What Katy Louise Did...

My photo
Katy Louise writes about health, wealth, happiness and relationships, and the spiritual insights she gains along her path. She is currently editor of Top Sante magazine (www.topsante.co.uk). Prior to that she was editor of Bodyfit magazine (now Your Fitness www.yourfitnesstoday.com) and the launch editor of Soul&Spirit magazine (www.soulandspiritmagazine.com). Katy is also a certified Fitsteps and STOTT Pilates instructor. She is the go-to girl for all matters relating to health, wellbeing and spirituality.

Friday, 17 June 2016

How to become more powerful, wise and courageous as you grow older

Since I wrote my post in April about positive representations of people over 50 in the media ('Why ageing is optional') I've been seeing more and more examples – the latest Amazon Prime advert, for example, of the older couple in the garden. Although it may start out with the man having a bad back while pushing his granddaughter on the swing, it ends with him having a blast – quite literally! (see below)

But the main thing I wanted to talk about was the fantastic ITV documentary at the beginning of June, Secrets of Growing Old. (there are still 14 days left to watch it on ITV catch up, which I highly recommend you do: Secrets of Growing Old

It documents how at least one baby born this year will likely reach 150. Scientists think that 1 in 5 of us will live to be a hundred. Also, that a staggering 80 per cent of the way we age is down to how we choose to live our lives: there's that element of choice again. 

NO LIMITS: Dilys Price, now 83, who started skydiving in in her 50s

From start to finish there was not one bad thing said about reaching your mature years. If anything, the interviewees, all of whom were in their 80s or 90s, said their lives were fuller and richer now than they had been growing up.

Feeling freer to be truthful was one advantage, they said, which is a trait shared with young children.
Being able to give things a go and not worry what other people thought was another. I know growing up I was painfully shy and fearful of embarrassing myself in front of anyone. There were things I wanted to that I just never considered possible, so kept them as hobbies. 

I actually shed a tear watching 83-year-old Dills Price jumping out of a plane and loving it. Not that I feel particularly inclined to sky dive, but what it represented – breaking through her fears – really moved me.  At age 50, when her joints began to ache, she thought that proved the beginning of the end. Instead of giving in she turned daredevil and is now the world’s oldest skydiver. That's the kind of bravery I wish I'd had in my 20s when I was too preoccupied with trying to get everything right - the career, the house, the boyfriend etc - and not upset anyone. But this documentary shows it's never too late to step into your own power and live a life you love. 

Skydiver Dilys recalls: “In my middle age I thought life was very difficult and hard. I remember when I was 50 thinking ‘Is this life? Is this the beginning of the end?’. My knees were stiffer, I didn’t feel very happy. Then I thought ‘If my knees hurt, I must live a life through my head’. Oddly enough, as I thought that, my knees got better.”

Of her first skydiving experience, Dilys remembers: “I was terrified, I could see the ground and was thinking ‘What a mistake. This is death’. It’s unnatural, you shouldn’t be doing it. Then the next moment I thought ‘Wow, I’m flying’ and it was wonderful. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just Dilys doing whatever excites me. Now I’m the oldest woman in the world skydiving. It’s great.”

96-year-old Charles Eugster was overweight and unfit in middle age but has now transformed his body – by being active he’s actually keeping himself young on the inside and now has the body of a man 30 years younger.

“One of my saving graces is the fact that I am extremely vain and it was vanity that spurred me to do something because I wanted to have a good body,” said Charles. 

So he began to build himself a body to turn heads, still working out three times a week. He says: “I am absolutely convinced, if we wanted, any one of us could have a beach body at 90.”

Charles has kept so strong that he’s broken two world athletics records. “My body has completely been rebuilt. Ageing is the most wonderful thing that could happen to anybody.”

Being a model in her 80s
And while many women try to battle the effects of ageing, 83-year-old fashion model Frances Dunscombe is turning them to her advantage. She’s fiercely proud of both her grey hair and her wrinkles. In fact, it’s these very characteristics that have made her such a popular model, and put her on the catwalk at London Fashion week.

