Only the lonely – end of an era, and a thank you. #CS

CS – a website connecting singles to other singles – is close to unique in having a lively blogging and forums facility.  At the time I joined, around five years ago, it was international, multi-cultural and interdenominational, and the majority of the members were fairly careful not to step too heavily on the toes of others of different cultures and beliefs in the lively interaction.

conversing

At its best the CS blogs were a kind of Cheers, where everyone knew your name, long term members knew  which blogs would be fun to banter on and which should be avoided (a few nutters grumbled about cliques) and people occasionally met up – I met around a dozen different members, over the five years, and enjoyed online friendships with people I would never meet, would never have met in any other way.

Joining CS changed my life. I said in a lifestyle interview that I got belatedly brave. When I joined I had become a recluse living behind my computer in Scotland, writing books and hoping if I left the real world alone it would return the favour. I only joined to ask single people questions because I needed answers for my books:  the thought of going out and asking real people was unthinkable.

Now I live in Spain, still writing books in between teaching English as a second language and opening my very quirky old house up to paying guests, interacting with others every day, and all of that can be directly traced back to joining the website five years ago.

So CS was pretty special to me, and it was fun. Most of the bloggers were comfortable being single, sometimes drifting in and out of relationships while they waited without anxiety for The One, or sitting shiva for the One who had been lost, or enjoying the banter because for whatever reason real life couldn’t offer the same kind of sociability. There weren’t that many of us, a few hundred at most, some popping by regularly, some intermittently, and blog subjects ranged between being single, topical events, being single, old jokes shaken out for new readers, being single, the occasional attempt to save souls by offering various religions, being single, and every now and then some politics to spice things up.  The being single thing, some blogs were happy about it, some furious and hurting, some philosophical, some raunchy, some advising. It was relevant to the site, after all. One other thing that made it unique – it was like a petrie dish of life itself,  a tiny cross-section of international viewpoints from all ages on all subjects, often fascinatingly alien.

love

A couple of years ago disaster struck. Another blogging website for singles finally closed when it had become so toxic that it had only a handful of members left. The best of them had already come across and fitted right in but unfortunately when it closed its zombies  lurched across and joined CS – for the most part the kind of Christians who would tar and feather Christ for not being American, or at least wearing a MAGA cap.  They blogged relentlessly on their convictions, never joining any of the existing chats, ignoring what CS was as they determinedly changed it to what they had known (and destroyed), lost in their own obsession and speaking only to each other.

roll eyes 

It was like exploding a hate bomb in Cheers. Politics and singles don’t mix.  People obsessed with bigotry certainly don’t mix. Existing members tried to jolly them into chilling, or tried ignoring them, or disinterred unsuspected hates and prejudices to leap into the fray, exploding cyber friendships in the process.  Many withdrew altogether, bored or disgusted or chased on their way by hostility and anger. So much anger, and so much of it illiterate into the bargain.

scold

It reached a point where the minutiae of American politics accounted for the majority of the blogs – an occasional offering from a Normal always attracted comments and chat but Normals were becoming thin on the ground.  (Okay, “Normals” is a loose term, we long-term singles aren’t, but some are more normal than others.)

laugh

Bigmouth launched a protest and a blog asking that politics be confined to a sub-section of the website and although many of the original members joined the protest saying yes yes YES my profile was promptly deleted by the site moderators.

doh 

End of an era. But when I say that one of the no no NO comments was “Bullshite Elegsabutt! (sic) You have a stick so far stuck up your arse you would always find something and someone to complain about,” you can see how far the change has gone. It is definitely time to go.

Please charge your glasses and join me in a toast to a singles website which changed the lives of many besides me. Thank you. No regrets – I knew when I lit the match that I was probably going to be burning my boats, but they were no longer seaworthy as they were. How nice it would have been if instead it had worked and the hate had burned instead. Que sera, sera.

wine

And to the zombies – a pox on your houses.

tongue

The relevance to you, dear Reader, for patiently getting this far? Don’t let politics destroy your friendships and relationships. People can hold different views, despite professional and social media’s frantic attempts to set us all at each other’s throats. If you find yourself hating, it is time to re-examine your position – it may be time to walk away. When the self-obsessed media storm is over, we will still be left with each other – don’t have destroyed that.

 

Six months in Spain, and counting

I am not yet fluent in Spanish, in fact haven’t yet started formal lessons. I speak a sort of pidgin Spanish, and sound like a toddler, relying heavily on nouns and the medium of dance. Me want (insert noun here) (eg necesita pintura blanco, I go through gallons of pintura blanco) or pointing at things for sale and asking brightly ‘much?’  (Cuánto?)  I had cards printed with name, address, telephone numbers, that helped, if I want something delivered I ask ¿transportas? then hand over the card and my NIE number. Everything  is driven by the NIE number. It’s the same as the NI number in the UK, but here it proves you exist, while standing right in front of someone doesn’t.

