Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Granny has been tagged by Beate of this address: http://violainvilnius.blogspot.com/. She cannot give you a direct link as she currently working - with difficulty - via dread (on a MAC) Internet Explorer which allows no formatting facilities WHATEVER, let alone links. photo uploads, etc. She is working also with the expectation of being disconnected any moment. The on-off cold + gut bug that affected her over the entire Christmas period seems to have infected her telephone line too; it keeps going dead, thereby cutting her off the internet besides.

To make matters worse, such frequent disconnections seem to have effected both her usual browsers; Safari keeps disappearing. Firefox first kept refusing to quit, now won't show its face at all. Granny will put up new versions of them when her telephone works properly, but now doubts if she will be allowed enough time to download either. And yes - she has called Telefonica; many times. Madrid answers promptly: Madrid is Madrid. The rumour round these parts, on the other other hand, is that all functionaries of all utilities, spend the entire festival period drunk. Admittedly the one who rang up and promised to turn up the very same day to sort out her problem sounded sober enough. But that was at nine a.m and maybe he went off and had a festive lunch, because he didn't appear; either that day or the next or the next. It may not help that Granny and Beloved's farm, a mere twenty odd minutes from the main town is considered to be in outer space by all local operatives. 'Out in the sticks' doesn't cover it. Granny explains the route in her best Spanish but it doesn't avail.

(Things get particularly bad, she has noticed at any time the internet is likely to be heavily used. This morning for instance saw the execution of Saddam Hussein. Her absence of a phone line meantime, she assumes, means everyone was looking up the gory details. Obviously curiosity is now satisfied. She has been allowed to stay connected for a good twenty minutes: a miracle.) Whoops. A mistake to say that: phone line is dead again.

On top of that; new improved Blogger which begged her to change to it requires 2 separate sign-ups, and takes double the time to connect to. Obviously it is not designed for those who are obliged to stay with dial-up, let alone with a dodgy phone connection. Sigh. (So what is improved about it? Someone please explain.)

The tag is as follows:

Pick up the nearest book. Turn to page 123: find sentence number 5 and copy out the next 3 sentences. Then name book, author, and tag 3 more people. She tags - again no links for obvious reasons - Pat - of Past Imperfect, Carolinkus of Beelzebublog and Lin of Dotty Nana; all of them on her sidebar. They will all probably curse her, but she has tried to pick people who are not - she hopes - up to their necks.

Problem of picking up book here; everything to hand is either a dictionary/thesaurus, a cookery book, or in Spanish: um. She looks for inspiration to the kitchen table; ah, Beloved's Christmas present; one of them. (Another is very abstruse and philosophical; luckily this isn't.)

I still live here with my partner, as the phrase is, who is fonder of the house and village even than I am. He is thirty years younger than me and what the village makes of this I do not know and now at last I do not care. That, at least, my parents' lives have taught me.

Author? Alan Bennett. Book? Untold Stories. Beloved hasn't got round to reading it yet. On the strength of this Granny thinks she will beat him to it.

Tomorrow - or more likely next year - ie Monday -Telefonica permitting, she will be back with goat stories. Can you wait?

Meantime, everyone:


(Further hiatus; IE doesn't seem to have any means of her publishing this. She will have to copy, hop over to Safari, connect to Blogger, and post there, hoping, just hoping, neither line nor Safari itself will chuck her off. Growl.)

Her new year resolution ought to be; learn patience. It isn't.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yellow eyes

A brief update. The (four letter word in triplicate +ing - or some politer alternative given her - decorous?- old age) goats have arrived. Two of them, both nannies -at least Granny is spared Billy Goat Gruff; one nanny is in kid; this is SUPPOSED to be an advantage.

Perhaps you out there would like to think of appropriate names? Bearing in mind her view of the newcomers. Which she doesn't have to spell out. Even if Komodo dragons do - according to yesterday's press - she doesn't think goats go in for Virgin Births. Just as well. Ritual Slaughter, then? Ah, now that's a thought. Only question is: of what? Or of whom?

She will be back, in a week or so, after the festival so-called. Happy Christmas everyone.


Monday, December 18, 2006

That festival

Didn't Granny ride three weeks ago, into that Valley of Death called the UK in winter? - didn't noses to the right of her, noses to the left of her volley and thunder?- didn't she return home unscathed, without so much as a sniffle, feeling smug? Well she has had her come-uppance for such hubris. Hasn't she now been hit by Beloved's latest version of the winter cold acquired from his pupils? Atchoo. Atchoo. With tinsel on top. Bugger it.

