As you see me

IMG_0312Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly discovery challenge – this week’s theme ‘Portrait’.

Ok, I’ll fess up… I didn’t take the portrait, but I did take the picture of the portrait, if you see what I mean!

When my daughter told me that she’d received an old polaroid camera for her birthday, I was quite jealous. Enchanted by the idea of ‘instant pictures’ I remember badly wanting one when I was younger. Of course, that was way, way, before the digital camera age and now photographs are ten a penny and disposable so  I was surprised at how excited she was.

The film thingy’s are very expensive, and she was still getting used to the camera, and she warned me that the results were not so much ‘sharp’ as ‘interesting’ but in fact I love this shot.

I love the fact that, although you get the gist that its me, my features are blurred, and that she’s captured my expression of thoughtful bemusement at the world exactly how I would like it to be captured.  To put it bluntly – how I want other’s to see me.

The thought has been growing in my mind ever since it was taken.

I’ve always had problems trying to find a ‘suitable’ profile picture which encapsulates my overall demeanor without showing me baring my wonky teeth in an insane grin, or wrinkling up my eyes, or losing my real chin amongst the others.  Problem is, in my head I am still youthful, slim, and lovely so it’s always a bit of a shock to see the reality captured in a snap.

I have the same problem at the yoga studio, the one where there is mirrors.

‘oh blimey, who is that baggy old biddy who looks like a squishy sack of potatoes?’

‘oh poop, it’s me.’

I guess a lot of people of my age feel the same, and really, I’m fit and healthy so I shouldn’t worry about what I look like, right?

It sounds like a cliché, but speaking to my friends I gather I’m not alone in still feeling young on the inside whilst my body tells the bitter truth in photographs. It’s depressing.

So from now on I’m steering clear of the lens and you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m a happy soul who moves my sylph like body with the grace of an angel and whose face is as blemish, and wrinkle free as an Egyptian sheet in a five star hotel. 😉

 

 

 

The Fast Life

Writing 101, day 10. ‘Let the scene write itself’.

40 mph 2When I was forty we moved ‘up North’.  The year flashed by in a flurry of finding homes and schools, and settling in and seeking friends. A comfortable and smooth suburban road, my fortieth year was fleeting. But on reflection… Forty was slow.

In my fiftieth year I celebrated a half century of living.  Working full time, the decade hurtled along. Motherly fussing over A level angst, and woefully watching my girls turn to women overnight. And then they left.  My nest was empty. I studied and worried and filled that gaping gap with grief. My fiftieth decade passed so quickly on that bumpy B road.  But on reflection…. Fifty too was slow.

Now, it’s over sixty years since my birth. I grasp life, clinging to my youth with white knuckle fear of declining body and mind. Years roll by as fast as miles on a motorway.  Long stretches of similarity so often give way to curves and corners in my world. I expect the unexpected – a sudden ‘slow down’ or ‘obstruction in the road’. I’m flying along in the fast lane.

But what of seventy? Dare I look beyond? Do I inevitably set out, slow moving, on curling country lanes? A pedestrian? Or perhaps fork out for a Ferrari, put the pedal to the metal, and speed away?

Doll

Writing 101 day 4 – Using a picture for inspirationphoto-1430747562296-5556d17a15a5 (2)

We used to rock and roll
Her dyed black, tied back hair swinging
as we jived through young life
Swerving around corners
eating up the straights
on silver machines
that throbbed and roared
as we sat carelessly astride

Together we played at grown-ups
We nestled and snuggled
our restless souls settled
our bikes rusted in the backyard
where herbs and flowers grew
encouraged by her tender hands

Then her belly swelled
I watched her move to the
dance of motherhood
her face, lit by a thousand smiles
glowed in soft focus
while babies suckled
then grew strong beside her

Bereft she cried in my arms
as we watched them go
Reflections of our younger selves
Caught in the moment
I saw her face, it’s soft valleys
and newly formed crevasses
denoting worry and wisdom

Those last few months when
floury fingers baked biscuits
and dusted memories on the mantel
When her tied back hair was grey
and her frowns replaced the smiles
adventures curtailed
she waited

And the call came

As I sit in this echoey place
Where the candles flicker
And memories are shadows
Where I carried her like a doll
Boxed
With her silver hair loose and free
I remember
We used to rock and roll

Little irritations

I’ve been writing a list of things I hate, which indicates what kind of mood I’m in today!   Now hate is a strong ‘ol word.  I truly hate injustice and poverty.  I truly hate smoking too (just don’t get me started..) so this is really a list of things that just plain irritate me.  Things that should be banned immediately as far as I’m concerned.  I’m sure you all have lists too, though probably not the same.  I wonder if there are things that are universally cringe worthy.

In no particular order, these are ten things that I really, no really, don’t like at all…..

