Foodie v non foodie

Week 3 of the Year of Possibilities

 “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates

Well, I decided that this week I would learn a new recipe.  Another box ticked.  Who knew cauliflower could be so versatile.  Some months back while dining out I had pan-fried hake with cauliflower couscous and it was delicious.  With that meal in mind, I googled (doesn’t everyone loves to google) and found a recipe that I could follow.  The hake was fine, the cauliflower couscous was not.  There was no similarity whatsoever to the one I tried in The Candied Walnut in Naas (great restaurant by the way).   I also tried Cauliflower soup, a hit with himself and a soup that will feature on our home weekly menu for the rest of the season.  Although with frozen cauliflower so readily available I should be able to make this soup all year round.  Frozen vegetables are great for soup, tasteless for anything else, but great for soup.

I love to eat out.  Who doesn’t?  Don’t get me wrong, I also love to cook and enjoy preparing food for family and friends, but my favourite pastime is eating out, not just eating out but dining out.  I enjoy the chat with the waiting staff as they show you to your table and present you with your menu.  In a restaurant, friendly and informative front of house staff will always enhance the experience and make you, the customer, want to return.  For me studying the menu is an essential part of the whole experience.  A quick scan first to get an overview of what is on offer, then a more detailed perusal of the dishes that have caught my eye, before the final decision is decided upon.  The aperitif as you wait for your appetizer while music plays gently in the background and the ebb and flow of conversation as it permeates the room all add to the experience.

It is true that you eat with your eyes, at least I find that is true for me.  As the dish is put in front of me I am checking out the presentation.  I have always imagined that if the chef puts effort into presenting his/her creation, then chances are it will taste great unless something catastrophic has happened in the kitchen.   The aroma should reach your nostrils as you lift your cutlery, hinting at the delicious flavours that are about to engulf your taste buds.  Then wow, the first bite delivers and if you have made the right choice and the chef is in any way talented or even competent, you delight in every bite.  Well, I do anyway!

But not everyone gets the whole eating out experience.  And that’s fine, if we were all the same, life would be very boring.  Sometimes I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they read the menu.  The foodie likes to take their time and study the menu in detail.  The non-foodie has no interest.  They want to order, eat and get out.  The non-foodie opens the menu, chooses the first dish they recognise and places their order.  No reading of the detail of each dish and no interest in thinking about trying something different.  The non-foodie eats to stop hunger, they get no joy from different tastes and textures.  They don’t understand how anyone can spend time reading a menu or discussing what they would like to eat.  Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the taste of good food.  They do, they just don’t get the same buzz out of dining out that us foodies do, they would be just as happy with a fast food takeaway and place no value on the art of choosing quality ingredients and skilfully preparing and presenting them.  Luckily it is only on special occasion meals that the two food types share the same table.  On those occasions, foodies and non-foodies can agree to disagree on their attitude to dining out.

 

 

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Week 2 of the Year of Possibilities

Be a flu fighter

flu_fighter-300x264

The dreaded flu has invaded the country.  The media had been talking about the Australian flu rearing its head in Ireland for the last few weeks and it appears that they were correct.  Not just one strain of flu but two strains are winging their way around the country.  Himself has been suffering from the week before Christmas.  He dosed himself with across the counter medications and declared he was feeling better.  Unfortunately, as soon as he decided he was feeling even slightly better he tried to prove it to himself by venturing out for a cycle across the Curragh Plains.  He arrived back two hours later and spent the next three days coughing and spluttering, sprawled on the couch with no energy to even switch the channels on the TV.  Various members of the extended family are laid up.  One sister and her two teenage girls and adult son, one sister and her husband, and the list is growing.

