Bedroom Windows

I’ve had many bedrooms in my life. Our mother moved us quite a few times while we lived in America, then we moved to London where I had six different bedrooms, then to West Malling where I met my husband and we shared another four or so before moving to the seaside. I’m not counting all the times I’ve slept in hotels, summer camp, b&b’s, family overnights and hospitals. Below are some of the more interesting things I have seen, or thought about, from one or other of those bedroom windows.

My present bedroom looks out over our back garden to the fronts of the houses behind where there is a road in a dip with houses built on the far side. There is a house there which fascinates me and sets my mind imagining all sorts of stories. It is the right hand side of a semi-detached pair, built in the fifties or sixties, I believe. I know from looking up that type of house on the internet, that it has three bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor and a lounge, kitchen-diner and hallway with stairs downstairs. There are no signs of life from one year’s end to the next. I can see windows belonging to two of the upstairs rooms. Each room has curtains but they never close, nor do they open in any other fashion than they are open in the photo below.

The ‘mystery’ house’s windows where the curtains never close

My first thoughts were that the people living there were on holiday when I first noticed the curtains. I made up very short stories about the people who live there (away on a cruise in the Caribbean, flown down to Madeira, on a trek in the Himalayas), then I came to the conclusion that it is a holiday home for Londoners (there are quite a few of those here, though not many that are a ten minute walk from the beach) but, seasons have come and gone and no one has used those two bedrooms. My snoopiness has led to my looking out in the evenings and in the dead of night (insomnia!) to see if there are any lights on. I have walked past and the little front garden doesn’t give a clue as it is is covered with the kind of pebbles people use to make their gardens easy to look after and, though there are one or two plants growing through, I can’t tell if they are deliberate or not.

Recently, I have realised that my mother, who used to live in a smaller but similar house couldn’t manage the stairs during her last two years there so she used only the downstairs. Solved, I thought! But, I still don’t know! I could just go and ask the people in the left-hand side about the house but they would probably think I was some sort of scammer and not just an old lady with an imagination.

Before I slept in that room, I slept in the front bedroom with Julian. The window there looks out onto a very quiet road with relatively few cars going past and not much happening except before and after school when I can see mums (or dads) escorting their young ones to and from the various schools nearby. Across the road is a very nice detached house which is rented out to a young family with a lovely dog called Betty. Before they lived there, there was another family of mum and many growing boys, and before that it was owned and lived in by a single man with a sweet little staffie.

When we moved into our house, the one across the road, which is sideways on to ours because there is a right hand bend in the road just there, had a long garden behind a wall. Then, one day, the man who lived there sold much of his garden to a builder who built a very well-built modern but traditional house and then put it on the market.

The house across the road

The gossip is that the man had bought the house with money he won on the Lottery. Also gossip says that he was a drug dealer and though it is only gossip that would explain the night it was raided by police! The man seemed to come and go; sometimes he would not be seen for several months at a time, then he and his dog would return, sometimes in a different car than the one he had been driving before.

An early photo of the Rose and Crown where we later had our shop. The bedroom window is at the top on the left.

Before we lived at the seaside, we lived above our antique shop/furniture restoration business in West Malling High Street for around seven years (photo above) Our bedroom was at the top of the building and a tiny window with opened outwards. Sometimes it was noisy outside, being the High Street and the hub of night time entertainment in the small town.

One night, or rather early one morning, I was awoken by a strange noise. At first I just lay there thinking about what the noise could have been but then there were even louder noises coming from outside. I got out of bed and went to the window which I opened as far as it would go and stuck my head out. Now – remember I was only just awake – when I looked out I saw an enormous monster attacking a building up the road! I tried to work out what was happening, knowing full well, even in my half-asleep state, that monsters don’t attack buildings. I thought maybe it was an irate husband attacking a love-rival or some such nonsense before it finally dawned on me that it was thieves trying to break into a building.

Our phone was in the living room of the flat so I ran down a flight of stairs and dialled 999. The operator asked me which emergency service I was ringing and I said, “Police, please,” (always polite, me, even at four o’clock in the morning.) The operator dialled the police from her end and we both waited – and waited – and waited. While we waited for what must have been ten full minutes, the operator and I chatted. I told her what was happening, she told me that she couldn’t understand why no one was answering the emergency call. Eventually she dialled another number – and there was no answer from that one, either!

While all this chatting and waiting was going on the noise outside was continuing. I looked out the window several times to see what was happening and then reported back to the operator. Eventually, from the other direction, I saw a police car silently approaching, presumably hoping to catch the thieves unaware. The car stopped almost outside my window and I told the operator that the police had arrived — only then would she allow me to hang up.

I couldn’t see all that happened after the two young police women emerged from their car so I will switch to telling you what I found out afterwards.

