Stiffness In Middle Age

figure-1707104_1920Sorry to mislead you with the clickbait of my title, but no, this isn’t a titillating article about the benefits of Viagra in middle age. It is, in fact, a piece on the more boring topic of stiff joints and aching muscles at this stage of our lives. Because it seems to me, that as one part of our bodies stops stiffening, the rest of it becomes as stiff as a board.

The Princess was recently labeled a senior dog by the vet – obviously, I covered her ears when they imparted the news because frankly, the dog is anxious enough – which must make us senior parents. And the vet has a point: because although our dog remains spritely for her age, is still keen to catch a ball in the garden and run away from us in the dog park – occasionally, I have seen her trip up steps or struggle to get down from the sofa.

 

Have you noticed any creaky bones, lower back pain or pinging tendons (that shouldn’t be pinging) when you get up or turn around too quickly because the strains on my body catch me out when I least expect it? Frankly, I can pull a neck muscle just reversing the car.

 

It seems ridiculous to me that I can swim forty lengths in the pool and then struggle to get out of my beach chair. Generally, I end up leaning over the side of it on all fours in the sand, in the sort of compromised bottom-flashing position made famous by that woman at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

 

And it’s not pretty.

 

It’s the same when I do the garden when sometimes a small crane would come in handy to pull me back upright. All too often, I have to physically straighten my legs from beneath me like vets do to new-born foals, whilst I tug on a branch for support.

 

I alluded to my problems with walking down slopes and steep steps in this post, only a short time ago, and it’s not just me – the old man still can’t bend down to touch the floor – although, in fairness, the old man and his rugby-thighs have never been able to bend down easily to the floor.

 

Touch wood, my joints feel okay at the moment, but it is interesting how suddenly that stiffness and lack of flexibility suddenly catches up with us in much the same way that grey hair, naps, and early bedtimes do. One minute we’re running from security in nightclubs and the next we’re being offered a seat on the bus. I can see how easy it is for people who do desk jobs to lose their fitness and flexibility and to compromise their backs.

 

Which is why we need to look after ourselves at this stage of our lives. I am a firm believer that we reap what we sow, or is it sow what we… ? Never mind. Personally, I find that a quick stroll down to the pub at lunchtime eases and lubricates my stiff joints and can set up my body for the rest of the day.

What Happened To The Fearlessness Of My Youth?

It is no secret that anxiety can be linked to menopause, and for some women, the condition can be so bad, it forces them to turn to anti-depressants to get through it.

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According to Medical News Today: ‘Hormone changes, life stresses, sleep problems, worries about body image, infertility, boring marriages and aging are all factors linked to menopause that can contribute to mood swings, stress, anxiety, irritability bordering on psychopathy and a decreased sense of any rationality well-being in women.’

There’s nothing worse than feeling anxious all the time, and if I could change one element of this period of my life, it would be the sense of irrational fear that has worked its way into my everyday consciousness.

I often wonder where the fearlessness I had as a child and young adulthood disappeared to in the ageing process. Anxiety diffuses my every thought to the point where I’ve even started to worry on behalf of others. I stop to watch the surfers at the beach and instead of envying them their majestic feat of travel through water, all I can think about are the waves strong enough to crush them, sharks, rips, Russian submarines, and ear infections.

Fortunately for them, their passion overrides their fear.

What happened to the kid that used to roll and bound down steep hills and steps, without worrying about falling over? When did I stop swinging across monkey bars, spinning the swing almost 360 degrees and climbing trees – okay, so I never actually climbed trees.

Did we do all that because our brains were underdeveloped, or has experience taught us to be more careful?

I often wonder what happened to the girl who lived and worked in a foreign country, drove across Europe by herself, hitchhiked and took her chances with Lotharios she’d never consider leaving her daughter with now.  What happened to that courageous young woman who reinvented herself so many times in the workplace that not even she recognised herself?

What happened to the fearlessness of my youth? When did fear start to impede my enjoyment of life?

Anyone else feel this way?

I Like To Think An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks…

However… every trip out of the home these days seems to involve some shaming new public lesson in technology that highlights my mom-ness and has zero human interaction or support. I pity the really old people who used to see a trip to the shops as the one chance in their day for conversation.

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I think I’ve coped quite well with the abundance of new technology thrown at us in recent years – coin-operated trollies and food that comes out of machines comes to mind – but when I went to the movies with a friend the other day and we had to buy our tickets from a machine ie. no student who doesn’t give a shit and is just trying to stay awake behind a desk,  I seriously had to question how good this is for our social skills.

 

For the most part, middle-aged pride forces me to argue with the adage that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, although admittedly, the limitations of the more mature body can make things a little slower.

 

But if the brain is willing…

 

For example, I have mastered how to open the modern wine bottle with its fancy screw top lid very quickly; I have stopped trying to force my keys into the button ignition of my car, and five times out of ten, I remember my recyclable shopping bags, hence avoiding the label of planet-destroyer, apart from the five times I don’t.

 

But, there are certain tasks that have proved trickier to absorb, which for the main part are linked to technology.

 

Why the fuck couldn’t they leave things alone?

