2018 Grateful 32

Wednesday. May 23rd. The day John Malkovich came to Budapest and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. Right now, I’m trying to decide if it was worth the experience.

In true marketing fashion, I made a rash purchase (4 tickets) and am now trying to rationalise my decision. Apparently, this is what we consumers do all the time. It’s what keeps the marketers in business.

The facts I had at the time were:

  1. John Malkovich was coming to Budapest for one night only.
  2. He was performing what was billed as one of the top 10 shows in the world (I can’t recall where I read that snippet)
  3. If I didn’t see the man this time, I was unlikely to cross paths with him again.
  4. The cheapest tickets I could get were 20 000 huf (~€60 / $70).
  5. We were expecting visitors and I thought it would be night for them to rememeber.

And it was, but probably not for the reasons I imagined.

We rocked early to Budapesti Kongresszusi Központ, in plenty of time to have a pre-show drink and take our seats at a leisurely pace. I was all excited. I’ve had a thing for the bould JM for just about ever. What a voice. The 26-piece string orchestra – Danubia Orchestra Óbuda took their place. And the show started. No sign of the man himself. But I didn’t panic. Perhaps, I thought, he’d enjoy a grand entrance. Above the stage, rain was being projected onto a white screen. I quite fancied that I saw his face in the droplets and given the title of the programme – Report on the Blind – my imagination began to run riot.

Maestro Dirk Brossé was conducting and violinist Ino Mirkovic also made an appearance. Now, had I done my homework, I’d have been all the wiser. But I hadn’t. And I wasn’t.

Psycho Suite by Bernard Herrmann and the Adagio (To the Unknown Soldier) by Dirk Brossé and still no sign of John. My blood pressure began to rise, slowly. I could feel the anxiety setting in. I began to wonder if we were in the right place. I drew a map of the venue in my mind and decided that there were no other gigs on that night (and it would have been strange, anyway, not have to have been ousted from our seats had we been in the wrong place). The rain at this stage had turned to snow and the images of frosted glass and the ice patterns provided only a mild distraction. The avalanche footage was quite compelling though. But 45 minutes in and still no John.

Then a man appeared on stage – and I breathed a sigh of relief – a short one. On closer inspectection I saw a face that was too round, a body that was too slim, and a hairline that wasn’t quite far back enough. Not John. They danced. At one stage he blindfolded himself and hope rose within me briefly – I was grasping at blind straws. I tried to control the angst. And then came the intermission.

I left my company inside and went outside to calm my nerves. Everyone seemed to be wondering what was up. I wasn’t the only one. Then I heard that this was just the prelude. The warm-up. The man would make his appearance in the second half. And he did.

Accompanied by pianist Anastasya Terenkova, Malkovich took us on a rollercoaster ride, his voice doing more than the 26-string orchestra could have done. He was quite something. He posited some theories:

  1. God does not exist
  2. God exists but he is a bastard
  3. Good exists but falls asleep and his nightmares are our existence

I quite liked No. 3. I thought ‘wow – he wrote this stuff. Amazing.’ But he didn’t. It was a chapter from Ernesto Sabato’s novel On Heroes and Tombs. Malkovich played the protagonist Fernando Vidal who reckons that blindness drives the world. It was mesmerising. Mesmerisingly short. Just 30 minutes, if that. And it was over.

It’s taken me a week to process it all. Am I glad I got to see and hear the man in person? Yes. Am I glad I didn’t pass up the opportunity? Yes. Do I reckon it was worth the guts of €250 – which is a plane ticket somewhere – I’m not sure.

But I learned a lot about myself. If I have no expectations at all – which is generally the case – I can’t be disappointed. My mother tacked that one on as the ninth beatitude. But if I have expectations, and I’m thrown off course, then I get ansty and anxious. I let it consume me. I tried to enjoy the music in the first half, which was stellar by the way, but my heart was racing and my mind was all over the place. I had brief moments of enjoyment but peppered as they were by a sense of being utterly lost, I barely remember them.

I wanted to see him so badly that I didn’t think to check what it was he’d be doing. I could have. It’s out there. I could have done my homework, perhaps before I bought the tickets. But I was blindsided by fame. Still, though, as a lover of oratory and the spoken word, I think Malkovich would be hard to match.

I’d like to see  Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters. The interview with photographer Sandro Miller makes for fascinating reading. And I never knew that JM owns a restaurant in Lisbon, speaks fluent French, and lost millions in Bernie Maddoch’s Ponzi scheme. For the background reading, I’m grateful. For the opportunity to hear the voice in person, I’m grateful, too. I only wish he’d spoken for longer and that I’d known what I was letting myself in for.


