When I was was about 10, my great-grandma Weller (also known to us youngsters as The Great Weller), died. She was about 93 and had spent at least the last part of her life with diabetes. I knew her as a slim old lady who sat in her chair by the window with a blanket over her knees. She always wore an aquamarine and platinum ring and one day, when I was still very young (3?, 4?) she said, “When I die, this ring will be yours.”
When I was slightly older, (5 or 6) I was sitting on her lap and asked her, “When are you going to die?” I was really keen on owning that ring! Needless to say, I was not given that ring when she died but, when I was around 18, it finally came my way. By that time I had realised that I was far too young to wear such a big and expensive ring, preferring my Mexican Wedding ring which I had bought when we were in California – just a plain silver band set with chips of turquoise. That ring stayed with me until I foolishly gave it to the boy I was going out with and he ‘lost’ it. (Looking at you, Dennis!) Since then, I have rarely worn a ring except, for a few years before my wedding ring finger got too fat!
That is all beside the point, really. We’re talking about the age of 80.
My grandmother and my mother both went on to reach 80, then 90, though neither of them was as mentally competent as The Great Weller by the time they left their 80’s.
Because almost all my female relatives on my mother’s side have lived into their 90’s, there’s a chance that I will, as well. Now that I’ve reached 80 (!OMG!), I can almost imagine going the full way or even passing 92 or 93. But, do I want to?
I’m really of two minds about it. On the one hand, it means that I would be alive to see another 12 or 13 years of advances in science and art; alive to paint more abstracts (I’ve given up trying to paint figuratively!); alive to read more; alive to see Lola get old; alive to see the beauty in the world – and, sadly, the ugliness.
On the other hand, getting older has meant my legs are not able to walk so far or dance so much. It has meant, too, losing a lot of hair, gaining wrinkles where there was until recently only smooth skin, and having odd pains suddenly jabbing me then vanishing, only to reappear somewhere else a bit later. It also means becoming, once again, scared of the near future when the authoritarian heads of one or more countries have intimated that they may – or may not – spread their warlike tentacles into the places where I and my loved ones live for the least valid of reasons. (I won’t even mention the ridiculous would-be authoritarians who are stealing liberties and banning books in the name of Jesus Christ (poor Jesus!)
And, of course there’s climate change and all that means! Living in the UK, we seem to be having a slightly longer cold period of winter and, if last July and August are anything to go by, the hideous HOT of summer temperatures in the 30’s. (For you Fahrenheit people out there, that’s high 80’s/90’s.) Just at the moment, the last day of April, 2023, the temperatures in the south of Spain are threatening to go up to 40C – 104F and, presumably, it’s all going to get worse!
I can’t imagine not being alive but, unless death is only a new beginning to something really wonderful, (and nobody’s going to tell me with great authority that it is) I guess I’d like to stay alive as long as I can!
I remember my 20th birthday party. I reached that age while we still lived in our ‘luxury flat’ in Bayswater. Really, my party consisted of my family and my friend Shaun. My boyfriend had broken up with me earlier in the year and I was still trying to get over him. I remember having a gin and tonic, then lying on the floor in quite a depressed state. Shaun said she thought she could get Lance Percival to come to the party. I thought that might cheer me up so she rang his number and left a message inviting him. He never turned up, nor did he ring up. I carried on being depressed – and gave up gin for the next 50 years!
My 21st birthday was completely different. By this time I had met and fallen for a totally unsuitable man. He didn’t have a job, still lived at home though he was 28, and told lies very easily. Though he changed my life completely, I really only knew him for a couple of months. Now, remember, I lived in “Swinging London” and was a modern young woman (who still believed that a woman’s future was with a man who would love her and look after her for ever and ever, Amen.)
I was pregnant. I had to hide it from my job – I would probably have lost my job if the bosses knew. I hid it from my family for about two and a half months but they finally had to be told. Judy was furious with me, Jennie was a bit confused, I think, and Patty…..was Patty. She made me feel worse than I already felt. I had been brought up in small town America where “good” girls didn’t lose their virginity until they were married (at least that’s what EVERYONE said). I had already spent several weeks thinking it wasn’t possible that I was pregnant but I was! Abortions were illegal but happened. Personally, I didn’t want an abortion. I had no idea what having a baby might mean but I knew that I couldn’t “get rid” of it. (At that time I had no idea that it was a girl.)