Frances admits: “I don’t think I ever appreciated myself before. I was very insecure. It’s the insecurities of youth that prevent young people from realising their potential.” I completely agree. 

The documentary also explores how some people don’t reach the top of their game until they’re well into their 70s - this is when our brains make new connections, opening up fresh, creative ways of thinking. 
It’s the reason Gay McIntyre at 82 has only recently become so brilliant at jazz improvisation. It also helps explain why leading perfumer, 88 year-old John Bailey is able to marry up his logical and creative abilities in ways he never could before.  

The upshot is these inspiring people all concur that they worry less about what people think of them, and are happier than ever before. Please do watch this incredible documentary while it's still available. Secrets of Growing Old

Saturday, 28 May 2016

'Bitchy resting face': what it is and why I have it

Have you ever heard the expression 'bitchy resting face'? I confess I hadn't, until I read a column by author Katie Roiphe in the latest (June 2016) issue of Red magazine. In said column, Katie was sticking up for her decision not to smile in photographs, at least not professional author ones. She had been criticised for looking 'icy', 'mean', 'intimidating' and 'aloof' on her book jackets, so her publishers wanted to make her look more approachable and likeable, hence her doing a new shoot, which still ended up producing unsmiling photos.

CONTEMPLATIVE: Katie Roiphe, author, who's accused of looking 'mean and intimidating'.  (photo: Jason Andrew)

Katie was questioning why women are always expected to smile. We all know plenty of celebs with 'BRF' who refuse to smile inanely at the camera: Victoria Beckham, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne et al. I once read a magazine article that grouped celebs into two distinct categories, as if once they'd chosen their smile status, they had to stick to it for life, for fear of confusing anyone.

Katie also points out how Hillary Clinton had been admonished for not smiling more – as if that's the most important part about being a potential president! Male candidates – in fact males in general – are never scorned for not smiling. They are just thought of as 'brooding, serious, soulful'.
So why is it not OK for a woman to look serious and thoughtful, and instead be labeled bitchy when not grinning from ear to ear, even if she hasn't said anything of the sort?

This contemplation struck a real chord. While not having had the BRF label hurled at me, I have been told I look aloof on numerous occasions (and presumably way more people have thought it than have actually said it to my face). I'm often surprised to hear peoples' first impressions of me, as they differ so wildly from how I ever feel or think inside my heart and mind. Ever since I was a teenager, random people have told me to cheer up. My first job, working as a shop assistant in Top Shop and Top Man on weekends, included a variety of duties – answering the phone, manning the till, clearing the changing room rail – but one of them was purely just being on the shop floor, ready and eager to assist customers. As part time jobs go, it was a pretty good one, so I had no reason to be looking or feeling disgruntled. But so many times the manager or someone else would tell me to look happy, presumably thinking I wasn't presenting a great impression of the store! It always surprised me, as I was never in a 'down' mood to begin with so wasn't really sure how, exactly, to cheer up. So I began to study my face in the mirror. I realised that when I relax all my facial muscles, the line made by my lips actually turns down a bit in the corners. Also, my jaw is fairly square, front on. Both these attributes make me look, I suppose, a bit miserable.

BRF IS THE WORD! The best example of BRF I can find, pouting and attempting to look sexy, age 15, for my high school production of Grease (in my defence, everyone else on this photo looks equally hideous). 
And it wasn't just people in shops. Sometimes even strangers in the street – always men, some of whom are arrogant f**ks who think they have the right to tell young women what to do or be (she says between clenched teeth) – would shout out: 'Cheer up luv it might never happen'. Of course, at the time I never managed to think up a witty reply, so I'd either ignore it and walk on, or try to prove to them I wasn't moody by grinning (how I wish I'd glared at them and shouted: 'Well it has just happened as you have crossed my path!' then given them the finger).
A beloved English teacher wrote that I was 'aloof' on one of my school reports, which really hurt, and even my own husband tells me he thought I was an 'ice queen' on our first few dates (and yes I did smile at some point!). It's unfortunate, as I could be sitting contemplating something quite lovely, or just mulling over events of the day, and to someone else I look miserable and 'hard'. 

