My bathwater is staring at me…

So, I finished running my bath and looked down and lo and behold, little pairs of bubble eyes were circulating, and staring at me. Only for a moment, mind you. Then sanity returned. Please do not let me start hearing voices talking to me from my kitchen cupboards next. Please do not let the bubbles develop little sharp teeth and start snapping at me…

Been there, seen that all before.

But really I think I am just very tired. I am not used to being very tired, either. All my life I have been able to do a normal day’s stuff and recover without even thinking about it. Now it takes me two days to get over a long bus journey.

Went to see Mum yesterday. Fortunately Godmother’s little dog has had a stay of execution and Godmother and her trusty little red car are back online, so I didn’t have to do the epic three-bus solo journey, only the much easier one bus, two train and one car journey. I gave Mum a calendar of American Birds, hanging it on her wall with the garden string (and yes, even small pair of scissors) I had taken over specially. Once a Brownie always a Brownie. Mum made that Emu face. Godmother went to make her a fresh cup of tea (we have both recently memorised the key code for the kitchen).

‘Is that better?’ she foolishly asked, as Mum took a sip from her newly-steaming plastic beaker. Emu face again.

For those who are wondering what an Emu face is, not being old enough or British, I would guess it’s something like a ‘Meh’ face only a tad more ominous. This is it:


Then she started growling, a lot, and baring her teeth. A carer came running.

“It’s all right,” we said, waving cheerily. “It’s only Mum having a bit of a growl.”

Thing is, all this stuff takes it out of you. And it doesn’t go away when you go home. That whole visit stays with you and excerpts from it coming back, like cucumber. Memory burps.

And then there was the reverse journey – car, train, train again and bus. And the hour-and-a-bit wait at the bus stop, alone. And the bus arriving being a single decker, and already stuffed with holidaymakers returning to their chalets, though this was only the second stop.

And the more and more people getting crammed in and nobody ever getting out.

And the pain in my knees (I was sitting over one of the back wheels, and I have long legs) as they continually graunched against the back of the seat in front.

And the little girl in that seat, who kept turning round to bellow at her Mama in Spanish through my face, leaning heavily on the seat back at the same time. I desperately needed to stand up and stretch my legs, but I would have lost my seat and been stood hanging on to a pole round sharp bends with a bad hip for the next forty minutes.

And then, having escaped the bus, the fifteen minute uphill climb home. For the first time ever I had to actually stop, like some old lady, and catch my breath for some moments before continuing. My head was swimming although that might have been the several Mars Bars en route, plus the half a bar of chocolate Godmother produced in the car, and which we shared between us! Also, I was loaded down with second hand copies of the Woman’s Weekly. Godmother passes hers on to me and I do enjoy them, even though she’s always done the crossword, but a whole supermarket bag-full is heavy.

And then I got home and next door decided to have one of their Friday parties. Turn Up The Volume It’s Friday. I was going to have a bath but I went to bed instead, grubby, knowing that I could sleep through a lot of loud music, shouting and thundering about,  but not sit through it. Hence the bath this morning, and the bubbles. And those little swirling eyes in the water…

Still on the subject of public transport: Bertie At The Bus Stop tells me he can easily eat 19 potatoes at one sitting. He loves potatoes. Obviously. He went on some kind of summer camp once and ate up all the potatoes in the bowl, thinking they were all meant for him. Next day, he told me, they wouldn’t let him into the dining room until after everyone else had gone in. He didn’t know why.

He tells me his freezer-in-the-shed went off sometime during that power cut, and failed to restart itself automatically when the electrics came back on. He only noticed hours later because the garden fountain had stopped working. I asked him whether the food would be safe to eat, having once defrosted. It was clear that this was a new idea to him. He thought that once in a freezer food would last forever and that occasional lengthy defrosting would make no difference, as long as the freezer eventually got turned back on.

“They” provided him with the freezer but “They” obviously hadn’t taken the time to explain to him in any detail how it worked.

“Well,” he said, thinking it over, “I could always cook it all overnight. I could stay up all night cooking and put it in my fridge and then I could eat it all the next day, like a big feast…

Poor Bertie, he needs his Old Mum but she isn’t here any more. I know the feeling, and I know I can’t do anything. People have their own lives and you can’t take on everybody’s problems, especially when you have a history of well-meaning attempts at helping that did no good. I can’t magically make Bertie less simple-minded or raise his Old Mum from the dead. Sometimes, maybe, it’s enough to listen to their stories – told on purpose or – as in Bertie’s case – in innocence or by accident. Perhaps, on that day, that was what you happened to be at the bus stop for.

