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, 10 February 2014

Apres Nous, Le Deluge...

On 23 December 2013 I drove our little family (your correspondent, The Husband & the Dog) the 150-or-so miles from mid-Wales to Oxford to spend Christmas with The Daughter, mostly along the A44. It was a hideous journey through driving rain, wheel-arch-deep puddles and streams of run-off almost all the way. After we had got there safely we breathed a huge sight of relief, unpacked our bags and put the presents under the tree.  When we walked around the corner a step or three to go out for a pub dinner that evening, on neighbouring Osney Island in SW Oxford, the tributaries of the Thames which surround the area were sludgy brown, high, fast, fearsomely full and in many places spilling over the banks, which they continued to do well beyond Boxing Day.

A few days later we read with sadness the national news report that a disabled man in his forties in a wheelchair had seemingly got stuck trying to go along a riverside street on Osney Island and couldn't find a way out or back, so that his wheelchair slipped off the treacherously muddy bank into the swollen river and he drowned.

We have had a severe sou'wester rain, wind, sleet and hail storms blowing in off the Atlantic about twice a week ever since. Sometimes they have coincided with high tides, to calamitous effect, as in poor Aberystwyth and Dawlish. The people who live in the Somerset Levels have been in despair for weeks.

And yet only NOW, when it hits the Thames on the affluent suburban outskirts of London, is the flooding such a major issue that BBC News 24 today mentions virtually nothing else except the Winter Olympics. And the cabinet has woken up from its Westminster Dream, the dream where it thinks it has the will and support of the UK people for this hastily-hatched and cobbled together Coalition Government behind it 

If he plays it right, this could be Ed Miliband's finest hour, setting the opposition up nicely for the next General Election.  It's an ill wind...

...if we just get shut of the jelly-jowelled, disdainful pomposity of Eric Pickles it'd be a start.
Perhaps these quotes, all from Eric Pickles over the last week, will help explain my present feelings of personal animosity for the man.  Check this lot out for slippery-slimy;

on World at One, BBC Radio 4

“The Environment Agency has got a lot of stick but I think you have to see the other side of the coin that right the way through from the beginning just before Christmas, that big tidal surge, the Environment Agency has been remarkably good in giving good, accurate information to people and remarkably good I think in terms of preventing more flooding damage than might otherwise have been the case."
on BBC News Channel

"I'm trying to get [in touch with] the Environment Agency to give them some credit for what they've done in the rest of the country and elsewhere. Actually, there will come a time where we may want to apportion blame, we may want to say it was a mistake by the Labour government."
on Andrew Marr

“We made a mistake, there’s no doubt about that, we perhaps relied too much on the Environment Agency’s advice. I’ll apologise, I apologise unreservedly and I’m really sorry we took the advice of what we thought we were dealing with experts,"

He needs to eat some raw sewage, with a side order of humble pie, and then resign.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

In the Land of Song

My classical musical life has taken off hugely since we retired to Wales two years ago. 

I have almost regained the level of listening, watching and doing I enjoyed when I lived in the Oxford area from 1981-2000. Today I sang and sang and sang.  Yesterday I listened - intently.

Last evening The husband and I bade farewell to The Dog (sorry, old boy, but you can't come, they don't do "dog" tickets) and drove a dozen miles to see Mid-Wales Opera put on a performance of Acis and Galatea, by GF Handel.

Here is a review, which enthusiastically agrees with my own assessment of the show and names all the right names.

I was enraptured, ravished, seduced.  We both were.  It was a rather silly pastoral mythical plot, as befits a baroque masque, but it was awfully well done. I already knew the music, but I'd never seen it staged.  To have both sound and vision was wonderful.

Et In Arcadia Ego, I thought.

I then again drove the same dozen miles first thing this morning to attend a lengthy Saturday rehearsal of Rossini's Petite Messe Solonnelle, which will be performed by Montgomeryshire Festival Choir on the second weekend in May, in the same theatre where we saw last night's Handel.

It's a stonking piece, in the same lustrous and luxurious C19th Italianate vein as the Verdi Requiem, only on a smaller scale; a delicate, delicious Rossini religious chamber work as opposed to Verdi's marvellous mega-bucks spiritual grandiosity.

But I think none the less of it for that.

If you live in Montgomeryshire, I will be able to order tickets for you in March.