To counteract my natural BRF, I now put on a semi-smile at times, where the corners of my mouth and cheek muscles are active just enough to make the line of my lips straight. The up-side is that I look more approachable; the down side is I've created permanent wrinkles around my mouth by always using these muscles (though they're far less bothersome than the noticeable frown lines between my eyes, and the horizontal line deepening above my left eyebrow – the one I can raise independently to make an even more 'bitchy quizzical face').

MODEL BRF: Aged 24, modelling for the Telegraph in Sydney - throwing in the questioning left eyebrow for good measure!

I wonder whether Mona Lisa put on a semi smile to hide a naturally BRF? Whether she did it consciously or not, it turned her into the most famous painted woman of all time. Although she's not grinning exactly, everyone is drawn to her enigmatic 'half smile', while few remember any of the portraits of other aristocratic women, who always look so severe and, therefore, less attractive.

SEMI SMILE: The mini 'smile' I have to do just to not look grumpy (aged 26, before the wrinkles emerged!)
'There must be a mood short of overwhelmingly sunny that does not signify aggression? Surely one can be intelligent, clever, powerful or, you know, thinking without being "bitchy",' says Katie. I agree! Why must women always be expected to look joyous and happy just to make everyone else (by that I mean mostly men) feel good about themselves?
And anyway, there is one place where it's definitely good not to smile all the time: a job interview. Having conducted plenty of them, it's sad to say that the candidates who smile inanely and laugh nervously between questions do themselves a disservice in that they come across as silly and not professional, even though I can see on paper that they are totally competent. Lots of laughter and smiling definitely work in your favour on a date, but not in interviews. And, thinking about it, I've been successful at 10 out of 14 job interviews so far, from bar work up to editing national magazines, which isn't bad going. So perhaps my BRF is not such a bad thing after all.

What do you think? let me know in your comments below...

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Why ageing is optional – and the media has finally caught on!

I wrote in my editor’s letter of Top Santé this month (Spring 2016), that there is a sea change going on. It's been swelling for some time, and now it’s finally mainstream. What is it? Older women/models/actresses in advertising campaigns. 

It all began with Helen Mirren for L’Oreal, showing that we’re still worth it whatever age we are. And a few weeks ago, I saw a TV ad for online buying and selling site Gumtree. It was, as far as I can recall, the first positive representation of age on TV, or certainly in an advert. The commercial showed a couple in their 50s or 60s, dreaming about buying a sporty convertible and racing off for adventures to the coast without telling their grown-up children. They looked happy, healthy and youthful. 

At first I was slightly stunned, as well as pleased, because until then the only adverts I’d seen featuring anyone over 50 were for stair lifts, life insurance or incontinence pads. But people over 50 aren’t the same as the 50+ year olds from previous generations. We’re all living longer and extending youth.

Women especially want to feel beautiful, relevant and just as valued no matter what birthday milestone they might have passed. And as we also wrote in Top Santé this month, age can be manipulated with your mind. The words you use about yourself can affect how you act and what you believe to be possible, just as engaging with fashion and beauty trends and looking after your health and fitness keeps you younger on the inside and out too. It’s all about mindset. And at last, this has spread into the world of media and advertising. 