We’re having a heatwave…

Further to the tooth-fairy post, I was reading one of Godmother Betty’s donated Woman’s Realms this lunchtime (never admit to buying this yourself, unless planning to roll it up and beat somebody on the bottom with it *) and on the problem page discovered another yet another interesting snippet of tooth-fairy lore. Here is both the question and answer:

My grandson is about to lose his first tooth. I was talking to my daughter-in-law and I asked what they were going to leave him from the tooth fairy. She said nothing, as it’s made-up nonsense and she doesn’t want to fill his head with rubbish. I think that’s a bit mean.

Of course, it’s her and your son’s decision whether they do this or not. The tooth fairy is a very old tradition: it was believed that burying the tooth would ward of evil spirits and protect the child. This seems a bit outdated now. But will this single him out from his peers at school and how will they react if he says it’s all made up? It might not please other parents!

I think many people do this as a reward for their child who’s moving into the next phase of their life. For some children, it helps them to manage the discomfort of both losing a tooth and the new one growing. They know that alongside the bad parts of this experience, they will get something nice. Maybe your daughter-in-law could focus on this bit, rather than the fairy.

What interests me is the daughter-in-law, and the subtext: some kind of power struggle going on between these two? Or echoes a very unhappy childhood.

They used to believe, in Victorian times, that children were Empty Vessels and it was the educator’s job to ‘pour’ knowledge into them. Alternatively, children were a Blank Slate or tabula rasa, and it was the educator’s job to write useful facts on that slate. Since both a Vessel and a Slate have finite capacity, it might well be possible to waste valuable space in in/on them with rubbish. But this concept has long since been discredited. Children seem to be perfectly capable of sorting fact from fantasy, as they get older. They just re-categorize things. And what would childhood be without fantasy?

Well, I’ve had a rubbish day today. Things are supposed to go to plan but they never do. According to the internet the local Post Office is open on Sundays. I got there, it wasn’t.

According to the internet Boots the Opticians in a distant town are supposed to be open on Sundays, so I could have collected one of my new pairs of glasses and had a week without headaches rather than with. However, I got there, I paid for parking – it wasn’t. Barriered off, with a little handwritten note impaled on the barrier: We are not open on Sundays any more.

The loo in the car park was closed, it being Sunday. The loo in BHS was closed, it being the final week of their Going Bust Sale and so Frankly, My Dear they no longer give a damn about the public’s convenience.

I sat in Tesco’s car park and ate an overpriced egg-and-cress sandwich and a chocolate bar. The chocolate bar was mostly melted by the time I got to it since the temperature inside the car, even with both windows open, was at heatwave level. No hint of breeze. The water in my water-bottle, which I had foolishly left on the passenger seat, would have been warm enough to wash my face in. My face felt in need of a wash, but thirst won.

On the way back from the far distant town with the air-conditioning on full blast, I got stuck in a traffic jam. I crawled home, listening to Gardeners’ Question Time. I now know all about New Zealand flatworms. They look like British worms, apparently, but somewhat flatter. Did you know they eat the British worms? Yes, worms are their diet. They are also slimier than ordinary worms, and the slime is pretty nasty stuff; not good to get on your hands. And the way to trap them is to stack old plates and saucers under a tree or in a cool, damp place, whereupon the New Zealand worms will worm their way in between and await their eventual fate at your vengeful hands.

In between all this driving, I spent an hour at the home with Godmother Betty, watching Mum eat half a bowl of cornflakes very slowly and drink half a mug of tea even more slowly. A shrill alarm sounded constantly. That’s when someone in one of the rooms has tried to get out of bed. There are alarms under the carpets. The carers ignored it. The other old folks ignored it. The home’s enormous tabby-cat ignored it, waiting for a triangle of sun to get round to his spot on the carpet. Luckily Mum is stone deaf.

And tomorrow I start training for a new job, back in that far distant town, which means I’ve got to get up at five in the morning for the next four weeks, and probably won’t get back till seven in the evening.

Ah well. Onwards and upwards!


* The Ballad of Barry and Freda: Victoria Wood