CHAOS TO COSMOSThe path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Ballard Lake

Ballard Lake and Water Meadows








Guess what we find at the end of Lake Grove Road? A lake (murky, brown, manmade), set in a grove, beside the road. The bridges are cute, I'm sure the trees are real and it does make a pleasant green area, though they've overdone the urban furniture a bit. On the other hand, where are the seats at places you really need them, like at bus stops? Yes, conspicuously absent, of course. 

Sightseeing in New Milton

Vintage post box

Before I find something else to rant / whine about and, for the benefit of my friends, particularly the deprived folk stuck on "sub-tropical paradise islands" I've been doing some more sightseeing around New Milton with a camera, so that you too can enjoy some of its many and varied touristic delights.

So far, I've only managed a round route to the main street and back. The scenery may lack something without them, but at least there are no hills / mountains to walk / climb up and down, apart from a very gentle bridge over the railway and that's enough, thank you. It takes me about 3 days to get over this hike, before I can hobble any further than the next room.

Yet it's all so sadly pedestrian and quintessentially English, that I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not actually Jane Austen's "Emma", showing Frank Churchill around the village - so many of the local shops here still resemble Fords, where you could imagine buying gloves and still paying in old English money, such as Guineas - and completing the circle to Randalls.

Hey, it's not without its moments. In an earlier post, I'd mentioned that this is "hover mower country." Well, I overheard a bloke talking on his mobile phone in Martin's Newsagents, describing the area (he was presumably a newcomer, or, perhaps, here on holiday) to whomever was on the other end, saying that all he'd heard here was the sound of electric lawnmowers and that he was surrounded by "old blokes constantly cutting their lawns." So it's not just me! 

Hydrangeas

At a crossroads, we find a quaint post box, of the type usually seen on Christmas cards. These suburban roads are full of bungalows typical of the area, with wisteria around the door and huge bushes of hydrangeas in the gardens.

Ye old butcher

It's rare to find a decent butcher these days, but New Milton is fortunate to have this and another at the other end of the high street. Now, I didn't actually go into the shop so I may be wrong, but my assumption is that the sign saying VENISON means that they sell venison, in addition to your usual meaty offerings. My mother, whose logic is generally suspect (not too far removed from "normal" in this area), is that she's never been there, because she doesn't fancy venison. Yup, she's absolutely adamant that it can only mean that THE ONLY THING they sell is venison. You really have to rethink your marketing strategies for this market.

The high street is called Station Road (just to confuse people)

Impossibly artificial looking blue blooms

Onward to the weekly market where I saw these very blue hydrangeas with heads the size of footballs. Did you know that it's much easier to change a hydrangea from pink to blue than it is from blue to pink? No, nor did I. Did I want to know, is the real question, but it's best we don't go there, lest I should become obsessed with lawn mowing or something. 

The 4th most numerous type of business in the local area, I note, after estate agents, cafes and charity shops, seems to be the funeral parlors (no surprise, given the demographics.) People must be dying to give them business! 

Sunday, 20 July 2008

On the trail of squirrels and pigeons

Balu outside

Stop the presses: Balu actually woke up and got up, during daylight hours! This is progress, after weeks of cowering and hiding in bed, only appearing after dark and for meals since flying into Britain in June.

I'm sure it won't happen again any time soon, but he did get the chance to go for a stroll in the front garden, meet one of the neighbours (yes, it is a cat on a lead), then after a good sniff round, he flopped down in front of the gate, right where there's a gap that the cheeky squirrels use to come and go from one garden to another. Balu has never actually met a squirrel mind you, but he's probably worked it out, because they're forever skipping past, just inches from the house. They must be half tame to get that close. Or they live here! And Balu has probably seen them when he's been watching from the windowsill during nocturnal hours.

What's the chance he flopped down in that spot for no reason whatsoever? Or just to sunbathe? It was a rare day when he could have. He was a dab hand at catching canaries & bunnies in Tenerife, but we won't be encouraging squirrel hunting (too high in cholesterol?), nor pigeon perturbing, which is what I think really caught his eye! So he got some new balls instead (I mean the plastic type, for playing football) and a fake mouse that he tossed around until we all got tired.

Balu also got the run of the house while mother was out and, strangely enough, though he explored everywhere, he didn't try to destroy anything. He was so quiet that, in the end, I had to go see where he'd gone and, of course, found him lounging happily on the roof of mother's dolls house: THE place that is absolutely verboten to cats! (Well, along with 1001 other places that are forbidden, which - constantly meeting closed doors - can't be helping them feel at home.)

