Bucket List anybody?

I’ve never had a bucket list – I can’t think that I am alone in having the unrealistic and unlikely belief that I, uniquely among the human race, am immortal.   If I had a strong faith I would presumably believe that I was going on to a better (or maybe worse) place, but whilst I’d like to think that, I’m not entirely convinced and in the meantime I can’t believe that that I’m going to leave this life, particularly not while it is so much fun.   But back to bucket lists.  As is my wont I spotted a ridiculous story in the press the other day about a terminally ill man who mooned a police speed camera because it was on his bucket list!   That struck me as being so sad – if he had wanted to moon a bus full of ladies on a WI outing who might have been a bit shocked, I could have, sort of, understood that, but a police speed camera.   And, of course the police who nowadays seem to be singularly lacking in a sense in humour went in like gang busters in large numbers and wrestled the wretched man to the ground and probably tasered him too for good measure. 

Why is it called a bucket list?  Presumably because it is made up of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. But it has made me think about it for the first time and consider what, if anything, might be on mine.  

One thing might be to finish A La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust,   I  have it on audiobook and I believe that the entire thing is over 70 hours worth of listening,   He is the most brilliant but also verbose writer, he never used one word if he could cram in a hundred. I listen while I’m taking the dogs for a walk and have managed about four hours so far!   I have done quite a few of the things I wanted to do such as had a book published, learnt another language, won a prize for the biggest marrow in a local pub show, watched humpback whales off the coast of Nantucket and I also started, and continued to write this blog!   Obviously, some things are now out of time like winning Wimbledon, which I have never wanted to do or winning the Nobel Prize for Literature which I might have dreamed about.  Others like sky diving or running for Parliament I have never fancied even if they might in theory still be possible.   An old friend of mine went up in a hot air balloon for her 90th birthday, hopefully if I reach that age I will be drinking a glass of champagne with my feet firmly on the ground not sitting toothless in a care home surrounded by family telling me I’m marvellous because I can still manage to suck on a bit of cake!  

But Marcel Proust aside, what else might be on my bucket list?   The trouble is things like staying healthy and not falling over (or indeed having a fall – there’s a subtle difference there.   Everyone falls over, but only the old ‘have a fall’!) are on going!   See my grandchildren grow up and be happy is certainly my greatest wish, but not something I can control.   If I leave them some money when I die (if you’re reading this don’t get your hopes up) it might make them happy but would hardly be a bucket list item as I won’t be there to see them raise a glass to me.  

So there it is, (Marcel Proust aside) an empty bucket list – although maybe I should get another Labrador puppy!!!

Mad dogs and Englishmen!  

Butter wouldn’t melt – but she has a suspiciously dirty face!

Doesn’t matter how depressed you are, a dog will always cheer you up – I have five black Labs – they are good natured, enthusiastic, loving and incredibly greedy and my youngest Incy is not just a glass half full dog, but a glass over-flowing dog!   At a trip to the Vet she’s ‘Oh goody, goody, the vet, I love the vet, there are other animals and smells and shelves of dog food and I get a biscuit – hooray, hooray.’   She is no master criminal,  when I get home she will come towards me wiggling and wriggling with a silly expression in her face that says ‘You’ll notice that the cheese is missing, it was me, but I couldn’t help it, I was hungry and I’m very, very, sorry!’    The older and wiser dogs remain lying on their beds – it may be that they have stolen the cheese and are the masterminds behind it all, but Incy is determined to bring the missing cheese to my attention.  However, sometimes there is no doubt who is to bame as in the incidents of the cornflour and the Frosties!

The Silly Season!   I know that’s supposed to be August, but this weather has definitely fried a few of my remaining brain cells so here goes with some even more random thoughts than normal!

Radio 4 becomes increasingly niche with its broadcasts – one could argue that 28sh Days Later – the story of menstruation applies to half the population but even though I am a woman, that ship sailed long ago and the few moments that I inadvertently heard the other day made me feel quite queasy.  It happens and we deal with it – I’m not interested in the details and if I was I could find out without having to hear all about it in the middle of the day on the radio.   My generation were just told to get on with it.  That’s considered a terrible thing today when we’re supposed to discuss the hell out of everything.

It is an ever more confusing world – girls think they should be allowed to go out in barely there clothes – skirts split to the crotch and plunging tops without fear of assault.   In an ideal world where all men were gentlemen, didn’t drink and had had most of their testosterone removed this might be the case, but in the real world just because you ought to be able to do something doesn’t mean you should.   Trains should run on time and they usually do – particularly in Switzerland, but sometimes we have to change plans when they are cancelled or late.   Of course, we ought to try and change things for the better but in the meantime, we have to deal with how things are and not how we’d like them to be.

