Category Archives: Try Something Different

#101 Finish a Blog

Whoever claimed ‘It’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey’ clearly never suffered from motion sickness. I have vivid memories of every childhood holiday (and fortunately they weren’t too frequent) spent in the back seat of a hot car with my head over a bucket wondering if I’d die before we made it to our destination.

And don’t remind me of the horrendous boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef in the ’80s where I became that pariah below deck, throwing up her insides; nor that New Year’s Eve yachting party on Sydney Harbour in the ’90s where a water-taxi had to be called to ferry such an embarrassing guest away. Oh no, journeys have rarely held much pleasure for me.

So imagine my surprise to discover, on finally reaching my destination of completing 101 Fun and Frivolous Activities in Retirement—after almost 9 years—that I’ve actually loved this particular journey. Not a hint of travel sickness.

But where to from here?

#101 Finish a Blog

So for something a little different to celebrate this 101st and final blog post, I’ve created an interactive one for a change.

If you like quizzes, this one’s for you; if you love crosswords, it will fill in a few minutes of your day; and if you’re of a literary bent, you’ll enjoy recalling past reads because this one’s a literary-themed crossword.

And in a final twist, there’s a mystery message to be deciphered at the end.

My apologies that it’s not a crossword where you can type in the answers, but that skill’s way above my pay grade.

Clues:

Once you’ve found the answers, you can go on to solve the mystery message:

And if you think I have too much time on my hands, you may be right, but it sure beats travel sickness!

#99 Enjoy Age-Appropriate Activities—Without Shame

Strange things happen as you age, and they’re not all as good as gaining wisdom and caring less about what people think.

For example, you become invisible while waiting in line for service; then one day, unexpectedly, the background noise in restaurants becomes intolerable; and there’s the moment when the thought of replacing your recently deceased, beloved pet raises questions like ‘do I have the energy for a puppy?’ and ‘who’ll look after it when I’m gone?’; and finally, you’re shocked out of every vestige of comfort you’ve ever known, when a news report speaks of someone who dies in their sixties as ‘elderly’.

This can only mean the time has come to

#99 Enjoy Age-Appropriate ActivitiesWithout Shame

Becoming invisible after 60 can be partially overcome, I think, by wearing very bright colours, every single day.

In the first, hilarious episode of Fisk on the ABC last week, the main character, played by Kitty Flanagan, arrived for work in a gaudy shade of yellow. She was pilloried for looking like a ‘walking banana’,

Too hi-vis, they said

but surely that’s got to be better than being mistaken for the office furniture and sat upon, which is what happened when she wore brown and beige?

“Blending into the chair like some sort of furniture chameleon”

At least when she looked like a banana, she became somebody, so bring out the colours and ignore any comments, I say.

————————————

The problem with background noise in restaurants is a tough one, because not only is it impossible to hear, it’s also so difficult to speak above the din that pretty soon, you end up with a husky voice and an inability to contribute to the conversation.

So if this means turning into your parents and dining at 6.30pm before the crowds, then so be it. Or do all your socialising early in the day. There is no shame after 60.

—————————————

A solution to the replacement pet has turned out to be easier than I thought. I’m finding that no one rejects an offer to care for their dog when they’re away. This gives you wonderful bonding time with a much loved pet (one that quite possibly has been better trained than your own ever was), takes the worry away from your friends and, as a bonus, doesn’t stymie you if you want to go on a spontaneous holiday yourself.

And if the time between dog-sitting become too long and you’re missing that tactile interaction with a pet, I can thoroughly recommend finding a realistic model that looks just like the dog you’re missing, and patting him every time you walk past.

Meet Ziggy’s not-quite-ghost, Shadow

——————————

Advancing years bring out another fabulous age-appropriate trait to take your mind off the accelerating years, and that’s obsessively tracing your own family history after watching endless repeats of the SBS program Who Do You Think You Are?

I particularly enjoy seeing the participants of this show declare their ancestors to be quite blameless, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, or tear up over the death in childbirth of a great-great-grandmother, a woman unknown to them only a few minutes earlier.

My DNA analysis threw up Southern European ancestors as well as a side serve of Irish and Scottish ones, none of which came as a surprise.

But when I discovered that my grand-mother’s 9 year-old sister, Marie-Louise, died of ‘Rheumatic Endocarditis and Exhaustion’ in 1915, what should happen but my eyes began to glisten for a little girl I never knew existed!

