CONSIDER YE THE LILIES OF THE FIELD

CONSIDER YE THE LILIES OF THE FIELD

A What’sApp group of which I am a member has been posting wonderful photographs of flowers of different colours in its gardens. This has inspired me to write about my ten favourite flowers. It was difficult to restrict myself to ten.

Appropriately enough, the first would be the LILY. Consider ye the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin. Never having been a Martha of the sisterhood, I’ve always been happy to think of myself as a lily of the field. There are many different types of lily, from the statuesque Japanese lily with its huge blooms and its knock-you-dead fragrance, to the elusive but elegantly beautiful lily of the valley with it’s delicate fragrance. My mother used to wear Coty’s perfume, Muguet des Bois: and I have worn for the last 30 or so years Christian Dior’s Diorissimmo, which is a one note perfume smelling of lily of the valley. I wear it every day, with every other cosmetic I wear being unperfumed. My bosses or boyfriends or fellow employees needing a favour used to supply me with it buying it duty free on their work travels, so I had never bought it for myself and when I eventually did I was quite horrified at what it cost and what I had received so casually. We visited a Zen garden in Kyoto, Japan where they had a charcoal grey crescent moon shaped vase with the ‘horns’ pointing heavenwards and three scarlet lilies nestling at the vase’s base on a stone shelf. I still remember the image vividly.

My second choice would be the ROSE. I found it difficult to choose between the Lily and the Rose My love of the rose began in my grandfather’s garden in Glasgow. There was a flight of six steps from one section of the garden to the terrace above and he had built a rose arbour on which he grew what at the time I thought was Peace but it was not yellow enough and I think it was the fragrant rose, New Dawn, which was quite pink in the bud but turned white in the vase. I used to lay blankets and cushions underneath the arbour and it would become a beautiful bower, Sleeping Beauty’s castle or some other imaginary venue. We grew the yellow climbing rose, Golden Showers on our house in Scotland. I am particularly fond of apricot coloured roses – Drambuie, Harry S Wheatcroft, Whisky Mac to name but a few.

Third (though this is as impossible as rating one woman’s beauty against another’s) I would put LILAC. They are very little trouble and though the greatest loveliness and the peak of perfection lasts for only one or two days, they are still quite wonderful with a superb fragrance. It runs in shades from white through the lilacs to the deepest purple. There is one in our garden which is so blanched in colour as to be almost silver grey.

I am very fond of the SWEET PEA. Pretty in pastel colours, cream, pink, blue and lilac, it is easy to grow and is nice as a cut flower. As I write this I realise I first noticed many of my favourite

flowers in the gardens of my relatives in childhood.

PANSIES are very pretty with their kittenish faces and many colours, and a faint fragrance.

We have quite a few fruit trees that blossom. There is a lovely Japanese CHERRY that opens in cream but eventually changes to a deep pink. We also have 2 apple trees.

I am partial to the harebell, or SCOTS BLUEBELL. I have never seen it in a domestic setting and I think if you did attempt to grow this flower, it would count as an alpine. It has a very delicate bell shape and usually grows beside grass where it’s flower-heads bounce daintily in the ever present wind.

I’ve forgotten the FOXGLOVE or digitalis. It’s the only bi-annual flower that I consider worth the bother. I used to lie as a child on the stone wall beside the foxgloves in our orchard and concentrate on the bumble bees travelling down the lovely spotted trunk of the flower, loading up and then backing carefully out again, his pollen pockets bursting with yellow pollen. When we did our tour of the Hebrides a few years ago we passed a bank of them at least a thousand strong. On another occasion, before we had any children, we came round a corner of a single track road on the way to Achiltibuie where we holidayed for years until they closed it, and facing us was a small but very beautiful stand of foxgloves in full bloom against a backdrop of the lake and an island with pine trees. It was so iconic and lovely that John parked the car (there was no room to put it anywhere, but there was hardly any traffic,) grabbed his camera and took some photographs. When John heard the sound of an engine he made his was back to the car and arrived at it just as a local coal lorry came hurtling round the corner at breakneck speed. With considerable skill he slammed on his brakes, narrowly avoiding us, the stand of foxgloves, and the drop into the loch. He had three bags of coal remaining on his lorry, unsecured; and in a kind of graceful ballet, two of the bags slid off the vehicle and landed on the rocks and most of the coal spilt out. We started to get out to help him retrieve it but at this point the final bag which had been hovering at the edge of the lorry tipped over like a diver somersaulting into the dark water, which was surprisingly deep. The coalman began to swear (he was evidently an expert in this skill) in which phrases his contempt for ‘B—— Southerners who couldn’t park their f—— vehicle’ etc etc were clearly discernible. John got back in the car and started it up. “I think we’ll just leave him to it,” he said to me.

