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AofA People: Ashton Applewhite – Writer & Activist


3 Minute Read

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Ashton Applewhite

HOW OLD ARE YOU?

66

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Brooklyn, NY

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m a writer and activist.

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

I love everything about it except the physical deterioration: arthritis, osteoporosis, and some hearing loss – none of which keep me from doing the things I want to do.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

Infinitely more self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-acceptance.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

Sex is way better than it was when I was young, because I’m more accepting of my physical flaws and better at expressing what I like and don’t like.

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

The most important component of a good late life is not health or wealth but a strong social network. Those networks tend to shrink as we leave the workforce and people we’ve known all our lives die. I’m always urging people to make friends of all ages, have followed my own advice, and have many wonderful younger friends. I’m going to need help shoveling and schlepping and getting rid of those damn chin hairs, and I want to be able to cast a wide net. Age is a dumb divide. Think of something you like to do and find a mixed-age group to do it with.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

Extremely. Partly because I’ve been brave, but mainly because I’m lucky and privileged: I have enough money, I have a partner, my kids are doing fine, and I’m pretty healthy.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

I’m proud that my first book, Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well, earned me a place on Phyllis Schlafley’s Eagle Forum Enemies List. (She was the dreadful woman who tanked the Equal Rights Amendment in the US in the 1970s by brilliantly framing it as a family values issue.) I’m also proud that I’ve gotten as far as I’ve gotten as an anti-ageism activist with zero training or institutional support, self-publishing This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism in 2016. That changed this spring, when Melville House brought the book out in the UK (along with Celadon Books in the US) – hooray!

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be fascinated by aging, I’d have said, “Why on earth would I want to spend my time thinking about something so sad and depressing?” Now I understand that it’s the biggest canvas there is: how we move through life and interact with institutions and each other. For a generalist like me, who could never decide what to be when she grew up—I certainly never intended to become a writer or public speaker—that’s heaven. It’s also a critically important social justice issue in a world of longer lives, especially everyone with less power and voice: people of color, women, and people of all abilities.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

When I have a smart idea and get it down “on paper.” When my grandchildren run at me. Outside on a hot summer day, ideally dancing — badly.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

Into my writing.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

Don’t have one. Be kind. Try not to judge.

AND DYING?

Check me into the psychedelic hospice, please. (It’s a thing.)

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

Of course, bigger all the time.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

Hopping the subway turnstile. Because they announced my train wasn’t running, so I exited, and then they announced it was, so yeah.

If you’d like to catch Ashton while on her book promotion tour, here’s her schedule:

Appearances

 

AofA People: Pete Lawrence – Founder, Campfire Convention


13 Minute Read

Pete Lawrence, 61, created the concept for The Big Chill in the 90s, and went on to found Campfire Convention as an innovative social network, which also sparks membership-based events. They’re very much about making space for important conversations about values and the way people want to live, which will make the way for societal change. Their first outdoor Convention was in Hereford in 2016 and Brian Eno was one of the key speakers. They are launching a crowdfund Fire in the Belly on May 1st.

What do you do?

I am founder and firestarter for Campfire Convention. We are building a member-led online social network, free of advertising and algorithms, already putting on regular face-to-face events. We believe that we have the potential to evolve the way we do social networking as well as stepping up and actively facilitating change at the local level.

We’re busy getting our first crowdfund together which we’re calling Fire In the Belly and we’re launching it on May 1st. It’s important for us to enable the building of an alternative community-based social network that can work for the good of all. The funds will start to pay some of our wonderful volunteers such as our lead developer Tim who is upgrading our software and also working on some very exciting features.

A mentorship circle has formed around the crowdfund, almost by accident – members have stepped up and offered workshops or sessions around their skills and passions, and will share their wisdom for the benefit of all. I regard the nurturing of the concept and functions of elders as increasingly important in the world and hopefully, Campfire can play its part.

Much needs to change. In the wake of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s now clear that the ‘surveillance capitalism’ model of social media is unsustainable, built as it is on monetising data. The full implications of us choosing a digital advertising platform as our presumed safe space in which to share all our most intimate thoughts, hopes, fears and passions are only now being realised. It creates a forum in which the owners of a gigantic operation rule the social media world, arguably the wider world too, for their own ends and for shareholder profit.

My vision for Campfire is to provide an alternative forum which actually does what it says on the ‘social network’ tin: in other words, to help to build and strengthen communities. Campfire works for its members and seeds new ideas and social change for the benefit of all. As part of our next phase, we’re looking to reward our members through a Karma Scheme, which simply measures input and remunerates accordingly. However, we need your help to ensure this dream of an ethical social network – that gives back, and builds real-world belonging – can become a sustainable reality.

The crowdfund will tell us whether we are on the right track. So if you’re looking for alternatives to the tech giants, please support us. fundrazr.com/campfireconvention (from May 1)

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

It’s pretty good in many respects. At 61, I feel unencumbered, liberated from much of the niggling commitments I had at earlier ages and more flexible in terms of how, when and where I work. I am privileged in that respect and I’m not taking anything for granted. I am thankful for my physical health and mental faculties are intact. Having already lived a full life with many memorable experiences, I honour every extra day that I am alive as a gift and a blessing. I don’t feel much different to how I felt when I was 30 in many respects. I’m still a teenager at heart!

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

Hopefully, a modicum of wisdom from assorted life experiences, a host of stories and adventures, the responsibilities associated with two children, a house of my own, a motorhome, not to mention some unwelcome RSI and much greyer hair!

And what about sex?

What about it? Hard to know what to say. Sex hasn’t lost its appeal in any way. Quite the opposite, I very much enjoy the physical expression of love and connection, the ecstasy of explosive chemistry.

I’m still a subscriber to the view that an open-minded approach to sexual experiences can be enthralling, enlightening and totally inspirational. In my younger years, I was often chasing the next sexual adventure and the thrill. Today, I might be less likely to have spontaneous sex on a Greyhound bus with a stranger, but my attitude is more about going into an encounter with that same sense of adventure but keeping my eyes and other senses as wide open as possible. Respect for the other person or people in a sexual experience is paramount. The imagination is the supreme gift.

And relationships?

Relationships make the world go round and often richly repay time investment. Several people have commented on the tribute that I have just written on Campfire for my good friend who died, saying that it’s refreshing and even unusual for a man to write in that way about another man. To me, it’s just second nature to pour my heart out and to be open about the impact and effect of a friendship or good relationship, whatever the gender. I vividly remember a Campfire Conversation in Winchcombe based around the word ‘relationship’ which was one of the best sessions we have done yet. People were in tears – one because of the power and memories of a positive friendship, the other because a chance sexual encounter had led to an HIV infection. This was human relationships, raw and exposed. It was hugely cathartic for many.

How free do you feel?

I don’t feel burdened at the moment. Most importantly I am lucky to be generally free of illness and will be extremely grateful for that while it lasts. I am fortunate to have a house without a mortgage and I don’t feel bogged down by grief, guilt, emotion or other human characteristics that can prevent freedom. Having a year living in my motorhome was a great eye-opener in terms of unloading possessions and learning to live out of a suitcase. It showed me that if you don’t have an address, you’re outside the system and hard to track. But that also has a downside in that it’s much harder to insure a vehicle, for instance. Surveillance capitalism is everywhere.

I became much more conscious of my footprint on this planet because I lived with limitations on water, electrics, lights, fuel and other ‘luxuries’ that we often take for granted. I learned a more frugal approach, which has shaped other things, from the choice of food I eat, the clothes, goods I purchase and generally limiting my consumption wherever possible.

Whether ‘freedom’ is totally desirable is another talking point. Some might argue that freedom often equates to the freedom to exploit others, for example. A rallying call from some right-wing politicians for ‘a bonfire of regulation’ tells its own story. Often a degree of regulation and some agreed values and principles, rules, laws can be liberating or reassuring for sections of society. It comes down to whose interests the ‘freedoms’ work for. Raoul Martinez’s excellent book ‘Creating Freedom’ expands on this.

What are you proud of?

