Saturday, 30 June 2007

Tangent: Rut or grave?

a rut

Friday, 29 June 2007

Tangent: hives

No, not the bloody bee sort.

The itchy, sore ,'tear your skin' off sort.

The 'but I'm not a gardener' sort.

Interestingly enough, it reminds me of a type of depression mixed with irritation, angst and fear that I've experienced once or twice in the distant past, but thankfully not for many years now.

When I drew this, yes I did, we were teaching in Kuwait in 2001 before the second Gulf War, and I was in the throes of a wild, mad, off the Richter scale meenie meno (menopause) and life was throwing me curved balls left, right and centre.

The past week, having developed a severe case of hives, I went hunting for this bit of wierd art that I had somehow produced.

We were doing an 'after school' bit of training all about using art effectively in the classroom and we were playing with stamping,linos, blocking, pressing etc etc and given free choice to create any picture we wanted to.

I was totally flabbergasted at what came out of me and I mean this truly. Everyone around me was twittering around making pretty little daisies and twiddly dee sort of stuff and there I was hammering away at this monstrosity.

The mental 'hives' were eating away at me and I had to express it right there and then. Not looking right or left, up or down I just beavered on and on and on. I don't even remember doing it, something just took over.

Wow , did I feel satiated and even post-orgasmic when I got this one out. Whew, what a relief. I slept better that night than I had in months. When I look back on that day, I realise that the man who was demonstrating all these techniques to us, had left me alone and not come over to talk to me once, or if he had, I hadn't noticed.

I am not about to rush upstairs and create a masterpiece like that, but will rather sit here and scratch.

I dedicate this drawing to all of you who read 'prozacville', as this is probably how lots of you feel without your flouxetine.

Aah,maybe that's why I haven't felt quite this mad since, it's dose loverly pills floating inside me keeping my serotonin levels in check.

Twelve: Fall in love again

Not fall in lust, I've done that more times than you've had breakfast.

No, rather that dizzy, dazy, whirly, whooshy, whippy, wonderful 'falling' in love.

Why is it called 'falling'?

I reckon it's because you do 'fall'.....from a huge height. You lose all balance, all control, all sense of what's right or wrong, what's good or bad, what's true or untrue. Often it can be like being in a dream, a very satisfying one or a frighteningly nightmarish one.

Falling in love is not all 'strawberries and cream', rather much more like a mixture between 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Beauty and the Beast'.

Notwithstanding this, it is quite the most perfectly amazing feeling in the whole wide world, totally insanity that can last for an hour, a day, a week or even longer ( I don't think!)

That's the opposite side of my personality peeping through.
Being an Aquarian. I see life through one rose-coloured side of my glasses, a total 'hollywood' view, but through the other side of my 'grey -coloured' glasses I see the 'life's a bitch and then you die' view.

Part of me adores the ' falling in love' stage, where nothing can go wrong. That heart hammering, ribs knocking, sandpapery mouth, earthquakey knees and croaky voice type of love. You feel you can't breathe, that unless that other person is with you 24/7 you might surely die, and (an extra bonus) you go completely off your food and start to look like Naomi Campbell.

God, how I love that bit - not only the Naomi Campbell bit- the whole megillah!
I have loved several times in my life, as I am an 'all or nothing' sort, but I have only really 'fallen' in love three times.

Soul mates.

Aha now that's a completely different kettle of fish.

I thought one of my three was, he wasn't.

I knew one of my three wasn't, he wasn't.

I knew one of my three was and he felt it too, but we did not end up together!


Saturday, 23 June 2007

Tangent: Children's art

This was a drawing done of me in the playground at a school in Kuwait by a seven year old girl in the Summer of 2000. I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time I look at it. What pure innocence. What clear vision. What inescapable beauty. Not because it's me, but the love and fun shines right through. The sandals, so simply drawn, the hat perched on top of the curl short hair, the long dangly earrings, the glasses, the cheery wave all depict me- how I look physically, but also my feelings about my precious profession, teaching.

This was a drawing done of me with Snuffles, who I took to school to meet the kids one day, 'show and tell' all about 'How to care for your pets'

Remi (6) fell in love with Snuffles and drew us walking her to the park. Again the pure simplicity, the colours, the sweetness and the happiness are so apparent.

The other day Remi drew this for me at home, showing her and Harshini, her best friend in the class, actually her best friend in the whole wide world(evident in their posture) with me looking less rotund but having all the qualities of the very first picture done 7 years before.

Last Thursday we did a lesson about 'Same and Difference' and the children had to draw my TA (teaching assistant) and me and then write 5 ways that we are the same and 5 ways that we are different. These were three of them, and we couldn't stop laughing.

You certainly see which one is me, and even catch a glimpse of the pink hair in one of them. Yes,the sandals, the earrings, the glasses, the short hair are all still there, but mostly the quality and purity, the freshness and simplicity, the perfection, absolute sublime perfection.

