Raining men – are you ready steady go? A one-month plan to brushing up nicely.

Men are like buses, you wait ages and then five come along at once. I’m not going to bore you to death with my sudden popularity because really when it comes down to it these moments do happen every now and then, and ten minutes later you glance round complacently and the buses have all departed again.  Still – five buses? It’s raining men.

Bus number one is a younger man, talk about a terrific ego boost.  Almost on the spot, too, so the Edinburgh Festival saw me a bit more out and about than I might otherwise, especially in such a hot August.

Bus number two is a long-time friend from way back who is gorgeous, eligible, newly on the market, and coming up to Edinburgh for a long weekend shortly with a view to relocating.

Bus number three is a lovely widower living on an island far far away but originally from the nearest town to the fictional Onderness, the beautiful Linlithgow. We’ve been talking through the website, and he’s popping back to visit family shortly: drinks date planned for near the end of September.

Bus number four is from the singles website, living in Spain, has been a fun correspondent for several months as well as guiding me through the shoals of sharks on the website. I’m off to Spain to visit my sister at the end of September, and a lunch is planned with several website correspondents, all meeting for the first time. Should be extremely interesting.

Bus number five is the perennial ex in the far-away country who has raised jealous brows and is now talking of crashing the lunch to keep an eye on things.  He thinks I am getting distinctly rackety.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black . . .

Anyway, the point of this blog is preparing for busy times.  I don’t expect to catch any of the buses but I’m prepared to put in a bit of a run. I have a month in which I intend to dazzle and at the end of the month sweep into Spain looking good. My sister says there will be several pool parties, i.e. I will have to get into a swimsuit in public for the first time in forever. Yikes.

First on the agenda, and I should probably have done it for  Bus #1 except that I never expected Bus #1 to be interested anyway:  decent haircut and proper brow-shaping for instant results.  Repeat towards end September, but not on the day I am meeting Bus #3, as the newly-plucked look is not bewitching.

Second, dust off the Zumba exercise CD, I’ve been letting that slip to two to three times a week. It took ages at first to struggle through the routine (which is only twenty minutes) and I would be tomato-red by the stretches, the house trembling on its foundations, but I was losing weight and wanted a bit more firm to go along with that. Now I don’t even go pink and am quite surprised when it ends. When I was doing it every day I really noticed the difference in droopy bits which shouldn’t ideally droop, so it is back to that on a daily basis for the next month, using the shaker weights while I dance to banish any suggestion of bingo wings.  My Grasshopper Lawns characters do regular exercise, some on a daily basis. Anything they can do, I can do better.

Third, overall exfoliate with a gentle loofah, and moisturise. Do it every day (instead of once or twice a week, so easy to slip back into bad habits), and by the last week when I am about to start applying the extremely expensive fake tan in my holiday arsenal, I should have skin like chamois leather.  There will be no sunbed. Firstly, I’m a redhead so I don’t change colour. Secondly, sunbeds are probably the worst thing you can do to your skin. Just saying. I’m good about daily moisturiser on face and neck, but need to step it up everywhere else. Hair always gets brushed out a hundred times a day anyway, I have no idea whether that helped it keep its shine and colour, I’m just grateful it has.

Fourth, eat for health. I’m absolutely not going to get into the hotly-contested debate of what you should eat or how often. I’ve lost weight steadily over the last two years purely by eating less and doing more exercise and the only thing I’m likely to change in the next month is include more dairy, to get my nails good and strong, and more veg and fruit for glowing clear skin. About 10 days before Spain, I will re-start Echinacea, to resist the germs that gather around tourists on the move. By the way, we all know you reduce the veg and fruit a few days before special events, right? Very bloating stuff. Protein becomes the priority order of the day.

What did I miss?  There’s a teeth whitening kit in the arsenal which is easy to use and effective, it doesn’t create blinding choppers but it does offset the coffee and cigarette dullness. There’s an eyebath (these are both from Boots) that means both eyes and teeth are brighter and clearer. Restock the current favourite makeups, maybe try a new effect or two – makeup needs a shakeup regularly, what worked best even a year or two ago may not be doing you proud any more.

Stand back, world. I have a bus to catch.

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Loose like a goose – baby steps back to physical health . . .

Every morning I run round the block. Then I kick it back under the bed.

If you haven’t bothered for years, the very word exercise conjures up flushed faces, aching muscles and abruptly feeling very old and tottery indeed. Of course if you’re already doing tons of exercise, you should go find another blog to read, because this one is not for you. This is a blog for those who are a little annoyed to find they can’t run for the train anymore without getting spots dancing in front of their eyes. Or touch their toes, although frankly if that was so important they would be on our knees. Or fancy the first warning twinges of stiffness.