  1. Public consumption of pies – Look, just sit in a corner and stuff your face if you really have to, don’t walk along the street talking and spitting crumbs everywhere.
  2.  Impersonators – Sorry, I know I’m probably in the minority here, but it seems to me that making other people sound stupid is not clever nor funny.
  3.  Spiders – Fine when they’re in their own domain, but just stop coming into my house would you.
  4. Spray tans/false eyelashes/too much make up/drawn on caterpillar eyebrows – Usually young women and girls. You don’t need all that.  Be beautiful in your own skin you nincompoops.
  5. Dog walkers who assume your dog is ok just cos theirs is – My dog doesn’t like to be approached by other dogs. She can’t help it, she’s had a few dodgy encounters.  I keep her under control (well, fairly) on her lead when I see you coming.  Take that as a sign why don’t you?
  6. The black mould in the shower – Where does it come from? Why won’t it go? Need I say more?
  7. Water in the bottom of the fridge – Why?? How??
  8. Topless men in shops – And none of them are buff are they? All big fat bloaters.
  9. Swearing as part of a sentence – Totally, totally unnecessary. Learn to be eloquent. A well expressed turn of phrase is worth ten profanities!
  10. Teeth/body design faults – Who doesn’t have problems with their teeth from time to time? Where should we put our arms when we’re laying on our sides? Colds… what’s with the colds??

It’s not a comprehensive list, just a starter (to be honest, I had trouble keeping it to ten things – I am officially a grumpy old woman), please feel free to let me know your own gripes and grumbles!

To Gym or not to Gym

You may remember that for several months I followed the 5:2 diet. It worked for me.  Losing over a stone (over 6 kg) I felt better about myself, had more energy, clearer skin, smaller waist. It wasn’t only the diet of course, I was walking three or four miles at a time and swimming regularly. Without so many bulges to manoeuver, my yoga practice improved no end. I slept better, and apparently my snoring stopped (I still dispute this – I don’t snore, I just breath a bit heavily). I flounced about with more confidence. It was great.

Until we went on holiday.

Oh yes, the bikini came out.  I know bikini’s on a sixty odd year old woman is unseemly, but believe me, this sixty something rocked it. No bingo wings to worry about when wearing skimpy cotton summer frocks. Swanning about in sarongs. Eating.

Oh yeah, the eating. We were in India. I love Indian food. What can I say?

It wouldn’t have been so bad, if we hadn’t spent the time we weren’t eating lying about in the sun, relaxing, chillin’, exerting no energy whatsoever. At all.  Consequently the pounds piled on.

Of course, when we got home my tubbier tanned body wasn’t up to doing much exercise.  I found excuses.  I couldn’t do so much walking because I’ve been suffering with plantar faciitis (still am, but getting better with the help of steroid injections), I’d got fed up with the weekly battle for parking, and the grim facilities of the local leisure centre – not quite the same as the infinity pool in Kerala. Even yoga got to be a bit more of an effort.

Then it was the food fest of Christmas.

Things have been going downhill ever since. I’ve put the weight back on. Energy levels are low to non-existent.  I’m not sleeping so well. The baggy belly is back.

So…. I’m tentatively back on the 5:2, but I still can’t walk the long distances I could, and I still don’t care for swimming at the leisure centre. So I’ve been considering joining the local gym.

There are one or two problems with this option though.

  • It costs money – lots of money
  • Other people, fit people, will be there
  • It takes a biggish time commitment to be worth joining
  • You have to commit for a whole year, yes, a WHOLE YEAR, and pay up front

I used to belong to a gym, when the kids were at school. It didn’t have a pool, but I’d go and use the equipment a couple of times a week, doing less and less on the murderous machines that I didn’t like, and more and more on the things you can sit down on.  I actually quite enjoyed it, but at the time I didn’t need to lose weight, I was more focussed on toning up a bit (this was before my yoga days).

The gym I’m thinking of now, is swish, like, really swish. It has a beautiful pool, sauna, steam rooms, Jacuzzi, fitness suites, lots of classes…oh and a café so that you can have a nice hot chocolate with marshmallows after your workout. It is so very tempting…

But…

Whilst a big chunk of me wants to join, believing it is my key to becoming svelte and energetic again, there is a growing niggle that I shouldn’t need to join a gym to keep fit.  I should be able to run about in the fresh air, garden more, yoga more, dance more…eat less.  This little voice keeps telling me that I am very privileged to be able to afford to eat more than I need to keep me going each day. I should be thankful that I am healthy if chubby, rather than skinny and sickly, and that I can afford to even contemplate joining an exorbitantly overpriced gym full of narcissists.  It is whispering that I should be content with who I am, be less vain, embrace old age with it’s niggly aches and pains and penchant for daytime naps.  Enjoy the fact that a bit of padding fills out the wrinkles. After all, I’m not actually overweight for my build, by BMI standards, I am apparently at a healthy weight for my height and age.

So I am torn. I know I would feel better about myself if I was fitter, slimmer, but I’m not sure I can do it on my own, or even whether I should want to.

Oh, but how I would love to wallow in that fancy Jacuzzi a couple of times a week… oops, sorry, I mean swim, and run, and lift, and stretch, and…

ooh now I’ve thought about it, I need a hot chocolate and a lay down!

Keeping memories

Mum 20sWe moved my mum into her new sheltered accommodation last week.  It is a lovely modern studio flat, where she has her own kitchen and bathroom and a key to her own front door.  It is so much nicer than her long, dark, narrow, crabby old flat which she had been living in for the last 40 odd years.

