We did Downton and it was delightful, dahlings

For anyone who needs a break from the endless, soul-crushing media frenzy about Justin Trudeau’s brownface debacle (and who doesn’t need a break from that!), I highly recommend going to see Downton Abbey, the movie. This high camp costume drama set in the mid-1920s is just what we needed to relieve the never-ending onslaught of nasty, boring pre-election press. My boomer gal pals and I planned well ahead of time to be there on the opening day of the movie on Friday, September 20th. We grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby Greek eatery, then caught the 1:00 p.m. showing.

We’re happy to report it was just as much fun as the television series. The theatre was full of women like us (retired boomers), with a couple of dutiful men sitting in the audience. A couple of the women in the audience were wearing fascinators, which is actually more of a 21st-century accessory thanks to the Duchess of Cambridge, rather than the mid-1920s. Tiaras would have much more appropriate, but we commend their good intentions and forgive their little anachronism. As any Downton fan already knows from all the previews, the Granthams were honoured with a visit by King George V and Queen Mary. That meant plenty of activity above and below stairs, including hauling Carson out of retirement to help out.

The plot was deliciously corny but the entire movie fed our appetites for escapism and fantasy so we weren’t disappointed. We loved every minute of it. Members of the royal entourage accompanying the king and queen were pushy, arrogant and insulting, so they needed some comeuppance by Mrs. Patmore and the rest of the Downton staff to bring them into line. The Downton staff under the unlikely leadership of Anna Bates (played by Joanne Froggatt) engaged in some downstairs espionage and covert skullduggery to ensure the Downton staff alone had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to personally serve the king and queen.

Mr. Barrow was caught in an embarrassing and at the time illegal indiscretion. A new relative, Lady Bagshaw (played by Carson/Jim Carter’s real-life wife, Imelda Staunton), was introduced as a cousin of the indomitable Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley. Lady Bagshaw as lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary (played by Geraldine James) added a new family secret to the Crawley family tree. Lady Mary ruled with her usual flawless, regal hauteur. The best and funniest lines were of course delivered by Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley with some humourous surprises from Mr. Mosley. The next generation of Crawley kidlets scampered about like proper little silent stage props in period costume, behaving in an appropriate upper-class manner. Tom Branson asserts his new status in the Grantham hierarchy and perhaps acquires a new love interest. Lady Mary confirms her current role as heir-apparent but is someone else secretly waiting in the wings to usurp her position? Will Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham ever figure out what’s going on in his complicated family?

Downton Abbey the movie was great fun. Seeing it play out on the big screen (certainly bigger than our big screens at home) made for a more inclusive viewing experience. Seeing the library, the dining room, the grand entrance hall and the grounds of Downton displayed on a giant screen gave us the opportunity to zero in on more of the wonderful details and decor of the home.  For those of us who will never be able to afford a personal visit to Highclere Castle, the real setting for Downton Abbey, it was a special treat. The costumes, particularly the dresses are obviously to die for. There must have been a massive run on sequins, tulle, tiaras, and silk to prepare for the royal visit.

Fans of Downton Abbey absolutely must see the movie. There was actually one member of our group who (shockingly!) had not watched the television series and now has a lot of on-demand catching-up to do. There were plenty of little plots and subplots to keep us engaged. Interestingly, many of the characters in the movie now have open-ended lead-ins for future stories. Will there be another movie? Another television series? Stay tuned dahlings.


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When you’re retired, every day is Saturday

Productivity is a relative term.

Type A personality types who must be constantly busy and productive must also be constantly exhausted. Or maybe I just wish that so I don’t feel guilty about not being as virtuous as they are. Much as I wish I could be like them, that’s not the way I was engineered. My mother had to register me in morning kindergarten so I could nap in the afternoons and unfortunately, the habit stuck. I still love to nap in the afternoons. It was inconvenient when I was working (!!) but now that I’m retired I am free to do—not entirely without guilt but it helps if no one else is home to make me feel like I should be doing something productive. I guess I’d describe myself as Type D-minus. Having nothing on my agenda and lots of time to devote to it is my idea of a perfect day.

