Senior England

Age is not something I generally pay much attention to – in fact when asked to estimate someone’s age, I am frequently off by ten to fifteen years. But if I do think about age and focus on it, I realize that I rarely see groups of older people in Puerto Princesa.  Maybe the only exception to this is in the movie and fast food area of Robs, on Mondays when there are free movies for seniors.

So I was very pleased in London, and further out in the English countryside, to see so many seniors – gray haired, dignified people who were well dressed and looked fit and healthy, and confident – walking in the streets, riding buses, chatting with each other, roaming museums and bookstores, and sitting down to glasses of wine or mugs of beer in the omnipresent English pubs!

My first day in London I ventured out on foot to find Marks and Spensers, as I realized I didn’t have enough warm clothing. I was using Google Maps but getting somewhat confused in the area of Victoria Station, and approached a group of about five seniors, two men, three women, who were waiting for another group mate to arrive by train – they were off to some kind of outing. First, they asked me if I wanted just food, or clothing too, and then pointed out a small street behind the theater showing Wicked, and  . . . At that point one turned to another and asked if she had seen Wicked, and they began to plan for that.

They did get me off to a good enough start to find Marks and Spensers, and there I was quite successful at shopping and sat down to a good bowl of Mulligatawny Soup in the lunchroom. Shortly after that, a very old man came in alone. He was having trouble walking but making his way anyway, and the rather formal looking head waiter of the place immediately took his bag, and put it on the table next to me, and asked one of the waiters to help the man get his food. We got to chatting over our soup, and he said he went to Mass every morning and then came here, to M and S, for some good hot soup. For a minute I thought he might be Filipino but he wasn’t, although he knew much about the Philippines. After lunch I went to get some food items and then came back for coffee, thinking I might sit down and chat some more since he was still there, but two other senior women were at the table, deep in conversation with him.

In the middle of our London week, I took two days to go out into the countryside to visit the parents of Katherine Jack, the famous Palawan photographer. I had met Liza and Raymond before, in Puerto Princesa, and knew it would be a pleasant visit. They live in the town of Tisbury, in the Salisbury area, a two-hour train ride from Waterloo Station. It was a good, comfortable train, complete with WiFi, and Raymond was just striding up to the platform when I got off the train.

The countryside was beautiful and hilly and sheep were grazing in the distance. Raymond wanted to show me a couple of very old buildings, now used as a craft center, and build around a really ancient foundation with huge wooden beams that were centuries old. This place had been modernized just enough for use, but it still seemed so traditional and beautiful! And then we went to their house – which had started as an old stone structure but had been added to and modernized, and is just a wonderful cozy, comfortable, well-done house.

Liza cooked a delicious salmon dinner, and one neighbor, who said she lives across the field, came in to eat with us. Raymond had asked earlier, with a bit of hesitation, whether I would like to drink a bit of wine, so we had a very good white wine with dinner. And in the morning I saw Raymond’s stone wine cellar, built into a hillside right outside the kitchen door.

The next morning Raymond and I took a good long walk around Stourhead Gardens – this beautiful classical country garden is also a tourist attraction but not on this cold sunny autumn morning. I picked up handfuls of fallen red maple leaves to fill a friend’s special request. I also got a good start on my footsteps for the day! And it was wonderful to be up and about in the crisp morning air!

Tisbury also boosts a wonderful old old stone pub, and here we had lunch before Liza and I headed back to London. Again we weren’t the only senior group around, and in this place a little age and sturdiness seemed to go along with the structure!  I had a Welsh Rarebit – something my father always liked to order in classical old English places – and some white wine.

At different times during my visit I heard about neighbors that Liza and Raymond help, look in on, and such, and neighbors do apparently frequently drop in for dinner. They are both healthy and able-bodied (and not so very old!) but some of their neighbors are in need of the help that they provide. This is just another facet of what I considered a lovely, healthy senior life style!

And now I’d like to wish everyone in Puerto Princesa happy and safe holidays! I hope to write more about seniors in the coming year!

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