Elvish Adventures Haute Couture

Elvish couture has never featured in my life - much like high fashion in general really, as anyone who has seen my wardrobe will tell you.

Elvish couture has never featured in my life - much like high fashion in general really, as anyone who has seen my wardrobe will tell you. Click To Tweet

At best, my fashion style can be described as Mish Mash Abstract (yes, I made that up, so don’t even bother, ok?)

So it may come as a shock to my friends when they see the designer handbag I just bought.

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Pop Chorus directed by Yula Andrews Performing at the Martlesham 100 Event in the summer.

Pop Chorus is truly a phenomenon that is hard to explain.

But, I am going to try.

Back in April of this year, I wrote a post about singing. In that post, I spoke about joining a choir but I had only been in it for three months at that point.

But I already knew I was involved in something unique - I just didn't know how unique Pop Chorus was at that time. The choir's musical director was Yula Andrews and she had decided to expand the choir by forming another group, which was the group I joined in January 2017.

We are one big choir but we rehearse in five different groups, coming together for shows and big rehearsals.

Three months after I wrote the post about Pop Chorus, we performed a sell-out show - Lose Yourself In the Music - at a 700 seat venue in Ipswich and I was starting to see what an unstoppable force Yula Andrews is when it comes to Pop Chorus.

pop chorus

Pop Chorus - Lose Yourself In The Music - the sell-out show - Ipswich Corn Exchange July 15th 2017

Pop Chorus played their biggest venue to date with a choir made up of people who 'can't sing'.

And it was a sell-out. People were queuing to get in and there was not a single seat left.

Can Pop Chorus members sing? Oh yes.

Individually, many of us, myself included, would not consider ourselves to be singers. If I had not been coerced by an old friend, I would never ever have thought about singing in front of anyone, never mind on stage in a large theatre!

But Pop Chorus does not tolerate people saying 'I can't sing'. Yula believes in everyone. The only difference between Yula and Gareth Malone is that he has a TV show and she doesn't - YET.

The result is a group of people who, together, make the most amazing sounds singing pop songs in four and sometimes five part harmony.

Big as the sell-out concert was, Pop Chorus, I was sure, still had something even bigger to come.

Those of us who took part in that performance will never forget it. The relentless rehearsals, the learning of song after song, memorising lyrics, practicing parts at home day after day, the build up to the show, the jostling for space in dressing rooms, the camaraderie on and off-stage and then finally, the intense pride and joy we all felt as we took several bows after the most incredible night of our lives.

The whole experience was multi-layered, rich in the warmth of being with people who share a love of music and who trust each other enough to bare their voices week after week.

And all driven forward by one person - Yula, although it must be said that Yula does have two 'wing men' - voice singing coaches Jen Leyton and Becky Alexander who lead two of the groups.

But big as this sell-out concert was, it didn't drive me back to the keyboard to write part two of my thoughts on the choir.

I even interviewed Yula and much as I loved what she told me about what drives her, I still wasn't ready to write part two.

Something bigger was coming - of that I felt sure, but I had no idea what it was.

Straight after the concert, I, like many other people fell into a strange malaise. Pop Chorus was over for the summer and many of us felt lost.

A few people got a group together to continue meeting up throughout the summer while Pop Chorus was on a break but I retreated back into the world I had been in before joining Pop Chorus.

I was, I told myself, relieved it was over. I'd done it, I'd had the experience, I'd met some wonderful people but it was over and now it was time to get back to work and stop all this frivolity.

But then came the first whispering of the 'big thing' I was waiting for without knowing what it was.

Yula wanted us to make a CD to raise money for our community partner, St. Elizabeth's Hospice.

And so, the 'Always' project was born and a new chapter in the life of Yula's Pop Chorus began.

It was an ambitious project but by September, everything was in place for it to go ahead - Yula had secured the services of renowned music producer Ian Curnow, who was from the Stock Aitken and Waterman stable, producing hit after hit for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Talk Talk and the Pet Shop Boys.

An original song had been written using lyrics generated by  St. Elizabeth Hospice patients and it was about to form the centre point of the most ambitious project Pop Chorus had ever undertaken.

