Archive for the ‘Blogs by Superwomen’ Category

Cheese or dessert madam? – Part the second by 72 year old Superwoman

November 2, 2011

Working for a charity isn’t exactly fluffy but there is some fun to be had. You don’t have to work for a charity – there are cultural, sporty and all kinds of organisations out there who would be glad to have your skills. Art shows, music festivals, teaching kids to stay on their bikes or walk up hills, whatever turns you on.

It is rather important that you are physically up to whatever you want to take on. Too many people who have worked right up to the wire and made no preparations at all for retiring are snapped up by the grim reaper relatively quickly. It’s hard to go from the work jungle to the nothing going on wilderness without preparing for it. She died of a broken heart and death from deadly boredom when she gave up work does not often appear on a death certificate. But would do if the doc wasn’t so fixated on finding a medical explanation. Heart failure. Indeed. Covers them all does that one. Your health is the biggest limitation you are likely to encounter. If you’re unfit and overweight, and hitting the booze and fags  start tackling those issues before you make further plans. Take up a sport. The golf courses are awash with oldies some of whom you may have met in a previous incarnation. When they weren’t wearing those funny jacquard sweaters.  Pringle have a lot to answer for. Even if you have been running up mountains at weekends for years this is no preparation for Everest. If you’ve got a medical condition of any kind it’s likely to get worse as you get older.  And new ones will crop up. Know your physical limitations and adjust your goals accordingly.

Some of you will have your eye on a new business. A clothing boutique, a toy shop, a florist or a cooking based operation, a little pub in the country perhaps. Maybe something with little capital outlay that you can operate on the net. These might seem like fun but this is no time to lose your competitive edge. There are people out there who’ve been doing what you fancy doing half their lives and the competition will be stiff. And in the present economic climate forget the country pub. You can pick up a bargain from the receivers anywhere. They’re falling like nine pins all over the place. And doing the gracious mine-hostess thing in a pub is extremely hard work. You may have been a brilliant cook and hostess for dinner parties. Running  a pub is not an extension of your dinner parties. Ever tried rolling a beer cask across the cellar from where the delivery man left it in the wrong place? Not the time to remember you’ve got a bad back.  If trade isn’t picking up in the first three months the next person stepping on your nice Welcome mat will be the receiver. New business? Spot the holes before you fall into one.

Some people go off on completely  new tracks.  The kids leave home, and you get empty nest syndrome. Reconfigure it as FREEDOM to do what you want– and grab with both hands. When my kids left home I said we might be moving before long. I was well under retirement age but your kids always think you’re  old and past it. Right – a cosy two bedroom retirement flat is it? No, we’re buying a 14 bedroom country house hotel. What? Is there life after kids leave? There is indeed. They’ll come back, and will either be a bit narked or over the moon to find the old lady has a new lease of life. Maybe you’ve always wanted to have  go at painting or throwing pots, writing a book, playing a musical instrument, learning Welsh, designing clothes or developing your hidden talents into a business, something creative (not that the spreadsheets weren’t creative – perish the thought.) Now’s your chance. You might find you’re a lousy painter/writer/ musician. And if you don’t have any other languages already Welsh is a helluva big obstacle course for a beginner.  Hot shot career women are not used to failing at things are they? Reality check time in some areas.  If you’re not good at losing, bury the evidence of your failure, a skill you fell back on at work sometimes, and try something you might win at.

Building up a hobby into a more absorbing activity is often a very easily attainable goal. Well done on making some preparations for retiring. The one thing you will have more of when you give up work is time. Unless of course you indulge yourself in faffing round the supermarket for two hours instead of the half hour it used to take you. It won’t take long for the glamour of that one to wear off. Not having the time is maybe what held you back from getting a painting in the Open Exhibition at the RCA  or the Tate. Try something local first. One of the things I enjoy doing most is running the local community art exhibition. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler but it doesn’t matter. (I do have a splendid collection of paintings all over my walls screaming Good Taste.) I can organise and artists usually can’t. Marriage made in heaven. The clue is in the word community. It’s non – competitive and no prizes for the best rose, landscape or doggie portrait. Anybody at all within a certain mileage radius of the village can bring in a painting and we’ll stick it on the wall, without passing judgement. And what is very interesting is that these paintings sell. In fact so successful is it that what was originally an amateur show, and still is largely, attracts professionals who see that we sell and want a piece of that action. This in turn keeps the standards up.  It does of course take some bottle if you have never exhibited before to enter and might be hanging next to an RCA. They all have a chance of selling, from the £25 pansy to the £450 landscape.  The secret I believe is to keep your buyers as happy as your artists. We have a preview evening at the start of the show for all previous buyers.  Glass of wine each, bag of crisps between 90 people and a chance to meet the artists. I go into full on salesperson mode, and it does of course help to remember who they all are. “Hello, Mr K, good  to see you again. Your favourite artist X has some lovely work in this year – hanging over there.” Back comes a beaming Mr K with an X art work. Kerching. Everybody’s happy.  It breaks my heart to see the £25 pansies coming in. What level of self esteem does that artist have that they think their work is worth £25? The frame must cost that. I feel like going round and giving them a big hug. Couldn’t you nudge it up to 30 quid this year Nancy? Quiver of anxiety – couldn’t possibly. OK, suit yourself.

Then there’s relationships. If you are not in a relationship, good for you – you can do what you like. The world’s your lobster. Oysters? Come on girls, think big. If you are in a relationship maybe it’s time to take stock of the guy who in recent years may have turned into that lump at the other side of the bed.  Who the hell is he anyway?  Did I actually marry him once? Re-assess, review and either try to re-ignite the spark or if he’s your limitation, do your own thing. If he doesn’t want to join you, fine, if he has a better suggestion also fine– if he’s deadly dull he’ll be there when you come back, giving you a catch up on the latest football scores and so on, and you can buzz off to Madagascar again. Your friends of course are a huge asset when you retire. You have time for them now.  But you might also discover that like the lump at the other side of the bed  they too are not quite as exciting as you thought they were when you were all superwomen.