Surely these rival Picasso any day.

Only wish I could see the world through their eyes.

What you think bridgemor?

Eleven: Do more painting/ drawing

I am not artistic.

This was drummed into me at an early age.

Whenever I did attempt something, my 'all or nothing ' personality made me want to produce perfect pictures, and when I couldn't, I gave up. But then I give up easily, maybe far too easily. Hence the three marriages.

Like everything else in my life, e.g. having an ED when no one was talking about 'that' and taking prozac when it was newly discovered, my type of drawings will probably be more acceptable now than they were when I did them.

I consider myself unable to draw a straight line, but hey, what is a straight line nowadays? There are so many variations on straight, that even straight looks crooked.

When I draw little funny figures on the board at school, my five year olds always giggle or ask me 'what's that supposed to be?'. Enough said.
However, in my 39 years of teaching, I have used this to my advantage by saying 'you know I can't draw very well, but you try, I bet you are much better than me'. That turns even the most hesitant child into a Picasso before my very eyes. The other ploy I use is,' not everyone is good at everything, but we all keep trying'. Sickly sweet, I know, but it works every time.

Picasso, now you know why he is my idol. it's the pure wierdness of his art, the nakedness, the honesty, the clarity and starkness of it all that amazes me. When I look at his work, it makes me want to pick up a brush and go where he's just been.

The other person's art that blows me away is Steven's. Mind you he blows me away with all his talents. His art always has an element of sadness and reflection about it. Even when he's drawing a birthday card which he does for the whole family (one of the most important presents I receive), there is still this phantom of futility about it, coloured with a haze of cynicism. Tugs at my maternal heartstrings, even while giving me immense pleasure.

It is him who I have to thank for my 'art'.

Four years ago I was recovering from a slipped disc operation, followed 9 weeks later by a left shoulder operation and was in a very low state, both physically and mentally. I was walking that 'tightrope' of life. Could I stay on or would I fall off, or should I just jump?

After giving me lots of ideas and trying to urge me to take an interest in something, anything, Steve said to me one day 'What about painting? I'll bring my easel and paints round and set it all up for you, and when you feel like it you can have a go'.

Which he did and which I did. And like everything in my life, including this blog, when I get my claws into something the whole obsessive 'all or nothing' takes over and it's like one massive glorious binge. I started very slowly working through the pain and eventually not a day went by without me painting something, even if I just copied stuff. (I still believe I am better at copying than original stuff....although the previous little drawing was my very own- see 'fight the bulge')

Mind you, had it not been for Steve and Mark's continual praise and encouragement, I don't suppose I would have persevered, as I am my own worst critic and if I get it into my thick skull that something's not worthwhile, then it takes a lot to re-convince me that it is.

As you know with your own lives, we always grow from pain and sorrow and I think that's even more true with art. You have to have sunk into some sort of black hole in order to dig really deep within yourself to find something original to say/draw/sing about.

And, conversely, when life's going swingingly well again, this angst gets put aside till the next time. Likewise with my art and drawings. I haven't done anything for years, back at work and devoting no time to myself and to my pleasures anymore.

Enough. This is my year. The time is right. Art here I come. Thanks Steve.

this is my time

time for me

time to just be

what about thee?

Friday, 22 June 2007

Ten: Fight the bulge

You just knew I had to get round to this one eventually. Please note it wasn't number one.

Confession time. I do have an obsession with all things to do with weight and food.

More confession time. I am a recovering bulimic and anorexic. There, I've actually written it down for all to see. How brave is that?

I call myself 'recovering' as I still sometimes regress to my ED (for the uninitiated that simply stands for Eating Disorder). When I say regress, I don't mean full on anorexia or bulimia, but sometimes too close for comfort.

I have an 'all or nothing' personality and am a control freak, both of which are very often seen in ED sufferers.

It has always been a feeling of 'fullness' which led me to want to get rid of the food. However, when I started on the long road to recovery years ago, I was told that the 'fullness' is more like overwhelming feelings rather than gluttony. And what I had to learn to do was deal with those emotions and not confuse them with nutritional intake. Easier said than done!

Then suddenly I woke up one day and found I had someone else's body. This middle aged dumpy person - where had she come from? How did she get here so fast? Why is she still there every morning when I look in the mirror?

It's at times like these that I miss the old ED and wish it were still around to comfort me, but mostly to keep me thin and lean, even a bit haggard, rather than this plump comfortable body I am now stuck with.

As they so rightly say, we are never satisfied.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Nine: Go dancing

God how I love to dance.

Waltz, foxtrot,tango, samba, rumba, cha cha cha. I love the feeling of swirling round the dance floor in the arms of a (preferably experienced) dancer. NOT a klutz with two left feet. NOT a wooden form standing rigid in front of me, afraid to let go and give himself up to the sensations inside him.

