May 25, 2008


There is a gigantic hole at the end of my street and like starlings around a bacon rind we flock to view it. Its proportions are truly enormous and as we gawk admiringly, I detect communal pride and street solidarity in the contemplation of ‘our hole’. No one knows why it is there. Road works are a permanent fixture in our city. One day an intact road - next day a hole. No big deal.
Even so, this particular hole is truly magnificent (!) and we venture closer. Excited kids toss stones and we watch them bounce off the sides and plummet downwards. Shivering, I reflect that this must have been how the whole planet once was: A pitted globe of dank treacherous holes, in a ground torn apart by primeval earthquakes. A time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, perhaps on this very spot!
As I gaze with fascination into the newly dug aperture, I wonder what it is about holes that exert such magnetism on the human psyche? Take a hole in a garment for example. Goaded on by an almost instinctive, primeval urge, we are doomed to stick a finger in it! But what is a hole really? Nothing. It is simply not there - and yet it is - defined by its edges. It is a maddening concept.
Shrugging off my musings I hop back onto my bike and continue on round the corner to the shops – and stop dead! The whole main street is dug up, with a huge trench excavated along its entire length. The sand and soil from the trench is piled up high along its outer edge like a…dinosaur’s vertebrae (!) and the strip of road left over, is made even narrower by a row of parked cars along the pavement curb.
With a line of honking cars now piling up behind me, I peddle frantically. Well it isn’t my fault that there is no room for a car and a bicycle side by side…
Then suddenly and horribly – BAM! The door of a parked car swings open and I smash full tilt into it and fall to the ground. The car behind me screeches to a stop and I am vaguely aware of the driver extricating me from my damaged bike and yelling at the perpetrator.
'What the 'blazes' do you think you are doing?!'
A crowd is gathering, asking me if I am all right. I don’t know. My left hand is grazed and embedded with grit from the road and there is a large lump on the front of my right shin and something decidedly odd about my right hand. I hold it up and the ring finger swings drunkenly across the front of the little finger. It is obviously broken. The crowd sighs.
‘Insurance,’ I mumble and the perpetrator looks alarmed but under the baleful glare of the crowd, he writes his name, phone and car registration number on a piece of paper and gives it to me.
Then he tries to sneak off.
‘Hospital!’ I mutter, staring angrily at him.
The crowd hisses.
Chastened, he agrees and his female companion helps me into their car, while a helpful shopkeeper locks my damaged bike, props it up on a lamppost and drops the key into my coat pocket. I thank him through trembling lips.
What happens at the hospital is a bit of a blur. The perpetrator drops me at the entrance and screeches away without a word, which just stiffens my resolve to ‘get him’ later...grr..(insurance!).
They plaster the whole of my broken right hand and the left hand too is cleaned, ointmented and mummified in bandage. The lump on my shin is left to heal itself. Then an obliging nurse wraps my coat around me and sends me on my way with a medical report and instructions to report the incident to the police. Apparently knocking people off bikes with car doors is a crime! Ha!
Exhausted now, I take the tram home and don’t punch my card. How can I with two mummified hands? How will I manage when I get home - I am bursting for the loo!
Finally at my front door, I open my bag with my teeth and am staring helplessly down at the door key, when suddenly, like a guardian angel, my good neighbour Mrs. V., is swooping down upon me!
‘Potverdorie’! She clucks. Which I think is Dutch for 'damn the pots' but might mean 'good grief'!
‘Saw you from the window. Whatever’s happened? Here, let me help you off with your coat. Tut-tut!’
Surrendering to her kind ministrations, I am soon standing in my hallway being told by Mrs. V. that I am to come over directly and have a nice cup of tea and that she’ll leave her front door open a crack, so that I don’t have to ring the bell with my nose…. Dear Mrs. V..
Wearily I lean back against the wall of the hallway. My swaddled hands are throbbing badly and alone at last I fight down tears of self-pity. Then suddenly my eyes fly open! Mesmerized I stare ahead, as somewhere deep within my brain stem, echoes of a primeval Jurassic past are stirring. Earthquakes, chasms and HOLES… I must be feverish. Then unbidden and instinctively, I sense her! My ‘Terrible Lizard’ is waking and as her massive mouth roars out her mighty pain and frustration, I can hold back the tears no longer...(!)
There's a h-hole in my coat and I don't have a f-finger to poke it with...waahh!

