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AofA Interview: Tricia Cusden – Creator of ‘Look Fabulous Forever’

6 Minute Read

Tricia Cusden is a beauty 'vlogger' and creator of 'Look Fabulous Forever', a global cosmetics brand for the over 50s:

'At LFF we are not just a beauty brand we are a movement. A movement to celebrate mature beauty, to challenge perceptions and to embrace the benefits of ageing.' - Tricia Cusden
Advantages of Age interviewed her about her decision to provide makeup for older women based on her own 'dire experience of finding it very hard to source makeup which suited my older face'.

Can we really look fabulous forever?

Yes, we can! Looking fabulous is about caring for your appearance and staying engaged with beauty and fashion but on your own terms. It’s also about creating a confident style so that you feel good about yourself.

How does it feel to be a successful beauty vlogger in your 70s?

It feels absolutely wonderful. The best bit of my weekly blog posts is reading the comments underneath and the ‘conversation’ element that this stimulates. I also enjoy making the videos because I know how much our ‘viewers’ love them and learn from them about latest makeup techniques.

Does your makeup philosophy help mature women feel better about themselves?

Absolutely! That is the whole point of LFF. We are upbeat, positive and we celebrate the beauty in older faces. Everything we do and say and all our images are intended to say ‘you matter too!’

Do you feel you've transformed your life with the 'correct' use of makeup and is it your mission to transform the lives of other olders?

The daily transformation that makeup effects to my face, especially now I am 70, greatly enhances my confidence and ability to 'face the day.' We get a lot of feedback from our customers that their LFF makeup is helping them to feel much better about their ageing face. My mission is to confront (and hopefully change) the profound ageism of our society.

Do you feel there is a place for just wearing no makeup at all?

Of course, there is! If an older woman has no desire to wear makeup who am I to say otherwise? It's not my personal choice, but it's a free country!

Could we even consider that women wearing makeup is sexist - ie we are conforming to how men want us to look. Or are we wearing makeup to please ourselves?

This is the old feminist argument that makeup is a construct of a patriarchal system! Sorry, but I wear makeup because I like to look good to please myself. There is absolutely no way that my choice to wear makeup is influenced by the desire to please or attract a man - nor has it at any time in my life. I also feel that the pressure on older women to 'tone it down' (i.e. wear less or no makeup) is deeply ageist as self-adornment is only for the young and beautiful.

What do you think about the beauty industries current efforts to find a substitute for the words anti-ageing?

I consider it lip-service without any real evidence that the beauty industry is actually becoming less ageist. Dior has just announced that Cara Delevigne (24) as their 'face of anti-ageing.' What a joke!

What inspired you to address the way older women were using makeup and the products available?

My own dire experience of finding it very hard to source makeup which suited my older face. I also disliked the ‘anti-ageing’ rhetoric of the beauty industry. I just kept thinking ‘I could do better than this!’ and LFF was born.

Does 'mature' makeup have to promote dignity and ageing gracefully? What about individuality, originality and wanting to stand out?

There is nothing about ‘mature makeup’ which precludes individuality, originality or wanting to stand out! Making up a face (of whatever age) is a creative process - so if you want to have more dramatic eye makeup or a really vibrant lippie we’d say ‘go for it!’

Is there such a thing as 'age-appropriate' lipstick shades?

No - the main thing is to choose whether you are warm or cool toned colour. If you are warm toned you will suit colours like nude, caramel, coral and brownish pinks. If you are cool toned the best choice is for pinks, plums and cool blue reds.

Are false eyelashes out of bounds for older women?

Not necessarily as long as they are the lighter weight ones. Mary Berry sears false eyelashes on Bake-Off and looks great but they are quite natural looking.

How can we avoid the 'Bette Davis/Baby Jane' look - and do we even need to?

By applying the makeup carefully, blending well and using brushes to perfect the finished effect. No garish eye makeup, spiky eyelashes or lipstick applied over the natural lipline!

What is unique about your age-related products?

Every single one of them has been formulated to suit an older face. For instance, older skin is quite absorbent and less smooth than a younger face. This means that makeup tends to disappear fast and look less smooth. Our Face Prime, foundation, concealer, blusher and highlighter all work together and once applied will stay looking that way until bedtime.

What is the difference between younger and older makeup styles?

Most older women prefer to look naturally enhanced rather than heavily made up. For instance, there is a current fashion for heavy brow treatments on younger faces. This would look quite scary on an older face - so we suggest a more natural effect

Choose just one product you feel is ideal for older faces and explain why.

A Face Prime. Most older women don’t know how brilliant face primers are. they are applied on top of moisturiser and under foundation and are wonderful at create a lovely smooth surface and ‘holding’ the makeup in place for hours. Our Smooth Like Silk Face Prime is a top seller for us for good reason.

What do you think about plastic surgery or botox?

Personally, I'd never let anyone near my face with a needle or a scalpel. I also think that women who have work tend to look 'weird' rather than younger. But I'd also never condemn anyone for making that choice - again it's a free country!

Are you involved in the composition of your products?

Not really. That is not my area of expertise. I leave formulations to the experts and then we test the results. Once we are happy that they work in the way that we want them to work, we add the products to our range.

Do you use animal testing on your products?

No animal testing on any products or ingredients. We have Leaping Bunny accreditation.

How much time do you spend a week on this and how did you finance it?

I used £40,000 of my own savings to launch LFF and have since managed to attract investment (initially from family) as needed. Our business has never borrowed money nor does it have any debt. I work full time. Our business is open 24/7 and 365 days a year, and although I now have a great team I am still needed for various things every day and often spend time at the weekend responding to FB comments and the hundreds of comments we get on the blog which goes out at 8.00 am every Sunday. But I love it all so it doesn't feel like work.

