New fangled music   Leave a comment

Felicity is 87. She looks like a cross between the actress Margaret Rutherford and Agatha Christie. She has had a number of strokes and heart attacks but through bad temper and iron will, is fully functional. She is a fierce atheist and one of the world’s truly good people. She is a psychologist. She still sees a caseload of clients for a charity. She ends her working day at 8pm and strides off into the London night with her backpack and stick. She has recently started attending art college to fulfil a childhood dream to be an artist.

Recently she went to the Barbican to see Nigel Kennedy. “It was fascinating” she says. “He played Bach and then played some new fangled chap called Fats Waller.”

Nice to hear that Fats Waller (who died in 1943)  is  ‘new fangled’.

Bless them all   Leave a comment

I heard this poem by Richard Newman on a podcast of The Writer’s Almanac (read by Garrison Keillor).  I was walking down the street and it brought me to a standstill.   I am guilty.

 

Bless Their Hearts

by Richard Newman

At Steak ‘n Shake I learned that if you add
“Bless their hearts” after their names, you can say
whatever you want about them and it’s OK.
My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,
she said. He rents storage space for his kids’
toys—they’re only one and three years old!
I said, my father, bless his heart, has turned
into a sentimental old fool. He gets
weepy when he hears my daughter’s greeting
on our voice mail. Before our Steakburgers came
someone else blessed her office mate’s heart,
then, as an afterthought, the jealous hearts
of the entire anthropology department.
We bestowed blessings on many a heart
that day. I even blessed my ex-wife’s heart.
Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be getting
much tip, for which, no doubt, he’d bless our hearts.
In a week it would be Thanksgiving,
and we would each sit with our respective
families, counting our blessings and blessing
the hearts of family members as only family
does best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, please
bless us and bless our crummy little hearts.

(“Bless Their Hearts” by Richard Newman, from Domestic Fugues. © Steel Toe Books, 2009.)

What a beautiful humourous capturing of who we really are!

I had never heard of him before so checked him out and found  his website. I really like his style. Deceptively simple and humourous but deep and shocking in the way it captures the truth of existence.  I’m struggling through the Dalai Llama on ‘Becoming Enlightened’ at the moment (and really, struggling is the word).  Newman’s poem ‘Mowing’ made me feel better about ‘the four noble truths’.

Being foreign   Leave a comment

My friend is a rich girl from a nice town in the stockbroker belt just outside London. She is intelligent, pretty and has a professional job.

My friend is British and really loves her country. But (unlike me, a complete foreigner) she is second-generation and carries with her, the cultural and historical associations of her family. Most of the time she does this with pride, but sometimes, just sometimes it becomes a little much!*

She has just given birth to her first child. The baby was slightly premature. Her husband and mother were with her at hospital.

I asked her how it went. ‘Terrible’ she said. ‘But it was not the birth, it was the shame! I was lying there with my legs spread, telling my idiot husband to hold my hand, and then my mother suddenly started praying up against the wall, salaaming loudly, going through all the motions and wailing.  All the doctors and nurses in the West London hospital really tried to maintain a blank facade, frantically pretending that she was not there and the wailing was not happening, but were still trying to peek whilst pretending not to. They were having to manoeuver around her physically in order to do their job. I kept trying to tell her to stop but she wouldn’t. I nearly died of shame. It took all my attention away from the pain. She would not stop all the way through the birth! I was pushing hard just to make her stop.”

(*Zadie Smith in  White Teeth – explains the dilemma well)

Blackberries (and maybe maggots)   2 comments

I am in the countryside far away from London, just about as far as you can get before you drop off the edge and into the Atlantic Ocean. Where the underlying sound is silence. I find myself stopping at odd moments just to listen.

Yesterday I had fruit salad in the late evening while watching the sun set through biblical clouds and roll behind green hills.  I walked to the edge of the garden and picked wild ripe, black, shiny blackberries and added them to my fruit salad. They were delicious, tart and sweet at the same time. I did not wash them. I don’t think there were any maggots. If there were, I did not notice. But hey, they are just protein. Yum!

Autumn – OMG its here! Loveit/hateit/loveit   1 comment

Wow! That was quick! Where did summer go?

Walked home this evening.
Cold. Windy. Cardigan on for the first time. Buttoned up.

Snuggled under warm duvet tonight.  I forgot how good it is to snuggle under a warm duvet in the cold.

Weather forecast.  Frost promised. And squally showers. Wow! this is it now. Summer is really over. First frost here. Long nights good. Short days bad.

But there is a germ of delight in me about the cold, and the wind, and a knot of anticipation of kicking through leaves and listening to that beautiful noise. And rain. And being able to wear warm clothes and my boots. Mmm!

But summer is over so quickly. I need more time in the  sun and warmth.

But now I can wear gloves and take photos of skeletons of trees and take the first step outside my door in the morning and have the delight of breathing frosty air and seeing my breath.

The dilemma of being on the cusp. Aargh!

The start of Autumn   1 comment

On the London Loop in September. Hayes & Harlington to Uxbridge. Along the canal at Hayes bums and bowsies, beer cans and junk.

Then as the town and noise are left behind, dragonflies, butterflies, magpies, blackberries, hips and haws, starlings and squirrels. Burnt grass  and hard ground. September scorching hot but with a nippy start and end to the day, a hint of Autumn in the air and a promise of what is to come.

