Tag Archives: aging well

To Be or Not To Be; To Drink or Not To Drink

“I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee” Carly Simon, Americansinger-songwriter, musician 1945 –

This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion.  Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place.  Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind.  The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of with start up like sharpshooters.  Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with powder.  ~Honore de Balzac,  1799-1850,  French novelist and playwright.”The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee”

Here in Wellington the cafe/coffee culture is alive, well and thriving. Each morning one can see the commuters on the way to their shops and offices holding  Styrofoam cups of steaming coffee.  It appears we all need this extra fix to start our day.

And it’s not only the busy worker bees on the way to their offices and shops,  We have all succumbed to the coffee culture.  Wellington promotes itself as a culinary capital, famous for its variety of restaurants and cafés. There are more than 300 cafés throughout the city, reputedly more per capita than New York City.

It seems as if nobody takes a coffee break in the office or staff room any more.  At times in the mornings the cafes are full of business men and women taking their breaks with a decent cup of coffee (and maybe just a little Danish , muffin or pastry).  As well as the business people cafes attract fashionable matrons in the city for a day’s shopping or just to catch up with friends; younger married women with time and money on their hands and mothers with babies in strollers.  Some cafes cater for young mothers by providing play areas for the children.

Some coffee shops provide much more than just good food, great coffee and the opportunity to do some people watching.  Many also showcase works of local artists.  This provides an opportunity to study some weird and wonderful art and design ideas.  And apart from the ubiquitous Starbucks, most of the coffee shops have something that sets them apart from the others.  This could be the great coffee (of course) the decor, the staff or the items gracing the walls.

cup of latte

Baristas pride themselves on producing beautiful coffee.   They delight in putting different shapes on the top and as you can see, the coffee becomes an artwork in itself. The presentation becomes almost an artwork.  The photo above was taken this morning at my favorite coffee shop.

Does this affect the taste?  I suggest not.  The coffee is good and sometimes I have two.  But as I have said before “I’m English so I drink tea”.

And some inconsequential nonsense from  The Women’s Petition Against Coffee

“the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE, which Riffling Nature of her Choicest Treasures, and Drying up the Radical Moisture, has so Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age, and as unfruitful as those Desarts whence that unhappy Berry is said to be brought.”

The petition finished with  –

We Humbly Pray, That you our Trusty Patrons would improve your Interest, that henceforth the Drinking Coffee may on severe penalties be forbidden to all Persons under the Age of Threescore; and that instead thereof, Lusty nappy Beer, Cock-Ale, Cordial Canaries, Restoring Malago’s, and Back-recruiting Chochole be Recommended to General Use, throughout the Utopian Territories.  In hopes of which Glorious Reformation, your Petitioners shall readily Prostrate themselves, and ever Pray, &c.


And the point of today’s post?  None whatsoever.  Just an elderly lady playing with words.

Happy Birthday Darling

There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents … and only one for birthday presents, you know.” 
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) from Through the Looking Glass.

Baby Carolyn

“Babies are necessary to grown-ups.
A new baby is like the beginning of all things –wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities. In a world that is cutting down its trees to build highways, losing its earth to concrete… babies are almost the only remaining link with nature, with the natural world of living things from which we spring.”
Eda J LeShan, 1922-2002, American writer, television host,
counselor, educator, and playwright.

Today is my daughter’s birthday.  Such a long time since she looked like this.  And she is not going to thank me for doing this to her.

She is now married and mother to two of my good-looking, strapping grandsons.  No, I am not biased at all.

And how the years have flown since she was this small.

Cate and David

Big sister and her brother

In no time at all she was walking and talking non-stop; being protective of her new baby brother.  She was such a happy child.

Then off to nursery school at 3; big school at 5 and then another school on the other side of the world in New Zealand.

Another move, this time to a school in Montreal; then back to New Zealand and yet another school.

While these moves were taking place she was growing into the woman she would become.

Drew and Jae

Boys at the beach

She is a busy career woman who still has time for her boys and their interests.  These interests include water polo and practice at the local pool at 6.30 am several mornings a week; rugby and cricket practice depending on the season and basketball before school on one morning and always on Saturdays and Sundays.

