Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

more mice

This blog when it isn't A High Wind In the Canaries is turning into reality check Beatrix Potter.

Granny is/was at this moment about to make a cake. When she opens the plastic box in which all goods have to be stored here - if not against mice, against weevils - a stench greets her; and out jumps a mouse; - was it her shut him/her in? Probably. Silly Granny. Sillier mouse. Feline Houdini was not alas in attendence. He should have been. Mr or Ms Mouse had evidently been there sometime; had finished most of a box of precious Carluccio pasta. BP's Mrs Tittlemouse was such a clean little creature, Granny remembers, forever out with her dustpan and brush cleaning up after others. Given the fact that mice can deposit 50 droppings a day, at least, much of that activity must have been devoted to cleaning up after herself. 'Shoo, shoo,' cries Mrs T to slugs and butterflies, 'dirty feet'. 'Shoo shoo shoo' cries Granny to Mrs T's unwanted relative, 'dirty bum.' Literature isn't truthful is it?

Same site, incidentally, which provided unsavoury info on vast numbers of mice faeces provided even less welcome info that mouse virus might be implicated in breast cancer....

Granny can't vouch for the latter now. Can vouch for former. The evidence was empirical. A scientist's word for under her nose. Yuk.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Not a hurricane: quite

The Canary Islands Tourist Board has done its job too well. Tropical storm Delta decided not to winter in Florida but turned east instead. She arrived in the Canaries last night. Granny and Beloved had expected highish winds today, Tuesday, but nothing quite like this. They hadn't looked in the right places, that's all: warnings were everywhere. At least their island to the north got the least of it. But the least was more than enough.

The wind got up all afternoon. By early evening it was lashing at the house the way it hadn't in a long time; since well before the chooks arrived. Even before seeing the warning, Beloved shut them up in their house - chickens in this climate can blow away when the wind gets up. That's not a joke. It's true. As he and Granny sat by the fire later, they could hardly hear themselves think, let alone talk, the wind was so furiously bashing at the glass dome over the sitting-room - once a courtyard - that it looked unlikely to survive it. Nothing to be done though except shift furniture to minimise the damage. This they did. Then they went to bed which meant shuffling through an outside courtyard and up to the room upstairs. Another raised wooden roof and skylight and windows facing west and south - the direction of the wind. They got into bed still dressed in case of having to move hastily. Noise more horrendous than ever. Windows and roof shaking, sounds full-blast not to say orchestral. When the door blew open they decided enough was enough and crept downstairs to another bedroom, also facing west, with thundering windows but at least there was no roof likely to blow off. Wind worse than ever. This mightn't be a hurricane Granny thought, but near enough or not she hoped it was the nearest she'd ever get to one. It was scary. All the electricity had gone by now. The gusts got furiouser and furiouser. She might have slept a little. When she woke the wind was as bad as ever, if not worse. She will not employ the obvious words 'banshee' "shriek" "howl" - you know them; it's enough to say they applied, every last one of them. What was beyond cliche though was this; the way the wind stopped, just liked that; one minute came shriek then - well not quite nothing, but it felt like nothing; a normal windy night chez G and P that's it. That really was beyond astonishment, let alone expectation. What time Granny could not tell in the total dark. Never mind the hour though; the relative silence almost hurt, had its own kind of disturbing loudness by contrast. In time she slept again.

It had stopped pretty much in time. In the morning this - enough but not disastrous: one window blown in upstairs; door blown off chicken house. The front garden is ruination - will take some time to recover; bourgainvilleas blown off walls, passion flower decimated, terminally it looks like, leaves of all plants - hibiscus, geraniums, rosemary - etc black, drooping, as if burnt, where not blown off entirely. All windows so thick with salt and sand it's hard to see out of them. The sitting-room covered in soot and grit; bedrooms all dusty. Still, it could be much worse - wind gusts only (?only) up to 50-60 miles an hour here but more like 70-80 in Tenerife - especially north Tenerife to which The Bottle-Blondshell and husband moved earlier this year to escape the wind and weather of this island. They are without electricity, have been for hours. God knows what gardens there look like. So much for seeking safety. (And all this without the lurking volcano predicted to blow the whole island apart sooner or later. Winter holiday in the sun anyone?)

