Archive | June 2019

Fitness Week 9 – I can’t believe I’m still at it

This is incredible. I’m usually quite good in the walking front but keeping up with the exercise… Well let’s just say, I might binge for a month or two and then stop. It’s been my way for decades.

I’ve hit the two month mark!

Saturday: did the usual walk

Sunday: Hit the gym for a warm up that involved four minutes of jogging and then weights, weights, weights.

Monday: Nothing.

Tuesday: Back to Olga! Just when I’m feeling good about being able to do exercises that I couldn’t do before, she ups the load. I woke on Wednesday with dead legs!

Wednesday: Nothing.

Thursday: Yoga

Friday: Usual walk.

Water: Haven’t been too good.

It’s a fact. It’s routine!

A fine head of hair*

*shallow post warning. This post is on hair and appearances. If you want something deep, click away. If you are offended by judgey comments, click away.

I spend quite a bit on my hair. Every four to seven weeks, I visit the hairdresser. Streaks, root colour touch up and trim.

In between visits, I don’t do much. I can’t use a hair dryer or straightener or curling wand to style my hair. I am “challenged” in the hair styling department. I end up looking like a mess. But to be fair to my lack of skills, even hairdressers are challenged by my fringe which, when directed which way to go by a blast of hot air and a styling brush, rebels and sticks straight out. Also, my hair looks like it has been straightened when all I have done is combed it. Of course that means when curled, the curls last a few hours, then it is straight. Except if frizzed. Crimping after plaits can last all day. Why isn’t that in anymore? Oh yes. Because it is unattractive.

I’ve attempted all manner of styles and colours. Spiral perm. Fringe. No fringe. Bob. Long. Blonde. Brown. Pink. Purple. Strawberry blonde. Burgundy.

When I grow my hair out, the repeated bleaching is more evident. The hair becomes brittle and frizzy.

Some people are blessed with hair that doesn’t need much help. Thick, flowing locks. Or thick, wavy locks. Or thick head of curls.

The key is thick.

I have always had thin hair. If I didn’t get it cut and coloured frequently, I’d look very unkempt. Tired and worn out. Ugly even.

The other key is uniformity. People who have embraced the silver, usually have a uniform spread of salt and pepper. I have patches of white, as if my hair has gone albino in spots. Then I have a grey sprinkled among black-brown. But not sprinkled nicely.

All those beautiful women who have embraced the silver, also have a natural beauty.

I have a round face. It made me look fat in photos even when I was very skinny.

As I age, I expect my hair to get thinner. My Oma, posthumously nicknamed Oma Kardashian, wore wigs. She said it was to keep her head warm. But come on, in Sydney! She was vain and I’m sure she wore the wigs to hide her thin hair and exposed scalp.

I was at the theatre recently with a friend, who is in her 60s and blessed with thick hair of a uniform silver grey. She can tie it back and look glamorous. We were examining the heads of those in front and below us. (Going to a matinee performance means that the audience is mainly women over 57 so I can see my immediate future.) Dying hair dark makes the scalp more noticeable. I will be like these two women if I don’t do my hair differently.

I think I will embrace the wearing of wigs. It will help in so many ways – my inability to style my hair, my thinning hair, my love of changing my hair style.

In the meantime I will stay with white blonde for the foreseeable future – foils and root touchups.

But I have a secret desire to do this.

French Sundays

I remember when shops in Sydney and the suburbs were closed from 12 noon on Saturdays and didn’t reopen until Monday.

There were no shopping centres open on Sundays. No grocery shopping at 10pm weeknights, let alone on a Sunday. Thursday nights was late trading. Every other days, shops closed at 5.

Somehow we coped.

Lots of friends at school had retail jobs which were set Thursday nights and Saturday mornings – the “extended” trading days.

Young people, those without part time jobs, hung out at the shopping centre on Thursday nights. It was very quiet walking through Sydney shopping malls on a Saturday afternoon or after 5, even in the main shopping district. Everything was closed.

Slowly, hours have been extended.

Now most supermarkets are open till 9 or 10pm on weekdays, and both days of the weekend. Likewise shopping centres are open on weekends. Sundays have become the main grocery shopping day. Hanging out in shopping centres seems to be a national pastime, something families do.

