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.

 

 

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.