Saturday Night Ramble

Mum and Dad used to belong to a Cycling Club, one of whose (which’s?) many sub-activities was know as The Wednesday Wobblers. This was a group of older cyclists who met on a Wednesday and cycled unbelievably long distances in order to eat a pub meal and drink a pint of beer and wobble all the way back home again. My parents disliked the name actually, because they didn’t wobble; they were better cyclists than that. And because it had been invented by their arch enemy, Fat Pat.

And so, being now in a Club of One I thought I would engage in a Saturday Night Ramble, mainly because I haven’t written anything for some time and still can’t come up with anything coherent to say. But that never stopped me in the past. Incoherence is my middle name.

Today it was chilly, and raining on and off, but my friend and I had arranged to go to the next village down for fish and chips and so we went. Actually we almost never manage to get into the fish and chip emporium since it is always stuffed full of seaside-visiting grockles in tracksuits, hooped earrings and tattoos, and today was no exception. We always seem to time it wrong. One moment the place is empty. By the time we have crossed the road – rather slowly since my friend is disabled – the grockles have packed it and are spilling out onto the pavement.

We ended up with egg and chips at another place, almost equally packed, and a three-quarter of an hour wait for that. Then they brought only one plate of egg and chips, though I had clarified (twice, in fact) to the very slow woman at the till that we needed egg and chips twice, there being two of us, as they could clearly see, rather than one of us requiring two eggs with their chips. So I sat and watched my friend eat her chips, and her two eggs, and meanwhile got through six half-slices of bread-and-marge off a hefty white china plate. She had more or less finished by the time my egg and chips arrived. The mug of tea seemed to me to taste strongly of fish, but she said it was probably just that my mind was still in fish and chip mode.

Home again, I turned the central heating on and sat for several hours doing battle with my mobile phone. It is one of those Doro old-people phones with all possibility of doing anything dangerous strictly hidden from view so as to discourage Mother or Father from tampering with the settings and messing things up. Unfortunately I am not quite old enough for a Doro and am finding it increasingly frustrating, and patronising in its attitude. It thwarts me at every turn. It was populated with an awful lot of what I believe is collectively known as Bloatware – lots of Google stuff I had no need for, and obscure features nobody with any sort of life could possibly have need of. Add to that a small memory, an absolute refusal to use the memory card I had purchased and installed, and an insistence that I delete every single app I had ever installed in order to make room for Bloatware updates it didn’t have enough Memory to perform…

I tried swapping the SIM and the memory card to another phone, but this caused all sorts of problems. Google demanded that I sign in and kept presenting me with all those unreadable wiggly things. After an hour it was still refusing to accept that I was me, and I gave up, moved the SIM and the memory card back. Then I installed a file manager and viciously (viciously, I say) disabled or deleted every single Google bloat-thingy, every single Doro feature I had never found a use for and every single app that I couldn’t attribute a function to. That worked! Pah, I hate smartphones.

And now I am listening to music on my MP3 player to drown out the noise of the party next door. The trick is to turn the volume up just loud enough to partially distract from the thumping electronic beat and screeching pre-teens, but not quite loud enough to damage your own hearing.

Catwise, I now have another problem. One of my outdoor strays looks to have a damaged leg, but I can’t get near him. If he had just allowed himself to get tame first, I could have picked him up. All I can do is keep putting food out and hope he can manage to heal himself. Or for the universe to persuade him he really needs to trust the Giantess to take him to the vet and get fixed. So far the food is continuing to disappear, but I can’t be sure it’s him eating it, since there is Mystery Dog, another ginger tom (Sunshine), the ever-present Ratties and now a small brown mouse. The cats are glued to the back door watching the mouse’s insouciant preening of his whiskers inches from their noses, the wrong side of the double glazing.

