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Friday, 14 February 2020

What I've Been Hearing, Watching and Reading: Five for FriYay

Marian Keyes best selling author of Grown Ups, 2020
My occasional round-up of great reading, TV and podcasts starts with the marvellous writer Marian Keyes.  I pre-ordered her new book Grown Ups  although I've decided to save it for my summer holiday.  I wish the warm hearted and funny Keyes could be my BFF.

She featured in two of my favourite podcasts this week, How to Fail, and Fortunately with Fi and Jane. She's spot on when she says that men who write in the same genre are not dismissed as "chick lit" or light and fluffy. Of course, if it's by a man it has to be some higher art form. Utter nonsense of course.

It takes a lot to spook me. Normally,  I find ghost stories a bit of a yawn fest. But when I read Michelle Paver's Thin Air, I'm sure my heart rate went up. The story is set in 1937 in the dark isolation of a snowbound base-camp of a small scientific expedition.

Reading reviews after I finished it, I found that this was Paver's second "ghost story" and people complained it was not as scary as the first one, Dark Matter. I promptly read the first one and found that in some ways it was similar. The dramatic device was the same: someone with a grudge coming back to wreak havoc.  Both books are gripping.

Podcasts

I was so pleased to discover Heavyweight not least because it has a healthy back catalogue of episodes. Heavyweight is from one of my favourite pod providers, Gimlet.  The title eludes to "losing a heavy weight."  The presenter, humorist Jonathan Goldstein, helps people try to resolve a moment from their past that they wish they could change.

Two examples: one was from his own family, where his father and uncle, aged 80 and 85 respectively, had barely spoken to each other for year for reasons they could hardly remember. Jonathan managed to get them to agree to a meet up. It was fascinating and compelling. as the younger brother realised for the first time the heavy burden his older brother had carried. He had  believed all his life that the older brother was the favourite and felt resentful.

In the most recent episode, Marie-Claude, who wants to take up a career in real estate, finds she has to take exams that involve maths, and she has been traumatised by maths since childhood. I know how she feels. Does she succeed in putting her fear of algebra behind her?  A very uplifting story.

The podcast always starts with a phone call between Jonathan and one of his female friends. She doesn't want to be involved in his podcast and it's an entertaining intro.

Watching

The Stranger (Netflix) is watchable and intriguing, although ultimately a bit disappointing. With a stellar cast, including Dervla Kerwan, Stephen Rea and Anthony Head, it has many story threads, some of which turn out to be dead ends and a bit pointless. We enjoyed it until the last episode, which was not very believable.The UK thriller The Stranger on Netflix
Olive Kitteridge, a two-parter from HBO, is back on Sky, Now TV and Brit Box.  I saw it when it first came out, having read Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer prize winning book.  Now, watching it again, having read the unexpected follow-up by Strout, I find myself disliking Olive.  The former maths teacher is a curmudgeon, always rolling her eyes and having a sharp opinion; but in the two parter, she rarely shows a glimmer of the kindness you see in the second book.  I cringed at how awful she was to her kind, loving husband. 
Olive is a complex character however, which makes her all the more real.  We see how she loved her son when he was a baby, yet when he's grown up they have a difficult relationship. She resents his first wife, and after overhearing her criticising the dress Olive made for the wedding, Olive steals an earring from her and runs a marker pen across one of the daughter-in-law's dresses.

I highly recommend it - beautiful scenery and filmography, and outstanding award-winning performances from Frances Dormand as Olive and Richard Jenkins as her beleagured husband.

What are your latest recommendations? Do share in the comments.

Sharing this post with #ShareAllLinkUp at Not Dressed as Lamb, Weekend Blog Hop at Claire Justine, Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge and #BloggerClubUK or #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings

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Wednesday, 12 February 2020

I Liked This Skirt So Much I Bought Another One: And Link Up

Flattering for all sizes the Zandra skirt from Kettlewell in Atlantis worn with white fur gilet and sweater by over-50s blogger Gail Hanlon
If you find something you love, and there are more colours available, ladies, go for it. I bought this velvet skirt by Kettlewell in Violet Dazzle a few months ago.  I noticed it's now in the sale, so I snapped up this gorgeous colour, Atlantis Dazzle.