Of course, cats immediately go for THE place they're not supposed to!

The real irony is that, only the day before, I'd said I doubted the cats would ever settle enough to stop this hiding in bed all day lark (I still have my doubts that they'll come out of hiding regularly and, I'm certain they'll never be settled and confident enough to go outside alone). Balu did go straight back to bed after breakfast - like every day for the last few weeks - and, just as he was slinking under the covers, I commented that I "used to have cats", i.e. not just lumps in a bed. Mid-day he got up and stayed up all day. Contrary puss!

Sunday morning: He was back to bed the moment he'd eaten some food and had hissed at me once and tried to run off to the bedroom to hide, no less than three times during breakfast. But, amazingly, both cats were out of bed, lounging at opposite ends of the sunny windowsill when I woke up. Both dashed to the kitchen, shouting loudly for food as soon as I moved. Yes that's normal behaviour for cats in general and was for them before, but they haven't done that here before  as timidness had gotten their tongues. We shall see if he graces us with another appearance later, though it probably won't be for a while, because the snoring sounds are getting pretty loud again!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Does not compute

Look a donut!
Here we go with the mother-related gripe of the day: this afternoon she went for a CT (computed tomography) scan, which, when she told me about it - only yesterday - in one of her blind panics (because she didn't understand what it was), she told me she was worried about being "closed in, inside a tube." HER OWN WORDS.

Since I happened to have had a CT scan a few years ago in Tenerife, I told her that it wasn't a tube, it was like a big donut you pass through (see) and wasn't at all horrible or enclosed. She continued to contradict me, as ever.

When she came home today, she announced that it was nowhere near as bad as she had imagined, so I said, lightly, "See, I told you it wasn't a tube."

"Oh, I never said it was a tube. I knew it wasn't", she snapped back, curtly.

Transpires she read a leaflet, AFTER she'd spoken to me (obviously, it agreed with what I'd told her.) She wasn't about to listen to a what I told her though and she could not bring herself to admit that I had informed her correctly.

No, she just stormed off, stage whispering about how dreadful I am.

Before you go putting this down to old age, which would be exceedingly easy to do, this is a carbon copy of a situation that occurred in 1973 (when I was 16 and she was only 49), when she was going to undergo a hysterectomy.

Being of the generation that didn't talk about "those things", I was sure she had absolutely no idea what this would mean and knew I was right, because she had worked herself up into a right frenzy of panic over it, mostly in fear of all sorts of weird assumptions. Never occurred to her to ask for facts.

Clearly, nobody in the health service considered the need to explain such minute details to anyone, so I tried. Well, could you leave someone to panic?

And for my trouble, she attacked me with nasty accusations, because only a "tart" could possibly know anything about it. Oh, so they only educate "tarts" in schools, or the pages of Cosmopolitan, do they? And, I wasn't believed.

Some people just won't be helped, obviously.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Normal is ...

Look at all those program choices

Well, I too used to say that, Normal Is Just a Setting on a Washing Machine, but today, I learned better, 'coz it isn't even that. Normal's an 'effin fantasy!

Mother (yeah, here we go again), wanted to do my washing this morning (despite the forecast for rain). May I just point out that this is the first time it has been "convenient" to do my laundry since I arrived here on June 6th - the first three weeks of which, the washing machine was broken. This, obviously, is no help when you have only one suitcase of clothes, but I digress ...

Nevertheless, I just handed over the bag of all black clothes and casually said that they didn't need any heat. That's where the problems began.

Some silly part of my brain had expected that she knew how to use her own washing machine, even if I was simultaneously aware of the unwritten, illogical law that prohibited me from laying hands on it, since I couldn't know how. Not even after owning various homes and living alone for 30 years.

Because the house I'd been renting in Tenerife had been wired by an idiot and was (meanly) the lowest rating supply that - officially - wasn't supposed to support a washing machine (yet, the landlady supplied one, which looks illegal to me), the only way I could use a washing machine ever there was by running it cold, with the heat turned off. This was fine actually, because laundry detergents these days are perfectly capable of cleaning without heat; I don't crawl under cars to get oil on me, nor roll in mud with pigs, so my clothes are never really "dirty" and, this reduces the energy used and is therefore "greener" and reduces wear on clothes. And all the washing machines, either mine or in rented accommodation, I'd used in Spain had a setting or means of turning the heat off entirely. Do you think my mother's washing machine has this facility? Of course not!

OK, maybe that's not her fault, but it is another gripe I have with the UK. If Spain can sell washing machines with this "feature," why can't Britain? Shows how little it really cares about climate change, emissions, being green, despite all the stupid ad campaigns. I doubt it's because mum bought the cheapest model either (I'm sure she did), because, I did too.

