Every now and again a friend prods me to write something about aging given my focus and involvement between 19996 and 2006 in the public sector with improving quality of life for older people.

We used to point out that it’s one of the last great unknowns….we are creating new footprints into uncharted territory as the world’s population is living longer and  we have no forbears experience as to how to deal with it!

There’s a lot written about aging by many professionals; gerontologists, social care, actuaries, economists; the Government get exercised every now and then urging the public sector to prepare for the changing demographics… which largely goes unheeded. The default focus is health and social care… especially as  the UK elections loom. The majority of blogs and articles I happen to read focus upon health and care issues so I was interested  to read the post on The New Old Age blog by Paula Span, although the focus was still about attitudes to the  “problems” of aging. 

Will Boomers Be Any Different? In 20 or so years, when we baby boomers enter the ranks of the “old-old” ourselves, will we be any different?


But then, maybe in my innocence, I was taken aback by the apparently large amount of negative resentment the post drew. 

In a later post Paula writes:- “I was pondering this month whether the next generation of old people will have values and attitudes different from the current one. I’d intended the post as a way to mull over whether some characteristics that cause widespread complaints among families –  intransigence about accepting help, for instance — were related to membership in a particular cohort as it aged or were products of aging itself.

Is the Greatest Generation (do these folks owe Tom Brokaw, or what?) more apt to be so single-mindedly independent that its children go a bit nuts trying to provide care? Or will its children, the multitudinous baby boomers, behave the same way when they round 80?

What ensued in the comments section was mostly an anti-boomer slugfest”.

How sad that we seem reluctant not only to accept aging (and changing aging) but also nor to learn about change.

So to return to the prod…..I continue to be fascinated by other emerging indications that we are discovering hand and footholds to traverse this new territory……beyond the usual dominance of dealing with “problems of aging”.

I discovered recently Advanced Style. I think this blog does more to profile aspirations and “on the street reality” of well being for people of age than a lot of the well intentioned but slightly patronising obsession with health. It features… fun, dignity, independence and hope!

Its strap line is Proof from the wise and silver-haired set that personal style advances with age. http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/

Maybe we should look more to the Arts, fashion & design to highlight what shapes our changing attitude to age.


Barry commented on my last posting “How might we “remember to remember” that “first time” risk is not all that unlike just getting up in the morning?”

Thanks Barry, I’m intrigued by this challenge, to “remember to remember”.

I’ve long been curious as to how we prompt ourselves to shift perspective, to trip ourselves up to avoid slipping into habits, continuing to walk well trodden paths….

What tricks, Aide-mémoire….what kinds of knotted handkerchief might we find useful?  People comment though that tying knots on handkerchiefs or pieces of string around your finger (an American folksy aide memoire apparently) can often founder when you see the reminder and remember you have to remember but can’t remember what!

In my experience of coaching, people often wish to change their behaviour or thinking and seek to identify that moment when they want to shift away from prevailing habits.

I liked the story of the two executives who acknowledged that their respective behaviours at work wound each other up. They agreed that if either of them were to behave in the same irritating way in future,  the other would simply bring out a toy which reminded and prompted them, in a fun way, to alter their habitual behaviour. Although this is a prompt to another person rather than remembering to remember for oneself. 

I can’t help but mention the Seinfeld episode (season 5: The Opposite) where George states that every decision, every instinct he has had in the past has been wrong Jerry challenges him “that if that is so then you should do the opposite!”


Maybe the trick is to take a moment and not have a goal, remember to forget the past …….not have a predetermined focus …but simply see beyond the fingers…..

I recall the lines in the film Patch Adams when Arthur (a patient) frequently holds up four fingers to people and asks….

Arthur Mendelson: How many fingers do you see?
Hunter Patch Adams: Four.
Arthur Mendelson: No no! Look beyond the fingers! Now tell me how many you see.

Arthur Mendelson: You’re focusing on the problem. If you focus on the problem, you can’t see the solution. Never focus on the problem!

Arthur Mendelson: See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see… out of fear, conformity or laziness. See the whole world anew each day!

Maybe sometimes we might enable change to happen by not having a goal as such but just remember to look beyond the fingers,  forget the past……and just look!

I’m reading a section of Drawing the Line an essay by Michael Craig Martin on drawing which accompanied an exhibition of drawings selected by him for the South Bank Centre in 1995.

  A paragraph lept off the page… “The experience of selecting, organising and hanging this exhibition has been for me like making a work of art and I have thought of it as such. It is the result of the same mix of instinct, careful planning and fortuitous accident”.

