There’s nowt so queer as folk

I’m having that after glow birthday feeling – yesterday my Gazebo was well and truly road tested as close friends came and went to spend time with me. I think this is probably my best buy of 2020. It has enabled me to spend time with friends and family in a COVID safe way. Yes it was bitterly cold but the sun shone and when it went down we had a huge pit fire which kept us warm well into the night.

There is something about fire that brings people together in a very special way. It’s the flickering light, crackling sounds, warmth, and distinctive smell. It has an interesting magical way in which it draws people closer together. If we go way back in time and look at how the cave people lived we can see that when all they had was each other, in the darkness of a cave, the light from a fire would be an elation, it would enable them to communicate with each other, share how their days had been and most importantly ward away any unwanted beings. Luckily we don’t have to ward away enemies, well not yet, but last night I could see how it promoted sharing and story telling. It is almost as if the fire was saying “yes it is OK for you to open up, to reminisce and share feelings. ”

I realised too just how important it is for my children and close friends to see me relaxed and happy. How hard it must have been for them over the past few years watching my sadness. I guess one can become a little self obsessed with grief that one forgets that others have to co exist with you. It was a wake up call for me when one of my children said, “it is so nice to see you smiling and looking happy mum.”

NOTE TO SELF: Must try harder

In the spirit of it only being yesterday that it was ‘my special day’ I indulged and stayed in bed with coffee and my IPAD. I watched an intriguing Louis Theroux documentary on Scientology and suddenly remembered my own brush with this odd religion. I think I was probably about 16 and I was in Brighton accompanying a girl friend who had gone there for an abortion. I had to kill time while she was in the clinic so I wandered around the town and was accosted by some young people who persuaded me to take a scientific test that would help change my life. Well I had nothing else to do that day.

So they plugged me into an E-Meter  which is a shortened term for electropsychometer. It’s a kind of lie detector – it measures the galvanic skin response of a person. Scientologists believe it can “see thoughts”. And from what I can gather its supposed to tell the auditor whether or not the person has been “relieved from spiritual impediment of past experiences”

All I can remember is that they told me that unless I joined up I was in danger of ending my life by committing suicide because ….. well you probably get the gist. So far I have escaped the Moonies and the Scientologists but there is still lots of scary stuff out there.

It is an interesting and somewhat alarming documentary. But then I am never surprised by the antics of my fellow humans. Here we are just out of lock-down, the numbers have decreased, vaccines are on the way, so there is light at the end of the tunnel and yet – this was 09.30 at Harrods on December 6 – not a mask in sight. I rest my case


Moving on – if you too have had your fill of stuff like “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” here are some alternative films you might find interesting. You can always check the trailers out first on You Tube.

After Springly Akeelah & the Bee, Virunga, Knock Down The House, Capernaum, Shoplifters, The Other Side of Hope, Babel and more mainstream The Joy Luck Club. I loved the book.

Look forward to your feedback.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Auspicious Times

Yesterday was an auspicious day – yes we have finally got rid of the orange idiot – but it was also Tod’s birthday and what better present for him than Biden. Not the ideal candidate but at least it is not Trump. And I think Tod would have approved of this mild mannered sensitive and empathetic man. And if he pops his clogs, well he isn’t exactly a spring chicken — then we will have the first black female president.   It’s an odd expression ‘pop  your clogs’ – I think it comes from  the idea of ‘popping’ meaning pawning – a person’s clogs after they have died because of course they no longer have any use for them.

Anyway, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and  the knots in my stomach are slowly unwinding.  I can start sleeping again – well at least try and best of all soon there will be no more Trump. A result.

It was also auspicious because finally my roof is fixed although I still have to get someone to take down the useless expensive scaffold   – but I am not going there again!

My brother-in-law said Tod would be smiling on his birthday to see Trump defeated.  I wish I knew that was true. How wonderful would it be to know that someone you are close to is still around somewhere in the ether? I have been thinking for some time of going to a spiritualist or clairvoyant just to check out if he is still hanging around. I doubt it as I am sure I would have felt his presence.  He wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet.  One definitely knew when Tod was around.  Spiritualists will say that one sign that someone is hanging around is ‘visitation dreams’  well I have had those.  Quite a few of them.  Another is  electrical phenomena – yes have had that too. Lights flickering and then black outs.  It   is  probably all a loads of cobs wobble  and I know that Tod didn’t believe in any of this, but I am still curious. After all my grandmother was a palmist and phrenologist and grandfather was a magician. 