 

For while the mobile phone is an improvement, it has caused me major abandonment/anxiety issues due to my dependency, like when it stops working for no reason or I have lost it and realized that there is not one single telephone number stored in my head and I am alone in a car park with no idea where my car is parked.

 

We also have parking meters now that require you to enter your car registration number. What woman has ever been able to remember their registration number?  Did they seriously think that through?

 

And, just me, or does everyone require additional assistance at the self-serve check-outs because their fruit, apparently, doesn’t exist, or their bag is not registering that there is anything in it, or their French stick has not been coded? Surely, that has to defeat their purpose?

 

I get the premise of packing your own food for the purposes of speed, efficiency and getting rid of minimum-wage staff, but find it hard to ignore the deep-seated challenge of the set up in Aldi, for example. I like to call it  “Beating the cashier”, and the aim of the game is to catch all your shopping thrown at you by the cashier and put it into the appropriate sections of your trolley – ie. Veg goes at one end, fridge stuff at the other and Who-The-Fuck-Knows-Where-That-Will-Go? somewhere in the middle – before they finish. By the end, my trolley might resemble a refuse mountain with my bags buried carefully beneath it, but it’s still a win, bitch!

 

Try it! It’s really fun.

 

And finally, does anyone know what an HTML cord is yet? Asking for an old dog. 

 

 

 

Things I’m Too Old For – Music Gigs

This post is the first in a new series called “Things I’m Too Old for;” an idea I came up with the other night when we went into the city to watch a gig roughly two nights before we moved house – cos that’s what you do when you’re about to experience one of the most stressful events of your life. restroom-99225_1280

 

I know, I know… I can already hear you mumbling about how ‘you’re never too old,’ or ‘you’re only as old as you feel,’ but frankly, there are a few things I’d rather not do anymore.

 

Skiing, festivals, camping, menstruation and… live music gigs, as it turns out.

 

For those as stubbornly entrenched in the Victorian era as I am when it comes to their approach to modern living, the definition of a “gig” is a live performance – something we used to call a “concert” – and it is more usually of the “popular” genre of music. We went to see an Australian band called Angus and Julia Stone, an “indie” band – according to Kurt – whose repertoire has a “sitting on the beach with a spliff and can of VB” vibe to it, somewhat along the lines of Jack Johnson.

 

The old man and I have a special connection to brother and sister, Angus and Julia, because they went to Kurt’s school and their father was his music teacher. However, that is as far as the depth of the relationship stretches – in other words, not far enough to guarantee us good seats, hence we found ourselves positioned once again in our favored spot at the top of Everest.

 

When you find yourself in row U without your oxygen mask and no clear access to toilets, it’s best not to think about your plan of escape in the event of a fire, especially in a concert hall that’s so old, the staff breathes heavily on you for air conditioning. I realize that the location of the toilets should not be a dealbreaker when it comes to having a good time, but it is, especially after the five glasses of wine and all-you-can-eat Thai I’d swilled down beforehand. So it was with some concern that I found myself in the middle of our row and nowhere near toilets, fire escape or the Maltesers, although I needn’t have worried about my bladder showing me up, because it turns out that Millennials can’t hold down more than a few beers either without needing to piss and at one point our row looked like it was doing the Mexican wave. All this, before the band had even bothered to show up – around 9pm – which is usually my bedtime.

 

As Kurt refused to let me take my binoculars, I had to imagine what Angus and Julia looked like in the flesh from our great height and through the haze of smoke and moody darkness in which they performed. I hate to admit it, but it did cross my mind several times that it would have been easier and a darn sight cheaper to watch them on the tv, but I realize how old that makes me sound.

 

Fortunately, by the third song the old neck began to move rhythmically to its beat, in and out in ostrich fashion, and I began to feel the return of my groove, and somehow, I managed to convince myself I was enjoying myself in spite of the old man’s snores and the Millennial texting beside me. It took every ounce of my strength not to ask her to turn down the glare on her phone.

 

Dare I admit to being a little bummed when Angus and Julia came back for their encore? Nevertheless, I dug my nails into the old man’s arms stoically – he’d been biting at the bit for thirty minutes so he could be first out to the car park – and we both yawned our way through the dying throes of those last few songs, while all my brain could think about was my bed.

 

Romance Goals And How Sometimes It’s Best To Say Nothing At All

‘Have you farted?’ the old man said to me as he brushed past me to get into my bath water.

 

underwear-2613034_1920Not exactly the three words I hoped to hear when we said our vows nearly twenty-five years ago. But if he’d said ‘I love you’, I would probably have worried that he was hiding something. Not that we never say those words, but we tend to reserve them for special occasions like Christmas or for serious negotiations over the last cube of chocolate or drop of wine.

 

‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘let’s watch Netflix,’ and ‘can you unload the dishwasher?’ is our language of love these days. ‘Take off your panties’ – not so much – the sultry words whispered by Christian Grey to Anastasia Steele over dinner in Fifty Shades Darker, the viewing of which, (NC and I decided yesterday afternoon) counted as slightly more of an achievement than sleeping for two hours on the sofa.