I’m proud of everyone who played their part in the rollercoaster journey that was The Big Chill, which was a highlight of my life and showed me the power of community and how life-changing bringing people together can be. And it was great fun and I have met so many people through it that I still stay in touch with. We’re aiming to have a little reunion this summer, which I’m hoping to confirm very soon.

Also, bucking the 80s trend of overblown studio recordings by making an album on a £1 recording budget which sold close to a million copies gave me a certain sense of satisfaction and was my first business venture after making the leap into the unknown world of being self-employed.

I’m proud of my kids too. And my friends.

What keeps you inspired?

People – their diversity, their unique genius, foibles, quirks, ideas, their creativity…

Music – the universal language.

Art – creativity in all its forms.

Political change-makers – those working for a better world.

When are you happiest?

When I’m creating. It’s a great outlet. When I’m in a yoga class and not distracted by more worldly irritants, when I’m in stimulating company, with friends or with my children, when I’m immersed in a sunset or sunrise, swimming in the clean waters of the Aegean or listening to a great musical work and otherwise involved in someone else’s creative spark or humour.

And where does your creativity go?

Being creative in all sorts of ways – musically, sexually, in preparing food, in conceptualising ideas while I’m walking, showering or sitting on the beach. For me, nothing beats the reward of seeing other peoples’ ideas spark into life. If Campfire can grow into a platform that can hold space for this, it will be serving its purpose. Much of my creative juices are expended on my laptop, whether in writing, photo manipulation, making short films, music or podcasts. I love my computer (in preference to my mobile) but would love to be doing more with my hands other than tapping keys!

What’s your philosophy of living?

To live every day mindfully, take notice of what is around me, think not of outcomes but of the moment, listen to others, learn, be humble, be grateful, celebrate this life in all its myriad forms, strive to serve the greater good. Stand resolute in the face of challenges, setbacks and negative influences. Aspire to a calm state of mind, whether through meditation and yoga (both should be mandatory for politicians!) or through other regular practice. Reach out, share and be as inclusive as possible. Do something helpful for somebody else whenever possible. Work towards a society based around the motivation inspired by the question ‘what can we build together?’ rather than ‘what’s in it for me?’ Aspire to spread hope and positivity.

I love Swami Satanyanda’s ‘Sankapla’, which might be a good place to start in terms of how to approach life.

I thank my friend Kimm sent it to me today.

I am an invisible child of a thousand faces of love,

That floats over the swirling sea of life,

Surrounded by the meadows of the winged shepherds,

Where divine love and beauty,

The stillness of midnight summer’s warmth pervades.

Life often cuts at my body and mind

And though blood may be seen passing,

And a cry might be heard,

Do not be deceived that sorrow could dwell within my being

Or suffering within my soul.

There will never be a storm

That can wash the path from my feet,

The direction from my heart,

The light from my eyes,

Or the purpose from this life.

I know that I am untouchable to the forces

As long as I have a direction, an aim, a goal:

To serve, to love, and to give.

Strength lies in the magnification of the secret qualities

Of my own personality, my own character

And though I am only a messenger,

I am me.

Let me decorate many hearts

And paint a thousand faces with colours of inspiration

And soft, silent sounds of value.

Let me be like a child,

Run barefoot through the forest

Of laughing and crying people,

Giving flowers of imagination and wonder,

That God gives free.

Shall I fall on bended knees,

And wait for someone to bless me

With happiness and a life of golden dreams?

No, I shall run into the desert of life with my arms open,

Sometimes falling, sometimes stumbling,

But always picking myself up,

A thousand times if necessary,

Sometimes happy.

Often life will burn me,

Often life will caress me tenderly

And many of my days will be haunted

With complications and obstacles,

And there will be moments so beautiful

That my soul will weep in ecstasy.

I shall be a witness,

But never shall I run

Or turn from life, from me.

Never shall I forsake myself

Or the timeless lessons I have taught myself,

Nor shall I let the value

Of divine inspiration and being be lost.

My rainbow-covered bubble will carry me

Further than beyond the horizon’s settings,

Forever to serve, to love, and to live.

And dying?

That’s a very pertinent question as someone I would consider my best friend died last week. I think he had a good death surrounded by friends and loved ones in his last few days, though the traumas around his unexpected stroke a week before were not good in any sense. But somehow death brings others together, not only in grief but in celebration of that person’s life and we have to keep that at the forefront. It’s been a tough start to the year as I’ve lost six friends in quick succession and found myself thinking about death almost every day. But many positive things have come out of that, not least attending my first Death Café in Frome and finding that I had the space and support to properly grieve for my mother who died when I was 15. At the time I wasn’t allowed to. There was something extraordinarily powerful about crying with others, grieving together for the whole world, for sadness, for the miracle of life and the cycle of life and death. It was very moving for all of us.

Dare I hope that I will not live my final years in pain, depression or other suffering?

Are you still dreaming?

More than ever. Collective dreaming. Imagining a different world. What are we dreaming of for Campfire? For starters, an end of quite a lot that’s prevalent at the moment – outmoded politics, right-wing ideology, and surveillance capitalism. An end to a world increasingly fuelled by mistrust. What do we want? Obviously, a thriving community would be the holy grail and much could spark from that. A vibrant website and exciting events are our first priority, but our vision can extend a lot wider. We can play our part in social change, in helping create a fairer society and in empowering our own membership, both individually and collectively by providing an environment where ideas can lead to inspiration. Debate can lead to community determination, co-creativity can lead to collaboration and realisation, which in turn can lead to recognition, confidence and hopefully financial rewards too. We must hold on to hope above all, when hope dies the spirit is extinguished. None of these desires or actions are a universal panacea but the important thing is to not lose sight of the fact that each one of us can make a real difference, though every conversation and interaction that we have.

My personal dreams overlap with what I wish for in my work life. The expression ‘work-life balance’ is meaningless – but I also dream of a more harmonious, less self-centred society that prefers building bridges to walls.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I’m not really the one to decide that! However, outrageousness becomes more subtle with age and thoughts and ideas can be just as outrageous as actions at times. I have just been sitting in a tea hut in East Wittering writing this Q&A. To the outside world, I probably looked pretty dull and boring but who could have imagined what was in my head! I’m refusing to spill all the ‘clickbait’ beans here.

You can find the Campfire Convention crowdfunding campaign here:

https://fundrazr.com/campfireconvention

A of A People: Lynne Franks – Writer, Entrepreneur, SEEDSower


2 Minute Read

Lynne Franks, 71, is still innovating and creating. This time in Wincanton. She has a new venture Hub at No 3 which she describes as ‘a dynamic new concept in bringing women and men together to heal themselves, each other and the planet’. She runs workshops and events there. Of course, Lynne is the reason that Suzanne Noble and Rose Rouse met and eventually co-founded Advantages of Age.

Women’s Power of 7 Retreat in Wincanton on May 3rd – 5th

And her first women’s retreat working with her daughter Jessica Howie is in Marrakesh this November.

Age (in years) 
71

Where do you live?

Randomly moved to Wincanton in Somerset three years ago.

What do you do?

I have just started three new businesses including a café, a shop and a workshop hub with bedrooms.  I write books and articles; am developing my SEED women’s empowerment programmes; working in my local community with girls from our local school, creating a craft market for disadvantaged women etc etc etc.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

Don’t really have time to think about age. I have always been busy and nothing has changed.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

Experience.

What about sex?

Love it with the right guy.

And relationships?

Never giving up on love.  Just coming out of a lovely relationship with lots of love because we are both just too busy running around.

How free do you feel?

As free as I allow myself.

What are you proud of?

My daughter and my son who are great parents and individuals.  And of course my twenty years of work with helping women around the world plus a lot of other projects I have done. I tend to forget a lot until others remind me as always moving onto the next.

When are you happiest?

When I am creating new ideas that will help others. I am a SEEDSower, which is one of my archetypes in my Power of 7 women’s leadership programme.

And where does your creativity go?

My creativity goes into my work and my home and all my activities.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Living my truth and living life to the full. Always ready for new adventures.

And dying?

Don’t really think about it – no time.

Are you still dreaming?

Totally dreaming all the time – when I stop dreaming, I know it is the end.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

Starting all the aforementioned new businesses in a new town where I didn’t know anyone and just leapt in anyway.

