Poor Sad Freda

A long time ago (1959) in the days when it was still permissible to advertise cigarettes on TV, there was a disastrous advertising campaign for Strand cigarettes. I can do no better than quote Wikipedia here:

This television advert depicted a dark, wet, deserted London street scene in which a raincoated character, played by Terence Brook, looking similar to Frank Sinatra, lit a cigarette and puffed reflectively. This was accompanied by an instrumental, “The Lonely Man Theme” by Cliff Adams, playing in the background, and a voice-over declared “You’re never alone with a Strand. The cigarette of the moment.”

The commercial… was popular with the public. However, sales of the brand were poor and it was soon taken off the market. The public associated smoking Strand cigarettes with being lonely and were put off from buying them. It was regarded as one of the most disastrous tobacco advertising campaigns of all time…

I do recall my parents laughing about Strand cigarettes and taking the mickey out of “You’re never alone…” People found it amusing, but they didn’t want to be that poor chap in the raincoat, wandering up and down a dark, wet city street – Billy No-Mates, Poor Sad Fred.

I am trying to resist getting hopping mad, because no one in any case will know that I am hopping mad, in which case what’s the point? That’s the trouble with Being Alone – no audience for one’s hopping madness.

It’s not my local hospitals per se, or any lack of medical expertise therein. It’s not the awful insufficiency of car parking spaces at one of them, meaning that patient-containing cars are queueing out in the street for what seems like hours before even getting past the gates, and then have to queue at the barrier ticket machine waiting for one single space to become vacant, and then having to circle a seemingly full car park, nerves a-jangle, desperately searching for that one space before anyone else leaves and the next car (also searching for that one single space) is allowed in, to beat you to it. No, it’s the insistence of NHS staff in believing that all persons will possess a Relative or a Friend who will be able to bring them in and collect them. These mythical Relatives and/or Friends will also come and Visit them during their stay, and should be instructed to bring in all those items – other than pyjamas and dressing gown – that said person is not permitted to bring in themselves because bedside storage space is strictly limited.

Particularly if you are old(ish), I find. They look at you and imagine you have (carelessly) left at home a host of helpful middle-aged Daughters and giant doting Sons. Any one of them can bring you in, or take you home, surely?

Failing that they see a host of conveniently-not-senile and able-to-drive Friends or their convenient Husbands, any one of which could bring you in, or take you home, surely?

Don’t you know anyone? They ask, humiliatingly. Come on, surely you can think of someone who wouldn’t mind just looking after nineteen cats for a couple of weeks? Any Neighbour would do that!

I am having this problem at the moment. I am having to undergo a Procedure which I am trying not to think about too much, under anaesthetic. A Procedure, not an Operation. No scalpels involved. But because of the anaesthetic, I cannot drive myself in, because I will not be permitted to drive myself home again afterwards. No, I will have to stay in overnight, while the cats remain unattended, fighting, wrecking the furniture and pooing-and-weeing with abandon, all over everything.

And then, in the morning, I still can’t get myself home to the cats because I am not allowed to use public transport for 48 hours, so even the gruelling four hour long downhill walk/train 1/train 2/infrequent bus/ long uphill walk marathon I had envisaged is not an option. And, even if I find some mysterious, car-owning Relative, Friend or Neighbour – that person has got to stay with me and the nineteen stinky cats overnight, when there isn’t actually a spare bed.

But you can get a Family Member, Friend or Neighbour to help you there…

The last time I was forced to ask my sister for help she didn’t answer the phone. I had a hugely-swollen septic hand and was being referred urgently to Accident and Emergency in Hospital 2. Ambulance? No, of course not. You’ll have to drive yourself there. Oh, but that would be a bit difficult, wouldn’t it, because of the septic hand…

You can’t tell me you haven’t you got any Family Member on that phone of yours? Go on, phone your sister now. So there I am, in a medical chair, having my hand bandaged and ringing my sister knowing full well she wouldn’t answer. They made me do it, and made me have to discover for myself, yet again, that I had Ceased to Exist as far as my next-of-kin was concerned. I could be in a road traffic accident. Yea, verily, brethren, I could be locked in a room with a salivating Alien-type monster or trapped in the central reservation of the M20 with giant lorries whooshing past me on either side – ça would ne fait rien as far as my sister was concerned. It was predictable, humiliating and embarrassing, but most of all, it hurt.