The relationship ended before that birthday – though his mum would have been happy to be a grandma. He ended that year by “borrowing a car without the owner’s permission” and spending a few months in jail. He ‘borrowed’ the car, apparently, from his new girlfriend. Not sure how long that relationship had lasted but it ended quite quickly!
Patty being Patty was determined that I should have an abortion and found a doctor who would carry out the procedure safely. I went with Patty to his office and she discussed my ‘problem’ with him, then he asked her to leave while he examined me – and I told him that I wanted to carry on with the pregnancy. That doctor was a hero! He lied to Patty that I was too far gone for it to be safe, and we went home. A few weeks went by. Life went on. On the 17th of April, 1964, my 21st birthday, I went to work as usual and on my way home bought my mother a bunch of flowers to say thanks for giving birth to me.
The flowers were wasted! When I got home there was a terrible panic! Patty had decided not to go to work and started drinking in the early afternoon – or even the late morning. She put a load of washing in the semi-automatic washing machine. Semi-automatic meant that you had to wheel the machine over to the sink, put the ‘in’ hose on the tap and drape the ‘out’ hose over the sink, then turn on the water so it would fill the machine and turn it off before it overflowed. Patty forgot the turning off bit.
She went into the lounge and had a bit more to drink then realised that there was a dripping noise coming from the kitchen. She ran into the kitchen, saw the machine overflowing ——and didn’t know how to stop it! Eventually she called a repairman who came fairly quickly, took one look and turned off the tap. I wasn’t there yet and don’t know if he charged her for the call out or whether he felt sorry for her.
When I got home the hall carpet was soaking wet and – much worse – the water had overflowed through the ceiling into the flat below! Luckily, the people in the flat below were way for several weeks. No one ever seems to have said anything! Or maybe they did but I never was told.
Of course the baby turned out to be my own bundle of joy, Veronica, and the entire family loved her from the moment she was born (I loved her from well before that!)
My next, and latest, birthday party was just over a week ago. Veronica was in charge of it all. She chose a venue, the menu, the wonderful cup cake with my face on rice paper on the top and the decorations. (Bunting with my photo on!) I had to give her the email addresses and names of all the people I could think of from the friends I’ve made in Broadstairs to the people I went to college with – including the young man who broke my heart back when I was not quite 19, and another young man from even further back than that. I invited my cousin Fred and his wife Linda who came all the way from Georgia USA, and my brothers-in-law, one of whom lives in Belgium and the other near Bristol. Veronica sent out emails to everyone telling them where, when and why, then sent a reminder email. There were 40 people at the party with only a few who weren’t able to make it!
I had a wonderful time, chatting with friends I hadn’t seen since before covid; Veronica’s estranged best friend, Betty; some of the people from Thanet whom I have met over the past 17 years; the in-laws, the cousin and his wife, and the 2 young men (now much older!) who left me bereft back in the mists of time.
Lance Percival wasn’t invited this time!
(I haven’t been able to add any photos. For some reason the site has changed but not bothered to tell me how to put a photo on. If I find out how, I’ll add some later! )
It’s a long time since I wrote a blog post….I’m sorry about that and I have no excuse. Indeed, I have been thinking about it but haven’t been able to come up with any ideas for a post, though occasionally, as I’ve been on the point of falling asleep, I’ve thought of something only to have forgotten it by the next day!
This blog started as a set of things which happen to people as they get older as well as a load of memories to help my family know and remember things that happened in my childhood and right up to my old age.
I found myself wishing, earlier today, that my mother had written such posts. I have a memory of being pulled in a ‘one-horse open sleigh” by my father up Convers Avenue in Zanesville when I was very young. I don’t remember snow, I do remember that it was dark outside. BUT, I realise that this may not be a memory of something that really happened but the memory of a dream which had made a big impression on me. There is no one left alive who would be able to tell me what is the truth about this memory – and that makes me sad!
Now, about old age. Did you know that when you get old (and that could be anytime from 40 to 90!) your eyelids can stick to your eyeballs? I only found this out a few weeks ago when I woke up one morning and found that my left eye wouldn’t open; it was stuck somehow. Before I could get too panicky, I was able to open it. I looked it up on Google and found that it’s because the natural moisture that lubricates your eyes has started to dry up a bit. I know that I have a touch of macular degeneration and this is likely behind the problem.