 What a wonderful line…a mix of instinct, careful planning and fortuitous accident….this sparked off for me two other references to mindful acceptance of uncertainty…

 Firstly on Barry Zweibels’ excellent blog GottaGettaBlog http://ggci.com/wordpress/    I loved his  extract from Professor David Clutterbuck’s presentation on Virtual Coaching. the @ggci: #tcbcoaching – “if you know where the conversation is going, it’s not coaching!” – D. Clutterbuck

The other is a sequence in Yi Yi, (A One and a Two) a film by Edward Yang. The film looks at a few turbulent  weeks in the life of the Jian family. The husband and father NJ is a partner in a failing software company which just might save itself by teaming up with an innovative Japanese games designer called Ota.

 During one of their conversations they discuss this possible merger, Ota senses NJs’ partners’ anxiety and aversion to risk.

“Risk is high when you do anything for the first time, why are we afraid of the first time?

Every morning is new, everything in life is for the first time, we never live the same day twice but we’re never afraid of getting up in the morning…why?”

I look forward to where today’s conversations and their fortuitous accidents take me…..

Today a friend kindly sent me the second of two links to articles about cutting edge coffee places in London and New York….



I became quite steamed up as I read them, it’s all about Espresso!  The world’s becoming a one brew town! If you read the majority of blogs about coffee there is an obsession with baristas and espresso coffee making. Lovely though the coffee is and great that there is a rise in small artisanal coffee roasters I lament the emerging universality of the espresso and the global dominance of trendoid coffee. Whether it’s an Americano, a flat white, a bumpy brown or whatever, I miss the diversity of brew and culture. In northern European countries coffee was usually taken with milk. Not a bloody latte but café au lait or kaffee mit milch and it was made by filter or cafetiere. The southern Mediterranean countries drank small strong cups of coffee without milk, using the stove top espresso or moka pot and eventually developed the espresso machine. In places like turkey and the Middle East they use the ibrik (also called briki or jesvah).

It was interesting to read a past article by George Sabadosin in a Coffee geek forum  http://coffeegeek.com/opinions/georgesabados/06-12-2007

“What is unique is that, outside Italy, the Australian and New Zealand café markets are the only other 100% espresso-based markets in the world! The US and other countries are dominated by filter style, or brewed, coffee. You cannot give filter coffee away in Australia or New Zealand. “

His article refers to the migration of southern Europeans to Australia, unlike the earlier migration to the States it took place at a time of the development of the mass produced espresso machine and so emerged the dominance of the espresso in Australia and New Zealand.

Sadly there are now few places where the espresso machine has not come to dominate.

 The NYDaily News article finishes nicely……

….….. “I’m not trying to be a hater, but dude, have some fun!” said La Colombe’s Wolfe. “Everyone’s so serious. It’s just coffee. They’re like, this is a single varietal from El Salvador and I’m using a $15,000 machine, and you’re going to give me $7 and we’re going to geek out.”

Oh what am I drinking today? Yemen Mocha Matari  ……Filter!!!

A few weeks back when we were in London we popped into Monmouth’s to buy some coffee.  I thought we would try something different and the wonderfully helpful and enthusiastic sales woman suggested I taste two coffees from Brazil – Fazenda Camocim and Fazenda Rainha. As I  struggled to make a choice and explain the difference and my reasons, she breezily enthused “one tastes of Caramel and hazelnuts with medium body and acidity  and the other has a  clean sweetness and milk chocolate notes” the words just tripped off her tongue. I was lost… bumbling and apologetic I confided that as much as I would wish to talk in these terms I would feel a prat. I respected that she had the training and expertise and she knew what she was talking about. We choose the Fazenda Rainha.

 I had had it confirmed, I don’t know the language, it was official, I am coffee illiterate!

Obviously coffee cupping and tasting is something that requires training for the palette. I marvel at the taste wheel at Sweet Marias http://www.sweetmarias.com/   The London School of Coffee has courses http://www.londonschoolofcoffee.com/courses.php

I read the cupping notes of the coffees I buy and I know that my little Hearthware i-roast roaster roasts fast and maybe a bit harsh so I get a full roast (which we enjoy).

I despair though of possessing the skill and poetry to describe the enjoyment which I clearly experience when I drink my coffee. The kind of alchemy which talks in flowing words about a drink having “notes” …rather than this is nice….

So this morning we spent some time trying to discern the tastes as we drank our cup of Bolivia café David Santiago Marni Mamani… Steve at Hasbean had noted In the cup expect huge orange and orange peel all over the front end which makes you think this is going to be an over acidic coffee, but then it has a real smooth texture on the mouth feel, thick and gloopy. The flavour then turns into a ‘Werther’s Original’ butterscotch style of sweetness that is smooth and creamy”.  Which is interesting because we kept coming up with descriptions of “mouth feel” rather than particular comparisons…such as it seems to start with an acidic taste but then evens out… the more you drink it  the fuller the taste…it’s fuller with time once you commit to it. It snuggles up after the first hit… but we didn’t come up with caramel… or citric references though.

