Books, Books and More Books

The first thing that came to mind when considering what I may have more than a hundred of in my house right now is books.

Even sitting here in my living room are well over a hundred books, some on bookshelves and some in cupboards. Big books, small books, old books, new books, hard-backs, paper-backs, fiction, non-fiction, serious books and funny books.

There are recipe books, psychology books, self-help books, yoga books, colouring-in books, blank books for writing in, filled-up notebooks, philosophy books, books about crochet and drawing and calligraphy.

In the loft there are also three boxes of my most precious paperback novels moved from London to Inverness a year ago and still to be unpacked – I did well only taking three, by donating the rest of my collection to charity.

Virtual volumes of anything are great in their place, but I also like the old-fashioned reality of touching books, the smell of them, curling up on the sofa with them and the sound of manually turning their pages one by one.

Books have been a constant in my life since childhood, first reading with mum then by myself. Between the pages of books I’ve discovered a wonderful world of imagination, a font of knowledge, a portable personal place of learning and of leisure… ❤

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Over One Hundred

Brushing It Off

I used to enjoy drawing and painting just for fun, but I haven’t done it for years. I did try a few years ago to look out my art stuff and have another go, but somehow my enthusiasm didn’t last. I feel I’d like to try again, here and now, but it’s a nagging feeling I keep brushing off.

I tell myself I’m so out of practice I’ll be no good at it, then I also tell myself of course I’ll never be good at it if I don’t even try – practice makes perfect. I watch my grandchildren draw pictures of anything and everything, and they don’t hesitate – they pick up a crayon or pencil or paintbrush and make that first mark on the paper with courage and confidence. They don’t fear failure, but if it happens and the drawing goes wrong they face it and deal with it, either changing their plans or starting again.

I mean, I have plenty of beautiful plants in my garden as subjects to paint, plenty of beautiful scenery close by, plenty of paper and paints and even plenty of room in the house to be creative – so why don’t I just do it? What am I so afraid of? Watch this space…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Brush

A Bit of a Rant

Spot the deliberate mistake – yup, my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post is being posted on Sunday evening! Sorry, been busy at work this weekend, so this may well turn out to be a bit of a rant. It’s now been a whole month since I went back to work and in some ways it’s been good but in others, not so much.

Positives include still having a job to go to, and earning a full pay instead of the 80% wage we received on furlough (for which I was extremely grateful, as it was a million times better than earning nothing for the duration of lockdown). And seeing work colleagues regularly, that’s definitely good too. It’s also nice not to feel stuck in limbo any more, life is at least on the move again, even with the inevitable restrictions still in place.

And I must emphasise that most of the customers we serve over the course of the day are absolutely delighted to be out shopping for clothes in person again, are simply happy to see us and appreciate that we are out there doing whatever we have to do to make it possible, and understand that the store may be open again after a fashion, but any real sense of how things were before is still a long way off.

Negatives, however, include the very few inconsiderate customers who clearly seem to resent the lack of normality to their shopping experience and who choose to take their frustrations out on stressed-out staff who are simply doing their best to make the most of a difficult situation, by at least providing a limited service where possible. Reduced opening hours, reduced staffing levels, reduced options, granted – but at least we’re open.

So no, you can’t try clothes on in store, but you are free to buy them, take them home and return whatever doesn’t fit. We are not trying to inconvenience you, we are trying to keep you safe. Returned clothing then goes into quarantine for a couple of days before being replaced on the sales floor. And no, you definitely can’t have a bra-fitting – hello, social distancing, people! Bra fittings are well and truly up close and personal!

We may only have two till points functioning on a normal four-till pay desk, but that is to ensure we too can keep our distance from each other, so you may have to wait a little longer than usual in line to be served. And once you reach the till point we may ask you you to stand in a specific place behind a perspex screen while you are paying for your items and for the rest of your family to stand back for a very good reason.

Oh and please have patience with us as we regularly sanitise our hands and key-pad and everything else we (and you!) touch between each customer. Speed of service to your own satisfaction is not the only consideration. There is still a deadly virus out there, it may be on the wane but it is not yet gone, and we still have no available vaccine. So while we are happy to serve members of the public day in, day out, we will do whatever we have to do to keep all of us as safe as possible in the circumstances, like it or not.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Spot

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Inevitable

Me and My Dad Out for a Walk

More than anything else this weekend I really wanted to go out and visit my parents at long last.