Although nothing prepared me for the shock of my great-grandfather’s death certificate, where the cause of his demise was claimed to be ‘senility’. He was only 69!

My mother NEVER mentioned that her beloved Pop was senile. They must have that one wrong.

My great-grandfather would never have died with such a condition.

#98 Allow yourself to be seduced

Once you reach a certain age, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to fall in love.

That excited fluttering in the stomach when thinking about the object of your affections, the anticipation of sharing time together, the sheer joy of knowing you’ve met your perfect match at last.

I thought it was too late for this to happen again, but now realise there’s no age limit to infatuation:

#98 Allow yourself to be seduced

Harris Farm Markets has decided to favour our town with its presence and I’m smitten.

You’re very welcome!

I’d heard about this market for years from family and friends in Sydney. They’d regale me with stories of the freshest of local fruit and vegetables, the most exotic groceries imaginable, displays to make your head spin, anything and everything a foodie ever dreamed of, and all coming together under one roof. A magical land akin to a Willie Wonka factory but designed for adults.

AND NOW IT’S IN MY TOWN AND IT’S WALKING DISTANCE FROM HOME!

As I think about it, all the adjectives, adverbs, similes and metaphors in my repertoire don’t do it justice. Instead, sit back, relax, and enjoy photographs that display the long lost art of effortless seduction.

From fruit and vegetables …

Onions looking glamorous
Assorted heirloom tomatoes to make Maggie Beer envious
Can you get fresher than Living Lettuce?

To deli items …

You can never have too much cheese
or exotic crispbreads …
Oils ain’t just oils here
Instant nut butters

…to coffee and desserts

Grind-your-own
Organic single herd milk. (Yes, it’s really a thing!)

… not forgetting a seafood stall and a butchery, a smokehouse and a florist, a juice bar and an on-site baker’s mill—among too many other delights to mention.

I realise I’m in the early days of my infatuation and that the shine will inevitably fade. I’ll emerge from these crazy, heady days of unbridled pleasure with an overstocked pantry, feeling a tad guilty about neglecting the lovely Swedish baker and the excellent bulk food store to the south of the town, the well stocked essential ingredient shop in the town centre and the European deli to the north.

But until that happens, I’m basking in this flood of oxytocin.

And did I mention it’s walking distance from home?

#94 Practise ‘The Science of Wellbeing’

The image above, of the dog contemplating his happiness in the moment while his master dreams of unattainable goals, is a well-known meme for mindfulness and savouring life as it happens.

Having immersed myself over the past 5 weeks in an on-line course run by Yale University through Coursera, it neatly sums up the essence of what I’m learning:

#94 Practise ‘The Science of Wellbeing’

Contrary to what I’ve always thought, studying at Yale isn’t stressful at all. The course is free, I’m doing it from home, and as the professor taking it is a young woman who looks a little like the daughter of a friend, she’s nowhere near as scary as the professors who taught me aeons ago.

Dr Laurie Santos, Yale Professor of Psychology

She sits in a comfy chair with the students around her, peppers her tutorials with phrases like ‘this is so cool’ or ‘you’re gonna love this’, and sets multiple choice exams at the end of each week that mirror her tutorials word for word.

As the course had the word ‘Science’ in its title, I believed in it immediately, and although there’s an element of rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, if the science says it works, who am I to roll my eyes and wonder if it may be a bit too Pollyanna-esque?

Anyway, what’s wrong with roses and kittens?

So what does the science tell us?

Let me summarise to save you the trouble of going to Yale.

The things we think we want are not the things that make us happy. In fact, just about everything our brain tells us that we need to be happier is wrong. This is known as mis-wanting. Analysis of studies (demonstrated by impressive graphs), has shown time and again that beyond a certain income, more money and possessions do not make us any happier.

Hedonic adaptation then means we get blasé about the good things we have in life and stop appreciating them. This puts us on the treadmill of striving for something more, even though that, too, will be subject to hedonic adaptation in time.

So how do we overcome the fault in our brains?

It takes practice, and that seems to be the overarching message of this course.