No chickens blown away, yet. Elsewhere to the south, one poor man decided to fix his roof before the wind got too bad and was blown off it to his death. Six poor Africans, failing to check the weather forecast, chose the wrong night to make their bid for life in Europe, heading for this island on a very small boat. That was the end of them, too. On our island our electricity and everyone else's has now come back on. The Thin German Cosmetic Masseuse has appeared with three removal men and a lot of furniture, including two surf boards which for now have to stowed on the bed Granny and Beloved slept on last night. Just as well Mr Handsome is sick so not present; he would be muttering darkly about exploitation. Delta meanwhile enjoys life in Moroccan souks. Moroccan Tourist Board also good at its job then. Oh what fun.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

3 (possibly) blind (unlikely) mice (certainly)

Trawling last night through the piles of Guardian Weeklies that turned up during her long absence from home, Granny found this.

So mice are not only pretty and furry, not only charming, they are romantic and musical creatures to boot. Shades of Rigoletto's duke, not to mention Mick Jagger.... And Granny employs Feline Houdini to slay them. Shame on her. On the other hand, one reason she does so is is the effectiveness of such musical wooing; to judge from their squillions of progeny - many of them ending up in Granny's kitchen -the conquests of male mice are prodigious as the Duke's and Mick's. Hence the need for the hunting skills of FH. Is this yet another case of 'blame the victim'? Possibly.

Equally, if she informs the Thin German Cosmetic Masseuse of the musical mice might it alleviate her horror of them? She can live in hope.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Not the Goldhawk road

Part of Granny still hangs on in London - but she's grateful just now for the fact it's virtually speaking only. Oh yes, she's seen the weather forecasts, looked at the pretty snow-clad pictures. Brrr. Here, though the wind has got up a bit and swung back round to the North east, so is chillier, it's still not much below 20C at midday; she has been swimming outdoors, eaten lunch out in the sun. At this time of the year by day at least it's warmer outside than in.

Inside she puts on sweaters. Inside the stove is lit at night. Outside, the yearly miracle that happens after the rains start is beginning to manifest itself. The grass grows apace - all the more lushly because of the seeds laid by the phenomenal rains last spring. Green is visible from afar now on the flat raised stretch on the right hand side of her land. For two days in a row the chickens have been let out of their runs to peck at the new growth. Chickens are jungle fowl after all, reared to live on green shoots in the rain forest. Except for those provided by Granny and Beloved (the chooks particularly love lettuce, no matter how tatty) there's not much in the way of green shoots here between June and November. Like none. All their energy presumably is going on enjoying this new bounty instead of laying eggs. They are not laying eggs - or not many. Does Granny begrudge them? Only a bit. She does like her new laid eggs.

Today has been peaceful relatively. Yesterday was not. Yesterday both Mr and Mrs Handsome appeared in order to move furniture out of the studio shortly to be inhabited by the Thin German Cosmetic Masseuse. Good. Into Granny and Beloved's spaces. Mostly bad; no, Granny was not craving a wardrobe in her office. But she's got one now, admittedly with an altogether fancier sofa bed than the one that was there before, which has been dispatched to the dump poor thing. (Let's hope it finds a proper home (ecology) and doesn't just end up as yet more landfill.) Inbetweenwhiles, Mrs Handsome took it on herself to assist Granny in making Christmas pudding - an activity Granny settled on because more contemplative ones were clearly out of the question amidst the heaves and groans and "where's this going and where's that?' Most of this assistance consisted of putting away the various substances Granny had put out; Christmas pudding, even her light, fat free minimal sugar CP - it's delicious really - preferred in her family for years - does needs some things put into it, no matter how healthy. A fact Mrs H -a demon tidier at all times - clearly hadn't appreciated. She endeared herself more by her comments on the new and unwelcome arrangements for ironing which Beloved had made in Granny's absence, cutting her perfectly good ironing iron in half and hanging it awkwardly in what was before and now isn't an equally useful cupboard; an arrangement Granny has been cursing for days. (OK she doesn't do much ironing, but has clear ideas on what is needed when she does. Beloved who has never ironed anything in his life clearly has not.) 'Hmm,' said Mrs Handsome, 'Alright for ironing baby clothes. Are you expecting one?'