How to Break Unhealthy Relationship Patterns and Find Love

1 Minute Read

Are you always attracted to unavailable men or women, to commitment-phobes, people living on different continents or to those already attached to someone else? Do you struggle to find emotionally healthy people attractive and run in the opposite direction as soon as a decent prospect wants to get serious?

In short, are you tired of repeating the same mistakes in your romantic relationships and getting the same results? If so, there’s no time like the present to change.

Dating for me used to be like banging my head against a brick wall. Why did I keep falling for commitment-phobes or unavailable types? Why couldn’t I fancy the good guys who were into me? And where have all the eligible men gone anyway?

I spent many a Valentine’s Day single, staying home to avoid all the red hearts or arranging a night out with my female friends. I had a good life and was content in many ways but I wanted to be in love. I thought things would never change.

But they have. I’ll be spending this Valentine’s Day with my partner, to whom I’m engaged. More importantly, I feel settled, confident I’m with the man I want to spend the rest of my days with and certain that there’s enough love between us to cope with whatever comes our way.

For an indecisive, restless soul who always thought there was someone better out there and who couldn’t stop looking over her boyfriend’s shoulder for the next guy, my newfound peace is nothing short of a miracle.

So how did I change my unhealthy relationship patterns and find love?

I first had to understand where I was going wrong. For years, I blamed the men I met for being emotionally distant or scared of commitment. What was wrong with them? Eventually, I discovered there was something wrong with me.

I was drawn to unavailable types because I was emotionally unavailable myself. I fancied commitment-phobes because I was terrified of commitment. Dating someone who wasn’t willing or able to give me love made it easy for me. It meant I could avoid getting into a true, intimate relationship with a man, and therefore avoid getting hurt, which was what I was scared of the most.

After years of personal development work and lots of therapy, I understood that my first relationship with a man, my dad, had set me up for a lifetime of self-sabotage. When my father sat my eight-year-old self on his knee and told me he was moving out of our family home, my heart cracked. The experience hurt so much that I resolved never to repeat it. I would never open my heart again. I would never get that close to a man.

I took something else away from that painful experience – the idea that I wasn’t lovable, valuable or good enough. This is what we do as children. We assume everything is our fault. We assume there’s something wrong with us.

My decision to avoid pain at all costs and that core belief that I wasn’t enough formed the basis for my future relationships. Unavailable types were safe to date. Available men who were up for commitment were dangerous so I ran away from them. And I didn’t believe I deserved love so I accepted crumbs and allowed others to treat me badly.

To change those patterns, I had to change how I related to myself.

I had to connect with the painful feelings from my childhood that I’d run away from for years or numbed with excess food (I had an eating disorder for several decades). That meant learning to slow down, sit still and allow the hurt to surface. I thought the feelings would kill me if I let myself feel them. But they didn’t. I’m still here. By feeling the pain, I could begin to heal it.

I had to learn to love, accept and respect myself wholeheartedly, to believe that I was enough and that I deserved a healthy and loving relationship with a man who could love me back.

I had to learn to trust that I could cope if I loved deeply but then lost someone again, to realise that I was a resilient adult now, not a vulnerable child.

I had to truly understand the root of my unhealthy patterns and talk about them with others who had similar experiences.

And I had to dig deep and find the courage to change those patterns.

I helped myself by building up a support network around me and by setting healthy and loving boundaries for myself whenever I went on a date. So I would try to avoid alcohol, which clouded my faculties and got me into scrapes with unavailable types. I would try to keep first dates short so I wouldn’t be tempted to end up in a man’s arms before I even knew anything about him. And I would try to move forwards at a steady pace, always alert to my history of self-sabotage, always questioning whether this relationship was good for me or whether I was repeating the same mistakes.

I say try because I messed up so many times. I am a human being after all. But every time I did, my awareness grew. Gradually, I began to date more mindfully. I began to choose who I spent time with rather than letting myself be chosen. And I began to give myself love and care so that I didn’t crave another’s love so badly. Cravings had always got me into trouble.

Awareness was the key to my transformation and I believe it’s the key for all of us. Awareness opens the door to change. By identifying and owning our patterns and by understanding why we cause ourselves pain, accept less than we deserve and run away from happiness, we can recover and heal.

That is my wish for you this Valentine’s.

AofA People: Kath Best – Singer, Songwriter, Artist

12 Minute Read

Kath Best is the sort of jazz singer who sends quivers through your body. She's also wildly eclectic. Here she answers our Q & A in the most fulsome manner so far...


Kaski (Kath Best)




Actor. I try to do what needs doing. Writing songs. Designing trumpet parts. Putting costumes together and renovating flamenco dresses. Feeding back. I like to function in collaboration. It’s a tribal thing that is easily evaded by default but essential to healthy incentivised existence. In general, left to my own devices, I do what can’t be put off to another day which is why I thrive well when deadlines and travel force an element of drive.


In the present. In space. In a cave. In the City. Under the stars in a field. Dwelling - on the past. On choices about the future. Off the state in order to be available for what’s important. Cooking with Children in Adventure Playgrounds and being there for loved ones. In rehearsal. Where ever I am in observation of myself and others. Viewing the parallel universe.


The seeds of experience begin to bloom and reflections bring a deeper self recognition. It’s a relief to arrive at any age. Change is inevitable and can’t always be accelerated to reflect youthful buoyancy. A slower pace has its merits. Frustration and expectation go hand in hand to create conflict at times but the necessity to create an illusion diminishes as this and other quirks of wisdom become nuggets of acceptance – enlightenment even. But I don’t think this comes only with age – I just have more time to notice as I am less compelled for the sake of being engaged.

As ‘bouncing back’ becomes less immediate and the need to create an identity is abandoned, I begin knowing who I am and find reassurance in that. Age is proof of life and like bread and remedies,can only be evidential in conjunction with time. One of my songs describes time as a “heavy thing – brought forward for so long…” It’s about understanding the idea that each of us ages through the process of something beyond our own life span.