I'm wearing it with last winter's white jumper and boots and a very old furry gilet. The necklace by Corsi Design Factory was a perfect match. I bought it at the V&A Museum on the day I met the lovely Penny from Frugal Fashion Shopper.  It looks like a normal necklace but it's made of a soft resin.
Teal velvet skirt worn with white boots, white jumper and furry gilet with a necklace by Corsi Design Factory
The reason I love the Zandra skirt is that it's got a lovely sheen, and is so soft to sit on;  and it's so easy to wear, with its elasticated (yes!) waist. It's a good length too.
As I mentioned, I already had it in Violet Dazzle. I wore it on an outing last week to meet Nikki Garnett from Midlife Chic. When meeting another fashion blogger you always agonize over what to wear. I wore my skirt and a purple cashmere jumper from M&S, but the stand out items were my chunky pearls and lilac coat.
A lilac cocoon coat is warm and stylish over purple with silver accessories, as shown by over-50s style blog Is This Mutton
I love the coat but we rarely get the right weather in the UK to wear it.  Ideally it should be cold but dry.  And the coat feels a bit dressy for everyday running around.  So although I don't wear it very often, it's brilliant quality with a high percentage of cashmere so I know it will be good for many years to come.
Over-50s blogger Gail Hanlon in monochrome purple with a velvet Zandra skirt from Kettlewell and silver ankle boots with chunky pearl necklaces
You can see the lovely sheen of the skirt.  The pearls are actually two necklaces.  One was very cheap and bought in BHS many years ago.  I got the other one from Etsy.  Chunky pearls always seem to get compliments.  One of Nikki's readers (she invited ladies in London to meet up, if they were free, and 15 came along) messaged me afterwards to say she liked the pearls.
Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in lilac cashmere coat, purple jumper and layered chunky pearl necklaces
Do you ever buy an item in more than one colour, if you find you love it?

Sharing this post with Claire Justine, #iwillwearwhatiwant at Not Dressed as Lamb, Top of the World Style at High Latitude Style, Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  Turning Heads Tuesday at Elegantly Dressed and Stylish; Style with a Smile at Stylesplash; Chic & Stylish at Mummabstylish, Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, Red Carpet Link Up at Glamadventure, Muttonstyle, Fancy Friday at Nancy's Fashion Style and #BloggerClubUK or #AnythingGoes at My Random 
Musings.

I'm back on Friday with a #FiveForFriYay post on podcasts, TV and books. See you then!

Now it's time for #WowOnWednesday.
Last week's readers' favourite was Kim from Fierce Fashion with her post Refashioned Top with Camo. Kim's top was originally black but she bleached it, and then she changed the shoulder by adding a leopard print insert.  he instantly has a totally unique garment. I really admire women who can customize their clothes.  I'm hopeless with a needle so all I can do is admire.
Midlife blogger Kim from Fierce Fashion in camo pants and a refashioned top
My favourite post was by Shelbee from Shelbee on the Edge. Please indulge with this one! No-one has ever done a style steal on me before, so I was so chuffed  (a good ol' British word) when Shelbee gave us her take on my David Bowie t-shirt and jeans - "Inspired by Is This Mutton: Bowie Tee." Thanks so much Shelbee - I love your take on the outfit, particularly the red boots!
Two bloggers, similar outfit: take one Bowie tee and add jeans and boots
A special mention also to Michelle from Fifty and Fab. She wrote very bravely about her phobia of vomiting - My personal struggle with emetophobia amd how to overcome phobias and anxiety. It's a big deal for bloggers to open up about personal challenges - kudos to Michelle.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!


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Wednesday, 5 February 2020

We're Glad to Be Grey: Results of the Is This Mutton? Survey and Link Up

Women over 50, feel proud. You're happy to be your age, accepting of grey hair,  and doing your bit to try to reduce your carbon footprint and make greener choices.

Here are the results of the second Is This Mutton? survey - and fascinating they are, too.

Let's dive in. The majority of respondents were from the UK and Ireland with 13% from the US and Canada, and four per cent from rest of the world. 34% were over the age of 60, 31% between the ages of 55 and 60, and 24% aged between 50 and 55. 10% were aged over 70.

