Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Body Mass Index

There are plenty of websites which will calculate your BMI for you, but I haven't found one which warns you to be sure to use your current height, and not the height you remember being when you were young. Most of us are aware that we tend to shrink as we get older, but I got a nasty shock when I found I had dropped from 5'6" to 5'4". This has a considerable effect on the calculation, and can make the difference between being in the safe range and being outside it.

I found this out when I went for my annual check-up last year at the Heart and Stroke Clinic run by my GP Practice. This year a new dimension has been added - and boy! do I mean 'dimension'? The nurse not only measured my height and weight, but my waistline as well, with a tape measure tastefully divided into different colour sections for different degrees of risk. I already knew that I was overweight, and I didn't want to be told also that I needed to lose three inches off my waist! But weight around the waist is weight on the heart, it seems.

So, after Christmas, I have to do something about this, if I want to carry on blogging for as long as I have something to say. Which reminds me, I discussed with a mate the possibility of writing my own valedictory blog, saving it in Draft, and giving him my password so he could post it for me when the time comes. Cute idea don't you think?!

Oh yes - the good news is that my cholesterol level is down to an unprecedented 3.8!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Jake Thackray rewritten

The crowning glory of my birthday, however, was Keiwit’s offering of a rewrite of one of my favourite Jake Thackray songs, The Lodger. It was a saucy song in its time - (you will find the original lyrics here: http://www.jakethackray.co.uk/content/view/121/26/) and is admirably suited to Keiwit’s interpretation, in which he most accurately conveys my message. If you can possibly find yourself a recording of the song to listen to, I recommend that you do so, as it will help you to appreciate Keiwit’s talent as a parodist. If you follow the link on the left of the page for The Jake Thackray Website, you will find a discography.

Judith's Ideal

My neighbours’ sons were so tall and strapping
They used to play outside my house each day
They used to come even while I was napping
But I’d never tell those boys to go away
There was Billy: he was silly
There was Robbie: t’was his hobby to be critical about my fashion sense
There was Brian: he would try and be so blokey but provoked me
What a joke he had no courteous intents

But they grew up: they reached a new maturity
I saw possibilities of having fun
I’d endured a life of boring purity
So I promised I’d not turn down anyone
And sure enough, they called my bluff
When I was chilly, little Billy
He saw me huddled, so we cuddled for a while
He was sweet: but not discreet – his wand’ring hands, had other plans
He made demands but that is really not my style

"Billy, go away! Don’t make a pass"
"Now, Billy" I must say, "Take your hands off my arse"
"Stay off me henceforth, you must be made to see"
"You must go further north – to engage me!"

Well, after all, I'm still young and rather pretty
And I have time to choose my perfect man
So preferably I'd go for someone witty
And I’d never just go out with what I can
I’m not snobby but then Robbie
Tried his luck, the little schmuck
But his lids they never did stray from my chest
I did advise him to my eyes, but he declined quite unrefined
So I untwined and made a citizen’s arrest

"Robbie, go away! Robbie you’re a pest"
"Now, Robbie," I must say, "I’m really not impressed"
"It seems once again, I’ve picked the wrong boy"
"You must use my brain – I’m not a toy"

I felt quite down, and worried for the future
I thought there would be no one there for me
I might not ever use my Kama Sutra
But then came Brian my lucky number three
He was perplexing, never vexing
Quite engaging, hormones raging
Intellect he could collect me any time
And it was good, he understood, with that fine man, a love began
Because he can share my great passion for a rhyme

"Brian, come to bed! I won’t ask you twice"
"Now Brian look," I said, "I can be very nice"
"I'll do what you like, I think we connect"
"That’s because you’ve shown me proper respect"

[© Keiwit -November 2005]

I was so touched by this tribute that I had tears running down my face as I shut down my computer and went to bed that night.

Birthday badinage


November 29th was my 78th birthday. I don’t usually make much of birthdays, but this one was remarkable for an unexpected outbreak of versifying in my honour. To set the scene I should explain that it happened in an online discussion forum to which I belong, and where, because it is a small group, most of whom know each other personally, a fair degree of outspoken banter and badinage is current. I should also mention that an entirely erroneous myth has grown up in this forum that my mind is set on acquiring a toyboy! Keith D opened the greetings with:

Happy birthday Jude.
At seventy-eight
I’ve gotta say, dude,
That you’re looking great.

But then he added the following, occasioned by a remark of mine that ‘Callipygea’ would make a nice pseudonym. (It seems ‘callipygean’ means ‘having beautifully proportioned buttocks’):

Of things callipygean
you’ve more than a smidgeon
but no one could say you were plump.
Could it be that your gluteus
is really quite beauteous
or do you just have a nice rump?