No matter what the strain of flu doing the rounds, the advice remains the same.  Go to bed, rest, take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help alleviate the symptoms, drink plenty of liquids and let it run its course.  Most of us will bounce back from the flu a week or so later with no ill effects but there are those of us with weakened immune systems for whom the flu can be dangerous, the over 65’s, those with long-term health problems, cancer patients, the very young.  The advice there has been to avail of the flu jab.  A simple shot that will provide you with protection against certain strains of the flu.  Influenza has been around for centuries and no doubt will be around for many more.  We know that the flu infects our citizens every year so why are we always so unprepared.  The HSE Assistant National Director for Health Protection (what a title) Dr Kevin Kelleher has stated that “Flu is responsible for between 200 and 500 deaths each year in Ireland and in a severe season it can cause up to 1,000 deaths.”  Yet, only around 38% of healthcare professionals avail of the flu jab. (up from 30% last year)  Why?

Surely all front-line staff should have the flu jab, free of charge, every year.  End of.  Not open for debate, not negotiable.  Early last year The Health Minister Simon Harris proposed making the flu vaccine compulsory for all healthcare professionals and was met with opposition by the unions.  Why?  What possible reason would the unions have to object to the HSE insisting on compulsory flu vaccination especially considering they recommend to their members that they avail of the vaccine which is provided to them free of charge on a voluntary basis?  They should be campaigning for the flu vaccine to become compulsory not objecting.  Maybe that is just one tiny example of some of the problems with our health service.  Too many factions within the health service with tunnel vision, unable and unwilling to look at the greater picture, the greater good.  Having said that the simple fact that we need at least another 5000 hospital beds in the system to bring us up to international standards is the bigger problem, the shortage of professional staff is another part of the equation.  But the crisis in the health service is a vast subject we will get to another time.  Rant over.

It should be remembered that this year is the 100th anniversary of the “the Spanish Flu”.  A flu pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, that’s more deaths than the 16 million who lost their lives in World War 1.  It emerged in the spring of 1918 when our world was still at war and spread throughout Europe and parts of Africa and Asia.  Over 20% of the world’s population contracted the Spanish flu including Ireland and in this country, an estimated 23,000 people died.  It was a different strain of flu in that it killed mainly the young and healthy.  Nothing like it has been seen since and hopefully we never will again.  But yet every year the flu stills kills hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Science has taught us so much in the last 100 years.  In 1918 we didn’t even know that the flu was a virus.  We now have a vaccine which may not eliminate the flu entirely, but it will go a long way in protecting the most vulnerable.  We now have the knowledge to prepare for the annual flu season.  Flu is a common disease.  It is not a preventable disease, it changes, it spreads too quickly, too easily but we can minimise its effects.  We can minimise deaths.  We can minimise the number of hours lost to illness.  Flu does not have to be a killer.

For all of you suffering from the latest round of the flu, wrap up warm, stay in bed, drink lots of liquids, (my brother in law swears by hot whiskey sweetened with honey, recommended if you haven’t signed up for dry January), be good to yourself until you recover and spare a thought for those who struggle to recover and end up needing hospital care.  In this household, we have decided that we will take up the flu vaccine next year.   Maybe we all should.

Week 1 of the Year of Possibilities

Start each day with a positive thought

Week 1 of my Year of Possibilities has been eventful.  New year resolutions are now decided upon and written down.  One resolution is to spend more time with my father and so far, so good.  On New Year’s Day, we went on a day trip to Howth outside Dublin.  A little over an hour’s drive from us, it is picturesque, with a delightful pier full of fishing boats (and pleasure boats and yachts), beautiful cliff walks, excellent restaurants and views to inspire.  It was cold when we set out, but the skies were blue, and we hoped for the best.  The minute we parked the car we felt the force of nature.  The cobwebs were definitely blown away as we faced into the wind at Howth harbour.  I was struck by the number of people battling the elements on the first day of the New Year.  Maybe like us, they were anxious to shake off the old year and welcome in the new with renewed vigour.  There was a mixture of accents and languages, all wrapped up in heavy coats and gloves, all admiring the view from the harbour but not foolhardy enough to attempt any cliff walks.  Himself had to go back for the car as Dad and I took shelter behind a wall against the wind which threatened to whip him, and his walking aid, into the sea.  Once Dad was safely ensconced inside the car, with his beloved pipe to keep him company, himself and I took a few minutes to enjoy the view out to sea until heavy drops of rain plopped around us forcing our retreat to the relative safety of the car.  Dad suggested hot whiskies and we drove the short distance back to a bar overlooking the harbour.  Even with the rain lashing off the windows, Howth looked picturesque from our vantage point, with a hot drink in hand and a delicious bowl of chowder served up with fresh soda bread.