My final choice is HONEYSUCKLE. We used to go to France with our caravan for three weeks based around the children’s June week off (and don’t let anyone say their education suffered. They went to Glasgow, Oxford and Manchester Universities plus Manchester Business School.) The hedgerows in France in June were full of honeysuckle with its wonderful fragrance. When we bought our house in Scotland, I bought a special honeysuckle plant famed for its scent, and I planted it beneath our dining room window, intending for it to fill the house with its scent, so evocative to me of high summer in France. For 12 long years I nursed it along. At first it just huddled in its place and refused to prosper, After a few years I lost patience with it and told it that I would fling it on the compost heap if it didn’t pull its socks up and grow! Rather to my surprise, this had the desired effect and over the next few years it grew into a strong and sturdy plant But it had no flowers. I fed it, put compost round it and finally after about 7 years, it produced flowers. I was delighted; less so when the flowers produced no scent. I would have taken it back to the garden centre and complained except that by now, I could not remember where we had bought it.

And then we left Scotland in June of 1988. I woke early on the day of our departure. I could not get back to sleep so I quietly got dressed and descended to the empty house. This was the house in which my three children had been born so I was slightly sad about leaving it. It was warm weather and the dining-room windows had been left open. I was stopped in my tracks by the most wonderful smell. It took me a few seconds to place it, and then I realised that after 12 years, the honeysuckle had finally got its act together and had saluted me in the leaving of it. I felt as if the country of my birth had blessed me in my departure.

ODIOUS COMPARISONS

ODIOUS

COMPARISONS

Our privations under lock-down (not count-down as I said last week!) have been compared by some to the difficulties experienced in World War II. I bow low before those families who have lost someone to the disease. In their grief and sorrow they may well feel that a comparison is justified, and who are we to gainsay them?

The men and women of our families are not being asked (or forced) to leave home and be sent somewhere over which they have no control and where people will try to kill them.

Our houses are not at risk of being blown up.

Our food is not rationed and hopefully we are not in danger of starving any time soon.

We are not obliged to send our children to the care of strangers in places we have never heard of.

We do not risk invasion by a foreign army and ultimately slavery.

Things could be worse.

ON NOT BEING ABLE TO KNIT

ON NOT BEING ABLE TO KNIT

I haven’t written for a few weeks which eventually begins to weigh upon me like a cat that wants you to feed it, adjust its bed, or remove or readjust its blanket or cushion. The cat doesn’t SAY anything – she’s far too well brought up to do anything so rude; but never the less, her presence and her desire for something – (provided by you) overwhelms her. You give her minced cooked chicken, and milk. She eats it quickly, then performs a quick and somewhat perfunctory ablution and then she waits, patience personified, for you to shake out her blanket. She stands and permits you to stroke her, and then with a little rrnt of pleasure she gets into the bed and curls up. She doesn’t say so, but you know you are dismissed.

Well. I have to write the blog before it will dismiss me.

My lovely craft group is inoperative just now as we cannot meet, although people send photographs of their work which we hope to see in the flesh as it were when (if ever) we get together again.

I have made a work bag, and a patchwork table-mat, and a top to go with trousers as yet unmade, and I have a cat basket for Joanna’s cat made of a thick furry material which I will need to assemble by hand. But right now I’m making face masks. They are easy enough to do. Two pieces of cotton material in complimentary colours which you sew together, inserting two pieces of elastic to go round the ears. You then turn it inside out. Sew round the edges and iron in two folds which you sew at the hems on either side; you then remove the thread ends and that’s all there is to it.

However, I’ve run out of elastic so will have to wait until a friend who has placed a bulk order receives it.