It’s never too late to make new friends.  I have to say ditching baggage not wanted on the future voyage is a major step when you are heading for a new start.  This is quite hard and depends entirely on how keen you are to embrace the new.  Try not to throw  the baby put with the bathwater.

Travelling is often a big ambition with all the time in the world ahead of you. You have three months (at least) instead of a fortnight to wander at will. This is where you need to take that health check. While 40 degree temperatures might have looked attractive when you looked through your Cardiff window at the rain pouring down they might not feel so comfortable in real life. And who knew there were so many mosquitos in the Sarawak jungle?  Who, unlike the colourful pests  in the Cairo bazaar, do not take money to go away. Do your homework before embarking on the adventure of a life time. If you want to travel with a purpose, there are plenty of aid agencies needing people of any age with skills. But they have to be the right skills. If you faint at the sight of blood, can’t stick a plaster on to save your life and  can’t teach people who don’t speak your language some training might be necessary. If you want to brush up first aid skills join the St John’s Ambulance brigade. And get into those frightfully expensive operas and concerts free.

Don’t forget your roots, don’t forget your comfort zone.  There are people left behind who care about you and they are not easily replaceable. You always have the option of staying in your comfort zone. Which won’t work if your job was the key component of your comfort zone.  I will not bore you with my final destination career. I’m an astrologer, which is a calling not an off the peg career choice. When I took that route half the people I knew said She’s finally flipped her lid this time, and the other half queued up to have their charts done. You too might choose to do something for which half the world will think you’re bonkers. Good luck with that one. Will of steel and rhinocerous hide required. We are never too old to change if we want to.  When you walk out of the work door for the last time there’s a whole new world out there to explore. Think mental, emotional, physical and social stimulation. Any or all of those are what you’ll miss most. They are all replaceable. Enjoy, have fun, be happy!

Dessert or cheese, madam? Part the first by 72 year old Superwoman

October 20, 2011

Dessert or cheese, madam?

 Part the first

The last course. What do you fancy ladies? Not to follow the nice main course you just had, your splendid career, but what to do with your life after that? What, me, retire? I’m miles away from that yet. Course you are. That’s what you said about being 40 when you were 20, remember?

At some point in the not that far away future you will glad hand and hug everybody at work, have a great retirement party and walk away with the witty cards and the carriage clock (or whatever) go home and say What now? Some of you will have breezed through the career trajectory as if on gilded wings, others will have had to struggle to get where they ended up. Either way they have indeed ended up somewhere and the idea of “ending up” is not appealing. The career might have ended but life hasn’t. So what do you do for an encore?

From the vantage point of the 72 year old superwoman….. (Aren’t there any other oldies hiding in the woodwork as part of the superwoman mob?  Reveal yourselves please.) Anyway from the oldie totem pole position I am about to share my pearls of wisdom with you.  First ask yourself what makes you happy? Happiness is a very elusive concept and one which I don’t propose to go into much here. The things you thought made you happy – often material things, you will have found out by now are temporary. That fancy car you  worked your socks off for made you happy for a while. Until it got its first scratch then it became a heap of tin you spent rather a lot of money on.  That love of your life relationship you made a massive emotional investment in made you happy, until it fell apart at the seams.  There is nothing wrong with temporary happiness but lasting happiness has to be self generated and come from inside yourself. Ask yourself the happiness question and it is likely you will find that what you put into something is reflected in the happiness reward you get out of it.

You’re all achievers. What would you like to achieve in the rest of your life? Go round the world on your yacht? Climb Everest? Feed the birds in your garden? Hang on a minute, before you set your goals you need to take stock of your assets. Forget the 38D boobs, they’ve drooped, as has the pert bottom you once had. Mental, physical, emotional and financial assets are the ones up for stocktaking. List the strengths and weaknesses, blessings and limitations.  Financially you might be very well set up and you have enough money to last you for life.  Everything goes up in price, so do a quick budget before you throw £20K at the Nepalese Government to get to the foothills of Everest and then have to find a team and supplies to get you up the hill. Ten years on your Council Tax might be a bit of a pull financially.  Bare necessities are always with you and whatever your budget for these double it for ten years down the line. Now can you afford that yacht?

Your brain is almost certainly ticking along like clockwork. Do you want to use the skills you built up in your job or do you want to go in another direction? I started my career as a psychologist, then acquired business and financial skills. Wrap those together in one parcel and my God people will beat a path to your door. Just one of those will have a queue forming round the block. I speak of course of working with charities.  There is an endless demand for people with financial, business, admin and legal skills within the 3rd sector. It took me about 5 mins to launch myself as a charity treasurer. It can be enormously rewarding but sometimes it’s not quite what you expected. I went to my first regional meeting of a sub section of a charity I will call the Gaspers and Wheezers, for people with lung problems.  At the entrance to the venue was a lady hanging onto a handrail gasping for breath. Are you alright? Not really I didn’t think it was so far from the car. Where’s your car? She pointed to a car ten yards away. Would you like me to get you a wheelchair? Gasp, gasp, wheeze Yes please. Me and my new mate walked in to the room. Which was awash with people in wheel chairs with oxygen cylinders attached.  Then the coughing started. I spent the entire meeting running around giving people drinks of water in the absolute certain expectation that half of them would croak before the end of the meeting. They didn’t of course, they’re toughies, the gaspers and wheezers. Don’t ask about the money. Almost every small charity is run on a shoe string, and you return a deficit balance sheet every year and will achieve legend status if you can reduce the deficit. I do it by being very tight on the purse strings and slapping down any trustee who is looking for a little perk. The words “misappropriation of funds” works a treat.