Key Goals for 2020

I left this question free style with space for comments. A lot of you said you wanted to lose weight,
get fit (or fitter) and drink less alcohol, but there were other goals too:
  • Go 100% whole food plant based, no oil, diet
  • Build strength and come off a medication
  • Greener choices, shop locally
  • Be happy /read more books, live life
  • Forgive wrongs and move forward. Find a project, do something new each month
  • Buy only a few pieces (latest clothes and accessories) that really work for me everyday
  • Write, learn, continue to share a message about plastic pollution, go on adventures, release a film, qualify in a new role
A recurring theme was making greener choices. This reader summed it up well: " Trying greener has been a priority to in our family since 2006! Just the little things, more to do with less waste of #food.

"Now in 2020 it's to try and rid ourselves of plastic, invest in good #tupperware #glass containers that will last decades to house our food, lotions and potions. Have noticed that liquid soap are more freely available in large rectangle sizes."

40% said they would avoid certain retailers and "fast fashion," while 19% said they didn't know enough about it to make a decision yet.  39% aren't worried about fast fashion.

How do we feel about being over 50?


Ladies, I take my hats off to you because you're a lot more positive ageing about than I am. The survey results are certainly questioning some of my own (deep) thoughts and fears, and I'll write an honest post about that. 

However, nearly 50% said they felt invisible with 27% saying they never did, and 24% saying they occasionally felt invisible. More than 80% of you are happy to tell people your age. When you don't, it's because it's no-one else's business! 

The question "are you still a head turner?" confounded some, with one respondent telling me she had never been a head turner. To me, it's less about looks than a certain confidence, or sense of style, that  commands attention when we're at the top of our game.

The good news is, half of us say we can turn heads occasionally.

The idea of "tweakments" - botox and fillers - was rejected, with 55% saying they would never try them, even if money wasn't an issue.
Grey haired women in her 50s. Image courtesy of Pixabay
On the grey/gray hair question, the majority - 25% - have grey hair and are happy with it.  But the rest of us, well, very mixed views. 14% are thinking about going grey. 18% say they will never go grey. Four per cent said they wouldn't consider it until they're retired.

Lots of comments:
  • I'm over 50 but not one grey hair yet
  • I may do it but not for a while. I don't have much grey yet
  • Happy with highlights
I'll be writing a follow-up post about going grey. 

Views on the menopause

Of those who have been through the menopause, 35% said they were glad they no longer have periods. A pleasing 31% said they were enjoying this new phase of their life.  14% said they were sad they were no longer fertile. Quite a few comments: 
  • I do think the menopause can change you as a person
  • I am in the midst of it and cannot wait for it to be over
  • I wish the tiredness and hot flushes would stop
  • I'm 53 and no symptoms yet
  • Full surgical menopause at 39 and still suffering
  • Had an early menopause at 38 and was definitely sad even though my family was complete
  • Came as a shock! Felt my body had let me down
  • Couldn't live without HRT patches 

What we dread most about getting older

The biggest worries are being a burden,  followed by losing friends and family, and third, aches and pains. 

Encouragingly, there's less criticism of women for what they wear 

In the UK a lot of the weekly magazines, the Mail Online and a couple of the other dailies, spend a lot of time being critical of what older women are wearing, particularly if it's anything that challenges a particular perception of how a woman over 50 should look. Madonna in particular gets a lot of stick for having the audacity to display her toned, slim body in revealing clothes. 

But the good news is, while 35% of you said there's too much focus on what older women wear, 36% said it 's improving. 

Attitudes towards fashion

Thinking about when we were 25, 62% observed that they're less fashionable but more stylish.  I would whole heartedly agree with that.  I shared some of my dreadful outfits from my 20s here. At 25, we're still inclined to slavishly follow trends, even if they don't suit us  (and I didn't have much understanding then of what styles and shapes do suit me). As older women, we've learnt what flatters us and we're prepared to go for comfort over fashion occasionally.

I gave a long list of clothes items that are often considered "challenging" for older women:  mini skirts, leather trousers, bikinis, low cut tops. The majority - 33% - were most fearful of a bikini, followed by an even more nervous 31% who wouldn't wear ANY of those items. Applause for the brave 11% who said they would wear anything. 

We're not set in our ways: brands take note! 