I despair… I’m flummoxed….I’m in country whose language I can’t speak and I realise I can’t speak the language of coffee either! Oh well I’ll just have to simply relax and enjoy….I wonder…..What is the colour of the wind?

For some time, since living in Nice, I’ve been trying to figure out the attitude towards coffee in France. Arguably a country rightly proud of its attitude towards eating and drinking, generally a classless reverence for food and drink, considerable interest and attention to detail in recipes, the origins of the ingredients and the importance of le terroir.

However coffee seems to fall into a black hole of the French conscience.

My experience has been that coffee is available in the now universal espresso form and certainly good here (so close to the Italian border). But there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for speciality coffee or diversity in serving coffee and certainly networks for home roasters in France seem non existent.

I’ve searched on the internet for the similar bastions of coffee lovers and suppliers such as Hasbean, Mercanta, the London School of Coffee and have been surprised to find an empty sack. I’m convinced that until only a year or so ago there was no French Chapter in the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe http://www.scae.com/ . The national coordinator in France is Florence Rossillion  http://www.francebarista.com/ .

I have tried to buy speciality coffee green beans and home coffee roasters only to find that I’m getting responses from Italy Spain Belgium Holland (of course the UK) but not France!

The history of Coffee in France….. “It was really out of curiosity that the people of France took to coffee….they wanted to know this Oriental beverage, so much vaunted, although its blackness at first sight was far from attractive.” All About Coffee by William H. Ukers.

And what is this thing about chicory?

In 1806 Napoleon declares France self-sufficient and promotes chicory over coffee. In his trade war against Britain he banned his wife Josephine from wearing English muslin, developed the crop of sugar beet as an alternative to sugar cane from the West Indies, promoted the use of chicory instead of coffee. Mind you it was Napoleon that said “I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless”.

And what is French Roast? French roast coffee does not, of course, come from France. The term simply describes the darkness of the roast. French roast is very dark, about as dark as you can go without completely losing the flavour of the coffee, and being left with a taste of burned charcoal.

And as for The French press, (also known as a press pot, coffee press, coffee plunger or сafetière à piston), it’s Italian! It is a simple coffee brewing device, probably invented in France in the 1850s, but first patented by Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1929, who made subsequent design improvements over the years, and further refined by another Italian, Faliero Bondanini. (Wikipedia).

When I first moved here I bought a Salam.  I was advised that this was a traditional way of making coffee in France…”Created in 1930, the Salam coffee maker prepares coffee all by itself, using gravity. A French invention dating from 200 years ago”……hmmnn I prefer a simple paper filter……which come to think of it I shall do now …. Oh Là Là! The French!

It’s been a very long time since I posted anything. It’s been a period of significant change for us, last year we left London, stopped working, sold up and moved to Nice, France.

In order to keep some stability I have brought with me a few sackfuls of green coffee to roast from Hasbean http://www.hasbean.co.uk/. Strange but France is a bit sparse on home roasting and appreciation of the range and diversity of coffee but more of that at later date. I brought:-

Bolivia Cafe David Santiago Mamani Mamani Cup of Excellence 2008
Yemen Mocha Matari
Indian Monsoon Malabar
Guatemala El Bosque Amatitlan Red Bourbon

Colombia Las Delicious – Uriel Antonio Cup of Excellence
Nicaragua La Leona – Luis Beltrán Cornejo Barreda Cup of Excellence

To many friends and family it was seemingly a quick decision and certainly the move happened very fast at the end of last year.

 I have attempted to describe the process by way of an experience some years ago. I was fortunate to be on an Appreciative Inquiry programme in Alabama and whilst a group of us had been jabbering away as to how to assist a colleague, one of our group, Kenny, who up till then had been lying on his back staring up into the clear blue sky, quietly said “ I’ve been watching an eagle….it’s been circling way up above us, the eagle is unusual in that it watches its young in the nest until a point when it believes the eaglet should have left and flown away. If the eaglets haven’t the Eagle tears down the nest forcing the eaglet to fly or die.

 Sometimes you need to remove the comfort zone to make a change – once the nest has gone then opportunities for change become possible. It turned out that we needed to help our colleague  leave her comfortable position in order to find new perspective.

 So we haven’t so much moved to Nice but out here soaring, looking for new opportunities…….new horizons.

The nest has gone!