I remember  waiting at Heathrow arrivals watching people embracing and crying with joy at seeing loved ones and thinking wouldn’t it be great if there was another special arrival space  for people who had died, and they were allowed to come back for a visit.

Have you ever played that dinner time game – If you could bring one person back from the dead, who would it be?  Sadly, the rules preclude it being  a member of your family.

It’s the regrets that sometimes hound one – the ‘if only’ s’ and ‘why didn’t we’s’. Bloody useless this hindsight – what good is that. Where was it when I needed it most.  But I am learning to let it go –  it is just taking a while

But I can also smile now when I think about Tod. I am smiling just remembering   the stack of birthday presents that I bought him that I know he didn’t like. I used to dread present buying time. It  was hugely important to Tod probably  because his mother never really  did the birthday thing.   I loved a celebration and any excuse to get us all together worked for me.  We had Jewish New Year and 31 December, we had Hanukkah and Christmas. We had Thanksgiving, Halloween, Bonfire Night and Fourth of July and anything else that was up for grabs.

 I fear there is not a lot to celebrate right now except, of course  the mere fact that we’ve made it to this point in life. We are still here despite all the challenges we are facing.  So maybe we just need to celebrate getting through another day. And I should celebrate just managing to write another blog.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Who’s in charge here?

I have decided that because this year has been so shitty, I am not going to count my next birthday.  What does it matter anyway how old I am.  Not that everybody agrees. Apparently it matters  quite a lot  –  we  over 60’s are  stuck in COVID world and  are continually referred to as the ‘elderly’ and the ‘vulnerable’.   Bloody cheek. This labeling isn’t helping my mental health.

Interesting it was only last year that The  Office for National Statistics said although 65 has traditionally been seen as the start of old age, 70 could be seen as the “new 65”. And that’s they said  is because  many people who reach this milestone birthday can still expect to live another 15 years. If that’s the case then 60 is just middle age.  

Anyway, come December I am going to be 60 again. I didn’t have a 60th birthday as I was stuck in a  Berlin ICU hospital  watching over  one of my children who had fallen off a balcony on his head and trying to get  nurses to understand my broken German. Really what kind of language puts adjective verbs and almost everything else at the end of a sentence. The hospitals and doctors were brilliant  which is more than I can say for the bedside manner of some of the nurses. I was told by my German girlfriend not to take it personally it is a cultural thing.

I didn’t particularly mind missing my 60th as I have never been one for big parties.  It did however take me a while to accept 60   as I have been lying about my age since I turned 40 much to the annoyance of my younger cousins  who complain  that they have now overtaken me.

Of course, I wouldn’t have  lied if we didn’t live in such an ageist society.  When I left the BBC at the age of 50 I was the oldest by at least 15 years of my team. For me not being entirely truthful was about avoiding being judged –  and yes that does happen.  Fortunately, I look good and I know I could easily pass for someone in their mid-fifties. So why wouldn’t  I?

At the weekend the clocks went back  – so  if they – whoever they are can fiddle with the time  then so can I. “When you don’t take charge of time you become father time’s bitch,” not sure who said that and its a bit sexist but well, I ain’t  nobody’s bitch. 

Taking Charge High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

Einstein determined that time is relative –in other words, the rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference. Admittedly right now  COVID  is skew-whiffing  (maybe I have just made this word up I am well known for my malapropisms) time because  despite doing very little time seems to have sped up considerably.  

I still remember as a child waiting impatiently for the birthdays, holidays or  Wishing Day to come round. Yes Wishing Day – you mean you didn’t have a Wishing Day?  Ours was the middle of September.  We would sit on the rocking chair in the lounge and make a wish which would then magically turn up in the oven. Obviously not on.  And it really did feel like magic. My mother would have spent weeks  trying to find out what our wish would be.  One-year Brian and I  suspected that maybe there weren’t any magic fairies, so I decided to test the magic. I wished for a dollies cradle which I was sure my mother would never have guessed.   And when  I ran to the oven – there it was a beautiful little lace trimmed dollies cradle.  Well my maternal  grandpa was a magician!

So,  I am not working, I have no ties, I have nobody telling me what to do, and if  my time is relative to my life then I am going to be the boss.  I guess it’s about a mindset. I  know because I can  waste entire afternoons.  

Now I just need to walk the walk rather than talk the talk.

Walk the talk – Karolinska Institutet Career Blog

“Let’s be careful out there”