If you aren't, I know several good B&Bs

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Time To Talk 6 February 2014

It is almost 24 years since I was first admitted to a psychiatric ward and diagnosed with manic-depressive psychosis (now more commonly known as Bipolar 1) at the age of not quite 33, and given the horrendously powerful and now rarely used drug haloperidol to "bring me down". My only child had just had her 9th birthday.

Next month she will be 33, so she is now the exact age I was then. 

I had a further five
admissions as an in-patient in the following 7 years, until I finally screwed up my nerve, all my energies and determination, to leave and then divorce my first husband.

I have never been an in-patient since, although I continue to take stabilising medication as my brain chemistry was permanently altered by the high cortisol levels induced by the intolerable stresses in my first marriage.

On some very rare occasions I have been abused, criticised and marginalised by people I had regarded as good friends, once with scathing comments about being "on tablets" as though that automatically made me inferior to her and not a fully paid-up member of human society.

Our paths have not crossed since.

However, my adorable second husband often tells me he married me because I am mad, not in spite of it. He loves the way my mind works, its flashes of startling brilliance, its sideways-on humour, my compassion for the sufferings of others, having once suffered so much myself.

I am a survivor. I own my illness, always have, and no-one will ever make me feel ashamed for having developed the abnormal brain chemistry that prevails in 2%+ of human beings worldwide.

If you have a problem with it, dear reader, then I promise you, it is YOUR problem! LOL (manic cackle, of course...)!

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Front Row Second Soprano in the Celestial Choir

Many years ago, when I had done a going-the-extra-mile kinda good turn for a young friend who was really struggling at the time, he exclaimed afterwards that my "place in heaven is assured".  I thought it was a sweet thing to say, but paid it no mind as

a) I don't believe in an afterlife


b) even if I did I thought there might be a bit more TO it than that

But the Jewish faith has it that whosoever says one life saves the world entire.  My friend was struggling with a profound and all-pervading depression and quite powerful suicidal ideation, so maybe he might have had a point.

So even now, some fifteen or more years later, his words stray across my mind from time to time and I think to myself, well what if this life ISN'T all there is to it and The Husband is right when he quips that there is just this life, and the afterlife and THEN there is nothing?  I then wonder, if I could create my own Marion-made heaven rather than just buying into a pre-manufactured one from some established faith, what shape and form would it take?  After all, if it is to be perpetual bliss, all tastes do need to be catered for, right?

I'd like it to be musical.  Very musical, with opportunities for all.  I'd like to join a celestial choir rehearsing great works like the Verdi Requiem, or the Mozart Mass in C or the J S Bach B Minor Mass, and I'd like the rehearsals to be taken by the composers.

I'd like to have occasional tea parties where we get to have a chat with our dear departeds who have gone before,  but I wouldn't like to live with them, you understand.  Too many other people to meet and greet.  I don't want to have a house prepared for me in heaven, but a little bedsit might be nice.

I hope there are pets.  But if not, I hope we get video links to pet heaven, like cute YouTube clips available in perpetuity of our particular furry and feathered chums having a whale of a time.

I'd like there to be no rancour if I bump into anyone I ever fell out with in any permanent sort of a way whilst on earth.  I'd like to assume that our final moments, our terminal illnesses and death throes will have be enough of a transformative experience to make anything we once quarelled about seem stupidly trivial in comparison.

I'd like not to have to bathe, or wash my hair, or pay any particular attention to any part of my physical entity that might remain.  Except for eating and drinking.  I'd like to eat and drink and socialise convivially without any digestive processes whatsoever, just a sensation on the tongue or in the mouth.  But I do NOT want "foie gras to the sound of trumpets".  I'd love trumpets of course (the Verdi Dies Irae would be pale relation of its earthy version without trumpets) but I cannot abide foie gras.

I'd like to sleep as much or as little as I wanted and always awake refreshed.

I'd like not to have osteoarthritis.

And I'd like to be still married to The Husband.  THIS husband.  Not The Daughter's Father.  But in a chummy easy-going sort of a way where we each get to do his or her own version of heaven without the other ever feeling in any way neglected or ignored.  Perhaps we could meet daily over one of those delicious meals where we savour but don't digest, to compare notes on which great mind he'd heard lecture that afternoon, or which great master painter I had had an art class with in the morning.

And after dinner I'd like us to be able to dance - effortlessly and elegantly - to a cracking 1930s big band in a divinely beautiful ballroom, waving nonchalantly to Fred and Ginger as we pass

All in all, I'd like heaven to be a very, very large and stimulating University of the Fourth Age on classy cruise ship in never-ending fair weather.

But I expect I shall get what I am given.  We all will...