Culture Interview – Lesley-Ann Jones on her memoir, Tumbling Dice


14 Minute Read

Lesley-Ann Jones is an author who worked for the likes of the News of the World back in the 80s and 90s. She was whisked around the world to interview people like Hugh Grant (post-Divine and very funny story), Madonna, Raquel Welch, Freddie Mercury and Marco Piero White. Now she’s re-lived it all in her new memoir, Tumbling Dice, which really brings it all back. It’s a fascinating read.

What prompted you to write a memoir now?

I had dined out for years on many hair-raising Fleet Street war stories. At one point, I might have mistaken the phrase ‘Tell me again the one about …’ for my name. I’d lost count of the number of people who had said to me, ‘You really should write a book about your own life.’ So I had been thinking about it for a long time, while never actually doing anything about it. Then my youngest child came of age, while my parents are now in their eighties. It occurred to me that it would be nice to publish such a book while they are still alive, and also that I wouldn’t have to hold back anymore because my children are now grown-ups and could take it. Once I started, it just poured out. It was a very cathartic experience. I hadn’t realized how damaged I was by certain episodes: we tend to bury things, and to live in denial. Writing about them forced me to confront my feelings about them in a different way. On the whole, I have to say, this was a good thing.

You have described the experience as like going out nude? Could you elaborate upon that?

I was staying at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood some years ago with my eldest daughter when an earthquake occurred. Quite a serious earthquake: 7.9 on the Richter scale. The bed I was in at the time ended up across the room, underneath the television, a vast thing, which was now dangling precariously from the wall. Ours was a poolside room on the ground floor, with the main door leading out to the swimming pool terrace. I looked outside and saw a naked woman running along the other side of the pool, screaming. She was completely starkers, except for a very elaborate diamond necklace and chandelier earrings. I remember thinking, not even in the most severe earthquake would I go legging it outside without my clothes on. Daft, really, when you think about the difference between bare-bum nakedness and being bikini-clad, which is a few skimpy triangles and some bits of string. Not that you’d catch me wearing one of those these days, either. But you get my drift. I’ve had three kids. The body is not what it was. I wouldn’t want to frighten the animals. In other words, I am extremely shy and self-contained, like most people. Writing a memoir is the most self-exposing thing that a writer can do, and yes, it is very frightening. What on earth will people think?

Philip Norman describes you as ‘naughty’ in the foreword? Why does he think that?

I have always been a wicked type. Always up for mischief. Given to double-entendres and pranks, with a taste for shaking things up. Life is much more interesting when it has a big tee-hee factor. I was involved in a lot of end-of-pier-type escapades on Fleet Street in the name of a good story. I’ve got some cheek, too. I tend to say the unsayable. I get away with it. I think Phil was alluding to that.

You seem to me to travel between prim and on the nose?

It’s an accurate assessment. I can’t explain it. My eccentric Welsh upbringing, probably. My great-grandmother, grandmother and elderly aunts were all unbendingly proper and obsessed with keeping up appearances. They wouldn’t even nip down the shops without reaching for hat and gloves. But they all knew how to let their hair down and have a rollicking good time over a tipple behind closed doors. I have vivid memories of them all hitching up their skirts and dancing. I must take after them.

This is a memoir that is mainly about the 80s and 90s, you say there was more drugs and alcohol in TV than the music biz?

That was certainly my experience. Drug taking at Chrysalis Records, where I worked, just wasn’t a thing. We drank our share of champagne, though. It was enough. I have never ‘done drugs’. I’ve never even had a drag on a cigarette. I have only wet vices.

You do have a few demons to face down in this book, was it cathartic in that way, or just painful?

Both. Now that I’ve done it, I have a taste for it. There is much more to say. I am already working on the sequel.

You really have hung out with a lot of musicians, actors including unlikely ones like Raquel Welch and Gary Glitter? Accessibility was just so different in those days, wasn’t it?

A number of full-blown careers that we nowadays take for granted simply didn’t exist back then. I’m talking personal managers and publicists, agents and PRs… and a lot of hangers-on. Most artists didn’t have such people in their lives, all justifying their own positions and jobs by interfering and coming between journalist and star. If we bagged an interview with a celebrity, it was just us and them, in a room or a restaurant for a couple of hours. If you hit it off and got on, they might ask you what you were doing for dinner that night. The following week, you might get a call asking you to go to Dusseldorf with them, to review a show. You’d be picked up by their limo, you’d sit next to them on the plane, stay in the same hotel, and be treated like one of their entourage. There was no ‘us and them’ about it. The unspoken rules were simple: you wrote the interview. You reviewed the gig. Whatever else you might witness, it was a case of, what happens on the road stays on the road. You didn’t write the off-record stuff, or you would never be invited back. That was the code by which journalists and artists lived. That code was broken during the early Nineties, when the age of the Paparazzi reached an all-time high – or should I say, ‘low’ – and when celebrity coverage became vicious, every-man-for-himself. Think back to how the rottweilers stalked Freddie Mercury during his final couple of years, photographing him as he left his doctor’s surgery, looking gaunt and on his last legs. They appeared to relish his demise, as if to say, look, this is what you get for being gay. It was shameless and appalling. Laws have changed since then, and rightly so. In our day it was mostly fun, light-hearted and good-humoured. But of course, the Pandora’s Box is open, now. there is no going back.

There are mentions re getting old and attitudes to it – Madonna, you describe, as in fear of it and in pursuit of youth, Joan Collins who also became a friend by the sound of it, is described as having ‘mock-croc’ skin on her body but the perfect face because she’s kept it out of the sun. What’s your personal take on getting older?

That it is better than the alternative. I have a circle of very close friends who are all considerably older than me. My best friend in the world, Simon Napier-Bell (the former manager of Wham!) is nearly three decades older than me, but we are virtually the same person. There is no ‘age gap’. Along with Simon, Ed Bicknell, the former manager of Dire Straits, Clem Cattini, the UK’s most prolific session drummer and former member of the Tornados, and Brian Bennett, the Shadows drummer, are my closest male friends. We make a formidable gang. My best female friend is a decade older than me. I’m still in close touch with three close classmates from school, and two from college … none of which proves anything, other than the fact that people are valuable throughout their lives, and that society places far too great an emphasis on ‘age’ and numbers. It’s not a qualification. I had grandparents and aunts who lived to great ages. I was accustomed to spending considerable time with much older people from a very young age. At my church, St. Bride’s, ‘the Journalists’ Church’ on Fleet Street, most of my friends there are in their 70s and 80s. But their ages are irrelevant. I wrote about Madonna’s hang-ups about growing older, because those are her hang-ups. Joan Collins has always been refreshingly candid about the ageing process. It was from her that I learned to keep my face and neck out of the sun! The ‘mock-croc’ phrase was hers: I’ve always admired the way in which she sends herself up. Worrying about growing and looking older is never going to arrest the process. We’d best forget about it. I live by very simple rules: keep the clutter down; dress the part; talk to men, women and children everywhere you go: everybody has a story to tell; live dangerously (because it lengthens and strengthens your life); never resort to cosmetic surgery, because those who have had it all look like freaks; keep your options open; and remember that everything that is working against you is ultimately working for you. It sometimes takes a while, but it is always the case in the end.

Bill Wyman was a friend in the 80s, and you realized in hindsight you were part of a friendship group that protected his relationship with Mandy Smith who was only 13 when she started seeing him. How does that feel now?

I feel guilty. I knew about it, but never told anyone. I should have. It had already been going on for a couple of years when I realized. I don’t know why I didn’t tell anyone. I was young too. What Bill did to us was a form of abuse. He convinced us to collude in his abuse of Mandy in insidious ways. We were impressed by him, and unsuspecting of his motives. Only when I became a mother myself did I begin to feel differently about it.

I was fascinated by all the machinations at the newspapers – the pay offs, the editors that are deposed and therefore you become more of that fallout, Nick Gordon at YOU who obviously adored you and sent you on all sorts of assignments. And then Piers Morgan when he was editing News of the World, you end up having to sit next to Hugh Grant in Business Class after he has been caught with his pants down and in the paid for company of Divine Brown – he scarpered as soon as he saw you and this impossible mission was not accomplished. How was it for you?

