Sunday, 12 November 2017

Yesterday I sat on a sofa with a 90-year-old man who'd just lost his wife - we were about to attend her funeral. He held my hand, and talked about things from long ago, repeatedly, because his dementia doesn't let him live in the present. Maybe it spares him what it would feel like to know you are alone again after 53 years of marriage.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

An amusing little quiz for couples

Who's older? Him
Age difference? Six years (but he's still in his 30s)
Who was interested first? Both
Who's taller? Him
Worst temper? Him
Most sensitive? Me
Loudest? Him
More social? Him
Most stubborn? Hard to call
Falls asleep first? Him
Cooks the best? Me
Better singer? Him
Most adventurous? Him
Who enjoys traveling the most? Haven't really done any
The most organized? Me
Stresses the most? Me
Best driver? Me - but I don't. He's good at parking.

Friday, 3 November 2017

TYLER

“So, that’s Giles! What do you think?”
“He’s great, great cook, brilliant host, really nice with you”.
“There’s a “but” coming”
“It’s kinda rude, and not right to ask, but do you really fancy him?”
“Yeah, I do. Crazy, isn’t it?”
“He’s got to be older than your parents”
“He is, lots”.
“What would they say?”
“Who cares? This is about me and Giles, not them”
“Mine would slaughter me”
“Yours would slaughter you for being gay, no matter how old your boyfriend was”.
“Sometimes, Fred, you make going home so nice”.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Thoughts on a Working Week With Fraught Bits

It was rather a nice weekend. One of my former fellow-students at Ruskin College was celebrating her graduation in her Social Work degree. Walking there and back in the dark was a bit spooky, but it was a charming welcome and a lovely place to be. Her youngest son in particular took it upon himself to teach me about Pokemon cards, and we spent quite a long time not really learning these mysteries. I wanted to take him home with me. In the brief term we were students, she had relatively few good words to say about family life, but her partner and children seemed to me a pretty good deal. I guess it's the stress of being away, when you've been at home. It must be so hard to feel on top of things, when you've always been there.

And then the week's work began. We're having new doors. Thirteen of them. Possibly more. They have a tendency to breed - the original plan was for six. And some of these doors are going to have video-entry intercom permission, and all are going to be on a single programmable system (by me!), and there's CCTV as well, and goodness knows what-all. Those of you who know me well will know about the Inner Stalin. I have never slaughtered a kulak, but I do like being in control of stuff. Agendas, minutes, keys, doors, cupboards, diaries, calendars .... This is how Stalin took over the Soviet Union. The others were too busy with the intellectual stuff, and left the drudgery to him. By the time they turned round from their boffin thoughts, he'd taken over the whole thing, and everyone appointed was his lacky.

Now, I'm not quite like that. But I do like to know what's going on in my building, and in my key safe, I've tried out most of the 90 keys, and I'm pretty sure there's nowhere I can't get into.

And then it was Tuesday, the day of the opening of the New Westgate Shopping Centre. At the church meeting previously we'd been given the choices of staying up all night to offer refreshment and relief (let the reader understand) to the waiting Mammonite masses, or start at 6 a.m. with Radio Oxford. We went for the morning. And, a little bleary, there we were - two deacons ahead of me, and others soon after. The vast crowds we were promised didn't materialise. One of our number arrived a little late, loudly apologising "I overslept!". I replied "we're over-staffed!". But it was a good morning, and it got better. We saw people we'd not seen before. There was the chap who used to have a hurdy-gurdy (I have no idea if that's the right word) in Cornmarket Street thirty years ago. And another who'd come to be with his girlfriend as her London job was re-located to Oxford (the closest she could afford to live was Bicester), but no, he had no plans to come here too, and they were going to schedule their weekends. I could see the parish matrons thinking "that's not going to work". And there was the homeless guy who had got so close to the top of the fortnightly council house lottery, within the top ten the last few weeks, he was sure he'd get somewhere to live. He was a widower. He was scarcely half my age (51).

Wednesday was spent trying to catch up on all the things that Tuesday wasn't, and then it was Thursday. Arriving early to work (I took the bus, which I hate doing, but my sleeping patterns are shot and this was the only way to get there in time) I saw the
CCTV people putting in the 4th and last camera in not quite the place that had been agreed by the grown-ups. But it was there.
Installed, in the sandstone wall. Of the listed building. The view it gives us is magnificent, and much better than the one planned. So I said "leave it be, and let's see if it becomes a problem". This isn't really my place to decide. But that's the
catch with works chosen by a committee of organ-grinders, and just the monkey on-site.

Friday was a new dilemma. A church funeral, for John, our organist, a serving deacon, fifth generation of the church for ever, and someone of whom I was personally very fond indeed, was fixed for a day when something else was fixed.

I had to unfix it. It was for the street homeless who have died this year. It was an uncomfortable thing to do (thinking to the widower I'd met on Tuesday morning), but the deacons have backed me. For my own part, I was thinking of the day five years ago when I was walking with my mother and six diaries (none of them family) trying to sort my father's funeral, and thinking how collapsing it would have been to be told No, after all. The homeless will do their thing at a nearby church.

