30 November 2020

70th Birthday

Yesterday (29 November) was a milestone birthday in my life - one with an 0 on the end. I don't know why they become such important birthdays, as in theory, you are only one year older than the year before, but we feel the compulsion to celebrate them more than the others. However, apart from feeling joyous, it can make you depressed as you are then pushed from the last decade into the next decade of numbers. In my case, I turned 70, which meant I was starting to descend into what most people consider old age. From now on, I would be seventy-something. You see the headlines "Granny of 71 mugged on way to collect her pension. "Granny of 73  abused in care home". You know the kind of thing. I felt I was on a slippery slope. One Foot in the Grave as characterised by that lovely sitcom with Victor Meldrew. I was therefore approaching this birthday with a certain sense of trepidation. 

Back at the start of this year, when Covid was not even a word in the dictionary, Kay and I had been musing on what format my 70th would take. We had grand ideas of a party at a grand venue to invite everyone I had ever known, or as near damn it. But by March, with news of Covid and cancellation of big events, it had become clear that was ambitious if not foolhardy. Not only might the event be cancelled, but the venue might go bust, or getting many invitees in their 70s and even 80s together under one roof would be dangerous in the backdrop of the virus. As the months went by, the event morphed into maybe a small gathering of six people inside or outside and then, with the latest lockdown, not at all. Kay was adamant she would come no matter what, as she is in my "bubble" and did not want me to be on my own for this special day, but to be honest I wondered how realistic this would be as she works in Intensive Care and is facing Covid on a daily basis. I am shielding because of an autoimmune problem called sarcoidosis. The two are not necessarily compatible. I joked that maybe I would just stay 69 for another five years until Covid would allow me to celebrate in, say, 2025. Or start to move back towards the age of 21 like many an actress or film star did in the past. There had to be some advantages to Covid. 

Kay's boyfriend, a dentist, has a box of Covid testing kits, as he has to test twice a week for his job. The results are ready in 30 minutes (a bit like a pregnancy testing kit) and are about 75% reliable. So he and Kay tested themselves on Friday and with negative results turned up here in the evening after work. Kay and he busied themselves on Saturday with my access to the kitchen strictly banned. I could hear bashings and bangings, cooking smells wafted around the house, questions were asked "where do you keep the.....?"   I was intrigued.

My birthday dawned and I came downstairs at the agreed breakfast time to party poppers, balloons and Bucks Fizz. Kay had set up a zoom meeting in the morning with family. We went for a long walk to our local park at lunchtime. More zoom meetings to friends in the afternoon. Then mid-afternoon Kay laid on the most amazing spread - all hand-made.  In our earlier musings we had considered a cream tea of Ritz or Savoy proportions, so Kay emulated this and far excelled what I would have had in those prestigious hotels. The sandwiches and handmade white and dark chocolate tartlets were amazing but the birthday cake alone was a masterpiece and her grandad would have been so proud of her as he was a Chef Patissier at a famous hotel. If ever she should fail as a doctor, patisserie is her way forward.

Although I was somewhat dreading the day, it turned out to be wonderful, mainly because of the hard work and love my gorgeous daughter put into it. So now  I am 70 but hopefully not yet one foot in the grave.

22 November 2020

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

Today is the third anniversary of my mother's death. How that time has flown in many ways. I am so grateful she is no longer around to witness Covid-19, nor to be parted from me, as so many are now from loved ones in care homes. I was her only carer in her twilight years, so dread to think how we would have managed now.

