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What lies beneath: Pauline Bewick's Old Friends


Old Friends, by Pauline Bewick

Old Friends, by Pauline Bewick

Old Friends, by Pauline Bewick

So. How's the ageing going? Yes, you. It happens you know. Your very own ageing process. Even if you're botoxed to your hairline, and you look all puffed up and smooth, time rolls on, and, perhaps, just like that diamond-lovin' girl, there comes a day when you can't straighten up when you bend.

It's obvious that a balanced diet, exercise, yoga, meditation blah, blah, blah keep you feeling young. Drinking sugary stuff, too much alcohol and smoking hardly help. But more of us are older now: in 1900, 1% of the world's population was over 65; by 2020, nearly 20pc will be.

And there's even a little test you can try at home which lets you know where you're at on the ageing stakes. Stand in comfortable clothes. Bare feet. Without touching anything, lower yourself to sitting position. Stand back up without using hands, knees, forearms or the sides of your legs. Do that and it's a ten out of ten. Subtract a point each time you need a hand or knee for support. If you fall over - well, the writing's on the wall and the message isn't good. But old age has its pluses. You're no longer on the make; you've arrived and the pace is no longer frenetic.

In Pauline Bewick's Old Friends, two women side by side in bed are very laid back. They're resting almost alfresco. One is reading, the other with cat on lap has pressed the snooze button. In front, an amaryllis blazes and stretching into the distance a wild Kerry landscape. A blackbird hovers overhead. If it's a bird of doom these chums are paying it no attention.

Novelist Hilma Wolitzer asks, "How did we get to be old ladies - my grandmother's job - when we were the long-legged girls? Pauline Bewick, artist, wife, mother, grandmother painted Old Friends in her 80th year, but Bewick is still, deep inside, that long-legged girl that walked barefoot to school through, as she says in her just published memoir 80, 'squishy mud and warm cow dung'. For Bewick, "A flow goes on in my life", and she certainly knows how to go with that flow.

'80', Arlen House, is now available. Pauline Bewick at the Taylor Galleries runs until 26 September.

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