Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

bopping grannies

Sorry sorry sorry. Too much going on for update till now. Yes - the baby came - a girl - still nameless! - her parents' it turns out have different ideas on what constitutes nice ones. A very pretty baby to judge from the pictures. Granny hasn't yet seen her, because, the baby born in hospital, her services were not immediately required. So she hopped off to join her family at WOMAD in Wiltshire - the second musical festival of her life - the first one was WOMAD too. The nice thing about world music is that it attracts entire families - how about a camping trip with some good music attached? - the families ranging from grannies - practically great grannies - to babies - practically new born ones. Ever since her children were about six, the mere movement of one of Granny's feet into dancing mode - let alone the smallest wriggle of her bum - filled them with such embarrassment and horror she had to keep it cool when they were around. But surrounded by other bopping grannies, she had no such problem - so bop she did, whether her family was in sight or not - to French - American - African music, you name it. One of the sets was by Mavis Staples of the Staples Singers - civil rights veterans - protest singers - friends of Martin Luther King - now pushing 70 herself and not only a historical monument - definitely - but also a bopping granny to beat all bopping grannies. Beloved eldest granddaughter was watching this singer too. 'Something to tell your grandchildren', Granny said. 'You watched and heard someone who knew and protested alongside Martin Luther King.' The closest she had been to Martin Luther King herself, the thrill was hers, as well.

The problem was: it was VERY HOT. And much worse, eldest granddaughter had such asthma she had to be taken home early. Then Granny herself proceeded to go down with a terrible cold which cut short her own festival going and meant she couldn't go down to the see the baby and do her Granny bit on Monday as arranged. This meant that Beloved did get to see his first granddaughter before she did: this was probably right. Snuffling, snorting, feeling very sorry for herself for days all Granny could do was offer granny advice over the telephone. Which she did. But only when asked. (You have to be careful about such things. Grandmothers, real or surrogate, tread on very thin ice.)

She is still snuffling and coughing somewhat. Serves her right for all that bopping perhaps. But as she is no longer infectious she is off this afternoon to baby worship, bearing cooked offerings of one kind and another. She could cook at least.

See you later.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

London life

Well... the baby is on its way, slowly, reluctantly - forcing its mother into hospital, instead of leaving her happily at home with partner and birthing pool. Meantime Beloved is chewing his fingernails and so is Granny. Waiting is the name of the game; and hoping that all will go well in time; as they probably will - you know how these things are.

Granny will take herself swimming shortly to keep herself occupied. Meantime here are two little snippets of London life.

1. Some unfortunate people in West London found one day that they had a nice Muslim near neighbour, a woman with several children. No problem - they are Jewish but not prejudiced in any way. Shortly after the street was full of press and police: the Muslim husband had arrived. He was none other than Abu Qatada: not quite so fine. He is only allowed out two hours a day, but goes shopping when he does. Meeting such a man in your local shop brandishing packs of diet coke on the one hand and loo roll on the other, is all very well, but when said man is on record as wishing to exterminate you and your race it might get a little uncomfortable.

On the other hand even firebrand Mullahs need to keep their weight down - maybe - and certainly have to wipe their backsides, preparatory to washing them the way their religion enjoins. Such normality may be comforting. On maybe it isn't.

2. Granny was walking innocently through the Shepherd's Bush Market the other day surrounded by A Q's decently veiled co-religionists, among others, when she was accosted by a nice young couple, one sprightly, blond and female, the other carrying a movie camera on a tripod and male. 'We are from Channel 5,' they said, 'And making a programme about sex and attitudes to sex. Would you like to take part?'

Granny declined, politely. She did not want to talk about her attitudes to sex, let alone her sex life past and present on television in general, let alone on Channel 5 which tends to be superficial about such things. Judging by the heavy sighs of the two questioners they had received similarly unhelpful answers before meeting her. They were a very nice, polite, well-scrubbed young couple, and she was sorry to disappoint them. But even so. Looking about her she saw a pair of obviously Somalian women - should she suggest these nice young people ask them about female circumcision she wondered? That might put the subject in perspective. But no she chickened out of that too. Of course.

