musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Use it or Lose it… — September 20, 2018

Use it or Lose it…

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So here is a little known fact about me…I am the proud possessor of a Bsc Chemistry degree. First class no less. From the University of Sheffield.

So here is how my education panned out. I found boys, specifically A boy, when I was 14. I got into RPG and cheap beer from cans and rock music and wandering aimlessly about woods and such. I hit a minor rebellious streak and didn’t work hard enough for my O levels. Despite being an A grade student my whole life (excepting Games where I got a C3 every single time, please see Jolly Hockey Sticks for more information on that) I didn’t achieve anywhere near enough of those As at O level.

So my grades were not spectacular. Certainly not by today’s standard. I am not sure I would have hit the grade average now required to gain entry to my children’s school’s Sixth Form. Luckily for me such things were not so much of an issue then. I passed. I did well in the subjects I wanted to take at A level, namely Maths, Geography, Chemistry oh and a bit more Maths.

I kissed goodbye to analysing Shakespeare and conjugating verbs and drawing under pressure and I could not have been happier.

So I worked for my A levels. I really wanted to do Geography at University. But my Human Geography teacher (a Mr Pollard if I recall correctly, just out of teacher training, red trendy glasses, tight trousers, very evangelical about ribbon development and economic modelling, once had an interesting conversation with him about JJ Cale and cannabis in a record store whilst on a field trip in the Cotswolds) was not enamoured of my essay writing skills, believing me really a scientist at heart and not properly invested in Maslow, had not predicted me a particularly great grade.

Even combined with the much better predicted grade from my Physical Geography teacher (Mr Jones, never happier than when discussing plate tectonics, had seen my zeal for measuring river discharge when I was up to my thighs in a freezing stream on that same Cotswolds trip, had a very boring conversation about riffles and pools on a bus) it was not good enough for most Universities.

I was sick of Maths and anyway I was struggling in Further Maths with the ‘ethereal’ quality of it all. I liked remembering equations, plugging figures in and getting a right (or wrong) result. Black and white. Further Maths wasn’t like that. Mr Rodgers (older, big bear of a man, took a group of us to the Albert Hall to watch the Proms, had great conversations about music) said that that was what University Maths was like. I decided to run a mile.

So that left Chemistry.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do when I left education so choosing Chemistry didn’t seem a bad option. In any event I had been somewhat inspired during my extra special Chemistry sessions for proper geeks run at lunch times by Dr Galsworthy (just out of teacher training, complete dream boat, never had any sort of conversation with him as I could not string a sentence together in his presence) where we got to use all the intricate glass ware which fitted together so satisfyingly and produce such fascinating compounds as limonene. I still have the certificate for that extra bit of Chemistry. Still not sure what I took. It didn’t matter. Dr Galsworthy.

And I loved the logic of it all… atoms forever searching for completeness, a bit like me with Dr Galsworthy, it all appealed to my pubescent self…and fiddling about with explosions and Bunsen burners was always fun. I had a good predicted grade so off I trotted to Uni open days. They all loved me despite those questionable O levels because I was a serial joiner in-er; leading Brownie packs, ringing church bells, playing the double bass in the Youth orchestra and the like (just no sport…at all).

I did rather well in my A levels obtaining all I needed and more. Shoving two fingers up at Mr Pollard with my good result in Geography, delighting Dr Gaslworthy (I think he may have hugged me, or maybe that was just one of my fantasies) with my Chemistry result and fainting with surprise at my grade in Further Maths as I had a distinct recollection of sitting completely baffled in the Pure paper.

So I went off to Sheffield. I carried on with the RPG and drinking cheap beer, only this time from glasses, how civilised, and there was still quite a lot of wandering around aimlessly although this time in the Peaks.

Chemistry lost some of its logic and I seemed to spend the first year producing inorganic compounds which were invariably yellow powders or clear, colourless liquids that looked and smelled suspiciously like water. The labs, where I spent 3 hours every afternoon (except Wednesdays which was ‘sport’ afternoon-or ‘going to the Union and watching crap TV’ afternoons if you were me) were vast impersonal spaces full of out dated equipment and professors barking orders and trying to stop the 100 or so students from setting fire to each other or drinking those clear colourless liquids. All the mornings were taken up with lectures. It was like being at school with longer days and more work. And I smelled horrendous…

On the whole I enjoyed it. I gravitated to physical chemistry probably because of my maths background. I spent my third year practical sessions holed up in the liquid crystal department in the bowels of the basement carrying out experiments which took forever and left me a lot of time to draw, listen to rock music on my Walkman and generally mooch around in the gloom. My dissertation was finished. I took my finals and did my presentation on the results of all that waiting around to my peers. I left the Uni more than competent in Chemistry.

