Sunday, April 27, 2008

Do not discard yet.....

I have returned from my Growing Old Disgracefully Springfest refreshed and revitalised as always. Just to remind you, we are an organisation of older women, the youngest of whom are in their late 50s, and the oldest over 90. For this annual spring gathering we are a group of 20, and our meeting place is the Wedgwood Memorial College in Barlaston near Stoke-on-Trent.

It is an adult education college, and comprises three large houses, which are beautifully decorated and comfortably appointed. In one of them we are served the most delicious and sustaining meals, and in another we have our accommodation and meeting rooms. We have this house to ourselves. It is four days of indulgence for us.

We create and deliver our own programme, according to the skills and interests which we have to offer. It is a mixture of workshops on both serious and light-hearted topics, (including writing and art or craft work), and of singing, dancing, and partying. We also walk and visit local places of interest. Our programme is pretty intensive, and we leave to go home in a state of both elation and exhaustion, but refreshed and renewed for another year.

This year, in some strange way, I also feel revalidated, as though I had been rubber stamped with the words “High quality human being in full running order. DO NOT DISCARD YET!” I now find that I am driving with more confidence and feel steadier on my feet. What is more, I realise that my usual safe, comfortable routine is stultifying, and that my love affair with my computer carries the risk of becoming isolating, even though it also opens me up to new things, ideas and people.

How has this happened? Following the death of my husband, I missed last year, the only time in 12 years, and I felt that the gap had created some distance between me and the others. So I have needed to look carefully to understand what I believe has given the added value to my experience this time. I think it must be for the following reasons.

I have been sharing with others (which means not necessarily getting my own way!)
I have been able to observe and meet the needs of others.
I have received the care and attention I have tried to give.
I have been able to use my skills or talents to please others.
I have been creative in a variety of ways.
I have sung and I have danced and I have had fun.
And I have laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
And hugged and hugged!

And while doing all this we have perhaps been able to ignore our aches and pains for a time, while turning our energies towards communal enjoyment in a way that we are not often called upon to do at home, especially if we live alone.

In words taken from our website: " We are a network of women who support each other, share our experiences and knowledge, learn from each other and grow together in a safe and non-judgemental environment."

Now for the plug! Why not join us? You have to be a woman, but you can start growing old disgracefully at any age. Membership is £15 a year, £7.50 if you join after 30th June. You get four newsletters a year, access to national residential events and workshops, and the possibility of joining a local group if there is one in your area. We do have overseas members - I shared a room this time with a friend who comes over from Amsterdam twice a year, to our spring event and our Annual Gathering in September. Look at the six women below when they started the organisation 20 years ago; five of them are still with us. To find out more, contact the Membership Secretary, Norma Randle - e-mail

[The small pictures are the house we occupied, a beautiful frosted glass window in a toilet, and encounters in the extensive grounds.]


Granny J said...

Please -- do continue your blogging, even though the computer is a lonely corner, but is that any different from a book??? The grounds for your meeting were lovely; I had forgotten the look of frosted glass! And that one chainsaw sculpture of the bear made me feel quite at home...

Judith said...

I don't think there is much risk of my giving up blogging, Granny J.
That is at least communicating with others, and I do get a response, so it is one of the better uses for my computer. Browsing the net for things to spend money on, which I spent too much time doing this morning, is NOT!

Avus said...

That sounds like one satisfying and validating weekend. You have obviously enjoyed yourself and given others pleasure too - which must be a pretty good object to life.
A pity that my sex excludes me - it sounds fun!

KeithD said...

A typical thoughtful entry, Judith - an in-depth editorial instead of a piece of shallow reportage. Thanks (as always).

Lucy said...

Yes, what a good one. It does no harm to evaluate what we do here and why we do it. There is a danger the computer can become isolating, but it doesn't sound like it's a big risk for you!

Looks like a great weekend, I'm half tempted!

Anne said...

Judith, your writing is awesome, and I think you have a real flair for visual design. You make me jealous, I wish there was something like Growing Old Disgracefully here in Canada