 

2018 Grateful 33

I like the road of least resistance. I can be quite lazy. If you can do it better, quicker, and more effectively than I can, then have at it. I’m not one to feel I have to prove a point. Usually, when confronted with an easier, equally moral option, I’ll take it. I see this so often when it comes to using my pitiful Hungarian. If I’m with someone who speaks it better, I simply don’t try. If I get a firm nem (no) to my initial inquiry as to whether the other party speaks English, which, by the way, is just about the only complete sentence I can pronounce pretty near perfectly in Hungarian, I usually thank them, hang up, and have someone else call for me.

But on Friday last, something clicked in…or clicked off. Perhaps the lazy gene is on sabbatical.

The electricity lads have been after me to do a meter reading. I’ve been away each time they’ve called and their notes were getting slightly more frequent. They dropped a note in my box sometime Thursday to say they’d call Friday between 4 and 6. I  didn’t see it till Friday lunchtime – I don’t check the mail daily because it’s usually window envelopes and junk,  neither of which particularly rock my world. Anyway, I was meeting a mate for a coffee at 4 and didn’t want to reschedule. Himself had plans, too. So I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and rang the number.

The chap who answered, answered simply with a harried Igen (Yes?) I wondered if I had the right number. No mention of the company at all. I asked, haltingly, ELMŰ? Another igen. This time a little softer. 

I asked if he spoke English and got a firm nem for my troubles. I was about to thank him and hang up but a voice in my head taunted me. It’s been a while since I was called a scaredy cat!

So, in pitiful Hungarian, I explained that I didn’t speak the language very well (another sentence I can say almost perfectly!) and that I was slow, hoping that in Hungarian it didn’t have the same alternate meaning as it does in English – there’s nothing wrong with my intellect – just my language skills. He laughed. So perhaps it does mean the same.

Anyway, I went on to say that I had a letter in my mailbox saying I had an appointment that day but that I wasn’t at home. It said that they could come on Monday, even though Monday was a holiday, so I asked when he could come then. He suggested Saturday instead. Now this is where I got a little cocky, I tried my hand at banter. I think I said that working on a Saturday wasn’t a good thing. I got another laugh. Man, I was on a roll.

I asked what time. He said 10am. And then he took off… a fast roll of three consecutive sentences that I completely missed. But I wasn’t even listening. I was on a high. We said our goodbyes. I thanked him for his patience. And as I hung up, I wondered if he’d come.

The next morning, I was out. But himself was here. And they came to read the meter shortly after 10am. Score for me!!!

I’m ridiculously pleased with myself, which is sad really. Ten years and this one successful conversation is what I have to show for it. But perhaps this is the start of it all coming together. Regardless. I’m grateful that I can chalk up a Hungarian language success, however minor.

2018 Grateful 34

“‘There’s a James Thurber cartoon I’m very fond of …’ He turned to Shaw then, the face relaxed, honest, and open. ‘Thurber – you know Thurber?’ Shaw nodded. ‘He sketched this graveyard, glimpsed through railings, the pavement crowded with determined men and women walking to the left, to the right, clutching shopping bags, briefcases, pushing prams. The caption read simply: Destinations. Devastating, really.’” This conversation is from Death on Demand, by Jim Kelly.

“It reminded him of one of his favourite cartoons, by the humourist James Thurber, depicting a street full of determined men and women striding to their next appointments, against a background of a cemetery. The caption read simply: Destinations.” This reference is from The Funeral Owl, also by Jim Kelly.

Were I cynical, I might scream Lazy! But I like how Kelly writes and I enjoy his characters (Valentine & Shaw and Philip Dryden). This is something that obviously resonates with him. And now that I’ve come across it a second time, it resonates with me, too.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow down, to stop occasionally and smell the grass cuttings. I ran into someone I knew from my early days in Budapest who took to country life a lot sooner than I did. We compared notes, Both of us in our day had been medium-sized fish in a very small pond and had enjoyed a certain measure of fame and attention. But neither of us miss it. Both of use have crossed the half-way point and probably have fewer years ahead of us that are behind. Perhaps that has something to do with the mellowing. But this Thurber cartoon sealed the few cracks that might have been lingering in my perspective. Life is simply too damn short to keep up that level of manic candle-burning.

I’m readying my jam-jars as the cherries ripen. I’m culling recipes for preserves. I’m noting bookings in the diary as friends make plans to come visit.