And since then I have had no use for the subject. I ended up in banking (it was the early 90s, jobs were scarce and I just wanted to stop eating tuna and pasta and eat some red meat protein for once and so a PhD wasn’t really an option and no employer in chemistry was interested without one) and then as a full time mum. It got to the point were I needed to fake a coughing fit if there were any chemistry questions on University Challenge, and then Mastermind, and then Pointless and now Top of the Class. Moles once more became adorable burrowing animals. Condensing was an annoying process on one’s windows. Joules was a clothes brand. At a push I could still name chemical symbols in a pub quiz but that was about my lot. Silver and gold though….still tricky…

However as my children approach the sharp end of their school lives I am slowly falling back in love with chemistry. Middlest is currently learning about the atomic model and isotopes and last year Eldest needed help with ionic and covalent bonding (see it is such a lovely subject all that searching and bonding, it’s romantic really… Dr Galsworthy).

And yesterday Eldest needed to find out the specific heat capacities of certain elements and quote his source. I no longer believe Wikipedia for anything after an unfortunate incident with densities and so I thought I would wheel out my Physical Chemistry University text book. Sure enough it had the heat capacities required but in totally the wrong units. It involved indices. It involved moles. Still furry. I hurriedly put the book back…. and used some engineering site which we hope is right…it seems to take an awful lot of energy to raise the temperature of hydrogen according to their heat capacity. I should know if that is true or not. I don’t.

When I took to facebook to bemoan the fact that I no longer understood a SINGLE word of this particular text book (Atkins 3rd Edition) a friend, whose daughter is starting a chemistry degree at Uni soon, replied to say she had just bought said daughter the 11th edition.

Ouch.

So two things are true. One I am old. Beyond reckoning. And two. If you don’t use it you lose it.

The Change… — May 2, 2018

The Change…

menopause

Here is another post that I have deliberated about penning or not. It is up there with Let’s Not Skirt Around the Issue– which incidentally remains one of my most popular blogs of all time- however it is raining here, it feels like December, I have a half eaten bag of Liquorice Allsorts to finish and the only alternative is cleaning. Or binge watching Outlander. This feels more productive. But possibly less fun.

Deep breaths then everybody.

I am a woman of a certain age. 48 to be precise. Therefore I have experience of being a woman. Quite extensive experience. And it is safe to say that being a woman sucks on many levels. And one of those levels is the beginning, middle and end of one’s reproductive life.

Currently I am grappling with the end. For those of you possessed of a penis (you lucky, lucky sods I am envious, really I am, seriously you don’t know how lucky you are- what have you had to deal with?- really?- a bit of shaving (if you feel like it- it isn’t even obligatory especially in November- it is more obligatory for me apparently which goes beyond unfair)- the occasional knock to a vital area causing extreme discomfort- and – and- no, that’s it – get over yourselves) I should may be explain.

For some considerable time, when I was happily producing reliable levels of oestrogen, I was labouring under the illusion that I would have a few hot flushes and maybe put on a bit of weight and then that would be it. The menopause would be done. No more periods. It sounded quite attractive. I would be done with the Feminine Hygiene aisle. The years of debilitating cramps and bloating would be over. I could go swimming whenever I wanted. Calendar watching and forward planning would be done with. I would no longer pull something unfortunate out of my hand bag whilst buying tiffin in Costa. I would caper gaily in meadows neatly eating baguettes with my new dentures and going on cruises.

Oh yes from the mire of PMT it all looked quite beguiling.

But no, the end of one’s reproductive life as a woman (and let’s not forget here that a man never ends his reproductive life, ever, he can remain potent up until the day he drops- again beyond unfair) has stages. And those stages can take years.

When I went to my GP about my severe breast pain (I am not a hypochondriac but even I thought something may be up) he quizzed me on the when this occurred and once we had established it was cyclical he put it down to hormones. But, I asserted, I have never suffered from this pain due to PMT before. Well, he patronised, as a woman ages her PMT symptoms often change. He also suggested I might be peri-menopausal and suggested I go away and look it up.

I think I have mentioned this GP before. I can’t remember where, I have had a bit of a look but it escapes me. So I can’t link it. Sorry. Anyway I found this whole consultation deeply annoying. After I had resisted the urge to punch him I trotted off like a good little woman with my frankly debilitating breast pain and googled the peri menopause.

