I’ve been procrastinating as to writing a post for a while now, it’s about two and a half years since my last post and we moved back to the UK last year. I thought I’d start with a post about change.

Well surprise! It’s about excitement! untitled

I attended The Guardian Debate last week, the final Ageing Population Quarterly to discuss innovative solutions to the consequences of ageing, (already a slightly problem focused tone to the title).
The panel of speakers kicked off the debate with some rousing references to opportunities, especially encouraging employers and business to welcome people working longer and of course more volunteering.
However it didn’t take long for the discussion to revert to the well established gloom with regard to Ageing.
One of the fundamental aspects that were not addressed on Wednesday was the perspective of the individual entering this period of transition into “a next stage”. Dr Lynne Corner (Director of Engagement, Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age) referred to the potential opportunities of this next stage, however we didn’t examine how to support the individual to make informed choices or who should coordinate and lead on providing objective, impartial support and advice.

I left the meeting frustrated, and quite frankly angry at a missed opportunity to “capture” opportunities.

It so happened that a day or so later I heard the Head of Foundation Studies at the University of Creative Arts Canterbury talking about what they looked for in applicants to the Foundation course.

“Basically it comes down to a sense of excitement”, he said, “an enthusiastic interest in what’s next”.

It occurred to me that we seem to have lost sight of a sense of excitement at the prospect of the gift of some 25-30 years of life that an Ageing society provides.

This is the picture that came up when I searched for an image of an excited older person.


Let’s nurture, or more likely re-kindle the sense of excitement for what’s to come, (it ain’t gonna come again).

Following an enjoyable double birthday celebration over lunch last week I was fascinated to hear our friend order in precise detail exactly how she wanted her coffee.

She went onto explain….”My morning coffee is a ritual of spiritual significance. My noisette/machiatto has to have a chocolate consistency, hence Mokolito at my regular cafe. It must not have foam but enough hot milk poured in to make it the colour of a hazelnut, and most importantly it has to be strong and hot… perfecto. I have two cups a morning and that kickstarts the celebrated wires to start sparking into action for the day.” ;}

While we were inMilanI heard that my Father in Law, not a person to mince words or suffer fools, always insisted on an espresso  with just 16 drops, no more, no less.

I love it when people are very clear exactly how they enjoy their coffee … what type of cup, the mouth feel, colour, smell as well as taste……

The right mixture to produce the … “Ah… just so”……moment.

We’ve been away since my last post in April anticipating coffee in Milan but more of that  soon.

In the meantime I note that today Brazilian Maria Gomes Valentim the world oldest person has died aged 114!

Shortly after we left on our travels on 14th April Walter Breuning, the World’s oldest man died in Montana aged 114.

It seemed appropriate to pay tribute to these two folks in a blog focusing upon Coffee and Change (and Age) as apparently last month, Maria Valentim, who was known as Grandma Quita, attributed her longevity to a healthy diet: eating a roll of bread every morning with coffee, fruit and the occasional milk with linseed.

In an interview last autumn, Walter Breuning attributed his longevity to eating just two meals a day, working as long as he could and always embracing change, especially death.

After moving into a retirement home in the 1980s, Breuning spent his time just talking. Here’s a bit of advice he left for generations to come:

  • “I think every change that we’ve ever made, ever since I was a child – 100 years – every change has been good for the people. My God, we used to have to write with pen and ink, you know, (for) everything. When the machines came, it just made life so much easier.”
  • “Life begins each morning whether we have succeeded or failed or just muddled along. Life is a school to learn, not to unlearn.”

Farewell fellow coffee and change devotees….



On the 5th April Marc Freedman (Civic Ventures founder and CEO) published The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. I have yet to get a copy but I’ve scanned through a few of the abstracts; it’s looks to be great.

The Big Shift is an impassioned call to accept the decades opening up between midlife and anything approximating old age
for what they really are – a new stage of life, an encore phase that constitutes something entirely new.

One of the observations Marc makes is…… “There’s also a question of identity. What’s the category for people like me? There are a growing number of us who can be classified as neither-nors. Neither young nor old. Neither retirees nor of traditional parenting age. ……….Yet we were all unsure of the path from what’s past to what’s next. We lacked a language even to talk about this change, which felt for many simultaneously self-indulgent and imperative.

I am reflecting upon what am I? (Again) and the term retired!

I know that I have been frustrated in recent years by being asked what am I? i.e. what are my circumstances with regard to society’s view of economic activity…..basically “am I in full or part time employment?  or….. Retired……..

Retired!… The term seems so final …….that’s it…….finished……removed from the game…..given up….the Thesaurus offers some other similar references for retire….. “Withdraw, go away, give up, leave, turn in, call it a day!

Why is it that at a certain age if you are not employed (full or part time)….then you are not “part of the system”?