And this time, they have postponed the (don’t think about it, don’t think about it…) Procedure to give me more time to Make Arrangements. In other words, I will no doubt soon recall that I do indeed have Second Cousins, a Doting Offspring, or a cheery, helpful Neighbour who would just adore a two hour drive through scary rush-hour traffic in an unfamiliar traffic system, followed by an anguished circling of the car park looking for that single space… And then a three hour wait while the Procedure (don’t think about it, don’t think about it) is done and I wake up from the anaesthetic, and then another long drive back, and then – oh joy – spend the night upright on the sofa, in the house of a miserable, uncomfortable, grumpy old biddy who wants nothing more than to be left alone to recover quietly, in her own way, in the reassuring, comforting company of her nineteen stinky cats.

As it is, I think I have solved the problem by a series of complicated and expensive fudges and transport arrangements which they may or may not accept. It means an expensive taxi ride, followed by the two train journeys and the long walk which may get me there in time. Afterwards, it means an arrangement (not free, either) with a volunteer charity driver, male or female, a total stranger to me – to pick me up at the hospital and drive me home. And it means the lady over the road – with whom I have been forced to share medical details which by now the whole road will know about in glorious detail with a few added flourishes – being at any rate on the other end of the phone overnight if needed, and maybe popping in on her way back from walking the dog in the morning, to make sure I’m not dead. It would be so much easier to be dead.

This has cost me so much time in hospital appointments, so many phone calls, so many plans and revisions of plans, and working-out-of-strategies over pasta bake and chips in the Canteen/Restaurant in the bowels of the hospital, and castings-around-for-inspiration whilst staring at the fake Buddha and fake Chinese Lions in the weedy Zen Garden which – regrettably, as the notice says – is only for looking at through the double glazing and not for patients to actually sit out in – and sheer annoyance at the arrogant assumption that everyone lives no more than a couple of miles of whichever hospital they have been summoned to attend, and possesses a social circle they can call on at the drop of a hat for very large, inconvenient favours, in the middle of a heatwave.

Maybe they should send me out to negotiate Brexit with Brussels. I’ve done enough irritating and pointless negotiating this week to last me a lifetime, and I’m just in a mood for a scrap. Quake in your boots, Monsieur Barnier, I’m about to board the ferry!

Not Exactly Rubik’s Cube

For some reason today I resolved to make the perfect Dutchman’s Puzzle block.  Well, it is now 20 to 7 in the evening and I seem to have been making – and unmaking – versions of the Dutchman’s Puzzle all day. My sewing room (ie spare bedroom) floor is littered with discarded snippets, wispy ends of cotton and, somewhere or other – the back off one of my stud earrings. No doubt that has gone the way of all stud earring backs and now resides in one of the gaps between alternate universes.

It was meant to be a 12″ block but for some mathematical reason I cannot fathom has turned out to be 11″. So it won’t fit in with any other blocks and is an orphan, i.e. completely useless unless I decide to make another million of them just the same, and there’s a truly daunting prospect.

Nobody ever seems to show any curiosity as to why traditional blocks are called what they are. What, for instance, was the inspiration for Old Tippercanoe? Possibly someone in the Wild West had an ancient canoe that kept tipping them out, but for all that they were rather fond of it?

Dutchman’s Puzzle is an old block, dating back to around 1800, but why exactly was the Dutchman puzzled, or what is the puzzle the block contains? According to Ruby McKim who wrote One Hundred And One Patchwork Patterns somewhere around 1931, ‘The darker always points into the lighter and thus the Puzzle is solved into a 12-inch block’. Or in my case, 11-inch. But is that it? I mean, is that all there is to it? It’s like listening to someone tell a shaggy dog story and at the end having no idea what was meant to be funny.