Further comments and conjectures relating to my rump ensued, until I observed rather sharply that a change of topic was called for, particularly as my rear end is nothing to write home about - (or as Keith said "Judith’s bum is just ho-hum"). Later I apologised for being peevish, and Keith produced the following (loosely based on Elvis’s ‘Trouble’):

Woke up this morning
I was seventy-eight
Had to see the cardiologist
Had a lot on my plate
Had to take a lot of comments
About my rear
And you still expect me to grin from ear to ear

Well, I'm peevish.
Acerbity's my middle name
Oh yes, I'm peevish
But so far I've been pretty tame

Just one more allusion
To my backside
And I'll raise a contusion -
Take weeks to subside
You may think that I'm easy
'Cos I'm getting old
But I can tell you things, boy, you ain't never been told

Because I'm peevish
And I'm starting to lose my cool
Oh yes, I'm peevish
So don't mess around with me, you fool.

Wanna make me happy?
Then praise my tits
And maybe my legs
But no other bits
And the jokes about toyboys
Just get on my wick
Make me feel like clouting you with my broomstick

Oh yes, I'm peevish
'Cos you're all picking on little Jude
You better stop now
Or we'll have a reg'lar old feud.

[To be continued tomorrow]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

When I go ...

Some years ago I attended a Funerals Workshop. It was about devising an alternative rite of passage for those who feel that the conventional funeral does not always celebrate the life of the person who has gone, or meet the needs of those of us who mourn them. It was a practical and at the same time very moving experience.

We heard from an artist who painted coffins, a woman funeral director, and a celebrant from the British Humanist Association. We learned about the law, finance, the process of looking after the body, and alternatives for burial. We also did some creative craft work and some writing, and talked about how we felt as we approached the end of our lives. We ended with a special ceremony which we had planned ourselves. Far from being morbid or depressing, it proved to be a life enhancing experience.

Nevertheless, there was a moment when I felt some light relief would not come amiss. There was a noticeboard in the room where we ate our meals, and pinned onto this was a flier for a local singing group called HUMHOLLER'N'SING. I found this phrase echoing in my mind, and out of it came the following verses:

Hum, holler and sing
Or do 'most anything
But don't let me go without a party!

Shake, rattle and roll
Or let the church bell toll
But don't send me off without a party!

Toast, tipple and feast
It's true I'll be deceased
But it won't be too late to have a party!

Wake, revel or fight
Whatever you feel is right
But DON'T let me go without a party!

[© Judith Taylor 1998]

The workshop was run by Welfare State International in Ulverston, Cumbria, and if you are interested in their Rites of Passage Workshops you can read about them here, although it is too late for this autumn's programme: http://www.welfare-state.org/current/autumn.htm

Saturday, November 05, 2005


This is an extract from a report on the allocation of new grants, published in a newsletter from Researching into Ageing, which is a special trust within Help the Aged.
I support the charity because it funds innovative research to improve health in old age. If you are interested you will find it here: http://research.helptheaged.org.uk/_research/default.htm

But isn't there something odd about this paragraph? Even without the infant and ageing populations, I hope there are more than 6 million people in the UK who are still continent.

The title gets by, and it would be alright to refer to Continence Clinics and Continence Nurses, because continence is what they are both aiming at for the patient. But the last two sentences are absurd. You might as well say that couples go to fertility clinics because they suffer from fertility. Is this euphemism or political correctness gone mad?

Why should we be coy about incontinence? It is just one of the multiple impairments which many of us suffer as we get older. We are not embarrassed to speak of failing hearing or eyesight, nor of our joints ceasing to function properly. Incontinence in the elderly should be treated as it is in infants, as just part of that stage of life.

But perhaps it is in infancy that the problem lies. Many of my generation were raised according to the strict child-rearing principles of the respected Dr Truby King, who believed that from the word 'go' babies should be held out over a potty after every feed, and should be dry by day by the age of 12 months. So much investment was made in our toilet training as children, that perhaps we have never shed that burden, and feel that our acceptability in society depends upon bladder control. Fortunately, in addition to the medical profession, TV advertising nowadays is helping later generations to treat the problem matter-of-factly. And I'm doing my bit here as well.

Friday, November 04, 2005

What not to wear

I watched Trinny and Susannah doing makeovers for the over-70s a couple of nights ago. I really never expected them to get round to us real oldies, and I believe they had some doubts themselves about whether it would work. But it worked out pretty good, and I know now what I want for my birthday. I do break many of their rules, like putting comfort before style - (elasticated waists, flat shoes with big toe boxes etc) and there is nothing I feel so at home in as a check lumberjack shirt over a T-shirt with trousers.

