I have a birthday soon, one I once imagined I’d never reach. I expected youth to last forever, but at around fifty, it finally became clear that it wouldn’t, it hadn’t, and it would never be mine again. That was a decade ago. Time now for a brief review.
In my fifties, I have, among other things:
- Deepened into sickness, and got better
- Made friends
- Lost friends
- Changed location, and changed again
- Explored my depths with shamans and sacred medicines
- Bidden farewell to all of them
- Seen my nest empty
- Become a widow
- Learned to grieve
- Questioned the nature and existence of happiness
- Proved myself wrong
- Seen my name on a book cover
- Met myself in other incarnations
At thirty, or forty, or fifty, these things were as unimaginable as being sixty was. Was youthful me so lacking in imagination?
The Delights of Domesticity
There ARE actually one or two things that I appreciate about working from home. They include:
- Following the sunlight around from room to room as the sun arcs in the sky.
- Lavender dead-heading. It’s aromatic, repetitive and curiously calming.
- Pumelling the pillows when I’m angry. Plus the duvets too, for good measure!
- Drying the washing outside in the wind. It smells so much fresher than airing it on the radiators…
- Inviting friends around for dinner. The simpler the cuisine the better – so that I can keep my focus on the sizzling conversations we have.
- When Beloved cleans up uninvited. (Hmm. What’s his angle?)
- Having my own chair, which is MINE.
- Creating Penny’s Ironing Rules. Minimal ironing. Period.
- Nurturing next door’s cat. He’s Nero to me…
- Tracking the bats that flit about in the streets at moonrise.
Domesticity – don’t you just love it? Here’s my personal top ten least favourite tasks, in no particular order:
- Scrubbing urban seagull shit off the front window.
- Swabbing all kitchen surfaces after Beloved’s weekend cooking extravaganza.
- Wiping down every single white surface in the house. (Who – exactly – invented white surfaces? Any why?)
- Disinfecting the toilet. (No. Flushing water does not do it.)
- Hoovering the plants. (Yes, there’s an art, and hoovering isn’t recommended. But it’s much quicker. Sorry plants!)
- High speed dusting – complete with hoover attachments.
- Cleaning the ‘self-cleaning’ oven. (Really? Yes. Some Nameless Numpty forgot to include the metal racks.)
- Disposal of soured milk. Especially when you are dairy-free.
- Bouncing cold mailshot letters. Ignore at your peril, they multiply exponentially.
- Pest removal – including ants, bees, wasps, moths, flies, rats and mice. Not forgetting the occasional deceased squab/baby seagull.
‘So hang on, you say you have social anxiety, but you perform, sing and do spoken word, and go to events to make contacts?’
Well now. Here’s how I put my game face on.
- Have an aim. If I have to, once I’ve tried to achieve, or achieved it, I can leave.
- Get close to the beginning of the line up if possible. Once I’ve done my ‘bit’, I can relax.
- I don’t drink alcohol if it’s a work thing.
- I don’t eat garlic for three days before the event.
- I leave myself extra time to sort out my hair (I could conquer the world if I thought my hair looked good).
- I recognise and accept the presence of ‘anxiety sweat.’ It smells different from exercise sweat.
- I check my teeth in the mirror.
- I (never) have tissues.
- I floss.
Ten of the Best Things About Autumn
by Penny Hext.
- Woodland walks: fungi, fallen leaves, seeing tree shapes outlined against the sky.
- Short days… longer nights. More time for a) beauty sleep b) bedtime reading c) erm… recreational activities.
- Winter woollies. Colour and texture hide a multitude of sins. Summer’s AGES away!
- Hair lasering. Start on that beard now. (Moi?)
- Night-time sky walking. The best possible backdrop for creepy ghost walks. Go on. Try it!
- Enjoying Autumn colours: reds, russets, auburns, coppers…
- Time to take stock and recalibrate – before the year ends. You’ve still got time to fulfil your resolutions!
- Wildlife spotting: squirrels, herons… figuring out where the heck birds roost at night. Nests are for fledglings.
- Mulled wine.
- Puddings. Those brambles and apples you gathered in September need eating, don’t they?
Penny is a writer who lives in Edinburgh
a fallen leaf,
the hand of a child in mine,
real butter on real bread.
A hot shower,
the feeling of cleanliness,
a crisp, dry towel.
The warmth of a fire after a walk in the wind and rain,
A conversation that winds around us,
a perfect idea
discovered at its heart.
The clarity and space of a day of fasting;
the joy of a day of eating.
and the written word.
Stories and sounds that enter into your soul and reside.
Being able to see the stars.
A harvest moon.
Clean, safe water in every tap in the house.
A door that closes and locks,
but also opens readily
for a welcome.
Friends that are nearby,
friends far away,
family right here,
family over the phone.
Deep, peaceful, healing sleep.
The first line of a book can be as mouth-watering as a ripe fig, and you don’t want to finish it all in one bite. Here are some delectable examples.
The young boys came early to the hanging. (Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett);
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. (Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier);
Dennis Lenahan the high diver would tell people that if you put a fifty-cent piece on the floor and looked down at it, that’s what the tank looked like from the top of that eighty-foot steel ladder. (Tishomingo Blues, Elmore Leonard);
Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton’s teeth fell out. (Sour Candy, Kealan Patrick Burke).
And my offering: I wake on the beach and discover I’m naked. (The Second Path, Virginia King).