Catherine’s blog – day ten

Tuesday 9th August 2011

And now on top of potential financial  meltdown and European countries in massive debt, we have riots in London.  As if that will solve anything.  The helicopter pictures are showing the very same dreary streets in Hackney, and the same wretched prison-like blocks of flats I lived in with Adrian all those years ago.  And nothing seems to have changed at all; the same hopelessness on the faces; the same desperation; the same squalor.  And people are still having to live there like that.  I know because I had to live there, and it was depressing, then, in 1972.  Everywhere else people’s living standards have risen out of all contrast to those dark days.  Why on earth are those mansion blocks still standing, they were decrepit and ripe for demolition in the seventies.  .

It seems as if the Police and the Courts and all the Social Workers are just perpetuating the misery; simply processing a problem rather than attempting to solve it.  God, I sound like a Socialist.  Heaven forbid!!  And New Labour with all its’ false promises failed to do anything either, so it is no use pointing the finger at just one political party.

And I can safely predict that in twenty years time we will have young people out on the streets rioting again.  As Marlene Dietrich used to sing in that strangely hypnotic husky voice, “When will they ever learn, When will they eeeee-vurrr learn?

Catherine’s blog – day nine

Monday 8th August 2011

And back to normality, or what passes for it these days.  One of the hardest things when one is single again, (and no, I have no intention of dipping my toes into that water ever again) is simply what to eat. After being a complete novice for years, my few adventures into culinary expertise while still at home had long since petered out.  The same problem as now, when one has only oneself to cook for, really, what is the point.  My mother was either not actually around, or even if she was, she seemed completely indifferent to anything I had cooked, so more often than not I would simply rustle up a sandwich or poach an egg on toast.

But when I met Jennifer and her crowd, and that wonderful first holiday in Tuscany I really discovered or uncovered my love for cooking.  With Edward we always ate well, and I am not ashamed to admit to being a really reasonable cook.  Following a recipe is after all only applied intelligence.  Once one has mastered a few techniques and understands the terminology then it is only a case of following instructions.  The mistake most people make is simply not to properly read the recipe in the first place.  But now I can’t help feeling that there is no point anymore.  So I trudge around Waitrose picking up and discarding ready meals for one.  So it is back to poaching eggs, or heating up ready to eat soup. Funny how life goes round in circles.

Catherine’s Blog – day eight

Sunday 7th August 2011

Sunday Sunday so good to me, as the refrain I remember from one of Adrian’s records went. (Don’t ask me who, I have long ago forgotten, and rarely listen to pop music these days) But Sunday Sunday is not always so good.  When one is retired, or not needing to work, as has been my situation for many, many years now, that wonderful elation one gets at the prospect of the weekend, those two days when work is no more, and one has a new-found freedom.  The actuality is all too often that the days are wasted, of course, but there is no replacing that Friday night feeling.

I can remember the few years after Adrian, when my hotel colleagues and I would set off for the pub for a few drinks.  All of a sudden, the cares and woes of the working week were behind us, and a daft sort of mood would take us over.  They were some of the happiest memories I had of that time. The disappointments I had suffered at both at the hands of Grandma and Adrian were in the past now, and I could relax and just be one of the girls.  A feeling I had never had before.  I was never really a joiner-in, I don’t know why.  Even at school I was actually a complete loner.  Jennie and Gwennie seemed to like me for some reason, and though I was generally quite indifferent to other girls, it was no hardship to go along with them and be their friend.  It made schooldays a bit more interesting, but I was not surprised that as soon as school was over, and we went our separate ways, I hardly heard from them.  But my work colleagues, especially Rosemary and Gillian have kept in touch, and Rosemary and her second husband Trevor even came out to Tuscany one year.  They live in Maidstone and they are constantly asking me to go and spend a weekend with them, but I think not.  I find it easier on my own.  I mean what do you say when they inevitably ask how I am getting on without Edward.  So I mostly spend my weekends alone, and I find Sundays particularly tedious.  I sometimes think I should work again, just for that weekend experience, but really, what would I do? Maybe I should contact the Hospice again and see if they need any help. Or maybe I should try another book.  Fiction this time, I think. Or perhaps just more fictitious than last time.

