Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Psychiatric Nerve

My friend Connie, who is nearly ninety-one, has hurt her back - she did it manouevring a rubbish bin.

Connie lives on her own and it's very rare for her to have anything at all wrong with her. She's slowed up a bit, but still has - in her phrase - "all her chairs at home".

I met her because I became friends with her son - I met him in a group of freshers on my first day at university in - - sigh - - 1974 - so I've known Connie for a long time - - and I'm still friends with her son!

She does have a perennial grumble that there's a cold wind. If she were to go on holiday to the tropics she'd say "Yes, well it was ninety-four degrees every day - - but there was a cold wind, mind."

Anyone she considers to be a bit above themselves is described by her as "Very bay window, very cut glass" and she's full of other little homilies such as "As you mix, so you're classed".

She was a grammar school girl who has been through a lot in her long life - - painting aeroplanes during the war, for example! She's always been really kind to me - when I was confined to hospital for six weeks when I was pregnant, she visited me very frequently bringing me all kinds of delicious foods - two buses there, two buses back.

And she does have a rather glorious tendency to adapt words to her own use, rather like Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan's The Rivals - one of my favourite plays.

The problem with her back, she told me today, is that she has injured her Psychiatric Nerve. But she's taking some Coding and that's helping with the pain.

She's been part of my life for a very long time and I do hope that she gets better soon.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Sunny Saturday Morning

Walking in Roundhay Park again this morning, by Waterloo Lake:

Aha! One of my favourite things - a sunlit, dappled path stretching away in front of me.

The trees are looking wonderful:

and the colours are gorgeous:

But give it a couple of weeks - - - sighhh - - it'll be WINTER. Brrrrrr.

The Day Things Didn't Change for Ever

This morning, as I drove home from the swimming pool, I approached a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights. The lights were green in my favour so I continued towards the crossing. At the side, standing still and waiting to cross, were a father and two children - a girl who looked about nine and a younger boy.

When I was very nearly at the crossing, the father, without so much as a glance in my direction, walked straight out onto the crossing, very fast. I keep playing it through in my head and I still can't work out why he did it.

The children, without looking in any direction at all, simply hurried into the road after him.

I did the kind of slam-the-brakes-on emergency stop that you hope only ever to have to do in your driving test. I came to a halt just before the crossing.

The father, horrified when he realised that I was there, ran across the crossing and the children followed him.

The father, who did look very shocked, was now shouting at the children for running into the road, with elaborate gestures.

I wanted to lean out of the window and yell "Well you started it! They only ran into the road because you did!" But I didn't - - I was quite shaken up myself, and so was my mother who was in the car with me.

All day I've been thinking - - hey, if I'd have been two yards nearer to the crossing when the father stepped out then I might have hit all three of them.

Tonight I've had a lovely relaxing evening watching good things on television in excellent company. How different it could have been.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sunday in the Park

I love Roundhay Park in Leeds and it's looking particularly good at the moment in all its autumn glory.

To me, it is everything that a park should be - spacious and with some formal parts and some wilder parts. I love the long avenues of trees:

The Communist loved this park. When he was very small, he lived in the slums of Leeds (where Sheepscar Junction is now) and his major ambition in those far-off days was to live in a house near Roundhay Park. My grandparents used to take him there on day trips, by tram, and he thought it was Paradise.

He achieved his ambition to live near the Park by the age of thirty-three and I know it brought him lasting pleasure for his remaining fifty-two years.

I don't think that, in essence, the park has changed very much since those days.

They have refurbished the Mansion, where Stephen and I had our wedding reception back in August 1980.

It had become very run-down and then was closed for years. The Council wanted to turn it into council offices, without the restaurant that there had been there before. The people of Leeds rebelled and a good thing too - so, after what seemed like an interminable time, it's now open and we can once more go inside.

At this time of year the ground is covered in leaves, of course.

I look at the benches like this and it doesn't take too much imagination to picture the old Communist sitting on them, like he did so very many times throughout his long life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Russell and Violet Own a Car

I'm not very into personalised numberplates. Okay, a friend of mine had one on his 1966 VW Beetle convertible because when he bought it, it had a numberplate that made the car seem newer than it actually was and since he's a bit of a Beetle Geek, he couldn't bear this, and I understand that.