Maybe he’s puzzled because something’s gone wrong with his sails (especially since I sewed them).

It didn’t turn out to be the perfect block. Apart from being an inch too small all round, even though I (thought I) did all the calculations, and the edges wafty and bedraggled-looking, the middles don’t match up

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and I accidentally included some of the holes from the selvedge. And now I wonder why exactly I spent all day – apart from mowing two lawns, cutting back the brambles, washing up several times, feeding the N-n-n-n-nineteen twice, taking delivery of a stack of slippery-shiny magazines which I’ve got to force through a minimum 188 eccentric letterboxes tomorrow, and driving over to the vets for three tins of disgusting-smelling invalid cat food for my invalid cat who, of course, flatly refuses to go anywhere near it –  in rapt concentration teaching myself to do something so utterly pointless.

I think it must be the dream. It’s a form of escape. So, as I cut and snip, and sew and unpick, arrange and rearrange, I am living another life. I am some lady in cotton bonnet in a log cabin in the middle of winter, and I am making the most of the daylight of some short winter day, thriftily using up scraps too small for anything else. And no doubt I have a husband who looks like that Grizzly Adams or that rather personable chap from Little House On The Prarie, who will shortly be returning home from a long day chopping firewood or what ever Grizzly Adamses do, and will greatly appreciate my homely cooking, my frugal patchwork and all my other other wifely attributes…

(Sigh!)

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PS: Invalid Mog has suddenly eaten whole tin of the disgusting invalid catfood, plus antibiotic tablet hastily thrown in, and drunk a whole bowlful of water, so maybe some sort of corner has been turned.

 

My uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall

Canadian sister phones. I thought maybe once her husband had died she would stop phoning me, that I would be cast aside like some moth-eaten fur coat etc etc. This has not happened – just now she phones me at all odd times. Before she could only phone me when he was asleep. And then he would wake up. Always. I could hear the creaking of the bedroom door upstairs in their house, right across the Atlantic. Sometimes I heard it before she heard it. I could hear the change in her tone of voice. The worried note creeping in, the sudden summing up, the hasty goodbye.

She is all at sea without him, and yet, I note, she is surviving. She says she has just spent the two longest evenings of her life, alone in the house. ‘What do single people do in the evenings?’ she asks me. ‘Well, I say, hobbies tend to expand to fill the time available for doing them…’ I am aware that I am paraphrasing someone. ‘What did you do of an evening when he was still alive, and well?’

‘Mostly he was outside in his workshop. If he came inside I might knit while he watched TV.’

I resist saying that this seems to me as much like being alone as being alone. I remember when I was married, all those years ago. Being always alone, even when not.

‘You can call me any time,’ I say. ‘After all, nobody else does. I mean, it’s not like you’re interrupting a huge queue of my fans, all eagerly trying to contact me…’

‘Nobody?’

She sounds shocked. I would have lied, if necessary. I would have told her the above story so that she didn’t feel she was being in any way a nuisance phoning me at all hours, because at the moment I am one of her few fixed points in a radically shifting universe. I am good at making up tales on the spur of the moment. Sometimes I don’t realise they’re tales, till after.

And sometimes I don’t realise they’re true, till after.

So, today I have had a very stressful day. Stress exhausts me, so I tend only ever to schedule one stressful or unpleasant event per day, but today I thought, why not get them all over with at once, for once? So I set off, early, stopping off at the post office in the next village to post Canadian Sister a belated birthday present. Two books. The cost of the airmail is greater than the combined cost of the books. But that was OK, and I managed to get myself out of the tiny car park, with the parking spaces all at the wrong angles.

I went on to the Tip, in Town. I managed to get my car in and not have to sit drumming my fingers on the dash for three-quarters of an hour down the stinky alleyway that leads to it. I managed to heave out the six monstrously heavy black sacks full of used cat litter, pretending to be innocent household waste. I managed to lug four of them, one at a time, up the slippery metal steps to the skip and, with a muscle-wrenching effort, heave them over the rim of the skip. Then – that rare event – one of the men in high-vis yellow came to my rescue, and made off with my two remaining sacks – in the direction of the skip labelled Garden Waste.