Life wasn’t always a week of Saturdays which is why I appreciate retirement so much. During all those years of getting up in the dark, driving to work in the dark, driving home in the dark, preparing a meal, doing chores and never getting enough sleep I only dreamed of the schedule I enjoy today. Sometimes at work, I’d be so totally exhausted I’d feel like my head was going to thump down on my desk. It was everything I could do to keep my eyelids from slamming shut. Sleep deprivation is a common affliction among working people and we’re made to feel guilty if we aren’t giving our jobs one hundred and ten percent. I think millennials have turned their backs on that attitude, which is another topic for another day. It was different for boomers and even more so for our parents, The Greatest Generation.

Retirement has afforded me the time to be my own boss—a well-earned luxury and a privilege. Spending a day in my own home doing whatever I want is a complete and utter joy. Most of the time I don’t even put the radio on as the news or a talk show that focuses on political or social conflicts only spoils my tranquility. Daytime television is verboten unless I have a pile of ironing to do. Then, I set up the ironing board in the living room and iron while I watch one of my favourite PVR’d shows. I read voraciously; I compose my rants for Boomerbroadcast; I sit in the yard; go for a walk; putter about the house; generally I live my best life.

One of the most pleasurable uses of our time.

That’s not to say I’m anti-social or inactive. Not at all. Lunches with girlfriends are great fun. We now have the time and energy required for entertaining at home from time to time. Attending seminars on subjects of personal interest, visiting friends and indulging in hobbies are all part of retirement life. Even having the luxury of being able to go grocery shopping on a quiet Tuesday morning is an utter joy. There are always new sights in the city to see, new movies to check out or author readings to attend. Many boomers are dedicated volunteers, contributing generous, unpaid hours to various community services.

But there’s nothing quite as delicious as a day chez moi. Too many of those days would, of course, be sad but that’s not what we’re talking about. I’ve spent considerable time and a little bit of money getting my home to be a place of complete comfort and joy. My boomer gal pals have also created colourful, creatively decorated homes that they too enjoy and enjoy sharing with friends. We’re nesting and loving it.

Now that I’m in my 70s (Yeoww! That number still blows my mind), I’ve become philosophical about my time left. It could be 20 years, which will fly by far too quickly, or it could be 20 minutes. As we’ve watched some of our friends cope with illness and others pass away, we have a greater appreciation for the time we’re enjoying now. Every day is truly a gift, wherever and however I choose to spend it. And for that, I am truly grateful. How do you spend your days of eternal Saturdays?

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Triple feature: Movies for baby boomer audiences

The two months leading up to the annual Oscar ceremony in Hollywood is pretty much the only time of year movies are released that appeal to baby boomers. From December to mid-February there are actually some decent movies in theatres that don’t involve monsters, wall-to-wall violence, sci-fi, zombies or irreversible annihilation of the planet. I’ve recently viewed three movies up for awards that I think you might find interesting:

VICE: Christian Bale is a chameleon. His characterization of former Vice-President Dick Cheney is stunning and so different from the Irving Rosenfeld character he portrayed so well in American Hustleor is it really so different after all? If the current state of America politics doesn’t already make you feel sick, then this movie will put you over the top. Lies, corruption and self-serving politicians aren’t unique to the current administration; it goes back decades and this movie reminds us just how rotten and vulnerable the system truly is. Under George W. Bush, Cheney pulled the strings that manipulated not just a weak, naïve president but entire nations, costing untold lives in a wrong-headed war that benefited his private sector interests.

As a side note here, my friend Louise informed me this week that it was Christian Bale who played the young leading character “Jim” in the wonderful film Empire of the Sun in 1987. It was the story of a young British boy imprisoned by the Japanese in southeast Asia during the second world war. It’s worth checking out on your streaming service too.

GREEN BOOK: Baby boomers lived through the years of racial segregation, civil unrest and demands for equal rights that characterized the sixties in the United States. It’s not news but there’s so much more to be learned from this movie that throws light on current tensions and the ongoing struggle for change. During the 1950s a small green book was available for African Americans in the southern states that directed them to black-only accommodation, restaurants and other services that existed in a racially segregated country.