Although I’ve kept in touch by phone what with one thing and another I haven’t actually seen them in person for six months, and during the four solid months of lockdown they not only both celebrated birthdays, but Dad actually spent five weeks in hospital with a chest infection and urine infection – thankfully not Covid after all, but with his spiking a high temperature and developing a bad cough, for a few worrying days we were all so scared we might lose him.

My Dad is 84 years old and has survived four strokes, and he now also has vascular dementia so not only is his mobility not great any more, but he also has good days and bad days memory-wise. Mum and Dad live in the beautiful Scottish countryside in the back of beyond, miles away from the rest of the family. So today was the first day since I went back to work three weeks ago that my husband and I could manage to go out to visit, and we all had such a great day together.

Dad walks indoors with a rollator, but struggles to keep his balance outdoors so a fortnight ago he was given a wheelchair to use outside – but he wouldn’t use it, he resisted all Mum’s efforts to get him out for a walk and refused point-blank even to try. Up until about five years ago Dad was always fit and healthy, easily walking several miles a day for pleasure, but since then sadly it’s been one thing after another for him health-wise and his walking world has shrunk accordingly.

However I’m very much my dad’s daughter, I have inherited his stubborn temperament and can often find just the right thing to say to get through to him when others fail. And so it was today – thankfully a good day dementia-wise, too. About five minutes after I learned that Dad had a wheelchair, he was in his jacket and hat and sitting comfortably, ready to go out for a walk. Mum chose to stay at home, and although my husband came with us, I pushed Dad in the wheelchair.

It felt so good to share that experience with Dad. We didn’t go far, but went along a well-known route from the past and Dad thoroughly enjoyed having a good look around to see what had changed since his last proper outdoor excursion (last September, also with us, just before the cold weather set in). We chatted and reminisced and he soon got over his initial emotional discomfort at being pushed in a wheelchair – I pointed out to him that he used to push me often enough in my pram when I was young, so it’s only fair I push him in return now he’s growing old.

To me this is the stuff of life that matters, these are the precious moments that count the most. My husband took a few lovely photographs of Dad and I together while out for our walk, and I’ve shared my favourites above. I feel so lucky at my age to still have my Dad, however old and infirm he becomes. He is, and always has been, my hero, and to be able to do something so simple for him that brings such a huge smile to his face brings me nothing but happiness wrapped up in a lifetime of love ❤

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: More

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Precious

Weekly Smile

To Do Lists

I was going to write that I really like making to-do lists, but it’s probably a lot more accurate to say I like specifically to be able to check things off my to-do lists. I have even been known to include as the first item something already done, so I have the pleasure of ticking it off immediately 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Check

Weekly Smile, Running Late!

It’s almost time for next week’s Weekly Smile, and here I am only writing this now. I did think about just skipping this week and just posting tomorrow for the new week instead, but I realised if I link up today I can also use it as my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post, which is only a day late. So this way, any nonsensical ramblings that follow can simply be construed as unedited random brain-to-finger-to-page thoughts… 🙂

Work days and Days off – Now I’ve been back at work for a full week I can really appreciate the simple joy of a proper day off. The trouble with lockdown was having lots of time on my hands, but none of it felt like productive time off because there was nothing in place to have time off from… 🙂

My husband’s birthday – My husband turned 59 this week, and although we didn’t fancy risking going out to eat in a restaurant yet we cooked ourslves a lovely meal at home with some nice wine and chose a rich chocolate cake for a birthday dessert – yum! 🙂

More grandchildren hugs – We had a visit from my youngest daughter’s family on Friday, and my husband and I spent a lovely day mainly in the garden with the three grandkids while their mum and dad faced the gauntlet of shopping for new school clothes for everyone. And this afternoon my eldest daughter is coming to visit with her two youngest, so our sorely-depleted hug-tanks will have been filled to the brim this week! 🙂

Fiery Skies

Linda has set us a different kind of prompt for today’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday – we need to find a picture closest to us, then use the title or lyrics of whatever song comes to mind when looking at the picture… convoluted but quite a cool idea!

So, the nearest picture to me while reading the prompt is a picture of a door – well several doors actually – in a glossy brochure advertising energy-efficient doors, sitting with other similar items on the coffee table. We’re currently looking for a new front door, back door, and all the windows in the older part of our house.

The picture of a door makes me think of the Doors, which inevitably makes me think of ‘Light my Fire’, and I’m wondering idly what I might post about lighting fires… And I walk through to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil I see the sun setting outside our dining room window, and it looks like the skies are on fire.