The ‘monster’ was a JCB and it was attacking the service till in the wall of our local branch of Nationwide. The crooks operating the JCB had managed to remove the till, money and all, and were in the process of moving it to their Land Rover when the police arrived. In their hurry to escape from the police, the crooks tried to escape in the JCB but it was too wide to go down the little road they attempted so they jumped into their Land Rover, minus the till, and escaped to try another service till another night, somewhere else.

The attack on the building, built in the seventeenth century when no one had envisaged such punishment, meant that the entire building had to be evacuated then shored up and repaired. The Nationwide and the people who lived above had to vacate for some months but, eventually were able to return to a stronger, still seventeenth century, building.

That the police didn’t answer the 999 call has never been explained, though questions were asked. We did find out that the two young policewomen were notified by the fire service which had, presumably, been alerted by another phone operator or perhaps by a family friend who lived in the High Street and knew a direct number to the nearby fire station.

Only a few months later I was again woken by noises. This time it was a young man who had taken it into his head that one of our favourite restaurants, several doors away from the Nationwide, was an enemy and needed to be ‘broken’. Now, this restaurant had just been renovated with new, small-paned windows. The woodwork surrounding each pane had been beautifully painted. The young man found a scaffolding pole and proceeded to smash each toughened glass pane until it broke, breaking, in the process, most of the newly painted wood-work. Luckily, before he decided to attack any other building, the police came and took the young man away.

My bedroom window in Chiswick looked out over Chiswick High Road which was, and is, a very busy thoroughfare. We lived there in the sixties and nothing comes to mind that would interest the reader, except, maybe, that Jo Grimmond (leader of the Liberal party at that time) used to get on a bus at the bus stop across the road.

My bedroom in Queensway looked out onto windows of the ‘inner’ flats in the court. The only window of any interest might be that of ‘Old Naked’! Judy, the naughty devil, who was about fourteen, looked out one evening to see the young man in a flat across the way, lying on his bed with the curtains open and the lights full on, pleasuring himself! I couldn’t bring myself to look but Judy looked out most evenings to see if he was ‘putting on a show’ and if he was, she would call out, “Old Naked’s at it again!”

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PROSECCO + AMITRIPTYLINE = INSOMNIA!

A local restaurant sent me a voucher for a bottle of Prosecco because it was my birthday. Well, of course, we took advantage of it.

Julian had to go to a meeting on the actual day so we went last night and claimed my present and each had three courses (my diet is not working this week!) We ate and drank slowly, I had less than half the bottle (Prosecco is too bubbly and slightly sweet and, anyway, I’ve just about cut alcohol out of my life recently.).

We were home in time for me to watch a programme I had looked forward to seeing and I didn’t feel at all tipsy. I had a coffee (can’t sleep without a strong black coffee, believe it or not!), watched the programme, said good night and have a safe journey to Julian who is off to the airport in a few hours, did a couple of word puzzles and came to bed.

I turned on some “sleep music” which helps me (water, oboe, tinkly bells, harp – I think) and listened to the whole hour of it while it gently played — all the way through, which never happens!

I have tossed and turned and now it’s after four! I thought I was going to spend a leisurely morning then go to my tai-chi class but I think I’ll be so exhausted by noon that I won’t make it. Damnation!

I don’t know if everyone reacts in the same way to the combination but, if you have sciatica and take amitriptyline to keep it at bay, and if it’s your birthday and you’re given a free bottle, take care! Will I remember the next time? Probably not😟.

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3/4s of a century — That’s a fair old time!

One of my weird paintings! There are another three at the end of the post.

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There are quite a few elephants in this painting but most are hiding. c Oct. 2017.

Here I sit, pleased to have made it to seventy-five but really wishing I was somewhat younger.

At seventy-five (and, to be honest, also at seventy-four) I have begun to feel my age, not mentally (in my mind I’m still a teen-ager!) but physically. I find it difficult to walk to the station which is only twelve minutes’ walk away, not because of knees or feet but because of breathing – or rather, the inability to get my breath as I walk.

I’ve never been a great exerciser, which is probably one reason why I find it so difficult now. Back when I was eight, nine and ten, I was the person who was last in a race. I’ve always been short with short, slightly chubby legs (now, not so slight!) and I assume this was the reason for my lack of speed. At school I hated p.e. (phys ed, gym, games, whatever you call it where you live). My only real exercise, as a teenager was dancing. I could happily dance to pop songs for hours and still enjoy it today (although I fear it’s rather ‘granny-dancing’ now😧)

In my twenties and thirties I probably took the 10,000 steps that are recommended nowadays because I had a young daughter and didn’t drive – if it was within walking distance, I walked. When I finally got a car and my driving licence, I drove but still did some walking, when necessary! In my forties and fifties I walked with a group – sometimes ending up in a pub for lunch and driving home. Also in my fifties, my beautiful grand-daughter was born and I did a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with her as her mum was not at all well for several years after she was born. I used to take the train to London every week, collect Chloe from nursery or school, walk to the swimming pool, perhaps, or just walk back to her house and play, cook her and myself a meal and then stay overnight and take her to nursery/school the next morning. Her first school wasn’t too far from home but during the years she was in the later junior classes, it was a mile or more to walk – downhill on the way but uphill back to the station, and home.