Saying ‘no hablo Espanol’ gets a shrug, saying ‘poco Espanol’ gets sympathetic attention, especially if I then stumble through the phrase I have carefully memorised off Google.  The Spanish are very nice to idiots, especially idiots who are trying. I am very trying.

Small town life has lovely advantages – all the shopkeepers are dedicated to teaching me Spanish, and make me repeat the correct name for something at least 3 times before they hand it over. They all chatter away cheerfully for at least 5 minutes during each purchase, and anyone who enters the shop is included in the conversation. Everyone in town – small children through to the oldest residents – greets each other (and me) in passing, without fail. Hola, or buenos dias, or just a barked ‘dia!’ Some of the children show off to each other by greeting me in English. Most people are a little nervous of my portly Frenchie-bulldog cross, and freeze if she looks their way, but a few greet her, then beam at me if she glances at them. Her manners are disgraceful, she rarely greets anyone.

The bread van comes by every morning bar Sundays at around 10.30, and he will wait a few minutes for me if I don’t come hurrying straight out (my order never changes, two plump bread sticks, 90c, muy bien, gracias.) We sometimes discuss the weather if it has dropped below 18 degrees C (frio! Si!)  My English-and-Spanish-speaking Dutch neighbour has introduced me to a few of my neighbours, and one of them insists on us kissing (mwah, mwah) in delighted greeting every time we see each other, then she chats in Spanish for a few minutes, pats me forgivingly on the cheek for not being able to contribute anything but comments on the weather, (honestly, how British am I?) and bustles on her way.

There are reasons I haven’t started my lessons, I’m still – yes, six months down the line – trying to sort out this enormous rambling shambolic house. I no longer call it the elefante blanco – the more it shares its eccentricities, the more it became obvious that it is the casa excéntrico. The renovations are not quite single-handed, although I have sworn never to have a Spanish-only builder here again: instead the Herculean task is being accomplished painfully slowly with the help of a semi-retired English builder who arrives every day around 11.00, drinks copious quantities of tea and coffee and cola cao (hot chocolate) and finishes around 6.30.  I say with his help – it is of course the other way round, there is an occasional bellow of ‘Biff!’ and I drop what I’m doing (painting walls doors and shutters, or trying to get generations of paint and plaster off floors and skirting boards, usually) and dash off to hold ladders, help carry bulky objects, go to the builders yard to collect stuff, or make what he calls ‘executive decisions’ on matters which have popped up unexpectedly. Things do pop up quite often when one is working on an old house which has had some very odd builders (and inept handymen doing patches) over the decades. He was a friend before the project started and who knows, the friendship may even survive this mammoth task – we do spend a lot of time spluttering with laughter. We also spend a lot of time bickering. It’s companionable.

Another reason I haven’t started studying is that I’m teaching English for several hours a day – I sit at my desk, headphones clamped to my head, and enter a virtual schoolroom somewhere in China, for two or three sessions a day. I’d do more but the 7 hour time difference makes that an impossibility.  It does slow down work on the house since Nick can’t drill, or use the disc cutter on tiles or bricks, or hammer at things, while I’m tutoring, and has to turn instead to plastering and quieter pursuits. There’s luckily no shortage of walls needing plastering.

Squeezing a Spanish lesson into the evenings would be do-able and the Casa Cultura is in easy walking distance, but I’m also trying to finish the last book in the Lawns series before I can no longer remember what daily life was like in Scotland – fifteen years, and yet already it seems a distant dream. I suspect I’m also struggling because it is the last book, and I shall miss them so much.

My social life, thanks to Nick introducing me to his lovely local friends, is probably busier than it was in Scotland. I don’t go out alone locally, as I’m so tired by evening, and usually splattered with paint into the bargain but soon after I moved in last October there was a night filled with regularly-spaced gunshots and distant brass band. The local Saint was out and about, and the gunshots were to alert the town. Oh help, I thought, as my dog tried to burrow through my lap to safety, this is going to be fun if it happens on a regular basis.

In fact not yet repeated. The plaster saint in the enormous church does emerge occasionally and proceed around the town, carried on the shoulders of townspeople swaying in eerie unison, but the guns have stayed quiet.  I caught up with an outing for Easter (Semana Santa) and made a very inept video of proceedings on Good Friday, link at the end of this blog. It was an unexpectedly moving event – this is not for tourists, it is for the town, and has been rooted in tradition for hundreds of years, a combination of mourning and gratitude for dying for our sins.  Easter is very different here – not a hot cross bun in sight, and a small display of chocolate eggs arrived diffidently on the supermarket shelves about a week before Easter.

There are traditional Easter foods, but you are expected to cook them at home.  One of them is torrijas, bread soaked in egg and milk, then fried, which I would have sworn was French toast. I must be mistaken, all Spanish food is unique, and by the way they invented pizza. They say so, and they’d know, after all.  Their pizza dough is sweeter, and less crispy.

