It is a pretty good bet that Olive Riley, who will reach her 108th birthday in October, is the internet’s oldest blogger. She blogs, with the help of her good friend Mike Rubbo, at The Life of Riley from Down Under (do Australians call it that too? Or Oz?), usually in the form of a Q&A with Mike.
Last week, I watched a delightful, one-hour DVD titled All About Olive, produced by Mike, which follows Olive as she returns after many years to her home town of Broken Hill.
Along with vintage photos from her childhood, the stories Olive tells - about the mining accident that took her father’s arm, roller skating and punching a schoolmate in the nose – are recreated with contemporary residents of the town dressed in period clothes. It’s quite effective with Olive’s voice over.
As Mike notes in the video, the town of Broken Hill appears to have saved everything from their history and Olive revisits the horse-drawn ambulance from her youth, a pile of vintage skates and photos from her school days in the 1910s and ‘20s.
It isn’t all fun and games. Olive explains how she threw her husband out in the 1930s when she caught him with another woman, her best friend, and thereafter she was a single mother to her three children working as cook, a cleaning woman and, until she retired at age 78, a barmaid.
There is a touching scene in which Olive visits the grave of an older sister Emma (“The only one who ever loved me”) who died at age 17.
On the occasion of her 105th birthday, Olive hopes that her three children will attend the celebration and when one daughter does not show, Olive is at first hurt, then angry. “I don’t want anything more to do with her,” she barks.
It is Olive’s strong emotions and opinions that mark this film. Except for a brief few moments when she waltzes with a young man during her visit to Broken Hill, Olive gets around these days with a walker or in a wheelchair. She tires easily. But her mind is nimble, her memories are clear and her feelings are as strong as any young person’s.
This is something we must all remember about getting old. Our bodies may wear out but barring stroke or dementia, there is no reason we cannot live a vital life of the mind until our deaths. Olive is living proof.
This particular copy of All About Olive has been all around the world, mailed from one person to the next in many countries. Mike Rubbo is a cool guy and at my suggestion, he has allowed me to give away the DVD to a Time Goes By reader. So here is how it works: send me an email (ronniATronnibennettDOTcom) telling me you would like to own Olive's DVD and the person who sends the 15th email wins. You'll have to trust me - I'm the only judge - but I do know how to count.
One note - the disc may not play in all DVD players, but it runs perfectly on a laptop. And remember, it's an email, not a comment on the blog that wins the DVD. The winner will be announced tomorrow, Thursday.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jerry Waxler finds that persistent poking at old memories will bring up details you may have thought you had forgotten in Reach Far into Memory to Describe a Nerd.]