‘Did yer want the bags back?’

‘Er, no…’

I knew I should have yelled after him, ‘Excuse me, my man, but I believe you may be under a misapprehension. That is in fact Non-Recyclable Household Waste’ (cat poo).

But I didn’t. I reversed, rather smartly, and exited.

And then I did a rather long and illogical detour to the petrol station, where an elderly idiot with a white moustache rather like the current transient US Secretary of State’s, nearly took my wing-mirror off in his selfish efforts not to let me get to the pump I needed, which was not the same pump he needed.

Ah, I thought, things are reverting to the usual dire pattern. I swore voluminously at him, but from inside my car so that he could see perfectly well that I was swearing voluminously, but we could both, upon exiting our cars, pretend it wasn’t aimed at him.

And then I drove over to visit my mother in the Home. This was number four (?) of Things I Don’t Want To Do Today But Am Going To Do Anyway. But Mum was asleep, with the curtains drawn. All the other residents were up. She looked dreadfully like a corpse so I tiptoed in and checked that she was still breathing. Then I went and found the Nurse – not in the Nurses Station (that was occupied by Someone Who Didn’t Even Work There) but in a cupboard. He said Mum was OK, but had been left to sleep in after one of her night-time rampages. I have never seen one of these rampages, and find them difficult to imagine, but apparently she shouts at other residents, and they shout back. She was never like this. Anything not to draw attention to herself, to stay in the background.

When I get home the Nurse will phone me again to say that after I left she wrestled another resident to the ground (where she happened to be lying) and was having a fight with them.

‘I wonder,’ I said, if it’s all the things they suppress during their lifetimes, when they are them, that suddenly start escaping when this happens?

The Nurse did not seem all that interested in my intellectual speculations.

After the Home I drove down to Ashford, thinking to stock up on black bin sacks in my favourite former supermarket, then drive home. Gridlocked.  When I finally inched my way there – instantly to be blocked in by a giant black-windowed vehicle that was going to make reversing out a nightmare – the woman behind the till tried to explain what was causing the gridlock. It’s the closure of the A2070 she said. I could not remember which of the many road around Ashford the A2070 was and hence, when trying to escape from Ashford some time later, got caught in two further lots of gridlock because I guessed wrong and headed straight for it rather than away from it.

You see that’s the trouble. Road diversions are signposted by men, and usually men who have GPS in their cars. I am a woman, and I do not have GPS. I do not understand Diversion signs and I navigate the sensible way, by Landmarks, not Numbers. If they had put up a sign saying Motorway Junction Absolutely And Completely Closed, well then I wouldn’t have gone that way, would I? I’d have wended my way up the back roads to Smelly Farm Corner and turned right towards The Place Where There Is A Pub I Once Walked Along The Grass Verge To With The Boyfriend With The Pointy Nose. Of course I would have got stuck in another lot of gridlock, but a smaller and more ultimately hopeful lot.

And how are you? my sister asks, eventually. It’s early morning in Alberta. She hasn’t already had a whole day of Utter Ghastliness.

‘Oh… a bit tired, maybe?’

phone tap

Featured Image: London street art by Banksy

 

And then…

Well, this is where I was yesterday. You would have had the photos hot off the old mobile phone, were it not for some sort of misunderstanding between it and Windows 10. I am not on the same wavelength as Windows 10 at all, and my mobile phone and I have only a passing acquaintance.

We were at a place called Teapot Island, which is somewhere near Tonbridge – or possibly Tunbridge Wells. I believe it may be called Wateringbury, or possibly Yalding. At any rate, Wateringbury and Yalding are quite close to one another, and fairly close to either Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells, where we were to spend all afternoon looking for a sparkly dinner dress for a friend, who has been invited to a terrifyingly superior Ladies Night Dinner. On Saturday. We found an evening handbag, in fact two evening handbags, in silver, and some silver shoes, but we didn’t find the silver sparkly hair ornament and we didn’t find The Dress.

