Monthly Archives: February 2011
…with nothing much happening. Time to ponder on life and love and why the staff in the mobile Starbucks kiosk outside Paddington Station make a better Caramel Macchiato than those in any of the Starbucks in Oxford.
I slept really badly last night, taking ages to drop off and then waking at 5.30 a.m. I gave in, came downstairs, had a cup of tea and read for a couple of hours before feeding cats and dog. Sleeping under the roof is fun, but the dawn chorus seems to kick off before it gets light at the moment and is extra loud in the loft. Not that I’m complaining. Being up there is a bit like being on a galleon sailing through cloud and wind, starlight and sun. When it’s very windy, you can feel the house flex and hear the creak of timbers. And on sunny mornings, we have dozens of rainbows cast by the faceted glass crystals hanging in the windows.
At the moment, we climb to bed up a stepladder – a proper one designed for residential lofts, but a ladder none the less. I wonder if, one day, we will be too old. I remember (and I think it was on one of Michael Palin’s globetrotting TV series) seeing a little old woman in some place like Ladakh or Bhutan, leaping nimbly up a nearly vertical ladder to the upper floor of her dwelling. I seem to remember she was in her eighties.
So why do we, in Western culture, assume this strange cut-off point after which we need to live in one storey buildings or sheltered accommodation? Many years ago, when looking for a house to buy, my partner and myself were shown round their home by a couple in late middle age. It was obvious how much they loved the house, which was immaculately cosy. She had her sewing room and he had his shed with pristine tools on hooks and shelves. The garden was well-tended and obviously cherished. But they had reached a certain age and, although they were still physically fit and active, had decided that they now needed to go into a retirement home. Why? My own grandmother was rolling and mowing her lawn till the day before she died at the age of ninety. She obviously hadn’t heard of the law that says we have to give in gracefully to the aging process and stop enjoying life.
Is everybody affected emotionally by the weather? I suppose we must be. I suppose it’s even something that happens at gut level and stems from our distant past as a species that lived outdoors without the benefit of central heating and supermarkets to ease life. I don’t personally do depression (for which I’m very grateful) but even I find myself cheering up immeasurably when the sun shines, or feeling exhilarated by an approaching storm. I have people close to me whose moods are very much altered by weather and the changing seasons. What prompted this line of thought was the resumption of rain today. We took the dog out in it this morning and got muddy and damp. Though I can see blue sky outside now, as we move towards the end of the afternoon.
To digress, why is it that some people are touchy about their own boundaries but oblivious to those of others? They lay down ground rules before you’ve even got to know them, telling you how much space they need, not even adopting a wait and see attitude and letting their interchange with you find its own level. But…when you do something that doesn’t include them, they feel hurt, pushed out, abandoned. And they are unable to let you do your own thing, fussing and suggesting and taking over. Could it be that taking their “freedom” so seriously is a way of being in control and of protecting themselves? I just wonder how free someone can really be when so much of their time is spent defining and guarding their parameters/perimeter/fences.
That’s how it feels, coming out the other side of seven intensive months writing a book and now a week setting up and networking this blog. What I long to do now is laze around, watch rubbish TV and read trashy literature, just so that I don’t have to think. And yet I have a feeling of exhausted satisfaction. It’s all been fun, it will be fun again. Meanwhile, we are lucky to have so many wonderful communication and media resources available to us. We can be in touch and make friends with people from all over the planet – imagine how different our world is to that of people even fifty years ago. We’ve lost much that was precious, but it’s been replaced by some incredible things. The world is truly filled with wonders that we have quickly come to take for granted.
Still, there’s nothing to beat a good book, a bag of donuts and a cupper!
Today is so mild I had to undo my coat when I took Dennis for a walk. Spring is definitely in progress: daffodils, narcissus, hazel catkins and the dark green leaves of bluebells. On Aston’s Eyot I saw monkshood just beginning to unfurl from tight, lime coloured cones an inch or two above the earth under the hawthorns.
Aston’s Eyot was a dump in Victorian times. They deposited everything from medicine bottles and bits of pottery to exotic plants. I once found a solid silver spoon in a jam jar – perhaps a child had been scraping out the last of the jam and threw the spoon away with the empty jar by mistake. Today I spotted a beautiful section of chamber pot, an Art Nouveau design in blue and gold and coral on white china.
I wish people would clear up after their dogs though: or, if they do, would refrain from hanging the poo bags in the nearest bush or tree. Not sure about the biodegradable qualities of your average nappy sack or Sainsbury’s carrier.
We met horses on the path and Dennis decided, for once, that he wasn’t coming back when I called. Luckily they weren’t fazed by him and the riders were relaxed about it. Lots of squirrels and pigeons to chase. I wish he didn’t. He nearly caught a squirrel in the snow this winter: it was very slow, only just managing to get up a tree before he reached it – probably torpid because of the cold. They ought to be hibernating, but our winters have been generally so mild over the last twenty years or so that they seem to remain active all year. Anyway, I don’t want him to catch them, partly because it doesn’t do to encourage the chase instinct in border collie cross type dogs (they’ve been known to get themselves killed pursuing cars), partly because I don’t want the squirrels mauled, not least because they could deliver him a nasty facial injury, and lastly because we have five cats and I think a running cat can look perilously like a squirrel to an excitable dog.
Mostly Dennis’s chase instinct has been channelled into rocketing after a tennis ball. It’s his drug, his fix, better even than leaping into puddles, streams and stagnant creeks. This activity has been banned from the house though, after the advent of deep claw marks on the wooden floors and the smashing of a lamp. In fact it’s this collie excitability that I am finding it hard to adjust to. Salukis, my previous breed, are laid back, reserved and cat-like. Collie crosses are in your face, huffle-puffle, pant, scurry, take notice of me. They want to interact with you constantly and they go from quiet to hyper in seconds. On the other hand, it is lovely to have a dog who comes when he’s called instead of disappearing into the next county in pursuit of a dot on the horizon a mile away.
Dennis looks like a little black wolf whereas Inka, my Saluki bitch who died five years ago, was gazelle-like. Both beautiful in their different ways.