Getting old – more proof!

Specs

When I was a kid I was supposed to wear glasses because I had astigmatism in my right eye. The pair of glasses I was given made everything appear to be on a slope and gave me terrible headaches so I almost never wore them.

Seventy odd years later I am once again wearing glasses to correct the astigmatism. For the past sixty years or so I have been able to see distance really well, read bus numbers from afar, and spot the child in the back of the class who was fooling about and disturbing his neighbours using just my two eyes.

When I was in my forties I started wearing ‘reading’ glasses for close-up work and have found it necessary to upgrade the strength every so often. I bought those specs from drug stores, supermarkets and on-line and they never cost more than a couple of pounds or so – although one time, in West Malling, I misplaced my glasses and couldn’t find them anywhere, eventually having to go into the optician’s down the road and buy a really weird pair that had longish and very narrow lenses for an exorbitant amount (£17, I think). I rarely used those and finally found the lost pair several years later on a shelf in the wardrobe (closet) when we were getting ready to move away from West Malling.

Early pairs of specs

About two months ago I received a letter from my optician saying it was time for my yearly (free, because of my age and because NHS) eye check-up. I had noticed since my last check-up that my sight wasn’t as clear and crisp as it had been – I sometimes see a second image of something slightly above the first; for example if I look at a light, there is a second image of that light directly above and overlapping the first. And, in some lights I was finding it difficult to read individual numbers or letters if they were particularly small. So, I was pleased to receive my letter and duly went to the optician a few days later.

Before I was seen by the registered optician, a young woman took me into a little room and blew air into my eyes, taking photos at the same moment (I think). Then the optician, a very nice young woman, looked into my eyes, read notes on my previous eye tests, played around with letters and little lollipop-looking lenses-on-sticks, then gave me the bad news….I would have to wear glasses to drive and, worst of all, I seem to have a small cataract in each eye. She said I must wear sunglasses (which I hate doing) to protect my eyes when in the sun.

Afterwards, I left the consulting room and went into the body of the shop where I was shown a range of frames. It took me ages to choose from the quite huge selection. I have been buying reading glasses with colourful frames and not even the most expensive choices were particularly colourful.

My most recent off-the-shelf glasses

Then, I sat down with a young fellow whose job it was to find out what I wanted in a pair of spectacles – varifocals, bifocals, or two separate pairs; tinted lenses, colour-changing lenses or two pairs – one of clear glass and one of tinted; and, would I like an anti-glare coating?

All that proceeded, slowly but surely, and I ended up paying out enough to buy myself several hundreds of pairs of cheap reading glasses! I was sent home with a promise that the glasses would be ready within the next fortnight – and, right on cue, they were!

What I bought

I’ve spent the past weeks getting used to wearing glasses most of the time. I have found it really difficult to wear them outside as sunglasses but have, mostly, persevered. I have always felt ‘removed’ from the surrounding area when wearing sunglasses – I really don’t know why or when it started because I seem to remember wearing them as a youngster.

The trouble is, my sight seems to be getting worse! Especially in the evening I find it difficult to, say, watch tv then refocus on written words. But, last night I discovered something about my sight that really disturbed me.

I was sitting in the darkened conservatory, looking out through the roof towards the sky. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a star so switched my gaze to look at it straight on – and found it wasn’t there! I could only see it if I wasn’t actually looking towards it….I think I’ve found out where the cataracts on my eyes are – right in the centre of my vision. I went on experimenting with that star and another couple but it was always the same. I guess, technically, I’m blind in the centre of each eye although I can actually see things bigger than a pin-prick of light when I look at them directly.

It’s a scary thought, though and I really don’t like it! I am always saying that getting old is s*it but the alternative is worse, but now….well, I’m not so sure. I think I can see why nature doesn’t keep us alive for longer. Until we understand the ageing process a lot better, scientists really shouldn’t be working towards helping people to live into their hundreds!

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The really strange coincidence.

Julian and I decided to have a conservatory built on the back of the house, recently. We contacted four conservatory builders – a couple of nation-wide manufacturers, another which builds reasonably locally but Kent-wide and a local one to Thanet which had been recommended by a friend.

The designs and what they provided were similar but the highest and lowest prices differed by over £20,000! The two middle prices were a little above the bottom price and way less than the top price.

In the end we went with the least expensive because that company is local, they could start soonest, we like the one they did for my friend and it saved us quite a lot of money!

