Is There Life After Life?

Don’t worry. I’m not intending on going anywhere. I’m not expecting a visit from the grim reaper anytime this week. Nor have I found God. In fact, I generally try not to think about what’s to come once I’ve departed this mortal coil, although I’d like to think I’ll be spending eternity sat on a cloud playing the harp with in an ill-fitting white tunic without having to worry about skincare and dieting. But I have got to that age now. That age where you become just a + in the drop down menu or it takes an eternity to scroll down to your birth year. That age when you realise it’s time to start thinking about Plan B. No, not the hip hop bloke from the noughties. He’s way too young and besides, he has no legitimate surname. I’m thinking about that time when you suddenly find you’re ‘no longer required’ in your current guise, but not quite ready for that ‘home by the sea’. You might have ‘one foot in the grave’ but you still have a big fat, freakin’ mortage! From October 2020 the State Pension age in the UK for men and women will be 66 as the government has now realised we’re all hanging around a lot longer than we used to, and many of us will need to work some way beyond. So no chance of feet up, light gardening and coffee mornings for me. As we hurtle like an out of control bullet train into our fifties, you can easily be facing another decade or two at work. Oh what joy!

I work in a pretty ageist industry. Experience counts for very little in the media. Anyone over 35 is a dinosaur from a land before time. And anyone over 45 is pretty much unemployable. So I’m on borrowed time here. I admit, I try and stay cool. I’ve got trendy glasses. I wear Converse. But the harsh reality is that I’m old enough to be most of my colleagues’ mother. I’ve got t-shirts older than most of them. And I don’t know how much longer I can get away with it before someone sounds the over 50’s klaxon and I get carted off by the nice men in white coats.

Anyway, this isn’t a piece about getting old again, even though it occupies most of my waking hours!  It’s the dilemma we face when we’re clearly too old carry on with the job we’ve most likely been doing all our working lives, therefore we need to consider a viable alternative. Over the years, I’ve thought of many professions that will take me beyond my current working life and still earn me a crust into my later years that don’t involve me a) getting on the Central Line, or b) getting off the Central Line.  I’ve done quite a few courses, read books and done lots of research in search of an after-life which I thought I’d share.  It’s been mad, fun, pointless and typically ended up with me on the familiar road to nowhere.

So if you’re thinking of a new career path, here’s a few non-starters for ten:

Becoming an Aromatherapist.  This seemed like a good idea.  I liked the idea of working at home in a lavender-scented fug.  So I signed up for a 6 month course in Aromatherapy and Massage at my local college.  It was run by a nice chap called Bob who, despite clearly knowing his Frankincense from his Myrrh, was mostly dull and uninspiring.  As is often found on these type of courses, a fascinating cross-section of the weird and wonderful general public, all searching for something new and exciting and clearly hoping to find it in Patchouli.  But despite Bob being as boring as a box set of Friends, I signed up enthusiastically.  I dutifully bought every essential oil there was on the market along with a shit-tonne of now dust-gathering books.  It was all going quite well until we got to the massage bit.  The theory was fine but the harsh reality of rubbing a sandalwood into someone else’s blubber really didn’t appeal.  Some practical sessions followed with Bob demonstrating his Effleurage on a rather excitable older lady called Barbara, where we got treated to her clear lack of grooming.   The novelty was starting to wane now.  You clearly don’t know who’s going to walk through the door, do you.  But the final straw came when we had to practise some reflexology.  I have an irrational fear of other people’s feet at the best of times, so obviously I got the lady who was riddled with the bunions, cracked heels and fungal nail infections.  Suffice to say I ran screaming from the room, leaving an exceptionally heady trail of benzoin and bergamot.

 

 

Journalist / Writer:  From quite an early age, I wanted to be a journalist or novelist.  There I’d be, writing pithy, political ramblings for The Times or a best selling thriller which got made into an Oscar winning film and starring Tom Hardy, mostly in a state of undress, directed by me. Or travelling the world, staying in luxury hotels, thanks to my editorial skills at Conde Nast Traveller.   I did a couple of courses at The University of London, all of which were actually wonderful.  One of my tutors was a lovely lady called Jan,  a Canadian dance critique who was not just a great journo but also an amazing teacher.  I once went to her flat in Central London for a tutorial.  I’ve never seen so many books, folders, magazine and newspaper cuttings.  There wasn’t a spare surface anywhere!  I guess that shows a real writer.  But suffice to say,  nothing ever happened – or I suppose I never really pursued it.  And there endeth the dream.  Although I’m dead proud of my Squeeze concert review in the alternative fanzine c. 1984, circulation – 9.