Charity work is usually volunteering. You might get expenses or a small honorarium. Which will buy you a glass of wine or three. Not a bottle. Be in no doubt that the status of a volunteer is nothing like being head honcho of your own department when you were at work. A volunteer has no power at all as a worker in a sub branch of a national charity where decisions on policy are run  from London. And not much more in the little local charity you fancy. The only power a volunteer has is to walk away.  Your best bet is to get on the board of trustees of the charity of your choice and get a seat at the top table. I’ve hopped about various charities in my time. It’s a good idea to get involved with a charity whose objectives you care about.  If you do not have some empathy for one legged blind black lesbian asylum seekers don’t even think about working with them. There are dozens of charities requiring your expertise.  Medical, children, the homeless, the elderly, abused women, everything under the sun. Where there’s injustice and deprivation there is always going to be a charity for it. You need to decide at the outset whether you want to be hands on with the people you are helping or a back room girl. If you cringe at the smellies in the soup kitchen or have no aptitude for communicating with the mentally ill, while you may wish to be dedicated to their cause there is no need to  be hands on with the hapless victims of a society determined to keep them under who  you might be working your socks off to keep afloat financially. Plenty of space for you in the back room.

The other thing about charities and other well intentioned outfits is that you will not see eye to eye with everybody working for the same cause. You might have been top bitch in your job, some of these people have been top bitches/dogs in the do – gooding business for ever. You are a new broom, so they’ll be watching you like hawks. Is she going to make changes? Course she is – she was brought in  to try and drag you out of the doldrums. Any first meeting where you are advised to sit in the wings and watch what happens for a year doesn’t deserve you. There are inevitably change resistant old sticks who are very suspicious of new brooms, and will vote down your every change proposal. There are several approaches to this one. One is – you want to stay on the verge of going down the pan  and I’m supposed to sit on the touchline and watch that happen? OK you don’t need me- I’m outta here. Tact and diplomacy for getting them on side individually is another. One at a time is the divide and rule strategy here. Watch out for the deeply entrenched alliances. The other is to get a bit manipulative.  Like shoving a wedge between the entrenched alliances. We’ve all done the tact and diplomacy and the manipulations at our regular jobs – these are transferable skills. These people are all volunteers too usually and can be edged out. Just like the good old days at work, without the redundancy payments. Play to things that interest you and play to your strengths.

Working for a charity can be very life enhancing, for others as well as yourself,  and also gives you the rosy glow of giving something back and trying to empower people who have no power.  Be very careful which charity you choose and vet your colleagues equally carefully and you too could be the next Mother Teresa. Or not.  If you’re in it for a halo, forget it – try hang gliding instead. Charity work is the cheese course, filling and satisfying. Next blog about other fluffier retirement options. The lemon syllabub madam?

On Tempestuous Seas – Rowing Two Oceans – by Elin Haf Davies

October 10, 2011

“How do you do it?” is a question I often get asked when people hear that I’ve spent 22 weeks rowing across the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. My answer – anything and everything can be done when you want to do it.

When you adjust to the physical demands and sleep deprivation that comes from rowing 2 hours on 2 hours of, 24 hours a day for 11 weeks at a time, rowing across an ocean is actually very straightforward. Simple even!  Because there are just three things in life that has to be done – rowing, eating, sleeping.

How many times in the last week would you have jumped at the opportunity to be juggling just three things in your life? Every woman I know is constantly juggling a 1000 and one things. Work deadlines, bills to pay, school uniform to be stitched, car insurance to be renewed, and your mother-in-laws birthday present to be wrapped. The list for everyone is endless and ever growing.

So while my time at sea was physically gruelling it was emotionally and psychologically detoxifying. I didn’t need to worry about paying bills. Keeping my boss happy. Travelling to work in the rush hour. Or worrying what to wear. It was the perfect time for me to STOP! STOP rushing around. STOP worrying about things that really aren’t important but that society dictates that we should. STOP being part of the rat race.

And when I got back, and was re-adjusted to life on land, I felt the same sort of relief when I STOPPED to write a book about my experiences. It was a time to reflect, a time to appreciate what I have and a time to thank those that made my life what it is and to decide what direction I want the rest of my life to take: a PhD, a successful career developing safer better medicines for children, and many more ocean crossings.

I obviously appreciate that ocean rowing or even writing a book doesn’t appeal to very many women, so I’m not going to attempt to persuade the Superwomen of Wales to pick up their oars and pens. But I would certainly advocate that every single one should, now and again STOP. Stop to do something different. Something that takes you out of your daily grind. Something that helps you to see the woods for the trees. Jumping off the rat race treadmill now and again is like recharging the battery, so that you can continue being the Superwoman that we all have to be these days.

On Tempestuous Seas: rowing two oceans (£8.50) and Ar Fôr Tymhestlog (£7:50) are published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Wales and is available on line via GWALES .

Dr Elin Haf Davies<>

Hello I’m Nain – from 72 year old Superwoman

October 7, 2011

One  of the delights of getting old is alleged to be becoming a Nain ( Granny for the monoglot English or Mam-gu for those in the benighted south).  Particularly, I am told, the handing them back to parents when you’ve had enough. I just became a granny – to Eva Myfanwy now 9 weeks old. So way to go on grannyhood.  This  in not actually my first grand child. I have three teenage grandchildren in New Zealand.  I dashed out there within a month of the first’s birth.  What a gorgeous baby etc. I said to the parents.  Why not have a night out and I will baby sit. They got all dolled up and went out. Within half an hour grandson was bawling his head off. Unfortunately his mum had waltzed off with the milk bar and I had nothing to give the hungry lad. No idea  where they had gone and no estimated time of return. First rule of grannydom – don’t let parents leave without a forwarding number and ETR.  When will you be home doesn’t stop when they’re teenagers.