But recognising the danger of becoming too insular, too settled, too comfortable, I’ve decided it’s time to go somewhere I’ve never been before. The itinerary changes daily but Thailand and Indonesia are on the cards later this year. It’s never too late to try Paniki (a dish made from wild bat) or Belalang goreng (deep-fried grasshopper) but I might just draw the line at Tikus panggang (grilled rat).

Am grateful this week for the life I’m living and the adventures to come.

 

2018 Grateful 35

Usually I don’t get heat-cranky till late June but this hot weather is playing havoc with my schedule. The hottest April on record here since records began 218 years ago, the highest low temperature ever, and the highest morning temperature registered on 1 May.  We’ve skipped spring and leapfrogged into summer. Madness.

Over in Alaska, friends are waking up to snow-covered decks. They had summer last week and have now reversed back into winter. Avalanches are being forecast with 33 inches falling on Thompson Pass since 4 May. More madness.

In Dublin, they’ve had a rocking weekend with an Irish hot of 20 degrees. That’s practically a heatwave. I’d say it was madness, but sure they’re mad anyway 🙂

And with far more to complain about, friends in Hawaii are watching lava warnings after a massive earthquake the other day. Evacuations are underway. Lives are falling asunder. What’s happening in the world?

 

All I needed was some perspective. My lot don’t seem half-bad in comparison. I’ll quit my bitchin’ and deal with the perspiration. I’ll bring out the perfumed hankie to combat the rampant BO, and start planning a trip to the sea. Lots to be grateful for.

 

2018 Grateful 36

I spent a lot of time this week with my dad. Even after 50+ years of knowing him, he still has stuff to teach me. We went to visit his younger brother – there’s 13 months between them all. For him, time has taken on new meaning. He has something – dementia, Alzheimer’s – he’s lost his memory. We were chatting and he told me that he’d lost it. To which I found myself replying – Everything to you is new, wow. Every meal, every experience. Imagine tasting ice-cream for the first time, every day? But no, he said, it wasn’t the experiences that he’d forgotten, it was the names, the faces, the connections, the links. He’s 91 but he’s open to being any age.

While we were there, an elderly lady came and stood at the door. She was holding on to a baby doll, as if it were a real child. She remonstrated with us telling us to ‘be proper, be proper, be proper’. God only knows where the woman’s mind is. But no matter what they remember or don’t remember, that human contact seems all too important.

At the end of the second WLC week, my wellbeing was to make contact with three different people each day. You’d think that wouldn’t be a problem. Just fire off three emails or make three comments on FB or, God forbid, actually talk to three people. But it wasn’t simple enough to manage, to get the 35 points on offer for successful completion. I’ve noticed that I’m guarding my time, and being very careful whom I spend it with or on. I’m avoiding group meet-ups and parties, as energy is limited and I’m easily drained. And while I know that as a card-carrying introvert, my happy place is sparsely populated, the danger of retreating is all too real.

Reading Death on Demand recently, a cop novel by Jim Kelly,  Valentine had this to say: ‘You won’t know this yet but life stops when you’ve got no one to tell; no one to receive. We’re like radios, I think – transmitting and receiving, but if there’s just you, what’s the point?’

Last year, Joseph Lindoe opted to live alone in a flat for a week. He did this to highlight the loneliness that is rampant among the elderly. His account makes for interesting reading.

This is in the UK. And it’s a problem in Ireland, too. But here, there’s the added element of fear. Just yesterday, I heard of an elderly couple in the village who had moved in with their daughter because they were afraid to live alone. Not because they might fall or anything, but because they might be robbed and beaten up – in their own homes. This is a real fear. It happens. The elderly are being targeted. What sort of person could do this? I can’t begin to imagine.

One of the pluses, though, of having close neighbours, is that everyone watches out for each other. Remember the 1919 novel The Valley of the Squinting Windows? I used to hate that everyone knew everyone else’s business, but now that my parents are of an age, and I’m not always around, I’m very grateful that there are those who would notice if Mam didn’t show up for mass of a morning or if Boss wasn’t seen up the garden. It makes being at a distance that much easier.

Paradoxically, though, until himself came on a scene a few years back, I often thought that if I fell out of reach of a phone on a Wednesday afternoon, it would be a full week before anyone would notice I was missing. And a lot can happen in a week. Such is the plight of single people all over the world. Back in 2007, 44-year-old Sandra Drummond was found dead in her flat in Hulme, Manchester. She’d been dead for nearly a year and no one had missed her. Elizabeth Day, writing in The Guardian, described Sandra and her ilk as

modern-day Eleanor Rigbys who die with no friends or family to notice.