The trouble with living somewhere for so long, is that, without even realising it, you accumulate lots of ‘stuff’. Ornaments, and tacky souvenirs that family members have brought back from holidays; photographs in broken frames; pictures; lots of tapestries that mum had done herself years ago; CDs and cassettes;  very old records; programmes from long-seen shows; and many, many, years worth of birthday cards (‘I can’t throw them away, they’re too nice’).  Of course, moving into a smaller flat meant that she couldn’t take much with her, not even all her furniture, and it’s been down to my sister and I to encourage, co-erce, and downright nag her into leaving much of it behind. Sadly, what seems to us to be old tat, was to her much-loved possessions that were proof of a full and long-lived life.

When I look around my own home, I can see that a lot of the things that I hold dear would, quite likely, seem like ‘old tat’ to others. But every piece has a memory attached.  Who bought it, why and when.  When I dust I caress each piece like a long lost friend, and every plant is loved and nurtured like a child.

Sitting here, I can look up and see photos of my children, a vase bought for me by my husband for one of our anniversaries, a moving fish that my daughter made in woodwork class years and years ago, the remains of a hookah pipe bought on our honeymoon in Turkey nearly 30 years ago, a slate rabbit from a mine in Wales, and a small wooden Buddha bought on our first trip to India. Now they nestle alongside some brass candlesticks rescued from my mum’s old flat.

I didn’t rescue much, just the candlesticks (which I remember sitting on the mantelpiece back when I was growing up), a couple of ornamental plates that we bought for her on trips to Turkey and Greece, a small wooden elephant, and some finger cymbals that I found in a box and had no idea she had. Heaven only knows where she got them, or why – perhaps a relic of a belly dancing phase of her life that none of us knew about?  Hehee..I’d like to think so!

Nan and Lil

My nan, mums friend, Mary, and my aunt Lil enjoying the sea

The only other thing that I took was an enormous suitcase full of old photographs.  There are lots of odd weddings with bride and grooms that I barely recognise, many of them now long dead. There are pictures of my grandmother as a young woman sitting alongside her mum who I never knew, or paddling in the sea in 1951 with her sister and a friend, all of them clutching their skirts above their knees to stop them getting wet.  Of course, there are also lots of pictures of my mum.

She’s there as a child with a big doll, and another very formal shot where she’s posing in a Mum dancingballet position aged about nine.  She’s there looking cheeky with her boyish brothers, and again as a young woman in a smart dark skirt and white blouse, smiling brightly, and it makes me wonder what the occasion was, maybe she was starting a new job?

She is there as a bride, marrying my father, with evidently, and mercifully, no clue as to the bitterness he would eventually bring her.  There are pictures of her at office parties, and on holidays with people I don’t recognise. All these pictures together add up as a testament to her life as a beautiful and vibrant woman.

Now, at 92, she retains her beauty, but some of that vibrancy is lost.  Old age is a dreadful thing, and something we all face, its limitations are both bewildering and frustrating, and ill health and aching joints can make you irritable.  When we meet older people who are suffering these difficulties, it’s easy to forget that they have led these amazing full lives, had jobs, children, experiences, hobbies, interests, just like we are having now.

If like my mum, you have to give up the home that you have created over the years, albeit no longer suitable, or desirable, or that others may be less than impressed with, it is a wrench.  A big wrench. And whilst it’s lovely to see her settling into her clean and tidy new home, and enjoying the company, we mustn’t forget that.

Unfortunately, once we had taken what she needed we had to have the flat cleared. The house clearance chappy told us it would all just go to the dump – the furniture; cookware; washing machine; ornaments; records……and all the other bits and pieces – just disposed of without ceremony. ‘No-one wants this sort of stuff now, you can’t give it away’ he told us, and I’m sure he’s right.  Still seems criminal though.

After this experience, I’ve promised myself I’ll reassess my own home.  Clear out all the stuff that I’ve collected in cupboards and kept in the loft. I don’t want my children to have to face clearing it out and having to live with the guilt of throwing away all those memories, no matter how sentimental and tatty they think they are.

New Horizons

In response to this weeks photo challenge ‘New’.

DSC_0386

This is a photo of my beautiful mum that I took a couple of days ago, over the Christmas break. Ok, she’s not exactly ‘New’, in fact, (I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you), she’s in her 90’s.  However, she is off on a new adventure.

She’s lived in the same town all of her life, and been in the same flat for about 40 years. She’s been happy and comfortable there, but now she has come round to the idea that it might be nice to have a bit more support and company, and we’re in the process of helping her find some sheltered accommodation.  Somewhere that she can still be fairly independent, and have her own front door, but where she can have a little bit more help when she needs it.  Also, somewhere a bit closer to family – she will still be a couple of hundred miles away from me, but nearer my sister and her family, so for the first time in her life, it’ll be a move away from her home town.   She’s both excited and a bit nervous – as you should be with all new adventures in my opinion! It’s a big leap of faith and we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it’s a good one.

Of course, she’s only willing to go if they have broadband so she can still use her ipad!

I’m very proud of her for facing change so stoically. I hope I never get too old for new challenges either!