For she would LOVE to go to bed with a hot-waterbottle and a book today; wouldn't she just. But. Some hope. It's bloody Christmas. Isn't it?

Flipping through Guardian or Observer online yesterday - Granny can't remember which - she saw a piece in which some woman claimed that what she really wanted for Christmas was two weeks of being a man....Granny knows exactly what she means. Beloved claims he came to the Canaries to get away from Christmas; that he doesn't do Christmas; full stop. This doesn't stop him from asking months in advance 'who are we going to invite for Christmas?' So though the haul this year consists, apart from themselves, of only of a cousin of Beloved's (whom he hasn't seen for twenty years...what's he interested in? - music? birds? .. don't know ..what's he look like?- don't know what he looks like NOW... um...) and Beloved's daughter who is coming for a mere twenty-four hours, Christmas of a sort has to be done. Guess who does it? No prizes.

To be fair, Granny is quite ready to admit she brings some of it on herself. She made her Christmas pudding after all, and her mincemeat. Today she will embark on mince pies and drag out the Christmas decorations to hang on their apology for a Christmas tree - no firs here - which is actually not the least apologetic, just a big, bare agave, with branches hard as steel, that stands in their sitting-room all the year round, looking proud of itself. She will go off to the plant shop and buy poinsettias - the Christmas flower of choice all over the island. She supposes she could decline to do any of it; she could not decorate anything, she could produce cabbage soup for Christmas dinner. But Beloved wouldn't have that. Even if he doesn't do Christmas, he does do food; if not puddings and mince pies, he does the smoked salmon and stuffs the bird and quite a lot else besides.

Meantime the local lights are now finished and lit and are all very culturally appropriate. The blazing camel rotates round the blazing man in local dress. Both are decorated with flashing lights: Granny will try and photograph their glory sometime and put their picture up. The lights strung across the roads include an equally culturally appropriate windmill and prickly pear, a Mexican hat + guitar - well it's Latino at least, even if from the wrong side of the Atlantic.... etc etc. Let's not mention the footballers kicking their ball outside the football stadium. No snowman in lights in her town, let alone Father Christmas - this year - though down at the coast where the tourists and expats roam, they are to be seen in plenty, presumably for their benefit. Never mind that no snow has been seen on this island, ever. Let alone snowmen.

But there are -or were - angels; really. Driving home across the volcanic wasteland, Granny was astonished to see a cafe in a tent alongside the road. Plus three, bright turquoise, portaloos. Cars were parked. People were eating at tables arranged outside the cafe. A little further along..... had the star finally come to earth?? There was this blazing silver light. If so, the star, 2006 version, had landed plus camera crew and movie cameras, and a man holding a stop-go sign for drivers like her, the way they direct traffic past roadworks here. On the other side of the road from the star/light were the angels; three beautiful young men, in white from head to foot and with big white angel wings strapped on, leaning against a strategically-placed rock, surrounded by people, adjusting gear, powdering faces.

(And she'd never have expected angels to need portaloos - turquoise or otherwise. Just fancy.)

A commercial probably. The identikit young men looked like models. Against this arid rock, against fields of volcanic cinders under a dour sky, the effect was surreal. Granny's not sure it would sell anything. But what does she know? It's Christmas. Atishoo. Atchoo.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


A very bleary Granny - 5am start - peers out of the window at her island view. No goats in sight. Yet. Phew. Just a lot of salt on the window; obviously the north winds have been blowing, as Beloved said. When she left there was Saharan sand obscuring the view, it's always one or other here, sand or salt, which means a lot of window cleaning; though not when the wind is blowing, cleaning windows then is a waste of time. Fortunately it's often blowing: Granny does not like cleaning windows and she is no good at it either. Her glass always end up smeary for some reason. She is deeply admiring of those clever people who know how to make it shine

So no goats? Why the cheese then? (Oh yes, she remembered the cheese - along with sage, turmeric and superior pasta. And dark chocolate for herself.) What is Beloved up to? Is he getting goat's milk from somewhere? Does that mean a kid in the offing? There's no new run for the bantams either - as for her office.....it remains a dumping ground as ever. The hopeful cans of paint she bought some while back remain merely hopeful. ('Why can't I go and splash it on myself?' asks Granny. 'There's all the other things have to be done/decided first.' says Beloved. 'What things?' asks Granny. Whereupon he turns vague. And she still has no office.) Still, it means she can write looking out of the window in the kitchen; that's good. What is not good about such a public place is being exposed to the conversational or practical gambits of Mr Handsome or Beloved when she's in the middle of things and feeling neither conversational nor practical 'A Room of Her Own.' Hasn't she heard that before somewhere? She wants one.

