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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Two of the many respects in which Granny and Beloved differ entirely is firstly their capacity - or lack of it - to get out of bed in the morning and secondly the nature of their eyesight.

Take the first. 'When I wake up I get up, whatever time it is,' says Beloved, the lark. And indeed he does, jumping out of bed without hesitation, no matter how cold it is out there. Later, very often, he says: 'I've been up since 5,30 - or 6 - and disappears to have a siesta.

Granny, a nightingale, is not like that. If she does wake up so early, she looks at her watch, groans, and tries to go back to sleep. Even if she doesn't sleep, she stays there, enjoying the warmth, the sense of relaxation. 'What a waste of time,' says Beloved (whose use of such ungodly hours is a total mystery to Granny, though she thinks he enjoys the time to himself, and is sympathetic to that. She too like - loves - time to herself.) 'Not at all,' says Granny, who has difficulty in dragging herself out of bed even when she wakes at a more civilised hour like 8 o'clock. The thought of the cold air - even in summer -is agony. Even extracting her hand from the covers to look at her watch can sometimes seem an effort too far; how much more so the thought of all the things she has to do when she does get up- reaching out for her glasses is only the start. Oh the agony of it - of facing the cold, finding her clothes and putting them on, shoving on face-cream/sun lotion, cleaning her teeth, let alone of all that going out into the air of the open courtyard, down the stairs into the main house, heading for the kitchen, digging out implements, squeezing juice, heating milk for her coffee, trying not to fall over the importuning cat as she does so: etc etc etc.. A whole range of mountains to climb it seems while she is lying there, trying to persuade herself to throw back the covers and face this daily horror.

Meantime, today in fact, she has re-discovered one diversion, another excuse for idleness with which she can amuse herself, so delay the inevitable still further.

Granny is, has been all her life, very short-sighted. Till the age of 30 she wore the heaviest of heaviest, thickest of thick glasses, which did nothing for her sex-life (it's not quite true that 'men don't make passes' etc, she after all did manage two fiances, one of whom turned into a husband, but even so, until she put on contact lenses, her success in such areas was limited.) Beloved on the other hand - this is the second difference between them - is very long-sighted - it is his main excuse for never cleaning the stove, leaving the kitchen surfaces covered in smears etc: that he can't see it needs doing. (Granny did subsidise a pair of varifocals to get round this problem as well as that of his never being able to find his reading glasses- but he claims they are useless and won't wear them. Big sigh.) Back to Granny's short sight. As a child though not able to see anything in detail beyond a yard or two, she did have - still has - the advantage of microscopic sight, of being able to see close-up detail that most people can't. Though this is not such an advantage these days when surveying her ageing skin, she likes this capacity on the whole. As a child it gave her, among other things, the language of the blankets. If you're short-sighted and also old enough to have slept under blankets you will know what she means by this- the little hieroglyphics of the threads that stick up from the blanket weave looking like an unknown script, which you can read in any way you like. She used to divert herself for hours deciphering that alphabet, through all the ever-more frantic shouts of 'get up Penelope you're going to be late for school' etc, etc.

In the days of duvets that language seemed long-gone. But this morning, lying in bed under not only the duvet but the bed-cover - trade-wind nights have been chilly lately - she discovered that it offered a smaller version of the same hieroglyphics, of yet another alphabet, and ecstatically, a child again, started deciphering them once more.

She did not think Beloved would be sympathetic when she told him at breakfast that this was yet another thing had kept her in bed this morning. She was wrong. 'I used to look for animals in the ceiling,' he said, reminiscently - 'Or on the walls.' This was something short-sighted Granny hadn't been able to do, of course, not without her glasses on. But she was delighted he had his own version of her distraction, lark as he is. You can see that she and Beloved do have things in common after all. Well of course they do.

There is a black chick arrived in the hen house. There was a brown chick too- Granny held its little palpitating life in her pocket while transporting it to the nursery coop, but that was about all the life it had. Either the mother took exception to it, or else it didn't have the yolk left to keep it alive. Did you know that chicks come provided with enough yolk to nourish them for a day or two after hatching and if they don't have that they die? Granny didn't. What it is to be attached to an animal man. How many more hidden languages are there out there, she wonders, how many more?

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