She also coaches basketball and manages a water polo team.  She manages to fit this in around her busy work schedule and mostly keeps smiling.

So why am I telling you about my daughter?  I have told you already that if I could choose, I would choose my children.  Well if I could choose a daughter I would choose mine.  Oh, there are times when I could strangle her and no doubt she thinks the same about me.

But this caring, busy woman is always there for me (and also her friends).  I only need to call her and she is with me as soon as possible.  A recent accident had her arrive to take me to the after-hours emergency clinic where she waited while I was attended to.  Only later did I find out that dinner had just been served at their house when I called.

So Happy Birthday Cate and thank you for being my daughter.

And because I have just discovered Eda Le Shan, here is another very apt quote

Becoming responsible adults is no longer a matter of whether children hang up their pajamas or put dirty towels in the hamper, but whether they care about themselves and others — and whether they see everyday chores as related to how we treat this planet.- Eda LeShan


Weddings and other foolish things

I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.

~Author Unknown

For four years I acted as the Wedding Coordinator at Old St Pauls a local historic church.  The church had been built in 1866 and was superseded in the 1970s by the new Cathedral of St Paul nearby.

Old St Pauls

But the old church was never de-consecrated and it continues to be used for weddings, whether civil or religious.  Weddings for all faiths have been held and during my tenure, we had between 90 and 100 weddings each year.

One memorable year we had 101 weddings, 28 of which were held in March.  On the 31st of the month, having coordinated 4 weddings and a rehearsal, I went home and dropped into a chair with a glass of wine.  I switched on the TV and horror of horrors the movie being played was ‘Four weddings and a Funeral”.

Of course, all brides are beautiful but I really think my own brides are just fabulous.


Daughter 1996

Our daughter, Cate was married on a glorious October day.  Early spring in New Zealand. The sun shone, the birds sang.  Proud father, mother and brother – what more could one ask?


Daughter in Law 1990

Our son and daughter-in-law Rose were married in March the beginning of autumn here in New Zealand. After days of pouring rain, the sun came out on this lovely bride, the sun shone, birds sang and both mother and father-in-law smiled on our new daughter.

But then I started thinking of other family weddings

Wedding photo

Our wedding 1957

We were married on a foggy, November Sunday afternoon in London in November in 1957.  At that time weddings were only ever performed in churches or other places of worship or Registry Offices and never on a Sunday.  Because of my Mother’s upbringing in the Jewish Faith, she wanted us to be married on Sunday and so we had to obtain the permission of the Archbishop for this.  And as the  wedding had to be completed prior to sunset and before the evening service it was at 4.45pm.

Parents wedding

My Parents 1935

My parents were married in 1935 in London.  Sorry about the quality of the photo.  It’s the best we could do.

My Mother was so tiny and on one of my visits to her, when she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s she told me she had a lovely dress upstairs that perhaps I would like.  I still have that beautifully hand-made silk dress.  She was so very tiny that none of us would ever have fitted into it.

Bob's Parents

Bob’s Parents

Bob’s parents were married in 1928 in Dunoon, Scotland but it was a short married life as she died some 4 years later.  She left a small son who was brought up by his two maiden aunts in the family home.

And here are a few true words from the late, great John Lennon, my favourite Beatle.

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant.You can’t just accept it and leave it in thecupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself.
You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”
— John Lennon, musician, singer-songwriter 1940-1980












I Can See Clearly Now..

I can see clearly now the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head and you just can’t get rid of it.  If so you know just how annoying it can be.  This is also referred to as an earworm.  According to Wikipedia Earworm is a loan translation of the German Ohrwurm, and is a portion of a song or other music that repeats compulsively within one’s mind, put colloquially as “music being stuck in one’s head.”

Like yawning, catchy tunes– especially those with words– seem to be contagious. Just mention a song like “Dancing Queen” from Abba, or how about “Bye Bye Love”?  Immediately someone within hearing distance will get it stuck in their head.

Well this is just such a song.  I Can See Clearly Now played on the radio at the weekend.  It was most appropriate.  The rain had stopped, the sun was shining and hey presto!