Meantime a passing Indian, deep in conversation, was surging his companion to stay put in his job since it was 'a cushy number.' 'Cushy numbers' are not to be sneezed at,' he said. Precisely.

Oh the hazards of London life. No one on Lanzarote has ever asked Granny's views on sex or anything else. And Abus Qatada, Hamza, whoever, are unlikely to turn up living next door cultivating maize and keeping goats. What's a relief.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

heads bodies legs

So there is Granny, sloping round London - sometimes rained on - sometimes not - looking at people's FEET for some reason. So many of them - and of so many different ethnicities - ethnicity only revealed knees downward where the wearer is dressed in long robes and even then you need to look upwards to ascertain more. She started her foot fetish - whatever it is - while in the tube, one day, jammed against someone's back. Looking upwards meant gazing straight into faces at too close quarters; feet/legs altogether less embarrassing, that's where she directed her gaze; bare legs, jeaned legs, skirted ones, fat ones, thin ones, long ones, short ones, brown ones, white ones; trainered feet, sandalled feet, ballerina-ed feet, booted feet; new shoes, old shoes, smart ones, shabby ones, buckled, laced, high-heeled, low-heeled. On the tube, though, you don't tend to see the expensive kind of footwear - the Jimmy Choos, the LK Bennetts. Their wearers presumably go by taxi. Nor do you often see ethnically/religiously revealing ones; the enveloping robe wearers, much more local, seemingly, in Granny's part of London, go by bus. As Granny does now it is all free thanks to her advanced age, and - thanks to dear departed Ken - efficient too, as well as more friendly. People talk to each other on buses - when they are not talking into their mobile phones that is.

One day, on a bus, she sat next to a robe with wholly-covered face - eyes only on view. She had to talk to the eyes - 'I'm getting out next stop - shall we change seats?' The eyes blinked, the head nodded, there was maybe a smile under the cloth: but hard to tell. Very disconcerting really - how does one pick up signals without facial movements? Granny's psychiatric friend says she finds most evidence in the eyes - but maybe you need to be a psychiatrist to read those as well as she evidently does: Granny got off the bus realising she needed much more practice. Communication had been achieved to the extent of she and her neighbour changing seats; but more? How could she tell.

Faces. If it's feet on the tube, it's faces on the bus. Older faces - and younger ones. Many more children and old people travel by bus than by tube. And such faces. Years ago, in Jerusalem, a friend told her to look out for faces on buses there; the wondrously carved faces, strong cheek bones of men and women from east of Poland, north and east of Turkey. Now London is like that; full of faces you'd expect to see sitting outside coffee shops, in the Middle East or Kurdistan, or Bulgaria. By comparison the few British faces on view appear oddly edgeless, undefined; Granny's too, most likely.

London landscape is heads, bodies, legs; so many they can drive you mad, threading your way along any pavement, particularly wet ones, particularly when dodging umbrellas. But given that in Lanzarote the range is so much more limited, Granny enjoys the crowded hodge-podge while she can. Waiting for a baby which does not come yet. Limbo time.

Oh and this. Mamma Mia - the film - is just as cheesy as the critics sniffily say. And didn't culturally superior Granny despise Abba in their glory days. But now....in a gloomy moment - it was raining hard, for one thing - she trotted off to her local cinema. She enjoyed every single minute of it and came out singing. So THERE.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nature Notes

1. Billy the Kid has been spared ending up on the plates of goat-eating locals. (Among whom you may include Beloved but definitely NOT Granny.) He has been taken on by 80 odd year old neighbour who cultivates the large field over the wall - he wants a billy goat to service his nannies. So in due course dear little Billy will be doing what comes naturally, smelling to high heaven the while and looking very far from Granny's charming baby. Macho cabrios are not attractive animals. But who cares about that. Meantime he is sharing a corrall with a cockerel and a duck: there is a grand romance it seems between these two, to the extent that the cockerel is not interested in hens. Granny wonders how they will enjoy being butted by Billy. She also hopes that he will not get his species confused the way the cockerel has. Attempted coition between a goat and a chicken - or duck? Heaven forfend.

