Cant put off writing, searching for my theme -Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent


Easter Rituals Salamanca ,Spain

Managed to do 2 exercise classes.Bought another rain jacket to replace a brand new one .(It was in my bike carrier which  i lost a few days ago ,swerving to avoid a motorist.Lost balance and the bike keeled over.)Had lunch ,cleared the sink, put out household rubbish and removed more from the floor. .Photographed cluttered windowsill where stuff from sink is waiting for a spot Resisted the temptation to deal with the moth infestation in cupboards or walk dog . Succumbed to the urge to add to facebook.Returned 2 phone calls but no answer so couldn’t spend time chatting
Finally retrieved my computer from the drawer.

I am an expert avoider and the minute my fingers touch key board or pick up a pen all the great ideas disappear completely .Not exactly:there is a vague memory of a great idea ,but once explored as a writing piece the great idea becomes just an idle thought.The extraordinary  idea reconfigures itself into an ordinary thought loaded with problems and contradictions .I have written in my head and nothing more needs to be said .
For the last few weeks two phrases have run round and round in my head :,”I am in mourning for my life”,I think it is Masha in Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard who announces this as she enters stage The other phrase is from the South African playwright Athol Fugards Hello and Goodbye .Hester says cynically ” A lot of people get by without any future nowadays “.Maybe it is time to write them out .

I certainly don’t feel those sentiments .But I am unsure of a sadness underlying each day.Perhaps there is a questioning of what is worth doing as life moves fast .Rather like that feeling of lostness when one first discovers death as a child; the  responses to the questions about whether the pet/person will come back ,where s/he goes ,who dies and when are never entirely satisfying .Despite the fact that  the count from 4 to 60/70/80 is a long time to the 4 yr old, it is still.challenging .There is a sense of time   moving ,and the first realisation of mortality.The question after”how old are you ?”is often “will you die ?’’

But the space between the beginning and end number compresses ,and becomes thinner as the years speed by and the  count between 70 and 80 is over before its started.

Why at this stage take on anything new ,or difficult ?However time continues to move, and unappreciated ,unlived time is tedious, prickly and anxiety ridden .

The well worn counselling question-“if you were to die tomorrow and wake up to your ideal world /scenario-what would it look like ?”
And of course “What words would you like written on your tombstone?” How do you want to be remembered ?are  not very subtle attempts to shift the persons thinking from a gloomy present to a lighter future ,and then to work with him/her to start creating that very future in the present

I am thinking right now if ,after 70 years on this planet there have been moments of sadness or  dissatisfaction  with life ,then I don’t think one has a fighting chance to change or to reinvent .Might be able to tweek life around the edges ,or recreate a different present when one of the components has dissolved or disappeared .I’m thinking here of death ,loss,illness ,or war .But given our human propensity for habit and settling into routines , don’t set much store on a very different future.

All we can do is plug on ,working in our imperfect human way towards an imagined end ,keep on attempting to  accept or change or shift some of the stuff that surrounds us ,learn more , love and be loved.

Spend less time being busy and more on loving ,learning and writing .

Easter rituals end joyously



  • Walking the Mozarabe in Spain 
Mi prima Clare ,still a way to go for food,shade and rest
Mi prima Clare ,still a way to go for food,shade and rest
Bar Lepanto ,Hueneja,the first meeting and ready to walk tomorrow!!
Bar Lepanto ,Hueneja,the first meeting and ready to walk tomorrow!!

Esperanza(Hope)  22/6/2016 Hueneja,Spain

Espera for what?

A phone that connects to my prima

A glimpse of that water in the river

When soldiers walked with Isabelle and Ferdinand

To  conquer Granada.

Frio in a bus shelter

Alsa bus just gone past

No prima here

Shes stuck between Granada and Hueneja I fear.


Hasta Manana

Shes not on that bus

But no wifi  here

and can’t work Movistar

Have to wait on in this bar

Habla with Espanoles about mi prima from afar

Stuck on that bus

Or sitting in a bar

Waiting for Wifi contact

From me.

No buses stop here today he says

Wifi mas tarde

When? Cuando? I ask

Muy tarde he says

And passes me the vino temparillo.

Espera mañana I say

Watch the old men play

In this smoky bar.

