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excessive unease

Given her own she was born the daughter of a

princely Prussian house.   She married a British double barrelled bully and after a long time with many ups and downs, he has gone to glory (where he will bore the saints) and she is facing being alone.   Alone is always a challenge unless you are one of nature’s loners.   Yesterday she remarked “ I just feel so unsettled.”   And I asked why wouldn’t you ?  She said “You feel it too ?”   I said I did.  Yesterday I watched the news on Al-Jazeera and if you wanted clarified the idea of the world in uproar, there it was.  I lasted a few minutes.   She agreed and we worked our way round to how we survive.

Years ago Johnson and Johnson

manufactured pantyliners and as she would talk about most things, I was asked to address the local sales force.  Informed about female hygiene, I knew how such an accessory  might be useful.   I also knew from what I had heard that they were planning to sell it to everybody all day everyday upon which I remarked unfavourably.   Shutting of ventilation from the area has never been advisable.  “And you’re promoting anxiety.  We don’t need any help.”  And we surely don’t now.

Excessive unease is part of the dictionary definition of anxiety.   Judi Dench once famously remarked that there was such a thing as good stress and I am sure that you can be nervously wishing to do your best, whatever the context,

and the anxiety will resolve into the realisation of something good ie he’s lovely, you cleared the high jump or you got the job.

The anxieties of the present age get under your nails and into your soul.

For years, the consolation was to go out and buy something, even something small.  But small and modest is in shorter supply than it has ever been, even supposing it’s effective.   And you hesitate – the ordinarily moneyed hesitate – to spend money on anything you don’t have to have. 

Food prices continue to rocket.  Two of the most famously inexpensive supermarket chains are now putting their prices up. 

Every kind of work structure costs more – more to clean, more to light, more to heat, more for tea and coffee, more for unguents, more for waste.  If you can keep work.  Over the shoulder for many leers the malign ghost of unemployment. 

It’s easier to hide your troubles when times are easier.  You can evade them, go out, go to the movies, a concert, an exhibit, have one two three drinks and stagger home in a taxi.  None of that, not now. You watch and make the money go round.  There’s one more wash in the bottom of the box of soapflakes.  Another month to get out of those shoes.

And much as I long to be able to support – even if only by looking – I have never seen such ugly lines as is offered to women in what are called fashion stores.  I had an hour or two looking around last week and it sent me home to count my blessings and change my scarves.  They are what I call “standing still clothes” – shoes too – OK if you’re slight, young and modelling but absolutely incongruous if you are wearing them and moving in them. 

    The psychological interpretation of standing stock still and hoping not to be noticed comes to mind.

Years ago just after the Japanese tsunami, I met a Japanese woman in the local branch of a dress shop I liked.  Of course I asked after her family and she ended our short conversation with a bow such as I have never seen, though read about.  A couple of weeks ago and 12 years later, we met again.  She remembered me, I remembered her.    And we spoke about the world, bad news and my determination to find the good and think of the beautiful as a means of spiritual survival.  In conclusion, she reached out and took one hand of mine in both of hers.  “You live your life” she said. She said it twice with an emphasis on “your”.  We looked at each other, she bowed like a leaf.  I said I would. 

 

can’t do it without you

There are lots of things you can do alone

though you may prefer to do them with somebody, what you want and what you get being two different matters.  The magic of the programme about the relationship between songs in Scotland, Ulster and the States was that it featured songs travelling, being rewritten and reinvented, addressed and sung by people who had played instruments for so long that the instrument had become another arm, another tongue – an extra bit of the person.  But you can still perform music alone.  The ballad singers who began to move the music sang in the street.   I’ve done that.

Last week I wrote on a wet Saturday, trying to make sense of the time but this Saturday is quite different.  It took well over a year to persuade me that I could write what I call a column and other people call a blog.  Column has the remnants of a professionalism I cherish, anybody can write a blog and I mutter to myself “I am not anybody.”  That is not quite as conceited as it risks sounding.  I am deeply convinced of individualism.    Even when it is a wagtail

trying to cross the road (yes really, this morning – and of course I saw it through the traffic, making encouraging noises in the rain.)