But in general, I don't see the point of paying a lot of money for something which really isn't much use. Well, it wouldn't be to me, because I don't have the desire to have one that spells out my name or similar. I don't need to be reminded of my own name and I can imagine the less-than-thrilled reaction of others: "Oh look, there's a car belonging to someone called Daphne. Woohoo. Amazing."

As for the witty numberplates, they're funny the first time you see them - - - but then, I can imagine myself defrosting my car on a cold January morning and seeing the numberplate and thinking - - yes, that's really not so funny now I see it for the three hundredth time.

So really the only people who benefit would be passers-by going "hey - - that's funny - - " and then instantly forgetting it. So why should I pay a few hundred quid to give some pedestrian a brief moment of entertainment?

But yesterday, I saw this one. And I don't know what category it fits into.

So. Do you think Violet and Russell saw that it was for sale and thought - - "Hey, that's hilarious! We must have it. What a hoot, eh?" I'm not so sure about this as Violet is just not a name that goes with Russell. I bet there have never been a couple called Violet and Russell. If you know of such a thing, please let me know - - but I bet there never has been.

So who else might own it? A doctor's my best bet - it's that kind of medical humour that they sometimes go in for. But it's just not very funny. Or very witty. Or anything, really. Any thoughts, anyone?

(Russell and Violet, if you're reading this, please let me know that you exist).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Millennium Stadium, the Queen and a Hawk

Since I used to live in Cardiff, there has been a Millennium.

To celebrate, in Cardiff, they built this:

It's the Millennium Stadium, near the City Centre and next to the River Taff.

For £6.50, you can have an hour's tour of it and I'd certainly recommend it - it was fascinating, and thanks to Silverback who suggested it!

We went all over but the bit I liked best was seeing the whole stadium from the very top - huge and stunning. Silverback and I delayed the tour a bit by taking lots of photos and if we'd been playing in a match the position we'd have played in would have been Left Behind (oh yes, har har, I know, I know).

The seats slope very steeply - they're at the maximum slope that's permitted by law - and it's no place for anyone who doesn't like heights (though I DO, as long as I'm not in danger of falling off.)

The stadium's used for rugby - of course! - soccer, other sporting events and also concerts.

I was wondering how on Earth you'd take out all the grass and replace it with a different surface. Then I found this notice that explained it!

They do it all in little squares! And apparently for soccer you can put the squares down and play immediately but for rugby you have to wait three weeks. And each time you do it, it costs £195,000 - mind you, it is a bit bigger than most people's front lawns.

At the far side of the stadium was a little group of people and if you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see that on the right there is a rather blurred bird of prey.

It's a Harris Hawk. Now then. The roof of the Stadium can be either open or closed. (It takes twenty minutes to open, and costs £2.50 in electricity - - hey, Tour Guide Tom, if you ever read this, you will know I was listening to you!!)

Because Cardiff is on the coast, there are plenty of seabirds, and there are lots of pigeons too, and as you may imagine, they would find the Stadium a good place to roost. You would not, of course, want to close the roof with a lot of birds trapped inside and they'd make a mess too.

So to keep them all out, there are two Harris Hawks kept at the Stadium. They are let out to fly around singly - and because Harris Hawks, unusually, hunt in packs, they don't actually kill any birds that they find. However the presence of a hawk is enough to scare the other birds away.

One last thing for this post. As with most stadiums, there are lots of boxes that you can hire (from £99 per person for a minimum of 10 people) to watch matches. And there's the President's box too.

When we went into the President's box, by complete chance I sat in the seat where the Queen sat when she was there watching rugby. I'd have liked to have seen the Queen watching rugby. It's not often that you see the Queen jumping up and down shouting "Kill him!".

This is probably the only time in her entire life that the Queen has sat in a seat that I was to sit in later. I expect that news of this has got back to her by now.

"What? Daphne? Of My Dad's a Communist? That Daphne? Hey, Philip, have you heard this? Amazing, eh?"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thirty Years On

In 1977, after finishing my degree at the University of Leeds, I went to Cardiff, capital city of Wales, to do a Post-graduate Diploma in Theatre Studies at the Sherman Theatre, with University College, Cardiff, which was part of the University of Wales.