But to be honest, every time I give any serious consideration to the possibility of a makeover, I come up with endless objections to justify not making the effort. For instance, there was a positively fearsome all-in-one corset in this show, and although I used to wear such a thing for special occasions a very long time ago, I cannot contemplate getting back into one again, even in the interests of lifting and separating once more! And then there's glasses: "She's hiding behind those old-fashioned glasses" said Trinny (or Susannah). "Oh right" says I, "contact lenses just wouldn't work for me" - and when the old-fashioned glasses were in fact replaced by fashionable rimless ones: "Well of course" says I, "the nose piece on those would drive me mad, I just couldn't wear that style". A new haircut, colour and styling: "Oh I could never maintain that with my hair" says I, "might as well not bother". High heels? " Oh my ankles would turn over in a minute"!

And yet ..... the new sparkle in their eyes, the new confident bearing, the delight of families and friends, the fellas who pronounced them to be "sexy ladies" again ..... could it possibly be worth it? And to be fair, on this occasion Trinny and Susannah even sanctioned a pair of modified trainers!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hunks & Sexpots

Today when S-J - (my cleaner-cum-adopted granddaughter) - was here, I mentioned that I had a boiler service booked for the afternoon. "Let's hope they send you a hunk" she said. "Fat chance" I replied, "they only send the older, world-weary ones". So when to my surprise a presentable young man turned up, I let him in to my garage, then went back into the house to tell S-J that they'd sent me a hunk after all.

She grumbled that by not letting him through the house, I hadn't given her a chance to see him, and I opened up a connecting door so she could give him a sly once-over while he worked. "I'll soon tell you if he's a minger" she said. He was neat and presentable - and polite and helpful as it turned out - but she declared him not worthy of our attention. From there the conversation became too personal to be repeatable here.


I think it was Sheila who started it all when I stayed with her and Steve in August. I got confused between a Game Boy and a Play Station, and referred to a "PlayBoy". Sheila accused me of having my mind on toyboys, and from there we moved on to speculate with much giggling on the possibility of designing a "Catch the toyboy" computer game especially for the mature woman.

Word must have got out in our on-line discussion group, as not long after Keiwit referred to me as "our 77-year-old sexpot" - me! Later, when I was asking about what I should wear for Sheila's Surprise Birthday Party, I said that it was not a question of hiring something posh, but rather of impulse buys hanging unused in the cupboard. Keith D, who likes to play the neologism game*, came back quick as a flash with:

"Impulse boys - things Judith picks up while shopping. I trust they're well hung, madam!"

I must admit though, I do play up to this richly undeserved reputation I have acquired.
* where you change, add or delete one letter in a familiar word and invent a new meaning for it.

Friday, October 21, 2005


This cartoon is for those of my friends who nobly set aside their workday duties in order to enliven the boredom of my retirement with on-line communications.

"Have I shocked you?" I wrote to Keiwit. We were exchanging emails because we were temporarily denied access to the on-line forum where we usually meet. He had just remarked that there were a number of postings on my blog which he hadn't read yet, and then he seemed to go rather noticeably quiet. Knowing that one of those blogs was "Echocardiogram", I wondered if my oldie frankness had been a bit too much for him. Far from it! This is what he wrote in reply:

"The stuff you write is so interesting and in some cases eye-opening that it doesn't shock so much as just say "well what did YOU think?" I love it."

Considering that this blog is primarily aimed at my own agegroup, those words from a young man still in his twenties are an accolade indeed, and encourage me to keep going. I alternate between moods of determined fearlessness and knee-wobbling self-doubt, which is at least stimulating, and may in fact be an excellent form of exercise for the heart. So I shan't stop yet.


These were written for special life events; they rose in the heart when feeling was strong ~

For a son and daughter-in-law, after visiting them ~

The heart rests in the
home of loved ones - troubled thoughts
once more find stillness.

For a good friend ~

Permission to hug,
dear friend, how shall I seek it?
No need - you kissed me.

For the birthday of an absent son ~

Whether you're here or
somewhere else, I celebrate
your birth at all times.

For a late love ~

The roses bloom late
in my garden -
will they not
bloom also in yours?

Buds are opening
but will the frosts of winter
stop their tender growth?

For a special holiday retreat of the past ~

Gift of grace and peace -
I weep with loss and longing
but do yet rejoice.

[© Judith Taylor 1994-2004]

Thursday, October 20, 2005


This poem was inspired by a London scene on television.