Another thing that has bothered me for several years is cramps in my feet, toes, and legs. Julian used to tell me about the cramps he got when younger and I thought he was being a bit dramatic but, yes, there are cramps that mean your big toe points upwards. There are also cramps that go up the outer calf of your leg, cramps that make your foot turn towards the side and even cramps in your thigh. Finally, I worked out that wearing flat shoes can make me have cramps in my feet and legs and sitting in one position on a hard chair can suddenly cause a cramp in my thigh. But I also found out that I can keep most leg cramps away by drinking tonic water every few days. I found this out by working out what I had been doing differently upon realising I hadn’t had a cramp for weeks. (Since then, people who already knew this have affirmed the fact that tonic water helps stop cramps.)
Nowadays, I laugh out loud when I see adverts with women in their early forties worrying about ‘wrinkles’, ie almost invisible laugh lines on the outer side of their eyes. For real wrinkles, look at women in their late seventies (who haven’t used Botox!).
I will admit that I haven’t done anything to keep my face wrinkle-free. I have fallen into bed without a rigorous cleanse, forgotten to put on my moisturiser in the morning and have slept most nights with at least half of my face buried in my pillow. But, I was born with good genes (as far as skin goes, anyway) and was wrinkle-free until my seventies – except for the frown lines between my eyebrows. Only this past year have the laugh-lines become apparent and I’ve noticed that the skin under my eyes has become a bit ‘baggy’. I think the collagen, or whatever it’s called, has deserted me😩
Other changes since I have got older, have been in my nails which have the dreaded ‘ridges’ which occasionally form a little split on the top edge, which can be difficult to deal with; in my hair, which I’ve complained about before in a post; in the skin on my neck, which suddenly resembles that of a turkey; and in an unmentionable part of my body which has been suffering from something horrifically called ‘lichen sclerosis’. I won’t scare you with the details of that!
In about four months I will have reached the beginning of my ninth decade. Women in my mother’s side of the family usually live until they are in their nineties, though their final three or four years are usually not full of fun. So, I may have another eight or ten years of reasonable life – assuming Putin doesn’t carry out his threats!
Now, one thing I’ve found out during the last fifty or so years is that each year seems to go by more quickly than the previous ones which means the next few years are going to whizz by! Am I scared? No, though I am a bit annoyed. All of the most interesting things that are coming to the world in the next few decades will happen without my knowing – maybe teleporting (being able to go from one place to another without taking any form of transport); cures for the most hideous diseases (my sister, Judy, if she had been alive today, would have had a treatment for her cancer and possibly even a cure); man landing on Mars or travelling to another galaxy; and all the million and one things that I can’t even imagine.
But – it’s nearly Christmas! I love this time of year! Not the weather, it’s usually too cold. I love the busyness of buying and wrapping presents, planning meals and ordering the food, decorating the house, remembering to have crackers and tins of chocolate and cakes and biscuits and, best of all, seeing my family for the first time in ages and sitting around with teas and gin and wine and plates of turkey and roast potatoes…..whew!
Then, suddenly, it’ll be next year with my next term of painting lessons online, days getting longer (hooray!), and (ugh!) dieting to get rid of all the weight I’ve put on in the last months.
Have a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/Alban Arthan or whatever you might call your celebration time.
And, may the New Year bring peace to the world and a happiness to us all!
Most days, when I use the downstairs loo, I am made happy by one ridiculous item!
Probably eight or nine years ago I bought, via EBay, a small cupboard with four drawers to one side, as a storage unit for loo roles, hand towels and other items one might need in a downstairs loo.
Right away, I found a problem. The drawers weren’t very easy to close. They didn’t just slide in the way they slid out and, over the years, I have wished I’d spent more and not had such a job closing the drawers.
The cupboard to the right is really easy – pull on the handle and it opens, push the door and it closes. The cupboard stores extra loo rolls (I hate running out when I’m home alone and haven’t noticed how little is left on the roll!). There are also bleach and other loo-cleaning materials.
The line above denotes all the years that have passed since I received the cupboard. Just this year, sometime in the spring, I was sitting there and opened the top drawer for some item or other, took out said item and, without thinking, shoved the drawer shut with my elbow – and it shut! No problem!