But at least we can reduce it to the lowest (30C) or select a less "abusive" program, like the one for delicates then? Oh, no we categorically can't because it's "programmed", she declares, pedantically.

Now, OK, I can get that old ladies have trouble with technology, but she's been doing laundry for at least 60 odd of her years. Surely, she knows that not all clothes should or can be washed on exactly the same program? 

A clue is the row of lights and buttons on the front of the machine that anyone's logic would work out was something that you can use - that the user is meant to have access to, even if they don't do so - to change something.

Actually (see above), it's one of the most logical ones I've seen.

(Well, apart from the "Outdoor Sports" setting. WTF is that? Is that like the old Tampax ads, where (even if you're a bloke) you use them and can suddenly, proficiently ride horses? If I use this machine, will it make me proficient at Outdoor Sports too? Can I watch the Beijing Olympics on it, perhaps?)

No, instead of admitting she had never understood any of it, never dared press a button, she tried to argue that the whole machine would be broken, screwed up, de-programmed forever, if the settings were changed.

"You can't change it," she said, flatly.

And, truly, panic was setting in. You could see the heels begin digging. She was close to launching another of her attacks of insulting diatribe to avoid her being "wrong", just because she perceived something to be too difficult.

What about asking someone to help with it? No. It just can't. Period.

And if this is the level of resistance to such a small change ...

Funny, isn't it: when I was growing up, I was taught, no I had it drummed into me constantly at every moment that "There's no such word as can't", yet these days, I hear it in every phrase. Is this irony or hypocrisy, or both?

The inference here was both that she was not about to allow me to touch anything and, the machine was really not capable of being changed.

According to my mother's argument - and yes, I put it to her slowly - what she was effectively saying is that all washing machines have always only ever had one "normal" setting and nobody can ever change it. Yup, that's what she meant, nay insisted. So, people wash the old man's oil and grease covered overalls and their own delicate nylon smalls on the same hot wash do they? Yes.

If she hadn't been so frustratingly, beat your head repeatedly against a brick wall for relief type dead serious, it would be rolling on the floor comical!

So, yeah, this time, I put my foot down with a firm hand, spent all of .000002 seconds "studying" the controls, before I set it to something more suitable (she grabbed my wrist in panic as I did so, mind you) than the wasteful (not to mention damaging and I need to make the few clothes I've got last as long as I can) hot program that she'd been using, for everything, for years ... 

She was also about to add an excessive amount of detergent, so I put a stop to that too. Then I explained how her wastefulness had more than negated all the switching off and plug pulling that she is utterly paranoid obsessive about.

Normal, sadly, has gone the same way as common sense.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Right to adequate food is a human right

Sometimes, if I see them, I'll buy kiwi fruit. Actually, only about a dozen times in my entire life and once since I've been in the UK, only because they were selling 'em cheap on the market. I don't obsess over them, I don't have to buy them every time I go out and I don't specifically look for them.

Yesterday, mother did some shopping (she'd asked me if she should get some kiwis and I'd said that only if she sees them, like there's no specific need, don't search for them, etc.) So she comes home, announces that they didn't have any kiwi fruit (like the world was ending, or somehow I'd die without them) and, then produces a bag, saying "... so I brought you pears instead."

Only she knows - and she has remembered it when I was with her in a shop recently - that I don't like pears. I detest them.

So I have pears I don't like, or no fruit. 

But she only bought two pears and won't be shopping again until Monday. Two fruits, for two people, for four days. It ain't exactly five-a-day, is it?

El PanHaving been used to having amazing fresh wholemeal bread delivered daily in Tenerife, I'm "spoilt" and finding the cheap, sliced crap that my mother usually buys is, well, I'd rather eat wet paper. Actually, wet paper probably has more nutritional value. Her belief is that her chemical-laden (you could taste it), manufactured muck is "healthy". Well, it's brown, init? 

Anyway, finally, last week she deigned to purchase a fair to middling quality granary baguette. Now, I won't say I was in raptures over it, but it was clearly the best one is going to find around here, so I enthusiastically indicated my approval. Yesterday, she was supposedly picking up something of that ilk again. What does she get? More horrible, cheap, paper-maché sliced bread.

So I have bread I don't like, or no bread.

She didn't buy anything that I can put on or between it, mind you.

Despite the labels, the price and the colour of the carton all being different, she also managed to come back with the wrong soya milk too.

And I have to put up with it, or go without.

