Monday, 1 June 2020

Lessons From Lockdown

Lockdown has stymied my habitual wake up sequence:

I'm breathing?      check

Cat's breathing?    check

Legs move...?        check

Arms move...?       check

Brain functions...? check

What day is it...?    ummmmm milk was delivered yesterday so it's either Tuesday or Saturday.   Haven't heard the weekend paper drop on the mat so it must be Tuesday.  Hold on that can't be right, Caroline helps me with the cleaning every Monday and she wasn't here yesterday so it can't be Tuesday.  Unless... OH NOOOOO i've lost Caroline, or have i lost the plot?  Perhaps the universe shuffled the cosmic pack during the night, maybe the universe has lost the plot!!! Don't panic you silly billy, it's nothing  preternatural, we are in lockdown, all the familiar parameters have changed and it will be necessary to find another way of figuring out where you are in the week, nothing that a strong pot of coffee won't fix. 
When my bizniz closed and early retirement was unceremoniously thrust upon me it quickly became clear that there needed to be Rules of Engagement if i weren't to become the isolated Crazy Cat Lady or at best  a total recluse peering out from a mountain of fur and books totally unaware of the month let alone the day.  Those rules  became a way of life that have finally become relevant for many of the inhabitants of this little island especially those who live alone. Would you indulge me if i share them with you and with those who find themselves shielded at home?

The dramatist in me utilised the  shop floor as a stage, a place to project personality alongside product, the customers an audience to be entertained, their emotional needs met alongside providing a service. Dressing for the occasion, while still retaining personal style, was the prelude to the first act.  It doesn't matter if the only contact you have with the world is via technology if you start the day by putting on clean clothes, brushing the hair, establishing your style then you are making a statement about your place in the grand opera of life. Whether it's a skirt, shirt, T Shirt or suit it's your armour, a carapace that makes a statement about who you are and how you want the universe to respond to you. And please don't kid yourself that if you are dressed from the waist up but wearing pyjama bottoms nobody will know on video chat, they might not but you will and it will affect your whole attitude and that will be picked up. 
The world may be on lockdown, your brain doesn't have to be. Emerging from a busy book shop where there were daily dealings with reps,  challenges from a quarrel of questioning teen volunteers, discerning what tomorrow's must buy would be, my brain was appreciative of a break from it's labours but soon lack of stimulus found me waking in the early hours planning world domination... my children became scared. Steps were taken. Crosswords in the kitchen, Scrabble in the work room, books in the bedroom with a dictionary to hand and of course the World Wide Web.  The internet is a tool, it wasn't created to be a games hub. We have the world's greatest minds a mere click away, any lack of knowledge can be sated, all angles covered in an instant, there is no excuse not to know...about ANYTHING.  Keep the neurons firing by being inquisitive, foster an enquiring mind, if you don't know the meaning of a word... look it up. Hear a new concept... learn more about it.  Feel bored... read something meaty.  If you aren't working from home this is an ideal opportunity to learn something new, for once you have all the time in the world use it wisely. 
Employment tends to impose a routine no matter how freelance you may be, remove that regime and, unless you are a very self motivated soul, sloth sidles in to fill the gap with aimless nothings.   After a week of sleeping till lunch time and watching movies till midnight i decided holidays were over and invested in an alarm clock which still rings at 8 every morning, though a cat is the next best thing.  At some point those of you unable to work from home will have to return, you really don't want to discover your body clock rebelling at the demands of forgotten early mornings and then spending the rest of the day in a fug like a stunned slug.  Us non workers can still benefit from a structure, it's too easy to let the moments drift into hours, the hours into days until time becomes meaningless.  Life is precious, we tend to not realise that until the days ahead of us are considerably less than those behind. 
Finally, but definitely not the least important, a dear friend encouraged me to embrace the importance of self nurturing in the absence of affirmation from colleagues.  Not self indulgence, not wallowing in the unfairness of being cocooned while others can venture out into the big outdoors but caring for yourself, nourishing your spirit, being gentle with yourself.  Sprinkle some humour and concern for others in there and you will find you are more resilient than you realised.  This is definitely the time to dig out Blackadder or any boxed set that makes you weep with laughter, if you have a pet spend time playing daft games and pampering her, if you are a praying/meditating type what a wonderful opportunity to deepen your walk.  Connect with friends, you might not be in the same air space as the people you care for but you can use the phone and chat about anything and everything EXCEPT the virus.
We don't know if our lives will ever go back to the way they were so make a conscious choice to create a new way of living and embrace it, it wont be the same but it can still be good if you focus on the positives.  Maybe now is the time to offer to foster for an animal rescue, start an online study course, pick up the hobby you put aside because of busyness, become a pen pal, learn to crochet, paint the bathroom, whatever makes your toes twitch with pleasure.   And when you are tempted to become despondent about all you have lost rejoice that you had those experiences because many have lived this lockdown life for a long time, some from a very young age.  allow yourself to dip into the memory bank and relive some of your adventures then create new ways for a new reality.