As for MPs – perfectly OK by me if one wants to transition or change gender – that would be their choice and shouldn’t affect any ability to represent their constituents – in fact might be a help if someone can see both sides of the coin so to speak.   But not sure that fleeing the scene of a car accident shows the right qualities for a public servant but worse by far is that he was wearing high heels, pearls and a black leather mini skirt (I also saw it described as PVC – not sure which is worse) – presumably he was fleeing from the fashion police!

How did human beings survive without the constant bossy warnings we get bombarded with day by day – in this heatwave surely we can work out whether to put on sunscreen or to have a drink of water without being told to do so by some government appointed nanny.   Does every pond have to have a notice beside it saying ‘Deep Water’?

I thought this notice was particularly useful!  Just in case it wasn’t completely clear.

Because I always seem to manage to lower the tone of every conversation,  I had to include this story from the Mail online (I know, I know,  I shouldn’t read it – but I probably shouldn’t have had that glass of wine or that piece of cheese either)  It is becoming more and more like a cross between the late lamented News of the World with ‘Freddie Starr ate my Hamster’ type headlines and the National Enquirer featuring such uplifting stories as ‘Kourtney Kardashian’s hottest braless looks over the years’.   Anyway, as usual I have digressed – the headline said,  ‘British Man, 40, is found dead and woman seriously injured after erotic game went tragically wrong in luxury £350-a-night Florence hotel’.   Of course, we don’t know the full story yet, but Florence – the most magical city on earth with its wealth of art and museums, beautiful churches and squares – and you end up like that!   As so often I ask myself why?   I think I must have led a very sheltered life.

MUSTN’T GRUMBLE. WHY NOT?


One of the joys of getting older is that we can become grumpier – of all Snow White’s companions of restricted growth we identify most with Grumpy. Being old is partially a state of mind.   We are aware that we’ll never win Wimbledon although some of us still believe we can still race our grandchildren across the lawn.     We don’t need to look back all the time. Much pleasure can be obtained by simply saying ‘No’.  you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to do it you can just say No without trying to justify it. I do make an exception for dancing when I tell people that no one wants to see an old woman dancing – particularly if she is drunk as would probably be the case if I ventured onto the dance floor.  At a wedding the other day an extremely drunk young man kept asking me to dance. I suspect that all his peers had turned him down and he was working his way through the guests and I had to be quite firm to reject his persistence but the thought of us dancing and him falling and pulling me down with him presented me a horribly unedifying picture!
 
And one of the main things that makes me grumpy (or grumpier than usual) is cliché ridden journalism. Anyone over sixty who lives alone and can still drive a car is referred to as ‘fiercely independent’ – I have never said that about anyone, any more than I have called anyone a Toff – a word much beloved by the tabloids. Gossip columns used to be filled with euphemisms – probably not so much today but then one knew that Confirmed Bachelor = Homosexual. Vivacious = drunk. Glamorous = Tarty.  Party loving = Hooker.  Popular girl about town = Slapper. Don’t think they bother today but just come straight out with it.
But there is still a lot of lazy journalism about – not all redheads are feisty or fiery, nor indeed are all abs toned – in fact most of my friends have flabs rather than abs.
Luxury mansion – I have friends who live in big houses but I would never refer to them like that.
Some words are rarely spoken, and only seen in print. Spotted (as in seen enjoying a meal not actual spots as in Greater Spotted Woodpecker) Plucky. Steamy. Sporting – as in sporting an outfit, racy, stunning
“Spotted enjoying a steamy kiss plucky Chardonnay sports a racy, revealing outfit while her stunning companion flaunts his toned abs!”
Pop – as in the doctor asking you to ‘pop up onto the bed’ or ‘just pop your top of’ – My top has sometimes been in danger of popping off after a heavy meal but in real life I would take it off and then get up on to the bed!
 
