of the popular press?  Did you realise the immense degree of spin and exaggeration - I hesitate to accuse anyone of out-and-out lying - being put on this topic by many cabinet members?

Ok, I can't keep my gob shut any longer. I'm sick to death of seeing posts on Facebook about benefit scroungers. Do you know the figures? Because if you did you might see it in another light.

Did you know that only 3% of the benefits budget goes to people seeking work? 53% is pensions and other related old age benefits, 18% is Housing Benefit (which currently goes directly to landlords) 18% is working tax credits, and the rest disabled benefits and other bits and bobs. (And by the way, the Government figures say the fraud rate for disabled benefits is 0.3%)

In fact, the majority of folks claiming housing and council tax benefit ARE IN WORK.

I could write a bloody essay on this because I deal with it everyday. Our benefits budget is not out of control. According to the OECD Britain's benefit bill per head is nowhere near as generous as half the countries in Europe. (And unemployment benefit is particularly stingy compared to most)

The vast majority of folks just want to get on but minimum wage jobs are not paying enough. (This might explain why at work we're seeing working people going to bloody food banks every week.)

This shitty government is turning people against each other. And it's totally unwarranted. Yes, welfare needs reforming but you don't do that by kicking people out of their homes, stigmatising them so that they get spat at in the street and driving them to suicide. - these have all happened so far.

In the last two years 80% of people applying for housing benefit were all working. We can reform welfare by bringing in a living wage so that people don't have to claim benefits to get by. At the moment the welfare budget is subsidising low pay and private landlords on a grand scale.

When you see a post that puts the boot into benefit claimants, think twice before you like it because let me tell you, we are ALL only three mortgage payments away from disaster.

(If anyone wants the sources of the figures I have quoted, I will only be too happy to provide them)

I've attached a pie chart from 2011 to give you an idea. Figures will have changed a bit.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

All Thatchered Out...

...well, not really, but 48 hours is enough time to react fully to a major news story, in my view.  Anything more than that and normal service needs to be resumed, life got on with. After all current affairs is only part of life, not life its very self.  In vast tracts of the world global events barely impinge, as the sheer effort of existence and survival takes up everyone's energy, and anyhow there is no medium for disseminating news, no TV, no radio, no computers, no mobile phones, and not even the electricity or batteries to power them.  So to say one cannot be fully human or rounded as an individual without obsessive news-watching or having a two-pennyworth to chip in with at a dinner party is a mite far-fetched.

Chez Goldenoldenlady we don't really discuss national or global events much.  It was a choice we made many years ago when we first embarked on lIving together, not to discuss current affairs in any sort of passionate way, and to keep our opinions to ourselves as far as possible. We didn't want to waste time and emotional effort trying to convince ourselves or others of the errors of our new partner's thinking, assuming there were any.  We were too old and ugly to think any more there is ever any genuine point to that sort of talk, as we were in our early forties when we met, and our youthful idealism long eroded.

Our fundamental value systems chime well, so there is no need to rehearse it all, is there?

We got swept up in 9/11 as it was not possible to avoid the shock waves of that. Anyhow, I was teaching English & Drama in a big inner-city comprehensive at the time so had to help the two-hundred or so young people who passed that week through my classroom or the drama studio to cope with their shock, sadness and fears.  I also tried to give them a small sense of historical perspective to help them understand where the attacks on the USA had come from, insofar as anyone knew at the time. 

It didn't help that the school was less than a mile and a half away from Luton Airport, and international air travel was in lock-down pretty much all week.  Many of the students had relatives who worked there or for airline companies, so were very scared of possible further attacks nearer home.  Three individuals at the school, a member of staff and two pupils, had lost friends or relatives in the collapse the twin towers. There could be no ignoring it.

I introduced John Donne's No Man Is An Island to all age groups.  They all LOVED it, it was a tremendous focus for their thoughts.  Thank you, Dean Donne.  The students gave me the closest most respectful attention I ever enjoyed as a teacher at that difficult, at the time failing, school.  And they listened with respect and attention to each other.  It was a remarkable week. 

But even in 2003 The Husband-to-Be (as he was then) and I decided to switch off the coverage after 48 hours as the surmising and pontificating of the talking heads hauled in to debate it all was getting a bit trying.  The same thing happened when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started.  Jaw-dropping gave way very rapidly to an inability to witness any more aren't y'all just Shocked and Awed video game footage.