[Oil on canvas by Charles Wheeler c. 1952]

Windows of high reaching office towers
Forming blank walls, tile-like
Reflecting, unrevealing and cold

Windows, twinkling and beaming
Bright under cottage roofs
Inviting into warmth and life - our dreams

Windows, in rows of matching bays
Neat, modest and screened by genteel whites
Seeing out but never in

Windows in penthouses and architects' homes
Great spaces of glass that bring the view inside
Mesmeric, vertiginous and grand

Windows in aeroplanes and trains
Holding you contained as you go
From here to there, never staying

Windows on the computer screen
Endlessly playing hide and seek
Layer upon layer, open and close

Windows into the soul, the eyes
Giving each other trust and love
Telling us that we are one

[© Judith Taylor 2002]

Monday, October 17, 2005

HRT and the Maggie Thatcher factor

While I'm in health mode - on Saturday I went to my local chemist for a 'medicine use review' with the pharmacist. This is a relatively new NHS service, which is supposed to take about 20 minutes but which lasts more like 40. I have a long list of prescription drugs which I take to keep me alive and kicking, but I wondered if I might possibly be able to take fewer. We went through the list together to see if (a) I know what the drugs are for, (b) I know how to take them properly, and (c) if there are any unpleasant side-effects or interactions which I may not have mentioned to my doctor, and which might be eliminated by a different choice or combination of drugs. The pharmacist will send a report to my GP and I shall receive a copy as well.

I always make sure that I do know why and how to take my medication, and if I don't like the side effects I will tell my doctor, so I didn't expect much to come of this. But in fact it was extremely helpful. There was nothing on my list which the pharmacist thought to be unnecessary, but fortunately also no two drugs which were likely to interact badly with each other. He sounded one cautionary note about a symptom I was not regarding as significant, and I was able to discuss with him the difference between using sleeping tablets as a tool (OK) and as a crutch (not good).

He was also able to reassure me about an HRT drug, the long-term use of which is thought by some to be too risky. He explained in detail how in my case the multiple benefits far outweigh any possible risk. He ended by saying that he thought HRT had done more than anything else to help women compete on an equal footing with men in the world of work, by renewing their energies just at the time of life when their experience and maturity are fitting them to take leading roles, but when the menopause might otherwise cause them to flag - 'the Maggie Thatcher factor' he called it!

Sunday, October 16, 2005


"Do you miss sex?" asked S-J suddenly. "Well of course I miss it!" I screamed in my head, though I said "Yes, I do" quietly enough, if feelingly.

I went for my annual echocardiogram the other day, to make sure my heart is still in working order after bypass surgery 12 years ago. Unusually, there was a dishy young cardiac registrar doing the honours, and not the woman technician I remembered. I cheeked him a bit about finishing his lunch, and he responded well. (Cheeking takes the place of flirting if you are 77, and if the young man in question is only in his 20s! But at least you can look out through the eyes of an old woman and think whatever you like, and the object is hardly likely to notice anything.)

"Now that one would have done nicely as a toyboy" I thought to myself. It’s all very well having a joke about toyboys, though - even at my age you can still yearn for the touch of flesh and the gleam in the eye of a predatory male. Imagine it : you lie on a couch, half turned onto your left side, while the operator of the echo machine perches on the edge, nudged up against you so you don’t roll back again. His right arm is round your naked chest, and you lie there leaning against him while he moves the whatsit (scanning mike?) around on your bosom. (Did I mention there was a heatwave, and his sleeves were rolled up?)

Meanwhile you fantasise about being 50 years younger. Fortunately, the body learns to be less reactive than the imagination, and you behave appropriately, while chatting about heart conditions in general, and marvelling at the training which enables him to avoid eye contact, while closely in touch with more intimate parts of you .

"Right" he says eventually, "there’s no change, your heart’s doing fine". Little does he know! Next year he’ll be gone - (I know, because I asked!) - so there’s not even that to look forward to. Ay de mi! Well at least I know I’m still alive.

[The ‘scanning mike’ is called a transducer, and it converts sound waves into images on a monitor screen. (This is not a picture of my own heart however.) Incidentally the doctor told me that there is now a surplus of cardio-thoracic surgeons (to one of whom I owe my life), as less invasive treatments have been developed and doctors need training in these new techniques.][©JudithTaylor2005]

Friday, October 14, 2005

Spare parts

I won a competition on Wednesday with this photograph, at the monthly Women's Institute meeting. The speaker's subject was spare part surgery, and the competition was to to bring a 'spare part' for the table-top competition which have each time we meet.

My youngest son is a street theatre entertainer, doing among other things juggling, balancing and comedy acts. He makes many of his own props, and the legs can be attached to his costume and operated by the strings fixed to the heels.

I stayed with him recently and took the shot of the legs hanging on the wall in his spare bedroom, which is also his workroom, so I was able to enter it in the competition. [I haven't found out yet why he needs so many!] This is a picture of his workroom.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Disgraceful again!

