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two hilarious chapters from my new book..

Life Begins At Fifty - The Book
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I’m normally quite an extrovert person.  I like to get out and about and see people.  I love the banter, the craic and the mickey-taking.  I seem to be getting more crows’ feet by the day now, so I no longer have a ‘youthful glow’ but, thanks to a mirror that doesn’t show every nook and cranny, I usually go out thinking I look kind of okay (until I get into the bright lights of a cloakroom loo and wonder who the heck let me go out looking like that, ha ha!).

Well, recently someone has been playing a rather cruel trick on me.  I’ve been renovating a house in order to sell it and my eyes started to smart from the dust as I wiped the plaster off tiles, swept the floors and hoovered the carpets.  Hilda Ogden eat your heart out!  I seemed to be surrounded by dust, dust and more dust.  I supposed I just got used to my eyes stinging and being bloodshot, but gradually red welts also appeared above and below my right eye, and the skin looked crepey and puffy.  Like I’d had several rounds with Mike Tyson, really.  Not a good look!

Then, smart Alec me, decided to get the bathroom painted, as there was paint peeling off one wall. When my kids were at home, they never opened the bathroom window when showering, and so I was forever waltzing in, barking like a sergeant major as I yanked open the window whilst wafting the steam out of it.  The problem is, when your eyes are already sore and itchy, toxic paint just compounds the problem.  They became redder and itchier.  Arrrgh!

I look after my daughter’s black Labrador most days, as I’m self-employed, sooo, picture this…I’m now looking like something out of Phantom of the Opera and I have to walk my doggie round the fields, most of which are now bright yellow with oil seed rape flowers.  Now, unfortunately, the only flowers that give me hay fever are, you guessed it, oil seed rape!  So now, not only have my eyes become REALLY itchy and swollen, but I’m blowing my nose and coughing due to a dry, itchy throat.  At this point, I seriously had visions of applying for a part in the Elephant Man.

I didn’t actually stop going out, but I certainly thought about it.  I was forever apologising for my appearance and gradually realised that I wasn’t going to my usual places.  I’d go out to eat, so that I was just meeting a few other people, rather than seeing loads of people that I knew at the local wine bar, but it would have been very easy to just stay at home and watch mindless TV and not face the world at large.  However, what struck me is that, whilst my predicament was fairly temporary (although, I have to say, it took me weeks to get rid of my allergies, as I was still forever clearing up dust), other people are not so fortunate:  people who’ve been burned in tragic accidents, people who have dry skin, prone to eczema, people who have port wine stains on their faces, people who have ‘weathered’ faces having inadvertently spent too much time in the sun.  How much must that affect their confidence?

I started thinking about people like Katie Piper and the courage it must have taken to start dating, never mind creating a career in TV, where your looks are scrutinised to the nth degree.  She even hosted a series which highlighted the lengths some people were prepared to go to, to actually disfigure themselves voluntarily (with tattoos, nose rings, metal studs, huge holes in their ears, etc.) having had countless unavoidable operations herself, after being the victim of an acid attack.  What an absolute inspiration she is!

We all moan and groan about our looks on occasion (too fat, too thin, too wobbly, too flat-chested, saggy boobs, love handles, big bums, flat bums…and on and on), but how often do we realise how lucky we are, just to be alive and healthy?   In light of the recent terrorist attacks, where people have lost their limbs and suffered horrific injuries, maybe, like Katie, we should just feel grateful that we are still alive and love the face and body that we have.

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