I wished I hadn’t.

So here is the gen. I had my terminology wrong. The menopause hasn’t happened until a woman goes without menstruating for a whole year. The run up to this when the ovaries start producing less and less oestrogen is called the peri- menopause and can take up to 10 years. Seriously. 10 years.

There are all the classic symptoms. Hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings.

But there are others. I had spent the previous 6 months gently worrying that I may have early onset dementia. But, no, my inability to remember words, what happened yesterday, my kids’ names, how to make macaroni cheese is also down to the peri-menopause. Seriously. It is called cognitive decline. Who knew oestrogen played such a role in braininess? Well certainly not the other half of the population. And I guess it just backs up the old adage that men think with their… well whatever.

The literature suggested I try Sudoko. My god. I hate Sudoko. I thought I would blog instead. Maybe I should track my vocabulary usage and see if it is declining as I make my weary way through this never ending desert of the peri-menopause.

My perky fitness instructor recently attended a training course to learn to deliver menopause exercise classes (not something she is going to need for herself for an annoyingly long time). Apparently one does a lot of weight bearing lunges (to combat bone and muscle loss and CV decline) whilst counting backwards from 100 in sevens. Once she had outlined this at our group circuits class yesterday she diplomatically asserted that she wouldn’t need to run that for our class anytime soon but that we could ‘do it for fun’ one time if we fancied. Meanwhile I was stuck at 93. She could start running them for me tomorrow as it happens.

And then ‘mood swings’ doesn’t really come close. Homicidal mania may be more appropriate. Seriously there are days in my ‘cycle’, normally when merely dressing is agony, when it is best to avoid me. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend asking for the whereabouts of your glasses or open the new box of cling film wrongly or alter the height of my desk chair. Not unless you want to be killed with a spoon. Slowly. I think this is nature’s way of ensuring men cop for some inconvenience. It’s about time.

I don’t think I get hot flushes. Yet. I am feeling the heat more though. Weirdly I am having arguments with my husband that the house is too hot. Those that know me will find this distinctly odd as I am usually cold. And I still feel the cold. But not at night. Or first thing in the morning when I wake up feeling like I am sleeping in the desert because hubbie has had the temerity to turn up the thermostat to 18.5 degrees. I might buy him flannelette pyjamas.

And then there is hypermenorrhea, a technical term for bleeding like a stuck pig. Many, many women get this in the run up to the menopause. Heavier and longer periods. Great. So now for 2 days a month leaving the house gets difficult. Thanks for that. A right kick in the balls. If I had any. So in order to stop having periods one needs to have worse ones. Is it just so we remember forever? Is the body having one last ‘hurrah’ at our expense? Whatever it is deeply unfair. Deeply.

There are other symptoms listed which I am not going to go into personally as you may have to leave the room… such lovely things as vaginal dryness, loss of libido, incontinence (maybe I won’t have much time out from that feminine hygiene aisle), loss of bone density, a decrease in cardio vascular function, muscle loss, insomnia, worsening of PMT symptoms, fatigue, depression.

I look forward to running the gauntlet of these over the next 5 years or so.

But I guess the hardest thing in all of this is that realisation that soon (if not already no one can tell you in any given month if you have ovulated or are just having a period for ‘fun’) one will be redundant evolutionarily speaking.

Facing the end of one’s ability to birth children, whether one has had them or not, through choice or not, whether one wants more of them or metaphorically runs screaming to the hills at the mere thought, can be hard. More than hard.

So again the penis owning ones amongst you spare a thought for your wives, mothers, daughters and sisters as they ride this particularly scary and frankly not fun at all rollercoaster to old age.

And if any one suggests (especially in those homicidal 7 days a month) that I will be reborn after the menopause into a golden age of my life where I will have much to offer free from the burden of my own fertility I will tell them to fuck off. Seriously. You have been warned.

Surfing….Or Not… — April 27, 2018

Surfing….Or Not…

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I recently went to the opticians. I was due my biannual check up and besides I have spent the last few months peering very unattractively at small print on the sides of jars and considering the large print book aisle in the library.

