Guilty Pleasures

As a post-war baby, I was brought up in a home where nothing was wasted and frugality was a virtue.  Sweets were still rationed and allowed only on Saturdays.  I dreamed of having shop-bought clothes instead of dresses made by my mother. (I didn’t fully appreciate her skills until later, eventually following in her footsteps by making clothes for my own children.)  Saving up our weekly pocket money, supplemented by the odd half-crown for washing the car, was a good grounding in budgeting, but there were always things just out of reach.  I used to walk three miles home from school, spending my bus fare on illicit sweets and comics.

As an adult, married and bringing up a family, buying things for myself, other than absolute necessities, was a rare event.  I think it was much the same for many of us, feeling guilty about any kind of indulgence.  We talk about ‘treating ourselves’ and justify new shoes by having bought them half-price.  We go shopping and splurge on clothes from well-known retailers, knowing we can always take them back.   I think it’s time to get over our inhibitions about buying ourselves nice things.  Most of us are better off than when we were younger and have leisure time for browsing and choosing clothes, bags and shoes.  I know – not everyone likes shopping. I love it and have a couple of like-minded pals who share my passion for a good look round the shops -from TK Maxx to Harvey Nicks.

My mother did buy herself nice clothes.  I have a receipt for a dress she bought in Daly’s in Glasgow in 1938, possibly with her first pay cheque.  It was about £30, equivalent to £130 today.  She also spent money on skin care and make-up (Lancome) and going to the hairdresser. I do have similar priorities.  I get my roots done every four weeks. And, thanks to Sali Hughes, Guardian beauty writer, I have recently learned to love browsing the beauty counters in the big department stores (I used to be really intimidated by the over made-up consultants wielding spray bottles) and have actually ended up with good products in the right colours.  Full marks to Bare Essentials and MAC.

Apart from shopping, there are lots of ways we can indulge ourselves a bit.  Younger women are better at this; they go for spa days and they have hen nights, which didn’t seem to happen in our day – we had ghastly occasions called ‘The Show of Presents’.  I have be honest here and admit that I did actually have two hen nights when I got married two years ago.  I’m off to one this weekend (I suspect I’ll be the old broiler) – we’re all taking food and drink and I think there will be karaoke (Yay!) Not everyone’s idea of fun, I know, but there are other fun things to do on our own or together.  I love going to the cinema with popcorn/fizzy drink/sweeties;  afternoon showings are cheap (especially for pensioners).

One of the barriers to this sort of thing is the cluttered diary: hospital/dental appointments, family support/visiting/babysitting/volunteering/partner’s activities, as well as the routine house and garden stuff which in our working lives was accomplished within the time we had available.  We were good girls and have grown up to be good women who spend their lives doing useful things.  My husband and I have a shared diary, in which we each note our appointments.  I realised recently that I write my entries in fairly large capital letters, compared with his modest script.  Not sure why I’m telling you this……..maybe just reinforcing the idea that what women do counts?  I have to say that he always encourages me in whatever I do.  (I actually feel he needs to treat himself more.)  I’m thinking about highlighting my ‘fun’ activities in pink.

I can’t finish without a mention of food and drink.  Eating what you fancy is one of the great things about being a grown-up.  Yes, we know all about healthy eating, but isn’t there always a place for liquorice allsorts, dark chocolate caramels and Cadbury‘s flake with ice-cream (I’m home alone and about to have some)? I also really love a proper ice-cream soda, with Barr‘s limeade and a straw.  I’m sure you have your own list. Share it here?  Feel free to comment/email. I’d like to hear about your guilty pleasures.

Feeling Fine?

Sometimes you just feel old, especially when you are not well.  I’ve spent a couple of days floored by a nasty cough, unable to shrug it off by just getting on with things regardless. We are used to putting on a good face, saying ‘Fine!’ when people ask how we are. Often it is only those closest to us who know about hospital visits, tests and medication.  I imagine there are few pensioners without some condition requiring treatment.  My grandmother, at the age I am now and when younger, always had something wrong with her, often the ailment described by ‘The Doc’ in The Sunday Post.  She generally sat with her feet up and was looked after.  She was a great believer  in her own home remedies – any admission of stomach pain resulted in a dose of brandy, sugar and hot water. (I still can’t drink brandy!)  In spite of this, along with smoking, eating sweeties and taking no exercise, she lived until she was 89.

 Our generation of hill-walkers, charity parachute jumpers and cyclists appear to be glowing with health, making it difficult to admit to suffering from conditions associated with ageing.  We have also had to cope with the loss of parents, sometimes siblings and close friends, from illnesses like Parkinsons, MS and motor-neuron disease. Many families have had mental health issues to deal with, sometimes over many years.

As someone who has experienced losses and learned to live with health problems, I feel that I have learned about myself and others from getting through difficult times.  We are lucky enough to have healthcare which gets us access to specialists when we need it, as well as screening for conditions left untreated in my grandmother’s time.  Being resilient and ready to take on the challenges of ageing is fine, but sometimes taking to your bed is the right way to look after yourself. What do you think? How has experience of ill-health or loss affected you?  Right now, I’m up, dressed and needed to resolve a tomato plant crisis. Such is life.

Beside Ourselves

I chose ‘beside ourselves’ for the address of this blog because I felt it summed up how we can be at various stages in our lives. I stole it from the title of Karen Joy Fowler’s novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.   According to Wikipedia, the expression orginated in the 15th Century in a translation of the Aeneid by William Caxton, in which Dido, on learning of Aeneas’ departure is described as hors de soi, ‘outside herself’,’outside’ being a synonym for ‘beside’. Said of women, it is often pejorative, suggesting hysteria and madness, but can describe any strong emotion.  I like the idea of being outside our usual rational, polite, well-behaved selves to rant, laugh and cry when we are not being heard.  Sometimes you can feel invisible. I read Vogue, Marie Claire and Red magazines, but there isn’t much aimed at older women.  ‘All ages’ beauty features usually stop at sixty – so that’s when we should give up?  Having loved make-up and clothes since I was a child in the fifties, I don’t intend to change now.  I gain inspiration from columnists like Sali Hughes, Lucy Mangan, Hadley Freeman and Mariella Frostrup, from my unselfconsciously beautiful friends and my lovely grown-up daughters. 

Boots No7 Gel-Look Shine
my summer favourites
Now for the frivolous bit. I am lucky enough to be retired, with some money to spend on myself and time to paint my nails. Bourjois do an amazing little pot into which you dip nails one at a time to take off polish. Magic Nail Polish Remover (Thanks, Sali Hughes for the tip) 

So, this is a forum in which I hope to share stories and experiences about coping with this ‘crone’ stage of womanhood, of its limits and liberation.  All topics, serious and frivolous, are welcome. And you don’t need to be the right side of sixty or female to contribute. 

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