What about other situations? Other terms that reflect circumstances and capture hope and dreams…such as actors & musicians often are “between jobs”, in transition, “well I’m an actress but just waitressing for now”…..”I’m studying”…….”I’m a student”…..(does that only apply for young people?)

As Marc argues in The Big Shift we need new words to reflect a period after mid life and before old age and…..maybe we need to capture a new dreamtime…..as first nation Australians devised? How might we encourage ourselves to dream new expectations for this new vista of time that we are fortunate to look forward to and discard the term retired………How about reflecting…….or reconfigurating? …..re-gearing? Or perhaps Reposing?

“In a dream you are never eighty” – Anne Sexton

 At all other stages of life we are subconsciously moulded by role models of what’s expected, what we expect, society, our parents and peers expect of us at/by certain ages.

 Let’s acknowledge and celebrate this new territory by charting new language. What expectations & dreams purposeful exploration and development might  we realistically look forward to for ourselves in our 60/70/80s?

 What might we achieve and be….How do we learn to dream of being 80?


We’re off to Milan next week; I’m excited, why? Well somehow I have this idea that as coffee in Italy is wonderful Milan is going to be orgasmic!

 I’ve started to imagine hanging out at a tiny coffee bar – savouring a little cup of magic… the creaminess of the gusto….. my tongue swirling around my mouth playing with wave after wave of coffee foam …… the smooth seductive hit of the espresso embracing my taste buds…Ah…. dolce far niente!


 So drooling eagerly I started to search on the internet for speciality coffee places to head for and whoa… every time I entered good coffee in Milan, Milan coffee, speciality coffee, torrefazion in Milan I kept getting places  anywhere other than in Milan.  Milano coffee in Vancouver, Oregon, Belfast, Cape Town etc etc but none in Milan! It seems like  a lot of places boast about supplying coffee that has come from Milan or roasted Milan style but I can’t locate a speciality coffee house in Milan at least by internet. …  I found a few in Turin but NONE in Milan. I cannot locate a speciality coffee roaster in Milan.

 Of course good coffee places in Italy may not be so bothered to use the internet to attract visitors or simply it’s not chic to use the ether in Italy… but really? In fashionista Milan?

 So now I’m intrigued – will coffee in Milan live up to my dreams or will it be a myth?




My father used to joke with his doctor that he was keeping him alive longer than he could afford. He died aged 86.

His expectations and template for later life were based upon his father’s experience and his father’s before him……

I recall reading somewhere that about 50 years ago most (men) retired in their mid to late 60s and probably died within an average of three years. The model of retirement was just a few years “pottering around”….

All that’s changed…….and is still changing…….

  • Statutory retirement at 65 and the state pension were introduced when the average length of life was around 50.
  • Average length of life is now around 80 and the average retirement age is 61. 
  • Therefore the post-retirement period may occupy a quarter of our life.
  • Another 22 years of life for the average man of 65 – another 25 for the average woman of 65.
  • More people are reaching 65 (8 in 10 men and 9 in 10 women).

 But we haven’t changed our view of what’s to come……understandably the advice and warnings are around financial provision and health concerns… but few coax us to think about our dreams for this quarter of our lives…(That’s  a lot of cups of coffee).

 We’re used to being encouraged to have expectations and dreams for other stages of our lives but not it seems for this quarter of our life.

 It’s like training for a marathon and somehow not thinking about the last 6.5 miles… sort of getting three quarters of the way through the race and then simply hoping for the best….. so in the New York Marathon that would be like crossing over the Willis Bridge into the Bronx at 20 miles and forgetting about Central Park!

I’m reflecting as I gaze into my cup of coffee today (Tanzania Nyamtimbo Peaberry purchased from Sweet Maria’s http://www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.africa.tanzania.php  – apparently best to roast to City + or Full City + ).

I’ve been experimenting with my new coffee roaster – the Gene Café. It’s completely different from my iRoast2. I’m in new territory and frankly I don’t exactly know where……I’m not sure I’ve got this roast “right”… that is have I really brought out the delights of this particular bean?  The wonder and joy of the Gene Café also means that I’m thrown overboard into the sea of roasting. I now need to watch the changing colour of the  beans as they roast… to listen to the “first crack” as well as get used to the foibles of the new machine, not least the undulating voltage in France……

Ah La France!…we’ve been here now for 16 months…. Whenever people ask me “How’s my French?” I’m reminded of a passage in Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson:-

When I told friends in London that I was going to travel around Europe and write a book about it, they said, “Oh, you must speak a lot of languages”. “Why no”, I would reply with a certain pride, “only English”, and they would look at me as if I were crazy. But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.

