Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

She knows how to make a dramatic entrance. Exactly a week after the stork was due, my newest little great-granddaughter finally decided the time was ripe. She didn’t want to be a Saturday’s child (“works hard for its living”) but instead, aware that “the child that is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe, and good and gay” she delayed until four minutes after midnight before slipping into the world on the second Sunday in Advent, the day we light the candle for Peace.

Joline is here. My granddaughter’s children all have unusual names, but my instant reaction was, “What, Dolly Parton?” No, I am assured that the initial ‘J’ is pronounced as in French, like ‘jolie’ which is some relief. Because she is, of course, très jolie, beautiful. Like all my children (grandchildren, great-grandchildren).

I had just stepped out of a nice warm bath, all relaxed and ready to slide under my cosy duvet, when I received the message that my granddaughter had left for the hospital. It was just after ten pm. Knowing that my granddaughter is one of those truly fortunate women who give birth relatively easily, I decided to wait a couple of hours for further news. And yes, she didn’t disappoint: just as I was giving up and finally going to bed, a text message popped up announcing that Joline had arrived, weighing in at 3840 g, which is something over 8 lbs.

Few children get such a hearty welcome as this little mite. As is usual in Switzerland, her Daddy was present at the birth. Since it was the weekend, not only my daughter (Joline’s Nana) had gone to babysit the other children, but my son-in-law (their grandfather) was also there. So that was the reception committee when she arrived home from the hospital. And then such delight when her siblings woke up and rushed to cuddle their new little sister, not to mention that both her aunts and her paternal grandparents then turned up. I’d be there, too, if it wasn’t quite so far – my home is 140 km away, so I shall have to wait a while before I can visit – but hallelujah! We have the ability to share photos instantly nowadays, so here she is, just a few hours old:joline-04-12-2016

What a wonderful gift for Advent!

Until Death Us Do Part

A small group of old pals have been trying to arrange a little get-together including an old friend of mine, now in his mid-eighties. We knew that his wife was suffering from dementia and that he is her sole carer, but have been sorry to discover that although he has several grown-up children and grandchildren, nobody is available to spend an evening looking after this poor lady in order to allow him to have a couple of carefree hours. He defended his family, saying:

The problem is leaving her with anybody, even X (her daughter), as she doesn’t know who they are!  She asks me several times a day who I am and will I take her home to her Mom and Dad … Unless you have personally experienced the incredible effects of dementia it all sounds ‘made up’.  I assure you, it’s even worse than that!  They do hope to have a cure in 10 years’ time. Ha, bloody Ha.

I suggested she might be able to spend a day or two in a care home for respite now and then, to give him a rest. Or perhaps, since she was so disoriented and unable to recognise even her closest family members that she wouldn’t realise where she was, to place her in a home permanently, and I recommended the nursing home where my mother is.

This was the heart-rending reply.

Cat, I’m not sure I could afford it on my smallish pension. And I’d feel like a total traitor. We started courting nearly 69 years ago, have been married over 64 years and it did say, ‘for better or worse’. I’m not sure it could get any worse and I’m somehow surviving so I shall let it ride for now to see what fate has in store.

She clings to me so desperately it’s touching to watch.

I could do with getting out I’ll admit, just to chat etc.  But I can’t create the opportunity without enormous upset.  Let’s see what happens and if X can help. She has been tremendous. 

What makes this particularly moving is that I know they didn’t really have a good marriage and had considered divorce more than once. As the years advanced, they agreed to make the best of the situation for the sake of their family, and stayed together. They lived together but independently, each pursuing their own interests, and were able to remain friends, even occasionally going out together to concerts or the the theatre, interests they still shared. So this isn’t a case of a devoted, loving couple, but of an honorable man who made a promise he is determined to keep whatever the circumstances.

I think of so many couples in love who make their marriage vows easily and carelessly, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health*”, without any thought of what that might entail, and who give up and separate when the pendulum swings to the poorer, worse, and sick side. For our friend, who feels that he somehow failed to “love and to cherish” his bride quite as well as he might, this ordeal is his chance to make amends over and above any duty that could be expected of him. I pray it will not kill him.