I turned up for my allotted slot and, after having failed about ten times to not blink as a machine puffed cold air into my eye ball and as the patient lady tried to take a photo of each of my retinas, I finally got in to see the optician. (Apparently I have a very sensitive blink reflex, not sure whether to be proud or not…)

It is a cliche to say it but the optician or opthalmist or optometrist (if you know the difference please do let me know) really did look about twelve. She wasn’t the same optician as last time. But then it had been two years. We trawled through my eye history. How long had I worn glasses. Forever. Had I ever tried contacts. Please see above re my sensitive blink reflex. Did I have a history of eye issues. No. Was I experiencing any issues. Yes I can’t read anymore without the use of a magnifying glass, oh and recently whilst doing a particularly difficult colouring in by numbers with Youngest I had to wear a head torch.

The usual stuff.

Anyway she then said ‘Oh I can see you are a surfer!’

I was a bit taken aback by this.

Many things went through my head. I guessed that I had said this last time. I wasn’t sure why. Then I remembered that I had ordered prescription swimming goggles to wear on my holiday in Portugal where I was determined to learn to surf.

Many of you may have read Surfing. If not I suggest you do before carrying on. As you will therefore know my experience of surfing in Portugal had not been a success.

Despite this fact, and proabably because I was taken aback by the tone of admiration in her voice and that all these recollections were flowing into my brain at much too slow a pace to not leave a really, really pregnant pause I found myself agreeing that, yes, I was a surfer.

As soon as the words ‘Yes I do love to surf!’ left my mouth I realised my mistake.

My optician/opthalmist/optometrist proceeded to tell me how she was desperate to learn to surf and had tried but failed. She then went on to describe the exact problem that I myself had encountered when I was trying to surf. Namely getting up from one’s knees to one’s feet.

I murmured something which I hoped passed for understanding empathy for this dificulty. Which of course I do have. As I myself cannot get from my knees to my feet.

As I was trying to decide which was better ‘lens 1 or lens 2’ she proceeded to ask me for my tips for getting from one’s knees to one’s feet. Apparently she had had lessons, watched you tube videos, the works, nothing had helped. I was her last hope.

I managed to deflect the question by sympathising with her predicament and she was thankfully distracted by ‘are the dots clearer and brighter on the green, or the red’.

She then went on to ask me for my favourite surfing locations. As I have only ever failed to surf at one beach in Portugal, the name of which escaped me, I merely mentioned that we were off to Polzeath in the summer. This is true. I won’t be surfing.

We moved onto reading the extremely small print on a paddle.

I tried to deflect her persistent questioning on the knee/ foot/ location issues. She really wasn’t giving up. I decided on a new tack. I mentioned that if she found surfing too hard she could try body boarding. Thankfully she didn’t seem to know what I meant so I was able to fill some time whilst she fiddled around with the exceptionally ugly plastic frames perched on my nose waxing lyrical about a sport I can actually do.

Once I had outlined body boarding in some detail she seemed to suddenly get what I meant. ‘Oh’ she scoffed ‘that, well surely everyone can body board?’…

Well not really. I quite often leave keen looking middle aged men for dead when body boarding as they mis-time their jumps quite spectacularly.

She wasn’t to be persuaded.

I floundered on deflecting questions by explaining how good my kids are at surfing and desperately trying to avoid giving any advice. Which clearly I couldn’t give anyway.

The session ended. My reading prescription had jumped a whole half a point. New glasses should help with the reading. And colouring. But not my truthfulness.

As I left (rather hurriedly) to meet up again with puffy air, flashy photo lady to try to pick new frames whilst not being able to actually see what I look like, the optician/ opthalmist/ optometrist said to me,

”Well you have inspired me to have another go at surfing. If a lady of your age can do it surely I must be able to…”

The whole experience was wrong on so many levels.

Its two years until my next check up. I doubt she will still be there. Yes?

 

 

Baby, I don’t care… * — August 3, 2017

Baby, I don’t care… *

* I love a bit of Transvision Vamp…it’s my age…don’t ya know…

Time for another pondering about teenagers. You may remember from Early to bed, Early to rise  that I am the ‘proud’ owner of precisely one teenager and that there are many things that are frankly irritating about such ownership.

Today we shall be examining one of these irritating things- self consciousness.

I have always been an embarrassing parent. Apparently. When my children were small they actually liked the fact that I was embarrassing, actually they didn’t call it embarrassing when I was dancing like a mad thing to ‘I am the music man’ at the kiddie disco on holiday. Every night. Or doing karaoke. Or enjoying the slides at an aqua park by running full pelt up the steps to get to the front of the queue dragging them behind by their hands. Or whooping the loudest at Christmas shows and summer concerts. Or enjoying scrambling over cargo nets at soft play centres or indeed in the tops of trees at high rope courses. Or screaming loud encouragement from the touchlines. Or putting love notes in their lunch boxes. They called it fun. Over the years this has gradually changed from fun to ambivalence to down right embarrassment.

