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THOUGHTS FROM A BABY BOOMER

Interesting to read again this post I published at the end of March 2020. Now we (in the UK at least) are thankfully coming out of this nightmare pandemic – albeit tragically with 128,000 deaths to date – it is interesting to reflect on what I wrote over a year ago. Who then had any idea how long this would last? And none of us could even begin to imagine that we would have a life saving vaccine before the year was out!

I know we are among the lucky ones. Most of our generation of boomers – as we are called – those of us born immediately after the war (I imagine there will be corona boomers born one day too – what else is there to do when one is locked in and self-isolating?) own our homes or have almost paid off our mortgages and many of us have savings to fall back on. Until Covid-19 hit us we all had holidays and theatre trips planned. Many households own more than one car. And, until now, we had experienced some resentment from the young, particularly those who thought that everyone over 60 had voted for Brexit. We didn’t by the way but that’s all academic now as catastrophic world events have made everything else insignificant.


The younger generation forget that when we were their age we had to put up with extraordinarily high interest rates. When OH (other half) and I bought our first home (a two bedroom flat in South Woodford, East London, since you ask) my job counted for nothing as far as a mortgage was concerned. Women’s salaries were not take into account at all – even though, at that time, as an advertising copywriter, I was earning far more than my husband. As a result couples could only spend what they could afford on one person’s salary. At the time that seemed ridiculous (not to mention sexist – though that word wasn’t in use then) but it did mean that one was forced to live within one’s means. It also meant that when I became pregnant with our first child, we did not miss my salary – because it had never been taken into account!


Sexism was rampant then. I was accepted for a copy writing job at the Reader’s Digest only to be told that I had to sign to agree that I would not get pregnant (I assume they meant by OH) for two years. Being a woman of principle I didn’t sign. Afterwards I realised I could have signed and then got pregnant anyway. What could they have done – sued me? Today, of course, we have Twitter and I would immediately have shopped them to the world.


I digress. I wanted to talk about us comfortable middle classes who in this turmoil of lock-downs and self-isolation are able to relax in our gardens. In normal times (and these are definitely not normal times) people like us would have had a cohort of people to do our “work” for us – house cleaners (tick), window cleaners (tick) and gardeners (tick). OH and I gave away our lawnmower some time ago after it had spent many years languishing in our garage as we had a gardener to do all the work for us. Now, of course, we need to cut the grass ourselves. OH ordered a lawnmower from Amazon and it was delivered a few days later. Almost as exciting as when our online groceries arrived (see yesterday’s blog). OH had great fun assembling it and then immediately setting out to mow our lawn. At an angle – because that’s how he normally parks the car! Covid-19 is teaching us all new skills which hopefully we will retain when life gets back to “normal” – whenever that is and whatever that will be.


I hope I am not coming across to you as a smug and self-satisfied boomer. I am more than well aware how appalling things are now (our daughter only recently having recovered from the virus) and how difficult (if not impossible) they are for most people. We are also finding it hard but not in the same way as many families are. We have the aforesaid garden, our writing, our families (thank goodness for WhatsApp), our friends on the phone (thank you BT), our TV (finally signed up for Netflix) BUT we are missing (as all of you reading this no doubt are) seeing our loved ones face to face (other than on Face Time, Skype etc) and being able to hug our beautiful grandchildren. For me, that is the hardest thing of all. I find the idea that I may not see our fabulous five grand-kids for many months far too unbearable to contemplate.


Happily, after nearly 50 (!) years of marriage, OH and I still find plenty to say to one another and we still enjoy our time together. Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if AC (after Covid) there will be many more marital and cohabiting break-ups. An increase in divorce, suicide, mental health issues and undiscovered deaths. However, I also think and hope that something positive has to come out of all this if humanity is to survive. We’ve already seen how so many people from all walks of life are coming together to support one another – friends, neighbours and strangers.

I am hoping that AC (after Corona) we will all appreciate, love and care for one another more than we did before and – boomers or not – never take our lives for granted again.

© Text and photos – Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

NOT ME TOO!

Not me too

I was 19 years old and in my first copywriting job.

I wanted the experience of handling bigger brands so was touting my portfolio around different London advertising agencies in search of feedback on my work and hopefully a job offer.

Agencies would normally see you even if they didn’t have a job vacancy just in case you turned out to be someone that they could use. If they thought you were brilliant they would create an opening for you by sacking someone else.  That’s how it worked.

On this memorable day I was being interviewed at an advertising agency in London. I had been told that there wasn’t an opening and that I was just being seen on spec. Nevertheless it was one of my first ever job interviews and I was understandably apprehensive.

I was ushered into a large conference room which smelt of polish.  The solid oak table was long, oval and gleaming.  I sat down nervously. The door opened and in came the creative director.

He was incredibly overweight with a huge paunch.  He sat down opposite me, breathing heavily from the exertion.

I showed him my book of work.  He was non-committal. They usually were.

He asked me very little about myself and barely glanced at my work.  He repeated again what I had already been told that there were no vacancies.

Then, all of a sudden he said, in what can only be described as a leering voice.

“I might just decide I want to take on a new copywriter because I like the look of her legs.”

Before I could respond, he then said, “that reminds me I haven’t yet seen what your legs look like.”

To my utter astonishment he then climbed down from his chair and on to the floor under the table.  He was wheezing heavily.