 

*Wedding vows of the Church of England:

Groom: I,____, take thee,_____, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

 

They got Not-Hillary; We got a hairball; It’s time to move on.

Rangewriter

Like half of my country, I’m still reeling from the outcome of Election 2016. My worst fears have come true and I’m eating my proclamation from many months back that Trump was the Democrats’ wet dream. Turns out he managed to fuck the entire Democratic party and half of the voting public.

But, the other half of the voting public got their wish. They bought the bravado, the piss-on-you attitude, the unbelievable ignorance about issues and diplomacy, the errant-emails-are-worse-than-my-bankruptcies assumption, the protectionism, and the pry-my-AR15-out-of-my-dead-fingers promise, the lower-my-taxes AND Make-America-Great-Again nonsense, and they are as happy about this result as the rest of us were happy eight years ago, and again four years ago when we got our most beloved president.

Well what to do now? I spent November 9th moping around, sucker-punched, and on the verge of tears. I’ve divorced myself from the news with its proliferation of idiot pundits trying…

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An Excuse For A Celebration

It’s that time of year again, though this time the little ghoulies and ghosties will be knocking in vain at my mother’s door in the fearful hope of me pouncing on them (see my posts from previous years). In a way, I’m quite glad to be missing it. Hallowe’en has got out of hand. It’s an oxymoron to wish people “Happy Hallowe’en”: what could possibly be happy about it?

If we really want to celebrate a pagan festival at this time of year, then I suggest we adopt Diwali, which is already a fixture in many parts of the UK. I was rather startled a few years ago in the English Midlands by the fireworks that accompany this festival, thinking someone was going overboard over Guy Fawkes. Then it was explained to me that it was Diwali, and so – naturally -I googled it and discovered from Wikipedia that:

Diwali , Tihar or Deepawali is the Hindu festival of lights native to Nepal and India celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in southern hemisphere). It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. One of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices.[ On Diwali night, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepavali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated

The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras (in Northern and Western part of India), followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Deepavali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife–husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhai Dooj dedicated to sister–brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.”

There’s a lot more to it, and you can read all about it on Wikipedia. Some of my Christian friends will object to me advocating a Hindu custom, but hey, come on! The early Christian church incorporated an awful lot of pagan feasts into their calendar, including Christmas and Hallowe’en itself. Why not replace these, which have both reverted to their pagan roots, by a festival that “spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair”? 

There’s a lot of positive stuff here, including giving your home and workplace a good clean and making a real effort to love your family. Not to mention endorsing shopping – that should be good for the economy, too. And, not least, dressing up to look good, not scary.

I daresay we could bring in a pumpkin or two and bobbing for apples, as a westernising contribution, and maybe tie it all up with Guy Fawkes in the UK. What a great way to integrate communities, all joining in one big happy party with only positive vibes and associations of light, love and hope. What can Christians object to in that?

This year, Diwali started yesterday on 30 October, and so this is the week of festivities and celebrations if you happen to be in an area populated by Hindus, Sikhs or Jains. Happy Diwali!

(Just don’t send off paper lanterns with candles in them
– they can cause untold damage.)

Home …

My mother didn’t want to go into an old folks’ home. I didn’t want to have to put her into one, either. But the decision was taken out of our hands by events, and she has now been in a nursing home for almost five months whilst I have had to return to Switzerland. Yes, I can pop back to England now and then for a week or so to check up on her, but those visits result mostly in frustration and a sense of impotence, because even the best “Home” isn’t capable of providing the individual personal care and attention she was receiving in her own home. But she needs nursing and I am no longer able to continue looking after her.

img_0320The staff are caring and kind, but my mother is dwindling. A tiny, frail little figure, no longer the matriarch she was even on her hundredth birthday. And yet, she is still here, still battling on, despite her loss of independence and sense of purpose, despite the fact that she now gets confused and muddled; unable to see properly because of her macular degeneration and frequently unable to hear what is being said because either her hearing aids have been mislaid or there is simply too much background noise; and unable even to stand on her own two feet any more. She hates the hoist that has become necessary whenever she needs to be moved, she hates having to ask for assistance for even the simplest task. Yet she is still here.