I jogged the little wailer round the room singing soothing Welsh nursery rhymes. The babe’s a Kiwi, isn’t he, so I cut no ice.  I finally got him to doze off to Taking a chance on love from my Frank Sinatra repertoire. I went out for the other two as well. It is quite hard to be a decent Nain at a distance of 12000 miles and they were all at least 5 years old before they recognised  me when I showed up again. Even then the eldest had to give the others a nudge as to who I was. I used to go out annually. As they got older I would stop off in Kuala Lumpur and raid the local Toys ‘R Us. She was into  Barbie dolls last year, he was into Lego, cuddly toy for youngest. Guess what? They had all moved on in a year so it was thanks Nain and quiet dumping of Barbie. Lego and Teddy. Those three are now teenagers and I feel I hardly know them.

This one’s different. Born in our fair capital city. I was down the minute she and mother were out of hospital and presenting my Nain credentials when she was 3 says old. Hello, I’m your Nain. Will I do? Hard to tell, they don’t do much at 3 days old but suck and sleep. Absolutely fabulous, gorgeous baby. Course she is. I had gone armed with a bucketful of Welsh nursery rhymes and early books. Dafydd Iwan and Edward did a lovely CD,  years ago. Nursery songs don’t change. I think we all know what happened to Dafydd but what happened to Edward since early 70s?  Touchy feely books with stuff like this feels like cat/dog/cow/sheep hair and they go miaow, woof, moo and baa. Preferable I think to trailing the real thing through the house. The first issue was her name. They had chosen Eva as  easily manageable in any language (my own kids having had to struggle to get people outside Wales to pronounce their names.) Myfanwy after paternal great grandmother. Eva seemed to be a problem. Welsh daddy pronounced it I-fa, spitting out the short “I”, French mother stuck an accent on the first E so it comes out as Ava. I opted out and said I would call her Myfi. I am hoping that will catch on. No two ways about Myfi – rhymes with luvvie. Next issue national identity. I said to Welsh son We’re claiming this one for Wales, quick, plant a Draig Goch in her cradle before the French grandmere shows up. I was privileged to be first on the scene as French grandmere has other grandchildren within spitting distance. French grandmere only speaks French. I said to son – tell grandmere in her own language to put her tricolour away, this one’s Welsh. Rough translation: Gerroff madame, this one’s mine. Happily grandmere has not I think attempted to launch a French invasion, and mum’s learning Welsh.

Myfi was a very placid baby. How do they do that? Mine all popped out yelling and fighting and haven’t stopped since. Maybe stroppy mothers have stroppy babies.  My lovely d-i-l is also placid. And how. I’m quite sure I didn’t have her patience when I was a young mum.  I visited Myfi again when she was six weeks old. Not quite so placid.  How they change in a short time. I am not sure whether she smiled or if it was wind.  I am not that experienced with babies as it’s 40 odd years since I had one , and I don’t go round chucking other people’s babies under the chin and doing the coochie coo bit. I do not think I am a natural grandmother. But will make a major effort with this one. Myfi responds well to Nain bouncing her round the room to Dacw mam yn dwad.  Halleluia – she knows she’s Welsh. There’ll be hell to pay if she doesn’t. Get out Ol’ Blue Eyes, you’re redundant and I’ve got a blue eyes of my own. Myfi is the image of her dad. Right down to the double chin when in repose. I’ve said to d-i-l If you want one that looks like you, better have another.

The new little family are now in Norway for a few months.  I’m going to visit in another month. Myfi will definitely give me a smile next time. I have offered to baby sit while parents have a night off. Don’t forget to get a bottle and express some milk. The deals’ off if you don’t. Nains of Wales unite. You have nothing to lose but the milk dribble on the shoulder.

Santiago de Compostela or bust by Pembrokeshire Superwoman

September 26, 2011

Well it seemed like a good idea to me…  But friends were taken aback…  “You are doing what?  In that old thing?  You are joking…  Seriously you are joking aren’t you?”  And all I had said was that I was planning on driving Miss Daisy to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain.

Miss Daisy by the way is my 1934 Austin 7 Tourer.  We have a love hate relationship and as you can imagine, she certainly did not relish the idea of a 2,000 mile round trip to Spain.  Well if you were 77 years old and had to carry someone my size all that way, you wouldn’t be too keen either.  Actually, Miss Daisy is no stranger to driving on the Continent with two trips to France and one to Ireland already under her bonnet.  Even so, on every trip, this little old car has always marked her protest by breaking down, usually in the most awkward place.

Sir Herbert Austin had always intended that cars like Miss Daisy were to be used for little jaunts into the countryside, or perhaps a week at the seaside.  But for some reason past owners of Austin 7s never quite got that message.  In fact ever since the 1930s they have had designs on undertaking massive journeys in them.  Indeed it is believed that more Sevens have circumnavigated the globe than any other single make of car.

Then I discover that I wasn’t the only one wanting to do this trip and we were joined by two other vehicles, a 1931 Model A Ford and a 1938 Austin Seven Special.  We were also joined by an Austin Seven fanatic, fortunately in a Landrover as his Austin had thrown a wobbly just before we were due to leave.  His tow bar was to prove helpful on several occasions.