dad and gerry

On Day 2 of my Year of Possibilities my other half and I set off to the midlands, just the two of us.  Our Christmas present to each other, two nights in a hotel to rest and recuperate from the excesses of Christmas and New Year.  The Adult Retreat at The Hudson Bay Hotel was perfect.  The rooms are delightful, large and airy with a huge bed, great views of Lough Ree and a bathroom fit for royalty.  Our booking included an evening meal in their L’Escale restaurant and what a treat that was.  The staff were knowledgeable and friendly.  The food was beautifully presented and cooked to perfection.  A wonderful experience.

We are now back home, refreshed, renewed and ready to start our New Year in earnest.  We have both decided on a ‘dry January’, or rather part of January as we are starting a few days into the month and ending on the 27th.   Hopefully, the absence of alcohol will aid in weight loss as well as wallet gain for us.  Both badly needed after the excesses of the season.  I dread taking down the Christmas tree and lights tomorrow.  Once the twinkling Christmas lights have been packed away the magic disappears, and the dark encroaches on our spirits.  Outside it’s cold, dark and dreary and spring seems so very far away.  Usually, I hate this time of year but this year I am taking a different approach and have vowed to use these short days and long nights wisely.  I aim to rise each morning with a positive affirmation and during the short days banish all negative thoughts as soon as they occur.  In the evenings a cosy fire and a selection of lamps and candles will banish the dark shadows and a good book always has the power to entertain.  I’m looking forward to following through on more of my resolutions in week 2 of my Year of Possibilities.

 

 

 

The Year of Possibilities

As the old year draws to a close, we find ourselves thinking about the possibilities the new year can bring.  Will it be a good year filled with joy and happiness or will the coming year bring only pain and sorrow?  Most likely a combination but who knows?  The possibilities are endless.  We make our new year’s resolutions to quit something which is bad for us or to take up something which is good for us.  Our resolutions are usually made on the last day of the old year and are totally abandoned by the end of January.

This year I won’t be making my new year resolutions until 2018 is at least a week old.  And this year I will be writing down my resolutions and reminding myself on a regular basis so that I do have a focus, a goal to work towards and I don’t end up one year later wondering what last year’s resolutions were.   This coming year, those resolutions will be positive, life-affirming goals.   I haven’t decided on exactly what those goals will be yet, but I will not be quitting anything or starting anything new.  I have a few ideas.  Like picking a positive affirmation and keeping a copy of it on my bedside locker so that the first words my brain registers every morning is positive and uplifting.  Like setting achievable goals such as,

1) spending more time with my father just enjoying his company,

2) expanding my culinary skills to include one new recipe per month,

3) reading at least two new novels per month,

4) taking the sea air at least once per month,

5) learning a new language,

6) eating healthier,

7) drinking less,

8) establishing a writing schedule,

9) keeping a diary.

My virgin diary sits in front of me waiting for my first note.  That’s the beauty of the New Year.  The possibility that this coming year is going to be the best year ever.  The year that you find yourself.  That you find happiness and joy.  But you won’t find joy unless you open your heart to it.  It is found in the most unusual places.  In the smile of a loved one as you listen to them attentively, in the taste of good food lovingly prepared, in losing yourself in the imagination of others, in the taste and smell of sea air as it blows the cobwebs from your brain and energises your soul, in the satisfaction of a job well done.

Negativity banishes joy so my New Year list will contain tools to help banish negativity, replacing it with positive affirmations.  So that even in the months I do not achieve the goals I have set, I will not despair and just give up, I will try harder the following month.  The old scouting motto springs to mind ‘be prepared’.  It is a good resolution, to be prepared for whatever life throws at you in the year ahead, prepare yourself to roll with the punches, prepare yourself to enjoy the here and now and above all to look for the positive aspects in life.