When I last posted I was just about to go off for the Annual Gathering of Growing Old Disgracefully, a three-night residential event at which we all exercise our bodies, our minds, our imaginations and our laughter muscles, as well as meeting old and new friends. Keiwit commented on my last blog about G.O.D.: "It’s just about the most frightening thing I can imagine". Well of course - he’s young, he’s male, and he’s certainly not invisible, which is what we tend to become as we get older. I’m not writing this blog for people like him, although I’m gratified that he should read it, as I think highly of him and recommend his blog to you (see links).

This year we stayed in Sneaton Castle in Whitby on the East Yorkshire Coast. It is a lovely place up high on the edge of the town, which has been successively the home of a wealthy tea planter and a girls’boarding school. It is now owned by an Anglican religious community, and is superbly run by the nuns as a conference centre.

In addition to our business meeting, our programme included workshops on dance, painting, music, writing, healing, and friendships; early morning Tai Chi; a coach excursion; an illustrated talk, a home-made entertainment, and a performance by a great singing group called Sisters Unlimited, whose songs are perfectly attuned to an audience of radical women.

We finished one event with the release of some helium-filled balloons, carrying contact details of the organisation, which were carried off over the North Sea by a stiff off-shore breeze. This picture, taken by Sheila Ashe, captures the spirit of our gatherings.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Learning to write

Eleven years ago I went on a weekend residential course called "Starting to Write". This is the effect it had on me:

The fever’s still raging inside my poor head :
acrostics and haikus, a new A to Z ;
some rhymes that are concrete, internal ones too ;
and here a whole renga is strung out to view.

How can I go back to my usual job,
with eyes that look inward and temples that throb?
There’s so much excitement still churning around,
a brand-new direction will have to be found.

Is poetry the answer, to fill up my time ;
or stories or articles, romance or crime?
Perhaps if I work at a journal each day,
I’ll get in the habit - and then make it pay!

And all the bewitchment of starting to write
will not fade away like a dream of the night ;
and I shall say ‘thankyou’ to Wes(ley?) Magee,
who knew how to bring out the writer in me.

But as for a night’s rest, I very much doubt
that ever again I shall sleep the night out!

© Judith Taylor 1994

Monday, September 19, 2005


"….. she did hope that at her age she wasn’t going to fall in love ….. And yet which of us can resist falling in love? Of all the manifold temptations open to humankind it must be the most captivating."
Sally Vickers - Instances of the Number 3

I fell in love a year ago
It was most unexpected
For I am rather old and slow
And he was younger, much, and so
My love it was rejected.

The body fails and beauty dies
But still the heart engages -
It learns to look and see what lies
Behind the face that meets the eyes
And takes no heed of ages.


But as a wise man once said -

Folly and wisdom
Are two sides of the same coin

- and I soon recovered my senses. It was an enlivening but unsettling experience,

brief as it was.


Friday, September 09, 2005


I shall be away on holiday from the 12th to the 17th September, so no more blogs now until I'm back.

Just so you don't miss me, here is the companion photo to the Santa Claus one in my first blog, taken eight years ago.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Growing Old Disgracefully

This is the logo of the organisation which has powered and sustained me for the last nine years. I was recovering from a bout of depression when I first saw a TV programme about this network for older women - sorry chaps, this one’s not for you. I knew at once that it was just what I needed and signed up immediately. The majority of our members are probably 60+, although we always say that you are never too young to start growing old disgracefully. If you follow my link to Growing Old Disgracefully you will be able to get an idea of what the organisation is about, and contact the Membership Secretary if you are interested.

When the Network started in 1998, it was one of the first to make use of the phrase "growing old disgracefully", but by now everybody is using it. Some of the others we should prefer not to be mistaken for. We are not about being disorderly, destructive, offensive, embarrassing or hurtful to anyone, but about being ourselves rather than conforming to any stereotype. If I tell you that the Santa Claus photo in my ‘Coming Out’ blog was inspired by my first G.O.D. get-together, you will know what I mean. I have found fun, friendship, laughter and support in this organisation, and I have also learned, changed and grown as a result of being a member. Here’s a poem I wrote which gives you the feel of it:

My wish for my granddaughter

Were you brought up to be ladylike:
To keep your knees together and your skirts down,
And not to whistle in the school corridors?
"Never lose your dignity, dear" my mother said.

I want my granddaughter to be womanly:
To love, to hold, to nurture and to heal;
To feel with passion and speak what is in her heart;
To dance, and sing, and laugh, and let her hair down.

I want my granddaughter to be Disgraceful!