Pop Chorus members were stunned - we were going to record a CD - a proper CD with a proper producer!

Us people who 'could not sing' had sold out a concert and now we were going to make a CD.

As soon as summer was over, we were rushed back into rehearsals a week earlier than choir should have resumed and the hard work began.

Five leads were auditioned, and they went into the studio of Ian Curnow to record the lead part of Always.

But what about the rest of us?

How to you record a whole choir professionally?

So the Diss Corn Hall was hired and a professional studio was set up in there.

We spent a day recording our original song, 'Always' and three of our most popular covers:

I just Don't Know What To Do With Myself - Dusty Springfield
The Power of Love - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Chandelier - Sia.

And our CD was born!

pop chorus
pop chorus

This is what makes Pop Chorus a phenomenon.

It's the tireless work of director Yula Andrews and her team. The dedication of the choir members and the support we have all had from family, friends and the people who come to our shows.

In the 10 months I have been involved with Pop Chorus, I have come to understand the bonds that are forged when a huge group of people has a common interest and purpose.

I have never been part of a group that is so warm and supportive.

The single is doing incredibly well on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play - we have been going up and down the charts on all three since the CD release on November 17th.

We have held our own against some really big names and are hoping against all hope we make it into the Top 40 by midnight on Thursday Nov23rd.

Number 1 would be an absolute dream for St. Elizabeth's Hospice and their patients.

Please help Pop Chorus help terminally ill people - visit http://www.popchorus.org and follow one of the links to download our single or our EP. The single is only 99p and the EP is less than £4.

Pop Chorus is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Women and war - two words that I never really think about.

But yesterday, when I visited the war graves in my nearby town, women and war suddenly became related in my mind for the first time in all the years I have been going to my uncle's grave.

Whenever I visit the cemetery, I always think in terms of all the men who died in the World Wars, which of course was incredibly naive of me and made me think about how I have always perceived male and female roles in wartime.

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Ageism takes many forms - are you allowing yourself to be defined by the age pigeonhole that society has stuffed you in?

There are many age-related pigeonholes into which we all get stuffed from the moment we are born. It can help with things like clothing sizes and other stuff as in 'newborn' nappies or 'toddler' groups.

However, it never occurred to me, as I worked my way gradually through all the pigeonholes of life, that when I reached the final one, I would still be quite young but would be constantly beaten back into my age pigeonhole by younger people wielding the intimidating 'over 60s' stick.

This is not the first time I have been driven to write about ageism. I was moved to gross sarcasm about it back in the summer of 2015 when attending a business conference in London .

This is not the first time I have been driven to write about ageism. Oh my goodness, no! Click To Tweet

One of the speakers I had gone to see kept referring to the 'grey pound'  - ageism at it's worst in my opinion.

When I realised he was talking about me (despite no grey hair!) I was really impressed with myself wondering how such an old duffer as me managed to catch a train to London, all alone, and take the underground to the conference centre without wetting myself or dribbling on anyone.

When I returned, I wrote a post on ageism which you can find here.


Ageism - if anyone says you are over the hill, may I suggest you chase the little buggers up it!

Lately, as a mature woman who feels no different to the 'me' I was at any other time of my life, I have become increasingly concerned at the number of under 60s who are poised to hit you with the over 60s stick, should you have the cheek to peep out of the pigeonhole to see what's going on in the world.

I am so sick of the ageism that is rampant, especially in the Millennial generation who have been spoilt rotten.

Don't believe me? Watch this!

My choice is to be a 'something' again, not an 'over'. It's like this...

…once we were teens, a label probably none of us really minded. Our teens gave way to three decades of being a "something" as in 20 something, 30 something and 40 something, during which we may have subconsciously written off anyone over 50 or 60 as not worth bothering about. Where did we get that idea?

Ageism - if anyone says you are over the hill, may I suggest you chase the little buggers up it! Click To Tweet

We were utterly blind to the fact that we were eventually going to be those older people who were too offensive to us to contemplate.

Too offensive on the eye to be anywhere near us beautiful young things who owned the world - or so we thought. Turns out we were just borrowing it before the next lot of arrogant youngsters turned up and glared at us for daring to leave the house after reaching age 60.

