Island Blog 177 – Let’s Talk About It


fun old folk

Oh flip we get older.  I know it’s pants but we do it anyway.  We can’t seem to avoid it, for all the techniques we employ.  We keep fit, laugh often, love much, that sort of stuff but still the memory lapses and the body dithers.  Mostly we laugh about it, in front of other people anyway, and mostly we can hold that sense of fun as we fight our way to the outside of a king-sized duvet cover, grab both corners to shake the feathered mountain flat only to collapse onto the bed wheezing like granny’s old bellows.  Till now, we never thought about granny’s old bellows much, nor the sound they made as we, young then, pumped gusto into her wet coal, lifting flames into life with our supple arms, sure of an even larger slice of pound cake as reward.  Now, the body remembers that sound and is upset that we are making it, sans bellows.

We remember granny. As we flitted through her high-topped halls, in full play with skates for feet and ghosties round every corner, we remember her for we are granny now.  We watch her smile as we now smile at skidding children full of laughter and sunbeams.

I notice that even mentioning the process of aging brings on a flapping of hands and a mouthful of compliments.  Oh but you look so young, for one, and, another, You’re as young as you feel, and yet I leave feeling exactly the same age as I did before the Let’s Not Talk About Nasty Things thing.  Oh, for a minute or two I could imagine the skates on my feet and yes my heart did twinkle a bit, but what I wanted to do was to have a conversation of some depth and with some contextual relevance to where I am/they are in life.  Aging is not a nasty thing, per se, but merely something we all have coming and it seems to me that the way most folk deal with it is by not looking at it.  Not looking at the inevitable is to turn away from the truth in all its beauty.  Not looking forward sounds a lot to me like I am looking back, at what has gone, at what is lost to me.  I am in No Man’s Land, neither here nor there, stranded on a sandbank without my dancing shoes, without my head on straight.  I am blind and deaf to who I am, to the truth of me in all my beauty.

As we mutter about how dreadful it is to watch an old (that’s OLD) person decline into the apparent powerlessness of a failing body and mind, we lose sight of that person, however dear, however important they have been to us, for they have changed.  This dynamic person to whom we bowed, either in terror or in a loving adoration, is losing the plot and we have no map for the new one.  Is this, I wonder, why we flap and giggle at any mention of getting old?  is it that we see our own self becoming this poor sad creature?  My third question is this.  If we face with pride and humour our own aging process, might we find the last bit somewhat happier to contemplate…..or, even better, might we, by walking with it rather than away from it, actually change the future of getting old?

I am not saying Never Wear Your Tutu again.  I am not saying Stop Dancing, Enjoying Wine or Bouncing on the Family Trampoline.  What I AM saying is that when you forget a name or a number, or your wallet or what you had for lunch, find laughter in it.  I am saying engage with aging for it is a lovely and exciting time.  It is also a time to allow for a slowing of pace, for the inevitable decline of our physical selves, for twinges in the back, sore feet, aching knees just before it rains.  We might feel less inclined to go out at night, more unsure of creating a meal for guests, less able to see the cobwebs in the corners.  We might need to ask for help from the young, as once we were asked for help.

We have stories to tell and our children want to hear them; not that old nonsense about how good it was in the olden days, not that, but stories of our lives, what we loved, how we danced in virgin snow, how we could outrun a deer, how we sailed across oceans, won first prize, fell into a smelly pond and had to walk 3 miles home, how we didn’t get picked for the rugby team and how we sulked for weeks, how jealous we were of an older sister, and that crush we had on the maths teacher that all went horribly wrong when his wife read your note.  All of this, is who we are, who we still are. But let it not be the only country we inhabit.

The sickness queue is a long one and many of the ailments begin in our minds. Depression meds are dished out like sweeties.  Yes, we would rather not be getting rickety-sticks or fluffy-headed, but we are and that’s that.  I don’t think that’s the problem at all.  I believe that, in not engaging with the aging process, of flapping it away, of living in fear of the future, of ending up like that OLD person who has become a sad soul, we manifest the whole thing in ourselves.  Mourning what can never be again takes the joy from life.  Have you watched a young woman run for a bus and just watched her with a smile?  Or have you immediately related her speed to your lack of it, feeling even more sorebones-and-downmouth?  How much youth can you observe without feeling even older?

And yet the watching IS the joy.

Turning to look ahead when you don’t want to see what you fear takes courage, but, trust me, the monsters are quite gone, once you do – oh, and I’ll be there to welcome you in my tutu and a big jumper on to keep out the cold with spares for you in case you forgot your own.