I stayed in Cardiff for four years. I met my husband Stephen during the course (he was an undergraduate in Electronics Engineering - we met when he was eighteen and I was twenty-one, oh the scandal!) The following year I temped in offices all over Cardiff, and worked in the Civil Service for six months as a temp. The year after that I did a teacher-training course, and then I taught in a dreadful school in nearby Newport for a year.

After that, Stephen had graduated and we moved up to Leeds, where we have been ever since.

I liked many things about Cardiff but I was homesick for Yorkshire and I missed my family. Stephen has always got on well with my family and was happy to move back with me, so we did: I have never regretted it.

On Thursday I finally went back to Cardiff - I'd only visited once since, very briefly, about fifteen years ago. One of our actors, the excellent Sonia Beck, was in a play, Barkin' at the New Theatre, and I went to see it, and Silverback kindly accompanied me (thank you - much appreciated!) Stephen was working or he would have come as well, of course. The play was by the well-known Welsh playwright Frank Vickery, and it was excellent: we enjoyed it tremendously. Frank Vickery was in it, too, one of a very strong cast.

It was fascinating to see Cardiff again. Some parts were still the same, like The Hayes, with the old Victorian subterranean toilets:

Before I began my teacher-training course I read many books on education which I got from the nearby library: and here it is now:

It's a restaurant called - guess what? The Old Library and we had lunch there!

But many of the main streets are pedestrianised now, and look very clean and stylish - far more "gentrified" than when we lived there:

Silverback listened with remarkable patience as I detailed every change and every similarity! Every office building we passed was "Oooh - - Hodge House - - I used to work there!" Because in six months' temping, I think I worked in just about every office in Cardiff.

The years have passed, all right. Portcullis House, the old Customs and Excise building where I temped for six months, is To Let. It was fairly new then, and not the most glamorous building in the world. It hasn't improved with age:

The Sherman Theatre, another Seventies building, where I spent a year, is closed for refurbishment.

Cardiff Bay has been thoroughly done up and is fantastic, I'm told, though we didn't have time to visit it. For three years Stephen and I lived in a crumbling terraced house in nearby Splott (if you don't know Cardiff, yes, that is a real place!) Here's how the street looks now. It hasn't actually changed very much but many of the houses have been renovated:

There weren't so many cars in those days. I don't think they'd been invented.

It was so strange being there again. Here's a photo of me, nearly thirty years after I left, in front of the house where I lived in my very early twenties. In those days the rent was seven pounds fifty a week - - it was cheap even then as it was a run-down house in one of the - er - less stylish parts of Cardiff!

So much has happened since. So many happy memories after we left that house - - and a good many sad ones too. I suppose it's like that for everyone. If you'd told me, when I was living there, age twenty-one, of all the things that would happen afterwards, I think I would not have believed you, or thought that I could cope.

I'm still not sure, quite a bit of the time, that I can cope. But one thing I've learned is that I seem to be stronger than I ever thought I'd be.

It was lovely to go back - - - and I'll be telling you more tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Roses All the Way

Isn't it lovely when something unexpectedly pleasant happens?

These roses were one such thing.

One of the people I work with was a bit stuck as a couple of people had had to cancel their work with her, and I found some good people to replace them.

It wasn't difficult as I'm fortunate enough to know a lot of good people who are experienced in the work! And it was great to be able to help in that way, and to have total confidence that the replacements would do an excellent job.

But nevertheless, I was delighted when this beautiful arrangement of roses arrived at my door. Many thanks to the person who sent them!

A friend of mine, who works in banking, once said to me, "Lots of the people I work with are really horrible. And the people you work with all seem lovely."

This, I can tell you, is true: they are lovely. And, in my time, I too have worked with people who weren't, so I really appreciate it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shoulder in the Night

I haven't been able to go swimming for about a week because I've done something to my shoulder.

The problem is, I don't know what it is. It certainly wasn't caused by the swimming: it came on after I hadn't been swimming for a few days, as I had such a busy week work-wise last week. I have a vague, dreamlike memory of crashing into a door, but that may simply have been, indeed, a dream. On the other hand, I work in such a variety of different places - health centres, and different parts of the university - that I may indeed have crashed into a door on my way to work somewhere, and paid it very little attention.