In the case of the young emojis seem to have replaced language – the trouble is that jokes frequently misfire or fall flat in a text.  Apparently an upside down smiling face indicates irony – which in itself is quite ironic as (like most Americans) machines have no sense of irony. The best definition I ever heard of that is the story (probably apocryphal) attributed to Noel Coward when an American woman asked him to explain irony to her and he replied ‘If I said that I was pleased to meet you – that would be ironic’.
Other words that confuse me – mark you it doesn’t take much to confuse me – are trope and meme.  According to Dr Google there are hundreds of synonyms for Trope – including cliché, platitude, concept and stereotype – so I have no idea why we need Trope. As for Meme, much beloved by teenagers, I’m pretty sure that very few of them know the derivation of the word that is a unit of cultural information spread by imitation. The term meme (from the Greek mimema, meaning “imitated”). Language changes all the time and I quite like that – although it is sometimes quite difficult to keep up. If we were sent back into history we would probably have very little difficulty in understanding people from a hundred years ago but if we were fast forwarded 100 years we more than likely wouldn’t understand a word!
Words that we take for granted and understand today such as emoji, google, Instagram or trans, would have meant absolutely nothing to a previous generation and other words like gay, catfish and tablet no longer only mean happy, bottom feeding fish and something brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses. (just for clarification they are now homosexual/lesbian, tricking someone on the internet and a hand held computer.)
Phrases best avoided in novels include:
Also, she rolled her eyes across the room and, his breath came in short pants.   There are numerous others and although you usually know what the author means it is distracting!


 

HIDDEN DEPTHS?

Some people have hidden depths, but I think I have not very well disguised shallows.   I suffer from FTTTSD – Failure to take things seriously disorder.   I do try to concentrate on the more serious things in life but I am very easily distracted.   If I had been born seventy years later I would undoubtedly have been diagnosed with ADHD – I just consider it a butterfly mind, flitting from one trivial subject to another.   But today it has to be a ‘Disorder’ and then you will be subjected to counselling.   This is obviously very helpful in many cases, but there are so many people who claim to suffer from OCD because they go back to check that they have locked the front door.   I do that all the time but I don’t think of it as being anything other than being absent minded.   There are countless others:   I just Googled them –

AD: adjustment disorder. …

ASPD: antisocial personality disorder. …

ADD: attention deficit disorder. …

ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. …

AvPD: avoidant personality disorder. …

BED: binge eating disorder. …

BDD: body dysmorphic disorder. …

BPD: borderline personality disorder……

And we’ve only got to ‘B’ – the list goes on and on.

When someone is trying to explain theory of relativity or the respective merits of the classic Scott Moncreiff translation of Proust as opposed to the later one by Christopher Prendergast and I am thoughtfully stroking my chin as though listening intently but more often than not I am surreptitiously feeling for any stray hairs on my chin.

Maastricht Treaty – no idea what that is about, but I can name all the Kardashian sisters , (I’m not proud of that but I can) not so much the children who have weird names like Thunder and Blizzard.   Poor little mites.   As for Elon Musk who has two children but someone called Grimes whose given names were Claire Elise Boucher – fairly innocuous and I can see if you wanted to be famous you might wish to change them, but to call your children Exa Dark Sideræl and X Æ A-Xii – you can at least pronounce the first one but the second one! No idea what sex it is but even if your father is the richest man in the world all but the creepiest most  sycophantic children are bound to tease you – it is almost a racing certainty that they will change it to John or Mary at some point in later life!

And to prove my point on the triviality of my brain here are some of the fascinating things that have popped into my mind recently after spending an evening sitting next to an erudite and highly respected intellectual who had absolutely no small talk (and obviously I have no ‘big’ talk).   I’m sure he was the most interesting man but he was so dry he made the Kalahari seem quite refreshing!

So in order of absolutely no importance:

Haloumi – why?   I used to nibble the erasers at the end of my pencils at school but I never thought of grilling them and making a meal out of them.

Coming Out – when I was young this was something young girls did in order to be exposed (not literally!) to suitable young men.   When an old friend of mine told a gay American that she had had a coming out dance he was very impressed that she was brave enough to do that in the l960s.

Wagatha – even I can’t raise any interest in that! – what was it about other than two very rich women with too much time on their hands.  

The Met Gala (Did you see any photos of that?)    Apparently it is known as “fashion’s biggest night out,” In reality a fancy dress  party for very rich grown ups.   As far as I could see it is the night when elegance bites the dust.

Complementary/Complimentary Therapy – I like the idea of a therapist who tells you you’re looking lovely.

Adenoids – when I was young children often had theirs removed – I had no idea why but I do know that nowadays half the people you hear on the radio should have had their removed to stop that irritating adenoidal whiny voice that I seem to hear far too often.

Underarm hair – I heard someone on the radio say that she had dyed hers green as some sort of protest against shaving it! I must have misheard or it is a joke and I am rapidly losing my sense of humour.