Dancing is a form of foreplay.....

Some music can be slow and lengthy, drawing out the exquisite feelings till you can't stand it any longer. Other music is hot, tempestuous, crazy and wild. Well, I love them all. Why the hell am I not dancing every single day of my life? As I think about it right this minute, I ache to be on the dance floor, preferably with someone who makes me burn at his touch, going round and round again and again, till I can no longer breathe.

I learnt to dance when I was seven. Every Sunday night Dad would put some music on the gramophone (I kid you not), and he would patiently and slowly show me the steps. I would start by standing on his huge shoes while he moved slowly round the room counting for me: 'one, two, three, one two, three' until I felt slightly mesmerised.

Then I would hop off and try it without his help. 'An apple for the teacher' by Victor Silvester, or Mantovani's 'Begin the Beguine' would be played over and over and over and over, till I got sleepy and he got ratty.

This was a regular Sunday evening after supper 'date' and I relished these times, waiting all week for the day to arrive and then all day for it to be our time.

We used to go to Weddings or any celebrations that included dancing, where Ma and Dad would dance only the first and last dance. The rest would be for me and my beloved dad. Everyone in our small town watched us dance with enjoyment, as I was the only child they knew who could dance like a dream, with the only Dad who would let her.

Throughout my adult life, I have possibly had only two partners who were good dancers, and both were called Tony. I met and danced with them twenty years apart and neither were my husbands. Enough said.

One of the best surprises I ever got was a birthday treat to the UK Ballroom Championships in Bournemouth about 1992. It was a magical evening and I was enthralled by the whole spectacle. I also remember sitting there knowing that a) I would never dance like that and b) No one would ever make me feel as special as my daddy had all those years before.

Now the question is: Will I do something about it, or will I just sit sadly and remember?

Monday, 18 June 2007

Eight: Brag more about my 'granddog'

Snuffles, as you can see, is the most beautiful, cutest, wondrous, affectionate, gorgeous, loving little 'granddog' that anyone could ever be blessed with.

I know, I know, we all love your pets, specially the snake in the back shed and the crocodile in the bath. But Snuffles has an unusual history which I'll briefly tell you about and then I intend to brag some more.

We were teaching in Kuwait six years ago when I saw a picture of the sweetest little puppy stuck on a tatty piece of paper on a tatty notice board in the local supermarket, with a tatty phone number beside it.

What can I say? It was love at first sight; utter, blinding, overwhelming, breathtaking love. Never in all my (nearly) 60 years have I fallen so quickly. I didn't know her breed, if she even had one, I didn't know what her nature would be like, or what to expect after only having kept bulldogs before. Bulldogs are another one of my passions.

I rang the number and a man with very broken English told me that he had got 2 dogs from Thailand, one a rottweiler and one a 'small dog'. He informed me that his small children were hurting the 'small dog', but I suspect he wanted to get rid of her because he would've preferred another rottweiler.

We arranged to meet the next day in the supermarket's car park, exchanging car colours for recognition.

After waiting 30 minutes,we had almost given up, when he arrived and, there sitting on the back seat was this bundle of love, pure absolute love. I can't say anything else except that I was smitten, gone, completely gone!

After a bit of haggling we bought her there and then and took her straight to the vet, who informed us that she might be a shih tzu and also that she had a blood disease and may not last the next few days. Oh no, my heart was broken. How could this be happening? After just one hour with her in my life, I felt bereft.

He started treating her and within a few days she was completely well. Don't quite know what happened to the blood disease, but there you are, he performed a miracle on her ........

She was everything a naughty puppy should be, but delightful, with instant cartloads of pleasure.

The following year, when the Iraq war broke out,teachers were urged to leave, but couldn't take their pets with them. What a huge calamity. What were we to do with Snuffs?We spent more time worrying and discussing her than any other problem we might face if we left.

One of the Sri Lankan cleaning ladies at school heard about our predicament and offered to look after her, which we accepted very thankfully. She promptly moved in for eight weeks and bonded with our Snuffs just as we had. Without her help, we would have had to get rid of our precious 'child' as we no one knew what the outcome of the war would be.
That was an awful time for us, but soon we were reunited. The following year we decided to return to the UK.
We sent her to do her quarantine in France with some friends of ours, and when she entered the UK our reunion was better than any you might see in a Hollywood tear jerker.
It was hilarious the first time we took her to a park here, as she had never stepped on grass before. She was a real desert dog, sand , sand and more sand.
After six years my love for her is as strong if not stronger than it was then. She and I have an incredibly close bond and she is my shadow.
She is the happiest, most contented little soul that I have ever had the pleasure to share my life with and if I were ever reincarnated I would love to come back as Snuffles, providing I could have me as her owner.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Tangent: Orgasm or prozac

The choice is quite simple, prozac or orgasm? orgasm or prozac? The two are not often mutually compatible.

