Nailing it in more ways than one

Infection control issues mean that nurses seldom have long painted nails as its neither practical nor cost effective. So whilst over the years this became my ‘norm’ it didn’t mean I didn’t secretly covet the idea of beautifully manicured hands. One of the few memories of my paternal grandmother was her (what seemed to me at the time) impossibly long red nails. They seemed to me strange and exotic for someone who was neither rich or famous yet today they would we considered pretty ordinary.

Habits tend to form over time often influenced by circumstance & others opinions but the effects can have many & varied insidious effects. Often we are not always aware to the extent these can affect us & therefore we fail to challenge ourselves & question why we continue to practice them.

Such has been the case for me & I am grateful to my daughter for enthusiastically encouraging to question & change my choice of clothes & beauty regime. I still may never be one to use lots of make up or have super long elegant nails but at least I can now have them regularly & professionally painted.

Personal experience with super long nails proved incompatible with playing my guitars, gardening & DIY projects so short are the only way forward for me but at least they can now be sparkly! I think I must be one of the more challenging clients for the lovely patient Alice who now keeps my nails in such good condition despite my best efforts.

Shovelling sand & cement into the mixer the similarities between this process & cake baking sprung to mind in the same way plastering walls remind me of icing cakes. Which led me to consider the whole gender stereotyping of ‘jobs’ really as really the skills are learnt & its not clear exactly when these tasks got assigned. Social media has featured recently a growing number of videos & commentary which demonstrates the fact that gender really shouldn’t play a part in job allocation anymore & I find myself more & more in agreement.

For example my niece very competently refitted a camper van & recently built a small wooden house all of which was very impressive. I will own up to the fact I am not keen on plumbing or electrical stuff as they are just things that are outside of my personal interest or skill set. I still have mild PTSD episodes when I recall trying to purchase an end stop in a DIY store – admittedly it was in the Netherlands & neither my command of Dutch nor plumbing terms was really up to the task. They gave my son back his flat deposit money so I can only think that the thing I bought & bound with cling film to the cold water outlet once we had removed a washing machine did the job for long enough!

Walling is more my kind of thing from the ‘flemish double bond’ retaining wall at our first home nearly forty years ago to the fifty odd metres of dry stone wall where we currently live I find the challenge rewarding. The images show the most recent walling to make a new flower bed and extend the existing dry stone wall to fill the gap where a gate had been. The net result is to create a small patio for the guests to our holiday cottage to enjoy. I particularly enjoy the dry stone walling which I taught myself to do as it is like trying to complete a 3 dimensional jigsaw with no picture to follow. It is very therapeutic and immensely satisfying as each stone has to be chosen to fit whilst keeping an eye on the shape and taper of the wall as it grows. At over a decade old the wall is still standing and now slowly being encased in moss so looks like its been there for considerably longer.

My Dry Stone Wall

However I am sure there are still sections of society who believe that neither of us should be dabbling in what would traditionally considered ‘man’s work’. Whilst there is evidence that the narrative is changing its still seems that sadly women who work in these roles still come under attack. Whilst I have only had to endure the odd sarky comment & raised eyebrows over the years it makes me quite mad to think of the capable women now working in construction might still be ridiculed for wanting to pursue this type of career if they also like to visit a beauty salon. My hope is that as male skin care etc becomes more the norm this type of thing is consigned to history for good.

In the meantime I will continue to indulge in all manner of lovely treatments & coloured nails while working towards completing the next DIY task on the list.

New Boots & Narratives

Strange how certain images can trigger past memories as happened to me while converting some old negatives into digital ones that led me to embark on a sort of ‘views & values’ detox. It’s proving to be an interesting if somewhat challenging journey to navigate as once you begin unpacking stuff its surprising what rabbit holes of thought it can lead you down.

Rabbit Holes

Kickstarted by reviewing up long held beliefs about tattoos & finding I no longer agreed with myself was quite shocking concept to accept initially. However working alongside professional, caring yet heavily tattooed health care colleagues sort of smashed the narrative that had been previously been pressed on me.

‘Go Get a Tattoo’ Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Unlike Frank Carter in one of his most recent songs I am not imploring everyone to ‘Go get a tattoo’ however I would recommend the personal overhaul of long held view points up for thorough scrutiny. 

It occurs to me that as we age quite often we cling to what seems familiar & sometimes leads to views becoming so entrenched that new ideas or approaches to problems can be rejected without consideration. 

Age does bring a degree of learned experience that can help circumvent replicating mistakes but I am now trying to actively keep my ears in receive mode especially when talking to those younger than myself. Not always easy but definitely enlightening & interestingly I have found that many newer narratives have greater merit than those of the past. 

New Boots

Take for example the iconic Doc Marten footwear once the preserve of workmen & skin heads that have since become mainstream & like tattoos started to fascinate me to the point where I realised that actually wanted a pair. However the desire for heavy boots with elaborate black roses embroidered on the side was accompanied by a flash of anxiety over whether such a purchase & subsequent wearing was ‘age appropriate’?

Purple hair & just don’t care!

While I am sure there are probably many ‘keyboard karens’ ready to rush to tell me that I shouldn’t  have, I’m proud to confess I mustered the courage from some where to buy a pair. Breaking them in is a work in progress but totally worth it as they are becoming so comfortable & after my recent foray in to a ‘mosh pit’ I can totally understand why they would be the footwear of choice. Yet where had that fear come from? No one had actually told me not to yet I still feared the ‘judgement’ & felt the sense of unease that I was doing something wrong.