Distressed and Appalled, more like.  It wasn't anything we could cope with just before or during our evening meals, so the TV stayed off, or on Time Team (my favourite programme when I was teaching, on nightly at 7.00pm, a nice bit of what we call archeo-crockery-diggery-uppery.  Very restful, watching other people work hard, when you are already knackered yet have two more hours' prep and marking to do before bedtime).

Since we moved to Wales full-time I have started watching the TV News a little more as it is very easy to feel a long way from where we used to live (just outside the M25) and somewhat cut off from the rest of teeming humanity when surrounded by fields and hills and woods, with delightful sheep and grazing horses as our immediate neighbours.  I really like getting the local Welsh News instead of the London-centric stuff we waded through when living in the Northern Home Counties.  It helps me put down some longer roots, to watch BBC Wales, and support Wales in the rugby. 

But do I want to think or hear anything more about The Thatcher Creature?  Well, apart from briefly, each morning, checking that yes, she is still dead, I intend to put all that on hold until we watch the funeral next week.  We will watch, not to gloat exactly, but to see if anyone apart from her immediate family can summon up a single tear. I am thinking of opening a book with The Husband.  A handkerchief count in the Abbey, perhaps. If the total gets into double figures I will be mightily surprised.

But we won't be having a party and inviting the neighbours round, tempting though it is.  But if the weather is sunny a BBQ might be on the cards, but a burning effigy is unlikely. 

I  am all out of candle wax, for starters
, and have no old-fashioned wooden "gypsy" pegs to dress in a blue suit with pussycat bow blouse, and attach a handbag to, either.

It'll be the funeral that moves me least of any I will ever have witnessed, I suspect.  And if I do feel anything it won't be a very noble emotion, so I'd best keep stumm about it outside of my closest friends' hearing...!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Grauniad Gets it Spot On

From the NY Times, on UK press reaction to Thatcher's death;

"The liberal-leaning Guardian said: “There should be no dancing on her grave but it is right there is no state funeral either. Her legacy is of public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed, which together shackle far more of the human spirit than they ever set free.”

I guess no-one gets to say what others SHOULD feel during a week like this.  Especially if they weren't actually there at the time, being too young. But the summing up of the legacy is spot on.

I have mostly been watching the coverage and thinking good grief, how did we tolerate the sound of THAT voice in the News for eleven years?  I note that these days, even young Old Etonians (if you see what I mean) up to and including princes of the blood royal do not talk out of the backs of their necks any longer.

The voices of the present cabinet may have changed from semi-strangled hectoring patrician tones to middling, mild, chummy voices, but it is alarming how much Thatcherite content has re-emerged of late.

Some of us remember where it led last time...

I give 'em one more parliament.  MAX.  And maybe not even that. Britain prefers to even itself out like a swinging pendulum.  Not unlike USA for that, except we aren't simply bipartite, and the idea of democratic socialism doesn't petrify the UK.  Some of us are really rather proud of the achievements of past Labour governments, and want more of them reinstated.  Certainly not eroded further.  We will see. 

But if we have any hot weeks in the coming months there could be riots, in the dog days and long light warm evenings of high summer.
  When the fat cats of the cabinet are on holiday, the mice might run into the streets and play Especially if they feel even further ghettoised, marginalised and maligned than they have even heretofore And these days they have technology Social networking can quickly become civil unrest organising. 

That's not a threat, or a promise, or even a prediction.  That is a quiet feeling of unease I have that I cannot seem to persuade myself out of, this week especially.

Worms will turn.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Momentous Day, or a Sad Reminder of How Little Has Changed ?

I guess anyone under the age of about twenty-five won't have any very strong personal recollections of Margaret Thatcher.  Anyone between twenty-five and forty will maybe remember what their parents thought of her, but anyone over forty will have some strong views of their own, one way or another, about the time between 1979 and 1990 when she was the first and - to date ONLY - female prime minister of the United Kingdom.

It feels particularly telling that the Grim Reaper called on Baroness Thatcher to-day, the very day the present Conservative government began dismantling even more of the Welfare State (which Thatcher was famous for embarking on when she got rid of free school milk, even before the time she was party leader.  Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher, was her first nickname, long before she was Maggie or The Iron Lady).

