Mr Hyde, I Presume?

An old friend who now lives on the Spanish Mediterranean coast rang last week to ask if he could stay. He is splitting up with his wife.

This is awkward. A number of issues jumped into my mind. Husband and myself are both ourselves ‘second-time-arounders’. This couple, both in their sixties are the first friends we made twenty years ago together, that is to say not friends from one of our previous lives. They are, or were both our friends. I had no desire to be taking sides, neither did we want to appear to be judgemental in any way [having ourselves been in their situation many years ago].

Being the hospitable folk we are we concurred, offering our best guest accommodation with the en suite. They had, after all accommodated us when our leaking, malfunctioning camper-van rolled up on their driveway several years ago. He arrived.

After a relatively short time I began to realise that while his political views and many of his likes and dislikes had always been at odds with ours we’d got along fine, except that now, without the tempering, conciliatory presence of his wife he is a different person altogether. His loud ebullience, once an asset to raucous nights at the pub has become overbearing and intrusive. He is unaware that we may be reading or writing, butting in with the tales of his current predicament, his medical conditions or immigration.

He explained that he has ‘not been happy for a long time’ in the marriage. He wasted no time in regaling us with the details of his testosterone levels and how he needs medication to help him satisfy his new girlfriend-the real cause of the gash. All this is far too much information. There was a much needed interval while he went shopping, returning with a substantial haul of medicines which he heaped into a pile in his room; then we were plunged back into his views, gleaned from the red-tops he reads or commercial news stations, his love life and money issues.

We continued to accommodate, murmur, provide and feed him, even when he threw himself into my own, favourite, comfortable chair with the TV remote control to watch football and comment loudly that I was eating a ‘big’ bowl of salad [whilst he chomps through the chilli and rice I have made].

My good intentions not to take sides blew away on a blast of hot air. Out of earshot I rang my friend, his wife. She is staying with another friend, too upset to see anyone. ‘How had she managed forty-five years with him?’ I asked her. ‘He is a monster. I’ve struggled to get through two days with him. She should get shot of him, ASAP’. She agreed he is difficult, but unchecked, his disagreeable traits have become exaggerated and offensive. When I told her she will be better off without him she replied that I was not the first to say it.

Husband whispered to me that relief was at hand. He would be leaving us after the weekend. We shared a grin of relief. We had only to spend an evening at a restaurant [he took us for a ‘thank-you’ meal] and then our duty would be despatched. The meal [our chosen venue] was good. His excesses were a little tempered. I drove him home. If there is a next time we will be a] very busy b] away or c] have a houseful of guests. Phew!

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Who’s Volunteering to Die Before they Get Old?

‘Hope I die before I get old’ sang The Who’s Roger Daltrey in 1965, belting out the lyrics to ‘My Generation’ like he really meant them. ‘Why don’t y’all f-f-fade away?’ he queried, the rhetorical question snarled from his lips, curled in a sneer-a provocative, taunting line in a song that celebrated youth as being the only tolerable state.

Tousle-haired Rog was twenty one when ‘My Generation’ was released. Now he is pushing seventy. He has retained a lithe, nimble appearance but is bespectacled, greyish, ‘good for his age’. You have to wonder what he feels now about the song which reached number 2 in the UK chart [their highest charting single].

In one of my first blog posts I wrote about the next generation’s anger at us, the ‘baby-boomers’ for hogging all the money, having houses and retirements, getting free education and generally acting like evil rip-off merchants.

And what is more, now we have had the audacity not to die before we got old. We are hanging about, growing ancient-still living in our too-big houses, using too much of the health and other services, having bus passes, dithering in cars, getting prescriptions free, clogging up cruise ships, taking too long fumbling at cash machines, telling the same stories over and over-and telling the same stories [you get the image] and generally being a nuisance. We obstinately refuse to croak and release our easily gotten gains to our progeny.

Idly watching an election talk programme involving pensioners I listened to an eighty two year old saying how tired he was of feeling he was a nuisance.

The fact is, life expectancy is climbing. Perhaps many of us felt like Rog when we were twenty. I don’t remember. When you are twenty old age seems an impossibility; a state that only others attain. But we are all programmed to cling on to life, so unless there are specific conditions such as chronic, debilitating, life debasing illness we feel less inclined to ‘die before we get old’ as we age. We can cope with dodgy knees, failing eyesight and deafness as long as life continues to be better than the alternative. There was a delightful news item only this morning about a 103 year old and a 92 year old who are planning their wedding.

A recent article in The Guardian newspaper suggested that sixty should now be considered middle-aged [http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2004/aug/01/features.review37]. The writer makes a good case. As we age we often push the boundary of what we consider to be the middle years.