Friday, 17 April 2020

A Very Cultured Pandemic



As a consumer of dystopian fiction i imagined it would be more apocalyptic than this.   Where are the bodies littering the waste land, the domestic pets turned feral feasting on their owners in the night? Why aren't planes spiralling from the skies as pilots succumb to the pathogen mid flight?  I thought there  would be trucks of armed troops protecting us from the pustullated masses storming the city gates. Motorways would be festooned with crashed and abandoned cars, smoke curling from under the bonnet, their drivers staggering into the overgrown hard shoulder to escape the ravages of the plague.   

All the best disaster movies and books show a total breakdown of civilised society with entire cities evacuating on foot to the countryside where only the most venal thrive and the amoral amass what scant resources are still available. The weak are quickly subsumed and devoured by infected zombie hordes.  WHERE ARE THE ZOMBIES FOLKS....? you can't have a plague without zombies.
This is a very cultured pandemic with Italian arias serenaded from balconies, church choirs coming together to practice via video conference, descant recorders played in unison from windows and applause for health workers at eight o'clock sharp every Thursday. Rainbows of varying artistic quality brighten windows festooned with teddy bears. Now supermarkets are taking distancing seriously most people queue patiently in taped off six foot human parking bays and resist the urge to hide the last pack of lentils up a surgical glove encased sleeve.  The Guardian "blind date" segment has continued by substituting taverna and tactility with takeaway and tech, the potential lovers sweet talking via Skype while munching sushi at home.  Very Continental, very enlightened, very disciplined.
Even the stockpiling was spearheaded by the middle classes according to Tesco's data with 10% of customers accounting for a third of bulk buying and "these buyers tended to be the more affluent customers... the biggest uplifts were in the south of England" according to their Chief Exec.   Understandable as it's not easy to hoard when living on minimum wage and Universal Credit hardly covers the cost of a week's food let alone a couple of months.   

And that's where duplicity comes into all this sentimentality isn't it? The fault lines between the socio economic classes have been screaming out of our televisions and newspapers for a long time and yet we failed to act on an unspoken inequality that has inexorably crept up on us over the past ten years. Our service workers, those vital people who are keeping us afloat at this time, don't need applause they need a decent wage, adequate staffing levels, affordable housing, sustainable working hours, respect and support from employers and appreciation from us, the general public,  who rely on their good will.
Before the virus the same people who are now clapping from their front doors were in malcontent mode, grumbling about long waiting times for NHS appointments.  Writing letters of complaint if overworked and stressed shop workers were less than angelic in response to their bellyaching.  Couriers were on the receiving end of social media vilification from those with no understanding of the conditions they work under.  We have become a society that wants immediate delivery of unnecessary goods to fulfill a momentary whim, wanting shops open 24/7 365 days a year no matter the strain it puts on families who are deprived of time together at weekends and holidays.  We have devolved to demand servants rather than service.   