Granny overcame some of her irritation briefly; always a traditionalist, she made everyone gather to stir the pudding and wish before sealing the mixture in pudding basins and filling the kitchen with steam for four hours while she boiled them. She knows what SHE wanted to wish. Well actually she didn't - much too short-term - but it did cross her mind to.

Today was freer then. To write?? Hmm. The problem here is: Beloved's editor. Beloved is attempting to make an abstruse but actually quite interesting scientific subject accessible to lay reader - ie those into popular science. Writing popular science has not so far been one of his talents, let alone activities. 'Put some narrative in,' urges Ms Editor. 'Narrative' is the buzz word these days among those with even a distant acquaintance with now outdated postmodernist theory; the influence of which lingers in respects like this; especially among those like Beloved very own Ms editor. Linger round Beloved it doesn't. It never reached him in the first place.

'"Narrative"' means telling a story doesn't it?' he asks. Reader you may guess - some of you may guess, given Granny's admitted if lagging profession - what comes next. 'Could you put some kind of story into it?' Beloved asks her. Oh dear. Oh dear, Oh dear. He doesn't mean a scientific version of Harry Potter, fortunately. He wants links and ongoing themes and funnier (but not facetious) bits.) Well you can guess the kind of thing. The kind Richard Dawkins does well, at his best superbly. The kind that on the whole, the serious scientist, Beloved doesn't. So he puts his faith in Granny instead. Or hopes to. The only problem is, her name isn't Richard Dawkins either.

Another chicken note to end with. The chicken sexer who sold Granny and Beloved their bunch of aristocratic hens must have been having an off day. Dolly seems most likely to have been Dickie; Daphne as already said, is certainly Damian. No dog got Dolly/Dickie it is now suspected. Certainly no dog got the the original cockerel, David. Ex Daphne, Demon Damien - definitely the top male - appears to have done for both of them. He certainly looks demonic; forget his previously and still demure grey back. His neck is black, his comb and wattles red. His eyes are glaring. His tail shows signs of becoming stupendous. It means at least that when his hens are mature he should do his job well. Meantime, Daisy the speckled hen, Dora the brown one, scuttle about just the way he orders. In poultry terms, clearly, he's a wife-beater. Who says gender is immaterial? Not among chickens for sure. This male is never going to want to play with a poulterer's version of Barbie dolls or even action man. He IS action man. And soon, we hope, into - or onto - Daisy and Dora. Chicks for Easter...why not? But let's get over Christmas first.

Tomorrow - or at least Sunday - Granny will hope to be able to extract her narrative skills long enough to do her own thing, To walk virtually down the Goldhawk Road, perhaps? Who knows?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Silly Me

Granny had an idea - a nice idea - of getting herself slowly, luxuriously, back into life on the island. But no, it has not worked out like that. Silly me, she thinks; she had better explain that life with Beloved is never - can never be - quite like that; that life with Beloved is a bit like being in a state of permanently moving house.

Furniture starts in one place, turns up in another. Bookcases - let alone books - migrate from room to room. Shelves spring up in places where no shelves sprung before - and vice versa, vice versa. New bits of wood - useful and otherwise - appear as if by magic (or the local furniture store.) Most exasperating is a miscellaneous collection of truly awful bedlinen which appears to have stuck to Beloved between one life, one house - he has had many houses - and the present. As usual in such circumstances, this linen has been dumped in the sitting-room, taking up not just one but two sofas. 'What are we going to do with it?' enquires Beloved. 'WE?' thinks Granny. A good bonfire is - as usual - her first thought. Followed by guilt at the conspicious wastage of perfectly good sheets - if you like nylon ones - etc etc - in a world where many people are wholly lacking things like that. In England she would salve her ecological conscience by dumping them in an Oxfam box. There is no such thing as an Oxfam box on the Canaries. Beloved has therefore stashed them away again till next time. Tomorrow most likely.