It isn’t too late to loosen up, because it is NEVER too late to improve your general condition.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s no exercise regime in this sad and sorry world that will turn the clock back and make you twenty again, but without torturing yourself you can add some pretty simple routines to your day and you will notice the difference, and you will want to thank me.  Instead just buy one of my novels, which are about people our age and quite funny, and will exercise your brain as you solve the murder, and we’ll both be happy, because they are very nice to read with your next cup of tea.)

This is a long road, and you can head along it at your own pace, but you will feel a difference from the beginning.

While you’re waiting for your morning bath to fill up, or the shower to get warm, do some gentle warm-up exercises.  Do not push yourself on any of these: no pain no gain is a crock, when you are starting again after a long break!  However, push yourself a little further every day as your muscles loosen.

I swing one arm, then the other, in big circles, forward, then backward. Seven times works for me, for all of these, so I recommend it. Five, ten, whatever works for you.

Who remembers ‘I must I must increase my bust’? Elbows back, elbows back:  elbows back, straighten the arms. Elbows back, straighten the arms. ‘The more the better to fill my sweater’?  I still don’t fill my sweater, despite years of doing this, but I don’t tuck my boobs into my waistband either.  More to the point, it opens your chest, loosens your ribcage, and pleases your lungs very much.

Hands on hips, gentle twist one way, then the other, seven times. Keep an eye on the bath. You don’t want it overflowing.

Lunge gently, keeping your knee directly over your foot, seven times. Repeat to the other side. I pull hideous faces at the same time to work my facial muscles.  The wind hasn’t changed yet.

If your bath is a slow filler, you have time to trot on the spot a bit. Not exactly onerous, but your lungs are suddenly full of air and all your muscles have woken up.

One thing I learned about twenty years back – even if you are bedridden, temporarily or otherwise, if you think the above exercises, your brain sends the same messages and the muscles tauten and loosen. Not, obviously, as much – but there is a health-improving reaction.

Okay, now you’re in the bath (or shower). Roll your head gently. It not only keeps your neck supple, it stops it thickening.

Look over each shoulder.

Rotate your hands clockwise, then anticlockwise. Make a fist, open, close, repeat. Now play an imaginary piano with your fingers.

While towelling off, clench your buttocks, tuck your pelvic area up, release. And, of course, repeat.

Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life, remind yourself that there are two things you will never automatically say again. ‘I can’t’ – and ‘I’m too old’.  You probably can, and you probably aren’t.

There’ll be lots more, but that’s for starters.  And yes, you, the puzzled-looking reader with the bulging rippling muscles, I told you to go read another blog. We’ll catch up with you.

Over fifty? Bursting with energy? Same here.

I’ve been doing some research on the surge of vitality and energy which I’ve been calling Indian Summer, but not getting very far. From what I can see, the people writing about it (especially those suggesting Fun Activities) are younger and haven’t experienced it, and I suspect most of those who are experiencing it are either successfully putting it to work, or quite rattled by their unexpected feelings of restless boredom. I’m in the latter group. Boredom is driving me nuts, but so is the lack of purpose. I know I want to be out there doing much more, but I can’t be bothered with what’s on offer  . . .

What’s round and bites? A vicious circle.

I actually have a theory about this unexpected energy boost, based on this being the first time in our history that people are hitting late middle age without being knee-deep in grandchildren. No, hear me out.  Until around 1960 the average woman was having babies fairly constantly, unless she abstained from all reproductive activity, between adolescence and menopause.  Soon after menopause, huge surge of renewed energy, because  now she was urgently needed by her offspring who were themselves increasingly drowning in lively children, active toddlers, one in the arms and one on the way. Her man, make no mistake, was as desperately needed by the harassed next generation, and had his own ability surge at a time when modern society tells us we have nothing left to offer.

The Pill, and effective contraception generally, changed the face of families forever. The average family, across the board, became 1.8 children, born at planned intervals in the seventies, eighties and nineties. That generation was raised to think extending schooling as far as possible was essential, which delayed the producing of grandchildren.

No-one told our bodies that everything had changed. Here we are, buzzing with renewed vigour, and – oh.

All that energy! How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnished, not to shine in use! (Ulysses, Lord Tennyson)

ulysses

Travel. Study. Paint. Write. Get restless, get bored, get stressed, fret, fume, rebel against being put out to grass or sidelined, restlessly start new lives.

I wrote a book (No Place Like Place) where future planets are initially colonised by the active energetic fifty-or-sixty-somethings and that’s probably the best solution, but we’re a bit stuck for something purposeful until those colonist-needing planets are, well, even discovered.

I want to be out there doing something amazing and challenging and yes, sorry, awesome, which will need every ounce of experience and learning accumulated over the last fifty-something years.  I want to travel, I want to explore, I want to make every year, every hour, count.  Tick tock. It’s frankly annoying me that my characters at Grasshopper Lawns are having more fun than I am!

So if anyone can suggest something a little more challenging than rambles and get-togethers and over-50 websites with photos of happy smiling people in their seventies who I suspect have been glued to their seats and told to look pleased with their lot, that would be very nice.

Thank you.