But I didn’t know how long I could keep up the idea of a weekly blog to my standards.  All sorts of people write columns, not all of them very good.  To chose the subject(s), complete the form, select the pictures and turn up something I could put my name to every week was demanding.   And yes I have before now written and put the copy aside only to look at it in the cold light of day and shake my head regretfully.  Not good enough.   And I have to be able to stand my ground to my own taste when I don’t get feedback. What I write is a closer to “op.ed” (opinion/editorial) than a popularity contest.   

Although in these stages I am alone, and I enjoy them – I’d never have kept it up for ten years without you.  No social media, old fashioned PR or any other kind of promotion – and I am shamelessly proud of that – It’s our tenth birthday,

yours and mine.  The first annalog was 14 January 2013 and here we are.  I wish you a dazzling self replenishing birthday cake, with candles and sparklers that never wear out.   And thanks from the bottom of my heart for making a dream I did not realise I had come true.

We often hear about the power of the circle in the negative, but what goes around, comes around can be positive – and I have lived to be told what the radio programmes I fronted did for the people who derived something from them.  They had one advantage – the magic component of voice. 

We diminish this to our cost. 

This week a woman wrote to me, about how something I had said had affected her life. She married and had children very young but pulled herself out of years of work as a carer, to go back into education where she became the first member of her family to go to university, continue to work and study and is now a research scientist. She wrote movingly about how she had stayed happily married, how her life’s journey had changed things for the better for her and her family.  She thanked me for my wise words (her phrase) and how they had made all the difference to her family (her words).  I was staring transfixed at the screen. 

This was clearly an annalog birthday present.

If my voice is not present in annalog, then clearly the inference of it is.  Whoever is reading is very real to me and it seems clear that I am equally real to you, hence the circle.   And because you read me and I had ten years to do it in, I was able to learn a shape and pursue it into similarity and variance.  Ginny once called me a wordsmith and I love the idea of me with small silver hammers making verbal shapes and learning all the time.  Happy  birthday.    

 

wet weekend

I am writing this on Saturday morning, when I expect to be out and about .  But it’s raining

and I can’t see that getting wet in a country awash with infections, and all the attendant difficulties in treating them, is a wise thing, the susceptibility of age, and so on.  There is a terrible nervousness for which I have no logical explanation which says I must go and buy food – as if I would starve if I didn’t.  No I am not a secret hoarder and I have only gone hungry through mismanagement and inexperience, and that a very long time ago.  But the anxiety is real enough, and has to be arm-wrestled into quiet through what we used to call common sense,

now as rare as hen’s teeth.

As the television news media collectively has become less impressive, more repetitive and flies increasingly under the banner of  “nothing sells better than bad news” – I have taken to a newspaper.  Well, I started with three, came down to two and ditched one over a year ago when, after three approaches and a personal introduction, the editor didn’t acknowledge, let alone reply.  So I am down to one.  Not Holy Writ but reasonably informed and not extreme, I do well with it for the most part but I seem to spend a lot of time avoiding certain images.      

There are faces I don’t want to look at, my initial distaste reinforced through repetition.  

There are images that may be politically popular but I don’t like them.  I am prepared to be told that I am culturally indoctrinated – who isn’t ?  The form of mine is more benign, generous even, than a lot of other people’s.  And when I was showing my son my commonplace book, into which nothing makes it unless it is very important and lasts,  I found “Beauty refers to a high level of coherence existing everlastingly in the world.”  Of course your view of beauty isn’t mine, though we might share certain kinds of image or idea … and as I wrote this, a card arrived, a Japanese woodblock of morning glory from John, who wrote “I was in the Ashmolean last month and this gave me as much pleasure as all the amazing artefacts.”   I can see why.  It cheered me up no end,

I love a woodblock – linocuts too. 

It was particularly welcome because of the conditions described above but also because we are in the seasonal dearth of good cards.   We’ve just had Christmas and New Year,  a certain level of birthday is probably fairly constant, there is that group of enthusiasts like me who like their cards blank so they can be used for apology, enthusiasm, acknowledgement and so on but they were thin on the ground yesterday  when I had an all purpose and a birthday to  find, and not much to choose from.

