Bits of this and that

I spent most of the morning at the gym with friends. Three of us had opted out of the circuit and were there just for the coffee and chat.  I confess that this is always the temptation though, for the most part, we do participate in the exercise, but today we all had our reasons for not doing so – a possibly broken toe for one friend, bad back and strapped-up wrist for another, and stitches from minor surgery in my own case. I was disturbed to find that we have turned into the kind of older ladies who discuss our ailments;  is there any surer sign of ageing? At least we recognised the fact and actively sought to change the subject!

Following a cold start to the morning it is now warm and sunny and as I sit and type I find myself wishing that my garden benefited from the same kind of avian activity as did our holiday cottage. You would not believe the number and variety of birds in that garden. There were frequently six or eight small birds (robins, finches, tits and tree sparrows – until I looked it up in the bird book, I didn’t know that there was such a bird as distinct from an ordinary sparrow) around the feeders and this beautiful Great spotted woodpecker visited early every morning and several times throughout the day. I have never seen one at such close quarters. Quite possibly that sentence should have ended at ‘never seen one’ because I’m not at all certain that I have.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I suppose with Backbarrow, our holiday village, being a much more rural area than home it is inevitable that there will be more to see but we live in hope, much as we have done for years with the nest box camera. You can read about it here:  A not-so-desirable residence .  The experience has prompted us to buy yet another bird feeder, this time to be fixed to the wall next to the kitchen window. As this is on the front of the house, we’re not sure of its suitability but time will tell. I’d love a woodpecker visitor.

On Monday evening I went to Slimming World and found that I had gained 2.5lb on holiday. It was fully expected and deserved but I get very fed up of the fact that I have no watch what I eat so carefully, but I suppose that’s the case for many of us. I got straight back onto plan and am hopeful that next Monday’s weigh-in will show an equivalent loss.  Right at this moment I have a ‘cooking urge’. Despite that urge leaning towards lemon drizzle cake, I really don’t want to make a cake – we still have half the rhubarb and ginger one from Sunday and there is an apple one in the freezer. I shall concentrate on something savory. One of my daughters-in-law has recently become vegan. I’ve been used to providing vegetarian meals for some years but now have to rethink. I’m going to have a trawl around the recipe blogs and see what I can find. All suggestions welcome.

I had the spookiest experience a couple of weeks ago and meant to write about it but forgot to. A Facebook friend, someone I have known since junior school and have seen occasionally through the years as our paths have crossed, had posted a photograph of her wedding twenty six years ago.  As I glanced at the picture, I was totally thrown by what I saw. I should say WHO I saw, for there in the corner of the picture, standing in the choir stalls, was my mother who died sixteen years ago. I knew, of course, that she was in the choir but I had not known that she had sung at this wedding and, not for one moment, had I expected to see her smiling out from a Facebook page! I’m not sure why but it really unsettled me all evening .

So, apart from the cooking, what’s planned for the rest of the day? I have a couple of drawers to tidy out and I must email a friend to suggest a few dates for lunch . Then I’ll make some ‘new home’ and ‘sympathy’ cards. I sell handmade cards through the gym (for charity) and I noticed this morning these sections are almost empty. I also have a couple of small bits of sewing to do (not my favourite job but needs must) and finally, I want to read this months Slimming Magazine so shall sit down later with a cup of coffee and NO slice of cake (silently chanting my current mantra of two and half pounds, two and a half pounds…).

I enjoy a day like this – nothing out of the ordinary, just spending time chatting to friends and ‘pottering’ at home.  Husband is pottering in the garden – i.e. fixing the new bird feeder to the wall. No work today which makes it extra nice!

I hope you’re having a good day too.

Being sixty, not feeling sixty

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A lady who has read my last few posts sent me a message saying that, whilst she was enjoying reading them, she was disappointed because she thought the blog was about being sixty.   I replied that it is about being sixty and referred her to my very first post (click here to read  What’s in a name?) and said that I hoped that would explain, and I asked her to give me some idea of what she wanted; perhaps I could oblige.

Turns out that she was expecting to read how to stay healthy, what make up and clothes to wear, how to cope with ‘being older’. The latter has me completely flummoxed because although I understand the concept of ageing, of course,  I don’t actually feel older, or even old-ish . We communicated for a little longer and I ended up saying that whilst I am no expert on any of these things,  I’m up for a challenge so I’ll give it a go.

So………

How to stay fit: do whatever is reasonable given your own circumstances. For me this means going to the gym regularly (for more about this click – The gym for women who don’t do gyms ). If the very thought strikes horror into you, then you need to find something that suits you, perhaps walking. This would not suit me because I wouldn’t be disciplined enough to do it often enough. We live in an urban area with a couple of nice parks but I’m pretty fed up with those and to go anywhere else involves quite a drive out. I work three afternoons a week (plus Saturday all day) so that’s not terribly practical because we’d have to rush back.  The key thing with regard to fitness is not to do nothing. I’m sure it really is a case of use it or lose it.  A little aside here – advice given by a paramedic who has been called many times to an elderly person who has fallen. Practice getting up off the floor. Lie down and get up again every day. It might just save your life.

