Saturday, 29 May 2010

Just an old guy - my hero

My brother in law has never telephoned me in the forty or more years I have known him. He has become increasingly deaf and I am by no means the easiest person to understand and hardly move my lips, I think this might go back to school when I was an inveterate subversive and disrupted classes from the back. My voice is not great either so we communicate by email regularly up to twice a week. About Palestine among other things, I send him the Jewish Voice for Peace he sends me stuff from the Indie and tells me I should stop reading the Guardian. We sometimes disagree quite violently and furious emails zing back and forth. When my old man was alive he would also send clippings to us both, a lot of obits from East London papers, another comrade had bit the dust, when you are 92 I guess it is expected. I send him obits from the Guardian of any old comrades.
I admire him immensely he paints, makes pots, still campaigns as much as his dodgy pins will allow and is as engaged in 'the struggle' as he ever was when he was a young pioneer and fought Moseley in Cable street. An admirable old warrior.
The other morning I lifted the phone and heard his angry voice yelling. 'You are my first hope and my last! They've got me here against my will and they won't let me go home. You know about human rights and they are abusing mine so get me out of here! You help immigrants now help me!' all at top volume and though I yelled back 'WHERE ARE YOU BARNEY?' many times he couldn't hear me. 'I've got to go I'm running out of money on this phone.' The phone went dead and I was left in bits,
I was on the landline to a good mate at the time and she had heard my yelling half of the conversation and she halted any temptation for me to indulge in full scale panic. She suggested I try his local hospital first before I sent for the cavalry.
He was there and I talked to a nurse who told me he was very angry but as he had nobody to look after him he couldn't go home. In fact he had demanded his clothes and sat on his bed all day and night demanding release I rang the only other relation I knew and he said he would visit. I can't drive much because of my shoulder (the young have no conception of the aggravation of us oldies with bits falling off and only a bus pass as compensation !)
I met, on the phone a new - to me- niece who seems to have an admiration  for him equal to my own and tells me that he sends her kids cuttings of a political nature and she was visiting him too. I finally went with my partner by train on a Sunday. He received her well and yelled a greeting over the ward. She was delighted to meet him as I have been bigging him up for all the time I have known her, she wasn't disappointed.
His son returned from holiday and rescued him and Barney sent me an email pronto so we are back in touch and I will visit him at home soon. But I think that being stroppy is an excellent policy in hospital, it gets you noticed if not loved and your swift ejection is guaranteed!
I used the same technique when I had a stroke though in a less dramatic way and when I left a few nurses congratulated me on my independent stance. True I got out extremely quickly with many glares from sister but I feel it is a mistake to succumb to the system.
So well done Barney! I'm proud of you.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

All that Jazz Sunday 17th

All That Jazz
This morning at eight on the Point the sun was splitting the trees and London looked great with The Eye close, I swear it moves. and over the river Canary Wharf lurked impressive as ever. The Dome shone white and weird and everything was bright.
Ten minutes later, after I had picked up 40 discarded cans the clouds had arrived to take the gloss off the day. My dog was happily imbibing fox from every third blade of grass, so I set to on the cans.
It began with one can then a blue plastic bag and I got compulsive and found myself stuffing cans into the nearby waste bins and going back for more. I reckon the foxes anoint every  single can individually and my hands still stink of fox days later. Some of the cans were half full and I found one full bottle of Heineken. I pondered on the choice of beer, I feel that if you are going to carry your beer up a hill then it would be sensible to get high velocity stuff, but what do I know? I don't make a habit of clearing up after other people's parties.
Last night as we yomped up the hill from Greenwich we had smelled and seen the fire and heard the cavorting young. I occasionally get cranky about the young having a ball, it seems like a duty when you reach a certain age. But I have clear memories of bellowing out 'The happy wanderer ' a truly terrible song at 3am on the way home. when I was young and of people screeching at me from their bedroom windows so I feel I have no room to talk.
We had been to a café that features jazz on Saturday evenings. Less than twenty people fit in to the tiny café and it is a nice civilised way to spend an evening, chew to the music… However, a man at another table talked relentlessly to a couple of women he had just met. He mainly talked about America and clearly amused them because they did fair imitations of hyenas while they drank in his words. They also drank a fair bit of wine and their voices got louder. I glared at them but they were not impressed. A guy on another table also glared and one of the saxophone players remarked musically a great hoot that stopped them for a moment or two. But then the chatterbox was back to telling them about his jet. 
We were four and we all sighed and grimaced, me in part because the women were supplying an admiring audience for a boring old toad. My male friend felt it was bad manners to talk through somebody's efforts at self expression and to distract from the music. I am not sure how much it did distract me, I turned around in my chair and listened intently - more than if they hadn't been there.  I asked the governor - also a fair saxophonist , if people habitually rabbited all the way through the music and he hoped it hadn't wrecked my enjoyment and that next time I have his permission to punch then on the nose. But I don't suppose he was serious.
Now I am not sure if the aggro didn't improve the evening, it certainly made it memorable.
My hands still have a whiff of fox. I am growing fond of it.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

