Not yet the flaky roses…

(Sofa In Multiple Occupation)

(Shadow: Sunday Morning Chillin’)

I just typed into Google Is ADHD the same as flaky? (should it have an ‘e’? why does it sometimes have an ‘e’ and sometimes not? distracting…) and Google reckons it is, sort of.

To be exact, Google opines that flaky seemingness (to one’s friends, employers etc) is in fact but one symptom of high-functioning ADHD. So whilst one is not technically or actually flaky (or flakey) everybody will always be convinced that one is. Furthermore, flaky-seemingness is but the visible tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to the daily struggle for survival in a world where 99 out of 100 brains are wired the opposite way to your own.

This is depressing, and the thing is, since I retired – or rather, since the world decided it could no longer be bothered to pay me for being bad at various kinds of work I really didn’t want to do – the ADHD, or whatever it is, has got distinctly worse. I used to be able to read, for instance. Spent hours engrossed, rapt, with my nose in some novel or some abstruse metaphysical text, trying to figure out how exactly I seemed to have missed Birmingham and been taken on to Crewe.

Oh Mr Porter, what shall I do?
I wanted to go to Birmingham but they’ve taken me on to Crewe.
Take me back to London as quickly as you can –
Oh Mr Porter what a silly girl I am!

Now I can read for twenty minutes, as long as it’s something lightly-ish and historical and I’m immersed in hot soapy water. My current in-the-bath read, by the way, is The Posy Ring by Catherine Czerkawska. It’s good, even in damp, twenty minute instalments. About antiques seller Daisy Graham who inherits an ancient house on a Hebridean island. She put a little publicity card in with Blanket.

Because, believe it or not, this is the same lady who, under a different name, sold me Blanket the rickety wartime blanket bear (or just possibly sheep) via eBay, and posted him to me in a shoebox from Scotland. I have now knitted Blanket a warming yellowy-browny scarf, by the way, and fastened it with a big yellow kilt pin. I would have posted a photo (as requested when he last appeared) but it is too dark indoors to take one at the moment. I will put it on my To Do list, which I very occasionally manage To Do something from. (Done)

(This is because it’s dark outdoors too, which seems to happen at intervals.)

The trouble is, you spend your life trying to appear not-flaky. Today, for instance, I agonised for several hours before texting a friend to say that I would not be able to come on a coach trip to Southend because I wasn’t feeling too well. The thing is, I am not feeling too well, so it’s a perfectly genuine excuse, this time. But I know she does not believe me. And if I were her I would not believe me either. But what do you do? The constant battle against flaky-seemingness results in a lifetime of ghastly events sat through with gritted teeth or perspiring brow. Boredom or pain, and no escape in either case because to flake out would be viewed as… flaky. Or flakey.

I think I reached some sort tipping point today. I realised I have to stop trying to explain myself, otherwise I am in for an Old Age as dire and dull as my Youth and Middle Age have been. Well, Bog It, I think, I just want to do what I want. Or at least not continually have to be doing what I don’t want.

And finally… another quote, this time from author Claudia Carroll, writing in an old Woman’s Weekly Godmother passed on to me on Friday:

When you’re in your 20s and 30s, life gives you things, if you’re very lucky. Love, a partner, maybe even kids. But you hit good old middle age, and that’s pretty much when life starts taking things away from you…

A cheering thought there, from Claudia.

It set me thinking, what Life did actually give me in my 20s and 30s. Certainly not children. It took away my husband and gave me a lover who was nice while he lasted, though he didn’t last very long. It gave me wrinkles round my eyes… and violent toothache… or was that in my forties?

But I suppose it did give me a few things. A giant(ish) healthy body inherited from my father, which has served me faithfully till recently. Now not quite so faithfully, but it’s doing it’s best, poor thing. Nineteen cats. I do believe the nineteen cats are my equivalent of the nine lives cats are supposed to have. Every time I lose a cat I lose one of my lives. Conversely, of course, every time I gain a cat I gain a life, but that can’t go on. Moggie Gathering Must Stop. And it’s given me a sister who, if not quite as flaky-seeming as me, is getting there. Or maybe equally as flaky-seeming, but a kind of variant. Same reason (backwards brain wiring) but different manifestation. However, it means that she understands me, and I understand her, and so we can love each other, which is a blessing indeed.