Sometimes when I’m working on a large piece – the quilt for Alexandra for example, I don’t find t convenient to cart it along to a craft group meeting. So I thought I would get a SMALL and EASY knitting project that I could take along and have something to do. I’ve never been much of a hand knitter but I can knit. I decided on making slippers. Thick wool, small, and any mistakes not too noticeable. There are, I should point out, several expert knitters amongst the group.

I was quickly reminded of the class where I learnt to knit. It was the same class that had Miss Destroy-All-Original-Ideas ruining sewing for many of the girls, but she pursued this goal with such diligent enthusiasm that she had no time to teach knitting. So it was our own class teacher, a lovely young woman who had this task. She taught us the basic stitches with odd pieces of wool, and then decided we would attempt a scarf. She had taste and was a good dresser, and she selected a small scarf that I really liked, made of fluffy angora – you could choose white, pink or lemon. The pattern featured two heart shape end pieces, with a little tight section, where on one side the knitting divided in two, so you could pop one heart through this ‘neck’ to fasten it; and there was a short straight section that went round your neck. It was a pretty dainty object and I really liked it and wanted one.

I could not do it. My mother wasn’t a knitter. I tried really hard. My uselessness led to much giggling and sneering among the other girls, though I have to record in their defence that I was probably a bit of a pain in the neck for them. I was clever and – it was a village school and had two classes – I worked on textbooks from the Big Girl’s room. They could all produce the

required knitting flawlessly and I find now I cannot blame them for being a little smug that I, Miss Clever Clogs, though I never boasted or made derogatory comments but who was reading Silas Marner when some of them were still reading ‘This is Tom Bell’ failed so spectacularly at knitting. They were not nasty girls and some of them tried to help me sort it out but it was such a mess of dropped stitches, tangles and errors that it was beyond their assistance.

Eventually the teacher took pity on me. She took my knitting home where think she redid most of it. After that she went back to watching my every row and I watched her every move . The other girls produced neat and workmanlike scarves. Mine was a lumpy mis-shapen affair in spite of the teacher’s best efforts. But I loved it and wore it a lot.

So now I’m knitting the slippers. It’s thick, soft wool, a very easy pattern. I look at it critically. I spot two dropped stitches in different areas – too far back to recover. I’ll need to put some of the wool on a darning needle and secure the dropped stitches and hide them away. But I still have this tendency to increase the stitching. It’s supposed to have 29 stitches. I count every 2 or 3 rows and invariably it’s got 30, 31 or 32. (None of my doing I swear.) I simply knit two together along the row where I think I think I may have parted from him. This works after a fashion but it doesn’t make for a flawless finish.

Where is the lovely teacher when you need her? She was going to leave because having a baby who was growing so fat in her tummy that I used to wonder how she was ever going to get it out.

PS Silas Marner is NOT a book I’d recommend!

ALL DRESSED UP (AND NOWHERE TO GO)

ALL DRESSED UP (AND NO-WHERE TO GO…)

I’ve been wondering why the television ladies look rather tired and not as well groomed as usual, until it suddenly dawned on me that they have lost the services of the hair and make-up ‘artistes’ who normally doll them up for public viewing and what we are seeing now is an amateur’s attempt at a professional task.

Don’t get me wrong – these ladies look fine. They are all good-looking, intelligent women, well dressed in expensive clothes, with good brands of make-up skilfully applied. I wonder how long it takes them to do it?

I used to pronounce quite confidently and no doubt loudly that it was not true that women dressed to please men (you could argue that a state of undress would be most pleasing to men); Women dressed to please themselves. This is only partly true. Women dress to impress, to compete with other1 women; to enhance their overall appearance; to look the part for the job they do; to look like the kind of wife your husband thinks you ought to be. But you are definitely dressing to impress some-one.

Since the lock-down I have worn (every single day) underwear, black sock, a cotton Tshirt (whatever comes to hand), slightly shrunk and with a hole in the elbow. It’s comfortable and relatively easy to launder.

I don’t go anywhere and nobody sees me, so why should I bother?

PS There is a fashion at the moment for a shirt-waister in a busy floral pattern in gaudy colours worn with dangerously high heels. It makes the wearer look like a rather over made up milkmaid.   This is not a look much favoured BY employing-managers at the moment.   I recommend you avoid it.

Otherwise you might find yourself pronouncing, Let them eat CAKE at inappropriate moments!