How sad is that? Young and old alike, those living on their own need to connect. And those of us who tend towards solitude, need to take care not to lose ourselves in it.

2018 Grateful 37

I set my alarm to snooze so I can enjoy having a lie in. Madness, really. I should just wake and get up. No dithering, or luxuriating, or procrastinating. Just up and at it. And maybe 2 out of 7 mornings in a given week, I might do this. Perhaps one morning a fortnight I’m awake when I wake up and have time to think about what I might to that day. And those days are usually better days. I get things accomplished. I get to the end of the day and look back and feel I did something. But they’re few and far between. I’m more likely to dive in and then fly around like a one-winged wasp trying to do too much and not getting a lot done.

I’ve been getting better lately, ever since I discovered that the calendar on my phone syncs with that on my laptop. And everything I want to remember to do goes in the calendar, so much so that if it’s not there, it doesn’t get done. I had a minor meltdown a few weeks back  – I had four things to do one day and only wrote down three of them so one didn’t get done – to pick up a bench-cushion I was having covered. But I had the time to do it, and I was minutes from where I needed to be for a good hour with nothing else to do. But I didn’t remember until after the place had closed. Unfortunately, I was on the metro when it dawned on me and the carriage got to witness my ranting self-beratement as I called myself every name under the sun. It was irrational, I know. But hey, I’m of an age.

I mentioned last week that I was doing this six-week WLC challenge. And this week, part of the challenge was to write down each morning one thing that would give a sense of accomplishment to my day. Okay, okay. Be sceptical. I was. But you know, something happened this week.

On Day 1, I wrote that my measure of success for that day would be if I turned up at the anti-government protest scheduled for 5pm. I’m not a great one for large crowds anyway, but I have just enough paranoia to fear the consequences of being caught on camera with face-identification tools readily available. I spoken to a few prominent business men who because they’re responsible for hundreds of employees, cannot show up and risk being caught on camera for fear of the consequences. I’ve heard stories of visits paid requesting passports in the aftermath of simply signing petitions. And while I know I have sod all to hide and my legal status isn’t in question, my trust levels in those who rule are in the minus figures. There’s nothing I’d put past them. And I have to wonder if that’s a healthy environment in which to live and if, deep down, it’s somehow leaving its mark upon my soul. The first time I rallied was when the Hare Krishnas were removed from the register of religious organisations and their lands were in danger of being commandeered by the state. That was back in 2011. I did show up at the one against Internet Tax and perhaps got caught up in another about education reform. But that was accidental. On Saturday, though, it was something I wanted to do. It was frightening and heartening at the same time.

Day 2 was more mundane – I had two papers to get off my desk and a mountain of bills to pay, but I also wanted to play. So I played first and paid second, so not my usual order of things, but it worked.

On Day 3, my measure of success was whether I managed to clear airport security with half a dozen champagne flutes in my carry-on bag. The Internet, as usual, answered whichever way I wanted it to answer, depending on which page I read. I decided to chance it – and pray for the best. My bag was sidelined and I had a moment or seven of doubt, but it wasn’t for a search, just a swab. Nice.

Day 4 was about logistics. I wanted to get to Dublin airport on time. Time is always tight on this particular journey and if there’s an accident on the M50, I’m screwed. It’s a toss up. The oncoming traffic was at a crawl because of a fender bender. Then the motorway displays showed an accident after J4. I needed J5. But J4 was clear and the backdoor worked.

On Day 5, I had to make up my mind whether to buy a rather expensive lamp I’d spotted the previous week in an antique shop. I wanted to feel good about it and not berate myself afterwards. But I also didn’t want to waste money. I have enough stuff. Did I really need more? Then the inimitable SR told me that I’d spend the money anyway, but if I bought the lamp, I’d have something to take pleasure in. I bought with a clear conscience and yer man even knocked off a few thousand … forints, that is.

Day 6 was about resisting the temptation to stay up half the night watching a series I’m hooked on. I only watch it in the village so I had to figure out a way to just watch one episode. But if I wanted to be up early in the morning and get my hours in, then one was all I had time for. I resisted temptation.

On Day 7, the weed-ridden garden path was my daily project and although my fingers were sore and my back was screaming, I had a chicken for company so I persevered.

