Wednesday, January 23, 2008

f.o.t.h.s. then and now

you might be wondering who, or what, are "f.o.t.h.s.?"
f.o.t.h.s is an acronym coined by helen, one of our group.
a friendship was formed among a handful of teenage girls more than 37 years ago.
we found ourselves flung together in a secretarial college which was housed in two old, formerly large houses, where we were to master the fine art of being indispensable secretaries of the 70's.

in that cosy environment, which seemed to us free and so grown up after the rules and confines of our respective high schools, we would learn how to take dictation in pitman shorthand at formidable speeds of 100 and 120 words per minute; how to transcribe the resulting outlines into flawless correspondence, typed at the breakneck speed of 60 words per minute without, i might add, the luxury or "technology' of electric typewriters or word processors.
in the days of manual typewriters where each letter was often accompanied by 6, count them, 6, carbon copies, this was no mean feat.

we didn't really know it then but we were young girls in our prime.
we were firm and fair, fit and fabulous.
we knew how to wear mini skirts and knee high boots, how to apply dramatic eye make up and how to toss our flowing locks while we danced our feet off on the dance floors of the local clubs and pubs.

our college was the turning point in all of our lives and we loved everything about it; the teachers and all of their idiosyncrasies; the great location, right next to the sea front, where we could escape on days when we'd just had enough of the world, and close to some of the best pubs, cafes and music halls where the big groups of the day regularly played.
not forgetting the best fish shops in the world. nights of dancing and courting always ended at the chippy.

the area was a haven for local talent of the good looking male variety, not the high falutin' artistic variety. boyfriends came and went faster than you could put on another coat of mascara or apply a fresh layer of frosted pink lip gloss.
we packed an awful lot of living into the two years we were training to be secretaries and we formed an enduring bond to each other which is as strong today as it was then.

life and times put distance between us as will happen. but we maintained some contact over the years and would see each other occasionally. then as we got older and the families grew, we came back together more often and would take up where we left off, always as if no time had elapsed in between.

some of us got married and had kids. some of us got divorced, some got married again. some stayed single.
we stayed friends.
in the days before the internet there were letters. nowadays there are emails and these come every day keeping us up to date and in touch, even though we are in 3 different countries.

every year we meet up with each other.
sometimes, like last year, we all make it to the same place at the same time.
sometimes only some of us can make it.

once we met up in canada and then flew to new york and one of us flew in from saudi arabia to surprise the rest of us there.
that was a memorable event.
the year we all turned 50.
we knew all of the words to the songs of the 60's and 70's and we belted them out all over that city and back to canada.
we laughed so hard, at ourselves and at each other.

but one of us didn't make it to New York. she had had a stroke and we hadn't known she'd almost died.
she lost a lot of her independence and mobility but she didn't lose us and she didn't lose herself.
she claws her way back from disability to ability and we are there on the journey with her.

she is the one who called us f.o.t.h.s.
last year she gave each of us a silver heart and a pair of earrings.
she said it's to remind us that we are the
"Friends of the Heart Sisterhood."

It's a good group to belong to.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

memory lane

i was thinking about my mam.
can't believe she's been gone for almost 6 years. is that possible?
the other day i was remembering, not for the first time, a story she told me when i was young.
i always loved to hear stories about her childhood and her reminiscences but she needed persuasion to tell them.
i think she thought that her stories weren't interesting but i loved them and always asked to hear more. they were quaint and seemed to be from so very long ago. as things do when heard from the perspective of the child-parent generation gap.

when she was a teenager in high school she had a formidable domestic science teacher.
(domestic science is the lost, no longer taught, art of cooking, washing, cleaning and, no doubt, donkey stoning the front step.)

the art of laundering was next on the agenda.

the teacher told the class to each bring in an item to be washed.
(imagine today spending a whole class on washing clothes. in those days there were so many things involved in doing laundry..... first of all grating the great lumps of soap into flakes then filling the huge galvanized tub with water; lighting the gas burner under the tub to boil the water for the whites and then waiting for the water to boil. after a good boiling, out come the whites and next to go in are the coloured items; both loads agitated with the poss stick, i.e. pounded up and down, before being removed and going through the manually turned wringer.