Yesterday morning the phone rang early. It was Dave S****d from our builder telling me that he would be coming round later with his ‘groundsman’ who will be doing some demolition, breaking up concrete and digging trenches, then building the ‘footings’ and the little brick walls that the frame will be sitting on. He said they would be starting next Tuesday, after the Bank Holiday. I said, “Oh, that’s great!” and, “See you later.”

Several hours later the door-bell rang. Julian, knowing what I had been told earlier, invited the young man in and took him out to the back. The young man then mentioned a ‘Victorian lean-to greenhouse’ which Julian corrected. I joined them outside and chatted with the young man who seemed a little puzzled. He said he’d have to show his dad the plot and that his dad only lives around the corner so they’d be back soon.

Back they came an hour or so later and we stood chatting about the conservatory. Julian said something about not understanding what it was they were actually doing here and I piped up saying they were here because Dave S****d had sent them at which point the older man said, “No, you rang me earlier to come about a lean-to greenhouse. We don’t work for Dave S****d, never have!”

To tell you the truth, I felt I had entered an alternative universe and stared at the two men. Eventually, I told them that I hadn’t rung them and asked if they were certain that they were at the right address, no. 21 S——d Rd. Yes, that was the right address. Then they told us our phone number – only it wasn’t our phone number!

The two groundsmen went off to find out what the correct address was and I sat in stupefied silence going over and over the whole thing in my head.

At 4:30 Dave S****d and his groundsman arrived. They, too, found the whole incident very strange.

I wonder whether the two men who came to our house got the job.

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Strange Doggy Habits

Why does Lola always follow me into the loo? Do all chihuahua-cross dogs do that?

Lola, our chihuahua-cross (not visiting me in the loo!)

It’s nine months now since Lola came home with us from The Dogs’ Trust rescue centre near Canterbury. From that first day Lola has followed me into whichever loo I visit for a sit-down. Typically, I open the door to, say, the downstairs loo and – from wherever she is in the house, Lola will join me within moments. At first I thought it was amusing, now I just wonder WHY? Was she some sort of helper-dog for someone who might faint when peeing? Often, she walks in, looks at me and walks out as if to say, “Okay, I see that you’re alright.” Once in a while she comes and puts a paw on my knee for a head cuddle (for her, not me), and, if I’ve finished and tear some toilet paper off the roll, she leaves me to it. I have only managed to sneak in a quick pee without her presence if she is outside in the garden or sometimes, in the middle of the night. When I want to be alone, I close the door and lock it!

My naked foot and Lola

Another of her strange habits is waiting for my naked foot to arrive out of the trouser leg when I’m getting dressed in the morning, at which point she sits near to said foot and stretches out her neck for a foot-cuddle! I didn’t teach her that but someone must have. She also enjoys a rub with my shoe-horn or her rubber-spiked ball.

Lola waiting for cats or dogs

Lola spends many minutes in the morning sitting on the back of the armchair in the front window. She watches all the children with their mums or dads walking to school but, what she is really looking for, is either next-door’s cat or any dog on a lead. For either sighting she barks quite noisily but it’s usually easy to tell whether she has seen a dog or the cat. If it’s a dog, she barks but soon stops when it is out of sight; if it’s the cat, though, she barks and her whole body moves, her hackles rise and she doesn’t stop – mainly because the cat really enjoys upsetting her and will sit on the pavement within Lola’s sight or even come into the front garden and walk along the window-sill or lie in the front garden and bask in the sun’s warming rays.

This is Burlap, not next door’s cat.

(Burlap was our cat before we left America in 1958. We had to leave him with a friend. I don’t have a picture of next-door’s cat so I thought I’d give Burlap’s photo an outing).

Despite her strange little ways, Lola is a great little dog who worms her way further into my heart every day.

Here is a sneaky photo, taken just now, of her enjoying the sun’s rays through the window.

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OLD FRIENDS – PART TWO

It’s 1961, the autumn, and instead of going back to Central High School at Bushy Park for my senior year, Judy, Jennie and I went off to Hammersmith to attend Mrs. Hugh-Jones Tutorial Establishment.

We had decided to stay in London for the foreseeable future and that meant doing O and A levels and going to an English university. Mrs. Hugh-Jones ‘school’ was a place where we could try to ‘catch up’ enough to attempt O levels. (These were exams taken at the age of 16 after about five years of secondary education – now called GCSE’s). Unsurprisingly, my education wasn’t up to the standard of O levels so I concentrated on English and French, with a bit of History and Geography thrown in but no maths or science.