 

Anastasia obliged immediately because she’s that kind of independent, modern woman that woman starved themselves for, who does exactly what she’s told, whereas I would probably have reacted with ‘YOU take off your panties,’ (more M&M than S&M) or the simplest words, ‘I’M EATING!’.

 

Even more entertaining was when she managed to inch down the itsy-bitsiest lace g-string over six-inch strappy heels which she obviously couldn’t take off first because a) they were sat in a restaurant and b) I imagine they took two hours to do up. Let’s get serious here: there is no way you could inch a g-string down your legs – no hands – without them getting caught on sandals with enough straps and buckles to look like an S&M torture device. I couldn’t help imagining my version of the scene and the camera’s lingering focus at the end on my huge granny undies caught up in my Hush Puppies to the crooning of Barry White.

 

Yep, romantic gestures change with age and the longevity of relationships.

 

A romantic gesture from the old man these days is a take-out meal or a bottle of wine that costs more than ten dollars; mine to him is permission to watch the rugby. Flowers are a rarity, that occasionally appear on our anniversary if I threaten to leave him and the last time I told him I loved him was when I got two consecutive parking tickets in one morning.

 

If you want a cinematic delight of a trip down memory lane to those early, heady days of young love, I suggest you don’t watch Fifty Shades Darker – the tale of two robots with dialogue that was obviously written by two kindergarten kids who forgot that both characters need lines, leaving the female protagonist stuttering and sighing  with frustration through every scene – or at least I imagine that’s what all that groaning was about. Although she does still manage to score the top job in a publishing house at the age of twenty-one so maybe I should try whimpering like a dog next time I want to nail a job.

 

I can recommend a good old-fashioned classic such as An Officer and a Gentleman, though. We caught the last half of it at the weekend and decided that nothing beats the chemistry between Winger and Gere, who hiss like a Chinese sizzle dish on screen. An anti-hero like Christian Grey, don’t expect awkward declarations of love from Richard “Love God” Gere, but if broody, smouldering looks, a confident swagger, a very nice chest and defined peen lines stir those dormant embers – sorted!

 

In the words of Ronan Keating, ‘sometimes you say it best when you say nothing at all.’

 

 

 

When Are You Too Old To Ski?

It might surprise you to know that we are skiing this week – an interesting choice of holiday for two middle-aged people with anxiety with the physical flexibility of two brick walls. I doubled my medication as a precaution.

 

To be honest, I don’t know what the fuck we think we’re doing, either – skiing at fifty-plus. I like to pretend it’s something to do with taking myself out of my comfort zone but the truth is, I agree to this holiday each year to accumulate brownie points with the old man. I am beginning to question, however, if a bit more leverage at the local shopping centre is truly worth risking life and limb for.

 

The only consolation is that the old man – a natural sportsman when it comes to ball sports – is a truly shite skier, and what makes that funnier is that he refuses to admit to it. Indeed, in spite of the billions spent on lessons, we’re both as useless as the day we began this ridiculous sport, decades ago, and the only saving grace is that I am slightly faster than him and can also ride a chairlift without falling off – a new skiing low for the old man yesterday.

 

We had to lie to Peter, our instructor this holiday, about how many lessons we’ve had before.

 

‘A few,’ we said in unison, right after Peter had yanked the old man’s body back from the precipice below and into the chairlift, like some three-year old child.

 

Peter is about sixty-five and not exactly the ski instructor I imagined when I booked this round of lessons, hopeful for some rewarding distraction for my week of sacrifice. He also gets quite tetchy when we don’t nail his drills in one go, snow plow instead of doing a parallel turn, giggle or answer him back. And frankly, we’re both getting a bit old in the tooth to be bullied for something we’ve paid for. That’s why I gave up yoga.

 

The only good thing about skiing is that because everything takes so long to do, the time passes quickly, and like childbirth, once you look into the eyes of that first Mulled Wine in the local lodge, the skier’s amnesia sets in to help you forget the horror until the next morning. Getting dressed each day takes up half your holiday and the layers of clothing to protect you from the frostbite make movement difficult. Then, when the sun comes out, you cook from the inside out, rather like being microwaved. And it takes at least thirty minutes to squeeze sore, reshaped feet into ill-fitting boots and then you have to trundle the whole caboodle up a mountain by a slow, primitive transport system that has a habit of losing people and equipment en route.

 

The impact on the sort of middle-aged body that counts walking as exercise is immense, as you can imagine. And no matter how much you prepare yourself for the muscle and joint pain, twinges appear in the most unlikely of places – something to do with getting down a mountain in the squatting position required for those hole-in-the-ground toilets at Dubai airport, I imagine.

 

The fact that I can now get down a slope without triggering an avalanche must mean that my technique has improved, but I have yet to enjoy the journey back to the restaurant – or as we call it, “base camp”. My aim is a simple one – to get down the mountain as quickly as possible, before I kill someone or someone kills me in this expensive game of survival, where small children and snowboarders are the obstacles to living for another day.

 

We’ve given NC the information for how to access what’s left of our wealth after this holiday because not even the promise of a mulled wine or hot chocolates frothing with cholesterol on the slopes is enough to disguise the reality that we will probably die here.