the tub was emptied and refilled with clean water and then clothes were rinsed and re-possed before being wrung out again. it must have taken an eternity to dry washing in those days before the advent of the washing machine/spin drier...)

as instructed the items to be laundered were brought in by the eager students.

anxious to impress, they each brought in something neat, and already very clean.
no-one would ever accuse their mothers of the cardinal sin of being less than a perfect laundress.
thus, they were carefully inspected by the teacher who turned them over and over, inside and out.

pillowcases, sideboard runners, teatowels, antimacassars and tablecloths.

each article was judged on its merits before being allowed to be placed into the tub. no intermingling of unworthy garments. no personal garments allowed.

the teacher used the huge wooden tongs with metal clasps to plunge the articles into the boiling water and then gave the girl the huge poss stick and ordered her to 'agitate, agitate, up and down, up and down'.
until it was jessie mcdonald's turn to offer her article up for inspection.

the mcdonalds were new to living in a house that didn't have wheels.
and they didn't feel the same need for cleanliness as did the other families.
the girl held her item nonchalantly aloft as the teacher approached with the tongs.
the teacher paused and stared over the top of the glasses perched on the end of her nose.
her face went pale and her mouth fell open.
you could feel the tension in the room my mother said.
each student stopped what she was doing and peered through the steam to see what would happen next.

jessie mcdonald was holding out the most disgusting, red woolen sweater.
it had holes.
it had buttons missing.
and what looked like cigarette burns.
it was threadbare and very, very filthy.
it was extremely small and crumpled and smelled very badly.

the teacher wrinkled her nose and spoke barely in a whisper.
"and what, on earth, is THAT?" she demanded hoarsely, refusing to touch it with her precious tongs.
the class inhaled as one, waiting for the response...
and this is where my mother could never make it to the punch line. she would fall about laughing, her shoulders shaking and the tears running down her cheeks, so caught up in the memory of the event.

i loved to see her laugh.
i knew what was coming and i was already laughing with her.
"please miss" answered jessie mcdonald carelessly and almost proudly in her thick geordie accent, "it's the monkey's jumper"
i never did find out the domestic science teacher's response; i like to imagine she fainted, or the consequence she administered to jessie mcdonald for attempting to sully the sanctity of the galvanized poss tub, but in so many ways it was a lesson.
it was a history lesson because by the time i heard the story electric twin tub washing machines with spin driers were in most homes and poss sticks, tongs and poss tubs were now artefacts, long gone from the modern kitchen.

soap powder came in boxes, already shredded and finely scented.
hot water came out of the tap and no longer had to be heated under an open flame.
and domestic science was a lost art.
and people no longer kept monkeys wearing little red sweaters and hats as house pets.

but the memory still remains.
thanks mam xxxxx

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

telephone solicitors and why i don't like 'em

i'm sure you are not allowed to call them 'solicitors' anymore.
there's probably a newer, better, more-fitting-for-the-21st-century label.

a rose by any other name....
still stinks.
they call at the worst of times.
they don't take no for an answer.
they seem insulted when you say it's not a good time at the moment or that you don't want to/don't have time to answer their questions/don't need what they're selling, thank you.
they are often rude and when they say "thanks, have a nice day" i don't think they really mean it.
they practically force you into being rude when you think about it
and that doesn't make me feel good.

i was going to vent my spleen here on telemarketers all, but i just learned a new technique to solve the problem once and for all.
it's a no brainer and it's painless all round.
nobody gets hurt.
i don't get mad.
they don't hang up on me and feel bad about themselves, or vice versa.
i am of course referring to the H.O.P. method

it's very simple and i will share it with you now,

when you get on the phone, you don't often realize that it's a telemarketer/solicitor rightaway. but as soon as it becomes apparent that the caller has an ulterior motive in asking, "and how are you today Mrs B______?"
as if your welfare was of their utmost concern, (yeah, right) that's when you use the H.O.P. method.
simply say:
"Hold on Please" and then put the phone down and walk away.
come back in five minutes and the problem is solved.
dead air!
hey, time is money.
not yours, theirs that is.
how simple is that?