And then it was the joyful stress-free weekend. And I remembered the November Prayer Diary, which begins on Wednesday. So, after much delay, off into town I go. There are few things I truly hate more than Oxford city centre on a Saturday. Add, opening of New Westgate Centre, and half-term, and you have the 6th pit of hell. I say that only because one must always, as in a filing cabinet, leave space for a 7th. And thus and so it was. A few cute legs - we're getting to the end of the shorts and thighs season, which I'm personally resisiting (the end, that is), but not to the delight of those others who are doing the same. Children everywhere for half-term. And then the monster of the New Westgate. Goodness. Well, goodness doesn't really come into it. It has shop after shop, restaurant after eatery, John Lewis on three floors (but not the corkscrew I wanted), a roof terrace and lovely views of the city. In fact, mainly lovely views of my college, but that's actually a pretty good deal.

But it was people, people, people. I was so glad to get out onto what I call "the coast road" out of town. It's the ring road, but I think the ebb and flow of the traffic is very like the waves on a beach. It's quite soothing.

This afternoon I headed into Headington mainly in search of milk from Waitrose - I have this notion that their cows are happier. Also some more sausages to replace those that are going to be turned into toad-in-the-hole (about which Ricardo is disgracefully rude) and I had this loony idea I might find an aloe vera plant. For that, I was too late, even if such a thing exists. I read somewhere that they give out good vibes. I could do with that.

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
October 2017


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Another bonkers quiz from FB

19 random FACTS about yourself that may surprise people.

1. Do you make your bed everyday?

No. Nor never.

2. What's your favourite​ number?

Three for the Trinity, or whatever's next if bottles and glasses are involved.

3. What is your dream job?

Chancellor of the Exchequer. Or Curator of London Zoo.

4. If you could, would you go back to school?

No.

5. Can you parallel park?

No.

6. A job you had which people would be shocked that you worked at?

Skivvying at a night shelter, perhaps.

7. Do you think aliens are real?

No.

8. Can you drive a stick shift?

Yes.

9. Guilty pleasure?

Don't do guilt.

10. Tattoos?

None, ghastly things.

11. Favourite colour?

Blue.

12. Things people do that drive you mad?

Not answering the bloody question.

13. Fear?

Being stuck like this for ever.

14. Favourite childhood game?

Didn't like childhood, generally don't like games.

15. Do you talk to yourself?

Endlessly. But I don't listen.

16. Do you like doing puzzles?

Yes, especially simple crosswords and Sudokus.

17. Favourite music?

Cole Porter

18. Tea or Coffee?

Gin

19. First thing you remember you wanted to be when you grew up?

A wizard.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

CAN YOU FILL THIS OUT WITHOUT LYING? Go on then...

1. What was the last thing you drank?

Rosé wine, right now, an autumn picnic.

2. Where was your profile picture taken?

The Facebook one, at our wedding, the blog one at my desk.

3. Worst pain you've ever had?

Earache when I was a child.

4. Favorite place you've ever travelled?

New York.

5. How late did you stay up last night?

About 2ish.

6. If you could move, where would it be?

The North Sea coast, maybe East Anglia.

7. Which Facebook friends live closest?

Robin and Debs.

8. The last time you cried?

Whenever I watch a film.

9. Who took your profile pic?

Friends in America for FB, Ricardo for the blog.

10. What's your favorite season?

This year, Autumn.

11. If you could have any career, what would it be?

Writer and broadcaster.

12. Longest distance you've traveled from your home?

Foz do Iguacu in Brasil.

13. Favorite childhood memory?

The day I saw a kingfisher catch a fish, with my Dad, on the Isle of Wight.

14. Thing you are most afraid of?

That the insecurity of the present will persist into the future.

15. Who do you think will play along?

A couple of game old coves.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Do I love my country?

My instinctual answer to the question is, "No". What is there to love about a political entity with a dubious history, at least part of which pitted my ancestors against each other (in Ireland). I see its tremendous flaws - the corruption of its politics, more by vanity and indolence than by money, as few people are able to get into politics unless they are already rich; its class-ridden snobberies; its failure to integrate its parts and regions into one nation; its contempt for intelligence, science, the arts, the hinterland of the mind and the sense of wonder; its new-found disdain for the poorest in its society; its short-termism and "can't do" mentality; its faddish conformity in all things from coffee shops to tattoos. But .... would I leave? No.

So, what is there to love about this land? Here's a random sample, in no order of priority

1. The land itself, and this autumn, the landscape of trees and hedgerows in particular;

2. Euphemism and understatement that falls only just short of outright deceit;

3. Graveyards of our ancestors, almost all in unmarked graves;

4. Parish churches everywhere proclaiming in stone and brick the Divine love and pastoral care that the Church of England no
longer feels;

5. Uniforms - for schoolchildren, medical professionals, clergy, black tie diners;

6. Gardens and allotments tended with such care;

7. A filthy sense of humour which is generally denied;

8. The shipping forecast;

9. The priority of dogs and cats over people;

10. The weather;

11. A Monarchy and House of Lords which have absolutely no right still to be there, but which have clung on through evolution;

12. Free public museums and galleries;

13. The way we all know the aspidistra is part of our national heritage, but few could identify one;

14. "Just a Minute" and "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue";

15. The Lord Privy Seal;

16. The Thames and the Tyne;

17. Birdlife, from wrens to kites to kingfishers even in suburban Barton;

18. Bluebell woods;

19. The NHS;

20. "The Archers".