Being married to a Young Lady.

My dear wife has today had another birthday…at which time we are the same chronological age. She enjoys the fact that for six weeks she appears to the rest of the world to be a year younger than me. It is her little ‘thing’ which she brings up when age comes into a conversation with friends. For some reason, women do like to keep ‘their age’ a secret, whereas men in general are proud of their advancing years, and increasing wisdom. I am also able to say that I am married to a much younger woman (I know I am stretching credibility a little here!).

I have to say, that looking at her now, I still see the cheeky grin I fell in love with some 53 years ago, and whilst comparison photos from all those years ago show both of us as having changed physically, she has weathered the years very well, and they have been kind to her, so I will just let her have her little secret…..Oh just forgot, sorry Dear, it’s not a secret any more!

The People Who Never Sang….

 

carol-singers

I think that I first became really interested in ‘singing’ when I was ‘just a wee boy’ in a Junior Choir at our church in Northern Ireland. I came from a family steeped in amateur music. My Mother ALWAYS sang, my Father sang in choirs in church and also in male voices, as well as conducting; cousins, and uncles were singers and an aunt was a piano teacher.

So it was probably not surprising that I would sing in choirs and also learn the piano and organ (reasonably successfully), and the clarinet (unsuccessfully). Junior and senior  church choirs, playing the organ at services, and choral and instrumental composing meant that I was in the thick of what was the great interest of my family, and this was no doubt a large part of their legacy to me.

I was probably about 18 when I was playing regularly at church services , and taking a choir of people old enough to be my parents, and perhaps grandparents! The bravado of youth obviously shaded me from my mistakes, but hopefully I did something right!

After Evensong Lochgilphead

The ‘formal’ Angelus Singers at Lochgilphead…

As you can imagine, many of these choirs required a rigid discipline in attendance and standard of singing to operate well, as we had Church-year timetables, and music, to perform. No good getting the Christmas anthems ready for mid-January!….or having half a choir turn up for the Easter Service!…..or someone hitting a bum note, or a wrong entry!

But there was  a sort of self-selection process going on, where people would not put themselves forward for membership if they felt they had no voice, or a poor one. And it obviously worked well, in that most of the choir-members I met, and dealt-with, had quite reasonable voices.

But, what about the folk who, despite our protests, thought they had a poor voice, or were TOLD by someone that they had a poor voice, or were embarrassed, or did not have the time, or were not tremendously motivated? We obviously never saw them, so there MUST have been a waste of natural talent out there.

Jump forward some decades to Gareth Malone on television, who parachuted-in to various places across the UK to form some type of choir, and obviously left it to underlings to get on with the practices. He would then appear again to conduct some item. It made good television, but not really practical in today’s hectic world!

Meanwhile I had given up full-time organ-playing and was happy to occasionally fill-in, and with there being fewer choirs, that door had been closed. Retirement had come, but I still longed for the heady days of choral music…..but surely that was all history, now, and I had better get used to it……but I was not to reckon on the  U3A, the University of the Third Age, which we only joined a few months ago!

I have blogged about it before, and the great motivation it engenders in people.  Someone had said in passing, in front of a crowded room at our first meeting, that there was a wish for a Singing Group, and that ‘Harry might be happy to start one!’ So there was a challenge! But where to begin?

Now, remember that the age-group range  of the Members probably centres on the early 70’s…..some are in their 90’s! You cannot start analysing and auditioning folk of this age, so the only two criteria would be, could they stand-up (even with help), and breathe?

MANY OF THOSE WERE IN THE CATEGORY OF ‘THE FOLK WHO NEVER SANG’

The interest was amazing! We had 22 with us today at one of the weekly practices, we have 13 pieces on the practice list, and we sing lustily for an hour after some warm-up vocal exercises. Not everyone can come every practice (retirement is busy, you know!) so we are never exactly sure who will be there, but some have been to every practice. No notice is taken of previous experience, musical skills, embarrassment levels, etc, and mistakes are very common. But we are now singing lots of old post-war favourites, and rounds, in parts, and very good they are, too.

