On my 59th wedding anniversary

MY HOUSE

It was a lovely little bungalow in the middle of a very quiet street. Oh yes I could live here away from London’s busy life. The  big trees – elm and oak – at the bottom of the garden, the two plum trees and a sea of white  London Pride next to the patio.

But one day a fire destroyed the kitchen and nothing was the same anymore. The elm was attacked by  Dutch elm disease, the plum trees were culled.  The Owl did not woo anymore and there was no more noisy coupling of the hedgehogs at night. The door to the garden would not open.  

The Wembley Arch, high-rise luxury flats, fast food shops and supermarkets outlets have replaced the Twin Towers, the quiet streets, the tea rooms, the fragrant bakery. 

Indoors the knives were becoming blunt, the window panes always cloudy, the sun obscured by next door’s extension and to top it all there is some subsidence in the building. An unending destroying cycle of repairs and attempts at renewals. 

But this summer has been sunny, the newly planted raised bed has been prolific. The self rooted magnolia flowered early, mediterranean jasmin and herbs delight my senses. A black cat stands watch against the visiting rat.

I do not anymore count the losses but contemplate the oak tree . 

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LIFE REVIEWS

By a strange coincidence two events conspired to make me think of my past in a bizarre type of Life Review. 

I had been studying Kore-eda’s (1998) film for a couple of weeks when my daughter told me that her last assignment of her course was to write about My Mother   and  My Father. 

 I knew  she enjoyed this writing course. She wanted to tell me that her teacher thought that her two pieces were very good writing.  

I ask her tentatively if I could read them and she agreed with some trepidation. 

Our relationship in her teens and into her middle age had been difficult,  extremely difficult but  we both matured into a comfortable loving in spite of our differences. 

It was wonderful to read her pieces. She did not talk about us now but how she saw us during her 57 years of life. Her father found what she called the decades of war very painful.  I found it less so and certainly less than living it. 

She is 57. My daughter is old. Difficult to comprehend. 

? LONDON SOUTH BANK GOES GERIATRIC?

 

8 years ago I was invited to take part in a consultation to prepare for the Women Of the World Festival to take place at the London South Bank.
The old woman was absent from this festival.
see  post
https://ageingageismdiary.wordpress.com/?s=WoW+cafe&submit=Search.

I did peruse the programme over the years but did not find anything for me)

3 years ago some feminist I know complained online that the WoW festival was rather ageist. ‘Apart from a few ‘old performers’ old women were not represented’.

This year by accident I came across Nawal El Sadawi in a conversation event and rushed to buy a ticket assuming that it was part of the WoW festival. I was so delighted to see that at long last old feminist women were present at WoW and ageing a subject worth including in the festival.
But then I investigated the details of the event and found the press release below.

Southbank Centre today announces (B)old, a brand new festival celebrating age and creativity, supported by The Baring Foundation. Championing new and established artists aged 65 years and over, (B)old features a week of vibrant programming from Monday 14 – Sunday 20 May 2018 taking place across Southbank Centre’s 17 acre site including the newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.
(B)old explores and challenges cultural perspectives of age and the role it plays in arts and society, as well as the impact of creating and experiencing art at a later age. The new festival offers something for all ages and showcases work from artists across dance, music, theatre, visual art and literature. The programme features free events and activities, and an array of engaging workshops, talks and debates bringing the idea of ‘age’ into discussion.

What do I think about this? I investigated further. On the one hand I was pleased to have the opportunity of hearing again El Saadawi on the other hand I was perturbed.

Why is it that the word ‘old’ has to be qualified: (B)old?  I do not think that bold applies to this festival. There is an enormous  literature and reports  about  Arts as an important part of the lives of older people.   Famous performers are in the limelight   but where is the support for all the dedicated artists who volunteer in care homes, in therapeutic environments?

Funders: The Baring Foundation whose aim is to give grants to tackle disadvantage and discrimination.

From my point of view so near to the WoW festival all I can do is quote norman lebrecht
April 5, 2018

http://slippedisc.com/2018/04/londons-south-bank-goes-geriatric/

“As someone who is over 65, I find this ghettoisation of old age both gruesome and patronising.”

