Every time I go to bed at night, or lie down to insert drops (of which more, hopefully not too boringly, later) I find myself trying to remove non-existing specs from my nose. This perfect distance sight is going to take
some getting used to.
I have been wearing glasses for 61 years, ever since I finally discovered that I should be able to see what Miss Boyle had written on the
blackboard even from the very back row where I was unfortunate enough to sit next to one Malcolm Stovell. I'm quite sure I didn't choose to sit next to Master Stovell, I must have been told to. All I remember (apart from being unable to read the writing on
the blackboard), was that Malcolm took great exception to the fact that I could write faster than he could and used to pin my arm down painfully on the desk until he caught up. It never occurred to me to complain to anyone or report this casually cruel form
of bullying. I simply took it as one of the few disadvantages alongside the many, many advantages to being in the Divine Miss Boyle’s class.
When I returned
home from the initial appointment with the optician, I was full of excitement at being prescribed specs which I somehow imagined would bestow upon me a fascinating air of intelligence. My brother was scathing: I was a “little fool” he told me,
curtly, and would soon come to regret my Bespectacled Status.
He was perfectly right, of course, at least in the first place. For around fifteen years, after the
first flush of being spectacular wore off, I would only wear my glasses when I felt it was strictly necessary. As the years passed and I became more and more myopic, the world around me became increasingly blurry and I managed to miss friends and foes alike
when I came across them in the street. Belatedly, I conquered my vanity and realised that the world really was the most beautiful place - but only if you could see it properly. From that moment on, my specs became part of who I was - every bit as much as my
slightly over-long nose and my errant eye-brows.
I went through all the many fashions from large frames to small frames, to ones with turny up ends. I discovered
I could pay out vast amounts of money for condensed lenses so that I didn't look as if I were wearing bottle tops. When young and poor, I dreamed of contact lenses; once I was sufficiently well off to afford them, I decided I couldn't quite bring myself to
insert foreign objects into my eyes - and, anyway, I was used to my glasses. They were, as I said before, an essential part of me.
Except no longer. After my second
cataract operation on Tuesday (following an exciting shopping expedition - see previous Blog) I can, as the song has it, “see clearly now…” This is going to be a bit of a challenge - will The Twinkles recognise me, for starters?
Then there's the drop regime. Every day for two weeks eleven sets of drops to be administered, from three separate bottles, followed by a further two weeks of five drops
a day. Last time around Mr B played nurse - except for the day of our Annual Jolly Girls Outing when the Eldest of the Darling Daughters did the honours on what will be forever remembered as the JollEye Girls Outing.
Knowing Mr B wouldn't be able to do Drop Duty any longer, I was most relieved when the nurse in the hospital recovery room demonstrated a fool-proof way of getting the various drops from bottle to eye with the minimum of fuss
and bother. I am indebted to her.
There are three different bottles of drops. In keeping with the family tradition of naming everything, I have called them Shaky,
Squeezy and Stingy. Shaky because I must remember to give this bottle a really good shake before use; Squeezy because this bottle has to be squeezed much harder before a drop appears and descends eye-wards; Stingy because - well, I'm sure you can guess. Occasionally,
I use the bottles in the wrong order. I can't imagine it matters too much if I shake Stingy or Squeezy - but it's most disconcerting to squeeze really hard on what I imagine to be Squeezy only to find two drops of Stingy making an Unexpected Entrance.
It's good to be getting my act together because on Tuesday I shall be at another eye hospital, for another operation on the other eye.
After all, why have one eye operation when you could have two?
The Youngest of the Darling Daughters is adamant that I need to spend lots of money on myself. She will brook no arguments nor will she take “no” for an answer. There is nobody quite as determined as my youngest
daughter when she puts her mind to it.
I point out that just the other day I bought myself the rather lovely royal blue blouse on which she has just complimented
me - but she retorts that spending £3.99 in the Guild Care charity shop simply doesn't count.
She marches me around Marks & Spencer's, plucking
dresses from this rack and that rack until she has a veritable arm-full. If not, indeed, both arms-full. I can tell she is a Woman On A Mission. Is it not less than two weeks, she reminds me, until the Double Celebration when Family and friends will gather
at her house to mark my 70th birthday and my granddaughter, Hazel Bagel’s 18th? Has she not completely remodelled her back garden, planted hanging baskets and purchased trendy garden furniture in honour of the occasion? The least I can do, she doesn't
actually say but is probably thinking, is to Dress For The Occasion.