When Chloe went to secondary school she was old enough to go on her own though on days when her mum couldn’t be home in the evening, I would try to be there and then when she was around sixteen I would only have granny duty if her mum was away at a conference for a couple of weeks. By that time I was in my sixties and things were going downhill, physically. Both of my knees started playing up, I got appendicitis, I had a sudden partial hearing loss, started getting carpal tunnel problems in both wrists and my hair, never a very interesting colour anyway, decided to go white.

When I was sixty-three, Julian and I decided to close our business and retire to the seaside. We live a ten minute walk from the beach (downhill) and a five minute walk from a shop or two or fifteen minutes from more shops. We chose this house because we really liked it, because there was room for our hand-made bookcases in the lounge and because, if there came a time when we couldn’t drive to the shops, we could at least walk for the bare essentials. I can still walk the five minutes to the nearby set of shops though it takes me ten minutes, nowadays, and I can walk to the beach, but coming home I take a bus to the end of the road.

Old age (and there’s no way around it, I am old) has brought with it little skin tags, warts, moles, annoying pains for no reason, arthritis in previously healthy joints, white hair, annoying wheezes, glasses (only for reading and sewing, though!), sore feet (which, mysteriously, have grown by a whole size!) and breathlessness BUT I am alive and have enjoyed almost every single thing that has happened to me (unlike my sister, Judy, who didn’t even get to forty-six).

Like all old people, I’ve seen a lot of my friends die before me – not all of them older than I am, though mostly – and I do think about dying (though not for a while yet, I hope!) The thought doesn’t really bother me much, nor does it scare me. I would rather live (in a reasonably healthy way) for another ten to twenty years during which I can carry on painting my weird paintings, feed the birds (mostly gulls and pigeons but with the occasional sparrow, blackbird and wren, even some goldfinches the other day!), do the occasional bit of weeding, pruning and picking, sit in the sun, eat great food, drink the occasional glass or two of dry white wine, watch a soap on telly, read some books, do the occasional jigsaw or word puzzle, go to the cinema, talk to friends and neighbours, sit on the beach, browse for something new to wear, and all the things people of any age like to do.

I would love to win the lottery so I could help Chloe buy a house in London and so that I could employ someone to do all the jobs I hate (cleaning, cooking, planning meals) but, I suppose it’s not likely to happen and I will have to wash the pans, clean the floor and vacuum sometimes – always remembering Quentin Crisp pointing out that after a few years, the dust on the furniture doesn’t get any worse!

Above,  another three of my weird paintings. They are all quite large (maybe 2′ x 2’6) and painted in the last six months or so. The top one doesn’t have a name, nor does the middle one. The third one is called, ‘Foraging’ as it looks, to me, like a strange being looking for food in a strange landscape. (Told you they are weird!)

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YOU’RE GOING TO THINK I’M CRAZY….AND MAYBE I AM!

Those of you who have read my post about the Market Cross ghost know that I am not worried by ghosts at all, never having seen or been bothered by one, except for those two times when there were objects flying around the bathroom, and that was totally inexplicable.

One night, not very long ago, I was close to falling asleep when I realised that the bed, or rather, the mattress and duvet, were moving in a strange way. I will stop telling the tale for a moment while I explain a few things and set the scene.

Eight and a bit years ago I had my knees replaced, one at a time, six months apart. At that time, Julian had a part-time job which meant that he got up at 5 in the morning. Recovering from the ops meant I didn’t sleep well as I couldn’t lie on either side but only on my back which I don’t normally do and which makes me uncomfortable. With Julian going to bed early and getting up super-early and my not sleeping well, plus the fact that Rosie used to sleep on our bed with us (I know, I shouldn’t allow it!), eventually I moved into the smaller room next to our bedroom where there was a single bed and where I could sit up reading or listen to music without disturbing Julian. But, instead of sharing a king-size bed with Jules, Rosie insisted (!) on sleeping in a single bed with me. So, I moved into one of our two guest rooms – the one where there is a nice French double bed.

After I had recovered from my knee ops and Julian had retired from his job, I decided to stay where I was, in the guest room, after all, I was seventy-ish by then and, anyway, it was nice not to have to prod Julian in the side two or three times a night to stop him snoring! Also, the bed being a double meant that Rosie had her side and I had mine!