I wonder how quickly our modern heroes will be abandoned once our invisible enemy is defeated.  Will adulation continue or will we revert to type, berating those who serve us without considering the unreasonable  workload they have to bear.  Will we still be banging pans on Thursdays when the masks are taken off and the gloves discarded?   Will we be sending rainbows when the care homes open their doors to families again?
It's my hope that we will have discovered just who the essential workers are in the nation and will have taken on board that they are often the lowest paid and least appreciated who work the longest hours for minimal thanks, sometimes in the most responsible jobs and coming from a multitude of countries.  It's time to stand up for our teachers, carers, couriers, shop staff, nurses, cleaners, factory workers, utility workers, police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, bus and train drivers, refuse collectors, delivery drivers........the list could go on  so please add the many i will have missed out.   We have taken these men and women for granted for too long, treating them like soulless  machines, using and abusing them like punching bags when they fail to meet our  needs in as timely a fashion as we would like.   

The optimist in me hopes that as a nation we will  stand up for them and hold our government to account when/if life gets back to normal ....
....the pessimist in me says send in the zombies double quick so they can  finish us off before we lose the momentum of appreciation.  


Thursday, 19 March 2020

The Fundament Of The Apocolypse

There's panic in Hexham !!!  Rioting on the cobbles, the locals are barricading themselves into the cathedral praying for succour.   The Philosophical Society is running courses on surviving the apocalypse, watch towers armed with M16s have been mounted on the bridge and passport control installed.  Parks and playing fields overnight sprouted veg for all and exhortations to dig for Covid 19 are blasting from van mounted loudspeakers.  Before the sun sets there will be running battles over barbed wire barricades to keep the infected barbarian hoards out of the town and reroute them to Corbridge. Police have received reports that Typhoid Mary has been spotted either squatting in Beales, building a shelter in the bandstand or selling black market goods in the market square. Rumour spreading on the local Facebook page is that government is offering a bounty of £1000  for any crusty found on the street who will be summarily stood against a wall and shot.  
Why such mayhem you ask??  Tesco has run out of toilet roll!!  Yep the social media-sphere is spouting dire predictions overtime about the end of civilisation as we know it.  Rationing will be imposed of one sheet per movement... and no, i'm not talking orchestral.   The foundation of British Values is under threat, The Fundament of our nation is in peril, the Seat Of Kings once flush with pomp could disappear down the pan of panic.
What i don't understand is why toilet roll?  Pet food i totally grasp since there would be no hesitation on the part of our furries to consume us in the night if yummies weren't provided on demand several times a day. Lemsip in abundance makes sense as does chocolate, nobody should be asked to face annihilation without the taste of cocoa bean on the lips.   I could even stretch to understanding pasta. When the lights go out and the water trickles brown and fetid from the tap, sucking on dried macaroni is exactly what will save the soul from despair and inspire a chorus of Che Gelida Manina from the balconies.  

Storming Waterstones armed with pitchforks and buckets of local llama poo to demand a dozen copies of the latest top ten would be totally justified.   But TOILET PAPER.   You can't eat it, you can't drink it, there's nothing on it to read, covid 19 doesn't involve the squits.   I guess it could be utilised to write your memoirs during the dark days of isolation or compose haikus to doom and destruction.


The Continentals as usual have been a step ahead of us for generations, viva la bidet !!!  In 1970 95% of French bathrooms had one and in Italy most still do.   Simples !!   Ebay even do a portable that you fill with warm water from the tap and sit on the loo, a steal at fifteen quid.  Much more hygienic, no ongoing costs and no need to stockpile .  
But.... in the spirit of full disclosure, i admit to a mini hoard for the duration.  What are Jeni's non-negotiables? What consumables constitute the dividing line between existing and flourishing?  What will she need  to stay sustained if the dreaded covid 19 comes calling?  Food for the cat and fish obviously, good coffee, artisan bread, books and CHOCOLATE COVERED TURKISH DELIGHT !!!!   Rest assured she always has all the above in copious quantities even when doomsday isn't threatening.
What dear readers are your essential items 