Catherine’s Blog – day seven

Sitting here in the quiet stillness of my sheltered but tiny garden. I feel that Ihaven’t really told you very much about my old school in Putney.  Queen Mary’s Preparatory School for Girls, to give it its’ full title.  It was an Edwardian monstrosity, tall, dark and foreboding.  It was actually taller than it was wide, as were all six classrooms, and the Assembly Hall.  All were shoe-horned into a space the width of maybe three houses in a quiet leafy road well away from the busy high street.

It was here that wisdom was to be imparted into the heads of the few lucky girls whose parents had the slight wherewithal to pay the not too exorbitant fees.  The staff were all women, and of a certain age too, and one or two of the really older staff wore their black University Gowns with their College Ribbons around the halter necks.

The classrooms were almost all identical and I can particularly remember green glass conical light shades on long brass chains hanging in regimented rows, each light imparting a six foot wide circle of light, so that on winter days there was as much gloom in the classroom as light.

The desks were also of Edwardian vintage I would say, and were paired together, each classmate permanently shackled to their twin.  The sloping desk-tops were also lids to coffin-like boxes where we were supposed to keep our exercise books, pens, pencils, ruler and a bottle of Quink; but they also served as receptacles for each girls’s favourite pastime. Jennie had her stash of Woman and Woman’s Own, I could never quite work out if she had purchased or purloined them from her mother.  Gwennie had her penknife, several swodges of damp blotting paper, and various balls of differing size and consistency. My desk was tidy and secreted amongst my exercise books would always be a novel or two, and one of many notebooks for my secret of all secret jottings.  Here I would write down words I wasn’t quite sure of the meaning of, which I had come across in a book, or just a lovely turn of phrase, a neat simile or a clever metaphor.  Wish I had them now.


Catherine’s Blog – day six

I have been away from my laptop for a couple of days – no internet.  Have you missed me?

Thursday 4th August 2011

And they were right, it has rained again. The now typical English Summer is hot and sticky for days on end and then deluges of heavy rain. As if it didn’t rain enough throughout July.  And we don’t seem to have heard much from the Global Warming Brigade of late either, do we?  I wonder which stone those particular doomsayers have crawled back under.  As far as I can remember there has been strange weather for years.  Maybe some little butterfly in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest has been flapping his wings a bit too furiously of late.

Actually it always gives me a tiny thrill when we have bizarre weather, or volcanoes erupting or earthquakes and tsunamis.  Awful, of course, for the victims, and another reason to be thankful we live in England, land of the bland and free, and not on some wretched fault-line in the tropics.  The thrill I get is because we, mankind, despite all of our wonderful technology, are helpless in the face of Nature.  And it makes me realise how insignificant we are.  and when you realise how insignificant our planet, our solar system, our galaxy even in the wider Universe – well you get my drift.   And so when the uncontrollable forces of nature let rip it always excites me a bit, more than a bit, truth be told.

I am, as you know,  in no way religious, beyond a sneaking respect for the teachings of Christ, if not the actions of his Acolytes, so I am certainly not in awe of God.  I am not even sure if I am an Atheist or just a non-believer in any specific God.  I am quite interested in the theory of Zen Buddhism, but “interested in” is as far as I am prepared to go.  Religion has been responsible for far too many conflicts in the World down the ages, and even now, most of the troubles between people seem to have their roots in religious differences.  And why do differences have to divide us?  Why can we not celebrate them like the French.  Vive le difference !!

So here endeth today’s lesson.  Sorry to have gone on a bit.