Did we ever consider, for one moment, as we smirked at the sight of a 60-year-old doing anything we considered to be 'too young' for them, that we were nothing more than 'over 60s' waiting to happen? Did we ever look through the window of the unstoppable bus of time and notice life just whizzing past in a blur?

Was I guilty of ageism when I was younger? Yes, I probably was.

When I was still in one of the recognized 'something' decades, I was as guilty as anyone for writing off the 'over 60s' as being 'past it'. Past what? And where does that idea come from? The irony is, that when I actually became one of them, I felt no different inside to when I was 49 or 29 or 19. I suddenly realized the injustice of pigeonholing a whole chunk of society and subconsciously writing people off once they reach 60.

I finally understood the folly of ageism.

If you need any proof that we are shoved unkindly into a final and inferior age pigeonhole once past our 59th year, think about this, past 60, we are no longer worthy of our own decade as in being referred to as a '60 something'. We become 'overs', lumped in with everyone from 60 to 110.

Considering our wonderful leaders are gradually pulling the cosy retirement rug from under our feet by upping the age at which we can expect to get our state pension, I think society needs to stop all this 'over 60' nonsense and define us all as 'something's according to our decade, particularly those still expected to work and continue paying tax. I mean, who wants to be called an 'over'?

Society needs to stop all this 'over 60' nonsense - most of us are still working! Click To Tweet

Ageism persists even though no one gets a state pension at 60 any more.

If the government thinks we are fit to carry on working until we are 66 years and 4 months (as in my case), then I think it is time we were recognised as the worthy citizens we are rather than some kind of collective joke, either shoved in a social pigeonhole to rot, or, encouraged to stay away from the under 60s  by social segregation.

Think about it - look at all the classes and groups there are which are pre-fixed by the words 'over 60s'.

 As we are now expected to work well into our 60s serving a society made up of all ages, why then should we allow ourselves to be lumped together into an older, collective age group to socialise? It implies anyone from 60 upwards is too 'past it' to mix with those under 60.

If that is the case, why are we 'past it', 'old people' expected to carry on working?  

The relentless 'over 60s', 'Grey' stereotyping propaganda needs to stop and then perhaps those not long out of nappies, who think they own the world, will stop patronising us with names like 'dear' and 'grandma'.

The business world needs to stop targeting the 'over 60s' with such a depressing range of products, the premature nature of which some of us may find offensive.

They are everywhere - special insurance plans, will-making, stair-lifts, incontinence pads, denture fixatives, indigestion remedies, things to kneel on in the garden, corn pads and many other 'over the hill' products marketed to those between 60 and 110.

At 61, I have no interest in any of them and before anyone screams at me about how important making a will is, it's been done, shoved in a file and forgotten because, I am busy living.

And if in the course of living I decide I want to go to an art/yoga/keep-fit class, I would rather there was a broad age range of people attending, from teens to 90+. Why would I want to be limited to mixing with my age upwards? There is much to learn from younger people and we have much we can share with them… like a poke in the eye every time one of them patronises us with terms like 'dear', 'grandma' or 'silver surfer'.

In the most recent series of The Apprentice (UK verison), a snotty nosed little Millenial (excuse my ageism but they deserve it) suggested that the over 60s need a robot device to tell them when to take their pills and to show them how to excercise.

I can highly recommend that episode just to see Lord Sugar's reaction in the boardroom. You can see it here.

if I decide I want to go to an art/yoga/keep-fit class, why does it have to be 'over 60s'? Click To Tweet

Wouldn't you rather be defined by society as a 60, 70, 80 or 90 'something' instead of an 'over 60'?

Or are you happy to be forced into the 'over 60s' pigeonhole with everyone from 60 to 110 and socially abandoned by the younger age groups to read little catalogues full of cheap bingo dabbers, plastic knickers and Zimmer frames?

Do excuse me while I change the Led Zeppelin CD for some musical wallpaper more suited to my advanced age and while I'm at it, I will swap my jeans for a nice flowery skirt.Not!

Seriously, I do think it is high time we stopped all this ageism nonsense towards people who are on the far side of 60 and realise that we are all members of the same society no matter what age we are.

What do you think? Have you been a victim of ageism?