It really takes some doing to get it all wrong.

The price of juice went up, so she bought some manufactured cordial type thing that tasted like, well, exactly what it was: sugar with flavourings.

Still, it "complimented" the ghastly plastic-boil-in-the-bag fish dinner.

For Sunday dinner, we have ONE (count it) small chicken breast between us.

And not a fresh vegetable of any type in the house at all. Not. Even. One.

Such small things, I know, but I have nothing else; no treats, no pleasures, cannot go out anywhere, cannot change them, cannot buy alternatives. So I'm faced with vomit inducing flavours I cannot hide, because there is nothing else in the house to hide them with, or I can just be even more hungry.

This really was the final straw, on top of everything else ... So I came to my room and cried and cried and cried, because I just couldn't stop crying.

Being menopausal doesn't help, being depressed (with good reason, I think), doesn't either. Nevertheless, I tried to cry quietly, but she won't even let me have any privacy in this room, so, when she discovered me crying (I haven't told her why), she said I'd better stop it or - this was said as a threat - she'll "get a doctor" to me, who, according to her, will lock me up.

Well, I look forward to the improvement in the menu and living standards!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Pussies Progress

A progress report on these Canarian "expatriate" moggies now living in Blighty: They don't like the bloody weather any more than I do and spend all day long, curled up tightly under a thick duvet, appearing only when the sun goes down for the odd meal. I've tried peeling them off the bed, but they just slink right back up under the covers and Velcro themselves back into place again. The lumps in the bed are hardly discernible and, if it weren't for the odd sound of snoring, you'd could almost forget that they're there.

That isn't really a problem on it's own, because it's perfectly normal for cats to sleep for around 16 hours a day, but they're not just sleeping, they're also still hiding from everything. Their general behaviour is not normal (for them), they aren't eating and drinking as they should be doing and they're showing absolutely no signs of settling in. And, if they're showing no signs of relaxing and settling after a month, then I think one has to accept that they may never do so.

Well, I know I will never do so, so I shouldn't be surprised really.

Balu did seem to be making some progress, but then suddenly became timid and scared, running and hiding from every other strange noise, person and thing. He's been cowering, belly slinking on the floor and even hisses at me, none of which he had EVER done before in all his 7 years. He became so uncomfortable with it, his walks in the garden got suspended. Yesterday, I tried taking Kitty out for a stroll in the morning, which was going fine, until my mother came towards her. Kitty immediately took fright, tried to run away, got caught up in her harness, then started hissing, spitting and flailing. With some difficulty, I was able to subdue Kitty and rush her back inside the house again, but not before she'd lacerated my hands. Kitty's gouged through the tip of one of my fingers so deeply it probably needed a stitch, which gives you an idea of how jumpy and scared they are.

The cats spend all day hiding, coming out just long enough to eat and even then I mostly have to take them to the dish and they'll run away from it and go back into hiding again, immediately, if there's even the slightest noise.

These two cats, I bottle fed (with much help from the dog) from when they were 2-3 weeks old. Balu spent his first weeks sleeping inside my T-shirt, he spent the next 7 years kissing and cuddling me and generally being a fungus. Now he doesn't want to do any of that. As a friend said, he has no-one else to blame (except me) for the horrid move and the current situation he doesn't like. It really hurts. And now I feel like I've lost "my baby" (on top of everything else.)

Monday, 7 July 2008

My mother and other madness

Having come back to the UK, because I really had no option, I've intimated to friends that things are much worse than I envisaged - and I was expecting it to be really, really awful. Now I've had a few weeks to assess the situation, I can only conclude that my mother is no longer mentally capacitated (if she ever was.) Partly, I need to rant for my own psychological well being, but secondly, I'll take suggestions on how to deal with this impossible situation. In public, she does a wonderful job of disseminating. Ask anyone who's met her: she's perfectly amiable. This makes it look like I'm making stuff up. She's told everyone she wished I would come to England, or that she couldn't wait for me to arrive, but now I'm here and in private, the story is very different.

She also appears convinced - i.e. has convinced herself, by nothing more than "wishful thinking" (or fantasy) - that I'm here simply by my own choice.

With the best will in the world, the problem is not one I can just ignore, nor decide not to let it bother me, because it impacts on every single thing one needs to do on a day to day basis, both large and - particularly - small.

That means it has a constant, nagging quality, akin to Chinese torture.

To begin, let's just take the latest example, concerning food: Last week, we managed to place an order and have some large and heavy groceries delivered by Tesco. This was a bloody miracle, because previously, she'd come up with 1001 reasons why we could not do that. Given that there is a delivery charge, however, this is only viable once a month or so for non-perishables. We couldn't have them frequently deliver fresh produce.

