Monthly Archives: May 2017

Create Some Space at 60+


Clear a bit of room, physical and mental, and see what flows in. After all, if you can’t take a bit of time out once you’ve hit 60, then when will you ever, this side of the grave?

Choose a day when you can be alone, plan nothing, and let the events of that day unfold.

I tried it on a showery Friday. At first, it was pleasant. Waking luxuriously, without any alarms. Turning off laptop and phone Take that! We’ll have no more from you for a while.

A gentle meditation. A slow breakfast of oats, coconut milk and fresh raspberries, savouring the mix of texture and flavour.

A walk around the garden in a light rain, something which I would never usually do, preferring to glance at the garden through a window rather than get up close.

Looking back, this was the highlight. Seeing the plants up close, touching cool leaves, soft petals, catching wafts of sweetness from the rambling roses, seeing the glisten of raindrops on leaves and watching tiny insects scurrying about their business.

Without expecting it I dropped into the zone, only noticing where I’d been as I stepped back into the house. What a restful and restorative place the zone is, and available right there, any time. That was worth learning.

And so the morning continued. Picking and arranging a few flowers. Communing with the cat. Quietly tidying and cleaning the bedroom. Experiencing the zen of polishing. At this rate I could become a domestic goddess without even trying.

But then, like water seeping out from beneath a leaking washing machine, desire started to creep into awareness. I’d just like to send my daughter a photo of the polished wood…ring that friend I’m thinking about…go to John Lewis and look for some shoes to wear to a wedding…

As the weather brightened, so did the mood, from inward-looking and contemplative to ‘ooh, let’s go out!’ At 2pm I declared the spacious day done and went out, though the phone stayed off until evening.

The feelings, though – they’ve lingered. The sense of having infinite time, the stepping away from the ‘to-do’s’ into the ‘to be’s’, those were refreshing and brought a sense of possibility and calm. And oddly, since taking that time out, I seem to have found a bit more time, to work on projects that were stuck.

Try it. Even for an hour. Simply sit, or walk. Breathe. Notice. See what happens. Let us know!

Turn it off! Phone management at 60+

‘Doctor, Doctor, I’m addicted.’
‘You are?’
‘Yes, to this little white device that fits in my pocket…’

It’s true. I frown on those who text at the dinner table or gaze at the little screen as they would into their lover’s eyes, but it’s no secret that I belong to the clan.

It’s a weakness

How to wean myself off?

I’ve tried setting targets:  no emailing before breakfast, silencing text alerts, ignoring the ‘Ooh, I’ll just look that up…’ impulse.

Nothing works. Ah, I am weak, where my phone is concerned. Its pull is irresistible.

Put a chocolate bar in my cupboard and three weeks later it’ll still be there, unnibbled. Offer me a glass of wine before 6pm – alright, 5pm – and I can say ‘No’. Honestly, I can.

But ping me a text and I have the devil’s own job not to read it instantly.

Is it about wanting to feel loved and needed? A desperate desire for connection?

I don’t really care why I do it. I just know I want to do it rather less.

How much time?

I thought I’d keep a little log of how much time I spend fiddling about on the net. 

And then I’d ask myself a burning question, like might I not develop my blog mightily, or write a play, or learn to play a piano sonata, or make a velvet cushion, or all the above, in the time that I currently spend tinkering with my phone?

I learned quite a bit from that exercise. First, it’s impossible to chart accurately how many hours disappear down the Internet plug hole because it’s happening constantly, in fragments.

Second, I am more than a little terrified of that blog-development idea. Having far too little time lets me off the hook nicely.

Take a risk

Have a think. What are you not risking, in all that time you’re spending on your phone?

As for how to loosen the grip, try this, I dare you.  Turn off the phone – there’s a button for that, you know. Open a drawer. Drop phone in drawer. Close drawer. Lock, if possible. Go do something exciting or lovely for a while, and forget all about phones.

Let me know what happens. Meanwhile, I’m off to read up on WordPress. Over and out.

Reflections on Henry Marsh’s Buttocks

Reading a review of Admissions, a new book by celebrated brain surgeon Henry Marsh, author of the remarkable Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery, I’m surprised by his admissions about his own ageing.

His retirement…the sight of his elderly sagging buttocks…have made him more fearful. The sudden proximity of death and the disabilities that old age brings….

Blimey. Henry Marsh must be older than I thought. But no. Turns out, H Marsh is only 3 years older than I am.

I drop the review on the duvet.

Elderly sagging buttocks? This is upsetting.

I get out of bed and go to the mirror. Hmm, not too bad – though I haven’t got my specs on.

Nonetheless, I am quite shaken up. Buttocks notwithstanding, I must be getting old too. These ailments of decline that he talks about, they’re round the corner for me too.

If Henry Marsh is feeling the draught and was born in the same decade that I was, then how can I go on pretending that I’m somehow immune from ageing?

Is there a point?

If death is suddenly proximate, and with it the ‘disabilities that old age brings’, is there any point in say, writing a blog. Or buying a bike? Or planting a tree?

Perhaps there’s more point, rather than none. But I still can’t quite shake off the fear.

Over breakfast, the feelings start to drift, but they leave a certain undertone to the morning, which isn’t dispersed by a walk, particularly under a grey sky.

Later, a sausage roll from the nice baker brings some solace and a sense, renewed yet again, of ‘just effing do it’, whatever it is.

This is how it is, I think, beyond 60. We start to see the end of the road in sight. Maybe it’s still a fair way off, maybe not. Most of us don’t know. Can’t know.

Now and then, Henry Marsh’s buttocks or something like them, force us to face up to our mortality. But we can’t hold that feeling for long, or we prefer not too.

By the end of the day, Henry and his sagging bum have receded. But they’ve made an impression.

Onwards, that’s the only answer.