Anyway, it was all gradually getting better and was only painful if I tried to do a backstroke kind of movement, so I thought I might be able to go back to swimming: if not today, then tomorrow.

Until last night, when a very weird thing happened.

I went to sleep at about midnight - slightly earlier than usual for me - and woke at about half-past one with my shoulder in absolute agony. It was like having bad toothache in my shoulder. It throbbed all over. It sent shooting pains down my arm. In between throbs, it ached like crazy and I couldn't move it at all without it hurting even more.

I lay there wondering if it's possible to break your shoulder by simply lying in bed. Then suddenly, I realised I was freezing cold and I began to shiver in a ridiculously dramatic way, like someone shivering in a cartoon, with chattering teeth.

So I thought I'd make a hot-water bottle and went downstairs, filled the kettle, put it to heat up - - and then realised I couldn't open the hot-water bottle, partly because I was shaking so much, and partly because my shoulder was hurting so I couldn't concentrate, and partly because Stephen had screwed it up tightly so that it wouldn't leak, the last time it was used.

So I had to wake Stephen up. Actually, the most accurate phrase is probably "get him out of bed" because Stephen doesn't really wake up easily, so you can talk to him in the middle of the night but he has no memory of it in the morning. And, as a matter of fact, I wasn't making a lot of sense (unusual for me, I thought I'd get that in in case of sarky comments) because my teeth were chattering so much. However, in his somnolent state Stephen filled the hot-water bottle for me.

I took some Ibuprofen and lay there as my arm throbbed, thinking "OW OW OW OW OW!" Gradually I warmed up and stopped shaking, and finally I fell asleep.

Now, here's a thing.

In the morning when I woke up, not only was my arm far better than it had been in the night, but it was far better than it was before I even went to bed.

I was - and am - completely confused. How could it be QUITE BAD before I went to bed, and then ABSOLUTE AGONY in the middle of the night - - - and then almost back to normal in the morning?

I've never had shoulder problems before. My shoulders have helped me to swim nearly a hundred miles so far this year, and they haven't given me any trouble at all.

So I'm puzzled. I don't know what caused it, and I don't know why it's got better - or how it got better so fast.

So I won't go swimming tomorrow, and then for the next few days I won't be able to because of work and travel - - and THEN perhaps it will be all back to normal. And if you have any ideas about what's been wrong with it, please do tell me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frost in the Hollows

It was a beautiful, though cold, morning in Leeds today and we went for a walk in Golden Acre Park.

Here's a monkey-puzzle tree (so strange and a favourite of mine!) against the blue sky:

I always like shadows on the path:

The lake shimmered in the sunshine:

and in the hollows, the first frost of the winter:

Autumn's always very beautiful - - - but I never like the thought of the winter to come. Last winter we had plenty of sparkling whiteness which was at least lovely to look at and interesting. It's the endless gloomy greyness that I don't like. Roll on Spring.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Swearing at the Patient

Today I've been working in Bradford with a delightful group of people from a doctors' practice. Excellent, they were.

At the end of the day the Practice Manager told me a story and, of course, I believe every word of it.

A foreign lady came into the practice. She didn't speak much English so had brought her son to translate. "She only understands a few words of English, including some swear words," said the son cheerfully.

The lady had a cold but wanted to see a doctor immediately. The receptionist explained that this would not be possible: all the doctors were booked up that day. The lady wasn't happy with this.

The receptionist began to explain about how to buy simple cold remedies and passed the lady a leaflet about straightforward respiratory ailments.

To her surprise, the lady tore the leaflet into small pieces and stormed out.

The next day, the Practice Manager said that the lady's husband, who did speak English, had rung to make a complaint. The receptionist had sworn at his wife, he said.

The receptionist was amazed. "No, I didn't!" she said. "I was trying to help. I was a bit stressed, but I certainly didn't swear."

The Practice Manager considered this. "So what actually did you say?" she asked.

The receptionist thought for a bit. "Ahhhhhhhhh," she said suddenly. "I think I know what it was."

"What?" asked the Practice Manager.