2. Bats. Granny doesn't know if there are bats on Lanzarote - but there are definitely bats in Bristol from where she's writing this. Beloved son-in-law has a small machine which translates the very high echo-seeking sounds made by bats into audible click clickety-clicks. Standing outside in a summer night watching a bat or two flit around and listening to their direction finding is magical, not to say unearthly; like close-up messages from outer space.

No babies yet. Or not ones related to Granny, though Clare over on Boob Pencil now has a ten pounder called Oscar. CONGRATULATIONS to her. The first Bookarazzi baby. Good.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


For someone living on a dry Canary island a good English rainy day should be a luxury. Well sort of. But Granny is not sure that trudging round Kew Gardens with a runcible umbrella is the best way of enjoying it. Which is what she did yesterday - friendship sums up the reason for this, which, just possibly, justifies such masochism: but not entirely. She made up for her soaking later by sorting out - virtuously - boxes full of papers but that didn't do a lot to raise her spirits either. It wouldn't, would it. Virtuous or not. But at least it's done.

Big brother has been buried for two weeks nearly. Granny is beginning to think that what one mourns in these circumstances is not just what was but, still more, what wasn't. She loved her brother by default really, probably the way he loved her; bemusedly - how did he happen on such three entirely - by his standards - pinko sisters? Or she on such a Daily Telegraph-reading old-school brother? What would it have been like she wonders to have had a brother with whom she had more in common, to whom she felt really close. Yet she did feel close to Big Brother while he was dying, even though at times, listening to his views she did grit her teeth. If not views, opinions, outlooks, they had a past in common at least. And his weakness roused in her such maternal, sorry feelings, she wanted to hug and love him like a sister and so she did. In ways that through her angry youth and exasperated middle age she wouldn't have believed she wanted to. But oh she did; and oh she loved him. never mind everything else and thought regretfully of all the times she hadn't rung him, written, arranged to visit. Too late now - it always is. That story is over and done.

And now, in the way of things new ones are beginning: babies popping out to right left and centre: virtually, via the internet: in her own real life. The birth Granny is waiting for in England is that of her Beloved's first grandchild: she's ready to help when/as/if wanted. That's another thing she realises changes with age - not only prejudice towards the views of other members of her family wanes - or at least prejudice towards the holders of such views - also the passionate need to know the ends of stories wanes, for obvious, temporal reasons. The only way of knowing the ends of the stories of these new arrivals would be for them to die prematurely - the last thing she or anyone would want. She will hope to watch all these young things get born, grow up, certainly, but she will never know what happens to their lives beyond that.

In her days of working with mentally ill old - and still, now, happening on down and outs in the streets - she used to try - tries - t0 imagine them as babies, toddlers, hopeful schoolchildren. Now, too, she looks and will look at the babies, children, her grandchildren and try- or rather perhaps - try not to imagine them old. Wishing passionately that they too would not have to encounter what they cannot begin to imagine now, the withering of their flesh; the age spots, falling hair, creaky limbs - wrinkles - bloody wrinkles - general sagging of absolutely everything that begins to take over. That is taking Granny over, hard as she tries to avert such things with creams, potions and healthy exercise etc etc. As far as the children are concerned how she is now is how she's always been. Old family photographs - Granny has been going through family photographs - of her and siblings as stomping about toddlers, clear-skinned children are for them pure myth, not real really. What a shame that in time they too will realise that such changes happen to them too. Not the welcome changes of GROWING UP. But the much less welcome ones of GROWING OLD. Well, well Granny won't live to see that at least. Much as she likes, in general, to know the ends of stories, she is perhaps grateful to be spared such things, to be spared too their confrontation with the long-term effects of global warming etc, another storyline that will keep on running without her, whether she likes it or not. Leaving aside those ever more uncomfortable, worrying thoughts for more local ones, there's a limit to the amount of flesh you want to see proving that it's grass. Shame really that the only way of not seeing yourself that way - or not seeing much of it - is dying early. And no, age spots, wrinkles and all, ageing is better than that.