May 24, 2008


It has been nagging away at me for days - how to move that misplaced widget or button, or whatever it’s called, out of a posting and onto the sidebar.
It has in fact taken four whole ‘Fiddling About On The Web’ days, to gather enough knowledge to eventually attempt the deed - but oh happiness and joy - I have finally done it!
Actually, I have only managed to ‘Copy’ the button to the sidebar. The original button is still in its very own posting, where I mistakenly pasted it on May 20. I didn’t dare click on ‘Cut’, in case I lost the button’s code somewhere in transaction. Copying it seemed the safest bet. Anyway, for those of you who might be interested (or in the same dilemma) this is how I did it.

Went to blog ‘dashboard’ and clicked on manage: ‘Posts’ section.
Located title of posting with mistakenly placed button; ticked box and clicked on ‘Edit’.
The posting appeared and I then clicked on ‘Edit HTML’ and highlighted the button’s code with my mouse.
I then clicked on ‘Edit’, next to ‘File’ at top of page and then on ‘Copy’.
With the button’s code now safely copied, I then went to the ‘Layout’ section of my blog and clicked on ‘Add a Page Element’ in the right sidebar.
In the ‘Choose a New Page Element’ page that then popped up, I clicked on HTML/JavaScript, which then revealed yet another page/space and it was into the larger body section of this space that I pasted the button code by going to the keyboard and pressing and holding down the ‘Ctrl’ key and pressing once on the ‘v’.
(I couldn’t paste the code out of ‘Edit’ next to ‘File’ at the top of the page, because this was obscured by the new page/space I was working on).
After the button code appeared in the space provided, I pressed ‘Save Changes’.
Then last of all - and with by now very fast racing heart - I clicked on ‘View Blog’ and ‘Voila!’ There was the errant button - nestling in the sidebar, just as pretty as you please!

The original button is still in the posting I mistakenly sent it to - but at least when that particular posting is archived, its clone will be on display as a permanent fixture in the sidebar!
I am so pleased with myself – and this small but personal triumph over computer superiority calls for an extra large mug of hot, blackberry tea and a between-meals slice of…anything sweet I’ve got in my ‘fridge!
There is no doubt about it, ageing ungracefully got its come-uppence today!

May 20, 2008


Blog Directory - Blogged

OOPS! Another glitch... I was trying to get the above button into the side of the blog under all the other permanent stuff - and its ended up here...! How on earth do I move it??
It's got to stay on the main page - but when May is over it will be archived along with the rest of the May posts - won't it?
Well, at least I'm running true to my usual befuddled, fumbling, dithering, doddering form...sigh. Old age really sucks!

May 18, 2008


Oh... stuff! It seems those infernal techno' gremlins, have invaded my life again (!)
The portents are not good. My computer has just asked me twice if I’ve forgotten my password and will not let me log on. So… retype password for the third time, letter for letter, with great concentration: i.e., aided by tip of tongue protruding from side of mouth – and bingo! I’m in! Good old tongue, always there when I need it.
Just for a change, I decide to type my blog URL directly onto the web, to see what it looks like to ‘the world’ so to speak - when up pops the announcement that there is no such blog in existence!
Aagghh…! Instant panic as heart leaps into throat. O.M.G.! ‘They’ have taken it off! I must have transcended some moral code or other. Oh gosh, which one? Why? What have I done?
Good old tongue to the rescue, moistening increasingly dry lips - although I have to practically ‘gag’ it up from the back of my throat, after almost swallowing it in shock! My darting eyes search frantically for the problem – then… ping (!) the old grey mush other people refer to as a brain, finally wakes up properly and tells me I have misspelled the URL address…. A quick retype… and there it is!
Oh the blessed relief! There you are - my new little blog. Kiss kiss! Ouch! Bump my nose on the monitor and it tastes horrible too. Relief does strange things to a person but the adrenalin rush has receded now and here I am typing away, so I think it is probably time for a nice strong, refreshing cup of tea.
Actually, this posting was only intended as a postscript to ‘Cell Phone Cacophony’. I just wanted to say that encouraged by my son, who came over for a visit yesterday, I went out and bought a sleek new cell phone! It is shiny and red and about one third the size of my wallet (!) although just as useless at the moment, because it still needs to be programmed. Hmm. I know this sounds daft - but I have turned aside all offers of help. Past events have shown that when anyone tries to help me with new technological challenges, I get into a flap! The combination of geek jargon and watching someone else’s finger clicking rapidly on menu buttons - passes right over my fuddled white head.
So there's nothing else for it, if these new technologies are going to ‘stick', I have to tackle them myself. Either that, or keep phoning the kids for help and become a dreaded burden! Still, on second thoughts, isn't that what kids are for? No, on third thoughts, I’d better not. They are all talking to me at the moment… and I’d like to keep it that way!
I do have one tried and true aid though. Tea! Pots and pots of it and I think a mild blackberry flavour would go down a treat right now. Also, if I’m not mistaken, there are still a few chocolate bars left in ‘Granny’s Sweetie Jar’. I buy them for my almost three year old grandson, but his mum - very sensibly - wont let him have too many of them. So I help him along a bit. Can’t have the stock going stale!
Still, they do say that eating chocolate releases endorphins in the brain and I am going to need a lot of ‘happy feeling’, before tackling my brand new cell phone! Now if I could just find out which foodstuffs induce PATIENCE…? Any ideas? Tea’s up! Cheers!