At that establishment I met my first English best friend, Shaun. She and I were opposites in many respects – she was tall, I was short; she was bosomy, I was flat-chested; she was loud and out-going where I was quiet and rather introverted; we made perfect friends! Judy wasn’t too keen on Shaun to begin with. One day as we walked to the bus-stop, I introduced Judy to Shaun as ‘my sister’. Shaun asked, “What’s your name?” and Judy replied in a loud and gruff voice, “Fred.”

Shaun and I went through many troubled times together, then there were some periods of time where we lost touch, then we’d pick up where we left off, only to lose touch after some months or years when my life took me in one direction and Shaun’s took her in another. (For a description of Mrs. Hugh-Jones Tutorial Establishment and a little more about Shaun, see my blog post, Where Does SHE Come From (part 4))

Apart from Shaun, I had few girl friends until 1964 when I was pregnant so I’ll tell you about some of the ‘boys’ who were my friends.

Judy and I met brothers, Nigel and Paul when I was around seventeen. Nigel was slightly younger than I was but that didn’t put me off. Paul was older by a couple of years and both Judy and Jennie quite fancied him but they were far too young for him. We all went round as a group which also included Shaun and a young American boy called Happy. As often happens, I lost contact with Shaun, Nigel, Paul and Happy but am pleased to say that through such sites as Friends Reunited and Facebook, i was able to find these long lost friends. Of the four of them, two have died and one, Happy, lives in America. Nigel and I email each other once or twice a year and have met up occasionally.

[When it was Nigel’s 70th birthday, he had a party and invited all his old friends. Jennie and I made the trek across London and, coming out of the train station, met Happy and his wife, Becky who had made a much longer trek, all the way from Virginia! There were many people there I didn’t know and only a few whom I knew. Paul was missing, having died some years earlier, but his daughter was there and it was lovely to talk to her.]

After I left Mrs Hugh-Jones establishment, I went to an A level college. By that time I had met a young man who lived in the same block of flats, called Roger. We spent lots of time together and fell in love. We got engaged and were happy – but his mum wasn’t too keen. She must have cheered when I broke off my engagement some months later after I met a young man called Tim and fell head-over-heels for him.

Tim was intelligent and witty and reasonable looking. He and I went out for some months and when we couldn’t see each other, we wrote to each other. He lived with his mum, dad and brother in a small village in Kent called Wateringbury. (Years later, and not connected in any way with Tim, Julian and I went to the house that Tim had lived in to chat to the owner about furniture restoration.)

Tim and I went to Bath for a three or four day holiday. We both went to the same hotel but signed in at different times and had separate rooms – in those days it would have been totally frowned upon for a young unmarried couple to spend the night together! One or other of us would wait for an hour or two after ‘going to bed’, then sneak to the other’s room. Despite all the late-night sneaking about, we really enjoyed our holiday.

Tim’s mum had a lovely garden in which she grew the most beautiful sweet-peas. She would always give me armfuls of flowers to take home when I had visited from London.

After about a year, Tim broke up with me, having been lured away by a more glamorous woman and it broke my heart. It took me a fair while to get over that break-up but, eventually, I recovered.

During the summer after the break-up I went out with my friend, Chris whom I had met at college. We would meet in Sloane Square, near to the hotel he was working in, and go to “World’s End” at the far end of the King’s Road in Chelsea. There we had found a club we could go into for very little, or maybe nothing, and we could dance. (Surprisingly, in the London of 1961 it was almost impossible to find a place to dance to recorded music if you didn’t have deep pockets!)

End of Part Two!

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SORRY ABOUT THE LONG LULL

There has been a bereavement in the family and we have been very busy, first tending to the ill person then trying (sometimes not very well) to sort through the forty-plus years of accumulation that is in a house which must be sold for probate.

I hope I’ll be back, some time after the funeral next week, of a dearly-loved member of the family.

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OLD FRIENDS

Judy, centre, with two of the neighbourhood kids.

Lots of you readers will have friends that you’ve known all your life. If you are still in the same country you were born in, if you live in the same area, if you went to the same primary school for six or so years, the same secondary for five or six years and, maybe the same college for three or more years, you probably have old friends.