So one morning last September I left Pembrokeshire with just about every spare part I could find stowed away in various crevices of the little car.  Miss Daisy didn’t disappoint, barely 100 miles into the trip the red ignition warning light came on.  ‘Uh-oh, dynamo’s packed up.  A good thing I packed a battery charger’.

We raised a big grin from the Guardia Civil at passport control as we arrived at Santander, or was it the girls in the low cut tops?  Our route took us from Santander to Gijon, then inland through A Fonsagrada, Lugo and finally on to Santiago.  And what a route!  The locals would come out of the cafés cheering and clapping as we passed through.  I think even Miss Daisy enjoyed the attention.  We used a sat nav set to avoid motorways and to take the shortest route.  This wasn’t a good idea as Miss Daisy doesn’t like Sat-Navs and as a result it took us along some very small roads and on occasion through farmyards, scattering chickens as we passed through.

Another small difficulty was that the Cantabrian Mountains stood in our way and as we headed inland, the long climbs and drops started.  Gently at first and then the climbs got steeper and every day we found ourselves travelling not only through the most stunning scenery but also over some very high mountain passes.  One pass turned out to be 1,500 feet higher than Snowdon.  At the top we stopped to let the engines cool down and to take in the scenery.  But when it was time to move on, Miss Daisy decided that she wasn’t going to start.  So after a shove from the others, we started to roll down the other side of the mountain.

This again was not a good idea as with no engine, I only had Miss Daisy’s cable brakes to stop us as we started on our 6,500 foot descent and Austin Seven brakes are not well known for stopping efficiently.  Fortunately the engine finally kicked in after we had dropped about 500 feet and by the time we reached the bottom, Miss Daisy was running perfectly again.  But no sooner had we got down than we started yet another climb.  The Sat-Nav then took us on some very narrow, steep climbs with sheer drops of several thousand feet only inches from our wheels.

It took us about six days to reach Santiago de Compostela.  Fortunately for us, the Archbishop of Santiago rather liked vintage cars and we had been given permission to park up in front of the cathedral for a photo call.  But as there would be thousands of pilgrims and visitors milling around after 9.00am, could we please be there by 8.00am, take the necessary photographs and go…

Our mission completed, it was time to think about our journey home and that is never as much fun as the journey there.  The route back to Santander took us north to Ribadeo on the coast and then along the coast road, finally reaching Santander four days later.   But while we didn’t have massive mountains to climb, the coastal scenery of what they call ‘Green Spain’ was still stunning.

Would I recommend such a trip to others?  I certainly would.  It’s such a different Spain compared to the Costas where we British normally head.  But it is quite beautiful and the locals are really warm and friendly, even if they think you are bonkers.

I’m doing John O’Groats to Land’s End next year and on top of that Miss Daisy is allowing me to turn her diaries in to a book. I know it’s not usual for a woman to own and drive a vintage car; this has been a male pastime for years with wives dutifully occupying the passenger seat…  But why not?  It’s brilliant fun and for those who live a high speed lifestyle, a car like Miss Daisy certainly slows you down and lets you put things in perspective.

72 year old astrologer Superwoman and the will of steel as determined by the stars

July 13, 2011

The will of steel – direct from our guys in the sky

I am getting feedback on the lines – I haven’t got the will of steel needed to diet.

A superwoman with no will of steel? Surely you jest.  We all have streak of steel somewhere. As some of you will know I am an astrologer.  Here’s a will of steel profile based on star signs.  Remember hardly anyone is 100% the Sun sign they were born under – there are 10 planets and 11 other signs all looking for a way in to influence your personality. So, a very rough guide.

Will of steel ratings 1* weak, 5* strong

Aries: 21st March – 19th April

Very self willed and self confident. Knows it all and won’t be told what to do. Dieting needs to be her idea to stick to it and it will be the diet to blame if she doesn’t. She may fail but as she never learns from her mistakes, it’s not her – it’s the diet. Don’t bother discussing dieting with her – she’s not listening.

WoS rating: *****

Taurus: 20th April – 20th May

Makes a mule look a wimp on the stubborn stakes. Apparently mild sort but likes to be in charge (to control freakery levels). Do not attempt to tell a Taurus what to do. She has loads of persistence and once committed will take control and keep going. A little bit unwilling to acknowledge she needs to diet.

WoS rating: *****

Gemini: 21st May – 20th June

A bit all over the place. Often hasn’t got a really strong grasp of who she is so persuadable to diet by someone else. Needs attention so once the someone else takes her eye off the monitoring ball is likely to give up. Could be a serial dieter with a string of failed diets behind her.

WoS rating: **

Cancer: 21st June – 22nd July

Emotional, though not without initiative and tenacious in hanging on to something she commits to.  Rather prone to get podgy, so knows she needs to diet but also needs family and friends’ support to diet. Will never speak to you again if you try to make a joke of her weight. And moody, so will have a sulk when the fat isn’t shifting as she had hoped.

WoS rating: ***

Leo: 23rd July -22nd August

Strong character, needs to be the leader in any dieting initiative. A high achiever. Bit of a show off so likes an audience and if her audience applauds loudly enough will stick to the diet. A group dieter, where she leads the group. Because of pride in how she looks is least likely to need to diet.

WoS rating: ****

Virgo: 23rd Aug -22nd Sept

Self – sacrificing type and very often puts others first so while often prone to fat is likely to diet at other people’s instigation. Virgo fat tends to hang around the upper body – back, arms, boobs. Good at dieting with someone she is “helping out” with their diet. Not hard to lead astray, but has the persistence to reach a goal.