May 16, 2008


There is no doubt about it, celluloid phones, rank high on my list of most annoying and difficult to master technologies! The enthusiasm with which these phones were first greeted, baffled me completely. Everyone except me it seemed, was rushing out to buy one. Even my septuagenarian neighbour, a certain Mrs. V., astonished me one day during a trip to our local market, by suddenly pulling out a cell phone, flipping it dexterously open and bawling into it at the top of her voice! I didn’t even know she owned such a thing and almost jumped out of my skin at the unexpectedness of it all.
The most amazing thing to me was that Mrs. V was holding the phone below chin level and repeatedly shouting her granddaughter’s name at it.
‘Er.. Don’t you have to dial first?’ I ventured.
‘I am doing,’ answered the intrepid Mrs.V.. ‘I’m using name–recognition-dialing.’
‘Oh…of course,’ I murmured faintly, ‘name-recognition-dialing’.
I was always amazed at the richness and variation of the cell phone topics under discussion, although often dismayed too that nothing seemed sacred anymore. Like someone’s loud voice slagging off their neighbour/spouse/best friend/boss etc.. Bah!
'Learn to turn a 'deaf' ear', advised the serene Mrs. V..
But even she avoided the city center during tourist season.
Climbing into an over full tram one hot summers day, I was perplexed by the cacophony of sound - until I slowly realized that practically everyone was talking on a cell phone - and I couldn’t understand a word of it!
Throaty Arabic consonants assailed the air. Turkish words, all seemingly ending in ‘Z’ flew over my head. Melodious Caribbean bounced off the windows. Lilting Italian; rapid Spanish; Australian; American; German; Chinese and all manner of Baltic vocals, swirled frenziedly through the humid, claustrophobic interiour. Everyone seemed to be gesturing; either punching the air or drawing directions in it; or just rocking backwards and forwards with their gaze ‘turned inwards’ as they visualized the person on the other end of their phone.
I felt myself giggle and supressed it with a spluttering cough. Oh Lord, help me! Cough cough. That’s right. Swallow. Take a deep breath...
No offence intended to any of the languages mentioned here but when mixed up all together in a confined space, they're a blast!
And then suddenly there I was - screeching like a banshee. Oh flippin 'eck, hold your breath! Hunch forward! Think of something sad! Nothing was working and heads were turning, as people were distracted from their own noise by mine!
I could imagine that in all their different languages the sentiment would be the same:
‘Look at that silly old bat, laughing at nothing. Shouldn’t be allowed out in public alone. No telling what she’ll do next.’
Tears of mirth and humiliation trickled from my eyes - and as I fumbled desperately in my bag for a tissue, my fingers closed around salvation! Cool and shiny to the touch the flat, rectangular shape slid into my palm and with a last ditch flourish I pulled it from my bag and held it to my ear. I was just in time.
Baleful, suspicious eyes were raking my posture. Check it out: Laughing elderly woman, squashed near the door, gazing downwards, right arm bent, hand held to ear at familiar angle. Hmm… nothing unusual, no threat after all.
Relief flooded through me as their eyes ‘turned inwards’ once more, leaving me alone to chortle insanely - into my wallet!

