Sunday, November 30, 2008

The slideshow

When I began creating the slideshow, it was intended to be a Christmas greeting to post a bit later on, but the seasonal templates offered by the host company did not work for me, and the Celebration one caught my fancy. Suddenly it struck me: here I was sitting at my computer late in the evening, at the end of a damp, dark, depressing day in November, typical of my birthdays, and wishing it to be over. I had been out briefly to buy some batteries for the microlights on my mini Christmas tree, but that was all. It was not a day for doing things, and that is the sad truth of it.

The night before I had eaten a birthday supper with my son and his family in the village, and another son who was visiting. But the only bright spot in this day had been a brief visit from a friend, who brought me pots of special jam and marmalade which she had made herself. Two of my sons had not remembered at all. Not exactly a celebration in style, I am afraid, but it is a sad fact of life, I fear, that while our generation continues struggling to remember the birthdays of children and grandchildren, they in their turn tend to forget, struggling, as they often have to, to live their own lives.

So why not end the day by turning my slideshow into a birthday one instead, and celebrate my own life? I am so glad I did. The messages I have received here have done much to offset the drearyness of yesterday. And after all, I had a celebration in style last year, for my 80th - I shouldn't be greedy.

[You will find full length pictures of some of the video shots in my post on Dressing Up.]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Today is my 81st birthday ...

... and I am celebrating the many faces of woman - of this one, anyway.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Disgraceful stairlift

"Have you heard about the new high speed Stanna Stair Lift?

It's guaranteed to get you there before you forget what you went up for. "

A friend heard this on the radio this morning and passed it on to my Growing Old Disgracefully email group. Another member responded with the following animation, suggesting that it is more appropriate to our organisation than the joke on the radio. I have to agree. [It's not new, but it's still funny.]

Disgraceful stairlift

And here's another chairlift cartoon I am rather fond of. I think it came from The Oldie Magazine originally. If so, I hope they will consider themselves acknowledged hereby.


Friday, November 21, 2008


Movember - Sponsor Me

Would you want to walk amongst the band of thugs below? Probably not. Nor do I, to be honest, well not in public, although I have to tell you that all three are pictures of my much loved eldest son who lives in Sydney, Australia.

For the past two years he has grown a 'mo' or moustache in November in aid of charity, and thinks to encourage me to donate by sending me these pictures, which have been taken of him by his loving but uncritical son. Of course I have donated - who could resist?!

His younger brother observed that he probably chose this expression in an attempt to look cool.

The charity he supports is The Movember Foundation, which describes itself as follows:

... an Australian based, not for profit, charitable organisation that implements the Movember event each year across the globe. The Movember event creates awareness around men's health issues and raises funds for carefully selected beneficiary partners in each country that are also charitable organisations, with a focus on prostate cancer.

The UK branch supports The Prostate Cancer Charity, and the Australian Branch supports the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, and also Beyond Blue, the national depression initiative for men. There are also branches in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.

To leave you with a tastier image on your retina, here is a picture of what Matthew really looks like, taken recently by his friend Ray Martin. Ray thinks he looks like Daniel Craig, the latest actor to portray James Bond. Not to me he doesn't, but what mother sees anything but the unique wonderchild she has given birth to.

And here is Peter, who took all the 'Mo' pictures, and who, his proud Dad tells me, has already won a number of school photo competition classes, up against all age groups in the school. Please Peter, wait a few years before you grow a moustache too.
You can watch a Movember promotional video here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas catalogue shopping


Do you love anyone - or possibly hate them - enough to buy them one of these for Christmas? The catalogue description reads:

Borat Mankini

Is nice!

Jagshemash! Please to be making sexy time with fully-licensed one piece bathing suit I use to cover my khram in hit movie-film. Make funny ha-ha joke for all occasion. One size fit all even if you like big can of Pepsi. I like, you like. High five!


Just in case you are wondering what sort of catalogue I shop from, let me tell you that this one was sent to me unsolicited by, from whom I recently bought a Flip Video. There are also some reasonable toys and gimmicks in it as well, and I may actually buy something from it for my 7-year-old grandson.

As for what this fellow's 'khram' may be, I am none too sure: A ship called the HMS Khram was apparently sunk deliberately off Bamboo Island, Pattaya, Thailand, in 2003, for the purpose of making a man-made reef and underwater conservation park for divers and enthusiasts. Elsewhere on the web I have found a reference to a "Buddiiskii Khram" or Buddhist Temple. That figures, I suppose!