I've been married three times, twice to the same man. No, I don't feel ashamed of it, I'm way behind Liz and Richard. Anyway, these days it's more the norm than the exception. At least I married my second husband again, just to gain some credability, and have had a much better marriage second time/third time around. I know it's all a bit confusing, wierd and wonderful, so welcome to my world!

Depression was never a stranger to me. We were familiar friends by my teenage years, long before depression ever became fashionable. I felt as if an enormous black hole was reaching up to engulf me and drag me down, down, down and there was nothing I could do to help myself.

In those days it was very much a case of 'pull yourself together, for heavens sake!' and the more this was said to me, the deeper I sank. I could no more pull myself towards myself than fly to the moon- which hadn't been flown to yet. I used to wake up feeling dead inside, heavy (which I was anyway, weighing about75 kgs- 12 stone by then) and full of dread. No one can ever understand this feeling unless they have truly suffered with it.

A lot of people will say, 'I feel depressed' today, or 'I feel so down' but often that is not true depression. We who suffer from it and have suffered from it know that you rarely go around saying 'oy, am I depressed, oy, am I depressed.' It's rather a 'becoming' emotion than an 'arriving at' emotion. It creeps up on you so gradually that often you aren't even aware of it till you reach that unenviable stage of not being able to get out of bed, let alone eat or dress yourself (some have the overeating 'thing' till they can't anymore) and still the dread grows.

Fifty years ago you were scoffed at, glared at, questioned and harrassed to 'stop this nonsense for heaven's sake!.' It just wasn't possible in most cases. A lot of my dire unhappiness and foolish decisions could've been avoided if they had invented prozac by then, certainly for me.

Oh, yes, I was put on antidepressants, but ohmigod, they totally annihilated anything I had left, making even thinking harder and the side effects were horrific. When I failed to stay on them, or failed to adjust to the side effects, I was always made to feel like 'a failed' person so further blighted by my unwillingness (or so it was thought) to try to get on with the happy pills. They were more like zombie pills than anything close to happiness I ever experienced.

So, you can imagine, in the late eighties, when my doctor told me I was depressed and should try prozac and some counselling, I decided on the latter. However, thank heavens for the counsellor, a nice, friendly, empathetic, homely little woman who entered my life and advised me strongly but firmly to try prozac- which was then the new wonder drug for depression.

I have never looked back. I have taken it intermittently since then and can honestly say that without prozac I would not have managed to weather the menopausal storms. Women who are prone to severe pms will ultimately struggle even more with the crashing thrashing hormonal waves of the menopause. I have blessed prozac every day for saving me from that.

I know it hasn't always got good press; claims of suicide, changed personalities etc, but if it works, it works, and for me it works.

There is one drawback- isn't there always that one?

After prolonged use of this drug- in my experience - one loses most sexual urges. Of course the 'meenie menos' can do that too, but those who gulp down their 40mg flouxetine with their breakfast probably can expect this to occur eventually. After all if it calms you down and balances you wonderfully ,then it has to be calming those fierce and famous sexual storms too.

Personally, I would rather have 40g for breakfast than that 'BIG O'. Must be reaching 'SIX O'

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Tangent: Pink fetish

I actually hated pink. It was never 'my colour'.

I never even thought about colours, just wore my clothes!

I had my skin tone analysed about a week after having my ears pierced twice, because really once just wasn't enough. I had to be different, so when everyone else was having theirs pierced once and that was 'ouch' enough, I was insistent on twice.

The very clever colour consultant told me I was an 'Autumn' and gave me a swatch of very dull drab hues that didn't excite me one bit. Her mantra was that when you wore the right colour people would comment on how lovely you looked , but if it was all wrong for you, they would merely say 'I like that dress'. Of course it was the 'lovely' aspect that totally sold me on the idea.

I rushed off to the nearest department store in search of the new me. What a frustrating afternoon that was. I just couldn't understand why the postbox red was all wrong whereas the bland tomato tint was the correct one. My only choices seemed to be dull tans, ochres, burnt oranges and sickly yellows. The worst part was that 'Autumns' can't wear black near their faces as it makes them look haggard, but I needed my black, it made me look thin!
I went home feeling very despondent, believing that I had wasted my precious money and my valuable time. Needless to say I threw the swatch in the deepest drawer and forgot about it.

Months after that I overheard a woman at my yoga class saying that she had just had herself 'colour coded' and rah rah rah how wonderful it all was, completely changed her life. The next lesson I took my colour 'thingie' with me and showed her and she immediately offered to come shopping with me.