But next afternoon I walk to the busstop in the sun

Siesta time

She steps out of a bus

Mi prima

Bag on back

Holding her straw hat

Ready to walk the Camino


Thoughts on sitting in a bar inMadrid

Drying walk shirt at Cueca hostal window
Drying walk shirt at Cueca hostal window


A long,hot climb
A long,hot climb


Tackling blog writing again ! Difficult on my iPhone but here goes. Maybe this should be about the 4 weeks or so in Spain,mainly about walking the Camino Mozarabe from Almeria to Cordoba? But will save that for some other blogs.This is about hasta luego, not adios. Because I will be back to a place where I feel I belong in some way.Walking those 20 or so km each day we started  in the very early morning ,walking hopefully. Then as the heat increased and paths took themselves around mountains and the flechas(arrows) disappeared ,spirits sank:yet another long long afternoon with the sun beating down as we trudged one foot in front of the other towards a destination which seemed to move further and further away.Then a glimpse of a pueblo, a few minutes of shade, a shepherd walking across the path with his goats or sheep,a sweeping vista over valleys ,down chasms we hope not to have to navigate.Worth the suffering because we are the only persons here privileged to witness this grandeur.

And now Madrid ,this huge , tall ,vibrant , proud and youthful city.

A writer Cleaning -again

What is  there about cleaning that is inspirational?There is lots that is just hard physical work and testing of tolerance for human beings -that is if you run a short term rental.After a series of great guests ,have had a run of wingers ,frying pan destroyers and ,worst of all ,sticky fingers Sticky fingers I mean on walls ,on every surface of glass ,tables,chairs and floors .Now no more free kids,my heart is hardened -kids pay double .

So have stated some of the worse aspects of cleaning ,now for the not exactly benefits ,lets call them compensations or maybe just optimisations ,making the best of a bad job.

The following piece of writing came from cleaning a year ago. .As I  folded the corners of a resistant sheet I remembered how my mother was so strict about how we made beds(interestingly we didn’t do that very often as we had servants in the old Colonial Africa to perform such menial tasks.But if a very special guest was visiting then my mother waded in to ensure that appearances were preserved ,and the “girl” could not be relied on to do that ,so I was roped in).As I struggled with the corners of 3 queens and 2singles,my mind wandered from sheets to dust to witchcraft,then on to beauty,age and dying:

Things my Mother Taught Me
You taught me always to pull back sheets and inspect mattresses,
look for evidence of habitation
check the springs and indentations .

You told me to fold sheets at corners first,hospital style .
I had to unmake many beds because the corners were not right ,
the bedding was not tight .
I never mastered the skill,till now
making tidy corners for paying guests .

Ran your fingers over shelves to check for dust ,first thing
as you came into a room in your finery
dressed for entertaining
smiling .

No one knew we had a witches in our family :
Tante Ena ,who wove enchantments with her pubic hair
We looked carefully at the liquid in our cups to make sure it was safe to drink
that there was no single floating pubic hair.
As a child I wondered if thats why we were checking mattresses too ,
just in case another Aunty had been there ,
leaving some voodoo magic buried in the room.

I met her later, that aunt ,very ill and carefully groomed
living with the man she’d stolen away .
I knew then that witches do not always look like witches .

Tante Ena didn’t look like Grandmere Maure ,the old wizened woman
crouched over her cards in a gloomy ,overgrown verandah
dark as the ace of spades, my father used to say
(He said a lot more about that side of the family)
Why did they take me there,to that crazy woman in the dark ?

My first cousin ,the beautiful one ,a great grandchild of the ugly witch
was a witch too,but a doomed witch.
Her beauty killed her in the end
she enchanted her way to money and ease
and died by her own hand .

Oh Tessa in the London apartment over looking Kensington Park
sitting on a stool in front of your mirror
preparing to go out
applying make up to your perfect skin, green eyes smiling at me in the glass
kind to an admiring ill dressed cousin
watching with stars in her eyes ,
so pleased to meet the errant one .

She was named after you ,mum,your godchild.
Theres the connection :two beautiful women a generation apart
one died young
the other has become old and sad
and witches ,scattered throughout the years ,
are still around
I know .