Catherine’s Blog – day five

Wednesday 3rd August 2011

Another hot day in town, though they say it will end in heavy downpours.  This seems to be the pattern these days.  As if the weather is mimicking the furious pace of human activity. Where are the languorous days of the summers I remember, when time seemed to stretch to eternity and we had all the time in the world to waste.  Now time seems to be at such a premium, what with twenty-four hour news and the internet bombarding us with information all the time, and you pop into town to do some window shopping and automatically pick up the Metro, which you hadn’t intended to, and certainly didn’t need to read, having already had the Telegraph delivered and devoured over breakfast, with the TV on BBC news quietly humming in the background, casually peering up from the Leader prattling on about falling standards in society, (when haven’t they been?) you can’t help catching the strap-line “Breaking News” and you watch even though you know, of course, that it isn’t even News, let alone Breaking, so you settle into the tube carriage and partly out of habit, partly to avoid the embarrassment of actually meeting some fellow travellers enquiring eye, and the imagined accusations of being caught staring, you read some regurgitated piffle which you not only saw on the ten o’clock News last night, but also in slightly more detail on the News Channel and splashed all over page 4 of the Telegraph, and yet you again re-read this edited down précis, which gives no depth, no understanding, just a few what might be considered facts, which like everything else, is instantly forgettable.

And so the time goes.  Whatever happened to time for personal reflection?  Well maybe there was a tad too much of that in the book of course.

Catherine’s Blog – day four

Tuesday 2nd August 2011

And I am late, I who am never late.  I got home late last night from dinner with my mother and was just too tired to gather my thoughts together to write my little blog.  I am rather enjoying it, after a fashion.

My mother, do I hear you enquiring?  The real dark horse of my Story, when all along I had assumed it was my father. And unlike my father, she was there all along. Looking back I am amazed that I was so unaware of her all those years in Putney.  Maybe unaware is the wrong word, it was more a case of taking her for granted, and of course, taking for granted that she was quite unimportant in my life, whereas maybe she was silently looking out for me.  If so it is of little consequence now, as whatever caring role she may have thought she was carrying out, I was totally oblivious of.  And, as you know it did not stop me from rushing headlong into mistake after mistake.   And she could have said something occasionally, some kind word of reassurance, some friendly advice, some motherly, or even sisterly confidences.  It seems I have had to manage without any of that friendly female camaraderie, for Grandma was in no way a comrade, a brother in arms,  No, Grandma was always far too aware of the difference in status between us to have let me feel an equal to her.  She was friendly but always in a slightly condescending way, making sure I was in no doubt that I was a junior partner in our little enterprise.  And then as she began to loosen her grip, as she became old and poorly, I had already slipped away from her.  And when those dark days after Paris descended on us, I was almost happy not to have to talk to her at all.  And where was my mother with her quiet solicitude then? Nowhere that I could discern! Nowhere at all, and that is the problem I have always had with her, she is so evasive I find it quite hard to locate her most of the time.  She never seems to phone me; that, apparently, is my job.  And when we meet, she never really enquires about my life, what I am up to, who my friends are and such like.  I find that just as last night, I am left to do all the talking, and just as when Grandma used to dominate the conversation, even now my Mother is happy to sit quietly, lost in her own little world no doubt, while I prattle on and on about my life,

Re-reading this, I do sound rather bitter.  But no, I was never bitter, just so disappointed with her.  What irony to have a real missing father and an even more real missing mother.  No wonder Grandma filled the vacuum with her overwhelming personality.

Catherine’s Blog – day three

Monday 1st August 2011

“First of the month, pinch punch” – as we used to sing at school.  But that was a very long time ago now.  Funny how those little rhymes stay lodged in the memory, when events such as birthdays, or holiday trips remain stubbornly vague.   Conversations are the hardest to recall, and inevitably one ad-libs when writing them down, the actual words used are impossible to remember but the flavour, the vinegar or the oil, the tone, is all too clear in the memory.

And how many conversations I would have with my Grandma, during the long winter nights, or sitting in the garden at Putney on summer evenings how we would chat for hours.  That was all before Paris and my first big deception of course.  Before the television started to dominate and Grandma’s attention would be taken up by the blurry images skittering away in the corner of the room.  Or when I was a little girl; I cannot remember the studio room in Chelsea which Grandma talks about in her spiteful little journal to me, but I do remember Cyprus.  The hot-hot afternoons which seemed endless, like the clouds that slowly drifted across the wide horizon outside our residence. And how we would automatically lower our voices when a servant came into the room, or even my mother, as if we were conspirators in some play. (whispered asides to an imaginary audience)  And our little game of speaking French so that nobody, and that would include, or so I thought, my mother and father, could understand us. And my shadow of an evasive father – even though I know and love his features now in his old age, I really cannot imagine how he looked as a young man.