 

 

And The Race Is On For That Medical Marijuana Script

headache-1540220_1920Health concerns continue to dominate the conversation with friends, now evolving at a faster pace than our hatred for world leaders and terrorists. Where ten years ago all we had to grumble about were minor twinges, joint soreness and forgetting the odd name, nowadays we talk about cancer, blood pressure and how often we forget our own children’s names. We have heated debates about the health system, out of pocket expenses, the cost of anesthesia and the benefits of this hospital over that one.

 

Such is our enthusiasm for the topic of our decaying health, competitions have been set up for who takes the most medication or has the highest Statin dosage, and there is a prize of a holiday to Disneyland for the family that reaches the Medicare threshold first.

 

I was bemoaning my most recent terminal symptoms to a girlfriend the other day and she told me that if you make it to fifty, there’s a good chance you’re here for the long haul.

 

I think she was being optimistic, but in the spirit of positivity, I switched the topic of conversation at lunch a few weeks ago to Marijuana, even if this subject has been somewhat exhausted over the past few years in relation to our offspring.

 

This time, it was the medical kind that was up for debate, and by dessert, we had drawn up a legal pact that whoever among us is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to attain that first medical marijuana script, has to share. I should point out this agreement was made with a similar logic and scale of planning that saw our parents set up timeshare properties with their friends back in the eighties, and like then, payment will be red wine. But the old man and I were thrilled as the decision took us one step further in the goals of our own personal retirement plan, one of which is to be the next Bernie and Rozalin Focker.

 

If we can’t get the script, Plan b is to see if our kids have any contacts, at which point the old man and I went suspiciously quiet.

 

Another friend of ours was quite surprised to find that I carry Aspirin around in my handbag at all times – unless I switch handbags, in which case I have accepted I will die  – which is something I have done for a good ten years now. ‘Positive thinking?’ he quipped.

 

‘It’s hard to be positive when your mother dropped dead at thirty-four of a heart attack,’ I responded bitchily because it was that time of the month.

 

Did you know that Aspirin is a highly efficient anti-clotting agent that can save you in the early stages of a heart attack or stroke and it is widely used in a preventative capacity after such events? I know this because another friend ours prioritized going to a 7-Eleven for a packet of the stuff on his way to the ER – just prior to his second minor heart attack – and he lived to tell the tale.

 

Even if they only act as a placebo, those little tablets of willow bark extraction in my handbag give me some level of comfort each day and I try to ignore anxiety’s questions of how I would get it down my neck in abject pain and possibly on my own. I would also need water because although Aspirin is the largest selling pain reliever in the world, it still tastes fucking foul.

 

Ignoring my mean response, my friend – who I swear is related to Don Tilman from the The Rosie Project – who is one of those people that stores useless information to bring out at random moments, like when you’re trying to say your good byes in a busy car park, went on to give me the history of Aspirin and to recount its other superpowers.

 

Did you know?

 

Aspirin can slow down cancer growth.

 

Aspirin is good for the brain and reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

Aspirin can revive a car battery long enough to get you to a garage.

 

It prolongs the life of flowers.

 

It restores hair color from chlorine.

 

It relieves bug bites and acne.

 

You do need to real the small print, however. Like Viagra and other wonder drugs, too much can be dangerous, and although your willy won’t explode and shatter into a million pieces, deafness can be linked to over-use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Menopause To Blame For My Poor Concentration As Well?

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‘Just call me a homing pigeon,’ said the old man smugly as he traversed the narrow streets of our neighbourhood, Italian Job-style, to avoid the traffic on the main arterial road to the city. 

I’ve never had and homing skills, a fact that was proven only a few days before when I got a bus to meet NC and ended up twenty kilometres further north. I had to call her anxiously to tell her I was lost.

‘I thought you told me that all the buses go to the city,’ I said accusingly as I dug around my handbag for my glasses to check Google maps – only to realise that I’d left them at home with my brain.  

‘Where are you?’ she asked me, sounding like my mother.

‘Fuck knows,’ I answered in a bleak voice, praying this was just another one of ‘those days’ and not the early signs of dementia.

I’ve never had a great sense of direction. I blame it on the timetable clash at school between Geography and Art, but I still like to think that my current issue is more linked to a distraction problem than short term memory loss.

I find it more and more difficult to concentrate these days, particularly when I’m not interested in what I’m supposed to be concentrated on. I zone out, I drop out of conversations, (or more rudely, I attempt to veer them in the direction I want them to go). Even watching Netflix, I struggle to maintain focus on complicated plots and and I catch my mind wandering to tomorrow’s dinner or my plans for the next day. 

I can concentrate on my writing, on reading books and articles on social media – the pastimes I enjoy – but the rest of the time it feels like I’m running around in a permanent fug.

Can I blame menopause? Apparently so. You see, it has been universally acknowledged that hormone fuckery and lack of sleep contribute to poor concentration in both peri-menopause and menopause itself, which means – I hope – that I’m not in the early stages of Alzheimer’s after all.