Cards mean different things to different people but while I am prepared to send you the gift you’d like rather than the gift I would like to give you, I can’t send you a card I wouldn’t put my name to.  Unreconstructed snobbery, personal taste and aspiration to the importance of the aesthetic  described in the quote above by Barry Lopez.

image of coherence

I keep articles, images, books and I go back to them, absolutely sure that this happens when the time is right.  And it only has to be right for me.  Which is how I came to be re-reading The Incredible Journey last night, the story of how three animal companions cross the wild land of Canada to go back home and meet their returning  human family.   It was written in 1961, I’ve read it before – but not with such understanding.  I believe in re-reading.  You see something else …  and the written pictures are wonderful.   I wonder how much of that wild world remains.

Like most city slickers – and I have lived by choice in a city most of my life – I like my country quite wild.  And while the news labours this death, this shock, this regrettable, I want to save more land and plant more trees.  That would make me happy.  Even on an overcast and miserable Saturday.

‘cos we’re ‘ere

Denning had a rotten

Christmas.  He has a disabling back problem (one of thousands), takes heavy painkillers which bind.  They did, he took senna and blew his bottom off, making him proper poorly – from which he was rescued by a dear friend who, after two days of temporising, took him by car to the overworked and wonderful A&E.  And for the first time, on New Year’s Eve afternoon, he watched Zulu (1964).  Ignoring the fashion to pour scorn on anything redolent of empire, Zulu tells the story of a battle, of course pointless and bloody,  gave Michael Caine his atypical breakthrough and features large numbers of Zulu playing themselves.

I’d watch the whole movie for a terrified soldier who asks “Why us, sarge ?  Why us ?”  of Nigel Green’s colour sergeant,

who replies “’Cos we’re ‘ere, lad, ‘cos we’re ‘ere.”   Motto for 2023: ‘cos we’re  ‘ere.

The price of Christmas trees was like lots of other things prohibitive but I was given flowers – pink roses and lilies from one source, dark red and syringa from another while Lydia sent me mimosa and alstroemeria, still going strong. 

The cards came through and I was ashamed I had faltered in sending more once I’d asked my postman to look out for a big envelope due by Royal Mail, would he put it under the bin ?  “Of course “ he said “ but there’s no delay in this street, Anna …”   I gawped at him. 

“I can’t have all that hanging around, it’s Christmas.  So I went back and loaded the cart again, and did another turn.”  His daughter is at university, I hope she is as proud of him as he of her. (The envelope was under the bin with the chit through the door saying “BIN”, bless him.)

My granddaughter gave me her first ever Christmas card and my son coined the best name for that odd sag of days between Christmas and New Year – Twixtmas – when he came to see me for a belated present swap and protein boost,  he having poor devil

a foul cold. 

He gave me a book I had asked for by Neil Oliver who presents history intelligently and likeably on tv called The Story of the World in 100 Moments

Open book with history doodles and lettering. Education vector illustration.

which is, as he says in the introduction, ridiculous – because yours are yours and mine are mine .  But I like the writing and I am always provoked by choice and this is no sillier than 100 favourite tunes or 100 favourite poems – they always miss out something you would choose.

And I gave my son a year’s worth of political cartoons which will I hope provoke the odd giggle, that or he will be sick with tears.

I met three young women collecting for a local scheme for adolescent mental health, my eye caught because the smallest started to smile at me before they spoke and then did that charming thing of putting her fingers over her mouth, the movement of course drew my attention.   And we laughed about them only wanting money and I said spontaneously to them and their slightly older mentor “I’m sorry , we screwed it up for you, the country is in a mess.  I hope it will come again and you’ll have a better chance” whereupon they beamed and shook hands with me.

When I went out to get the paper on New Year’s Day, there was the usual sprinkling of bikes, beside one of which was something I couldn’t make out – so I crossed the road, to a neat little pile of pizza boxes.  I returned home, got the bags the council gives us and people despise if they are distributed, but nick if you pile up outside your door (I do).  Happy New Year wrapping somebody else’s rubbish.

