Saturday, September 12, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

I promised to write here about what had been keeping me away from blogging for a good while before I went away. I write often about Growing Old Disgracefully, the network for older women to which I belong, and it is working on a job for them that has kept me busy.

We used to have a website for a number of years, a simple brochure on line set up by one of our members, but we ran into problems and a year ago it was closed down permanently by the host. In discussions with the members about setting it up again a lot of interest was shown in enlarging it to include a 'members only' section, in which news and events and reports could be posted.

This would be a much bigger undertaking than before and not all were agreed upon its desirability. In the twenty years since it began, the organisation has only slowly become computer-literate. I believe I was the first to publish my email address in the newsletter in 1999, and now, ten years later, we still have only 50% of our membership on the internet. But there was a strong urge to bring ourselves up-to-date in the world of the web, and a sum of money was voted to allow us to employ professional designers for the job.

A small working group was set up in the spring to explore the possibilities, to establish our requirements, and to approach a number of designers and commission one of them to do the work. Through unforseen circumstances a group which should have been 4 was whittled down to two, of whom I was one. And so began a very sharp learning curve for the two of us, both of us fairly competent computer users, but having no notion about how websites are built. We asked for help wherever we could, and there has been a constant stream of emails - she lives in Oldham and I live in Hertfordshire. We only met once to get to know each other, and to lay out our ideas of what was needed, and how we should go about it.

The next time we met was three weeks ago in Harrogate, when we were able to report to the Annual Business Meeting that we had commissioned the designers - (appropriately a firm of women website designers) - who had set up a temporary holding page for us with contact details, so that Growing Old Disgracefully is once more on the worldwide web. They began work with us straight away on the main website, and on Wednesday next the two of us are having a project meeting with them in Manchester, to firm up the structure of the new website and a whole lot of other matters that need dealing with - more than I could possibly have imagined at the start!

The learning process still goes on, of course, and I find I have to keep very focussed in order not to lose my way. It is really hard work, and there are times when I feel it is making demands on my stamina (physical and mental) which I am barely able to meet. But it is fascinating, and creative in a way that I enjoy, and my colleague and I work very comfortably together. But I do wish at times that we were a business in an office, and not a nationwide organisation in which we all work from home!

Oh, did I forget something?

Ah yes, "talking of beautiful young men...."

In Betty's one of the waiters was an exquisite child of no more than 14 or 15 I would say; straight and supple and blond and perfect of feature, he seemed to carry himself like a ballet dancer -calm, poised, never ruffled. I could not stop watching him.

Indeed, I could almost have wished to be Oscar Wilde.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Going to Betty's

Talking of beautiful young men ..... but I'd better begin at the beginning.

The reason I have not jumped into print here immediately on my return from Harrogate, is that I managed to do something so perversely idiotic that I was pretty much prostrate for nearly a week after getting home.

Our Growing Old Disgracefully annual get-togethers are so arranged as to give us at least one free afternoon for sightseeing, talking or sleeping, according to need or desire. It has long been my ambition to visit the famous Betty's Tearooms in Harrogate (they don't use an apostrophe but I insist on doing so). This free afternoon was a good half way through when I broke away from a small group of Disgracefuls who were sharing scurrilous anecdote and laughter in a comfortable armchair huddle in the lounge. If I didn't go now, I would never get to Betty's. I had been told it was 15 minutes walk - no trouble at all - although at the back of my mind was a feeling that I had passed it on the top of a hill on my way in to the town the day before.

I set off down the hill and soon realised that the further I went down, the further I would have to go up again, before I would reach the tea rooms, which were not yet in sight. Now I have not walked up steep hills for several years, as I get puffed, and my heart is no longer gets the blood supply I was given at birth. I knew, but refused to accept, that the hill was too steep for me. I was going to Betty's. I had not done any sightseeing at these events for several years, and this time I was going to.

Before starting up the hill, I took a couple of prophylactic puffs on my GTNT spray, which helps the heart to keep going if it is struggling somewhat. I stopped several times on the way up, and finally saw that I was reaching the queue which seems to form outside the Tea Rooms most days, so great a demand is there for tables. As I took my place I quickly realised that I would very likely fall down if I didn't sit down soon. When the Table Manager/Hostess person next came out, I explained that I thought I ought to sit down rather quickly, and after taking a look at me she kindly found me a table at once.

I sat drinking a pot of tea for the next hour until I felt strong enough to ask for a taxi to be ordered to take me back to the hotel. This they were happy to do, and also offered me the use of the disabled access toilet on the ground floor. This was a magnificent apartment in heavy oak panelling to match the rest of the decor, but provided with the latest fittings and and automatically sliding door.

So I got to Betty's, as evidenced by my trophy above, the paper d'oyley from under my teacup. But I had to sit upstairs in the street-level cafe, as I didn't the strength to go downstairs to the Spindler Gallery Tearooms, which house a collection of exquisite Marquetry scenes of Yorkshire from the Art Nouveau period, from the studio of Charles Spindler in Alsace. Nor can I find any of those pictures on the web, much to my disgust.
I went straight to bed, and had so frightened myself that I decided to give the rest of the conference a miss and go home early next day. (Ring NHS Direct on 08454647 if you are in a panic in the middle of the night - they can be very reassuring.) And the irony of all that is, that when I eventually went to get myself checked out by the doctor, she told me that with the packet of meds I am taking for my heart it is well supported and quite capable of the effort I had made. What was at fault was my general level of fitness, which obviously leaves something to be desired. So, a useful lesson learned, but the hard way. And my midnight fantasy as illustrated below was not realised!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Beatles

I watched 'The Beatles: on Record' last night (BBC2). Oh my god! how they turned my heart over. I think they were the first pop group I took any real notice of. I had three sons under 5 when they made their first album in 1963, so I didn't have much attention to spare for such things, except when washing or ironing in the kitchen with the wireless on (or was it already called 'the radio' in those days?).

I have one particular recollection of the Beatles' sound hitting me: on a day when I had driven on my own to the nearest town (Macclesfield) to shop, and was sitting in my favourite cafe having my favourite meal of mushrooms fried in butter, presumably with an omelette or something else as well.

But I was as much impressed by them for their look as their sound: suddenly, here were young men performing in well-fitting suits in interesting new designs matched by full heads of hair, thick, shiny and groomed. One of my special hates has always been the 'short back and sides', often involving a clipper cut right up the back of the neck, exposing all kinds of unattractive irregularities in the skin which would be better covered up. Nowadays, of course, men seem happy to expose their whole scalp. Personally I have always liked something I could get my hands into!

I used to find it astonishing, the frenzy of the young girls who gathered in screaming, fainting crowds, to listen to their pop idols. I could not imagine myself being so carried away. If The Beatles came my way again today, I think I might scream with the best of them.