Friday, 13 April 2018

I Scoff My Emergency KitKat

My emergency KitKat has served useful purposes today:

ONE - It lay in my unopened drawer, more than a month after I put it there. It signalled (to whomever might have been interested - probably only me -) that I am, in fact, capable of restraint. As long as I hide the chocolate.

TWO - I noticed it [having opened my drawer at 8.17am to look for a paper clip] for the first time for a couple of weeks. The sight of it gave me hope.

THREE - At 3.34pm, when drinking a cup of coffee, I chose to eat it.




FOUR - Yum.

FIVE - My emergency KitKat transformed scoff into a transitive verb.

SIX - Without it, I would have scoffed today. I scoff.

SEVEN - The objectification and consumption of a KitKat saved me from scoffing. An unkind thing to do.

EIGHT - It also reminded me of the other use for KitKats, and the reason I had a spare, emergency KitKat in the first place: their suitability for use as piano keys.






Sunday, 8 April 2018

I Affix A Toilet Roll Holder To My Shower Room Wall

Four years ago, I picked up a toilet roll holder in a charity shop for £1. It was still in its packaging - an important virtue, I feel, in a second-hand toilet roll holder.

This weekend, I bought the necessary fittings to affix it to the wall next to the toilet.  When I say 'I bought', I mean, a kind friend said he was going to Abbey Hardware. I asked my friend to pick up a couple of rawl plugs suitable for plasterboard, gave him the money.

Abbey Hardware has featured here before.  Forget Harrods (once reputed to sell everything): Abbey Hardware is one of the best shops in the world - a shop where it's still possible to go in, be served immediately by someone able to answer any question which begins with, 'Have you got one of these ...?' - a shop where the revelation of something pulled from a pocket, or drawn on a scrap of paper, or pictured on a phone, is met with serious attention.

For the past four years, the toilet roll holder has been asking to be fixed to a wall.  It took me two years to make the choice about next to which of my two toilets to locate it.  I can't explain the delay of two further years - not adequately, anyway.

Four years and two hours after buying the toilet roll holder, I screwed it to the wall in the shower room. I used a spirit level, a pencil, and a Phillips head screwdriver.

It wasn't that difficult, really.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

I Thank My Younger Self

During yesterday's school concert , I got one of those throat tickles that makes my eyes water.  It came out of the blue, and within a few seconds I was struggling to contain a cough.  It arrived in the second half, and I'd bought a bottle of water at the interval which I quickly opened. The water soothed my throat and I didn't interrupt the young man who was giving a solo from Les Miserables his full and intense purpose.

Only an hour previously, I had expressed my gratitude to my former self, the one who'd thought to leave a packet of mints in the car for those occasions when, on arrival at a school concert after a long day at work, my mouth feels fuzzy with the coffee drunk at elevenses.

Those acts of water and mint, coming so close together, were kindnesses, forethoughts, on behalf of my slightly younger self to my slightly older self. So I said, "Thank you, Liz," out loud.

So too the plastic bag stashed in my handbag, the tissue in my pocket, the plaster in my purse, the emergency £20 note under the cover of my mobile phone - all these are thoughts I've had for my future self for which I may, one moment in the future stood at a till, or having cut my finger, or reaching for my purse and finding it gone, be grateful.

It's easy to say to myself, "You Idiot!" those times when I late for a meeting and have to hurry, or when I accidently throw away a piece of my car when cleaning it or checking the tyres, or when I set fire to my table because I hadn't thought about the combustibility of packs of poppadums; but I've noticed that practising compassion to myself includes not only going easy on myself when I didn't anticipate the future as it turned out to be, but also acknowledging the small triumphs of preparation which make my days better.

There are more memorable kindnesses too: this evening I'm grateful to my slightly younger self for having the forethought to buy two tickets six months ago for the live transmission to our local cinema of a performance from the Royal Opera House - a Bernstein Centenary celebration in dance and music.

The celebration of Berstein's work was full of wonder, power, depth, rhythm and grace. A performance of the Chichester Psalms, to which the Royal Ballet danced Yugen, moved me unexpectedly. The choir sang in Hebrew; the set was simply monumental, the red costumes flowed against the sensitive lighting: all this adding to a sense of sacred space.  The dancers were sculpted like immortal beings, moving to the music with fluency and power, to a plan thought out long in advance.

http://www.roh.org.uk/showings/bernstein-celebration-live-2018

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

I Receive Royalties

Chatting with a friend today, she told me about seeing the Queen when in London earlier this week. "Did she look like the Queen?" I asked. "Yes!" came the reply, along with photographic evidence.  Republican or Royalist, you'd have to admit she looked dazzling and very much like herself in a bright orangey-red coat and matching flamboyant hat. https://www.royal.uk/queen-visits-royal-academy

I have had encounters with royalties of my own today.  A four figure (plus decimal point) sum was paid into my bank account courtesy of ALCS - the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society.  https://www.alcs.co.uk/  This made me feel, for a moment, like a poetry princess.

Like most famous people, The Queen is shorter in real life.  Very early one morning, I once saw the Royal Train on the platform opposite me on Shrewsbury station.  I thought I saw a curtain twitch. And once I saw Peter Ustinov in the Oriental Hotel, Bangkok.

I earned the taller-than-I-expected royalties because I registered my poems published in anthologies, and my own pamphlets, with ALCS.  I did this after I'd seen a friend's post on Facebook about this organisation which collects money on behalf of writers from libraries, and those who've legitimately photo/copied their work.

When I receive money which comes from my poetry, I like to spend it on something memorable. I think I'll be spending these royalties on a meal out with my sons and heirs.

Friday, 9 March 2018

I Languish In Bed

I can tell I'm getting better because there is a new splodge of paint on my bedroom wall. 