I tried it again. Same!
Now, every day or so, I shove the drawer shut with my elbow or, if I’m already standing, with my hip. It closes. I smile.
Here is an abstract painting I made the other day. I quite like it – it’s colours and the shapes – but am not sure which way up it goes, so I thought I’d ask you.
Thanks! 😄 (Don’t you hate it when the computer thinks it knows what you wanted to write? In the paragraph above, the word ‘its’ has been given an unnecessary apostrophe! Sorry, I should have proof-read it but it was so short I just assumed it was okay. Now I know.)😩
My sleepless night is not important. It hasn’t any earth-shaking repercussions. I will survive it. But, it shouldn’t have happened!
During my childhood in America there was an air raid siren on top of the neighbourhood school. Every once in a while someone tested it to make sure it was still working but, as far as I know, they hadn’t warned those of us who lived close enough to hear it and it really worried us, particularly my sister, Judy.
Life in 1950’s Ohio, for little white children and their families, was pretty good as far as I remember. We weren’t rich but we weren’t poverty stricken either. Our mother had decided to study architecture at the University of Cincinnati and our step-father was also studying part-time. There was enough money for our mother to hire a ‘baby sitter’ who came every day, mainly to look after Jennie who was still quite young but also, I guess, to make sure we were home from school at 3:30 and not running riot. The only ‘war’ we knew was between our mother and her husband which was quite worrying really but there were no bombs, grenades and guns involved and on the whole, we were safe.
In the world in general, there were all sorts of things going on. There was the Korean War which didn’t seem to have any effect on us and something called the ‘Cold War’ which we definitely didn’t understand. Towards the end of the 50’s, though, when I was in my early mid teens, I started to realise that the ‘Reds’ was not only the nickname for our city’s baseball team but also the nickname of a group of people also known as ‘the commies’ who, it was thought, were dangerous and might just drop the A bomb or even the H bomb on us.
That worried me. Once in a while I’d lie awake wondering what would it be like if the air raid sirens went off, followed by a big explosion. Would we live through it, only to have radiation sickness? What would that be like? Would we mutate into monsters? My thoughts on the subject made me feel hot and cold and sick and I would lie awake worrying, wondering if it would happen that night and, like that prayer* children said at bedtime, my soul would have been ‘taken’ by the Lord.
*(Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.)
(I always thought that this prayer was horrible…..what child wants to die before they wake up? Thinking of dying in my sleep, as a child, was another thought that made me lie awake, worried about dying. We weren’t a religious family and weren’t made to pray before bed but we sort of picked these ideas up from friends, books, or tv. Perhaps if we had been church goers we would have been comforted by the thought that ‘the Lord’ would look after us but we weren’t. As an aside I will say that I did go to church regularly but that was because I had joined the church choir.)
Happily, the older I got the less likely it was that there would be a nuclear war – until 2022, when a certain Russian ex-KGB officer with a guaranteed life-long position as the head of state, threatened to use some of his vast stockpile of nuclear weapons if people « in the west » helped Ukraine in the war he started with that country.
So, I have spent nights awake, worrying, recently, not so much about me and dying (at 79 I’m quite used to the thought – I don’t want to go but I can think of worse things!), but about the terrible things that are happening to people whose lives were rather like mine until recently. They went with their partners to the local shops and bought goods for their homes, worried about their children, looked forward to the next instalment of their favourite tv show, hoped they wouldn’t get covid, cried because their boyfriend fancied someone new or whatever and suddenly, just when they should have been getting ready to greet spring, even in the cold weather, they have been assaulted, lied about, chased from their homes, lost loved ones, found themselves in foreign countries or imprisoned, learned how to shoot and to kill another human being (something many of us have no desire to do!).
It’s about a month since I started writing this post. In that time I (and others around the world) have been told that I’ve got it all wrong, that everything I’ve read and seen has been ‘fake news’, that I should read such and such a newspaper or watch this particular tv channel; that Mr Putin isn’t having his soldiers kill civilians, isn’t trying to annex the whole of another, separate country, isn’t trying to rebuild the Soviet Union, and that ‘the West’ has been at fault over the years, trying to influence people towards their way of thinking. The real war isn’t a war at all, we’re told….it’s an operation to get rid of the Nazis who have taken over Ukraine.