But the hens are laying again. A bowl of their eggs sits on the dresser, and Granny has just fed herself a boiled egg, one of the great treats, in her view. The kitchen is tidy. Onions have been planted. She thinks it's nice to be back. It is nice to be back. Despite lack of sleep and a sense of being battered somewhat by everything back in her other home. Despite an early morning hour spent standing in a security queue in Gatwick, followed by four hours of sitting in a plane with about as much space as she'd get if she was a battery hen. (Granny doesn't do small spaces very well; she always has too many books, papers, bits and pieces about her person; they get in the way.) And having to the left of her a family with seven boys of assorted ages. And having to the front of her a merry contingent booked onto a Saga holiday; about which she has HEARD THINGS. Starting with Buck's fizz from breakfast and going on from there. Some people have all the fun; luckily it's not the kind of fun she's after.

So this; Granny plugged on her Ipod and being the culture fiend she is, played Johnny Cash (Folsom Prison) to herself followed by opera to raise the tone, and read the Guardian and then last week's Guardian Book Review - ditto - the latter being good enough to remind her of a writer she used to love called Willa Cather. (Here's the article in case you're interested.) When she has finished writing this she will prowl round the house and look for her tattered green Virago editions of Willa Cather from twenty years ago. She recommends her to everyone. Shame writers like that go out of fashion. Shame so many writers go out of fashion - including her. All that work and wiped brows and agonising; and there's the result not so many years on, a tatty paperback in some second-hand bookshop somewhere that nobody buys. Granny cannot be the only writer deeply depressed by secondhand bookshops. She went to Hay-on-Wye once - Hay-on-Wye consists of almost nothing except second-hand bookshops. It's like the circle of hell reserved for writers; it really is. Unless they're luckily enough to be brought back to notice by appreciative articles in the Guardian Book Review. And only when they're dead most likely, if at all. (Most likely not at all.)

There are no secondhand English bookshops on this island, luckily. Except here, possibly. Granny and Beloved's house looks pretty much like a second-hand bookshop itself. But these are all loved books; his books; her books. So that's different.

Beloved will be home soon, from teaching. He has ideas, he told her. Plans. Granny will be delighted to see him walk in at the door. But she is a little apprehensive. She always does feel apprehensive when Beloved announces he has plans. Let alone ideas. Maybe she can divert him with the salt on the window in front of her. Beloved is much better at cleaning windows than she is. Not that he does it very often. But then nor does she. It's too windy...isn't it?

Monday, December 11, 2006

soft cheese

Granny has spent the weekend around each of her three granddaughters in turn, taking them to the theatre show appropriate to their age; then putting them up for the night. All very successful - despite middle granddaughter's desperate plea for a loo just outside London Bridge station at 10pm. (Why couldn't she think of it back at the Unicorn Theatre.....groan.) Only possible loo to hand belonged to a bar and disco over the road. Nothing for it. There they went, fighting their way in and past somewhat bemused waitresses, dancers, drinkers, etc., not used to seeing an ancient (by their standards) plus eight year old with backpack, pink coat and a lot of blond hair joining their action. Which included a live band. You could not hear yourself think. All directions to granny and middle granddaughter could only be done by signs (you've guessed it. The ladies was at the end of a long trek, upstairs and down.) When the finally emerged into the grey cold street, middle granddaughter said, thoughtfully. 'I don't understand teenagers. Why do they have to hurt their ears like that?'

Granny hopes she'll go on thinking like that. But she doubts it, six, seven, eight, years on. At least if bars, discos etc then are still allowed to wreck ear-drums, just as food companies are allowed to feed children and everyone else chemical junk, in the name of commerce. What changes.

