Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Parting Shot...

I've had a strange week. I don't seem to have done much, so haven't had anything to write about really. I'm being slowly but surely brought down by the continuing presence of The Wee Git. He never goes out, he doesn't have any friends, he just chips away at me all the time, and sometimes it's hard to laugh about it. I'll just give you one example. About a month ago he started asking me if I would wash his scarf at the weekend. I said "No. I do one load of washing for you once a week (that's the deal) but not at weekends." He kept on at me so I agreed, eventually, and he brought down not just a scarf, but a whole bag full of washing. I emptied out this bag to see what was in it and, guess what, no scarf! I called up the stairs: "Arif, I thought you wanted me to wash your scarf - it's not in the bag ." He stood there and said "No, I have changed my mind." What did I answer? "Funnily enough, so have I." OK, it's funny, and he isn't getting his own way all the time, but I have to say it's getting me down, and he doesn't give up - he has asked me the same question every weekend since.

Anyway, he'll be gone in two weeks, and I have to think of a parting comment when he does go. Perhaps we could have a little competition? Please help me to think up something really good to say when he's leaving. So far, my best thought is "I wish I could say it's been a pleasure having you here." I'm sure you'll have some much better suggestions. Bear in mind that his English isn't very good, and hasn't really improved, because of his steadfast refusal to either take a job or go out and talk to any real English people (we're lower-class and all that). Help me, please. I feel that after my 10 weeks of endurance, I need to have the last word.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Day in the Life...

As I walked up the hill towards Hove Station yesterday, I had no idea what was in store for me. I was planning a quick trip to East Croydon and then on to West Croydon, to find Lidl and collect some items that were waiting for me. This trip would normally mean a half hour or so on the train and some pleasant shopping, before returning home in time for tea. Huh!

12.15. It all looked fine. The train arrived on time and I climbed aboard. Five minutes later, when the train hadn't moved, we passengers began to wonder why. There came an announcement to the effect that the train could not proceed to London and would have to go back to Littlehampton (where it came from in the first place) and then approach London on a different line, through the Arun Valley. There didn't seem to be any choice, so we sat as the train trundled towards Littlehampton. This took about half an hour, and then it sat. And sat. Then we had another announcement. "There has been a fatality on the line in the Burgess Hill area. All services will now be diverted and delayed." Shock. Relief. At least we knew what was happening. I spotted a woman who was obviously deaf, and was desperately trying to find out what was happening. (The announcements were no use to her, and the destinations on the in-train display hadn't changed.) I gathered that she was going to Gatwick, so assured her that we were all in the same boat (or train), and hoped to get there, or thereabouts, shortly. Next we had to change trains, and trundled back, past Arundel, on the other line. All this had taken about two hours so far. Our next stop was Three Bridges (unscheduled of course), where we were told that the train would now go direct to Victoria without stopping. This meant hopping off and making for the opposite side of the platform for another train which would take me to East Croydon. As I stood there, I looked back and saw that the deaf woman was still sitting, all unaware, in the previous train. I nipped back across the platform and knocked on the train window, mouthing "You Gatwick" and motioning her to get to the door. Sadly, as soon as she moved, so did the train. I didn't have a chance to get the door open, and had to watch her being carried away on the fast train to Victoria! Back on my train, which stopped at every stop, we finally reached East Croydon, where I had to catch a tram to West Croydon. Daughter had told me it was easy, but she hadn't told me what to expect in Croydon. It's HUGE, and very confusing. It's also like being in an African country - not sure which one - because there were very few white, or even white-ish faces. After I jumped on the wrong tram twice, and jumped off again, I was pointed in the right direction and managed to find West Croydon. It was now 3.15 pm and I had been travelling for three hours. It was also freezing cold and trying to snow.

At West Croydon Station, I walked into what I first thought was a Police/Terrorist scenario. There were at least six Policemen wearing what I assumed to be "Flak Jackets" ( bright yellow and padded), and they seemed to be armed! There was also what looked like a portable detector (the kind you have to go through in Airports) with flashing lights and obviously at the ready for any incident! It was rather like a weird and very different Christmas display!

I had been expecting the Lidl store to be opposite the station, but it clearly wasn't. So I approached one of the Policemen (my Mum always told me to ask a Policeman) and asked him if he knew where Lidl was. He looked rather surprised, but was very pleasant and called another young Policeman over. Between them they pointed me in the right direction - another half mile walk against a freezing wind - and there it was. The Holy Grail. Lidl. And the Ski Watches which I had been told would be waiting for me. The Manager of Lidl was lovely - very polite and kind. In fact everyone I encountered was just the same. But I did have the feeling that I was in a foreign land - not an unpleasant foreign land by any means, but nevertheless, very foreign.