None of these actions in and of themselves will radically change my world. Granted, adjusting what I eat and how much water I drink and how much sleep I get will rock it one way or another. But what struck me most from this week-long exercise in self-discipline is the power of mindfulness. It was sobering how many times I caught myself mindlessly reaching for a biscuit or a beer or a slice of bread. It was sobering to see how often I disregarded what my body was telling me. And it was heartening to sit back at the end of Week 1, lighter in body and spirit. And for this I’m grateful.

2018 Gratefuls 39 and 38

Sweet Mother of Divine Jesus, where is the year going to? About five times this week alone I’ve mentioned people in passing, only to add a caveat that I haven’t seen them so far in 2018. And it’s nearly May. Then, on the flip side, I’m planning on meeting people as far forward as next February. Something is a little skewed in my world. In an effort to take back some control, I decided to find some way of dragging out the next, say, six weeks. I wanted to mark each day with something solid. I could, of course, have set a goal of writing 500 words or walking 5km or avoiding carbs. But why be so easy on myself?

I’ve signed up for the WLC – and for some reason, I have real trouble remembering what WLC stands for. Let me check …. again. Yes, Whole Life Challenge. The marketing blurb certainly hits its target:

With just a nudge (and a little bit of effort), you can have the life you want — happy, healthy, active, energetic, and connected.
You can wake up every day excited for what’s ahead. The journey from here to there is not necessarily easy (but it is possible for anyone who is willing to commit to the effort).

It requires small steps, repeated time after time.
And it requires just a few habits. (We think 7.) And we won’t teach you those habits. Not exactly.

We’ll show them to you.
And you’ll decide, one by one, if they’re right for your life. And after the Challenge is over, you’ll choose for yourself — is this how you want to live?
Do you want to be rested and well-fed, active and limber, fit and hydrated, less stressed and more connected? We think you do.

And so we created the Whole Life Challenge. To help you get there.
Because ultimately, we believe in you — and in your power to change your life for the better.

They had me at rested. I’d like to wake up one morning and feel like I’ve had some sleep. Not too much to ask, is it? Anyway, I forked out my €49 and signed up. Starting today, and for the next six weeks, I have to develop these 7 habits and account for my actions. No matter that I’m the only person who will see the score, I’m competitive enough to make even that competitive. I could have joined a team, but I’m not in the mood to socialise.

I have to:

  • Be active for 10 minutes
  • Stretch for 10  minutes
  • Sleep for 7 hours (personal target – I’d prefer it to be 10 but I’m trying to be realistic)
  • Drink 64 oz of water (their calculation based on weight)

And here I hit a stumbler because my Ayurveda chap says I shouldn’t be drinking much water at all. And for every article on the web saying drink the damn stuff, another says don’t. But I’ll try and see….

  • Complete a practice to help me feel happier and more connected

Another stumbler…am not getting the connection between happiness and being connected… not these days… but will see

  • Reflect each day on how the day went – in writing
  • Eat food from my food list

I’m doing the kick-start programme (you get a choice of three levels) because I’m so bad. I got though one of the two pages of what I can eat before I hit a NO! and it all looks doable. And it doesn’t say anything about how big that one glass of wine can be. Relief. And there are bonus points, mulligans, rest days, and indulgence days. It’s a real game. And I’m playing all by myself.

Although I detest exercise, can’t be arsed stretching, don’t like watching what I eat, prefer wine to water, and am not in the mood to be connected, I’m feeling rather pumped about all of this. It will certainly mark my days and perhaps even slow down time a little. And for this, I’d be doubly grateful.

 

2018 Grateful 40

Is the grass always greener on the other side or is it greener where you water it? I find myself occasionally coveting a way of life and perhaps a piece of furniture and maybe sometimes, in a restaurant, I have plate envy. Then I think of those who’ve said they envy my life, my faith, my situation. And while I’m in it, living it, it doesn’t seem all that remarkable. But when I take the time to stop and think and appreciate it all, and see that I only need one hand to count my regrets, then I realise I’m blessed. Bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs aside, whatever your faith, whomever you look to when things go pear-shaped … Kellemes Húsvéti Ünnepeket. Happy Easter.

Am grateful. Period.

 

 

2018 Grateful 41

Charles (Chuck) Swindoll is a pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher. He’s 83. He used to stutter. I still stammer. He was a member of his school’s marching band. I was a member of mine, too. He has a radio program – Insight for Living – that is broadcast on more than 2,000 stations around the world in 15 languages. I’d like one of those. I dabbled briefly in it one year in with a series of podcasts called Hotline to Heaven. And it’s on my list to do again. Occasionally, I get posts in my inbox that mention him. A few weeks back, I got this one on the Giving Tree.

