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Monthly Archives: September 2015

‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.’ (Groucho Marx)

I have always loved books.  As a child I don’t remember spending a lot of time playing with dolls or toys (or other kids for that matter) but I do remember always being able to put my hands on a book.  Mum and Dad weren’t great readers themselves but once they realized they had bred a brood of readers they always made sure there were books available to us.  Books were standard fare for birthdays and Christmas and ‘just because’ presents.

I loved the feel of books and the smell of books, as well as the words they carried. So much so that I didn’t just borrow books, read them and pass them on—oh no—I bought my own, treasured copies of them.  Hundreds of them.  Over the years I stacked them on shelves, on tables, behind doors and under beds.  I built towers of them leaning up against walls (my dogs soon learned to give these leaning towers a wide berth!).  When I was younger and constantly travelling my suitcases were most likely to be carrying more books than were necessary and less clothes than I actually needed.  When I moved house crates and crates of books went with me.  I admit it—I was personally responsible for the doom of thousands and thousands of trees.  And then a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough—I was drowning in books.

I am not quite sure what brought it on (possibly one of those mad ideas we get occasionally about downsizing or simplifying our lives) but I psyched myself up, clenched my teeth and set to culling, and, after a week or so of feverish packing in boxes, I eventually gave away the vast bulk of my beloved books to the local Rotary sale.

As the poor man who had come to collect them staggered out of the door with the last load I remember feeling very relieved and really proud of myself—for about an hour.  Then I went into what can only be called ‘withdrawal’.  I was in a cold sweat for days wondering whether I should have given away this book or that book and constantly asking myself ‘What on earth was I thinking?’  I even had to take an alternative route to work so I wouldn’t see the sign for the book sale and break down and go in and buy more books—probably even buy back some of the books I had just given away!

But I held fast.  It took a while but gradually I started to enjoy the extra space I had in the house.  I had room to rearrange my other things, move furniture around—and, an unforeseen perk—there was suddenly much less dusting to do!

But it wasn’t all that easy.  I swear my palms would actually itch as I put my head down and forced myself to walk past bookshops because I knew I just couldn’t go in and browse—I would have to buy something.  Just one small book couldn’t hurt—oh, this one looks really good—heard this one is great.  Nope.  Just couldn’t risk it.

And I managed to keep that up for a long, long time. And then one day my friend showed me her ‘Kindle’.

Being a rabid book lover, I do get it when people say reading from an e-reader is ‘just not the same’.  They don’t have that special unique physicality of a book; the dog-eared pages and scribbles in the margins, the booky smell, the creaky spines and loose raggedy pages of a much loved favorite read, but (and here is me finally stepping into the 21st century) honestly—what’s not to like about a small, lightweight device that will fit in my handbag; that I can shop for directly online (while sitting at home in a favourite chair with a nice glass of red beside me) and have my choice of books (or samples of them) downloaded directly to me within minutes of buying.

AND—this was the clincher for me—my kindle (yes, of course I bought one!) can hold up to 3,000 books!  If they were real books I would have to move to a larger house.  Oh oh—I can feel my palms starting to itch again . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’ (Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige)

hopscotchI don’t really like the term ‘age-appropriate’.  I guess I can understand it being helpful in one sense, say, if there is a birthday coming up and are trying to find a toy, game or book for a child of a specific age (although if you have a budding Sheldon Cooper in the house then all bets are off!).

Other than that though, who decides what is age-appropriate?  At what age do we begin to tell a misbehaving child to ‘grow up’?  We want our teenagers to be like responsible adults but also constantly remind them how young they still are and they shouldn’t try to grow up too quicklyandwhen our aged parents start behaving like kids againwe tell them to ‘act their age’.  Are the rules on age-appropriate behavior written on a stone tablet somewhere?  I’d be interested in reading the fine print.

Happily, there are many among us for whom age is no barrier at all to starting new projects or trying new experiences, whether it scares the heck out of their families and friends or not.  Now I’m not saying you have to be like Yuichiro Miura (unless you really, really want to), who, at 80 years old reached the summit of Mount Everest in May (after having heart surgery in January no less!)  Or Fred Mack, of New Jersey USA, who in 2011, celebrated his 100th birthday by setting the new world record for the oldest tandem skydive and freefalling 13,000 feet (yikes).

If, like me, you tend to break out into a cold sweat at the thought of having to stand on a chair, perhaps you could start with something more at sea level.  You could take up sailingthe world’s oldest round-the-world sailor (77) just arrived home after an epic 1,080-day journey sailing single-handed (the wrong way) around the globe.

Too far afield?  Dragon-boating on the Camden Haven River will at least allow you to come home to your own bed at the end of the day.  You could join the local gym and take up bodybuilding (you may well laugh but I googled it and you would be surprised (possibly horrified) at how many people take it up in their later years!)