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Sub-editor. An 8 week course in spelling, grammar, editing and how to make a magazine page look nice sounded lots of fun.  A career in publishing was definitely the way to go.  Glamorous photo shoots, interviewing film stars and getting lots of freebies seemed right up my street. So there I was in a basement in a college in Notting Hill with another bunch of random folk all with the same pipe dream.  It was fun, actually.  But I soon realised that my colons really did need some attention and parentheses weren’t those 2 nice people that brought me into this world.  And so there it also ended.  My dreams of becoming editor of Vogue and yelling at flunkies to bring me skinny lattes while I flounced around Paris Fashion Week with Naomi and Kate was also dampened by the fact that, not only am I prone to inappropriate slashes, I know absolutely nothing about fashion and look terrible in oversized sunglasses.  

 

Italian:  I always wanted to learn another language.  So I signed up at our local community centre to improve my Italian.  I thought I could be a translator.  Or a teacher.  I’d scraped an O Level many years ago so I thought this might be an easy win.  I actually managed a whole year and can now order a lasagne, a beer and comment vaguely on the weather.  But teaching a bunch of mostly retired, hard of hearing locals didn’t really inspire me to pursue any sort of career.  But I’m happy to report that, some years on, my gesticulating continues to improve tremendously and my pizza consumption is off the scale!  So not a total waste of time I suppose.

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Internet Entrepreneur:  Yes I admit, I was seduced by a lot of the ‘I make £90k a week by selling videos of how to make £90k a week’ that appeared around 15 years ago once the internet really took off.   You know, endless pages of smiling humans not really telling you anything but showing endless photos of them standing next to someone else’s Lamborghini or a massive country pile.  You buy an ebook for a special price of £9.99 with tips on how to con other people out of buying an ebook for the special price of £9.99 and you too can own this Sunseeker yacht.  I didn’t buy a book in the end but I did buy a job-lot of last season’s Top Shop bikinis, which I sold for a profit of, yes you’ve guessed it, £9.99.  

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Psychotherapist.  OK, so a long time coming and a long way to go, but that’s what I’m doing now. I’m 18 months in and I haven’t given up.  That’s some sort of record so fingers crossed I don’t.   It’s wonderful and scary and probably a whole blog post which I’ll save for another day.

So if I don’t go mad myself trying to get through another 2 years of studying, essay writing and personal therapy, you may well find yourself lying on my couch in the not too distant future.

And my advice?  If at first you don’t succeed, drink a bottle of wine.  You’ll be amazed how little you care.

x

Hip Hip Hooray!

Well it’s finally done!  After years of wincing, moaning and not being able to wear stupidly high heels, I’ve had a hip replacement.  Right now, if I could turn back the clock, I probably wouldn’t have.  I feel sore, swollen, uncomfortable and miserable.  But I also know, that in a few weeks, I’ll be thankful that I did.  I know it’s going to take time to heal. And I know without pain, there’s no gain!  However, I was rather grateful for one thing.  The NHS kindly paid for me to have the operation in a nice private hospital not far from where I live.  Not uncommon these days apparently.  The NHS have been outsourcing joint replacement surgery to the private sector for some years now.  In fact, a recent analysis shows that NHS patients who choose to have planned knee or hip operations in private units spend less time on wards, are less likely to be readmitted and have fewer procedures that need to be re-done.  And therefore, they don’t block beds needed for acute admissions. Win win!

Another recent study showed that four of the best six places for hip operations were privately run.  By contrast, the three worst-performing hospitals for knee operations were all NHS ones. And therefore, the results have been seized on by some as evidence that the independent sector does have a key role to play in improving patient care as well as relieving the strain on our overcrowded hospitals. But they are likely to prove controversial elsewhere because of concerns that the contracts set up by Labour, under which private hospitals took in NHS patients to help reduce waiting lists, paid them far too much for simple procedures and wasted millions of pounds.  So the funding row continues to rumble and probably always will. Thanks goodness we’ve got a general election coming, eh folks??