This was a new experience for me as I had never been one of those woman who shopped and coffeed with a friend or friends. I have always valued my personal space specially when it comes to buying new things. I cannot see what these females gain by trying on clothes together and giving nonsensical advice to another person whose skin they do not fill.

With lots of trepidation and a dry mouth I met her the following afternoon and we 'did it'. I felt like Cinderella being fitted for the ball, and she knew her stuff. She knew exactly what to put with the drab mousy brown to make it come alive and how to mix and match various bits of clothing to give quite a stunning result. She also somehow understood that I wasn't the frilly, pink, cutesy pie type of woman, but rather a 'feet firmly on the ground' gamin sort of girl.

When she suggested something in pink, albeit muted corally pink, I gulped twice but as she was steering this ship and I trusted her by then, I tried it and thought, 'nice' ( horrid word, means nothing) quite okay, but not yet quite me.

How did I know that 30 years later, not only would I have a large percentage of pink in my wardrobe but also matching pink hair and pink glasses. She would be so proud of me now. SO if you are out there reading this - thanks again!

Seven: Relish my 'joie de vivre'

''You are a great example of 'joie de vivre'.'' This was the inscription in a book you gave me in December 1991. I had not considered this to be so until that point, but instinctively I knew you were right.

Previously I had always believed it was my inimitable Aquarianness that defined who I was. I knew that I was bursting with an extreme emotion needing to get out, and whenever life kicked me in the shins, I would somehow get up again and stagger on using this inner 'something', but having no name for it. All my life I knew I was different and didn't fit in with the rest of my clan.

When I was about 5 or 6 I woke my brother up in the middle of the night and took him outside to sit on the 'stoep' (porch) to look at the moon. My mother woke up and came looking for us and there we were, oblivious to all around us. I remember sitting on that step with my hand carelessly draped round my little brother's shoulders, and I remember her fury.

This fury was going to be unleashed upon me many times in the next dozen years. I took my brother to 'town' which was about 10 blocks from our house, and was discovered by my very stern, very angry mother, who then gave me a thrashing right there and then to my utter embarrassment of course. Why couldn't she understand my curiosity, my thirst for life, my need to be me?

I was always either acting and singing or playing 'school school' with the neighbourhood kids. I would strut up and down in our makeshift classroom wielding my big stick and admonishing them much as my own mother had admonished me.

My best friends, Priscilla (Cilla) and Cynthia (Cinny) lived round the corner and we were always in each other's homes. One very hot afternoon we were carrying some eggs from my house to theirs to bake a cake (aged about 13) when one of the eggs fell out of the bowl and landed on the sandy path. We started laughing, when along came three boys on their bikes. The first one asked us 'what are you doing?' and I answered without a moment's hesitation and a straight face, 'frying an egg'. This only made us laugh louder and longer.

I loved and still do love anything unusual. When I get a present I am more interested in the wrapping than the actual gift. When I buy something I am more interested in what I didn't buy than what I did buy. And through all the many many tears that life has cost me, I have always managed to 'pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.'

So, thank you for that particular inscription in my book and I promise I will continue to relish that 'joie de vivre'.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Tangent: Reading my blog

I am absolutely over the moon that someone, no make that sometwo are

reading my words.

Two people, two very kind or very bored people have actually read my stuff and have even returned to read it the next day. And then they took the time and trouble to comment. Whew. Yippee. I am famous.

Long long long ago, or should that be 'once upon a time' I wanted to write a book. It was a pre-adult dream, after having grown up with 'The Famous Five' and 'What Katy Did' and 'Tom Brown's School Days'. I was a bookworm, devouring books at the same rate I devoured cream cakes and whole loaves of bread smeared with peanut butter and syrup.

When I became a teacher this dream became even more intense. Why couldn't I be another Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss or E Nesbit? Reality struck when I realised I couldn't even draw a stick figure let alone illustrate a novel. Soon it became apparent that it was going to take all my time and energy just to keep up with my marking and daily planning, let alone write a novel.

Eventually I let it go, returning every now and then to write the odd poem or two, keep up with my penfriend on the other side of the world and write loads of cutesy notes to various boyfriends along the way.

There was that one time 10 years ago when I wrote a poem for Diana. After she died, people who wanted to write something commemorative about her were asked to do so, and various items would be chosen for a book to be sent to the Spenser family. So I did it, a 4 line poem about anorexia. Eventually a short letter arrived informing me that my poem had been chosen and I was chuffed.

A few years ago I decided that it would be cathartic for me to sit down and write a book, my memoirs, pouring out the story of my miseries, pain and angst which spanned the decades. A true saga.

This I did over a period of months reaching about 60. By then I was totally and utterly bored. The whole thing had become a drag. It lacked humour and razzmatazz. When I wanted to edit it, I would read one or two pages and think 'boooorring'. So in a fit of pique I pressed 'delete' and thought 'good riddance to bad rubbish'.