Saturday, September 03, 2005

A 'Steamie' weekend

I had an absolutely stunning weekend away over the bank holiday, visiting two people whom I had not met previously except on the internet. We all suscribe to an email list known as ‘The Steamie’, and when some of us began wanting to meet each other, I took the plunge and decided to accept their open invitation to visit.

Stephen and Sheila met my train and drove me to their home in Pershore. Before the 20-minute drive was over, Sheila and I were exchanging intimacies. Soon we were all three comfortably at ease, and it seemed impossible that we had only just met. And it should be said that these two were celebrating their first anniversary of being together that weekend, but did not mind sharing that with me.

On the Saturday they took me to the Malvern Hills, a familiar spot from my childhood,
and after driving nearly to the top, they gently nudged and encouraged me the last few hundred yards, so that I could once again see the views on both sides of the range, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

After a meal at The Kettle Sings on Jubilee Drive, at which Sheila and I made pigs of ourselves with meringues, we moved on to the village of Alfrick where I lived as a teenager from 1939 to1956. Here they took pictures of me in front of the house which was my home, and of the church where I was married and where two of my sons were christened, and in other well-remembered spots. [Picture taken by Stephen Bell]

On the Sunday we visited a National Trust property called Snowshill Manor, near Broadway. The sun shone gloriously, and finding myself yet again in the countryside of my memories, and in such congenial company, I became radiant as well! Here too Steve showed me how to use my new digital camera properly, and I shall be putting up some of my first shots on my photo blog, which you can find in my Links.
[Picture taken by Sheila Joynes]

Sheila is a musician who plays in an orchestra and teaches, and in the evenings she entertained us with performances on the cello, the harp and the piano. She also played and sang two beautiful and moving songs which she has written herself, and which brought tears to my eyes.

Monday morning was computer time. They had both taken masses of photographs, and while Sheila organised them on the computer ready for uploading to their fotoblogs - (see Sheila’s here and Steve’s here) - Steve, who is a Marketing & New Media Manager, gave me a lot of help with the technicalities of managing my blog. (You will also find their websites in my links.)

And then reluctantly away to get a train home. Smiles and more tears at having to part, and I left with invitations to come again and a feeling of having received multiple blessings. Over the three days we talked, sang, told good and bad jokes, and rolled about with laughter. We ate delicious meals both at home and away, including a plumb crumble made from Sheila’s own plums. I was cossetted, entertained and generally treated like visiting royalty, and like visiting royalty I let them wait on me hand and foot. But I think they will forgive me. We should all have such friends!

This is Burnie the Hot Bear who sat by my bed in Pershore and watched over me. It is one of the first half dozen pictures taken with my new digital camera!!!

[I'm sorry the links are not in place yet, but I still have to master the technique. Any day now I hope!]


Friday, September 02, 2005

Talking dirty!

How do you suppose a mother feels when her son comes to collect her from a week away with a bunch of women friends, and one of them sticks her head in the car window and says to him: "Did you know your mother likes to talk dirty?" Well, that’s the kind of friends I have, but fortunately I also have sons who can take it.

Well, I have to admit it’s true - occasionally - in the right company - probably female - and if I’m well primed and in the mood! I admit to having written some very rude limericks (under extreme provocation!), and I can enjoy a dirty joke if it’s clever. The point is to be clever, not just dirty.

I also swear when I feel the need. I used to swear as a young woman, but learned to control myself when I got married, as my husband did not like it. Then my boys grew old enough to start bringing back the bad words from school, and gradually I slipped into the old habit. Now, living alone, I am freer than ever to express myself, though I try not to give offence to anyone I may be with.

Mostly, though, because I love language in all its forms, I just like to use its full richness, and am apt to sprinkle my speech and writing with slang, dialect, foreign expressions and swear words, using whatever pops into my head at the time.

But there are things that people do not expect an elderly woman to come out with. I recently dropped in at my village hair salon to make an appointment, and found the girls on their own without the manageress, and with no clients. So I stopped to chat for a moment, then heard myself saying, a propos of some trifling frustration: "It really pisses me off!". There was a stunned silence, then squawks of shocked astonishment, and . . . "Mrs Taylor . . . I never imagined I’d hear you say something like that!" They thought it was a hoot and a good laugh was had by all. Not only that, but since then they have started using my Christian name, which they hadn’t done before!


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Special friends

I have been lucky enough to have people come into my life in a support role, and then become very special friends.

Heather was a carer who came to me from an agency some years ago when I was temporarily bed-ridden. She came to cook me lunch, do my washing, tidy up the house, do shopping etc, and she would also help with baths, and wash and set my hair for me. At my request I had asked for the agency to send somebody very quiet, as I had had an uncomfortable experience with a loud, managing sort of person who insisted she was treating me as she would treat her own mother, while arguing with me about everything I asked her to do.