Talking to strangers should have been written in 2014 but for various reasons, I decided against it.

A recent post written by fellow writer Molly Stevens, who lives in the US, made me re-think that decision slightly.

Well, two posts actually because Molly did an interview with Susan, a beggar on the streets of Portland, Maine in two parts.

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Why are supporters of natural childbirth still being shamed ?

On August 12th this year, the day after my fourth grandchild was born, The Times ran a story on their front page with the headline 'Midwives back down on natural childbirth'.

The sub heading was, 'current policy makes women feel like failures.'

I'm sorry but I'm not buying that. The only person who can make you feel like a failure is you. We feel however we feel based on our own thoughts.

Let's say I had a baby by natural childbirth and you had a forceps delivery, is it rational that you should blame me for your feelings of failure?

No, any feelings of failure you may have are nothing to do with me, they are stories you tell yourself in your own head.

Let's spin it around, would it be rational of me to feel guilty that I had a natural birth and you had forceps?

Would it be rational of me to feel guilty that I had a natural birth and you had forceps? #NaturalChildbirth Click To Tweet

And in any case, how can anyone, including the writer of the Times sub heading, make  a statement as sweeping as:

'Current policy makes women feel like failures'?

What policy? What women? Is that all women? Where is your evidence? Does anyone have solid statistics based evidence to back up that claim or is it based on anecdotal evidence which, in other fields is usually discounted as being unscientific.

natural childbirth

So how has it happened that an organisation supporting natural childbirth is being blamed for 'making women feel like failures'?

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) had been campaigning since 2005 to see a rise in the number of women giving birth 'normally'. That is, without Caesarean, induction, instruments or epidural.

(When I refer to a 'normal' birth from here on, I mean, a birth without any of the above interventions.)

The RCM's original campaign was called the "Normal Birth Campaign" but three years ago, that campaign was changed to the "Better Births Initiative".

Reading the Times article, you could be forgiven for thinking the Better Births Initiative had only just happened when in fact, this 'news' is actually three years old.

Reading the Times article you could think that the Better Births Initiative was new when in fact it is 3 years old. #royalcollegeofmidwives Click To Tweet

It goes without saying, medical intervention in childbirth is, for some women, an absolute necessity for the safety of themselves and their babies.

That is not up for dispute here - I am not against medical intervention in childbirth when it is genuinely needed.

What I do question is this - women who use induction and Caesarean by choice for convenience when there is no compelling medical reason to prevent them from experiencing natural childbirth. And more to the point, to stop the baby from experiencing natural childbirth.

Have we become so narcissistic now that we don't care to consider the impact of our decisions on others involved?

And if you aren't considering your baby's right to natural childbirth and his needs as he enters this world, how are you going to cope with his intense needs once he is here?

According to the Times article, only four in ten women give birth normally now as opposed to six in ten 30 years ago.

Natural childbirth versus a birth with some kind of intervention is an extremely emotive subject. Click To Tweet

Natural childbirth versus a birth with some kind of intervention is an extremely emotive subject and it seems that their campaign for 'normal' births (which ended three years ago) has upset some people to the point where the RCM now 'backing down'.

Er - they 'backed down' three years ago. Why is this on the front page of the Times now and written as if it only just happened?

On page two of the Times, the article carries an analysis section in which the writer admits that 'The RCM may be right that no careful reading of its stance could justify pursuit of normal birth at any cost.'..

This is an important point and I wonder how many people who are now criticizing the RCM and playing the blame game have actually read its stance on the subject.

But an even more important point in the analysis is where it continues, '...yet it is hardly surprising that those who did not pay such close attention could conclude that the goal was to increase the number of normal births.'

There is a huge difference in what is contained in a policy and how much close attention the readers of that policy are paying to it.

There is a huge difference in what is contained in a policy and how closely readers pay attention to the detail. Click To Tweet

Who is responsible if I don't read the Highway Code properly and I don't pay close attention to what road signs mean? If I kill someone because I didn't read a stop sign properly, who will end up in prison? It won't be the policy makers or the writers of the Highway Code.

If I fail my driving theory test, can I blame the writer of the manual for my lack of close enough attention to get it right?

