Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Wealth of Wonderful Women

Belonging as I do to an organisation for older women, (see my link to Growing Old Disgracefully), I often find myself playing with words around the conditions of old age and femaleness. Hence this alphabet, which is one of two being written at the time, so I had to search hard to find different words.

An Assortment of Animated Ancients

A Bustle of Bouncing Biddies

A Carnival of Cavorting Crones

A Dance of Disgraceful Dowagers

An Eruption of Emancipated Eves

A Frolic of Flamboyant Females

A Gang of Gambolling Geriatrics

A Host of Hippy Housewives

An Invasion of Irrepressible Individuals

A Jig of Joyful Judies

A Kaleidoscope of Kinky Kinswomen

A Landscape of Lovable Lasses

A Meddle of Mischievous Matrons

A Nest of Nurturing Nannas

An Orgy of Overindulgent Oldsters

A Posse of Partying Pensionsers

A Quiver of Quarelsome Queenbees

A Romp of Riotous Returners

A Swoon of Seductive Seniors

A Tirade of Troublesome Termagants

An Uprising of Unquiet Uxores

A Vision of Vivacious Veterans

A Wealth of Wonderful Women

An X-rating of Xenophobic Xantippes

A Yoke of Yodelling Young-at-hearts

A Zest of Zany Zimmerers

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cartoons and romance

When I say 'romance', I don't mean ‘love’, the hard-working, hard-wearing, enduring emotion with which we make relationships work. I see it more as something spontaneous, light of touch and all too often ephemeral. I was lucky enough to experience it, long before I thought of settling down. It was fleeting, and ended with sadness, but it enriched my life and is not forgotten. It also left me with a collection of cartoons which I treasure, and I am posting here as a tribute to the young artist, who is now long gone.

I met Arsene when I visited my penfriend in France in July 1947. He was one of her group of friends in the small town where she lived, and because she had a 9 to 5 job during the week, she asked him to show me the sights of Paris, where he worked and had a studio flat. As far as I remember I stayed in a b&b or hotel. I was 19, and it was not a world in which anything else would have been considered.

He was a freelance political cartoonist and we used to start the day going round various newspapers to sell his drawings. Then we went sight-seeing, and in the evening went to the cinema or the theatre. It was a heatwave summer and we stopped for endless fruit juices at pavement cafes, and often he would cook us an omelette and salad for lunch in his flat. The visiting card is a souvenir of all we saw and did, which he handed to me in the train as I left Paris for England.

When we met he was already engaged, although his fiancee was abroad at that time, and I had already met and fallen in love with the man I was to marry nine years later. So we knew we were not going anywhere together; I recall a kiss and cuddle or two, but they were about as innocent as you can imagine.
Over the next five years we wrote to each other from time to time, and he was unashamedly sentimental about the days we spent together in Paris. He drew me many cartoons, and often illustrated his letters with the most charming designs.

And then came the ‘faire-part’ – the traditional French black-bordered notice of a death and funeral. He had died at the age of 32, a talented,
imaginative and sensitive young man, leaving a wife recovering from polio and two young daughters. I never knew why he died. I wrote to my penfriend but did not hear from her. It was hard to bear, although he was little to me by then but an occasional reminder of an enchanting interlude. I still grieve for his going.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I love cartoons and have quite a collection of them, which I display together on one wall in my house. They are not pricey collector's items, but are all of personal significance to me, and remind me of different parts of my life.

This one of me was drawn in 1946 when I was only 18, by a commercial artist doing caricatures in the department store which was in Leicester Square in those days - was it Peter Jones? I'm very much afraid the artist saw deep into my developing character: people have often guessed me to be either a nurse or a teacher, neither of which I have in fact been. I put it down to my nose which has an authoritarian cast to it!

When I moved into my first bed-sitter, also in 1946, I set up a visitors' book which I maintained throughout my single life, and relaunched as a joint book after I was married. Entries have got a bit sparse in later years, but the most recent one was in 2004.

This picture was drawn for me by one of the guests at a party my flatmate and I gave when we lived in Geneva in the mid 50s, working for the World Health Organisation. The word 'mome' translates most appropriately in the context of the drawing as 'moll', but I think the inscription reads better as: "To my bit of crumpet Judith - her tough guy 'Pierrot the Nutter'." (I would like to note that he was not in fact 'my guy', but was my guy's mate - and I have a sneaking suspicion that he was indeed a 'tough guy'!)

My third son is no mean cartoonist himself, when he is in the mood, and I wish he would draw more often. This is his take on his own life at the time, when after graduating from university in zoology he took a job working in the prawn farms of the Far East. He obviously saw himself as an unwelcome arrival in the eyes of the prawns!

[More cartoons next time.]

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dioptric scope

I have this cute little gismo which I bought originally as a children's toy, but which I have just been using for some fun photography with my digital camera. The scope was made by an American instrument manufacturer called Van Cort in 1987, and is a multi-prism lens which gives the observer 24 upright images of anything viewed.

Instead of holding it to my eye, I held it to my camera lens with one hand, and clicked with the other, hoping for the best, as I could only get a general idea of what the lens was seeing. It has been a very hit and miss affair, and I took about fifty shots to get four pictures which I reckoned were OK for posting on my photoblogs and here.

This is my garden pet - a frog cast in cement. It's own base fills in the gaps between the images.

This is a glass ornament shaped like an apple. I placed it on a green cloth to get a unified colour effect.

This is a teazel, but taken from a photograph of a teazel I took some months ago.