A gradual change in attitudes
But things didn't change over night. The ‘positive age movement’ as I’ll call it, has been building for a few years, helped by the fact that lots of prominent, respected film and TV actresses are now past 40, which used to be the death knell of Hollywood careers for women. Now, there’s Charlize Theron (40), Angelina Jolie (40), Cameron Diaz (43), Jennifer Aniston (47), Julia Roberts (48) Nicole Kidman (48), Robin Wright (50), Sandra Bullock (51), Courtney Cox (51), Demi Moore (53) and Julianne Moore (55). All of them look incredible and are still sought after actresses. L’Oreal pushed its age bracket up gradually, at first with Andi McDowel, now 57, then the aforementioned Julianne Moore, and now Helen Mirren, who at 70 has to be their most mature ambassador to date. And three cheers for that! 
It certainly makes me optimistic that by the time I reach my 70s, the Western world will be much more appreciative of older women and perhaps it will even open up new career opportunities for me. After all, I certainly don’t plan on retiring ever. Especially after I heard respected women’s health guru Christianne Northrup, author of Goddesses Never Age declare that we start to hit our stride at 65 and that "ageing is optional". 

Charlize Theron says a similar thing in her interview in Psychologies this month (May 2016): “Women find their strength and power in their sexuality, in their sensuality within, through getting older and being secure within that,” going on to add that women come into their prime in their 40s. I know I definitely feel more confident in myself and my abilities now than I did at 22, for example. Back then I wasn’t at all sure of myself, and didn’t think I could do half the things I now know I could. 

I certainly didn’t have one per cent of the confidence of Iris Apfel, the most glorious, gregarious nonagenarian around – at least with a media profile – whose documentary last year, Iris, catapulted her out of the high-brow fashion lexicon and into the mainstream. 

So it isn’t a total surprise to see Iris now appearing in a commercial, for the new DS car. She, along with the likes of Baddiewinkle, the 87-year-old fashion sensation on Instagram, are changing views of age. 

One day I hope I’ll be posting pics of myself at 92 with bright pink hair, doing yoga poses in a multicoloured lycra onesie on an Ibiza beach, not giving two hoots what anyone thinks (although I’m sure by then there’ll be a whole new medium, as Instagram and Twitter get relegated to the halls of social media past). That’ll be the culmination of my own internal sea change – one that means I (hopefully!) get fitter, wiser and better all round with age. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Fish for breakfast anyone?

I read in Stylist a few weeks ago (Jan 20th) that one of the health trends for 2016 is eating salad for breakfast. This was no surprise to me as I've been doing that for the past three years, pretty much since I met my now husband, who's a personal trainer. On our first date we chatted mainly about health and fitness, both being in the profession, and making it feel somewhat like I was interviewing him for an article. After showing me his muscle release 'trick' – pushing into a spot on my elbow, which really frikin hurt, to free off the tightness in my neck – I remember vividly him chastising me for eating porridge most mornings. 'But surely it's the healthiest option, what with all that fibre, and I add loads of seeds, cinnamon and some fruit to it,' I declared, defending what had been my go-to brekkie choice for at least five years. 'No, it doesn't contain any protein, so it won't fill you up and you'll be hungry again within a few hours,' came his reply. Apparently the fruit only made it worse because it was adding quick-release carbs. So what should I be eating, I asked? The same as him: eggs, nuts and, wait for it...steak. This is apparently the holy grail of breakfasts according to the gospel of Charles Poliquin, the Olympic strength and conditioning coach under whom my then first date, and now husband, trained. 'You have to have protein, it's the only way.'
I started mulling it over and thinking out loud... 'Actually, maybe you have a point – I am always hungry again by around 10am,' I conceded. 'Ah ha, so you're saying I'm right?!' he leapt in, clearly keen to claim victory over this minor 'argument', for want of a better word, over the king of breakfasts (and, I might add, setting the competitive tone for the rest of our relationship).
To test his theory, which according to him wasn't theory but hard fact, the next morning I ate scambled eggs with tinned sardines (yes, I was at my house. No he didn't stay over - I just wanted to clarify that). My food shopping habits had not changed an awful lot since university, meaning I ate very little meat as the decent stuff was expensive, so relied on tinned fish and tofu (I don't eat that anymore but that's another story...). And yes, before you say anything, I now know tinned fish has far fewer, if any, omegas in it than fresh or frozen but we all learn as we go along. But it was a huge improvement over bowl of Cheerios or, I hardly dare write it, Golden Grahams *cringe*. It pains me as a health and wellbeing journo to think I used to scoff bowlfuls of sugar-filled, wheat-based boxed cereals, and with semi skimmed milk too – the worst! – not even full fat. I'll write more on milk at a later date. Oh the horrors I was unknowingly and unwittingly doing to my body.
And if you think it's abnormal to be eating something that looks more like a lunch or dinner for your first meal of the day, consider that it was only in the middle of the last century that breakfast cereals really became popular. Human's did not evolve eating sugary bowls of grains, and certainly not the modified glutinous versions around now, which are harmful not only to those with coeliac disease but everyone because they create microscopic tears in your intestines, leading, some believe, to leaky gut (find out more about this here Dr Mercola). 