The convenience of shopping whenever we want has meant we don’t need to plan ahead. Of course, it’s helpful for shift workers, like nurses and such. The extra opening times has created more part time jobs in retail.

But the cost?

  • There’s no quiet time.
  • There’s no dedicated time for families.
  • We’ve become a nation of shoppers.
  • “Going to the shopping centre” is a family activity.
  • We are fatter and in debt.
  • Lost income. Now we are an “open all hours” country, loading for working on weekends is being cut. If there’s no such thing as weekends or family time, why should employers pay more.

I was struck by how quiet Sundays were in France. Trucks are not allowed on the highways on Sundays – the roads are kept free to visit families.

Here’s a post from an English ex-blogger who has moved to France.

I know we can’t step backwards, and change expectations. Though, while I do like the convenience of shopping, I could readjust.

So do I shop on Sundays and check the workers get the extra loading, or do I go back to a slow Sunday?

What’s your view on Sundays? Do we shop too much? Should we have a day of rest, a day to go slow, to visit family?

Fitness Week 8 – exercising when routines are changed.

A long weekend and then a three day work conference put up some challenges to my exercise routine. Did I stick at it?

I nearly missed a gym session on the long weekend. But I knew I couldn’t start skipping sessions. I have to do this for my health. I felt a little guilty when it looked like I’d missed my second session. So seems I’ve absorbed the expectation that I will do this.

Saturday: After French lessons, I was exhausted. So I had a midday nap of two hours. Then I went for a walk.

Sunday: Nothing. Spent the afternoon with a friend at a geranium nursery and cafe and then visiting her father’s property to get some cuttings. Came home, tired. But with this beautiful plant:

Monday: Did the usual walk. And found this massive, perfectly formed leaf among the autumn droppings.

Then, feeling guilty that I missed my second weights session of the week, and knowing I would miss Tuesday’s PT session as I’d be at a conference, I went to the gym.

Tuesday: walk along Manly Beach, the venue of the conference. No Olga today as I am away from home and the day and evening schedule is full with work conference stuff.

Wednesday: dawn walk along the beach. Just looking at this photo lowers my blood pressure.

Thursday: last day of conference so last dawn walk. I am very lucky to get to walk in such a beautiful place. A walk in the pre-dawn light, watching the sun rise, is a wonderful, centring way to start the day. I wish I could do it in my own area. And I wish my working day, and Sydney traffic, allowed it.

Then, as I wasn’t at work to go my yoga lesson, I went to a Body Balance class in the afternoon. The instructor was fun. I feel bad because I’m unlikely to go as I normally do yoga and the instructor may think I didn’t enjoy her class.

Friday: I was all set to go to the gym for my weekly PT session which I moved due to the work conference. Then my trainer called in sick. I worked back and then went home and collapsed on my bed. Read, watched TV and had a couple of drinks. Even if my trainer wasn’t sick, I don’t think Fridays at the gym will work for me. I’m always too tired to do much on a Friday.

Go to the country for rest!

Why do doctors not order an extended stay in the country for complete rest anymore?

Was this something only for the upper classes, anyway?

I ask because I am reading Lillian Beckwith’s The Hills is Lonely (1959), the first volume of A Hebridean Omnibus. It opens with her standing on a jetty, awaiting a boat to take her to an island. She is buffeted by a storm, and wonders why she isn’t at home, in town, drinking tea. Her answer: her doctor ordered rest in the country. It’s not as if she does nothing when on the island. She goes galavanting across the moors, learns to milk cows and assists when an influenza epidemic hits the island. Still, she was following her doctor’s orders: rest in the country.

Rest in the country has always sounded divine. But without milking the cows by hand. When my children were young, I dreamed of getting an illness, one without pain, one that would allow my mind to still operate sufficiently that I could read, for which I had to be hospitalised for rest. Meals brought to me. No responsibilities. No cooking. No cleaning. Bed rest.

Bed rest, even better than that, would be a glass-enclosed verandah to catch the sun. Lying on a cane lounge, wrapped in blankets, a book in hand. But as modern hospitals do not have that, I would have been happy with a private room. Quiet and rest.

Quiet and rest! I remember reading books where the central character was sent to the Swiss Alps and ordered to rest in a sanatorium. It sounded like heaven, even as a child.