Actually, everything is slightly sweeter. A lot of the baking is based on choux pastry (well, whatever it is called here, where it was doubtless invented) and cream. The Christmas cakes are a million miles from heavy dark fruitcake – roscón de reyes, (a crown shape for kings), choux pastry rings filled liberally with cream and (optional) tiny ceramic figures and garnished with candied fruit. Yummy!  Christmas lights in the streets tend to snowy mountains and stars, standing decorations are Nativity scenes, and Santa Claus is conspicuous by his absence – until you look up from street level. For some reason, my neighbours in Velez adore the dangling Santa, clinging for his life to balcony rails. There were 3 in my street alone.  Otherwise, apart from the occasional festive wreath on a door, very low-key – Christmas generally is a family day. The main difference I noticed in the beautifully decorated shops was the peaceful lack of Christmas carols – just the usual music, played at usual decibels. I actually rather liked that. Back in the UK by Christmas Eve even Slade gave me an instant headache.  There are parties and general gift-giving, but they are reserved for the Day of the Kings, the 6th of January, when the Wise Men arrived with the first gifts and the roscon de reyes is brought out for visitors.

Roscon de reyes choux pastry and cream and little ceramic figures

Before then was of course NYE, and I was braced for loud parties, more gunshots, and revelry in the streets – nope. I’d been told to eat a grape for every chime of midnight but there weren’t even local chimes. A few decorous fireworks started a minute or two after midnight, and were over in 15 minutes. Okay, this is a small town, I have no idea what happens elsewhere, but the animals loved it, Hogmanay had always unsettled them.

Moving to Spain in the teeth of Brexit does make the future uncertain, with rumours and counter-rumours flying. There’s a Citizens Advice Bureau for ex-pats on Facebook, and I froze with horror just a few days ago at a warning post about twelve agreed directives coming into effect on Brexit day in March 2019. The CAB said in the preamble that they believed several were discriminatory and they would support anyone who needed help when they fell foul of the rulings. One directive said non-Spanish speakers would have to take an official translator to all official appointments including hospital visits. Another: anyone who hadn’t switched their UK driving licence to a Spanish one by March would have to take a Spanish test. The list was draconian. The 11th said the wearing of swimwear anywhere but on the beach would be punished by law. The 12th said anyone showing signs of sunburn when leaving the beach would be fined . . .  now hang on just one cotton-picking minute.

Only then did I realize the date. April Fool . . . ha bloody ha. Nearly gave me a heart attack!

Regrets? None. Last year when I had my house in Scotland on the market I was close to giving up and thinking I would never sell, and getting tiny odd frissons of panic – I have to be out of Scotland by winter. I couldn’t understand it, but of course now I know why – what a winter I missed.  Ironically, I was probably colder indoors here than I would have been there (unless the central heating had packed up) because the Casa Excéntrico was designed for hot weather, not cold. It isn’t a sunny house. I suspect, as a redhead, I’ll be deeply grateful for that come full summer, when street temperatures will be making me wilt and I’ll be doing my grocery shopping in the cool of the evening at 9 pm, but its dim and shadowy coolness, plus the fact it has been a building site all winter, made it crypt-cold. When I first moved in I designated the room off my study as a storeroom and bought industrial shelving to put my cases and boxes there until the renovations were over. (I will be offering suitcase etc storage to holiday home owners, so it was an investment in future income.)

As the overnight temperatures dropped to single figures (during the day it rarely dipped below a sunny wear-a-jersey 17 degrees) the storeroom abruptly became the designated winter bedroom, a bed wedged in between the shelves, to share heat with the study.  The walls of the house are at least a foot thick, and one radiator did keep both rooms at around 18 degrees. Neither the dog nor the cat could be coaxed out of the winter suite until the sun was on the upstairs patio, then they bolted up there to catch rays until the evening chill drove them back to the heater.

March was wet – the average winter rainfall is 15 inches, but we had 16 inches of rain in the first 3 weeks of March. Not much of it, phew, made it into the house, old as it is, although the hall flooded twice until I learned why my neighbours spread plastic ‘aprons’ across their doors – the step may be 6 inches above street level, but the churning rapids pouring down the street can occasionally exceed that. I learned to stack empty cement and plaster bags either side of the door, weighed down with bricks, when heavy rain was forecast, and kept my feet dry.

Not sure what mañana will bring but there will be tangles with bureaucracy, that’s a given. I came here by campervan and lost track of the months a bit, suddenly realizing its MOT was about to expire. Eek. Straight off to the ITV centre, theoretically to get an ITV voluntaire to sell the van but actually secretly hoping I could go ahead with Spanish registration. Nope. The van sailed through the challenges of the ITV but – shock horror – the logbook doesn’t show the weight. A DVLA clerical error which never stopped it passing over a dozen MOTs over the years, but stopped the matriculation process dead in its tracks. I sold it instead, and waved it sadly off back to the UK. It will be returning at least once a year, but not to this area – the buyer drove 5 hours from Valencia to see it and turned out – small world – to be another former South African.