  • Determine your top signature strengths (as assessed by a questionnaire, or you could ask your friends) and focus on them, as they will lead to the most satisfaction in your life:
I so wanted bravery and zest but got stuck with self-regulation and humour
  • Have experiences, rather than buying ‘stuff’. Experiences have been shown to create greater satisfaction in life.
  • Take a moment each day to savour something special, no matter how small. (Spotted a blue tongue lizard in your garden? That will do it, so make a note of it or take a photo.)
Aren’t you gorgeous?
  • Keep a gratitude journal by the bed to write down at least 3 things you’re grateful for. Every. Single. Day. Because even a bad day will have some little kernel of goodness;
  • Make and maintain social connections. While this may not work so well face-to-face during a pandemic, at least we have any number of electronic ways to help us (which is something to be grateful for…)
  • Find a good mindfulness tape and practise regularly, even if only for ten minutes a day. (More clever graphs show that this works wonders!)
  • Prioritise sleep (now you’re talking … )
  • Exercise regularly (or perhaps not … )
  • Smile or chat—even briefly—to a stranger, because it makes both you and them feel better;
  • Express gratitude to other people;
  • Make the time to do the things you enjoy. In other words, work at becoming ‘time affluent’;
  • Repeat all of the above.

It makes sense that practising positive, life affirming habits will improve wellbeing. I have a neighbour whose raison d’être is to assail me with tales of what’s gone wrong in his life, through no fault of his own, interspersed with stories of who in the vicinity of our street has died, who’s had a fall, and who’s been moved into a nursing home. It’s exhausting spending time with him but thanks to this course, I now realise why he does it. He’s trained himself so well, practised being like this for so long, that he’s become an absolute expert in misery and discontent. So practise does make perfect.

The course has reminded me of something else, too. To find answers, I could’ve just re-watched the closing credits of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

As Michael Palin said, ‘well, it’s nothing very special’.


If you follow these guidelines, and also remember—when you’re feeling very small and insecure—how amazing and unlikely is your birth, you’ve got it covered.

#93 Try your Hand at Amateur Cinematography

It was an offer too good to refuse.

BB, my Bunnings buddy, asked me if I knew how to film and edit a video to post on YouTube.

Now I’d read about actors who, when quizzed as to whether they could ride a horse bareback, had brazenly told the director ‘of course I can’. Even though they’d never quite mastered their childhood rocking horse. So I immediately said to BB, ‘Of course I can!’.

It didn’t hurt that he’d also hinted it might make an interesting topic for a blog post.

And so … here we are:

#93 Try your Hand at Amateur Cinematography

Another reason the idea appealed was because BB had built a clever rotating soil sifter based on Costa Georgiadis’ instructions in a Gardening Australia episode,

a neat little contraption that sieves soil as it’s shovelled into a turning mesh barrel, before spitting weeds or big bits out the other end.

How long must I turn this? Seriously?

But BB had taken it a step further and come up with an ingenious method of automatically rotating the sieve without the need of an expensive motor (or an expensive helper for that matter).

This deserved a wider audience.

This had Oscar nominee written all over it.

After a morning’s filming using my trusty iPad, and a few hours editing the rushes (as we cinematographers call the unedited footage), I finalised the grand opus, ready for BB to post on YouTube.

There are a few important lessons I’ve been able to take away from the experience:

  1. It’s probably not a bad idea to rehearse a script before shooting. Maybe even several times.
  2. Keep each scene nice and short … so you can
  3. Reshoot when you’re not happy with it (without driving everyone nuts).
  4. When the Talent says “I’m not sure if you can see this,” make sure you move in for a close-up.
  5. When the Talent proudly points to another part of his design, swing the camera in that direction as soon as you’re aware that’s what he wants. (So it’s important to PAY ATTENTION while filming)
  6. Always make sure there’s a cute dog somewhere in the shoot.

So here it is: the DIY cordless rotating sieve or trommel

I predict a glowing future for BB, now known as the Talent.

Not so sure about the cinematographer …

[Masterful cameo of fed-up trammel turner played by Mrs BB]
[Cute dog played by Captain Oats (without-an-e)]

#87 Plan for “The Year of Living Safely”

The longer I’ve lived, the more the years have merged into each other, especially since ceasing work.

So if you were to ask me what I got up to in, say, 2013, I really wouldn’t have a clue unless I checked my photos and bank statements.

Today, I’m taking the bold step of predicting that in the future, not one child or adult living on earth at this moment will ever forget what they were doing in 2020.


My generation has been lucky enough to miss a World War, and life has been mostly smooth sailing for us. That is, until a novel Coronavirus reared its ugly little genetic parcel of RNA and decided to inflict Covid-19 on the world.