At the time, all of those things were just part of the job. You simply got on with it. It is only now, looking back, that I can see what a crazy existence it all was. We walked tightropes on a daily basis. Vast sums of money were always at stake. Killing the competition and getting the exclusive were all that mattered. We risked our reputations and sometimes our lives for both. I now think what a mental movie it would all make. Because those Fleet Street heyday years have never been captured on film.

There are the famous you obviously like – Joan Collins, Linda McCartney, and others that you pour scorn upon – like Hugh Grant, Madonna?

While it is true that I adore Joan Collins, and that I really loved Linda McCartney, I can’t agree that I ‘poured scorn on Madonna’. She was good to me on a few occasions. I understand her dilemma. How hard must it be to evolve from pretty young sex symbol into ageing diva? You are doing your growing-old in public, and everyone is looking for the cracks. I wouldn’t necessarily have done it her way, but perhaps I’d feel differently in her shoes (and with her money). I have never seen the attraction of younger men, by the way. Men are immature at the best of times, and tend to need mothering, which perhaps explains my friendships with much older guys!

You also tell us about your own love life throughout the book, was that difficult to do because you haven’t had an easy time? You have been a single mum with three children for most of the time.

What do I know about love? That it hurts as well as heals. That’s about it. I am older and wiser, I like to think. I have three amazing kids. My parents are still alive. I have a very busy time with all of them. My life works for me. A partner would (might) be a bonus, but is not a necessity. I have always felt that it’s better to be on my own than with the wrong person; that it is not about being with a man, any man at whatever cost, but with the man. If I couldn’t meet someone naturally, in the real world, then it wasn’t my time, this time around. I don’t do internet dating, nor any of that. I respect other people’s reasons for doing so. It’s not for me.

Tell us about John Hurt offering to buy your first-born, Mia?

I knew John socially. He was married to his wife Donna at the time, and they couldn’t conceive. I was in an advanced state of pregnancy and hanging with him at a private members’ club when he offered me £100,000 for my unborn child. There wasn’t anything sordid about it. He knew that I was about to become a single mother, and probably thought he was doing me a favour! What he didn’t know was that I had chosen to go it alone and have my baby anyway, after my relationship broke up. He was so desperate for a baby that he was prepared to pay a vast sum for one. His desperation broke my heart. He was drinking a great deal in those days. His mind was distorted. He must have known that such a transaction would have been illegal, and we could both have been done for it. Not that I considered it for a second. I would never be without Mia, not in a million years.

You certainly have a way with descriptions – you describe Joan Collins as ‘smelling like toffs’ chocolate’, which made me laugh. And Linda McCartney as ‘as down-to-earth as a root vegetable’. Has your writing always been like that?

I started writing stories when I was about 5 years old. I have hundreds of notebooks dating back to infants’ school. I have always found it easier to write than to speak. I express myself best through the written word. I have a wry view of the world, which is unsurprising, given my eccentric family. I’ve also devoured books since I was tiny. The only way to become a good writer is to read avidly. Anyone can write, it is simply a question of doing it. Of reading a lot, and then doing it. But yes, it is vital to avoid clichés, and to deploy descriptions that do not merely echo what has been said countless times before. There are something like 200,000 words in the English language, if you count obsolete words and foreign derivatives. Our average active vocabulary is around 20,000 words. We can all do better!

Were you tempted to have sex with Marco Piero White? That chapter is titled ‘You know we are going to fuck, don’t you?’

Are you joking? Absolutely not! I was fed-up, not hard-up. He smelled of food, had dirt under his fingernails, and there was dried blood all down his trousers. He was considered something of a sex symbol in his younger day, as I recall. All that matted hair and menacing staring, I suppose. But no, not at all my type. Wouldn’t touch him with yours. I always preferred them freshly-showered, brushed and tweeded, with a volume of Shakespeare under one arm.

What did you discover about yourself during the writing of Tumbling Dice, which is taken from a Stones’ song on Exile on Main Street?

I discovered that there is no real closure. Not about anything. You live with things. You survive with things. No damage ever truly heals. You just have to get on with it, and keep laughing at yourself. Because everyone else will.

How would you sum up that era for you?

I loved it. It defined me, and to a great extent still does. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

The book will be available from 6th April on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com, as an eBook and in paperback. Signed/personalised/dedicated copies can be ordered from Lesley-Anne’s website via PayPal: www.lesleyannjones.com

 

 

AofA People: Annie Moon – Social Impact Co-Pilot


4 Minute Read

What is your name?

Annie Moon

Briefly sum up who you are and what motivates you

I am a woman who has lived, learned and loved. I am planning to do more of the same as I embark on the second chapter of my life. In terms of what motivates me – I came across this quote the other day which simply says: “I am not impressed by your money, position or title. I am impressed by how you treat others”.

If you have a job, what do you do for a living?

I am a Social Impact Co-Pilot. This is actually a niche that I have carved out and a role that I’ve created for myself and what it equates to is that I help successful business people to supercharge their social impact without the pain of wasting their precious investment and resources.

What’s my magic source? A carefully targeted mix of 25 years+ change maker space expertise and well-honed virtual assistant toolkit. My changer maker clients include Philanthropists, Impact Investors, Social Impact Consultants, CSR Professionals and Social Entrepreneurs.

How long have you been doing this?

Officially, since 2017 when I founded Be the Difference Services and, unofficially, I’ve been doing elements of this throughout my entire career.

What do you find most satisfying about your job?

What I find most rewarding is the fact that I’m able to help people who are being the difference through doing good stuff in the world to do it even better and to do more of it.

Is your work primarily a means to an end ie money, or the motivating force of your life?

It’s my life force and I completely thrive on it.

When you were 8, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I actually can’t recall what I wanted to be when I was eight. However, by the time I was 16, I knew that I wanted to be a Careers Officer. I worked at the local Careers Office part-time during my holidays, I did my work experience there, based my dissertation thesis as part of my degree on research into careers guidance and so nearly became a Careers Officer. In the end, I adopted a wider view and did a postgrad diploma in Youth and Community work. That marked the start of my professional career.

Did you get there  – and if not, are you happy/sad that you didn’t?

As I mentioned in the previous question, I nearly got there (the Careers Officer). The youth and community work qualification and social impact route that I took has served me well. It’s meant that I’ve had a very grounded and strong understanding in working with young people and also community development approaches which I’ve then been able to apply both strategically and in collaborations, developing different offerings throughout my career.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is the one I have!

If UK-based, are you glad, indifferent or disappointed that the
official pension age is rising?

I have very mixed feeling towards the pension age, particularly for women.

  • Women should be able to receive part of their pension earlier, with the option to work part-time. The reason for this is that, from my observations of women around me, we must recognise that many have menopause-related health issues. This can be unpredictable at times can render women unable to work in the way they would like (or had planned) to.
  • At 70, I may still want to work and keep my brain active, even if I’m not as mentally as sharp or as physically fit as I used to be. I’d like to see real options and consideration of things that are rewarding, which also take into account the wisdom and skills that older people bring. It will herald an opportunity that didn’t previously exist, society will change in that older people will be more accepted and a welcomed part of the workforce. Employers will want to take them on and trail blaze with them as a cohort. Personally, I want to be in a position where there are an array of new opportunities and challenges on offer for me to access, well matched with my desire to stay active and channel my insatiable curiosity. I’d like these to be underpinned with a realistic understanding of what it means to be 70.
  • I’d also like to see more inter-generational learning because certainly with me coming back to the 2nd chapter of my career, in lots of ways, with founding Be the Difference, I have been doing much more work with new colleagues who are 20 – 25 years younger than me. Some of what they do is the same but some of their approach is different. My younger colleagues are from new sectors like ethical marketing, social impact etc. I’m doing a lot of learning from them but that’s melding with my experience and skills that I can bring, which have been collected over a career.

You can find out more and contact Annie via: https://www.bethedifferenceva.com/

AofA People: Philippa Perry – Writer, Psychotherapist, TV and Radio Presenter


5 Minute Read

Philippa Perry, 61, is a psychotherapist, TV and radio presenter, who is marvellously bold. Of course, she’s also married to Grayson! Her new publication The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read happens to be a witty selection of dos and don’ts on the parenting front. You can buy it here.

