Really Useful Advice: How to Think Yourself Younger

I’ve not been very well. I had a malingering chest infection and have just not been well enough to do anything, let alone travel long haul. “It’s your age” – how many times was I told that!

I usually have a great deal of energy. Moreover I am one of those lucky people who don’t need much sleep. So I have found this time imprisoned in my home very difficult to deal with.

My friends have been marvellous, offering to shop etc and I have been very grateful for their medical expertise. I’m not very good at looking after myself… no practice you see – well I’m never  ill. 

Now that I’m feeling better,  I shall go back to ignoring their wise advice and live at 110% energy!  I have much to do! And I don’t want to miss out on anything in this wonderful world we live in. 

For as long as I can draw breath I shall continue to talk to everyone, travel as much as I can, learn as many new things as possible and be particularly nice to old people because I will be one… one day!

A fabulous, glamorous and highly intelligent friend of A&G is writing a book about ageing. One of the most important results that has emerged from all her research is that we must keep learning new skills.  Throw away the Times crossword – you’ve probably got the hang of it by now! – and learn to paddle board instead! I say paddle board and not ice skate as you have to have a modicum of sense – bones don’t knit together too well after seventy! The vital thing is try something new… and keep trying!

My effervescent grandmother, who was blind for half her life, was the most extraordinary, interesting and interested woman. Despite her disability, she never stopped learning, she listened to the radio, was incredibly well informed and she started a telephone friendship line in the 1950s, talking to blind people. 

She  had a pin put in her hip at the age of 75 and was able to carry on walking at an alarming pace until the day she died 15 years later. She occasionally wrapped herself round a lamppost (well her dog did) ending up with a black eye… but nothing dimmed her fervour for walking, learning or adventure – and  her memory was spot on. She was constantly interested. It seems  she was a woman way ahead of  her time. We all thought she was batty, but she ate  mountains of vegetables and fruit, made her own yogurt and believed in deep breathing and meditation. Having always worn a corset she had a straight back and wasn’t overweight.

She was my magical granny. I have nothing but happy memories of her. I
used to sit on her knee while she told me wonderful stories of her childhood growing up in Yokohama. She was a leading light in the Amateur Dramatic Theatre in Shanghai (nice girls were not allowed to be professional actresses in those days). Then there was the story of how she met my grandfather on board ship. He proposed to her between Singapore and Colombo, having known her for less than a week. 

As a five year old she kept me spellbound with her colourful descriptions of life ‘up country’ on the northern frontier in India, with grandfather who was a mining engineer. She described how they travelled by sampan, litter, bullock cart, horseback, and by foot. They set up camp and slept under the stars. Their cow – yes they travelled with one – had to be milked in front of her so the milk didn’t get diluted. And all this went on in sometimes stifling heat, wearing corsets, lace up boots, petticoats and big hats!  I think it was her vivid descriptions and funny stories that gave me my lifelong quest to travel. 

“Seven years of unadulterated bliss” my grandfather whispered as he lay dying. He was killed by a sniper in the early part of the Great War. Seven years of action packed married life in India  – that’s all she had. So sad and yet she was always optimistic. 

She  lived as a widow for the rest of her life, bringing up and making a life for her two young sons.  Right up until her dying day she was well informed. She was totally blind but kept in touch with the world. But what I remember best of all about her was her constant interest and quest to learn about new things.  She would have loved Google.

So , as I set off again to Australia – this time to see my grandchildren – I shall try and emulate her and hope that I will be as much fun for my grandchildren as she was for me.  As grandmothers we are incredibly privileged. We hold a unique place in the family. We need to tread carefully – as my grandmother said “God gave us two ears and one mouth” –  I must try to remember that! 

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