Ageing, Death, Missing Mojos and Coffee With a Stranger

Coffee with a stranger title of image of Prabs holding coffee, jeans and boots showing on the sand

A few weeks ago, I turned 500 years old. I was supposed to write my annual birthday post, just like I do every year. 

It’s usually served as a large slice of humour with a side portion of emotion (such as this 25 Birthday Lessons Learned one)…signature Ab Prab you could say). This birthday, my blog mojo had already disappeared into the wilderness when someone’s unexpected death further threatened to endanger its return. We weren’t close but I had known her for a few years, shared mutual friends, had kids in the same class and even shared the same birthday.

Suddenly the self-directed jokes I’d have made about ageing seem undignified.  Suddenly, listing the number of underwear items I’m having to throw out as they no longer fit my changing body (along with pictures…yes I was actually going to go there) felt crass when two people had just lost their mum.  Talking about my anxiety about that birthday leading me into the last year of my forties felt frivolous when this person’s last birthday led her into the last year of her life. End of.  Tragically, she died just days before our shared birthdays.

Luckily, last year’s birthday-related post 13 Important Things You Should Know About Growing Old: still holds true in so many ways. In fact, the ending was NEVER more true so do go read. I loved people’s responses to it including that of Madeline (which I’ll go into below).

Anyway, there were so many humorous things I intended to write about my birthday that now seem futile and inappropriate.

Birthday post duly scrapped.

Then I thought I’d write something for International Women’s Day (IWD)

If you wrote something positive and inspiring about this day, hats off to you. I’m not one for taking a good thing and peeing on  it (I’m generally more ‘why can’t the glass just be full instead of half full, never mind this half-empty business’) and admittedly it may just have been the mojo problem and general deflated feeling that coloured me negative. But at the risk of sounding disrespectful and ignorant, I just couldn’t find it in me to come up with anything!

Thing is, I find it rather depressing that we need something called International Women’s Day in the first place.

What should be unnecessary is still needed. S Hamady

Let’s take a quick peek at the background. In 1908 thousands of women marched through New York for the right to vote, receive decent pay and better working conditions. Three years later, IWD was officially born, the aim of which was to achieve full equality for women. Yes we’ve come incredibly far since then but I think those female protestors would be shocked to learn that not only does a woeful disparity still exist in 2017, it will continue to do so until 2186 according to the World Economic Forum. Think about that…women still cannot expect to be seen as mens’ equals for a further 169  years!

I know many people will argue that this is why IWD is so important

that the very existence of days such as this brings awareness to issues that need resolving and that if we all just threw our hands up in despair and defeat, we’d never get anywhere.

But I have questions.

How do you resolve the biggest gender inequality issue of them all? Which is…the inherent hard wired attitudes of millions of men… How is there any hope for our daughters (and in fact our sons) when they are growing up with unfathomable injustice such as a pussy-grabbing misogynist being elected as the head of one of the biggest democracies? What example has this set to all the small-minded men who already exist?

It’s not just men disrespecting women. How can women be taken seriously when they don’t seem to take themselves seriously? Women voted for this poor excuse for a human being. It’s like a sick joke.

Femałes before them stood up against oppressive men and won the right to vote…a right which has then been used to vote for an oppressive man!

Is there any hope for women when men such as Chad Evans walk free from a rape charge despite damning evidence showing they were guilty?  Do the countless men who get away with sexual assault every year celebrate IWD?

International Womens’ Day Post scrapped.

So I was floundering thinking where on earth do I go with this post

Maybe (hopefully!) you recognise that feeling: you’re struggling to write and you need to get something out because frankly you’re annoying yourself. The pressure to make the words flow but you’re coming up empty.

Then it – well actually they – happened….a series of moments that were so apt and cheesy as it sounds, a bit destined.

First, one of those Facebook memories popped up in my feed

a fave photo of mine from 2011. I looked at it and felt a bit depressed because clearly six years later, I don’t look like that anymore. Then I remembered that even when that photo was taken, I felt the same way, ie depressed about looking so much older than x amount of years before. In other words, it seems I’ve viewed the ageing process negatively for literally years and I realise now that the following motto is so appropriate and I need to learn from it:

Quote about appreciating one's age for coffee with a stranger post

It puts me in mind of a quote that Madeline, of This Glorious LifeThis Glorious Life, shared in response to that post I mentioned earlier:

Growing old is a privilege denied to many


Secondly, I was blogging a few days after that in a cafe. 