Perhaps, it’s simply that I struggle to relax. Like most women, I made a career out of multi-tasking, but in recent years my life has become less hectic and my body is still acclimatising to that change. It isn’t used to being able to sit still for periods of time.

‘Breathe, Mum,’ NC advised before she hung up. I think it’s time to take her advice.

Middle-Aged Memory Loss: When You Need A Checklist Just To Leave The House

So apparently, the old man also experiences the whole dementia thing, which I had hoped was short-term in my case and attributed to menopause rather than a permanent decline.

Getting out of the house together can be a strain these days and the organization we require to remember everything we need has become an embarrassment. We are forced to run through lengthy checklists before we feel brave enough to open the front door and enter what is becoming a newly threatening world outside. While admittedly, I am known for putting my keys in the fridge and my attempts to boil milk in the kettle, I can’t tell you how often the old man has to go back to the house for his phone or wallet. And nowhere was this new level of senility more apparent than on holiday when we were outside the comfort zone of our territory for a whole week.

One day, we booked a massage at a nearby spa, because included in the deal was the use of the rest of the spa’s facilities for the remainder of the day as well as lunch – an offer that proved impossible to resist for cheapskates like us who had reached breaking point from the feral kids permanently adrift in the pool at our own hotel (as we waited for the Department of Education to turn up after an anonymous tip-off).

‘So all I need is my swimmers?’ the old man asked me five minutes before we were being picked up, and an hour into my own preparations’.

‘No, you need a hat, sunglasses, towel, your phone and something to read,’ I replied helpfully, trying to ignore the ‘CHECK HIS FUCKING BAG!’ thought pounding in my head because I decided it was disempowering.

Two hours later, fully relaxed after a wonderful massage, I suggested that we change into our swimmers in the massage room rather than allow the old man to put any teenage girls around the pool through the torture of having to watch him do his Houdini-style towel dance.

‘I’ve forgotten my swimmers,’ he said, sheepishly, before he went on to blame me for distracting him with all the other stuff he had to remember.

So, for your entertainment, (and as a small punishment for losing his marbles before I lose mine), I bring you a photo of the old man wearing the vintage-style bottoms to the most un-itsy-bitsy bikini (thank God!) you’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, I was forced to sit around the pool for the rest of the day in my underwear, to the mortification of all the poor men under forty.

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Couples Holidays For The Middle-Aged – When Sometimes It’s Easier To Stay At Home

buoy-914766_1920The problem with going away when you finally reach that longed-for stage of almost empty-nesting is that anxiety tends to rear its ugly head at about the same time in your life, and it throws up all sorts of other issues. So although we don’t have to worry about remembering a long list of toddler essentials like nappies and sterilizers and portable beds nowadays, we do have to prepare ourselves for the mental anguish of dashed expectations, change, flying, other people and more importantly other people’s small children.

Sometimes, I wonder whether it would be easier to stay at home.

Somewhat predictably, I fear we have turned into one of those moaning, judgmental, middle-aged couples on holiday because there is definitely a pattern emerging each time we go away, where we spend more time waiting to get home than actually enjoying our holiday.

‘It’s a bit hot,’ the old man had commented, an hour into our holiday as we downed our second drink in celebration of our survival of the most tumultuous flight since London to Dublin circa 1995.

‘Stop moaning,’ I said, as I watched him squint at the sun because he forgot to pack his sunglasses.We’re making an effort to be grateful this holiday, remember?’ I reminded him sternly.

Because we know we should be grateful. A whole week without the kids at one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever been to – (because I got a deal) – and I had even managed to ignore the unspoken meaning behind the words of mine and Kurt’s doctor when she grabbed me by the shoulder the day before we left and said, ‘are you seriously leaving Kurt with NC?’ Surely, she should know by now that’s not the sort of thing you say to someone you are treating for anxiety disorder?

‘I’m never flying again,’ I had stated earlier that morning when we stepped off the plane on legs that refused to coordinate after two hours of non-stop turbulence on a three hour flight in which that whole scene when NC tells Kurt that the old man has left all of their inheritance to the Spoodle Sanctuary had played over and over in my mind as I decided we were going to die – and even worse, on a flight during which there was no alcohol with which to dull the demons of anxiety because it was breakfast time and society dictates…never mind.

But two hours later we found ourselves in paradise, and the effects of drinking wine in the sun at lunchtime and the knowledge that we might survive another week had given me some (false) hope, so we ventured down to the pool of our hotel. And lo and behold, two free sunbeds jumped out at us immediately (without the old man having to threaten or remove anyone’s towels) – in the shade, but as the old man informed me whilst setting his alarm for 5 am tomorrow, that would be the last time anyone put him in the shade – and so finally, we settled down to relax.

But if you believe in the Law of Attraction, you’ll know that it was almost inevitable that as soon as our eyes began to glaze over, those first cold splashes of pool water from about a dozen noisy kids who decided that the best part of the Olympic-sized pool to play in with big blow up toys and water soakers was directly in front of us, would bring us back to reality. Kids, we had assumed, would be at school at this time of the year.