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Oops, no title…

I’m not good at having fun, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever had fun in my life; not really. However, today was a good(ish) day. The sky was blue and so was the sea – well, the one mirrors the other – and it was warm. Shouldn’t have worn the boots, really. Or the long-sleeved autumn outfit. But I thought it was autumn. Well, it was autumn at six o’clock this morning when I awoke, dozily crumpled into a corner of the living room sofa in a sort of uncomfortable dressing-gown/person bundle.

I did go to bed but eventually had to retreat from the bedroom after one of the cats for some reason took fright and leapt into the air, gouging three long tramlines into my right forearm. That woke me up, as you can imagine, and by the time I had partially staunched the bleeding and debated whether to apply TCP to my right arm and risk stinking out the Over 50s minibus tomorrow, or not apply TCP and risk yet another bout of cellulitis, with a subsequent two weeks of daily drives to the hospital for antibiotic injections, and possible death – I couldn’t get back to sleep. And supposing yet another one of the nineteen moggies should land upon my sleeping form and savage me.

Hence, the sofa. I turned out the lights, arranged myself uncomfortably upon it, trying to keep my stinging arm away from the pale green faux leather – and yet more cats came to perch themselves uncomfortably upon me – any of whom, of course, might leap up in a fright at any moment – and plugged in my MP3 player. And listened to hours of John Renbourne, which reminded me of Ex, which made me cry in a self-pitying, 3 in the morning, just gouged by a cat sort of way. And finally I reflected that listening to John Renbourne would not in any way remind Ex of me, or make him cry, and fell asleep.

My life is so complicated, but I have said that before.

Another complicated thing about life is female friendships. I am no good at this sort of stuff. I don’t understand it. I feel the same about human social interactions as I felt about those interminable netball and hockey games at school – the ones I couldn’t find an excuse to get out of – left-handedness, short-sightedness, a touch of depression, left my PE kit at home – that I am in the middle of a lot of beings flying about and throwing or kicking things at one another, but I don’t know which team is which, or which way I am supposed to be running, or which goal is mine, or why… Why are we running about? What is the purpose? What are the Rules? Why has everybody else had a copy of the Rules, but not me?

The politics of them are more complicated than anything that goes on behind closed doors at Downing Street. I think I may have made a new friend today but I’m not sure how I did that. I mean, I wasn’t trying to. I never try to make friends but just occasionally total strangers for some reason decide to pick me up, look me over, dust me down and adopt me for a while, like a lost bear. And then how do you fit the new friend in with the old friend when they don’t seem to like each other much – or am I imagining that? Should I walk with this one or that one? How do I have more than one friend?

Over the years I have learnt enough to know, at least in theory, that I don’t need to worry myself sick and arrange everything. People usually sort themselves out without my help. I’ve also found that people tend to appreciate me more if I just allow myself to be an oddity instead of trying to appear normal – masking, I think it’s called. Thing is, first you have to notice when you are masking, and that’s an art in itself.

Talking of lost bears, I found another, in a Barnardo’s shop on a coach trip to Whitstable. Even that was complicated. I felt compelled to explain to the volunteer lady in Barnardo’s that I wasn’t the sort of person who habitually walked around with a bear, like Sebastian. Of course, she hadn’t read Brideshead Revisited and had no idea who this Sebastian was.  She told me of an old lady she knew, a harmless madwoman, who carried a doll everywhere and had even made it an outfit to match her own. Well, presumably a  number of outfits…

And then I – and my new friend – and my old friends – oh, so many of us and the relationships between us so fluid and complicated, jostling for position and attention around the depressing racks of wilted cast-offs and bobbly old men’s jumpers in Barnardo’s – went on down the street to a rival charity shop, Demelza’s. Where I got told off by the Demelza lady for buying my bear in Barnardo’s when hers were half the price. And how then to explain the subtle psychic difference between a merely cheap bear (I could have gone to Tesco’s for that) and a damsel-in-distress bear in a blue velvet dress and lopsided velvet bow, languishing among racks of jigsaw puzzles with several pieces missing; brown plastic handbags no one can ever, ever have liked and coffee-stained CDs of jazz musicians that nobody has ever heard of.

(Yes, I made the Sebastian joke again – I just couldn’t seem to stop myself – and no, she didn’t laugh either.)