What is your age (in years)

61

Where do you live?

London and Sussex. Having two homes is ridiculous. I can never remember which one has run out of tomato ketchup. But, I love being in the country with no noise and no street lights and I love being in the city for the friends, new people and opportunities.

What do you do?

I am a writer, but also a psychotherapist and also a TV and radio presenter.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

I’m alive, I have consciousness for most of the time when I’m awake. I can feel sun on my skin, the ground under my feet. I am aware that I have lived much longer than I shall continue to live, and I keep in mind how I can live my remaining years and have as much fun as possible. Fun, for me may mean sitting in the garden staring into space, or watching Pointless on the telly, or playing with my phone. It also means hanging out with people who I feel the most comfortable with. And reaping the rewards of delayed gratification. I hated writing my last book, it was a struggle. But now, the book is doing really well and I’m basking in the pride of accomplishment. That is fun. And yes, it’s a cliche, but I am aware of more aches and pains but I can still walk so yippee. I don’t like working for more than 3 or 4 hours a day. I don’t really like working less than that either.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

LOADSA MONEY

What about sex?

You think about it so much when you are young and spend so much time doing it, thinking about it and thinking about who to do it with. It’s nice to have the headspace that not being obsessed about it anymore gives you.

And relationships?

I have two mega ones. One with my husband, and one with my daughter. Then I have some very important ones indeed with very dear friends, then I have some great ones with people I have met over the years, and some great ones with people I see more on Facebook than in real life, but these are important too. Relationships, all of them, are extremely important to me. New ones, old ones, I even feel satisfied with my exchanges with strangers on the bus.

How free do you feel?

I would rather be bound by my relationships than be completely free. I have fantasies of extended times of travel but they don’t appeal to my husband so much and we miss each other if we are away much longer than a fortnight. So I choose love over complete freedom.

What are you proud of?

Some of my documentaries. Very much liked Sex, Lies and Lovebites: a history of agony aunts, and How to be a Surrealist with Philippa Perry – they were fun to make. Also proud of a radio doc I did, The Truth about Children Who Lie. I have a couple more in the pipeline at the moment. I don’t know whether I’ll be proud of them or not. I’ll have to wait and see.

I’m proud of all my three books. Couch Fiction, How To Stay Sane and The Book you Wish your Parents Had Read. The last one is doing really well. I am very proud of all the people who have bought it, read it and wrestle with it. Behttps://amzn.to/2CqKd7lcause for some it brings up a lot of psychological stuff and can upset or make the reader angry, but if they don’t throw it out of the window and stick with it, it can work as good therapy for them. I’m sorry it hurts sometimes. And it gives me so much joy when I hear it has helped someone, or a family. I’m proud when I hear any of my books have helped people.

What keeps you inspired?

What keeps me inspired is what I know already and then what is just outside of that, that fits or challenges with what I know, so that I can expand through new connections with ideas, people, philosophies.

When are you happiest?

Probably when I’m not aware of being happy, when a group of us are laughing and laughing and just in the moment.

And where does your creativity go?

I take issue with the word “creativity”. It is overused. But I’m good at cooking.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Don’t miss out on box sets or books or biscuits because you are too busy. Use alliteration whenever the opportunity arises.

And dying?

Treasure those people you would like around your death bed.

Are you still dreaming?

I hanker after a bigger garden in town sometimes.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I shoplifted a bottle of prosecco by accident. The Co-op thought I was mad when I tried to give it back the next day. Honestly, if I was really going for it, I would have got champagne. I think I find the word “outrageous” almost as offensive as “creativity”. It is not something I would be by design.

2018 – A Look Backwards & Ahead


9 Minute Read

I turned 57 in 2018 and, above all else, reaching this less-than-milestone age informed my year more than any other particular incident. Closer to 60 than 50, I began to see, with greater clarity than the year earlier, how my age was coming to define my life and my place in the world.

Take, as an example, my tech startup, Frugl, a website that curates daily deals from most of the leading providers such as Groupon, Living Social and Wowcher. I’d created the Frugl app in 2014, when I was 53, as an adventurous idea to help myself and others enjoy London’s culture on a budget spurred on by the rather naive belief that if I gathered enough users it would somehow become profitable. As someone who had always enjoyed hunting out fun and usually free events in London for the greater part of my life, I had witnessed, in the more recent past, how much harder it was to find them (especially as Time Out was no longer my go-to source). Four years later, having pivoted the business a number of times, burning through cash and experiencing more than my fair share of ageism and sexism, I realised:

a) with the benefit of hindsight, the original app would have made a great social enterprise (having learned this past year the difference between a social enterprise and for-profit business) seeing that Frugl had been championed and particularly popular amongst young people, often on low incomes;

b) that, generally, equity funded businesses (the ones you read about receiving large amounts of investment) are ones that solve clear, genuine technological problems and are easily scalable. In a bizarre twist, I did discover that in trying to build the latest iteration of Frugl, the one that I had hoped would feature all the deals, vouchers and sales across the UK, there was a genuine technological problem to be solved. The problem being, I just don’t have nearly enough cash to solve it and…

c) being an older woman working on a technology-based business isn’t much fun unless you enjoy the challenge of fighting the status quo 24/7 and

d) most companies that receive investments are fronted by young, white and middle-class men (see c).

Would I have embarked on this new career path having known all this back in 2014? Perhaps not. Did I regret the time I’d spent learning just how tough on women (especially) the sector can be? Maybe but, as a result, I’d met an investor, Yvonne Fuchs, that turned into a great friend and is now working with me on my social enterprise Advantages of Age, created in 2016 to challenge some of the biases I’d encountered through working on Frugl. So, in the end, there has been a silver lining (always there, if you look for it)! We’ve been discussing how we can redevelop the original Frugl app as a loyalty product with a bias towards helping those over 50 save money so watch this space!

If 2018 taught me anything it was to be resilient and flexible. My income stream, until quite recently, had been through generating PR for SMEs, diversified to such an extent that it made answering the question, “What do you do for a living?’” practically impossible to articulate in less than 10 minutes. I have become the very definition of a woman with a ‘portfolio career.’ Since then I’ve heard others in similar circumstances describe themselves as polymaths or renaissance people, both of which seem grandiose terms to describe what constitutes just keeping one’s head above water.

Here are a few of the things I have done this year to earn a living:

Rented out a room on AirBnB
Taught a business course for over 50s
Given talks at Soho House
Managed communications for a co-working space in South London
Sung bawdy blues at a club in Camden
Freelance writing
Been part of various focus groups

As a result, I managed to stay afloat while gaining a deeper perspective of the career challenges many over 50s are now facing as we move towards an ever more distant retirement. Never before have I had to take on so much work to earn so little.

Meanwhile, I’ve watched as friends and colleagues my age struggled with redundancy and unemployment.  This actually has allowed a handful to find purpose in their lives, many having previously defined who they were by what they did. The problem is – how to earn money from their passion. The past six months I’ve been trying, along with Yvonne, to figure out how to solve what is a genuine problem of how to keep over 50s in work, either by helping them to start a business or finding a job. It’s the one thing that keeps me up at night and I can’t say I’m anywhere close to cracking it yet! I’m looking forward to 2019 as the year where AofA can play a part in supporting over 50s to generate an income that aligns with their skills and passions.

Social media isn’t delivering results for my businesses like it did a year ago. Back in 2016, I invested in an internet marketing course with a ‘social media guru.’ I was naturally sceptical about a course that promised to deliver £10k a month in revenue within a year, and I quickly realised that the course was primarily aimed at those who wanted to coach or consult others and not the perfect fit for me. Word of warning – if you’re being sold a course that promises you £10k/month in revenue from the get-go, the likelihood is that you’re going to be learning how to create a course not dissimilar to the one you’re on that you can resell to others. Even so, my ‘guru’ did manage to deliver one killer piece of advice, ’start a Facebook group.’