Phone raised, photograph taken, prompt completed by the time my tea has brewed – boom! 🙂

A Toss Up

I found out the other day that I’ll be going back to work very soon, and I feel very much in two minds about it all. On one hand I’m delighted to be beginning the process of creating a new normal to get back to, but on the other hand… the reality of risk is rearing its ugly head along with the fear of the unknown.

Intellectually, I know that the country – the world – cannot go on forever effectively hiding from Covid 19, holed up in hope of a miracle vaccine that can make us feel safe again. At some point in time we all have to face our fears, adapting and making the necessary changes to society that allow us all to live with Covid 19 in the community rather than potentially die from it.

But emotionally I feel decidedly anxious and wary, because however much I’ve found it frustrating at times I’ve got used to feeling snug and safe in my own home and it seems crazily counter-intuitive after months of a very successful ‘Stay at Home, Stay Safe’ campaign to now be told it’s OK, it’s safe out there too even though the virus hasn’t gone yet – basically it has to be OK because the economy is collapsing.

It’s all about finding a precarious balance, isn’t it? We balance the risk of going out into the scary world where a deadly invisible virus awaits by wearing some kind of protection from infection, and because full Hazmat suits are not practical daywear for most of us in our daily lives, we compromise and stick to wearing a simple face mask and using hand sanitiser and keeping our distance from others to keep us safe.

We have to balance the risk of catching a virus that might kill us against the risk of having no future income to live on, which in a very different way also might kill us in the end. So somewhere along the line we have to meet in the middle. It has to be done, and I know it’s almost time for me to get back out there and get on with it. And in a weird way I’m quite looking forward to it, except for when I’m not.

The department store I work in seems to have created a well-managed environment for both staff and customers to move around in, with plenty of safety measures in place to protect everyone as much as possible. So I can’t help but wonder how I’ll be feeling on my first day back, smiley and safe or frowny and fearful? Right now it feels like it could be either, and it’s going to be a toss up as to which actually wins out on the the day… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Toss

Coffee, Tea, or Milk of Magnesia?

I thought I was going to be totally stumped today by Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt of Coffee, Tea, or Me – flirty phrases are just not me, especially not embarrassingly dated stuff like that.

Then I read John Holton’s SOCS post mentioning about air stewardesses back in the day writing a book of that name and suddenly it all became clear. Yup, in the context of the sexist world of the original ‘trolley dollies’ (such a ghastly, demeaning name) I can see how that phrase might come about.

But to be honest the thing that struck me most about John’s post is the 1970s ad he’s included at the bottom for Milk of Magnesia – because oooh, there’s something I can post about, family medicine cabinet staples from my childhood! I suppose it’s a kind of Stream of Consciousness post once removed – related to Linda’s topic, but indirectly, through reading John’s post.

I so clearly remember the blue bottle of Milk of Magnesia, we were usually given a spoon of that white milky liquid for the solid kind of bellyache caused by constipation – I can even remember the odd taste of it. It was joined in its choice of eye-catching blue glass bottle by a little jar of Vicks Vaporub – its powerfully strong menthol heating sensation when rubbed on your chest and back was used to relieve congestion due to a cold.

My dad used to be bothered with indigestion a lot so there was always a tin of Andrew’s Liver Salts to be had – a spoon of that dissolved in water would fizz up into salty bubbles to be drunk down straight away, usually followed immediately by a huge belch, to settle any stomach discomfort. And I remember dad also carried little white square Rennies tablets in his pocket at all times for his heartburn.

Another duo of products that spring to mind is a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly and a tin – a proper round tin, not a tube – of thick, pink Germolene antiseptic ointment. Now there’s a smell to stick in your nostrils. In my mind’s eye I link the strong smell of Germolene to the memory of fabric sticking plaster strips, because scrapes and grazes were cleaned with the sting of diluted Dettol, Germolene antiseptic ointment was applied, then a plaster cut to size was stuck over the top and you were sent on your way.

The painkiller I remember most from childhood is Disprin, a dissolvable asprin. If there was such a thing as ibuprofen available way back in the 1960s and 1970s they definitely didn’t make it as far as our medicine cabinet. These were the main generic products I remember, but I was ill a lot as a child so had my prescribed medicines to take too – Phenergan Syrup for my allergies tasted absolutely vile… yuk!

OK, that memory has put me off now, so I’ll just stop there while the going’s still good 🙂