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.