and if you have a portable phone, then just take it to the other room for a minute or two.
i'm thinking i'll put mine next to the radio and let them listen to music for a while.
jazz funk maybe.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

goodbye; new friend

so i was sitting in church this morning.

listening to the music and at first my thoughts are racing.
sometimes i start to think so many different things about God; who? what? where? when? why?
there can be lots of questions.
i find it hard to get centred sometimes.
i sit and have to wait for the peace to come, and it usually does.
then i know that it doesn't matter how many questions or answers there are.
i walked there and back which is always good for clearing the head.
so then i got home and on the radio there's an irish guy, an ex priest, being interviewed and he has the most amazing voice and, what i like to think of, as an old fashioned irish accent.
he's talking about when he was a priest, which he was for, i think he said, 19 years.
he's talking about death and dying and he's talking about the things we don't understand about faith, death etc.
he believes that the dead are around us, guiding us, protecting us etc.
it sounded nice to hear it put like that.
i won't do him justice trying to quote him here.
but everything he said sounded like music and made such sense and was so comforting.
i had never heard him before and i was fascinated, wondering who he was and where i could hear more of him.
then the interviewer said we were listening to a repeat broadcast from last year, or some other time, with john o'donohue, the irish poet and philosopher, who died last week at the age of 53.
silently, in his sleep.
i was sad.
we were the same age too.
he has (had) a website
you can see for yourself and even hear his magic voice.
he was a complete gift.
i copied this poem from there. he must have written it about someone he loved.

On the death of the Beloved

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.

Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

-- John O’Donohue

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the three "r's revisited; and sleep deprivation

i was putting the garbage in the bin when i noticed something.
a piece of drainpipe.
it was about 18" in length, (i don't do metric) and was made of some kind of metal that is pliable. i suppose "bendy metal" might not be a technical term used in the building trade.
there's probably not an aisle at home depot which says, "AISLE 4 BENDY METAL"
i'm just guessing.
i know it was drainpipe or down spout or whatever it's called because until a while ago it was attached to the gutter on the roof.
but then the snow caused the patio roof to fall and there was a lot of damage. the insurance co. sent a clean up crew. they left something behind.
it was folded into the bin.
who folds a drainpipe and puts it in the bin?
guess who?


m.o.h. is on nightshift which makes him a tad, shall we say, grumpy?
who can blame him?
i have felt slightly homicidal myself when not having enough sleep.
he is sometimes sleep deprived but still tries to keep up a busy schedule.
"i don't do relax" he likes to say.
yesterday we were dropping off some used clothing and household items at the charity shop.
i got out of the truck, juggling a box and several bags, and dropped a bag containing many glass christmas balls.
they went in several directions at once and i was frantically trying to catch them before they all broke and/or went into the puddles, or under a parked vehicle.
i'm guessing that because he thought i was 'wasting my time' recycling christmas balls which he said i should just "dump" (where? in the bin with the drainpipe?) is why my normally helpful hubby didn't offer to get down and help me.
i put this down to his grumpy sleep deprivation.
but i was pretty mad anyway.
there was i scrambling about on all fours in a wet and muddy parking lot gathering up shiny balls while he sat looking at me from lofty heights.
i'm not sure but i think he was shaking his head.

i am a very patient woman.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"rules" to live by?

The seven dwarfs of menopause.
Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful and Psycho

note to self; item 1.if you are menopausal and overweight and shopping in a mall do NOT wear a t-shirt, a sweater, and a big winter jacket. that's just dumb!

note to self, item 2. if you drink too much coffee and have hot flashes, STOP drinking coffee after the first cup. to not do so--that's also just dumb!

note to some other people, item 3. if gas is on sale for "5 cents off per litre" and you want to get into the mile long lineup jamming all entrances and exits at the gas station causing mayhem to the surrounding traffic; call me, i will give you the buck fifty you are saving so you aren't polluting the environment and WASTING more gas while you sit in the lineup for 30 mins.

