Moving on…

A letter to the new owners of this house:

Welcome to your new home. If you can be just a fraction as happy here in this rather grand, elderly house with its unbeatable location and its creaking, gurgling idiosyncrasies as we have been you will have made the right choice. Estate agents like to describe it as having ‘kerb appeal’ and judging by the attention it is given from passers-by this may be correct.

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When we first came to look at it twenty years ago we’d no clue it would be located on the cliff top, a short stroll down a zig-zag path to the vast sweep of Bournemouth Bay, since there was no mention of its position in the small, black and white advert in the local newspaper, merely a smudgy photo of the front door. It seems incomprehensible now that a sea-front location would be unmentioned. Upon entering the house I experienced that immediate recognition that this was the house for us, even though Husband needed convincing.

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To begin with it was locked into an earnest, seventies style décor and many of the original. 1920s features had been replaced with teak-effect and wood chip wallpaper but the beautiful staircase and elegant doors were all there. We set about alterations, combining three rooms to provide the spacious kitchen/dining area that is still a popular choice today. Much later, longing to be elevated to a level where we could enjoy a sea view, we had a section of the roof cut away and the loft converted to provide a crows’ nest. It altered the appearance of the house in a way many would consider a travesty but has been the room we’ve lived in the most. The garden is unrecognisable from the bland space it was and now boasts mature borders, a beautiful pond, trees, a summerhouse and two patios. The old garage is adorned with Virginia creeper and climbing hydrangea and a riotous tangle of honeysuckle, jasmine and ornamental hops tumble together from the fence.

 

Every home carries in its fabric stories of the inhabitants down through the years-even if they are untold. Here there have been wedding celebrations [two], arrivals, departures, parties, Christmas gatherings, murder mysteries, milestone birthdays, air show gatherings, musical soirees, a new generation coming along to explore, visitors, a burglary, barbecues and so much more.

My homecoming from work was always a joy, the sky becoming vast as I came nearer, the sunsets stunning and the winter gales a thrill.

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Our next home is a complete contrast, having been built much more recently with a light, contemporary interior, loads of glass and an open-plan design. We are swapping our sea panorama for a view over the river and the water meadows and the garden is a wedge of lawn leading to a small wooded area containing giant trees. The historic centre of the provincial town is just a few minutes’ walk along the road. Will we be as happy there as we have been in the old house? It remains to be seen.

 

 

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Not Keeping Up

In July 2013 I wrote a post titled ’To Keep up or not to Keep up’ about the tricky business of making yourself presentable and the relationship between age and length of time taken on this activity.

So how is this developing now that two years have elapsed? I must confess, reader that interesting developments are taking place which indicate to me that ageing is truly underway. Why do I think this? Is it because the length of time has elongated further? Is it because failing eyesight disguises many of the defects I previously sought to conceal? No. It is chiefly because I am ceasing to be bothered.

                Allow me to explain. If you consider appearance versus comfort to be on some kind of sliding scale, then as you become older you are more interested in comfort than appearance. This is where ‘couldn’t care less’ begins to kick in, for example:

  • Footwear. Never having been a fan of ‘stiletto’ type heels the search for acceptable occasion shoes continues to be a problem. In everyday life I resort to any kind of flat shoe that will accommodate the soft gel pads I am obliged to wear in order not to be crippled by mere walking.
  • De-hairing. I am both increasingly short-sighted and clumsy. Leg shaving in the shower is a haphazard and often gory affair, the results of which are less alluring than the au natural, hirsute look.
  • Clothing. The sliding scale is graphically illustrated here. Close-fitting, skimpy and diaphanous, once slung on with casual abandon gave way to wider straps, loose and opaque then sleeves and roomy. Bikini became swimsuit became avoid-the-water.
  • Make-up. I have never been prone to leaping out of bed in the mornings and setting to with a bag full of cosmetics, preferring the ‘scrub-up-ok’ approach of saving make up for outings of the evening kind. Once we are underway in our camper van on an extended trip I rarely glance into a mirror. I can heartily recommend going for weeks without looking at yourself-it is totally refreshing and relaxing.
  • Hair. Aha! Hair is possibly the one area where I’ve continued to hang on to any shred of concern over appearance. I still cling to the illusion that I have colour in my locks, to the point where I actually have no clue as to how grey I’ve become. I’ve made the concession to become blonde-ish. The overall effect is of ‘mouse’. When I turned 60 I posed the idea of succumbing to grey to Husband, who rubbished the idea [although he sports his own grey topping-an example of distinguished for men versus frumpy for women].

It remains to be seen how ‘couldn’t-care-less’ progresses. What next? Forget hair-brushing? Give up on the need for a daily shower? Stick to nightwear? [I must qualify this by mentioning that I don’t own any nightwear at present]. Stay in bed? Ah yes-of course-death…

Grey-What Does it do for You?

