28 August 2011

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

 This week has been one of immense variety; the intriguing and the banal; the curious and the creepy; and the usual sprinkling of domestic delights. For those of you who have commented on my tendency to juxtapose the most unlikely events brace yourselves for a roller coaster ride!

 The thing troubling me right now is Irene and her unwelcome visit to the East Coast. One of my oldest friend’s lives in Virginia one of the States in the path of the hurricane cutely named Irene. Frankly having to move out of her house at short notice is the last thing my comrade needs right now. Like many mothers of young children she has her hands full in the long summer vacation. We met when I was studying at Washington State University in 1988/89 and bonded over a Women’s’ Studies module. Over the last 20 plus years we have met up and shared significant moments including one memorable August when she came to stay in Cardiff. During the month together we watched the film ‘Enchanted April’, to my shame I only recently found out it was based on a novel written in the 1930’s. I found a copy, (of the film), recently and watched it last night; it was not quite as I remembered.

 Four women escape to an Italian Castle they found advertised in the newspaper and of course it is paradise. I do recommend it for an autumn Sunday afternoon, one with shadows in the drawing room by 4 pm! That August we hid in my tiny flat by Roath Park a million miles from an Italian Castle. Looking back now on the ‘challenges’ we faced then I realise quite how young and naive we were; single, childless and in our first post graduation jobs. My disappointment (in the film), came from the characters having needed a break from their husbands invite said spouses to come and share the idyll after only one day! I had thought they had returned home enlightened and emancipated after a month of female bonding; I couldn’t have been more wrong! Still Miranda Richardson is a brilliant actor playing a part described by her husband as ‘a disappointed Madonna’ – nice compliment! Her husband is played by Jim Broadbent, an accomplished actor himself but not one I would have been flinging myself at in a passionate embrace. If you watch the film this will make sense and seem a little less harsh!

 I have just been interrupted by someone knocking at the door, I HATE cold callers and usually unplug the doorbell unless I am expecting someone. The caller initially walked passed the house as my neighbour had said I was out (that’s the definition of a good neighbour). But unfortunately I am working at the dining table having spread my papers out and the caller saw me! The unplugged doorbell tactic wouldn’t have worked as he thumped loudly at the wooden door; an aural assault seldom endears me so he was already on the back foot. As I opened the door I was mid flow saying ’you know that move where you walked passed the house – that was the right one!’ when he thrust a piece of cardboard at me.

 You know what is coming ladies? Of course it is something designed to make the house owner feel sorry for the caller.  The young man in his mid 20’s is deaf and is selling his drawings (£15-20) to raise money for an operation. Before I can get a word out he has opened his folder to reveal a pencil drawing. I couldn’t tell you what the subject of the ‘sketch’ was but accomplished it was not; certainly nowhere near the price in his introductory card. I probably sound completely evil and unreasonable but I have worked hard for my little haven and I do not apologise for resenting my privacy being invaded. Perhaps I should put one of those notices on the door saying no junk mail and no cold callers!

My day then proceeded to get even more tedious when I popped to Tesco before a friend called round. The sole reason for the journey was I confess to buy cigarettes but whilst I was out a few essentials were procured to justify the trip.On arrival in the supermarket car park there were no small trolleys in the bay by the door; number 1 annoyance. So I dragged myself on my two crutches (a bad day today) across the road to an abandoned trolley; a fit person got there before me, bugger; number 2 annoyance. Finally the trolley collection person delivered some small ones to the bay (walking past me (so obviously waiting) – what is the matter with young people these days!) and I make it into the store. By now of course I have wasted time and its touch and go as to whether I will be back at the house before my friend arrives. Some day’s life conspires against one in spite of one’s best endeavours! At the checkout the bored (young male) assistant avoids eye contact and does not offer to help pack. Childish as it sounds I decide to see if I can complete the transaction without speaking! Politeness foils me and I say thank you!

 But the real irritation comes at the tobacco kiosk. Not only are they unable to sell lottery tickets as the machine is down (ah bless) but the brand of cigarettes I favour has not been loaded onto the system so I can’t buy them! Can’t the price be entered manually I ask. No this would upset the stock control I am told. Yes ladies I could effectively grind glass between my teeth at this point! I will be complaining to the Manager!

 Earlier this week in Starbucks the table adjacent to me was occupied by a woman probably about my age but looking older. I say older having come fresh from a facial where my beautician said I probably had one of the best skins of her clients; I officially loved her momentarily! The woman is sitting with an elderly couple possibly (most probably) her parents; they are engrossed passively in kitchen catalogues. When I arrived the elderly lady smartly dressed in a short sleeved jacket and skirt with contrasting patterned short sleeved blouse is earnestly looking at cupboards. Haven’t we all been through the selection of such an outfit for a female relative? Thankfully my mother went through this phase in the 80’s and is now (largely) a ‘natty’ up to date dresser; we diverge on her fondness for cropped trousers. I can’t abide them. She has far too many pairs in my opinion!

 In the 80s the ensemble outfit was something I too was seen sporting on family occasions; nasty photographic evidence remains lurking in albums hidden in the spare bedroom. Proof of such crimes must be rooted out for risk of them appearing on some website at some point. Publishing is too easy these days and no matter how people say that images can be removed there is always some weirdo out there archiving odd things!