Until now. Here I am at it once more. The difference this time is I am loving it, trying to make it honest, humorous and razzmatazzic. And look, I even have two readers.

Welcome both of you and I hope you will join me on my journey and let me join you on yours.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Six: Visit Cemeteries

I know that this one will intrigue a lot of you because the thought of reserving a burial plot may have entered your minds. Let me state that this is not my reason for doing this.

It all started a year or two ago when my eldest son, Steve, announced one Sunday at lunch that he enjoyed going to a nearby cemetery and reading there in the peaceful surroundings. Everyone at the table almost choked. I looked at him to check whether this another one of his wry, dry jokes as he often comes out with them.

Let me tell you a bit about Steve. He is unique - unequivocally unique. Highly intelligent, exceptionally well-read with a selection of interests, unusual ones of course. These interests have varied from teaching himself Italian and Chinese cuisine, to writing novels and poetry that have never been published, yet show an extremely agile brain and a huge talent. Not to mention his penchant for all things artistic. He has delved, trifled with and also totally immersed himself in Buddhism, Salsa dancing and an MA in Linguistics. He is ultra sensitive and heavily bogged down by his emotional baggage that he carries, but he is the closest person to a 'soul mate' that I have ever had in my life.

Your own son, your soul mate? Well, why ever not? We are so alike, it is sometimes quite scary. That doesn't mean that I have the above attributes, but I recognise all of them in him as a bit of each is in me too.

When Steven says something, I always listen. So the day that he mentioned the cemetery, I was not only bemused but my curiosity was aroused. Up until this time I had only had a bad and sad relationship with cemeteries, going there to bury my dead. It never struck me that the very fact that the place is filled with dead loved ones meant that it possibly could be quite dramatically settling to ones psyche.

Anyway, time passed as it does, and I never thought about it again. He mentioned this place now and again, but I suppose it sort of went in one ear and out of the other.

Then a few weeks ago, after breaking up with his girlfriend and feeling bitterly low and smashed about, he decided to spend a Sunday afternoon in his 'local' cemetery, so we went to join him there.

Obviously the time was right, it's all about timing after all. As soon as we walked into the place, I could feel not only the quiet, but also the serenity, the dulling of all traffic noises; in fact it was like a tomb closing in around me, but not in a bad way. It was a particularly warm day and cemeteries always seem hotter or colder than anywhere else on the planet.

We wandered around looking for an ideal spot, not too hot, not too shady, not too near the smelly trash cans, not where a new grave was being dug, just the right place. When we settled down, I felt a sort of languor creep over me and I felt extremely relaxed and at ease. It dumbfounded me. I felt regret when we left and could quite happily have stayed another hour or two.

So, I started thinking about my list and decided there and then that I would visit other cemeteries in London this year to:

a) enjoy them

b)compare them

and, yes,

c) possibly choose the one I would like to settle in when I'm gone.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Five: Visit a nudist beach

Obviously my 60 ideas didn't just come to me in a sudden flash of inspiration, but rather bit by bit over a few weeks, even months. It all started on my 59th birthday, when I received a pretty notebook from my son's girlfriend. The inscription read 'for thoughts. lists and other things that come to mind'.

I started with a few quotations on the first page e.g. 'Enforced rest is hard work!' and ' Hysteria camouflages' and ' Grant that I may not criticise my neighbour until I have walked a mile in his moccasins'.

My all time favourite has got to be:

'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.'

Mmm, so that was the first page. What about some almost forgotten memories from my childhood, some good ones that is? So I dribbled on for a few pages with these, but it just didn't do it for me.

Mmm, what next? Then it came to me in the middle of the night, when I do most of my important thinking. What would I really like to do this year? To achieve? To gain/ get satisfaction from? What would make me very happy?

And there it was: 'Make a list of 60 things you want to do before you turn 60'.

Why 60 ideas? Well a nice even number don't you think? Why before 60, and not after 60? Because it's so easy to put things off and this just cannot be put off. This is the most important birthday I will have.

Why is it the most important one? Let's just say that the genes in my family are pretty rotten and quite a few people including my own mother and father didn't reach this age. So, in a way I feel I am doing this partly for them too.

My body has undergone many changes and, although everything is rapidly going south, I feel the most at ease with my body now. I want to feel the freedom of walking in a public place amongst others who feel the same as me, to strip away the false facade of clothing and just 'be' for a few hours.

Who knows if I will succeed, but at least I will have wanted to, tried to, and know inside how it felt and what it did for me. Whatever happens, it's sure to be a damned good laugh. Specially if I take my camera!

Monday, 11 June 2007

Four: Pink hair

Now I hear you saying,' this is getting ridiculous, how old are you? 16 or nearly 60?'