The current state of housemoving is, possibly, a bit more extreme than most. The studio room previously occupied by the late lamented -in the lives of Granny and Beloved that is - Lady with the Big and Little Dogs - is about to be taken over by a thin German woman who runs a Wellbeing Centre in a German hotel, and who offer a little of what she calls 'cosmetic massage' herself. She is to be accommodated free in order than she can help out with things like bed linen when G and P have a houseful and also mind the Tiresome Terrier, Beautiful Wimp and Feline Houdini while they go off gallivanting the way retired people are supposed to be able to do - when they don't lumber themselves with chickens, gardens, animals, etc etc. This is all Beloved's idea and a good one Granny thinks; it means more time around her grandchildren for one. The only problem is that the Thin German Cosmetic Masseur wants her entire room emptied of its furniture, mostly acquired especially. Granny will not repeat the litany of shifting wood above. But try as she might to keep out of the resulting whirlwind, she cannot entirely. Her hammock, what's that? As for soulful roaming round her land to re-acquaint herself with every part, or time spent re-learning the character of each of her chickens; forget it.Thoughts of a much-worked-on nostalgia piece about the Goldhawk Road, of a sensitive-think-post on what it REALLY feels like to lose a part of your long lived-in body have had to be put aside for this hammer and nails-type rant. She's SO sorry about that.

Matters are made more complicated by complaints from Mr Handsome from Blackburn. 'I've much more knowledge of the world than you two,' he tells Granny. 'You should have let me vet the woman. I don't want to see you taken for a ride the way you were with HER.' (By 'HER' Mr Handsome means the Lady with the Big and Little Dog.) Granny forbears to disagree with his assessment of their relative quota of wordly wisdom. She certainly does NOT point out that the problems with the Lady mostly resulted from Mr Handsome's falling out with her, for reasons unspecified, though suspected to be partly due to his offence at her unwillingness to flirt with him- and more. (Since the new tenant is only a few years younger than Granny, she does not think that problem will arise this time.) She simply points out the presence at the farm of the Thin German Cosmetic Masseur will scarcely ever coincide with Mr H's presence there; for him at least she should not be a problem. Mr Handsome looks dubious. Shaking his head he goes back to finishing off the barbecue he has been making, which G and P have come back in time - just about - to stop its chimney being so tall it would be visible for miles out at sea. (Come to think of it they could always have put a light on top and made it double up as lighthouse ....)

Next week the TGCM will move in. It will be Beloved's task to break her in - gently - to the animals. Granny wonders how she will manage - or not - the Tiresome Terrier. She will also need to have some therapy to get over her alarm at the prospect of mice caught by Feline Houdini. Cockroaches - cucharachas - she can live with, she says; mice, no. Granny regards this as weird; mice to her may be a nuisance, hence the importation of Feline Houdini, but at base - especially the ones here - they are altogether harmless and rather charming little rodents. Cockroaches on the other hand, nasty scuttling things, freak her out entirely. Luckily, unlike mice, they do not see too many up in these parts. If they did, she'd be back in London tomorrow. She hopes that the mice will not have the same effect on the TGCM; not least given the prospect thereafter of Mr Handsome looking smug and saying 'I told you so...' Fortunately the weather on the island is a good deal better than that of the new lady's home town, Dusseldorf. She can live in hope.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Home at last

After nearly three months Granny is back on her island. All is as it is. Sun shines by day, rain falls by night. Now. (Three days ago it raged by day and wiped out all telecommunications; a common event with such weather here. 'I've replaced 4 other boxes like yours up here today,' said telecommunications man, who arrived within 4 hours of being summoned; a much less common event in these parts.) Radio 3 is playing via headphones on her laptop, Beloved out visiting the Attic Woman, chickens pecking at newly coming up green shoots - but not laying eggs; apparently free-range hens don't lay here between now and January; if you want eggs they have to be from tortured hens. Tiresome terrier is being tiresome - no change there - she has laid into Feline Houdini and a poor innocent walker already since Granny and Beloved came home. Beautiful Wimp is as ever wimpish, Feline Houdini has caught a mouse and taken a dislike to the latest form of biscuits (much mewing and wrapping round legs; meaning he gets fallen over. More, even louder, still more indignant mewing.) Granny herself has been gathering her belongings from suitcases and every corner of the house and recolonising her own bedroom. She has also, less patiently, been doing those tasks men don't do; that seemingly haven't been done since she left; changing catlitter (yuk) putting salt in dishwasher etc. BORING. Beloved meantime has been setting up a wireless system for the internet; vainly it turns out - old Canarian houses like theirs are built of stone, and stone walls do not good connections make. This does nothing for his temper. (Nor Granny's, unable to dial up all evening, because of his efforts. Curses.)