Back to the story: The mattress and duvet were moving. Rosie had died some months before, so it wasn’t her making the bed move and I was pretty certain it wasn’t me. I lay quite still, in order to try to understand what was happening. I was on my side, facing the windows, and I could feel the duvet being pulled sideways, very gently over my legs. At the same time the mattress was very subtly moving — I could hear, through the pillow, a spring or two moving occasionally. The longer I lay there, without moving, the longer the strange movements went on. Silently and lying very still, I went through all sorts of ideas in my head.

“Could Julian be playing some sort of trick on me? No, Julian doesn’t do things like that. Could it be thieves in the house playing a trick on me? Don’t be stupid!”

And I suddenly realised that what I was feeling was very similar to how it felt after Rosie had made herself comfortable on the bed. (When she got on the bed, she used to ‘flop’ down, causing the entire mattress to bounce once or twice, as she weighed several stone.)

And I thought, “OMG, it’s Rosie’s ghost!”

After a little while I turned to face the other direction and there was, of course, nothing there.

Last night I fell asleep after a long day. At about 2am I suddenly woke up to that same subtle movement of the bed, only this time, the movement — the slightest, most delicate, movement of the duvet — was over my ankles and feet. I lay there, at first trying to work out what had woken me and then to question the feelings around my feet and finally to think, “Could it be Rosie’s ghost?” If it is, I guess she misses me as much as I miss her!

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My sweet Rosie

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PAM AYRES WAS RIGHT!

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Back in the seventies, Pam Ayres wrote a ditty about her teeth and how she wished that she had looked after them properly. That little ‘poem’ struck a chord with many, many people, I imagine, and I was definitely one of them!

I was born in 1943. Dentistry, while not in its infancy, was – compared to today – still in its toddler-hood. As I have intimated before, my mother was not exactly ready for motherhood and, before I had many teeth (maybe six?), I had a baby sister. Childcare was not my mother’s strong point and, though I’m sure each of us had a toothbrush, I’m not entirely sure she helped us to use it, nor did she nag us to use it, even when we were older. (Though she did have the terrible habit of asking us loudly, even when we were adults, “Have you brushed your teeth today,” just as you were going into a shop or – this is true – getting into a cab to go to one’s own wedding!)

So, my sisters and I didn’t grow up with the most hygienic ideas and rules and achieved our twenties with a lot of fillings between us. Our first dentist was one of our grown-up cousins (at least that’s what we were told although I can’t see any family connections when looking at a family-tree). He was older than our mother, most likely in the generation above hers, and he had his dentist office (dental surgery for my British readers) in downtown Zanesville, not far from my great-grandmother’s wonderful house.

My first visits to the dentist must have been traumatic because I can still remember the noise and feel of that gigantic drill he used and the taste and smell of the bits of tooth left in my mouth afterwards.

Speed forward to the 1960’s:

I don’t remember visiting a dentist again until we had moved to London. That’s not because we didn’t have treatments (we must have, judging by the number of fillings in my mouth) but they obviously were not memorable and I have put them and the anxiety they must have caused, out of my mind. In fact I barely remember visiting a dentist until the mid to late sixties. Then it got bad! We lived in Chiswick from around 1965 and I can remember, vividly, having a terrible toothache. I found a dentist just a short walk away, in the High Road, and walked into his ‘torture chamber’, certain that there would be five or six holes needing filling. That dentist checked my entire mouth then told me that he would not be able to do that amount of work on the National Health! He said, “There are three, maybe four, to be removed and eleven teeth needing filling and the National Health will not pay me for doing such a lot of work. I can, however, do the work privately.”

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I made an excuse and left without treatment (we were not at all well off at the time and couldn’t afford to have private dentistry). I managed my toothache with oil of cloves until I had, obviously, convinced that tooth it didn’t hurt any longer! In fact, I didn’t go to a dentist for several years until that same cavity redoubled its efforts and the oil of cloves had no effect. I went to a dental practice in Goldhawk Road (a bus ride from my house in Chiswick) and found,there, an ethical dentist who pulled that one tooth and filled six more, all on the National Health. He was horrified to hear my story of the unethical dentist in Chiswick, who had actually closed his practice during those two years. This was the first dentist (an Australian, as it happens) who worked so painlessly that I determined to go to the dentist regularly. My determination lasted for a year or so and then petered out as life got hectic.

During the following years, British dentists realised that their patients were often scared, anxious or even terrified and started working on their ‘bedside manner’. Dental schools and dental tools were upgraded, thankfully! The injections, which helped dull or remove the pain during dental work, were given via much slimmer needles; the drills became much faster and cooler and there was the ‘sucker’ that took away excess saliva and old bits of tooth and filling. None of this made a difference to my sister, Judy, though.

