Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Anna and Grace: maturing in style

The September Issue was great value, as movies go.
A. Fashionating scene: life inside Vogue magazine.
B. Hokey pokey icecream.
C. Two inspiring women, Anna Wintour at 59 and Grace Coddington at 68.

I could describe in some detail every outfit that Anna Wintour wore in the film. Half my brain was thinking, I could wear that, I couldn't wear that -- and mentally revamping my own wardrobe.

I bet thousands of older women have upgraded their look after seeing just how good a working woman of 59 can look. We don't necessarily have quite the same budget, but thanks to Trinny and Susannah we can analyse the components of the look. (Colour. Shape. Fitted cardigans. Knee length patterned skirts. Necklace, etc.) And adapt.

As for Grace Coddington, she deliberately chooses a self-effacing style. I think she wore the same comfortable dress, or perhaps a maroon variation? throughout the film. But I couldn't swear to that because, as she intended, I really didn't look at her clothes.

Neither wore jeans, a fleece, or beige.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple (or red)

At the market today I saw a friend wearing a red silk chiffon blouse. She looked stunning. She too is nearly 70. One of the new breed of old ladies -- the ones who look young.

"I splashed out," said Robyn. "It cost a fortune. What do you think?"

"It looks gorgeous," I said.

"I had to have some colour."

"Yes, we old ladies must wear colour," I proselytised. "We can't wear black or we all look like Greek widows. And we can't wear beige or we all look the same: generic old ladies, interchangeable -- see one, seen the lot."

Then I looked down at what I was wearing.

Black skivvy... Beige trousers...Oops.

I did have red shoes on, if that counts, and orange spectacle frames.

Jenny Joseph's "Warning" contains some excellent beauty advice but it's a big mind shift for Wellington women.

For decades Wellington women wear black -- funky black, arty black, op-shop black, Zambesi black or chain-store black. As a look it's endlessly versatile. What-to-wear decisions are simple. And you always fit in.

Then one day you wake up and your skin has mysteriously lost its rosy glow. Arty black becomes bag-lady black. Op-shop black makes you shudder. High Street black becomes tacky black. And even Zambesi black makes you look like a sophisticated corpse.

That's the reason why Jenny Joseph, clever young lady that she was, knew at the age of 29 that when she grew old she would wear purple and red.

- - - - -

Jenny Joseph's "Warning"
The photo is the beautiful Aunt Polly of one George Perry. His web site has no copyright notice or contact details except for a US phone number.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Left hand writing and right hand writing

Writing with your non-habitual hand is an easy, interesting way to trigger the brain to behave differently.

This is old, old information. I'd use it in writing groups: we'd all write with our left hands (or right, for lefties) for 10 minutes. Often, people were astonished by the words they wrote: apparently an alien had done the writing. Liberating, it was.

Well, I hadn't done that for years. But recently, as part of the save-my-brain-campaign, I've started writing shopping lists and such with my left hand.

The content doesn't surprise me. It's still the same old shopping list:
character dancing shoes
and so forth.

The surprise is in the writing style. Much more legible than my normal writing, which has been out of control for decades. More rounded and childlike, less pointy and mean. A little similar to my father's writing.

If the alien takes over, what will my shopping lists look like then?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The rag rug dilemma: old lady artefact

So, there's this little handcrafted rag rug in my bathroom. Made by my own fair hands, about 16 years ago. I was doing some housework this morning. (Alarm! Alarm! Subject exhibits unusual behaviour!) So I took the rug upstairs to the deck and gave it a good thrashing in the morning sunshine.

Many cultures thrash their duvets and their rugs. This adds percussion to the morning music of neighbourhoods all over the world. So I don't blame myself for what happened next.

Namely, bits of the rug fell off and fell out and blew into the garden next door, and the street, and probably the CBD. It had reached stage 5 of the rag rug cycle: not only had the pieces of rag worked loose, the very backing had begun to rot.

A tear came to my eye. (Not.) No truly, I felt a bit nostalgic. The rug depicts Lowry Bay, a tiny elite Wellington neighbourhood where I had a nice calm few years between turbulent decades.

So calm, indeed, that I made quite a few rag rugs. That's a soothing hobby, and laudably economical. All you need is a canvas backing, a few old woollen coats from the op shop, a rug hook and a pair of scissors. And time.

Oh yes, and space. Those bags of ripped up strips of cloth take space. In fact once I lived in a house with another rug maker: her bags of fabric occupied a room the size of a scout hall. That's why I no longer make rag rugs.

So now comes the dilemma. Do I:
1. throw the rug away? (one day)
2. spray clean it, and hang on a few more months? (probably)
3. get it professionally cleaned and mended? (naa)
4. build a museum to preserve this precious artefact?

But the irony amuses me. For this rug is quite a sweet little artefact in its own right, quite apart from my nostalgia.

It's an old lady artefact, the kind of rug my mother-in-law-number-two used to make and give to the privileged few. I'll be an old lady in February. Maybe I should build up to that by making another rag rug.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Save my brain - learn Hamlet

As part of the great Save My Brain Campaign I decided to do some rote learning. But what to learn?

Taking the laziest option, I chose Hamlet's first soliloquy: O that this too, too solid flesh would melt...Laziest? Because that's what my grandmother used to recite to maintain her formidable brainpower.

So I did. It took me a verrrrry long time, a week. (Young actors can get a whole script down in that time.) And now I need to keep repeating it, to nail it into my long-term memory. If I have such a thing, at my age.

The process is pretty interesting. You have to get it absolutely right, complete with all the syllable-fillers such as "Fie on't! Ah, fie!" and "God! Oh God!" and "Heaven and earth!" And it's those bits where I hesitate sometimes, Alas! woe is me!

Interestingly, the speech seems to get shorter and shorter. As I get more confident (sometimes racing through like R2D2), I'm inclined to stop and think (always fatal). I think, "Surely I can't have reached that bit already? I must have missed a line."

Morning and night I say this mournful, desperate speech in my mind. I imagine my mind has already begun working more lightly and quickly. That's absurd, surely. And incongruous, because the speech itself is the ultimate in neurotic despair.

That's why I'm moving away from Hamlet. A friend suggested the psalms. Great idea. But of course, I'll be picky. None of those doom and gloom and apolocalyptic psalms for me.

Grandchildren's poems

One of the amazing privileges of being older -- a privilege not granted to everyone -- is being a grandparent. I have three grandchildren. Three!!! How lucky is that? They're all fabulous.

Younger people read that paragraph and move hastily away: ho hum,boring, banal. Only grandparents understand this life-changing miracle.

Elsie (6) lives in my town, so every Monday and Wednesday I run down the hill to her school and whisk her back to my apartment for a couple of hours.

Sometimes I write down what she says, knock off the edges and call it a poem. In fact I hardly bother to write my own poems any more, because (like every child I've ever known) Elsie says enough wise, fanciful, crazy and musical things for both of us. Here's what came out of Elsie's mouth on Monday.

Morning is pink

Morning is pink
(says Elsie).

If it's pink, it's morning.
And if it's not pink,

you have to go back to sleep
for a long, long time.

To an old lady laughing, this also seems like a short meditation on death.

Read more of Elsie's poems on C-for-Blog.blogspot.com