I scuttled back up the freezing street with my booty, waving my Lidl bag at the two Policemen as I passed. (Which could have been a really wrong move, come to think of it.) And headed for the sanctuary of Marks and Spencer, which I had spotted on the way down. Oh Bliss. A cup of tea and a turkey sandwich before the trek back home. I phoned my Aristocratic BF from M & S (since I had embarked on this Odyssey mainly for her benefit) and giggled hysterically as I told her what had happened. Then I embarked on the return journey. I was pointed in several wrong directions, but finally found a bus going the right way, and then a train at East Croydon. On the way back the train stopped at every station again (I guess they were still trying to catch up on the day's disasters and delays). And the quickest part of my journey was the one-stop train from Brighton to Hove. Home at 7pm - just in time to cook supper for The Wee Git, Oh Joy - and after 7 hours of travelling (if you can call it that).

Actually, I'm not complaining - at least I was sitting warm and safe on a train for most of the time. And I lived to tell the tale, which sadly was not the case for one unfortunate person that day. I do wonder what happened to my deaf lady (not that she was mine, but you know what I mean), and hope she finally got to Gatwick in one piece, if rather late. It's a complete mystery, but perhaps we were all meant to be sitting on that train for three hours, in a kind of limbo! Who knows what might have befallen us otherwise?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Three for the Water Pistol.

My lovely Grandson has been to the WaterPistol again - Hospital to you and me. Actually he can say Hospital now, but WaterPistol makes it sound much more fun. The reason he's been is to have those gorgeous little ears checked - and his Teacher was right, he has a lot of fluid tucked away in there which is damaging his hearing. The Consultant thinks he should have gromits - and though Daughter was dreading hearing that, I think she knows it will help him. As I've mentioned before, she had three lots of gromits between the ages of 6 and 18, and in the end her hearing was (and is) fine. So let's hope it will do the trick for Grandson. I can't bear the thought that he will have to have an anaesthetic, but there's no alternative.

No. 2 for the WaterPistol was Daughter, who had to go last Tuesday to have another biopsy procedure for more pre-cancerous cells. These showed up in her Smear Test a year ago, for which she had a Colposcopy, and have now reappeared. I'm worried about this, of course, but she is taking it in her stride. And at least they are on to it quickly (within two weeks of her test). They have taken samples from three areas apparently, and she will have the results in about two weeks. In the meantime it's the same routine: no lifting, no sex and no-one smoking around her, and she has to rest. I had Grandson here for the weekend so that she could take it easy, and she did look better when she came to collect him yesterday. Of course she is working more or less full time now, so resting isn't quite as easy as it was last year. She does finish work early on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so I'm hoping that will be enough.

No 3 is my Sister, who is having investigations into some white stuff which has appeared under her skin near the joints of her fingers. Strange, but these white "strings" (they may be called nodules) sort of move under the surface - not while you're looking apparently- and aren't painful all the time, but can be when they are very close to the joints. They could be precursors to rheumatism or arthritis, She is waiting for the results of blood tests too. All in all, that's plenty to be going on with, I feel.

On a more cheerful note, Christmas is coming! It looks as if we will have all the usual suspects here again this year - Son and maybe a few of his friends, plus Daughter, Grandson and the Boyfriend. Plus anyone else who fancies turning up - I like to have lots of people around to help eat all the food and drink all the drink. I haven't started Christmas Shopping yet - that joy is yet to come, but I did go into John Lewis in Oxford Street last week (I went up to have lunch with Son and tea with Sister) and their Christmas stuff does look very tempting.I expect I'll go back again when I've written my Christmas List.

Like India Knight, who writes in the Sunday Times, I've been avoiding the news and the papers for a week now because I can't bear to hear or read about poor little Baby P. I feel I should be apologizing for all humanity that tragedies like these should happen at all. That little innocent didn't have a life, or any love, in his all-too-brief existence. Nor did he have a chance in this procedure-ridden society. Why someone didn't just walk into that house and remove him, I simply can't understand. Those who killed that little boy will surely go to Hell - if there is such a place. I'm not religious at all, but in this instance I sincerely hope that there is a Hell. Perhaps the most frightening statistic that came out of this was that, on average, two children are killed every week by their parents, family or step-parents. This is too horrible for me to contemplate. WHY? HOW? Is there no way we can protect these children? Save the Children? the NSPCC?
Children in Need? It's obviously not about money - just look at the amazing amount raised last week by Terry Wogan and the Children in Need Appeal. But WHY can't it prevent this terrible, terrible situation? I don't have the answers. But I carry the guilt - as we all must to some degree. Surely there must be something we can do to save our children?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Meme is late..