She had to have a couple of teeth out and arranged with a surgery in Ravenscourt Park to have the work done under a general anaesthetic as she hated the novocaine injections. To have this done, she needed me to take and collect her, so ‘Veronica’ and I accompanied her in my old Cambridge A55 and waited outside while she went in for the work. We waited and waited…..and waited but she didn’t come out. An hour and a half went by and, finally, I went up the stairs to the receptionist to ask about Judy. The receptionist said that Judy was resting as she had fainted just as they were going to give her the anaesthetic and that she couldn’t have the work done that day! Eventually, Judy joined us and we all went home. I imagine she had the work done another day but don’t remember any further upsets.

Speaking of ‘Veronica’, when she was about eighteen months old she fell against a coffee table and knocked one of her front baby teeth out. We waited some years and, finally, the adult tooth appeared. One day she had an upset stomach and was being sick. She leaned over the toilet and, at the same moment, I lifted the seat so she wouldn’t be sick on it, and knocked her tooth out! She has hardly forgiven me for that, and I can’t really blame her!

Now that I am an old woman I look after my teeth really well! I brush, I floss, I visit the dentist twice a year and still have a surprising number of my own teeth still in use. Not many years ago I debated getting a ‘plate’ so that I have less chance of getting to a point where I can’t chew with my back teeth. On one side the top back tooth has nothing to grind against which means I have to chew on the other side. The top back tooth on the chewing side was damaged badly (and painfully) when I bit down on one of those little silver balls that was decorating a Christmas cookie which I had bought at Ashford station on my way home after visiting Patty in her old folks’ home. I was sure nothing could be done to save it but I was wrong! Where the remains would just have been yanked out forty years ago, the dentist I was seeing at the time worked exceedingly hard to make me a crown to replace it.

It wasn’t long before Christmas and he made a temporary crown to take me over the holiday, leaving the dreaded root canal work until the holiday was finished. When I went back to have the temporary crown removed and the rest of the work done, he found that it was on so strongly that it couldn’t be removed (and he really tried for quite a while to remove it!) So, he left the temporary on and drilled through it to do the root canal work and I still have the same one!

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I had to change dentists a couple of years ago and went to the one Julian uses. He is, I believe (from his accent) a South African and he knows how to treat nervous patients – (Julian was a much more nervous patient than I!) The new dentist is very impressed by my ‘temporary’ crown but has given me an even more impressive filling! For years the back tooth (below the temp crown) was a gorgeous gold (crown) and when it needed to be removed was replaced by a more mundane ‘white’ but it needed to be replaced about two years ago. There was very little tooth for it to be attached to but, miracle-worker that he is, he made a filling that did the job. Then, three weeks ago, I was eating my Sunday dinner when part of the filling fell out. Eating and drinking didn’t cause any pain so I wasn’t too worried but the edge of the tooth was sharp and kept annoying the side of my tongue so I went to see my ‘new’ dentist. He was pleased to see that it was only a little bit of the original filling and it was easy to replace it. I was more than pleased! No drilling, no injection, no pain and, when he had finished, no catching on my tongue, either.

I recently saw in a news report that scientists are working on cell stimulating medications that can trick teeth into repairing themselves or even growing again!!! I do hope, for the younger generations’ sake, that this can be done in a safe and cheap way. It’s really too late for my teeth, far too late for those people who have mouths full of dentures, I imagine, but not too late for my beautiful grand daughter who, as it happens has no fillings yet and is nearly 23 years old! She has no memories of huge (pneumatic) drills taking up every bit of space in her mouth and drilling down as far as her chin; no memories of gigantic hypodermic needles approaching her mouth and tearing into her gums (or even worse, the roof of her mouth!); only memories of a nice white office where some fairly disgusting but rapidly disappearing paste was spread over her teeth leading to no fillings.

I realise I’ve been fairly lucky with my teeth, that other people have had much worse problems, and I am thankful for that. But, generally, for most of the population, there is no other part of the body that has to be worked on, sometimes with pain and certainly with anxiety and I hope that in the near future, these scientific miracles happen and teeth cause no more problems than a scraped kneeor broken finger-nail.

(While these aren’t real dental tools, they certainly look like they are. I used them when making jigsaw puzzle pieces from a resin.)

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Somehow, I deleted my post.

In order for people who have not signed up to receive this (Oh, I’m so envious..), I’ve had to put it online again. Apologies to you if you’ve already received it!

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Oh, I’m so envious of my husband! He has a wife….