47% of you like to change your appearance occasionally with a new hairstyle, a different look or new makeup.

When it comes to buying makeup, 45% are influenced by reviews, 21% by seeing something in-store, 13% by magazine reviews and 11% by blog posts. 

What makeup items could you not do without?

Mascara is the single most essential item in the makeup bag. 17% like to wear everything: I listed foundation, concealer, mascara, blusher, mascara, lipstick. But a surprising 26% of you never wear makeup at all.  I'm not in that category - as a bare minimum I wear a concealer and blusher, and for work I add some eye shadow and mascara.  For evenings, below, it's the works plus lipstick.
Over-50s woman with blonde hair, glitter eyeshadow and bright pink lipstick

Stop lumping the 50-80 age group together!

There wasn't a survey question about it, but one of the topics guaranteed to get hackles rising on Twitter is how "the media" tends to lump everyone between the age of 50 and 85 in one homogeneous age group. This is the equivalent of showing a baby picture to represent "young people" up to the age of 35.

Any story about people over 50 who are still working  (which in itself is an insult, given that the pension age is rising to 67) is often accompanied by a lazy stock image of a pair of very wrinkled hands clutching a walking stick. Here's one below. Look familiar?
Pexels image of elderly man with walking stick
Articles about the menopause usually feature women looking frazzled and never vibrant or energetic - although a lot of menopausal and post-menopausal women put younger people to shame with their energy and fitness levels.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the survey. Look out for my follow-up posts over the next few weeks.

Sharing this post with Claire Justine, #iwillwearwhatiwant at Not Dressed as Lamb, Top of the World Style at High Latitude Style, Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  Turning Heads Tuesday at Elegantly Dressed and Stylish; Style with a Smile at Stylesplash; Chic & Stylish at Mummabstylish, Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, Red Carpet Link Up at Glamadventure, Muttonstyle, Fancy Friday at Nancy's Fashion Style #BloggerClubUK or #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings Thursday Moda aElegance and Mommyhood

Now it's time for #WowOnWednesday

Last week's readers' favourite (most clicked) was Karen from Lady in Violet with her post Maroon Sweater. 
Fashion blogger Karen in maroon sweater and jeans
My favourite non-fashion post was by Laurie from Vanity and Me and her post  FF Trinny London v By Terry CC Serum.  In this honest review Laurie compared the two products. I've heard great things about the Trinny London range, and Trinny herself is an inspiration - so will be checking it out.
Blogger Laurie Bronze compares two products in a beauty review
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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Sentence a Day: January 2020

Weds Jan 1
First walk of the year, v muddy, just over 3 miles. Took down the Christmas tree and decorations.
Look at all the mud! A walk in Epping Forest, January 1 2020
Thurs Jan 2
Working from home. Quiet as a lot of people are not back until Monday. Went to the gym. 

Fri Jan 3
Working from home. Did a walk, blue sky. The holiday I booked a few months ago, for June 2020, is suddenly looking dodgy. Aargh.

Sat 4
Walked to gym and then the supermarket, total 6.51 miles. Made soup for lunch. Wrote up Sentence a Day post for Dec.

Sun 5
The husband of one of John's sisters has died unexpectedly and suddenly, in India.  Neil was only 58. Brings into sharp focus how precious life is. 

Mon 6
Back in the office after nearly 2 weeks. Early start  at 5.30. Made salads, did shopping, in office 8.30.  Still suffering the after effects of a cold I picked up before Christmas, so bought some medicine to try to put it right. 
Tues 7
Working from home. Gym. Had a delivery of bath products from the Body Shop, British Rose. J sorting out new alarms for the garage. 

Weds 8
Office. Mega busy. My blog survey went live. Come back tomorrow Weds to see the results. Bought a new headset from a vending machine (need to sort the cable out!).

Thurs 9
Last night's leftovers for lunch (nut roast, ratatouille).  V busy. 

Fri 10
Home. Gym.  Went to theatre, saw & Juliet. Better than expected. At least they could all sing and the songs were real pop songs

Sat 11
Did shopping Epping. Spent afternoon writing a blog post.

Sun 12
Walked gym and back, ended up at 7 miles. John's daughter and her husband came for lunch. 