Moving Objects

Moving  Objects

When we sleep at night then the house moves
When we close eyes and dream or weep ,depending on our frame of mind .
A blink of an eye they say and things can change
Hurricanes happen ,the earth opens ,wind hurls itself at trees and sea eats up the shore
A blink of an eye and babes are born ,people die or change
A short sleep may be a dangerous thing .

When you awake things are not what they were
You cant find your favourite fork ,a much loved chair
A carpet gone from where it always was ,beneath your bed
Has it really happened ,or is it your head ?
Things have changed

When we take our eyes of things they move away
When we close our eyes and dream or weep ,depending on our frame of mind ,
They leave .

When you awake you are perplexed to find
There is no box of keepsakes beside your bed ,no potions there
No messages left to help you cope
Gone or taken ?Perhaps you’re blind :
They’re really there

You’ll never know

A Real Peregrino

A Real Peregrino

A real peregrino doesn’t crack a smile
When you talk of vino tintos and cafe con leche
Drinking in scattered bars along the way

A real peregrino is never muy frio
He knows being cold is part of his journey.
Flip flops slopping down albergue corridors
He walks to mass and comida and off to bed.

In the cold dawn light he sits straight up
Feet into boots,beanie on head
Rattles his plastic bags into his pack
Grabs his sticks and clops down the corridors
To the icy outside to face another long day .
No slacking for him
No breakfast
No sitting over coffee and yarns
He’s a man on a mission.

A real peregrino recognises
Those who are not real peregrinos
Those who have come along for the ride
He knows God is not on their side.
Those cheery ones who may be touristicos
Spoiling the Way,
Who do not pray.
Only thoughts of God are in his head,and avoiding hell
A real peregrino doesn’t feel the chill of the monks cell.

I wonder if God knows
Who is real and who is not
Does he care?

“Buen camino”prays the priest
“Ve con Dio “he murmurs
To all of us standing heads bowed
May God be with your steps along the way.

I know He is
Real peregrino or not.IMG_0210

The long road The long road

Inexplicable Lingua Espanol

The Lady of the Cakes (Jan 2016 blog) highlights the 5 main bits of useless advice about learning a language and asks for contributions along the same lines. While no additional advice springs to mind ,here are some thoughts from an intermediate Spanish learner about learning Spanish .According to Duolingo,the free language learning app, I am now 45% proficient,and I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to the program which forms the cornerstone of my learning.Examples are taken from Duolingo but all interpretations and mistakes are mine.Also I ask for your indulgence ,gentle reader,for any errors in spelling,translation and meaning.

I only have a few notes at the moment .When I have my earphones on and am waiting for that success sound at the end of a section-
“DA …AH …A…A …. “ ,and watch my SP rise(that is the time spent that day on Duolingo),I am loathe to stop and record.Then there is the notification that I have ,finally,gone up one stage (am stage 13 at moment,feels like I have been on 13 for ever and ever).Mostly I cannot afford to be distracted by recording the strange combinations of nouns and verbs I have encountered. However today I managed to record some of the phrases that fascinate,puzzle and sometimes scare.

First category :Scary/Sinister
The knives and razors -razuradora.The word itself is a combination of a harsh slashing sound and a soft ,homely “dora “ at end .Cucharas (knives) is all soft .Ok lets concentrate on the razors.Someone is always shaving :dad ,doctors , lawyers.Is there something sinister about this ? Is it a sign that Spanish guys like to go without facial hair?I guess the other question is why do I have to learn this .Knives alright,I might need to ask for one in restuarant ,but razors ,no.
Into this fits “sotano”(basement) -“yo duermo-en el sotano….Why am I sleeping in the basement ? And why would I ever want to read there? My Anglo view of basements is linked to darkness and confinement:my grandfather in a freezing English winter long ago escaping to the basement to collect coal for the kitchen boiler,a hunchback aunt who would spring out of her damp ,evil smelling basement rooms as soon as one of us children went downstairs on the way to the miniscule garden outside the lower ground floor of the terraced house .Certainly creepy.
In this category too falls the “comandante” y “coronel” sentences .Why do they always have to Hablen together ? One wonders what they are up too ,especially as the coronel”has such a rounded and soft sound .Moreover there is one phrase later on about “el commandante tiene una bomba”(the commandant has a bomb)Bombs?and a feminine ending too.