So Heather slipped into my life in the most unobtrusive and soothing manner, and it wasn’t until I began to get better, get up, and have the energy to get to know her, that I discovered what a fun-loving sort of person she was. She had a great sense of humour and we began to have some very therapeutic laughs together. Later she would take me shopping and we would sometimes behave like schoolgirls, fooling around and giggling. I love her to this day, and occasionally we manage to meet up again, which gives me great pleasure.

Sarah-Jane (or S-J as she calls herself) is the young woman who does cleaning for me, but she is so much more. She came to me in 2001 when she was still at school, and she is now a young mother of 22, working her guts out in a variety of jobs, including cleaning, shop work and home caring. She is also attending university part-time, looking after a baby daughter, and generally trying to make good - "because" she says "I was a right little toerag when I was at school!" She is a tough and courageous young woman and I salute her.

She is like a grown-up granddaughter to me, and tells me that now she has a daughter I have become a great grandmother! We have some very intimate conversations as she doesn’t mind what she asks me, and as I am a "let-it-all-hang-out" kind of person myself, I don’t mind telling her. She is a joy, and my buddy in a way which, having had neither sister nor daughter, I feel a great thankfulness for. We hug a lot, and I believe we draw comfort and companionship from each other. She calls me ‘Babe’, and I delight in her.

There are of course other special people in my life, but these two, one from the past and one in my life now, make a good starting point.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Obsessive compulsive disorder?


If her doorbell isn’t answered and her phone is off the hook,
And you do not see her shopping in the mall;
If the work she should be doing doesn’t even get a look,
And she never goes a-partying at all;

If she hasn’t heard the headlines and the soaps have lost their pull,
And her Jake CD’s are never even played;
If she’s looking pretty scruffy, and her dustbin’s overfull,
And the growing pile of bills remains unpaid;

If she lives on crisps and chocolate but doesn’t want a drink,
And she keeps forgetting when she took her pills;
If the dirty pots and pans are lying festering in the sink;
And the dust is inches thick upon the sills;

If she doesn’t take the milk in, and the garden’s looking rough,
And her junk mail is left lying on the floor;
If her children think they’re orphans and her friends have had enough,
And the cat has gone around to live next door;

If her back is stiff and aching and her eyes are getting blurred,
And her bladder is so full it’s causing pain;
Then you do not have to wonder what disaster has occurred:
Judith Taylor’s gone a-googling again!


Monday, August 22, 2005

The Jake Thackray Project

I wrote yesterday about the Project, and I want to say something about the many good friends I have made there, all of them known personally to me now, but not when we began communicating on the JT Project message board in 2002.

David, the producer, whose heart I won by sending him a bottle of single malt when he was in the last crucifying stages of burning the Project CDs, and who consequently gave me a credit in the tray notes.

Keith, who won my heart by offering me lifts to the various Jakefests around the country, not always on his way, with a commitment to unlimited comfort stops en route.

Ian, whose desire to sing the songs of Georges Brassens in English involved me in translating them from the French, thereby enabling me to renew a skill I'd forgotten I had.

Malcy, who calls me 'Madam', says his legs are as good as mine, and is prepared to carry on playing and singing, no matter what tomfoolery is going on behind his back.

Terry, who sends me rude emails, giving me permission to reply to him in kind, a pleasant indulgence for an otherwise respectable old woman.

And not to have you think I only make friends with men, there is -

Sarah, a professional writer, who exchanged poems with me in the early days of the Project, and then told me I was a writer too.

Pam, whose sense of fun is equal to if not greater than mine, and who bought old postcards on eBay for me of my first home , without being asked, and without letting me pay for them.

Maggie, another funster, who with Pam and myself and other lively members of the Ladies' Magic Circle, enjoys dressing up and playing the fool at our Jakefests, to illustrate Jake's songs.

[The picture, by Fiona Macfarlane, shows Pam, myself and Maggie, left to right.]


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Jake Thackray

You will find two links here to Jake Thackray websites, and if you are a lover of his songs I strongly recommend you look at both of them. The UNofficial Jake Thackray Homepage was for a long time the first and only source on the web, and is a very comprehensive discography with track lists, lyrics and album covers, and also details of radio shows, concerts, and covers by other artists etc.

The Jake Thackray Website is the home of the Jake Thackray Project, which was set up in 2002 to reissue some of Jake's work, most of which had become virtually unobtainable. A limited edition 2CD set was produced, but is now sold out. The Project continues to promote Jake's work in every way possible, and to hold 'Jakefests' once or twice a year at which the members get together to play and sing his songs and to have a fun time generally. This website has a forum for discussion of Jake's work, and for the Project members to communicate with each other off-topic as well. You will also find news of plans for further releases of Jake's work, and of other forthcoming events. Do check us out and come and join us.