end of rant. ;-)
NB: the plural of dwarf is dwarfs, i checked.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

the fat lady is singing

i have all of the diet books.
i have a scale.
i have a treadmill.
i have two of those exercise balls
i have weights
(don't use any of them)
i know the fruits, vegetables, protein and carbs amounts that i should eat
i have joined weight watchers several times
i've paid lots of money to be starved and to be injected with vitamins by trained nurses and doctors
i have had gym memberships
i have exercised like a mad woman for intermittent periods of time.
however, i am still, unfortunately, "eff ay tee."
but enough is enough!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The three 'r's

*m.o.h. thinks that recycling is for people who wear argyle socks, cardigans and ties.
he thinks that he is singlehandedly saving the planet if he puts the blue box out on the kerb once every two weeks.
but i know what he does when i'm not looking.
he puts plastic in the garbage.
he puts cans and jars in the garbage.
he thinks it's all a big waste of time!!
he thinks the three R's stand for "rubbish, refuse and (get) rid of it"
and not "reduce, re-use and recycle" as we responsible citizens who care about our carbon footprint know only too well.

when HE'S not looking i go behind his back and take things back out of the garbage.
tonight he took the pins out of three new shirts.
he could have kept the pins and re-used them.
he put them inside the very large plastic bag from the store that the shirts came home in.
he stuffed everything in the bin.
i confronted him.
he said, "i didn't want the grandbairns to get these pins stuck in them so i disposed of them safely." and he didn't even flinch when he said it.

the other day he came home bursting with news. it's as if he needs to prove to me how much a waste of time trying to save the planet is.
he had been reading about these new, long-life, environmentally friendly lightbulbs that i've installed all over the house.
he said. "they are 10 times worse than the old ones."
"yep, they are LETHAL! full of MERCURY! and they do much more damage to the environment than the older ones that you replaced them with."
so i said, 'fine. take them all out and throw them away then." thought that would shut him up.
'you can't throw them away, you can't even recycle them!!" he explained (happily) "they pollute the land"
i swear he was pleased about the whole thing.

*my other half

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Naked Truth! Or "bits and pieces." ;-)

you know how you get those forwarded emails and the sender hasn't deleted all of the previous recipients' addresses and taglines?
well i got one of those from my friend the other day.
being very observant (!) and perhaps because i have possibly way too much time on my hands, i noted that one of the forwarders had included their name and job title, followed by their place of work.
to protect their anonymity I can only say that the motto of their workplace,which followed the location was. “traditional naturist values in a modern setting
hello? I thought; 'naturist'?
isn’t that another way of just saying naked (and quite naughty) people? what else can 'in a modern setting' mean i asked myself. it offers up all kinds of lewd images of people doing forbidden things while undressed. well it does if you have an overactive imagination, bear with me.
do I actually know someone who knows someone who gets email from someone who is a naturist?
upon further investigation (you may call it snooping) with a click of the mouse i was sent to the emailer's worksite website.
a site for people who don’t like to wear clothes. in public. indoors and out. and with other people. of both sexes. and all ages. and of ALL, believe me ALL, shapes and sizes.
how extremely fascinating.
i must confess, in my naivity, i've never considered this lifestyle as anything other than perverted.
uptight, narrow-minded, middle aged grandmother and mother of 3 that I am. (not to mention roman catholic and you know how we RC's feel about nudity.)
as I curiously perused the website I saw that naked people were pictured; freely enjoying the benefits of the family naturist park and its outdoor amenities. the park, i was shocked to learn, is within driving distance of my own home!!
surely not. aren't such places only in deep, dark, hidden countryside far, far away from me and all other unsuspecting innocents?
i also saw that whilst the women in the pictures had all of their many and varied "parts" on display, some of which i couldn't help feeling should perhaps not be quite so freely exposed, some of the naked men, who were not posing with strategically placed hands, or crossed limbs, and were mainly in group shots with other naked adults, looked, shall we say, rather smooth, ‘down below’. a la barbie’s boyfriend ken! a little creative photoshopping perhaps so as not to offend (titillate?) the reluctant observer such as moi.
apparently over 2.7 million Canadians agree with this lifestyle according to the website.
something else to consider; the non naturist world is referred to as ‘the textile world.’
that's you and me folks. well me anyway. i have no idea what you get up to in the privacy of your own home and far be it from me to judge you if you find such passtimes fulfilling.
i just hope, for everyone else's sake, you don't want to pass the holiday snaps around in the workplace.
some of the rules of etiquette in a naturist park include, "bathing suits are NEVER appropriate"
and "underwear should never be worn alone. when cool, naturists put on a shirt –not pants".
how positively unusual. i think i'd prefer to keep my bits warm myself but then, again, that might just be me. who knows?
well really.
I emailed my friend to ask if she knew the person who was the naturist. she did indeed, albeit not directly, and wasn't actually aware of this person's penchant for nudity up to this point of my enlightening her. i was merely doing my duty i felt.
so we then exchanged a couple of emails where we sniggered about it and said how unsavoury it all was.
then I asked her to picture the four of us, i.e. moi, my other half, her and her other half, sitting around drinking tea and chatting as we like to do from time to time…….. completely NAKED!!!
"well if future invites to your house mean I have to drop me drawers at your front door and have me bits swingin', then don’t bleedin’ invite me." was her immediate reply.
what a bloody spoilsport! :-))