May 12, 2008


Despite my own seemingly age-related shortcomings, I do realize that ageing is a personal experience and that not every old person is dithering, fumbling and doddering their way through life. So why am I?
Come to think of it, by modern standards, 60-ish isn’t all that old, but whereas just three and a half years ago I was completing yet another Open University course (for fun), with my sights set on a degree (to show off with) and being regularly complemented on ‘not looking my age’ (preen) I am now a forgetful, white haired, wrinkly worry wart!
After serious thought, aided by numerous cups of coffee to dilate blood vessels in the brain and aid sluggish memory - I have worked out the exact day the ‘rot’ set in. It was 31st December 2004. That was the day, when after twelve years of daily use, I stopped taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
HRT had originally been prescribed for me at the age of 45, to soften the onset of debilitating ‘mood swings’: i.e., unreasonably angry one minute/manically happy the next; as well as to combat sleeplessness; and the pain of other more physical perimenopausal symptoms. I have to say that whilst HRT may not be the answer for everyone, I thought it was brilliant! Not only did I feel ‘normal’ again within a couple of months - but my skin was benefiting too, appearing hardly to be ageing. As for my hair - the few white strands that did gradually appear, were mostly confined to the temple areas and easy to cover up with a touch of hair dye.
After two years of taking HRT, I returned to the doctor and asked her if I should stop - but since I obviously felt and looked so well, she offered me a repeat prescription and I accepted it gladly!
I don’t really know why I eventually stopped taking HRT. However, health warnings in the media of a possible link between breast cancer and prolonged use of this remedy, certainly had a lot to do with my decision.
It took less than 72 hours and just two ‘missed’ pills, for Mother Nature to realize she had me back in her grasp and to punish me soundly with my first ‘hot flush’. O.M.G.! I was convinced I would spontaneously combust! Ten minutes after that one there was another and then another, day and night; on and on… The time between attacks did gradually diminish but even now I still experience at least two a week. Mostly at night.
Then there was the dizziness; difficulty concentrating and increasing forgetfulness! Not all within those first 72 hours of course but certainly after a year it had become so bad, I cancelled my fifth OU course two thirds of the way through and started ‘pottering’. I pottered around the house, painting and repainting the walls; pottered in the garden hunting slugs; pottered around town alone staring into shop windows and not daring to go in, because I knew a shop assistant would approach me and I’d turn red and stutter and look like a hot, sweaty fool. The physical decline was merciless. Instant bloat! From pear to apple shape in a couple of months and my trunk and chest decorated with something called cherry (senile) angioma..! Wrinkles; rapidly whitening hair and horror of horrors: hair growing out of my nostrils…..aagghh!!! All the more astounding, because I thought that particular affliction was reserved for (old) men? Needless to say, I soon yanked them out with my eyebrow tweezers. Although eye wateringly painful at first, perseverance does pay off because when I do it now I hardly feel a thing and the result lasts quite a long time.
Thankfully the ‘mood swings’ have not returned! In fact, I feel that I am more tolerant and compassionate than I ever was before. Perhaps that is one of nature’s survival techniques: the older and weaker you get the less chance you have of grabbing a share of the mammoth meat, so the more appealing to the clan you have to become, to get them to toss you a bit…! Or something like that. Just a thought. Going to potter off now and try out a new soup I’ve invented, which is guaranteed full of healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 - and will hopefully revitalize my shrinking hippocampus and reduce my expanding midline! I’ll let you know if it works and pass on the recipe… but if I don’t, it will mean it hasn’t worked and I’ve forgotten what I just said…. Toodle-oo!