ASSESSING AUSTEN

A close friend of mine quoted from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park to illustrate a point she was making. I was not sure that a) I understood it, or b) that I agreed with it. By coincidence I was reading ‘What Matters in Austen’ by John Mullen (which I recommend)] but I stopped reading that to re-read Mansfield Park.

I had intended to write a short note on Mansfield Park but I have become more sceptical. I write notes and insert them (when I stop thinking about all the things I have to do in connection with it) into my copy. The paragraph runs away with me and turns into a blog. If you have not read Mansfield Park I suggest you do so now in order that my blog should not be a spoiler.

I have to make a confession here. While Pride and Prejudice is my favourite novel and I think Jane Austen is one of our greatest novelists, and certainly the finest female author this country has ever produced, Mansfield Park would never be on my top 20 novels to read for pleasure. Fanny I have always considered to be too weak, too prissy, too timid, too meek and submissive to be a female heroine, while Edmund is a self righteous, self deceiving pain in the ass.

I regret that I find myself much more like Mary Crawford than the virtuous Fanny which is not a very comfortable position (although in my defence, I am not especially interested in money and I do not lie (except where it is unavoidable!).)

Never the less, I would have stated quite confidently that Mansfield Park was Austen’s best work and so I wondered why I felt so sure of that when I did not particularly enjoy the result.

Then one night as I turned these questions in my mind, I realised that it is a tale about morals, which every single person in the book fails, apart from Fanny.

The minor characters are easily judged. The odious Mrs Norris is meddlesome, greedy, of poor judgement and she persecutes Fanny. Lady Bertram is good-natured when her comfort is not at risk but is indolent and selfish. Maria and Julia Bertram are arrogant and over-indulged. Mr Rushworth, thinks Sir Thomas Bertram, the father of the family, would be accounted a fool if he did not have £12,000 a year. Tom Bertram, the eldest son, is over-indulged also and accustomed to getting his own way and sees no reason why this should not continue. Edmund I find it more difficult to come to judgement on. He is a clergyman and I am almost as prejudiced against them as is Austen herself. He is kind to Fanny though, but his judgement is affected by Mary Crawford’s seductive charm. Her brother, Henry Crawford ( who reminded me inexplicably of Tony Blair) was rich and handsome and amoral. He decides he will make Fanny fall in love with him, as a game, and sets out to charm her. She does not succumb to his adroit and clever campaign and instead he falls in love with her, and asks her to marry him. She has seen him flirting with Maria Bertram when she was betrothed to Mr Rushworth and she steadfastly refuses. She is pressurised by everyone to accept him, including being sent home to her considerable physical discomfort.

We then come to the family head, Sir Thomas Bertram, who is described as ‘a good man’ – yet we know he cannot be one as he is a slave owner. It is not essential to the plot that he is absent in a slave-infested country. Austen could have despatched him to the middle or far East or even Europe and it would have served just as well.

I was pondering these issues one night and I suddenly realised that while this novel pretends to be a romance, it is actually a tale of morals. There is no way that I am cleverer than Jane Austen, who is a superb novelist and not a paragraph or sentence, not a word or comma is not deliberately chosen to point to her conclusion.

No-one in the novel is able to resist an attack of evil, except for Fanny, who proves superior in her understanding and compassion to everyone else She should not marry Edmund; he is not fit. (But I am famous, or perhaps I should say notorious for my unforgiving disposition). So she is left at her uncle’s house, destined in all probability to become it’s mistress, first of the local ladies.

The novel is like a watchmaker taking apart a valuable watch. . Jane Austen must know that there are issues present around that time which it would not be prudent to address just then, but she plugs away at them discreetly never the less. She ought not to be criticised for this; in our times to breathe a mere whisper on impropriety of certain members of groups such Pro Abortion, or Same Sex marriage, or of our ill treatment of animals so that we can eat them would bring hate-filled communications down upon you.   (NB I am NOT suggesting that any of these are the equivalent of slavery.

I submit that what Jane Austen, of glorious memory is telling us that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’. Every other person fails to live up to expectation.

FLAVOURS OF FEBRUARY

Flavours of FEBRUARY

I was tempted to open this blog by saying, In February 2020 it rained for the entire month, and leaving it at that!

February was traditionally the coldest month of the year, often with heavy falls of snow, so that when February was over you felt a sense of relief – you had survived the winter.