WoS rating. ***

Libra: 23rd September – 23rd October

Apparently  indecisive but tends to know exactly what she wants. And what she wants is a box of choccies. Rather attention-needy, so requires loads of support. Prone to falling off the wagon then beating herself up about it. Idealistic so thinks she could make it, but not on her own.

WoS rating: **

Scorpio 24th October -21st November

The most stubborn and unpredictable sign of the Zodiac. Once she takes up anything which is her idea has the determination stick it out, but another one who is not likely to need a diet as much as some.

WoS rating: ****

Sagittarius 22nd November – 21st December

Very restless. Has plenty of will power in pursuit of a cause, but short of stamina for seeing things through, and easily bored so is off to the next appealing thing before completing the diet. Always on the move so not particularly fat – prone.

Running round in circles is good exercise.

WoS rating: ***

Capricorn: 22nd December – 19th January

Solid as a rock. Often in shape as well as will power. She may take a while to acknowledge she needs to diet (always too busy busy to notice) but once she sees the light, or the changing room mirror, she won’t be deflected from achieving her target.

WoS Rating *****

Aquarius: 20th January -19th February

Mind over matter. Aquarians will take an analytical approach to the weight problem, work out what to do about it, and get on with it. Do not invite Ms Aquarius to your party when she’s on a diet. She won’t come. Loves to party but has her priorities and the head rules the appetite.

WoS rating ****

Pisces: 20th February – 20th March

Compassionate (for which read soft as muck and a bit gullible). Not that self indulgent so not often a candidate for dieting. Somebody else may have to tell her she’s a big fat slob, but she is unlikely to care, and should she be able  to make her mind up at all about which diet to follow, is not likely to see it through.

WoS only emerges when Pisces is very threatened. Even so she’s the one hiding behind the sofa when merde hits fan.

WoS rating: *

So: Success depends on getting your WoS moving in the dieting direction and for most, getting the support systems in place. These are the Sun signs. If you have Mars in a strong place your WoS will be strengthened. A Pisces with an Aries or Capricorn Mars will gain at least two more WoS stars. An Aries with a Pisces Mars will lose one. You put the fat on – your task to take it off. Good luck.

She’s back – slimmer and fitter than ever before – 72 year old Superwoman

July 5, 2011

IF….. Diet tips from  a used to be fatty ( with no apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

IF you have let yourself go and your weight has crept up to fatter than two pigs proportions, you will feel better about yourself, and actually owe it to yourself,  to go on a diet. It is bad for you to be carrying an excess  couple of stones or more around with you.

IF you normally eat stuff slathered in cream, wine and other rich sauces, and can’t pass the biscuit tin, the cake plate, or the box of choccies without having a dib into them you will find it difficult.

IF you go for a diet made up of food you don’t like and wouldn’t normally touch with a barge pole it’s not going to work. From day one of a diet you need to be thinking about reaching your target weight and maintaining it so the prospect of a lifetime of things you don’t like will be neither appealing nor sustainable. Your diet needs to mirror your normal eating practices but stuffing a lot less into your mouth. It’s how much you eat as well as what you eat that has made you fat and a diet needs to signal a permanent change. Healthier eating  is for life not just for Christmas, in fact especially not for Christmas. Sustainability is the ultimate goal.

IF your diet of choice (and there are dozens of them available out there) is restrictive like all cabbage, grapefruit, eggs or whatever, this does not represent normal eating. The crash and burn (fast fat burning weight loss) diet  is both bonkers and bad for you. Variety and balance is what you should be looking for and while the weight loss might be slower it will all come off in the end. Just keep at it.

IF a few weeks in to the diet after knocking off a steady so many pounds a week you hit a plateau and the weight is not dropping away as you’d hoped, don’t despair. Your body’s metabolism is adjusting to the new regime and once it gets the hang of your objective it will say “Oh that’s where we’re going” and get back in line again.

IF you are trying to target one area, like the bingo wings, that doesn’t work very well . The fat shifts first from where the pile up is so it’s usually the pot belly and the muffin top that’s first to go. Then the fat backside. The meaty thighs and the bingo wings  are usually the last to go.

IF, as I am, you are very very old, the elasticity in your skin will have gone. When we had babies the enormous lump that involved whipped back into place relatively easily. When the bounce has gone from your skin what you get is the skin hanging in rather unappealing folds where it once might have recovered. I have lost two stones, and have a less than delightful row of pleats hanging round my belly. It doesn’t matter to me as nobody but me sees my naked belly and it’s preferable to the pot and the muffin top. Old former fatties who are on the pull might find this a disadvantage, unless the prospective lover is also awash with sags and droops.

IF you don’t take any exercise the weight will shift more slowly, and, if you’re not too old, exercise will help dissipate the folds of saggy skin effect. You don’t have to go mad working out at the gym and jogging, brisk walks and plodding up and down a swimming pool will do. Posture also helps. Walk and stand up straight and stop slumping like a sack of potatoes at your desk. If you thought the sack of potatoes act disguised the fat you were wrong. Only a wheelchair is higher visibility than being too fat.

IF you fall off the wagon, which you inevitably will, having a bottle instead of a glass of wine or a bag of chips instead of that one boiled potato you should have had, you won’t lose much, if anything, that week but put it behind you and get back up on the diet horse. With strengthened resolve. On a diet you pay for all that fun falling off the wagon brought. It’s great to get naughty but on a diet no more than once a month for about a day is all you can afford to spend kidding yourself you can get away with it.

IF you are competitive or joined at the hip to a fatty friend, go for a regime which allows you to be star of the show in the  local community hall or to compare progress with friend. I am a solitary kinda gal so the will of steel and support from mentors on the net did it for me.