The shaming of natural childbirth advocates has to stop - it has gone on for too long.

When I had my first baby 37 years ago in Canada, all this shaming and blaming nonsense was going on then. The natural childbirth movement was being painted as extreme and a bit 'dippy hippy'. I had to fight to get a natural birth and was very aware that I was seen by my doctor as a rebel against the system.

When I say I had to fight to get a natural birth, I mean I had to deflect a whole list of standard procedures that I did not want applied to me or my baby. It was a case of, if you don't tell us beforehand that you don't want these things, they are just going to be done as routine.

The shaming of natural childbirth advocates has gone on too long - it has to stop. #naturalchildbirth #naturalbirth #NaturalBirth Click To Tweet

So maybe that is why women like me started to shun hospital births completely in order to avoid the fight not to be shaved, not to be given enemas, not to be offered drugs while extremely vulnerable, not to have have bright lights and noise, not to have fetal monitors attached intra-vaginally, not to be kept on our backs, not have interventions too soon, not to have the cord cut the until it stopped pulsating, not to have the baby washed, not to wrap baby up so he couldn't feel skin to skin contact, not to whisk him away to be weighed and measured before he'd been put to the breast and cuddled quietly under dimmed lights.

This is how it was in 1980 - we had to fight for those things and it was tiresome being looked at like some kind of weird alternative hippy type just for wanting a non-violent birth for your child.

It was tiresome being looked at as some hippy type because you wanted a non-violent birth for your baby in the 80s. #RoyalCollegeofMidwives Click To Tweet

Surely it would have been more sensible and safe for the medical establishment to listen to what the advocates of natural childbirth were saying and willingly co-operate so we had the best of both worlds.

We could have felt confident going into hospital knowing we would be left to labour and give birth however we wanted while being close to all the right equipment should things go wrong.

But no, hospitals, at the time, were places where those of us wanting to give natural childbirth a really good go had to be on our guard against unnecessary intervention at a time when we were at our most vulnerable.

During childbirth, we had to be on our guard against medical intervention when we were at our most vulnerable in the 80s #NaturalChildbirth Click To Tweet

I know of many women back then who were driven away from hospitals by the arrogant attitudes rife in the male dominated field of obstetrics at the time and who chose to have their second babies at home.

For every story of a death or injury caused by failure to use medical intervention during a birth there are stories of babies who have died or been severely injured during hospital births where instruments or scalpels have been used.

So why focus on the horrors of natural childbirth when it goes wrong? Both natural childbirth and medically assisted births have their horror stories. And both have success stories.

Why focus on the horrors of natural child birth when it goes wrong? Medicine has its fair share of horror stories too. #naturalchildbirth Click To Tweet

Should we have been blaming hospital policies in the 80s for driving pro-natural childbirth women away because we didn't feel safe around people wielding forceps?

Because make no mistake - forceps can and do injure babies. Women do die from complications during and after Caesareans. Babies are traumatised by bright lights and noise.

So the RCM, I believe, is quite right in campaigning for better births. What is so wrong with midwives trying to raise awareness regarding the benefits of natural childbirth and the dangers of medical intervention during childbirth when they are used unnecessarily?

Don't you, as a mother-to-be, want all the facts? Don't you want what is best for your baby's physical and emotional health? Because if you don't, you shouldn't be having a baby.

Don't you want whatever is best for your baby's physical and emotional health during birth?#NaturalBirth Click To Tweet

I still can't figure out why the Times printed this out of date 'story' three years after the RCM changed their campaign. Deeper inside the paper on page 27, there was more on this story under the title 'Born Free'.

The writer acknowledges that 'since the 60s, advocates of 'natural' childbirth have been pitted against defenders of medical intervention.'

Quite why they have placed the word natural in quote marks I do not know. Why not plain and simple, natural childbirth? If I were to write The Times is a national 'news' paper in the UK, what would I be inferring?

It is these kinds of thinly veiled prickles that have made the fight against the routine medicalisation of childbirth so long and tiring.

We shouldn't have had to fight this fight and it shouldn't still be going on.

Yes there are some compelling reasons around the risk of death or injury why some women can't give birth without intervention.