Category2 :Cleanliness,Clothes and Capability
Is Spain obsessed with cleaning and bathrooms ?Someone,usually feminine,is always cleaning the bathroom ,and the bathroom and kitchen have to be “limpia”.As a visitor I always ask if the room has a bathroom (tiene un dormitorio con bano?) ,not if the bathroom is clean .On my travels I have always cared more about the toilet than the bathroom ,like how far away is it in the night and how many beds do I have to stumble over before I get there.
Perhaps I am one of those who simply do not fit -Tu no capes,-and it seems like fit does not just mean because of size ,but just don’t fit in.A lot of sentences have a he or a she who do not fit.Or else not capable .
And why is the shirt (“camisa””)so important ,for males as well as females ? “Camisa” and “ropa” are recurring first words on to greetings .I wonder if Spanish youth go round unclothed ,or have in the past ,or are shirts symbolic of states ? “Yo tengo suficiente ropa” The word singular and plural ,and has a feminine ending .Certainly I have learned about red (roja)shirts and green(verde) shirts.Also about being dressed.

Category 3 Madres
Spanish guys love their mothers, and of course the Madonna is omnipresent even though Franco has long since gone .Personally I love this about Spain ,and the fact that the sons-always the sons -,“ayudan” (help)their mothers .But my feminist side does ask about the whereabouts of the daughters(who in my experience always end up caring for their grouchy or ungrateful mothers ) and the mothers’ partners( who seem to escape). On the other hand there is a certain equality in the language in relation to gender.I don’t know enough about gender and that has been discussed in another Lady of the Cakes blog-but there seems an equal,some might say random, distribution of male and female endings.

Why I love Spanish-Enamorado
I love the Spanish language precisely because of its puzzles and ambiguity ,at least in this still quite ignorant learners eyes
But most of all I love Spanish for the richness of its metaphors and the stream of yearning that runs throughout.Yearning and ambivalence .Madrugada ( the dawn ),todo el dia (all day)The dawn of the new day does not sound as poetic as” La madrugada del nuevo dia” Similarly Anoche-through the night ,conveys a night of possibiities and variations .Spanish nights full of music and food and interaction ,long long nights that stretch beyond the ten o’clock curfew of us organised Anglos .Nights are for adventures and romance,as well as for strange “aparace”:It appears ,it seems .Not is .
”And nothing is but what is not “ (Macbeth,Act,Sc3.)Perhaps an unfortunate quotation,as neither I nor the Spaniards are contemplating murder.However to those of us who in our daily life contemplate the blurred distinctions between reality and imagination ,the increasing ambiguity of existence,Spanish affords great comfort.The Spanish language offers the opportunity to merge into another life,even to temporarily adopt another persona .

A Rumination on running with a sling

Rottnest Island ,Western Australia

A Rumination on Running with a Sling

I am running along a path on Rottnest Island ,Western Australia ,my left arm secure in a black sling .I have become attached to that sling ,my shoulder and wrist are safe.I also feel like I stand out from the walkers and runners along this way .I am not just another old woman stumbling along ,red in the face and short of breath ,pumping my arms and leaning forward as I have been told in training so as to get maximum benefit from the running movement ,shoulders back ( that in itself creates problems .I fear that the lean forward will tip my precarious balance so that I topple over onto the already injured arm .How do I lean forward ,look ahead and keep shoulders back while moving at a pace past a stumble ?)

Age and falling are much on my mind today .My mother after countless falls has a frame ,which she uses just to toddle around the house.She never goes out the front door ,not even into the garden.Her days are spent sitting on the same chair around the dining room table staring into space,rinsing out undies and boiling some rice at 3:30 pm on the dot .She comes to the door after a few rings and if she cannot get the visitor to go away she grudgingly lets them sit in the chair opposite her for a bit ,peering constantly at the clock and saying that she has to get her tea done .This as well as being almost stone deaf ,so it’s an exhausting process talking with her ,even when she wants to hear. My favourite aunt ,my mums sister,is in the hospital with a serious lung problem .She cannot breathe properly ,and has stopped moving too .My mother-in-law,always self sufficient , has organised her daughter to move her into high care.Older friends have started dying .Even some not so old friends have died from assorted causes .I am back running as far and fast as I can.But falling is always on the cards.