After the rain

After the rain

Look all around there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead nothing but blue skies

If you don’t know this song listen here.  This is a version I hadn’t heard before but listen and then it will then bug you too.  (I do like to share with my friends).

What to do to get rid of the song?

  • Call a friend and talk about mundane, every day things – great while the conversation lasts but shortly after the song returns.
  • Read a book and have a cup of coffee – my most likely response to any stress
  • Take Lotte (my Tibetan Spaniel) for a walk
  • Do some laundry
  • Housework – my least likely response to any stress and while I am walking, doing laundry or housework the song is there still.

So for the rest of today I have to just put up with it.  However, it could be much worse.  Think of the ghastly songs that have been recorded.

I think I can make it now the pain has gone
And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day


The rain has gone

And from Oscar Wilde – “If one plays good music, people don’t listen and if one plays bad music people don’t talk. “

So excuse me now while I go to do the laundry – ugh!  Or another thought, perhaps I will read my book.  This is a much better option.

Choices, Values and Rules

Everyday we make choices and the choices we made yesterday determine where we are today.

Penguin with cymbals on polar bear

..then run like hell

Some of the choices are made using the Rules and/or Values that we have acquired or adopted during our life. They can be values or rules inherited from our parents or taken on board from peers, friends and acquaintances.  Often we are not even aware that we have adopted these values and rules.

And today’s blog was prompted by another blogger who raised the question “Do you make your bed each day?”

Bed make up for the dayWell, yes I do.  This is one of the things I do each morning without fail, so I guess you could say it is a rule.

But in our lives we have rules by which we live and not all of them benefit us really. Would it matter if I didn’t make the bed one day; or if I went out without my makeup on?  The answer is probably no,  not to anybody else, but these two rules are part of who I am.

Values however, are quite different.  My values include:

  • I am totally honest in all my dealings with others
  • I treat everybody with respect and expect respect in return
  • I am always supportive of family and friends
  • I listen to the points of view of others
  • I treat everybody with kindness.  I do not knowingly hurt others
  • I do everything as well as  I can and have pride in my work
  • I am working on being patient and gracious in all things

Values empower us They assist us in how we live; they help us make the choices offered every day.  Whereas Rules tend to place limits on us:

  • I make the bed every day
  • My house must always be tidy
  • I never go our without makeup on

And sometimes Values and Rules can cross over as in:

  • I must always be on time – as a value this can be respect for others; as a rule this is can be limiting

I am sure there are many others – why don’t you make a list for yourself?

Today’s quote comes from Barbara De Angelis , American relationship consultant, lecturer and author.

“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.”

Thank you for visiting.  Please come back soon.

Lotte and Major

Best friends

  • (gatehouse13.wordpress.com)

Titles, country estates and all that jazz.

Since I was very young and visited  Chatsworth House in Derbyshire,  I have been fascinated by the house and those who have lived in it over a very long time.

Chatsworth House

Via Wikipedia

I had another visit there when staying with a cousin of my late husband several years ago.  It has lost none of its fascination for me.  In fact, I think that it increased following that visit.

I had bought and read “Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire” some years ago and again that only served to increase my interest in  Chatsworth House and the Devonshires.

And then this morning on our local radio program I heard Deborah the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire being interviewed about her latest book –” Wait for Me”.

The Mitford Family

The Mitford Family – Wikipedia

Deborah was the youngest of the Mitford sisters.  How amazing that six sisters could all have had such eventful and interesting lives.  If you are interested in reading more about this family of six girls and one boy click here. and for a recent  interview Deborah had with Stephen Moss at The Guardian click here.  This 91 year old is yet another example of the active, older ladies I keep coming across.

And I just love this quote from an interview earlier last year. “Being a duchess doesn’t save you from official forms. “When I had to fill in my occupation, I used to put ‘housewife’,” says the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. “Because that’s what I was: the wife of a house… Well, three houses, as it happened.”  How very very refreshing and down to earth.

I am quite sure that Deborah is my favorite of the sisters but if you want some more information on this fascinating family, without traipsing to the library to pick up a book go to Booked All Week

So I am off to the library to pick up, or perhaps reserve a copy of “Wait For Me”.