I’ve noticed how food keeps having new buzzwords.   There have been Drizzle, Coulis, Rocket,  Samphire, Kimchi and Star Anise to name but a few and it is the same with health,   Dyslexia was one of the early ones, PTSD and then maybe Asperger’s came next and at the moment it is the menopause and periods.   People can suffer terribly from all these things but inevitably they are trivialised when people say they are suffering from PTSD because their dog has died.   I adore my dogs and am heartbroken when one dies but to compare this to something that a soldier may have gone through in Afghanistan is just wrong.

But keeping the best until last I read the other day that an ‘Intimate health brand has launched uterus-shaped cereal to encourage period based conversations’ – they are actually dyed red with beetroot and are meant to encourage families to have these conversations over breakfast!  They even helpfully include conversation prompts in the box!   I so often think the world has gone mad but the lunatics really are running the asylum now.

Stop Global Whining!

We’ve always been a nation of moaners – nothing wrong with that – it’s good to ring up a friend and have a good moan, but whining is something else.   Moaning is cathartic, whining isn’t.   It doesn’t even sound nice.   People in romantic novels sometimes moan with pleasure (at least they did a hundred years ago when I still read them and didn’t flick through the pages of passion until they settled down to a vivid description of a greedy lunch), but nobody whines with pleasure (unless they do so in S & M literature – not a genre I’m familiar with.)

If I ring a friend and ask if she’s got five minutes because I want a moan it is usually something trivial like some old bat driving along in the middle of the road at 20 mph – not very serious but irritating.   But a whiner is different, it would turn the minor annoyance of the slow driver into a diatribe about how it had ruined her day and I’m writing usually ‘she’ here because most of the people I moan to (and let’s face it occasionally whine – nobody’s perfect) are women. We all know people who, when you ask them how they are, will say ‘I’ve broken my leg which is a real bore, but I’m really getting the hang of my crutches and I’m getting all of my shopping on line.’   As compared to those who say ‘I’ve got the most terrible cold – the heating in the cinema wasn’t working and I can’t stay in bed because I’ve got a delivery arriving, I’ll have to drag myself out of bed…..’   Whiners are very draining but you can often end a good moan by laughing at yourself.   A sense of perspective helps – you wouldn’t moan about an aching hip to someone who had just had a leg amputated, but that wouldn’t deflect the professional whiner.   We all know those Debbie Downers – those people who can always find something to complain about and can scarcely be bothered to ask you how things are going in your life.  

Complaining is something else again and can be quite an art form.   Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne must be doing really well in these litigious days where there is no such thing as an accident and something is always some else’s fault. I write quite a lot of brilliant letters of complaint, in my mind in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.   Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) those flowery, literary phrases that seemed like pure inspiration at 3.30 in the morning turn out to be banal, trite and cliché ridden in the cold light of day.   Of course, the French have the best phrase – L’esprit de l’escalier.   It is so annoying as you drive away from a situation where someone has stolen your parking space, and the perfect riposte comes into your mind, but you can’t turn round and go back to announce ‘the smaller the dick, the bigger the car’ – or something equally pithy!!!  However, I do sometimes manage a good verbal complaint when in the heat of the moment.   My husband used to cringe with embarrassment as I let someone have it with both barrels!   I remember once when we had waited over an hour for our first course in a restaurant and a girl at the next table who was supposed to be having a birthday lunch with her parents was in tears because she had to go back to work without having eaten anything.   I finally managed to get hold of the manager who came up with the most ridiculous excuse saying they were very busy and I pointed out that if a restaurant wasn’t busy at lunchtime it wasn’t going to last very long.    I managed to get the birthday girl and her family a free lunch before we walked out and went somewhere else as I pointed out to the manager that would free up a table and they would be less busy!

We are so spoilt nowadays when we don’t have very much to complain about.   Heating bills are going up but most of us can turn down the thermostat and put on another jumper.   Shops sometimes run out of items we want but in this we never see rows or empty shelves.   We might have to wait for our new hip but at least we can probably get one eventually unlike our grandparents.   It’s great to have a good moan but there’s no need to whine and I’m not complaining!

The Good Old Days?

It’s a phrase you hear so often, particularly in my age group – The Good Old Days – things were so much better in the Old Days! But were they? Rose tinted hindsight can make us believe that everything about our youth was golden. Life was so much simpler then – in some ways it was, but not necessarily better. Not many children today would put up with school food as we knew it! My grandchildren get a choice! We ate what we were given or presumably we would have starved. I don’t remember a single child who was allergic to any food – certainly no one would have been allowed to be a vegetarian or Heaven forfend, a vegan. We wouldn’t have known what that was – the nearest we came to it was learning about herbivores in biology. Home food wasn’t much better – but at least the Brussel Sprouts weren’t actually put on before church although they were certainly on the mushy side and an avocado pear (as they were called) was unbelievably exotic. If you had asked for one in the local town you would have been eyed with deep suspicion. I remember when our farm manager’s daughter went to France on a school trip and her mother told me that she had a terrible time as she obviously couldn’t eat anything because there was garlic in everything!