Maybe we never can; maybe that explains the surprise when we see an old photo, and we struggle to recognise both ourselves and relatives or school-friends in the tiny black and white smudgy and fading images.  Of course this experience will not be shared by the younger generation, whose digital images will remain forever pristine and enlargeable, and even now being “tagged” so they can never forget the names.  How sad that they will miss out on this ageing experience, that their world will always remain clear and un-blurred.  Even their paper will not wither and curl up, as another printout can always be obtained at the click of a mouse.

Ah well, maybe it is all for the best really.


Catherine’s Blog – day two

Sunday 31st July 2011

And these really are the dog days of summer aren’t they?  All that promise of those few sunny days in April and May, when you were so delightfully surprised at the warmth of the sun on your pale-pale skin has evaporated into a boring ‘cloudy with occasional showers’ summer again.  And yet it is still quite clammy and hot in a really quite unpleasant way, and yet not really sunny either.  I do miss Tuscany now that Edward has gone.  Oh, I still get invites every year, but we sort of got out of the habit of going with a crowd and settled into our own little routine of just the two of us, and now I cannot shake myself awake enough to go with other people.  Best to close that book altogether I think.

Maybe I should have closed the whole book too I am beginning to think.  I am as usual beginning to lose my nerve about the whole thing.  It was one thing writing it, and though it is posited as fiction, and as you know I put another’s name to it altogether, there are enough people who know me, and will know that it is far too factual for comfort.   I suppose my biggest fear is of those closest to me being amazed at my brazen-ness, my open-ness about myself, and my possible embarrassment when they say, as they will “Oh Catherine, how could you write that sort of thing about yourself?”   Well the truth is simply that it was all too easy.  The book practically wrote itself.  I remember as a child listening to the Radio and Uncle Mac playing Sparky and his magic piano.  Sparky only had to place his fingers on the keys for the piano to take over and play so beautifully, and nobody knew it wasn’t the boy but the magic piano, that was playing.

And it was just like that for me, especially as I wrote Adrian and Grandma’s parts’, I became them and they simply wrote it for me.   I just had to let my fingers drift over the keys and the words spilled out.

Catherine’s Blog – day one

Friday 29th July 2011

Well, how to begin?  And how to begin to explain all of this.  Why this Blog?  Oh, that’s easy, this was the publisher’s idea, not mine at all.  What an ugly word it is too; almost obscene – surely they could have come up with something nicer, something a bit more explanatory, a bit more expressive.  But I am afraid that this is the wretched world we live in now, where the first acronym or quick and easy shortening of a few words becomes the accepted one.   Like App, or Mobile, or as the Americans say Cell.  It is all so quick and easy and yet really tells you nothing – it is almost a secret language, where if you aren’t “in the know”, “on the inside track”, “in the loop”, and other such nonsense then you have no idea what they mean.  Which is, of course, maybe the object in the first place.

So here you find me, a complete novice, a blogging virgin one could say, attempting to put a bit of explanation behind the book.   The idea, or so I am told, is that by writing this daily blog, somehow by internet wizardry of some sort people will get interested and start to read it, and maybe even comment.  So go ahead.  Feel free – as they say nowadays – comment away.

As you probably already know my name is Catherine, Catherine L.  No, I shall not divulge my surname.  I know that in my book (Catherine’s Story) I let slip that my surname was Latimer, but that’s not my name really.  I mean, I had to call myself something, but for Edward’s sake (and of course that is not his real name either) I did retain a secret or two.  Actually a lot more than that – even when one has a plan to be totally honest, at the last minute one tends to clam up and obfuscate, blur a few details, so as to retain, not only a bit of modesty, but also there is an inevitable loss of nerve too, so truth, as usual, becomes the first victim.  Besides if one retains some details, then one can almost believe it is about someone else. It was anyway, of course.  The Catherine you read about in 1972 no longer exists.   She has become a different woman altogether.  Maybe she was only a fleeting facet of my personality that I once, only once, let out of the box.  Or out of the cupboard, as the Catherine of then would have said.

Anyway, enough for now.  My publisher says I should keep these “blogs”, these little epercu’s short, so as not to bore one’s potential audience.