So really this blog isn’t about my teenager’s self consciousness but his mum consciousness…

it is a shame really that he is hitting the peak of his social embarrassment right when I am hitting the peak of not giving a flying fuck about what people think of me. Quite literally I don’t care. At all.

Obviously I don’t want people to think I am a bad person. I am careful about things that matter. Such as manners and respect and friendship. But for the trivial stuff I just don’t care.

I don’t actually remember being embarrassed about my parents. Maybe they weren’t that embarrassing. Certainly my mother and father were not into disco dancing or shouting from the sidelines or whooping.

However I do remember being self conscious. Hiding myself under layers of clothing. Crossing the road to avoid other teenagers. Standing in the gloom at school discos. But then I was an awkward teenager. Not cool, not popular, not sporty, put firmly in the academic geek pigeon hole with the added quirkiness of double bass playing.

This is not something any of my children are. They are bright, certainly, but also popular and sporty and empathic and good friends and musical and general all round good eggs. And anyway geekiness is no longer a bad thing.

I can’t really remember when my self consciousness disapperared. I certainly had some in my twenties at university and during my career. Maybe it was around the time that I had kids. When all dignity and modesty was lost during the physical process of birth. It was maybe a realisation that if I was strong enough to build three human beings and bring them into the world it shouldn’t really matter if I have varicose veins.

And so I stopped worrying about stuff. I bought shorts for the first time in years. It was liberating and still is. I will dance first at discos. Sing first at karaokes. Join in stupid pool games. Whoop.

I have always hoped that I had instilled this ‘don’t care’ attitude in my offspring. Yet still Eldest is acutely self conscious. It is probably an age thing. I do remember and so I do feel for him I really do.

But not enough to stop dancing to Hewy Lewis and the News in the front of a four by four jeep with Paco our Spanish driver on yesterday’s safari. Whilst being filmed for the DVD. We didn’t buy the DVD by the way although lots of my fellow travellers did. Sorry guys…

Eldest actually tried to hold my arms down. I have discovered that I am much stronger than him when the Power of Love is playing.

He will have to suck it up. I am not for changing. Life is short. I want to dance. And sing. And whoop.

One day he may too.

I do hope so.

 

Putting A Brave Face On It… — August 16, 2016

Putting A Brave Face On It…

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I recently went in to Boots (other pharmacies, that also sell other crap such as photograph albums and kids clothes so that there are hardly any staff left on the actual prescription counter meaning you have to wait days for your child’s asthma inhaler, are available) to restock my face creams.

It may come as a surprise to some that I use face creams. I do not wear make up. Anyone who knows me personally knows this. Why not? Multitudinous reasons. My mother didn’t wear make up when I was a child and so I never ‘learnt’ to apply it. Or more accurately I never learnt to ‘need’ to apply it. It didn’t figure in my parameters of being a women. I can’t be bothered to get up earlier to make time to put it on. I similarly lack the will to take it off at night. I do not know what ‘palettes’ suit me. And frankly I can’t be arsed.

There may be many people wandering around catching sight of my un made up face and inwardly cringing at my gaucheness. But then equally I walk around seeing people at the gym or next to the swimming pool on holiday in full make up and think- you muppets. So touché.

But I do use face cream. This desire started in my twenties when I first started to get a few laughter lines. The fact that I panicked quite so wholeheartedly at that point is now frankly laughable as laughter lines etch into wrinkles and my neck acquires a droopiness that no amount of foundation would disguise. Oh the naivety.

But anyway I started on the road of face creams. I began with Body Shop stuff. Seduced by the tangle haired founder’s claims of naturalness and lack of animal testingness and other such stuff.  Once everyone caught on to this particularly welcome band wagon I switched to Simple. It was cheaper.

When I had my first child I decided all this political correctness and affordability was all well and good but what I needed now was something that actually worked. At the time Boots (don’t forget other such stores, with appalling customer service and overly made up beauty counter assistants who scare me, are available) was heavily advertising its new No 7 miracle creams. They had actual scientific evidence that wrinkles were reduced. Beautiful models glowed radiantly out of posters. I hadn’t heard of Photoshop, the IT troglodyte that I am. And so I went in to purchase some items.

