I tend not to look in mirrors these days, bad enough that I sometimes come upon an image advancing on me in a shop window, has me thinking who’s that old doll? Then I realise that it is me and I am appalled. I tend to forget how I have matured; my body never ceases to amaze me.

The latest vagary has involved my neck; I am pleased to say that I have recently lost weight and I note that my neck protrudes rather like a tortoise neck, scrawny. However, it has cleverly NOT lost the flabby undercarriage that has grown at the bottom of my face. So, I have jowls and scrag making a novel frame under my chin. I feel rather petty grieving over the state of my attributes – who cares? I do, clearly, and I am surprised. I have treated my body like an old sock without contemplating the idea that it would eventually assume all the appearance of an old sock, revenge?

I won’t attempt to describe my body in detail just believe me, losing weight is supposed to be a good move. Nobody tells you that the flesh does not retreat in line with the weight loss, it does not snap back and become svelte, it hangs in crinkles looking as if it is dying for a good iron. It is possible to squash and squeeze into a far smaller size which is encouraging and it is fortunate that nobody but myself and my remarkably tolerant love have to see this spectacle. She finds a great deal of humour in the sight of my shrinking body and can be heard hooting away but she says she preferred me fatter.

Yet the spirit remains as taut as ever the moods of exultancy and gloom continue, the thought processes seem intact though the memory becomes eclectic in what it calls to mind. I can forget a simple word & remember the words of an ancient song that I never liked much anyway. I do try to be philosophical and most of the time I manage it pretty well.  I get tired but then I get up at dawn and have an afternoon nap. In fact I am very happy for most of the time so perhaps this is a sign of geriatric daftness. I think not.

Being old has given me an appreciation of the glories of nature which lay dormant for much of my youth when I lurched from the joy of drugs to the ecstasy of booze in a kind of blur. All self-inflicted suffering received resentfully and I hardly noticed sun or trees. I was extremely thin then and my bones jutted out uncomfortably into my lovers. So, better late than never? I think so, though this is not a homily by any means.

So, I am almost reconciled to the terrible state of my body, I can move around the world, get pleasure from the sight of the sunrise, I can look at the moon, enjoy music and books and I love writing so I shall conceal the body under nice gear and proceed albeit slowly – and who wants to rush anyway?

If only I could control the impulse to compare all the other old girls and judge. But we women are taught to compare at an early age and it is difficult to abandon the habits of a lifetime and while there are gorgeous creatures prancing around in their seventies or eighties it is a tad discouraging to truly accept and enjoy my poor old carcase. Yet I do. As a receptacle for my mind and for my true self – which I like to think of as my own immortality.

So there






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The Area

I have been writing a piece about the area that I live in for months, periodically, but since talking to a friend who is fifty years younger than me last night I have scrapped it as a sanctimonious rather dreary testament to my anti-racist stance.

When I moved here from Bournemouth it was a lively place with red lights in windows and girls on corners – always only on one side of the road. I never understood why. Students lived in many of the houses and there were three regular shebeens and what we would now call ‘pop-up’ blues that would function for a day or two. It was already multi-racial with a number of Asians and some slightly bitter whites who felt invaded. Also there was an Afro Caribbean presence. And many more whites who were happy with the undoubted advantages that the incomers brought in the way of food and late opening shops and enjoyed their company.

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Reading Miranda Sawyer today who is 44 and is feeling that half her life is over and I was inspired to discuss my own advanced age and what it means to me. I am eighty on my next birthday and am not at all sure what I should feel about this fact. Not a lot is my first impulsive answer and this is true, I really don’t think about being so old very much. Yet it is a fact. A fact that seems to impress other people far more than it does me. I am not sure how I am expected to act and today by chance the superb Joan Bakewell is reading her autobiography on the radio, here is woman who is slightly older than I am. An admirable woman too exceptional to claim as a role model but I hold her in great regard and admiration. I have had friends before who have been eighty and a few of them have been admirable people but not very much like me. I suspect that I am an aberration.

I am glad to be able to remember the war quite vividly and very possibly inaccurately. I do remember being sent off with my gas mask on a cord round my neck and being convinced that I had committed some dreadful sin to deserve such a terrible banishment. I also remember before this, alone on a train with my mum in a corridor which was packed with soldiers. I needed a wee and a soldier gave me his helmet to use as a potty and they all laughed and my mum joined in I never forgave her and privately blame this incident for my intermittent cystitis, (far more likely to be caused by far too much indiscriminate, thoroughly enjoyable, sex.)

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It seems a very long time since I wrote about Tubby the tumour, thought I had it under control didn’t I? in fact the crafty little beast was growing out of sight of the camera & when I had a scan there he was galumphing along increasing in size -though I have looked at the scan I still have no idea of dimensions. What does one compare it with? And not knowing anything about my internal organs I have no idea. My lovley oncologist was disappointed too & consoled me for keeping it at bay for longer than the initial seven-month sentence. But my objective was to stop it growing so we two could live amicably together if not forever then for a few more years – I have a good life & would rather it wasn’t terminated just yet.

My first instinctual reaction was one of disappointment. In myself, my diet, & my chats with Tubby but hey! Not the first time people have copped a deaf’un I was teaching for years!

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Nods wisely to herself.

‘Don’t work things out do you? You’ve got to fink fings frew.’

She stabs at her nut with her forefinger, then she leans on the bar looking over at me.

‘For instance: when it’s foggy what do you think?’ She pauses but doesn’t wait for me to speak. ‘I’ll tell yer what you think: delays of transport, nasty coughs, bad chests, black snot in yer hankie – am I right?’

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