How to stay healthy: stay fit…see above! Also, I think that healthy eating is really important. By this, I don’t mean that we should be obsessive about it, but should follow general healthy eating guidelines. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, good quality protein, fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates and  limit refined sugars.  If wanting to reduce weight, follow a nutritionally sound plan such as Slimming World and not some faddy, unsustainable programme.  Really, I’m not best placed to comment on this one since, although I am an SW member, I’m not the greatest at doing it properly! I do, however, eat healthily most of the time and I guess that’s the best advice I can offer.

How to do the best for mental health: barring illnesses over which we have little or no control, I do believe that it is important to keep stretching the mind. How individuals do this will vary tremendously – for me, it is mainly writing and doing research for my book. I read the newspaper daily (though I confess to the ‘reading’ being more of a speed-scan at times) and keep up with what’s going on in the world.  I do a (very) little academic proof reading/editing  and this is something I really enjoy and would like to expand. Finally, spending time with friends and ‘putting the world to rights’ is also to be recommended! Crosswords don’t really do it for me but they are great at making you think – my husband is brilliant at the cryptic variety.

Clothes, skincare and make up: Do what suits you and wear what you like wearing regardless of age (within reason). If you’re not sure what suits you then invest in getting your ‘colours’ done (e.g. Colour me Beautiful), or for a cheaper option, ask your friends to be honest!  Larger stores often offer a ‘personal shopper’ service which will encourage you to step out of your clothing comfort zone –  useful if you want to reinvent yourself! The big brand beauty counters often offer free make up lessons and offer the chance to try new colours and make-up trends without costly mistakes. Not much advice there – I did say that I’m no expert!  Both skin and hair have a tendency to get drier largely as a result of hormonal changes, so moisturise, moisturise, moisturise! I always seek out products that are paraben and sulphate-free. Deodorant is also aluminium-free. Shampoo and Conditioner are from the Healthy Hair range and skincare is mainly Weleda or Dr.Organic. Bath products come mainly from The Green People, Dr.Organic or Faith in Nature. For make up I use Benecos or Bare Minerals. Not everyone agrees that it is necessary to cut out these various additives but I’ve read enough about them to make this my decision.

Finally, don’t dismiss ‘young’ things such as attitudes and opinions, clothes or music simply because they are the preferences of young people. Much may not be to your taste but just because it’s different doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or no good. Embrace them as a new challenge and don’t allow yourself to become entrenched only in older persons’ ideas. On the day my mother retired, it was as if a switch flicked, and she became an old lady in her attitude to life.  If asked how she was, her voice changed noticeably as she said wearily, “Well, I’m alright…”, inviting the enquirer to sympathetically ask more. I REFUSE to be like that!

And that’s about it – so no great revelations or new ideas on how to live life at sixty (or older). I have no idea how I could write a blog centered only around this; I’ve already exhausted the subject in this one post! I shall continue to run it as I have been doing – a mish-mash of all sorts.

I will just say here that I did ask the correspondent if it was alright to repeat our exchange and she said it was but she asked me not to post her comment, and I haven’t. Comments are not posted onto the blog automatically but are first made available for me for approval or rejection.

Whilst on the subject, I just want to take this opportunity to reassure readers (and I’m delighted to say that, according to the stats page on WordPress, I am receiving an average of 26 per day from both the UK and other countries) that unless you want to give me your real name, then I have no idea who is making comments on my blog. You can make up a name (as I did when I started responding to other people’s blogs – that’s why I’m Eloise).  You are asked for an email address (this needs to be real but it is not shown to me, nor shown on the comment, nor monitored by WordPress ). Apparently the reason you are asked for it is to reduce incidences of trolling. So feel free to make a comment. You can agree, disagree or make a completely different point altogether. I get into some interesting ‘conversations’ on some of the blogs I log into regularly.

If you are wondering at the relevance of the photo of the single lily at the top of this post – there is none! It’s just a picture I took in my garden a couple of years ago. I’m hopeful of a few more blooms this year.

Time waits for no-one

Mirth

I looked in the mirror this morning, thought ‘oh dear’, took out my make-up bag and once again began the process necessary to face the day.  But why do I feel this necessity? There are cultures which celebrate ageing, that place value on the experience that an older face presents, but not this one. Faces  age –it’s a fact of life over which we have no control; it happens to us all and no matter how much we try to hold back the ravages, time will eventually win.  Nevertheless, in their advertising, skincare manufacturers persistently reinforce the western ideology that the process of skin ageing is socially unacceptable. They insidiously try to manipulate us, by using deceptive language and subliminal persuasion, into believing that the physical signs of getting older are shameful – somehow our own fault, and can be reversed by using their overpriced offerings.

Research has shown that despite being aware that media images of women are invariably air-brushed, we still considered those images as something to which we should aspire.  Celebrity endorsement is routinely applied to beauty product advertising and unrealistic images of older celebrities further embed the cultural notion that ageing is a deficiency rather than a natural occurrence.   Yesterday I picked up a selection of  women’s magazines at the gym. A quick look through them demonstrates all too clearly  just what big business this is. Skincare advertisements are designed to appeal to women’s emotions with the underlying message that allowing the signs of ageing to go unchecked equates to a lack of self-worth.

