Blending in with the rhododendrons

My niece has purple hair at the moment. This isn’t her, by the way.

I wouldn’t have discovered she had purple hair at the moment if it wasn’t for Facebook – so the stupid social media site has had at least one use. Three in fact, since it inspired this post and has also, I suspect, inspired an as yet unwritten (but plotted) sci-fi story.

I don’t think I’m really a Facebook kind of person. I mean, I joined it, but then it asked me for friends. Friends? I thought. Oh dear! Well, I do – I have three, but none of them are on Facebook. The only people, shamefully, I could think of to ask to be made a friend of was my sister, her husband and their daughter, my niece. There was a longish wait before they agreed. For a while I thought it was only going to be the brother-in-law, who is a kindly soul and probably felt one of them had to. So I get an awful lot of stuff about football and motorbikes.

After a while I realised they weren’t actually reading my posts, or rather the links to my posts, put there by WordPress. (Not another of those dire Auntie Linda ramblings.) A while after that I realised WordPress and Facebook had had some sort of coming-to-blows over my posts, and Facebook was no longer posting my posts. Miserable, useless thing! If Twitter can do it, why can’t you? I worked out how to post manually, but I was discouraged. Why am I faffing about like this, posting links to posts that only three other people in the universe will see, and they won’t be reading? So I stopped.

However, there was this phrase – blending in with the rhododendrons. My niece had taken yet another selfie of herself in front of some rhododendron bushes on a visit to a country house, and appended to it a tiny story, of how she had had to dye her hair four times in a single day because the lilac (obviously the colour she was after) wouldn’t take at the roots, meaning she had orange roots and lilac other-bits, which wasn’t a good look. It was that phrase. A little shiver of recognition – another writer. So the gene did get passed on – from Dad to me – and to her. What would you call that shiver – WriteDar? And I recalled that Mum was always telling me how good at writing my niece was, when at school, and how that had truly pissed me off since writing was all I could ever do well, and no one had thought to sing my praises. Basically, I was jealous of the infant. Then I forgot. Till Facebook.

In the photo she is smiling, rather sweetly, and wearing glasses. I haven’t seen her for years but I see she has a silver stud underneath her lower lip. She always did look – the way I wanted to look, but didn’t. She turned up to Dad’s funeral in Doc Martens, I seem to remember, and something long, black and gothic, and pink spiky hair. Tattoos – she has those too. When they were going to whip her kidney out – or was it put the new one in – she was so worried about spoiling her best tattoo. And now she’s got no kidneys at all, poor kid, no functioning kidneys anyway. There’s the long drive to hospital three times a week for dialysis.

However, in between times she works in a chemist’s shop, and she’s looking for a flat. And she visits country houses and gardens with rhododendrons, and takes her picture in front of them, grinning, because she never knows how long she’ll be well enough to enjoy her freedom. Long spells in hospital. Spells of purple hair, rock concerts and rhododendrons.

So, that’s the post inspired by duff old Facebook, by a photo of a niece I haven’t seen for ages (who knows, she may come to my funeral) and a chance turn of phrase.

Now on to the sci-fi short story.

purple hair

This isn’t her either, but a lovely shade of purple, don’t you think? Especially with the snow. I wonder – if I was to – no, I couldn’t –

I was just wondering if having purple hair, say, or Doc Martens, tattoos and piercings – would be enough to keep one out of the old folks home. I mean, would they be able to view you as an old person and make the assumptions people do about old persons, if you didn’t look anything like one?

A Mind of Many Colours

So, Joseph’s father loved him and gave him this coat, right. In a land of yellow dust and burnt sienna sand, it was a wonderful thing – a rainbow woven into a cloak. Not that it did poor Joseph much good. His brothers became jealous and decided to kill him. Then they decided not to kill him but rather throw him into a pit to die. Then they decided not to let him die in the pit but to haul him out and sell him to some slave traders for twenty pieces of silver. Many colours can be a good thing, but it ain’t necessarily so.

I just joined Twitter and Facebook and am finding it hard not to keep tuning in and checking, to make sure my Tweets/Posts are still there; almost as hard as not tuning in to WordPress to find out if anyone’s reading anything… and, more importantly, liking it. I’m already a bit ‘fragmented’ – easily distracted – a bit of a magpie. This can be useful, for blogging, but it can also be a form of torment. It depends how tired you are. And how many things there are to distract you. Now I have two more.

And I’m one of those compulsive readers. I can’t not read things, whether they’re adverts, cereal packets or instructions as to legal tyre-tread depth on the wall at the garage. Brain homes in on letters of the alphabet and nothing much else. It works like this. I wouldn’t know the colour or make of a car, even if I’d just been travelling in it (unless it was my own, of course.) Cars in a car-park are uninteresting as far as I’m concerned: mere rows of shiny objects with wheels. Yet recently I located a friend’s misplaced car in the hospital multi-storey, not by remembering where we parked it but by asking her to say the registration number. I turned, ran my eye along the first row and the number plate jumped out. It will always jump out (if it’s there at all).

It comes in useful, but it also means I find myself random-reading stuff on Twitter, when I haven’t really got time. The other day it happened to be an article from the Guardian by biographer Alexander Masters. And actually I’m glad I read it because it reminded me of something – that I have a long way to go before I can call myself a journalist. This was journalistic writing at its best. He was basically publicising his new, not-quite-published biography, A Life Discarded, and telling the story of how it came about. It was fascinating. Basically two good friends of his discovered 148 handwritten notebooks discarded in a skip, in an old Ribena bottle box and littered about generally. Since he was a biographer, they brought them to him. After many delays, partly caused by a bizarre accident to one friend and the discovery that the other friend was terminally ill, he started to read them.

They were diaries. At first he did not know the person’s name or gender – they were just ‘I’. Eventually he discovered that she was called Laura, but not her second name. He pieced her life together from the notebooks, discovering in the process that these were by no means all of the diaries. The 70s, the second half of the 60s and the 80s and most of the 90s were missing. He assumed that Laura was dead, since her diaries had been dumped in a skip, but as it happened, she wasn’t. And he found her…

I’m afraid I just have to read it, and have pre-ordered it – all because I got distracted. So, was distraction a good thing, because I stumbled across an author and a book-title I had never heard of before? Because it got me reading a Guardian article, which I would never normally have done since I don’t get the papers. Or was it a bad thing, because I ended up spending money on a book I shouldn’t even have known about?

Which reminds me of still other things: of my mother’s love of uniformity and her Alexander McCall Smith collection; of Nicholas Carr’s book suggesting that our brains are being seriously rewired by the internet; of Jane Austen and the Dead Sea Scrolls; of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Which may well find their way into another post.

colour coat

(Coat of Many Colors: Shoshannah Brombacher)