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Saturday, 26 October 2013
I sometimes think that as one gets older booby traps are set to try, test or annoy us. Take your pick.
For example I have to go to see my retinal surgeon regularly - I know, it sounds scary, but it isn’t. Friends invariably become squeamish when I mention eye surgery to them; but honestly, it doesn’t hurt, going to the dentist is far worse.
My surgeon is like a magician when it comes to restoring sight - first you can‘t see then you can! Policemen looking younger every year is one thing but it’s something else when your consultant looks as if he’s just been allowed to wear long trousers for the first time.
Going to his consulting rooms is, I imagine, similar to a social meeting of the mafia - his patients tend to go in for rather large dark sun glasses. There is also a tendency to shuffle given that deteriorating sight is often inflicted on the, shall we say, more mature members of society. Hence there is a plethora of walking sticks and various walking aids.
The wait in the car park, on one visit, was somewhat prolonged as, with bated breath, we watched two very aged patients negotiate the steps up to the front door. Both had severe mobility problems plus the aforementioned sun glasses. Now these steps are steep. And when I say steep I mean it, a mini north face of the Eiger steep. Going up is fretful, coming down is, shall we say, stimulating and must be agony to observers, “Will she? Won’t she - get to the bottom unscathed?” they must ask themselves.
Often, in such waiting rooms, people sit and ignore each other - them there black specs would make it easier to do. But I’ve found that those with bad eyesight are often sociable folks - it’s the same at the eye hospital. Perhaps having restricted vision reduces inhibitions, easier when you can’t really see who you’re talking to, so can make fewer judgements about them.
This time we got going quickly, helped by a very jolly and friendly woman who was not a patient, we began to chat and chat and then some more. Having dealt with various hot news topics - the usual ones, crime, the youth of today, drugs, reality television, and our collective agreement on our feelings for the government and especially NICE, we inevitably got on to the subject of THE steps.
Everyone was in accord that going down was a dodgy exercise especially for the partially sighted (I should point out that due to the Magician’s skills I am now an ex member of this band - Yippee!)
‘My dentist is on the first floor,’ a quiet creature ventured.
‘That’s nothing compared to my dentist’s. Two flights and very.’ A lady robustly informed us - having watched her somewhat precarious arrival I clucked in sympathy and then everyone muttered in agreement. I admired her, she was obviously one of those no nonsense women who are the backbone of the shires and who are handy to know in wartime.
‘It’s a mystery to me why my physiotherapist’s treatment room is in the basement. To make matters worse the steps are covered in moss,’ an elderly gentleman added his pennyworth. This was becoming quite competitive, I thought.
‘Why are lawyers’ rooms always on the top floor of Georgian buildings with no lifts?’ The speaker was right. Nearly everyone had a story of the legal profession skulking in the attics. One man swore that he needed oxygen when he got to the top and was convinced that was where he would one day croak it. I forbore to ask if this lawyer was the one who held THE will, it seemed a bit tasteless.
Why was it? We puzzled. The indomitable lady put her finger on it.
The problem lay, she said, with the city we were in, a beautiful, perfect, Georgian gem - Historic Buildings wallahs would stamp on any change to steps. ‘So, the blind and lame, just have to put up with it,’ she barked, and I doubt anyone would argue with her - about anything, come to that.
I was itching to get in with my example. ‘I know a chiropodist and his staircase is vertiginous. You see these poor people with poorly feet, needing crampons to get to him.’
Everyone congratulated me on my fine illustration. I was excited now. I reckoned I could top that. ‘I attend the local Parkinson’s Association meetings and guess where they are held, on the FIRST floor.’
Gasps of astonishment went up. I reckon I had won the great steps debate with two fine examples.
After seeing the magician and receiving a good report on the state of my retina - Yippee again! I set off down the steps and, guess what, I tripped. And it crossed my mind, as I hung onto the hand-rail for dear life, Georgian city or not, what about ’ealth and Safety?
Sunday, 1 September 2013
Experts tell us that the owning of a pet is a good thing. It’s beneficial for one’s health both physical and mental. Pets help the elderly fight the scourge of loneliness. They tell us stroking your cat or dog can calm you, even lower your blood pressure. And a recent report goes as far as saying that the ownership of one can subtract a good six months from your biological age.
No doubt all this is so. However, there is, I've discovered, from personal experience, a reverse side. Animals can actually damage your health and they most certainly can damage you financially - and this is excluding vet’s bills. And I'm not talking about the simple - tripping over them in the dark - accidents. Oh dear me no.
It started years ago with Alan who came to stay with his dinner jacket and ticket for a Cambridge May Ball. He did not know he was allergic to cats. But when our kitten climbed under his duvet he discovered he was and the incident triggered his first ever asthma attack - a particularly bad one. Once the ambulance was called we were all late and he missed the ball. We could not find a buyer for his ticket and Moss Bros weren’t interested that he’d never worn their suit. I was unaware that this was the beginning of pet catastrophes.
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Nearly every writer I know has a theme or themes which they return to time and time again. Mine are consistent and have their roots in my own life.First is my dislike of the class system which pervades this country. We are constantly being told that it no longer exists, that we live in an egalitarian society. I beg to differ. There are changes, of course, and it might not be as rigid as it was in my youth, but instead of disappearing, like an amoeba it grows and other strata evolve to encompass our altering society. Add now an elite and an underclass.
This stems from my experiences of life as a working class girl who married into the aristocracy and I still bear the scars.
Saturday, 5 January 2013
Breeders is one of my favourite books. Dogs are a big part in the story and my passion are my dogs. I decided that instead of three main characters I would write three couples falling in love - a young pair with the joy of first love; a couple who are both emerging from the debris of failed marriages. And an elderly couple who find each other. Three couple whose love is different but yet the same
One of the nicest things about being a writer is that if someone has been unkind or rude to you, or who simply annoys you then the fury, anger or mild irritation with them can be helped by a simple dose of revenge - you can put them in a book. Of course, if not careful, you can be sued so it’s best to take the precaution of renaming them and making it so there mother’s don’t recognise them. Doesn’t this negate the revenge? No, it doesn’t since THEY know who you are writing about.
Sunday, 3 June 2012
I had for a time, in the sixties, worked for an agent in the pop music industry. So pop would be included and Overtures began.
Monday, 23 January 2012
Hector is the second book in the series suggested by Carmen Callil when I was at Chatto and Windus.
I doubt there is an author who does not dream of their book becoming a film or adapted for TV. Such dreams coming true are as rare as hens’ teeth. The problem sets in when you get a call that someone wants to buy an optioned on your book - an option is one thing, it coming to fruition is another. When this happens, my advice is always the same - bank the money and forget about it.
Friday, 13 January 2012
In 1991 Molly’s Flashings was published by Chatto and Windus. I was lucky, far luckier than I had the sense to realise, to be involved with such a prestigious publisher. The MD was Carmen Callil who, rightly, was regarded as one of the most brilliant and innovative publishers in London. One of the founders of Virago, when I met her she was revitalising Chatto and bringing it into the 20th century - it was not an easy task since there was resistance to her plans. This great literary house was resting on its laurels and while it was all very well to be regarded as the most esteemed house it did not help pay the bills!