It’s all crap! It’s people! More than 5 million people have run away, some of them ending up in a foreign country without their small child who died on the way or who was in the way of a bullet or a piece of shrapnel. How many others have been ambushed as they were trying to leave, bombed as they were sitting in a hideout with CHILDREN written in huge letters outside, been at the receiving end of a missile as they lay in labour in hospital, have been raped then stabbed to death or been shot down when trying to find food or water?
How can I sleep when others can’t? If I were young and brave I might have done something more to help besides give some money or old clothes, but I sit here tapping on my iPad, eating fresh food, and watching fiction on tv or reading or painting so that I can forget the terrible things that people are doing to other people in a land so far away – and yet so near.
Every few days I have a look to see if anybody has read my recent posts and am often surprised for two reasons – the first is that not many people have visited my blog and the second is that so many people who have visited are from countries which do not have English as a mother-tongue.
My most recent non-English as a mother-tongue readers are from China . Now, I know that many Chinese people speak English because it is so important in today’s commercial world but I don’t know why they would find my posts interesting. The same applies to the UAE and Bangladesh, although those places’ views seem to have tailed off during 2021.
If you are from a non-English-speaking country and have come to my blog pages for any reason, please write and tell me what it is that interests you. I would like to write more articles that you find interesting.
Also, thanks to everyone who reads my posts. You all make taking the time and making the effort, so worthwhile!
When I was born, seventy eight and a half years ago, I weighed (I’ve been told) seven pounds, three ounces. I put on weight as expected and was never overweight as a child. It was the same with my sister, Judy – we were both rather slim, even skinny, girls. Jennie was tiny at birth and continued to be tiny until she was around seven when she had her tonsils and adenoids out and she became more robust – but definitely not overweight.
Patty, my mother, was also slim, as a girl and as a young woman – you can see that in all the photos I’ve put in posts. But, when she was in her forties, she suddenly started putting on weight and – guess what – so did I when I hit my forties!
At first it was just a couple of un-noticeable pounds, which became a very noticeable stone. Even a stone (14 pounds, 6.35 kilos) didn’t make me fat, but most of that extra weight seemed to be on my lower half (to put it delicately).
I always had a rather pear-shaped body – my figure at 18 something like 32-22-34 – so, flat chested, small waisted and slightly bigger hips. My legs were short but reasonably shaped. I weighed about seven and a half stone (105 pounds) until I was in my later 30’s.
I suppose each decade after 40 brought an extra stone or so and I started worrying about my weight when I was 42 and weighed about 9.5 stones (126 pounds, 60.3 kilos).
I remember going to a weight-loss group with Angela, who was also overweight. It wasn’t one of the franchises, just a group of women who wanted to lose weight. We weighed ourselves, paid in a token 50p per week, sat around and chatted and, each month, the woman who had lost the most weight that month, got her month’s money back while the rest of the money paid for the coffee we had drunk that month.
A few years went by and I started to go to Weight Watchers in the local village hall. I probably was about 10 stone then and wore size 14 (UK) which was a big size for me, who had worn size 8 or 10 only a decade earlier.
So, there I was, a rather sedentary 40+, weighing around 10 stone. I went to weight-loss groups from time-to-time, signed up to a gym, paid out a lot of money to lie on a table and let the table do the moving (what a waste of money that was!) and – meanwhile, carried on eating my standard diet.
Looking back, I can see why I started putting on the weight. When I was teaching at St. Katherine’s I always had a school dinner – the dinner ladies were wonderful cooks! But, when I started being a supply teacher, I would go home and make myself a fried cheese sandwich with butter every lunchtime, if I was working at a school not too far from home. Oh, those fried cheese sandwiches! Heavenly!
Most days, on my way home from school, I would stop at Safeways and buy a fresh, unsliced white loaf and, when I got home, slice a few thick wedges of bread and butter them, then take them into the lounge with a cup of tea and sit and watch The Wonder Years. Or, maybe, I’d substitute the bread for two or three donuts! Then, I’d make dinner in the evening for Julian and me. I can’t remember what we might have had but there would have been meat, potatoes and veggies or pasta with a meaty sauce.