Island Blog 176 The Light of Sequins

Human Light

You know when you arrive on a dance floor and just wish you had donned something with sequins, because that woman over there looks like a chandelier, or a firework, and there you are in something that reflects absolutely nothing beyond the fact that it is obvious you can never sit down because that body-hugging fat controller would sever blood flow to your brain in about 4 minutes.

As I lean against a door frame with something fizzy in my hand I ponder my lack of ‘reflectivability’ and I always come to the same conclusion.

I doubted.  I doubted myself inside the dress I actually wanted to wear, hearing, as I always do, those matronly voices tutting at me.  You’re too chunky, too old, too much of a farmer’s wife, too much of a mother of five to actually, seriously (!) consider wearing that!?

And so, the sequins stay wrapped in plastic doubt for another year, two years, and then some.  It thinks me.  To be absolutely honest, the call for sequins nowadays is rare, if it comes at all.  Living on a rain-soaked island is more welly and’mackintosh’ (does anyone use that delicious word these days?) than it ever is sequins and heels.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t love them, even now, and I really believe in holding that love close.  It is easy to forget sparkle and yet sparkle is everything. Okay, not necessarily sequins and champagne, but that wonderful human sparkle that can be held inside wellies and mackintoshes. It’s all in the eyes.  When life feels a bit solid and lumpish, there is someone, always one someone who sparkles.  They don’t always manage it, but that’s also okay, because when they don’t, you can.  It’s a see-saw thing.  One of us is up, one of us is down, one of us light, one heavy…… then it changes.

Today I went to church and heard a lovely positive message, sang good Christmas songs (in a slightly higher key than any of us could ever reach) and then I filled the manger with hay and swaddled Jesus ( they said….. she can do it , she’s had five…..) ready for the school nativity play tomorrow, all the while, laughing and talking and watching the light in eyes all around me. Without doubt I could see the sequins, hear the music, feel the dance.

This is ordinary mackintosh life reflecting a sequinned light.

Island Blog 175 Shine the Light

light through clouds

Light at this time of year is precious.  It comes in suddenly, enough to startle and is all too easily lost if we are texting, or inside a shop, or caught up with sticky children where roads divide and rule.  Headlights are on a lot of the day, and the orange streetlights don’t know what to do with themselves as the sky closes over yet again with dark foreboding clouds.

Indoors, lighting is warm and mood-creating unless the lights are those cold blue fizzing strips.  We had them at school, I remember and they never ceased in making their presences felt by whining and complaining and eventually going out altogether, which was a relief, not least because Chemistry was cancelled for the afternoon.  As we walk past cafes and bars, the light is inviting.  Outside it’s wet and windy and we are in serious danger of being decapitated by flying umbrellas.  We see their abandoned skeletons on the pavements, their skin ripped from their bones.  Dogs ears fly out like wings, their tails firmly tucked in, their legs pushing for home.

This is the winter, not of our life, but of our year.  The fact that we have an extraordinary volume of rain is just how it is these days.  In the past, according to everyone over 55, it never rained.  Snow fell and it was always pretty snow and sparkly and nobody got stuck in drifts or skidded off the road.  Seasons were well defined and the world was a simpler place and there was no violence, no weirdo behaviour, no anorexia or obesity, no drugs and no divorce.  Of course, this is twaddle.  What they mean is that there was no social media, only a handful of newpapers and only 3 TV channels, so that the ordinary folk never got to hear of the nasty things.  Now we all know all the nasty things and we don’t much like it, because it creates in us a fear of life in the big Out There.

I wonder at how much we actually need to know, because all this information can make us blind.  It seems to me that we can be thoroughly appraised of the dreadful situation in Syria whilst at home our own children come home to an empty house and unsupervised TV.  We can wring our hands in grief at the acts of violence and persecution around the world whilst we ignore the agressive rudeness towards an immigrant taxi driver saying it’s none of our business.  We can talk about what should be done in care homes and never bother to visit Granny in hers.

The light is on and we are at home, protected and warm, most of us, and yet it seems to me that we forget our responsibilty to our own values.  We can talk as if we had them all in place, pointing blame everywhere but at ourselves.  Talking is easy, blaming, even easier, because it makes us feel good about ourselves, our values but when we point one finger in blame, the other four are pointing right back at us.

There is enough food in the world to feed every single human.  There is enough money to supply everyone’s basic needs.  There are enough parents to give every child a home.  There is enough light.  We should work on shining it in the right places.