At the time my age, general skin type (normal) and lack of skin problems landed me firmly in the Early Defence range. Well I wasn’t really firmly landed in that range as it was designed for 20-35 year olds and I was 34 at the time but the counter assistant I discussed it with knocked a few years off my age and I was too flattered to contradict her. This hasn’t happened since. And anyway, I argued with my inner voice, I was still within that age range. Just.

I nearly had a heart attack at the pay desk. This stuff is seriously pricey. I was so overwhelmed I was suckered into a Boots (remember other stores, which so overstock their shelves with ‘gift sets’ at Christmas (which always contain a product the recipient will never use, in my case body lotion) making it impossible to locate the Savlon, are available) store card. The points I amassed buying day cream, night cream, eye cream and serum entitled me to a small cruise. Well I exaggerate but I did get a free tube of toothpaste.

Anyway I religiously began to apply said creams. Well when I say religiously I mean as often as I remembered/ had the energy/ had the time with a squalling new born.

The next five years passed in a whirlwind of babies and nappies and toddlers and bone numbing, aching tiredness. I must have replaced those creams occasionally. I certainly remember graduating to the  35- 45 years cream Protect and Perfect Intense at some point. Whenever I say that in my head I always shout the ‘Intense’ part out louder. Not sure why. Maybe it makes me feel better about the even larger price tag. Presumably this cream has more of the ‘stuff’ in it that 86% of 83 people believe reduces their wrinkles. Seriously can’t they ask a few more people. It is not like Boots (remember other stores, which smell the same wherever you are in the UK and always hide the dental aisle very comprehensible, are available) isn’t some international company.

Anyway I must have replaced those creams as some more free tubes of toothpaste came my way and some very welcome two for one vouchers courtesy of that reward card. Which of course I can never find when paying. It is usually under the Costa card. Which says a lot for my priorities.

I started applying it more regularly as I came out of the fog of early motherhood. And it has an SPF factor of 15 which makes me feel better about walking in the sun.

Before our holiday I needed to replace my night cream. I knew that on holiday after my daily ‘post sea and pool’ shower my skin would feel tighter than …a very tight thing (I thought about being coarse there but thought better of it- my father reads this blog) and would need generously smearing with that night cream.

I approached the right area of Boots (remember other stores, that coyly call tampons feminine hygiene products, are available) and dodged the over eager, foundation plastered, twelve year old assistant to grab my night cream. She wasn’t to be deterred. She was determined to ‘assess’ me. Flustered and in a hurry to get back before the school chucked out for the day I rashly provided my actual age when she enquired. Rather than politely and yet assertively asking her to eff off.

She then politely and assertively told me that I needed their over 45 product, upper age range not specified, called Lift and Luminate. I sheepishly took down a bottle of this magic elixir. And paid yet more money at the counter. Presumably it has yet more of that ‘stuff’ in it. I thought they might offer me a discrete brown paper bag to wrap it in, such was the shame I felt. But then these people are used to selling feminine hygiene products, condoms and haemorrhoid cream and so are immune to customers’ embarrassment.

I took it home. The vessel that contains it is a soft purple, the smell is faintly ‘old ladyish’ and yet perversely I quite like it. However I am yet to feel Lifted or Luminated.

Oh god age is a bitch.

 

 

 

 

Surfing…. — August 7, 2016

Surfing….

I have a long held desire to learn to surf. And by surf I mean on a board in the sea not on a computer on my sofa. Which I can already do.

I have always loved the sea. I have lived in many places in my life (at the last count 9 towns in the UK) and only one was in shouting distance of a beach. And the UK has lot of coast. For someone who loves the sea I seem to have a tendency to inhabit the interior of our island. Circumstances I suppose.

The only time I did live near the sea was when I was between the ages of 5 and 10 and for some reason we didn’t go that often. I think mainly because the walk from the car park to the sea was a long, soft sand trek that left us all exhausted. Although it was through one of the last remaining strongholds of the red squirrel. We must have gone sometimes because I have vague memories of dunes, those squirrels and lots of sand.

My paternal grandparents lived near the sea near Weston Super Mare and we did go to the beach there. My overriding recollections are of donkies and the three mile hike over the beach to the sea. The tide went out a very long way.

We also used to holiday on the south Devon coast every year. Our hotel was another quite long trek from the beach, along buddleia lined pathways which were covered in butterflies, past the Copper Mine where we spent many happy hours feeding machines with pennies and over the railway which skirted magnificently around red sandstone cliffs. I remember hours of bobbing up and down on waves with my bottom in a rubber ring. And I remember my dad’s wooden body board.