Julian puts the rubbish out, if I ask him to. I doubt if he knows when the bin-men are due and I’m sure he doesn’t know whether it’s general-rubbish-week or re-cycling-week. Once a year he goes on-line and does my tax return for me, he’ll vacuum downstairs or upstairs if I ask (occasionally) and has been known to dust his own bedroom – if given a duster. Once in a while he empties and refills the dish-washer and he has been known to cook his own meal, as long as it is a “ready-meal” which he can put in the microwave. If he’s not doing anything else, he will take me to the supermarket and – given a list – will go around one end of the shop gathering up things we need. He makes me a coffee, if he’s having one and, most evenings after dinner, he’ll say: “Let me know when you want a coffee,” though he knows I usually don’t because I feel a bit guilty if he’s watching a programme or doing something on his laptop. (Ready meals are for nights when Julian is going out early and needs to eat before he goes. I am not keen on eating at five thirty and he is quite happy with ready meals!)

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A typical day

Julian gets up before me, gets washed and dressed and goes downstairs for his breakfast. He goes to the cupboard, takes out the cereal of the moment, finds a bowl, a spoon and the milk and sits down to eat. Because I’m taking amitriptyline in order to prevent a return of the dreaded sciatica, I tend to sleep late – but, as the doctor asked when I complained about it some years ago, “Does it really matter?” the obvious answer is, “No, it doesn’t really”. I may get up at eight or nine or even ten in the morning unless I have something important to do then I can force myself to get up earlier. I wander down still in my pyjamas at whatever time suits my sleep pattern and have my cereal, fruit and coffee.

Then my day begins. I go upstairs to wash, dress and tidy my room, then – depending on what I’ve planned for the day – I get to work. Twice a week I wash clothes. If I leave it for a day or two, it is difficult to get a load of washing dry. British weather being completely unpredictable and, not wanting to add to climate change, we don’t have a tumble dryer. Instead,we have an old-fashioned hanging contraption in the downstairs ‘loo’, which has four long slats and is pulled up/let down by means of a rope and pulley. I learned long ago not just to drape clothes over the slats as individual items take up too much room so I hang anything I can on a hanger (they breed like rabbits in our cupboards!), and use those special hangers with the sprung clips for trousers and for pairs of socks. I know it isn’t the kind of work my grandmother (or her servants) would have had to do and of course, it really doesn’t take that much time out of my day, but Ido it.

img_3396The clothes drying rack

Perhaps, on washing day (or some other day) I’ll do the half-weekly shop. (In order to have fresh food, fresh fruit and veges, fresh bread, I have to go twice). At the supermarket, which is huge with an enormous parking lot, I try to park as far from the doors as I can so that I get some walking done (!), I put my pound coin into the slot on a trolley and race round the market, picking up fruit which should last for four or five days, two loaves of bread, one of which I can freeze, fresh sprouts, carrots, peas, asparagus or whatever is in season, fish, meat etc and all those other things I didn’t remember I need the last time I came. I love how I can go round, in this particular supermarket, with a hand-held scanner, pack my items into bags and just point the scanner at a machine at the end of my shopping expedition and be told, by the machine, how much I owe. Then I insert my debit card, put in my PIN, take my receipt and go. Occasionally, I am chosen by the machine, and a member of staff will check that I have been truthful in my scanning. Also, if I buy alcohol, the machine flashes a light to tell a member of staff to ascertain that I am over 25. If I am feeling in a ‘fun’ mood, I will assure the young person that I am, indeed, over 25 – as if he would think by looking at me that I may not have reached that age. My hair, as you can tell from the name of my blog, is white (though I suppose it could be dyed) and my skin is no longer that of a young woman, though it’s not bad for a woman of nearly three quarters of a century!

img_3397The food cupboard. (The sweet tins hold candles, not sweets!

If I haven’t planned anything for a particular day, there will still be things that should be accomplished like the washing of pots and pans which don’t always go into the dish-washer, sweeping and even (heaven forbid) washing the kitchen floor, emptying the various waste paper baskets that are around the house, cleaning basins, the bath, the shower, the loo floor, the loo (see footnote!), and any one of dozens of other little jobs that have to be done – eventually.

img_3404Writing this blog

My mother, as I believe I have mentioned before, was born into a wealthy family. Her mother did very little all day besides dead-head a rose or two, check on her tomatoes, lie on her bed chatting to friends on the phone and ordering weird stuff from the shopping channel (which already existed in Zanesville in the late fifties, I think). As a result of her mother’s lack of knowledge of the housewifely arts, my mother also had that lack – alas, she also had no money for servants, either, so learned about being a housewife by sheer necessity. This meant, of course, that there were many things that she didn’t even know were ‘necessary’ and as a result, she didn’t bring us girls up to know about these things, either. I remember, when I was teaching at The Malling School in around 1992, one of the boys was telling me about his week-end. He said that he had been helping his mother with the cleaning and had had the job of dusting the skirting boards. 😳 I didn’t let on that I had never dusted my skirting boards and, in fact, had never even thought of looking at my skirting boards for dust! I’m fairly sure that I have reached my (near) milestone age still not knowing everything I should be doing in the way of housekeeping!

img_3400A small bit of skirting board.