This little fishy...
But back to the fish. While it seemed plain wrong to be eating a tin of sardines for breakfast, I had to admit that, combined with the eggs, it did keep me fuller for longer throughout the morning. Perhaps he was right after all *groan*. And so as my romantic life burgeoned fairly rapidly, despite the contiual spats over who was right and wrong, so too did my new relationship with savoury breakfasts. When at home, my usual choice is two scrambled eggs, yolks and all – none of this egg-white omlette nonsense that was popular years ago, the yolk is where the good stuff's at! – a few slices of smoked salmon or gradvalax – sugar-free where possible but it's hard to find – and some lightly blanched kale or sprouting broccoli. Oh, and a drizzle of olive or walnut oil over the top to boost the fat content, and perhaps an avocado. (If you want to know why eating fat is the best thing for health not to mention losing, not gaining weight, check out Mark Hyman's new book Eat Fat Get Thin, which comes out next week. It's the latest in a slew of books advocating eating healthy fats).
For his breakfast, my husband will cook a steak, ostrich meat or venison burgers, usually with cashew nuts, and I'll inevitably steal a few strips. If I'm eating breakfast at work, which is often the case during the week, I'll inevitably have mixed salad leaves – think rocket, watercress and the like – with one of those new boiled egg pots (thank God supermarkets have cottoned on to that. You can buy them in M&S, Tesco and, of course, places like Leon and Pret) and either tinned or smoked mackrel. My colleagues have gotten used to seeing me eat this unusual savory concoction... although I'm not sure they're entirely used to, or pleased about, the fishy smell.

I'll admit I feel slighly smug that my savoury breakfast thing is now becoming mainstream. Not that I invented it of course, but it's nice to feel ahead of the health curve, especially with something I write/read about it all day every day. With the dangers of sugar continuing to be revealed, it convinces me more and more that eating largely a Paleo-style diet not just for breakfast but all day is the way to go. And with that, I'm off to work to eat some mackrel...

Saturday, 23 January 2016

RIP Grandad (still feeling connected even after death)

Even when you are expecting death and preparing for it, it still comes as a shock. I was on holiday at the end of the December, having a much-needed sunny break, but upon arrival back at Heathrow, I found out Grandad had passed away on the penultimate night of the holiday.     

He was 89 and a half – he’d wanted to get to 90 – and had moved from hospitals to dementia homes throughout 2015. This left  Gran alone in their huge, old family house that they’d shared together for half a decade. They’d celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary (65 years) that summer, although I'm not sure whether Grandad was aware of it.
I’d only recently been to visit him in the home. Although he looked frail, had grown whiskers as he was no longer able to shave, and had a huge plaster on his head from where he’d had a fall, he still looked as if he’d make 90, for sure. And although he wasn’t really able to hold a conversation – at least not one that linked in any way to what I had said or asked – he was still ‘in there’, somewhere, probably incredibly frustrated at the fact he could not get anyone to understand him. I had gone there with Gran, and she was still talking to him normally, hoping he would respond in a way that indicated he understood. When he didn't, I could see she was frustrated and upset. I just did what I’d done with Nanna six years previously, which was to chat away – as I can easily do! – but then change topic to respond to his random statements about house repairs he still needed to do, or things that weren’t working. But I could see this was too hard for my gran to do, understandably. For there was the formerly strong, capable man, who took care of all the finances, did all the driving, made all the repairs around the house and always had an opinion on things, now finding it hard to even take a sip of tea from a plastic beaker, like the ones babies use when learning to drink. We truly do go back to being helpless like newborns, but it must be so much harder the second time around, having been fully functioning adults. 
ONCE UPON A TIME: At home with Grandad, probably in 1980