When black Jamaican-born concert pianist Don Shirley, otherwise known as Doc Shirley, a classical and jazz pianist played by Mahershala Ali is hired to play a series of concerts in the southern states, he hires tough New York bouncer Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen as his driver/bodyguard. The inevitable racial tensions and conflicts arise and remind us that racial intolerance runs deep in the south and continues to some degree even today. As in the movie The Help, I was reminded that these events took place within our lifetime, not that long ago. At the end of the movie, it was revealed that the story was based on real characters and events, which I wish I’d known at the beginning as it would have made the movie even more meaningful.

And, if you haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises about the Russian mafia in London, England, it’s a must-see on your streaming service. If you weren’t already a Viggo Mortensen fan, this one will definitely convert you. But it is a tad graphic.

Can You Ever Forgive Me: Seeing Melissa McCarthy in a dramatic role was part of the appeal of seeing this movie based on the true life story of writer Lee Israel. In her mid-fifties, Israel was a has-been best-selling author who once penned New York Times best-sellers on the lives of Talullah Bankhead and Dorothy Kilgallen. When her biography of Estée Lauder failed to sell she was a broke and unemployed alcoholic. Living with her sick cat in a decrepit apartment and several months behind in her rent, she’s desperate for money.

She accidently stumbles on a scheme to make money writing forged letters from famous people like Fanny Brice and Noël Coward. She discovers there’s a market for such documents and with the help of a similarly down-and-out gay friend John played superbly by Richard E. Grant, they deceive collectors to the tune of more than four hundred forgeries before they are brought down by the FBI. The movie is slow and depressing but I thoroughly enjoyed it. McCarthy was perfection in the role of Lee Israel and the sound track of bluesy music was wonderful accompaniment.

I’m confident you will enjoy any or all of these three movies. While none of them can be called uplifting, they are a must-see nonetheless. Chances are there will be nothing more for baby boomers to go see at the theatre until next December so grab ’em while you can. Or wait and view them on your streaming service if you can manage to enjoy a movie without a bucket of theatre popcorn and an over-priced pail of Diet Coke.

Perry was scandalized.

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Triple feature: Movies for baby boomer audiences
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BOOMERBROADcast is under renovation


If you encounter weird formatting and what appears to be complete chaos when you open BOOMERBROADcast, don’t be alarmed. It’s just this old boomer trying to improve her site. And it’s hard work when you’re technically challenged and learned to type on a high tech piece of equipment that looked like this:

I’m trying to jazz up the look of my site, make it more interactive and easier for you to purchase some of the great books I review. In the meantime, new content will still be open for viewing, even if it looks a bit weird. Ignore the mess and just scroll down.

Thanks for your patience.




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What’s the real price of economic progress?

It’s all so complicated . . . and expensive.

When I reviewed my recent ‘bundled’ telecom bill (for telephone, internet and Fibe TV) this week, the total nearly knocked me on my old lady ass. It was about the same as the mortgage payments on our first house in the seventies. How did this happen? I’ve tried unsuccessfully to cancel some channels only to reinstate them again because my honey needs three thousand sports and movie channels, the car channel and every news channel from the Outer Hebrides to Inner Mongolia. I’m no better with my HGTV, HBO, various History channels and BBC that I’m convinced I couldn’t live without.

That got me thinking about all the services that baby boomers did not grow up with that we cannot imagine surviving without today. Tally up what these luxuries add to our monthly budget expenditures and we get an understanding of why we always feel so broke. Here’s a sampling:

Once upon a time we were thrilled to be able to get Roy Rogers on Saturday mornings and Ed Sullivan on Sunday night.
  • I remember when a basic phone line cost $15.00 a month, plus long distance charges, which we were very careful to minimize by calling only on weekends and for short periods of time. We received three television stations through an antenna on the roof. Compare that with $350.00 a month today for hundreds of stations but we still have trouble finding something we like.
  • Speaking of phones, tally up what your family’s cell phones cost every month. Another $300.00? Or more? More importantly, we actually survived without cell phones not that long ago..
  • Mani-pedi’s are de rigueur for most women today to the tune of about $50.00 a month. Many of our mothers never even had a professional mani-pedi and back in the sixties and seventies we always did them ourselves. We also often coloured and cut our own hair to save money.
  • Modern washers and dryers are now capable of doing everything but our income taxes. Growing up, we reused wash water for several loads and hung clothes outside to dry. A clothes dryer alone is a huge energy-eater to the tune of another $60.00 per month and that’s if we schedule laundry for the middle of the night or weekends when hydro is cheapest.
  • Growing up in the 50s and 60s, families were privileged to own a car. Now, vehicles for every member of the family are lined up in driveways like a used car lot. Factor in the monthly payments for the vehicle, gas, maintenance and insurance and we’re looking at an additional $1,000.00 per month per car and many families have at least two cars.
  • Home security anyone? We never even locked our doors half the time when we were growing up and our family lived across the road from a high school. $50.00 per month?
Practice doesn’t always align with the plan.