She has her usual sense of pleasure at being home - for instance sitting by woodstove at night with Feline Houdini on lap, Beloved in next door rocking-chair (oh yes, they have his'n'her rocking chairs- REALLY) a VERY good book occupying her eyes and head. (One by Javier Marias, a writer whom everyone should know and run to. NOW. No, she is not reading him in Spanish.) She also has her usual sense of exile from home, kids, grandkids, London, and is having sad dreams of dead children which may relate to this, if not to her recent loss of a body part. In consequence, after rediscovering for the first time in three years what it feels like to watch her home town shift from summer to autumn to the beginning of winter - which she maybe loved the more because she wasn't going to have to sit through the full dreary stretch of it - she is trying to compose one last valedictory London piece before engaging fully with her expat life. She will put that up soon. She hopes. For the meantime, reader - if there are any of you out there still - you will have to make do with this....

Monday, November 14, 2005


For years Granny has lived with the colour pink. Pink dresses, hats, bedrooms, barbie dolls. She still does when it comes to Beloved Granddaughters 2 and 3. Beloved Granddaughter number 1 is something else. Granny and Beloved visited Beloved Daughter this weekend; black is now the new pink; long black skirt, big black boots, black tee-shirt - latter, mercifully, not sporting Dracula or skull and crossbones. Yet. 'I am a Goth,' proclaims Beloved Granddaughter no 1. She has not, so far, painted her lips and eyes black, or whitened her face, but given that "Gothic makeup" figures on her Christmas wish list, this transformation of her beautiful creamy skin cannot be far behind. The piercings and black hair dye she is unlikely to achieve; it is much more within parental control, and Beloved Granddaughter is not entirely unrealistic. Her mother groans. 'Well I suppose it's better if she gets through this at the age of nine, not fifteen,' she says.

Granny herself is lumbered with trying to acquire as Beloved Granddaughter's Christmas present what she calls a 'poor boy cap' (her watching 'Bleak House', may explain that.) No prizes for guessing what colour it's got to be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Nipple lick..

When in London, Granny and Beloved use a tiny flat, let in betweenwhiles to a Kiwi friend of Australian niece. She pays a lowish rent in return for getting out every two or three months so that Granny, with or without Beloved, can live there. This arrangement suits everyone - at least it did until Granny found herself forced to stay in London for the unwelcome but necessary attentions of the National Health Service. Her wish not to alienate nice Kiwi tenant, plus the ever more necessary injections of her rent has meant that since August, more or less, Granny has been living out of suitcases - not a situation she enjoys. It is a situation compounded now by the realisation that it might be an idea to sell this flat and buy a bigger one; meaning she and Beloved have a permanent base so that they do not have hide away all their possessions when they move out, and that nice Kiwi tenant does not have to find another bed for two weeks when they move in.