“The only thing that makes one place more attractive to me than another is the quantity of heart I find in it.”  Jane Welsh Carlyle, Scottish Poet 1801-1866

Never Regret

The quote today is from Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand author, 1888-1923

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back.  Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it, it’s only good for wallowing in.

After Robert died and during that time when I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I spent some time in the UK acting as companion to an elderly widow.  During the time I spent with her we became firm friends, even though she was a peremptory, demanding and often overbearing woman.

Mrs M and Mathilde

We found that we had a lot in common.  We were both independent women although she was years older than me, and had therefore been born in a different time and was of a different generation.

She was a teenager when World War II was declared.  At the time she had been traveling overland by car to Egypt in the company of two young men; one of whom was much later to become her husband. She had been told by the driver that she could accompany them on this journey but could only bring with her a small bag that she would hold at all times on her lap in the ‘dickie’ seat.  I can’t imagine what her father thought of that.

Although I tried on many occasions she wouldn’t allow me to document or record any of her reminisces about her early life.  I know it would have made fascinating reading.  I told her once that she made the Great Gatsby and his crowd sound dull.

She was quite fearless when I knew her, even though her health was breaking down and her mobility was impaired.  She certainly retained all her mental faculties and was another who completed the Times crossword on a daily basis.

And it is she who I have used as role model as I am aging.  She had many young friends, some as much as 30 years her junior.  She kept as active as she could and each time I was with her for a few months, we went out and about almost every day.  We discovered we had much in common.  A love of French film – she had spent long periods of time in Paris up to and after the war and so was fluent in French.  We discovered that we each had a love of the poems of Rupert Brooke, Longfellow, Percy Byshe Shelley and Tennyson.  I also discovered that she too loved the Turner paintings.  Luckily she lived quite close to Petworth House which houses the biggest collection of Turner paintings in the UK.   And I introduced her to Newbolt’s poem “The Fighting Temeraire’  which has been one of my all time favorites since we had to learn it so many years ago at school.

The Fighting Temeraire

So we had plenty to talk about during the long winter afternoons and evenings when we were confined to the house because of the English winter.

She taught me never to excuse or regret so I thought that Katherine Mansfield’s quote quite apt when I think about this lady.  And make no mistake, she was a lady.

She was adamant that she wanted to live on in her own house with a companion and any other helpers for as long as she could; and then she wanted to quietly pass away one night in her sleep.  She had her wish and died in her sleep but unfortunately, not in her own house but in a nursing home a few days after she moved in with her companion.

I think maybe she should also be on my gratitude list, along with my parents for the many things she taught me.  Take a look at my Gratitude List, I have made some additions.

Until tomorrow.

Take Time To Reflect

This has really been a challenging time for all of us wherever we live in this wide, wonderful world.

Here in New Zealand, on February 22, Christchurch was hit with a massive earthquake, followed by many large aftershocks.  While we weren’t directly affected here in Wellington, many of us have friends and relatives in Christchurch.  The people of Christchurch are continually in our thoughts.

And then Japan and the horrendous tsunami and earthquake that hit there on March 9.  So many people lost their lives or loved ones and our hearts go out to them.  Daily, the pictures on the News programs really bring the horror of it into our living rooms.

And this chaos is not restricted to New Zealand and Japan.  All around the world there is unrest and uneasiness.  So how do we handle this time of chaos?

  • I have been taking time to take stock.  See my Gratitude List.  This is where I always start.
  • Then I make time to spend with loved ones and friends.  I take time to really connect with those people who I care about, who nourish my soul and support me.  These people raise my energy levels and help me direct my thoughts to the positive.
  • I take time to notice what is going on around me and also within me.  I notice how other people’s emotions and energy can affect me and I work on making conscious choices as to how I want to respond to these emotions and energy states.
  • I make time to just sit still, to reflect on what I am learning from this state of chaos and what I can do to influence this even in a very small part.

When Robert died 13 years ago I learned to meditate.  In this way I learned to accept what had happened and recognize that I was unable to change it.  If you haven’t tried mediation click here to access a number of free meditations that you can use.

And if you are interested here is a YouTube link on Calm over Chaos.  Just take a look.