The Cats Protection lady is still going to come and see me, but her companion is not. We have arranged this between us. He took a fancy to me and mowed my lawn. Then he told me I was Not Very Practical and obviously needed Taking In Hand and a Real Man To Look After Me. Then he grabbed me in the kitchen and started sending unspeakably suggestive texts all evening, every evening. Yuk! I find it amazing that now, when I am old and toothless (well, not completely toothless) – weirdo men seem to be coming out of the woodwork, attired in big boots, khaki shorts and hearing aids, or too tight overcoats that smell strongly of mothballs. Whereas when I was younger and at least willowy and acceptable-looking I couldn’t seem to get a boyfriend for love nor money. And oh, old men are so disgusting. They just never seem to lose the conviction that any single woman must be just gasping – gasping – for their slobbering embraces. He brought me unwanted food, and secreted it in my fridge, in cupboards etc., when I wasn’t looking. I have been throwing it out as I find it. This morning yet another dryish sultana loaf fell out of the cupboard…

Ow, think I’m going to have to turn the MP3 down. Perhaps they’ve stopped, next door…

Yes, a few minutes break before…

Ah, but there they go again. And it’s that idiot with the paint pot singing “I can hear it coming in the wind tonight”. They always get onto that one sooner or later.

And now Ed Sheeran… beautiful and sweet… we were just kids when we fell in love…

Don’t, and you cringe alone

One of the side-effects of moving house is that you come across all sorts of… stuff. In my case, all sorts of old writing stuff. I’ve found boxes of what used to be known as Little Magazines. There were a lot of them before the internet really took hold – before publishing software, even. They were short-lived publications, usually A5, on cheap paper and were put together by dedicated people – or one solitary dedicated person – in back bedrooms or student common-rooms using nothing more sophisticated than a typewriter, glue, a bit of arty cut-and-paste, a photocopier and a long-arm stapler.

My parents did something similar for years. They weren’t arty or literary in any way, but they were the joint Secretary of a cycling club. In the suburban bungalow they had built themselves (my Mum eight months pregnant with my sister, clambering up ladders with hods full of roofing tiles, apparently – no wonder my sister turned out so strapping) what had once been my bedroom  became home to a ghastly second-hand photocopier, which my mother spent more time trying to repair than actually using – and a very small desk with her manual typewriter on it. The Silverette it was called. It was a bright, eggy yellow so maybe it would have been better named The Goldette. Or even The Buttercup. I have the small desk now – it’s right here beside me. Unfortunately Buttercup has gone to the big scrapheap in the sky.

silverette

In the cupboard under the welsh-dresser were reams and reams of cheap photocopier paper – precisely stacked – my mother wasn’t one for ragged edges. My deliberately-engineered Hobbit-ish toppling towers of dusty paperbacks were anathema to her.

There were industrial-sized boxes of staples. There were bottles of Gloy paper glue – the gloopy, white sort. The thinner, brown sort of Gloy was, for some reason, reserved for postage – sticking on stamps that had lost their sticky, attaching little Snowmen and Father Christmases to brown paper parcels, that kind of thing. For most of the week, it seemed, at one point, Mum was immured in her “office” with this… commotion going on as the photocopier attempted to shake itself to bits. (Even that wasn’t as bad as one of her previous obsessions – the knitting machine which used to destroy everyone’s television watching concentration as she slammed the handle-thing back and forth over the rows of hooks.)

It was a good magazine, if you were a cyclist. When Mum and Dad finally got forced off the cycling club committee by the Evil one known as Fat Pat – who was later to accidentally drive her car into a pond, much to my mother’s delight – and her lily-livered but equally Evil husband Eric – Fat Pat lost no time in commandeering the club magazine. It shrank to about a quarter of its size and everyone stopped subscribing to it – no doubt because Dad had been writing a good eighty percent of the content (“yarns” he called them) under one fanciful pseudonym or another, and editing the remaining twenty percent of rambling and incoherent submissions from other club members into readable shape. He must have discovered something I later rediscovered through audio typing legal dictation: people with no ‘ear’ for words rarely if ever notice that you have subtly amended their stuff. They simply assume they were cleverer than they thought.

So, amongst a cardboard boxful of such Little Magazines in which I Got Something Published – in the early days when I naïvely imagined them to be the route to literary fame and fortune – I discovered one called Buddhism Now, June 1991. In it is an article I had called  ‘Landscape’. Not terribly imaginative. This was when I was going through my Reincarnation and Zen phase. My soon-to-be-ex-husband described this phase as When She Got Religion. I’ve scanned the first few paragraphs and yes – it’s making me cringe already.

However, no doubt I will type it out and post it in due course. As Ella Wheeler Wilcox would have written, had she been perusing Buddhism Now:

Post and the world cringes with you;

Don’t, and you cringe alone.