February is my 7th favourite month of the year. It comes under the sign of Aquarius the Water Carrier which is perhaps appropriate given how much it rained. People born under its sign are said to be of cool temperament, detached and humane in an impersonal way.

My father’s birthday was on 7th February though he would never have it celebrated. Valentine’s Day is in February and offers some light relief; also in Leap Years (as this one is) ladies can ask men to marry them, although I always thought personally that if a man couldn’t get off his arse and ask me himself then he wasn’t the man for me. There is also Shrove Tuesday, of which I have no understanding of its significance, except that we get to eat pancakes, so presumably it is A Good Thing.

There continues to be slow progress towards Spring. There is now light for half of the day – 6 am to 6 pm. Birds are pairing off. We heard the rap-tap-tap of the woodpecker in the woods. The buds of the magnolia are fat and hairy. The camellia are out. There are great swathes of daffodils, as well as crocus, snowdrops, hyacinth. Christmas roses seem to have done especially well this year.

There is a white blossomed tree in the hedgerows which we did not have in Scotland – it is not gean, so I don’t know what it is.

John made marmalade from Seville Oranges.

I saw the first bumble bee of the year.

This has not been an especially nice February with many of our fellow countrymen having their houses or businesses ruined by flood water – in some cases several times – all against a background of our slow but inexorable drift towards a pandemic of an unknown illness.

Let us hope for better things to come in future months.

CARRYING ON SEWING

CARRYING ON SEWING

I like sewing. I learnt at my mother’s knee (and my grandmother’s.) I sewed most unsuitable clothes for my baby doll from my grandmother’s scrap bag. I did sew at school but I always had a fraught relationship with any ‘home economics’ teacher. Her class which should have been a glorious cornucopia of scraps of fabric, lace, ribbons, thread, buttons, sketches, photos and other stimulating delights was in fact a sterile shrine to tidiness and she herself, although technically competent was a triumph of repression and whatever the opposite of creativeness is. I’m sure she managed to put lots of people off sewing for life. Under her critical eye we made a lap bag of gingham with crosses embroidered in the squares ‘to hold one’s knitting’. (I never knitted). Next term I thought, Great, we’ve escaped from the boring work bag, only to discover we were to make a pair of horrible gingham knickers which nobody ever wore, and a yellow drindyl skirt which didn’t suit me. I despised them all and I’ve not been very keen on gingham ever since. But it didn’t put me off sewing.

I’ve sewn on four sewing machines – my mother’s Singer, my own Janone, another Janone, and finally my present Brother.

I’m still getting pleasure from sewing though I find it more difficult these days because of shaky hands. Sometimes I just have to wait until the shakiness passes.

So yesterday I had several projects kicking around in various unfinished states. There was a patchwork table runner for Elisabeth with a red theme; a pair of trousers that I’m shortening; a white Channel type jacket that I’m shortening the sleeves of; a pale green silk bed jacket that I’m making out of an embroidered quilt which I hope to cut artfully so that it needs no hems, and a pale green silky cotton of the same colour to make into pyjamas. Also a beige and brown silky furnishing fabric with a leaf pattern that I hope to make into a short sleeved top and wide trousers to go with the other brown trousers (the top that is). In my head but not so far into anything more tangible, are plans for a waistcoat in Harris tweed for John and a car quilt made from cashmere and velvet.

John, looking at this mess (creative can be disorderly) suggests I put them in my sewing room and bring them out one by one and finish them. I agree that this would be sensible and I cart them all upstairs and them bring down the white jacket and brown trousers to complete the alteration.

After lunch I begin by attempting to thread three needles but my shaky period descends and I cannot do it, not even with the aid of a needle threader. I am patient; I continue to attempt it for15 minutes. I swap the sharp needle for an embroidery one (which has a larger hole) but no joy.

I fall into a fit of the dismals. It is no good. I CANNOT continue to sew if I am unable to thread a needle.

