Do You Know Me In Real Life? Do you Want to Read a Novel?

If you know me in real life and I haven’t yet asked if you want to read my novel – do you want to read my novel? It’s the one I’ve been going on about for the last year or so; it’s called ‘Tapestry’ and is based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. These numbers are present in nature and particularly in spirals, which have fascinated me for decades. ‘Tapestry’ is a picture of Britain from post-war to post-Brexit and involves a spread of characters from the royal family to the homeless and including some ghosts. You can read as much or as little as you like, though it would be good if some people could read the later chapters. If you’re interested drop me a comment below. Lots of people have already read and liked it.

Sorry but for various reasons this offer is limited at the moment to people I know in what we are pleased to call real life.

Kirk out

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White Goods Frenzy

The appliances in this house leave much to be desired; they are small, old and energy-inefficient. There are also four of them when there could be two. But lo! help is at hand, for in a white-goods frenzy we have now purchased a second-hand fridge-freezer, energy rating A+ (actually silver but what the heck) and – da-da-dah! – a new (brand new) washer-dryer. This has an energy rating of A+++ which is excellent, in fact I think it’s the top rating for most appliances. So that’s all good. The cold silver thing is arriving this morning and the fridge and separate freezer are being freecycled this afternoon. The washer-dryer will arrive in a week, though sadly the appliances it replaces cannot be donated as they are defunct. They will be placed strategically out the front and magically whipped away overnight by the van-that-comes-round-and-takes-scrap-metal. If that doesn’t work there’s always the council.

So that’s all good. On the minus side there are substantial building works taking place next door (about which I’m trying to be chilled) necessitating dropping a few scaffolding rods over our side of the wall – a bit like being bestrid by a mighty metal colossus. They were very polite; they put a note through the letterbox to ask if we’d mind and we had a friendly discussion about it this morning, all of which made me think about the startling difference in attitude when you are a homeowner rather than a tenant. When we rented we had a succession of scrappy and uncaring builders who broke our sculptures, splashed paint all over our plants and in one appalling case, saw fit to replace glass windows with plastic. I don’t know what he was thinking and the landlord was not at all amused.

No more baby pictures yet. I’m going up on Thursday with Great-Grandma.

Kirk out

Poo by Post

Warning: not for the squeamish

When you get to a certain age in the UK you get a little package through the post. This helpful little parcel contains all you need to take a sample of poo and send it to the nice people at the lab so they can see if you have (or might have) bowel cancer. It’s a good idea because it eliminates the need for hospital or doctor appointments and means you can take the sample in the comfort of your own home.

All the instructions now refer to ‘poo’; this seems to be the standard vocab nowadays, either because they think no-one understands faeces or because they can’t spell it (I know there’s an a in there somewhere…) It’s a sensible change, although it does make the whole thing sound like toilet instructions to a toddler (just go and do a poo now, there’s a good girl.)

So basically what you have to do is trap the poo in some toilet paper and then extract a stick from the sample bottle by unscrewing the cap and sliding the stick along the turd. You basically need about three hands for this so it’s useful to have a non-squeamish partner around to hold the bottle (I think getting them to hold the poo would put a strain on any relationship). Then you cork the whole thing up, stick it in the pre-paid envelope and bung it in the post and Bob’s your uncle. Poo by post!

I’m trying not to think of what will happen to these wonderful free services after Brexit. I’m really starting to think we’ll end up moving to Scotland…

Kirk out

We Have a Granddaughter!!!

In the early early hours of yesterday morning (at 1.02 am to be precise) a tiny new being slipped into the world. Maisie Gray Haughey, 6 lb 10 oz or 3 kg exactly, was born on August 11th at Doncaster Royal Infirmary in the presence of father Tom, Gran (moi) midwife and of course mother Holly. She cried only a very little and was put to the breast but didn’t seem to want much so spent her first half-hour or so ‘skin-to-skin’ with her mother while other things happened such as delivery of the placenta, cutting the cord and stitching a tiny but complicated tear. The staff couldn’t have been better and labour was hard but active and entirely without intervention – only the TENS machine and later some gas and air.

Maisie Gray Haughey, born August 11 6lb 10oz

Kirk out

Waiting for Chip (off the old block)

When I was young, oh so much younger than I feel now (and it’s about to get worse) there was a Chinese chippy round the corner where we always went after a beer or two. It was a good chippy but no matter what hour of the night we went in they were always ‘waiting for chip’, so that’s what we ended up calling the place. ‘Going to waiting for chip’ we’d tell each other in between trips to Greenham Common and anti-nuclear demos. It was that era and we spent almost as much time waiting for chip as we did sitting round the fence at Greenham.

But now I’m waiting for a different variety of chip; a chip off the old block, you might say – though he or she may turn out to be nothing of the sort. The due date for our grandchild came and went on Sunday and although we were almost certain nothing would happen (the due date being the one day on which a child almost never comes) I couldn’t help checking my phone every five minutes to see if labour had begun.