This may make mattters easier in the long run; in the short term it has led to still greater scatterings of Granny's belonging round London and elsewhere. Oh yes, she has watched those life-style programmes which advise how best to sell your property. No longer do buyers leap with whoops of joy on houses/flats they can knock down, through, up and over entirely to their own taste. Young yuppies no longer have time for DIY. They want to move into perfectly organised dwellings - 'well presented' the Estate Agent calls it - which means, apart from paint, dishwashers, etc all present and correct, a lot of - apparent - space. Tiny the flat may be; spacious it has to look. Out with objects, clothes, books, oversize electronics. In Granny and Beloved's case this week it has meant that the suitcases out of which they live have to sit in the car outside. Young yuppies presumably do not have much in the way of possessions, especially books. Certainly, they cannot spend much time cooking. Out it all goes, chop chop chop. In Granny's case in a disorganised hurry, with the result there's a certain lack of logic in the bestowing of her belongings. Her hairdryer lurks in Kew; her tax papers at Hammersmith Bridge; her mortgage details in Oxfordshire. As for her clothes... When she opens cupboards now, it is to find, mostly, Beloved's bags - oh yes he still contrives to have about six bags here - the ritual patter going on as ever ('where's X?' 'In my bag.' 'Which bag?' 'I don't know which bag.' etc.) Along with the odd fluffy toy belonging to the N K T whose taste inclines to the kitsch, plus her supplies from Ann Summers - the sex shop - rather more interesting if mysterious. 'Nipple lick? Raspberry Ripple Flavour? Granny inquires gently if Beloved would care for her to annoint her remaining appendage with this nectar. He shudders. 'It will be sweet,' he says. (Beloved does not eat sweet things; he is borderline diabetic.) So no. evidently this is not the means of enlivening the seniors' sex life.

Granny thinks; haven't things moved on since my young day. No, she is not altogether serious. In the 60's and 70's after all there was Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex - complete with copious illustrations which contrived to be both decorous and graphic. There was too a book much touted for a while called 'The Sensuous Woman' written by someone hiding behind the initial 'J'. Granny remembers an injunction to the woman to keep in good sensual condition between sessions with her lover(s) by contriving to give herself up to 30 or 40 orgasms in the same session; very exhausting she found this the only time she tried it, not to say boring in the end. She also remembered an instruction (this one she didn't follow) to annoint the lover's erect and sensitive part with whipped cream, topped with chocolate flakes and to lick it ALL OFF. She was particularly taken by the weight-watcher's advice tacked on, to make SURE that the cream in question was reduced fat... Sensuous women, evidently, have to stay thin.

Perhaps you can buy reduced fat cream in Ann Summers these days too, along with Nipple Lick. Or perhaps not.

No sign of a buyer yet on the inconveniently minimalised flat. The agent however is hopeful. 'It's a very nice little flat,' he says; it is too. Not his fault that the market is currently subsiding towards Christmas. Anyway the NKT will be in charge again next week, having to make sure all is in order before she goes out. On Thursday Granny and Beloved return to their island; where the chickens, according to sepulchrous announcements by Mr Handsome on Granny's mobile, are in trouble. A hunting dog has killed aristocratic black hen Dolly. Aristocratic grey hen Daphne appears to have turned into aristocratic grey cockerel Damian, and slaughtered aristocratic brown cockerel David. The plebian brown chickens appear to be in no such trouble. Serves G and P right perhaps for going upmarket, poultry-wise.

The sex life of chickens also has its interest it would seem. And this time next week Granny and Beloved will be observing it all for themselves. She can't wait.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Groan groan

It's been a long time since Granny's last post. Does anyone else find it as difficult as she does starting up again? She's been limbering up mentally for at least 24 hours, the pit in her stomach getting deeper and deeper at the prospect of finding something to say- on the one hand; or deciding where to start on the other. For here she has been gallivanting from one side of the world to the other, from south (southern hemisphere version) t0 north (ditto), from sub-tropic to tropical, soaking up early summer; and here she is returned to late-autumn-early-winter- firework-exploding-London. Less delicious in terms in climate, but full of people she loves, on the other hand, including her Beloved, just now, whose presence she rejoices in just as she mourns saying goodbye to equally beloved but irredemably Aussie Little Sister. For when will they meet again? Always the question. An Australian historian once wrote a book called 'The Tyranny of Distance'. Granny has never encountered a better way of describing how such far separation feels from one of those she loves best. It is probably - it is - naughty of her to find herself wishing one or two of other relations (she'll name no names) were that far off, rather than Little Sister. But alas, she does.