But when I waved to the bus driver, he waved back, beamed and we swapped thumbs’ ups. I went to collect my paper, and I forbear to compile a list of things I never want to hear about again, because it will be different from your list.  Oh heavens I wish you well, I really do .

don’t let it hear you…

every year is special and I don’t want to

frighten the good omen by talking about it

so  – thank heaven for every good and beautiful thing in 2022

no matter how tiny –

and may there be more in 2023

annalog will be back on 3 January.

the Christmas list

Because I can’t send cards to everybody,

I wanted to list all the people who have been in touch with annalog – just to acknowledge them and let them know what their contact meant to me.  Then I thought, it was a bit of a cheat and not really writing.  I thought about the Christmas list, who I give what, and what I’d like – all much abbreviated this year.   Wal makes Christmas for his long term partner who loves everything about it – tree, decorations, rich food – while Wal, born a Jew and really not interested, can’t wait to get through it.  And I must say this year, I could very easily write a negative Christmas list of things I never wish to hear about again, before going on to wishing for  world peace in your Christmas stocking

– just people and events and behaviours that bore me to screaming pitch.   It’s much harder to pin down what really matters about Christmas in a secular state.

There’s time off.  But what we have learned with force this year is that what is one person’s time off is another person’s work.  If I don’t list all the strikes, it is not out of disrespect but because I would like to hear more about what is being done to resolve them.  I opted long ago for reading a daily paper but the assistants at the convenience store make its purchase possible.  Of course I could go elsewhere  – but it would be less convenient.

There’s warmth and comfort.  Not everybody has them,  or access to them.   The podiatrist, the nicest lay preacher,  said her husband had said to her “Let’s be warm this winter – hang a few days in the sun next year.  If we can’t do it, we can’t do it.  Let’s not come home from work to a cold house.”  It’s called “paying for your pleasures”

by Anthony Peter

– they were affordable if not free for so long.

There’s special food  – but food becomes very special if you’re short of it.  And we had so much so available for so long.

There are favourite television programmes, streamed or otherwise.  Good luck with that.   One person’s pleasure is another’s anathema and  there is endless repetition.  I usually find something but the pickings are slim.

There’s company –  but they’ve got to get to you and it’s harder this year than it has been for some time.  And they have to get back.  People will make the effort and it will be lovely and good luck to them – but I am used to plans being changed,

other demands having to be met.  As long as you’re well, you don’t have to be with me. 

If Christmas is to survive as more than just a public holiday, we shall have to look at it anew.  None of us can escape from memory, good or bad, but the maniacal focus on the bigger, the richer, the noisier, the more resplendent can’t go on growing and as the couturiere Chanel famously remarked “less is always more.”  

So the Christmas list is  – half a dozen presents for half a dozen people:  a meal with Pam the Painter – she chose a chicken dish I have already tried on her, which she absolutely loves.  Wal makes a meal for me and Howard.   My son (cross fingers) comes to bring me a book and a card – the card is much more important.  And I give him a gift and card.  And I get to feed him. 

There were candles in my house most evenings long before energy became the Chanel Five of the twenty first century.   And I will be warm and pay for it.  There will be candles in every room, one of my favourite symbols

and like many of us, I need all the help I can get.  

There will be flowers or plants, yet to be chosen  and in the quiet  I will remember my family, my dogs, people I have loved, still love, the good times ringed with light like candles in the mind – to get us through the darkest days, to the light that follows.

the sound of snow

“I just want to share with you that childish moment of excitement when the snow begins”

wrote  SR from the West Country.   I loved the fact that she shared it and I know exactly what she means.   Before we have to go back for a scarf or the train doesn’t come  or the  streets are sloppy and grey, there is this moment of  softness, a strange yellow light in the sky, everything looks more symmetrical, less rough edged and the sound is no sound –  as hushed as swans’ wings look.