As you may have read in my earlier posts, we moved around a lot when we were growing up. I think I went to somewhere between six and ten schools from the age of four to seventeen then to an A-level college for two years. We moved from Zanesville to Cincinnati, then went on our ‘divorce trip’ out west, back to Zanesville, then to Columbus, back to Cincinnati and then to London by the time I was fifteen. All that moving meant that I lost contact with almost every childhood friend.

When we were whisked to London we hadn’t any time to say farewell to the friends we had at school in the year or so before leaving. I did keep in touch with one or two but eventually even those fell by the wayside and most had no idea what happened to us. One of the people I kept in contact with was called Bob. He and I might have become girlfriend and boyfriend if I hadn’t left but we exchanged the occasional letter for four or five years. He joined the Marines in the early sixties and was learning to speak Vietnamese. I have always assumed that he must have been one of the many casualties in that disastrous war.

Occasionally I looked at Friends Reunited (when it existed) and have looked at alumnus sites of the various schools I attended, as well as Facebook. I was surprised and delighted when I found my best friend in the eighth grade, Sylvia, but when I wrote to her, her reply made it clear that she wasn’t interested in renewing our acquaintance – which is a pity, but understandable.

I often wonder what happened to the boys and girls I remember from my days at school in America, some of whom are pictured in anonymous photos I took and forgot to write names on. I have several photos of neighbourhood friends whom I remember very well from my life in America. In one I appear with my sister, Judy, and Barry, Billy and Dave. We are all so young and smiling not knowing at all what would become of us. In this photo, which was probably taken in 1957, we are posed in my grandmother’s garden. I was about fourteen, Judy would have been thirteen and the boys about fifteen. I know that Judy has died at way too young an age but I don’t know what became of Billy or Dave.

Barry was the boy that I ‘went out’ with. In those days life was very innocent – or at least I was. ‘Going out’ with Barry meant being in a group of friends but holding hands with Barry; writing letters to Barry when I lived in Cincinnati and he was in Zanesville and kissing each other with closed mouths (which was very daring!). Several times Judy and I sneaked out of our grandmother’s house where we were staying, either late at night or early in the morning. If it was midnight or so, the group of us,plus a boy called Bert, Judy’s beau, would wander the streets, then find a place to sit and smoke cigarettes. If it was early morning we would be going on Barry’s ‘paper round’ with him. That was the only time in my life I have willingly got up early!

I did find out, via reading old Zanesville newspapers, that Barry subsequently married a school friend of mine called Lee. They divorced not many years later. (I have just found a site which tells me that Barry died on the 1st of November, 2013.)

Candy, Judy, Barry, Billy and Dave circa 1957

In London we went to the American schools at Bushy Park USAF base with boys and girls who had probably been to almost as many schools as Judy, Jennie and I – they were mostly the sons and daughters of air force and naval personnel as well as a few from diplomatic families. There is a monthly emailed magazine produced by people who attended Central High School and it is full of articles from others who attended. Occasionally I see a name I recognise but there are so many who are never mentioned – Dan and Mike Katz, whose father was a professor (?) and who came from East Lansing, Michigan; Dennis McGrath, whose family were sent by the Air Force to Turkey; Eddie Noce, who was a year older than I was and who, with a group of his friends, rode the same bus as we did and who kept us amused with funny stories; a boy and his sister whom I won’t name as he is some big Admiral in the Navy and wants nothing to do with his old school friends and so many others whose names I barely remember. I wonder how many of them went off to the war in the 60’s and how many came back.

End of Part One

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FOOD, GOOD AND BAD MEMORIES (thanks Alan and Val!)

When I was a youngster in America, we weren’t particularly well-off. I don’t remember much of the food my mother cooked for us though she must have had a range of items. She wasn’t a stay-at-home mum as she was studying to become an architect from about 1951 onwards but I do remember a few of the items, mainly those that I disliked!

Chipped beef. Does it still exist in the US? We possibly had it (on toast) several times a month. For those of you who are not in the know about chipped beef, it came as thin slivers of dried beef in a packet. Our mother would make a sauce, or buy one, perhaps, to which she would add the chipped beef pieces and heat the whole thing through. I ate it because I was hungry but it was never something I liked.

Vegetables were always tinned or frozen, never fresh, in our house, though I do remember as a small child going out in the car with my great-grandmother’s carer and cousin, Herminnie, for a drive into the country to a pea-farm’ on the odd Sunday afternoon and buying fresh peas in their pods. I don’t know if we were ever given any or whether we went home, ‘pea-less’.