If you were at boarding school, as I was, there would have been no point in complaining about anything. In the Good Old Days we didn’t have mobile phones to contact our parents and moan about how much we hated school. We were made to write home once a week and we believed, although I’m not sure this was ever substantiated, that our letters were read and censored. If children today tell their parents they’re unhappy the parents bend over backwards to rectify matters – when I was young we were just told to buck up. No one cared if children, particularly boys, were beaten at school. I remember my brother showing me, with pride, scars that he had acquired from a thrashing he has received for some small misdemeanour.
Medicine certainly wasn’t better when we were young. Penicillin only became available in 1945 and I remember when I got pneumonia I was treated with the sulphonamide M&B. It was given in an enormous pill the texture of chalk and it had to be ground up and mixed with jam before I could swallow it!!! You frequently saw children with their legs in callipers as the result of polio. The vaccination against measles was only invented in 1963 and before that we all got it and happily everyone I knew survived, but many didn’t. As for dentistry – it was very expensive and I do remember that the local blacksmith (who I was told had taken a correspondence course in dentistry) would pull a tooth for the price of a pint – I have a feeling that not many women availed themselves of this service. However, my dentist told me that in the 1920s fathers would take their daughters to have all their teeth pulled (presumably not by the local blacksmith) and have her fitted for some dentures as a present for her 21st birthday to make it easier for her to find a husband as she would never have toothache or the need to see a dentist!
Communication is a million times better today – we can be in touch with our family and friends. Parents can anxiously track their gap year children – although I’m sure there are many times when they’d prefer not to know that they are inside a club in Thailand at 4.00 am! A far cry from the stilted, expensive, three minute conversations we had every Christmas with my grandparents in Scotland.
And as for snobbery – Nanny, who was mainly responsible for bringing us up, was the most terrific snob and there was a long list of things that were beyond the pale! Being car sick was frightfully common! I’m not sure if I was horrible little snob or that I just have a naturally strong constitution, but I have never been car sick. Complaining about one’s feet was common! This could have been because we, as highly privileged children, used to be taken to the children’s shoe department of some large store where when we tried on shoes we stood on a platform with our feet under an x-ray and there were three viewing holes, one for the wearer, one for the salesman and one for the parent. We all looked earnestly at the picture of our toes wiggling about showing how much room for growth there was in the shoe. As far as I know none of my generation got cancer of the foot as a result of this, presumably highly dangerous, practice. However, it did mean that we always had well- fitting shoes.
Many prejudices have disappeared, after all homosexuality was illegal and as far as any black people – they simply didn’t come into my life in the English countryside. As for anyone being transgender or a transvestite – if they existed they suffered in silence. Although sometimes I wish that everyone was not so ‘out and proud’ today. All I require from my Member of Parliament is that he look after the interest of his constituents and I have no desire to know the details of his sex life. Who he does what to and with whom should, in my opinion, be his own affair.
So, of course there are things that were better when we were young but every generation thinks theirs was the best. My father felt so sorry for me being young in the Swinging Sixties as he compared it to his youth. As he put it, when he was young singers wanted to look like a prince and but in the Sixties young princes wanted to look like a pop star. Long haired oiks filled the society pages of the glossy magazines and he was appalled. His parents felt the same about their generation and were horrified to think that their children might have to grow up without any servants!!!
There is no point in bemoaning the past – the present is all we’ve got so we might as well enjoy it!