All the three plays were good by the way; in the case of Billy Elliott, for the eldest spectacularly good. But it was the smallest and simplest play, the one for the five year old, with just a single actor plus an occasionally speaking and always playing accordionist, about a small boy and his great uncle gardening together, that was the most profound. The great uncle had what appeared to be Altzheimers; the seasons came and went, the uncle died, in the end. Granny has noticed before the way that the best material for kids can go to the heart of everything without the fuss - and pretension, often - of the material directed at their elders. Odd that. Even humbling. Why does anyone else - including her - bother?

Back on the island Beloved is complaining about the awful weather - furious wind, furious rain - and demanding Granny bring back with her, along with the already acquired sage and turmeric, 'soft unpasteurised cheese.' He refuses to say why; he doesn't have to. Granny knows exactly what he wants it for.... starting his cheese.

Does that mean there will be goats when she get home?

Friday, December 08, 2006


Some things never change. One corner of every big store at Christmas remains as it has been ever since Granny remembers. (Which must seem, for most, if not all of you wombats, a long time.) It is the part devoted to racks full of slippers; fluffy mules, tartan slip-ons, pink slippers edged with fake fur; so on, so forth. Do some people give and get slippers every Christmas? Still? It's sweet; even reassuring somehow, amid the contempory glitz and expensive, electronic everything else. But god help anyone who thinks that given her age and status they are just the present for Granny. (Though actually she does have a pair of small discreet, black, genuine sheepskin boots which, during the winter she wears around whichever home she's in, and doesn't she love them. But don't let anyone DARE call them slippers.)

Yes, there was a tornado in London yesterday. And furious rain storms. And hail the size of ping-pong ball. Granny, meantime, was trotting here, there and everywhere; buying raisin bread from the farmer's market, replacing her lost hearing-aid down at the hospital, meeting a friend at the National Gallery for lunch and that great god Velazquez' exhibition, Christmas shopping for books and DVD's. As she was about to go into the hospital/gallery/shop/underground, she would look up at the sky and see a furious cloud looming. 'It's going to rain,' she'd think, 'lucky I'm going inside.' By the time she came out, water would be lying everywhere, but the sun would have come out, the umbrellas were all put away. As for tornadoes... the only sign of that was the newspaper sellers' placards- 'tornado in Kensal Rise' etc, etc.. But hardly a drop of rain fell on her all day, let alone anything else. She was lucky.

She found her lost hearing-aid, by the way; she now has a spare. Good. But she has not found/won't find the other victims of this trip; her favourite scarf; one of her favourite pair of earrings; her lost wallet. Though she did get a polite email from the Lost Property Office - wonders will never cease - to say they hadn't found it. It's always like that for Granny going round London at this time of year - even more than at most times of year. Too many coats, jackets, scarves, bags etc floating around and off her person the moment she loses concentration. It's her version - she excuses herself - of the family dyslexia; manual clumsiness; a vagueness at the ends of herself. 'Brain damage' Beloved calls it. And -'Wouldn't I love to test you in my psychology lab.' Granny is glad he hasn't got a psychology lab any more. She's lived with these lacks - or add-ons - far too long to want him finding scientific names for them.

Beloved meantime is ringing her with lists of what he wants her to bring back. 'Sage,' he says. 'Turmeric.' So on and so forth. He remains unconvinced when Granny assures him that all these things are available on their island, if you know where to look. Oppressed by far too much else, she finds herself scowling into the telephone with some of the fury of Valezquez' Martha, pounding and pounding with a pestle and mortar while her sister Mary sits in the next room philosophizing with the men. Not that Beloved deserves any such thing. Sorry, Beloved: sorry.

Memo to self; on no account forget to take back to the island black sheepskin sli.....no, no, no, BOOTS.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

(un)happy christmas

Lights and Christmas trees everywhere Granny looks, even in the multi-ethnic, very islamic part of London she's perched in. They don't cheer her up, not this year. Christmas when things are difficult is the most painful of festivals - but then it always was about birth and death simultaneously. That's religious symbols for you; by definition they are janus-faced; you could say it is their job to look both ways

This then; having children is a life sentence. One of the better ones, on the whole. Well - some people might prefer to be banged up in Wormwood Scrubs for the rest of their natural, but Granny isn't one of them. But with children, sadly, come the downsides. The main downside is when you have to watch any of them - or any of theirs - suffer; all your fault too, because but for you, none of them would be in the world. Granny names no names, but it's why she's here in London being blown off her feet (tomorrow will be still worse it seems; and she thought her island was windy: It is. But right now this one is trying to make out it's windier.)