Grey. It’s the colour of the moment.
For one thing, I have just swapped the vibrant, colourful exuberance of the Caribbean for the dull, sombre, grey skies above the UK. It made me wonder what immigrants from hot, sunny climates must make of their first sight of our island country. For grey weather, which we are prey to for long periods of our year renders everything else grey. Trees, vegetation, buildings and people-we are all grey; never mind that we are a ‘green and pleasant land’. It is not at all evident at present.
For another thing, the odious ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, that best-selling novel which was a sensation, made its lucky ‘writer’ into an immediate millionaire, spawned a brood of follow-ups plus copycat novels and should have been consigned, at best, to the Mills and Boon section of book shops and libraries has been released as a movie. The timing, of course is cynically devised to coincide with Valentine’s Day; the advertising and the accompanying merchandise in your face at every turn. The book, and it its turn the film are said to appeal to mature women. One study, by Michigan State University found that readers were more likely to be in abusive relationships or have drinking or drug problems. A cynic might suggest here that the university was somehow involved in the marketing of the book.
In other areas the ‘grey’ theme continues as, on returning from a holiday, once I have recovered and regained the ability to stand upright to peer into the mirror the inevitable grey roots of hair are apparent, surging through the remaining vestiges of colour as usual. At times like this I envy those who’ve had the courage to ditch the pretence. I almost followed suit two years ago as my 60th approached but was deterred by Husband, who may just have been right on that occasion. Making radical changes to your appearance is not best effected at such a momentous lifetime event.
From time to time the fashion industry conducts a serious campaign to seduce us to buy a lot of grey clothes. It does always work for me-I like grey, especially deep, charcoal grey although as I’ve grown older I’ve begun to realise that the relationship I have with it is not evenly balanced. Grey may not actually be so fond of me.
At the end of the last of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy a significant number of the main characters drift off in pale ships to somewhere called the ‘Grey Havens’. I’ve always wondered what the Grey Havens was. Was it a euphemism for death? After all some of the characters [eg the elves] had traded their immortality to save the world. Poor Frodo, forever injured by a blow from a ring-wraith was also compelled to repair to this mysterious location. Perhaps Tolkien knew something we don’t. Perhaps we all end up there, condemned forever to the grey. Who knows?

To keep up or not to keep up, that is the question…

                If there is one, nasty, insidious, creeping element to ageing I’ve noticed, it is the necessity to complete ever more actions in order to appear presentable in public. This is one of the things your mother never tells you; that seemingly every day that goes by brings another challenge to be faced in front of the mirror! Indeed, the mirror itself is a challenge! These days, if I can actually find something I might wish to try on in the changing room of a clothing outlet I am in the habit of facing the door rather than the mirror. The overall result of this behaviour is that I return home with any garment that I can get on and do up, regardless of how it looks.

                Gone are the days when I could get out of the shower, towel off, drag something on and go. Now it is more a case of completing a checklist of fabrications, falsehoods and concealments, all designed to fool everyone [including myself] that I look ok. Starting at the top, it goes something like this:

Hair [of the head kind]

Having originally been a very dark, almost black shade of brown, I’ve been undertaking a stealthy transformation over the last fifteen or so years to lighten to a shade which will blend seamlessly into grey. Progress continues to be slow. I’ve lacked the courage, thus far, to go ‘cold turkey’. I’ve always been hopeless with hair styling, so at least that is one area that does not change.

Hair [Face]

It grows where it is not wanted and disappears from where it used to be. This anomaly has to be addressed on a depressingly frequent basis.

Skin [Face]

Dry, blotchy, wrinkly, spotty etc etc. It requires the use of ‘product’. ‘Product’ occupies increasing amounts of space and time and is also a drain on resources. It is also of dubious expediency. QED.

Skin [Elsewhere]

Dealing with elsewhere skin demands a regime consisting of a combination of the two above. I am hampered in the execution of these tasks, however by a lack of flexibility [eg twisting around to access lower part of back of leg] and failing eyesight. The result is to go out and about with unsightly hairy patches like a mammal undergoing a moult, not a problem during the winter months but an obstacle to baring flesh in the summer. Elsewhere skin also soaks up ‘product’ like a sponge. The choice is to keep slathering it everywhere in industrial quantities or take on the appearance of a crocodile.

Shape

Where do I begin? It changes. I cavort about at the gym, walk, do active things, eat sensible things, eschew the demon chocolate. Despite all this effort and deprivation, stubborn, squidgy bits appear where there were none.

                I know women who deal with the outward signs of ageing by concentrating all their efforts into the extremities. They spend vast sums on nail beautification or the purchase of designer handbags, thus avoiding the proverbial ‘elephant’. If it works for them, great! I am neither a nail person [being more of the Carol Klein type…gardening nails] nor a bag-o-phile. I fail to understand the allure of bags, especially when changing bag to suit outfit requires decanting all items from one to the other. I use a rucksack. When it wears out I get another.

                I also sense a certain inequality here, between the sexes. Men can embrace ageing and become all those desirable things like ‘distinguished’ without so much as nod to Grecian 2000. This is much discussed in the media, where male presenters, newsreaders and the like can carry on into their dotage without a worry.

                So how old do I have to be before I may sit down, relax and let it all go the way it will without my intervention? Like I said, my mother never told me! Answers on a postcard please….. [or in the comments section!]