And just as new parents begin to reflect on how annoying/frustrating/expensive/ exasperating/uncommunicative/rude/faddy and tiresome their offspring are capable of being, everyone discovers, on their way through life that no, they have no wish to terminate, to step into the void, thank you very much.

Happy Birthday to Me!

                Well there you are-I have completed a year of blogging! And WordPress, in their indomitable wisdom, have seen fit to award me a cup, in honour of the achievement. It was, and still is my intention to continue for as long as possible-even if I have wandered so far down the road to dementia that I cannot recall what I’ve written or whether I’ve written anything.

                It is always a slight concern that I may be repeating myself-[and here I try to avoid the obvious joke…], but in this next year some posts will relate to what I wrote last year, although not all.

                Helpful advisers to bloggers often say that in order to attract more views one should adopt a specialised theme and stick to it; a topic such as angling, car maintenance, mouse mat collecting or fire hydrant spotting. I’d have followed this advice were it not for one overriding obstacle-I do not have a specialised subject. I’m such a lightweight in terms of subject knowledge. I know a little about quite a lot of things, but not a lot about one single thing-including writing, at which I am still an amoeba.

                So I’ve had to continue in my usual, meandering, ranging style, with occasional rants thrown in for good measure.

                It has been good discipline writing a blog post twice a week. The stats still excite me, especially seeing the diverse parts of the world that viewers hail from. There is something thrilling about discovering that someone in Siberia or Patagonia has read a post. Strangely, one particular post, ‘Is the Art of Conversation Dead?-Discuss!’ continues to get loads of hits, despite being long passed into the archives [21.3.14 for anyone interested].

                Whilst I am pleased with my virtual cup I appreciate the comments, likes and visits of followers and visitors far more. But even so, I am less concerned with footfall than some, and not interested in making money from blogging, as a number of so called ‘followers’ have locked in to Anecdotage to show me.

                But I will be making a few changes to Anecdotage this year, mainly in that posts will appear once each week rather than twice. This is mainly because, good discipline and practice [and fun!] though it is, blogging is distracting me from what I consider to be ‘real’ writing, which is to say, my second novel and the short stories, one of which I am determined to get further than a shortlist with!

                So I wish all readers a very Happy New Year and may you make progress in whatever you set out to achieve in 2014. Oh…and see you on Sunday!

The Best Things in Life…are not too expensive…

                An eighty four year old woman in the USA has won 278.2 million [after tax] in the state lottery. I suppose her remaining years will now be more comfortable than she would have previously expected them to be. On the other hand, what can she possibly do with that amount of money, besides passing it on to her family, or leaving it to a cats’ home? I gather she was somewhat reclusive, from the remarks of her [now] former neighbours, which will be a help to her now that she is probably going to have to spend the rest of her days in relative seclusion, if she is to avoid scroungers, sob stories and con artists.

                But will it make her happy? It is easy to take the much clichéd, moral high ground here; ‘Money Can’t Buy Me Love’ etc, but stories of the lives of lottery winners are not all tales of heart-warming, happy-ever-after strolls into the sunset.

“Robertson has four sons, two from his first marriage and two from another relationship, while Laidlaw has three children. But his win has led to rows with the elder sons about how the money should be shared. Now, Robertson declares, “they are not getting a penny”.”

“Gardiner was greeted with hundreds of letters begging for money and for his hand in marriage.”

“He bought a cul-de-sac of houses for his friends. He also tried to help people out by offering work but these people began to take advantage and take liberties.”

“Keith checked himself in to the Priory rehabilitation clinic in Birmingham as his alcohol use began to get out of hand. It was at the rehabilitation clinic where Keith became acquainted with James Prince. Between August 2006 and July 2008, Prince persuaded Keith to invest his final £700,000 in a number of fake business ventures that were never real. Keith lost all of his money.”

            Poverty, of course is a miserable state of affairs. But a modest improvement in circumstances can do wonders to lift the spirits-especially when combined with a sense of achievement. One feature amongst the woeful tales of lottery winners was how many of them still shopped in ‘pound shops’ or resumed their daily toil after experiencing the boredom of inactivity. For sheer, unadulterated euphoria there is little to compare to the joy of acquiring a bargain, or to make a small profit from selling on an auction site, or to win a small sum in a story competition. All of these successes require some effort-hence the pleasure quotient.

                Children, I read, are to have money management shoehorned into their curriculum in the near future, possibly at primary-even infant- level. This in itself won’t be a bad thing, if time allows and it relates to mathematics, but one alarming idea I heard during a radio discussion was that 5 year olds would be taught that having money equates to happiness.

                I get regular ‘likes’ from bloggers who want to teach me how to make money from blogging, and I’m sure they mean well, but the greatest pleasure to be had from writing it is to see how many people have shown an interest in it-and which parts of the world they inhabit.

                Please send donations to…. [only kidding!]…