I like waves. I like the wild magnificence of the seas around the UK. I like cliffs and rock pools. Groynes encrusted with barnacles. And even seagulls. Although not the one that terrorised Eldest aged about three by knicking his sausage roll directly out of his hand.

The problem with the UK’s coast is that the sea is cold. As I get older I react more and more badly to the cold. I don’t venture in the sea in the UK that much anymore. I cannot imagine how I spent hours in merely a swimsuit in the Atlantic as a child. But I did. The North Sea is worse.

When the kids were still quite little we went on holiday for a couple of years to the Vendee in France. Our campsite was literally on the beach. We would get there early every day and come back at lunch time for a siesta and then go back for the afternoon. I did hours of body boarding.

The waves were immense and very rideable. It was the first time in my life I managed to catch a wave in shoulder deep water and ride it all the way to the shore until my knees were scraping the sand. Awesome. I could have spent even more hours doing it. But the kids were little and needed watching. I needed to time share that with my husband. And body board to the schedule of their desire for regular meals and naps and my attention.

And also the air temperature was unreliable. The second year we went the weather was not great. Too far north. We tried Biarritz for more likelihood of high temperatures but the waves there were far too big for us amateurs.

We then ended up at the Med. On a Greek island. Because we were sick of unreliable weather, self catering and caravans. Sunshine was guaranteed the views were stunning and the food delicious but we needed to leave our boards at home. The Med. Like a large lake.

We did a year in Cornwall. Again great body boarding. Ocean absolutely freezing.   Middlest and Edlest had a surfing lesson and managed to stand up within the hour. And that is when my desire to graduate from a body board to a surf board really took hold.

This year we have come to the south of Portugal where the Atlantic coast meets the Mediterranean coast. I had high hopes. The town we are near is apparently the surfing Mecca of Portugal. Unfortunately our hotel and its beach are on the ‘wrong’ coast.  Sheltered and perfect for families. Not quite what we were after but still lovely. And it is only a short drive to the right coast.

Yesterday we had an all day surfing lesson. We got picked up by a suitably fit, young, tanned and tattooed man who looked like he had been plucked straight off the beach. On the drive I discovered he had two children and his wife was pestering for a third. He wanted the benefit of my wisdom. Had it been hard? Should he consider it? Tricky conversation to have in the front of a mini van loaded with surf boards and over excited kids, not all of whom were mine.

We got to the beach. The car park was full of camper vans and beaten up Corsas loaded with spectacular numbers of surf boards and beautiful young people. We got into wet suits in the car park. Never an easy or dignified process especially when being gawped at by hosts of beautiful young people. And then we hauled all the boards and our kit to the beach. And wow what a beach, I could hardly wait to get in the sea.

First, though, we had to go through the warm up and instruction. We had to be those mad fools pretending to paddle and mount our boards on dry land.

And then in we got, the water warm, the waves beautiful.

I tried. I really did. For three hours. I managed to sort of get to my feet once. For about three seconds. Somewhere between step two (push up with your arms) and step three (get your back foot on the board, the one tethered complicatedly to the end of the deck) it all went wrong. I ended up on my knees toppling sideways. Knees had not featured in the instructions. But then I am neither strong enough nor supple enough to go from lying prone to both feet, whilst balancing on a wave. Apparently.

And tugging that board around is seriously hard work. Dragging it through the waves and realising that with each breaker you have lost all the ground you had just made. I tried lifting it out of the water which is my body board technique. Not so easy with a 6 foot piece of whatever they are made of which is attached to your foot. Density akin to lead.

In the end I gave up and just body boarded on the surf board and I managed to catch some brilliant waves all the way in. Which was cool but not really what I had hoped for. I am not sure what I had hoped for. The ability to transfer my body boarding skill to surfing I suppose. Clearly the two are not related. Well not for me.

All three of my kids took to it, typically, like ducks to water. And all of them were reliably standing up all day. Even my husband managed it a few times. Well done him.

Anyway I enjoyed the day. Not the part were we had to haul all the kit and boards back up to the van. But the rest of it. And I am glad I tried. The kids appreciated that I tried even though I am so ‘old’. And they remain convinced they saw me standing up. I think they must have me confused with another lady in the same surf school outfit. There were a lot of us out there….

Last night I nearly fell asleep in my pizza and was in bed by 8.30. Today I cannot move. All of me aches. From my neck downwards. I am bruised and battered. My left foot hurts from something.