Then I recently read this passage in Being Wrong (adventures in the margin of error) by Kathryn Schulz:-

As we get older, the learning curve decelerates, and all these things drop off exponentially. We make fewer mistakes, function more efficiently, and come to share with other adults certain baseline beliefs about the world. But we also spend much less of our time in anything remotely akin to exploration, learning and play. The pleasurable mistakes of childhood disrupt our lives less often, partly because the world is less novel to us, and partly because we don’t seek out whatever novelty remains – or at least we don’t do so with the same zeal (and same institutional support: classrooms, afterschool programs, summer camps) as children.

There are exceptions, of course. Long after we have left behind the error-rich kingdom of childhood, we find ways to put ourselves in the path of wrongness in order to grow and change. Take the example of travel, like children, travellers explore the unknown- where, also like children, they routinely make linguistic errors, violate social codes, and get lost, literally and otherwise…….

………Sometimes, we want to be the toddler in Times Square. We travel to feel like a kid again: because we hope to experience the world as new and because we believe the best way to learn about it is to play in it. In travelling……. we embrace the possibility of being wrong not out of necessity but because it changes our lives for the better.

I take another sip of coffee…I have no idea what’s going on……Ah bliss…..  it tastes great!

My last post was on June 11th 2010 . I look back on the period since then as though it was covered in ice… it’s felt like we have been stuck in a frozen time.

We’re now back in Nice after nearly nine months of to-ing and fro-ing between London, Hamburg and Nice….uncertainty….anticipation…… Only now does it seem possible to bring about a thaw.

A lot has changed during that time.

My father in law died in September… My close friend who I wrote about in my last post underwent a second operation to remove another tumour from his brain and he subsequently died in October.

I guess he was somebody I believed I could depend upon, he would always make time , he’d be there.. but now he’s not… so my vision of the world has needed to change……

I have been reading a great book by Kathryn Schultz  – Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error – http://www.beingwrongbook.com/                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       I I think I have experienced something Kathryn describes as “being between belief systems”… a  very uncomfortable place to be…..neither here nor there…… A belief that things, well people, will stay the same .. be there… and then they aren’t……it’s now a world without them….and in time I’m adjusting to this new model of the world.

However it’s also a world which now has Ted! During that time my (first) grandchild Ted was born on 29th August and as for change here’s a photo soon after he was born….

and now six months later……wow!

So with the passage of time slowly thawing I feel my optimism & curiosity returning,  Oh and incidentally I have a new coffee roaster…… 

a Gene Café…..but more of that later…..

It’s definitely time to wake up and smell the coffee………..

Over a small midmorning coffee I’ve been sitting here quietly pondering a surprising turn of events.

I had telephoned an old dear friend, I guess I was in a buoyant mood and full of high spirits; the conversation flowed but somehow when I put the telephone down I felt flat.

I have been wondering about this since then. I was baffled by what exactly had caused my spirits to plummet, seemingly for no reason.

It’s astonishing how fragile our spirits can be, fluttering in the breeze…..how volatile our feelings…one second strong and vibrant the next moment gone…empty … unconsciously changing without us noticing ….the vigour sapped by a moment of vulnerability exposed to some outside influence………

My friend is not well and he’s going through a very, very tough time. Although none of this came up in the conversation. It was nothing he said but more how I experienced him…..I realised it was no longer him….as I used to experience him. I know there is a strong chance he may never fully regain the former “him”.

It was very sad to acknowledge this loss.

The change had become clear, even though at first I had not recognised it. It had snuck up on me.

Reluctantly I now need to change too.

Well we’ve not been that well over the past few weeks and it’s been a while since I last posted. Happily we were well enough last week to attend the first communion of my nephew’s son. So we drove through Italy from here in Nice to way down south past Naples.

I usually I would not dream of drinking coffee at a service station… but when in Rome, or rather the land of Rome I made an exception……At every service station on the autostrada, and there quite a few on the 971 km trip, I had a coffee.  

What a very different story to motorway coffee at service stations in France. Every service station, no matter how big, slick and commercialised there was an espresso machine and a bar to stand at to drink a reasonable cup of coffee…..usually in real cups.. no paper nonsense.

As a result after a ten hour drive I arrived rather wired….

The following morning we were chatting to a couple at breakfast, about coffee and it emerged that much to the apparent consternation of his partner…the driver had also insisted on drinking a coffee at every service station.

We then compared our experiences of driving in Italy, especially after Naples. We agreed it was wild.

Now the question is…….

“What came first, the coffee or the driving?”

The coffee enables one to cope (or not care) whilst driving in Italy

The mad driving in Italy resulted in the need for good coffee in order to cope!

By the way we noted that as the driving gets more unpredictable and wild the further south one goes so does the coffee gets better.

I think this video clip sums up the effects of coffee rather well……


Ciao ciao