Back to the point of this post:

When I have finished whatever housework I consider necessary on any given day, I might write a blog post, paint a picture, do some gardening – if the weather isn’t too bad or go to a class or a film. Meanwhile, Julian will have possibly been out with his painting pals at a local beauty spot. This is what happens at least three days a week and often more, if the weather isn’t too off-putting. He’ll come back with a water colour or two, or an oil painting of places he has been, photograph them and add them to his web-site. If he’s not out, he’ll be preparing boards to paint on, tweaking paintings he did earlier or painting from a photograph.

Dinner is usually ready about seven. We sit down, usually with Emmerdale(!), and eat the meal which I will have chosen, shopped for and prepared. After dinner I do a swift tidy while Julian goes into the living room to watch more tv or into the studio to look at Facebook or Youtube or an artist talking about painting. I usually stay in the kitchen to watch the small tv, do a puzzle or two, read The Spectator or chat with Jennie or Caroline or Myrna on the phone. If Julian is in the studio, I might go into the lounge to watch a boxed set (Mr Robot, series 2 at the moment or, for light relief, Californication which is rude and so funny).

Having read this, can you guess why I envy Julian? He has a clean house, clean clothes, tidy (if not spotless) rooms in which to sit and eat, me to talk to if he wants to chat, food lovingly(!) prepared, and Kitkats in the fridge for when he’s peckish. I would love to be looked after in such a way and in another life, I might have been. When he’s read this, I’m sure Julian will point out that he mows the grass, goes into the cellar to turn the electricity back on if the trip-switch puts out the lights, and does some of the jobs that I just can’t manage. I’ll do an update!

Footnote: When we were growing up in Cincinnati, before we came to England, Patty (my mother) was at university studying to become an architect. She hired a woman to come in, clean and look after us. Her name was Jones. (“My name is Jones. My first name’s Jones and my last name’s Jones. My name is Jones Jones,” she said upon our first meeting.) Jones did all the cleaning except the commodes (what she called toilets) which she refused to do. For some reason there don’t appear in my memory any toilet brushes. Whether they didn’t exist or my mother hadn’t realised they existed, I don’t know but Jones Jones gave Judy, Jennie and me the job of cleaning the two toilets in the house. I don’t think we did much toilet cleaning though and Jones Jones didn’t last more than a week!

img_3399A loo.

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Really quick update!

Julian read a few sentences. He says he wishes that I had discussed this with him first as he is willing to do more if I just ask him to. He doesn’t see “mess” – and I know that – so is unlikely to do dusting or vacuuming or cleaning without being asked. He says he asks me if there’s anything he can do and I usually say ‘no’, which is true. And, importantly, he says he does appreciate what I do. I think women, particularly of my generation/age will understand what I said and how I feel more than men or younger people will or can.

After reading the post, my daughter rang to see if World War III had broken out in our house!

Life goes on😊

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WHAT A MESS!

When I was a kid in America, we occasionally had ‘art lessons’ which consisted of being given a piece of paper and told to draw whatever. We had pictures to colour-in and were encouraged to ‘decorate’ round the edges of compositions but there were, to my knowledge, no painting and no drawing lessons. I spent a year at a private girls’ school where we did have proper art lessons but I was six or seven years behind the other girls and my attempts weren’t much good.

Fast forward to London, circa 1960. My mother, who was good at drawing and had done some painting, hired a young person whose name I have forgotten, to come and give drawing lessons to my sister, Jennie – at least, that’s the way I remember it. Apparently, I drew something during one of those lessons, which was thought to be ‘good’ but I was far more interested in boys, dancing, pop songs etc and didn’t even remember doing that drawing until Jennie reminded me some time ago.

Fast forward yet again to the mid-eighties. Ralph (Julian’s dad) had found another project in West Malling (see earlier post about the Wine Bar) and had brought back to life a small courtyard of old buildings in Swan Street. He opened The Mill Yard Craft Centre where there were some really interesting businesses.  Dorothy, who hand-knitted gorgeous sweaters, a man who made wooden toys and other articles, a photographer who took black and white photos, husband and wife ceramicists, a silversmith, a great café and a few others which have slipped my mind. There was a slightly more modern building as well which had a room in which craft fairs were held occasionally and, upstairs, a large room which was used for spiritual-healing sessions and art lessons.