Neither did we find The Dress again this morning, when we went down to Ashford. Sore footed and desperate, unable to reach a decision for her, and having exhausted the possibilities of dress shops so wonderful and expensive I had never bothered to set foot in heretofore, I wondered if, as we hobbled along, I should casually retell the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes… Perhaps no one would say anything if…

But then I thought, no. They actually would say something. In fact, quite a lot.

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So – Teapot Island. We went on the minibus, fourteen of us. Unfortunately it had been raining rather torrentially and Yalding – which I seem to recall is The Most Flooded Village in Kent – was at least partially flooded again. Our valiant Driver turned the minibus on a sixpence at every fresh flooded road onto the Island, eventually finding the one and only unsubmerged entrance. Puddles, as you see, and high water levels. Actually, it wasn’t cold, just damp.

And there were a lot of teapots there. More teapots than you could possibly imagine ever having existed in the entire world. Little café – we had some coffee. I had a blueberry muffin.

I wish I was interested in teapots, and I wish it hadn’t been quite so damp underfoot, but it was a welcome change of scene.

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I don’t think you actually use these teapots. I think you buy them from somewhere between £35 and £100, and put them on your mantelpiece and dust them, or in a display cabinet if you can’t face dusting them.

And then we went sparkly dress hunting, and had chips in a Witherspoons, or possibly a Weatherspoons, which used to be an opera house, and which still holds an opera, with a proper opera company and everything, once a year.

And then we hunted sparkly dresses some more – me, my friend, her friend and the Driver, who turned out to be an unexpected expert on ladies’ clothes shopping, bra sizes, colourways and whatever. And then the Driver bought us all an ice cream in a box from a small supermarket, and when we turned round he had vanished.

And then a poor woman came up to us whose poor dog had just been run over in Australia. She was here for a three month holiday, and had just had an anguished text from her daughter, who presumably had been looking after the dog. And so she sat, or actually collapsed down next to us and tried not to cry, and said she just wanted to sit quietly with some ladies for a couple of minutes. And I gave her an awkward kind of pat on the back, trying not to experience second-hand the full horror of learning that your dog has been run over on the other side of the world, and lent her my mobile phone so she could phone her husband, who was meant to have been picking her up at the station, but hadn’t.

Women’s lives are full of tragedy, and these tragedies are so hard to bear. Other women’s and one’s own, they bite with equal ferocity. And then she stood up, still trying not to look as if she was crying, and went off to meet her husband.

And we began exploring even charity shops in (in my opinion) the completely futile hope of finding lurking in some dark corner undiscovered an almost new, sparkly, not too long and not too darkly coloured dress in an unusual size suitable for wearing to a sit-down knife-and-fork dinner with swanky gifts for the ladies etc. And instead people tried to sell us old books and record players, dusty militaria and whatever they most wanted to get rid of.

And eventually we tottered back to the bus, parked in a side road (Newton Road – “remember a man in a wig with an apple about to fall on his head”) where the Driver was reading his newspaper and people were arguing about seat-belts and the seats being so hard they made your bum go to sleep after less than half an hour.

And eventually we went home.

Rhubarb, Rhubarb

I was going to call this one Sunday Mumble, as a follow on from Saturday Ramble, Saturday Again or whatever the last potpourri of whatever-comes-out-of-my-head was, but found myself at a complete loss as to what image might illustrate Sunday. Or even Mumble, a lateral-thinking failure which might be blamed on sore feet, more of which henceforth, or heretofore.

And then I thought of actors who, in Shakespearian theatre anyway, are meant to mumble Rhubarb, Rhubarb amongst themselves to convince the audience that they are a crowd, chattering quietly about this and that.

But then I seemed to recall that different countries had different ways of doing Rhubarb, Rhubarb. And then I seemed to recall that in any case rhubarb may well be called rutabaga or something else in America. Except that I think rutabaga in America may in fact be beetroot here, ie:

beetroot

I’ve never taken to beetroot, I must say. We were always getting beetroot in salads when I was a kid. Stained everything pink, even the lettuce. Waste of space, beetroot. Never liked rhubarb, either.