 

'I really hate going to hospital.' 'I know. It's unfortunate you're a neurosurgeon.'

 

So back to the story.  I arrived at 8am at the rather endearingly named Holly Hospital, and was promptly shown to my ‘guest room’ by the ‘concierge’ who gave me a guided tour of the facilities.  To be honest, it was alot better than some 4 star hotels I’d paid good Euros to stay in. I got changed as requested and it wasn’t long before someone came and took me down to theatre. She was very nice.  Like a smiling assassin.  Because, despite my outwardly calm exterior, inside I was utterly hysterical despite her reassuring words that no, the consultant definitely hadn’t been drinking and yes, he’d done a fair few of these types of operations before. And in no time, I’d seen the anaesthetist and was being led, mentally kicking and screaming into theatre.

I’ll spare the details.  But it went very quickly and in no time I was back in my guest room, with a constant stream of smiling healthcare professionals, checking blood pressure, giving me drugs and generally enquiring after my well-being.  An hour later, a light lunch consisting of a freshly made cheese sandwich and fruit was served and I was given a menu to choose my evening meal.  Melon to start, salmon fillet and veg and a fresh fruit salad.  Sadly no wine list.  “For obvious reasons”, she told me.  I took that to mean that it was more to do the cocktail of medication I was on rather than a nod to a penchant for Rosé.  I had Sky TV to keep me company and at the press of a buzzer,  my assigned nurse would come scurrying in, attending to my every need.  This is all rather nice, I thought.

However, I think after a couple of days, someone twigged that neither myself, nor a wealthy healthcare provider, was paying for this treatment.  I was here courtesy of the beleaguered NHS and I’d probably hit my budget allowance.  The offer of endless cups of tea disappeared, lunch was downgraded to soup (definitely Heinz) or a sandwich, and the evening meal was whatever the chef said I could have.  And as Friday was curry night, and I don’t eat the stuff, the only other option was a jacket potato with cheese. And hopefully they could “rustle up some beans too if chef didn’t mind”! First world problems, eh?  But I mustn’t grumble.  It was still better than being on a mixed ward, and not having to listen to other patients peeing/snoring/farting/howling was a blessing.  And I’m sure those patients would have felt the same.

Which brings me on to bed pans. How bloody awful are those contraptions??!!  For a start, it seems to be a one size fits all, which is fine if you don’t have a humungous backside. Mine was pretty huge to begin with but the added addition of swelling and a pressure dressing practically doubled it’s girth.  Plus it’s made of cardboard! CARDBOARD!!  I mean it’s not know for it’s absorption qualities is it!  Nor it’s comfort. Well the first day wasn’t so bad.  I was numb and fairly dehydrated.  Day two was a different story altogether.  I’d been put on a drip as my blood pressure was rather low so when I asked for the pan again – well let’s just say I wasn’t dehydrated or quite so numb. In fact, let’s just say I was totally off target.  The nurse was very sweet and said it was perfectly normal for accidents to happen.  Well not for me it isn’t, love!  The shame of sitting in your own piddle – three times in one day – will live with me for a while!  It took an age to strip me and the bed, clean it up and put me and the bed back together again.  She smiled throughout the whole half hour debacle, chatting away, whilst I – a grown woman of advancing years – sat there wrapped in a towel of shame, smelling like a tramp!  I’ve since googled bed pans.  There are far more ergonomic ones out there which look a lot more sturdy, comfortable and able to hold a few more pints.  Maybe I had the cheaper NHS version.

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I THINK THE NURSE ON THE FAR RIGHT WAS THE ONE LUMBERED WITH CLEARING UP MY LITTLE ACCIDENT

Fortunately they had me up walking pretty quickly so I could get to use the toilet.  And by day three, I was on crutches walking up and down the corridor in my attractive hospital gown, all open at the back for the world to see.  But I didn’t care. What could be more shameful than pissing yourself.  Three times!  My dignity went years ago.  Along with non-disposable, ergonomically-shaped bed pans it seems.

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I DIDN’T HAVE THE HORN!