IF you are a smoker, here’s where you have an advantage. When you are desperate for something to pop in your mouth the fag is always there for you. When the entire planet is anti smoking this is not a tip you will find on any diet regime anywhere in the world. Works for me. And Kate Moss. Talking of whom…

IF you are starting from size 20/22 or more it is daft to be aiming for a size 0. You will certainly drop a few sizes and that’s a real buzz. Make your target realistic. A size 16 for the really obese or a 14 for the not quite so obese will be a huge achievement.  Do not read magazines featuring cadaverous models. They are more unhealthy than the fatties. If you aspire to look like famine victim in Africa, go to Africa, and try famine as a weight loss venture. They don’t have any choice. We do. If your inadvertent choice is fatter than two pigs, it’s time you acted and headed for one pig size.

IF you are tall and people say You don’t need to diet you can carry it, give them a smack in the chops. We all know where our ugly lumps and bumps are and the overhanging flesh is and it’s up to each individual to deal with that if she less than happy with what she looks like.

IF a 72 year old fatty can lose two stones, without being a  diet bore at Olympic level, so can you. It’s wanting to feel better about yourself that motivates you. See you hanging round the elegant end of the size 12/14s in John Lewis. Go, girls, go.

Here’s another pastiche – with apologies to Rupert Brooke

If I should diet think only this of me

That there’s some corner of the kitchen fridge that is for ever furry.

Out! Out! damned tasty lump of gorgeous Cheddar

Begone ! you smelly Brie and Stilton treasures,

For you are simply lumps of lard as I am.

And now I must forsake you for another,

That cottage cheese in pride of place front-fridge.

OMG do I have to? YES. Get rid of the lumps of lard NOW.

Superwoman does gardening by Miranda Parsons

May 3, 2011

Sometimes I confess to being a little weary of sponsoring fun runs and half marathons and hikes up distant mountains and the like. Old cynic that I am, I feel as if I am sponsoring someone’s hobby, however worthy the charity. This is probably because I never run anywhere, believing walking, dancing and driving there to be the way forward. On the other hand, if you can’t persuade them to stop running about in that intemperate manner, then get them to sponsor your hobby, and one of mine is gardening!

Step forward the National Garden Scheme which in 2010 donated more than £2.6 million and in the last ten years over £26 million to nursing and caring charities, including Macmillan and Marie Curie and Help the Hospices. Over 3700 gardens feature in this year’s ‘Yellow Book’ with which many of you will be familiar. People open their gardens and extend a warm welcome and often tea and cake to fellow enthusiasts and members of the public who love a garden and go for inspiration for their own designing and planting, and ….(did I mention the tea and cake!)

The NGS began in 1927; with the simple idea that ordinary people would open their gardens at a shilling a head to raise money for the community nurses of the day. Even after the NHS was formed, these nurses needed support in training and in retirement. Now of course, charities such as Macmillan cancer support provide the sort of care that we hope that we and our loved ones will not need, but if the worst happens, it is a tremendous comfort to know that these dedicated carers are out there. The other purpose of the NGS, developed in partnership with the National Trust was to preserve important gardens. NGS still keeps overheads low, so most of the money raised at the garden gate goes directly to vital projects.

So, how did we get involved? My husband Alan and I are both keen gardeners. He has loved it since boyhood; I came to the passion later on. I like to think we complement each other well. I claim to be the brains behind the operation and he points out that this is not true! I will find him in the garden and say that I have ‘had an idea’ and he laughs and tells me that I have that look on my face where I go on to ask him to move the oak tree two feet to the left. As if I would ask a thing like that….. (Well I might). I am particularly interested in the design and structure of our garden and in forming year round interest and he is a plants man through and through and in charge of growing things up things and through things (I mean, how many clematis plants does one man need?) We often go around the garden gently bickering about what needs doing and about the aforesaid addiction to climbing plants, but frankly at our happiest. I always maintain that I cannot feel miserable in the garden, however hard I try.

Please don’t get the impression that we are in possession of the hanging gardens of Babylon here, just a much loved, medium sized, suburban garden in Cyncoed. To persuade Alan I took him to our local open gardens in Penylan and he could see that these gardens, ranging in size from very small, to small were nevertheless packed with design, with plants and with inspiration for others. That convinced him that our garden would do. We then had to approach the NGS to be approved and find a garden partner as when you have a smaller garden it is best to open in groups so that the public get better value for money. If any of you know other keen gardeners in Cyncoed, please let me know and I can try to persuade them to join us!

We will be providing tea and cake and attempting to part you from your charity pounds, things will be blossoming and blooming and Alan will have done all the weeding, and I promise you, no running shoes in sight.

We and our garden partners in Cyncoed are opening from 2-6pm on Sunday 15th May and Sunday 24th July this year. If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me through my website:

The National Gardens Scheme has a website where you can find gardens opening all over South Wales and beyond:

Salsa – the four minute love affair -by Salsa Superwoman

February 28, 2011

Recently I was talking about my love for salsa dancing and I said that at its best, what you get is a four minute love affair with no strings attached and no inappropriate touching. My intrigued companion subsequently asked me to share this observation in a blog. I agreed at once and then the second thoughts crept in. Was I, a ‘respectable married woman’ going to admit, in public, that this is what I get up to?

Actually, I am a serious person, I tend to be analytical, I tend to worry, I tend to work too hard and party too little. I am sure this makes me like so many other ‘superwomen’. I need the outlet of exercise, fresh air and walking the dog, but none of this exceeds the joy I feel when I hear a salsa beat strike up. I put aside the worries of the day; that I have a career, children and step children, a house to run, blah, blah, blah. Before you ask, I don’t put aside my handsome and sweet natured husband who endlessly tolerates that I go out dancing with friends who years ago nicknamed me ‘snake-hips’. (I think he secretly likes having a wife who can put in some cheeky hip moves.)

