Plainly

Jane

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Jane Fraser

I’ M nudg­ing 70, which is bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive, but it is a bit of a burden. Twenty years ago a younger man, whose sur­name was Walker — ac­tu­ally he was a polo player from the coun­try, so he was also a rider — told me I had a bet­ter chance of be­ing shot by a ter­ror­ist than get­ting mar­ried again past the age of 50. (He must have read it some­where; it’s one of those ‘‘ sta­tis­tics’’ peo­ple like to quote.) Well, I did, and still am.

De­spite that suc­cess my daugh­ters, who are near­ing their 40s, are try­ing their ut­most to con­trol me. I am ap­par­ently too old to muck around. ‘‘ Why do your wear orange shoes?’’ one of them asked. I stared back at the in­quisi­tor and told her in no un­cer­tain terms that I am deeply de­voted to these shoes. They make me feel young and light on my feet, so much so that I’m also think­ing of get­ting a pair of blue brothel-creep­ers. The riot of colour should be enough to en­cour­age oth­ers to take on the fash­ion and dance willy-nilly down the street, feel­ing like a teenager.

In any case, Mrs Fortysome­thing ob­vi­ously did not know that orange is the in colour this sea­son. Just ask Carla Zam­patti, whose shop win­dows are ablaze with orange. She knows her onions, and cit­rus, when it comes to this kind of thing.

I heard a sigh. The next ques­tion was about my hair. Ac­cord­ing to one or both of my daugh­ters — my son is newly mar­ried and more in­ter­ested in his lovely wife to worry about how dis­grace­fully I am age­ing — my hair is too bouncy. ‘‘ I was born with bouncy hair,’’ I par­ried, ‘‘ and I can’t help my lot.’’ One or other of the daugh­ters coun­tered with: ‘‘ Yes, but it is too colourful, very red.’’ Grey wisps sprang to mind and I al­most threw a wob­bly. I man­aged to keep con­trol, how­ever, vow­ing to beat them at their own game, if I have to die do­ing so.

Which re­minds me that there are two things in this world I shall never take up. Bridge is one — I’m re­ally not one to sit around a ta­ble with a num­ber of dead keen women who still have their mar­bles. And for­get golf. I’d mess things up, as did one of my son’s best friends. The friend was best man at my son’s wed­ding, as it hap­pens, and he tends to get mixed up and has done since he was 10.

Once he was play­ing golf with a cou­ple of his old friends and they stopped to buy a beer. The three of them bal­anced the tins on my son’s friend’s golf bag, a wind sprang up and the ales went fly­ing — all over the golf bag, and what a bloody mess that was. Swear­ing en­sued from the best man while his mates lay on the lawn and screamed with laugh­ter. Well, that was enough for me; imag­ine mak­ing even a big­ger fool of my­self than usual.

But back to mar­riage, the sec­ond one. I met the man-to-be at a mu­tual friend’s house — he was a widower, I a spare part. We were stand­ing on a bal­cony look­ing at Sydney Har­bour and he told me fish­ing sto­ries that made me im­me­di­ately feel a story com­ing on for The Week­end Aus­tralian Mag­a­zine. There was no way I was go­ing to get his phone num­ber and find out more; how em­bar­rass­ing would that be. So I took my­self off to the fish mar­ket and be­came in­volved with fish­er­men who — years ago — were a bit too close to some un­savoury types. Then I gave up.

It didn’t mat­ter. In the mean­time, the man and I got talk­ing and walk­ing and one thing led to an­other, de­spite the fact that like many men he had traces of chau­vin­ism.

One of his em­ploy­ees said she had to rush home to put on a load of wash­ing. ‘‘ You mean you do your own wash­ing?’’ he ex­claimed. ‘‘ Well, what do you do about dirty clothes?’’ she asked. ‘‘ I put them in the bin and they ap­pear a few days later in the wardrobe, all cleaned and ironed,’’ he replied.

I ex­ploded, as is my wont, and now he uses the dry cleaner. I don’t mind iron­ing too much, al­though it is a bloody bore and some­times a chore. Oc­ca­sion­ally, I wan­der off and the iron siz­zles through the board, which doesn’t make me pop­u­lar, al­though I al­ways blame one of the dogs as they can’t speak.

When I told my daugh­ters this story they looked at me in a strange way. I could see what they were think­ing: ‘‘ Get her into an old peo­ple’s home be­fore she sets the house on fire,’’ was writ large on their faces.

Well, I’m not ready to go. As long as I have my bouncy hair — which gets in my eyes so that I get on the wrong train at the rail­way sta­tion — and the brightly coloured shoes that let me dance my way, I’ll be­have just as I wish.

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