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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? 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.

AGEING, Globalisation and Family

A letter from a close friend of mine reaching her 80th birthday.
Dear Rina,
No I do not mind if you post this letter on your blog. I imagine that other old women may have the same experience. But please do not divulge personal information.

As you know i have lost my sister who lived in the South of France and my ex (husband) also died last year. I have been so busy since I retired. I have had a few affairs, I have worked teaching English, I have helped in a centre for disadvantaged youth and travelled around the globe to visit my children. But now I feel tired and need to be rather than do. It is something that you have written to me about but being younger than you I did not quite see what you meant.
I feel a need to be with people who have known me for a significant length of time, people who know my background, where I come from, people who have known if not all my own family at least some of them. The few friends I made in my nomadic life are now gone. I know that it should be easier for me compared to you. I live in Paris now, French is my language but my life as mother of two sons and a daughter was spent in England for a period of time in Willesden where I met you. I envied your big family. I knew your mother and your brothers who came to visit you and I have still some oriental gifts that you brought back from Beirut. You were so comfortable in your own identity. I was lost between my French background and my English husband that I finally divorced in the painful circumstances that you are aware of.
You know that my children did well but the little family feeling that I had then in Willesden, has gone forever and I blame globalisation.

Do you remember how we disagreed on feminism? You would be proud of the career women both my daughter and in laws have become. I see my daughter not very often when she comes to Paris. She is still a very busy foreign correspondent for an obscure American TV channel. I know nothing of her life – she has never enough time in Paris. Although full of attention for her old mother, she does not feel she can share her difficult life.

You were very impressed when the two boys graduated from Polytechnique and Normale. Yes they did well, you know, but I have never felt the fracture there when I was living my own interesting life. S. works for an international outfit in Hong Kong. His wife is Chinese and they have a son. They are very close to her own family and during their visits they stay in a hotel rather than in my flat. I found it interesting when I visited them and her family and toured a bit. But the links were too tenuous to last in spite of my attempts to learn Mandarin.
R. after a dangerous life as an environmentalist has finally settled. He married a divorced Moroccan woman with two children and they live in Rabat. The children used to come to Paris and stayed with me when they were young. But not anymore. Again they all feel closer to the maternal family and after all, the sun shines more in Morocco than Paris.

I never felt this isolation until now that I do not travel much. I wonder if like me you find the importance of being with people who know where you come from without actually having shared all  your past. I wonder too how easy it is for you to have mixed-race grandchildren and great-grandchild, these days of creeping racism.  How do you feel to have your brothers scattered over the globe:  California, New Zealand, Paris, I believe? Are you fully integrated in London? and does Leon’s family give you this family feeling? I am sorry that you cannot go birdwatching anymore because of your poor eyesight but I am sure that your feel for nature is still as strong as ever.

I am so grateful for our correspondence. You will never know how much I miss your visits to Paris. Now that we do not see each other I felt I had to revisit my trajectory. The boulangerie/cafe in Passy where we used to spend hours sharing our lives has gone. I feel a need to reinforce our friendship and share my consciousness of a new stage in my life: the 80s.
Not easy,
……..