Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
There can't be many of us who do not start off in life with a birth certificate to testify to our existence. But what other certificates may we gather on our way? Engaged recently in a rigorous sorting out of files and drawers, I came across a collection of testimonials and certificates which seems to have followed me from house to house over the years.
I started with a baptismal certificate in 1927, and then there was nothing until 1942, when I became the proud owner of the Life Saving Certificate below. I recommend enlarging it and scrolling round to study some of the detail, which is fascinating.
With the certificate in its envelope was a card bearing the following message: “Owing to the restriction in the use of Metal during the War, the Royal Life Saving Society is issuing this (token) Certificate instead of the Bronze medallion to which the holder of the Certificate is entitled. If the holder will forward the Certificate after the cessation of hostilities to the Chief Secretary, it will be replaced by a Bronze Medallion suitably engraved.” I never did - I wonder if I could still do it now!
Soon after that came academic qualifications, with the School Certificate and the Higher School Certificate (the equivalent of O levels and A levels these days). Next were certificates for shorthand and typing, which have stood me in good stead throughout my working life, and also through the years of voluntary work I have done since retiring from family life. But the ones I enjoy having much more are the ones which were fun to earn, rather than hard work.
At about the time that John Travolta burst upon the world in 1979 in the film Saturday Night Fever, I started taking dancing lessons. I have certificates for Latin, Ballroom, Old Time and Scottish Country Dancing, but the one I am proudest of is the one for Disco Dancing. (I actually made it to Gold, as I did with the others, but the label didn't scan so well!)
After that the certificate for the Miss Evening Gown Competition, at Butlin's Ocean Hotel in Brighton, is a bit of a come-down really, as they were handed out like paper hankies on a weekly basis, for all the regular events like Glamorous Granny, Fancy Dress and Miss Evening Gown. This one awarded in the 1980s isn't even signed or dated!
The only certificate I have acquired since then has been one in Word Processing in 1985, and notwithstanding, it was another 14 years before I got my first computer.
What next I wonder?
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Out of the blue, I received an email from a film company engaged in making an antiques auction programme for Channel 4 TV. They were trying to add interest to it by giving a sense of place and history to each auction house that they visited. The first of these was to be Wandsworth, not far from Battersea Park, where the Festival Pleasure Gardens were situated during the Festival of Britain in 1951. I had worked there during the Festival, and they wanted to record my recollections of that time.
There are few things more seductive than being asked to recall one of the most colourful and exciting times of one’s life, and after making sure that my expenses would be paid, I said ‘yes’ without hesitation, although I have never particularly yearned to be on television. I agreed to go up to London two days later - so soon that I hardly had time to get nervous about it, much less to buy a new outfit or have my hair done!
So I set off with sandwiches in my bag, in case the filming schedule should not include lunch - (it did, but not until very late!) I also took with me my few treasured souvenirs, which I thought could probably be shown on camera. I was met at St Pancras by a young woman ‘runner’ for the film crew, (but no limo), and we set off across London in a taxi. In the lunch-hour traffic it took an hour to get to the auction house, and I was thankful not to be paying!
On arrival at the auction house, which from the outside looked more like a warehouse on an industrial estate, I was greeted by the film crew: a director-producer, an assistant producer, a researcher, a camera man, a sound man, and of course the runner. Then there was the front man who would actually interview me, Michael Hogben, who is now seen a good deal on TV in antiques programmes.
I had to hang about for 2½ hours before getting ready for my interview, which itself took not much more than half an hour. The sound man, incredibly young but quite unabashed, dropped a microphone wire down inside my T-shirt. He had to enlist my help, however, when it failed to reappear at the bottom, having lodged itself firmly in my well-braced cleavage!
I had used the waiting time to rehearse my answers to the questions prepared by the director, but in the event the presenter forgot half of them and he and I both ad-libbed. Sadly, he didn’t ask about the things I really wanted to talk about, but I hoped I had at least acquitted myself without looking an idiot.
We did the interview once, while the director took notes, then we ran through it again, section by section, to make sure they had two shots of everything for editing purposes. My souvenir programme was shown to the camera, as well as an old press photo of myself aged 22, standing beside the architect’s original model of the Festival Gardens.
They seemed delighted with the way I had conducted myself, and they all signed a book of local photographs for me to bring away as a souvenir. Then they sent me off again in a taxi, with some notes to pay for it. The experience had been interesting and enjoyable, despite the tediums of waiting, and the resulting 2½ minute interview did not cause me any embarrassment. (Pity it turned out to be a lousy programme!)