The heat of hatred seared my body from the direction of the old man’s sunbed well before the sun had a chance, as he hissed a ‘fuck!’ under his breath. ‘Breathe!’ I said to myself as I pulled my towel over my head.

‘Look at how gorgeous this place is,’ I tried, looking out towards our surroundings above the heads of the feral children at the clear blue sky framed by palm trees and the crystal waters beneath it – my ears just about able to pick up the clink of Champagne glasses from the al fresco restaurant over the whining squeals of ‘Mummy, MUMMY…LOOK AT ME!’ in every other direction.

A tut came back in response.

‘Do you know how intolerant you’re becoming with middle age?’ I asked him, wiping the water from my legs.

‘Pfft!’ he responded. ‘We’re going to an over-18 hotel next time.’

‘We can’t afford over-18 hotels…’

‘Okay, well I’m staying at home, then,’ he said, jamming his earplugs into his ears, like a sulking teenager.

‘There’s still the buffet breakfast…’was my last-ditched attempt to save the week.

To be continued…

When You Use Your Age As An Excuse Not To Chase Your Dreams

I went to a workshop on freelance writing on Saturday. Pursuing the dream, seizing the day, there are a number of clichés I could come up with to describe my final charge into a job that I love. adult-1868015_1920

I learned that journalism is not for the faint-hearted these days, with cutbacks and job losses and a sizeable drop in the word rate in recent years. And like many jobs in the arts, you have to be either crazy or passionate to go into it – and there’s probably a very fine line between the two. It’s also bloody hard work, and perhaps not something sane people ‘of a certain age’ should consider when they could be winding down with Ellen each morning.

Fortunately, there appears to be less of an ageist facet to freelance writing than in fiction-writing, where you need to be able to market your work physically as well as write it. Sitting on the stage of a writer’s festival, with knitting in one hand and inhaler in the other, is probably not the promotion a publisher is looking for when they try to sell your erotica novel. So the appeal of the freelance writing gig is that I can be back of house, slouched in front of my computer, clad in jammies, hair unkempt, toes being kept toasty by the dog in winter.

I’m not naive enough to believe that you can be anything you want to be at this, (or indeed), any time of your life. I suspect that it is too late for me to become an Olympic athlete or an astronaut for NASA, but then again, would I ever have really pursued those goals with such a distaste for sports and heights?

There were about fifteen of us wannabe writers in the room – an eclectic, somewhat motley bunch, each with aspirations of making money from doing something we love and at different junctures of our writing career. The full spectrum of ages and personalities was made more evident once we were asked to share an imaginary pitch and those different views, politics, idealisms and sensitivities sliced through the room with as much subtlety as a hot knife through butter. Most writers, I suspect, are opinionated know-it-alls who seek a platform from which their voice can be heard.

At the beginning of the session, our leader took full advantage of her position of power by asking us to introduce ourselves, and flashbacks of being picked on by my English teacher to transpose Shakespeare, flooded my brain.  Funny really – when all of us in that room were confident enough to put ourselves out there; had given up our Saturday to improve ourselves. I watched as each one of us squirmed in our seats as our turn got closer. Writers are not quite as gregarious when it comes to self-proclamation and hubris with the spoken voice.

One thing I have learned over time is not to downgrade myself in these situations. I refuse to apologize for who I am these days, when in the past I would make feeble, self-deprecating jokes or give reasons as to why I shouldn’t really be there – a habit women are far more guilty of than men. Typically, the person who protested too most about her inexperience went on to deliver the best pitch and we all hated her immediately.

Most of the group, however, spoke with humility and passion and openly admitted to the rest of us strangers that they were still chasing the dream, (the unspoken words being), before it’s too late. Many of the younger ones were already in-house journalists and about to set off on travels that they would finance through their freelance work and some were already published authors, branching out in different directions of the writing industry – one they hoped would pay the bills. Several, like me, were scratching the itch.

‘Change’ is exciting and terrifying and in these situations when you have committed yourself to a situation, (and ‘flight’ is still a tempting possibility),  it would be easy to cave in to those ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’ fears that mess with your brain. So it’s good to be with like-minded people, with similar goals; to be reminded that you’re not alone.

There are millions of us still searching for ideas and answers for ways to improve ourselves, and I know that I’m lucky to have this opportunity. There will be days when it is impossible to eradicate doubt from my mind, and in the same way that those progress prizes at school marked me as being not quite good enough, the old fear taunts me that I will always be known as Louisa The Trier, in Viking terms. But that’s okay.

I’ve stalled several times over the last few years in relation to taking this step, so I wasn’t surprised when ‘you’re too old for this’ rang in my ears as I walked into that meeting room on Saturday, pretending to feel confident. Youth and beauty are equated with success in our society and once you get past fifty, it is easy to disappear ‘over the hill’ unless you fight. 

It turns out that I wasn’t the dinosaur.

It’s time to change that internal rhetoric.

Those Embarrassing, Inane Conversations Of Middle Age

I’m not sure when the old man and I silently agreed that inane middle-aged conversation was acceptable now. It was probably another one of those telepathic, marital communications that we couldn’t verbalise due to the shame, but one day it was suddenly okay to talk about gibberish – about stuff like the weather or what the dentist said, or the cost of milk. peace-1754379_1920

Like many of the symptoms of ageing, inane conversation creeps up on the best of us, and our situation is more dangerous than most because we work together from home, and there are only so many intelligent conversations you can have when you get caught in the kitchen making toast in between meals.