I chucked in what little paid work I still had left and decided to spend 8 hours a day on Facebook building a community – called Advantages of Age – Baby Boomers & Beyond – of over 50s who, like myself, refused to give in to the media narrative around ageing. It now has over 3.5k members but with less active members than I expected or noticed a year ago. It may be that quite a few are lurkers, those that read but don’t post, but I suspect that the algorithms have changed and many users aren’t seeing the group posts. That makes reaching them difficult and figuring out how we can help them with some of the challenges they are facing, even more so. The more we can connect in other ways, whether it’s email or hosting events that bring our members together, the happier I will be. I fear that one day we’ll all be having to spend money using Facebook simply because we haven’t figured out how to communicate with each other in a convenient way! (Anyone who has any suggestions as to how to avoid this, I’m all ears).

The other social media channels aren’t as interactive for the over 50s community as Facebook and I’m reaching a point of wondering how to get back to stuff that happens in real life and not online. Part of this has been spurred by my renewed interest in singing, the biggest surprise, and delight of 2018.

In March 2018 I was given three singing lessons with a well known vocal coach and performer herself, Nikki Lamborn, as a present by one of my best friends and my two children. I’d been a jazz and session singer in my twenties as a sideline and missed performing in front of an audience. But, following menopause and over two decades of not singing, I’d moved from alto to more of a baritone. I couldn’t hit the notes I used to and singing along to the radio was painful for anyone without earshot. Nikki took me under her wing and, over 6 months, got my voice good enough to guest at one of her gigs where I sang three bawdy blues songs from the 1930s, my favourite era for music. This led to my own sold-out gig at the same venue, the Green Note in Camden. I’ve also been booked for two more shows and am even thinking about how I can work my set up into a one-hour history of the bawdy blues in time for the Edinburgh Festival!

I love singing now and my range is slowly coming back, thanks to lots and lots of practice. I love performing in front of others, seeing my friends in the audience and for it to be something which others are willing to pay for (maybe I’m a renaissance woman, after all). It has come as a complete shock to me that within such a short space of time, I have been able to get a show together and find a young and accomplished pianist who enjoys playing the dirty blues as much as I enjoy singing them. Nikki and her partner Been are even talking about writing a song for me and producing an EP! It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I haven’t lost my voice and a  brilliant way to wind up what has been an eventful year. If you’d told me a year ago, that I’d be ending the year with my own sold-out show, I
never would have believed you.

Finally, 2018 was the year that taught me never to give up on the idea of finding love. I got divorced back in 2001 and, since then, have been in and out of relationships, some good but mainly not so great. In between, I’ve tried most online dating sites, with varying degrees of success. Friends often said they admired my tenaciousness when it came to finding a partner but were also, I’m guessing, doubtful that I ever would. Then I met a man in March with whom I felt a genuine affinity and respect. My feelings for him have deepened over the past year. Like me, he has also spent over ten years online dating and neither of us are spring chickens. It’s very much a relationship of equals, not one where one person is trying to fix or save the other. We’re having a lovely time together and I’m looking forward to the year ahead with him.

I don’t like to plan too far ahead but I’m looking forward to spending more time with friends and family in 2019; as well as developing the work we’ve been doing at AofA into a clear, strategic plan that can see us become a truly sustainable enterprise by the end of the year; and working up my bawdy blues repertoire. My motto for next year is Think Big and that’s what I intend to do.

AofA People: Debra Sofia Magdalene, Spiritual Entrepreneur


1 Minute Read

Debra Sofia Magdalene, considers herself timeless but came into this body in 1961, she’s a spiritual entrepreneur and a digital nomad. She’s been home-free since 2011.

What’s your name?

At birth, I was given the name Mary Deborah Philomena plus my family surname on my birth certificate but always known as Deborah. I took on my husband’s surname when we married and after a numerology reading in the nineties, I changed the spelling of my name to Debra and took on two initials of N G to bring in different energies. When we divorced, I didn’t want to return to my maiden name as it didn’t resonate. In 2011, I was moving into a new chapter of my life and needed a new passport. I set the intention for my new name to come to me. Debra Magdalene came in whilst I was visiting a dear friend who’s a numerologist, followed two weeks later with my middle name of Sofia. When my friend checked out the numbers, she confirmed that it brought in energies that would support me – so I am now known as Debra Sofia Magdalene and changed my name by deed poll.

My son asked why I had taken the name of a prostitute. It was then I received an insight that I’d been given the name ‘Magdalene’ to raise awareness that Mary Magdalene was a spiritual teacher in her own right. Your name carries a sound frequency to the Universe that holds codes for the experiences you have. When you change your name, you change the game you’re playing here on earth. My life is very different since I changed my name. I was able to let go of addictions to food, sugar and alcohol which I’d struggled letting go of previously.

[It’s interesting that at birth my first name was ‘Mary’ and now my last name is ‘Magdalene’. I call my blue Honda Jazz ‘Mary’ and the first two initials of the registration plate are ‘MM’. I knew she was mine as soon as I saw her!]

What is your age?

I consider myself to be timeless – I came into this current body in 1961. I no longer define my age in terms of numbers. I actually feel younger now than three decades ago. Age is a state of mind and a state of being. Time is an illusion so why limit ourselves?

Where do you live?

I’ve been home-free since the summer of 2011 when I sold my house and gave away most of my furniture and possessions so that I was free to travel and follow my soul’s calling.   I’m now a digital nomad and can work from anywhere in the world as long as I have a good internet connection. I live in other people’s houses looking after their homes, pets, plants, businesses. I choose which assignments I take on and check in with my intuition as to where to go. It’s rare I have gaps between gigs. I had a cancellation earlier this year when a client had an injury so was unable to travel so I took the opportunity to work on an organic farm (WOOFING) in exchange for food and accommodation. I was in heaven and loved every minute. I also gained valuable experience of planting and harvesting crops and looking after livestock (donkey, pony, sheep, pigs).

What do you do?

As a spiritual entrepreneur, I have a portfolio of services which create multiple streams of income. I love to collaborate on joint ventures and make new connections.

  • Essential Oil Queen at Magdalene Wellness: I teach you how to use essential oils as safe, natural alternatives for health, replacing chemicals in the home, detoxifying and cleansing the body, using for emotional release, using for spiritual purposes, using to replace chemicals in the home, using to make healthy raw chocolate and in the kitchen etc. I have a team which is growing internationally and I mentor you for free if you want to create an additional income through teaching people about essential oils. mydoterra.com/magdalenewellness and https://www.facebook.com/magdalenewellness
  • An awakener of souls: I help you to see your own light and to move out of lower vibration emotions to the liberation of unconditional love for self and others. I do this through 1:1 coaching, events and retreats. https://www.facebook.com/pg/magdalenespiritualjourneys
  • Therapies and Healing: I have trained in several healing modalities, from spiritual healing, shamanic healing and energy healing and have developed my own intuitive healing combining knowledge and wisdom gained from my life’s journey. I offer AromaTouch sessions using therapeutic essential oil plant essences and Sacred Anointings which clear trapped energy from this and previous lifetimes to free the soul.
  • HUGS House and Pet-sitting Service: I started this business on 1 January 2017 when my last relationship ended and love the flexibility that it offers me to travel and take on gigs in parts of the world which I want to visit. Last year I spent five wonderful weeks in Turkey with a fellow house-sitter and dear friend looking after 5 dogs, 6 cats and 20 chickens in a mountain home in Turkey. https://www.facebook.com/HUGShouseandpetsittingservice
  • HUGS House & Pet-Sitting Service Agency: My business has been such a success that I now have a team of people I trust who I can match to sits in different parts of the country that I’m unable to do personally. This enables us to provide a service not just in the UK but overseas too. I love how it’s growing organically and how delighted clients are when they see how lovingly their furry friends are cared for. I love animals and enjoy a deep connection with every one of them. We can learn so much from the animal kingdom.
  • Bed & Breakfast Business Relief Manager: This year I’ve been running B&B businesses in Glastonbury when owners go on holiday. I have made beautiful connections with people from many different countries who have become dear friends.
  • I’m an event manager and promote spiritual teachers whose work I have personally experienced and happy to recommend. In alignment with my purpose of raising consciousness, I ran spiritual events in Manchester, UK for 10 years. I’m also invited to speak at events and organise retreats for other teachers.

