Friday, May 30, 2008

May jottings about this and that

There are some beautiful trees at the end of my road. When the new spring foliage emerges it does so in upstanding buds that are somewhat tulip shaped, and they are so pretty. Every year I try to remember to catch them with my camera. This year I came close but still did not get the perfect moment or the perfect shot.

And when the foliage is fully out the trees themselves have a lovely oval shape too, as though they have never been cut back. If you enlarge the picture on the left, you will see what the foliage looks like when it is first fully out. Later it all darkens to the same shade.

During the brief heatwave we had in the UK in May, a wasp made itself at home in my bathroom and began to build a nest. I don't much like being in the same room with a wasp, although I don't panic, but try to remove them. On this occasion though I was so fascinated by the process that I let it be in order to watch its progress - and yes I even had a shower while it worked away busily over my head. If you enlarge this picture you can see it curled round the stem which holds the little cluster of nursery cells to the main structure. Whether it was working or sleeping, I couldn't make out. Later I realised I would get a better shot, standing in the bath as I was, if I held the camera at arm's length to get it closer to the subject. (Slow to learn, us oldies are, or just plain stupid!) Here you can see the curious, rather pergola like structure at the top, and the different coloured rings in the main fabric, due, I am told, to the different substances the wasp uses to make its building material from. The wasp got discouraged when the cold weather came back, and didn't finish the job. Just as well really - I didn't want an active nest in my bathroom!

Digging deeper than usual into the box of old sewing materials and trimmings which I inherited from my mother, and which I suspect she inherited from her's, I found this beautiful lace jabot which I had never seen before. I just had to immortalise it with a picture, and managed to take a few shots of myself wearing it. I then clipped off the part of the picture showing my grimly set mouth and stern expression, produced I suppose by the concentration required to hold my hand steady. And here's a thought. I used to wonder how women could bear to wear high collars like that, but it is a perfect mask for the chicken-neck scrawniness of the ageing woman!

My county library service is doing its bit to reduce the quantity of plastic bags which go into landfill every week. It came up with these jute bags which it is selling for £1.00 a piece, designed with a good square shape so that they will easily carry books. The straps are a comfortable length to sling over the shoulder, and I have discovered an additional advantage too. A shoe box will fit neatly into the bottom, giving a really firm foundation should you need one. I went to a plant sale the other weekend, and was able to stand all sorts of little pots quite securely in the box, so that they did not tumble together and get squashed. I have two, one downstairs and one up, so there is always one handy for carrying things up and down, when I feel the need of having both hands on a handrail.

Tomorrow it will be June, and I shall start another folder in my Pictures file.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not so much a Punch, more a light tap ...

I have received the gentlest and most generous of raps over the knuckles from Punch Ltd, for using their copyright cartoons as illustrations for my blog. Because they feel that my blog is a good advertisement for Punch, they are waiving their usual fee on this occasion, and allowing me to leave the cartoons in place, with the addition of an acknowledgment that I am doing so with their permission. This of course I have been only too happy to do. I think I must have imagined that the copyright belonged with the original artists, most if not all of whom I assumed to have long passed. I must be more careful.

I was also told that Punch the magazine is 'not dead yet', as they are bringing out a bumper book of Punch cartoons called The Best of Punch Cartoons, published by Prion Books, which will appear in September. This link will take you to WH Smith, where you can pre-order it, or Amazon will record a request to be notified when it is published. Be aware, however, that with 600 pages of incomparable Punch cartoons, it is going to cost you £35.00!

I have made my own illustration for this post - a rather dark photograph of an antique cast iron doorstop of Punch with his dog Toby, which holds my study door open. It has been painted, (thereby reducing its antique value I believe), but seems to have led quite a hard life subsequently, judging by the spots that have been knocked off him! Mr Punch appears to be holding a banana, although I believe it actually represents a quill pen; and I wouldn't be sure that he isn't picking his nose! However, I can forgive him that, for all the pleasure he has brought me over the years.
[The magazine Punch was launched in 1841, and was finally laid to rest in 2002. If you want to find out more about it, there is an excellent website here.]

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Makeovers for the older woman - 2

Having decided to renew my wardrobe, I had determined to make a major change from black to brown for my base colour. I used to look terrific in a little black frock - in my 20s! At 80 the colour does little for one's complexion, and I wondered why I had lived with it for so long. No very radical change of retailer though, as I had decided to begin cautiously. I started with my regular stand-by mail order firm, on whom I rely for basic comfortable underwear and leisurewear, but whose clothes could in no way be called the cutting edge of fashion. I bought my first pair of brown trousers and a brown top, and was delighted with the effect.

Then I moved on to Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, still on the cautious side. From them I ordered beige cardigans and more brown tops. The style of one of the cardies didn't suit me too well, but was fashionable, and also the exact shade to go with a second pair of trousers I had bought. So I remodelled it, changing the position of the fastenings so that they did up at the neck instead of over the abdomen. I was rather proud of this, although it took me months of intermittent attempts to work out just how to do it!

Finally, more daring, I looked at Kaleidoscope, but their stuff is mostly too young for me. I have had fun trying on things which were impossible, and actually managed to buy another top. I nearly bought a conventional suede jacket as well, but after receiving two faulty items, I had to give up, because they no longer had them in stock. But I still tend to get carried away by the glamour and glitz of the stuff in their catalogue, and have to be firm with myself not to send for something more.