What should I see adorned on the wall, when I went to pay for my bill? This! Translation: Life is too short to eat and drink badly.  I swear it’s a sign. Well alright, yes it literally is a sign but I mean…the timing just after my friend had died and I’d been obsessing about turning another year older!

quote about life being too short to eat and drink badly, for coffee with a stranger article


The third thing happened when Dreamy D was off school due to illness.

I spent one very frustrating grey windy wet Tuesday trying to find a doctor as our usual one is on maternity leave, taking D to one who was so ineffective that my son even said ‘that doctor didn’t help me at all’. We then had the joy of being sent on a one hour runaround to the wrong clinic with the added bonus of getting caught in hail stones.

After a thoroughly useless morning, it was a choice between going back to the doctor to ask what the effing hell I had paid money for (and to strangle her with my bare hands) or cutting my losses and finding a cafe and having some quality time with my boy. It’s horrid when your kids aren’t well but on the plus side, if you have more than one, sick days mean you get one on one time with the one child!

So I grabbed the last parking space in Sliema, reversed into it about 200 times, (stop laughing, I have a long car and Maltese parking spaces are crazy small) and finally, almost three years after it opened, went to Cafe BerryCafe Berry!  Just to quickly describe Cafe Berry, it is literally a hole in the wall. TINY. The most wonderful ‘oh my gosh this is actually smaller than my old Paris apartment’ small. Try-and-turn-around-and-you’ll-bump-into-yourself’ small. (Ironically, the bathroom is bigger than the seating area…go figure.) Coffee, beverages and food made from healthy ingredients and super friendly staff (who are Italian so listening to their banter is heaven)…what’s not to like?

Then In She Walked…the Stranger.

An elderly British lady, visiting Malta on her own.  After ordering her coffee etc she went  outside to wait for her order (the cafe is that tiny, it’s not practical to stay inside when there are other customers). As she seemed in her 70’s, it didn’t feel right seeing her waiting uncomfortably in the wind on the pavement so I asked if she wanted to come inside and sit near D and me and we budged up to make room. After her intial question ‘do you speak English?’ 🙂 we got chatting.  About all sorts: where to go in Malta for cheap eats, sights (guess she can strike the Azure Window off her list), my son’s interests, his relationship with his siblings, her own family history and so on. Then we got onto Brexit. I’m not going to embark on a huge tirade or analysis. Suffice to say, I mentioned how certain media had acted with no conscience whipping up a s**t storm around one central topic, knowing it would appeal to the ignorant and easily manipulated members of the general public.

I tried to get her response down as soon as she left so that I didn’t forget it:

Don’t let Brexit make you look at people differently or change your view of the world…there’s a lot of good out there you know. I’ve done a lot of travelling and everywhere I go, I meet lovely people. People are fundamentally GOOD. I really think deep down everyone is the same. We all want the same things: love, good health, family, money for food (you don’t need luxuries), a roof over our head and we want the best for our kids. All this “my religion vs your religion” talk…they’re all the same anyway! None of it matters. Just don’t let the world break your spirit.

Then she turned to my son and said ‘tell your mum it’s all going to be alright…she’s a good woman your mum’.

And with that she was gone.

I didn’t catch her name.

But when I’m in my 70’s, I want to be like her.

the words of a wise woman for the coffee with a stranger article


In Memory of Elsebeth



5 Comments on Ageing, Death, Missing Mojos and Coffee With a Stranger

  1. Heather Keet
    April 24, 2017 at 7:08 pm (1 year ago)

    I love chatting with strangers! #CandidCuddles

  2. Mackenzie Glanville
    April 25, 2017 at 3:29 am (1 year ago)

    I have been struggling in many ways to write for a while. I will never understand why women or anyone voted that man in! One of my finds who I went through university with moved to America over ten years ago now and she voted for him, it baffled me, I was so sad when he won, I wrote a very passionate post about that but it was for another blog. It is true what you say in reflection of your friend passing we are lucky to be alive and should enjoy this age as we will never be this young again. Happy Birthday xx #candidcuddles

    • prabs
      April 25, 2017 at 1:40 pm (1 year ago)

      Oh we know people who voted for him too! Breaks my heart, the sheer madness of it. Thanks for reading.

  3. Helena
    April 28, 2017 at 8:28 pm (1 year ago)

    What a thought provoking post you have here. It’s disgusting that we are still not seen as equals or even the empowered ones for we are the ones who give birth.#CandidCuddles

    • prabs
      April 28, 2017 at 10:19 pm (1 year ago)

      Such a good point Helena


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