My youngest son who is visiting has just looked over my shoulder and said: "Oh yes, that's Sacha Baron Cohen the actor; he played a character called Borat Sagdiyev". A bit more research and I find from the Internet Movie Database that he actually wore this costume in one of his movies, and there are pictures to prove it. And I had thought it had been digitally superimposed on the photograph for the purposes of the catalogue! I must say it doesn't look very secure - but then I don't suppose the average female bikini top is either. Come to think of it, we don't see the back - maybe the shoulder straps go down the back to a sort of g-string between the legs?

Oh well, back to the mail order catalogues.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gran's in the van!

For episodes 1, 2 and 3 read here, here and here.

For the first time this weekend I have been able to try getting into my son's van with the folding stool I sent for some months ago. I was not very optimistic, but - wonder of wonders - it works !!!

Previously, with only the built-in step of the van to help me, I had found it impossible to make the push up from the ground and the simultaneous twist to get my body on the seat facing forward. But you can see that the top of the stool is level with the van step. This means that with the first step of the stool I can get easily up to the right level . Then, with the stool top and the van step making one level area, there is room for me to turn forward and then slide sideways onto the seat. I did not even feel the need of grab handles to help, though I was glad to have my son standing behind me to catch me if necessary. I also found it advisable to come down backwards.

The stool, which cost about £20, is quite sturdy, although it is necessary to make sure it is properly open at the sides, and will not suddenly fold in again, before getting on to it. It folds up very neatly and being of plastic does not weigh much. It will live in my son's van, so that it is always there when I need it. I shan't mind if he gives somebody else's mum a ride in the van, either.

I am one happy granny tonight!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remembrance Sunday

British people are familiar with sight of the London Cenotaph in Whitehall, the focus of the annual ceremony to remember those who were killed serving their country. For a brief moment yesterday I was watching the ceremony on TV, when suddenly the camera focussed in close on the words engraved on the side, below the stone wreath. If I had been asked, I don't believe I would have known what they were, but now I feel I shall not forget them.


What, I ask myself, is 'glorious' about dying on the battlefields, or on the home fronts, of wars which are not of your making or choosing. True, many will distinguish themselves with acts of great courage, but the context of their deaths remains the same.

I hear echoes of British jingoism in the words, chosen by Rudyard Kipling ,a year or two after the end of the 1914-1918 war. I feel that it is time to let go of the notion that such deaths are glorious. The words seem designed to conceal the horrendous and wasteful realities of war - indeed, perhaps they were.

I am not suggesting for a moment that we should not remember and honour those who died. And I suppose that at least as long as there are veterans still surviving of the two great world wars, remembrance ceremonies will continue.

But I can't help thinking to myself that a more appropriate inscription would be:


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Clothes for dying

I recently went with friends to an exhibition of photographs with the above title. We were intrigued by the concept of 'clothes for dying', and wanted to find out more. The photographer was Margareta Kern, a young woman from Bosnia-Herzegovina, who now lives and works in London. On a return visit to see her mother, she learns for the first time of the relatively unknown and rather private custom among women of her country, of preparing special clothes in which to be buried. She is so moved and at the same time so curious about practice, that she decides to turn it into a photographic series.


She writes very interestingly, in the exhibition catalogue, of her journeys into remote rural areas to interview and photograph older women, with the clothes in which they wish to be buried which they have either bought or made, and of how she had to create an atmosphere of trust for them to pose with their most intimate possessions, but nevertheless felt like something of an intruder. I think the images are incredible. The different expressions on the women's faces alone are a study: dutiful, resigned, smiling, even resentful. They were mounted on enormous frames, so that one felt as though one was inside the rooms. You can see the rest of the series here.


But my personal slant on this, is to take issue with the author of the Introduction to the Exhibition Catalogue. He writes:

To westerners, the mere idea of an elderly woman creating a suit of clothes - effectively a Sunday best - specifically in which to be buried is almost beyond understanding.
I just do not agree. It has been, if it is not still, a western practice for women to collect a trousseau, or 'bottom drawer' of items in preparation for marriage, and again to collect a layette for a baby. These are happenings of great significance in a woman's life, and death is another of our rites of passage. For me it is a quite logical progression to prepare for death in the same way.