Beach and tree

At the water's edge

I am very fortunate in that I live close to both the beach and the bush.  Lotte (my Tibetan spaniel) and I take advantage of this to walk, experience the open air and to reflect on life and my place in the scheme of things.  I must say that Lotte’s contribution to this last part is hard to understand.  But her smiling face and waggy tail tell me she is happy.

The bush in autumn

A walk in the bush

I am now working hard on looking for the positive amongst all the negative and chaos that surrounds us all.

Until tomorrow.

Make Life Sense-ational

Walk in the park

Today I asked myself the following question.  When was the last time you paid attention to your five senses? And I have decided to use the day to take notice of how often I:

Look without seeing; Hear without listening; Touch without feeling; Eat without tasting; Breathe without smelling.

Most of the time our senses are asleep.  We turn them off so that they don’t interfere with what we are doing.  So today I am going to turn my senses back on. How will I do this?

On my walk today I am going to really notice things.  How lovely is that garden; how pretty the little girl walking alongside her mother; how good that shop window looks; how young and happy is that young woman.

And after my walk I am going to visualise as many of the things I saw.

On my walk I am also really going to listen to the sounds around me.  How noisy is that car; how plaintiff that baby’s cry.  Then when I return,  I am going to put on a CD and listen to the background music rather than the singer.  If I close my eyes will it be clearer?

And there are many things that I touch during my day.  Today I will make a point of being aware of them.  The touch of the computer keyboard, my small dog’s silky fur, my grandson’s hand in mine; my wet hair after it has been washed.

Smelling the flowers

We do eat without tasting so today I am going to savour the tastes of the food I put into my mouth.  The fruit with my Muesli had a different taste to the fruit on its own; the sandwich that I shall make for lunch tasting the various ingredients individually and as they combine, and then dinner.  I will also be aware of the taste of the tea and coffee that I will consume.

A good exercise is to fill a glass with water then keep sipping until you can describe its taste.  Not as easy as it sounds, but it will make you aware of how often we drink without tasting.

And smells.  The house is full of smells and today I am savouring them.  The cupboard where the spices are kept is a veritable cornucopia of smells.  The fresh flowers in the vase and of course in the garden assail the senses.  The smell of clean laundry taken off the line.  Exhaust from a dirty truck is not so pleasant.  Smells of bread baking waft out from the local bakery and the smell of coffee is to tempting to ignore.  Even different types of fruit have quite different smells.  Close your eyes and smell a sliced apple and then a sliced pear.

Then just enjoy being alive.  Be aware of the wind in your hair. How does it feel? Gently massage your temples for a few minutes.  Is there one area that provides the best relaxation? Put the hairdryer on cool or warm and play it onto your hand, arm or legs.  Can you describe how that feels.

So what’s the point of all this?  You may not like all the sensations but if you continue to be aware of your senses, even for brief periods of time, you will discover many pleasant sensations.

As always be grateful for the things you have.  See my blog on An Attitude of Gratitude.  Give thanks to your god or the Universe and always be aware of how fortunate we are.

Developing and Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude

Earlier this week I touched on the subject of gratitude.  I am so grateful for all that I have and all the experiences I have had in my life.  I am one of the lucky ones who married early and found the one person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, ill-health took my husband and left me to manage and navigate the rest of my life on my own.  But I am profoundly grateful that I found that one man.

I am grateful for my two adult children and their four strong sons; I am grateful for the support offered by my wonderful family and friends.  I could continue in this vein for pages but that would bore you.

So what I am now suggesting you do is get a piece of paper and write down all the things for which you are grateful.  Don’t forget to add the small things; we all have so many reasons to be grateful.

Here, to get you started is the beginning of a list

  • The warm and dry house that protects me from the elements
  • Wonderful friends
  • My caring and supportive family
  • Fresh water to drink
  • Ability to walk
  • Food to put on the table
  • The money in the bank
  • Living in a free country

Now you get the idea start compiling your own list.  Don’t be surprised if this runs to around a hundred things to be grateful for.

I also tell my family and my clients that you have a gratitude muscle that needs to be exercised just as the other muscles in your body.  Each day take a look at your list and add anything you remember to it. Then at the end of each day write a list of the five things for which you are most grateful.

And even if you have had a bad day, just persevere and you will find some things to be grateful for.