Monday, 10 February 2020

Great Expectations


“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.”  pip:  Great Expectations,  Dickens

So many things we take for granted... until they are no longer there for us.   Blue skies and sunshine, until the grey days of winter roll in.   The caress of a lover, gone when break up or bereavement separate us.   A fulfilling job snatched away by retirement or redundancy.   The fluid movement of bone, tendon, muscle that enables the lift of a leg, stolen by an accident or the slow corruption of time.   The freedom to enter an establishment to post a letter and purchase a necessity or frippery on a whim, until overnight it becomes inaccessible.
On a low pain, high energy day i spoil myself with a taxi into Hexham (wheelchair safely stowed in boot) in order to roll round the craft shops, drink coffee, find a book or garment in Oxfam and post comics to my beloved granddaughters. Simple pastimes that give inordinate pleasure.   In the centre of this pretty little market town is a pedestrianised area with an array of shops worthy of a city.  Amongst others we have Waterstones, Boots, W H Smiths, Holland and Barrett, Argos, Clarks, Costa.  Most of them have automatic doors and they are all wheelchair negotiable.  The cherry on top is Beales, a four story cornucopia of clothes, kitchenware, toys, with level access, lifts, plenty of disabled parking bays and.... ta da... a fully drivable aroundable, accessible Post Office. I say "is" but from the end of the month it will be "was" as our only department store has succumbed to the national epidemic of high street closures.
We will still have a Post Office, something not to be taken for granted in these days of privatisation, but it will move to an area on the outskirts, with no parking, a very busy main road to cross, no drop kerbs and a steep hill to negotiate.   Difficult for me, impossible for the elderly or those in electric wheelchairs.

There were great expectations in 1995 when the Disability Discrimination Act came into force.   It was hailed as a new dawn of accessibility for those of us with malfunctioning  hardware. We would at last take our place among the physiotypical in a land of opportunity for all.  Employment, education, retail, leisure would open it's doors and welcome us in with our purple pound spending power.  As is usually the case great expectations led to great disappointment and twenty five years later businesses have taken minimal steps to deal with their doorsteps.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Little, listed buildings have limited options in old market towns but the attitude of it's retailers can mitigate a lot of the hurdles.   We have a fab eco-shop who do the whole take an empty bottle and fill it with shampoo thing.  The step into the shop would be easy peasy for a toddler but as insurmountable as the Matterhorn to a chair user. Once aware of the problem the proprietor promptly invested in a portable ramp and posted the fact on their website and Facebook page.   Bless you Matthias Winter, those of us about to roll salute you.   https://www.matthiaswinter.co.uk

What I struggle with is finding the balance between unreasonable expectation and inevitable acceptance. The disability forums seethe with indignation over perceived, personal slights when in reality the problem is usually thoughtlessness or lack of resources.   A poorly dropped kerb is lambasted as a dastardly scheme by the local council to cull the weak by tipping them out of their conveyances into oncoming traffic.   I kid ye not, i have seen this, or similar paranoia, expressed in all seriousness on countless occasions !!   But at what point does a lack of "reasonable adjustment" become apathy on the part of a business that needs to be challenged?  When does my irritation at a lack of access need to be acknowledged with a shrug and resignation at an imperfect world? How do we know when it's appropriate to make demands from those around us for concessions in order to participate as fully as possible in society without becoming unreasonably entitled?  Much as i would love to access every spot in the universe the fact is those with wheels will always meet uncross-able barriers that through geography, architecture, resources cannot be breached.  
There are no easy answers.   My Post Office location will be far from ideal, but I have no insight into the peculiarities of franchising in a town centre, or the realities of rent and rates in the 2020's, it's many years since I was in bizniz. Perhaps it was the only affordable premises on offer.   It's easy to criticise when not carrying any of the responsibility and risk.
   