Perhaps this year more than ever snow is emblematic of where we are up to.  It looks lovely until it doesn’t,

it looks benign but gets in the way.   It’s just enough to remind us of how punishingly cold the weather will be through Europe where people are living in what’s left of houses, without heat, without light.  And you don’t have to go very far to hear about that.   They have their war zone, we have ours.  Theirs is acknowledged as one, ours is just the worst kind of fudge and mess.  Snow is the weather blanket which comes down unbidden, to make everything look better for a bit.

I have wonderful memories of Christmases past and I recall easily and often, but I don’t try to revisit.  Once I was alone and my son had gone into his life, I began to reinvent the trappings of Christmas.  I love the Christmas story and I am perfectly prepared to believe that it is an archtype, dating from thousands of years before the birth of the Christian Baby.  I don’t care where it comes from.  It is a story about love and hope and a few hours when – like the snow – everything is united, momentarily peaceful, better looking than you could believe and thus , joyful.   And I believe in joy. 

Never mind “joy cometh in the morning”, I will mark it whenever it comes.

Christmas is as personal as anything else important.   For some people , you must eat this, wear that, do something else, deck the halls with banners and buy a Christmas tree.   Promoting it starts earlier every year, because of the numbers involved and the cost of it.  I think because of my mother, I only ever put up cards or decorations on Christmas Eve – and they all come down and go out on Twelfth Night.  Christmas is a season which deserves better than endless marketing and money.

People flee Christmas, to the light, to the warmth, no turkey, no plum pudding, no Christmas cake  –

to have a few days away, to see family or friends who feel the same.  My favourite Christmas treat is pannetone which a beloved friend sends me every year.  I eat the first piece on Christmas morning, with my coffee and the last piece, probably toasted (with butter and bitter marmalade) the same way. 

I love cards but the sending and receiving of them is uncertain this year.  More importantly, why hasn’t the Post Office settled with the subpostmasters it defrauded and drove to divorce, debt and death ?  

And on the other hand, this year, in spite of a list of all too familiar horrors, I have had gifts to rival those of the Magi

who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.  

In the 20 years plus I have l lived here, I have one neighbour who is ace.  Sarah is a single professional woman nearing retirement and everybody deserves a Sarah – sensible, kind, private, reliable.   Beyond Sarah, she and I have had some gruesome experiences with neighbours.  But for the last year and more, you could truly say Christmas came to stay.

On one side, there are The Boys (early 20s), occasionally noisy, always helpful, cheerful and polite.     One the other side are The Girls – one is an art teacher, one a journalist and I haven’t met the third because she travels constantly.  But Phoebe the teacher rang from Cornwall when we had flooding to make sure I was all right.  They offer to do things, they smile.  And after Italian Annie moved out from upstairs, I was second time lucky in Amy Able, a Northern Irish farmer’s daughter for whom everything is possible.  

Surrounded by positives,  I’ll light candles as I do most nights.  And count my blessings which I do with monotonous regularity.

better days to come!

the way you say it

People get across each other. 

They feel with instant animal sense that this man or this woman is against me, will mishear whatever I say.  And there are people you just don’t like.  They say good morning and your hackles go up like an angry animal.   Race, class and age are part of this – any one of which will make matters more difficult – but the bottom line is animal mistrust. 

One of the most important components of rage is fear. 

And fear is hard to face, whether it is fear of losing your job, your temper, your hold in a risky situation. Fear has no colour.   Perfect love may cast out fear (so the Bible says)  but I lack perfect.  I am not perfect anything. 

After months of formulaic miscommunication, I want to scream at the energy company.   I loathe the  exchanges which are guaranteed to go nowhere.  I look at the rubbish on the website and know that “chat” is a newly offensive four letter word.   And I have news for those among us who take a position like  my own in which they prefer to write.  Write by all means – at least that way you have a record – but do not expect to be read.   That makes me stone in the chest scared

and engenders rage.  Not helpful. 

The language of race is more difficult because it is more visible.  That question you’re not supposed to ask “ where are you from ?”   is immensely more acceptable prefaced by “Please tell me –  where etc.”  I use it often.  It engenders conversation.  I am extremely aware of offence, sensitivity, interpretation –  but I know we can do it.  I have spent my whole life, private and public, seen and unseen, devoted to communication. 