I have a Son. I have time. I have grief and joy. I have an eight-hob range and a washing machine. I have silver highlights and skin that goes brown in the sun instead of pink. I have perspective relative toage - though I don’t think either relies on the other altogether.

At 25 it is easy to be caught up in things about life that occupy a space to the exclusion, or even oppression, of wisdom and truth. Money is one preoccupation that I have sometimes given up on; nice but it doesn’t rule my world and I try not to allow the lack of it to diminish my chances of survival. I had more then than now and I  was also in better position to barter my life as a sexual being – not that I was aware of that then.

Now I’ve got “Ain’t Got No – I’ve Got Life” playing in my head – and memories of Nina Simone at Ronnie Scott’s on my 25 th – or was it my 24 th ? That’s another thing I have now – flexibility around detail. Then I had an inherent desire to conform but was always driven by expressing myself artistically. Having spent my youth creating in performance and expecting to be accepted with no training and little aptitude for business into an industry just for who I was. I guess that 25 was the point when I realised that training to reach ones potential was an essential part of development. Now I have that I do have a better understanding of how discipline allows this age thing to take me into the unknown with more confidence.


It can be compelling and taboo at the same time so it’s a bit of a tightrope journey. The adventure of sex as sexual maturity unfolds, reveals in equal measure the importance of shared experience andindependence. Sexual maturity is highly regarded and really amazing but like pregnancy it is rarely talked about. Like a flower!!! It’s blooming marvellous - if you can get it right. There is a seasonal rhythm to it and the underworld of attraction runs deep. Finding the right sexual partners is not always easy.


Humans seem to morph themselves to fit in with expectations that spill into our subconscious lives from the media and social political climbs, so I’ve had to dig deeper to get a meaningful understanding about what really counts and to bring that understanding in from  others. It’s always been a bit of a hit and miss affair for me. Now that we as a society, judge the practice and culture in relationship values across the globe, I can’t help feeling that ‘we’ are still finding a new balance. Having broadly questioned the values of monogamy and accepted that choice and freedom to change are fundamental human rights, we have to re-evaluate how far along the road of finding the perfect balance we can ever be.

Driven by forces beyond their own essential value, relationships struggle to survive. For my part relationships have been muddled by expectation and growing up during a sexual revolution. I find thatrelationships that go before are carried forward. I maintain a relationship with my son's Father. It carries a cost and has it’s perks. But that relationship is not always viewed favourably by other men and, more importantly, not always been ideal for me as the visa versa kicks in. Yet, after a certain point, I’m not sure I consider this to have been a matter of choice – people bond and one becomes an article of possession on an ethereal note – for having shared experience and practical issues play their part in solidification. But the weighing up of pros and cons negates the fact of ‘what is’ being what is and ‘what’s not’, simply not existing.

Perhaps if our own feelings about relationships were separated from the relationships themselves then the latter could exist more freely for what they just are without the pressure of impending change, emotional highjack or pre-contextualised expectation. That’s my hope and the treasure of my experience. Love lost is never gone. It continues to reside as the invisible glue that holds all of life together.

I have to believe that as my legacy unfolds.


Physical and financial limitations bind us and I’m sure my perception of how others feel or might feel as a result, inform the choices I make as much, or more, than my own feelings and desires. But money buys freedom - it’s hard to join in or take off without it. I have to keep life as simple as it can be in order to feel free. Total freedom is the benchmark.

“Jump on In, Ah ripple and stream, Just to taste! Was this place, we were living in a dream, Or just a phase? Pluck Pluck Pluck it up, Be ‘eard in a wide sense, by those inner ears for a, A spell to, Break out in – BREAK OUT”. (Missing Words 2005)

I never feel completely free from my experienced self. Teetering on the precipice of engagement for fear of entrapment only to realise that I am already ensnared so doing. But the freedom creativity in art affords, seems almost infinite at times and safer - for those around me too – although the edges get blurred by the process as it merges with a less conscious and sometimes foreboding spillage of ‘ideas’.

Then integrity and choices come to challenge the real sprit of Art as it gets caught up in the confines of fashion and sex appeal and I am compelled to engineer and design a perspective for how it might be received; making it accessible or hiding it between layers of alternative interpretation. It seems that ideas are free and I capture them and cook them into something palatable. I have avoided many trappings but not all and so exposing this dichotomy seems good way to keep it transparent. I am free to do this – in art but not in relationships or other walks. In art one can be playful without risking offence.


I am proud of knowing anything that cannot be put into words. I am proud of not being proud. I am proud of being. I am proud of work that has stood the test of time and of the patience I have in not needing to understand my own work immediately or to create anything so deliberately that it stops being what it would want to be.

I am proud of hiding beneath the weight of despair and being quiet until the rise and fall of life fill the space around me from within. I am proud of baring my soul against the wind and letting go oF invention.


Nature. Doing what is required. Being a spring. Giving in to insightful ideas. Eating fresh seasonal produce that hasn’t been de-energised by the trauma of production. Circles of light. Sleep. Yoga. Boredom. The mission of collaborative creativity. The slightest thing. The enormity of space. The power of sound. The vibrancy of all things.


In transit. In the village. At the heart of a journey. Unveiling a song. Arranging parts. With my Son at home. Cooking. Passing the time endlessly with a friend. Bathing in shallow waters under the sun. Going somewhere new. Embracing change.


My creativity goes with me wherever I am but it goes beyond that too. I think it belongs everywhere. I am not always in touch. Being in action has creative potential. My song “Effect on Everyone” seems to be about destruction - it is about the creation of negativity. Where as another song “Driving”, had it’s first audience as a couple of bible bashers came through the gate just as it was finished one early morning after. The last line of the song “Praying’s just another way of saying…. Visualisation!” was the only part that visibly resonated with them and because of that the whole vibe of the song was transformed. Controversy immediately contextualised as it resonated to highlight something about their creativity - of doom.