Rest, but without TB please

Even as a child, I sensed such a choice was not for the like of me. My class battled on, with flu, with TB, with back pain, to scour and scrub and serve and work. No work = no money. Even if the doctor said the choice was death or rest, we worked on. The immediate needs of income for food and shelter took precedence over the long-term, possible death.

So even if my doctor said that I had to go to the country for complete rest, it wouldn’t be an option. Where? How? Thank heavens for books. I can read and I can dream.


One Friday night, a friend and I were chatting while watching TV in our own homes. Which is the best way to watch TV, her in her home, me in mine, as we have very different tastes in TV shows.

Our chat turned to middle aged thoughts, as my friend had found a Twitter hashtag that made her guffaw.

Here’s some of my middle-aged thoughts.


Going to the pub for fries and a drink and leaving within an hour; sounds like enough going out on a Friday night


Breezy outside. Better put on my cardie

And my friend’s #middleagedthoughts:

No wonder you’re cold; you’re not wearing a singlet

So what’s your middle-aged thought?

And do you wear singlets? I’m a no with them. If it’s cold put a jacket on. I stopped wearing singlets the moment my mother stopped dressing me.

Fitness Week 7 – Just add water

Exercise doesn’t feel like routine. I know I could easily stop. Except I would feel guilty. How can I not give my body what it needs?

So I am keeping on keeping on.

But I am not quite ready to change my eating habits.

So in the vein of trying to make some changes, I will drink more water.

OK, I’m clutching at straws. But it might help?!? It might wash away my sins?

Saturday: I drank a litre of water. Not counting all the tea I drank.

Did my usual walk. The track had signs saying it was closed due to back burning. (What has I written before ignoring portents?) But Mr S assured me it is open and there is a man at a fork in the track, stopping people entering the area where the back burning is taking place. Here’s some photos from yesterday’s back burning.

Sunday: went to gym. Did 10 min walk/jog and weights.

Didn’t drink a litre.

My walk/jog and heart rate table

Monday: no exercise. Brrr. Cold snap came through.

Drank a litre of water.

Tuesday: Olga was on form pushing me with humour.

Did I drink a litre? I can’t remember.

Thursday: yoga was mindful. The teacher said, “Way to go Olga,” several times as I am now able to take and sustain the harder options.

Friday: as proof I should write down what exercises I do straight after doing them, I can’t remember even if I had a walk.

Same with drinking water. I know I haven’t been very consistent in drinking. And I haven’t recorded it. Maybe I should take a leaf (or card) out of Laura’s book and use cards to actually physically tally when I have a glass? It may prompt me as well as keep track? My wee this morning is telling me I need to drink more water!!!

While vs Whilst

Last week, at French lessons, the teacher was writing translations on the board. The two sentences contained the word “while” – we were doing prepositions and conjunctions.

One student in the class called out, “Don’t you mean whilst in the second sentence?”

As these coincidences work, that very week I was working with another colleague, typing up something we were working on. “That while should be whilst. Change it!” directed the colleague.

Mmm. I thought. A food tech teacher correcting me on a point of grammar. But I let it go. It doesn’t matter. Both that she corrected Me and that while and whilst can be used in exactly the same context.

So for the record, they mean the same thing when used as a conjunction in temporal context, when the meaning is “during the time that” or “at the same time”.

Don’t believe me? Well, it is confirmed by the acknowledged authority on English, Burchfield’s The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Fowler’s reports that usage has changed to include the meaning of “although”.

Americans have wisely done away with whilst. (Which is why explanation does not appear in Bill Bryson’s Troublesome Words and Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Both of which, I own.)

So, whilst you may wish to appear more correct by using “whilst”, indeed you are not. Further, whilst you may or may not wish to sound pompous when using “whilst”, you probably do wish to sound superior; a position at which you have achieved a modicum of success, in a pompous manner.

PS: I do use whilst sometimes too. My last comment was tongue cheek.

56 Up

Why is this show so compelling?

The participants said we think we know them and how they feel but we don’t. Several said we see a minute snapshot with the producers taking a perspective, or an angle.

Yet we are seeing real people however small the snapshot. To see the arc of their lives, the narrative, is as engaging as reading a memoir.

It’s touching. I teared up at the fellow who moved to Australia. Mr S couldn’t understand it, “But it is happy.”