These few items alone total about $2,000.00 per month ($24,000.00 per year in after tax income) and I haven’t even touched on our astronomical hydro bills, bank fees and interest charges on credit cards for merchandise we’ve ordered on line but really didn’t need and probably threw out a few weeks later. Then, there’s the cost of keeping up with the latest fashions, maintenance costs related to skin care, makeup and gym memberships. Nor have I discussed restaurant meals (which were rare for our parents’ generation), entertainment, overseas vacations or expensive hobbies like golf or skiing.

As teenagers, when our pocket money ran out, we were broke until next allowance day or payday at the drive-in burger joint where we worked on weekends. Now, parents shell out continually and without regard for limits. Seeing high school students with expensive designer purses, jeans or sneakers, leather jackets and even their own cars is mind-boggling for those who lived through the Depression.

It’s natural (or at least it used to be) that subsequent generations do better than those who went before. But there’s still a lot of fat that can be trimmed from our monthly budgets that would go a long way to ensuring a financially secure retirement. Just a few decades ago, the majority of young people did not go to university. That was a huge cost-saving but now a university education is considered essential. When I look at the shortages in skilled trades, service jobs and certain occupations, I question the validity of this but that’s another topic for another day.

Being able to afford a house requires discipline. There’s a lot of room for trimming the fat from monthly budgets to build up that down-payment. And your first home doesn’t have to include granite countertops and be located close to work. Certain accommodations and sacrifices must be made to get a foot in the market. On one hand I sympathize with the challenges faced by young people trying to get into the market, while at the same time I sometimes think their expectations are too high. It wasn’t easy for baby boomers when we bought our first place (especially when you consider that mortgage rates were upwards of 20 percent in the 70s), and just as hard for our parents. My parents sold their used car and went without a vehicle for a couple of years to help scrape together the down payment on their first house, and they already had two kids.

We’ve all grown fat and lazy on the improved standard of living for average North Americans. So many goods and services that were considered luxuries by our parents are now part of our everyday lexicon. In the midst of all this affluence, boomers are also trying to downsize. We’re hauling truckloads of valuable furniture, clothing and other possessions to charity stores and consignment shops. Have we become too smart too late? I’ve started turning off lights to save power, refraining from buying more clothing and shoes I don’t need and generally thinking twice instead of laying down that credit card for an impulse purchase.

It’s always been my belief that earned money is more meaningful than handouts. Spoiled children grow up to be entitled adults. There’s something surreal about swiping our so-called Smart phones or credit cards that has inured us to the real value of earned money. It’s like we’re playing with Monopoly money and sometimes we forget how hard the hard stuff is to come by. A quick stop at Starbucks could cost us the equivalent of fifteen minutes working in our employers’ cubicle. As the gap between the rich and poor widens, we’re going to have to become more aware of our spending habits and face the reality that we’re jeopardizing our future security. We could learn a lot by remembering how our parents (who lived through the Great Depression) handled money. Is the cashless society a good thing or a scam and a deceit that will be our ultimate downfall?

Pass the wine. I need to forget.

Our oceans are full of plastic waste; the polar ice cap is melting; certain species of wildlife are disappearing; thousands of hectares are being stripped of valuable trees and our natural resources won’t last forever. It sounds like a depressing prospect but it’s not too late to change our ways. I don’t envy the Gen Xer’s, Y’s and millennials who’ll be left to clean up the mess. I certainly don’t advocate abandoning technology but maybe there’s some justice in the standard of living pendulum swinging the other way for a few years. Let’s hope this old earth survives long enough to rejuvenate itself. Our standard of living may be better than it was for our parents but is life really better? What started with me questioning my telecom bill now has me reevaluating my entire life. Boy, do I need a glass of wine. Time to chill out.

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