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10 February 2010


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Wow I really enjoyed this post on a number of levels. There is such wisdom in what you write and also a playfulness in your writing. I just hope that I have the same attitude when I am over 60. Also I now have a very clear picture of your angry ex-neighbour because she was drawn so evocatively. Thank you.

Great post! Can you hear me cheering? Well I am.

It sounds like your former neighbour uses the wrong fuel for her fire - probably always has - hence the dissatisfaction with her life. She would be amazed at how you fill your days! Great post and brilliant picture to go with it.

Oh, I think we all know someone like your lady. They make themselves so much more miserable than they need be, by dwelling so much on injustice.

But I understand one thing about invisibility, because we have a secondary school in our village. When the students are walking through the village, OH and I are simply invisible. We stand aside with our dog to let them pass, and don't get even a cursory glance - sometimes OH calls after them 'you're welcome!' but they still don't look around.

I find it amusing, actually. We've determined that if you're over thirty, you are effectively invisible to anyone still at school. They'll often part to sweep around you on the pavement, but they clearly have no idea why they just changed direction! Interestingly, sometimes the dog is invisible, too, by association, but sometimes they can see him, but not us. LOL!

Yess girl!! Spot on....loved the post.

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh & smile & dance & sing
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle thats the thing
And....always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

From: Monty Python's "Life of Brian"

Where would we be without laughter eh? Poor "misery guts". How does she survive?

Nice, thoughtful piece. Lucky your ex-neighbour doesn't have a computer to read it on. She probably wouldn't recognise you in the picture though. (Wonderful picture!)

I came across this recently, sentiments not a million miles from your Poet Laureate: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present". This could be seen as a bit corny, and it apparently comes from an animated cartoon, but like many cartoons it does, I feel, sum up a complex idea very simply and memorably.

Talking of magic sparks, have you encountered the Theosophy notion of our souls being sparks thrown out from God, as from a roman candle, to land each one in a different place and time, giving us all perfectly unique return journeys through life?

PS Just spotted your November piece on Applecross. I lived there for quite a few years before moving to New Zealand. A magical place to experience, but the weather is better here! And the fly-fishing. And the sailing. And although the sandflies can be vicious, they don't fly up your nose and in your ears and over your face in thick, dense, hungry, semi-invisible clouds. Thankfully I still had a smoker from my old beekeeping days. But anyway, places are different when you live there, aren't they?

Brilliant post, D. There is something very liberating about getting older - but only if you open the door and look out.

Dear Boots - I love all your very various posts and I loved this for more than one reason.
The first is that it's long, and thoughtful and funny and wise. Space to think. Space to feel. I love the portrait of the irate gin-devoted 'neighbour' - such a true screechy portrait of those boring people, over and under sixty, who love to moan and 'play war' (as we say round here) about just about everything.
I have to say being invisible at over sixty can be re-cast as an advantage if you are writer and just want to melt into the background. Also you can be visible when you want to be - for instance on a blog - where people of all ages can clearly 'see' you. You become visible if you inspire and entertain - as you do here. You can be visible to your friends and dear ones who know the inside as well as the outside of you.
A sure-fire way to be invisible is to be lazy and self pitying and think the world owes you attention. Add to that the fact that for these same reasons people will avoid you - a self induced kind of invisibility.
Oh damn - long response! Sorry.
Oh! PS Another cyber parallell. My mother was widowed when she was thirty six.

Toxic people rarely think it's they that are the problem. She jangled my nerves, and you wrote about the experience of being around such a person, so very true to life!

Goodness, what delightful, thoughtful, funny comments from you all, from Monty Python to Theosophy, and from the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Thanks everyone and a warm welcome to Kate and Daphne. (Daphne, your blog has just the best title I've come across in ages. My uncle was too . . .)

Interesting reflections on aspects on invisibility. Let's hope the teenagers grow out of it; they generally do, Jay. And, yes, temporary invisibility is stock in the writer's trade, Wendy, especially when one is busy people watching or one's ears are tuned to receive fragments of overheard conversation. And the parallels continue. Extraordinary. Next time I head northwards, I'll let you know; we can compare even more notes - unless you're planning a visit to to the South West any time soon . . .