Saturday, August 20, 2005


"Something for the weekend, Sir?"

Hanging on the wall of my study I have a small poster advertising condoms. Now you may wonder why even the most enlightened and conscientious parent would be concerned with such matters when her sons are in their 40s, and are already parents themselves. It was like this:

I was attending a clinic in a local health centre and as I waited my turn I noticed on the back of a door a cartoon-strip-type poster illustrating the history of the condom. The humorous pictures were a joy in themselves, and I can’t think of a better way of spreading the good word among the youth of the nation than with a comedy approach. I would like to think that these posters are finding their way into all our secondary schools.

Anyway, I made a note of the website address before leaving the clinic, and as soon as I got home I contacted them to see if I could get half a dozen copies - for my sons, notwithstanding their age - and a few like-minded friends. They were delighted to supply them, but sent me no less than 32 posters! I have had a job to get rid of them all.

The poster was distributed (some years ago now) by Condomi Health UK Ltd, but it originated with a European firm of condom makers, who still run a website at www.condomi.com, in both English and German, offering various romantic and practical delights under the heading of Erotic Lifestyle. If you want to get 32 posters, you could try contacting condomi@dircon.co.uk.


Friday, August 19, 2005


"Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved!"
Popular song of around the 1930s

I was struck a few years ago, while listening to a radio discussion on "romance and sex", when one of the speakers was described by the compere as "… 66, going on 25". This was because she had acknowledged her continuing sexuality and expressed herself as still open to offers! The well-meant cliché washed over me at first, and then I found irritation creeping in. Yet again, the needs and feelings that are natural to everyone, at any age, had been characterised as belonging to the young. The real message, underlying what the speaker said, had not been heard.

‘Old’ is an age with its own qualities and flavour and style, and should be appreciated for these, instead of being constantly devalued by comparison with ‘young’. What we need is recognition for the added values of old age - its special freedoms, its well-seasoned emotions, and its accumulated riches of experience and wisdom. If we are going to live active, creative and joyful lives in old age, this should follow naturally and inevitably from the long and eventful years we have already lived; it should not be a desperate harking back to youth.

Nowadays there are few things which irritate me more than being told I am "77 years young", or "young at heart", or any of the other rather coy and patronising expressions that come the way of the old. Nor do I like to hear myself and my contemporaries automatically classed as "grannies" - "A show you could take your granny to" one theatre reviewer said - thoughtlessly stereotyping the old - and grannies - yet again.

One of the nicest compliments I ever received was paid me by a man of about my own age, who said "My, I’ll bet you were a smasher 30 years ago!" What could be more honest, realistic and pleasing than that?

Why should I want to be young again, since that can never be?
What I really want to do is enjoy being old - and ME!


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Coming Out

I want to live to be an outrageous old woman who is never mistaken for an old lady.
I want to get leaner and meaner, sharp edged, the colour of dirt
Until I discorporate from sheer joy.
Author unknown

I am old, and I mean to get a whole lot older. When you get beyond your three score years and ten, it is sometimes easy to believe that 'old' is all you are, and that the person you used to be when you were younger is no longer there. This blog is about not letting that happen. It's about being who you are up to the very last moment - and just possibly beyond (though that's for another day). I want to let people see through the well-worn physical container to the lively, curious, adventurous, playful, sexy, loving inner 'me', and to reconcile the two and integrate them, so that I am just one person again. In the spirit of this declaration of intent, here is a jingle I wrote when I turned 70, the same year that the picture was taken ~


I’m 70, you wouldn’t know.
They tell me that it doesn’t show.
It’s HRT that makes me glow.
I’m 70!

I’m 70 and not so quick,
But on the whole I’m in good nick.
It’s exercise that does the trick.
I’m 70!

I’m 70, I’ve lived a lot:
Four bonny sons have I begot;
I’ve loved, and laughed, and learned, God wot!
I’m 70!

I’m 70 and still a flirt,
At heart I’m just a bit of skirt!
And you should hear me "dish the dirt".
I’m 70!

I’m 70 and must confess
I love to put on fancy dress.
In fishnet tights I am the best!
I’m 70!

I’m 70 and like a frolic
To keep from being melancholic.
It’s better than being alcoholic!
I’m 70!

I’m 70 and having fun.
There’s so much waiting to be done.
What’s more, I know I shan’t die young!
I’m 70!


"He wore age like an accomplishment, not like a disease to be avoided" Jay Brandon - Local rule