Sorry Suzysoo, it has taken me ages to do this, and I'm not sure it will be any good anyway:

7 Things I plan to do before I die:
Go to Vancouver - I once read a book about it and have wanted to go ever since.
See my Children happy and settled.
Get something published.
Visit my old friend in Sydney - though I'm not keen on 24hr flights.
Live in a house with a verandah.
See the Egyptian Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings.
Win the Lottery (shallow I know, but I could make so many people happy).

7 things I do now:
Eat too much, worry too much, count the pennies, cook every day, walk by the sea, sit up late Blogging, talk for hours on the phone.

7 things I can't do:
Ignore a crying child.
Drink whisky (because my Father was an alcoholic).
Eat jellied eels (ugh).
Run like I used to.
Stay up all night dancing (as I used to).
Drink coffee after lunch (it keeps me awake all night).

7 things that attract me to the oppposite sex: Well, if I can remember,

Nice hands, intelligence and wit, a love of music, generosity, a nice smile, a good body (of course) and a sense of style.

7 things I say most often:

"Bugger", "Oops, sorry", "Lots of love, Darling", "What do I know", "How's my precious boy?", "I'd love to" and " Night, Night, Sleep Tight"

7 Celebrities I admire: this is hard because I'm not much into celebrities.
Bette Midler (wonderful voice and sense of humour),
Twiggy (she's a survivor),
Biba (the original fashion queen of my youth),
Steve McQueen (he was so gorgeous),
The Beatles (my all-time favourite band),
David Beckham (great footballer, and I love football)
Katharine Hepburn (style incorporated).

7 favourite foods:
Fish and Chips,
Rabbit cooked with prunes,
Roasted Parsnip soup with Garlic Bread,
Toffee Ice Cream,
Good Olives,
Almond Croissants,
Sauteed Potatoes.

7 Bloggers who need to do this Meme: this is hard too, because lots of you have done it already, but here goes.. Dem Bones, Dem Bones: Dusty Spider: Family Affairs (though she may have done it): Made in Heaven (sorry Donna): Retired and Crazy: The Dotterel: Tea and Cake..

Of course, anyone who wants to do this one is welcome to take it on - come on you lot, we all want to know more about you. And if you don't want to do it, that's fine too. This is a Democracy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We Shall Remember Them

Yesterday morning I went to the local Brighton Remembrance Parade and Service, which is held down at the Old Steine, by the War Memorial (incidentally, oppposite Son's old flat, the scene of our struggles last year). I was reminded that this time last year Daughter and Grandson stood on the balcony and watched the parade in the sunshine. This year the weather wasn't so good, but at least it didn't rain. When the gun fired at 11 o'clock, everyone fell silent, and there was no sound of traffic. Only the seagulls didn't observe the silence. They flew up and circled around, their strange, sad cries oddly appropriate. During the silence there was a fierce gust of wind which appeared from nowhere and made us all shiver. I was moved to tears, as always, particularly when I saw all the young cadets in their uniforms with their shining faces and polished boots, and thought of all those wonderful young men who went (straight from school some of them) to the dreadful trenches, never to return. Some of them had no boots at all, and walked with bloody feet, many of them blinded with that hideous mustard gas, to field hospitals that had no hope of coping with the numbers of casualties. And as for those poor Mothers - yesterday or today, to lose your children in a War is the most terrible thing.

Why do we still have Wars? It's the eternal question. I don't have an answer, and I don't believe that any answer is really good enough. Perhaps there will come a day when the world has had enough of killing. Perhaps..

Friday, November 7, 2008

Laughter and Tears..

I know you have been waiting with bated breath, as they say, to hear what occurred at our dinner last Sunday. Gay Friend arrived looking smart as ever, and the roast dinner was timed perfectly. I called Mr Picky down and introduced him to GF. Mr.P had shaved (increasingly rare) and looked very clean. He seemed pleased to meet GF, but as he doesn't understand half one says, it's difficult to know for sure. I introduced GF as someone who "buys and sells old clothes". Now this was naughty I know, but I couldn't bloody resist it. And you should have seen The Wee Git's face (I have decided to re-christen him The Wee Git after a suggestion by my dear friend MOB). He looked confused, and then realized that I was serious. And Gay Friend insisted on engaging him in a conversation about the local Charity Shops and what good work they do for the Community. The Wee Git's face was a picture, but he obviously didn't dare to repeat his previous opinions about "lower class people" (GF is quite tall and imposing - and of course he's a bloke!), and retired 'hurt' soon after our meal. It was a great way to let off steam for me, and we laughed ourselves silly afterwards. For those of you who haven't heard GF's laugh, I'll try to describe it - a witch's cackle combined with a Steamboat hooter would come pretty close - but even then it's not quite right. And it is embarrassingly loud. So, a good time was had by (almost) all - and don't attempt to make me feel guilty you lot - you know I'm a softie when it comes to emotional appeals, but this Wee Git has been driving me mad for five weeks now! And I've got five more to go..