Her sister, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, has bought Hazel a stunning new dress to
wear for her party. I am shown a photo on the mobile phone, and she looks predictably beautiful. And so very grown-up…
You may be surprised when I tell
you that Operation Shopping isn't our main reason for being in Whiteley. In fact we are here for another kind of operation altogether - my second cataract surgery in under six months. But, hey, why spoil a Jolly Outing with a Darling Daughter when we can have
a bit of fun before we turn to Matters More Serious.
As I parade in each dress in turn for my daughter’s kindly appraisal, she takes a quick photo
on her phone and sends it winging off to the Middle of the Darling Daughters whom we long ago appointed as our official Style Guru. Back come the comments, thick and fast; it looks as if it won't be difficult to spend, spend, spend..
One of the dresses we have carried to the changing room made me laugh just to look at it in all its multi-coloured glory. It's like The Jungle Book, I say, albeit with those full sleeves which are
all the fashion these days. My daughter can hear me giggling out loud as I pull it over my head behind the curtain, then, as I emerge, in all my Jungle Glory, we both collapse in gales of laughter.
And yet. And yet…
“You know, it actually doesn't look that bad,” we tell each other.
“I think I like it…” I say, “It's, kind of, fun and frivolous.” And therefore ideal, I tell myself, silently, for one who feels more like seventeen
It is, it is true, very colourful. It is also quite short and almost certainly far too young for one who has reached the Great Age of three score
years and ten. Which is why I throw caution to the winds and buy it.
Come the Double Celebration, my granddaughter will look grown-up and glamorous - and
very, very beautiful. I, for my part, - always provided I don't chicken out at the last minute - will pretend I am young again and dress accordingly. In full Jungle Book mode.
I will, of course, need somebody to play Tarzan to my Jane.
I haven't plucked up the courage to broach the subject with Mr B as yet…
You won't believe this but I have nearly, very nearly, been expelled!
How can this be, you are asking yourself, knowing me
to be quite the most Law-abiding of folk, who won't even so much as cross the road unless the Green Man says I can. Could I really have turned overnight into the Aged Equivalent of the Naughtiest Girl in the School?
I could almost allow myself to bask in the unexpected experience - except that the group from which I am in danger of being expelled is Jim and Delia’s monthly cribbage session which was held yesterday, it being the
third Tuesday in the month. I was, Delia told me today (more in sorrow than in anger it must be said, Delia being an Extremely Good Sort) missed. I was Notable By My Absence. I was a No Show. I was Absent Without Leave. Please feel free to fill in your own
descriptions of one who fails to turn up without so much as an excuse or word of apology.
One of the rules of our U3A (which stands for University of the Third
Age) is that if you fail to turn up twice in succession, without extending apologies, to a group of which you are a member, you can be expelled by the group convenor. It may sound a trifle harsh until you remember that most groups have a waiting list of would-be
members who would love to take the place of an Absent One.
It wasn't until Delia arrived at our fortnightly Nomination Whist group this afternoon, that I realised
how close I had come to expulsion. Where was I? she wanted to know. They had all waited for me to turn up because they were sure I'd be along soon. Except that I wasn't. I am beyond mortified.
Delia said I needn't worry about expulsion because she hadn’t been keeping a note of Unexplained Absences. It seems I have been let off the hook, even though I can hardly say I deserve such leniency.
It seems to be happening to me more and more these days - I have a serious case of Diary Malfunction. Was I, Delia enquired, going to the Convenors’ Meeting. Shamefacedly, I
had to confess that I couldn't remember the date. If, that is, I told myself silently, I had ever known. It turns out the Meeting is this coming Saturday and neither Delia nor Jim will be going so it wouldn't be any fun, even if I managed to remember to go.
I had received apologies from a number of people for Nomination Whist so we were just eight in number. Everyone arrived looking hot and bothered, it being the hottest day
since 1976. I remember 1976. We called it the Ladybird Summer because the whole country was plagued by the Spotted Ones. And, like today, it was hot, hot, hot.