I have been given loads of music to look through, by members, so that there is always a new piece every week, of THEIR favourites.

We laugh, we joke, we do little musical tricks, ask them to ‘volunteer’ as  soloists, and have a thoroughly-great relaxing time. Everyone goes away smiling, and making sure they know when the next practice is. And beside all this the voices are really very good!

Personally, I have had a new lease of life, back to helping people find the joy of singing, and this time with no constraints of any kind, on the music, or the musical ability; simply the idea of having fun as a group, and, of course…….they will never be able to say ‘WE NEVER SANG’

P1050874A few of our Singing Group who obviously enjoy themselves in a relaxed atmosphere

(can you spot the 90-year old?)

 

 

 

 

 

So what is this U3A?

One of the lovely things about retirement is that you are less restrained by the time restraints of working hours, and you have the opportunity of generally choosing how you will fill the many hours now available.

I have to admit, here, that following our retirement from our business in 2011, my wife and I had totally-different approaches………

….She loved it as she had looked-forward to it for years. She could do all her housework at her leisure and she could encourage me to take her out for coffees, or we could drive further afield, and even abroad…….

….On the other hand, I missed the day-to-day decision-making which I had enjoyed/dreaded in equal measure for nearly 40 years. Demands for lectures, training, and advice, from my professional colleagues, ceased , and there was a feeling of ‘I’m not needed any longer, and all my life-skills are redundant’, so I felt very sorry for myself !

We both needed an aim in life again, and this is where the U3 A came on to the scene. We had known of the Open University, but were not really interested, because of the fact that it is for those who may well live a relatively-solitary life.

We wanted something with people-contact, in the same kind of situation as us, and somehow we heard of a U3A meeting for old codgers at our local Golf Club (simply used as a suitable meeting place, so no golf clubs required!). We went along and immediately found ourselves amidst over 50 laughing, happy retired folk, who welcomed us with metaphorically-open arms. And it has been like this ever since.

U3A (University of the Third Age) is a long-established international group of self-organised, self-funded, self-motivated local groups who decide what activities they wish to have, and then one of the members takes responsibility for organising each activity. We have about 20 different activities including walking, table tennis, men’s lunch, speakers, poetry, travel, local history, Spanish, Singing Group…….the list goes on and on.

Now, from having empty days in  our calendar, we have to juggle our time to get even the mundane things of life done!

So if you are retired, and want to fill your later years to the full, why not Google  ‘U3A’ and then just go along……you know it makes sense…..

 

Beards

Last year, ‘The Daily Dish’ posted a note about her husband’s facial hair. She obviously was very happy with the ‘teddy bear’ on his face. For those with beards/moustaches/excessive sideburns (remember those?) she did raise the question of why and when we started the process.

In my mind this brought up a different question….is it a negative action (stopping shaving) or a positive action (designing and cultivating some facial architecture) ?

I remember In our final year at High School, in the early ’60’s, the boys all started trying to grow ‘something’. It was all so soft and downy that it could only be seen at close range! Whether it was to impress the girls, who were experimenting with make-up, I don’t know,

The act of allowing a beard and moustache to grow is probably some kind of transition to manhood for boys, but the hacking away at it with a piece of protected metal eventually became a real pain, in more than one sense!

Then came the work in a laboratory, when we all had horn-rimmed glasses, wore white coats, had beards or moustaches, and smoked the pipe. It was in this condition that I courted my wife-to-be. She says that I was clean-shaven when we met, but after 50 years, who am I to argue!

And so it has been all through our married life, …..sideburns, full beard, trimmed short or long, all sorts of variations, until relatively-recently that is. Moustache and sideburns all disappeared, leaving only a small, short, pure white, beard covering my chin.  I imagined that at least our children would have noticed the change, but no word has been forthcoming from that or any other direction, so I can presume that no-one ever really noticed it enough to comment on its demise. So was the changing facial architecture something of interest to society?…….