Getting out to buy fresh food is a real problem though. Because of exorbitant bus fares, delivery is cheaper than if I went to the shops so she'd already decided that I am not to go shopping, because she has a free bus pass.

However, a combination of poor quality; all the fruit and vegetables here seem to be already overripe and things will not keep, even in the fridge, for more than a couple of days - things kept better and longer in my fridge in Tenerife's heat, which leads me to conclude that the approx. 25 year old fridge is passed it too - means we can only buy for a couple of days at a time.

Or, her answer: buy everything in packets and frozen.

She gobbles packaged cakes, biscuits and sweets (while maintaining that she can't eat large meals.) That's her problem, of course, but she refuses to eat (and therefore buy) healthy food that I can eat. Her bird-like portions are not enough. I'm also lucky to get one piece of fruit a day, so my system is "blocked", but I'm so hungry, I'm dizzy and shaking half the time. Today, however, she wanted me to go shopping too, because she wants me to check an item in-store before we do another online order next month. There's no hurry for it. In fact, I can probably check it online (given more time to do so), or by phone, but I'd said I would go, if the weather permitted.

This morning was cold and raining - remember I've come from 16 years in a sub-tropical climate, I suffer all the symptoms of fibromyalgia and only have summer clothes with me because of the baggage limit, so I believe I said that as a wise precaution, not a silly whim - but no, none of that matters.

She wanted her own way and by golly, she was going to have her tantrum.

So, this morning she provoked a carbon copy of a venomous argument that we'd already had once a couple of weeks ago. Almost everything (healthy food) I eat, she deigns to be too expensive, or claims (unfounded) doesn't agree with her, so there seems little point in her standing at the door of my room, demanding in curt phrases and in an antagonistic, snarky tone, "And?", "What else then?", etc., for me to tell her what to buy, because whatever I say, she'll have an argument against it.

Just to give you an example of the impossible logic one is up against, she simply won't hear that things like fishfingers are not healthy, real food. Those, she "compliments" as being really nice, whilst a stew I made with all absolutely fresh, healthy ingredients, was (deliberately) criticized. The fishfingers were in the freezer already, with coatings so orange and glowing they look like they were made in the Sellafield nuclear reactor. If you gave those to kids, they'd be hyper for weeks! As soon as I ate some, my stomach blew up, painfully. The rest of the packet should go in the bin, in my opinion, but she won't hear of it: they must be used up.

And today, she gleefully - with a wild look, an evil cackle and glowing eyes of a madwoman - announced "Oh good, they'll make you nice and ill."

Another prime example: she has "Smash" potato in the cupboard and she defends it, pouting and shouting, saying it's made from "real potato". She absolutely refuses to accept that there is any difference, nutritionally or otherwise, between this powdered, processed and packaged, obesity provoking junk and the muddy things you dig up from fields.

The freezer is laden with other gross things in a bag pretending to be ready-to-roast potatoes. She thinks frozen vegetables are perfectly adequate too. Well, yes, some are acceptable, but not as one's only source.

She will buy what she damn well likes (she announced) - and I will continue to be hungry and unwell as a consequence (which she appears not to believe and disregards anyway) - but, instead of acceding to my request that she drop the subject before it turned into an argument, she just kept pushing the issue, defending her junk food choices and when that didn't work, insulting me, then starts telling me my behaviour needs to change, puts on her "superior, holier than thou voice" and booms for me to "get down the doctor then."

I'd have gladly walked away, but I couldn't, because she was in my room and, no matter what I said, would not leave and had to have "the last word".

Eventually she did storm off (still indignant that she was the injured party), then she just had to come back to dig the knife in again and, finally went out off to the shops, childishly, without saying a word; not that she was going, nor goodbye nor anything (not that I wanted her to by that point.)

The other day, she was cackling with her madwoman face on, telling me to get out of her house and go back to ... The irony was that she had wound herself up so much, she couldn't even remember where it was that I'd lived previously.

She wanted to be "left alone to die".

(You don't detect just a little melodrama here?)

Then she cackled even more saying that "they" can take her house, because then - even more evil looks and crazy cackling - she'd be glad I'd be left with nothing. And, at this point, quite rightly, you're asking yourself what the hell I've done to surely deserve such deliberate, nasty, venomously cruel treatment - from my own mother too. So am I and I know I can only give you my side of the story, but I promise you that I've never done anything so bad as to merit this.

And this is how it goes on, day after day.