Another detail which is often reproduced is this one from Klimt's The Three Ages of Woman - so sweetly pretty and romantic.
It was some time before I came across a reproduction of the complete painting, and the effect was like a blow, as I am sure it was intended to be. [You can enlarge the small image at the top of the page to get the full impact.]
The depiction of the old woman is harsh and cruel, but also realistic ... or so I felt it to be at the time. For I was in the midst of the depression I have described which made an invalid of me, and I took the book containing the complete painting to show my therapist, so she could understand how I felt. But I came out of that, and whatever my mirror shows me today, ten years on, that is not how I feel now - so it is not how I am.
Then yesterday I wandered in to Ronni Bennett's blog Time Goes By, in which she describes her wish"to counter the complete absence, in popular writing about aging, of anything that is not focused on disease, decline and debility". In a piece in which she asks the question "When is someone old", she comments on how "the near-universal negative regard of old people goes back at least as far as Shakespeare who had a particularly harsh view of old age". Klimt has done nothing to alter that, but now some of us are trying - assisted, it's only fair to say, by advances in medicine and technological developments.
I started writing this blog 18 months ago under the banner of old age, because I too wanted to dispel the common perceptions of old people. But I have moved on since then, and I am beginning to wonder if I would do better to write as a woman of undeclared age, so that I should be seen purely for who I am, and not as a surprise or an exception to what people expect. Leo, one of my visitors, commented: "Congratulations for your blog and your age! you just seem a 30 old woman ;)" Doesn't that prove something?
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Two pictures I took in 2005, on a calm November day, of teazels at Pershore Bridges, on the River Avon in Worcestershire. Now have a look here at how it was on 4th March after four days of torrential rain - you can see a similar shot of the bridge (without the teazels) at about 35 seconds in to the video. There is a followup video two days later, by which time I would have had to have been swimming or in a boat to get those shots. The videos were made by my friend Steve Bell who appears in the second video, and his partner Sheila Joynes appears briefly in the first.
Monday, March 05, 2007
1913 - My father aged 18-19, with his sister, on a 1912 Norton
1923 - My mother on another Norton
1920s - make unidentified
1920s - make unidentified
Undated and unidentified
Undated and unidentified
I'm wondering if that could possibly be a cage over the rumble seat with an airedale dog called 'Grip' inside it!
[Note :: All dates are approximate]
Sunday, March 04, 2007
But have you heard of HAD? This is not a new affliction, but an old one with a new name which gives it credibility. In the past, the term Hypochondria has tended to be used, at least in common parlance, in a derogatory and dismissive sense, with implications of "Pull yourself together - it's all in the mind!" But according to a TV programme I watched last week, the condition is now officially described as Health Anxiety Disorder - something you need not be ashamed of suffering from, my friends!
The programme was about a group of people whose lives are being screwed up in varying degrees by their health anxieties. They spend a week in a remote country house with a handful of cognitive behavioural therapists*, in an attempt to help them start curing themselves. Well, some of them made some progress, and although my tone may be somewhat tongue-in-cheek here, I can bear witness to this method from my own experience.
I am a self-confessed hypochondriac, and there was a time in my life when it took such a hold of me that for a while I became an invalid and then bed-bound. I got myself out of it eventually, and came slowly back to life, but it wasn't until several years later, as the effects lingered on, that I finally recognised that my physical symptoms had had a psychological cause.
At that point I was lucky enough to find a good cognitive behavioural therapist who, with the help also of hypnosis, sorted me out and helped me to get my life back. I still get the occasional regressions, and have to call upon the skills the therapist taught me. But I am now able to recognise when my body is producing physical symptoms which have their origins in some sort of mental or emotional disturbance. Once the cause is identified, I can either do something about it, if it needs sorting; or I can say to myself. "Don't be silly - if that's all it is, it's nothing to get stressed about".
By the way, I just hate that expression "all in the mind": it usually seems to be applied in circumstances when the point is that the problem is not "all" one thing or another, but is in both the mind and the body, because the one works upon the other. We need to be healthy in both if we are to function properly.
So ... We've had SAD, and now we've got HAD. I wonder if the next medically recognised disorder will be BAD, or Blog Addiction Disorder?
[* "The treatment focuses on changing an individual's thoughts (cognitive patterns) in order to change his or her behavior and emotional state." Encyclopaedia of Medicine]