But back to bureaucracy – I have my NIE to prove I exist but must soon arrange my Padron, registering as a townsperson. My little Toyota IQ will soon have to start the matriculation process, to become a Spanish car.  The best part is that it will get a numberplate showing it as a 2018 car – as the shape hasn’t changed since it was actually manufactured, it will be able to strut the streets looking like a new car. I was advised repeatedly to sell it in the UK and buy a left-hand drive here, but I love the car and didn’t.  Second-hand cars have no value in the UK – I would have been lucky to get a thousand quid for it. Cars don’t rust here, and hold their value for years longer. The same make and model, same age and low mileage, is at least 6000 euros, and I’d have no idea what its history was. Spending up to 1000 euros to matriculate mine seems a good deal to me.

And back again to bureaucracy. Buying the house was dizzyingly quick – from making my offer to sitting in the notary’s office and taking over the Casa Excéntrico took less than two weeks. Six months later, though, it still isn’t registered in my name. The death certificate of one of the seller’s grandparents was lost during the war, when that records office was bombed and burned out. A gentle wrangle has continued at stately pace since October. The seller is spreading her hands – nothing she can do, and the town council accepted that with the last house she sold. My lawyers are insistent – there must be, I think, a sworn affidavit? Whatever. Everyone is assuring me the house is mine in law, the money was handed over in front of the notary, this is purely a formality, and will soon be sorted. Luckily the registration was included in the fixed fee I paid the lawyer so the delay is costing nothing but frayed nerves. It doesn’t help that friends I have made here bought their house 18 years ago and it still hasn’t been registered in their name. Que sera, sera.

That link to the Semana Santa video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHV_VG6f2kU

Feliz dia!

 

 

 

I’m so topical I don’t understand why I’m not an icon

Just call me Ms Demographic, Demi for short. I’m a babyboomer, for starters. Born between 1946 and 1964, and a little fed up that my retirement age moved from nicely handy to six years further down the line.

I’m a writer of breezy novellas who, thanks to the ebook and POD revolution, could publish myself. That’s a bigger demographic than you might realize. Last time I checked there were over 13 million books out there, and I checked Amazon.com right now, as I’m typing this – in my main category, Mystery Thriller and Suspense, there were 6829 new releases in the last 30 days.  (One of them is mine, 17 18, woohoo). There are over half a million in that category alone.  I do get pretty excited about occasionally popping into the top twenty thousand writers, but the reality is that only authors consistently in the top thousand enjoy the dizzying excitement of being able to support themselves with their writing.  Still. My books pay for my holidays, and I do take a lot of those.

I’m a mature single – that’s an absolutely huge demographic – and have been on a singles website for a few years now. Research, of course,  but I take my research seriously, been there, done that, got my heart broken (okay, dented) and wrote the book(s). (Being the mature single is the demographic, writing On Meeting Mr Will Do Nicely and a couple of novels was a bit more niche.)

I was made redundant  recently, that’s a growing demographic, and for the second time.  With all those extra years to fill in before I can start living off the fat of the land with a (partial) British pension, I’m part of that other demographic, the one that thinks oi, life the way it is hasn’t really ticked all my boxes or rung all my bells, is it time to try something else?

There’s the demographic of the many, many Brits who bolt to the sun to try that something else in a warmer climate. A staggering percentage of them chose Spain. Never one to buck a trend, I found a dilapidated (i.e. affordable) townhouse in a fairly perfect white village, and decided that was it, future sorted. Sell the house in Scotland, buy the house in Spain, which is way big enough to run a couple of Airbnb options (another growing demographic) and Bob’s your uncle.

Okay, working in Spain would be challenging, since my Spanish so far consists of knowing how to order coffee, and increasingly talented in the areas of point-and-or-mime, and that’s after seven holidays in rapid succession in Spanish-speaking territories.  All I can reasonably ask of the house is that it will earn enough to pay for its own maintenance and upkeep.

No problem. Teach the Spanish to speak English. So I did a TEFL course and am currently busily gaining vital experience as a teacher through an international online agency. That’s a smaller demographic, I’ll grant you that, but it too is growing.

Demographically, I am in so many Venn diagrams that Windmills Of Your Mind is becoming my theme song. I’m a human fidget spinner.

Surely I can turn this wealth of overlapping demographics into cash terms somehow? Brexit and the dratted General Election are playing merry havoc with the pound / euro exchange rate, and I do need that rate strong to do the house-and-fix-up thing. Scotland’s will-we, won’t-we rumblings about independence has slowed the house-sales market to a crawl. Tchah!

