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.