Today, we did the food shop together, (because obviously we haven’t spent enough time together this week), and when we noticed that our supermarket is changing the position of its entry barriers, our dwindling middle-aged brains went into lock down and we couldn’t help ourselves.

‘Well, it’s about time they did that,’ I said, trying to sound cheerful about this latest progress in our community in an attempt to disguise my innate middle-aged fear of change. ‘I can’t tell you how many times I nearly scraped the car on those old barriers.’

‘I know, right?’ nodded the old man in agreement, ‘I can’t believe they didn’t think it about it before. I wonder where you exit from now?’ he added, seriously.

There it was, another inane conversation, and suddenly aware, we looked at each other with embarrassment and sealed our lips lest we say another condemning word.

As the old man pointed out, though, if we actually knew any people in our suburb, the topic of the new barriers would make for wonderful dinner-party discussion – one that I imagine could go on for most of the evening.

‘I can’t believe you wore flip flops on a rainy day again,’ I commented later, as we were leaving the supermarket and I watched the old man carefully navigate the wet steps down to the car park. ‘Don’t you ever learn?’

I was referring, of course, to that time, a year or so ago, when he slipped down some wet steps in the rain in his flip flops, and cracked two ribs. He then took the problem to building management who hastily installed some ‘Slippery When Wet’ signs – before the old geezer in 308 sued them – which he would nod at approvingly each time we walked past them.

‘At least these have some grip on them…’he replied, before he stopped himself short, looked at me guiltily and pursed his lips.

When does it happen, this swift descent down the luge to old age? When did we start doing and saying all those things we used to ridicule our parents and old people on the bus for? When did I start caring about the garden? When did the old man decide that growing grass from seed was a good idea?

We are educated, intelligent human beings who used to know and have the confidence in our relationship to keep schtum unless we had something interesting to say – something that was worth sharing. When did we start feeling the need to fill in the gaps? Is it fear of loneliness? Does it give us some hidden comfort now to share our every thought or is it simply that we’ve lost the mental ability to filter out the shit?

Retirement: Sea Change Or No Change

It feels like we’ve been planning our retirement our whole lives, yet now as we inch closer to our target, the old man and I have realised that the dreams we shared in our early years together may have changed. ball-2517_1280

I thought that my aspirations would centre around little more than long lunches at the golf club, beach walks, getting my hair tinted and dabbling in oil painting in my artist’s studio. However, this week’s beach holiday, whilst supremely relaxing, has highlighted how aimless I can become without routine and with limited Internet.

 

I’ve discovered the middle-aged body’s propensity for sleep when you have nothing tangible with which to fill your day and I can see myself slipping quite naturally into the cozy vacuum of retirement where a game of lawn bowls becomes the week’s entertainment. Just like dogs that are left at home while their owners work, I can already sleep on command and it’s becoming an effort to lower my tired body into my beach chair, hoist up the umbrella and slip, slop, slap more cream into my leathery skin each day.

 

In fact I’m so busy sleeping that the charge on my creative battery seems to have died and the only conversation I’m capable of is to quip back at Kurt’s barbed comments about why we dragged the poor kid away to this isolated detention centre where he can only get two bars on his phone.

 

I’m also fairly certain that my walks along the shoreline don’t fully compensate for the generous lunches that are somehow okay on holiday, or that they will they keep the extra kilos of contentment at bay.

 

Needless to say, the old man and I have been inspired to waste hours discussing and planning a sea change. The rediscovery of this gorgeous, un-spoilt little haven on the North Cost of New South Wales with its cluster of beautiful beaches edging the coastline has re-ignited our enthusiasm for an adventure or lifestyle change, perhaps a year out to commence Act 3 of our lives (more about that in another post) – for me to concentrate on my writing and for him to continue to pretend to work, like he does in Sydney.

 

And as I listen to the waves lap outside our window at night and pad through metres of hot sand by day, the tingle of salt on my skin and the wind in my hair makes the thought of escape tempting, to become anonymous and closer to nature.

 

Or perhaps not. Because what those discussions have made us realise is that our plans for Act 3 have unknowingly evolved over the intervening years and revolve less around relaxation and mocktails now and more around grabbing whatever time we have left by the balls.

 

And a sea change would involve more than a three-hour drive from everything we know and hold dear to us, like the pub that serves my favourite wine and the old man’s kebab shop. It would mean pushing the chicks out of the nest before I suspect they are ready to fly.

 

And although there are times – last night being one of them – when I would dearly love the kids to fuck off…or should I say transition to the role of “welcome visitors” rather than the freeloaders that they are, and that it’s almost time to force the them to stand on their own two feet and embrace the independence we’ve prepared them for (if we’ve done our job right), Kurt is nowhere near ready, and in all honesty, neither am I.