Happy New Year.

 

 

Christmas Cheer

It’s that time of year again!  The ideal family Christmas is played out on TV and film.  The adverts stay with us year after year, the Coca-Cola Christmas truck, the ‘Penneys got a whole of things for Christmas’ jingle, the little blond girl eating the cornflakes saying ‘Ho Ho Ho’.  The feelgood movies on TV and the competition for the best TV advert.  Who wins this year, ‘Paddington’ or ‘Kevin the Carrot’?  The pressure mounts to host the best Christmas dinner, to give the best Christmas gift, to be the perfect host or to be the perfect guest.  Newspaper articles and radio broadcasts remind us of the true meaning of Christmas and implore us to disregard the commerciality while at the same time advertising the very products and lifestyle they suggest we disregard.  And who can blame them?  They need to earn a living, same as the rest of us.  How else can they do that but to sell the products and the lifestyle we all aspire to.

In Ireland, we have become accustomed to raising a glass at Christmas time to our friends and family who live on foreign shores.  Since famine times our ancestors have left these shores in search of a better way of life.  We at home have toasted them and have missed their presence in our lives.  It was a Christmas morning tradition in our household for my father to make a telephone call to his brother in Canada.  The call was made from my uncle’s house (we didn’t have a phone) and the call was planned and timed, (international phone calls were a considerable expense).  We all stood around the phone in the hall of my uncle’s home singing Merry Christmas, brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews and cousins.  My uncle cried into the receiver while singing with us together with his wife and children, all Irish born but Canadian raised.  He hung up, wishing us the very best for all of us, and praying that the year ahead would be the year he would manage to get home for a visit to the land of his birth.

In recent years the world has become a smaller place and our younger emigrants are no longer completely cut off from those they left behind.  Nowadays, with Skype and Facetime, we can talk to our loved ones overseas on a regular basis easing the pain of separation slightly but never replacing the physical presence of your offspring or sibling, their scent in your nostrils and their bodily warmth in your arms.  Cheaper travel has meant that our loved ones can now travel home more regularly, or we can visit them in their far-flung homes and admire their new-found way of life.  Do we envy them?  Do we envy their bravery, their get up and go?  Do we envy their lifestyle, their opportunities in the lands they have chosen?  Or do we pray for their return to these shores?  It is this time of year we suffer these mixed emotions. We miss our loved ones and want them with us, but do we really want them to abandon the life they have chosen for themselves?

Even if we could entice them back here with amazing job opportunities and promises of a lifestyle to match, where would they live?  We have a housing crisis.  We are not building enough housing for our already growing population.  And we are certainly not building affordable housing.  It is quite simple really.  In 2016 the average industrial wage was €45,611, p.a., the average house price was €240,000 or €352975 in Dublin (where 39% of the total population live).   How can the average person buy the average house?  He/she can’t.   What? Let them rent, Do I hear you say? let them rent.  The national average monthly rent amounts to €1131, while if you are one of the 39% who live in the capital, rents range from €1553 to €1868 PER MONTH.  How can you pay that kind of rent on the average wage and save the minimum deposit of €35,297 you need to buy the average house.  Of course, you could move out of Dublin to buy a cheaper home and commute.  You can join the thousands of others who spend 3-4 hours of their day travelling to and from work and pay the extra €200 plus on tolls, and did I mention parking?  Or you could take the train, only an extra expense of €200 to €400 a month depending on how far into the commuter belt you go.  Although don’t expect a seat every journey.   Of course, that is if you are on the average wage.  We have nearly full employment we are told.  But have we?  Are all these employed people on the average wage or, are a large percentage of them on the minimum wage of €18,759 p.a.  According to OECD data, 25.1% of the employed in this country are low paid (earning less than 2/3 of the median income).  How can you pay rent on that wage?  You certainly won’t be considered for a mortgage.  But, I hear you say, if you can’t afford to buy and you can’t afford to rent, the state will house you.  After all, this is the 21st century and we are a first world state who cherish all of its citizens equally, aren’t we?  You would think so, wouldn’t you?  But no, As I write there are 5,524 adults and 3,333 children homeless.  3,333children without a home!  At Christmas.  Think about it.   And it is common knowledge that this is not an accident, this is government policy.  How sick is that?  How far away from the aspirations of those who wrote the proclamation?