I served up iced water to my guests as they arrived - it seemed the very least I could do when they must have thought twice about venturing out into the heatwave. I'd opened every window and every door in the house to encourage a through flow of air
- which was an excellent idea (though I say so myself as shouldn't) especially once I'd thought to wedge folded newspaper pages under the doors to stop them slamming shut every five minutes and bringing down the Wrath of Mr B upon my head. One might have thought
the heat would affect my play but, unusually, I won both games.
I do need to sort out my diary, though. How awful it would be, for instance, if everyone
turned up for Nomination Whist one day and I wasn't ready for them! I flick through the pages of the desk diary till I come to the third Tuesday of July, the last meeting of the cribbage group until September. My red pen is poised above the page - when I see
that I am already committed that day. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I are off on another of our Lunch ‘n’ Theatre dates to see The Fiddler on the Roof.
Oh dear, oh dear! The members of the cribbage group will have forgotten what I look like by September. Will Delia and Jim still welcome me into their midst, despite my absences? Will I forget how to play cribbage? Will anyone save me a biscuit or two?
Most importantly, will I remember to tender my apologies?
I am well impressed that, on introducing my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys to the sunflowers I am growing for them, they accept, without demur, the Natural Order of Things. As in, the tallest Sunflower must be Sam’s,
on account of him being the oldest, the middle-sized Sunflower is obviously James’s, because he is the Middle Child, while the shortest has to be Morgan’s - he being the youngest and smallest of my Trio of Welsh Boys. Even the Duracell Bunny expresses
no objections; clearly the boys are not viewing the Growing of Sunflowers with the same competitive spirit as their Grandad.
I am reminded of the three sisters
who bought our house in Staplehurst, over thirty years ago. It was a three bedroomed house, the third bedroom being considerably smaller than either of the others while the front bedroom was very definitely superior to the other two. Not a problem: the eldest
sister claimed the front bedroom, the middle sister the back bedroom, while the baby of the family seemed perfectly happy with the boxroom. Such perfect harmony is hard to find.
The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and her brother well remember the day the three sisters came to view our house. Mr B and I were away (I think we might have been transporting another daughter to Uni) but the estate agent told us he was sure our
house would sell that day. We therefore left instructions that, if a viewing were arranged, a hasty tidy up would be much appreciated.
In the event, our Twosome
had just a quarter of an hour to clear the decks before The Three Sisters came to call. Their approach was to stow everything under the beds, in a cupboard, behind the curtains - Out of Sight, Out of Mind was their modus operandi. We were delighted to learn,
on our return home, that our house was sold. We gave the Ace Tidy Uppers a fiver for their efforts; at first they were pleased with this bounty - until they discovered how much the estate agents’ commission would be…
I have promised the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys that I will send them photographs so that they can follow the progress of their Sunflower plants. Their mother, the Darling Daughter in Law, says
it's probably as well that the plants are staying in our garden as she doesn't think they would fare too well in hers. Mind you, several of my Sunflower plants have fallen victim to Slug Attack - at the moment the score is Slugs 6 Me 14. I'm not crowing, though,
because the little perishers have completely destroyed every one of my dahlias. I've quite given up keeping score.
I have been slowly clearing up after our visitors.
It's too hot to move quickly so Operation Clear Up may well take some time. It is actually quite a pleasurable business, making sure the board games we played have all the correct number of pieces, including, if appropriate, a dice. You will be pleased (or,
possibly, not the least bit bothered) to hear that we managed not to play “What's Rubbish?” (see previous Blog) but we did enjoy going “Round The Houses”, an exciting game about moving house which involved landing on squares carrying
household items which could then be transferred into a player’s removal van. Anyone landing on a red square was supposed to put an item back on the board but we changed the rules slightly in the interests of finishing the game before everyone grew too
desperately hungry for their breakfast of Mini Weetabix.
While we are talking about changing the rules, I place on record that there's no way I'm playing Connect
4 with the Duracell Bunny again - and though it was good to see the beautiful wooden chess set Mr B and I brought home with us from a long ago holiday in Dubrovnik given an airing, I fear young James is much too good at the game for me.
The trouble is that checking the games and remembering many a funny moment along the way is the pleasurable part of Operation Clear Up. There seems, however, to be rather a lot of
other “stuff” to be sorted and replaced where it belongs. It's a little like playing “Round The Houses”. But without the removal van.
