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Cinderellas, aged 10 to 108

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

Oliver Riley
© 2007 Mike Rubbo

Olive Riley ... 108 on October 20

Australia's Olive Riley is a 21st century centenarian Cinderella. In less than a year she has rocketed from relative obscurity to global internet fame. She is probably the oldest of the world's 108 million bloggers.

Dubbed "the world's favorite grandma," Olive celebrated her 108th birthday on October 20. Fond greetings came from many parts of the world, and have been posted on her captivating website.

Staff at her aged care hostel in Woy Woy, 50 miles north of Sydney, arranged a party in her honor. Her friend and helper, film maker Mike Rubbo, recruited a group of eight-year-old children (a century younger than Olive) to serenade her.

By an uncanny coincidence, in Redwood, California, the Historical Glass Museum Foundation held their second "Magic Show and Dinner" on Olive's birthday, although they probably have never heard of her. Where was it held? In CINDERELLA House, 324 W. OLIVE Avenue! Did they sip champagne from Cinderella's glass slipper?

On the same day, hundreds of Sydneysiders attended the annual Festival of the Olive at Rosehill.

In Auckland, New Zealand, Emma Forbes, a 10-year-old ballet student, was playing a young Cinderella in five performances by the touring Royal New Zealand Ballet. She told Eloise Gibson, of the New Zealand Herald, that her dance teacher had chosen her for the part because she was the right height for the costume. That probably included the shoes.

Over in the U.K.. producers of a Christmas pantomime in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, searched the town for an aspiring actress with a foot that fitted perfectly into their glass slipper, in the same way that the prince searched for Cinderella in the world's favorite nursery tale.

"A horse-drawn carriage, a glass slipper, a fresh-faced bellboy covered in buttons... the only thing missing is Cinderella!" reported the Grimsby Telegraph.

"As the search for the belle of the ball continues, Buttons ... scoured the streets of Grimsby for the lady whose dainty foot must be a perfect fit for the glass slipper during the official launch of this year's Grimsby Auditorium panto."

They finally chose a 15-year-old schoolgirl, Zoe Belding, who will play the leading role when the panto opens on December 7. And would you believe this? One of Cinderella's "ugly sisters" in the New Zealand production is named Zoe Bedford. Another weird coincidence.

Hold on!. It's not certain that there ever WAS a glass slipper. Some historians think that Cinderella's slipper was originally made of fur, which would have been more comfortable but less glamorous.

They believe that long ago, when a linguist translated the story , he mistakenly wrote the French word for glass (verre). instead of that for fur (vair) "This theory has been widely discredited now and most scholars believe he intended glass slippers all along," Karen Price reassures us, in an interesting story in Britain's Western Mail. "The earliest version of the Cinderella story is said to be from China – where a small foot was a sign of great beauty in a woman," Karen writes. "From those humble beginnings she has gained worldwide status – in France she is Cendrillon, in Italy Cenerentola, Germany Aschenbrödel, and Russia Zolushka."

Our birthday gift to Olive and her helper, Mike Rubbo, is to ask them to accept a prestigious Graypow Award, presented to some of the world's best senior citizen sites. They surely deserve it.


Story first posted November 2007

Copyright © 2007

Eric Shackle

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