And nowadays it is becoming commonplace for us to determine how we wish our funerals to be conducted, what sort of coffin we want to buried in, even to choose a gown to wear. It is a short step from there to preparing a gown oneself, and setting it aside. It is not unknown to hear of people who have bought their coffins in advance. I am considering saving my family some hassle by making and paying for a funeral plan in advance. This will certainly involve choosing my coffin, and also choosing the plainest shift, shroud or gown that they can offer. I shall probably choose flowers as well.

A coffin being decorated

Some time ago when in Bishop's Castle in Shropshire, I visited the shop of The Purple Funeral Company, providers of traditional and alternative funerals. They also held workshops where one could decorate one's coffin of choice. I am told that they have gone from there, but they now have premises in Kington, Herefordshire, and Gladestry, just over the border in Wales. Their website is worth a visit, if you are interested in an alternative way of going..

A montage of the coffins on offer in the shop

Monday, November 03, 2008

... and some you win when you thought you had lost!

My radio interview finally went out on this morning's news bulletins. Fortunately I had not been glued to the radio all weekend, as I had not expected them to keep the item over the weekend. I should have had faith. There was an email from the station this morning advising me to start listening again, a courtesy which I appreciate.

Well, there is no more publicity in the pipeline just now, and although things seem rather flat after all the excitement, I am really quite relieved to be able to get back to normal and get on with things which need doing.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Silver Surfer Awards 2008 - more videos

Everybody was taking videos of everybody at the event, and in the end there were no less than three videos of me, two taken by Gill Adams, Digital Unite's 'information person', as she describes herself, and one by Simbo Ogunyemi, one of the other runners up. I am posting them here for those who are interested. It seems a bit vainglorious, (and they are a bit too much 'in your face' for my taste), but I want to give the event good coverage, because I think it is important. Feel free to skip. And I am still hoping to get my TV interview up here.

Gill's first video ~

Gill's second video ~

Simbo's video ~

The videos were taken with a Flip Video, a handy little gadget the size of a compact camera, which has its own USB connection to download your pictures into your computer, and its own editing software built in. It sells at around £100 at the moment. I have one, but am not very proficient with it yet.

Doom and gloom!

Oh dear! it's another one of those days. The snow has finally disappeared here in my part of Hertfordshire, but ...

Dark and drear, dark and drear,
Will the sun never reappear?

Murk and muck, murk and muck,
That's the weather with which we're stuck.

Ghastly gloom, ghastly gloom,
Leaves us all with a sense of doom!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Some you win and .....

My Silver Surfer Award brought me another interview in addition to the one for TV. This was a phone interview with a local Hertfordshire radio station, and I did it on Wednesday afternoon following the showing of the TV programme, so that was quite an exciting day for me.

Getting wise, I had prepared a prompt sheet for myself, with the answers I wanted to give to the most likely questions I would be asked. That worked well, and I actually got in two mentions of Digital Unite, who organised the awards, and who had not been referred to once in the TV programme, much to their annoyance and mine. I was told that the phone interview would be edited and would be broadcast the following day in one or more of their newscasts, which happened every hour on the hour .

You can imagine how I was glued to my radio all day Thursday, with an audio tape in the slot ready to record. But the day went by until late afternoon, when I received an email saying that my bit would not be done till the next day, as they had had too much local news to fit it in. So Friday was another day's listening to a station I would not normally tune in to; but of course there is nothing so compelling as the possibility of hearing one's own voice. But it was another wasted day, and I am left wondering if they are holding it over the weekend, or if it has got away altogether.

As I sat around waiting for the hourly newscasts, I looked for the website of the radio station, to see if I could find out the time of their last newscast of the day. What I did find was that they had put my story and picture up on their news page, with a link to my blog. So I have got my bit of publicity anyway, even if I don't get to hear my interview.

Send for the viagra?

I wrote here about my garden clearance, and how it had revealed a strange plant in my neighbour's garden, which I have since tentatively identified as an echium pininana.

The weight of the sudden and unexpected snowfall which we experienced last Tuesday seems to have been too much for the poor thing, which now droops it's head in shame or sorrow, or perhaps mere weakness.

Another candidate for the blue pill would seem to be this rather sad candle, which has sat too long on the windowsill of my utility room, which catches a good blast of sunshine throughout the days of summer - or the days when the sun does actually shine!

I am indebted to Lee for the information that Viagra can be helpful in restoring droopy plants.