When we opened our shop in 1997 I weighed around 13 stone! (182 lbs, 82.5 kilos). But the year 2000 came along and I knew that I was too heavy and unhealthy so I decided to do something about it for real. I wish I could remember what I ate during that time….I successfully lost 3.5 stone. I did get up early every morning and walk to Manor Park, up the fields and round the lake then back home to shower and dress for the day. (In case you are asking yourself why I didn’t ‘run’ or jog, there is no way I could ‘run’ anywhere. I had never been a runner – I was always the last one across the playground, with my short legs, during skinny childhood.)
I kept that weight off for about a year but started eating whatever I wanted again, and also discovered the delights of dry white wine! Unlike many in my family, I was more or less tee-total till I was in my 50’s, then would often have a small glass of white wine with my dinner in the evening.
For some reason I was able to keep my alcohol intake on the low side while other members of my family partook of rather more – Patty always told us that everyone drank loads in the 1940’s, which may, of course, have been true. (Patty seemed to be a part-time alcoholic – she could go for weeks with only one or two drinks a day then would “fall off the wagon” and binge-drink until she was too ill or till no one would go out to get her booze for her. She really never stopped drinking until she had to live in a care home, where she also had to give up smoking! She was 90 when she had to give up cigarettes and alcohol!)
In my later 50’s and early 60’s, a group of our friends organised walks of 3 to 5 miles. We would meet at a pre-arranged car park somewhere not too far, then would do a circular walk which would bring us back to the car-park which almost always was a pub car park or, at least, very near a pub that served Sunday meals. I think the walks helped me keep to a reasonable weight, though the pub lunches were usually fairly high in calories.
At that time, too, Julian and I were ‘standing’ at various antique fairs around the country. Many week-ends would find us travelling in Julian’s van – or even a larger hired van – to such places as the NEC, Newark, or as far as Lancashire. We stayed in bed-and-breakfasts or cheapish hotels but rarely covered our expenses with sales – we were, though, always optimistic! During those years I was Julian’s helper when we needed to carry Georgian secrétaire bookcases or Victorian chests-of-drawers. I must have used quite a few calories and blame all that carrying for my later knee problems!
In 2014, after I had my knees replaced, I decided that I had to lose weight and got down to around 10 stone but it wasn’t too long before my weight shot back up! I have always known that eating what I love wasn’t good for keeping the weight off but couldn’t seem to help myself….if there was a choice of puddings at Angela’s Christmas dinner, I would have the one I preferred first, then try some of the others. If there was a packet of biscuits (cookies), I would have a couple. If I made pasta, I would have a good big helping and sprinkle the lot with cheese.
In April of 2019 I decided to try again. I was over 13.5 stone – my heaviest ever – so joined online Weight Watchers and was very ‘good’. From then until Christmas that year I lost about 3 stone and was very pleased with myself. That Christmas we were joined by my sister, Jennie, and Veronica and her husband plus a couple of friends for dinner.
Jennie now realises that she wasn’t feeling very well but didn’t say anything. She couldn’t really taste the food she was helping to cook, but carried on, as there were so many of us. On Boxing Day she felt worse and spent the day lazing about but not letting on she wasn’t well. On the next day, she somehow drove back to London as planned and went to bed for a day or two.
Meanwhile, in Broadstairs, I started coughing – a dry cough, at first without any other symptoms , which stayed with me for about four weeks – and incredible fatigue. Every other day or so I would wake up and think I was feeling much better, then would begin to feel bad again.
In the February, news was coming from China, of a really horrible ‘flu, and it sounded like Jennie and I had had mild cases of ‘covid 19’. By the time antibody tests were available at a fairly low price, six or so months had gone by and my self-administered test was negative so I don’t suppose we’ll ever know if it was covid-19 or something very similar.
All this time, I was eating normally again and had joined the millions of others, adding a ‘covid-stone’. So, April 2021, I resumed my weight loss journey, yet again. Now it is nearly November and I’ve lost the covid-stone plus a little. I seem to have reached a plateau and for weeks my weight has hovered around 10 stone 6.5 lbs.
That’s not the weight I was aiming for but it means that I can wear loads of clothes I hadn’t been able to squeeze into and that makes me quite pleased! I am not dieting but am being ever so careful. If one day I eat more than I should, the next day I eat less. I plan to start the dieting again but am enjoying the occasional bowl of ice cream or slice of pizza.