Whilst it’s not exclusive, the judgy comments surprisingly tend to come from women of a similar age leading me to conclude this stems from their own fears or lack of confidence to break out of conventions they have become immersed in. 

Slack Line Arrives

Based on recent personal experience risking ridicule by flouting conventions is never easy but at least I am not trying to ‘change the narrative for older women’ singlehandedly.

There are growing band of adept female influencers whom I follow across various social media platforms now continually challenging these tired old views. They inspire me to ‘do my bit’ even when faced with what seems like an endless loop of ‘no you can’t or shouldn’t narrative’  together with any amount of eye rolling, tutting & derogatory smirking.

Contents of the Box

Confounding the expectations of what it is to be older or retired is proving quite fun & presenting opportunities to not only don the clothes & footwear I want but also new activities. The sunny weather over the Easter holidays provided the perfect time for breaking out the slackline for the first time. 

A Balancing Act

It was fun if a little challenging & it might be a while before I can jump up on to it & cross without the aid of the guide rope but everyone has to start somewhere. I have recently read some articles advising the need for ‘senior folk’ to work on their balance, just not sure this is quite what they had in mind to be fair. 

So I will leave you for now while I go and work on improving the nano second of balance achieved without holding on until next time. 

Galavanting for Gateaux

I was once asked why I exercised & I flippantly replied ‘so I can eat all the cake I want with out worrying too much’! I also like to travel so when it’s possible to combine the two things then its definitely a win for me.

USA Cupcake – Last before Lockdown

Its hard to think back to March 2020 but there I was sat in a Fort Lauderdale hotel eating this cup cake & trying to take in the fact that the trip to join daughter for shore leave at Disney World was now in total abort mode.

Trying to maintain a sense of calm eating cake was certainly one way of coping with cancelled flights & being marooned in the USA.

It was a case of ‘every woman for herself’ as events unfolded at an alarming pace it was clear meeting up was not an option. I found myself confined to the vicinity of the hotel trying to bag a seat on any flight home.

I have to confess to succumbing to thoughts of several potential ‘escape’ options that saw me apply for a Canadian visa & google how far it was to drive to the border! It’s true I love a road trip but honestly with hindsight this idea seems a tad crazy now but at the time the rising fear of being marooned away from home engendered a sense of panic I had not experienced before.

As it turned out a nice lady from American airlines secured me a place on one of the last flights out of Miami while I tucked into a slice of key lime pie.


As the plane touched down it occurred to me that essentially I had travelled ‘there & back again’ to buy a guitar book that whilst useful ordering via Amazon might have worked out a cheaper.

Confined to barracks as we were & the introduction of what seemed to be onerous travel rules its been over two years since I have taken an international flight. The lockdowns certainly redefined many things for me one of which was the realisation how important the small things that give you pleasure can be. With domestic travel restricted & cake shops closed being forced to stay indoors the only option was to bake at home so below are a few examples of cakes made by daughter & me.

Ever creative & tiring of home made cakes daughter & I realised that we could visit local garden centres & suddenly the ones with cafes become destination venues.

By June following weeks of lockdown collecting a drain cover from Swindon now constituted a road trip & the prospect of stopping at a Starbucks drive through never more welcoming even if cake options were limited.

It was August before the restrictions lifted enough to allow a jaunt on the motorbike to Monmouth in Wales. This was no mean feat as Wales now operating as a separate entity to England meant the rules were slightly different. However the weather was good & we managed to get a seat on the pavement outside in the sunshine which felt like we were on holiday for a brief moment or two.

The local ‘cakery’ of choice has to be the Vintage Birdcage which serves an alarming array of delicious cakes but if on a venture to London then a visit is not complete without a visit to a branch of Peggy Porschen.

As the restrictions waxed and waned the desire to get out increased and so it was hubby & I ventured out on the motorbike again. When it comes to scones my Cornish genes prevail & I am definitely a jam before clotted cream person regardless of location and choice. If visiting UK definitely add this tea time treat to your ‘to do’ list.

Clotted Cream

As a child I remember being sent to collect this from the local shop where the lady broke the crust of a large tray with a big spoon to add to the container I brought. Now days it comes in repacked pots from the supermarket. If taking scones anywhere don’t settle for whipped, pouring or synthetic ‘squirty’ cream as you will not be getting the authentic experience in my view. Ideally with tea served in a teapot & china crockery too.

Although a fully paid up cakeaholic it has to be said I’m not especially drawn to lemon based cooked items unless they are exceptional. The lemon Earl Grey combo in Rhayader was certainly an example of one.

More biking this time to the North found us in Coldstream taking afternoon tea with friends in the Alice in Wonderland themed tea shop. The Biscoff based cupcake evoked memories of being in San Francisco on the pier & visiting the Biscoff shop.

The return to galavanting for gateaux in the company of friends or family has been at times a complex & drawn out procedure but most definitely worth the effort. As the weeks & months have gone by arrangements once again can be made to get out and do things & get back to a place which previously we all took for granted.

One of the great things has been getting back to eating out at pubs & restaurants and sampling the glorious puddings on offer. Below are a selection of the best I have had recently all for different reasons in terms of texture & flavour. None likely to be considered good for the waist line but definitely for the soul as they were part of the process of creating new memories with family & friends.

While the ‘mask on / mask off’ debate still lingers the future is starting to look a little brighter & the prospect of international travel without onerous difficulty has started to look like a realistic prospect once more.

But until next time all masks are off & I’m off to the pub – now menu please!

Getting older but not giving up fight against agism in its many forms

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