I was rooted to the spot.  I jammed my legs tightly together and held my breath.

I could hear him wheezing away under the table. Fortunately, he did not touch me. Then, breathing heavily, he hauled himself up and sat back down in his chair.

“We like our copywriters to have experienced life,” he said, with an emphasis on the word life.

I stood up to go.

At the door I turned.

“I’m soon going on holiday to Greece with my boyfriend,” I said to him.  “Do you think when I return I will have experienced life?”

“I do, my dear, I certainly do!” he replied cheerfully, giving me a playful slap on the bottom as I left the room.

What would today’s nineteen old have done I wonder?

Years later, working at another ad agency, I was told that one of the firm’s secretaries had been regularly having sex with a number of men in the company.  The sex took place on the board room table.  Eventually, someone informed the directors what had been happening.

As a result, they got rid of the board room table!

 

 

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

Back in the day when I met OH (other half) at a party (See LOVE LIFE IN THESE COVID TIMES, 26/4/20) and he asked what I did, I told him I was a poet.
Much easier I thought than to tell him I worked as a copywriter!
Most people (ie possible future boyfriend material)  looked blank when I said that. I’d ask if they knew what the job was and they would respond,  “yes but tell me more.” I would then explain what the job involved – that I came up with ideas for ads. Ah Slogans they would say.  Not slogans I would explain but the whole concept.  I told them that copywriters wrote for all the media. That I conceived ads and wrote copy for press, posters, TV, direct mail, radio, point-of-sale material and the back of cereal packets etc etc.  Of course today that would also include writing ads for anything and everything digital.  I was fortunate in that I worked at a time when advertising was far more creative than it is now. When TV and cinema commercials were often considered a work of art. Of genius even.  Just think of the Heineken and Levi’s commercials (if you are old enough to remember them) and you will know what I’m talking about. That was a time when you actually stayed in the room to watch the TV commercials and left the room when the programmes came on!  No zapping for us then because we had no way of avoiding the ad breaks other than turning off the sound or switching off the TV altogether.
Once the person I was talking to found out what copywriters actually did, they would then spend the rest of their time with me talking about all their favourite ads ad nauseum (no pun intended). It was the same at dinner parties or any time I met new people. So I told people I was a poet.  Well I was. And I am. I just don’t make a living from it.
It is the same for OH (other half). He only has to say that he works in cancer research to find that the rest of the evening is spent listening to people telling him all about themselves or someone they know who has cancer. There was one memorable occasion when the opposite happened. We were sitting having a meal at a wedding and were introduced to a friend of mine’s new boyfriend. What do you do? He asked.  I’m a scientist, OH answered.  How boring for you, responded my friend’s boyfriend. He turned his back and did not say another word to us for the rest of the evening.
Polite conversation is a whole lot easier nowadays as Covid has freed us from having to meet strangers at dinner parties or anywhere else for that matter. Conversations now usually start with “how are you?” meaning,  “are you still alive and well?” and end with “stay safe.”
So what does one say when asked what do you do? I could just say I’m retired and leave it at that.  I hate those four words, “What do you do?”  Whether we like it or not, whether we think we do it or not, we all tend to judge people on what it is they “do”.  As a woman of a certain age, I still do a hell of a lot.  This blog for a start. And loads of other things – mostly enjoyable and rewarding ones. But in those far off days of dinner parties, no one ever asked about those.  A bit like the charmer who asked OH what he did and then turned away, most men (and it is usually men) show no interest whatsoever in the person you are – only in the persona.  You might be writing the next War and Peace or doing the most incredible voluntary work but if you are not doing any paid work  then you are cut out of the conversation.  I am sure that my female readers will recognise this all too common and ill-mannered behaviour.
As I wrote in my blog of 6/4/17 (Another Year, Another Birthday) once women are over fifty they become invisible to the opposite sex.  Unless of course they happen to be sitting next to Helen Mirren or Debbie Harry (whose real name incidentally is Angela Tremble).
I hate it when women say, “I’m just a housewife.” In other words, I do everything imaginable in the home but am not rewarded for it other than in the satisfaction of knowing that my home is clean and my family are fed. Now we’re in the midst of the Covid Era, many more people are realising how incredibly demanding it is to manage a household, shop, clean, cook, wash, iron, garden, sew and bring up children.  No wonder one of the first things relaxed by the government was the employment of nannies and cleaning ladies! Post Covid will anyone ever again say, “I’m just a housewife”. I sincerely hope not.
At future dinner parties (will there ever be such a thing and will we miss them if they disappear?) will people talk about all the new skills they learned during Covid?  How they can now recognise twenty different species of birds, knit a suit,  landscape a garden and bake sour dough bread.  Or will we return to the old status quo – the snobbery of only being valued if you have some kind of paid employment.
In the meantime those of us who used to entertain people in our home are quite enjoying not having to spend half the day in the kitchen preparing food for everyone. Now all we have to do is
sit in the garden with coffee, cake or a glass of wine. It’s so easy and far more relaxing.  Entertaining is much more pleasurable when you don’t have to tidy up the house or cook meals beforehand. And, what’s more, there’s very little clearing up to do afterwards.  Now that’s my idea of the best kind of brunch, lunch, tea, supper or dinner party.
Off now to do some cooking. Dinner parties or no, we still have to eat!  See you again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems