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Grey Matters

Grey Matters                                                  Blogs in this section:

The first Christmas card and so many since

Do you send Christmas cards? Do you like receiving Christmas cards? Ever wondered how it all started? 

The UK has been responsible for many firsts, so it’s not surprising it’s also the place to originate the Christmas card. In 1843 the first card was conceived of by Sir Henry Cole (he was a civil servant who helped introduce the Penny Post) and designed by artist John Horsley. Fewer than 20 of these hand-coloured cards are known to still exist and they sell for thousands at auction. 
See the little child drinking wine? Imagine what some people had to say about that!

the first christmas card
The idea of a Christmas greeting card soon caught on and now we can’t imagine Christmas without it. I could post some iconic ones but as I collect postcards I’m going to show you six of mine instead (I have my mother to thank for getting me interested in old cards. She has an excellent eye for interesting vintage cards). I don’t have any valuable cards but I enjoy them for their history and designs, photography or art. I love used cards with their Christmas messages and stamps. 

The same way that different countries developed different traditions, card designs too are influenced by their country of origin and also by historic events. Take German and Austrian cards during the period of Nazi domination, when religion was frowned upon. Cards predominantly showed peaceful snowy landscapes. New Years cards became more popular than Christmas ones. 
Now and again, you can find one with a little church or chapel nestled into the landscape, that’s about as religious as you could get. 

christmas card
christmas card
Likewise, Communism also influenced Christmas card design. In fact, you could probably do a PhD in Christmas card design - be a doctor of Christmas cards, that would be cool. 
soviet christmas card
In Austria it’s not Santa or Father Christmas who brings the presents but the little Christ child or Christmas angel. I love this card with the little angel struggling with the sledge carrying a Christmas tree, which was posted in 1955. In Austria, the tree itself was a gift and only arrived for the children to admire on Christmas Eve. Another favourite Austrian one is the one with the children with their skis. 
angel sled card
angel card
The card with Santa and the two children is an old American card, and the one with the three children decorating the tree is a British one, albeit printed in Germany, like so many postcards of the time. 
edwardian card
children decorating tree
Here are some Christmas cards from other countries, see if you can work out where they are from. 
Russian card
Italian card
Jamaican christmas card
Russian card
Spanish card
Scottish card
Last but not least are the wonderful nativity scene cards reflecting the origin of Christmas
nativity card
nativity card
nativity card
Further fascinating collections can be found on Pinterest and if you would like to start collecting, you can find some to purchase on Ebay and other websites. 

For some interesting cards have a look at the wikepedia site on Christmas cards

Photo credits for international and nativity cards: Wikimedia Commons

Another interesting article:

Toria, December 2017

Have You Ever Wondered About Life in a Retirement Village?
Let me introduce Susan, who has kindly agreed to tell us about her life at Hartrigg Oaks, a retirement village in Yorkshire, England. 
lady in front of bungalow
My journey to Hartrigg Oaks

After my husband died, and after I had completed all the necessary paper work, I started to think about my future. I was lucky. I had three supportive ‘children’ and a reasonable pension. I knew I didn’t want to remain in my house – it was too big and in any case I didn’t want to continue to live in inner city Manchester. I looked at various flats built for retired people but I couldn’t see myself living in any of them. 
I decided to go away and do something completely different and I signed on for a term at a Quaker Study Centre in Pennsylvania. While I was there I visited several Quaker retirement villages – and was impressed. All the residents I spoke with were enthusiastic about the lifestyle they had chosen. They had sufficient independence but also could have access to care when they needed it.

When I returned home I went back to the work I had previously been involved with - some paid and some voluntary. But I did not forget what I had seen in the US. One of my voluntary positions entailed meeting in London on a regular basis. I often shared the journey with a friend who was a Rowntree Trustee and she told me about a new retirement community they were starting to build in York. She told me that she had visited the same retirement communities I had seen in the USA and, like me, had been impressed. 

 As the York scheme had only just started, I wasn’t able to do anything at that time, but a few years later, when I had a meeting in York in September 1998, I asked about the scheme and was told that it was now complete. It had opened the previous April, and there were very few bungalows left for sale. At the end of my meeting, I visited New Earswick and the Hartrigg Oaks retirement village. When I was shown round the show bungalow and read the available information, I was sure that this was where I wanted to live. I chose one of the remaining five bungalows and put down my deposit.

Of course, I still had to sell my house in Manchester and this was not easy. But eventually that sale was completed and I moved into Hartrigg Oaks in April 1999 – and am still living in the same bungalow.   

retirement village
History of the village

Joseph Rowntree is usually remembered for the chocolate factory he established in York at the end of the 19th century – making well-known brands of chocolate like Kit-Kat. However, he not only made and sold chocolate, he also built houses. He was so concerned about the awful conditions his workers lived in that he used some of his chocolate money to build houses – mainly (but not exclusively) for them to rent. New Earswick was the result – a pleasant garden village on the edge of York. 

 Not only did Joseph build houses but he also built a community centre (the Folk Hall) and a primary school. He set up a trust to manage his village and encouraged the residents to take responsibility for themselves and for their village. Soon a residents’ committee was established.
Over the years the village has grown and other useful buildings added – for instance, a swimming bath, sports facilities, and a library. A few shops usefully established themselves in the centre of the village and a beautiful nature reserve was created from the land out of which bricks to build the houses had been dug.

Although Joseph was a Quaker, he realised that most of his tenants would not feel happy in a Quaker Meeting. So he encouraged other denominations to meet in the Folk Hall and later to build their own churches in the village.

As the village population grew older the Trustees realised there was a need for nursing home care and Red Lodge nursing home was built. This catered for people who already were unable to care for themselves, but did not help people who had retired but still probably had many years of useful life ahead of them.

Some years later, the Trustees heard about some retirement villages in the USA and after a visit to several of these, they were convinced that something similar could be built in New Earswick.
Of course, everything did not go smoothly – I don’t think you could expect such a large building project to go smoothly. However, eventually all problems were dealt with and the first residents moved into Hartrigg Oaks in April 1998. Not all of the bungalows were ready and the place was horribly muddy –just what you might expect from a building site!

Joseph Rowntree
                                                                                                                                             Joseph Rowntree
Who lives at Hartrigg Oaks ?     

There are 152 bungalows In Hartrigg – some have one bedroom, some two and a few have had the loft converted to make an extra room. The bungalows are sold to residents at the York market price and can only be sold back to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust. Residents have come to Hartrigg from many different places. Some from York itself but others from Edinburgh, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester and many other places. Some come on their own, some as a couple. About 25% are Quaker. Most have heard about Hartrigg by word of mouth as there has been very little advertising. Pets are allowed provided their owners keep them under control and there are a number of resident dogs and cats.

All resident humans pay a community fee and must be over 60. In the middle of our Hartrigg village there is a community centre housing a restaurant and coffee shop, a health activity centre (small gym with spa pool), various committee rooms, a library composed almost entirely of books (and DVDs) residents have discarded when moving into Hartrigg , and a large room used for Arts and crafts activities. There is a small shop which is run entirely by residents and in addition there is also a franchised hairdressers which is very well used.   

Attached to the community centre is a 42 bed nursing home (The Oaks) and two of the rooms are kept for the use of bungalow residents who need respite care after, for example, they have had a stay in hospital. It is also possible to book a room for visitors if the room+ is not otherwise needed. When bungalow residents need help in caring for themselves, they can access care in their bungalows and if eventually they need more care than can be given at home, they can move into The Oaks permanently.

The community fee covers the use of all these facilities. Some may think the fee is too large but my personal use of the respite facilities has convinced me that I have had (and continue to have) value for my money. After having lived at Hartrigg for ten years without having to make use of the care facilities I then had four relatively major operations in the last five years and on each occasion I have stayed for some time in The Oaks until I was fit enough to return home. When I did return home someone from the care centre visited me every day until I was able to look after myself.

nursing home
The Future

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is today well known for its research and, through its Housing Trust, has built retirement communities in Scarborough, Leeds and Hartlepool. They are all different and all are being monitored so that everyone can see whether they ‘work’ – taking into account the financial side as well as the community living. JRF does not want to build more retirement communities – they see themselves as playing an experimental role - but they hoped that, if Hartrigg Oaks was successful, others would be inspired to build similar retirement villages .and they appointed someone to spread the news about Hartrigg and to help others if they had difficulty in working through the necessary regulations and paper work. 
Many people have visited Hartrigg Oaks with a view to building something similar – Insurance companies, Builders, Religious organisations – and as a result, a number of retirement villages have been built in the last ten years. However, none are exactly similar to Hartrigg Oaks. I have never regretted that snap decision I took nearly 20 years ago.

in the lounge at the community centre
A big thank you to Susan for sharing her story with us and giving us a glimpse into life in a retirement village. What with book clubs, language groups, theatre visits and so much more, it sounds like a stimulating place with lots of opportunities for continued growth and adventure. 

December 2017

retirement, lifestyle, personal development, activities

The Rise and Fall of an Amazing Ocean Liner
ocean liner Normandie
I’ve always loved a mystery and when I saw the photo of the capsized SS Normandie in New York Harbour, I was hooked. What was this ship and what happened to her?

The SS Normandie was an elegant French passenger ship, which crossed the Atlantic between Le Havre and New York. She was launched in 1935 and with ground-breaking steam turbo-electric propulsion, she was one of the fastest ocean liners afloat. On several occasions the Normandie held the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing - in competition with her great rival, the RMS Queen Mary. With over 139 Atlantic crossings, things were looking good for the SS Normandie until WWII broke out. 

fire on the normandie
Two days after the German invasion of Poland, the SS Normandie sought refuge in New York, where she was seized by the authorities. She was renamed the USS Lafayette, (after the French general who supported the Americans in their War in Independence), and at Pier 88 was to be refitted as a troop carrier. The Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth were docked not far from her, also for refitting to transport troops. 

Tragedy struck in 1942 when the liner caught fire during the conversion process. The fire could not be controlled and 285 people were injured and one died in the process of trying to save the ship, but it soon capsized onto her port side where she was grounded on the mud of the Hudson River. Restoration was considered, but it was deemed too expensive and in October 1946 she was scrapped. 

capsized ss normandie
capsized normandie
What was the cause of the fire? Were German saboteurs responsible? The Mafia? Or was it an accident during the welding process as listed as the official reason? Alfred Hitchcock added video footage of the fire to his espionage film ‘Saboteur’, which fed the conspiracy theories. 

The SS Normandie had been a very beautiful ship and expensive to construct and fit out. The third stack was added for aesthetic reasons and contained the air conditioning unit. However, it was the inside that was especially lovely and expensive. Even today her Art Deco treasures can still be found occasionally at auction. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one corner of the Grand Salon which contains glass panels by the artist Jean Dupas. 24,000 pieces of crystal were salvaged including Lalique crystal from the beautiful lighting fixtures. 

dining room ss normandie
If you would like to find out more about why the Mafia was thought to have been involved then check out the interesting account on The New York History Blog by James Hinton. I was surprised to find out that the authorities transferred the Mafia leader Luciano to a more pleasant prison so that the Mafia would support the war effort against the Nazis. If you scroll down to the comment section you will find the comments of several people whose ancestors and family members had a connection with the SS Normandie. 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Toria, November 2017

History, International Travel

restaurant ss normandie
first class lounge normandie

A Smorgasbord of Learning
Online courses on just about any topic under the sun
candy shop
Online learning platforms have been a saving grace for me. I live in an eyrie – a hill top house in the Austrian countryside with few courses in any subject of my interest being delivered, especially in English. I love the nature and the landscape but I also need to stay tapped into the outside world. I have in the last few years discovered the various, and amazing, online learning platforms that offer a wealth of courses at all levels. The great thing about online courses is that it’s up to you how seriously you take them and how much time you devote to them, and you don´t need any prior qualifications. So there are no excuses to not enjoy a veritable candy shop of delicious learning! There are many online learning organisations out there, so my list is not complete by far, but let me take you on a quick tour of the ones that I have used… 
Khan Academy:

I wanted to sniff out some basic information on coding (for those who know me you can stop laughing now…). Khan is great because it’s free and has a huge selection of topics to choose from, Their strap line is ´You can learn anything. For free, for everyone, forever´ now that is a slogan after my own heart! Khan is great for subjects like maths, science and engineering, computing, economics and finance. But they also offer humanities as well… the interesting thing about Khan is that they support people in completing gaps in their education by offering their subjects by grade levels. They are pretty easy to use – just log in and follow instructions. If you are a teacher it also provides you with great resources to use in your lessons. 

Future Learn:
Now this is an interesting online learning provider, they offer a platform for various teaching and learning organisations to offer their no-cost courses on – a bit like providing free tasters at a deli counter to entice you to buy. But the tasters on offer here are pretty good, it’s up to you whether you go for the upgrades or not. Topics on offer range from politics and the modern world to creative arts and media (and everything in-between, above and below…). I chose a course on ´filmmaking and animation in the classroom` which is offered by a UK film organisation called ´Into Film´. But many universities and organisations worldwide offer free courses on this site, including (just as examples) ´Contract Management´ by the University of Southampton, ´Football` (explore the role of Football in the world today) by the University of Edinburgh and ´From Ink to Sound` by the University of Basel (travel through the history of musical notation)… so you can see what I mean by candy shop. 

Oxford University Online Learning:

For the `serious` courser! What a veritable smorgasbord of tasties to be found here… These courses are not free, but you do get tutoring by Oxford academics and true subject specialists as well as fabulous access to carefully selected resources. This is learning with intent, and feeling that you have your finger on the pulse of your chosen subject. Everything from philosophy, history, art, science and technology is laid out for the learning connoisseur. Let´s use a randomly chosen example: ´Critical Reasoning, a romp through the foothills of logic´ which is a 3 month online course costing £260 and providing you with 10 CATS points (if you want to accumulate them towards certification). I did a course on ´Celtic Culture´ and absolutely loved it. Wendy, the tutor ,was fabulous, the materials superb and the other online participants (from all over the world) provided a great opportunity for joint online discussions. 

So no matter where you are, get tapped into the world of learning and dip your toe into whatever topic catches your fancy! 

Sylvia, November 2017

Personal development/activities/lifestyle 

celtic shield

Skullduggery at Halloween
halloween display
What is with skulls? We can´t seem to get enough of them… Fashion statement, fad, homage to the macabre… love them or hate them, skulls are a cultural constant. Are you even aware that you have decorated your house with skulls? No? Are you saying “No way, I have never done that”! Bet you have. Never carved a pumpkin? What in the world are you talking about I hear you asking… Well let me walk you down the meandering path of history… 

and travel back to the era of the ancient Celts (let´s say about 400-300 BC, start of the Iron Age). We would find Celtic villages and homes decorated with the skulls of enemies (Celts were renowned head hunters). The Celts also believed that the soul was in the head and skull worship was a common Celtic belief feature. Some enemies were even honoured by the Celts, and for once classical sources might not have exaggerated their claims when Livy commented that the skull of the Roman general Postumius was fated to become a gilded cult vessel. Today we refrain, at least in some countries, from displaying skulls or even drinking wine from them, but we do love a good pumpkin carved with a nice menacing face! 

carved pumpkin
The Celts celebrated the festival of Samhain on or near what we now call the 31st October/1. November. Coincidence? Hardly, many Celtic festivals only got a slight ´spit and polish´ of Christianity before being rolled out for the same public again. Celtic belief of Elysium and ´Otherworld´ was also frequently commented on by classical observers who noted that the Celts´ belief of the immortal soul increased the bravery of the Celtic warrior. The ancient Celts believed that after death their soul would travel to the “other world”, this other world existed contemporaneously to their world and the two worlds were separated by a curtain which hid the activities of the other world from them. When one person ´died´ in one world they would be born in the other and vice versa, thereby linking the two worlds in the cycle of births and deaths.
pumpkin at market stall
                      By Rene Cunningham -                                                                     By Xerto -
Certain people with spiritual powers (druids no doubt) would, under certain circumstances, be able to see beyond the curtain but at Samhain this curtain became very thin indeed, and spirits from the “other world” would be able to “visit”. 

So I can only suggest that we get back in touch with our “inner Celt” at Halloween/Samhain, dig out some nice pumpkins, put in some great faces and remember the source of this wonderful tradition! 

history / lifestyle / personal development

Sylvia October 2017

Our Battle with Bad Habits
Have you got any bad habits? I’ve got a few and I reckon most people do. Be it drinking too much alcohol, smoking, over-eating, nail-biting, negative gossiping and picking on people, spending too much money, procrastinating, ... the list is endless.

How about good habits? We might not realize it but we might also have some good habits. Like brushing our teeth properly and flossing, making our bed every day, drinking lots of water, giving the dog (and ourselves) generous walks, encouraging those around us, hugging… again the list is endless.

glass of water
bunch of grapes
So how do we get new good habits and get rid of old bad ones? I have been reading a fascinating  book by Charles Duhigg – The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do and how to change (my copy is Random House 2013 in paperback). He incorporates scientific research into habit forming, and the latest psychological discoveries, and makes all this information accessible. It makes for an interesting read even if you don’t want to change any habits, good or bad.
Just in case you don’t get around to reading it, I’ll share a couple of interesting insights with you. Duhigg relates a willpower experiment run by two Australian researchers, Oaten and Cheng. They found that we can train our ‘willpower muscle’ and that by increasing our willpower in one area, it will impact on other areas too. For example, if you take up regular exercise, it will help you eat or drink less. This also works for things such as study and work habits, spending habits, all sorts. What happens is that we get better at regulating impulses and distracting ourselves from temptations. Good thinking habits which can be learned. How encouraging is that!!!
book cover the power of habit
You may have heard of the Stanford Marshmallow experiment, a study involving children who were offered a small reward immediately or a larger reward if they waited. Years later the same children were assessed in follow-up studies. Those who had practised delayed gratification as children had done better in life later on according to several markers, including educational attainment, body mass index and other life measures. The good news is that a positive and life-enhancing attitude can be learned.

But it helps to understand the cycle of habits. What cues make us decide to eat that chocolate brownie or what reward will help us to finish a boring task. The author has a useful section at the back of the book that shows how some of the findings can be applied to habit cycles in our lives. I like simple, so I have adapted these ideas for myself and reduced them to the three Rs – routine, reward and realism.

Routine – I never used to, but now I make my bed every day. It helps me start the day on a positive note. In itself it’s not important, but it’s a cue for me to take charge. I started making my bed even before reading Duhigg, but he confirms my hunch. Studies have shown that making your bed is correlated with better productivity and a greater sense of well-being. It appears that a chain reaction is started that helps other good habits to take hold. I also now drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, a new routine, that helps me to cut down on my coffee intake, as I don’t drink coffee for thirst. Baby steps.

Reward – working from home requires constant self-motivation. I find that making a list of tasks for each day and then crossing them off as I achieve them, is a reward for me. It makes me feel good. I’m sure you can think of plenty of more exciting rewards.

Realism – I’m not going to change my lifestyle overnight. I can’t fight the war on too many fronts. If I take on too much, I might fail and that will set me back further. Therefore, I choose the battles I can win first and hope that that will build my self-confidence. Seems obvious, but in the excitement of new good intentions, we can get carried away. For that reason, New Year’s resolutions are a minefield.

woman cycling
I find it’s easier to build new good habits than focus on breaking bad habits. So at this point I will quote a wise person: ‘Do as I say, don’t do as I do.’

(Toria, October 2017)

Email me, I would love to hear about your experiences with good and bad habits.

Interview with Crime Writer Malcolm Hollingdrake
Thank you for joining us on Old and Bold today Malcolm, it’s a pleasure to be interviewing a crime author!

Thank you very much indeed for having me. 

No aspersions about your age – in the past you have said you are “old enough to be wise and wise enough not to say” but what are your thoughts about ageing?

With age, hopefully there comes wisdom that is borne from life’s many experiences. I began life in Bradford, Yorkshire 1953, a time when Britain was shaking off the trauma of war; fourteen years of food rationing came to an end just after my first birthday. I believe it was a time of optimism and opportunity. I have never yearned to be younger, I’m happy in my skin. I also think confidence comes with age where you know when to say yes and more importantly when to say no! I’ve been lucky to have lived a life free from war, within a society supported by a National Health Service, quality education and a belief that you can be whom so ever you want to be. The Britain of 2017 is very different from the Britain of 1953. Is it better? I wouldn’t want to return to any period in my life. Look forward and enjoy life’s changing challenges has to be the reason for getting up in the morning.

You have had what sounds like an interesting and varied life – training as a teacher and teaching in a variety of places including, I believe, Cairo… what was the expat life like? Any reminisces that you would like to share?

It was serendipity that took my wife and me to Cairo. Debbie taught in Corfu and it was there that she taught with a couple, Richard and Denise who moved to teach in a small school in Cairo that was growing rapidly. I was a Deputy Headteacher at the time and Richard asked if I’d go over and look at the school and advise how it might be improved; that was Easter, 1984. By 1985 I’d taken two years leave of absence and was heading out to live in the small village community of Harranaya. My home looked across the field to the Giza pyramids, a view that I never seemed to tire of. We had a thousand students and my role was Senior Teacher. Staff meetings were strange at first as I had a translator for the Arabic staff. The children were bussed into school from all areas of Cairo.

Whilst there, we experienced a curfew as conscripted soldiers rioted, setting fire to hotels and started a killing spree. We were, however, quite isolated and the first we knew of the troubles was when the buses didn’t turn up to school. We had a week of difficulty.

We had many happy times too, I learned to ride horses, fly a glider at Imbaba airfield and learn how to make Egyptian stained glass windows. We had many friends come to stay and share the wonderful times. We’d eat regularly at the Mena House, the hotel next to the pyramids and on one occasion there was a huge throng waiting for the restaurant. I stood at the back and caught the eye of the maitre d’hotel. She waved and shouted that our table was ready. The crowd parted like the Red Sea. Being regular diners made all the difference!
From Cairo we moved to Northern Cyprus. That’s another story.

Do you think your books would have similar content if you had not gone abroad, at least for a while? Has your stint in foreign lands coloured your writing?

It certainly coloured the writing of ‘Engulfed’, my first self-published novel as it was partly set in the North of Cyprus. I think when you live in a place you derive a real feel for the character of the landscape and the people and with that a firm understanding of the way of life. This familiarity allows a writer to convey a greater depth to the context of the novel. I think you get a feel for a place you see behind the façade that is experienced by tourists and visitors. Maybe one day I might write a short story of that week in Cairo when we could see the buildings burning, the tanks and we could hear the gunfire.

Have you ever thought that you had some sort of ´guiding hand´ into writing? Do you believe in something bigger than yourself?

I think it was meant to be. Please let me explain. I’d written ‘Engulfed’ and sent it to a number of publishers but I always received a polite no thanks. A while later the computer suddenly stopped working with the only copy of the manuscript stored on the hard drive. The technician couldn’t fix it and suggested he get rid of the laptop. I brought it home and stored in in the garage. A year later I was tidying the garage when I spotted the machine. I was going to add it to the skip with other junk but for some reason I plugged it in. To my absolute amazement it came to life. I dashed into the house, collected a disk and downloaded the manuscript before checking to see if it was there on my new computer. It was! I returned to the garage to find the laptop had expired again, never to be reawakened. From that I decided to write again, starting with the first of the Cyril Bennett stories. Had that computer failed to come to life I might never have written anything else. Maybe being an author was meant to be. 

book covers Malcom Hollingdrake
Did you have the dream of being a writer when you were a child? What were your aspirations?

No, not really. I believe that I’ve always had a vivid imagination but then I loved to draw and paint and in some ways that gave me the channel to express myself. I’ve never been a reader, as a child I was always on the go, outside playing. I found reading challenging. My parents insisted I went for elocution lessons, something I did for many years and I returned to it after college to achieve an A.L.C.M in Speech and Drama. (My mother wanted rid of my Yorkshire accent but I think the teacher had a broader accent after the many years I was with her!)
I wanted to be a good teacher. It is only in retirement and seeing my books grow in popularity has the drive to be a popular author grown as a real ambition. I work hard at my writing and absolutely love the process.

After writing several novels you turned your hand to writing short stories, are they published yet?
I love writing short stories. The word restriction is a real challenge. I won a Lancashire short story competition a couple of years ago. I read about the challenge in a magazine and after twenty minutes it was written whilst sitting on the settee. I handed it to, Debbie, my wife to read. “Have you just dashed this off?” she asked. I’m proud to say it won. 
I self-published a copy of short stories called ‘Shadows from the Past’ available on Amazon. My favourite and one that has proved very popular is, ‘The Penultimate Man’. 
Flash fiction is also great fun, writing a story in one hundred words. A challenge I often set myself when travelling.

What topics do your short stories tend to be about, and what topics are exercising you at the moment? Will we see any of them in print?

Short story competitions, a chance meeting, a magazine or newspaper article, a place or a conversation can inspire my stories. They are short, writing exercises that may develop into something more substantial. Like an artist who will always sketch and doodle, I scribble sentences and paragraphs that I refer to and develop. I find it fun but then I don’t get out a lot!

What is the glamourous life of a writer really like? We love to think of them as swanning around in a silk house coat with a martini in the middle of the afternoon occasionally swooping over a computer. Or is it more endless cups of coffee whilst hunched over the computer only getting up to let the cat out?

I think because I don’t rely on writing to live it is a great pleasure. I’m a seat of the pants writer never knowing where the story is going until I arrive. On occasion, I can be two-thirds into the novel and I have no idea of how and when it will end. Probably not the best way to write but it has worked for me to date. I can tell you that writing makes the hours flash by, one minute it’s nine in the morning and when you look up it’s past lunchtime. I cannot express how much I love the process of creating the characters, I make them grow or fade, laugh and cry. I’m a puppeteer working with words instead of strings, a puppeteer who gets into the minds and the imaginations of readers so as to manipulate their emotions. If I do it right, I can make the readers smile, make them laugh, and on occasion, make them cry. What I love best of all is to keep them on the edge of their seat and turning the pages. I want them to long for the next book in the series.

Thank you very much for joining us today Malcolm, it was a pleasure having the opportunity to interview you! 

Thank you so much. The pleasure has been mine. 
shadows from the past book cover
book cover engulfed
Malcolm Hollingdrake’s self published books, ‘Engulfed’ and ‘Shadows from the Past’ are available on Amazon. He has also published 5 crime novels ´Only the Dead´, ´Hell’s Gate´, ´Flesh Evidence´, `Game Point` and ´Dying Art´ featuring DCI Cyril Bennett. They are set in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. He has just finished book six, but a publication has not yet been set. 

For more information on Malcolm and his books please visit Bloodhound Books publishing:

His books are also available on Amazon.
‘Only the Dead’ and ‘Hell’s Gate’ will be available as audiobooks shortly.

Sylvia chatted with Malcolm, October 2017

Have you ever considered selling on Ebay?

Hello Susanna, thank you for talking to „Old and Bold“ today!

You are an experienced Ebay seller, and I know that there are a lot of people out there who have bought on Ebay, or at least have considered it, so we thought it would be really useful to ask you to share some of your experiences and wisdoms of Ebay selling! 

 What gave you the idea to sell on Ebay?

I have been selling on Ebay as a casual seller for about 14 years. I started selling my childrens' unwanted toys and clothes to make extra money for Christmas and summer holidays. I then progressed to selling household items which helped earn extra money but also helped me de clutter the house ! In 2016 I was running an online wedding accessory business which involved working long hours with little profit. With the sudden increase in cheap wedding accessories imported from overseas I realised I was fighting a losing battle and my profits plummeted. As it was approaching Christmas I needed extra cash for my ever growing family ( I now had a grandson ) and so I listed a few items from a recent wardrobe clear out. It hit me quite suddenly that I was making more money selling on Ebay than my wedding business and with less effort. And so I set up my Ebay business within a few weeks at the same time as I closed my wedding business. 

How did you learn about what to do? Did someone show you?

I obviously had quite a few years of experience of Ebay selling as a casual seller so I knew the basic principle. However selling as a business requires a lot more research and knowledge and so I had a lot of learning to do. I watched countless You Tube videos of experienced sellers ( something I still do now on a regular basis) I also joined support groups set up by and for Ebay business sellers. I am a member of a Facebook group called UK Reselling Group which is full of lovely, supportive people who are willing to help new starters and the more experienced sellers. I have gained valuable advice from this group and I never stop learning new things. 

cardboard boxes
picture of Susanna
What kinds of things do you sell on Ebay?

I sell mostly clothes, new and pre-loved, but I have recently branched out into other items such as toys, vintage collectibles, shoes, household items and beauty products. I keep an open mind what to sell and I look for trends in the open marketplace. I also sell according to season. So at the moment I am focusing on Christmas and am sourcing lots of toys and gifts. I tried to sell books on Ebay but I found it to be very slow so I have now set up a separate shop on Amazon for just second hand books and I find that it works better.

Do you think it is better to just sell of some personal stuff on Ebay, or is it worth actually starting a business selling specific products? 

I would say to any new seller on Ebay to start by selling items from your home. Clear out your wardrobe, the children's toy box, your kitchen cupboard, the garage and anywhere you may be storing unwanted and unused items. It is said that the average person has approximately £2000 worth of unwanted goods in their home. Once you start selling your personal items you will get a feel for Ebay and how much you enjoy selling and what items you prefer to sell. After that I would always start selling with items that you have an interest in as you will enjoy your work more.

What kinds of products are good Ebay sellers in your opinion, and why?

It is helpful to look at trends to find out what sells well on Ebay. Sometimes a new film / TV programme will come out and will receive lots of press attention. So if you can source products related to that theme, it can prove to be good for sales. I do a lot of research into themes and possible good sellers so it is really important to do your homework. I also believe that quirky items sell well. If you can try sell something that little bit different then your item will stand out. I once bought a couple of weird looking shot glasses from a charity shop for 50p. I had no idea of their value but I thought they were quirky enough to try and sell. Plus for 50p it was worth the effort. Well after researching the glasses I found they did have value and I sold them for £25. A great return on 50p !

ebay logo
storage boxes
What items would you stay away from as an Ebay seller? 

I stay away from items that I have little knowledge and no interest in. I avoid anything to do with gaming as I am just not into gaming personally and there are so many experts out there already, I would feel like a fish out of water. Sometimes over time and with confidence it is possible to extend your net and sell unfamiliar items but I would suggest doing that only after lots of research. 

It seems a bit of a faff, if you have for example, 5 teacups and saucers, or a vase, that you would like to sell… organising the packing and figuring out shipping rates – and who to ship with… Do you have any advice on the “logistics” end of the business? How do you organise yourself?

Yes it can be daunting dealing with the logistics of and Ebay business, but the key is to be organised. For instance, after listing all my clothes I package them in clear cello bags and pop them in their relevant storage box which is then labelled with the contents whether it be a skirt or a dress etc. When the order comes in it is therefore easy to find the item, pop in a postage bag and send it. I have a dedicated Ebay room with storage shelves and boxes so everything is ready to be packaged as soon as I receive the order and payment. Getting the shipping rates sorted is easy once you have done it a few times. I have a large white board in my work room for important details listed that I need regularly and of course lots of Post It Notes ! 

Any other advice that you would like to share with us?

I took up Ebay business selling in my 50’s when most people are winding down. For me it has given me a new lease of life, a regular income and the best thing about it is that I can work from home. It is a great way for any stay at home mums or early retirees to make extra cash without having to go out to work. It might appear like a lot of effort to start with, but trust me it gets easier the more you work at it. It is hard work but can be very rewarding and great fun too! 

fragile sticker
Do you have any particular customer stories you would like to share? Names deleted to protect the guilty, of course! 

Well, I once sold a dress to a lady and had packaged it up ready to be posted. I had sold it on the Sunday night and I received a curt message from the customer on the Monday saying that the dress was terrible, it had a broken zip, it was dirty and the dress was the worst thing she had ever seen and I was the worst Ebay seller ever, etc. After getting over the shock of the rather nasty message, I had to chuckle to myself as the dress she had bought from me was still sitting on my desk ready to be posted on my regular posting day Tuesday. I replied to her message using the kindest, sweetest words ever explaining that she couldn’t hate my dress that much as she hadn’t even received it! I never heard from her again. 

Finally, this is the million dollar question, is there any money to made on Ebay? Is it worth all the effort? 

Yes there is money to be made on Ebay. It takes a lot of hard work, effort, research and many hours to get to a point where you can make a good living. It takes time as well, and as a fairly new business seller I still have lots to do before I am earning where I want to be. There are many Ebay sellers I know that have resigned from their well paid full time jobs to concentrate on Ebay full time. So it is possible. And to anyone thinking about it, my advice is just to ‘do it’. Don’t sit around thinking about it. Grab some unwanted items from your home and get selling. In a few months you could have earned enough for that fabulous foreign holiday you always dreamed of ! 

Many thanks for talking to us, Susanna and we hope that your useful advice has given our readers food for thought! 
When Susanna isn't selling on Ebay, she is a blogger. Check out A Yorkshire Girl on:

(Sylvia chatted with Susanna, September 2017)

The literary pilgrim and how she got hit by a car

Did you read ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott when you were young? If you did, you might remember how resilient these girls were, how they persevered in the face of misfortune. ‘Bounce-back-ability’ is not an elegant word, but it’s a word I use a lot. We all need it. True success in life is getting up when knocked down, and doing that over and over again, trying to learn a little more with each challenging experience life throws our way. 

Another author I enjoyed was Nathaniel Hawthorne. I remember reading the ‘House with the Seven Gables’ – set in New England. I grew up in Austria, so it was of great interest to me to see how Americans lived. Never mind that the books I was reading were written in the 19th Century! A bit like an American reading ‘Heidi’ I suppose. 

When I became an adult, I encountered the writings of Henry David Thoreau of Walden Pond fame. A most quotable author, you may have encountered, ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’, ‘This world is but a canvas to our imagination’ or, a favourite of mine, ‘Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in’. Still, I didn’t know much about the personal lives of these writers. 

Imagine my excitement when I found out they knew each other, lived in the same town and in fact were buried in the same place, the beautiful ‘Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’ in Concord. And all that very near Walden Pond. 

The philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson also lived in Concord and, together with the others, formed an intellectual group called the Transcendentalists. Many in Concord, including Thoreau were involved in the Underground Railroad which helped runaway slaves escape to free states and Canada. 

Walden Pond
portrait of henry david thoreau
                          Walden Pond                                                                                                            Henry David Thoreau
Our trip to Massachusetts was more inspirational than your average holiday. I got to visit the houses these authors lived in, and walk the streets they walked. I loved seeing their simple graves nestled between the trees in a very natural way. Now when they walked the streets of sleepy Concord, there were no cars and no pedestrian crossings, and certainly not a lot of tourists. Which is why Thoreau was never hit by a car as I was (although he was imprisoned for Civil Disobedience for not paying his taxes to make a political point about slavery). 

I never saw the car coming. One moment I was crossing Concord Main Street on the pedestrian crossing, the next I was tossed through the air, landing on my bum – my way of testing my bounce-back-ability. Apart from some bumps and bruises I wasn’t hurt, but it was a startling, disorientating experience. And it happened not half an hour after my evocative visit to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. 

grave of henry david thoreau
cabin of henry david thoreau
battle of concord book illustration
We stayed in a small Bed & Breakfast on Walden Pond. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited by a walk around a simple small lake, nothing spectacular in comparison to the numerous more scenic lakes I’ve visited. My husband of course who had never read any of these authors was less than impressed, but he played along nicely. 

He was rewarded the next day with a visit to the site of the first battle of the American Revolutionary Wars (War of Independence to some). Americans seemingly have a long pedigree of Civil Disobedience, and at the very least, an aversion to paying taxes. 
historic depiction of battle of concord
memorial to british soldiers
Toria Forsyth-Moser, September 2017

What does Christopher Columbus have in common with Jennifer Aniston and Lady Gaga? 
Do you keep a journal or diary? 

Yesterday I visited a friend who mentioned in passing that he’d been speaking to someone about Barnsley (a town in South Yorkshire). To refresh his memory, he dug out his diary from 1956 (!) and read up about the time he’d stayed in Barnsley. Now I could digress here and say how amazed I was that he even knew which diary to consult. I can hardly remember where I was last week. But this blog is about journalling. 

I used to write diaries when I was a teenager but then I grew up and destroyed them all, embarrassed at my youthful emotional outpourings. Some days I regret this book burning, other days I don’t. I can’t imagine that there were many descriptions of places I’d visited or mentions of birds visiting the feeder in the garden. As with most teenagers my gaze was firmly fixed on my navel, not an interesting place at the best of times. 

a diary
So why keep a diary? Well, those aspiring to be writers find it helps with writing practice, and others may use it to gather their thoughts or leave a record for posterity. Some people enjoy recording the weather, family happenings or events in the world around them. I started keeping a spiritual diary when I found it difficult to focus my mind on prayer and meditation. It helped me to spot patterns and flow, it calmed me and at the same time centered and energized me. As a Jungian of sorts, I also record interesting dreams and nightmares. 

Some people write down favourite quotes, poems they like, funny conversations, random observations. Assuming you don’t live with nosey intrusive people, then your diary is a private place, a safe place where you can explore ideas and thoughts. Or just have a rant about someone who has annoyed you – so therapeutic! 

Speaking of therapeutic, psychologists have shown that keeping a journal boosts immune function and helps deal with depression. It is said men in particular benefit from this practice as they tend to keep their feelings bottled up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to help Hemingway, a famous journal keeper. Nevertheless, keeping a diary has proven health benefits, for both body and mind. Both men and women from all walks are known to keep diaries - from Lady Gaga and Jennifer Aniston to Albert Camus, Christopher Columbus, Ronald Reagan and Dorothy Wordsworth, the list is long. 
a woman
a woman with long hair
You can use a beautifully crafted leather-bound book, or old notepads, it’s up to you. Apart from my shopping list and greeting cards, it’s the only time I still put pen or pencil to paper. And it shows, my handwriting is dreadful. But then, as no one sees my outpourings, it doesn’t matter. 

(Toria, September 2017)

If you don't keep a journal already, but are willing to have a go, the article below might inspire you further:

A Scottish Murder - my letter to Santa this year

At the recent Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, I bumped into Tana Collins, the charming author of the Inspector Carruthers series. We quickly established common ground when we found out that we’d both studied at a Canadian University and completed a post-graduate degree at St Andrews University in Scotland. In fact, her books are set in the scenic East Neuk of Fife where you will find St Andrews, a paradise for golfers and some gorgeous fishing towns. I’d like to welcome Tana today and ask her some questions about what it’s like to be a crime writer.
fishing harbour
book cover
tana collins
Tana, what inspired you to write a crime book and are you an avid reader of crime?

Can I just start by saying what a pleasure it was to meet you at Harrogate and thank you so much for the interview! I really enjoyed answering your questions.
Do you know I didn’t start to read crime fiction until my late thirties when I picked up In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson. All Peter’s books are set in Yorkshire which is where I was born and I just loved his sense of place. I  quickly read them all, moved on to the likes of Robert Goddard for his fiendish plots then started to read the Scottish crime writers before turning to writing my own.
I started writing novels in my forties and got my publishing deal at the age of fifty. I’m a firm believer that life begins at fifty. Or at least it did for me. And I’m delighted to be able to tell you that both my books, Robbing the Dead and Care to Die have become Amazon Top 10 Kindle Bestsellers in Scottish Crime Fiction with some fantastic Amazon reviews!

Tana Collins photo
work station
Has your inspector got a team or a side-kick? What’s he like to work with?

Yes, he works very closely with the younger DS Andrea Fletcher and they get on well together although he finds her a bit too nosey when it comes to  his personal life which annoys him hugely. He likes to keep his cards close to his chest which she finds frustrating. Even though there’s only 10 years between them he has a bit of a fatherly attitude towards her and she sees him as the big brother she never had. Although he has a strong sense of injustice Carruthers can be spiky to work with. Fletcher is very fond of him but he doesn’t always tell her what he’s doing on a professional front which irritates both her and his superior, Superintendent Bingham. In the three books I’ve written in the series I certainly put my poor Inspector through the mill. In the first he comes face to face with with the police officer he thinks has had an affair with his wife. It doesn’t end well for either of them!

Where do your ideas come from? Have you ever experienced crime trauma in your life?

When I first moved to Edinburgh I went out with someone in Lothian and Borders Police. That was an interesting experience. Whilst he didn’t discuss cases he did discuss the frustration of being given a hard time by older cops for being a fast tracked graduate. I definitely use this experience in my novels as both Carruthers and Fletcher are graduates. They are often locking horns with the older style cop, DS Dougie Harris. Harris comes across as a pretty unpleasant person but in later novels we see a softer side to him.
Yes, I’m afraid I do have experience of being the victim of a crime. Or at least my mother does. Sadly, ten years ago my family were the victims of a serious antique theft. My poor Mum came face-to-face with several masked men in the middle of the night. Thankfully she was unharmed but the gang got away with her much loved grandfather clock which, it turns out, they were stealing to order. That crime forms the back story of my third novel, Mark of the Devil. I have warned my Mum she might not want to read it as it may be just too close to the bone!

royal and ancient club house in st andrews
Tana Collins and cat
How much research do you do and does it involve forensic science?

I do an awful lot of research for each novel and I have been in contact with forensic scientists so yes, it does involve at least some forensic science. I’ve also done a course in criminal psychology which was fascinating. For the first novel, Robbing the Dead, I had to research Welsh and Scottish terrorism which was an eye opener. The first novel is more a political crime thriller whilst the second, Care to Die, is much more a straight forward police procedural although the subject matter is particularly hard hitting. Our Inspector Carruthers travels to Iceland following a lead in the second book and Estonia in the third!  I thought it might be fun to give him some European destinations. For the research I’ve been out to both Reykjavik and Tallinn as I want the books to be as authentic as possible.
Can you tell us about your future writing plans?
I’m currently putting the finishing touches to the storyline of the third novel in the series, Mark of the Devil, which will be published some time in 2018. Dare I say it, I’m toying with the idea of writing a fourth in the series but I think Inspector Carruthers will be staying in Scotland for that one.

Thank you for talking to us, Tana, ‘Robbing the Dead’ (the first Inspector Carruthers book)  is now at the top of my Christmas list.

Aww. Thank you for giving me an interview. I do hope you enjoy the book.

book cover
fishing village

Ageing with Attitude the world over - meet our new friends in India
The Silver Surfers Club in Bangalore

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Dipti who runs the Silver Surfers Club in Bangalore, India.
Silver Surfers of Bangalore, that sounds like a happening club - tell us a bit about yourselves.

The Silver Surfers Club is a rather happening place if you're over 55-60 and you can be sure to have a full calendar of events, holidays, dances, activities and bazaars all year round once you're a member! We're basically a fun bunch of seniors with a positive attitude towards life after 60 and who believe in the term #YoLo - You Only Live Once. Therefore we use this time to chase our dreams and go out and achieve everything we wish to.

Professionally speaking, we're a subscription based organization that has identified key problem areas related to ageing - and have identified the means to fulfill those gaps with opportunity and experiences, thus assisting our members to live fuller lives.

Yes, we're Bangalore based, but we hope to spread our wings across India soon and one day touch Silver lives in other countries too!
photo of young woman and her dog
Dipti and her rescue Retriever Yoda
What are some of the challenges facing older people in India?

I think the challenges that older people face are more or less universal. The biggest one being loneliness.

The ageing population is one of the fastest growing demographics around the world, and medical advancements have led to people living longer lives. What this means is that while the retirement age in India continues to be 60, people on average are living up to the age of 80, that's 20 additional years to think about. While that's a great thing, this also means that this age group has to factor in financial and emotional security for 20 additional years and this, at a time in their lives when they aren't eligible to work.

Along with that, India has moved away from the old 'joint family system of living'. With the rise of nuclear families / children moving away to pursue their careers in other countries we've seen that a lot of elders tend to experience the 'empty nest syndrome' resulting in loneliness with little or no opportunity to be social and active. This in itself can lead to a whole lot of physical and mental issues if ignored.

To add to this there is the problem of Age Discrimination, where people are discriminated with regards to work and other opportunities, purely based on their age.

So to sum it up, there is a massive need for opportunities to stay active, continue earning a residual income to stay self sustained as well as the need to educate communities and societies to bridge the widening gap between the young and the young at heart. At The Silver Surfers Club, we aspire to do all of this and more!

                                                                                                                    Sara with her dogs Chloe and Coco
Do many older people in India start new businesses, projects, hobbies or sports?

I believe the answer is yes, with a little encouragement from their families and a little help
from us! :)  Sports, especially Tennis and Golf seem to be popular with this age group.

What we understand after working very closely with this demographic is that somewhere along the way - pursuing big careers, managing a home and bringing up children, our Silvers have let life pass them by and in the process have let go of their passions and interests. At The Silver Surfers Club, we try to take them back to that happy place where we rekindle those lost interest and help them find themselves all over again.

We're proud to say that today we have artists, singers, entrepreneurs and so many more talents within our group!

Is it common for older people to do volunteer work in India?

Yes absolutely. They absolutely love giving back to the community. In fact, it's purely because of their interest in community service that The Silver Surfers Club has a vertical dedicated to giving back. We've run Seniors for Seniors campaigns while visiting old age homes and day care facilities for the economically challenged. We've planted trees and even spent time with children battling cancer.

I personally believe nothing gives them more joy than making a difference to someone else's life.

Do many people enjoy the company of pets?

Some of them do! I personally believe that pets play a very very important role in filling up emptiness with lots of love, affection and companionship - not to mention they also get you to be active.

On a documentary series on British Television called 'The New Marigold Hotel' they showed a group of older celebrities visiting India to find out about retiring there. Several people have since told me that they liked the idea of single's complexes for elderly people. Are they common in India? What we saw was a complex of small apartments for individuals with some common rooms if people wanted company, to be with others.

Complexes for seniors known as retirement homes are on the rise in India. Be it senior gated communities or apartments that belong to a mixed profile of people. Some are low cost and affordable while others come with a golf course and a whole lot of amenities and conveniences. And while it wasn't something that people used to look forward to, today things are definitely changing and I see more and more seniors open to the idea of moving into these communities.

Silver Surfers in Bangalore keep busy - for example, painting or planting a garden in a bottle
Thank you for letting us have a glimpse into the world of the Silver Surfers in Bangalore, Dipti.
I have really enjoyed finding out about what the senior years are like for some Indians.

You're welcome Toria. I think you've asked all the key questions and covered a whole lot of interesting topics. Will be happy to answer any other questions you may have. I'd love to understand how different it is in England versus in India. If your readers would like to find out more about us or keep in touch, we are on facebook and here is our website.

Toria, August 2017

photo of hands doing puzzle
Fresh Puzzle Hell

My mom has recently completed a 1000 piece puzzle.

Now you might not be as impressed as I was, but boy, if you saw that thing (actually you can – photo above) you might be! There is no way on god’s earth that I could have finished that. The bird that managed to fly in her window and poop right in the middle of it (just as she finished it) was maybe trying to show condemnation or approbation, we will never know...

But I thought, ok, baby steps, right? I have just found this website called JS Puzzles that has puzzles you can do online. Your first thought probably is “what fresh online hell is this?”. I don´t blame you, that´s what I thought too. Surely it could not give the same satisfaction as touching real puzzle pieces?  But I was curious enough to give it a go, and you know what? If you are dexterous enough to manipulate the click and drag function on your computer, it’s pretty easy! And you don´t need a table to do it, nor do you lose any pieces. The other great thing is that is absolutely free and you have a big selection of pictures to choose from.

I thought I would start easy with a clearly defined little yellow car and when I clicked onto that picture it gave me the option of how difficult I wanted to make it – from 25 pieces to 1000. Now I´m not a puzzler, never had the patience, so I chose the 25 piece version and gave it a go. It took me 5 minutes and 21 seconds (there´s a timer on the page too) not sure if that is there to motivate or defeat you (take your pick – no pun intended) but it also tells you what the record time for that puzzle is, and someone had done it in 21 seconds! Whaaat!? No way… that made my time look like it was done by a drunk monkey! But it was kind of fun…

If you want to give it a go… and your eyes are not too tired from a day on screen, here´s the link:

if you have a photo of a puzzle you completed, share it with us, we'll put it up on the club page.

(Sylvia, July 2017)


Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves? (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Does leaving our comfort zone keep us young? 

I have never met a retired person who wasn’t busy. Is boredom a thing of the past? Loneliness is a different matter, a topic for a different blog. Today I want to talk about activity and purpose. Have a look at Ernie Zelinski’s ‘Get-a-Life Tree’ (from his excellent book, ‘How to retire happy, wild and free’):
In the centre he puts Options, and radiating out from that, activities divided into four categories, which are filled with examples of what some people do. You might not want to take up Zen or amateur dramatics, but I find his structure interesting; in particular, ‘Activities that turned me on in the past.’ 
Why would that matter? Well, if you liked making model airplanes as a child, then perhaps you have an inner desire to make things, to work with your hands. We do change over time and our tastes change as well, but I believe there is an inner core that remains constant, and that includes our gifts and predispositions.  

Depending on your personality, you may prefer solitary activities or very social ones. Zelinsky’s book has several chapters on the different types of activities such as life-long-learning, volunteering, keeping fit, travelling etc. I wonder though, is picking and choosing, like a kid in a candy shop, the right way forward? 

An alternative plan would be to have four categories: body, mind, spirit and social (family, friends and community) and to consider each aspect when planning our daily routine going forward. We might have to push ourselves to take up activities in one or two categories, these perhaps being outside of our comfort zone. Some people don’t like quiet, meditative periods, while others hate exercise and sports. Some people wouldn’t dream of doing volunteer work while others would be reluctant to study a new language. What do you think? Do we need to push ourselves? Should we experiment with being outside of our comfort zone? Is that part of the experience of living and what rewards await us if we do?

(Toria July 2017)

photo of man in lederhosen on top of mountain

Adopt an Oldie! 

Wowsers! When I read that headline I thought GREAT – maybe Angelina Jolie has a spare room for me… or maybe Hugh Jackman, wouldn’t turn down being adopted by him either… Hmmm, always wanted to go to New Zealand, maybe someone from down there would offer a slightly soiled but in full working condition oldie like myself a good home with some warm chow.

It was only when I got to the word ´dog´ that it slowly started to dawn on me that I did not qualify – I have pretty good self-esteem you see. But the site I had found has an important message, many older animals are in desperate need of good loving homes as the website  shows.

You might think ´I´m too old´ but hey, so are are they! And walkies and bit of love won’t hurt you either. My oldie Jack (13 years and going strong!) has a long list of daily duties for his humans, so I asked him to contribute to this article.

Jack´s list of duties:
•    I heard my people say that laughter is the best medicine, so one of my key duties is to make sure that they laugh out loud at least once a day.
•    To lower their blood pressure and relax them I give all three of them plenty of opportunity of  lap time
•    It has taken my pack a long time to understand the importance of quality together time, just relaxing all bundled on a sofa after a good big meal and a rewarding burp.
•    So as you see, I have my work cut out for me but it’s not all tough, I get pretty good chow with treats every once in a while, and I can tell my pack really values my hard work and long hours. And when I see their happy faces I know I´m doing a good job and that´s a reward in itself.

Would you love to have a dog again but don´t feel up to the full responsibility anymore?

Shared care might be the ideal solution. Are you fit and able but can´t house a dog? You can contact your local vet or animal shelter and volunteer your services to help working people care for their animals. Or would you love to have a pet live with you, but are unable to take it on longer walks? Enquire in your neighbourhood, is there someone who would love to have a dog, but for whatever reason can´t give one a home? You might find that one person can´t be all things to all dogs – but two people might be a match made in heaven for a dog looking for a home.

Some ideas if you love dogs but are not sure you up to having your own anymore:
Shared care for dogs: like a dating website, where owners can post for someone to help care for their dogs.


USA and Canada: and

Sylvia, July 2017


Why go back to primary school? At 90?

Just when you think you have paid all your dues in your life someone comes along and shows that jumping over your shadow can be so important to inspiring other people. Gloria Sitienei has gone back to primary school age 90.

“I want to inspire children”. Priscilla Sitienei,  a Kenyan woman who goes to class with six of her great-great-grandchildren is believed to be the oldest primary school pupil in the world. "I want to say to the children of the world, especially girls, that education will be your wealth, don't look back and run to your father," she says. "With education you can be whatever you want, a doctor, lawyer or a pilot." Priscilla says she also wanted to learn how to read and write so she could help pass on her midwifery skills and write down her knowledge of herbal medicines.

She could have gone in pretending to be a teacher´s helper, or she could have maybe gone in quietly in the back of the class every once in a while posing as an adult interesting in education at large – but did she do any of these ego saving actions? No, she is hard core – she went in as a pupil in school uniform, putting herself at the level of the children in every way. Wow. That selfless ego killing action takes your breath away. But how else could she show children that what they were doing was important? She validated the importance of school and being a pupil through the action of joining them rather than paying lip service. Genius.

Now most of us consider people like Gloria Steinem to be leading lights of the women´s equality movement, but folks – listen up I think we can add Priscilla Sitienei to this list. What she is doing might not be combative and high profile compared to western women’s equality actions, but it is profound, meaningful and most importantly gender inclusive. She is a role model for the positive effects of education on your life, widening horizons, creating opportunities – for all children, and demonstrating that our work as ambassadors for good is never done. Not ever.

Sylvia June 2017
Give yourself a good talking-to!

Do you talk to yourself? I suggest you do it in a supermarket. Seriously.

Ok, you might not want to try this because it reminds you of ornery old Aunt Gertrude muttering diatribes as she cleaned. But actually, as the experts in this BBC article have pointed out, talking to yourself can be good for you as it can help with memory recall, confidence and focus.

Saying the name of an item out loud can also be a great retrieval clue for your brain. Try this experiment next time you are struggling to find something on a supermarket shelf, say the name of the item out loud; evidence suggests that it will actually help you to find it faster (as well as clearing away nearby shoppers to make it easier to navigate your trolley…). If you are the self-conscious sort (which at our age I seriously doubt) you can stick a mobile phone gadget in your ear and you go from being seen to be slightly batty to being totally cool.

Speaking to yourself out loud also helps to manage your feelings better, so the next time you are angry or sad, talk about it – to yourself. Tell yourself why you are sad or angry and put those feelings into context. And you may find that you are confidential, patient listener and a very cost-effective therapist.

You might need to give yourself a good talking to every once in a while, but remember to be nice to yourself too! Let me try this - cold beer... cold beer... cold beer...

Further info:

Research papers:

Ethan Kross: University of Michigan

Gary Lupyan: associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin

Anne Wilson Schaef:

Sylvia, June 2017

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