I began to dance over ten years ago, when I was a single parent of two small children. I had a passionate desire to dance and two left feet, so the dance steps were hard for me to learn. The rhythm was always there however, so that helped. I battled through my embarrassment for months until I could hold my own on the dance floor. I never got to be brilliant, but I can improvise now and put in styling touches such as a toss of the head, an extra shimmy of the shoulders, an arm flourished that even Craig Revel-Horwood wouldn’t actually despise. The best thing however, is the conversation that is a good salsa dance. Eye contact is important, following a lead and really responding to another person, moving as if one person. Sometimes it’s the closest thing to bliss, very intimate and yet not inappropriate. Most dances are ordinary, but in some, in a strange way, I almost love my dance partner, but just for the short time that the track lasts. It is the only perfect love affair, in that there is no aftermath and no disappointment. You both knew before that it would only last four minutes, with no recriminations.

Friends have implied that we salsa dancers are all up to no good and it is true that I have known people who have crossed the line and had a love affair longer than four minutes. Some have even met their future life partner on the dance floor and some were not single when they did it. That can happen anywhere though, at work, in the gym, at the tennis club. As they say, dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire, but we all know that people who are up for it will always find someone to party with somewhere.

My dance girlfriends and I agree about the finest local dance partners. The ones who make you feel like a Cuban Ginger Rogers even though you know that you do not look like one! Of course it was famously said of her that ‘she did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels’. Wikipedia says that whilst she was of course very talented, what lifted her from the crowd in her partnership with Fred Astaire was that she made it seem as if dancing with him was simply thrilling as she was such a good actress. Perhaps she wasn’t acting that part though. Dancing simply is thrilling. An ordinary man can be the most thrilling dance partner if he brings all of himself, his passion and his humour and his desire to please. I have often heard it said that a man’s part is to make the woman look good on the dance floor and that if the dance doesn’t go well, it’s his fault. If only the rest of life ran like that!

I will admit also, that as I get older, it gets harder. The doubts creep in. I ask myself if it’s appropriate to be out dancing in town without my husband, I watch the men asking the younger women to dance and realise that will happen more and more. So I find myself in Zumba classes and although they are bit like French conversation classes without ever going to France, I find they are tremendous fun and I still come out exhilarated. So somehow I know that I won’t give up my passion, but will just have to keep finding new ways to express it.

The story of a business start up

December 10, 2010

Emma and I started in business in May 2002, which seems such a long time ago now! We had two children each, Emma’s were 1 and 4 years old, and mine were 2 and 3 years old. We had met through our local National Childbirth Trust branch. We were both in a similar position, having given up busy full time jobs to stay at home for a few years. Emma and I were always busy organising coffee mornings and all sorts of fundraising events, one of the mums even said to us one day ” you two should run your own business”!

Shortly after that I happened to mention to Emma that I was going wedding dress shopping with my sister. We started discussing the fact that there was a need for a Designer Bridal shop in Cowbridge, the small market town we lived in. A year later we had opened our first shop! There was a lot of work and research involved, all of it with babies hanging off legs, and toddlers running around manically, but it was the start of a great adventure.

For the first few years we built High Society from scratch into a really beautiful designer bridal boutique. We’ve been through a huge learning curve, and all I can say is, if these walls could talk….we’ve seen it all!

In 2005 the building next door came up for rent, and we took the opportunity to take it over as a ladies clothes shop. We wanted to sell affordable fashion, as many of the other boutiques in the town did very high end designer clothes. We called the shop Havana, and over the five years the boutique has taken us on another equally demanding but very different learning curve. We’ve built up some great labels such as Fenn Wright Manson, Inwear, Farhi, Avoca Anthology, Hoss Intropia and Noa Noa.

Emma and I have always been very interested in fashion in general, in the concept of style over fashion, and in the idea of dressing to suit your own figure. Coming from a background of working with brides for the last 8 years, we have learnt that there is no such thing as a perfect figure, and that how you look is definitely more to do with how you feel about yourself, and how you present yourself to the world than anything else.

I am a great believer that as you get older, you need to invest in better fitting clothes. Particularly after you’ve had children, you find that you just can’t get away with wearing badly fitting clothes. I love to follow fashion, but I understand that I need to think more carefully about what I wear, how to make the most of my figure as I get older, and how to adapt the current trends to suit me.

Back to how the business has developed, in 2007 we had the opportunity to buy the gorgeous three storey building where High Society and Havana are housed, and to buy a more established ladies clothes shop in Cowbridge, at the same time. This made for a very interesting period, there was a lot of running around with children in tow at that stage!

In 2008, we decided to get involved in the Online world. We realised that this was the future, and because so many people love the service that we offer in our shops, we saw this as an opportunity to offer the same level of personal service quite literally all over the world. We started with, a fabulous website where we sell lots of gorgeous bridal accessories.

This year we have launched, an online version of Havana, as we realise that there are lots of women out there who love to shop in Independent Fashion Boutiques like ours, but can’t always get to one. The idea is the pleasure of your favourite independent fashion boutique but online from the comfort and convenience of your own home.

We love gorgeous labels whose clothes you fall in love with, for example Avoca Anthology, always a favourite with our customers. Clothes should be exciting and have a personality that suits yours. When we’re buying collections, we ALWAYS think about whether an item is wearable at any age. We consider length for example, and there are endless conversations about whether you can wear this if you have boobs (that’s Emma), fat legs(that’s my obsession!), etc. But at least we are real women buying for real women.-

Hope this helps you to understand who we are, and here’s to the future, it’s going to be interesting!  Awen x