Although he may have lost his ability to converse coherently, Grandad's was still in there. I think he regained some of his teenage mischievousness, as I later learned he frequently tried to ‘escape’ from the home. He would push open the fire exit, then wait for the carers to arrive only to tell them, with a glint in his eye: ‘You took your time!’ He was their favourite, apparently, even if he did cause trouble. Sometimes it would be hard for Mum and Gran to visit him, as he’d demand to be taken home and come with them to the door, then get angry when he wasn’t allowed out. 
But despite his mental state, he certainly didn’t look as if he was going to leave us when he did. It was another fall that did it. Cracked his collarbone with the impact. They rushed him to hospital where he went down hill quite rapidly, so I was told. Fortunately Gran and one of my uncles were there when he took his last breath. They both told me the room went eerily quiet and it felt surreal. Mum and her other brother arrived not long afterwards, so they could at least all grieve together, which was some small comfort.

A psychic connection?

What I now find somewhat ‘spooky’, with hindsight, is how both my grandparents had been on my mind so much during my holiday. I counted back to what I was doing on the night Grandad died; my husband and I had been dining close to the beach under a full moon that had around it an enormous halo. On our last night, the one after he’d died, I saw another halo around the moon, this time rainbow colours and smaller. During our meal, an instrumental version of Over The Rainbow came on in the background. I’ve heard this song plenty of times and not thought about Grandad, but this time I did, and recalled how I’d played the scarecrow in a school play of The Wizard of Oz, just as he’d done many years earlier for an amateur dramatics company. I also thought about how how, out of an entire catalogue of patterns, my two-year-old niece had chosen the scarecrow one for Gran to knit for her. 

But it wasn’t just that. Half way through the holiday we saw on TV that sports commentator Jimmy Hill had died. And, just before the holiday, I learned of the tragic death of a fellow colleague. I hadn’t known him personally but he’d worked on the same floor. It shocked me at the sadness his family would now be feeling at what is usually a celebratory time of year. I remember saying ‘I wonder who will be next? They do say these things go in threes.' It didn't cross my mind that it would be my beloved grandfather. 
I also kept seeing dragonflies on the beach. They’d be buzzing around when I was in a pensive mood. Once, when I was seriously into 'signs' and synchronicity, I used to think they were linked somehow to Grandad as he loved to visit Wales - the dragon being on their flag - and their home also contained lots of emblematic dragons on plates and pictures, as well as two grumpy dragon statues gracing the path outside. Were they symbolic of him connecting with me on an energetic level?

Signs from above?

On the last morning, as I was walking along the beach after breakfast, a glorious rainbow arced through the sky. Rainbows always make me smile, so of course again I began to think about Over The Rainbow, and took loads of pictures. 
WAY UP HIGH: The rainbow I saw on the final morning of the holiday, two days after Grandad died
On the seaplane back to the main airport a few hours later, I got to thinking about my grandparent’s house, and how I wished I was rich enough to buy it, give it the massive overhaul and update it needs and pay for a live-in carer so Gran, also 89, could continue to live there. Tears welled in my eyes, perhaps sadness at the imminent loss of perhaps THE most important place in my life, which played such a vital part of my childhood. 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Gran and Grandad's house, which they lived in for half a century, and which was the backdrop to so many happy memories
Most of my vivid early memories are in that house or the garden: on a swing or tree house Grandad made, eating boiled eggs he always cooked me for breakfast, or with Gran, who sewed clothes for my Sindy dolls, read stories to me in bed, and baked cookies and let me dress up in their Am Dram costumes from up in the loft. Grandad also did card games and magic. He showed me how to play solitaire, and could do that impressive thing where you cut the cards in half then fan both halves back together. 