As someone over 83 and so near the WoW festival I completely agree with him.
Should we forget intergenerational contacts in Art? Should we forget the gender gap in the arts as everywhere else ?

 

 

 

 

CATARACT AND CHANGES AT 80+

My friend, long deceased, had told me about the experience of seeing the amazing brightening of colours after her cataract operation and even wrote a poem about it. Now some younger acquaintances mention this effect. But nobody told me that while the silver of my husband’s curls look shiny his face is old with lines and folds and wrinkles. Nobody told me that suddenly all white surfaces in the house look dirty, the curtains need washing, the bathroom tiles show black joins and I did not know that the carpets were so threadbare.
My face in the mirror tells me why people automatically assume that I need help, or ignore me something that surprised me often in the tube or the bus, in public.

I wish I had cataract of the mind. I wish I could not notice the effects of ageing: the struggle to find some words, the losing and finding, the repetition to the same person of some information, the too often referring to the past, the hurt of being dismissed, ignored, or plain disliked.

I will have to look for S.’s poem that I have filed away somewhere as irrelevant to me…

CHANGES AT 80+

Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett’s blog
Eclipse Day Reveals Some Personal Changes
Monday, 21 August 2017

Thanks Ronni. This post took me from depression to relief. I can embrace the changes I experienced these last few months.
By a curious coincidence it is the total eclipse of the sun that triggered this consciousness raising.

When at the beginning of the year my American nephew started to organise the family reunion for this year’s eclipse, I decided that I would not travel to the States. This reluctance to suffer the discomfort and frustration of air travel surprised and unsettled me. Since my retirement – over 20 years ago – I have travelled across the globe to birdwatch (my connection to nature) and on two occasions to meet some members of my family and experience together total eclipses of the sun. (Hawaii (1991 , Hungary 1999).

In the last few months I have spontaneously given up activities that were previously important to me and felt more and more inadequate. Reading Ronni’s blog I jumped with joy.
I am OK. I am not depressed. I am normal. I just have to readjust my priorities.
I do not have to get up at the crack of dawn and breathe London’s polluted air to attend a conference or a meeting on Ageing or Film studies. No more exhausting train journeys and stays in uncomfortable B and B to hear academics report on their latest research.
Great !
I do not have to cook when I do not feel like it or feel guilty when I watch rubbish TV. I do not have to march for hours at an agonising pace to protest the state of the world. No more competing with centenarians who run the marathon. No more compelled to volunteer for good causes if I do not feel like it.
No more trying to share my interests or campaigns.
No more worrying about children, grandchildren. great-grandchild. It is time to reverse the mother/daughter relationship.
Hurrah!

Yes Ronni I am also slowing down. I also have no patience for discomfort .
I am letting go and will stop wasting time and patience updating soft and hardware. The existing technology is good enough for me to continue researching, enriching my life and have a social life.

I AM NO LONGER A BRAINWASHED OLD WOMAN AND HOPE TO ADJUST TO THESE CHANGES.

words and music Leon Rosselson

LIFE REVIEW AND EXILE

Family and friends on holiday.

The daughter of a cousin is visiting. A French academic, she briefly lectured in Aleppo before the recent wars and destruction.
She often stayed with her grandparents (my aunt and uncle) in Beirut and Israel and heard them talk about their lives in Aleppo . She is interested in this past.
I was delighted to find a listening ear. I unearthed photos, my school reports and other documents and relived the past for a few days.
My early life in Aleppo that I left at the age of 10 (late 30s/early 40s ), seemed more important to me than later life in Beirut that I left aged 21. It seemed vital that I should transmit my recollections to somebody familiar with this background.

I am left wondering in the days of globalisation how old women experience their uprooting. I am sure that each exile is different depending on the country of origin, the conditions of leaving, the process of acculturation in the new country, the assimilation of the children,  the community.

In her last days in a French hospital, my mother in pain would utter a sound approximating to …AKH, AKH. When I visited her, a concerned nurse asked me what she was asking for, not realising that this utterance expressed pain (physical or even psychological) in her native language.

I am wondering if exiled people with dementia are misunderstood by carers of a different cultural background and even language.

I am wondering what the life review of old age feels like if not shared.