May 7, 2008


I’ve tried to look after them, I really have – but is there really anything good to say about teeth? From the moment in babyhood when those first tiny ivories penetrate our tender gums, they torment and control our lives: Brush me! Floss me! Avoid too many sweeties (not a chance…) Take me for regular dental checks – and all in the name of avoiding toothaches and bad breath and acquiring a healthy, attractive smile.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way for yours truly. My second front teeth came through crossed, requiring an uncomfortable brace - and were not particularly white to start off with. I also had ‘extra teeth’ that needed to be yanked – and in those distant days of yore they actually used GAS to knock you out with! The horror and pain of it all is etched forever on my mind. The black rubber gas mask… nauseating smell… dizziness… feeling of whizzing through a tunnel backwards… and the humility of waking up and discovering I’d wet my knickers! No time to wallow in self-pity though, I’d be too busy throwing up. None of this was unusual for the times. In fact the whole process was considered quite humane. Milk teeth were usually pulled without anesthetic. Believe me - I know!
Oh how often I have envied those fellow citizens genetically endowed with strong, straight, natural pearly whites, while my own ancestors saw fit to curse me with a hodge-podge of brittle, crooked, off-white curiosities. Bah!
For a while, as a teenager I blamed my less than attractive smile on being born just two years after the end of WW 2 (a ‘baby boomer’) to a mother trying to stay healthy on rationed foodstuffs: i.e., eggs, butter, cheese, milk, meat, etc... Then later, as a mother myself, although well fed, I privately but fleetingly attributed my rapidly loosening molars to the arrival of my own kids! How ‘cruel’ (!) I hear you say - but isn’t there an Old-Wives-Tale that predicts something like: ‘Get pregnant - lose a tooth’? Still, that would only account for three molars at best.
No, there’s nothing else for it. I’ll just have to own up. The fact is I was a greedy, lazy child, who grew up with her hand in the cake tin and stole her little brothers’ chocolate bars, toffees and lollies and employed a perfunctory brushing technique at best!
Happily that’s all in the past now. A decent dentist, has put most of my genetic and hygienic dental legacy and transgressions to rights.
As I smile into the mirror today, I see a top row of gleaming white ‘crowns’ and a bottom row of more or less intact natural teeth, which are however a couple of shades less white than the top row - and that is why I said ‘most’ and not ‘all’ has been put right. There remains just one thing left for me to do and I’m really looking forward to it!
I’ve bought a ‘Teeth Whitening Kit’ for my bottom teeth – and I can’t wait to get started!
There are two tubes of jelly like paste: one for the whitening process and one for maintenance. There is also a half-circle shaped lump of transparent plastic, which apparently has to be heated in hot water and then pressed over my own teeth and held in place for a minute or two to allow it to mould to their shape. This phase must be done properly because once heated and cooled the mould cannot be reheated and reshaped…hmm (slight trepidation in pit of stomach). I must then apply some of the whitening jelly into the mould and put it back over my (bottom) teeth and hold firmly in place for twenty minutes. Repeat daily and after three days I should see a remarkable improvement. Lovely! Seems easy enough, even for my extremely un-technical, un-spatial, un-mathematical brain. So here I go! Tra-la!

I’m bleaching my teeth with a home-try kit,
You have to melt the mould to make it fit….(struggle).
I’m bleachin’ me teef wiv a hmm made kit….(slurp),
Ye af te melt de muld te mek it fit….(drool).
‘m bleech’n mi teefs wiv a hmmm mud kit… (splutter).
Y’v tu mul de mdddd… t’ mek it f’tttt…(slobber….choke!)
And it doesn’t!! It doesn’t fit – and I can’t reheat it…. sob!

Nothing else for it but to phone the dentist for a scrape and a polish and hope s/he can fit me in before 2010…..See ya! I’m off to comfort myself with a cuppa… and a very tiny bar of chocolate.