When Mum died, I felt temporarily bereft. I had immersed myself in her care partly to distract myself from Greg's alcoholism and death, but also to occupy the hole left by Kay when she was at university.  Shortly after Mum died, Kay went on her world travels, so again I needed distraction and started to build up hobbies and pastimes. One such venture was to join a choir. I had never sung much before. I do recall being in my grammar school choir and the choir being wheeled out at prizegivings or assemblies to sing to the school, mainly classical stuff, but otherwise my singing was restricted in adulthood to the odd warble to music on the radio.  So joining a choir was slightly uncharacteristic of me and pushed my boundaries.  I found I liked it. I'd hum the tunes we learned all through the week - a strange earworm would niggle way as I went to sleep or was there again when I woke. I made some lovely new friends - a small group of us became so close that we'd even meet once a month to have lunch somewhere and will again when fear of catching Covid is a distant memory. 

The choir required no auditions, so you could be classical church choir standard or Mrs Mop the Cleaner humming as she cleaned the urinals, so we were all welcome. The more, the merrier.The songs we sang varied from pop, soul, rock, Abba, Beatles, songs from musicals, carols. Such a mix but it was a pleasant variety. There were at least eighty of us, sometimes more, with a ratio of 70 women:10 men, split into Sopranos, Altos, Tenors and Basses. We did at least one concert a term and the proceeds usually went to charity. You'll notice here I'm using the past tense.

At our Christmas social last year, the choir leader dropped a bombshell. She said she was finding it hard after ten years,  to juggle all the many balls she had in the air - her demanding job, her children and our choir - so she was considering closing the choir down. You could have heard a pin drop.  We were all crestfallen. The following week she agreed to give it another go, if we could help with various things like photocopying the lyrics,  putting out chairs before the start of a session, contacting concert venues etc. We all rushed eagerly to offer our help and she said she would limp along until Easter to see how that worked.

Then Coronavirus hit the world and our choir sessions came to an abrupt halt, well before the Easter deadline and we heard nothing more all through the summer. That and many other of my distractions were non-existent, so living alone through the various lockdowns and restrictions was hard. Then in September came the devastating news that she had finally decided to disband the choir for good. One dismissive email and no replies to ours. We felt well and truly abandoned. 

Not to be beaten, I looked around at other choirs in the area for my friends and me, although most are not operating at the moment as meetings in halls are not allowed at present, because of Covid restrictions,  but at least I thought I'd find something for the time when we could all meet again. Some are very highbrow and require sightreading - something I could do once upon a time, but am out of practice nowadays. Others were far too small to take on 80 of us. In the end, I concentrated on just me and discovered quite a big choir (almost like a franchise but comprising four different venues, the nearest to me being about eight miles away). They currently meet on Zoom, so I decided to give it a try. At present, this particular choir meets different voice parts on different days, so I joined the Monday Soprano group. The idea is that we practice separately in our own parts and then come together for a big zoom sing at the end of the month

It is very strange indeed, logging into the Zoom meeting online, seeing about 30 other sopranos but not hearing anyone else as their microphones are all muted. So I am singing effectively all by myself along with the choir leader as she plays the keyboard on the main screen. It takes a bit of getting used to, particularly when my computer freezes and I get a time lag, but I have to say it has cheered me up no end again and I find myself singing the rehearsed songs all day (and in my sleep!)

For as long as I am living in solitary confinement, it plugs a gap and gives me an outlet until we can get back to some kind of normality again. I'm just off to climb every mountain, river deep and mountain high. Falalalala.

08 November 2020

Bad loser

It is quintessentially part of the British way of life, particularly in sport and politics, to be a good loser and to accept defeat graciously. That has obviously not commuted well across the Atlantic. It has been embarrassing in the extreme to watch the departing President Trump in all his glory, fists flailing and throwing his toys out of the pram, declaring the vote for Republicans has been stolen. I wonder if that was the case when he was elected?

Biden looks to be a breath of fresh air but he is no spring chicken. What is it about America that they can't pick two decent YOUNG candidates out of a population of 331 million?  Biden is 77 and will be 81 when his office comes up for re-election. At that age he should be taking life in the slow lane, drinking cocoa by the fireside and pursuing hobbies, not responsible for the nuclear button and 331 million Americans (not to mention the rest of the world).