Glad you enjoyed the Applecross photos, SleepyJohn; I think there are a few more, eg Loch Torridon, in my Flickr album (there's a link on the left-hand sidebar).

Damned right ma'am! We are all golden and as I reach 63 later this month, I will continue to make every effort possible to ensure that this fire does not go out. Yes, it is hard going sometimes,lack of cash and the odd twinge and Victor Meldrew moment but as Sarah Dunant said on Saturday Live (Radio 4) last week 'joy can be extracted from anything' (I paraphrase).
To keep the brain ticking, I have taken various courses over the years ( a qualified RHS gardener I will have you know!) and I am starting a 10 credit Open Uni course in March that may be the start of a degree as I never had the opportunity when younger but who knows. This has caused major astonishment from family friends who ask what is the point, it won't get me a career. Sad that they just don't get it and will no doubt end up like your former neighbour.
A great post and really just confirms why your blog is my daily first port of call.

Happy birthday in advance , Bob. You have a few months on me - so you'll have to tell me if 63 is any different to 62.

I can't recommend the Open University highly enough but then I was an OU Eng lit and art history graduate (at the age of 40) . There are some fantastic courses available now, ideal for keeping those sparks sparking. Take no notice of what others say; it's what the sense of achievement and satisfaction means to you that matters. Keep us posted on your progress please!

There is an aspect of invisibility that isn't the lack of ability to "turn heads". It's the idea that women of a certain age just don't have anything to say. This affects men as well, but usually it doesn't happen to them until much later.

What an enjoyable piece of writing. Being twenty years from my teens, I am now looking guiltily over my shoulder, wondering if I ever walked past 'invisible' adults; being twenty years from my sixties, I am inspired by your showing me that there is so much still to look forward to, if only one chooses to see the positives. As for becoming invisible: I exult in the way that the internet has given a voice to us 'little people'. With a minimal technical ability, we can all be seen as much or as little as we choose - and it doesn't even matter if it's a bad hair day!

Interesting post and very well written. Food for thought. Mostly young people are kind, though, because nowadays I remind them of their mother. I am sorry you were widowed so very young.

Thank you for joining the discussion, Rita, Kate and Susie.

I think I was fortunate to have run my own consultancy for the last 20 years or so of my previous working life. Clients hired me for the professional experience and communication skills I'd built up during a longish career and, because they were paying for my time, generally tended to take note of what I advised - or at least the older and wiser ones did - and didn't mess around with my copy (much)! So, to a large extent I missed out on being invisible workwise (unlike some older women eg in broadcasting). And, on reflection, as work became increasingly virtual, there were some clients whom I rarely met and two or three whom I never met - all the work was conducted via phone and internet. They hadn't a clue how old I was but, at the same time, I made every effort to keep tabs on the zeitgeist, just in case . . .

(Kate - old as I am there's enough of the romantic left to have enjoyed your delightful procession of hearts this month.)

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Thought for life

  • The House of Breath, William Goyen
    We are the carriers of lives and legends - who knows the unseen frescoes on the private walls of the skull?

Thinking about . . .

  • Daniel Klein, Travels with Epicurus
    I too listen to music more and more. Throughout my life, music has stirred me more than any other art form, and now, in old age, I find myself listening to it almost every evening, usually alone, for hours at a time.
  • Julia Blackburn, Thin Paths
    I began writing because I liked to write things down. I learnt foreign languages because they seemed to enter my head by a process of osmosis.
  • Joan Bakewell, Stop the Clocks
    I live contentedly alone. It's better that way and I am often thoughtful about what has been and what might have been. There are many like me.
  • Patti Smith, M Train
    Oh to be reborn within the pages of a book.
  • Patti Smith, M Train
    Why is it that we lose the things we love, and things cavalier cling to us and will be the measure of our worth after we’re gone?
  • Judith Kerr, Observer Magazine, 22 November 2015
    I don't believe in God. I find it much easier to believe in ancestors. I like to imagine they are pointing us in the right direction.

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