Age isn’t a number it’s an attitude

Getting older is a bit like climbing a staircase.   We all start at the bottom and as we climb towards the top people gradually fall off.   Some people fall tragically early but others keep on climbing.   Once you get to 70 the ranks have thinned out a bit and some of your number will be puffing and panting and stopping to rest.   And there are others up ahead who are in their nineties and still forging on upwards.  
One of the ways to make it up the stairway of life has to be either accepting new things or deciding that they are so mad they have to be ignored.   New technology is great and I feel a huge sense of satisfaction when I manage to show a younger friend how to use a spreadsheet or use an app on their mobile but that smug feeling soon disintegrates when I open a newspaper.   Let’s start with the ‘minor’ things.   A teacher has written a book that has been withdrawn by the publishers because she described one pupil as having ‘almond’ shaped eyes and another child as having skin the colour of chocolate.  What am I missing?  Almond shaped eyes sound lovely – it’s a description – would it be all right to say she had ‘piggy’ little eyes – or would that be offensive to pigs.   As for chocolate coloured skin – so nice.   My black friends have lovely skin – different shades of brown but as they say ‘Black don’t crack’ and much to my annoyance they don’t have any lines.   So called ‘white’ skin is in fact usually pink and blotchy!   But this is as nothing compared to two things I have read today.   The first is people identifying as ‘catgender’ – yes, really!   Their preferred pronoun is nya/nyan.   Apparently, nyan is Japanese for ‘meow’.   However I suppose that this is fairly harmless, if very irritating and stupid always presuming it is not a joke – but as I think I have mentioned before it is a prerequisite of ‘wokedom’ to have absolutely no sense of humour.   The other thing that astonished, shocked and appalled me in equal measure was an article about ‘Nullification Surgery’.   Google it if you want the more gory details, but in essence it is the desire of some men (who, in my view, have serious mental issues) to have their genitalia removed so that they can look like Barbie’s friend Ken!   I kid you not – this is not just one unfortunate bonkers person but there is a movement behind it.   This is so wrong on so many levels – I’m not sure I know where to start but certainly social media must have a role to play in it.   Maybe I’ve been in a coma and it is actually 1st of April!
And just this morning I have read that stiles are going to be forbidden because they are not wheelchair accessible.   To hell with the farmers desperately trying to keep their livestock contained against ramblers who were not brought up to abide by the country code and will leave gates open.   Although presumably when vegans finally take over and the whole countryside is one giant rewilded theme park the remaining livestock who will die of old age will be too old and infirm to leave the safety of their fields.
 
Happily, while climbing the staircase there are some natural dropping off points.   For example, it is about a hundred years since I went to a nightclub and almost the same amount of time since I had any desire to do so.   At the risk of being condemned as sexist I like to think that women are not as shallow as men in their choice of a partner.   Many men, particularly it would appear, old, rich, men are looking for arm candy and not intellectual stimulation.   They do go to nightclubs and the whilst the staff may snigger behind their hands, they will be obsequious with the lure of a big tip in front of them.   And could it be that some of the staff are quite envious of a seventy year old man with a beautiful 25 year old woman hanging in his every word.   The reverse is far less likely – I can’t think of any seventy year old woman who would want to spend all her time with a twenty-five year old man.   Apart from anything else their choice of music and television would be incomprehensible and incredibly irritating in the long term.   I don’t want to spend all my time sitting with my feet up but the appeal of an all night party is becoming less as I approach 80 at alarming speed.   As a wise widowed friend of mine said when you are of advanced years any available man is only interested in ‘Nurse or Purse’.
 
There are quite a few elements to our journey up the staircase.   Genetics obviously play a huge part, luck plays its part too and an enthusiasm for life.   Keep looking forward, make plans and above all avoid the ‘I’m too old for that’ mindset.   Carry on moving at all costs.   And make sure you fill your days with more than watching television.   I remember my mother complaining about one of her friends who refused an invitation to lunch because she had to go to the post office that day.   And now it is happening to me – just the other day a friend cancelled a date because she was waiting for the postman!    

After a certain age, if you don’t wake up aching in every joint, you’re probably dead!

When my son and grandchildren were little there was a breakthrough moment when they could dress themselves.   In the dark recesses of my memory I seem to recall a film about a man whose life goes backwards and he ends up as a baby.   Judging by the difficulty I have putting my socks on in the morning I think that this might be happening to me!   In residential homes all over the country the elderly are encouraged to make decorative objects from old yoghurt pots and loo rolls – and that does fill me with dread – I was hopeless at doing things like that when I was a child.   And I find the world very confusing – small children aren’t expected to understand what’s going on, but my grandchildren can certainly make more sense of things today than I can.   Take sex for example – certainly you can take it – I don’t want it!   Small children aren’t interested in sex – although they are interested in the workings of their own bodies.   Then they reach the age of enquiry when they are fascinated by pictures of semi-naked celebrities or even porn stars as seen in magazines that used to adorn the top shelves of newsagents (probably still do!).   After that comes a stage where their own sex lives are their major interest.   That is followed by a period when they or we are still quite interested in what other people are getting up to and with whom.   That phase passes and we exchange gossip about hot love affairs for whispered nuggets about our latest doctor’s appointment.   And finally, it comes full circle – we lose interest in sex altogether and fill our time with trying to keep our creaking bodies from falling apart entirely.   You reach an age when if people talk about sexual relations you worry that you haven’t sent them a Christmas card this year. 