A year ago, a group of people took over Apollo House, a derelict building, and within days had established quality, respectful accommodation for homeless people.  Volunteers provided facilities to those people which offered them a degree of respect which officialdom denied them on a regular basis.  Thousands of Irish people reacted and supported Apollo House.  The public showed the government what could be achieved in a short space of time and with minimum expense.  Our government reacted by allowing the residents of Apollo House to be evicted and that building to remain standing a year later, unoccupied, undemolished, a testament to the failure of our government to cherish all citizens of this state equally.

And what about health care?  Our health service is in chaos.  Even with the large salaries, our well-educated emigrants can command, health insurance can only cover whatever our health service can provide.  Those who are accustomed to the high medical insurance costs in America would undoubtedly have no issue with the premiums requested but would expect the same high level of health service provided in America for that cost.  They certainly won’t get that here.  As for those who currently live in Canada!  The Canadians believe in providing universal health care for all their citizens and at an affordable price, a concept we need to learn in this country.

I started writing this blog tonight thinking about the meaning of Christmas in our country and the absence of loved ones at this time of year.  I ended up finding myself thinking about the reasons people leave this island and the reasons we could entice them to return.  I found myself ashamed of this republic.  Our constitution promises to honour all of our citizens equally, but we have failed and failed badly.  Our children continue to emigrate to find a better way of life and who can blame them.  I think I might join them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Cheer

It’s that time of year again!  The ideal family Christmas is played out on TV and film.  The adverts stay with us year after year, the Coca-Cola Christmas truck, the ‘Penneys got a whole of things for Christmas’ jingle, the little blond girl eating the cornflakes saying ‘Ho Ho Ho’.  The feelgood movies on TV and the competition for the best TV advert.  Who wins this year, ‘Paddington’ or ‘Kevin the Carrot’?  The pressure mounts to host the best Christmas dinner, to give the best Christmas gift, to be the perfect host or to be the perfect guest.  Newspaper articles and radio broadcasts remind us of the true meaning of Christmas and implore us to disregard the commerciality while at the same time advertising the very products and lifestyle they suggest we disregard.  And who can blame them?  They need to earn a living, same as the rest of us.  How else can they do that but sell the products and the lifestyle we all aspire to.

In Ireland, we have become accustomed to raising a glass at Christmas time to our friends and family who live on foreign shores.  Since famine times our ancestors have left these shores in search of a better way of life.  We at home have toasted them and have missed their presence in our lives.  It was a Christmas morning tradition in our household for my father to make a telephone call to his brother in Canada.  The call was made from my uncle’s house (we didn’t have a phone) and the call was planned and timed, (international phone calls were a considerable expense).  We all stood around the phone in the hall of my uncle’s home singing Merry Christmas, brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews and cousins.  My uncle cried into the receiver while singing with us together with his wife and children, all Irish born but Canadian raised.  He hung up, wishing us the very best for all of us, and praying that the year ahead would be the year he would manage to get home for a visit to the land of his birth.

In recent years the world has become a smaller place and our younger emigrants are no longer completely cut off from those they left behind.  Nowadays, with Skype and facetime, we can talk to our loved ones oversees on a regular basis easing the pain of separation slightly but never replacing the physical presence of your offspring or sibling, their scent in your nostrils and their bodily warmth in your arms.  Cheaper travel has meant that our loved ones can now travel home more regularly, or we can visit them in their far-flung homes and admire their new-found way of life.  Do we envy them?  Do we envy their bravery, their get up and go?  Do we envy their lifestyle, their opportunities in the lands they have chosen?  Or do we pray for their return to these shores?  It is this time of year we suffer these mixed emotions. We miss our loved ones and want them with us, but do we really want them to abandon the life they have chosen for themselves?