I then realised that it had the potential for blasting through my own negativity as well. So it became a feel good rock and roll number instead of a third rate musical representation of a movie playing in my head with a hangover - not because I changed it in any way - it just gained a dynamic through its own essential communication.

Where does it go now? Do I need to know? It could be a movie or a painting or series of photographs. I guess it’s like the wind. Once it’s passed through us it’s out there and exposure can make or break it. But it can’t help reflecting in some way at some point. Not always yet.

The moment of release can be chosen or left to chance. Once exposed it is transformed as it travels on and who knows where it goes after that.


If you think of something, it is the right time to act on it. Waiting twenty minutes will separate good ideas from compulsion. If you wouldn’t eat it don’t put it on your skin and visa versa. Any boringtask should take no more than 15 minutes – if it’s still boring after that it isn’t worth it. Rhythm is the route to a free mind. Money is a means to an end. If it feels right then it is - Just get on with it. Sleep is good for you.


Dying seems natural and, as long as it is, I think it’s fine. It’s hard to accept responsibility for it. There’s no escaping it but it often feels tragic. I try to age gracefully and understand the process of death as a gradual letting go. The more you give the more transparent you become and perhaps that allows a greater connection to begin. “Ids” is a song about war and the layers of sediment left in its wake.


The art of Dreaming is one I haven’t mastered – at least I guess that can’t be true. But it’s only in the last five years I even began to dream consciously – deliberately – we are talking about waking dreams, right? But yeah! Not so much – I’m still recovering from recently shattered dreams. They seemed to affect everything. The connectivity in dreams is almost more powerful than action. Art is a great dream catcher for me as, when dreams aspire to make reality and collaborative means feel precarious, hope flounders in the dream space. “You can say I’m dreaming! Well, what is life, Without a dream? Don’t ask me how I’m feeling, Or I might lie, For now, it seems, That all my dreams, Rode in so fast. And the rose I held for you, Has come off.” Chorus from Iceberg In Bloom, 2014.


Inventing Magnesium Socks. Winning three consecutive rounds of Twizzle at Chalford Mens Night and whipping one of them several times in the lap department with a wet tea towel after a speedy mop up of the hot drink he’d spilled. Buying traffic light green mohair yarn and knitting fishnet stockings with it. Doing yoga at the Life Centre in a halter neck dress. Accepting an invitation into the fishmongers’ back room for a smoked salmon roll. That’s a few contenders – outrageous is a judgement so it might be none of these.

You decide.

Is Monogamy a Monotony?

1 Minute Read

Is a long marriage a drag? Is sex within that marriage inevitably going to become stale and insipid after a few decades? Will you get to know each other so well that nothing is ever surprising anymore? Ever a real turn on?

And more to the point did I ask myself these questions when I met the man I went on to marry when I was just eighteen years old? No, of course not. But now, years later and planning our silver wedding anniversary I find myself pondering on thirty years of monogamy (yep, I was faithful from the day we met) and what it’s meant and still means to me.

When we married I knew I only wanted him. He was the love of my life but damn, I was so young, we were so young to make the commitment of forever.

But divorce was always an option, wasn’t it?

No. I never looked at it like that, I’m not so sure about him, but he’s still here, at my side, so that says something.

Of course there have been other men over the years whose physique and personalities have harnessed my attention. And I’m pretty sure they had a twinkle in their eye for me, but I’ve never dreamed of doing anything about it. I clicked on my not interested vibe to deter them because I was happy with my guy—more than happy, he made me feel safe and secure and loved in every aspect of life.

Every aspect I hear you ask? Even in the bedroom after all that time, only him…ever?

Like well-choreographed dancers we perfected our routine over the years. I don’t think either of us really thought about only ever having sex with each other (though of course there are no crystal balls predicting the future here) but that’s the way it’s turned out. I know we said those commitment vows, forsake all others, in front of God, family and friends, and meant what we said, but the reality is… so damn real.

Several years ago, after completing a creative writing course at Cardiff University, I had a career change and became a published author of erotic romance. He loves this new side to my life much more than I expected him to. He doesn’t read much of my work, he’s more of a thriller/war/history type of bloke, but that doesn’t mean he won’t help with a bit of research when it comes to my latest novel.

We’ve always been close, in tune, (though as with any marriage our closeness has ebbed and flowed like a gentle tide depending on what else has been going on in our lives) but my new career definitely brought us together with a new intensity. In my twenties I wouldn’t have had the confidence to discuss BDSM with him in any detail (or with any knowledge), now those cards are on the table. I find myself saying and doing what I want without the inhibitions of my younger years. It swings both ways and with me being more open, so is he.

I like to think we’re still in pretty good shape (he does triathlons and I horse ride most days) and still desire each other physically. But what I couldn’t have predicted is that now, in our forties, it’s our minds that are the biggest turn on and my writing has definitely enhanced that. It doesn’t have to be mega kinky stuff that thrills us, or unpredictability, it’s unity, history and a future. It’s the confidence in knowing that whatever is said, whatever happens, will be received respectfully and with understanding. Did I mention we laugh, a lot.

My sex record would have been very different if I’d met him ten years later. I’d likely have a bedpost full of notches and a string of wild stories. As it happens, there’s just one notch, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my fair share of wild stories. A few weeks ago we went past a London restaurant and he said ‘I took you there on our fourth date’. I remembered it, the food had been lovely, what I’d forgotten was what he said next, ‘you told me in the middle of the main course that you weren’t wearing knickers’. I laughed as the memory flooded back. That’s our history together and we keep on making memories.

I believe marriage is like a beautiful high-walled garden—old bricks, tumbling ivy, some manicured sections around a gentle fountain and a lawn with a bench, an ancient oak tree for shelter—and only the couple have the key to enter this garden. Within those walls what happens is secret and sacred. It’s a place for celebration and love, comfort and support. It’s also a safe environment to be vulnerable, to grow and nurture one another’s sexuality whether it’s your wedding night, or the eve of your silver, golden, ruby or diamond anniversary. Contented couples have one thing in common, and that’s the ability to never stop learning about what makes their spouse happy, whatever adventure they’re undertaking, in or out of the bedroom.