Time to

#87 Plan for “The Year of Living Safely”

It’s going to be extremely tough for so many people, as jobs dry up, money disappears into the ether, and our lives are physically restricted. But maybe we should be relieved that no one is dropping bombs on us, there are unlikely to be food shortages, and no mastermind is trying to exterminate an entire race or entire religion. Even if we have to stay home for a year, if we help and support each other, we can probably muddle through somehow.

Remember,


Planning for the next however-many months of my life at home has made me realise that the past 7+ years of writing this blog has been the perfect preparation. Embarrassingly, I’ve discovered that my life in retirement has been almost entirely home-based. (I saw a meme once that suggested the trajectory of your life is determined by the song that was top of the hit parade in your country on your 14th birthday. Mine was Tom Jones’ Green, Green Grass of Home!)

So rather than re-invent the wheel, I’ve prepared a reminder of some of the fun and frivolous (and generally inexpensive) activities previously featured in this blog. As we’re urged to restrict our shopping, a few of them may need tweaking, but they’re all amenable to this.

A few other ideas spring to mind now, such as ‘Learn how to cut your own hair’ or ‘Move the furniture around to pretend you’ve renovated’. But I’ll leave other, more qualified, people to give tips on exercising-in-situ, virtual travel and the best books to read.

Meanwhile, stay safe and please, for the sake of our wonderful health professionals, as well as all our fellow travellers, stay home!

#84 Hold a Sustainable Kris Kringle

Sometimes, in the face of a wilfully stupid government that leaves you feeling powerless, all you can do is quietly undermine them.

So with large tracts of the east coast of Australia now alight with unseasonal bushfires and a government still intent on promoting coal and coal mines, I’ve channelled my anger and frustration into a small act of defiance this Christmas.

No big buying spree to prop up the economy, thanks all the same, Mr Treasurer. This is the year my group of friends decided to

#84 Hold a Sustainable Kris Kringle

So much better than the usual exchange of bought-at-the-last-minute ‘stuff’.

The brief was simple:

                                       ◊ Make it
                                       ◊ Bake it
                                       ◊ Pick it
                                       ◊ Plant it
                                       ◊ Re-cycle it
                                       ◊ Re-gift it
                                       ◊ Re-use it
                                       ◊ Re-design it
                                       ◊ Re-purpose it

And here are the ideas we came up with:

  1. A re-purposed hand towel sewn into a clever shower mitt, together with a bar of perfumed soap:

2. A re-gifted book on ‘green’ drinking and eating 


3. A Garden Box full of goodies, including freshly laid eggs:


4. A jigsaw puzzle the original owner had completed more than enough times:


5. A Gift card promising a home cooked meal, with no expiry date!


6. A re-cycled novel by Ann Cleeves (who writes the Vera series) presented in a Christmas-card decorated bag:


7. Cards of assorted sizes printed on a home printer from photographs taken locally by the gift-giver:

Cards

 


8. Bonus cosmetics received after placing an order for regular cosmetics:


Every aspect of this Sustainable Kris Kringle was perfect: the pre-planning, the collating and especially the exchange of such personal gifts at our breakfast gathering.

The vote is that we’re definitely doing it again next year.

With apologies to the economy, of course.

Image of Christmas Trees (at top of post) is my lettuce, having bolted in the pre-summer heat. [sigh]

#83 Encrypt a Message

It was a short note in a breakout box advising readers how to send tips to newspapers—in this instance, about underpayments in the restaurant industry— that first caught my eye:


Ooh. This is cloak and dagger stuff. I had no idea you should send a ‘confidential and encrypted’ message when contacting journalists. Immediately, I felt the need to investigate how to

#83 Encrypt a message

on the off-chance I ever want to become a whistle-blower.

Back in primary school, it was so simple to send coded messages.

For example, if you wanted to let a friend know, without others finding out, where you’d buried your treasure, you could send a seemingly unhelpful map—

knowing they’d been in the same science class as you, understood the magic of lemon juice and would put the map in their home oven to reveal the location:

But then we graduated to word processors and the level of sophistication increased. Lemon juice was out.

Instead, you could send a friend a seemingly innocent computer message that wouldn’t cause any problems if her mother found it:

Sally, of course, knows there’s a secret message encrypted in this innocuous double-spaced word document, and all she has to do is highlight every blank line and change the white print Alison has used into red print to reveal the true plan:

I’m not suggesting I would ever have done this

In a similar vein, I’ve read work references that on the surface, read positively:

but when decoded—by reading every alternate line instead—reveal an entirely different message


A friend once sent me an email that opened on my iPad looking like this intriguing, encrypted message:

Sadly, when I forwarded it onto my computer at home, it turned out to be totally innocuous:

So I turned to trusty Google to ask  ‘How do I encrypt an email?’

