The Birth, the Nation and the Aftermath

By the time you read this it will all be over. It has been growing for almost a year-starting very small and developing during the days, weeks and months.

In the beginning nobody could predict what the outcome would be-who specifically it would be. The nation is divided. Some are actively involved and interested, keen to know the outcome; others harbouring a fervent wish for it all to be over, although I suppose none more so than the protagonists.

The journalists have massed in the usual fever of enthusiasm, camping out on doorsteps, interviewing the public, attempting to summon something-anything-that can conceivably be imagined as ‘news’ and succeeding-as always-in producing only conjecture.

STOP PRESS: Baby Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana has arrived.

Elsewhere in the news, the UK has held a general election. Elections are a gift for the press. Not only is there a protracted build-up, providing infinite opportunities for fevered speculation but an aftermath in which results can be examined, discussed, regretted or celebrated to the point of mortality.

You can analyse and dissect as much as you like, bringing it all down to this or that policy- immigration, housing, health or education, but to me it is much simpler. I think of political philosophy as a circle. At one end of the diameter are those who are self-seeking and wish to line the nests of themselves and others at the expense of someone-anyone-worse off themselves. Perhaps this is an ingrained, natural human characteristic, linked to a survival instinct. Who knows? At the opposite end of the diameter are those who seek to suppress their innate desire to stuff everyone else by wanting equality of wealth, health and happiness for all alike.

Around the circle lie the various ‘shades’ of these two beliefs. Everyone has a place around the circle, maybe nearer to the self-seekers, maybe next to the equality lovers.

Strangely, it appears that both extremes can lead to dictatorships. This is demonstrated repeatedly in history all over the world; and dictatorships do not usually lend themselves to majority happiness.

As one meagre vote among an entire nation’s, it seems hopeless to expect to make a difference, but that one vote is the one and only little speck of decision we have as individuals so we must apply it, hopeless or not. Here where I live there will never be a change and yet I exercise my right to vote, placing my pencil cross each time against a no-hoper who best represents my views.

It is now all over bar the inquest, the result a dismal endorsement for the self-seekers. Some will be happy, many depressed. We brace ourselves for another five years and hope for better-next time.

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I’ve Seen the Future-Now What Was it Again?

I was standing in the middle of our garage. I am normally competent at looking for items but this time I was at a loss. During my autumn 2014 incarceration [which is documented in a previous post] a number of objects have made mysterious moves to different locations. My beloved kitchen steps, purchased by myself as a tailor-made solution to being vertically challenged had undergone a change for a different set. Husband’s initial response to an enquiry as to the whereabouts of said steps was that ‘These are better’, but a pursuit of the subject revealed that my own, preferred steps had found their way into the camper van and been replaced by these, unsuitable, usurper steps. Hmph!

To continue, I had a small hand brush in my hand and was searching for something. What was it? I could not say. I knew what it looked like. I also knew that I would need to ask Husband, who has undertaken some item location changes, where it was. But this presented a problem. How could I ask him? Because, reader, I could not think of the word for it. Horrors! I stood. I thought. The word was there, within my clutches but just out of reach, taunting me. It was no good. I would have to succumb to the humiliating act of describing the object I was seeking.

Husband was outside on the patio. We’d been removing the tiny, Brussel-sprout shaped Christmas tree that has survived its third festive period inside the house and whilst being removed to its outside home had dumped large quantities of soil en route-hence the search for the ‘thing’.

I waved the brush at him as an opening gambit.

‘Where’s the…thing?’

‘I don’t know what you mean. What are you looking for?’ This was my question. What was I looking for?

‘The thing. You know.’

‘I don’t know. What do you want?’

I sighed. I would have to describe it. ‘The sweeping-into thingy. It goes with the brush.’

He straightened. ‘The dustpan.’

Dustpan. The word streamed into my brain like a flood. Of course. How could I not have known it? Dustpan. I was horrified. The words ‘senile dementia’ flashed in alarm where ‘dustpan’ should have been.

Words constantly flee from my mind like this, provoking a combination of pity, laughter and derision from those who share my home. I also repeat myself, a trait which elicits frustration. Both of these habits are symptoms of dementia.

One of my hit reads of 2014 was Emma Healey’s brilliant ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, narrated by a very elderly woman, Maud, who suffers from senile dementia. The book is both tragic and comic and I alternated between laughter and near tears while reading it. The long suffering carers who make daily visits to Maud’s home are unerringly kind. If a long, slow plunge into senility is to be my fate I do hope those whose misfortune it is to care for me are as humane as they are!

For Better or Worse

                Change is inevitable; that much is a given. In industry and in any establishment ‘change’ is an issue that must be managed, trained for, discussed, prepared for and implemented. Why must all this effort go into dealing with change? Because most of us, the worker bees, the minions, the ignorant-we won’t like it. And we won’t like it because it won’t be in our interests. It will be in the interests of those making the change; they may be bosses, government ministers, directors or anyone who might benefit from alterations.