Sweeter Memories

2 Minute Read

One of the greatest pleasures of age has to do with context and perspective. And memories.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people, places and things that hold special meaning to those of us with a bit of mileage on our meters.

A simple drive can provoke memories of a special anniversary in a particular restaurant, or the wonderful summer afternoon with a then-small child in a park. An otherwise un-noteworthy book on a shelf might bring to mind the giver of the gift, and the relationship it represents. A crunchy bite into a crisp apple provides a flash back to youthful tree climbing. And those songs – the ones that suddenly appear on the radio – bring you back to a first kiss, a wedding dance or even the bittersweet longing for a love long gone.

Age can bring physical challenges and employment anxiety. It can make one feel disconnected from current culture, and can enlarge a nagging feeling of creeping invisibility.

But age can sweeten as well. A glance into a lover’s eyes can trigger an encyclopedic spin of moments that race past like a photo album dervish – embraces, apologies, laughs, private encouragements and angers forgiven. Age allows a special kind of gratitude to emerge - one that can only come from the knowledge that another has chosen to share your path for many years. Young lovers may revel in their physicality and a shared sense of purpose. But age gives longtime lovers the gift of a deep, visceral satisfaction that is bone deep.

With age comes substance. Life is infused with a kind of emotional heft. The trivial and the temporary holds little allure. And while each new sunrise may bring with it the occasional physical ache or physic regret, the dawn is an old friend that beckons us to get back out there once again and share our unique selves. Life is music, we are the instruments, and our memories are the songs we love to play again and again.

The Ineffability of Ageing

1 Minute Read

I buy a new bra laced with dahlias.
Calvin Klein. Dress is Indian
embroidered olive green silk.
Shepherd’s Bush Market.
Candelabras are cheaply ornate. Car
boot. Oh Lord, teeth have been savaged.
Dental hygienist. Like a slow moving
volcano. My sixtieth.
Pause for thoughts about gifts.
Unwanted. Suggest pies on laps
as they drive to Voewood. Wanted. Funk up
with Prince, George Clinton and Deee-Lite.
The bass. Rachel, formerly of Hard House
at the helm. Home entertainment. La famille
Pougnet divert with a comedic turn.
Love. I show a film – Rose of Life,
eulogy ahead of its time. Useful.
My mother shimmies with her grandson.
Tiger. Crone-new, I am blessed
by the sexiness of my revellers. Bingo.

Drug of Choice

6 Minute Read

Aged nine it did not take a lot of time for boredom to set in when out on a fishing trip on the Lough Mourne with my father. The patience required for the trout to bite alluded me at the time, in what now looking back, was a beautiful wooded setting close to my home town of Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. I was drawn back to those times recently when out on one of my frequent dog walks. I was watching Briar, my six-month-old Springer spaniel puppy running free among the woods on the Wiltshire plain set above the beautiful Vale of Pewsey.

I was wondering when was the last time I had felt as energetic and wanting to run at that pace for the sheer joy and hell of it? Then I thought back to those fishing trips where I would disappear away from the water’s edge and head up into the dense woods. Just as Briar the puppy had been doing, inventing games in my head to play on my own. One of them was running full on, as I thought at the time, like Hawkeye in the “Last of the Mohicans”. Full of fun and health, just running and skipping between the trees for the sheer love of it. Lost in a world of my own, seemingly on a different plane, losing contact with the ground at points through the speed and agility of movement.

In my late teens, I would feel that lightness and almost floating sensation again when I moved to England to train and play Badminton at a semi- professional International level. That occasional feeling in a game, both of all the long hard hours of training mentally and physically coming together in one sublime set of movement and strokes. That ability to glide across the court, jump to new heights to smash the shuttle with effortless ease, creating an adrenalin buzz that would last many hours and take a long time to come down from.

Fleeting times that these were, I would not have missed them for the world; surely this was a type of drug, not just an endorphin rush, but my own private little narcotic. After sport, at that level of fitness as many top class sports people will attest, the drop down after you stop playing at that level can be hard. To substitute that sensation or moment is a challenge and one that most never do replace and have to live with that acceptance. I can see here where the temptation of taking a drug might creep in to sustain that level of feeling and performance for just a little bit longer.

Luckily in my late thirties, it came to me again. This time as an entrepreneur, a different type of full on existence, some say 24/7 in the whirl of building a technology start-up in the Dotcom era. Based in Silicon Valley California, seven weeks there and 3 weeks back in the UK for over 2 years, a full on adrenalin spree, pushing what turned out to be a successful company into the global market. Again the theme of competition, but less about fitness and more about the resilience of mind and body.  Pushing harder than other killer players to win. When you do, the euphoria engulfs and surrounds you again on a very similar level, that floating feeling comes back.

I say luckily, but as I often say to young entrepreneurs starting out on the start-up path having built five companies myself over 25 years. There is only one certainty, at the end of the run, you will be sat in a corner exhausted and in tears. This will be because you have either just sold the company and won the game, or alternatively and more likely have lost the lot. Coming back from both scenarios is equally challenging, just different, surprisingly.

As I enter my sixtieth year, I have returned to the badminton after 22 years retired from playing, never having been on a court in anger in all that time. I was not setting out to recapture that feeling of exhilaration again, that would be foolish. But I had been back to the gym for the best part of two years and strangely as I saw it, was as fit as I probably had been in a decade. I had promised myself I would return to the badminton one day when I could play it socially and not mind losing or at least not mind as much as I used to. I had thought after my sixtieth birthday, having gained my senior railcard would be the considered time. But prompted by my current fitness and also thinking you never know what is round the next corner, I signed up for the winter season.