I can simply take a large leaf out of my children’s book and go for Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
I can always blame the heat-wave…
There is little doubt that Young Morgan, aka The Duracell Bunny, has a unique take on problem-solving.
During a (very)
early morning conversation, snuggled up together in my super-size bed (“Why do you have such a big bed? Is it because you're afraid you’ll fall out?”) my grandson asks me why his Grandad now needs the combined assistance of a stair-lift,
a wheelchair and a mobility scooter - dubbed the “Grandadmobile” by the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys - to get around. I explain, using a minimum of medical terms, how Grandad’s legs don't work properly anymore. “When you walk,”
I say, “you put one foot in front of the other, don't you? Grandad wants to do that but his head won't give him the right instructions so he can't move his feet the way you do.” The Duracell Bunny considers this for a nano-second: “Why doesn't
he just jump?” he asks. Oh, how I love that boy.
Yesterday we spent most of the day on the beach in lovely Littlehampton, known in days of yore, as “The
Children’s Paradise.” We set up camp just below the prom, so that Mr B could stay sitting in the Grandadmobile, offering lifts to each boy in turn. His status as Super Grandad is pleasingly on the rise, bolstered still further when he, assisted
by Our Boy, father of the threesome, took them to the fair aka Harbour Park. The Darling Daughter in Law and I stayed behind on the beach, ostensibly to keep an eye on all our possessions, chatting idly before snoozing companionably in the afternoon sunshine.
It's no wonder we were tired. A major endeavour of the afternoon was to build a boat in the sand, near the water’s edge, then wait for the incoming tide to wash it
away while all the time the boys tried valiantly to hold back the waves like a Trio of present day King Canutes. Sam, James and their parents had spent the best part of an hour building their boat when along came Morgan and I to add a few “embellishments.”
Morgan added perfectly formed wings on each side of the boat while my contribution was to use a discarded drinks cup to build a row of sandcastles on the boat’s prow, giving it the appearance of a sandy dinosaur. My Rascal would have been so proud of
me. These excellent additions turned a perfectly serviceable looking vessel into a mythical monster. I dubbed it The Flying Sandosaurus.
Sadly the Sandosaurus
eventually succumbed to the tide as we all knew it would - so we repaired to Base Camp where the offer of ice cream proved that there is no Sand-Related Disaster that can't be mitigated by a Mr Whippy (with flake) or an Oreo Ice Cream.
Today, of course, was Father’s Day and a chance for Mr B and his son to celebrate fatherhood together. The Welsh Boys had all drawn home-made cards for their Dad. Sam’s
drawing of all the family was spot on with his bespectacled father sporting a tee-shirt carrying the legend “No 1 Dad.” Inside an excellent drawing of a clown, with the affectionate caption: “You!” James had drawn a picture of a footballer
kicking a goal and applauded his Dad (who is Coach Steve to one of the Heath Park Rangers teams) for being “the best coach ever.”
card for Mr B read: “Dad I love how we don't even have to say out loud that I’m your favourite child!” He was, it must be said, a little miffed that the card from one of his sisters raised an even greater laugh: it depicted a lugubrious-looking
dog on the front with the caption: : “It’s hard to keep all the JOY and EXCITEMENT under control!” Given Mr B’s generally jaundiced approach to Father's Day - he considers it a cynical ploy on the part of the manufacturers of greetings
cards - it's somewhat appropriate and lovingly meant.
I had booked a pub lunch for the seven of us - haute cuisine it may not have been but both Fathers
indulged in a “Big Daddy Burger.” Mr B has been hankering after one on every lunch visit we pay to this pub - all he needed was encouragement and a Partner in Burger Crime.
Here’s to all the Dads on Father’s Day. To every Dad who has worked his socks off for his family, who has done his best to help with Maths homework, who has coached his son or daughter’s football team or stood on
a touchline to give loving support. Who has clowned around - and been stern when necessary. Who has read bedtime stories to young’uns - and driven miles to take student offspring to college or uni.
To every Dad - you know who you are - who has built a boat of sand at the water’s edge and watched his kids shriek with mock horror and real delight as the sea crept in.
Happy Father’s Day to every one of you.
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