‘When the boy was young he swung from the tree’s branches, ate her apples, and slept in her shade…But as he grew up he spent less and less time with the tree. “Come on, let’s play,” said the tree. But the young man was only interested in money. “Then take all my apples and sell them,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy. He didn’t return for a long time, but the tree smiled when he passed by one day. “Come on, let’s play!” But the man, older and tired of the world, wanted to get away from it all. “Cut me down. Take my trunk, make a boat, then you can sail away,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy. Many seasons passed – and the tree waited. Finally the man returned, too old to play, or pursue riches, or sail the seas. “I have a pretty good stump left. Sit down here and rest,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy.’

Swindoll likens the tree to the many people who gave of themselves so that ‘he might grow, accomplish his goals, and find wholeness and satisfaction.’ And, indeed, there were times he was a giving tree himself. I was reminded of this earlier this week as I went about my business in Budapest. I had resolved some time ago that if I were approached on the street by someone asking for money, I’d give. Something, anything. My various pockets all have at least a 500 ft note in them, ready for the off. And when it comes to doling out the forints, I try not to discriminate. I read this verse on FB a few years back and it’s stuck in my head. It’s made me want to work on not being judgmental but it’s hard. It’s as if I’m preprogrammed to make snap decisions that catapult me into the role of judge and jury. So to avoid this, I try to give regardless.

But I still judge. And this means that after I’ve walked by an outstretched hand having judged it too well manicured to be in need, or after I’ve stepped over legs shod in designer-brand shoes that I can’t afford myself, I have this internal debate that could last second or minutes. After 12 months solid practice, 8 out of 10 times I’ll double back. But I’m still not there. I’m a work in progress.

Sadly, it seems like the asks are getting more and more plentiful. The number of people of all ages on the streets of Budapest asking for help is heartbreaking. And yes, perhaps for a sizeable number of them it’s a mafia-run day job. But what of the others, those in real need? Am I to be the one to judge? Perhaps, if I were smarter or more streetwise, I could. But I’m not. So I give. I’m aiming for 100%, but I’m not there yet.

I’m grateful for all the trees in my life – you know who you are. With thanks.

2018 Grateful 42

Sometimes you just need a laugh. And if that laugh can be sustained over a few hours, all the better. When the world goes askew and the media is full of the bad stuff happening, when things are not working as smoothly as they used to, when way too much time is spent on wondering what if, then laughter is just about the best tonic there is. Yes, it might be a temporary relief, it might be treating the symptoms and not the disease, it might be covering or colouring the root cause of the malaise, but for those few hours, life suspends.

Trolling through the NetFlix offer a few weeks back, I happened across a show called Grace and Frankie. Back in 2015 Grace (Jane Fonda) used to be married Robert (Martin Sheen). Frankie (Lily Tomlin) used to be married to Sol (the gorgeous Sam Waterston). Now, after 40 years of being married, the two boys come out and get married themselves.  All are in their seventies  on the show and in their late seventies and eighties in real life. Each of the last four series has had 13 episodes. That’s some amount of work, lads. Some amount of work. It’s not the first time that Fonda and Tomlin have worked together – remember 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton?

The brainchild of Martha Kaufman, co-creator of Friends, Grace and Frankie addresses all sorts of social issues in a funny (often hilarious) and empathetic way. From ageism to adoption, From drug addiction, to dementia. From gay rights to gun rights. It focuses, too, on the septuagenarian world and what it feels like to be invisible. Each episode brings wit and wisdom to play and gives an insight into life and how we deal with it. Supposedly shot in La Jolla, San Diego (if you’re to believe the cast), it’s actually shot in Malibu, but that’s neither here nor there.

A stellar list of guest appearances includes four-time Oscar nominee Marsha Mason,  Craig T. Nelson (of Coach fame), the delectable Sam Elliott, Peter Gallaghar, and Friend, Lisa Kudrow. The theme song is Stuck in the Middle with you but the closing tune changes every week and were all 52 put together, they’d make a fab playlist for a old rockers party.

What I like most about the show though, and I like it all, is that these seventy-somethings are sassy and in-your-face. And though their friends might be dying off around them, they’ve rallied and are taking on the world. It’s not glamorised – the aches and pains are peppered with senior moments.  But it is brutally honest in confronting how we expect our elderly to be. It has a thing or three to teach us.

It’s been an iffy week. But Grace and Frankie have helped immeasurably. Thanks ladies. I’m grateful to you.