Although peas, beans, spinach, corn etc were always frozen or tinned in my mother’s house, we did have fresh onions and potatoes. The onions would be used in things like a spaghetti sauce (a type of bolognaise sauce without the fancy name) and the potatoes would be boiled, baked or mashed – we never had chips (french fries) at home but looked upon them as a special treat for when we went to the local Big Boy drive in.

There were several vegetables that my mother would serve from tins and which I found disgusting – namely okra. I don’t know what it was about those little chunks of green though nowadays I still find it revolting because of the slime inside the fresh okra finger. We had beets, in those days, from a tin and warmed up. Nowadays, in the UK, I would never think of having hot beetroot on the dinner plate. I believe we also had asparagus from a tin and it wasn’t until about ten years ago that I discovered the delights of fresh asparagus!

Other tinned foods I wasn’t too keen on were spaghetti in tomato sauce and chicken noodle soup. I think that was because the pasta (an unknown word in 1950’s Cincinnati) was lying for days, weeks or months in a bath of either tomato sauce or chicken broth and so lost any ‘bite’. (I didn’t know the name or concept of ‘al dente’ but just knew soft noodles that could be ‘gummed’ rather than bitten, just weren’t right!)

Baked beans. I never had baked beans straight from the tin in America! Our mother always fried some onions and added the baked beans to the skillet (frying pan) with a spoonful of brown sugar and a bit of vinegar. Those, I liked! Today I can take or leave baked beans from the tin and certainly can’t be bothered to make the dish my mother made. (I doubt if Julian would like them as much as he likes baked beans, cold and straight from the tin!)

About three or four times a year we would go to my grandmother’s house for a week or so – and in the years before that, to my great grandmother’s). There we would be served wonderful exotic (to us) foods, like roast lamb, twice baked potatoes with cheese and even, once in a while, roast beef. Any left-over meat would be ground up and made into a sandwich spread with finely chopped onion and mayonnaise for the next day and spread thickly onto soft white bread.

At my great-grandmother’s house we often had Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner with all the family round her huge dining table. The turkey was always wonderful with plenty of stuffing and, as a side dish, always mashed sweet potatoes which had been cooked by putting it into the oven with a covering of white (never pink!) marshmallows. I know that Brits think this would be disgusting, but it wasn’t.

One more thing (I’ve got to cook dinner in a mo!). Chocolate fudge. Herminnie (see above) was a very large lady who quite obviously liked her food. Once in a while she would go into my great-grandmother’s huge kitchen and make a pan full of chocolate fudge. The bit I remember about those special times was when she would take a little spoonful of the molten mixture and drop it into a teacup of cold water. This would tell her whether it was ready to be poured out onto a buttered plate. I never understood the process until I was a grown-up, in those now long ago days when I made jam and more lately, when I, too, made chocolate fudge. Nowadays, if I were to feel it necessary for me to put on a few pounds (ha ha), I would make fudge and test its readiness using a sugar thermometer. I have a feeling that I haven’t actually made chocolate fudge since some time before we moved to Broadstairs but I might just make a plate full sometime soon! One thing to say about the fudge Herminnie, and I, made is that it’s not like English fudge. English fudge is soft and – dare I say – claggy (look it up, American readers); Herminnie and Candy fudge is (to me) indescribably better. It has a slightly hard surface underneath which is pure chocolate heaven!

My (rather nowadays unused) sugar thermometer

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HELP! What is lurking in my lawn?

At the beginning of November 2005 we brought Rosie home with us from The Dogs Trust. (See earlier post for more on Rosie). We used to go out into our enclosed back garden which had a big lawn and play with her, throwing balls for her to retrieve (she never liked that game) and just running and playing with her. Then it got a bit too cold to play in the garden (which is in the shade during the winter months) so we often took her to the beach, which she loved.

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Rosie – the first spring

The following spring we started playing in the garden again but it was quickly obvious that there was something wrong! Rosie no longer wanted to play on the lawn. She would go out to poo and wee but wouldn’t play. She loved running after her toys (not balls, though) in the house and I made it a point to have a game with her every day in the house as well as going to the beach. Rather unfortunately, the beach became a no-no if there were other dogs there as Rosie seemed to be very aggressive with them and eventually we had to give up taking her there.