Ideas on cashing in on my demographic potential ? Anyone? Ta.

What makes a granny? This is not a rhetorical question, I need an answer …

What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny ?  And WHY in the name of all that’s holy is this a cross -section of what I get when I looked online for granny cartoons?  Rocking chairs, zimmer frames, grey or white hair – remember Wayne Rooney’s “granny” scandal? She was in her late forties.  Lots of grannies are. Do the math. Have a child in your early twenties,  your child pups in his / her early twenties –  don’t really need a calculator, do we?

So women with children have a reasonable chance of being a granny in their forties, a fairly good one in their fifties, almost guaranteed in their sixties:  yet all the cartoons show dear (or feisty) old ducks, Indian summer gone, winter well on its way, average age, hmm, 80?

And hey, on the subject of 80 – Sophia Loren is 80, and going on tour. The first word that sprang to my mind when I watched her being interviewed was not ‘Granny’.  I have a cousin who is roaring into her 80s. She’s tall, plays golf, skies, gardens, travels a huge amount, she’s fresh-faced and fit as a flea, you’d unhesitatingly knock 20 years and more off her age. She’s very good at being a granny, skies with the grandkids and all. Not a rocking chair in sight.

But back to the fifty-something granny – I said to a male buddy that I was looking into the granny thing and his instinctive reaction? He said he couldn’t help, he never met either of his.  He’s sixty, single, and has dated several .

It’s a sign of the times that we of potential granny age aren’t seen automatically as grannies, and I’m very happy about that, but what word would sum up the woman whose offspring has produced offspring, if they aren’t dear old ducks?

Hence my opening question. What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny? This isn’t idle wittering, I’ve challenged myself to write a ‘granny’ story but this granny – you know me by now – is not a dear old duck.  I have no idea what her grandchild is to call her.

South Africans have a lovely option with the Zulu word for grandmother, gogo, pronounced gaw-gaw,  which I will absolutely claim in real life when the role is available. It’s a bit niche, though, Zulu not being one of the world’s widely-spoken languages.

I’ll be back to worry at this question later, but for now I’ll leave you with this, because it is currently my favourite cartoon.  In fact – I know Goodreads blogs don’t always include my pics – I’m going to add it to my profile, because I really do like it.  The credit to source shows on the photo.

 

Don’t know where, don’t know when – theoretically Spain –

Limbo … my office closed at the end of April, making us all redundant, and I have a tiny financial cushion while I look for another job – but what kind of job? Temporary, short-term, massive pay, would probably be best because my house is on the market.

If it doesn’t sell, I have to find something permanent (massive pay would continue to be a bonsella) or sell a lot more books to keep the bulldog in the extremely expensive food she has to have because of her pink skin problems.

It may not sell.  My small town on the Firth of Forth is lovely, but short on public transport and therefore not in brisk demand. Scotland generally is unsettled, due to La Sturgeon’s ongoing determination to cut us adrift.  Investors are leaving, not buying, and my erstwhile employers are far from the only national company quietly moving operations down south. These are not ideal selling conditions.

If it does sell, though – hmmm. Spain? There’s an enormous townhouse there, in a lovely little town perfectly positioned for quiet tourists, which would convert into four holiday apartments plus a flatlet for me (I did say enormous!)  Right now, it’s a white elephant of note. Weeds are waist high in the terrace, two of the ceilings are sagging in the most alarming manner, and plaster doesn’t so much flake off the walls as fall off in sizeable chunks. That does mean it is affordable, and it has location location location in Velez: Costa Tropical beaches fifteen minutes away in one direction, spectacular Granada half an hour away in the other, and the ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada beyond that.  I’m about to list some of alarming photos and videos on the house’s Facebook page.  I took my daughter to see it last weekend. She thinks I’m demented. You’ll doubtless agree.

Fair enough. If I achieve everything I want to achieve with it, I’ll look back on the photos and videos I’ve taken and will be pretty astonished myself that I bought it, but that’s in limbo too. Demented I may be, but not to the point of buying it without a structural survey. I saw the house on Valentine Eve, fell in love with its shabby charm and potential, and requested said survey. We are now, hmm, 10th day of May. In theory the survey, promised almost on a weekly basis, is booked at last, for the 19th. Then, and only then, can I make an offer and of course in the meantime anyone could buy it from under my nose.  That would be fun, especially if my house sold at the same time.  Oops. Nowhere to live, and nowhere to go.

The thing is, if this house doesn’t sell, I have fourteen years of mortgage still to clear. Fourteen years! That takes me past retirement age no matter how often our caring government moves the goalposts. I’m not even sure I have fourteen years of life left, and I know for an absolute fact I don’t have fourteen years of Indian summer, it doesn’t work that way. I don’t want to spend those years working to pay a mortgage. The elefante blanco would be bought cash, and although it would never provide enough income to live on, it could reasonably be expected to cover its own upkeep and maintenance. That’s incredibly tempting, a self-sustaining home, erratic flow of visitors, a better lifestyle generally that even costs less. I adore Scotland, but the winds do seem to be blowing.

