The Language of Ageing #3

I don’t mind ‘love’ too much if it’s used somewhere like the Market.

‘Here’s your change, love.’

It seems cheerful and friendly, like ‘mate’ to a bloke, but with the qualification that it’s only alright if used by people with a bit of age on their side too.

My acceptance of ‘love’ could be carried over from childhood, where ‘love’ seemed to be a name for any kid. At the milk bar, ‘Right, love, what lollies do you want?’ was always a pleasant question.

However, the usage is very dependant on place! I was at an academic conference recently and was walking back inside after a fresh air break, when a woman brushed past me a bit too closely, said, ‘Sorry, love’, and raced on inside.

‘Love’! At a gathering full of professors, doctors and Ph D students. It felt so wrong.


The Language of Ageing. #2

And then there are the ‘loves, darlings and sweethearts’.

We had met some friends for dinner at a restaurant and had barely settled, when we became the instant sweethearts and darlings of the young waitress.

She presented a beautifully stuffed zucchini flower.

‘There you are, darling. Enjoy!’

And later, after the main course,and after we had all been her dearest loves of the night, in a high voice with a big question mark in it, ‘Is everything alright, sweetheart?’

No! It wasn’t. I was fed up with all these endearments.

‘Look! I’m not your sweetheart or your darling. I don’t know you and you don’t know me.’

She just didn’t get it. ‘But I’m just being friendly.’

And immediately the service became very cold and rather brusque.

The Language of Ageing. #1

I started unloading my basket of shopping onto the counter at the IGA and said, ‘Hello’, to the young man behind the till.

‘How are we today?’

Fed up with having the ‘we’ thing again, actually, but…

“I’m alright, thanks. How are you?’

‘Good, thanks.’

Ping. Ping. Ping. He swiped the shopping through.

There was no one else up at the counter, so I thought I’d give it a go. He looked bright and perhaps able to get it.

‘Actually, do you realize how offensive it is to say ‘we’ like that to an older person?’ I asked with a smile.

He stopped, looked at me, blushed and exclaimed, ‘I am sorry,’ with a question mark in his voice.

‘Yep.  All my friends can’t stand being called ‘we’.

‘Um. What’s wrong with it? I didn’t even think about it.’

‘Well, it’s a bit patronizing.  It sounds as if I’m in a nursing home or something,’…  and you shouldn’t even use it there, I’m thinking, but didn’t say.  I’m staying cheerful and a bit jokey. I resist talking about ‘we’ being a plural etc.

‘Ohh yes.’

‘Actually, when you think about it, it’s pretty ageist language.’

‘Oh no! I am sorry. I didn’t mean it. Well, how will I say it then?’

‘ You could just say, ‘How are you?’ like you would to anyone. Actually, I think using the ‘we’ is a bit sexist too. I don’t think you’d say it to an older man by himself.’

‘Oh, no. It’s getting worse! I’m mortified.’

I really liked this young man. He absolutely got what I was talking about and was confident to talk about the issue.

I paid, picked up my bag and said ‘Goodbye. And thanks for listening to that.’

‘Good bye and thank you,’

Gosh that went well. Writing it sounds like a training exercise.

I see him from time to time and always enjoy responding to his knowing, ‘How are you?’



A faded winter sky seeps into the smudge of Mount Martha.

The bay shimmers in its opalescent cloak of silvery grey, mauve and pale, pale blue.

In the distance, a crimson spinnaker draws a yacht back to St Kilda.



The bitter Southerly blasts up Bay Street.

The tradies working on the new flats have given up on their shorts and hide in their hoodies as they cross the street for coffee and carbs. They push into cafes crammed with huge prams and toddlers.

Disgruntled dogs in designer coats wait outside.


The Lady at the ATM.


A cold wet Sunday morning in a Dordogne village. We’d found the Parking and were walking up a footpath towards what we hoped would be some shops. We wanted to buy picnic provisions. Ahead was a woman in black pants and a pale blue parka. She walked steadily up hill, legs a bit apart for balance and shoulders bent. She stopped and searched in her shopping bag and faced the wall.

We caught up with her and stepped out onto the road to pass her. She turned to face us, looked me in the eye and spoke. She was holding a bank card in her right hand and moved it between me and the ATM whilst talking and pleading. Her eyes were a clear blue, her hair, whitey grey and tied back into a sort of bun, and she had a very pleasant smile. She was actually asking us to help her withdraw money. I was shocked at her trust in us.

‘Avez vous quatre nombres?’ I asked, counting out four fingers. ‘PIN number?’ forgetting  that the French call it an identity number, or something like that.