But – here’s the thing about losing weight at my age. Ten or fifteen years ago, I was lucky that my skin was still quite ‘elastic’ and my muscles didn’t make my skin sag, now I’ve got saggy everything – bosoms, tummy, arms, legs – even my face has started to sag a bit but I find that if I smile 😊, most of the face-sag goes away. So if you see me walking down the street smiling, you know why! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
I think of myself as a ‘risk averse’ old lady. I don’t like travelling in cars, planes, buses, trains – and certainly not on the back of a motorbike or scooter, with or without a helmet. Maybe it’s because my mother, Patty, was ‘a nervous wreck’ most of her life and passed it on to me. Certainly in my youth she tried, not always successfully, to keep her daughters from doing something that could possibly backfire and harm them.
Now, I will admit to riding on the back of a motor scooter in the late 50’s or early 60’s without a helmet (it was legal then), even when the weather was poor and the roads slippery. When it looked like I might be riding bare-headed more often, I did buy a helmet but it was second-hand and who knows how effective it would have been if we had ever had an accident? My scooter-driving friend, Dennis – a photographer – was a reasonably careful driver, I guess, and we never had the opportunity to find out about the efficacy of my second-hand helmet. The last I remember of seeing and talking to Dennis, he had his heart’s desire – a little, old Morgan car – and was in the process of photographing a car collection belonging to some Lord or other. I sometimes wonder what ever happened to him.
Back to Patty for a moment. When Judy and I were 5 and 3 (I’m the older), we both had bikes which we used to ride on the sidewalk up and down Sunset Avenue where we lived and, daringly, around the corner into what I seem to remember is called Maple Avenue – where, incidentally, my first grade teacher, Miss Meyers, lived. But, I was still only in Kindergarten when the following happened and I don’t want to get ahead of myself!
Judy was riding her bike. She went off down the street and around the corner – and out into the main road (Maple Avenue) traffic. Someone snitched to Patty. Judy had her bike taken away and so did I! They were taken away for ever and we were never allowed bikes again. I obviously still hold a grudge! I didn’t go in the road and nearly get hit by a truck!
(Years later we found our uncle’s bike in Ethel’s cellar and rode it around the neighbourhood when Patty wasn’t looking. And, even later on, I used to visit my friend, Judy Weed, and she and I would take turns riding her bike down a hill. It was great fun until, one time, the handle bars suddenly came loose and I lost control, ruining my brand new pair of stripey pedal-pushers.😩)
Elsewhere I have written about the (to me) horrific flight we made to England in 1958 – the cause of my non-flying-forever-after-life. Except, feeling exceedingly guilty that Julian could never go on holiday abroad because I wouldn’t fly, one day in the late days of the 20th century, I suddenly said, if you want to go to Italy for a holiday, I will fly!
We decided the destination would be Florence and booked two return flights via Ryan Air to Florence. We drove to Stansted and did all the things one does before getting on a (quite small) plane. I am not a believer but I prayed the whole way there clutching my St Christopher medal!
We had a lovely time in Florence, stood in queues for hours to visit the Uffizi, walked across the famous Ponte Vecchio, looking at all the (enormously expensive!) wares in the shops, spent a day in the Boboli Gardens, behind the Pitti Palace, enjoying the views; went to gorgeous Sienna and sat in the Piazza del Campo; and spent our last day in Pisa, where the airport is. Somewhere I have a photo of Julian holding up the Leaning Tower (just like every other tourist who visits Pisa.)
We ended our stay in Italy at the airport which is also the train station. Though we had survived the flight to Italy, I wasn’t so sure about the return journey, especially when I found out that there are trains going from Pisa that I could take towards home! I had my credit card and was very tempted but……thwarted by the fact that the trains that day were all on strike! The only thing that made that flight interesting is that a relatively unknown British politician, of whom I had actually heard, called Boris Johnson, was on the same flight. I figured that we would be unlikely to crash with someone important on board —- then thought of all the famous people who had gone down with airplanes!
I prayed all the way back!
The first time I saw Julian, he was onstage in an amateur production by the West Wickham Operatic Society of, I think, La Périchole by Offenbach at the Churchill Theatre. A friend was playing violin in the orchestra and gave me some tickets to see it, so I drove Veronica and her best Vicki to Bromley to see it. In the chorus was a young Julian – whom I would love to say I saw and fell head-over-heels in love with, but sadly I didn’t notice him at all!