Words that change their meaning overnight complicate things – M & S are changing the name of their biscuits ‘Midget Gems’ to ‘Mini Gems’.   Is midget a pejorative term – surely it just means small?   We used to talk about Dwarves – and I believe that the medical term is dwarfism.   Midget likewise was commonly used but now apparently you have to refer to them as ‘little people’.   When I was young children in the playground used to tell people not to be so spastic when they were making a hash of something – never a nice thing to say and certainly quite rightly would never be used today.   There was always a certain amount of confusion in my mind as I had never heard the term cerebral palsy and the collecting boxes for the Spastic Society were figurines of children with their legs in callipers which I always thought was connected to polio.   You have to be so careful today not to unintentionally offend.   Take the word ‘Queer’ – that was a terrific insult when I was young but now it has come full circle, but I am still not sure if it is used ironically or not.   And ‘Gay’ was person’s name not something people were glad to be, unless someone they told you they’d had a gay old time – but if they were straight they might be wary of saying that today.   Our local dry cleaners was called ‘Go Gay’ – probably wouldn’t call it that today.   Pride was something you took in your appearance not a colourful event.   As for ‘Eloquent’ – I’d be delighted if someone said that about me.   I read recently that several films couldn’t be made today because they aren’t ‘woke’ enough.  Blazing Saddles was one, which seems ridiculous as it was the antithesis of racist with the most attractive and intelligent character being the black sheriff!   And apparently the Wizard of Oz was unfair to ‘little people’ although the Munchkins by all accounts had a pretty good time – they were paid quite well and were, according to reports at the time, the wildest bunch – drinking and carousing every night.  

If you don’t do anything stupid when you’re young you won’t have anything to laugh about when you’re old.   Luckily that is never going to be my problem and as usual I have meandered from my original subject – I like to think that this is because I have a busy and enquiring mind although my son claims it is because I have the attention span of a gold fish!

BAH HUMBUG!!!

Sometimes it feels as though life just has it in for you.   We have all been through it for the last couple of years and just when you are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel the Grinch in the form of Omicron jumps up to bite you.   The news is nothing but depressing whether it is the latest Covid figures or yet another horrible murder.   I used to listen to the radio all day long but no longer – it fills me with gloom.   I have just heard that the latest symptoms for Omicron are that of the common cold – surely somewhere along the line we have to start to treat it like the common cold.   Most people are fairly sensible when they have a cold and don’t try to infect their friends and family.   Isn’t it time to apply some common sense to this disease?   There are, of course, quite a few idiots who won’t be vaccinated – these range from the terrified who believe that the vaccine is untried to the loonies who think that it is inserting a slow acting poison into us and that we are all going to die within the next two years or, even odder, that the injection is just a way for Bill Gates to implant a microchip into us!   Quite apart from the fact that a microchip hasn’t yet been invented that could go down a needle that fine, why on earth would Bill Gates want to do this?  

Is it a legal requirement this brave new ‘woke’ world to have one’s sense of humour surgically removed?    So many of things that we used to laugh at have now become unthinkable and conversely there are endless things that people take seriously but I have to supress a snort of laughter.   Take, for example, the item I heard on Radio 4 – home of the woke, humour free zone – about Mich Fest – this turns out to be The Michegan Womyn’s Music Festival.   The reporter described, in tones of wonder, arriving there to discover all these women sitting round bare-breasted and she immediately stripped off and joined them as they frolicked in the woods – unfortunately I couldn’t get an image of Benny Hill out of my mind – completely with the frenetic music.   To add to the fun a couple of transgender ‘womyn’ turned up and were thrown out – I don’t know if they were actually six foot three bearded ‘self-identifying’ women or not but obviously something gave them away.   Not be defeated they turned up the following year to make a camp across the road where everyone was included – except presumably actual men.

The other story that appealed to my base sense of humour was that of the barrister who has taken his company to court for some form of discrimination because he was on medication for his heart that meant he was unable to stop breaking wind.   He was sharing a very small office with a colleague who at one point said,  not unreasonably, ‘Do you have to do that all the time?’   The company were reprimanded for this and told that they should have made arrangements for the farter to work from home.   The alternative would have been to try and find a larger office or even,  to kill two birds with one stone and comply with Covid guidelines, to keep the windows open even in winter for maximum ventilation. I have to say I am very sympathetic to the person afflicted with constantly breaking wind – something that happens naturally as you age and can cause great embarrassment – however did it really have to be brought before a tribunal?