I’ve let chance and circumstance run my life for nearly twenty years now, and no regrets, not one. Being a straw in the wind brought me to the UK, then to Scotland, into this house, and into writing those books you see in the margin. (Are you up to date on the books? There’s a new one out, and one coming up and about to go on pre-order, make a note in your diary.)

grin

I blew off to Europe increasingly often to meet eclectic members of the singles website I joined to research some of the books. One resulting friend lives near Velez – straws that blew me to the door of #21 Calle de Martires. It feels right. It feels terrifying, at the same time. A stray breeze blew an email from a TEFL college into my mailbox, so I signed up to do a TEFL course – teach English as a foreign language – towards the future, and am enjoying bending my brain. Learning Spanish I’ll leave until when (if) I get there – courses are regularly offered for free either in Velez or a nearby town, and I’d get to meet other newcomers learning Spanish, win win.

Right now, the straws are hanging motionless, and I’m waiting for the wind to pick up again.

There’s a house viewing booked for tomorrow, only the third since I listed the house.  A brief breeze, which will drop again, or the start of a strong driving wind – who knows? Not a clue.

I need a windsock.

Totally loca

I spotted P, almost inevitably, on line – I mean you know me, cruising the websites, self-proclaimed champion of the autumn rose, the mature single woman –

Well, I don’t mind saying I did a double-take. Wow.  I laughed out loud. I looked again. I read the provided description greedily. I sent the link to my buddy in Spain, mourning the lack of photographs, there were only four. Lovely buddy in Spain promptly found P on another website and sent back 20 photos.

Oh

My

Word

P is gorgeous. Older than I’d normally have gone for, must be said, and absolutely crying out for some TLC, but “wow” factor second to none.

I sent a message email immediately and a hectic exchange of emails followed and, since I was about to visit lovely buddy in Spain, a meet was set up. I could hardly wait – and it was as good as I had hoped, better.  This was love across a, well, must be said, totally empty atrium, but at first sight.

Hard to know what P makes of it all, of course, since P is a large 200-hundred-year-old traditional Spanish townhouse, standing forlornly empty in a narrow re-paved street in the heart of a town stretching back to Moorish influence , between and opposite very beautifully refurbished houses. The P is short for Palabras – Casa de Palabras, House Of Words – because as I wandered starry-eyed through room after room (many of them leading only into each other) (Spanish houses mix up the generations and who needs privacy when you share with family?) the peeling flaking plaster faded away, the spacious empty rooms furnished themselves and P turned into a creative retreat for writers, artists, kindred souls. The faded tiles bloomed again and the hand-painted vivid green ones became more of a feature, less of an eye-sore. The weeds pushing through the cracks in the terrace modestly vanished.

Out of the twelve existing rooms (one a smokehouse for Spanish hams because, you know, every house needs one) my private quarters appeared, and four guest-house suites built themselves in my mind’s eye. Lovely buddy was a building contractor before taking early retirement in Spain and cautiously poked, prodded, frowned, shrugged, and said the house would outlast me and yes, my plans would work. So what if six of the rooms lead only into each other? Two would convert easily into bathrooms behind dividing walls creating short passage-ways. The only rotting roof timber wasn’t a support beam, so it was easily replaced. The dream could be . . .

Before I took my leave, that first time, my legs a little shaky with shock, I had nearly exploded my camera’s memory with hundreds of photographs.

I’ve fallen in love a couple of times over the years but nothing like this. Wow.

I’ll tag these blogs ‘Palabras’ so they can be followed, or avoided, but – could it be forever? Have I the energy, the sheer passion, to follow through? Hell yes. Structural surveys are happening. Currency brokers have been appointed. Future plans for earning a living (I’ll be happy if the guest-house suites support Palabras itself, anything extra would be a cherry on top) are fizzing. Baby steps are being taken when I want giant strides, but inch by inch life with P moves a little nearer.

Yeah, having read this far you probably want a photograph. Thing is, I saw with the eyes of love and fervent imagination. Believe me, I’m already taking some flak. You should just hear my very sensible daughter on the subject.  You’ll see faded and forlorn and what-on-earth-house has windows into its own atrium? But I did set up a Facebook page and I am likely to be a bit of a bore over the next few months.

Oh, and I need to sell my house in Scotland. Now. You want a compact two bedroomed townhouse with small west-facing courtyard, about as unlike Palabras as can be imagined? Call me.

Wow, you know so much!

It’s a great feeling, reaching the age where you know everything.

Okay, not EVERYTHING. But everything you need to know, and a little bit more.

Make the most of that age, treasure every minute

Hard on its heels comes the age where you confidently share your wisdom unasked, in every situation, because that’s only fair, and you are a Priceless Resource.