Our Expectant Pip, though "bent and broken," was able to see beyond his limitations and go on to live a full and productive life, though he was unable to stay with his beloved Estelle, (great insightful book, have a read).  He learned it would never be possible to have all his needs met and by accepting that fact he was free to move on and build a new life in an exotic country.  Us superwheelers can spend our lives chaffing at where we can't go when we could be making the most of where we can, and recognising the lengths some places will go to make their premises as accessible as possible.    I choose the latter, though will be pushing for drop kerbs at the Post Office.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

In An Oculus World


Darkness... not night-time with its accompanying glow of silver starlight, nor that of a closed room with the inevitable seepage of street light around the edges of curtains and doors.   This was the blackness of the tomb, a complete absence of all light.   It was the kind of darkness that could suck eyeballs out of sockets such is the desire to find any stray radiance.   The disorienting inability to see your own hand centimetres from the face, not knowing where the phalanges are hovering till the shock of a touch on the tip of the nose sends you crashing to the ceiling, that sort of darkness.

When vision returned it was to find myself in a domed habitat, furnished in warm wood and sleek, low slung, modern furniture.  A floor to ceiling  window looked out over a valley where other domes glowed like grounded fireflies,  mountains loomed in the distance, snow covered, vast, glowing pink in the setting sun.   
Luminous flowers floated into view, slowly opening to display a profusion of multi coloured petals as silver drops of dew glistened and rolled to the ground exploding in a shower of diamonds, throwing prism rainbows joyously all around the room.

No, the jeni hasn't been sampling hallucinogens, she has been inducted into the wonderful world of virtual reality via an Oculus Quest headset. To my amazement i walked into a fully functioning alternate world where i could touch, throw, move items around, walk from room to virtual room, communicate with other Questers, change my surroundings, play games.  How real can it be?  Well, if my son hadn't shouted "don't sit down" i would be nursing a bruised coccyx from dropping into an office, swivel chair that wasn't.  Wasn't what?  WASN'T THERE !!!   The virtual is so incredibly realistic the brain very rapidly accepts it as actually existing corporeally.   As you walk around this constructed world handling and moving objects, interacting with others, you become so immersed it becomes your universe, an insulated world where you can be whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want limited only by the apps available.
Imagine how this technology can be used as it is perfected...  for good and for evil.   The ultimate opiate of the masses.   Plug the impoverished in and feed them an unlimited diet of false promises. slums transformed into palaces, junk food become a feast for the eyes if not the taste buds, a blasted, barren land devoid of all beauty can thrill to the Sound of Music even as it is buried by landfill and pollution on the 'outside'. In a potential future of high unemployment, untrammelled poverty and spiralling inequality living in a phoney Pollyanna universe would be preferable to a daily dose of actuality, so a government could find it kinder on the public purse to dispense headsets instead of  addressing privations. Classic dystopian  society.  A malign government would have the ultimate torture instrument, Room 101 become incarnate.  Fill that room with huge virtual spiders indistinguishable from the real beastie and i would consign my grandchildren to Guantanamo Bay for crimes against the state in a nano instant.



But also imagine being elderly or severely disabled and spending your waking hours bed bound or sat in a chair unable to set food outside your room without help, an existence where television is the only company to fill the long hours, human presence a half hour call by harassed carers.   Wouldn't it be wonderful if, when your life is full of daily indignities and loneliness, it were possible to step out of your chair and wander around the world's capital cities, see the texture of ancient stones and participate in the richness of a multitude of cultures.  Or travel to the stars, dance with a super nova, swim in the milky way, dive into a black hole.  We all could walk the streets of Atlantis, freshly risen from the waves.... once the appropriate app had been written.   

Those isolated by dementia could revisit their past, spend time in old style shops and pubs.  Family members,  also wearing a headset, could meet with their elderly relative in a replica of a childhood home where everything would be familiar and safe.   The article below talks of apps that  are being trialled to help reduce falls by giving a virtual space to walk in, those who are prone to wandering needn't leave their chair to widen their viewpoint.

