No, not wine and chocolate but…
In my last blog I mentioned that my aversion to housework has given me more hours to do what I enjoy. I follow Picasso’s advice in his quote below and apply it – perhaps too literally – to the all the dust in my home !
This quote has encouraged me to pass on a few examples of the arts and culture that have recently nourished and cheered my soul (rather than the chocolate and wine that has cheered other parts). Lockdown has, perhaps surprisingly, provided opportunities to enjoy our own or others’ creativity, although nothing truly compensates for the loss of theatres, cinemas, concert venues, museums and galleries.
What follows is a personal and light-hearted list. You may disagree with all of them. It would be great if you shared what your list would include on Twitter (Age Joyfully @AgeingBetter).
I could recommend lots of books but will mention only two you might enjoy:
I’ve just finished ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman. Recently published, it’s a clever, often funny, warm and easy read, with an intriguing plot set in a retirement village. Its four main characters are ageing joyfully and applying their wide experience of life to a rather different and new activity. It’s already a bestseller and all the better, in my view, for featuring older people and in a positive light. OK, it is fiction but it’s a welcome change to the more usual negative stereotypes.
The second is ‘If I Could Tell You Just One Thing’ – Encounters with Remarkable People and Their Most Valuable Advice. The author, Richard Reed CBE, is a businessman , entrepreneur and founder of Innocent Drinks. The book consists of short interviews with people Reed has met, from Presidents to pop-stars, and includes role models and heroes of mine. I learned much from many of them. A tiny sample:
‘Look for the pluses in life. Being negative completely erodes everything’ Dame Judi Dench.
‘Treat everybody as equal value, irrespective of his or her status or who they are’ Baroness Helena Kennedy.
‘Just work hard and be passionate…life is amazing and it’s full of people you haven’t met yet, music you haven’t heard, books you haven’t read.’ Sandi Toksvig.
‘Make always the best from what you have, no matter how little it is’ Lily Ebert, Auschwitz survivor.
I realise both these books share one thing – very short chapters. This probably says something about my attention span during lockdown!
Well, of course, given my obsession with all things dance, my top choice is BBC One’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. But even if you don’t know your botafogo from your boleo, it’s fabulous entertainment. It exemplifies the benefits and joys of connection (both social and physical), learning new skills, purpose, giving to others, gratitude and (my favourite) physical activity – all things that promote happiness, health and wellbeing. Hoping Bill Bailey (age 55) lifts the glitter ball in the final – so far, so very good.
Another highlight has been the brilliant TV lockdown comedy ‘Staged’ with David Tennant, Michael Sheen and some wonderful guest cameos (including Dame Judi again). The six episodes are available on iplayer and I would recommend catching it while you can.
I could choose so much, as music is an indispensable part of my life. Or as the nineteenth century philosopher put it, rather more elegantly:
‘Without music, life would be a mistake’ Friedrich Nietzsche
I think perhaps the best I can do is to share the joyful playlist of 21 songs that I’ve included in ‘How to Age Joyfully’. Hopefully, one or two might appeal.
Films, Dance, Theatre, Book Festivals…
Despite being deprived of the thrill of being in an audience watching theatre, dance or music, at least we have TV (and Sky Arts now available on Freeview), iPlayer, DVDs, live streaming online performances and subscription channels. And I even have a stack of films on video cassettes and our video recorder that I’ll probably never get round to watching. Our video player will no doubt soon become a prized antique!
In recent times I’ve severely limited watching anything that’s depressing, instead choosing things that lift my spirits, such as comedies (‘Would I Lie to You’ a personal TV favourite ), joyous dance (such as ‘Elite Syncopations’ with its vibrant colour and ragtime music), musicals (such as Mamma Mia), and theatre (NT Live and more). I’ve also heard inspiring speakers at Book Festivals (now online, Cheltenham being among my favourites – their 120+ events are still available for £20) or elsewhere, including Action for Happiness and the How To Academy. Thanks to all those providing opportunities to keep us entertained, many at no, or low, cost.
And for an instant boost of your brain’s happy chemicals, I highly recommend this unmissable 5 minute ‘mash up’ of ‘old’ movie stars dancing to uptown funk on YouTube – if you’re not one of the 55 million who’ve already seen it! It never ceases to amaze and bring joy. (And, if keen to watch another, there’s 66 more modern film extracts danced to Can’t Stop the Feeling )
And there’s no need just to watch or listen, as we can all participate if it appeals. Becoming absorbed in a creative activity is good for us, as well as helping us to forget we’re living through such difficult times.
There are many online (and other) classes in whatever skill you might be tempted to try or develop, from painting to photography, singing to sculpture, dancing to drama. Or perhaps take up writing, join a Book Club, or do a jigsaw.
If you want to do a class or a course, for the older among us, there’s Open Age, U3A, or organisations such as City Lit and Morley College in London (and online). I’m sure there are very many others to choose from, some of which are free. Enjoy!
Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.