Then comes the first time someone says ‘that’s not right’ and you check and it wasn’t. What? But – but – but

 

 

 

 

 

Told you to treasure it  rolling on the floor laughing

We learn every day of our lives until we die, and if we did shut off that wonderful gift, we might as well be dead. Blush and move on.

Don’t accept the first offer, haggle. Apparently. Does that cover first dates as well?

I have been offered job relocation to a much more expensive part of the UK, but it wasn’t a very good salary offer, so I said no. The offer was instantly pushed up to around 25%  more than my existing salary.

Hang on – if you want me, why make a mediocre offer to start?  I said I would think about it but all I can think is hmm, should I refuse again and see if it goes higher? Push my luck?

As it happens, my car insurance just came due. 9 years no-claim bonus, 16 years with the same insurer, £400. In the same post I got a letter from Saga offering car insurance starting from £109 a year. So of course I got an on-line quote. Like for like, plus lower excess than my current insurer, plus a couple of handy extras, the quote came in at £258.

I rang my current insurers to say I wouldn’t be renewing and they instantly dropped my £400 renewal cost down to just over £300. Pass.  But I did ask why, with 16 years loyalty, I didn’t get the best possible offer to start with?

Like why, with my existing proven track record with my current employers, who do want me to relocate, I didn’t get the best possible offer to start with?

How far does this haggling thing go, anyway? Has it spilled over into all sides of our lives?

I’m a mature single on a dating website (write books about it and all) but have I missed a trick here? When someone suggests a first meet over a pub lunch somewhere, should I be responding ‘not unless you send a taxi and make it a proper lunch at the Ritz Grill with you picking up the tab’ just to start the negotiations?

I looked on Amazon – with over ten million titles available, I reckoned there’d be at least one book on the subject. There was one on how to haggle to save money on everything. It was quite expensive – I emailed the author a counter-offer.

But there was no book I could see on haggling for the BIG things.

  • Income.
  • Politics afloat on a sea of money but offering us crappy choices.
  • Lots on religion but nothing comparative, you know, to compete for our patronage and donations.
  • The start of love has millions of books, but none on haggling up front. Once love is launched, there’s some financial advice but most books covering finance are reserved for the end of love, the really expensive bit. May the best haggler win.

It seems that for the really big things  we either have no choices at all, or need iron nerve and bluff.

That’s seriously worrying because my how-to book on successfully meeting mature single men is already on pre-order and if I missed an entire haggle culture, it’s not going to be as seriously useful as I thought it was.

sigh


mr-will-do-nicely

Are you a glowing autumn rose? How-To meet a Mr Will-Do-Nicely … coming soon.

A couple of the reviews on Rainbow, while friendly enough, remarked they had bought the book thinking it was a guide to flourishing as a mature single. Well, in a way it was, the men (and women) Dorothy came across were exaggerated for fictional purposes, but they are distinctive types to be found on every website for mature singles.  A small cross-section in a very large field, you could say.

I’ve written blogs about the types, and I certainly had plenty of material. Write another novella, pulling in more types, and more advice? Or do a how-to book?

I went with the how-to. Well, I went with two. There’s one coming out On Meeting Mr Will-Do-Nicely, and there are times you’d think I was trying to keep all the single mature men to myself, it is so crammed with cautionary tales. I’m not, honestly! The fact remains that most of them pass from hand to hand like hot potatoes (leaving burned fingers in their wake) because eligible men in their fifties and sixties, especially the ones who have been single for a while, are a whole new ballgame.

So why even bother, risk being hurt, heartbroken, scammed, poorer but wiser?  Because we are gorgeous, and still fizzing with life and adventure, and forewarned is forearmed. Go have fun. Do no harm.

As I wrote Mr Will-Do-Nicely I kept adding bits of advice I’d been given, or discovered for myself, which have nothing to do with dating and everything to do with making the best of the totally unexpected surge of energy and sunshine suddenly lighting up life and turning us into autumn roses.  It’s an odd reality that women in their late forties, even early fifties, menopausal and irritable and mourning the loss of fertility, are the most resentful of our Indian summer. You’re how old? You cannot be feeling healthier, fitter, more interested in sex and life generally, than we are, we feel old, you are old!

Ooooh, ffssssssssst.  Whether they like or not (well, they don’t) you can feel better than them. You do. They’ll find out, if they can shake that attitude. Sometime after the menopause the rush of life comes roaring back, for at least a while, and it is wonderful. It is so easy to waste it, with the wrong mind-set. Eventually I’d added so many notes about that it was diluting the singles book. So I moved them to another, On Perfecting The Indian Summer.