I somehow managed to get myself into an emotional two-and-eight today because I was looking at some old family photographs. When Daughter was living here with Grandson, a few years ago, she decided to put all my old photos into albums, and the result was wonderful. Instead of putting them in chronological order, she stuck them in, in a random order which makes them far more interesting and poignant somehow. So we have photos of my childrens' Birthdays next to pics of Grandson at six months, and then photos of my two as Teenagers or on family holidays. I came to a picture of Son, a friend of Daughter's, and Me, which was taken at Christmas in Cambridge about 7 years ago. I had forgotten this picture, but not the time. Son, who was in his final year at Uni, had been going through a particularly awful patch, with the break-up of his relationship with KT, Hon grandaughter's Mum. He was very depressed, she had treated him very badly (to say the least), and I was really fearful for him. Looking at this photo, in which he looks terrible - almost haunted - and I'm trying to smile and be cheerful, made me feel heartsick. I know we got through it and have come out the other side stronger and probably better, but oh, it was painful torture. Love hurts, that's for sure, and just looking at that photo brought such a surge of protective love for Son, combined with the pain I remember when I couldn't seem to make things right for him. I could have done without that memory today, but perhaps I needed it for some reason.

Ah well, time for bed. Sweet dreams to you all.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Not in my Country.

How can I bear another 6 weeks of this? Rhetorical question I know, and I'll do it for the money, which has already been accounted for. But it's not getting any easier. As you may know, little Mr Picky has been looking for a job ever since he has been here. He hasn't yet found one - at least not one that pays. (And it may be uncharitable, but I wouldn't give him a job either.) Anyway, after applying to about 30 different hotels, bars and restaurants, he decided that he would go for the Charity Shops, of which we have many in Hove (and Brighton). He knew that this would mean not being paid, but decided that his need for English conversation was greater than his need for money. Needless to say, he wasn't doing it for altruistic reasons. (Don't forget, there are no poor people in Cyprus!) The nice lady Manager at Barnardo's gave him a job last week, and he spent 40 minutes there on Friday (came away sneezing because of the "dirt and dust" ) and about an hour there yesterday, before giving up completely. When I asked him why, he replied - and this is verbatim - "I think, Margot, that these are lower-class people." My jaw dropped. I asked him to repeat what he had said, and he did, without a trace of shame. He then said "In my Country, we do not do this. People do not buy old clothes." Oh my God - I nearly reached across the table and slapped him. I didn't, but smartly replied " Well in this country we do - and it doesn't make us lower class." He had to amuse himself for the rest of supper, because I could hardly trust myself to speak to him. How can this young man be so positive that he is better than everyone else? As Daughter says, he dresses like a 50 year old, in ghastly jumpers that Oxfam would be hard-pressed to sell. He has no social graces, and not much in the way of manners. He's so full of himself that obviously no-one else exists - especially not "poor or lower-class" people. If this is the way of the world today, I don't want any part of it. Thankfully, I don't believe that most young people feel this way - especially not in this country. But I'm forgetting, he's not that young is he?

On a sunnier note, I forgot to tell you that last Monday evening I went with a BBF to see and hear Candace Bushnell talking about her new novel "One Fifth Avenue". The evening was hosted by City Books, and it was great fun. Candace Bushnell (of "Sex and the City" fame) is 49 and looks about 30 - she is very thin and groomed, as one would expect of a celebrity New Yorker in her income bracket. She was dressed in (probably) an Armani little black dress, with impossibly high heels and carried a gorgeous Designer leopard bag to die for. We were both completely bowled over by her - she talked about her life, her writing and her characters, and kept the audience spellbound for nearly an hour. Lots of people asked questions, and she then sat and signed copies of her book for anyone who had bought one. I couldn't keep my eyes off that handbag - as BBF said, it probably cost around £800 at the very least. And her face (again BBF noticed that her forehead didn't move, but who cares?). And her giant diamond hoop earrings. And her perfect swooping fall of blonde hair. Not bad for a very bright and talented broad who's going on 50.

PS. I have invited Gay Friend for supper tonight. I may not have mentioned it, but he collects Vintage and Antique clothes, and has a huge collection, mostly in store, which he hires or loans out. He obviously visits all the local Charity and Vintage Shops on a weekly basis, and knows all the Managers personally. I am looking forward to this - sparks will fly I hope. Keep you posted.