Friday, 29 November 2013

Old age ain't for sissies!

So said the late Bette Davis, one of the truly great movie stars. Just to make sure she did say that, I checked her still active website and  discovered a whole bunch of her marvellous quotations. Check out Bette Davis quotes Another age related on was 'If you want a thing well done, get a couple of old broads to do it.' One which has a particular relevance to me as I struggle with my rewrite is 'Attempt the impossible if you want to improve yourself.' Must remember that one! Preferably, pin it up next to my computer.

Remember the song, 'She's Got Bette Davis Eyes'? In case you've forgotten, here's the link Bette Davis eyes  My reason for posting this Youtube clip? Well, when I was younger people said that about me. Just to prove it, here's a pic of me from 1962.

 But this isn't a rant about old age or even a eulogy to Bette Davis. It's a celebration of a life well lived, mine. Because much of my childhood was spent with my parents in domestic service, I got to live in some pretty impressive houses, which gave me a glimpse of how the other half lived.  (I always said I should have been born a rich man's daughter and my father agreed with me.) We moved around a lot with jobs and once, I went to four different schools in on term. At the age of 15, I was working as a towel weaver in a cotton mill and feel proud that I was, for a time, a part of the once great cotton industry. In the early 1960s, I went to live and work in the United States, something young women just didn't do, which changed my life forever. There's a lot more I could tell you but I won't bore you.

Now in my mid-70s (how did that happen?), I have dodgy eyes, teeth and knees and something called an 'essential tremor' (aka the shakes) though what's essential about it, I have yet to discover! Yet I believe in living the best life I can under less than ideal circumstances. When researching the subject of old age, I came across a wonderful prayer by Peter Marshall, an American preacher who died far too young in 1949. He said, 'When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grown strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.' Wise words indeed.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Fifty Years On - A Momentous Year

As we are all aware, today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. Oh, we all know now of his sexual exploits but back then, he was truly the Golden Boy and his death devastated more than just a nation. He was the hero of the Civil Rights Movement, especially in his speech to the American people on 11th June 1963, just a few months before his death. He said, 'One hundred years ... have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves yet their heirs ... are not yet freed from the bonds of injustive ...' Largely as a result of his support, on 2nd July, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.

Me holding baby Lisa, summer 1964

But what of my own memories? How do I remember that event? I had spent the latter part of the 1962 and the early part of 1963 working as a Mother's Helper in the United States.
As the girlfriend of an African-American, I experienced racial abuse first hand. In November 1963, I was in a Mother and Baby Home awaiting the birth of an illegitimate child, very much a disgrace then. The baby was the end result of my relationship with said African-American. I remember sitting silently with the other residents of the Home, glued to the black and white television in the lounge, more than one of us crying. At that time, it was the most tragic thing we had seen or heard. So young, so handsome, he was. And those poor fatherless children, together with the beautiful young widow. None of us knew of the Kennedy family secrets then. We continued to watch the drama unfold as the alleged killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself shot by a small-time gangster, Jack Ruby. The controversy and conspiring theories abound still.

In December, 1963, I gave birth to my darling daughter, Lisa, and, of course, she celebrates her 50th birthday this coming December. I can honestly say that I've never regretted the decision I made to keep her. I later learned that, as a child of mixed race, she would probably have had to go into a children's home. There, she would, in all probability, have been bullied because of her colour, something she did experience as a schoolgirl. She hasn't had an easy life but I'm so proud of the way she's turned out despite all her problems.