 

Anyway, I’ve read far too many articles about what is really important to people on their death beds and it’s never the “two-for-one Chicken Parmigiana with free glass of wine” at the local golf club on a Monday night.

 

12 Things I Do That Give My Age Away

There is a dichotomy to the way our personality changes as we mature. On the one hand, I don’t give a fuck about things I used to stress about – such as my appearance and toxic friends – and on the other hand, stuff that used to seem trivial can wind me up like a clockwork toy. 949ed6478d834261223654b5d32a1533-1

 

There are so many things I’ve succumbed to with age, that I swore I’d never do when I was young.

 

The evidence:

 

  1. I feel quasi-maternal when I look at gardens. I felt a visceral sense of disappointment by the dead lawn that we inherited with this new house, whereas in the old days I would have been grateful that it required no love. I’m never going to go full batshit green-craziness and grow herbs and vegetables because I hate worms, but you’ll catch me risk a full blown mozzie attack to water the grass at night in a vain attempt to motivate those dead blades back to life. I pause to appreciate pretty flowers in the street too, and feel awed by their beauty and creation.

 

  1. I hate noise. I turn down the volume on everything in the house – usually very angrily – from the ridiculous level of the television to Kurt’s music. If I could, I would turn down the volume on the smoothie maker and the drier. I have also hidden all the Princess’s balls that squeak. But the absolute worst offender is the fridge that beeps when the door is left open that the old man chose either to torment me or to remind me that life isn’t perfect. If it wasn’t for the fact that it keeps my wine cold, I could come close to assisted dying with that white piece of shit.

 

  1. I like walking. I walk all the time and kid myself that it counts as exercise; the irony being that I’m not actually walking for the exercise, I’m walking because I actually like it. I put the world to rights when I walk and have even been known to have a smile on my face on a hill.

 

  1. I hate people. The old man and I go out early in the evening to avoid the crowds and we sit as far away from the ‘family’ section as possible because the sound of kids crying over the shape of their chicken nuggets can send me into a frenzy. I’ve got the tee-shirt for that type of shit. I think I want to go to the pub for some atmosphere but it’s slowly dawning on me that I don’t actually like atmosphere.

 

  1. My latent maternal instinct is brought out by cute animals. Whereas my natural response these days to images of small children is to hyperventilate from the relief that those days are over, my heart melts at the sight of pictures and videos of cute animals. If I got paid an hourly rate for Internet research on cute animal videos, I could retire right now. There is nothing better than baby hedgehogs sleeping in egg boxes.

 

  1. I become an hormonal mess when I read inspirational quotes and memes, hence my Pinterest addiction. I understand perfectly now why old people think that those kitsch birthday cards – the type our grandparents used to send us that had kittens and ribbons and baskets of flowers on the front and vomit poetry inside – made sense to them.

 

  1. I wear nightwear. Not hospital nightwear, but enough coverage so I don’t feel as exposed and vulnerable as when I’m naked. Co-habitation with over-honest teenagers in the house with no understanding of privacy or ageing skin may have something to do with it. I could equally blame the unrealistic expectations set by women’s magazines, but it’s probably more about cake. When the old man cuddles me when I’m on my side in bed I tuck my tummy in my granny knickers and breathe in. Interestingly, he feels no compulsion to tuck in his… tummy.

 

  1. I find comfort in order and routine. It annoys me when things aren’t put away, bins aren’t emptied, hairs accumulate on the bathroom floor and the kids think it’s acceptable to leave their dishes on the side because the dishwasher needs emptying. I would book my holidays a year ahead if the old man wasn’t so convinced we will be living on the streets within the next six months and I could eat the same seven meals each week. I’m not socially impulsive because I take great pleasure in looking at my diary and working up my excitement to upcoming events that have been planned for months. A weekend with no plans sends me into mental free fall with the same certainty as someone inviting me out of the blue on a week-night.

 

  1. New technology scares TF out of me. I freeze with the fear of ignorance when placed in front of a new computer which is why I would choose to live on the streets rather than ever get another job where the twenty-something receptionist has to tell me how to switch my computer on. Luckily I have Kurt’s number on speed dial and that sense of security is almost worth his sea-floor level of condescension.

 

  1. I snack like an old person. I stuff my gob with healthier food options like fruit and nuts and crackers in between meals these days. Occasionally when I’m stressed or miss lunch, my heart rules my head like it did in the old days and I get through three chocolate bars, then I stick my photo of Elle McPherson back on the fridge door and self-flagellate.

 

  1. My new hobby is the state of my health. The old man and I discuss our health all the time and our first conversation of the day always relates to which stage of dying we are at with our ‘current ailments.’ There are four stages: worrying symptoms, anxiety, doctor and certain death. I have glue ear at the moment – the curse of the elite swimmer – and I’m teetering between ‘do I need to go to the doctor?’ which would make my ailment real and the fear that a visit will upgrade my hypochondriac label.

 

  1. I drink tea. Lots of it. I would drink the healthy, fruity shit if it didn’t make me wee all night.

 

  1. I‘m considering a faith. I’ve been thinking a lot about God and whether it’s time to work on the ‘goodness’ part of my personality.

 

 

What do you do that gives your age away?