I was out drinking recently with a friend of mine in London; we were coming up the steep escalator at the Angel Tube station. Now I am giving him ten years but we were both moving at pace and we were chatting away as we do about a range of topical subjects. I enquired about his health, a throwaway line as I make it seem, but I am always keen to know my friends and their families are OK. Especially male friends who as we know rarely visit the doctor until too late and are hesitant about discussing these areas.

Anyway, I think he was surprised, but used the term robust to describe how he felt and I thought yes that is the word, as we get a little further down the track, we need to feel robust and able to deal with the hustle and bustle of today’s fast changing world. Those of us lucky enough to have good health and this does seem to be the luck of the draw, should relish that particular high. I have just been reading “The Triumphs of Experience” by George E Vaillant this is the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken. The bottom line there being that our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become even more fulfilling than before.

This, of course, goes against conventional thinking, that in particular, men get set in their ways “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. But this ability to reinvent oneself at any age is there and much needed given modern demands of innovation and the technological impact on our lives. Those moments of joy, ecstasies, floating whatever way we wish to describe them, are all possible throughout life. I am certainly looking forward to creating more magic, using my own drug of choice on the next stage of life’s adventure.

My Voice Lost and Found

6 Minute Read

Some things you just take for granted. Me being able to sing was one. When I was young I was one of those kids that used to get up and sing in front of my parents friends to entertain them. When I was in High School I was chosen to be part of an exclusive group of singers to perform madrigals. For a couple of years a dozen of us would go 'on tour' to Spain or Germany to perform in secondary schools in front of kids our own age. I loved singing those medieval songs almost as much as the mischief I made on those school trips. I remember more than one occasion, stripping off my horrible costume, a tartan floor length A-line skirt and matching waistcoat straight after a concert, and climbing out the hostel window with my friend Laurie so we could go in search of the young men who had come to see us perform.

At University I was rejected from singing with the school’s jazz band because I wasn't doing a music degree and that was the criteria for anyone who wanted to sing with the group. And in my twenties I did lots of session singing, eventually rejoining Laurie and her sister to perform complicated three part harmonies that Laurie had devised as the band ‘The Dirty Blondes.’ We had a blast, singing at various pubs and clubs where I’m sure nobody really knew what to make of three twenty-something young women singing Andrew Sisters and Rogers & Hammerstein tunes when punk was all the rage.

By my late twenties I’d moved on, teaming up with a pianist where we would perform jazz standards for hours in tiny wine bars across the city. Singing and music was in my blood. My mother had sung on the radio as a child. My uncle played drums for Janis Joplin (whom I met when I was 6) and a distant cousin was Stan Getz.

In 1988 I met my husband who was not musical but was a total music geek and photojournalist. Although he was obsessed with music, he could never understand why I would want to sing in some half empty wine bar all evening for the price of a decent steak. So I stopped singing except for humming along to tunes on the radio or a Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald record. I gave birth to a couple of kids, my youngest of whom also inherited the family’s musical gene, and put my own singing years behind me.

It took a trip to Cherry Grove, Fire Island, and a good ten years into my marriage, to re-awaken my voice. I’d gone there with a man with whom I’d been having a long distance affair. He was a born and bred New Yorker and, being August, he suggested we spend a week there to get away from the heat of the city. The place was populated almost exclusively with gay men, so much so that we quickly got a reputation as the only straight people on the Island. It was Friday night when we popped into a piano bar. One after another, guys got up to perform show tunes or jazz standards. They were mostly buff, young men who were taking a break from a Broadway show and so the bar had been set pretty high for me. I hadn’t sung for over a decade but I’d told my lover enough that he knew that with enough provocation, I’d want to have a go.

I’ll never forget that night, I went up to the pianist and said, “My Funny Valentine. Key of G.” He started playing and all those years of being silent just fell away. Suddenly the room grew quiet. When I’d finished, I went to sit down and lots of guys came up to me and asked me where I performed in the city so they could hear me sing again. “I don’t perform,” I said. “I haven’t sung for a decade.” I started to cry. I suppose I felt cheated, that I’d stopped doing something I loved so much, just because my husband thought it was a bit silly. Although I still didn’t return to singing despite feeling validated that evening.

Then the menopause arrived, and along with hot flushes and sleepless nights, I lost my singing voice. When I tried to sing to songs on the radio, all that came out was a strange and unfamiliar croaky sound. I couldn’t hit the notes I used to and I couldn’t find my way around a tune. I grieved the loss of my voice much more than my sex drive or my waistline. Singing was just so much a part of me, I just never thought there would be a time when it was something I could no longer do. I stopped singing along to the radio because it was just too painful and derived pleasure listening on the sly to my youngest son and his beautiful, soulful voice as he sang along to R&B songs in his bedroom.

Over the last year I decided to try something new, I dropped down an octave, sounding more like Barry White than Barbara Streisand. I wasn’t ready to let go of the singer in me and discovered I could still carry a tune despite not being able to hit the high notes,

Recently my friend invited me to a burlesque karaoke night. I didn’t know what to expect but when they passed the book of songs around, I worked out that it wasn’t the burlesque performers who would be singing along to the backing track, it was the audience. After a drink, I decided to have a go. I picked my signature tune and one that I’d sung with the Dirty Blondes thirty years earlier - Fever. I dropped the song by an octave and, recalling that evening in the piano bar in Cherry Grove; I could feel the room go quiet. After I’d finished, a few people came up and told me how good I sounded. At the end of the night, I got back on stage (at the audience’s request) and sang another song. I felt transported back in time, only this time with my new, different voice.

That’s the thing about getting older. It’s about acceptance and celebrating that transition. I won’t lie. It’s been hard getting used to not being able be sing like I used to, but hey - I can still make a room go quiet. And I have a new voice. That is something to relish.

Suzanne and Rose’s Advantages of Age End of Year Round Up!!

14 Minute Read

How do you remember this heady AofA 12 months?