 The elderly gentleman is bent to the extent his chin sits barely three inches above the table; his jar twisted giving him a permanent grimace like a character from Steptoe and Son. Watching him makes me wonder what he looked like in his younger days. He tries to move things on by putting on his flat cap but his female companions studiously ignore him and compare thoughts on handles. Walking out the couple hang on to each other, the man grips his stick whilst holding his wife’s hand; neither would stop the other falling should they trip. The younger woman strides ahead as if her speed would somehow make the exit faster! Perhaps she is a niece as surely a daughter would be a little kinder. If you haven’t got time to see the supportive visit through properly one wonders if it might be nicer not to bother. Again we’ve all been there motivated by guilt at our shortcomings; not having seen enough of relatives, not making enough time for people who enriched our lives when we were younger.  It is a complicated business and not one I have got a grip on yet!

 The Libyan uprising has reached a peak this week and appalling events have been transmitted around the globe. The radio interview one lunchtime really hit home for me. Sydney, a woman from Human Rights Watch was walking around Tripoli describing what she saw. At one point she asks for a moment as her voice wavers; she is looking a piles of bodies, the victims of execution although the perpetrators are unclear at this point. Her job is to gather evidence to be used later should legal proceedings be followed to bring people to justice. To her credit she resists drawing conclusions saying the facts and forensic evidence must be collected and considered first. I have great admiration for people who dedicate their lives to this; the sign of a civilised society is surely the ability to ensure that justice is upheld. Seldom is either side completely blameless in civil war.

 

The entering of Gaddafi’s compound reveals the lifestyle he, like dictators before him, has been leading. The offensive opulence that jars with the people they rule. But the scrapbook of pictures of Condeleezza Rice apparently from Mr Gaddafi’s personal archive is creepy. He has not kept his admiration for her quiet over the years but this is surely a step too far! I wonder how the concert pianist and former Defence Secretary might feel about this discovery!

 The other interesting story relates to Gaddafi’s daughter Hanna; is she dead or alive and practicing as a doctor in Tripoli? Was his daughter killed in a bomb attack following the bombing of a Berlin nightclub where US military personnel were targeted? If she was then is Hanna the adopted daughter acquired to seemingly replace his actual daughter? Either way a box set of Sex in the City was found in one of the bedrooms in the compound!

 The delivery of the Guardian to my newly acquired Kindle is a wonderful addition to my day. I can forgive the filtering out of the crossword and the TV listings as I have actually read the newspaper this week. I especially like the search facility that allows the story of interest to be located without having to wade through items (sport) of no relevance to a spinster!

 So this bank holiday weekend will be a welcome quiet one allowing me to put the finishing touches to the festival accounts. The Magdalena Project celebration was a resounding success and I was proud to be told that people were buzzing with talk of the festival. This came from a client who had no reason to be anything other than honest. I do wish people were equally complimentary of the wonderful spreadsheets I have produced; accurate accounting, whilst essential, is hardly exciting in the round!

 I am pleased to say that the disabled parking space outside my house is making my life just a tad more manageable. My neighbours have left the space empty although it has been a challenge to get into on occasions as the local authority haven’t been exactly generous with the size painted – it is a good job I’m not trying to manoeuvre a wheelchair  out of the boot as frankly this would be an impossible task. Still after 3.5 years of waiting I really mustn’t grumble!

 And finally I began the holiday weekend with a trip to M&S with my gorgeous godson and his mother (and grandmother). I save up my vouchers to spend on clothes for him and this weekend I had discount vouchers to spend too.  Why is it impossible to just spend up to the value of the vouchers? In my defence I was also factoring in the discount; 10% off kidswear and 20% off schoolwear. OK I am making excuses! We needed school shoes and his mother had been impressed with the last ones I had bought from M&S as they didn’t scuff. Unfortunately the school voucher discount didn’t cover footwear, a fact I didn’t discover until paying!

 Gone are the days when children’s shoes were bought from Clarks after the excitement of the measuring machine. I was brought up on hand me down clothes but never shoes; not a practice followed these days. Godson seemed to have huge feet when I looked at his trainers this week – heavens he’s only 3 years old and if the old adage has a grain of truth in it then we’re in for problems when he gets older I thought. But no he is wearing his cousins hand me downs which are at least three sizes too big; there’s room for growth but surely this is a step (ha ha) too far!

Godson is incredibly patient as we jam his arms into various sleeves before making a decision on which water proof jacket to buy. I favoured a little puffa jacket until I realised it was so stiff he couldn’t really put his arms down comfortably! It was a cute (and amusing) image as he sat in the trolley like an animated doll! Inexperienced in the area of buying childrens clothes I made the mistake of asking Godson if he liked particular items – of course he said no to the delightful items I pointed out to him! He is a canny little monkey who will go far!

 Finally I will leave you with my final irritation; the smell of smoked haddock. I really thought that baking it in the oven would mean the smell would not linger in the kitchen; I was wrong (again)!

 For the followers of Me and Mr Putin the next episode entitled ‘The Outdoor Shower’ will be posted tomorrow. Do please read it as I am really rather pleased with how it’s turning out!

 

 

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