Modern Type, a Quiet Moment, and Goodbye Pattie Poo

1916: Edward Johnston’s hand-drawn alphabet for the Underground

NINETEEN SIXTEEN this was designed in! Not even the 30s, which is what it looks like to me. So lovely. I have to say I am not overly interested in typography or signage – to the point that I very much got someone else to teach it when I was running m’course. Nevertheless, I do appreciate how very modern this lettering is – predating Bayer’s Bauhaus typeface by nine years.

Which, of course, I do like as well. I wonder if, having been brought up in London, I am predisposed to love the underground lettering and signage? I mean, I can see that the Paris metro is pretty, but I feel an actual love for the LU. While we are musing, I wonder if I would feel less attached to London if the signage was changed? Not that they’d EVER do that. There would be uproar.

When I bought a typewriter to write my dissertation (it cost the same to buy an electric typewriter as to pay someone to type it out for you, what people did in the OLDEN DAYS, YO) I chose courier but as soon as I had my first computer, a classic mac (second hand) it was helvetica for me, and then ariel after that. Sans serif looks better on a screen.


I have today on my own with the dogs. After a few days on my own at the beginning of the Hectorium I had to beg Ten to come back and help me, because it was all too horribly much. However, the dogs have largely settled down together, and Hector is nearly completely house trained, so it’s easier to be on my own with them. I am enjoying a quiet, non fighty spell on the bed while I write this. Soon there will be feeding time, and then a walk, and then I will be exhausted and only want to watch tv.


Since last we met, dear reader, my beloved auntie Pat has died. Here I am with her at my cousin’s wedding nearly three years ago.

me and patty poo

The good thing is that she wasn’t particularly ill. She was old, and quite disabled, but had just been to Spain and enjoyed herself ogling at men’s legs and drinking ‘something naughty’ in the sunshine, so there is nothing to be sad about really, except that I liked her. For a while I spent a fair bit of time with her, too. She was cared for at home, and would go into respite care every few weeks for a few days. I went to visit her there and would bring her a flask of gin & tonic or a film to watch or whatever. There was one time I found a ginko leaf on the ground on my way to see her. I gave her the leaf and told her all I know about the ginko tree – it is so old that it has no parasites, so the leaves are always pristine, it is known as the ‘memory tree’ and people take ginko to improve their memories. When I left she said ‘thank you for the leaf’ and I know she meant it. She was the sort of person who would prefer a leaf and a story to any amount of fancy flowers.

Makes me think of the Brian Patten poem ‘A blade of Grass’

You ask for a poem.
I offer you a blade of grass.
You say it is not good enough.
You ask for a poem.

I say this blade of grass will do.
It has dressed itself in frost,
It is more immediate
Than any image of my making.

You say it is not a poem,
It is a blade of grass and grass
Is not quite good enough.
I offer you a blade of grass.

You are indignant.
You say it is too easy to offer grass.
It is absurd.
Anyone can offer a blade of grass.

You ask for a poem.
And so I write you a tragedy about
How a blade of grass
Becomes more and more difficult to offer,

And about how as you grow older
A blade of grass
Becomes more difficult to accept.

Which is one way of saying that despite her chronological age – 86, I think – she was never ever old. We shared a love of the tv series The Camomile Lawn which we had both seen so many times we could quote virtually the whole script. The series was, unfortunately, taped rather than filmed, so the visual quality is awful, but the whole series is on youtube, and the sound has cleaned up nicely.

I love the soundtrack which is a variation on Ravel’s string quartet. I had it as a ring tone for ages.


23 thoughts on “Modern Type, a Quiet Moment, and Goodbye Pattie Poo

  1. I’m so sorry about your aunt. Thank you for the poem – I didn’t know this one, and it gave me both happy and melancholy tears over breakfast, which really are the best kind of breakfast-tears.

    We must talk “Justified” as soon as you are caught up. THINGS HAPPENED THIS WEEK!

      1. It IS hotting up! I laughed so hard when Raylan shot that fake cop and said, “Boy, I hope I got that right.” And how Boyd thinks the epitome of classiness and the BEST BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY EVER is a Dairy Queen!

    1. Aw!

      She’d like that. But she’d like to be with doing it with her husband at her side. He died some time ago now. Buried with a good bottle of red and a Jane Austen to read while he was waiting.

  2. So long Auntie Pat. You remend me of my Auntie Edith, long gone. She used to get up on bar tables and dance. In my memory, she looked a lot like you do. I hadn’t seen her in a long time when she passed. Her husband, Uncle John, was a dentist in Chicago. I have a little vial of gold powder that he used for making fillings for people’s painful teeth. Not much more to say about them; they’ve gone. So long for now, elaine4queen.

    1. It’s kind of sweet when there’s no regrets.

      Roy was a doctor. I sat and looked through their photos with Pat one day. Until the girls arrived most of the pictures were of patients in Africa with their ailment and a record of their recovery or death.

  3. Sounds like Aunt Pat had a wonderful exciting life. I’m sorry for you loss.

    I love the poem! I’m afraid a man who gave me a blade of grass could have his way with me.

    1. There seem to be two types of deaths. Leaving aside age and relative amounts of suffering, for the people left behind it feels like there are those people who one remembers fondly and can let go of gently and with love with total ease, and then there are complicated people, or relationships, where their death is yet another thing in your relationship that you have to metabolize.

  4. I’m sorry about your aunt. She sounds like a good one.

    That Ravel has been spoilt for me because it’s used here in ads for I can’t hear it without thinking of the goof who finds that his great-great-grandfather was a detective, just like he is a detective of the past, or some such nonsense.

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