Take  Origins Plantscription; the advert goes so far as to state that skin ageing is ‘nasty’, and bestows upon those who recognise this, a specific term, anti-agers, implying that users are part of an elite camaraderie against the ‘enemy’. The name also suggests a powerful combination of science and nature in the misleadingly named product which has health improving connotations sounding similar to ‘prescription’ . The chosen image of a medicine dropper is presumably intended to lend weight to this.

Clinique attaches blame for ageing skin to women themselves by referring to her late nights and assorted indiscretions. Vichy takes a similar line citing the woman’s Busy lifestyle as the cause of her deteriorating appearance but promises that by using their product, ‘Your skin will forgive you.’   Several advertisers describe the benefits of their products as ‘clinically proven’ which is intended to promote confidence. However, none offer enlightenment as to by what process anything has been proven. ‘Scientists’ at No. 7 are mentioned, but only in a comment by an unidentified ‘Stylist’ and the company disassociates itself from the comment by including it in a testimony, rather than making it their own assertion, thus apparently absolving it of responsibility for the claim.

Organic ingredients and nature feature in the form of plants and plant oils – no less than twenty in Clarins Double Serum, though the company fails to mention which plants. Other products cite specific plants: harungana extract  and Montpellier rock-rose. Implicit in the mention of uncommon ingredients is the suggestion that their unusualness makes them somehow ‘special’.  Few people surely know to what LR2412 (Vichy Liftactive) refers, or the origin of the ‘hydric and lipidic system’ (Clarins).  In fact, a Google search provides little enlightenment of either, other than in relation to those products.

One might imagine from my rant that I refuse to buy into this dogma, but I’m up there fighting nature along with most other women. Whether this is because I have been brainwashed into believing that it is my responsibility to look the best I can by allowing myself to be seduced by false promise, I have no idea. The question is this: Is it women’s fear of ageing which demands the products or does advertising spawn the fear in the first place?

What’s in a name?

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Well, here it is … the first post on my new blog, This is Sixty.

I pondered for some while over the name. Ensure that your blog name tells people what you are about I was advised, but did I really need that? My aim wasn’t to attract scores of followers or related advertisements (indeed, I paid for an upgrade in order to avoid exactly that).   The fundamental reason for setting it up was as a hobby, a vehicle for my writing, which might cover all manner of subjects….what I like, what I think, what I feel, what I do. I might even post the odd bit of flash fiction, a poem, a recipe. It’s MY blog after all. Self indulgent perhaps, but I wanted a name that captured the essence of ME.  So I pondered for longer…..and then longer still.  I considered, rejected, decided, changed my mind and despaired.  How could it be so difficult?  Then one evening I received a mail from an old school friend inviting me to her 60th birthday party and the train of thought that this set off provided the solution.

I am very fortunate in having a large circle of friends and acquaintances, some older, a few younger, and several whom, during 2016/7 would, like me, celebrate their sixtieth birthdays. I was the first.  Sixty! I could barely believe it then and it still sometimes brings me up short several months on. How on earth did that happen? Where have all those years gone?
“So what’s it like being sixty, then?” a younger friend had asked me shortly after my birthday celebrations.

Well, sixty is certainly different from what it used to be. My earliest memories of my grandmother, Kitty, date from when she would have been only fifty seven or eight. Even then she was an old lady. Her mode of dress at home was, almost without exception, a wrap-around pinafore or pink nylon overall, designed to protect (let’s not mince words here) her decidedly old-lady clothes. She wore flat brown lace-ups, sometimes with ankle socks and I never once saw her in the heels. I’m sure she’d have thought them totally inappropriate for someone her age. I don’t recall ever seeing her wear makeup, not even a smear of lipstick.  Her social life certainly didn’t involve meeting up with girlfriends for a pub lunch (perish the thought) or a spa day.

Sixty in the 1960s was considered pretty old – not ‘the new 40’ or ‘the new 50’ as it is variously described today, not middle-aged (it still isn’t technically speaking, but if we take middle-aged to mean the middle of adulthood, we might just stretch it). Sixty was just OLD. And it was only a decade away from the three score years and ten that was then generally considered to be one’s lot.

But that was then and this is my friends and me now – highlighted hair, always made up, nails painted and clothes that could be just as well worn by someone thirty years younger (provided they had good taste, of course)!  I don’t consider myself at the forefront of musical modernism but take a look at the CDs in my car and you’re just as likely to come across Guns ‘n’ Roses or Springsteen as Mendelssohn or Strauss. Friends of mine now in their seventies are no different.  We might be grandmothers (and in a couple of cases even great-grandmothers) but we go to the gym, lunch with girlfriends, drive our own cars and generally do whatever is reasonable to avoid giving in to our advancing years, (I say ‘reasonable’ because I draw the line at surgery or injecting my forehead with toxins)!

“So what’s it like being sixty then?” my friend had asked.
I pointed to myself and said. “Like this. THIS is sixty.”

I hope you’ll drop by again.