Tee hee, if you read my last entry you will have seen the fabulous (Sharon Osbourne's word, not mine) glasses.

So, if you were me, what's the next thing you would do? Go and get some pink hair? No, no, it didn't work like that at all.

You see, I started making my list of '60 things to do before you're 60' a few months ago, and one of the items was * colour my hair * (again) because I had done this before.

When you're born with mousy, watery brown hair which is fine yet frizzy, sometimes wavy-yes, I know - what a great combination that would be these days, you have no option but to try to improve that image you see looking at you every morning.

So, I did. Often. Colour my hair. Mostly auburn or various shades of auburn. It was never too red or too auburn, just a burnished coppery, auburny red. Know what I mean?

I have always had a very short style, mostly because of lack of quantity and quality, but thankfully I could get away with it, having ears that were quite neatly placed beside my not too large face. Oops, that's without the high forehead I was blessed with. A forehead that seems to stretch upwards forever, and nowadays is patterned with 'pleats'.

About a week after I got the new glasses and began strutting around like a peacock, I went off to the hairdresser for my usual monthly cut (which usually ends up resembling newly mowed lawn). The hairdresser immediately remarked 'Oh, I do like your new glasses, why don't you make your hair pink to match them?' They certainly know how to drum up business.

Up to that moment I was quite proud of my greying (salt and pepper) hair and wore it as a badge of pride, much like I did the pleats. Suddenly it dawned on me, 'this is it, the time, one of the items on my list, why not?' I decided to only have pink highlights, but insisted on exactly the same colour as my frames.
'No problem' he said and within the hour I was transformed. It looked as if I had fallen on my head into some pink paint, and then tried to rub it all off. Yikes.

By the time I got home I was in a real state, panicky and embarrassed to show my husband. There had been many times in the past when I arrived home after a cut to be greeted with 'Oh no, I'm living with a boy again'. This time he just stood there with his mouth half open and a wry mocking expression on his face. But as soon as he saw my stricken face he immediately altered his mien and took on a sweet, accepting nonchalance of 'this is nice'. I didn't take it any further as you can imagine.

That wasn't the end of it. I had to go to work the following week after half term and face all my friends as well as the pupils, the harshest critics of all. I couldn't sleep that night, very silly but true. It was worse than my finals at University.

The next day I slunk into school only to be met by 'Ooooh' and 'Aaahs' and 'Wows' and 'Goshes' (mostly 'gosh you're brave'). But the turning point for me came when one of the older girls in year 6 did a double take in the corridor and said 'That's sooooo cool!!'

Well I was chuffed. I had never been called 'cool' even when I was of the right age to be considered cool. I felt the admiration and even respect that day and it was fabulous (thanks Sharon).

As you have probably guessed by now, I am not your regular run of the mill 59 year old, but now I felt I was truly on the road to achieving some of the 60 things that I had planned to do and soon. What will I do next?

Three: New glasses

Hang on, hang on, before you utter the word 'booooring', hear me out.

I started wearing glasses when I was about 11 years old.

It all started with a nervous 'tic' where I would blink my eyes at a furious pace, blinkety- blink- blink, pause, blinkety- blink- blink whenever I was nervous. The strange thing about this sort of impediment is that one is totally unaware that they have it. In an effort to help me overcome this, my parents were advised to get me glasses.

And what horrible things they were, little circular lenses encased in a thick ugly brown frame , with arms that wrapped around the ears in a cruel vice-like grip. Uncomfortable, hideous, horrible things that all the other kids laughed at. I was forced to wear them daily until one of the boys in my class shouted out 'those aren't even real, it's just glass in there!'

I went home and asked whether this was true and yes, it was. The round owlet eyes were nothing more than glass, but, wearing them had in fact improved my twitching. I took them off and, weeping copiously, flung them into my doll's pram in the corner where they remained for the next few years.

Yup, the doll's pram was the place where everything was flung. All my discarded clothes, lost bits of homework, odd shoes and of course my dolls. Every now and then my mother would come in, tip it all out and yell, 'now clean up this pig's sty'. Then it would all start piling up again.

When I was 13 and the school nurse said that I really did need glasses, I didn't believe her and they too remained in the doll's pram more often than not (yes the pram was still parked in the same corner of the room).

My relationship with my glasses has always been a love/ hate one. In my thirties I tried soft contact lenses, which were the new craze, and found to my disappointment that I had 'too many tears', so they would slip all over my eyeball and never stay put. Weeping copiously I gave up that dream too.

My last pair of glasses was very ordinary, just a pair of glasses, and then a few months ago I woke up one morning with a strange feeling inside me. I realised I was soon to be 60 and had to mark this event in some or even many special ways, thus deciding to do 60 special things before I turn 60.