Mon 13
In office. On my drive listened to a new podcast Postcards from Midlife.  Had an email from holiday operator. They have pulled out of London Luton and London Stansted and are proposing we fly from Birmingham.  Er, this is not an option. 

Tues 14
Sorted an alternative holiday in the same place and same resort, by booking flights and hotel separately.  V windy. Wheelie bins in the road!

Weds 15
Office. Terrible new pot hole on the drive to work. Hard to spot the blighters in the dark. 

Thurs 16
Office. New secateurs came for the garden. 

Fri 17
Home Gym. Busy but satisfying day.

Sat 18
Beautiful sunny day. Went to see a ballet gala performance with fellow blogger Anna. Fab day. Read more here
Over 50s blogger Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in London's Trafalgar Square

Sun 19
Sunny again.  Not feeling great after all the cocktails so didn't go to the gym. Pruned the roses- awful job.  Roast chicken

Mon 20
Office. Bought first daffodils of the season.

Tues 21
Home. Sooo busy. Gym. Lovely salmon dinner.

Weds 22
Office. So much to do. Aaargh

Thurs 23
Home. Hosted a boiler engineer again. Gym.

Fri 24
Home. Challenging day. Lots meetings pm.

Sat 25
Did 4 miles in forest with J. Then Epping, had hair done.
Stacked bob by Toni and Guy Epping, UK
Sun 26
Walked to gym.  Roast chicken.

Mon 27
Office.  Long draining day! John put up new bird boxes

Tues 28
Sunny but cold. Home. Gym. Casserole.

Weds 29
Office was cold, so came home early. Falafels and salad. Steak for J.

Thurs 30
Dark as usual when I left. Very tired. Perhaps a bit carb deprived. Picked up parcel - a new perfume, Amazing Grace by Philosophy. 

Fri 31
Home.  Quiz at Orions. John's Aunty Sheila from Ireland was a surprise guest. Ate too many sausage rolls. Brexit day.
News blackout  until I got home and saw the flag being lowered, which was very sad.
Quiz team
Sharing this post with Linkup On the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge Claire Justine, #ShareAllLinkUp at Not Dressed as Lamb #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings  and Anna at Muttonstyle.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Every Day Outfits - Casual and Work. And Link Up

Statement shirt in green and blue worn with navy trousers and yellow boots. A stylish workwear outfit
My work wear look is mainly constructed around "statement shirts" with boots that match or contrast with them, and a skirt or trousers and cardigan in neutrals. 

The shirt above was in the sale at the Bias-Cut.com (and is reduced even further now) and I love the colour combination, particularly with the green sleeves and the yellow stripe around the collar and cuffs which co-ordinates perfectly with my yellow boots  (Sainsbury's, 2018). It's too cold in our brutally air conditioned office to wear a shirt on its own so I wore it with my green poncho.Gail Hanlon from over-50s style blog Is This Mutton in red sequin top, red and black patterned asymmetric skirt and red and black ankle boots
Something about January makes me reach for sequins to bring some light into the dreary days. I have long espoused sequins for day time. If you need reminding, have a read of these:  Sequins for SummerSequins for Daytime.

Above is a red sequin number.  The cardigan was a Christmas present. I sized up in this Boden cropped cashmere cardi, choosing a large. In spring and summer I like to wear a colourful cropped cardi buttoned up over a pencil style skirt, but in winter I prefer a black cardigan for warmth and like it to be a bit longer, but not as long as a "standard" cardigan which can look a bit ageing.  A cropped style doesn't work so well with a  longer asymmetric skirt. 

I love how the green thrifted necklace adds even more bling to the outfit, while the snakeskin neoprene boots add some interest. 
Green houndstooth skirt paired with green sequin top and green snakeskin boots. Sassy over 50s style from Is This Mutton?