Nan told me a little family story about rhubarb once. She said a distant uncle or other relative (I am guessing this must have been in the twenties or thirties) always professed to hate rhubarb. One day, he came to dinner and she only had rhubarb to make the crumble. So she made the crumble and told him it was apple, and he loved it. So much depends on your expectations, doesn’t it?

I have a horrible feeling I’m going to annoy a whole variety of people here, but… oh, here goes.

The Royal Wedding: I loved it and sat on the sofa enjoying every last delicious, sunny, gorgeous, glamorous televised moment of it, over and over again. The only bit that for me was a step too far was the American preacher. However, I seem to be in a majority of one over this. All the TV presenters have been saying Oh, wasn’t he wonderful? Stole the show, he did! So much… arm-waving! So… different! So wonderful for Multi-cultural Relations, Ethnic Diversity and whatnot. And he was wonderful, and entertaining, and engaging but…

I have nothing against ethnic diversity; any cultural event that might encourage us to live with our neighbours in peace and harmony can only be a good thing. I loved the gospel choir singing Stand By Me and the young man playing the cello, all mixed in with Thomas Tallis (my hero) and other stuff. However, I thought, in that context, that preacher was a step too far. And he went on too long.

I couldn’t help seeing the expressions on the faces of his audience as the camera panned around. I couldn’t help cringing at the suppressed smirks; the exasperated, beached-whale boredom of one heavily-pregnant lady Royal; the nervous glances; Camilla’s shell-shocked elderly bewilderment. I admit, at that moment I wanted to hide behind the sofa or cover my eyes with my hands and peek through my fingers. If I wasn’t trying to stop gnawing my nails and chewing my fingers (elastic band on the wrist, snapped twice, works a treat!) I do believe I would have gnawed and chewed them sheer away with mesmerised embarrassment at that moment.

I think actually the mismatch here was not so much between black culture and white culture as between American culture and British. I mean this most sincerely folks… that’s the trouble. It’s the level of Sincerity – whether fake or real, doesn’t matter; that fervently enthusiastic over-egging-of-the-pudding and – oh, how would you describe it – Schmaltz. It’s what makes Trump utterly unbearable to listen to for more than half a second, but he’s not the only one. I just think, there’s stuff that makes us cringe that for some reason doesn’t make Americans cringe. And that was what I saw on the faces of the congregation, that small, inexpressible, painful and sharp cultural difference.

I felt sorry for him. He was an excellent preacher, preaching in the wrong place. He was casting his pearls before swine, his seeds on stony ground. However, perhaps I needn’t feel too sorry for him as I believe he has been inundated with requests to appear at various venues. All’s well that ends well.

And now it’s down to earth. Back to obsessing about Brexit and Nothing Good Ever Happening. Ah well!

Sorry, forgot to explain the sore feet.

Punk Morris Dancers, Glitter Tattoos and a Man Dressed Like a Baby

You will see the man dressed as a baby in the shot above. Thats him with the whitish beard and white hair scraped up into two schoolgirl ‘bunches’. I have no idea what his function was in the Morris Dancing troupe with which he was performing. I know Morris Dancers are partial to Green Men and Hooden Horses, but this was the first large elderly man in a pink dress, boots, bells and bunches. No doubt he was deeply symbolic of something.

I once read that ‘abroad’ the British are universally pictured as marching about in bowler hats and carrying furled umbrellas, usually in the pouring rain. I thought these pictures, taken today at the Rochester Sweeps Festival, might go some way to redressing the balance.

I quite like this picture – a lucky accident as I couldn’t actually see the screen, the sun was shining on it so brightly. Dazed and confused, for all of them I simply lifted the mobile phone up at random and pressed the button. The thing I notice most about it though is that although everyone is having a good day out, engaged in ‘fun’, no one – not the woman in the wheelchair, the leaner on the lamp-post, not even the jolly dancers hopping around and bashing their sticks together – is actually smiling.

