28 February, 2015

Birthday treat

I had a fabulous day out in London last weekend, celebrating my birthday with my lovely husband and our two equally lovely children.

We went to see the matinee performance of 'Shakespeare in Love', which is currently playing at the Noel Coward theatre. The play was excellent -- really good acting and imaginative set. And the best bit was that the actors actually took several non-choreographed curtain calls -- not your usual two formulaic bows, but a genuine reaction to the audience's applause. The lead actress even looked surprised at coming out for the third curtain call, as if she'd been about to return to the dressing room, but had been ushered back last minute.

We then went on to dinner at Cantina Laredo -- a Mexican restaurant on St Martin's Lane that we had been meaning to try out for a while. It was very good. The food was extremely tasty and, because we were early, we managed to take advantage of the cheaper pre-theatre menu. The restaurant is huge and extremely busy, but still the staff are friendly and welcoming and the food arrives in good time.

All in all, a great birthday out!

21 February, 2015

Valentine's Day

I had a lovely Valentine's celebration last weekend.

The week before, I received an invitation through the letterbox from 'a mysterious admirer' inviting me to dinner at my own house. Of course, it was from my husband. He cooked a beautiful meal for me on Saturday evening complete with champagne, roses and chocolates. I felt very spoilt.

The kids were complicit, refusing to tell me anything about the invitation in advance, despite me asking, and very considerately watching TV in the snug on the night while we ate our meal together.

I really am very fortunate to have such a lovely husband and children. My husband and I have been married for 18 years and together for 25 years, so this just goes to show that romance doesn't have to die, no matter now long your relationship has been going!

18 February, 2015

The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock

I have been meaning to visit the Oxordshire Museum in Woodstock for some time, and the kids and I finally got round to it this half term.

It was definitely worth the wait! We really enjoyed ourselves and managed to spend two-and-a-half hours there, including a stop for lunch, which is longer than some much larger museums have detained us in the past.

The building that hosts the museum is beautiful -- a large eighteenth-century house in the heart of the historic market town of Woodstock -- and each gallery or room of the house includes a wall plaque telling you a little about the history and past uses of the room itself.

The museum collection is eclectic, but broadly covers artefacts from, and periods of history pertaining to, Oxfordshire. There are galleries covering dinosaurs, Roman times, the Victorians, wildlife, innovation, the people of Oxfordshire, and more. The artefacts are very well presented, there are hands-on activities, and the theme running through much of the museum is that history is about people and the way they live their lives.

The museum also boasts a spacious and lovely garden (full of spring flowers when we visited) with a terrace where you can sample the food from the cafe on warmer days.

An added bonus when we visited was 'Keeping up Appearances', an exhibition of women's fashion through the two world wars, which told the story of how changing fashions reflected the changing status and lives of women.

I would highly  recommend a visit to the Oxfordshire Museum, and if you want to catch 'Keeping up Appearances', make sure you visit before 12 April.

13 February, 2015

The many faces of old age

I have a number of elderly relatives and I never cease to be amazed by the different approaches that they adopt to old age.

Some never stop talking about their age; it is clearly a fundamental part of their lives. These people tend to be intensely concerned with their health, discussing in minute detail event the slightest ache or pain that they experience. They seem unaware that all people of their age experience this kind of discomfort and malaise on a day-to-day basis. An eighty-year-old naturally feels different, physically, from a twenty-year-old. These people also lose their zest for life. 'I am too old' is a common refrain that is applied to all kinds of situations -- the wish to no longer travel, to stay at home, to cook the simplest of meals...

By contrast, others make the most of their old age. They travel, socialise, entertain, and are probably even more active than earlier on in their lives. It is clear that they too experience the discomforts of old age -- you can observe them rubbing an arthritic hand, walking slower than they used to, sinking down gratefully into a comfortable chair -- but you never hear them talk or complain about these things. Rather than giving in to old age, they seem to meet it head on.

And there is a third approach to old age that I have encountered -- recognising that the end is coming, the people in this category start analysing their lives, looking to right any wrongs that they believe themselves to have committed. They are, I suppose, seeking atonement or some kind of closure and it is this that drives their actions in, and approach to, old age.

I suppose that these different takes on ageing are really just an extension of the individual's personality. A young person with a negative outlook is likely to grow into an elderly person with a negative outlook. Someone who has always embraced life will carry that attitude forwards into old age. But it makes you think and, more importantly, it makes you realise how you would like to be in old age. I hope that I still remember this when I reach that stage in my own life.