PICK A CARD: Grandad entertaining me (middle, back) and my friends at one of my birthday parties in the 80s

I don’t know why I thought about all this as we were in the tiny aircraft, with nothing around to spark the memories and thoughts, only a vast blue ocean dotted with islands. Was I somehow tuning in to what was going on back home, I now wonder? Was I being intuitive? After all, they do say people in separate rooms, even on other sides of the world, can have psychic connections. 

A SLICE OF MAGIC: Grandad with his 'faux cake', which opened up to reveal present boxes inside

Over the Christmas break, probably sparked by the fact Gran was clearing out her entire house of 50 years’ worth of possessions, made worse by the fact neither she nor Grandad ever threw anything away, I too got into tidy mode. The very first place I began – a small drawer in the hallway – contained, hidden under old phones and camera equipment, the box Grandad once made to do the 'magic penny' trick. Why had I chosen that drawer, out of nine, to begin? Was I being directed to search there? If I hadn’t begun tidying, or had started in another room, I may never have found the box and therefore not ended up using it during the speech I gave at the funeral. I couldn't help but think he wanted me to find it...

What Katy read...
A few nights later, I started reading a book I bought ages ago called Honestly Katie John, published back in the 1930s I think. The first page was about her playing solitaire with cards – the game Grandad taught me! I’ve had that book for months, and it's one of a series of four, so I found it weird that I'd 'decided' to read that one, at that time. Was it another sign from Grandad? A way to remember him? Were any of these ‘signs’ little messages? Sceptics would say not. I don’t know, but I found it odd that in the period from my holiday to his funeral in January, I kept seeing lots of little thing that seemed related to him in some way, such as...

...Messages in movies?
I happened to catch The Wizard of Oz on TV. I know, I know, it’s on every year, but I usually miss it. I also caught the last ten minutes of Up, the Pixar animation where an old man, Mr Fredrickson, has to throw everything out of his house to get it to float, then at the end let it go. I couldn’t help but see the symbolism. Not only does the character look exactly like Grandad, and partly share a name, Fred, but he has to say goodbye to his house, which has been such a huge part of his life, in order to move on (see clip below).


Right at the very end he has to watch as it float away into the clouds. That set me off crying again (see below). Unfortunately this video has been edited so there are silly chipmunk clips inserted at various points, which ruins it a bit but it was the only one I could find of this scene...


A DIY WHIZZ: Grandad, with his wavy grey hair, square jaw and large glasses, reminded me of Mr Fredrickson from Up

I'd also popped into town a week before the funeral. One shop selling home wares and nick knacks was having a closing down sale. I went inside. It was almost empty and looked a bit sad - a bit like my grandparents house now, which every time I go there has fewer and fewer items in the run up to the impending sale. 
Inside a revolving trinket cabinet was a little guitar, which opened in half. I decided to buy it and see whether I could ask for a lock of Grandad's hair to put inside, so Gran could have it as a keepsake. I wasn't sure she'd like the idea, so was a bit nervous giving it to her after the funeral. But she loved it and was showing it to everyone. 

HE WAS THE MUSIC MAN: Grandad playing one of his many musical instruments (and me looking bashful!)
My own favourite memento will be the magic penny box, which is a work of true craftsmanship. Even when I do the trick badly people still can't work it out and wonder why the box is rattling when there is clearly no penny inside. But as I said at the end of my speech, amazingly managing not to cry for the duration: "The trick is that the penny is always there, on the inside - it's just hidden so you can't see it. And although Grandad is no longer here in person for us to see anymore, he will always be here, inside our hearts."
Oh and guess what the first song was we sang at the funeral? Not that I could sing it for the lump in my throat...