Wednesday, August 26, 2009


My claim to fame today is in remembering a meal I shared with the late Senator Teddy Kennedy in March of 62 or 63.

Working with Aer Lingus at the time, a gang of us were sent to the USA for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. I opted for Boston rather than New York, because I am a lazy slouch. The walk down 5th Ave is rather long; in civilised Boston they used a motorcade.

First night there we were at a function which was attended by the Senator and his wife Joan. He was handsome, she was pretty, I had no interest in politics and had other fish to fry. I hardly noticed them. Especially when recovering from the humiliation of dancing my way through the first several bars of the US National Anthem, not recognising it.

Boston Parade was super. Next day (Sunday) there was another one in a place called Holyoke. There was a major dinner-party afterwards. My friend and myself were late and all the places at the top table with all the dignitaries were full and we had to sit together in splendid isolation at a table set for 4 in the middle of the room. We bitched for a while before devoting ourselves to stuffing our faces. We hardly noticed the cheers and applause when another guest arrived, a handsome brute, obviously popular, who shook a few hands here and there then joined us at our humble setting. My friend paled and began to chatter while kicking me under the table and introducing both of us to the man who since became so famous. Needless to say the local lasses were green with envy, which in retrospect was most appropriate.

The Senator was a charming man who entertained us royally (if a Democrat can do that) and it is indeed an honour to have met him. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Two Crows


Silent sentinels sitting on the apex of a pitched roof

In the half-light before the sun is up

Black-uniformed facing to the east,

Then shifting imperceptibly to the north,

Like the backward hands of a compass clock.


I wonder do they chat about the tortoishell cat skulking in the shrubbery

Seeking a stray mouse, an earthbound fledgling?

Or spot the sunflowers ease yellow fingers to full length,

Stretching supple necks, rousing sap for strength to raise their heads

to worship once again their fiery god?


Do they see the silent jet steaming high above,

white ribbons trailing, on its way to London, Paris or perhaps Peru,

Somnolent souls cocooned within

heading for holidays, making mercy missions,

or facing home for another year of post-recession recriminations?


Do they hear the pink dangling bells of sweet, fairy-filled fuchsia;

Gossip about Gretchen, our plaster goose, broad bill upraised to the trumpets of white mallow moving gently on the whisper of a morning breeze?

Do they revel in the reddening creeper?

Do their noses get the whiff of fading roses hanging limply?


Do they see me behind my window pane,

Watching them watching me,

Wondering at their ability to stand immobile,

While I sit restless, passing wakeful hours

poisoning an already over-loaded system with caffeine and tobacco?


No signal, but one hops atop a chimney cowl,

Ruffles feathers, pecks at some discomfort then resumes her place, facing her mate.

He stretches on his talon tips and sidles towards the west,

Eyes darting left and right, blinkered shutters

Clicking pictures of essential information.


Stretched wings and well-plumed tails,

As one they check their feathered under-carriages,

Then bounce down dull grey tiles inspecting moss,

Breakfasting on unsuspecting spiders and things

That nestle there, unaware they are the prey of predators.


Then with a nod and a wink, or the blink of an eye

They take to the air and glide to their next vantage point.

It’s time for me to put away my thoughts

And seek an hour of sleep before the day.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Hospitals are funny places, or at least they can be if you keep your sense of humour.  I’ve seen more than my fair share in the past few years, but they still never fail to entertain me.

Every three months or so I have an appointment at 11.15 to see a consultant.  Sometimes there’s a huge queue, today there wasn’t.  Still I never get seen before 1pm – and then only for about five minutes.  They don’t do anything, just ask how I am and check bloods (which I will have had taken a week before).  I’m sure they could as easily just send me an ‘OK – See you in 3 months’ message by phone or mail.  

To keep this appointment I have to get somebody to drive me, – not nice when you know this is going to be a fairly regular thing and people have their own lives to live and jobs to do - because I couldn’t walk the distance from the car park to the lobby which is where one gets a wheel-chair.  I leave home at around 10.15 to be in time – not early, just in time. They won’t give you a wheel-chair without a porter, but will let your ‘minder’ take charge for the return trip, so it can’t be for safety reasons.   They park the wheel-chair slap bang in the middle of the narrow corridor where everyone else has to step over it or negotiate their way around you. 

Today I felt quite ill while I was waiting.  I overheard a passing nurse saying ‘that person looks tired’.  Stupidly, thinking she cared, I said I wasn’t tired but felt quite ill.  In my innocence I had said to daughter-in-law who was my transporter, what better place to get sick.  I was wrong.  There was no response of any kind from any of the four uniformed women standing roughly two feet from me who carried on their conversation.

Himself, the King, getting jealous of my relationship with this hospital had taken his turn there and booked in for the past week and a half.  Today I met him for the first time since he went in – but he was going in the opposite direction, being ferried home by another friend.  He had to be out before 11, whereas I had to be in by 11.15.  (All these arrangements had to be made by guess who?  Right, first time!)  Luckily grandson had volunteered to be at home when he got there in case he needed help – hubby had had surgery.  Needless to day both hubby and grandson were starving and waiting for lunch by the time I returned.

In case you think I’m feeling sorry for myself, I’m not.  I met a woman outside, older than me by about 10 years, who had been there since 5am.  Her husband has some as yet undiagnosed illness and they had sent for her to sit with him because he was restless and needed someone to be with him.  She had also spent Saturday  from 7am until 10.30pm on the same errand.  She lives much further away than I do, afraid to drive on the motorway, and has to get her son to get up and bring her there and collect her each time.

Ah well.  I suppose if there were no hospitals it would be even worse.  But it’s a much better idea to stay healthy and not get sick at all!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


There are two golden balls of light sitting where I step into the garden.  Their black faces grin impishly at me as I join them in their worship of the sun, feathery orange hair reminding me of the gollywog, (so non p.c. these days) that used grace the label of the marmalade jar on my mother’s breakfast table. 

But these are blossoms of light, not darkness.  Grown from seed by a neighbour who last year found a similar, but of a long-stemmed variety, dropped no doubt by a truly feathered friend as he feasted on her bird table in her carefully tended flower bed.  I could see it from my window during a period of convalescence, and praised it in poetry in our local journal.  She never commented on this – if indeed she saw it – but out of the blue left these two new babes-in-the-sun on my doorstep with a little card three weeks ago.

Nice things like this have happened a lot in the past few months.  Unexpected words of appreciation, tokens of friendship;  a phone call just to say Hello!;  a flower-pot carefully painted with a much loved line, “When I am old I will wear purple, with a red hat”; a totally out-of-the-“blue pressie from town” which kept me company last night as I viewed a light romantic film on tv.

Like the balls of light in my garden, these gestures lift my spirits, fill me with respect for people who take the trouble to show their friendship and love, and make me want to go on living forever.  They smile into the bleaker hours and dissipate the short spells of gloom.  Their feathery touch is  complementary, not invasive; and they reflect the warmth that showers down.