May 5, 2008


There I was then. An elderly lady, shuffling forward in acute embarrassment in a supermarket queue, with a large box of condoms in my hands!
Try as I might to hide the object, there was no way it would fit into my handbag or coat pocket, so I pretended not to notice it.
Lord... why do things like this always happen to me? I only went in for a bus card!
There were just two people in front of me, a mother and her small fed up son.
'Wannago!' He yelled and kicked backwards, narrowly missing my shins.
Disapproving eyes were turned upon him and I was grateful for the distraction but his flustered parent soon yanked him away and it was suddenly my turn.
I try again. 'Err..errr'. This was no good.
It was happening again. Whenever I am nervous, I can't get the Dutch words into the right order - which is back-to-front to English. My brain was synapsing into overdrive, while the sixteen-year-old, gum-chewing cashier, stared through me in bored silence. I could read her thoughts.
'Goh, not another demented old lady searching for the lav'...'
Sighing deeply and with a quasi-nonchalant air, I put the huge box of condoms on the counter.
The girl swallowed her gum.
'Er, I was trying to buy a bus card from the vending machine by the doors and accidentally pressed the wrong code in,' I explained.
The girl's body language was wary and her gaze unblinking but she didn't answer and I fought off frustration.
Oh bother! Had I said it right? Was she confused by my English accent? I was about to start again when she suddenly gave voice:
'Hans! Bring the key!'
An instant lull in the supermarket buzz led to necks straining and heads bobbing, as other customers sought to locate the reason for the hold up. They looked at the girl; at me; at the box on the counter - which to my despairing eyes appeared to have doubled in size.
Teenage girls giggled and young boys smirked, while two middle-aged women observed my flushing face and grinned wryly.
'Heb je shance schat?' Asked one of them in the Dutch equivalent of: 'Got lucky 'ave yer luv?'
Meanwhile the girl was handing the box of condoms to the newly arrived Hans, a gangling youth, all of seventeen-years-old and whose jacket and tie indicated a position of authority.
Dithering after Hans in the direction of the vending machine, I felt the urgent need to convince him of my irreproachable character.
'I just wanted a bus card and pressed the four and the seven but the seven didn't take and so there was just the four, so then I pressed the six, because you can get bus cards with forty-six as well. But then something went wrong because the four disappeared and then there was the seven and six on the screen and apparently seventy-six is the code number for the er... the box of ...er... 'things', because they fell down into the drawer... And oh yes, I paid with a ten euro note which would have been enough for the bus card plus change - but the er... 'things' obviously cost more because I didn't get any change either.'
To give him credit, Hans did stay calm. He just ignored me. By now even more customers were noticing my plight and from their disdainful glances, I was sure that they were not convinced of my piety either. Not only was I a promiscuous old woman but judging from my stuttering word-waterfall, a promiscuous old English woman to boot! Ha!
Hans emerged at last from the depths of the vending machine with my bus card and change and looked briefly into my miserable eyes. A quick amused smile - perhaps I reminded him of his Gran - and he was gone.
Then suddenly out of the blue, a chorus of commiseration! It was all in Dutch but for once the guttural sounds were music to my red tipped ears.
'Always happens to me too,' grumbled an old man beside me.
'Yer either lose yer change or almost get yer fingers sliced off by that drawer flap thingy.'
'That's right!' A woman this time.
'Yeah, ought to be a law against them things.' Another man.
'It's always the same,' The first man again. 'Tried to get postage stamps out of that infernal contraption last week and ended up with bloody Fisherman's Friend!'
Then just as suddenly as they had appeared, these good people were gone, perhaps never to cross my path again - but leaving me feeling much better! I even felt ready to tackle the dreaded doors.
Oh those murderous, sliding doors... An electronic arrangement imbued with an errant computer system that causes the doors to snap shut on you while you are still only halfway through. Once they have extricated themselves, people often find that their bag, trolley or precious small child is still on the other side(!) Much energetic leaping up and down is then required to get the doors to open again but luckily for me, someone was already leaping. The air was blue with frustrated cries of: Joh! Hup hup! Rot deuren! (Rotten doors) and Potverdommer! (Uninterpretable). People outside were leaping too but nothing was happening and I wondered if the unsynchronized jumps were canceling each other out?
Hup! Hup! Men, women kids and a barking dog tied up near the door leaped for Holland.
'Hup Holland hup!'
Enter Hans with another key and after a bit of fiddling somewhere near the top of the doors, they slid stiffly apart, allowing the hoards to bang into each other in their efforts to get in and out without being sliced in two.
Unbelievably, I made it safely to the street and turned for home. A watery sun was smiling down and the thought of a pot of tea and a packet of chocy biccys brought renewed vigour to my step!
It was touch and go for a while there - and all very undignified - but tomorrow is another day and I am determined that it will take more than a bunch of vending machines and door gremlins to bring me down!