Yes there are some compelling reasons around the risk of death or injury why some women can't give birth without intervention. Click To Tweet

However, there are equally compelling reasons why healthy women, with straightforward pregnancies should try to avoid intervention and I sincerely hope the RCM will never be bullied into staying quiet about those reasons.

If you want the facts behind this 'story', you will find them on the Royal College of Midwives website.

I have nothing to do with the RCM - I have written this because I feel passionate about the subject and always have done. And it appeared in the paper the day after my fourth grandson was born, by emergency Caesarean that saved his life and possibly that of my daughter-in-law.

Some things cannot be planned for, such as baby deciding to try and leapt out feet first without anyone realising until the crucial moment.

Hospitals definitely have their place but so does natural childbirth and it is time we stopped shaming women who want to try and have one.

And it is time we stopped blaming pro-natural childbirth people for making women who don't manage to achieve natural childbirth 'feel like failures' - our thoughts are our own choice.

What has your experience with natural childbirth or medically assisted birth been? Please leave a comment at the very end of this post to let me know what your thoughts on natural childbirth, or otherwise, are.

Stour Woods - a place to be alone but not lonely.

Modern society can be a noisy, hostile, competitive place.

Narcissism seems to be on the rise 'out there' and at times, the collective effect can be too much.

Stour Woods - a place to be alone but not lonely. Click To Tweet

There is a place, almost on my doorstep, where insects, birds, trees and wild flowers provide the perfect antidote to the demands
of daily life.

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What are the three most intimate things you can do with another person? I’ll give you a clue - they all begin with S.

Any ideas what they are?

Ok, so the first one is obvious.

  • Sex - this is probably the most intimate thing you will ever do with another human being. Although in my opinion, it does come a close second to number two on the list.
  • Sleep - this is an extremely intimate thing to do with another person because it does take a massive amount of trust to be completely unconscious for eight hours in the presence of someone else.

So what is the third one?

In my opinion, doing this thing makes us pretty vulnerable and requires a lots of trust in the other people involved.

What are the three most intimate things you can do with another person? Click To Tweet

It is...ta da...

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blog block

Blog Block - yeah, I just made that up.

If it's a thing, I have it. Not just with my own but with just about every blog in the world.

Am I alone with my blog block? Certainly feels that way.

I have no desire to read. I have no desire to write.

Blog Block - yeah, I just made that up. Is it a thing? #bloggerburnout Click To Tweet

The only thing I have any desire for at the moment is to look at beautiful, natural things and get high on colour.

There is no problem with painting, making, taking pictures and staring at the sky when I have time to myself, I just don't want to write.

Blog block is becoming social media block too.

Time spent on social media unsettles me because it feels pointless and means I am not immersed in colour and everything coming to life now that it's March.

So I compromised and made this picture to put on my blog because it's how I feel right now. The words I put on it are all I can say about life as I deal with my aging family.

It is the only thing that comforts me since my much loved 96 year old Aunty left us back in February and my own parents are in the winter of their lives.

Emotions well up frequently at the moment and all I can say to myself is:

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

A time to be born, a time to die...

And its the time to die bit that is getting to me as I do all the things I have to do right now.

I know I am not alone in this. There are so many of us 'boomers' watching the same decline of the elderly in our families.

Blog block is the least of my worries I guess.

For the time being, I will be back here with a picture or two when the mood takes me and if it doesn't, well the tumble weed will be tumbling right through here until i get my blog mojo back.

But what if it doesn't come back?

Has blog block ever hit you and if so, what did you do?


Caring is surely one of the most natural things for a human being to do, unless your early years were so bad that you became a psychopath.

So why are we no longer caring for our babies and our elderly parents ourselves?

Why are we no longer caring for our babies and our elderly parents ourselves? Click To Tweet

Why are we no longer caring for our own flesh and blood but instead, are paying others to do it for us?

Recently, my own parents needed caring for 24/7 during a health crisis.

My sister and I knew the crisis would probably pass, and it did.

However, during the seven weeks we spent taking turns living at their house, I lost count of the number of people who said to me:

“Gosh, you are good, I couldn't do that.”

Say what? You couldn't look after your own parents if they needed you?

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