And on day four, they sent me home, complete with crutches and complimentary raised toilet seat, saying if my leg falls off, just go straight to A&E and they’ll pop it back on.  So long as I don’t mind waiting a few days.  So here I am, selfishly wishing the days away, knowing that time is a great healer and codeine is the best invention in the whole world. Meanwhile, Mr H is embracing nursing/cooking/cleaning duties which involves a fair amount of arse-wiping, stocking-applying, pillow-adjusting and crutch-holding.  Sadly not the type he’d prefer. But he’s doing a sterling job.

For a bloke.  Who snores.

x

 

 

Hair Today …

Hairdressers are rather like husbands.  For the first few years they do exactly what they want and you always feel good afterwards.  Then they get a bit lazy and complacent and suddenly you don’t feel so special any more.  So when that happens, it’s time to start the nightmare search for a new one.  So where do you start?  Is there a Tinder for hairdressers?  Hinder, maybe?  And how do you tell the incumbent that you’re moving on to a younger, trendier salon?  It’s not you, it’s me? And if you don’t tell them, you end up trying to avoid the area for fear of bumping into them sporting a new ‘do’.   It’s a huge dilemma – one I’ve encountered on many occasions over the years.  I knew the false beard would come in handy one day.

There isn’t a high street in the UK now that doesn’t have at least 2 or 3 salons peddling their hairs. It’s an industry that has grown steadily over the years and currently sees no sign of declining.  It was sometime around the end of the 1800s when we slowly started to see the transition from men only barbershops to salons across the civilised world.  In those early days, wealthy women were having their hair styled by their servants.  All a bit Downton Abbey.  The rest of the classes probably just used some carbolic soap and some rusty shears.

The roaring 20s saw almost 25,000 hair salons open in the US. From the 1900s to 20s, bobby pins, hair dryers, perms and hair colour became more and more popular. It was the age of Hollywood movie stars, Jazz and Coco Chanel.  Everyone wanted to look like their idols!  By the 40’s and 50’s, beauty salons became the go-to-place for the housewife to escape from their mundane lives, get pampered and indulge in gossip. Gradually, the hairdressing salon became affordable to the masses and not just the upper classes, eventually combining other beauty services to pamper and preen it’s clientele.

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“SO WHERE ARE YOU GOING FOR YOUR HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR?  BUTLINS?  OOH POSH!”

Nowadays, our high streets are awash with them.  Some part of a chain, others with quirky fascias such as ‘Hairport’, ‘A Cut Above’ and my personal East London favourite, ‘Jack the Clipper’.  But how on earth do you choose a good one?  Today it’s easier with social media, reviews and online recommendations but what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the hairy old gander.  My own personal start point is that, if the hairdresser has bad hair, quite frankly I don’t want them anywhere near mine.  They are basically a walking advert for their profession.  Like I don’t want a dentist with bad teeth or a doctor with weeping sores.  I’m also rather seduced by a cool interior.  1970’s pictures on the wall, office furniture or rubbish towels are also a bit of a sign of apathy. Not always indicative but first impressions etc.  I also like hairdressers to be honest.  If it won’t suit, then please have the decency to tell me.  A stark reminder never to show them a picture of a poodle ever again!

witch hairdresser cartoon

So on a whim, I booked into a trendy Shoreditch salon for a cut and blow. I’d read the reviews, scoured the website and gallery and wandered past on more than one occasion. I could even book online which shows both innovation on their part and total laziness on my part. Tick!  Nothing worse than booking over the phone to a fairly dopey receptionist who gets just about every part of the booking wrong.  Most annoying to find out you’re booked in next Tuesday with Cilla for a perm when you’d asked for a Saturday appointment with Donna for highlights!  That’s happened!  Anyway, I was politely greeted,  ‘gowned up’ by a nice young man and promptly offered a cocktail.  It was after 6pm so why not!  Who doesn’t love a Espresso Martini full of hair!  Anyway, a chat with the Senior Stylist and a rather nice (and faintly disturbing for various reasons) wash and head massage from that nice young man, I was set about with sprays and scissors.  Oh and another Espresso Martini or 3.  Rude not to!  They were friendly, they’ve got dogs, alcohol and nice towels.  By the end I was hair cut, half cut and £65 out of pocket!  But you get what you pay for and I’d definitely go back.

 

Probably when I’ve won the lottery!

x