I thought I might like to paint (I don’t know why as I had never had that urge before!) My first painting teacher was Diane whom I knew from one of the schools I worked in. I chose oil painting as I instinctively knew that I hadn’t the necessary skill for water colours. I stayed with Diane for a year and enjoyed my painting but didn’t really feel that I was an ‘artist’. After that first year I didn’t carry on with lessons and forgot all about it for a year or two. Then, Angela, my lovely mother-in-law, started teaching a class with the title “I Can’t Draw, I Can’t Paint” and I thought, that’s the one for me!

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One of my first paintings in 1985 -ish. It is Robin Hoods Bay, Yorkshire where we had gone on holiday.

In that class we were given interesting items to draw – scrunched up pieces of foil, fruit and vegetables, fabrics etc and I went so far as to go out and buy a small sketch book which I carried everywhere. If I had a little spare time I would draw what I could see. I can’t remember why I stopped going to that class but I got out of the habit of sketching and did something else….I’ve no idea what it was but it probably wasn’t as fun or as useful as sketching.

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Two pages from my sketch book, dated 1990

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Another page (sorry about the shadow) The drawing is of a small corner of our garden in East Malling. Aug. 91

Fast forward to 2007. Having retired and moved to Broadstairs two years earlier, I needed to find ways and reasons to go out and meet people. At first I went to a class on Roman and Greek history, then to a class on Baroque and Rococo art. Then, I thought, why not take up painting again? This happened because Julian, a much more out-going person than I am, came home from his art group meeting with a gorgeous set of Rosemary brushes. I lusted after the brushes though I had no paint or canvas. That set me on the path to becoming a real oil painter!

I signed up for an adult education class for beginners in oils. Although I had painted in oils about twenty years earlier, I thought I would start again. I bought a big sketch book, paints, some Rosemary brushes, a pad of oil painting paper, a pad of disposable palette paper and some turps. My teacher was called Judith and she was excellent at explaining how to get various effects and introducing us to the works of famous artists. After a year I had to give up because my knees were so bad but, after a year or so out for operations and recovery, I went back to Judith’s class. But, I still didn’t feel like an artist.

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A rather poor photo of my painting of Battersea Power Station which I painted in Judith’s class c. 2014

Then Judith left to do some art of her own and Duncan came in her place. He introduced us to new techniques and to other painters – and, though I know I didn’t paint the things Duncan wanted me to, because I couldn’t, I began to feel like an artist!

Last year I quit going to classes and started painting in a makeshift studio at home, sharing what should be the dining room with my husband at one end and me at the other. He paints things that he sees and his paintings are usually good or, even excellent, and are in a more-or-less impressionist style. Me? My paintings don’t seem to come under any label I can find. They are certainly not realism, nor are they impressionism, cubism, fauvism etc. The nearest is abstract, but I think an abstract has to start out as one thing from which a painter abstracts something and ends up with another thing. My paintings don’t start with a picture in my head (read my post on APHANTASIA or look it up on Google) nor even with an idea. I stare at my tubes of paint, choose the ones I’ll start with, get a large brush and PAINT. I keep looking at it, adding bits, wishing I hadn’t put that colour there, turning the canvas on its side, applying more paint, intertwining lines of colour, and eventually, I decide I’ve finished – for now. I might go back to a painting weeks or months later and change it by adding one or more colours or painting over it entirely!

A month ago I entered two of my paintings into a well-known exhibition and I am now waiting to hear whether either has been accepted. The two I’ve entered are two that I worked on over a year ago then added to, more recently. I am very pleased with them but I know liking a painting is subjective and no-one else might like them as much as I do! I’ll let you know if one or other is accepted and, if they’re accepted, I’ll add photos of them, then.

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One of my first ‘post class’ paintings which, actually, was started in Duncan’s class but finished at home. 2016

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” There are quite a few elephants in this painting but most are hiding. c Oct. 2017.

The paintings above are about 36″ long

The title, of course, refers to the mess I make as an artist. After an hour of painting, my hands, my apron and sometimes my clothes are covered with paint. Some people are very tidy and you wouldn’t know they had been painting (I’m not talking about you here, Andrea!!). And too, often my paintings look to me like just a mess of paint but I can deal with that. What I dislike is cleaning brushes. They cause so much mess!  Just a swift cleanse is fine – swish in spirit (I use Zest-it), a wipe on cloth, another swish, another wipe and it can be used again, at least for a similar colour but for a really clean brush you have to swish it in spirit quite a few times and get as much of the oil and pigment as possible out of the brush then wash with soap and warm water. Just when you think there’s no more pigment left, the water turns slightly pink (or blue or green) and you have to soap it up again, By the time the brushes are clean, the sink needs a good clean as do the splashback, wall and floor!

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U3A – UNIVERSITY OF THE THIRD AGE

My latest post – University, At Last is about my continuing education, even through my 70’s.

Go to http://www.whitehairedwoman.com

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