77% of women using virtual reality goggles in labour report experiencing less pain as the pleasurable experience of watching scenes from nature releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters that act as nature's pain killers.   How lovely to give birth in a woodland dell or your own candle lit bedroom when in reality you are in a maternity suite surrounded by the clinical accoutrements necessary for unplanned emergencies.

Do you ever wonder why when poorly you always feel worse at night?  One reason is there aren't the distractions that abound during an active day to take your mind off your miseries.   Some are able to train themselves to focus on a pleasant thought or image and step outside their physical discomfort, most of us lack the mental discipline and training for this type of meditation and need something more tangible. The potential for helping people with chronic pain  escape their torment for a while is huge.  Instead of lying awake becoming more and more consumed and desperate simply plug into a summer wildflower meadow and fill your soul with birdsong.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonchandler/2019/08/13/virtual-realitys-latest-use-easing-the-pain-of-childbirth/#659f5c0a9568

When world changing technology comes along the inner Luddite of human nature stirs, raises it's head and growls.... "HUMBUG, if we were meant to fly God would have given us wings."   It turns out He didn't need to, instead He gave us intelligence, creativity, technology and the imagination to implement them.   Virtual Reality is now Analogue Reality, it's here, it's being used, it will become normality, we need to embrace it's positive applications and pray it's potential dangers are recognised and contained.   

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Cape And Tiara


On Monday i donned my cape and tiara, became a superhero for a week and saved the world.   Noticing my stock pile of loo roll and kitchen roll was severely depleted i ordered a bulk batch from Traidcraft.  What's Traidcraft i hear you ask.  It's a UK charity that works overseas to fight poverty through trade and they are building a nice range of household items.  Recycled, fair trade, Tyneside based what's not to like.  I considered recycling the old toilet roll but until the politicians turn us all into serfs again it's definitely a step too far.
On Tuesday I saved the world.   Fair Trade, organic coffee, tea, sugar and cocoa.   guilt free beverages that nurture the soul as well as give a caffeine boost provide the best start to a day.   Saving the world is hard work you know, a girl needs all the invigoration she can imbibe to bear the burden of that cape on her shoulders and don't let anyone tell you a cosmic tiara is lightweight.  It's not martyrdom unless it hurts.
On Wednesday i saved the world.   Had a huge rag rug that was past it's sell by date, not good enough condition to sell pre-loved or put in charity shop but with a lot of wear still around the edges and nowhere near manky enough to add to our landfill mountain.  It's been sitting in my airing cupboard since being given a new one for Christmas two years ago.  Advertised it on a freebie selling page and a lovely girly who has moved into her first home and has nothing to soften the hard edges staggered off into the night with said rug rolled under her arm. Warm tootsies for her tonight.   I remember stepping out of bed onto bare boards, splinters in toes, not fun.
On Thursday i saved the world.   Been feeling guilty for some time about all the paper going into my recycle bin but not quite ready to give up the tactile joy of newsprint and move to internet news. There's something satisfying about starting the day with breakfast in bed and a copy of The Guardian.  I don't know if it's seven decades of book browsing but information on a screen doesn't seem to adhere to the brain cells permanently, it's as though the fingers are synaptically  attached to the mind so the act of holding a newspaper reinforces the memory. Do you think i have evolved eyes on the tips of the phalanges as part of my super hero outfit?   Whilst browsing the freebie page an advert caught the eye from a lady wanting newspaper for her wood burning stove so my weekly paper output will be heading her way.  OK its only half saving the world as her fire increases pollution but half is better than none.
On Friday i saved the world.   Planted tomatoes for salads and sarnies  then sowed wild flowers for the bee's and butterflies, organic bug spray and feed naturally.  Thank you Ruth for all your help, will post some toms when they grow.  As garnish a dear friend gave me a grow your own edible flower kit for Christmas, nasturtiums, cornflower and viola. A superhero needs a healthy diet, all that nobility is energy intensive.
On Saturday i saved the world.   Have started buying from the fresh counters in supermarket.   Bread and fish wrapped in paper,  veg and fruit in compostable bags, fabric carriers to lug it all home and everything lying loose in the trolley.    Plastic is kryptonite to  the sustainable, super hero shopper, impossible to avoid but possible to minimise. 