I reflect on all the sewing I have done. I made a suit in pink tweed with silk lining and a silk blouse with a bow to a pattern by Molyneux; I made a brown Harris tweed maxi coat; I made a camel suit with a short military style jacket and a long divided skirt. I made a green velvet dress that I wore on the evening of the day I was married. I made a Victorian style long white cotton nightdress embroidered with butterflies and trimmed with broderie anglaise which I wore to the hospital when I had each of my children. I made a pram cover in white, embroidered with poppies and ears of corn with an A on it which John used to turn over so that the beautiful embroidery was hidden when we would leave the pram. I made curtains for all our houses. I made a patchwork duvet cover. I recovered two three seater sofas, complete with piping. I made a denim sut for John. I made clothes for the girls – a matching black watch tartan dress with a white linen collar for the two girls and me. I made a blue velvet dress and a matching hooded cape trimmed with white maribou feathers which secured the role of Mary for both girls in the nativity play in subsequent years. I made corduroy jackets and trousers, wth machine knitted hats, gloves and scarves in fairisle pattern to match for all the children. And then I’ve sewed for my grandchildren. I made a black velvet hooded cape for Alexandra with a black and silver lining in a starry and a dress to match. I’ve made quilts for each child; cotton pyjamas and dressing-gowns beyond counting. I made patchwork blankets for the dogs and cats of the family.

Sadly I think this will all have to come to an end. I’ll have to leave my craft group, which is a lovely friendship group as well. I begin to wonder to whom I will give my sewing machine and my collection of materials. What is the point of my existence, I wonder, in a fit of depression that suddenly drifts like a grey and dismal cloud in and conceals the familiar Sussex country-side. My family and friends would be better off without me.

My calm persona judges that I have indulged myself long enough. “Let’s try once more” she says. “What’s the point,” I reply. “It takes too long.” But her will, once she speaks it, is quite inexorable. But she has picked up the needle where I had stuck it in a pin cushion, and she discovers that all this time, I have been attempting to thread the sharp end of the needle, where there is no hole. She has three needles threaded in as many minutes and in a whisk of her needle she secured the trouser hem and the sleeve, and these garments are ironed and hung in my wardrobe.

“Perhaps,” she says dryly, “We should consider a new pair of glasses first.”

I decide I won’t throw the towel in just yet!

HARRY’S M’ DARLIN’

HARRY IS M’ DARLIN’

It is difficult to understand what has happened to Prince Harry and Meghan, his wife that has been so terrible that they have been forced to contemplate their future role in the royal family and to make the decision to avoid the press. Harry’s insistence on our learning ‘the truth’ from him, reminds me of Edward VIII’s speech on his abdication, which is not a good model for a royal speech.

You begin to wonder if Meghan married him simply as a career move, and having greatly enhanced her profile, will just return to her acting career if it all goes wrong. I do not believe that her treatment at the hands of the British has been racist. She has been welcomed and admired. No doubt there will have been some objectionable comments by crackpots and bigots but they are always with us.

OF course any ‘royal’ person has the right to decline the honour and retire into private life, but this by no means guarantees any reduction of Press interest in them. Prince Harry seems to have behaved in such a way that he may continue to stimulate press interest in him while losing his previous protection. To have challenged the Press in court seems foolhardy in the extreme. Could his be a long concealed but now rising to say his piece resentment at the press for having ‘hounded his mother to her death. I have long since speculated that the princes must at some level blame their father for the death of their mother. He did not love the Princess of Wales and he made this perfectly clear. And as for their stepmother, I do not believe the ‘happy families’ tale. How could the princes not resent her when she was a ‘third person in the marriage’ and caused their mother great unhappiness. How insulted must Diana have felt when she was publicly rejected – shining beauty and as lovely as the moon goddess she was named after – when her husband preferred Camilla over herself.

This reminds me of a performance I went to, with Carolyn, of a performance by a group of girl saxophonists and comedians whose name escapes me. The song that got the strongest audience response was a little ditty:

Prince Charles rejects the charms of his new bride.

He prefers Camilla Park-and-Ride.

But to be serious, I believe Harry enjoys the approval and affection of the British people. Rumours that he is not genuinely the offspring of kings are entirely without foundation, in my opinion. He looks too much like Prince Philip for there to be any doubt. Whether he can pull off his proposed plan, and whether his wife can endure the difficulties of her position, I very much doubt.

However, I wish Prince Harry every success in the endeavour.

THE QUICK AND THE DEAF

THE QUICK AND THE DEAF

All my life, I’ve had exceptionally good hearing.