Last Sunday, I was chatting to my eldest son on the phone when I was felled by a virus, not that I admitted it at the time. My eyes started streaming and I choked on my words. Always one for a bit of healthy denial, I told him that my response was probably an allergic reaction to some cut lilies I had bought which were starting to unfold their petals after a couple of days in the warmth. The fact that I have never reacted to lilies like this before didn't strike me as a reasonable objection to my theory. I couldn't possibly be ill, I told him and myself, as I've had the 'flu vaccine and I'd made it through the winter in good health and wasn't going to be caught now.

By evening I was in a position of defeat - horizontal, lying on my side with a tissue under my nose. And for the next three days, that's pretty much how I stayed, with occasional forays to a sitting up position and my laptop whilst I reassured myself that the bits of the world for which I feel a keen sense of responsibility were doing absolutely fine without me.  I leapfrogged Ibuprofen and Paracetamol and went off lots of things including coffee.

Then yesterday, I got dressed at midday, went to the shops to get more pills, and on the way back, picked up a paint sample pot. Within 15 minutes of being seized by the idea of decorating something, and soon, I'd dolloped a small patch onto my bedroom wall.  I then sunk back into my pillows, feeling more peaceful.

As for the sudden onset of decorating fever, maybe it was the result of staring for too long at four walls this week; or maybe it arose from the need to feel a sense of achievement after being taken out of my daily routine - that deeply ingrained work ethic which says that ill or not, progress must be made!

Two days on, that paint splodge has become a mark of comfort: something about an intent almost as convincing as a fully painted wall. I've fallen for its pale light blue-grey - a fresh, clean hopefulness. Maybe on my brief trip outside, I was caught by something else - by the sense that spring, with all its promise of new and bright colour, is at last in the air.






Tuesday, 20 February 2018

I Parallel Park

Once, I lived in a one-way street with tightly-bound on-street parking. I was an expert at parallel parking on the left-hand side of the road.  Looking over my shoulder, I could, thanks to power steering, nudge my way into a space just longer than my car and end up with it neatly straight, placed at a few inches distance from the kerb.  I might wake up the next morning to a broken wing mirror and a curry splatted onto the windscreen, but at least I knew my angles.

I thought this skill for keeping things on the straight and narrow was, like making brownies, one I had acquired for life. But it turns out it was just for particular situations, and my son kindly pointed out to me the other day that, whilst my brownies remain roughly square, my parking has become skewed.

Parallel parking is an occasional activity these days - I travel by train as much as possible, and when I do have to park, it's usually in a marked out space, or a street-side so ample and so generous that I can drive into a space headfirst.

For reasons of basketball, though, last week I had to get into a small space: mercifully left-hand side. It took me five, or maybe seven, attempts of backing in, checking the kerb, realising I was adrift, heading out to start all over again. My son sat patiently with me throughout, occasionally opening his passenger door to look down and see where we were up to.

It was a companionable sort of dance this - me edging in, him checking, me edging out, him offering encouragement, me edging in, him checking, us chuckling, me edging out, him commenting on his game's highlights to pass the time before I edged in again. 

Back home, we concluded I need more practice, or less practice. Either way, I'm up for it.



Thursday, 8 February 2018

I Rate My Jams

I have been wondering how to rate my jams - the 11 jars plus one of blackcurrant I received from my Longest Serving Friend for my birthday. Five jars in, and I'm in danger of losing the plot. I haven't been sure how to do the rating - I've been mulling over categories such as 'Jamminess', 'Blackcurrantiness', 'Jamminess' ... and generally going around in circles. 

Inspired by marking some assignments, I have decided to use categories I'm used to - ones which are used to judge essays. The four categories are:

Presentation - How's the look of the thing, the grammatical integrity of its label?
Structure - how do the blackcurrants sit together? Is there a sense of flow and logic?
Content - How relevant is the jam to the question set?
Knowledge and understanding - Does the jam understand what it's trying to do?

The table below is a work in progress. I'm five jars in, seven blissful more jars to go.

 

Type
Presentation
Structure
Content
Knowledge and Understanding
St Dalfour


Slim and elegant
 Untested




Hartley’s
Predictable and shapely
Loose – random placement of blackcurrants in a thick enough syrup.
Blackcurrant-lite compared to the others but maybe not compared with budget versions which my LSF didn't consider birthday material
This jam does not understand that it’s a jam. It thinks it’s a form of entertainment
Fortnum and Mason

Conservative and purposeful
A dense, thick jam. More of a spread, with its own definition of integrity
Blackcurrant-superior-and-don’t-you-know-it
This jam, whilst rich and privileged, lacks self-awareness. It approaches toast as if it is triangular and crustless
Wilkin & Sons Ltd
Traditional yet stylish
A delightful texture which accommodates to any surface: toast, bread, spoon, tongue
Blackcurrant-just-right.
The baby bear of blackcurrant jams. This jam can do no wrong, but it is risk-averse.
Meridian
worthy and lower case
 Untested




Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference
Get your act together, Sainsbury’s
Somehow, the blackcurrants are whole and plump
Tart and sweet. Best of both.
This jam has the maturity to know when to lay it on thick. Every spoonful is a coming of age.
Streamline
Oh pl-eeease! Streamline! I like the lid, though.
 Untested




Waitrose
You know how I feel about Waitrose
 Untested




Waitrose Duchy Organic
Jam is a classist issue
 Untested




M & S
Come on M&S. Get in a new graphic designer. Maybe my friend Pixie.
 Untested




Bonne Maman
Perfect. Does what it says on the jar. But what about Bon Papa?
 Untested




Goetre Farm
Perfectly acceptable home-made appearance
Perfectly acceptable home-made structure
Perfectly acceptable  home-made content
Perfectly acceptable  home-made understanding of jam