I remember as a child that there were quite strict rules about hair partings. Left side for boys and right for girls. Of course there was always the centre parting - and plaits - there were rather a lot of plaits when I was a child, and none of them on boys. I remember tugging plaits in a mindless way - because they were there I suppose. I had a bow. Several bows, in fact an endless supply of bows that were attached to the top of my head in a mortifying manner. Some small girls liked their bows and wore them with pride. I loathed mine and it responded limply and it disappeared into my satchel swiftly as soon as I was out of sight of the house on the way to school. My beret met the same fate and my black hat that was worn in winter was transformed into a pork pie hat  like a bluesman from New Orleans which happily wrecked the original shape of the thing.
Now I see an engaging lack of conformity in headgear, who had ever heard of fascinators? Not me until I hit Waterloo station during Ascot week one year and spotted women trotting about with absurd things on their nuts. They seem and look quite agreeable once you get used to the idea that they have no practical  function whatsoever and that they are purely for adornment, idiotic but fun.

Hair too takes on totally new dimensions I go to the local chemist shop and this week I had to wait rather a long time for the medication that I gull every day in my bid for immortality. This shop is centre of the universe in my area for extensions and wigs and they do a bustling trade. I watched as women of all races came and matched their extensions to their natural hair. I peered over shoulders to see how exactly they attach them and it seems like a complex affair of clips. The wigs are wonderful in deep red or with hints of auburn or just plain black and a variety of blondes quite staggering in variety. I am thinking of splitting my prescription so I can hang out longer and more often at this hair emporium. Unfortunately there is a private room for the trying on of wigs but the women emerge to parade their new manifestations of self and it is all dramatic stuff.
My doctor's receptionist has a variety of amazing wigs which mystified me until I realised they had nothing at all to do with her except possession. And she has been accepting my compliments on her hair graciously for years. I was miffed at first but I suppose it proves her excellent taste. And what a liberation! I remember being subjected to the Toni perm, tongs, rollers and hairnets in turn in my bids for beauty.
I think I may buy a fascinator one day - for my friend.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


We decided to further immortalise the Brewing Art Group this weekend with photographs of the original venue, or at least of the pub sign. This involved us in a very pleasant visit to Covent Garden on a cold sunny spring bank holiday. I had forgotten how beguiling the area is, with its extraordinary shops - extraordinary products and even more extraordinary prices.  Vivienne Westwood boots that I found hideous, at 400 quid, lovely brogues  at 350 that I desired, unexpectedly (I am a Marks&Sparks shoe person myself) but it's fun to look.
The pub itself is excellent with a few interesting conversations to ear wig on, good  real ale  and brilliant staff who actually ask you if you want another drink and keep a tab in the German way. Also elegant in a nice old fashioned way with engraved windows and all the accoutrements of a real old pub  - minus the smoke, unfortunately, but you can't have everything!

Another highlight was the delicious truly elegant - I hesitate to call it a sex shop and can't remember how it described itself. An emporium of erotica perhaps. None of the foul ugly rubber dildoes that seem to have a hideous colour all of their own that grace Ann Summers, here exquisite creations  of glass rested in velvet and looked elegant in the extreme. I am sure they could double as an ornament but I feel the texture would be a little unrelenting, chilly too and the thought of breakage is appalling but I am sure there must be safety provisions  Other accoutrements that I couldn't identify for sure were presented beautifully and books too, the staff were gracious charming and posh.  I shall return, there must be something.....
I know the Shakespeares head is a far better location for our meetimgs but a pilgramage to the Two Brewers might be in order some time. For old times sake?