                One change that hit the national headline news this week was the move, after 40 years, of Ford’s van factory from Southampton, here on the South coast of England, to Turkey. The reason given is lower cost. I’m guessing this means lower wages. Of course the move is great news for Turkey, who, I believe is still aiming to belong to the European Union, having begun negotiations in 2005, but less good for those workers who had believed, not expecting anything to change, that their jobs were there until retirement. No doubt Ford’s will also have less in the way of employment regulations to follow-that is-if and when Turkey gets its membership in Europe.

                As the stirrings of unrest boil away under the surface in Turkey, I’ll be interested to see how Ford’s venture of moving there progresses. The turkey may come home to roost, as it were.

                Closer to home, the shockwaves are still settling after our little writing club was sacked from the ‘community’ arts centre where we always met. As a non profit-making club, apparently we do not generate enough revenue; hence we are no longer welcome. For now we will meet in our homes until such time as we find another venue. We have to adapt to the change.

                It may be unfashionable to adhere to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it’ mantra, but all change is not necessarily going to be better for all people. In my previous life as a real working person [ie one who earned a salary] I was happy enough for things to be changed if the benefits were pointed out. Being of a somewhat cynical nature, however, I tended towards the view that there is nothing new under the sun, therefore a proposed change would be a system or a scheme or an idea that we had implemented before under a different name and in a different guise. And here’s the thing-often more than once. On the occasions when, in my innocence, I was rash enough to point this out, the outcome was never happy, or indeed favourable. I became a sort of cynical ‘Mr Pooter’  figure, labelled as an idiotic buffoon-or worse.

                Nowadays for me, change is gradual and unavoidable, although strangely, not always altogether unwelcome, without authority to rail against. Who is there to blame for wrinkles, unwanted weight deposits or grey hair? It’s all in the scheme of things, just as it should be.

                

A Retrospective Indulgence

So Long Marianne

[Part 2]

            When, in the second year I was forced out into a depressing bed-sit with a repressive landlady I missed her so much I spent regular nights propped up at the end of her bed eating cheese and pickles, envying her for having the foresight to claim ill health and keep her room at the halls of residence.

            Once it was clear I’d have to undertake some work if I was to gain a qualification that would lead to employment I began to knuckle down, completing mediocre essays, attending lacklustre lectures, keeping appointments with disapproving tutors and applying myself to placements. As the lucky recipient of a modest income from some shares, Marianne did not feel the pressure to strive for academic success and continued to maintain a hectic social life, made all the more pleasurable by the acquisition of a small car. She continued to live in her tiny room, spend her days shopping in ‘Chelsea Girl’ or ‘Top Shop’, date hapless men and leave a string of lovelorn boyfriends in her wake. Her health issues, a useful weapon in the defence against obligation or duty, morphed slowly into hypochondria and each time we met she regaled me with some new symptoms she’d noticed, or tests or treatment she’d been undergoing, difficulties that prevented her from completing the course.

            With no other option than to join the grown up world, at the end of the three years I became a career woman with a flat and a boyfriend I’d picked up along the way. I still met up with Marianne, though less often. She’d found another tiny room, a bedsit in a shared house that eked out the modest income she still had. She spent her days attending hospital appointments, researching alternative therapies and taking courses in obscure, esoteric fields. Our lives began to diverge. I was promoted to a new and better job, split with the boyfriend, moved to a different, leafier part of town. She took a course as a ‘holistic’ healer and did freelance astrology readings in between courses of treatment for various ailments. She moved to a small flat, subsisting on benefits to augment her income, inconsistent now that the shares had crashed.

            In another ten years I’d married, moved away to the coast, taken a career break and had two children. We corresponded, letters documenting lives that seemed to be led on separate planets. I was mired in the minutiae of domestic triviality; she was taking to the stage in her debut as an exotic dancer whilst continuing in her quest to find the perfect man, though available men were becoming scarcer and more selective.

            I resumed my career, became single again and sought to rekindle friendships that had foundered in the wake of my marriage. When I began a long distance relationship with a London man I contacted her and arranged to visit her at her Streatham flat during one of my metropolis weekends.

 

I got to her road. I stood on the pavement opposite her house and gazed up at her window; but I didn’t cross over, didn’t ring the bell. I turned back and made the long trek back to Hampstead. She rang me, later.

            “Where were you?” she said.

            “I rang the bell and no one answered” I lied. She was angry. I felt tearful. There would never be another chance.

            I continued to send letters and cards for a couple more years with no response. I look at the photos she sent me of herself posing in a leopard print bikini against a background of tropical plants on a night club stage and I wonder what she is doing now, but the clock is set firm in the present; no going back. Here’s to you, Marianne. So Long!

 

A few weeks after I finished the story a spooky thing happened. She sent me a card-the first communication for some years. She’d penned some brief, ambiguous notes: ‘the flat is falling down around me’, ‘I must get my act together’. In a fever of excited enthusiasm I wrote back, careful to use longhand, careful not to say too much about my life now. There has been no reply.