She said later that there was no such thing as society.  A staggering assertion to emanate even from that always very sure of itself and neatly lipsticked mouth.  She was so sure that individual ambition was what drove and motivated the British, and the idea that we look after our own first, ourselves and our families, that was a natural law, almost, to her, and only then do we look outwards to helping our neighbours and the disadvantaged and poor.  So society doesn't exist. To Thatcher it was a myth. 

A nation is instead, in her eyes and ideology, a loose affilliation of self-serving individuals and self-absorbed households taking care of number one and one's own with far more enthusiasm than they want to take care of anyone else, however needy or vulnerable, beyond their own front doors

Altruism was an antiquated notion, with no place in modern life.  It fell a little short of Gordon Gecko's Greed Is Good, but not by much.  It was meant to shock, and it did.

Well, I guess that 2013. as well as being the end-date on a remarkable life, will also be a significant year to test whether she was right.  The present government seems hellbent on demonising the unemployed, the disabled, the sick with catch-all root-and-branch "modernisations" put in place to reduce the nation's welfare bill and drive a wedge between claimants and the "hard-working".  I am not sure that this harsh tactic will not backfire on the likes of Osborne and Ian Duncan-Smith, and the other vote-grabbing sound-bite merchants who feel so very sure that those able to work thoroughly resent paying to help support those who are not.

We still like fairplay in the UK.  We don't allow name-calling in our playgrounds, and we don't like it in our chambers of parliament.  Apart from one or two redtops, we don't support it in our newspapers, either.

The present cabinet is banking too much that "ordinary hard-working people" don't know, like or have any friendly dealings with anyone who is out of work, seriously unwell or disabled, and reliant on benefits to survive.  But they are wrong.  Most people do know and may even be related to a benefit claimant.  Most people know how very few of them try to make fraudulent, inaccurate, or exaggerated claims in the forms they fill out to apply for those benefits when they need them.  

So, I guess if there genuinely is no such thing as society this is the year we will find out.

Or at the next general election, for sure.

Friday, 5 April 2013

What a Difference A Few Hundred Feet Make!

I am getting news from my local Big Sis (aka Perpetua of Perpetually In Transit, on Blogger) in dribs and drabs via e-mail and in posts and comments on here.  She and her DH have been snowed up for just shy of a fortnight in their country fastness (extremely fast fastness, at present) which is an old farmhouse and collection of outbuildings and a barn on the side of a proper big Welsh hill about five miles away.  A thousand or so feet above sea level.

I have another Big Sis who is even taller than Perpetua, but she and her DH are city dwellers well to the south and west of here.  So they (as we are we, much lower down in mid-Wales, at about 700 feet) aren't currently bothered by heaped-up drifts blocking their only lane out to the land of other people. 

Rural Big Sis, however, is so bothered, and - as a consequence - still marooned.  As she is retired, and so is the DH (they will both turn 67 in 2013) and neither of them has an urgent appointment anywhere, they have been content to sit tight, sit it out, and work their way through the contents of their chest freezers.  Until such time as the thaw and snowmelt arrives to free them and their car (and so reunite them with what some people are pleased to call civilisation, but what I normally just refer to as SHOPS).

A fortnight is an awful long time to be snowed up.  Even if you have litres of the stuff on standby in a freezer, one can get very close to running out of milk.  This, to a Brit in Britain is tantamount to crisis, as in any crisis a Brit needs TEA, and the tea needs milk, and that is all there is to it.  A cultural and societal norm.  The battle of Britain was won on tea, the Blitz was endured on tea.  And the tea must have milk, and maybe also sugar.  Lemon won't hack it.  WE can't hack it, not without milk for tea.

So I am relieved to learn today that Tesco, like the cavalry, has been sent for, and a van delivery will arrive after the weekend at the top of their very long still snow-blocked lane.  They will reconnoitre with the van driver, and bring the bags and boxes down via wheelbarrow, they think, along the side of the lane where the drifts aren't quite so high, presumably.  Drifts frozen like concrete.  Two-week old driftsSnow that fell a fortnight ago.  With no postal deliveries since, no visitors, and no trips out.

Chez Goldenoldenlady we were inconvenienced for one day only, just five miles away and three hundred or so feet lower down, by very different snow on the same day. 

Makes you think, eh?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

You Know You Are Living In The Country When... meet some new neighbours, and an invitation to come and have a chow down on your front lawn is accepted with great good humour and graciousness.