My secret London, hidden under and behind the big arterial roads and train tracks. Rivers and streams, fishermen, children diving off bridges into frond filled fast-flowing Fray and Little Britain lake. Little Britain’s children, burnt in unexpected sun.

And then the grand entrance into Uxbridge. A canal lined with barges and dry docks. The General Eliott pub, half empty overlooking the canal. Massive leather sofa on a big verandah, the pub itself looking like something straight from Victorian times.  Tiny windows, ivy covered, full of working men with names like Clive, on their day off.  Barges chugging down the canal.  On the other side of the canal in the working dry-dock, a radio plays.  The ripples of the canal water are reflected in the large galvanised sheds painted a wonderful shade of green.

The chugging barges show the personality of their owners. Some, the day-tripper/weekender boats, are neat, pretty and tidy. Men with shades sit on the top self-consciously. Others, the real survivalist types, are decorated with barbecues made from cut-open gas tanks, bits of washing machines, blocks of wood, bikes and washing decorating the top and sides.

It is so peaceful and quiet, the only noise, the radio across the canal, the chug of the barges and the low murmur of the working men.  I fantasize about dropping off the edge of the world, buying a barge and staying here forever.

 

Call centre blues   1 comment

Today I tried to get some help from an online helpdesk. I could not find the customer service link on the website. There was a weird avatar called Lucy with a notice saying ‘Ask Lucy’. So I put my question to Lucy. Lucy the avatar leered at me from the screen and raised an animated eyebrow. Then she replied. “I can only understand one sentence at a time. Please write your problem in one sentence.”  I won’t repeat my not very kind reply here. The avatar leered at me again. (I’m sure she stuck her tongue out!) Then she replied saying, “Perhaps next time, I will know the answer.” I asked for customer services. Lucy made some more nasty faces and a link for customer services appeared. This is what happened next:

Welcome to PHONE COMPANY. Someone will be with you soon.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

We’re really busy right now. Thanks for waiting.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

We’re really busy right now. Thanks for waiting.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

We’re really busy right now. Thanks for waiting.

During the above time: Got up, had shower, brushed teeth, got dressed, made bed, tidied room, took out trash while pressing enter passing computer.

You’re through to Mary.

Mshambainlondon: I received a text on 20/07/12 stating that I would be able to access £10 to spend in PHONE COMPANY stores to compensate for network disruption after 01/09 via Special Moments. I’ve tried to access this but can’t. Why?

Mary: Hi I’m Mary. How can I help?

Mshambainlondon: Hi Mary, My question is above. (Thinking Duh!)

Long, long silence – prepared breakfast.

Mshambainlondon: Hello?

Mary: Yes this discount will come off once your bill is generated on September.

Mary: And by then this will be active on your special account as well.

Mshambainlondon: I have a pay as you go phone. Not bill.

Mary: Okay.

Mary: Please stay connected while I transfer the chat to the concern team

Mshambainlondon: So I am now in my Special Account and trying to access the £10 but getting a message to say “Close Sorry, there appears to be a problem. Ooops, there’s a problem redeeming that offer. Please try again later.” (Honestly the message really did say Ooops!)

We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

(During the above: Ate breakfast, did the washing up, cleaned the kitchen, put on a load of laundry)

You’re through to Tony.

Tony: Hi I’m Tony. How can I help?

Mshambainlondon: Hi Tony, I received a text on 20/07/12 stating that I would be able to access £10 to spend in PHONE COMPANY stores to compensate for network disruption after 01/09 via Special Moments. I’ve tried to access this but can’t. Message says: Sorry, there appears to be a problem. Ooops, there’s a problem redeeming that offer. Please try again later. Why? I am pay as you go customer so this will not be connected to a bill.

Tony: I’m sorry for the trouble you’re facing while redeeming the coupon on special moments.

Mshambainlondon: Thanks for your concern. But I really just need to know how to solve the problem. Can you fix this for me please? (Thinks: Honestly!)

Tony: Let me check this for you.

Mshambainlondon: Great.

Tony: Thanks for waiting.

Tony: Have you downloaded the voucher?

Mshambainlondon: Sorry – no -when I try to download I am getting the Ooops message I told you about. Should I try again now? (Thinks: Duh! Why do you think I am here?)

Tony: Please try to download the voucher again.

(Try to download)

Tony: Are you able to download now?

Mshambainlondon: No. Still getting this message

Tony: It seems that there’s some issue with the website at the moment. I’ve forwarded the report to the support team so that it can be investigated. Please try downloading the voucher after sometime and you’ll be able to do it.

Tony: I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused.

Mshambainlondon: OK. I will try again later. Thanks for trying. I will get back to you guys later if the problem continues. (Thinks: Oh Jesus!)

Tony: I appreciate your co-operation with this matter.

Tony: Is there anything else I can help you with?

Mshambainlondon: No Tony. Have a good one! (Thinks: Oh well, he is probably some hung over guy in a horrible call centre type place, and anyway I’ve lost the will to live)

Tony: It was great chatting with you.(Thinks: Oh god, poor guy, they probably make him say this on a script somewhere!)

Tony: Have a great weekend. Bye and take care.

Mshambainlondon: U2 (Oh well, what can you do? Think about karma)