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I have been contemplating how my life has evolved, how much the course of events was destined to happen and what part did my own aspirations mould the person that I am. In my mind’s eye I see the girl I always was, more learned now, perhaps, certainly more experienced, more sure of myself and my role in life; but otherwise exactly as I always have been. But if I take a good hard look in the mirror, examine what I SEE, what do I find? The image is of an ageing woman with the ghost of the girl she was, peering through. How can this be? When I am dressing for an outing and looking in the glass in order to check if I look presentable, I still see a flattering view of myself, smiling attractively, no hint of the ageing person I have so obviously become. So there appear to be two differing images – the one I have always recognised and the one as others see me now.
The mirror reveals the truth - crinkly eyes with too much laughing, (or crying), flesh around the mouth no longer firm, hanging down where it used to smile in a happy curve; the neck wrinkled in folds, arms dry and often itchy with liver spots making their appearance, and standing back for more horrors, I see breasts and hips heavy with age, legs perhaps my best feature, still shapely if you disregard the raised veins tunnelling down the calves. I can just about take the honesty of this standing-still front view, but checking out a passing glimpse in another mirror reveals rounded shoulders, balanced out by protruding belly, no waist to speak of, with a facial profile showing a heavy nose and jowls, hair grey/bleached blond, scraped back in a ponytail for convenience – not a charismatic view at all. And this is as others see me! Until pensionable age, growing old gracefully (or otherwise!) was never a consideration. It was not a choice we had to make - it just happened. For most of our lives it is a stage far away in the future, well over the horizon, and then it is suddenly upon us. And it comes as a shock, as inevitable as day following night.
This is only the outward appearance I tell myself. Inside I am the same as I was at 20 or 30 or 60 and through all the changes of life, except that those changes have added to the SELF that is me now, and so I conclude that I cannot be the same. Frowns, crow’s feet, whatever, are the results of life, of living, and make up the character that is now ME. I am of an age to do as I please. As Jenny Jones declares in her ‘WARNING’ poem -
“When I am old I shall wear purple ...
And run my stick along the public railings ... and learn to spit.”
My reply to that is (without any remorse) -
“Now that I’m old I don’t give a damn, I’ll cough across the table and sneeze into your gin!
And be a soddin’ nuisance to all my kith and kin.”
But inside I feel the same as I always did. Should I feel different now that I am older - that dreaded word that sets us apart? I still live and love my life. I enjoy things I have always enjoyed – my home gives me great pleasure still, my garden and woodland. What do I find has changed? I do everything more slowly. I have time to think and I appreciate more because of this. I don’t think of myself as wrinkly or even ageing which means losing some of your faculties. There is a stubbornness about me that says never mind what others think. As I ended a recent verse –
“ ..I’ve not found any wealth
So now it’s time to break the mould
And please me bloomin’ self”.
This is the story of my life from the war years living a modest and pretty uneventful life in Lancashire to marrying an artist/rock climber which opened up a world I had never known. Our first home was in the bleak Peak District and eventually (as befits a rock climber) to the delights of the Welsh hills with a splendid view of mountains.
I have spent the majority of my years in this ‘other’ country with all its wonders and delights, but I am mortified that I never learnt to speak or read the language. Nevertheless, I can turn my pen to extolling on the many delights that have come my way from settling into this land of Wales.
We restored a 400 year old cottage with a tremendous view of Snowdonia (it was the view that clinched the deal) and the ‘Wild Geese’ of the title refers to our flight from our familiar world and all our relations to this Welsh wonderland.