Suzanne: I feel like someone floored the accelerator pedal. It has been a whirlwind of a year. The Arts Council grant, the flamboyant and fabulous bus tour, refreshing the website, starting the Facebook group, the hot tub talks. We did much more than I would have thought possible.

Rose: In fact, I came back from Cuba and Suzanne told me that AofA had been awarded an ACE grant, so we threw ourselves in doing what we said we were going to do for that. The Death Dinner, the Taboo Night at Vout-o-renees, and finally the Flamboyant Bus Tour of London. And then the screening of the film Death Dinner and then the Flamboyant Subway Tour in NYC. It’s been non-stop and brilliant to do.

Also the quality of the articles that have come into the online magazine. It has been a rich experience in terms of cajoling gently people into doing pieces, and witnessing the courageous, often revealing results. I really feel passionately about a fierce sort of writing where the writers dare to be raw and honest and reflective about their lives. A big thank you to all the contributors this year.

What have the spectacular parts of the year been?

Suzanne: The fabulous and flamboyant bus tour felt like a turning point. I’ll just never forget the sight of so many wonderfully dressed women and men walking through Sloane Square to make their way onto the bus. It was just magical. So many new friendships were forged on that day, so many great conversations, it was very special.

The Death Dinner was a humongous undertaking but seeing the final film and the viewers reaction to it made it worthwhile. My wish is that we can find a distributor to help us reach as many people as possible with it. It feels like a very important film.

Starting the Facebook group and seeing the level of engagement on it is what keeps me going. It has been a steep learning curve but an exciting one.

Rose: For me, the coming together of the Death Dinner was really momentous, having the Dissenter’s Chapel for the dinner, gathering ten colourful characters from the Death World ie a mortician, a soul midwife and so many more. And the fact that it was filmed by my son and his team, and that abundant feast was provided by an old friend who also participated because of her own intimate relationship with death made it all seem so close and important. For me it’s important that we have made a film out of it as well and hopefully we’ll find ways to screen it in different places around the country, festivals etc with Q & As.

I loved that we thought of the idea for the Flamboyant Bus Tour when we were waiting to get into the chapel one day. Suzanne and I have a way of organically making things happen and bouncing off one another in a fulsome way. We had no idea that so many people would come in such outrageous outfits worn with such boldness. There was a brilliant buzz on that bus of like-minded people finding each other and then they have kept in touch.

For me, so much of AofA is about forming a tribe of people who want to rebel against stereotypical ageing with gusto and grace. This has started to happen.

Go on indulge yourselves with a few more detailed memories?

Suzanne: The hot tub talks were alot of fun. I loved the one we did on Style with Johnny Blue Eyes, Pasha DuPont and Caroline Sinclair. Often it was the conversations we had after we stopped filming that were the most interesting and that was certainly the case on that evening. Wow is all I can say!

Our trip to NYC, our Subway Parade and subsequently having dinner with Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks. I really enjoyed that trip and showing you around. It was great fun.

Rose: Oh that’s funny that you mentioned them now, that’s just what I was thinking. The Hot Tub Mini Salons were brilliant. They were intimate and relaxed and I didn’t worry at all about doing them. I loved the one about Death because it felt so daring and intimate at the same time. It had a softness to it in the way we were talking and what we were talking about. I’ve love to get these funded as regular ongoing events.

Oh and I really enjoyed the Tantra one because we had a male sex worker, Seani Love who is doing a very different type of sexuality work with women, meeting them on a level that they may not have been met on before. And Monique Roffey and I doing readings from The Tryst, her recent erotic novel and from Tantric Goddess, my poetry pamphlet. It all felt so relaxed. That’s the key aspect to the all-mighty Hot Tub experience.

What has worked between you both?

Suzanne: We’re both doers! And people who enjoy doing different things. Rose is definitely the easiest partner I’ve had in terms of a working relationship. We’ve had our differences in approach over the year but have always been able to resolve them in a way that made us both happy. Very grown up! I’ve appreciated our frank discussions and the way that we just get on with things. It’s rare to find a partner like this and I’ve really loved working with her.

Rose: Yes, our mutual directness. We don’t spend much time pontificating or procrastinating, we just get on with it and trust the other will too. I concur that Suzanne is the easiest partner I’ve ever had in the work sphere. She’s very dependable and practical in a way that I am often not. She believed that we would get the ACE grant and we did. That self-belief has been very important in the evolution of AofA, as has Suzanne embrace-all philosophy of living. She’s very generous in the way she looks at life. We have had differences this year and we have been able to talk frankly and choose a mature pathway through. Suzanne is also very supportive of other people’s input and ideas. She’s a collaborator.

Tell us about the Arts Council Grant?

Suzanne: It was my first attempt at applying for a grant. I don’t really think Rose or myself knew what we were getting ourselves into. Rose didn’t actually believe we’d get it. It took a couple of attempts before we secured the money, which was to put on three events around Style, Taboos and Death. We both went out of our way to use the money wisely and frugally. I think one of the advantages of our age is that we have access to an enormous network of super talented people who mainly volunteered their services. I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved with limited resources although, in retrospect, I probably would have put on two and not three events which would have enabled us to earn a project management fee that was in line with the amount of time we both put in. Let’s just say, it was very satisfying from an artistic point of view but I probably would have earned more working the till at Sainsbury’s!

Rose: Hilarious. I totally relished this time. And Suzanne’s determination was key here. In terms of getting the funding. We did a lot!! I loved thinking up ideas and actually being able to make them happen. There was one Saturday were I was doing a walk (for a new book) in Roman London and Suzanne dedicated herself to finding some leopard skin fabric to be a backdrop for the Momento Mori frame!! It was a vital extra. Suzanne put herself out to get it. Yes, the creative community that we tapped into and were able to pay – in a small way – was simply marvelous – from poets to writers to actors – and I hope we can do more with them in the future.

And the FB Live Salons?