The wise, wonderful, witty, kind, considerate and lovable person she was is now a treasured memory in the minds of her family and friends. Her own memories, the source of many a merry tale, are as muddled as a mixed salad. She is no trouble and doesn’t complain, so the staff are quite fond of her. But they have little idea of the person she was for a hundred years, until her little accident in May and the traumatic events that landed her here, and have wrought such change in her. Her birthday party was the last occasion where she seemed really happy and still herself.
Version 2

I tried to give her news of the family, the recent successes of her great-grandchildren and the amusing doings of her young great-great-grandchildren. Photos were of little help, as they appear blurred: is that little brown-haired girl really her great-great-granddaughter? Or maybe her great-granddaughter, her granddaughter or even her daughter? Maybe even herself? As five.year-olds we all looked very much like this, so that kind of confusion is understandable: the experiences of a century blend together into a timeless mass.

She is not in any physical pain, thank God, but mental and emotional suffering are taking their toll. Does she feel abandoned? She hasn’t said so, but she would so like to go home and that is just not possible.

Am I selfish to pray that this situation will not have to last much longer, and that she can, finally, really go home?

Learning New Vocabulary

My inner Victor Meldrew exploded as we were rehearsing our worship songs.
“I don’t believe it!”
“What?”
“Did you make this word up?”
“No, it’s a regular word.”

Poor longsuffering Fred, accused of inventing an outlandish word, had no idea why I was so incensed. Apparently, for a long time now, musicians have been referring to the short instrumental closing passage of a song, the opposite of an “intro”, as an “outro”. I have been living on Planet Zog, obviously.

Is it necessary to invent a new word for this? What’s wrong with “coda”? Nah. That’s not the same. I really didn’t believe it but checked Google, and it agreed with Fred: used not only in music but as closing credits for a film or video game, and even for a work of literature or journalism.

So – is there a longer form, “outroduction”? Can it also be used as the opposite of introduction in a social setting, for instance when you deliberately avoid meeting a new person, or part from the person you have just been introduced to?

My dismay was due to the failure to acknowledge the Latin root, intro + ducere, to lead into. The opposite should be ex (or even extra) + ducere, and there is a perfectly good Latin verb educere meaning to lead out, which gives us eduction. In fact, extraduction (a nice panvocalic word by the way) though rare, also exists, but has nothing to do with music. Can’t subvert those, then. And “extro”? seems that has also already been taken.

I must return from Planet Zog and accept that since hardly anyone nowadays bothers about Latin or the derivation of words – and what a loss that is! Another post starting to simmer in my head on the subject! – we are going to get a lot more bastard coinages like “outro”. In fact, I just came across another one: “Freemium”.

I surrender.

Grassroots and Elefantillos

“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.”
It sounds like a parent/teenager exchange, but actually it was simply my weekday response to a full long weekend. My friend, an enemy of indolence, was instantly concerned.
“Are you OK?”
“Sure. Just relaxing, doing nothing.”

Actually, I was crocheting some white elephants, a blanket-edging pattern that caught my eye as I was browsing, and as the video tutorial was in Spanish I was pleased with myself that I had been able to figure it out.

Here they are:

elefantillos

I’m not too happy about their tails, so was working on a way to remedy that, but I wasn’t about to explain all that on the phone.

I was also busy using up all the odds and ends of wool left over from my failed attempts at granny squares: I just couldn’t devise anything that I liked, but it meant that what had been quite large skeins to begin with had ended up as a number of small balls of different coloured wool, that was starting to unravel and looking not only fatigued but exhausted. It took me most of the week but by Thursday I had a cushion cover to go with my shell-patterned rugs (or “plaids” as the French and Germans insist on calling them). I still have some dark blue and white left, though only a few yards, following the elefantillos and the stripy reverse of the cushion.