I tell you this because I hated the drive (possibly 20 minutes) because it was on the motorway and it was in the dark. I have never got over my dislike of motorways – the cars around you are going too fast – nor of driving in the dark.
On the way back, as we approached the turn-off for West Malling, I was trying to remember the rules about the countdown markers posting the way off the motorway. I remembered that there should be signs of three slanted lines, then two, then one…..but I couldn’t remember how much space came after the one slanted line before I should move left….and went to my left too soon! Nothing bad happened to us, no one saw me and reported my mistake, but, obviously, I’ve never forgotten it!
A few days or weeks later, Julian walked in to the wine bar (as mentioned in a previous post) and I knew he was Mr Right (and he felt the same about me – except that I was Miss Right.) His aunt, Jackie, was the chef at that time and, when I found out who Julian was and that she was his aunt, I went into the kitchen to do some snooping. When she said he lived in Bromley, I was worried! How was I going to see him if he lived so far (20 mins up motorway!) but she assured me that Julian loved driving and would be happy to drive to West Malling whenever we wanted to meet.
It was true – and he still loves driving. I, on the other hand, have happily given up driving and intensely dislike going even a short distance in the car – even as a passenger, though I do have to get places from time to time and then will sit nervously in the passenger seat. This year I have missed out on a trip to Norfolk, one to Cornwall and a third to north Wales but I don’t mind. If Julian’s away, I don’t have to cook – I happily make do with salads, bowls of porridge, or eggs on toast.
And now for trains. As with all other means of mass transport, sometimes I get very nervous when I’m travelling on a train. I can clearly remember a train I was on one evening which was going from Victoria to West Malling. As the train was zooming along between Bromley and Swanley, it seemed to me to be going much more quickly than normal and I started worrying that the train, somehow, was not being driven but was ‘a runaway’! When it stopped at Swanley some few minutes after I began to panic, I decided to get off the train and phone Julian to come and get me.
I walked out of the station, along the station road, found my way onto the main street but not one phone box did I find! (This was in the days before many people had mobile phones – and I certainly didn’t). I walked further and further and finally found a phone box. I rang Julian who, thankfully was at home, and explained my predicament. I don’t think he was at all sympathetic and by this time it was beginning to get dark and cold and I was beginning to realise what a ninny I had been. Luckily, Julian does like driving so he came and picked me up and I was so pleased!
I have often felt this panic when travelling on a train but seldom when on a coach – but, a few years ago I took a coach from Broadstairs to London and sat behind the driver. (Why there? I had forgotten my glasses and hoped that Julian could catch up with the coach so he could give me them when we stopped, but that didn’t work – so I bought some when I got to London).
Anyway. As we were speeding along the road I couldn’t sit and read so I looked out the window at the side and ahead, out of the windscreen. I realised that the driver wasn’t actually watching the road the whole time but was looking down and to the right….I think he was reading texts or maybe watching something on a screen – or maybe neither of those things but he had some sort of tic that made him do that. Whatever, I was doing the old praying thing for an hour or so before we reached some part of London where the traffic kept us going at a snail’s pace.
To continue with this aversion to risk I will name a few more things I haven’t done, knowing how nervous I would be.
I was invited to fly in a hot-air balloon – no way!
I was invited on an all expenses trip to Las Vegas when my daughter and her husband went back to celebrate their first 10 happy years. Nope!
And, more recently, I missed out on the trip to Brands Hatch to watch Julian speed round the track which was a present to him for his 70th. I just couldn’t face the journey there and back plus the worry of watching speed-demon Jules in a fast car!
On the other hand, even in my 70’s I have travelled long distance on trains and have driven back and forth to places 50 or so miles away (but never on motorways). When I was still in my youth, Julian used to insist on driving us to places like Northumberland and Cornwall for holidays and I did visit several caves (Wookey Hole, Blue John) without fainting at the thought of tonnes of earth and rock being overhead!
But, of course, I have been a smoker (but not for the past 40 or so years), a drinker (but surprisingly for members of my family, very moderately) and an eater of red meat and butter, cream, sugar, salt white bread and e-numbers and have reached a rather healthy 78, with most of my own teeth, no high blood pressure and at a reasonable weight.
I must have been doing something right! (Or maybe it’s just luck.😁)