In my youth, I could (with concentration) when in a restaurant, tune in to the conversation at any table. I could and still can hear people approach and recognise them by their step, but my companions would often say I was mistaken, and only after a minute or so, when the person actually appeared, would they acknowledge that I had been correct.

In my twenties when I would get migraine, sometimes my hearing would be so enhanced that I could hear the conversation in the office above me, and that was hard to bear. Very sensitive hearing has some down sides. It makes you intolerant of background music – I feel you should either listen or put it off, and crowded, noisy places can be painful to endure.

I’ve always loved silence though it is increasingly rare in the modern world.

This week I’ve had the illness many of us have had, which is a head cold which lingers and seems to be impossible to get rid of. To my surprise it totally blocked my ears and I literally couldn’t hear a thing except some internal roaring. I then realised that I have never been surprised by the arrival of anyone for I have always heard them coming from afar off. Whereas this week I have been startled by people arriving unannounced at my elbow..

I also can see that it’s no fun being deaf. For a start there’s no visible indication that you have any difficulty. It’s quite dangerous in traffic and so on because you don’t hear danger approaching. I hadn’t realised how much humour and wit depends on speed. Somebody round the table mumbles something and everybody laughs. You try out various options in your head of what their remark sounded like but by the time you’ve figured it out and thought of some witticism to offer the conversation has long since moved on.

I know myself that it is tedious and tiring to speak in louder volume than is natural so that a deaf person may hear you, and I fear many of such unfortunates will be taken for stupid or dull which may be far from the case.

As for me, I’ve heard many things I shouldn’t have.

I occasionally hear people say to John, sometimes whispering, So how is Anne really. (The whispering makes no difference.) I do not regard this query with any warmth. He always replies non-committally as I would wish him to do, but I think uncharitably, why don’t they ask me how I am? I do tell people my hearing is very good but they don’t seem to take this on board.

I heard a doctor say to a nurse way out in the corridor outside our ward, of the lady in the next bed to me (nearer to him than I was): Of course there is no possibility that this wound will ever heal. I looked in alarm at the lady but she lay peacefully in her bed so I presumed she had not heard him.

And on the train from Brighton to London, although I was seated at one end of the carriage and she at the far end of it, I heard a woman discussing on the telephone her surprise at the non guilty verdict for a trial where she had been on the prosecuting team, and I a member of the jury. I could have told her it had been very hard work to persuade some of the jury to deliver that verdict, but I was not going to be as unprofessional as she was.

People of normal hearing frequently have no idea what some people can hear.

PS My cold is improved and my hearing has recovered but still not to its normAl capacity.

POST ELECTION BLUES

POST ELECTION BLUES

Everything about politics at the moment is unpredictable and surprising, but I am quite amazed at the reaction of the losing parties. Thy are not in the least chastened an are being most ungracious. They NEVER seem to listen to the electorate. They behave with anger and resentment as if we were stupid and have let them down.

I believe there are three main reasons why people voted Tory. There are those who actually ARE Tory, have always voted Tory, and therefore they naturally would. There are those who having listened to the arguments felt that the Tory view offered the best deal for the country in the widest sense – NHS, economy and so on. And there are those who would never have believed that they would one day vote Tory, who did so in desperation, because it seemed that Boris Johnson offered the only likely route to what the country had democratically previously voted – ie to leave Europe.

Jeremy Corbyn is a very able man, with honour and principles, but I do not believe he wanted to be Prime Minister. He is an Opposition Leader.

I remember Sir Alex Douglas Hume, a Tory PM who was not generally memorable. He lost an election to Labour and in the post defeat interview was invited to say that the people would regret their error in voting for Labour. For all he was a belted Earl (the press laid great stress on his being belted – I don’t understand the significance of this – are there unbelted earls?) he firmly replied:

“The good people of Britain have seen fit to elect a Labour government. We hope to be Her Majesty’s constructive opposition.” Douglas Hume had grace and humility, and I have come to believe that this is the only permissible and proper statement for an outgoing Prime Minister to make.

Boris Johnson has been elected Prime Minster in a period of great instability and difficulty. Let us at least accord him the traditional ‘honeymoon’ period at the start of his premiership when we wait to see how he will tackle things. I wish him luck – which he does seem to possess in great measure- for he will certainly need it.