Keeping cosy in winter doesn't mean losing your proportions. Belt a loose, baggy cable sweater and add some interesting ankle boots. By Is This Mutton?
Sometimes on a bitterly cold day a big cosy jumper (sweater) is required. This one came from Tesco, so yes, fast fashion, but I've worn it a lot and will continue to wear it over the next few winters, so I'm not feeling bad about it. A large shapeless jumper can swamp me so I added a belt, and the trousers are my faithful old "Rupert Bears" from the early 90s.  I love the rucksack, it was another Christmas present and came from Marks and Spencer.  It has a zip round the top of the rucksack so that nasty hands can't reach into the bag while my back is (literally) turned, always a fear when you're in a busy city like London.
Style blog Is This Mutton? on looking chic in casual wear.  Zebra striped baggy jumper with half tuck, worn with black jeans and sock boots
Here's another way of making a baggy jumper/sweater slightly more workable.  This one was a purchase last winter. I did the side tuck.  Adding soft ankle boots in the same colour as the jeans makes my short legs look longer.  With the gold boots below, it's more apparent the jeans are too short.
Black t-shirt and jeans with gold boots: Is This Mutton?

How do I look good in casual wear?

One of the most frequently asked questions by women over 50 is: what to wear for casual, every day use. I used to struggle with this, tending to wear functional not fashionable, athleisure and my hiking sweatshirts.  My recipe now is to have a few tee shirts which you like, and wear them with jeans and a loose cashmere jumper or cardigan and interesting boots.

Cheap colourful t-shirts are not the solution - they don't flatter and they don't wash very well, losing their shape very quickly. So I spend a little more on t-shirts, preferably made of organic cotton. The t-shirt above came from eBay - I also have a couple the same from Ted Baker "Wake me for champagne" and a lovely black one with a space motif from The Bias Cut.

Still time to complete the Is This Mutton? survey


If you haven't done it yet, there's still time to make your thoughts count in the annual Is This Mutton? survey of women over the age of 50.

Head over to the survey where you'll find questions around your attitude to grey/gray hair, how you feel about telling people your age, and which garment terrifies you the most - a bikini, a mini skirt or leather trousers. Or all three. The results will be shared next Wednesday, and I can tell you they're quite surprising.

Sharing this post with Claire Justine, #iwillwearwhatiwant at Not Dressed as Lamb, Top of the World Style at High Latitude Style, Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  Turning Heads Tuesday at Elegantly Dressed and Stylish; Style with a Smile at Stylesplash; Chic & Stylish at Mummabstylish, Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, Red Carpet Link Up at Glamadventure, Muttonstyle, Fancy Friday at Nancy's Fashion Style #BloggerClubUK or #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings Thursday Moda at Elegance and Mommyhood

Now it's time for #WowOnWednesday, the weekly link-up for readers to find new blogs to enjoy and bloggers to grow their audience.
Last week's most clicked was Before and After Colour Analysis by Pamela from Style Yourself Confident. I am a great advocate of colour analysis because it makes a huge difference to your life, and shopping habits, if you find the shades which suit you. I wrote here about my experiences with colour analysis

My favourite post was by Amber from The Hungry Mountaineer: How to be At Your Fashionable Best while On Holiday in Goa. I love Amber's sense of fun and the way her joy of travel - and life- shines through in her writing.
Woman on a camel
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Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Pink Boots Walk Me to the Ballet - and Link Up

Over 50s blogger Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton? in pink boots and green and pink dress in Trafalgar Square
I've been wanting a pair of bright pink boots for a long time. Finally Hush have a pair, but too late for me: I had found a pair on US website FSJ and they've finally arrived. I wore my new boots for a trip to the Coliseum in London for the 70th anniversary gala performance of English National Ballet. It was an outing for Les Deux Moutons - I was accompanied by Anna from Mutton Style.

It was a beautiful day in London and we took some fun photos in Trafalgar Square to take advantage of that blue sky.

Next, lunch, and I had found the most perfect place in the same road as the theatre: the St Martin's Lane Hotel, which is very discreet and, inside, full of Instagrammable photo opps.  We enjoyed their signature cocktail, coco-ito, and I had seared tuna with a sesame crust.
Blogger meet up: over 50s style bloggers Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton and Annemarie from Mutton Style
Then it was down to the Coliseum for the matinee performance.  Matinees are perfect in winter, I always think, because dark, cold evenings are very off putting to venture out. The Coliseum is my favourite theatre: it's beautiful and the seats have a large pitch and are very comfortable. Also, the women's washroom I visited is BIG, which in itself is unusual in a Victorian theatre.

The performance started with a video where dance luminaries and former artistic directors described the company, its character and its evolution.