However. we must strive to find things to laugh at during the festive season and beyond into 2022 – if we just listen to the doom mongers and the scientists we will all be gibbering wrecks before too long – if we aren’t already.  So Happy Christmas to all those kind people who have bothered to read this nonsense and even been kind enough to post a comment.  

Non, je ne regrette rien – well not much anyway!

I’m willing to bet that nobody ever went to their death bed wishing that they’d spent more time watching day time television.   My mind has been quite sharply focused during the past day or two because of a near death experience.   The amazing wind recently brought down an enormous lime tree in front of my house and it came down across the path that I had taken half an hour earlier when I walked past it to pick up the Sunday papers.   Having lived well beyond my three score years and ten I am presumably on borrowed time, but something like that makes one realise that it is important to try and make the most of what time we have left.  John Betjeman famously said that his one regret was that he hadn’t had more sex!   My regrets are much more mundane.   I really regret that I didn’t learn to ski when I was younger. When I see my grandchildren gliding gracefully down the slopes I am full of envy.   I regret not going to University which seemed fairly out of reach for my generation where we were mainly educated to be a good wife and mother!      Regrets are for the things you haven’t done and rarely for the things you’ve done.   Do I regret not having finished Marcel Proust’s ‘A La Recherce du Temps Perdu’ – of course, but I optimistically imagine that there will be time for that when I am whiling away the hours in my twilight years.   I certainly don’t regret my (mildly) misspent youth.   London in the ‘Swinging Sixties’ was a blast and when I read and hear about the youth of today I wonder if they are having as much fun.   I’m sure they imagine that they are – I do hope so, it would be very sad if they yearned to live in another age.   Maybe I watch too much reality TV, but it seems that the dating scene among the young is completely different.   A lot of them seem to ‘meet’ on-line and also fall in love with people they have never actually met IRL (in real life).   Then it also seems that if you have been out with someone more than a couple of times they are not allowed any contact with anyone of the opposite sex – including texting!    We were a bit more happy go lucky and many of us regularly ran two or three boys at the same time!   However, in those more innocent days – although at the time we felt very ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ – we probably weren’t having sex with any of them.   It may have been the ‘swinging’ sixties, but nice girls were still supposed to be semi-virgins.   As I remember it the acceptable number of people you could have slept with was three.   Any more made you a slut and any less made you seem like a bit of a prude.   There was also the ‘three hot dinners’ rule – this meant that one night stands were frowned on – we were supposed to have at least three dates before we slept together – although that expression has always confused me because, if memory serves, in those days sleep was the last thing we did!

I also regret not writing more – something I love to do, but like most things in life, in order to do it well requires application and hard work and as a naturally lazy person with a butterfly mind I have only dabbled my toe in the water.  However, there is always time (at least my glass half full attitude helps me believe that) so maybe I could be first centenarian author of a best seller.   Perhaps if I start now I might have finished by the time I reach treble figures.  

What regrets do I have – sometimes the things I have said – maybe unkind but got a laugh.   But it is pointless to keep going over the past and dwelling on things that have happened.   Nobody has a perfect childhood and if you do it is probably rather dangerous! If I had really believed that my schooldays were going to be the best days of my life I would probably have topped myself there and then.  One of the joys of growing up is having the ability to make your own decisions and the worst problem about getting old is that people start to make decisions for you as they did when you were a child!    Her Majesty the Queen has been ‘forbidden’ by her doctors from carrying out any official duties for two weeks.   I was delighted to see her driving herself in Windsor Park.   People keep telling me I should get one of those alarm things that you wear round your neck – and whilst it might be sensible it is hardly something to make one feel young and vibrant! 

Looking back can be fun – most of us have many happy memories, but spending too much time in the past is to the detriment of the future.   I realise I’m unlikely to climb Everest or win a gold medal in the Olympics, but I still have goals.   And I’m almost certain I would have regretted any tattoo that I’d had – the uplifting quotes or the tasteful dolphin on your shoulder may be fine when you are in your twenties.   ‘Your only limit is your mind’ makes more sense when you are on your gap year and bungee jumping over Victoria Falls, perhaps not so much when you are sitting on an incontinence pad watching daytime television in a residential home.   I had a distant (and ancient) cousin who continued to hunt well into his eighties.   His legs were a bit doddery so he was strapped onto his horse and when the family remonstrated with him that it was dangerous he said that at his age getting out of bed was dangerous.   He died in his sleep!   As we get older our motto should be ‘Go For It’.