I’m calmer now. I’ve reached a stage of relative serenity where I know the child will come when she’s ready. But will I be ready? The thing about your first grandchild is that it catapults you into a different stage of life, the third age, a post-menopausal wonderland (or bewilderland) where you are now officially the older generation. Soon a little sproglet will be calling you Gran and climbing on your knee to be told a story. Already all the nursery rhymes are coming back from my youth and demanding to be heard again; already I am thinking of games to play and stories to tell.

I’ll leave you with this thought from the film Calendar Girls:

‘The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth is more beautiful than the last. But the last phase is always the most glorious’ (I forget the next bit…) I can’t find the clip but here‘s another scene to jog your memory.

I’ll let you know when there’s news…

Kirk out

David Who?

A couple of nights ago I went to a memorial event for a man who’d recently died. David Paterson was 86 and to be honest I was astounded to hear that, as although he got around on a scooter, he had the brains and activity levels of a sixty-year-old. David was involved in just about everything; an atheist priest who had his church turned into a community centre; a fearless advocate of the poor and dispossessed, an occasionally bull-headed and sometimes annoying person who was as much a feature of Loughborough as the Sock Man or the Carillon.

I first met David at Friday Room, a progressive discussion group which included lefties, centrists and Greens and which once hosted a One-Nation Tory. But David was everywhere; he attended services at All Saints and Quaker Meetings, he ran the Peace Group and sat on the Council of Faiths. His funeral was a brilliant service which included readings from the Koran and the Gita as well as ‘The Amber Spyglass’ – and a cardboard coffin! – but the memorial was as remarkable in its way as it included some astonishing anecdotes about his life.

My favourite was the story of his ancient car which, in the 70’s, was loaned out to all and sundry. It was a total heap with one missing window and when the ignition fell out it had to be started with a toothbrush. (David had a very cavalier approach to possessions and always left his flat unlocked so people could go in and pick up campaign materials.) Then there was the time he took a group of people to Gujarat in India and managed to blag his way into the Gujarati political assembly. They were expecting another Englishman and thought he was that man, so he was waved through and when he found himself face to face with the Governor, he said straight away, ‘Why is your government so corrupt?’ The interview was terminated abruptly.

In between these stories we had music and poetry, the music provided by Steve on guitar, and Jan and Joss on violin and recorder respectively. I provided the poems, which were chosen to reflect David’s preoccupations: ‘Spike’ about homelessness, ‘Poet Tree’ about the Peace Group’s Wishing Tree and ‘Song of David’, which I’d written specially for the occasion and which I reproduce below.

Song of David

for David Paterson’s Memorial, 31st July 2019

I can’t believe you’re gone

when once a week or so

I’d glimpse you in the throng

a pause, a brief hello

your trademark woolly hat

scooting across the flat

your peace work marathon:

It seemed a sudden parting

one moment here, then gone

a fall, infection starting

but you’ll keep on keeping on

we’re sure it can’t be long

before you’re back on song

the breaking news: you’re gone

hard to reflect upon

We met at Friday Room

and all around the town

criss-crossing in a zoom

a person of renown

a Marmite man for some,

but we take you as you come

your opinions never dithering

more differed from than differing

At church we sit in mourning

a multi-faith acrostic

from atheist to Mormon

from Muslim to agnostic

a wake with no omissions

readings from all traditions

from Christian ash to Lyra’s Dust

we roll you home because we must.

Let’s pause here for a second

and just for fun, imagine

that as the heavens beckoned

more of your plans were hatching

for organising stalls

and discussions in the halls

debating with the deity

and stirring up the laity

Now gather up our song

and make one final chorus

sing it loud and long

so no-one can ignore us

and raise our voices high

in gathered eulogy

to a man for every season

who united faith with reason;

and as you face the curtain

we’re all completely certain

as you pass through that doorway

whatever others thought – you did it your way.

(c) Liz Gray, 2019

Go to the Gym? Moi?

Some while ago it was suggested to me that I might take advantage of a GP referral scheme and get myself referred to a local gym. This seemed a good idea as not only am I lacking in cardio-vascular exercise, I could also accompany Son to his gym. Pausing only to procrastinate and forget for a few weeks, I eventually found out more. You have to have one of a list of lifelong health conditions (hypo-thyroidism didn’t qualify but asthma did) and then go for a nurse’s appointment and fill in a form. All went smoothly and I was referred onto a six-month scheme at the local gym.

It was with slight trepidation that I walked in since my previous experiences of gyms have involved impossibly thin lycra-clad women running at twenty miles an hour on the machines and huge macho men literally throwing weights around. But this could not have been more different. The man giving my induction was soft-spoken and camp and the place was full of friendly and non-threatening older people. I did my first proper session yesterday and it felt great; not too strenuous at all (if you’re interested my session involves ten minutes on the running machine – I’m at a brisk walk at the moment – followed by a sequence of lifting, pulling, stretching and pushing on machines designed to work different muscle groups. After this it’s ten minutes on the exercise bike and then I’m done, apart from the cooling-down stretches.) I thought I might feel stiff today but I was fine. That’s yoga for you…

I’m going to go twice a week. It’s brilliant. Then when I get really thin and macho I can go to the gym with Son.

Kirk out