Even if we could entice them back here with amazing job opportunities and promises of a lifestyle to match, where would they live?  We have a housing crisis.  We are not building enough housing for our already growing population.  And we are certainly not building affordable housing.  It is quite simple really.  In 2016 the average industrial wage was €45,611, p.a., the average house price was €240,000 or €352975 in Dublin (where 39% of the total population live).   How can the average person buy the average house?  He/she can’t.   What? Let them rent, Do I hear you say? let them rent.  The national average monthly rent amounts to €1198, while if you are one of the 39% who lives in the capital, the average rent you will pay amounts to €1774 PER MONTH.  How can you pay that kind of rent on the average wage and save the minimum deposit of €35,297 you need to buy the average house.  Of course, you could move out of Dublin to buy a cheaper home and commute.  You can join the thousands of others who spend 3-4 hours of their day travelling to and from work and pay the extra €200 plus on tolls, and did I mention parking?  Or you could take the train, only an extra expense of €200 to €400 a month depending on how far into the commuter belt you go.  Although don’t expect a seat every journey.   Of course, that is if you are on the average wage.  We have nearly full employment we are told.  But have we?  Are all these employed people on the average wage or, are a large percentage of them on the minimum wage of €18,759 p.a.  According to OECD data, 25.1% of the employed in this country are low paid (earning less than 2/3 of the median income).  How can you pay rent on that wage?  You certainly won’t be considered for a mortgage.  But, I hear you say, if you can’t afford to buy and you can’t afford to rent, the state will house you.  After all, this is the 21st century and we are a first world state who cherish all of its citizens equally, aren’t we?  You would think so, wouldn’t you?  But no, As I write there are 5,524 adults and 3,333 children homeless.  3,333children without a home!  At Christmas.  Think about it.   And it is common knowledge that this is not an accident, this is government policy.  How sick is that?  How far away from the aspirations of those who wrote the proclamation?

A year ago, a group of people took over Apollo House, a derelict building, and within days had established quality, respectful accommodation for homeless people.  Volunteers provided facilities to those people which offered them a degree of respect which officialdom denied them on a regular basis.  Thousands of Irish people reacted and supported Apollo House.  The public showed the government what could be achieved in a short space of time and with minimum expense.  Our government reacted by allowing the residents of Apollo House to be evicted and that building to remain standing a year later, unoccupied, undemolished, a testament to the failure of our government to cherish all citizens of this state equally.

And what about health care?  Our health service is in chaos.  Even with the large salaries, our well-educated emigrants can command, health insurance can only cover whatever our health service can provide.  Those who are accustomed to the high medical insurance costs in America would undoubtedly have no issue with the premiums requested but would expect the same high level of health service provided in America for that cost.  They certainly won’t get that here.  As for those who currently live in Canada!  The Canadians believe in providing universal health care for all their citizens and at an affordable price, a concept we need to learn in this country.

I started writing this blog tonight thinking about the meaning of Christmas in our country and the absence of loved ones at this time of year.  I ended up finding myself thinking about the reasons people leave this island and the reasons we could entice them to return.  I found myself ashamed of this republic.  Our constitution promises to honour all of our citizens equally, but we have failed and failed badly.  Our children continue to emigrate to find a better way of life and who can blame them.  I think I might join them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joie de Vivre

Joie de Vivre

The gaiety wafted out the door of the Day Care centre yesterday.  There was a rousing chorus of “Down at the Red Rose Hotel” as the oldies held hands and danced in a circle in the middle of the floor.  Their enthusiasm was infectious.  You couldn’t help yourself.  You just had to join in the singing.  Joie de Vivre emanates from the centre users and I find myself grinning from ear to ear every time I step inside those doors to collect my older person.

My older person has a renewed spring in his step these days, albeit a decidedly wonky one.  It took nearly a year of persuasion to get him to try out the Day Care Centre, now he won’t miss it.  He said it would be full of old fogies and he wouldn’t like it.  He now knows half of the oldies are younger than him and not one of them is an ‘old fogie’.  He now has companionship, activities, human interaction and independence.  They talk to him, they listen to him and let’s face it, the listening is more important than the talking.  In the mad rush of everyday life, we sometimes forget to take the time to listen to our older people.  Maybe we should listen more.