The writer David Sedaris in his collection Lets Explore Diabetes with Owls describes his fall during a tour of some ruins .A man yells “Don’t move him”.Sedaris recounts as he moves stiffly around the next morning that it was not the impact of the fall that caused most hurt ,but the embarrassment of that remark-he felt not only stupid but “stupid and old “.I confess right now that after reading the Sedaris essays I thought ,well he is old.He is a writer ,he has written about the mostly muddled ,accident prone and much travelled existence he leads ,and he gets away with it.People read him-why not me ?So David Sedaris if you read this ,thank you .I have finally come out as a writer,and although I may not emerge as amusing and touching a writer as you ,I can have a go in the short time remaining before I fall off another chair and stop running .This blog starts with my fall from a chair at Rottnest holiday island off the coast from Fremantle.

Actually I had just got back from the mainland ,returned to the cottage my husband and I were renting for a long term stay and I panicked (another thing that old people do more often ).Where was my computer ? It was not on the shelf I usually leave it on ( old people have to leave objects in the same place each time they put them away or they forget firstly that they ever had the object and secondly they spend hours in a fruitless ,increasingly panic stricken search before retreating into a stupor .This leads to a recurrence of depressive symptoms if not halted immediately by some action like a run ,or rushing to the wine bottle and the cake or nuts .Or, the least harmful reaction ,if the partner is around, a blend of blame ,wistfulness and indirect threats slung at the partner)

I was on my own and had been warned by aforesaid partner about standing on chairs .Nevertheless,in an unthinking moment I grabbed a curvy surfaced chair ,dragged it to the shelf up above the cupboard in the bedroom and leapt up on it with both feet.No computer.Rising heartbeat.In my haste to get down one walking boot tangled with other as the curved chair surface rose to meet the sides of the boots and a hurriedly tied lace .I felt the snag and foresaw the fall the second before it happened .I saw my self hurtling through the air to the tiled floor and hitting the shoulder that I have already injured twice from assorted falls,but my body was already in freefall.Fortunately I managed to fling my left hand out in front of my shoulder so that the wrist took the impact as my arm bent back with a loud click .Pain shot through my whole arm as I lay there thinking ,well thats a broken wrist now,how stupid ( and my computer was where I had put it ,but disguised under my jacket )
The bandage and the brace from the island clinic plus some panadol raised my spirits a little.It was a black ,leathery looking brace . My hand fitted in it like a glove ,and I could still run.

In the few days before I had to go back to the mainland to have an X-ray I felt really secure running along with my left hand in the new shiny leather black brace .
My feelings of euphoria ,the product of running ,enabled me to be quite writer-like about some reactions to female runners ,well older female runners .A reaction I have been wanting to document for years ,well,ever since I entered the veteran category .Its all in the tone of voice ,and usually spoken by older ,often potbellied ,men
“Well done “on a rising tone means surprise ,lower means the opposite ,like “silly bugger “,a flat tone means “hope I don’t have to pick you up of the road or call the ambulance “
“Hello” or “Hi”,ditto regarding the tones .This one word has many nuances though as it can mean “ don’t talk to me ,we know how old women look for any opportunity to talk and I am busy .”It often denotes complete disinterest ,like you are an invisible object crawling along the horizon ,not worthy of even a slight gaze
“Careful Now “is usually spoken by a man not moving ,probably at a roadside drinking point or leaning on a wall or propped up against something ,usually with a red face and other signs of high blood pressure.It may be that he wants to strike up a conversation as ,understandably ,his partner has left him .The addition of “love “,this is in Australia,enhances the annoying factor as it denotes a relationship and a caring which the speaker has no right to.Remember I am now at the END of the run ,highly coloured ,gasping for air ,legs buckling ,which means I cannot answer back.I am in no state to be charitable and take this comment at face value or even just as an Australian older male habitual phrase
Which leads me to my forthcoming blog entry ,to the hazards confronting older women runners ,or ,more engagingly,Vets .You will be surprised to discover that the principal,most enduring hazards come from within our own female ranks.Not from the slightingly daft comments made by old male passersby on the periphery of the running circuit .