This uncomfortable thought too. There will come a point when storylines in the Archers will have to work themselves out without her ever knowing what they come to either.... horror on horror. Just imagine that. She's assuming of course that the Archers will go on for ever, global warming and all. Now that's a comfort. Well, sort of.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Signs of life

Well, well. The adrenaline is subsiding, the grief not gone but relieved, the heavy days of scrubbing over, the travelling - for the moment - done. On a cloudy Sunday, Granny is sitting in her London ex-council flat, listening to Radio 3 and looking out at grey skies, grass, green leaves, roof tops -anything more different from the wide, sometimes widely sunny - skies, the burnt land, the almost ready to be harvested vines, of her other, smaller island, would be hard to imagine. She has just made herself breakfast, is knocking back her second bowl of virtuous - ie fair trade - ...coffee. Shortly she will retire to the kitchen to clear up and listen to Antonio Carluccio on Desert Island Discs, then take herself swimming, afterwards spend the afternoon leaving activity to Federer and Nadal as she watches them battle it out - weather permitting. A film later? Maybe. Last night she went to a concert in which her beloved Lucy was playing in the orchestra that backed Natalie Clein and the Haydn cello concerto - such deep-toned ecstasy coming from the Clein cello you wouldn't believe - one of Granny's favourite sounds at the best of times... and this was beyond pleasure. A life of leisure you see - no figs/aubergines/tomatoes needing to be processed here. To hell with the heaps of paper needing her attention: she will deal with them later in the week.

The funeral was as all funerals - getting together the unlikely collections of people only ever seen under the same roof at funerals - or weddings: the more so when someone has been married as many times as Big Brother (not that Granny can talk.) All four children from the three marriages were there, of course, plus five grandchildren. Wife number one turned up with her stepson from her third - now ended - marriage. Wife number two turned up by herself. Wife number three did not turn up - to the relief of all. But her mother did, her two sisters, her brother, her sister-in-law, and various nephews/nieces. Plus there were other relations by marriage - one of whom features sitting in a pram with big brother in an old family photograph - plus fellow-golf players, fellow local politicians, plus childhood friends of Big Brother's Granny has not seen since then, plus the naughty ex-wife of one of his very best friends - very dumpy/respectable these days -best friend has turned reclusive so did not appear. Invocations of past, of future, time rolled into a ball, all mixed up. Weird.

Plus the funeral was a replica of Granny's dad's. Didn't she say Big Brother always wanted to be his Dad? Even his dead Dad it would seem. The readings and the hymns were just the same - Granny loves the hymns at least - all her family goes for good tunes - the only thing missing was the Eton Boating Song played on an electronic organ at exit of coffin. (Youngest nephew did want Neil Diamond singing Sweet Caroline here, but was over-ruled. Why? On hearing this Granny told her children, firmly, they are to play the Rolling Stones singing Get Off My Cloud, at the end of hers. Strange how any such event at her age, gets you planning your own funeral, and wishing you could be there.) Nieces read the familiar pieces. American nephew gave an eulogy, ending with wishing his dad a heaven that included a permanent Tory government, a golf course and an ice-cream parlour. Granny read a piece sent from Australia by little sister, which grieved for the two of them and made her cry even as she read it. A lot of wine was drunk, before and after; a lot of crying done. Oh and a bemused grave-digger wondered where everybody was - the funeral service was held in a church not attached to the graveyard - and hoped - in the broadest of broad Sussex accents - that this was not another occasion where he'd dug the grave in the wrong place so would have to dig another in a hurry, the congregation inside the church put to singing ever more funeral hymns till he was done. Shakespeare should have heard him. Maybe he did. But all skulls remained firmly underground: Hamlet was not among those present.

Laugh and cry together. Of course. Whatever else?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Catch up

Sorry sorry sorry. It's been quite a week; between flights, funerals, imminent births, football championships - watched by G and B in local bar cheering along with locals and fed free booze thereafter - and very encouraging visitation by inspector, that involved much work beforehand, writing lively prose, or at least trying to has not exactly been on Granny's to-do list lately.

And tomorrow - after making yet another batch of strawberry jam and fig compote to feed what MAY be a flood of guests, depending on the inspector - but it looks hopeful - she is off back to England to await the birth and catch up with her family.

She will write properly from there. Cheers.

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