The centre provides a home cooked meal in the middle of the day.  None of your smashed avocado or cauliflower couscous there.  The only cauliflower served there is well-boiled with cheese sauce over it.  The way he likes it.  Good old-fashioned dinners of the type our older persons are used to.  Chicken and mash and two veg.  No vegetable is served ‘al dente’ there.

They finish off the day with a good old-fashioned sing-song.  Every time I collect him he says the same thing “That was great today.  Great crowd today,” as I help him into his coat and he pulls on his cap.  He has to say his goodbyes to everyone with a huge smile on his face and lots of smiles and waves returned from his fellow oldies.  They know each other by their first name and treat each other with a respect and kindness that gladdens the soul.  The singsong is not for everyone.  There are always one or two oldies, usually men, who sit in the dining room or conservatory.  They might be reading or staring into space or talking to each other and they are facilitated.  Their personal choice is respected.  There are no faces with scowls or frowns, only smiles and songs and conversation and joy.

The Day Care Centre he attends is run by SVP.  A lovely, warm building, comfortable furniture, and a great garden.  The staff are wonderful.  They are friendly, attentive and treat our older people with dignity and respect.  The whole aura of the centre is one of warmth and happiness.  The staff work hard to maintain that sense of joy, but I think it is the older people who have decided that they are going to enjoy themselves.  They abandon all inhibitions at the door and get on with it.  Fair play to them.

It got me thinking that maybe when you get to those declining years, you have to make decisions about what type of oldie you are going to be.  If you are lucky enough to maintain a high level of fitness and good health, then there are loads of options open to you.  If you are like the majority and find that your activity is curtailed by your age or your health/fitness levels, there are two options open to you.  You can decide to stay by the fire alone, except for occasional visits by family, watch TV, and grow crotchety.  Or you can take the bull by the horns and inject some joy into your final years.   Until my older person started attending the Day Care Centre I didn’t realise such joy could be palpable on a daily basis.  I have seen joy on his face over the years.  On Christmas morning when the whole family visits him.  When any of his grandchildren go out of their way to spend time with him.  When he first held one of his great-grandchildren.  When he receives a card or letter from friends or family who live far away.  Those were, and are, moments of great joy for him.

Joyous moments happen to us all during our lifetime.  We should treasure those moments and mostly we do.  But we get bogged down in raising children, maintaining a job, keeping a roof over our heads, paying bills, all the normal grown-up stuff.  In our twilight years, all of that should be behind us and we can concentrate on just enjoying the few precious years we have left.  That is what they do in the Day Care Centre, enjoy life, celebrate getting that far, joie de vivre.

It also struck me that the only other place you can experience that type of uninhibited joie de vivre is in a creche.  Pre-school children don’t tend to have any inhibitions.  We humans are sociable creatures and we enjoy human contact.  We first learn how to communicate to others on our mother’s knee and retain communication with others to our dying days.  Once our children start formal school education the uninhibited joy is gradually eroded as they learn the skillsets they need to survive in our world.  They still have their moments of joy but interspersed with homework and uniforms and school bells.  They leave school and college and they start their working life and follow in our footsteps with relationships and mortgages and kids and life.  Everyday life.

Then we hit our twilight years and we should no longer have the constant worries that beset us for all those years.  At the beginning of our lives and at the end, there should not be any inhibitions, there should be no fear of ridicule or scorn.  At the beginning of our lives, we have not yet learned to care what others think of us, and at the end of our lives, we have learned that it does not matter what others think.  If I am ever fortunate enough to get to the age where I can attend a Day Care Centre for the Aged, I will kick up my heels and dance and sing.  I refuse to be the grumpy ole biddy who hasn’t a good word to say about anyone.  I will follow the example of my older person and his new companions and be one of the oldies with the joie de vivre.