But Whitstable was OK, and so was Herne Bay. Later, trying to eat a huge pink and white ice cream before it melted, under a blue sky, beside a blue sea, at a rainbow-painted bench, I reflected that it wasn’t such a bad day out after all. And recalled that my Aunt always planned to retire to Herne Bay and open a cake shop. It was her dream. But she married a blind chap from Devon several feet shorter than herself, and lived in Exeter, and never visited Herne Bay again, as far as I know. And then died.

That’s the trouble with dreams.

Of church, carrot cake and a chatty chihuahua

Sorry – how many times have I said sorry in my life, I wonder? – for not having written much recently. I seem to have lost my mojo or, as Shakespeare implied, find myself unarmed when it comes to the battle of wits. How wonderful Shakespeare was.

The best I can manage – and only because this morning I foolishly mentioned to Daisy in a text that I might do – is a brief summary of yesterday, which, as indicated in my title, did indeed involve churches, carrot cake and chihuahuas. As to whether the chihuahua – a tiny, pretty little soul – was actually talking, I will leave to your imagination.

I have reached that age, and those financial circumstances, where I have to take my entertainment wherever I can find it, the main test being Is it free, or at least no more than 50p? Thus did I find myself in a village church at 10 o’clock on a Monday morning, sharing a long trestle table with a number of quite old people – who for some reason didn’t seem to be noticing how much less wrinkly than them than them I looked – or maybe only imagined I looked – drinking tea from a mug and consuming carrot cake from a saucer, with a fork that looked as if it might originally have been intended for fish. I had just bought a paperback cozy detective (set in the Cotswolds, wherever they are, somewhere in England, rural, prone to inexplicable murders, with pitchforks, in graveyards) from the wooden trolley in the corner, which was another 50p. Moths flew up as I unzipped the purse. Really pushing the boat out today!

The chihuahua arrived with his owner in a wheelchair – I mean, the chihuahua was in the wheelchair, which the owner was pushing along, with great difficulty – and sat himself opposite me. I’ve got verbal diahorreah, he said, and he was not wrong.

But then we’re all different, aren’t we? Wouldn’t be the same if we were all the same, would it. We’re all odd in some sort of way. Ooh, cake…

He’s seen the carrot cake, said his owner. And indeed his nose was twitching. The dog’s, that is.

Cake? said the dog. Biscuit, maybe?

After all, said the dog, they’re getting punished for it now. And quite right too.

Punished?

Yes, serves them right. Why should they expect to get medals and honours and things when they don’t pay their taxes? Inland Revenue says no, you get to the back of the queue Mr Big Headed Old Comedian, Mr Internet Blogging Star Person…

I was impressed. A chihuahua who watched the news.

Carrot cake? That little left over corner morsel perhaps…?

No, it’s mine. It cost me 50p.

And later we ventured further – it was a kind of a Cheap Places To Go Trawl – to the hospital canteen, where for a modest sum we purchased overflowing platefuls of lentil risotto with boiled cabbage and carrots, followed by peach crumble. The canteen is in the basement. Anyone can go there and buy a whopping great platefuls of nourishing grub. Actually cooked, hot food, not the cheese-mayo-and-watercress-sandwiches (and probiotic yoghurt) one existed on most of last week. Smells like school dinners but looks and tastes so much better than school dinners ever did.

And to my mind there return images of actual sixties school dinners – scrag end of neck of lamb, lumps of gristle strung together with fatty elastic – liver and bacon, invisible under several feet of cold, greasy gravy in a communal tin, Gypsy Tart, so sickeningly sweet as to be good for nothing but drawing tramline patterns in with your fork…

Oh so much better, these hospital dinners. But just as cheap. And you can’t smell the smell after a while. It’s like perfume – all those little receptors inside your nose get full up and you can’t smell it any more.

And then, full of food, a quick drive down to another church, much more isolated, to find out when Harvest Festival was going to take place. Over the lentil risotto I had had a sudden whim, to go to a Harvest Festival service. The last one must have been when I was fifteen or so, at the Methodist. Something about Harvest Festival – and the Carol Services there will be before Christmas – suddenly seemed comforting, and indispensable. And of course, more or less free, though there would no doubt be a collection.

And then a little walk down a rutted track, looking out over the water at other land masses, at boats, and fields of corn. And the sun was suddenly quite hot, even though it’s autumn. I wondered whether to take off my cardigan. Got a bit of grit in my sandals. If I’d only known, I’d have brought the walking boots.

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