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Now you have to go back a very long way to know about bice; OPINION.

Byline: Elaine Morgan

MANY of us, when we grow old, get into the habit of talking to ourselves now and then. I do a lot of that. Sometimes it really is talking to myself - on the lines of "Come on, snap out of it, time to get up." Sometimes it's talking to someone else who just happens not to be there - stuff like: "It was easy for you to say that, but what you didn't realise was... ."

Are you thinking I'm dotty? You may say you've never met anybody who does that. . That's because they've been brought up to think it's eccentric, and the minute you enter the room they shut up like a clam. There used to be a belief that talking to yourself was "the first sign of madness." What a load of nonsense!

It's no more a sign of madness than humming to yourself, or whistling while you work (does anybody still do that?) or swearing out loud because you've banged your thumb or just missed a train. When that happens, who exactly are you saying "Damn and blast!" to? Nobody. You're just talking to yourself. Elaine Morgan thepensioner Anyway, the other day when I was rebuking myself for doing something daft, I was quite surprised to hear myself called twpsin. "Twpsin?" What part of my brain had that word swum up out of? I hadn't heard it in the last 80 years. Twp of course meant stupid, but twpsin was a milder form, more like the "silly billy" that Denis Healey once came out with (and was never allowed to forget it.) A similar thing happened when somebody asked me what colour dress a friend had been wearing and I said "It was sort of bice."

Now you have to go back a very long way to know about bice. It was bluish green, and it was there, together with "vermilion" and "sepia" and "gamboge" in the standard paint boxes that so many of us had as children. If you were unlucky enough not to have a paint box, Woolworth's would sell you a "Magic painting book" which needed only a paintbrush and clean water. Red or yellow would flood out from the black outlines of the rose or the duckling that you were colouring in. Happy days! But any shop assistant today would be baffled if you asked her: "Do you happen to have that in gamboge?" It's supposed to be a sign of old age when events (or words?) from long ago become more vivid to you than those of last week.

Another sign is when time moves faster, and I've certainly arrived at that landmark too. Today the holly berries are just beginning to turn red and the first Christmas card catalogue arrived. It only seems about a fortnight ago that I took down last year's cards and swept up last year's berries.

The third sign is when you get tired of life. No sign of that one yet. Fingers crossed.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 18, 2009
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