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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 7 - From a Villa in Grey Lynn - Laugh and the world laughs with you.

Last summer, I nearly died, so this summer could only have been an improvement. Every day, as I swam under the smiling sun in the green, briny water in the little cove at Leigh, I felt a gratitude for life I had not known before.

I went back to town and swam with my crazy squad at the Olympic Pool, in chlorine, not salty brine. Most of us are retirees, clinging gamely to what we used to think was just fitness, but now has the added bonus of a scientifically identified phenomenon called connectivity, one of the new age tools in the longevity toolbox.

In our post-swim connectivity session, my friend Anne showed me an inspirational quote on the subject of gratitude. This was in between showing me photos of her new granddaughter, but still some, I’m pleased to say, of Coco, her cat. The quote went like this: “No amount of regret changes the past. No amount of anxiety changes the future. But any amount of gratitude changes the present.” It seems that not only can Google find a proven medical condition for any ailment, but it can also find an inspirational quote for any emotion, quoted it seems, by anyone with access to a computer and a degree of technological know-how.

I am still in the early stages of quote addiction and flick without conscious thought through flickering images on my phone before sleeping, while my water-damaged copy of "War and Peace" competes less and less successfully for my attention. Tolstoy has absolutely no appreciation for immediate gratification and seems to think we have nothing better to do all day than read books, which, truth be known, I probably don’t!

I watch Anne looking for her quote on gratitude and notice she photographs quotes with her phone just like I do. Hoards of them sit in my photo gallery amongst photos of reference numbers for airline bookings, 3-minute wall Pilates to change my life, places to visit, movies to see, and large blocks of 20 or so holiday snaps of exactly the same subject with a possible winner still to be decided and all competitors still present a decade later. Sometimes, to share the love, I send certain quotes to specific people based on their personality type. Some don’t acknowledge receipt at all (like me), some write a little note of thanks immediately, and some send the picture back with a little heart to indicate that they received it, liked it, and marveled at my skill in doing all of this with just a single emoji!

At Leigh, I have joined an ocean swim group of sun-kissed people who exude the joviality of older individuals who can still physically frolic. We swim around the choppy waters of Matheson’s Bay with orange floaties tied around our waists so that boats don't go over us and we can cling to them when discussing which direction we’ll go in next while out at sea. After our swim, we practice what we used to know as friendship, but the Listener gives this scientific name, connectivity. Old-fashioned pastimes like friendship and laughing are now subjects to be earnestly and endlessly scrutinized until their fun factor is firmly knocked out of them.

I read a quote on connectivity late last night when I should have been wrestling with War and Peace, which is enough to send anyone to sleep. It went like this: "I am not what I think I am; I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am."

So, in my new post-swim connectivity sessions at Leigh Eats, I think you will think I am an extreme vegan divorcee who brings her own oil, dairy, and egg-free muffin from home and laces her coffee with oil-free soya milk also brought from home in a small marmite jar with a yellow plastic lid. You will never know I was once a peanut slab, copper kettle chip munching, over alcohol imbibing good-time gal.

But we are always reinventing ourselves, like snakes shedding their skins, and it is good to have new friends witness and believe our unwitting transformations, because we are what we are at any time, like a leaf. We know we will always have those gnarly old friends and family who have known us most of our lives, who Tolstoy says are irresistibly drawn to criticize us. They will always retain the most inestimable value of all as the historians of our lives who, to be of any use, must be critical with a keen interest and, most of all, love their subject.

The Listener article goes on to identify perhaps the most important tool of all in the longevity toolbox: laughter. It scolds their faithful elderly readers for only laughing 15 times a day, while a child laughs 400! My sister Damaris, a prefect from birth, tries to do what she’s told. So, she is now trying to laugh more frequently with a high lilt at the end. While it is disconcerting to see a familiar old bird break into a new song, I think she is on to something.

I have never been a great laugher, but I am going to work at it so I may laugh in the choir of my friends, ships that pass in the night, or some that carry me with them from the dawn to dusk of this wonderful absurd life, which we must never take too seriously for, as Oscar Wilde said, it is much too important for that.

Much loved War and Peace

The 9am squad

Our quiet American

The Matheson's Bay Crew!

169 views4 comments


Feb 05

Ashleigh, dear friend, Your beautiful words are a salve to life's continuing bumps, scrapes and grazes that never seem to stop as we all careen through this perplexing journey. Thank you. Jan

Feb 05
Replying to

Dear Jana, thank you so much for your continued support. It is a lonely business trying to make sense of nonsense but it certainly helps me by writing about it and if there was no-one reading what i wrote I would feel very sad. Like making endless cakes that no-one eats but of course i can't bake or cook too well though I do try.


Feb 05

Ash, I loved reading this - thanks to Adie for forwarding it. I think there is a novel somewhere in there.

Feb 05
Replying to

Dera Clare, so glad you liked it. I always hope that people will like what I write and hope is such a fragile thing so beautifully described by Emily dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.

Much love ash

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