We had a late lunch today, The Husband and I, while our house guests are out at the coast.  We were washing up in a desultory sort of a way, the old-fashioned way, in a sink, with one washing and the other drying, and gazing absent-mindedly out of the window when we spotted some faces we didn't recognise coming up the hill.  Attached to bodies we also didn't recognise, one of which was immediately arresting.

You need to know something about these houses.  The half-dozen dwellings on this corner where we live are arse about face.  The eat-in kitchens are at the front, and the sitting rooms are at the back.  This, I think, is bloody brilliant because it also means the kitchen windows overlook the street and the sitting room windows spy out over the gardens into the fields and woods and to the blue remembered hills beyond.  This view behind us is what sold me on the house exactly thirteen years ago.  It's why I bought it, it's why I chose to leave the Cotswolds to move here, it's why WE now have decided to retire here.

Anyhoo,I digress.  The new faces, you cry!  What about these new faces?  One was young and fresh and male, one was even younger and female and awfully sweet, and the third was long - very, very long - and inarguably equine.  First the Husband exclaimed.  Oooh!  he said.  Say, look at that! I did more than look.  I dropped the dishcloth into the suds, wiped my hands hurriedly and shot out of the front door without even excusing myself. 

These new neighbours I just HAD to meet.

It transpired on closer enquiry that the male human is seventeen, the female human is his nine-year-old sister, and the equine is a sturdy and friendly black fell pony which the family acquired this Monday just gone.  They were ambling her around the neighbourhood as part of an orientation and settling-in exercise.  Some of the time the boy had been riding, he said, but as they approached our corner he had already dismounted and was leading her gently along the road. 

They stopped and chatted.  We talked and talked, about ponies in general, the area, my attempts to take riding lessons, local equine peeps we both knew.  But most of all how the new pony was settling in and what they hope to achieve with her.  At at the end of our companionable gossip I said, do you think she'd like a snack on our lawn?  And the boy said yes. So he led her up the garden path (how often does THAT actually happen?!) and she got her head down for a bit and nibbled on our grass. 

I thought, how GOOD is that?  How very singular and out of the ordinary?  Then after they had trotted on. I reconsidered.  Or maybe not.  Maybe this is how it is going to be, now we have retired here, on the very edge of a small market town, with fields and woods and hills and livestock all about us.

Maybe quite a few of our new chums will be somewhat over-endowed in the leg department, by a factor of two.  So far it's been cats and dogs, close by, and sheep and brood mares at a distance. But now we know a pony by name. 

Her name is Flower.  I think she may have been an arbinger of Spring. 

What say you?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Thank Blog For That!

The quite unprecedented levels of "interest" in the guff I type on here has finally boiled over and put the gas out.  Provided I turn the knob to cut off the supply and don't re-light that burner I should return to my usual level of 30 odd (usually very odd) hits a day I was happy to see before the Budget Day Debacle.

As I remarked before, I see this blogging stuff as an occasional foray into trying out longer pieces of writing, about little "domestic incidents" (NOT using police euphemisms here, I am talking more about daft stuff that happens that makes me laugh, and by extension might make others smile a bit as well) and the audience I have in mind are the half-dozen or so members of my virtual village not on Facebook. I suppose it's my answer to "What's new on the Rialto...?"

I read once the average address book has about the same population as a small village.

In the old days this was about 250 souls.  Nowadays with texting, e-mail and social networking, I think most people's villages have had a a couple of largish modern housing estate built on their margins.  We long-term village dwellers all know some of the new people and speak when we meet in the shop or pub, or walking the dog, but we don't know them as well as the ones we went to school or university with or those who came to our wedding.  We aren't entirely sure which house they live in as we haven't asked and they haven't said.  But they seem like nice peeps, so we have them on Facebook or in our phones. 

My blogging audience, as I said before, in my mind's eye when I am typing, are the half-dozen people I used to know really well and see a good deal of, and have fond memories of many happy times spent in their company, who have gone to live abroad.  And of course, since The Husband and I retired to our country fastness and sold the Herts House, there are few dear friends we left behind there and miss.  And who purport to miss us.  In a nice way.

And so I blog.  A bit.  When the fit is upon me.

Does that seem a reasonable arrangement?  Beacuse I'd like to stick to it, if it's all the same to you...