Little Sister of course may feel quite differently. And it is certainly true that she disappeared to Australia in her early twenties to get as far away as she could from a family that Granny is more than willing to admit - having spent two weeks in the company of two of its more difficult members - is not the easiest family to belong to. The pain and grief of the parents she has described before now cast long shadows over everyone; some, Little Sister for one, have learned to surmount them better than others. Granny's twin sister, the lightning conductor for all its griefs - isn't that true of most difficult families that someone plays that role? - surmounted them hardly at all. The sadness was passed down to her daughter Sad Niece; and by reflection on this holiday lain a little on Granny herself, conscious throughout how hard it was for Sad Niece to be surrounded by her mother's siblings, with only her mother missing.

She was more than conscious too that for Sad Niece, whose feelings for her aunt reflect more than a little of what she called her and her mother's love-hate relationship, the wrong twin survived the family lurgy. Granny herself could feel guilty about this if she let herself. Mostly she doesn't - what would be the point? For the duration though, the weight of twinship sat hard on her shoulders all over again. It always does sit somewhat on her shoulders; it always will; twins are physically part of each other, in death as in life, in ways it's probably hard for a non-twin to comprehend. Most of the time now Granny can and does forget the burden. Over the past two weeks, amid what was otherwise, mostly, delight, she has felt the weight again. She so wishes she could ease sad niece's sadness. But she of all people cannot. Little Sister, on the other hand, is in a better position to try and she will, she will. Lovely, beloved little sister.

Still if you have to be plunged back into family griefs, she can think of worse places than the Barrier Reef, or Sydney, one of her favourite cities on earth, come to that. Big Brother complained that the fish seen when snorkelling weren't so good as those in the Seychelles; he would. But even he admitted that the corals themselves were better than anywhere - and since these undersea gardens are what Granny herself loves best of all she was perfectly happy. As for little sister - she proved indefatigable, spending twice as long out there as anyone, and, for her efforts getting to swim with turtles. Granny saw plenty of turtles - and giant clams opening and shutting their jaws and smaller boring clams buried in rocks, but swim with turtles no. What she did see - and this was worth any other lack - was the members of her family, all different shapes and sizes, clad from head to foot in purple lycra, the suits designed to protect snorkellers and swimmers from the lethal jellyfish which start infesting these water around this time of year. She'd have gone still further than she had to for the pleasure of seeing Big Brother in such gear. Infinitely preferable she thought to his Old Etonian tie and blazer, sported for the family wedding.

Maybe her family were equally if secretly delighted - very tactful her family- to see Granny herself in the full glory of her Mastectomy Fashion swimsuit. Not least because she didn't work out till towards the end of the week how to anchor her false sponge tit within it. At times it lurked under her armpit; at other times hovered round her belly. Some of you may know Michael Ondatjee's description of his grandmother - the first woman in Sri Lanka to have a mastectomy - whose false tits similarly lurked in all the wrong parts of her anatomy and sometimes turned up in odd places round the house much to the bafflement of the family servants. The last one finally disappeared in mysterious circumstances; 'most believed it had been forgotten after a romantic assignation in Trincomalee with a man who may or may not have been in the cabinet...' Thanks to Beloved, Granny is a virtuous woman these days, she's unlikely to equal that. (She can, on the other hand, direct you urgently to the book from which that gem came, Ondatee's delightful memoir 'Running in the Family. ' A book she infinitely prefers to 'The English Patient.' But maybe that's just her.)

She and sad niece also had a lovely - even niece and aunt bonding day - out on safari with an ageing hippy guide and a nice if monochrome female Canadian judge, veering between rain forest and beaches which looked like what tourist brochures try to make beaches look like, but which in reality rarely are - miles of empty white sand, fringed with mangroves and palm trees. Idyllic. That is if you leave out of account the beginning to arrive jellyfish, meriting urgent warnings and supplies of vinegar on all paths leading out onto the inviting sands. Another version of the serpent in Eden no doubt. (But only between November and April.)

So that was the Barrier Reef. Sydney was something else; no time for that now - and anyway it was standard tourist stuff - a ride in on the Manley Ferry - towards the Opera House sailing across the sea. What was not standard was an entirely delightful lunch with another blogger, Ovagirl, the first of her blogging friends that Granny has met. Ovagirl herself has described this better than Granny could; so she will end by referring you here.


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