So tomorrow, after a day spent flopping by the pool, we are off in search of a body board and a suitable beach. And I am going back to what I know. And love.

For it is a truth that 46 is too old to be a surfer chick. There is hope for Youngest though. Who did cut a dash in her wet suit standing up gracefully all the way to the shore. Blonde hair streaming. All rash vest and board shorts and brown, supple limbs.

You go girl.

 

 

Inspiration — March 6, 2016

Inspiration

Yesterday I received sad news. The night before that choir that I mentioned in Sing It Loud lost one of its oldest members.

The lovely thing about this choir, other than allowing me to sing, is that the participants are drawn from all walks of life. We are a non auditioned Community Choir and as long as you hit the top of the waiting list you are welcome. Whether you read music or not. Even you haven’t sung for years or never at all. It matters not. Our amazing choir mistress will still whip you into shape. So that our choir turns out good and entertaining performances which our swelling audiences are testament to.

I am not sure whether Glenys was our oldest member. But she was certainly a contender and an inspiration. She sat in front of me in the sopranos or ‘tops’ as we are more generally referred to! ‘Hands up tops’ is still a line shouted from the conductor’s dias which gets us all a titter…. There are others…the tenor ladies, hands down bottoms …  She joined in fulsomely in our hip rotating, arm waving warm ups.

She turned up almost every Monday night and was in nearly all our performances. Eschewing that chair that was always placed for her use. Despite, I believe, being in her nineties.

After the last concert at Christmas she came up to me, put her hand on my arm and told me what a lovely family I had. They had sat on the front row, my harshest critics. Even they enjoyed our fairly light hearted Christmas tunes.

It is lovely to spend time with such people. People at different points in their lives. Who provide a fresh perspective. Where else would I rub shoulders (during some warm ups quite literally) with friends nearly twice my age.

And it gives everyone hope. Hope that they too will enjoy such pleasures as singing well into old age.

This evening we took part in a Music Festival competing against other such choirs. We decided to dedicate our performance to that special lady. We came a commendable second. But in my mind we were winners. I am sure Glenys would have agreed.

I didn’t know her well. But well enough to know she was an amazing individual.

As the line of one of our songs went this evening…’Goodnight my angel, it’s time to close your eyes’..

Rest in peace.

How old? — January 12, 2016

How old?

age

Yesterday in a meeting some one took ten years off me. Age came up. I can’t remember how. And she was apparently genuinely amazed I was 45. She had me pegged at mid thirties.

Although I believe a trip to the opticians may be in order. For my fellow meeting attendee. I was actually quite flattered.

It is a long time since someone, anyone, underestimated my age. Don’t get me wrong. On a day to day basis I don’t expect people to randomly come up to me and express surprise and incredulity at my advancing years. However nice that may be.

But historically I have always had an issue with looking too young. Once a boyfriend and I decided to go to see a film. We got wet walking from the train station to the cinema. Which probably didn’t help. I don’t remember which film it was. But it was a Certificate 15.

They wouldn’t sell me a ticket. I got out my driving licence. We were on holiday from university. Second year. So I must have been at least 20. They still didn’t believe me. Eventually I think we saw something else. Which must have been a PG as 12s didn’t exist back in the days of yore.. Slightly embarrassing.

I never bothered to try to buy alcohol anywhere. It just wasn’t worth the effort.

Even well into my twenties and once, flatteringly, in my thirties I was regularly asked for ID when buying anything considered contraband to under 18s. This makes me sound like I was a bit of a rebel buying top shelf mags and cigarettes. Actually it was things like kitchen knives and super glue and DVDs…but hey feel free to big up my past as you see fit.

Also whenever I turned up at a meeting at work when I was managing large housing company’s banking needs I could see it flit across their eyes. ‘She is never old enough to do this!’. ‘Where is the real manager?’. Sometimes I don’t think I ever won them round. Or it took an awful lot of blarney….

When I was pregnant with Eldest the midwife had to ask my age twice as she thought she had misheard my date of birth.

And so my driving licence was always about my person. It still is. I no longer need it.

Sometime. Some undefined time. A bit ago. Probably between Eldest and Youngest or shortly thereafter. People stopped asking. People stopped expressing surprise at my age.

It is actually quite depressing. If I was ever a cashier at a supermarket just every so often I would ask someone for ID just to make their day. Even if they looked as old as I clearly do.

And so yesterday was heartening. The person in question is clearly very bad at judging age. But still it was flattering.

Thanks.

 

 

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