I don’t think so and frankly, at my age, it doesn’t really matter!

…………but I don’t like designer stubble!

Just a short call…

Are you one of those people who are happy to agree with the old Irish saying ‘Never do today ,what you can put off till tomorrow’ . Well, I can be a bit like that. If it’s a nice day we should be out enjoying the scenery….the weeds can be pulled tomorrow! If there’s a good film on the television…well then, the dishes can wait!  I don’t need new clothes…these old ones are fine!

 Today, I made a phone call I meant to make a while ago.  I shouldn’t have put it off…there was no good reason.  It definitely had to be made. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Lady of the House had been at me for weeks to get on with it…..you know how it is, guys?

It’s not that it was crucial, or critical…I could have put up with not making it…the world was not going to change….no-one would be particularly affected by it, besides myself. 

On the other hand, why wait? What reason could I keep giving to the family or others as to why I hadn’t made that simple move?  I’m a grown, mature adult, so it wouldn’t be difficult….perhaps a little embarassing….but I just had to lift the phone, dial the number (if I could find it again…) and get on with it. It wouldn’t take long, and having done it, I should feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders.

I decided to bite the bullet and late this afternoon I found the number and called. I was instantly in touch with the person to whom I had to speak. After a few minutes of trivial chat, I knew I could not delay or I would get cold feet and hang up the phone!

The person was very pleasant about it all, seemed to sympathise with me and was certainly helping me with what I needed to say. It took longer than I thought, but there were no unpleasantries and the chap on the other end was very pleasant and professional about it all.

I thanked him profusely for being so understanding and helpful, and, as predicted, I did feel a great sense of relief when he finished the conversation with……

………..’Thank you for applying for your Old Age Pension’………dammit that’s what made me feel ancient!

STOP…THIEF!

One wonders why the NHS is in such a bad financial state with all the money poured into it.

Then a headline in the local newspaper tells us that over the last few months over thirty wheel-chairs have been stolen! They are provided within the foyer of the hospital to help those with mobility problems get to a car. So it would appear that those friends or relations who have come to collect the patient feel that it is their in-alienable right to purloin the said wheel-chair, fold it up and take it to the patient’s home!

Did no-one ever forsee this, or  did they not twig very quickly what was happening? It is possible to either modify these fold-away units or provide ones which are ‘fixed’. 

Do those who stole the chairs not realise that replacement of stolen units is depriving other departments of funding.

And we thought that this only happened with supermarket trolleys! I suppose it’s just as well that they are not motorised!

Asleep at the wheel!

 

I’m sure that all of us at one time or another have had one of those ‘micro-sleeps’, when momentarily, on a long drive, we get tired, the eyes blink, and suddenly we realise we are a danger to ourselves and others.

Well, this is not about that!

I remember once travelling on a small car-ferry on a 25 min journey which I had done many times. I was tired so just stayed sitting at the wheel. A thick fog came down and I couldn’t have seen anything anyway. I fell asleep until there was a gentle bump as we berthed on the other side. Of course, I suddenly woke, looked out of the windscreen into a thick fog, imagined I was driving, and jammed on the brakes, terrified! It was only then that I realised I was perfectly still and safe!

This weekend Lady of the House, and I, have travelled quite a few hundred miles around the Lake District, and the Yorkshire Dales. We had been out one evening for a lovely meal and were returning , in the deeping gloom, to the farmhouse where we were staying. Classic FM was on and we were listening to a favourite piece, so we decided to sit in the farmyard, with the engine on and lights off until the piece was finished.

We must have been very comfortable sitting in this balmy situation and obviously both fell asleep for about 20 minutes! Goodness knows what anyone driving into the yard would have thought!

Have you ever fallen asleep, and wakened in a strange situation?