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Summer 2015 – complete garden make-over

In 2015 we gave our garden a complete make-over with raised beds, a ‘wildflower meadow’, a seating area and a much smaller lawn. The lawn itself was returfed and for a short while it seemed that whatever the problem had been, it had gone! But, sadly, not for long. Within a few weeks Rosie again refused to ‘play’ in the garden.

Come forward now to June, 2018. Rosie has been gone since March, 2017 and Lola has come to try to mend our broken hearts. She is small and sweet and *loves* to play on the lawn. She runs and chases her toys, sometimes bringing them back and sometimes taking them to another part of the garden.

 

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2018 – a week or so ago with Lola’s toys all over the place

We were able to get good use of our garden but, SUDDENLY, a couple of weeks ago, that all stopped. I noticed that if I threw a ball for Lola she would chase it across the grass but come back atop the wall of a raised bed or via the seating area.Now she *might* go onto the grass for a moment or two but rush back to the raised verandah next to the house.

When we had Rosie I spent a load of time researching what could be the cause of her dislike of the lawn. There don’t seem to be chiggers here like there were in Ohio, though she did sometimes have raised itchy spots on her tummy. One vet thought she must be allergic to something in the garden but we couldn’t figure out what it could be. Now, it seems very unlikely that Lola, a totally different type of dog, would have the same allergy as Rosie but what else could it be?

NB: When we are out with Lola, and when we took Rosie out, both would walk on other grass quite happily.

Perhaps there is a botanist out there in blog world who has an idea or an entomologist who can give me a clue. We have a lovely garden which we enjoy sitting and working in but we want Lola to enjoy it too. Could it be an allergy and if so, to what? Could there be a little bug that likes biting dogs? (The cats next door often sat happily in the sun on our lawn – between losing Rosie and getting Lola)

If you know what it is or have an idea, please let me know. We would be so grateful, especially Lola!

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Friday the thirteenth (and Thursday the twelfth!)

Last week there were two important things happening. The most important (in a personal way) was my sister’s MA show at Camberwell Art College.

Camberwell Art College before some modernisation work

Wait, you say, what? You are seventy five and your sister is just doing an MA? Well, yes, she has spent the last two years becoming more accomplished in the art of printing. And, yes, she is quite old to do such a thing – but not as old as I am.

So. I planned to go to London late on Thursday afternoon so that I didn’t arrive at the show before about eight o’clock in the evening as it didn’t close until nine and then Jennie and I would be going back to her house. I arrived at St Pancras at around half past seven and walked through a maze of tunnels to the Victoria Line in Kings Cross underground station. For a youngster that walk would be easy; for a fit woman of sixty or seventy, it would be fine; for me that walk was exhausting! I arrived on the platform huffing and puffing and found a place to stand,

The ‘tube’ platform was hot and quite crowded but nothing like the tube train! I stood at the back end of a car (there were no seats nearby) next to an open window. It didn’t help to alleviate the heat and the noise (of the wheels and the air rushing past, I suppose) was dreadful.

Eventually, I arrived at Vauxhall tube station and easily found the bus ‘station’ (which, in this case, means the place where a load of buses stop then continue on their journey). I found the 36 but it was going the wrong direction – I had to get on the one behind. Again, I stood as all seats were taken and it was still very hot. As I didn’t know the bus route or how far I was travelling on that bus, I needed to get to the middle so that I could see the digital notices and hear which stop was coming next. (As an aside, this kind of thing wasn’t happening when I was younger and living in London and I missed my stop several times on unknown bus routes.) I made my way through the standing passengers and, after a few minutes, we stopped at a place where loads of people got off so I was able to get a seat.

The bus wended its way through the heavy traffic which was made up of other buses, cars, bicycles, motor bikes, lorries, pedestrians, dogs, and scooters. We passed the Oval where a cricket match must have been in ‘time-out’ or something because there were lots of people standing around inside having drinks and chatting. Oval interests me because Chloe and her partner moved to a flat in the area. Maybe I’ll go back that way for a visit sometime but I think I’ll wait till the weather is cooler.

We were in Camberwell when the bus stopped. In fact, most of the traffic stopped. A man had been hit by a motorbike just in front of the bus, a few moments earlier. A passing ambulance (the kind that take elderly out-patients to hospital and back) had stopped so that the driver could help the injured. The motorbike rider had hurt his leg or foot but was walking around, limping, but the man who was hit was lying motionless.