But this is my greatest triumph, because it was not even planned this way. I was trying to take the lighter coloured pewter cup, which I had stood on top of the television. It so happened there was a little jug in darker metal on the windowsill behind it, and the two lined up without my realising it to form this perfect composite picture. Each item has filled in the gaps between the other, so that you don't see either the top of the TV or the windowsill. Magic!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Unheard conversations

While looking through my wedding photographs for the previous posts, I came across these two which I particularly like, but which didn't fit in with the Golden Wedding theme.

Here my mother is talking to me, and I like to imagine her saying something like: "Don't worry dear - just lie back and think of England", while I think to myself: "Give over Mum, we've been through all that already!" Or more likely: "Hmm... if only she knew!" What was actually being said I no longer have any idea.

Here I am whispering to my second cousin, who was married to my first cousin, and I know what I was saying.
I was telling him that underneath my wedding dress I was wearing a pair of black nylon pants with little red hearts all over them, and that it was his naughty wife who had given them to me!

Ahh.....happy days!

Time passes ....

So much for our gilded youth. Fortyfour years on from our wedding, here we are in church again in the year 2000, after renewing our marriage vows. This was a rather unusual step to take in the circumstances, as we had been separated for 15 years and continued to live apart afterwards. However, we had remained good friends, neither of us forming another attachment, and wanted to demonstrate our continuing commitment to the family. I remember it took the minister a little time to get to grips with this idea!

All our children and grandchildren were present, including one family from Sydney, my husband's sister from Vancouver, and my own brother and sister-in-law and their children and grandchildren. I had so much wanted to dress up with a splendid hat for the occasion - I do look good in hats, they balance my nose - but my husband insisted on comfortable informal dress. So I contented myself with wearing the earrings I wore at my first wedding, which were my mother's.

The perfect touch was added to the day for me as we stood before the altar and the service began. A little hand slipped into mine and there was my only granddaughter, aged five and serendipitously dressed in red and black to match my outfit. She had decided that she wanted to stand up with me as my bridesmaid, and we stood holding hands throughout the ceremony, reinforcing the family bond which we were drawing close about us on that day.

(Don't you think my husband has gown more and more like John Gielgud as he has got older?)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Golden Wedding Day

Today is my 50th wedding anniversary, but because my husband is ten years older than I am, and very frail and unwell, there was no question of a formal celebration. So I am celebrating now in my own way by posting some pictures of our wedding. Here I am arriving at the church in my home village of Alfrick, near Worcester. Those who know me well may speculate, with tongue in cheek, as to why I have my father on one side of me and a policeman on the other!!

When we decided to get married in 1956, we had already known each other for nine and a half years, meeting and parting more than once, then pushing off to jobs abroad, he in Bombay and myself in Geneva. Then finally, when he stopped off in Switzerland on his way home on leave, we managed to get it together!

Here we are leaving the church after the ceremony. You may be surprised that I didn't wear white back then. Well, in those days it was still considered to be the badge of virginity, unlike today, and I was essentially an honest girl!

When it was 'going away' time, one of the ushers, a neighbour and close friend of my younger brother, had the original idea of using chopped chaff to throw over us instead of rice or confetti - something readily available in a farming community. He was not easily forgiven, as the day progressed with a considerable amount of itching and prickling of our persons!

(I had another pic I wanted to post, but I can't get it up here for love nor money, and I've been trying for hours. So maybe I'll do some more tomorrow.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

A 'bread-and-butter' poem

I wrote this for my son and daughter-in-law, a long time ago now, when a visit to them was marred because I was unwell. I had recently learned how to write haikus.

A house of welcome,
where skills, and taste, and living
have made their magic.

guest suite, blue and while; pictures
and flowers - comfort!

Guest lies a-bed, while
hosts work hard and long, and all
are too much parted.

Endless meals on trays
can yet do justice to the
culinary arts.

massed on the landing, simmer
and sweat with new growth.

Guineapig bundles
nestle in the duvet folds
and soothe the spirit.

Counsel and caring
offered with love, are with love
taken - to the heart.

A happy visit -
though not quite as expected -
brings hope and healing.

©Judith Taylor 1995

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Counting my blessings

As I have been in rather a sombre mood lately, I have decided to do a quick check on the things I can be glad about today.

I have been able to keep my back door open the whole day for the first time this year.

Since the start of the year I have managed, slowly and sensibly, to lose half a stone in weight. Still another half to go though.

My front porch, which was painted with some dud paint in December, has finally been repainted and looks OK.

I have at last got around to updating my will, and setting up both an Enduring Power of Attorney and a Living Will (or Advance Directive) – all aimed at making things easier for my family and heirs.

I have a wonderful son – (I have four actually, but this is about one of them) – who visits from time to time and sorts out all my computer problems for me, and is now changing my broadband and telephone subscriptions for me, to save me some money.

I recently attended a craft class where I learned a simple form of Kumihimo or Japanese Braiding, which I can do with wools left over from my tapestry work. Both of these are soothing activities I can do while watching television.

I had a splendid Bank Holiday Weekend, going to see one of my on-line friends perform brilliantly in a brilliant play, and next day visiting the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire, before meeting more on-line friends for a birthday lunch for one of them.

Here’s an idea to help with counting your blessings. Draw yourself a big flower on a large sheet of paper, and see how many petals you can fill up with moments of happiness or satisfaction. Then pin it on your wall. Or you could do a flower for someone special by writing in each petal a reason why you love them.