I have always preferred ENB to the Royal Ballet, which has become (to my mind) a bit too corporate and formal. ENB has always had an air of free spirit about it, while latest artistic director Tamara Rojo has brought more balletic precision to the corps.

I became a lover of ballet in my early years as a newspaper reporter when I was given tickets to see La Fille Mal Gardee because the deputy editor couldn't go.  I actually hated that one (and still dislike the works of that particular choreographer) but persevered and took my mum to a performance of a triple bill in a big top in Exeter.  We were hooked.  Ballet can be incredibly immersive.  I find myself getting lost in the beautiful music, the lithe bodies so graceful, and the other-worldliness of the stage and theatre.

I Saw Rudolf Nureyev Twice


Over the years I have seen some wonderful performances.  I saw Rudolf Nureyev twice, in 1983 and 1986. He was nearing the end of his career but still had the most amazing charisma.  It brought memories back of how some devoted followers had thrown red roses from a box at the Coliseum, and Rudolf picked them up and was so gracious as he accepted them. You could tell he lived for performing.

One of my specialist subjects should I ever go on Mastermind is the Russian dancer Nijinsky, and I have seen recreations of some of his choreography and productions (my absolute favourites) including Nureyev in L'Apres Midi D'Un Faun and Le Spectre de la Rose. The latter, a short work, is to my mind one of the most beautiful of ballets. A young girl clutches a rose as she drifts off to sleep, remembering a dance. During the night, the spirit of the rose leaps through the window and dances as she sleeps.

Back to the ENB Gala Performance, and the first act was a vibrant and spirited collection of excerpts, both modern and traditional. A few of them I had never seen before so it was a brilliant taster to find ballets you would like to see full-length, including for me Giselle, because ENB's modern new version looks entirely different to the traditional version I saw years ago.

After the interval and a glass of champagne, the second act was one of ENB's most celebrated pieces, Etudes. A fantastic performance full of light and shade.
Gail Hanlon from over 50s style blog Is This Mutton? in midi length green and pink patterned dress, pink cardigan and pink metallic boots
I wore the pink boots with a green and pink dress that hasn't had many outings (Studio Preen at Debenhams) and topped with a teddy coat, as it was only around seven degrees despite the sun. That cute Aspinall trunk bag didn't make it to the ballet because it's too impractical - I couldn't squeeze in my phone, lipstick or brush!
Pink and green: Gail Hanlon from over-50s blog Is This Mutton? in Studio by Preen dress and pink metallic boots
Are you a balletomane? Which are your favourite productions? Do share in the comments.

Sharing this post with Claire Justine, #iwillwearwhatiwant at Not Dressed as Lamb, Top of the World Style at High Latitude Style, Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style,  Turning Heads Tuesday at Elegantly Dressed and Stylish; Style with a Smile at Stylesplash; Chic & Stylish at Mummabstylish, Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, Red Carpet Link Up at Glamadventure, Muttonstyle, Fancy Friday at Nancy's Fashion Style and #BloggerClubUK or #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings.
Now it's time for #WowOnWednesday, the weekly fashion, beauty and travel link-up that helps bloggers find new readers, and readers to find new blogs to enjoy! Please take a few minutes to visit some of the blogs and leave a comment, to make it worth their while taking part.


Last week's most popular post was by Hilda from Over The Hilda with her Top Tips for Travelling to Morocco.
My favourite post was by Shauna from Lipgloss and Lace and her post Walk On the Wild Side.  Now that I've got my pink boots, I'm coveting her gorgeous pink faux fur jacket! Look how it pops against the snowy background.
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter




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Friday, 17 January 2020

Latest Podcast, Book and TV Recommendations

Over 50s woman listening to music with headphones on
Hi folks and welcome to Five for FriYAY, the occasional post that celebrates the coming weekend and gives some suggestions for great reading, viewing and listening.

Podcast: Postcards from Midlife 

There are quite a few new podcasts aimed for women in mid life. They usually cover all the negative aspects of being older, so unless there's humour, I find them a bit of a turn-off.

The Times has launched a new podcast called Postcards from Midlife, featuring Lorraine Candy, editor of their Style magazine and former editor of Elle, and Trish Halpin, former editor of Marie Claire and Red.  Both women are in their early 50s. The first episode featured a discussion on libido with Suzy Godson. A very promising start: the chemistry between Candy and Halpin is good, and there are a few jokes and witticisms.