There is a way.  Find it.  The fall short is ugly.  It leads nowhere good.

There are people for whom I am the wrong colour, not many thank heaven, but you have negotiate them.  What was called in immediately post apartheid South Africa “a white liberal grin” is still not what some want to see.  You could argue, and I do,  that crossing that divide is not always possible.  It requires mutual intent and depending on that is an act of faith if ever I heard one.  But it can be done.

A couple of weeks ago, at the bus stand I saw a woman of colour some years my junior with a wheeled support cum cart, looking a bit bewildered.  I said “Where do you want to go ?”  You will have to trust all those years of talking to people for my received pronunciation to sound agreeable. She told me,  I suggested and we got the same bus where she sat  in front of me, beside a lower middle class professional man in his fifties, saying to him with a real smile, nothing to do with a flirt or a simper,  “I am sorry, it’s a big body.”  So she has communication skills.  He grinned and I put both my hands forward on his shoulders and said between the two of them “Now, you be careful – next thing is, she’ll make a pass at you !”  And we all laughed. 

he isn’t like any of us but it’s a wonderful laugh

She kissed her hand to me when she got off the bus.

This is how we get on.   It fascinates me in the hospital waiting room that I am so far the only person who acknowledges when her name is called out – “Yes ma’am !” , or “That’s me”.  I suppose you could read it as egotism  but I thought of it as acknowledgement.

In a store yesterday  a girl with skin as fine as brown eggshell asked if she could help me.  I said “Yes.  Tell me which bank to rob .”  She asked what I meant, we started to talk about what was on sale, what it cost  and the state of the world, she asked where I was from and got very excited because her background was a slightly more exotic version of mine.  “ I don’t tell people these things” she said.  “Why am I telling you ?”  “Because people tell me things” I offered and she flung her arms round me –  “Oh I am so glad you came in”.   There are words and there is tone – it’s the way you say it.     

each to his own

I once explained my theory of where we are heading as a society

to an intelligent friend- I said I thought there would be broadly speaking (I, who am wary of generalisations) two groups whom I called the New and the Old.  The New would continue to take on new for the sake of it, technology with all its spin offs.  In fact the only thing they would be interested in was the new – clothes, food, ways of living –  like a talisman, as if new had a magic charge that would somehow be better and stronger. (Interesting because psychology teaches that your past is part of your present, so to deny it is to pass up something essential.  Like mulch on a garden.)  The Old would adapt

– because if you don’t, to an extent, you don’t survive – but they would cherish memory, personal or general, stories, the derivation of ideas, the old ways if they work.  And I am an Old.

In talking to the Fire Fairy the other day (she is a decade younger), I apparently used the word old to describe myself more than once and she took issue.  She told me off fiercely which I countered from  my point of view.  First of all, the Bible says you’re allowed three score years and ten which I am beyond.   Second I had inspirational elderly parents  so a word which  seems to terrify many is part of my journey as I have understood it.   Old is.  It’s a one way ticket, to be respected and cherished, moaned at when your hair thins or your chin sags or you can’t lift something and have to ask somebody else, but nothing to do with the spirit. 

The spirit marches to a different drum.

I could make a list of all the other things of which people say “everybody does” – but I don’t.  How much of that is being stubborn, how much of that is personal choice and personal taste, I don’t know.  I can’t draw the lines.  And anyway, who would be interested.

What I know is that when I tried an own brand cream from Boots made with colloidal oatmeal, it is as efficient as easing the maddening itch of my (admittedly mild) lichen planus as the prescribed steroid cream. This all happened by chance but when I checked the Mayo Clinic website (often very good) it was mentioned.

Years ago, if your child had dry skin, you put porridge oats in a muslin bag and tied it round the tap where the water rinsed the appropriate secretion into a soothing bath. Old.

I watch people glued to their screens or their earbuds, to the exclusion of the world around them for good or ill but it’s not for me.  Living in the moment is hard work (it goes without saying that everything has a negative interpretation as well as a positive one) but I find it more rewarding .  Which is probably why I was so cross that the first episode of Tokyo Vice, once it has been followed by the second (three hours of tv is too much),

was apparently the last.  The Binge and Boxsets Cafeteria, the BBC.

