We are downsizing.  Such a neat turn of phrase!  The reality is somewhat different.  It means I cannot possibly squash all of my belongings into a smaller space and I have to be ruthless.  I start packing cheerfully enough.  It’s relatively easy to weed out unworn clothes which no longer fit, once I have accepted I will never be a size 10 again.  Surplus bedding isn’t a problem either, though I do keep the single sets for when the grandchildren visit (they haven’t arrived yet).

It becomes trickier when I start on what might be referred to as the “non-essentials”.  There is a Japanese lady I heard speaking on Women’s Hour who recommends only keeping that which is really needed,  or  brings you joy, I daren’t even count the number of books I own.  Do I need them all when you can look up anything on the internet today?  Am I going to read the novels again in my old age, with failing eyesight? Probably not.   But can I get rid of any?  Emphatically not!

I’m not too bad on CDs but only because I have kept several LPs from my vanished youth. Then there are what I euphemistically call “my ornaments”.  I’m not really an ornament person.   But I seem to have been given or inherited quite a few.  The trouble is they all have sentimental value. Unthinkable to ditch the huge and truly fearsome face mask my son carted all the way back from Fiji, under his arm, at the end of his gap year.  Nor can I throw out the china figures of animals and people that belonged to my deceased mother.   My mother in law was keener on coloured glass and my husband wants to keep that.  And I had a great auntie who hand painted plates rather well, including a pretty little green, cream and gold coffee set with tiny cups, which we never use.

We also have prints which remind me of places once lived in or visited.  No matter that they aren’t that good or won’t go with the décor.  At this rate, I am never going to have a minimalistic and stylish house with a single white orchid in a black vase on a white table.

Then the photographs really trip me up.  Those in frames are heavy on graduation and wedding days and will obviously stay.  But I am strong on albums too. Yes, I know you can keep everything online now.  But it’s not the same, somehow.  It gets worse.  My father took loads of slides which need to be viewed on a screen and my father –in-law thought he was very modern in taking cine-films.  Social and family history!  These have been in the garage for at least ten years, waiting for us to get round to digitalising them.

Speaking of the garage, I notice there are still several boxes storing stuff belonging to the “children”.  They are in their mid -thirties now with (admittedly small) homes of their own.  Time for an ultimatum!  But could I really put them on the tip?  After all, my son assures me old copies of “The Beano” are quite valuable now.

I have to admit to the Japanese lady I am not doing awfully well.  I am suddenly consumed with guilt.  If I don’t sort it, someone else will have to, on my inevitable demise, and I know what that’s like.    Overwhelmed by it all, I decide to go and have a lie-down or practise Mindfulness, Japanese style.  If that doesn’t work, I can always read a book for distraction.  After all, I do have sixteen boxfuls!

Musings from a Third Ager: London

Samuel Johnson said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

I’m not exactly “tired of London”, and definitely “not tired of life”; however, I do find London tiring these days. But then Johnson wasn’t beset by the same kind of noise and traffic.  There would have been both, of course, but it wasn’t coming from diesel fumes that get on your chest and the air wasn’t rent by screaming sirens.  I still like to visit – both of my children live here, after all — but am always glad to come back to the cleaner, fresher and gentler atmosphere of North Wales. I’m not sure I can actually manage “all that life has to afford” either, on my pension. Certainly not a house or a flat.

The first time I realised I was looking older was when a young man gave up his seat on the tube for me.  He was an Eastern European so probably considered me a “babushka”, as I definitely wasn’t pregnant.  I was grateful for the seat. Then another young man (Asian this time — is there a theme here?) insisted on carrying my suitcase up the steps from the platform.  I was grateful for that too, especially as he didn’t run off with it as I secretly feared.  There is a deceptive amount of walking involved in going to London, and struggling up steps with a case crops up only too often.  However do the disabled manage?

Back home, I am decidedly less grateful for being called “dear” or “sweetheart” by all the shop assistants.  I may have grown a moustache, sprout a wiry (grey) hair or two out of my chin, and my neck has sadly “gone”; but why on earth does this mysteriously  make me everybody’s lover? And why do they imagine I won’t mind?  In my former profession, I always asked someone what they wanted to be called — or began formally with a “Mr” or “Mrs”, sometimes interrupted by a “Call me Brian”, or whatever.  Today, even the youngest of employees assume we are on first name terms from the off.  I fear it would be churlish and seem unfriendly to object.

Whilst delivering election leaflets recently (I won’t tell you for which party, but it’s not a nasty one), I was met by a neighbour who said I needn’t bother, as she had already decided to vote for that candidate.  Gratifying news.  But then I asked if her father, who lives with them, would like one to read?  The response was: “Oh, he’ll vote how we tell him to vote!”  Excuse me!  Doesn’t the poor man have a brain?  No, I didn’t say that, but I think I should have!

Many younger people are kind and considerate, like my young men on the Underground.    But whatever happened to respect?  Please don’t assume we all in the early stages of dementia, once we retire!