On Sunday....... i became unsustainability incarnate, destroyer of worlds, sweat shop enabler, air mile guzzler, habitat wrecker, biodiversity burner.   My tiara slipped over one eye and slid down the nose, that glorious cape of pomposity ceased billowing and dragged it's hem through the mire.     What was the catalyst for this plummet into ecological degradation ???  a gorgeous duvet cover in China, made with inorganic cotton which was most likely harvested by underage, underpaid pickers, printed with radioactively vibrant colours that are definitely not natural, shipped or flown from the orient to be handled by zero hour workers in an Amazon warehouse.  Why is saving the world  SO  HARD ???? !!!!




Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Above All Put On Love


Some years ago in a random moment of selfless nobility i offered to help with the washing up at a post funeral gathering, i don't usually do funerals but sponging dishes was a support my fragile psyche felt able to offer. The passed person wasn't a friend or family member, not even an acquaintance, so the emotional connection was tenuous therefore it felt safe.

As the day approached a chance comment about dress code sent me scuttling in a panic to the alternate universe in the corner of my bedroom that calls itself a wardrobe and, as i feared, it was stuffed with a multitude of colour, glitter, sparkle, emerald lace, purple velvet, gold satin, pink angora, a rainbow of fabric but...... NO BLACK.   Armed with a selection of the least flamboyant i paraded my glad rags in front of those involved and invited them to pass judgement.  Each item was deemed unfit by merit of style or shade.  in order to be a crockery wallah funereal fashion was more important than the ability to wield a tea towel.
A short while later a friend was wailing on my shoulder about an upcoming family wedding where she had been asked to be an usherette.  Said friend was in full on goth mode at the time, black clothes, boots, tights, make up, the only concession to colour being vampire red lipstick.   She too had suffered the indignity of being informed her services wouldn't be required unless she was prepared to invest in a more "suitable" outfit, her appearance being more important than her presence.   

I was informed that lack of black was a mark of disrespect, my friend was reliably advised that black on her back would also be a mark of disrespect.  But if it had been a Buddhist farewell white would have been acceptable, in South Africa red has been appropriated for grieving to symbolise the blood shed during apartheid, my purple would have been totally appropriate if the dear, dearly departed had been Brazilian.  Traditional Catholic brides in Spain wear black to symbolise their devotion to hubby until death and in Japan the colour to embrace is red for good luck.   Like my wardrobe cultures have a rainbow of hues for the same event, all classed as showing respect.   Imagine the conundrum if you attended the funeral of a Buddhist married to a Brazilian in South Africa? 
Then there's the question of to whom are we showing honour, is it the bereaved or the soul whose life we are remembering.   At the goodbye of a devout Newcastle supporter whose family are paid up, card carrying Sunderland fans is  Magpie black and white or Black Cat red and white the courtesy colour de jour?   If you think Brexit can split families you have never been in the presence of football fans of opposing loyalties.  Here's a thought.....  what if it's a family of naturists????   would you bare all as a sign of respect?  Answers in the comments below or on a plain postcard if not fit for family viewing.

When my turn comes to shed earthly garb please come and say goodbye in whatever clothes signify your personality and comfort zone. Daughter In Law has already promised to pass out glittery butterflies and flowers to anyone who shows up.   I'm pretty sure there will be a goth with DM's and vermilion lips, a businessman or two, i hope some much loved girlies will have their piercings and tattoos on display, there will be tight jeans, leather jackets, low cut tops, floaty dresses, smart trousers, track suits, maybe even a couple of hippie tribute acts.  It doesn't matter what you put on just come and be yourself, to me it's the person that matters not the persona.
"Above all put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony"  The Bible