Yesterday, the dark got in under the door.  When it wasn’t cold, it was clammy.  London was full of bodies in pre Christmas tourism or demo mode,  spread all over the pavement, noisy, indifferent.   Wal went up to the West End, I investigated a Christmas Market in Chelsea and we agreed we hated it.  It was almost comforting to be able to share a sense of invasion and displacement.  The purchase of Christmas goods is like folk magic as in “spend money –  and – if you spend enough of it, 

it will all be all right.”

Everybody I know is “being careful” – watchful of money, minding the electricity or gas, the water (supplies and heating), food to eat or stockpile.   So where is this money to come from ?   And why, if you can find it for warmth and food and light, would you spend it on anything but the simplest remembrances of a time when we entered the winter dark, in hope of the light to follow.  The tunnel beckons.  And I find the old ways, back far beyond this neo Victorian gorgeathon, more consoling.

strong shadows

I don’t very often remember my dreams. 

I read that we all dream and certainly there have been occasions when something has stayed with me, not to haunt me but so that I should pay attention.  Psychotherapeutically a dream is a safe place to deal with the big stuff we have to make sense of.  The other night was nothing like that

What lingered upon my waking was the face in the front of the frame, so to say,  a man’s, with a woman behind him,  his sister I think,  but all of this and where I was in it pales in the astonishing peace and joy and sweetness I felt for however long, much more important than them or me, what was said or what was going on.   Practically speaking this takes us back to the subconscious mind and memory

because I was quite sure when I woke that the group (about five in all) were the same kind of Jews I am, that is, almost but not quite, and that idea leads back to my father.

If I have a romantic idea about being a little bit Jewish (which sounds suspiciously like being a little bit pregnant), it is my mother’s fault.  My father’s youngest sister, almost professionally madcap with a Christmas pudding voice, had a married Jewish lover who was kind, funny, could fix anything and was generally delightful :  my mother adored Gerald. 

So between my father’s mother Julie Rosenbaum whom both parents loved deeply and who was a better mother to my mother than her own and Gerald, I had a series of positive ideas linked to that heritage from the very beginning.

And the feelings related to the dream were confirmed by the truck driver.  

There is a cement factory up the road and the drivers move out vast lorries from the early hours.  One morning, several years ago in the dark as I was going up the road to get my newspaper, a man got out of the cabin and said “Didn’t you used to be on the radio ?  Know that face anywhere …” which is a wonderful contradiction in terms though in essence true, because radio nudged me towards bits and pieces of television. I said yes, he beamed and I have smiled and waved at the truck drivers ever since.

So it was like a kind of blessing or a coda that, as I was off up the street to the post office, one of the lorries drove into view and the driver waved and grinned.

I don’t know very much about them, can’t drive anything, but I have always like the idea of trucks – big things, helpful.  Our Cretan friend George Vargas had a modern Japanese edition on which he used to transport the three of us through the island countryside

when my son was small and standing on the back flatbed, I sang for sheer enthusiasm.

And I remember hitching a lift on the milk wagon in the West Riding of Yorkshire with my mother, going to the wedding of friends. The wagon was high up, that I loved,  I could see further, but my eyes were really full of my mother, hair upon top in 1940s curls, earrings and a soft blue dress with a silver fox cape.   She was beautiful.

In a dream of myself quite other, I’d like an ex-military flatbed that you could make a home of the back of, everything boxed and fixed, and go anywhere with a dog.   The wonderful thing about dreams is that they are cheap, untaxed and if they are happy  – and fortunately mine mostly are – at worst they make you smile for the person you were – and sometimes still are.

I say and write over and over that my father was a big man with a big mind, wide vision, great generosity of spirit, a big voice, an enormous personality – “And you’re just like him” said my mother would say drily, surviving us both.  And this was in a big frame with a certain kind of density which I associate with safety, whether in terms of furniture, dogs or motor vehicles.  My son has it – “Of course” my mother would say wisely. “The rich have portraits and the poor have grandchildren.”