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Broons

The Broons taught me so much when I was growing up. I read their comic strip every week in the Sunday Post and always looked forward to Christmas when their annual came out; they alternated years with my other Scottish comic strip favourite, that cheeky bucket sitter, "Oor Wullie."

What did I learn from this large Scottish family? I learned that money and possessions weren't important, that families come in all shapes and sizes and that the mother and father were the centre of the universe.
I learned that family members each have their quirks and differences yet could all exist in the same small house because they loved each other and shared the same values.

In my house things weren't quite as stable as in The Broons' flat at the top of 10 Glebe Street. We didn't have their happy comic strip endings, but I could relate to some of their antics.

That gave me hope. They allowed me to see a successful family who struggled as ours did because we were also a big family. We didn't smile as much or laugh as much and there was a lot more going on in my little house than in theirs, but it was a shining light at the time and still makes me feel good to this day.

I love the Broons; Maw, Paw, Grandpa, Hen, Joe, Maggie, Daphne, Horace, The twins and the Bairn.

My other, safe and warm, happy and caring, childhood family. :-))

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I'm joining the club.

It's a big club but i've decided to join. I'm becoming a blogger. I love reading blogs and i thought i might want to start my own. so.......... here it is. there's nothing in particular to write about for the first one, but watch this space. inspiration to follow...........

in case you don't want to hang around on mine, waiting for me,waiting for the muse, you might want to read my daughter in law's blog while mine is getting started. but don't forget to come back again.
hers is
she writes mostly about her two lovely children, julian and nora and the happenings in their family. i can't start my day until i've read it.

what shall i write about? how do you actually decide what is 'blogworthy'? not sure about that one but maybe the answer will come in time..........

today is the second last day of freedom before i go back to work next monday. Ugh, I hate the thought of it. i'm moving to a new location, with new students and i just don't know if I can be bothered, at my old age, to start again from scratch. i am not sure if I have it in me anymore! but that just might be the holiday blahs; cos i've been 'off' for a while.

i was babysitting my little grandson ben today. what a joy he is. he is so fascinating. you can see him thinking as he watches you and then copies what you do. he's 18 months old and is just completely adorable.

the amazing thing about children, which you (or maybe that was just me) only really understand fully when you become a grandparent, is that they are completely 'clean slates' they are ready and willing to learn and grow in whichever way we want to teach them.

he played with playdough, painted a picture, crayoned a masterpiece, played outside in the snow, got a ride on his sled, had lunch, cleaned up his cars and toys and then went for a nap. all so effortlessly.

he makes me want to squeeze him hard and kiss his little face.

grandchildren are so much fun. if i'd known that i'd have had them first. LOL
(i know, i stole that from someone but it's so true. )

come back again, i'm thinking of more stuff :-)