Am I an expert? No. Qualified to give advice? Only by experience. These aren’t books that order you about, lay down the law, they are How-To books based on reality.  I’m in my late fifties, I didn’t expect the Indian summer myself, and I did waste the start of it. I briefly joined a mature singles website to research one of my whodunits (Five Six Pick Up Sticks) and later I joined another for Nine Ten Begin Again so I could ask some fairly direct questions, and eventually I wrote A Second Rainbow. I’ve had a lot of fun, in the name of research, along the way. As for the Indian summer itself, I’ve met many women enjoying the sunshine, including my own half-sisters over a decade ahead of me in age, and they’ve all been generous with sharing advice. I played with the subject, in Eleven Twelve, where I called it the gloaming, and that put me in touch with more autumn roses. There are a lot of us quietly out there.

It will be interesting to see how the books do but if a single reader, just one, enjoys herself more as a result of reading either, they did their job.

Out sooooooooooooooon

Hi ho Silver! guidelines to making your Indian Summer the best it can be

If you remember Silver, chances are you’re a baby-boomer, fifty-plus (plus plus) and enjoying being this age far more than you ever expected. You should. Indian Summer is one of the most unexpected gifts of our lives, and some of us are so taken aback we don’t make the most of it. I wasted the first couple of years, for sure, but now I’m fascinated by all this unexpected lovely sunshine and making the most of it. Check the list below to make sure you are too …

  1. Splurge occasionally. Buy the best you can afford for those you love, but include yourself: treat yourself to something you’ve always wanted to do.
  2. Take pride in your appearance. This is an oddly invisible age, it’s easy to slip into thinking no-one is looking so why bother except for special occasions? Actually, more people are looking than you realize. Haircuts, manicures, good dentistry, make you feel surprisingly good. Ignore the sillier fashion trends, but keep your own sense of style. It’s part of who you are. Your health – ah, now, your health is priceless. Do moderate exercise, eat well and get your sleep. Keep yourself in good shape. Your summer will be the longer for it!
  3. SING.  Sing as loudly as you can, whenever you can. If you haven’t done it for a while, the creaky croak may be a shock, all the more reason to sing more. Fantastic breathing exercise and it will keep your speaking voice strong and vigorous for the rest of your life.
  4. Lovely quote from Mark Twain: ‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Yesterday has gone, and tomorrow has yet to dawn. Enjoy today, and don’t stress the small stuff. Do a Scarlet O’Hara. Leave it to tomorrow.
  5. You want dogmatic, ask a forty-something! It’s time to outgrow that. We’ve had fifty years and more to learn that no matter how we push, the world continues to turn, but we also should, by now, know that there really is more than one way to look at life. If you aren’t already a convert, social networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on – can be lively, and you could meet up with long-lost friends. Keeping in touch with what is going on, staying interested, is important at any age.
  6. Never use the phrases ‘I can’t do that any more’ or ‘I’m too old’ or that terrible one, ‘In my day.’ Your day is now . If you really feel it is time to give up physically challenging hobbies like playing squash at league level, or training for Iron Man (and since older footballers are now discovering walking football, are you sure your hobby is too physically challenging?) find new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, write, volunteer at a local charity, become a collector of odd things that fascinate you, discover the joys of model planes, trains, helicopters. Find something you like and have fun with it.
  7. Always keep love alive. Love life, love your family, love your friends, love your neighbours. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone – apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. One thing we should have learned by now, it doesn’t matter who was right. I can’t remember who it was said that holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die, but it’s true. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.
  8. We’re in an age of change. Old friends move away, following their own dreams of living abroad, or are lost to you, and the thought of replacing a thirty year friendship with someone new is, yes, daunting. Don’t grimly go searching for new friends. Instead, find new things that interest you. Meetup.com can offer some options you never even thought about before. In the process you’ll meet others who share at least one of your interests. Friendships are like weeds, they grow in the most unexpected places.
  9. If you are a talker, talk less, and listen more. If you are one of nature’s listeners, talk more! A change is as good as a holiday . . . be less critical, more open. Remember your mother telling you if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? Well, modern conversation doesn’t work that way, but you don’t have to be mean to be funny. There’s a knack to it. So they tell me, anyway.
  10. If you hold strong beliefs, enjoy them, but don’t waste your time trying to convince others. Live true to your beliefs, and respect the rights of others to theirs.
  11. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. Let them talk, because no matter who you are and what you do, someone will disapprove.
  12. Laugh a LOT. Laugh at everything. You’re a survivor, you’ve somehow muddled through to reach one of the best times of your life, and you’re being rewarded with this Indian Summer. Enjoy it!

I borrowed a lot of this from my mum’s only surviving friend, who is roaring into her eighties in an extremely inspirational way and who emailed me her Golden Age rules, without telling me who wrote them. If you are the original author, thank you for some lovely stuff, and please get in touch so I can credit you here. And apologies to the liberties I took, converting your 21 rules to a dirty dozen for Silver Age* life!

*Still haven’t learned whether the perfect name for us Indian Summer people has been coined yet.