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There were more Morris Dancers than you could shake a stick at. Apparently they converge on Rochester from all over the country. In my younger day it was all rather sedate. The men always wore white and always sort of matched. Nowadays anything goes. I particularly liked this punk troupe with their fishnet tights and top hats. It also answers the question: Where did all the hippies go? Here they are, in all their faded glory, the remnants of My Generation.

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I wondered what they all did when they weren’t dancing. The one in the thonged leather – might he be a bank manager in everyday life? The lady in the multi-coloured tatters with the pint of beer – possibly works behind reception at the local leisure centre?

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As the day went on we passed more and more people with painted faces, so this tent was obviously popular. I cropped out an unfortunately-shaped young woman in unfortunate jeans. No doubt she’ll appear in somebody else’s picture.

So, a good day was had by all, and back we clambered onto our Community Minibus. The wheelchair took some time to affix. Boy is it tiring, enjoying yourself!

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A Plague By Any Other Name

William or Leetle Weely as the vet calls him has a disgusting-looking ailment of the paws. The vet speaks very good English, but it is not his first language and I believe has not quite got the hang of seaside postcard humour and double entendres. It may be that double entendres are the last linguistic hurdle a foreigner has to cross.

Speaking of double-entendres, even I missed one the other night. I was in a long conversation with my sister in Canada, complaining bitterly about an overbearing male who entered my kitchen and even, irritatingly, sniggered at the way I cut the cheese, saying it was probably because I was left handed etc., etc. Said man has now been disposed of (fingers crossed) but not before he nearly electrocuted himself by poking a kitchen knife into my toaster, whilst said toaster was plugged into the electric socket and red hot, because he had managed to get a crumpet stuck in it. He then asked me why I had turned the toaster off and I mentioned saving him from electrocution. Probably I should just have left him to it – would have been easier than trying to convince him to kindly leave me alone – but, as one of my neighbours said to me when I went out to mow the lawn this afternoon, you wouldn’t want the corpse of a fat, condescending old baggage cluttering up your vinyl floor covering.

Anyway – rambling again – I kept referring to cutting the cheese as part of this sisterly transatlantic rant, and it wasn’t until the end of the conversation that my sister told me that cutting the cheese in Canadian was actually a euphemism for breaking wind.

Anyway, William has a paw complaint, which hopefully will be improved by antibiotics and steroids. Its scientific name is Plasma Cell Pododermatitis but it’s also known as Pillow Foot or, the vet tells me, Bumble Foot. Really, if you hadn’t seen Leetle Weely hobbling about on the sore, scabby and peeling paws in question you might imagine him joyously floating about with a tiny white pillow strapped to each foot, or maybe being transported by a quartet of little fluffy bees…

It made me think about the names we choose for diseases, and why they are so often really attractive names when the ailment they represent is so unattractive. When I was a child I had Scarlatina (why Scarlatina and not Scarletina?). I don’t remember much about it except that I had a sore throat and my mother hung white sheets at my bedroom window. They had to be soaked in something-or-other (disinfectant, probably). I believe  Scarlatina was quite serious – children often died – and yet what a lovely name someone chose for it! Can’t you just imagine it – a flamenco dancer in a red silk dress, clacking black cube heels on a polished floor.

And then there was Impetigo. Just down the road from me lived the butcher’s twin girls (well, one of them was a girl, the other nobody was ever quite sure). They were not identical, obviously, but what they did have was permanent identical Impetigo – like crusty stuff around their mouths. In those days the treatment for Impetigo was Gentian Violet (another lovely name) and so the poor non-identical twins were permanently daubed in purple. But Impetigo – can’t you just imagine it stalking silently through a green and gold jungle, the ghost of twinkle in its eye?

We were once asked in an English lesson what our favourite-sounding word of all time was, and whether we loved it for its sound alone, or for the meaning of the word. One girl said she just loved the sound of Diahorrea (the spellcheck obviously doesn’t – I could never decide how to spell it) which caused much laughter but showed that, as Shakespeare put it, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

And what about Schizophrenia, Chlamydia, Fasciitis, Eczema. If you didn’t know what these words meant, wouldn’t you think they were rather lovely?