One of my favourite things

GENERIC M&S / Marks and Spencer store, Norwich. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

GENERIC M&S / Marks and Spencer store, Norwich. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

Raindrops on Roses and M&S bib bags, bright copper kettles and M&S glad rags...

Humpty Dumpty has resumed his position on the wall after his unexpected encounter with the slime fac

Humpty Dumpty has resumed his position on the wall after his unexpected encounter with the slime factory. Picture: LJM - Credit: Archant

dasdasThere are times when you have to accept that defiance in the face of age is pointless.

I take, for proof, my list of top 10 favourite things to do. When I was in my 20s and 30s I thought it would last a lifetime. It hasn’t. Now I am in my 60s, some things have slipped down (rather as they have on my body) and some others have dropped off completely.

For example, I used to adore dressing up to go out. Once, it would have been a long soak in the bath, shave legs, pedicure, manicure, moisturise, tease hair into a semblance of order, dress... at least four times before deciding on the perfect look, spray on Guerlain fragrance, ask husband to pop my lipstick in his jacket pocket and exit the house. The process took four hours.

Today: sniff armpits, clean teeth, out the door. Okay, I might have a quick wash but, honestly, whatever I do, I can no longer rival lovely young women. I may be a lovely older woman but it’s not the same. I can no longer scintillate. I know my place and it’s at the back of the room in a dark corner, clutching an empty dance card.

I do try to sparkle but this is now entirely a conversation-based twinkling and even that can be a can of worms – you have to be captivating without mentioning taboos such as gender or politics. Jokes must be positively vetted to avoid upset. You must beware too of boring for Britain with tales of the grandchildren and other topics that can cause people to glaze over – including cycling; TV series on Sky Atlantic (not everyone gets Sky Atlantic); your medical history; how clever the children are; the loft conversion etc.

I am a bit of a luvvie, theatrically speaking, but even that can backfire – as in, when starting to talk about the time I played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, the person you are hoping to fascinate declares: “I hate musicals.” And this situation can no longer be rescued by a trilling laugh. Once I was Audrey Hepburn, now I am Rex Harrison’s mother.

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Then there’s my hearing. Pardon?

My hearing. It isn’t what it was. If I am in a room with loud music playing I either have to lip-read, get the other person to bellow directly into my ear or pass them a notebook and pen. It’s well known that as we get older it becomes more difficult to separate competing sounds.

So dressing up to go out has plummeted down the rankings, as has partying till dawn – 10pm is the new dawn.

What else was in my youthful best-loved 10 things to do?

Eating – it was always in the top 10 but now heads the list and, not far behind, is Marks and Spencer, or the Mother Ship as a friend calls it. Like a love of gardening, M&S is something that creeps up on you as you get older and, eventually, you can’t do without it. I can honestly say that I locate and home-in on the nearest M&S wherever I go.

When I read that the retailer was to close 100 shops over the next four years I went into a flat spin, desperate to see if my local branch was affected. If it had been scheduled to close, I would have had to move house. Happily it is not on the hit-list.

I confess I don’t buy as many clothes from the store as once I did... they don’t seem to make them in my shape. But I Iove their food (which probably accounts for my shape). Some years ago, in this newspaper, I addressed an open letter to the then company chairman, Sir Stuart Rose, offering my assistance with the clothes-buying – the women’s range wasn’t great even then – but I never heard back. The offer is still open, by the way, if current chairman Archie Norman happens to be reading this.

But the food remains excellent. At our recent anniversary party we ordered a Compleat Afternoon Tea from M&S, and it was jolly good. Canapés, sandwich fingers, a gluten-free selection for gluten-free guests, patisserie, fruit tarts and a celebration cake arrived, fresh, nicely-presented, tasty and worth every penny of the time I didn’t have to spend buttering bread, cutting off crusts and fiddling about with smoked salmon and prawns.

It also meant I didn’t have fish fingers. TCP is closely followed by fishiness when it comes to smells that linger about the person.

• George and Wil spent a happy afternoon creating a slime farm in the garden. All went well until the large stuffed Humpty, whose usual role is to sit halfway up the stairs before having “a great fall”, was unceremoniously dumptied into the muddy waters of the slime farm. We didn’t even have to ask before Wil said he didn’t do it. Happily we managed to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

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