Too energetic?  You could write a book.  Norman McLean wrote A River Runs Through It at age 74.  James Arruda Henry learned to read and write when he was in his mid-nineties and published his autobiography In a Fisherman’s Language at the age of 98.

The amateur theatre groups are always looking for new talentgo on, how many of you out there still have a ‘dress up’ box you never get to play in anymore?

Sing (loudly) while walking the dog, learn to tap-dance, join the local chapter of the Ulysses Motor Cycle Club (’Grow Old Disgracefully’)the sky’s the limit (literally, in some cases.)

Test the bounds of age-appropriate behavior in whatever way works for you but, so I am not seen to be inciting public nuisance, please do check with the local authorities before attempting your first bungee jump off the local town bridge!

And if your choices tend to make other more, shall we say ‘less adventurous’ people around you raise their eyebrows skywarddoesn’t that just add just the tiniest little bit more fun to the endeavour . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ (English Proverb)

I am not really one for gadgets.  I don’t seem to own many of those beautiful, shiny, sleek, everyone-needs-one, can’t-live-without-them, things-to-make-your-life–easier doodads that a lot of other people seem to have.  However, I do admit that some of the thingamabobs, whatchamacallits and doohickeys advertised on those (really, really, really long) infomercials which seem to have taken over our tellies these days can sometimes stop me dead in my tracks.

I will sit and watch and listen in awe to all the ‘amazing, extraordinary, save-you-10-hours-every-day’ promises they make.  I will marvel at the cutting edge technology and aerospace engineering involved and sit rapt while the doojigger slices and dices, cleans up and disposes of, folds in and out and puts itself away, and builds a dog kennel all on its own.  I will ponder the weird and wonderful mind that thought the gizmo up in the first place and, more importantly, wonder if it comes in a colour I like.

Then the phone will ring, or the dog will bark, or the kettle will boil and I will wander off to attend to that and never give that wonderful, amazing whoseamewhatsit another thought.  Short attention span?  Absolutely.  Do I feel the loss at not having acquired whatever it was?  Not at all.

I have friends who have cupboards full of gizmos, gubbins and doodads they have never used (‘seemed like a good idea at the time’), and, if anything, I feel I am just doing my small part in restoring the balance and not adding to any more landfill.  I am in no way trying to belittle those in the past who have lived their lives striving to discover things to make things easier for the rest of us.  Where would we be without those intrepid inventors of the past?  Even I find it hard to imagine getting through everyday life without computers, emails and telephones.  No television, no light bulbs, no birth control pill.  Just imagine millions more people trying to get around without planes, trains and automobiles — no bicycles even.  No cameras or film (no YouTube) to record our path through the years.  Perhaps (the horror!) not even any books — we could still be chipping our take-away orders on stone tablets!  People would be suffering or dying from diseases now long curable, or at least manageable  So, good to know that I am not a complete Luddite then.

As the old proverb says — necessity is the mother of invention and, although whomever invented the bright stylish footwear in the photo (right) could perhaps not really claim this invention to be a necessity, they were  not only thinking ‘out of the box’ but they must have also had a direct line to the B.O.M.

And go on . . .admit it . . . you just really do have to love an invention with a sense of humour . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A Freudian slip is when you say one thing, but mean your mother.’ Author Unknown.

I am a great one for pulling faces — always have been.  I pull faces when I am happy, when I am sad, when I’m surprised or disgusted or disgruntled.  And every time I pull a face I admit I still get that soft waft of my dear mum’s voice in my head, scolding “Don’t make that face — when the wind changes it will stick like that!”  Well, guess what?  She was right.  Don’t you just hate that?

Having always been of a fairly ‘independent’ nature I have never been very good at admitting that my mother was right and I was wrong — about anything.  I grant that there are possibly some things my mother told me in my youth that make slightly more sense to me now (stand up straight, eat your vegetables) but, at 52 years of age, still a terminal sloucher with a determined preference for toast and paté over vegetables, it would seem that those particular lessons (along with the face-pulling!) have still yet to be learned.

Perhaps it is some form of genetic imprinting which writes our mum’s voice so indelibly upon our psyche, whether we like, or agree, with it or not.  How many times have you had the urge to clean your plate, even when you are no longer hungry “because there are children starving in Africa”?  And who among us doesn’t wear clean underwear just in case we get into an accident?

Having no (two-legged) children of my own I have always felt slightly superior and laughed aloud at friends who, after all pleas and entreaties to squabbling children have eventually suppressed the uprising with their own long-ago mother’s command of — “I don’t care who started it — stop it — and stop it now!”

That was until last night, when, after several polite and restrained trips out into the back garden to see what all the barking was about, I Definition of Motherfinally flung open the back door and, in shock and dismay, heard my mother’s voice issuing stridently from my own mouth — “Enough already!  Don’t make me come out there!” There was an immediate and fearful silence.

My mum would be so proud . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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