Now that I’m traveling, I do interviews with people online or in person and upload them to my Mastery Path youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/MasteryPath

  • Silver Tent Radio Host: I’m a Silver Grove member of The Silver Tent – an online community of wise, wonderful women 50+. I interview people who have positive messages to share to help raise consciousness. After the interviews have gone out in audio format through the mixcloud platform, I upload the video to my Mastery Path youtube channel and share across social media platforms. https://www.mixcloud.com/debra-sofia-magdalene/
  • I’m Director of Hugs and have a Facebook group for Global Hugs Ambassadors – the mission is about helping the excluded to feel included and to share unconditional love through offering hugs. Hugs are healing and beneficial in so many ways. Do join us.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/globalhugsambassadors

The things I’ve mentioned are some of the things I do. I do so much more than that.

I’m an Alchemist!

What it’s like to be your age?

Age is irrelevant to me. I feel that I’m in the prime of my life and feel very grateful to be in this physical body at this exciting time on planet earth when we’re going through a mass awakening. I have a lot of energy and stamina, I take my doTERRA high quality supplements every day (this is my health insurance), I do regular cleanses and detoxes (this is an act of self-love to care for my physical body), I eat healthily, I love to be out in nature and connecting with the land. I feel so blessed.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

When I was 25 I was married, in a high-powered job with big house, company car, good income, no children, had a small network of friends.

I’m now happily and amicably divorced, I have a son and daughter who have children of their own and I love being a grandma.

I have a global network, more skills, more knowledge and more wisdom.

I don’t need anything external to be happy – I have everything I need within me.

What about sex?

I love sex and have a high libido. However I don’t sleep around and I am extremely careful about whom I let into my energy field. My rule is: ‘Don’t have sex with anyone who you don’t want to be like’ – their energy stays with you. To me, sex is a sacred experience. Ancient cultures and mystery schools recognised the power of sex magick for creation and manifestation and this knowledge was suppressed by religions for the purpose of power and control. It took a lot of work on myself to undo this deep-seated conditioning and to find my own truth.

And relationships? 

When my husband left me for another woman, I went on a healing journey to dissolve feelings of unworthiness and rejection. I knew I needed to be in a higher vibrational state before entering into another relationship, otherwise I would attract a partner who was in the same low vibrational state that I was in (processing grief, sadness etc). When I felt ready, I made out a list of what I wanted in a partner and after dating several men, realised that I was being judgemental as they didn’t match up to my list. So I asked the Universe to send me the man I would have the most growth with. He showed up soon after and I had to smile at the cosmic joke because he was the opposite to everything I had on my list! From day one, I suggested that our relationship be one where we chose to be together rather than stay out of any sense of obligation. We agreed to follow our hearts and to make every day a choice. During our relationship, there were several times when it didn’t feel right for me. So we’d change our status to friends and take a period out for reflection. When it felt right, we’d come back together and our relationship would be elevated to a new level. He brought balance to my life and I did to his. On our ninth anniversary of getting together, we evaluated where we were and agreed that the relationship had run its course in its present format. We changed our status from partners to best friends and remain so to this day. We still have a deep love for each other, enjoy each other’s company and he’s still a part of my extended family.

In terms of other relationships, I have a huge network of friends and a close inner circle. Most importantly, I have the best relationship with myself that I’ve ever had – I’ve learned to love myself unconditionally.

How free do you feel?

I’m a free spirit and always will be. The nomadic lifestyle that I’ve consciously created for myself allows me to follow my heart and go wherever I feel drawn. I’ve reclaimed my sovereignty and can easily disengage from the matrix. I am whole, I am sovereign, I am free!

What are you proud of? 

I’m proud of who I have become – the journey back to wholeness, the journey back to my heart and to unconditional love. Work on myself is a constant process – I use others as a reflection to gain insights and do not get caught up in drama playing out around me. I am able to take a higher perspective and keep centred in the midst of chaos.

I am proud of getting to the root cause of my unworthiness belief which had come from indoctrination from the Catholic religion. After repeating “Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed” at every mass I was forced to attend, it took a lot of unravelling. I had this insight whilst in Peru and made a point of attending Catholic mass and affirming “Lord I am worthy to receive you and I invite you to share consciousness so that we may have a beautiful union”. It was liberating.

I’m proud that I was able to access hidden parts of myself when travelling.

I was attacked by a pack of wild dogs whilst walking alone in the mountains in Bolivia. I accessed my inner warrior, became Alpha dog and they backed off after seeing my fierceness.

I connected with wild dogs when living in the mountains of the Sacred Valley and they walked by my side. When some locals got out of a passing Tuk Tuk – the dogs went to attack them and the locals fled. The dogs then returned to me and we continued walking up the mountain. Experiences like this have given me confirmation that I am truly standing in my personal power and able to master my energy.

I have had so many incredible experiences in my life and I am grateful for every one of them.

What keeps you inspired?

I am inspired by so many things. Observing the fractals in nature; watching a drop of rain on a leaf; being with my grandchildren and other children; having beautiful exchanges with animals; working on the land; being still and meditating; watching inspiring movies; listening to music which touches my soul; poetry, reading, learning and expanding my knowledge and skills … so many things.

When are you happiest?

Happiness is a choice in every moment. Many years ago, I developed a talk called ‘7 Steps to Happiness’ and love to teach others how to be happy.

These are a few of my favourite things: When I’m out in nature; when I’m with my children and grandchildren; when we have extended family gatherings; when I’m meditating; when I’m travelling; when I’m connecting with people; when I’m being of service and see how others are benefitting; when I’m eating raw chocolate; when I’m swimming in the ocean; when I feel the sun upon my body; making footsteps in virgin snow; playing and connecting with animals …

Even when I’m experiencing a dark night of the soul, at a deeper level I’m happy that I’m learning such valuable lessons and receiving insights which will elevate me even higher. You can’t experience the highs without experiencing the lows. For example, when my marriage broke up, I wasn’t expecting it and although I was experiencing deep grief, I also knew that my husband was doing me a big favour and that he was setting me free. We had a soul contract for this to happen and it was a catalyst to my awakening. I reframed him leaving me for a younger woman and gave it the meaning: “He’s set me free and I can now become the person I’m destined to be”.

This was enormously empowering and helped me through that deeply emotional time.

And where does your creativity go?

Business: I’m an entrepreneur and see opportunities everywhere. I love to create opportunities for myself and others which are mutually beneficial and to connect people within my huge network.

Painting: When I was in the Amazon Rainforest living with the Shipibo Tribe in 2013, I started to paint with acrylics for the first time ever. I’ve since enjoyed experimenting with different medium and allowing my intuition to lead me artistically.

Writing: When I was living in Cusco, I started to write a book called ‘Life Lessons from Mosquitos’ inspired by a big healing I had with a mosquito I the Amazon when I merged consciousness with it. It’s still work in progress and I’ll complete it when I feel the impetus to pick it up again.

Poetry: After merging my consciousness with a huge rock in the mountains above Cusco, I have developed an ability to tap into the consciousness of standing stones and trees, in particular Yew Trees. I receive poems from these wise beings and will publish them when I get around to it.

Photography: I love taking photos and capturing magic moments, nature, insects, flowers, animals, family etc.

Music: I’m from a musical family and in addition to singing in a choir, I played piano, violin, guitar and oboe as a teenager – none of them very well. I love music and have a wide taste, from mantras to rock music.

Dance: I love to express myself freely through dancing and find that it transports me to other dimensions. Unlike my earlier years when I needed a few drinks to lose my inhibitions on the dance floor, I have dropped ego which kept me from doing spontaneous things and feel free to express myself in any moment no matter where I am or who I’m with. It’s a liberating feeling.

What’s your philosophy of living?

When we are born, we forget who we are and our journey is simply to remember our Divinity. We are here to experience and grow the collective consciousness.

There is no right or wrong at a Higher level. That comes from duality thinking which comes from the illusion of separation. When we remember that we are not separate but part of all that is, we move from ‘I’ to ‘We’ – all part of the One.