"For coughs and colds - - - "

Try saying it aloud.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Back at the very end of the 1970s, I was living in Cardiff, Wales's capital city. I'd gone there to do a postgrad course at the Sherman Theatre, met Stephen and stayed on whilst he finished his degree.

During that first year, I worked in a variety of temp jobs, which generally paid a pound an hour, or £44 a week. Barely an office in Cardiff escaped my attentions. I filed things and stuffed things in envelopes and wrote things in card index files. I turned up on time, kept my head down and got a lot of work - there WAS a lot of temp work in those days.

More interestingly, I was a canteen lady in a factory for a while (really enjoyed it), a tea-lady for a firm of architects (loved it), and the person who put the feet on televisions for the National Panasonic Factory (hated it with a great passion but stuck it for six weeks just to test my endurance).

And then, after six months or so, I saw an advert for a six-month job in H.M. Customs and Excise, and this paid a magnificent £49 a week, so I applied, and got it.

Two people were doing this job but after I'd been there a day or so they realised I could do it on my own so moved the other person somewhere else. I would like to think that this was down to my utter brilliance but I think it's more likely because of the previous two's utter stupidity.

And then, after a week of dealing with V.A.T. and filing things, the computer went on strike. Well, the people who worked it did, anyway.

So suddenly, there was nothing for me to do, so I read all the books on the list for my teacher-training course the next year, which turned out to be a big help, I must say.

And the people there were lovely. I remember Julie, who was about my age, and Bob who was a retired policeman, in particular. We had a never-ending card game that we played every break (and I use the word "break" cautiously here, because there was so little work to do what with the computer being on strike that it was a bit hard to work out where the break finished and the work began).

During the long, hot summer afternoons, it would become someone's job to go and buy the ice-creams and it was a war of nerves as to who did it. Finally someone would weaken, stand up and sing "Oliver's Army is here today - - - " and it would become their job. Why? I don't know now but I don't think I did then either. It was just what we did.

I'd always remembered this job with affection - - well, I say "job" because the computer never did stop being on strike - for all I know, it's still on strike - and so I just sat around reading books about The Teaching of English and Drama until my contract was up.

I'd thought about it from time to time - - - and then, this evening, I looked at a map of Cardiff, because I'm going there soon to see one of our actors in a play. And immediately I remembered where the building was, and quickly found the name. Portcullis House, near Cardiff Castle.

I haven't thought of that name for - well - nearly thirty years. And immediately I was plunged right back there. Portcullis House. Suddenly, more and more memories of the place are flooding back. Where have they been for the past thirty years? Portcullis House, Cowbridge Road, Cardiff. So THAT's what it was like to be twenty-one. Wow.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Here, at last, is certain video evidence that the glorious Unicorn exists.

My family are vile sceptics. They don't believe it. They say that its horn doesn't move as much as the rest of it.

The cynics! Pah! I believe! I believe in the Unicorn, and in Fairies, and in Father Christmas, and that homoeopathy works by sound scientific principles, and that there's gold at the end of the rainbow.

I'm fed up of being cynical. From now on, I'm going to believe.

Here's a song, for no other reason than that I like it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

White Cliffs, Blue Seas and Gardening Clothes

Here are some of my favourite things - - blue sea and blue sky (well, nearly). This is at the entrance to Dover harbour with - guess what? - the White Cliffs in the background.

I love the bright colours and am not looking forwards to the approaching greyness of winter. All that white snow last winter was difficult to deal with but it was at least very pretty to look at. It's the grey I don't like.

I keep meeting people who say "Autumn's my favourite season". And yes, it does look beautiful - - but I can't get out of my head that when you have a lovely October then it's very likely to be followed by a lot of winter chill and greyness.

My mother doesn't pay a lot of attention to what month it is - - she just goes out in the garden, whatever the weather.

And yesterday, October 4, it was sunny so she did the obvious thing - to her - which was to do the gardening wearing only a swimsuit.

"Mum, it's October."

"Yes, but the sun's warm."

Photographic evidence exists but I don't think it would be right to put it on my blog. It might shock people.

"Mum, I bet you're the only eighty-six-year-old in the United Kingdom who went swimming this morning and is now doing the gardening in a different swimsuit."

"Nothing wrong with it, though, is there?"

