You can love and respect people but it doesn’t follow that you share their choices. My parents liked Bing Crosby but I was never sure. Once I had read about his domestic violence in the fanzine Picturegoer, I was repelled. His voice was overrated, he was indefinably smug, couldn’t act for toffee and then Joan Collins had a serious pop at him in her first volume of autobiography. So you can take “White Christmas” and leave me out of it. There is another infinitely preferable Irving Berlin song and the lyrics go something like
“When I’m restless and I can’t sleep/ I count my blessings instead of sheep/and I fall asleep, counting my blessings/When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all/ and I fall asleep, counting my blessings”(it is typical of this updated technology that it dares to question one of the great songsmiths of the 20th century, you can’t see the querying underlines but oh how cross they make me)
And I do: I count my blessings.
Years ago, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Wales (who have been incredibly kind to me) by a young man about money. I hadn’t got very much at the time, I couldn’t earn it – the only way I ever got any – and I was both frightened and determined. And I remember he asked me, as a pensioner, what do you spend money on? “Teeth and feet”
I replied and we laughed. A friend referred me to an affordable dental practice and I put it on the card and prayed. Only one set of gnashers. Feet took more arranging because they’re down there somewhere, and if they don’t hurt, you tend to forget about them. They are now ministered to by a gifted, affordable Latvian up the road. Mobility is very important.
Throughout my most financially restrictive years, I stayed with the eye surgeon (a blessing) who reassured me about glaucoma and controlled it. Eyes still work and as there is a family history of myopia and my sister was laterally registered blind, for this I am profoundly grateful.
My blessing is to read. I read as I have always read ie lots, widely, often, revisiting books I have read before, finding new ones, endlessly appreciative of charity shops and two decent newspapers, though magazines are generally disappointing. However a young man in Waterstones told me he had persuaded his branch to stock the US publication Atlantic and that was a New Year gift.
I am lucky because I have an apartment with doors that close, windows that open, heavy wooden shutters. I can keep it cool in summer, warm in winter and Wal the decorator and his boys made me the prettiest door in the street which I am immensely lucky to be able to close against the world when the mood is on me.
I am lucky because my back got better after years and years of sitting and my digestion still functions. A friend once asked me to my bewilderment what I did to help my digestion – “mine was just about shot by anorexia” she said quietly, sixty years after the event.
I am lucky because in reaching out to other people, I often help myself. In the last 48 hours I have met a Turk of my own age who talked most intelligently about the country in which she still resides. It is always fascinating to hear from the horse’s mouth. Incidentally two very different women, a handsome Italian in her 50s and a slower quieter American, shopping for clothes both confided that their greatest fear is another European war – and neither of them struck me as foolish.
I am lucky because I have friends, not that dreadful phrase “lots of friends” which makes them sound like unformed timefillers but real friends, very different one from another, immensely cherished and valued by me. And I am lucky because, yes, they will really disagree to the point of confrontation and informed caring confrontation is a casualty of much social transaction.
And I am lucky because I am lucky. Everybody has their troubles, I am no exception but on the scales of life, there seem to be an extra couples of rose petals, just for me.