One of the drawbacks of doing this by mail order, is that, as with black, there are so many different shades of brown which don't go together, so one has to order more and more items in an attempt to get good matches. A great deal of overbuying went on, followed by endless trips to the post office with returns. Also of course I have had to buy a pair of shoes, a handbag, and one or two necklaces. But I think that the frenzy is more or less over now, and that I have enough new clothes to settle down with, at least until (and unless) I win the lottery.

I'm not sure that brown isn't becoming a bit boring though. I could fancy some real colour too ......

Makeovers for the older woman - 1

[I have dug this post up from among my drafts, where it has been lurking for over a year. I think the moment has come to publish it. All the pictures were captioned 'old woman' in Google images.]

A few years ago, when I was still a rookie blogger, I wrote here about a makeover TV programme Trinny and Susannah had done for the over-70s. Some time later they did a similar one for the over-60s, but this new series had a slightly different angle. Instead of just picking a couple of candidates and getting to work on them, they campaigned on a wider front this time, touring the country with a horrendous pink 'tardis' into which they lured women to be undressed, revealed, humiliated and, ultimately, persuaded to revise their approach to dressing themselves. At the same time this fearsome pair enlisted crowds of local volunteers to join them in their research, and to carry their campaigns for change into the high streets and the shops.

In the programme I watched they were aiming to persuade older women to be bolder and more imaginative, to have the courage to shop where young people shop, to go for a size smaller and not to be afraid to show off their shape. The crowd of women they had assembled went on a giant shopping spree, and their battle cry was "We want the High Street". This seemed a more practical and positive approach to the problems older women have in dressing fashionably, giving them confidence in joint action, reaching a larger number, and, we hope having a knock-on effect on manufacturers and retailers as well.

But both programmes for older women had the same shortcoming, as far as I am concerned, which I feel sure will apply to a great many large women in their seniority. "Start by dragging your boobs up from your waist with a good uplift bra" Trinny and Susannah are wont to cry. However, I imagine that I am not alone among big-busted women, in finding that a well-fitting bra, capable of dragging up a couple of well-filled but drooping F cups to an appropriate level, is likely by the end of the day, with the effects of gravity, to have become a constricting, abrasive shackle, causing the utmost discomfort. There is never any discussion of, or help with this problem on these makeover programmes; nor are we ever told if the made-over women go on wearing their new bras after the show is over. Personally, I am past
making my life a misery in such a way.

Still, there is nothing wrong with trying to change one's mindset about what one wears, and I began to consider just what I might do. I rarely go out to shop, as I am exhausted by standing around in cubicles and trying on, so I wasn't really considering a foray into Top Shop, Mango, New Look or Miss Selfridge. In any case, to do that I think I would need some support: either a young woman to cover for me, or a bunch of other oldies, to overawe by numbers any young salespersons who might be sniggering behind their hands.

I would see what I could find on that faithful friend of the sit-down shopper, the internet. I had actually made a few notes while watching the Terrible Two, and had absorbed a few helpful tips for masking the portentious bosom and slimming the Herculean hips. I had also been paying a bit more attention lately to what is being worn by the mature woman on Neighbours, the one 'soap' I can't wean myself off. Although, as we are almost certainly at least a year behind in getting the programme, that was probably not a very good guide.

[To be continued]

Friday, May 02, 2008

The dressing up game

I wrote a few days ago about the great time I had at our Growing Old Disgracefully Springfest, which incidentally was celebrating the Organisation's 20th birthday. We finished on the last night, as we always do, with a party, with singing, dancing, and readings or recitations of humorous quality. We usually put on our glad rags for this event, and this year our founder had invented a wonderful new game for us, which I can best describe as Musical Dressing Up Bag.

We had all been asked to bring anything we could to contribute to the bag, including scarves, wigs, skirts, hats etc. They all went in a black bin liner, and we stood in a circle while music was played. When it stopped, the person who had the bag had to take out and put on not one item, but as many as she could before the music started again. You can imagine this produced some hilarious results. Unfortunately I cannot share my pictures with you without asking the subject's permission first. All I can offer is the picture taken of me, and as I was never caught by the music stopping, the things I am wearing are only what I chose to wear for this special event.

I originally wore the dress to my niece's wedding, and the hat to my son's wedding. Guests had been invited to come in fancy hats, and I decorated mine myself, adding to the original black velvet with some antique lace, blue ribbon in two shades, a blue artificial flower and a pink chiffon scarf. The small picture at the top of this piece shows it in full glory. I never had the heart to 'undress' the hat again to wear on non-party occasions. The 'pearls' are plastic poppit beads, which push together and pull apart to make whatever length you like. I can't remember when they were popular it's so long ago.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I fell in love today

The most delightful young man arrived this morning to survey my house for cavity wall insulation. He was easy and chatty and helpful and nice - and good to look at. In fact, when he mentioned his wife I almost felt disappointed. For two pins, Judith, I thought to myself, you would have started flirting with him!

After a while it dawned on me that his particular appeal was that he looked and talked very like my eldest son in Australia. That of course only increased my desire to fling my arms round him. In the end I felt I should tell him why I was possibly gawping at him more than might be expected from an old woman. He took it very generously, and I continued to flutter and flap, with my normal business persona gone right out of the window. (Amongst other things I tried to make instant coffee for him with the stuff I use for filter coffee --- yuck!)

Sadly he will not be coming back to do the insulation, and when I finally shut the door on him I could not suppress a small sob - he had been so like my distant son.

I wonder how long this insulation will last before it needs redoing........................