Suffice to say that if becoming a whistleblower isn’t frightening enough, try understanding advice given by a computer geek.

But the fabulous news is that, without knowing it, I’m already encrypting my messages:

I knew there was a reason I’ve always been an Apple girl.

Of course, this automatic encryption doesn’t take into account the times when I’m juggling the messaging app between two friends and inadvertently send the message to the wrong person:

I’m beginning to suspect that this world of espionage is not for the fainthearted—or the feebleminded.

 

#82 Just DO it!

It’s a shame that procrastination is so much easier than action.

Imagine how much you could achieve in life if instead of thinking about itmeaning to do it one day, or planning to get around to it in the very near future, you actually … just … DID it?

With that in mind, my friends in Discovery group and I recently decided to complete some of those nagging little jobs we’d been putting off for ages and report back on our achievements.

I found it so empowering that I’ve decided to keep it going and set aside the first week of every month to …

#82 Just DO it!

— even if it’s no more than completing one small job each day.

Apparently this rewards us in several ways. According to psychologists, tasks we haven’t done distract us, but the mere act of making a plan to get them done frees us from this anxiety.

Completing them then gives us small bursts of dopamine, generating feelings of satisfaction and happiness.  Bigger tasks can be broken down into so called Micro-tasks and as each one is finalised, it spurs us on to continue.

During our Discovery experiment, one of our members finally compiled an album of photos using Snapfish that she’s been meaning to do—since her 2014 trip to Italy. Now, she’s enthused about doing all the other albums waiting.

Another friend has a neat-as-a-pin office at home which, from the pictures she showed us, looks nothing like it used to look, whilst a third friend weeded her husband’s overgrown vegetable bed AND planted tomatoes for him!

My first task was ludicrously easy. I was given a lovely cushion at Christmas, but its stuffing had started to bulge a little at the back the more I used it:

Ten months it’s taken me to sew two simple strips of velcro on the back to bring this together:

                                                               Ten months!!

Buoyed by this quick and easy success, I sorted through my earrings to locate the ones needing minor repairs:

All it took was one drop of Superglue© to the backs of each detached piece:

                                                                                   Two pairs of earrings as good as new.

Not everything works to plan. One of our members was determined to bake a light, fluffy sponge which she’d never managed to achieve before. Although we didn’t get to taste the result, the report she presented on the day, reminiscent of a Maggie Beer presentation, would easily score 10 in any cooking show. It was replete with photographs of the recipes she’d consulted, pictures of all the ingredients used, shots of each painstaking moment of adding, folding, beating. It even included  images of the sponge through the glass doors of the oven. Masterful!

She was disappointed that the end result was more like a dense cake than the light and fluffy concoction she’d been aiming for, but the most teethgrinding moment for her was when her husband—who’d never baked a thing in his entire life—tasted it and suggested perhaps she should have separated the yolks and the whites.*


It’s true that each completed task encourages you to do more.

I came across a letter in an old storage box a few months ago that had been sent to me in 1985 by someone who was beginning to think at the time that I may have been the one for him.

He’d been hang-gliding for a week up Newcastle way, and the letter was full of the exhilaration of his exploits and a humorous tale of how he’d landed —unexpectedly—almost on top of a young women lying on the beach.

Well, Reader, he married her!

So I felt this letter belonged in his family archives, rather than mine, and after a Google search for his work address, (I’d not seen or heard from him in 34 years) I returned the keepsake, with slight trepidation.

He responded very quickly, saying he was thrilled to receive it, planned to show his children the story of the exact moment he met their mother, and finished the letter with an invitation to meet for coffee in a few weeks as he was returning to the district for a weekend … 

Now in the grip of reconnecting with times past, I decided it was time to dig out the 8mm films my grandfather had taken of the family back in 1962. Walking past the local camera store these past umpteen years, I’d seen their signs saying they could convert old 8mm film to a DVD, and had always thought, ‘One day, I must …’.

That day had arrived. In next to no time, I was watching, in all its flickering glory, my parents as gorgeous young thirty-somethings on the terrace at home with my older sister and me. 

With our mother

                                                                                 Misty-eyed viewing, if truth be told

There’s a lot to be said for Just doing it.

  • * Separating eggs won’t make a sponge lighter. It’s all about beating lots of air into the mixture and having sufficient raising agents!