I might also have told her that I was watching the grass grow. At the beginning of the month we had our garden rotivated, new topsoil spread and levelled, and grass seed scattered. It was very, very hot at the time and the earth looked extremely dry. My neighbour and I were quite concerned that the grass seed was a total waste, and we’d have done better to have had it turfed – the usual way of making a lawn in the UK, but considered an expensive luxury here in Switzerland. However, we were informed that it would germinate as soon as it rained.

grass-1

Well, yes, one day it did rain, but immediately afterwards the heatwave resumed and we couldn’t see any sign of life in our grass. The money we saved on getting seed instead of turf has gone towards a sprinkler and the promise of a robot lawnmower, so we turned on the sprinkler for a few days and my neighbour hosed the bits the sprinkler didn’t reach, until the ground did indeed begin to assume a greenish cast. I performed an unintentional Mr Bean act the first day by trying to move the sprinkler without first turning it off, which resulted in a drenching not only for me, but also for my neighbours in our house as well as those across the road and the lady next door. I hope nobody was videoing that!  grass-2

Meanwhile, three weeks later, with lower temperatures, a bit of rain now and then, and probably the effect of the morning dew, we now have what is indisputably a lawn. It’s very tender grass, like the hair on a baby’s head, and the area outside my patio is patchy, but I am optimistic that soon I shall be watching the robot mower instead of the grass. I check it every morning – not with a measuring rod, I hasten to add, but visually – and it is perceptibly growing. So that’s my latest hobby. And I’ve gained a suntan while pursuing it.grass-3

grass 4.pngAnd why was I so in need of doing nothing?
No complaints! I had a great weekend, starting with a wonderful party to celebrate the tenth wedding anniversary of my eldest granddaughter and her husband. About sixty people, many of whom had been guests at the wedding, feasted on a delicious so-called sucking pig (it was a young one, but no way was it still a suckling) roasted on a spit, masses of food and champagne, and all beautifully managed by my dear granddaughter, who is noted in the family for her efficiency ever since she attended nursery school and streamlined their systems for them at the age of two. She certainly lived up to her reputation, and as far as I could see, everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

garden-tree-house

Garden with tree house ready for the kids, and party tent for the gown-ups

sucking-pig

I was able to catch up with a number of people I hadn’t seen for a while, including my youngest granddaughter, and had the pleasure of the company of my middle granddaughter and her husband, who were staying overnight too, over breakfast and lunch on Sunday morning.

I had rashly agreed to lead worship at the Sunday afternoon service in our little church fellowship, and needed some practice. We are a small community, and very far from competing with the Tabernacle Choir. Some of us can play an instrument – piano, keyboard, guitar – with varying degrees of competence, and anyone who can hold a tune within about an octave is encouraged to join in as vocalist.

Last Sunday, we had no instruments, so had to resort to canned music. As leader for the day, I was allowed to choose the songs and hymns so I picked some old favourites and waited for the summons to practice. Unfortunately, although our “choir” consisted of only three of us, the only time we were all available to rehearse together was an hour before the service, so Fred, who is in charge and rivals my granddaughter for efficiency, sent us Spotify versions to practise with: a demo version and a performance version.

To my surprise, I was able to install the app without any trouble. But then – Wow! Were these the old familiar songs I had picked? Not the tempo I was used to in a couple of them, too much gospel flavour in that one (fine to listen to, but I can’t do it myself) and a bit high in another, and as I listened to the performance version, which is like karaoke, I was bewildered as to where I should come in. So Sunday morning we had a nonstop loop of worship playing in the background as I tried to familiarise myself with these arrangements. Middle granddaughter was highly amused that “Granny has Spotify!” and grandson-in-law was helpful in orienting me as I painfully navigated in the app to the places I wanted to be.

By the time I got to the rehearsal, I had some idea of what it ought to sound like but I wasn’t terribly optimistic, and hoped the congregation would sing loud enough to drown me out. Of course, Fred fixed it: he had listened to these tracks so many times, he could have sung them in his sleep, and I just watched him and came in when he nodded to me. We even managed a canon version of “You are my hiding place” and to my relief I didn’t feel in need of a hiding place as we finished up. In fact, we felt rather exhilarated at having pulled it off without live musicians to back us and the congregation seemed to enjoy singing the old favourites.

Afterwards, I was invited to spend a day or two with a good friend, so although that was in no way strenuous it did involve a lot of talk. So all in all, a lovely long weekend – but it was soothing to return to my crocheting and the excitement of watching the grass grow.