No, no there isn't, Mum. I hope she's still able to do it when she's ninety.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

One Pound Seventy Pence

The swimming pool was remarkably empty this morning. It's been that way all week. Apparently the limit for numbers - so says a notice - is a hundred and four.

If there were a hundred and four people in the pool it would be simply unbearable. This morning, there were about a dozen.

Great for me, of course - in my lane there was me, and a girl in her twenties who swims faster than I do in spite of swimming with the most terrible stroke I've ever seen. Every time I see her I want to ask her why on earth she doesn't have some lessons and become a really good swimmer. But I digress - - -

So I'm in the middle lane - - in the fast lane was my friend Jo and about three others. Everyone else - including my mother - was in the slow lane.

So that's about a dozen people in one of only a handful of municipal swimming pools in a city of six hundred thousand people. It's not very many, it it?

I know it was half past eight on a rainy Sunday morning - - but even so. There used to be more.

So what's happened to them?

They have started charging people over sixty to swim, that's what's happened. It used to be free if you had a Leeds Card.

It's only one pound seventy a time - - but a lot of these older people used to come every day, and now they come a lot less frequently, if at all. They simply can't afford it.

Now I know we live in times of austerity, and this would seem an easy way of generating a bit of money for the Council.

It's a shame, because like my mother, the pool is a place to socialise as well as to swim for a lot of people. And swimming keeps them fit. I think the lack of swimming will cause a greater cost to the National Health Service a few years down the line. I think it's a really short-termist approach.

But, of course, that money will come from a different budget, and nobody will ever discover what difference the swimming, or lack of it, has made to these people's health. I think it's a real shame.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

New Scientific Discovery Made in the Lounge

Last night we had our Friday Film Night and I very much enjoyed Ocean's Eleven, which I hadn't seen before, of course.

But all the while I was aware that over in the far corner of the room, a hideous stench was lurking and growing stronger by the moment. It smelled as though - how can I put this delicately? - no, sorry, I can't - someone had eaten a large curry, drunk several pints of beer and then thrown up.

I discovered the Vile Smell at lunchtime and wondered what on Earth could have caused it. I looked in all corners in case one of the cats had been sick but no sign. I opened the window for a while and hoped it would go away, but it didn't, and yet it seemed localised to the far side of the room.

It's quite a large room, Victorian, high ceiling. My parents always called it - in a 1960s way - "the lounge" and that name has stuck. So has the 1960s light fitting beneath the Victorian plaster decorations in the middle, I notice - there's a lot of that kind of thing going on in this house.

Anyway - - -

Silverback suggested later on, having bravely endured it for a while, that it could be Parmesan. Could cheese-lovers Gareth and Olli have spilled some? I thought this was entirely possible. To those with any decent sense of smell, Parmesan smells like vomit (sorry if you're reading this whilst eating your spaghetti bolognese with Parmesan on top but really, have you never noticed?)

I closed the door on it last night and went to bed, to see if it faded during the night. It didn't. Worse than ever.

So in I went, courageously armed with air fresheners, cloth and shiny new orange bucket (£1.28 from B and Q, I love this bucket).

So I sniffed around all the floor. Nope. Pulled the sofa out. Nope. (And behind the sofa was immaculate, I can tell you, there weren't any spiders and bits of fluff and magazines dated April 2007, okay?)

So then I stood up, and sniffed the air a bit higher up - - - and then I got it - - full blast! Ahhhhhh FOUND IT!

About a week ago, my lovely fig tree blew over in a gale. I was very fond of it, partly because its growth was a bit of a miracle - it grew there because I threw a bit of overripe fig out of the window. But I suppose fig trees' roots aren't made to withstand Yorkshire gales, and I woke one day last week to find it lying on the ground.

Gareth kindly chopped it up for me. Olli, like me, hated the thought of the fig tree's demise and so took a branch and put it in water in the lounge in the hope that it would live. It didn't, sadly - all the leaves died - but they were dying anyway because it's autumn. Olli and I hoped that the branch might live through the winter and send shoots out in the spring.

But it didn't. It rotted. And here's something you didn't know. (If you tell me you did know, I don't believe you, so there).


Now then. You may like my blog, or you may not. But don't ever tell me it isn't educational.