Suzanne: It started as a bit of a lark that then turned into something. I think we had over 6k views for our Hot Tub talk on Sex. It’s amazing the effect that sitting in very hot water can have on someone’s personality. There were times I really thought that some of the bigger characters would end up taking over the talk but once in the water, they calmed right down! From a technical point of view I would have liked to have filmed them differently. And my crappy wi-fi didn’t help either! I’d definitely like to carry on with the Hot Tub Talks and I’m hoping some nice, geeky person comes out of the woodwork to assist in improving the quality. Finding a sponsor for them would be great too.

Rose: Yes, I agree with finding a way to carry on here. Also, take the Hot Tub Salon idea to festivals. It could be some sort of TV channel too.

It was wonderful having an array of different characters in that tub!!

And the Business Academy?

Suzanne: It’s my passion. I feel that the biggest challenge we have as older people is remaining valued in society and a lot of that comes down to being able to support ourselves financially. Older people are not being upskilled and we have a huge pool of talent from which to draw upon that is just being ignored. I started a tech business a few years ago and it struck me that I was nearly always the oldest person at the networking events I attended on a regular basis. It’s very lonely being that person, not having any support, especially when you’re starting a new business. I want to change that and working with Yvonne is the start of something that I feel has huge potential.

Rose: Totally Suzanne and Yvonne’s baby. And I can see there is a great need for it as people get older.

And the FB Group?

Suzanne: LOL. It was an idea suggested to me by a guy named Vin Clancy running an Internet marketing course which I attended at the beginning of the summer. “All you need is a FB group,” he said, casually. “It will take you an hour a day and you’ll form a community.” So, off I trotted, doing exactly what he said. Only, of course, what I discovered is that I spend most of the day on FB, engaging with members of the group in some way. I absolutely love it. So many interesting conversations, points of view, people making new connections with others from all over the world. It’s amazing when I think about it. I do feel we are getting to the point where all the work doesn’t have to fall on me and I can see there are other key members now taking an active role in the group, which is great.

Rose: It was been brilliant to witness the flourishing of the FB page and Suzanne’s dedication to growing it, and also providing material for engaging dialogue as well as wit, fun and irreverence. I think it has been vital with regards to the community feeling and momentum. Questions can be asked, information garnered and events supported. Yes, I agree it’s important to spread this work now.

Do you feel like you have formed an AofA community?

Suzanne: 100%. We’ve still got a long way to go but we’re getting there. I’ve been encouraged by so many people telling me how much they get out of being in the group, how it has helped them make new friends. I think there’s more we can be doing on the professional/business side to support people and I’m working on that. The lifestyle side is great, the events, hot tub talks, the website but I think we could be campaigning. The bigger the group gets, the bigger our voice. I think it’s important that we have our seat at the table when it comes to talking about bigger issues affecting older people.

Rose: The FB group is lively in a way that reflects how we aim to grow older. There is sparkiness at the same time as compassion. I agree re campaigning. I enjoy witnessing others connecting in this community and then the offshoots. Recently, we did our version of Pina Bausch’s Nelken Line on a pier near the Oxo Tower in London, over 20 people turned up early on a Saturday morning and danced. It was so uplifting and now we have a film on the PB Foundation’s website. There is a feeling that anything is possible, which is echoed in the way we want to live as we get older.

The Oxo Tower - Advantages of Age from Pina Bausch Foundation on Vimeo.

Now you’re a Social Enterprise what will that mean?

Suzanne: Forming a company always comes with its share of responsibilities but it also provides us with more opportunities. And, from a funding point of view, there are grants available and ways of crowdfunding that mean that we can start to become sustainable. I’ve invested nearly £10k of my own savings over the past two years and I’m not in a position to be able to continue to do that so we need to find a way to support what we’re doing and create value from it. I know we can and we will.

And obviously, it has been a learning curve?

Suzanne: Yes and a steep one. Applying for grants, what it means to run a social enterprise, running a Facebook group. These were all things I had no knowledge of until this year. Every day I look at the whiteboard in my living room and see a whole list of new things I have to do and learn about!

Rose: We started AofA without any concrete ideas of what we were doing, beyond a mission statement to grow old differently and provide a support around this for others. I have been editing the online magazine for almost two years now and towards the end of this year, my priorities have changed. It is unpaid work and now I want to a few other things. Suzanne has been brilliant in terms of investing her own money in the AofA, and now we’ll have to see what funding comes in…

I really have been longing for time to write poetry and my new book so I am intending to change my relationship with AofA in that I will no longer edit and gather in article, but instead will focus on special projects for us instead. I hope to develop the Death Dinner in terms of distribution and screenings, other poetry events, the Hot Tub salons and festival visits.

Is there anything you would change in terms of what you’ve done?

Suzanne: We’re coming up to our second year since establishing the website and I know from previous experience with other organisations I have run, that it takes that long to work stuff out. If I’d known how important the Facebook group was going to be, I probably would have started one earlier. I still can’t work out how to drive traffic to the website which is chock full of inspirational articles and that bothers me. I know that it’s a great online magazine, looks great and I want more people to check it out!

Rose: Not really, it’s been an organic process and we’ve just been adapting as we’ve gone along. I do hope too that a way can be found to garner more readers to the brilliant new website and online magazine.

How do you see the future for AofA?

Suzanne: I see 2018 as the year of work and when a lot of the ideas that I’ve had, particularly around the Business Academy come to fruition. We’re looking at having a monthly social event and I can see that building into something that everyone looks forward to and gets bigger and bigger. I think that we can become the umbrella organization for lots of other groups, a resource that people can go to for help or advice, the place for fun activities. I think there is space for us to be that and for a new voice around ageing.

Rose: I see 2018 as the year when AofA gets grounded in a financial and pragmatic sense. Other members will come forth – and are already – to support Suzanne in her quest to spread the pro-age revolution. It’s already on track.

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