When things like this happen there is always someone who needs to see what was going on. There was a woman on the pavement walking her dog who stood and watched, there were a few younger people who had a glance and then hurriedly moved on and there was a woman on the bus who felt it was her duty to go to the front of the bus to have a look then to report her findings to anyone who was nearby and since, by then, I was sitting just behind her, I was the main recipient. I knew that she wasn’t going to get out and walk home, “because it’s everso far and I have my shopping.” I also found out that I couldn’t get out and walk because the college was even further than her home. She broadcast the fact that another ambulance hadn’t yet arrived, that the bus going to the right down another road was going to go down such and such a road as a detour, that blood was coming out of the hit man’s head, and that our bus wasn’t going anywhere. And then some of the cars and other traffic behind us started moving. They were waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic then going the wrong way round the traffic island up ahead and getting to the other side of the accident.

Our driver put on his ‘winkers’ and slowly pulled out into the traffic and we went past the man lying in the road and others who were there helping him. All the time we were given a running commentary and as we went past, I (being averse to bloody scenes except in novels) turned my head and looked out the other side of the bus.

Soon we arrived at the stop called Vestry Road, about half an hour later than we would have. I got off the bus and started the longish walk to the college. There were lots of young people sitting on the low walls in front of the building, chatting and looking very arty. I went to the front door – and was denied access to the show as they had stopped admitting people two minutes earlier! I told them my sister was waiting for me but to no avail so I rang Jennie and told her what was happening. She came to the front door but they wouldn’t let her out because she had a drink in her hand and they wouldn’t let me in because…. She was allowed to stick her head out to say she’d go back (up three flights), get her gear and come back as soon as she could. She sent her friend, Alma, out to stay with me and chat.

Apparently I had met Alma in 1983 at Jennie’s wedding. I’m afraid I didn’t remember her but we chatted anyway and Jennie came out. The three of us joined Jennie’s son and friends at a pub down the road, had a couple of glasses of wine and some pizza and went back to her house where I fell into bed and slept pretty well until eight on Friday, the 13th.

About nine, Jennie and I left her house and went to the bus stop (thankfully downhill all the way) and took a bus to the college. I had arranged for Chloe to meet me there so we could see the MA show together then go and have some brunch. She arrived not long after I did and we went in search of Jennie and her work. The college is in more than one building, joined in places by little bridges and we took a lift, went up and down stairs, crossed one of the bridges and finally found our way, thanks to a young man who was invigilating in another area.

Jennie’s work was interesting, colourful and thought-provoking. She won two prizes for her work and, obviously, now has a second MA in an art subject. (Brainy!) Some of the other artworks needed second or even third studies before I could begin to understand what they meant. We also went to the drawing/illustration show on another floor as Chloe is very interested in that aspect of art. (She wanted to study illustration at art college but was put off during her first year and instead is doing a degree in psychology. Nevertheless, she persists in drawing and some of her work is outstanding!) Then we went to the South London Gallery, next door, and had some food. (They do lovely waffles with fruit on top!)

I mentioned there were two important things happening. The second was the massive protests because (sorry/not sorry if I cause offence here) the ORANGE TURD was visiting the UK. I have never liked big crowds, I was hot, carrying my luggage, had sore feet and longed for home so I decided that Drumpf would never know I hadn’t been in the huge crowds and headed home by the slow route.

I arrived at Victoria station, bought a ticket, bought a sandwich, a bottle of water and a banana and boarded a train which took me on a sentimental journey through Bromley (where I first saw Julian without knowing it), Swanley (where I got out of a train once because I was having a panic attack and had to walk miles to find a phone to ring and ask Julian to pick me up), Borough Green (where I once, many years ago, tried to hitchhike with my then boyfriend, Tim, but gave up and took the train), West and East Malling (where I had lived in various houses for many years), Maidstone, (there’s not a lot I can say about the county town!), and on to Ashford where I changed to a train that would take me to Broadstairs. I got home about three in the afternoon, absolutely pooped!

Not sure about Julian, but Lola was very pleased to see me. We sat quietly for a while then played some ball catching games.

All in all Friday the thirteenth was a much better day for me and, I hope, for the man who was hit by a motorbike!

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A short break, folks!

I’m having a rest from writing – mostly because I can’t think of what to write about. I suppose it’s “blog writer’s block!

I hope the summer where you are is treating you well. ❤️

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