Live in the moment of now – it’s all we have and it’s where we create from.

I always trust my intuition and follow my heart – it’s my inner guidance system.

Be loving, be compassionate, be accepting of others, be grateful.

Don’t take like seriously – lighten up, have fun and do what brings you the most joy.

Ultimately, love is all there is.

And dying?

Being in the physical vessel of the body is a temporary experience in which the soul can experience and expand. When I was in the Amazon Rainforest, I experienced a shamanic death and a life review which gave me deep insights. We never die – our consciousness lives on eternally. We create our own heaven and hell on earth. We are not our physical bodies.

I have had the privilege of being present at the passing of three people. First time was when I was living in the mountains of Quillabamba in Peru on a coffee plantation where I was nursing Rosa who was coming to end of life. Her passing was very peaceful and her daughter Gladys (a doctor) was present too. Initially, the Gladys attempted resuscitation which failed and I gently reminded her that it was Rosa’s time to go. After a cup of tea, we cleaned Rosa’s body and dressed her in her wedding dress which she would be buried in. This was a rite of passage for me and prepared me for my own mother’s passing last year.

I’ve given sacred anointings using a special oil blend to people who have been dying and they have found great comfort and deep peace. One lady told me that whilst I was doing the anointing, all her past memories came flooding back to her and that she now felt ready to go. The essential oils are working emotionally, physically, spiritually and multi-dimensionally. It was an honour for me to be of service in this way.

Are you still dreaming?

Always. We create through our thoughts and our imagination. Life is exciting!

What was a recent outrageous action of yours? 

I received a parking ticket which I felt was unjust and after having a rant on Facebook, a You tube video posted on my timeline from a friend sent me down the rabbit hole as I researched the legal system. I discovered that there’s two systems operating – the Legal system which is based on maritime law, and the Lawful system based on the law of the land dating back to the Magna Carta (some of which still applies today). I went through a process of reclaiming my sovereignty in respect of not being bullied by an unlawful system which uses fear to control the population. I refuse to be bullied by organisations and corrupt systems which rely on ignorance and fear of the masses to line their pockets. You could say that I’m a peaceful non-conformist.

Find out more about Debra:

www.facebook.com/debrasofiamagdalene

https://www.linkedin.com/in/debrasofiamagdalene/

AofA People: Debra Watson – Performer, Tutor, Poet


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Debra Watson, 53, is a wildly exciting woman. She runs a participative theatre, art and media charity. She’s a performer who’s interested in intimate methodologies. She’s a tutor. She does sensual poetry performances as part of The Crimson Word, The Bloody Poets and the Poetry Brothel London.

Her next performance is this Thursday where she will be performing FemmeDom, tickets are only on sale beforehand from Eventbrite.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Up in leafy Muswell Hill. It’s very suburban and also very green and pretty. I moved here when my son started high school. I love North London because of the proximity to the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath. It’s a life-saver in the summer!

WHAT IS YOUR AGE?

53

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

It’s great! I’ve had a fantastic last two years creatively. I am full of ideas and have some great people around me to work with. I worry as I am not sure how much longer I can go at this pace. I had to take a month off for health reasons in mid-October.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

Debra Watson by Steve Gregson

I am a lot more at peace with the fact that I am odd. My 25th birthday was amazing. I was working on a hit show at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. My sister brought my nephew and niece backstage and brought a cake. I was semi-famous. That year, we were invited to perform at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and then for a run at the Tricycle Theatre in London. Yet somehow, though my work now is much more marginal, I have much more confidence in my process and output, than I had then.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

Ah. I have discovered that sex is not as difficult to get as I thought it would be for someone my age. I enjoy it immensely when I have it. I don’t currently have any long-term sexual partners. I’d prefer that to a series of one-off encounters. I’m super into intimacy. I’ve discovered I’m not really that promiscuous anymore. I long for depth and the scariness that comes with allowing someone to know you. You can discover a lot about yourself. I am surprised at how sexual I still am. This year, I’ve performed intimate poetry in a few different sex-clubs. It’s been an eye-opener. I clearly have a lot to learn and explore. I feel lucky to still feel sexual desire and to be desired. I know that for many women and men, sex becomes irrelevant to them as they age. It’s a genetic thing, I think. My mum was the same.

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

I am separated from, but immensely close to, my ex-husband (whom I met when I was 25!), I work with him sometimes. He is my best friend. I can’t imagine a life without him. We co-parent. He wipes away my tears when my lovers break my heart. I have been experimenting (badly) with polyamory. It has been chaotic. I don’t enjoy relationship chaos. I like being treated well, with consideration and sensitivity. I can’t bear being blindsided by stupidity.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

In what way? Personally, there are things I feel free about, but to be honest, I think I would feel freer if I had more liquidity. I am not free enough to travel as much as I would like, or to give up working for money or to just pack up my flat and go full Nomad. There are many ways in which I feel constricted. Not free at all.

Debra Watson by Lilith Costela

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

I am super proud of my creative output in the past three years. On my 50th birthday, I did a ‘dress tease’ for my friends and it started off a creative process that has been wonderful for me. In my late 40s, I started writing poetry again and this has led to an interest in performing intimate poetry. In the last two years, I have been performing with The Poetry Brothel London, The Bloody Poets and this year, have started a new intimate, immersive poetry collective The Crimson Word, with my friend Winter James. We are set up to do events, pop-ups, and parties; but we keep changing our mind and expanding the horizons of the company. The Bloody Poets was started in London by Mad Pirvan and Belen Berlin in 2017. Mad moved to London a year ago and runs the event once a quarter. It’s been very experimental and probably the closest I have come to re-picking up the thread of exploring experimental performance work I was doing in the early 80s and 90s.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

I can be a lone wolf, but I really enjoy working in collectives. I get tremendous inspiration from other artists and tend to enjoy having events and themes to write to. My work is very, very personal, but having a group and compatriots that are also focussed on work and creativity has been crucial for me in developing in ways I haven’t expected. Social media is fun too. I’ve found that Instagram is an amazing tool for reaching new audiences. That being said, I need downtime and alone time to process, research and write.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

When I am creating. Even though it can be fraught, I love the creative process. The starting with a blank page, or one phrase, or one image and then building that up ‘into’ something. I am often not at all sure that I am going to pull off an idea. It is fabulous when/if things come together. I also get very, very happy when people pay me well and when they tell me that my work has moved them or impacted them in some way or another. Sometimes, especially after the very intimate 1-2-1 readings, people have an after-glow. They say: ‘It’s better than sex’. I used to be very shy about approaching performers and acting all fangirlish. No more. I realise how important it can be, in those dark and lonely hours when you think all your work is shit and that you’ve never have done nor will do anything well, to remember a kind word or a moment of sincere praise.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

I perform, I write, I make costumes. A lot of my work is concerned with intimacy/intimate performance. It’s so intense and unpredictable. I also run a participative theatre, art, and media charity, so I also tutor and facilitate creativity. Part of my life is me being a big show off and another part is engaging very sensitively with other people to get them to tell their own stories.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

Go towards what terrifies you.

AND DYING?

I recently had a health scare. I am not out the woods yet. I am still in terrible pain on alternate days, but they don’t think I am dying. Before the diagnosis, I had a very serious discussion with my ex. I felt 100% that if it turned out to be critical, I would take this as an opportunity to step off the planet. I am not too keen on living for long. The world seems to be going to shit. I think I have had a good run of it, I think there is more fun to be had, but if it all had to end, I hope to face it graciously. Secretly, I am envious of people who die suddenly and quickly. It’s horrid for those left behind but I am not, and never have been, a fan of chronic pain and slow decay.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

Yes. And there’s still so much I feel I need and want to do.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

I tend to do all my outrageous acts in performance. The Crimson Word is just about to launch the first of a series of ‘Suprasensual Poeticals’ at a private members club in Hackney. It’s a continuation of work we have been exploring over the summer. Our theme is ‘Venus in Furs’ after the 1870 novella written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It explores themes of female domination and male submission. So, I am going to be exploring FemmeDom in performance. I hope it will be fun! It’s a small audience in a beautiful room in a private members club. No tickets will be available on the door. Only sales in advance from here.

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