She kept on talking, holding her card towards us, smiling, putting the card towards the slot.

We kept on talking, going on about quatre nombres.

It was getting nowhere.

We had to say, ‘Pardon, Madame,’ and open our hands in a helpless way, and set off up the hill. She smiled a beautiful wide, curved smile, we smiled back and we all sort of bowed to each other.

We turned our backs and continued up the hill. My eyes stung and I burst into tears at her vulnerability and trust. I thought of Mum and wondered if this old woman also had macular degeneration and couldn’t read screens. I thought that she probably usually went into the bank and withdrew money over the counter. Maybe, this  Sunday she had run out of cash. Maybe she was genuinely confused about life. I thought about how hard it was to be old and how much harder if you were alone.

We walked about another block up the road and reached the square and some shops. There on the road was an old man in black, his back and legs curved into an S. His feet were in huge black suede, orthopedic shoes which he lifted barely off the ground, very carefully, one slow step after another. It took a long time for him to cross the road on a diagonal towards the bakery. Another old person finding an ordinary errand huge.

We bought some bread, found a green grocer and had just finished up when the door rang open and in came the lady from the bank. ‘Bonjour m’sieur et m’dame’ all round, for and from everyone and a very big smile for us as we left the shop.  That felt a bit better.


The 109 Tram to Port Melbourne

The 109 tram was pretty crowded by the time it got to Elizabeth Street  but I found a seat  up the back next to a boy who was also on his way home to Port Melbourne. He was sitting separately from his friend and they were enjoying looking at each other and having a bit of a laugh.He was in shorts and a teeshirt and I vaguely wondered why he wasn’t at school.

The tram gradually emptied as it got closer to the Port. I noticed a little flurry and realized that a Ticket Inspector was working his way towards us.His reader okayed my Mykie and the boy passed him one of two cards he was holding.

‘It mightn’t have anything on it,’ he said.

The inspector read it.

‘No. Nothing on this. Hasn’t been used since June.’

‘Try this one then.’ The second card was passed across.

‘No, mate. This one hasn’t been used since March.’

Hmm. How’s this going to work out , I thought.

‘How old are you, mate?’ asked the inspector, keeping it all low key.


In the meantime, the young man in a suit across the aisle from me, had snuck round the back of the Inspector and validated his Myki. He took another card from his wallet, handed it across me to the boy and said,’Try this.’

The boy passed it to the Inspector, it read safely and was handed back to the boy. The Inspector moved on.

The boy passed the card back across me to the young man.

‘Thanks, mate.’

‘No worries.’

A stop later, I turned to the boy, smiled, and said,’That was lucky.’

‘Yes. Mum would have killed me.’

‘I bet she would. I bet she’s given you money to top up, too!’

‘Yeah!’ he giggled.

We all smiled.





Return to Tango – 9 months on.

Well, the time I’ve had my new hip in my body is the time needed to grow and deliver a baby. A strange thought!

But not really, when I think about it. It has actually taken that time for me to feel comfortable, mostly, with this new addition to my body. The hip itself has just sat there, quietly surrounding itself with new bone, but the muscles have grumbled mightily and taken a long time to stretch out, develop and feel easy.

I’ve been sore a lot of the time but, as my physio and pilates teacher said, I am asking for a high degree of rehabilitation by wanting to return to tango with all its physical demands. That’s made me feel better about it all.

And I have been really improving with my dancing. My axis is stronger than it was even when I started learning- I think my hip was starting to weaken back at that point. My legs are also stronger now because of the excellent, very specific and focused pilates classes I do and I have much more strength, control and stability than I did. Now, my body can actually manage to do what I want it to do – most of the time.

I’ve been having some private lessons to help fine tune and consolidate my dancing. This is excellent as I had developed some defensive techniques to wriggle around my weaknesses and it’s terrific to be sharpened up.

Even so, I need to be careful about not doing too much – very frustrating. I do just one class and then only a few dances at the following Practica. A few weekends ago, Sidewalk Tango ran a terrific Vals Workshop which ran for two hours followed by a Practica. I managed the Workshop but was pretty tired. However, I was so pleased to be dancing comfortably that I danced on for far too long at the Practica. Not good. My body was very, very overtired and I was hopeless at class that week and even the next week. Plus, I’ve been a bit sore again and my ankle is now grumbling- on the other leg!!

So! This post has been rather like all the others, a mixed bunch of success and tribulations, but marking a general improvement. It’s not a fast and easy process.