So she hasn't a great deal to say for herself and is about to take herself off swimming; pounding up and down the municipal pool may be boring but she'll feel better for it afterwards. Later still she will meet an old friend, one she hasn't seen for 2 years because, foolishly, they fell out. But now it seems they've made it up; another good thing - Pollyanna always was - or wasn't - Granny's second name. The trouble is: silver linings for her won't do anything for the afflicted one. The life sentence again; very little she can do about it. What can be done she does. Cheers everyone.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Granny is in London in her usual picking-up family mode. A London currently grey and gloomy, echoing her own feelings. She had her wallet stolen on the underground this morning; fuller of money than usual, unfortunately, because she'd intended to do some Christmas shopping after having her hair cut. She thinks it was stolen, anyway. Which is worse, she wonders? the thought of just having been careless - did she just drop it? - it has been known; or the thought of some neat-fingered bastard dipping into her bag. And no, she did not lose half as much as those wretched Farepak people, robbed by big businessmen who unlike them will not be having a hard time over Christmas. But it was quite enough, and she is feeling sick about it.

She made the discovery when looking for her wallet to pay friendly, very thin, hairdresser who has cut her hair for twenty years.They'd spent the session beforehand just as they usually do, discreetly bringing each other up to date with the latest developments in their ever changing life-stories (and, via the mirror, with his ever-changing hairstyles; granny prefers to look at him while he is working. Who likes to stare at their own very naked face while hairdressers do their worst?) Very friendly, very thin hairdresser's account of his life trumped hers easily this time; since she last saw him, he'd gone to Las Vegas to get married to his long-term girlfriend, with the wedding put up on the internet so their absent friends could all attend at least virtually.He gave Granny the website address and invited her to attend virtually too - if a little belatedly - but in all the hoo-hah she has forgotten the address already. Really she should have paid him twice his usual fee as a wedding present; in the event she couldn't pay him at all; he was very nice about it, said she could send him a cheque. Whereupon she returned home, disconsolate, no shopping done, but grateful for her granny travel card - she does not keep it in her wallet. Just as well. Cardless as well as cashless she'd have had to walk from Baker Street to Shepherd's Bush, not the most scenic of hiking trails. She could have asked thin and friendly hairdresser for a loan, perhaps and added the money to her cheque. Or perhaps not.

She didn't know which fitted her feelings better: the pink-legging-clad baby who wailed in its buggy through most of her session, while its mother had what looked like sheets of plastic paper applied to her head, or the three seasonal snowman decorating the hairdresser's window, that keeled over as if melting every two minutes or so. Passing small children lingered and laughed at the sight, their mothers moving them on with great difficulty. Granny did not linger - she headed for Baker Street London Transport Lost Property Office to report her loss. Hopes of wallet and cash being returned to her are zero; but still, there the Office was, so why not. The nice people behind the counter take phone numbers these days and email addresses. Some things have improved then - once you could get no information without going back to the office. But so she was told have the numbers of pickpockets improved - gone up that is -and their skills at picking pockets have improved likewise. Very professional they are these days, the woman behind the counter said. Not quite approvingly.

Granny's flat was still full of the smell of burnt toast, from a yet earlier disaster with a maverick toaster; she'd forgotten all about this till walking in at the door. It made up her mind for her. She has decided not to go out again today. Don't disasters often come in threes? -don't they usually? Her mistakenly walking under a bus, say, would not add to her merriment. She'd better not try to climb a ladder to water the plant on her balcony either, let alone fiddle with the electrics for any reason whatsoever. She'll stick to her laptop for the moment. Too bad that someone's chosen this afternoon to work with an electric drill just above her head.


PS. Update. She needed have worried.... the 3 disasters (minor she'll admit) have all been and gone. She has two debit cards. She only took one with her this morning. When she went to get the other out of the drawer she discovered it was the very one she'd thought had been in her wallet, so cancelled. Perhaps it's not such a bad thing to be stuck in consumer-fest London without easy access to cash, though it's not exactly convenient, just when she'd been planning to do her Christmas shopping. But at least, short of a foursome, she needn't (being much too supertitious - blame her vast age) worry her head any more about falling under that bus.

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