Podcast: Man In The Window


If you like true crime, Man In The Window from LA Times/Wondery is an absolutely superb example of the genre.  It covers the crimes of a serial rapist and serial killer known variously as the East Area Rapist and the Golden State Killer. The criminal started his spree in the early 70s and committed at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California until 1986.  He was only recently apprehended, thanks to amazingly complex and detailed genetic research.

The podcast is meticulously researched and presented by Paige St. John, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter. What's most fascinating about it is the attitude in the 70s towards rape.  It was hardly ever investigated as a crime.  Women who were raped were expected to keep quiet about it. There was certainly no counselling or help to recover.

One of the reasons that the serial killer and rapist went undiscovered for so long was that police forces refused to co-operate with each other, and there were often political reasons for not wanting to expose a series of crimes in an area. It was largely thanks to amateur crime buffs and retired police officers that progress was made.

The last episode is a discussion about attitudes to rape in the 70s and 80s. One of the saddest aspects of the case is that the law of statute in California expired very quickly in the 70s, so the criminal cannot be convicted for the rapes committed then.

TV: The Witcher, Atypical and Wisting 


We haven't had Netflix for long so we're like over-excited kids in the sweet shop.  Atypical is an amusing series about an adolescent with Asperger's and his family life. It's honest and can be both poignant and funny.  I was pleased to see Jennifer Jason-Leigh who was in some memorable films in the 90s, including the creepy Single White Female.

The Witcher is the "latest Game of Thrones clone," a fantasy series featuring Guernsey heart throb Henry Cavill. It's based on a series of novels by a Polish writer that are even more successful than GoT.  The series is not as good as GoT but it's entertaining. The main drawback is that not much is explained, so you're constantly having to look things up.

The drama constantly veers between the past, the present and the future, and it's hard to identify which period we're in. The Witcher is a man of few words but has a memorable and varied selection of grunts. Apparently he was a lot more talkative in the books, but the silent and brooding version portrayed by Cavill won the day.

Finally, on BBC 4  (and the iPlayer), Wisting, the Norwegian detective, was also dealing with a serial killer plus two members of the FBI who were flown over to help.  Episode five was absolutely gripping. Highly recommended.

Books: Another Tour de Force from Ian McEwan


The cover of Ian McEwan's book Machines Like Me
In his latest novel Ian McEwan confronts the imminent battlefield of Artificial Intelligence and morals and ethics.  Machines Like Me is set in a surreal 1982 where Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister has lost the Falklands War and is soon to be replaced by Tony Benn.  There is civil unrest because of robots replacing humans at work, and autonomous cars are commonplace.

A shiftless man, Charlie Friend, spends an inheritance on buying one of the first artificial humans, Adam.  Charlie and his girlfriend, who lives upstairs, agree to independently program Adam in terms of how they want to shape his personality, from various check lists.

Jealousy rears its ugly head when Charlie realises his girlfriend has been having sex with Adam, and Adam believes he is in love with her.  But worse is to come when the robot takes a very black and white view of a legal issue, and is unable to deal with nuances and interpretation as humans would. And faced with being used as slaves, and finding themselves in a world they can't understand, the artificial humans struggle to cope.  A fascinating and accessible read.

Books: Queenie, the Black Woman's Bridget Jones?


Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams has been described thus, but I think it diminishes the quality and impact of this powerful book, which was short listed for the Costa First Novel Award.  The blurb on Amazon doesn't help:  "Queenie Jenkins can't cut a break. Well, apart from the one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That's definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Then there's her boss who doesn't seem to see her and her Caribbean family who don't seem to listen (if it's not Jesus or water rates, they're not interested). She's trying to fit in two worlds that don't really understand her. It's no wonder she's struggling."

There's far more to the book than it seems.  Queenie is trying to get through depression and has spiralled into self-destructive behaviour.  She emerges triumphant. I love the humorous touches and the sense of community in London.

Sharing this post with #ShareAllLinkUp at Not Dressed as Lamb, Weekend Blog Hop at Claire Justine, Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge and #BloggerClubUK or #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings


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