Yes, but he was so vulnerable. And sliding doors, I don’t think he would have had such a happy life if he’d remained in England. And how Aussie is the grandkid – Shano? An English documentary maker couldn’t have hoped for more stereotypical Aussies.

Some people seem to be hit with bad luck; drama, illness, unemployment, misadventure, all compounded by poor choices. But for me, it is the happier stories that are so touching.

I love seeing the changing fashions. The makeup on the women. The hair on the men. God, the 70s and early 80s were not kind to men with all that hair. And 80s make-up never heard the word subtle.

The increasingly compelling part is that nothing like this can ever be made again. Our view of the media has changed and this would affect the filming from the start. OK, some participants have come on in this or in previous episodes to promote something, a band or a charity for example, but reality TV and social media have changed the way we use and present ourselves. And the simple presentation, gentle editing and pace, would not be the style of a modern documentary maker.

There have been some short-lived versions from other countries. But they appear so derivative.

As the years roll on, my fear is no one will participate. So it becomes more compelling – will this be the last one? As we’ve come to know the people – we want to know what’s happened, like we do with old school friends who we “know” and are FB friends with. We know we don’t know what is really going on in their lives, we don’t know all they hold important, what they value, but we want to know what they’re up to and how they’re travelling.

What about class?

Although all the participants decry the concept of class that they say is the producer’s point, class is clearly a determining factor in their lives.

Class isn’t money. But the effect is evident in the life choices.

Of course, options are vastly different for whatever class you are born into than they were a century ago. Children may go to university, participants be the first to own their own home.

Representatives from different social groups may be tokenism, but it holds largely true.

But the saying, “Give me a child …” isn’t just about class. We see the personalities come through. Worried little 7 year old Paul is still worried at 56. Sparky Tony is still sparking.

Why do they agree to continue?

I am so grateful that they do. It must be interesting to have a kind of record. Yet strangely disturbing to see the years go by so quickly.

The wife of the lawyer said she gets to see the physical changes of her husband and compare them to her sons. But that’s hardly a reason for her husband to continue.

The posh country girl said she feels a responsibility to return but hates it. I am glad she feels that responsibility.

What’s the real lesson?

Family, significant other relationships, purpose. Those three things are most important for happiness, feeling satisfied and content, and getting through the rough patches. Irrespective of class.

Give me a child until he is seven

I love the 7Up series. I am watching 56Up in preparation for 63Up which will be on TV on Monday night.

Listening to the famous opening – “I’m going to work in Woolworths” and “I read The Financial Times” – I couldn’t help but think of my children, our socio-economic class and a particular incident.

When we first moved to the suburb we still live in, my youngest was ten. He made friends with a neighbour of the same age who lived in our street.

The boy attended a non-government school. One that mimicked English public schools. Blazer in all seasons, even 40° summers. Younger boys wear shorts in all seasons, even 4° mornings. Boaters in summer.

While jumping on our trampoline, I overheard the boy asked The Dreamer what he did for extra-curricular activities. The Dreamer had no idea what he was talking about. (Or if you want to sound like you come from a pompous school – no idea about which he was talking as ending sentences with a preposition is something up with which one cannot put.) Extra-curricular wasn’t a term used at public primary schools. We just had “activities” – chess, sport, choir and the like.

Trying to sound so superior, the neighbour said, “I do fencing.”

The Dreamer replied, “Oh no, my mother wouldn’t let me do anything like that.”

Listening on the verandah, I cracked up. I knew what he was imagining. Why on earth would you do that!

The boy persisted, trying to explain what fencing was.

My son was still perplexed and none the wiser, as he was not really listening – the boy was a continual show-off who had to prove he was better than others.

I loved how this little conversation captured a possible class divide. The boy was trying to show how exclusive were his activities. Yet, my little naive, socially unconscious boy wasn’t impressed. Even if he knew what it was, he couldn’t care less.

And yet…

His parents were renting a run-down little house – we were buying a rather beautiful place. Both The Dreamer’s parents (ie Mr S and me) are left-wing who could afford to send their children to private schools, but never would as a matter of principle. Just as the boy’s parents were sending him to a private school as they believed it showed they were of a “better” class.

The boy was a fat, little, unlikeable thing. Higher class or not.