I knew what I had to do. I went marching down to the nearest optician, had my eyes tested and chose a really way-out zany pair of specs. And, guess what? After hearing the price and picking myself up off the floor, I fell madly in love with them. They are so me, they are so un-me, they are so modern, they are so different from anything I've ever had before.

Every time I look in the mirror I grin with joy and pleasure. Now isn't that what having new glasses is all about. After all, our glasses r us.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Two: Write a blog

Of course this has to be near the top of the list else I wouldn't be doing this. Giggle, smirk, titter, chuckle, sneer if you like, but I reckon that if my sons can write blogs then why not me.

Let me first state that I am NOT a computer boffin, actually I don't lay claim to being any kind of boffin, but I must say with a certain amount of pride, that I became a 'silver surfer' long before they were ever heard of.

I guess in my household it was a case of 'if you can't beat them, then join them'. My husband, and two boys used to spend hour upon hour using 'Betsy' the very first machine we ever got. It was an Apple II purchased in 1979 in South Africa when the hubby decided to change careers and enter the 'computer world'. Since then we have never been without a computer in our home, and often more than two.

In watching the whole thing develop, from being able to enter data, to auditing household accounts, to one of the best forms of relaxation there is - Solitaire- I gravitated towards e mails and then actually conceding to use the bloody thing for my teaching.

Now, almost 20 years later I can no longer do without it. I am as hooked as the rest of you- particularly those 'silver surfers' who have just discovered it's magic. Compare it to when you got your driver's licence long long ago and the freedom you felt- and you'll know what I mean.

I switch it upon waking up and switch it off upon retiring, much as I would my spectacles. I fiddle with e mails and 'google' anything and everything that I think of. e.g spots on the backs of the hand, itchy palms, a sudden headache. In fact this search engine has become like my 'Black's Encyclopedia of Medicine, which I used to pour over in the pre-computer era. Of course I really wanted to be a doctor but that's another discussion for another day.

Imagine my concern and indignation when this thing goes wrong, when the page is unavailable, when the printer won't print or the saver won't save. I find myself getting into a real state about it and the day seems only partly complete if I can't have my 'first computer hit' before breakfast.

What is doubly annoying to me is that I am the very one who used to scoff at everyone around me watching their utter compulsion and mesmerised staring and chronic habitual attraction to this - what was after all - a glorified typewriter.

But like every other addiction, when it grabs you, it grabs you and I am grabbed! So I will venture forth with my very own blog, using only my two index fingers to type, at a furious pace, and hope that one day I will be offered a book deal. Grin.

One: Get a tattoo

Not my first but my second. The first was at 50, upon entering that mature phase of ones life, oh yes and waiting expectantly for oodles of wisdom that would appear miraculously in the middle of the night.

So off I went while living in Cape Town ( gorgeous Cape Town) to some grungy, dingy, dodgy looking 'dive' adorned with dozens of horrific sketches of anything and everything you could have attached to any part of your anatomy.

Why you might ask, why did I choose that particular 'establishment'? Purely on recommendation, oh yes, it was a recommendation from one of my colleagues at school, another well -respected middle -aged member of the community, who had just had an adorable little blue dolphin tattooed on her right hip.

The only female tattooist in the whole place was deftly covering a man's back with an intricate dragon, so I turned blushingly to the only other person there,and stammeringly asked him to do the deed before I lost my nerve.
He invited me into his 'parlour' behind a bright red curtain- the colour of blood - I thought panicking.

At that stage I wasn't going to lift up my dress to display my hip ( I had not even thought to wear a skirt and blouse that day), so I clumsily pulled my bodice sideways, and showing him the left side of my upper chest, asked for a 'fish', a 'very small fish' and 'will it hurt?' and 'are your instruments clean?'

He chuckled and went off to fetch me a much-thumbed catalogue/sketch book/of fish- all sorts of wierd and wonderful, intricate and simple forms; and asked me to choose one of them, which I did, by now in a complete tizz. Here I was about to change the appearance of my upper torso forever and making an instant decision without even getting a second opinion, like 'how does this look on me? ' or 'do you think this one will suit me? or even 'is this the right place to put this?

I won't describe the rest to you, only to say that having a baby was preferable, but Steve (who had his face as close to mine as any ardent lover might have) was so calm and chatty and complimentary about me, my age,my skin, bla bla that I relaxed and even started to enjoy the whole experience, patting myself on the back for this extreme form of bravery and determination, this willingness to be scarred forever by a complete stranger who I would never see again.

The result is one that I am thrilled with and love to this day, my little fishie that everyone remarks on when my blouse tends to fall slightly open, that the older kids at school 'ooh' and 'aah' about, giggling behind their hands at this really 'old' teacher with a tattoo.

So, before I turn 60 I will be having the next one done, and then the next when I turn 70, and 80.

Anyone out there who can recommend a not too grungy, not too dingy, not too dodgy dive somewhere in London?