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I Hate to Call it a Disorder – finding out I had ADHD at 57


8 Minute Read

Ivan Pope is a writer, artist and long-distance cyclist who lives in Brighton. He originally graduated from Goldsmiths College Fine Art BA. He was involved with a number of early internet developments in the UK and across the world. He invented the cybercafe at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and founded the world’s first web magazine, The World Wide Web Newsletter. He has taught at art colleges in London, Newport and Brighton. He is now a writer of fiction and psychogeographic non-fiction. He is currently undertaking a PhD in creative non-fiction at Plymouth University.

I have spent most of my life in creative pursuits, drifting from one thing to another without ever clearly understanding what I was doing. I certainly never had a plan, much less a career and, although I had some notable successes along the way, and am not unhappy with my life, I always felt something was wrong. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

The revelation of attention-deficit to me was a classic epiphany. I was trying to work out some issues that we had with our son who, although a very intelligent boy, seemed incapable of working at university and had just extricated himself from Oxford in the most painful and seemingly pointless fashion. Someone suggested ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), the full name of this syndrome. I was both dismissive and uninterested, believing at that point that ADHD was a term applied only to annoying children who would not sit still. Nevertheless, I went to Google and searched the term. Immediately I came across a list of ADHD attributes and these brought me up so sharply that my life changed in that instant. I was fifty-seven and, while I wouldn’t say my life had been a disaster, I seemed to have always stood on the edge of normality. ‘That’s my life, I thought.’ I was alone but I may even have spoken out loud. It became as obvious as it could be: almost every way that ADHD was said to manifest was familiar to me. In that instant, I understood myself better than I had ever done.

Since then I have come to see attention deficit as both the driver of creativity and the author of my strange unfocused life. I have not been formally diagnosed, I am self-diagnosed.  I have read a lot about it and also, more importantly, listened in to a growing community online who discuss, challenge and inform each other about how attention deficit works in their lives.  This syndrome seems to explain a lot about the strangenesses of our lives: why are we like this and also like that. It is a strange and shape-shifting disorder which is comorbid with a range of other neurodiversities and some even more strange issues like hypermobility and digestive issues.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not named well. It’s not really about hyperactivity (although to be fair, there is a hyperactive version, and it is said that for many of us, the hyperactivity is internal). It’s not even really a disorder. It seems to be more of an attention surfeit, we pay too much attention to too many things. It also creates a strange relationship with time. I’ve known these attributes my whole life, but I never considered them strange. I assumed everyone had them to some degree and that my creativity, my way with ideas, was just something I was a bit better at. Then I found ADHD and suddenly I could see myself in operation, I could anticipate how I might react and understand what I was doing, and why I was doing it. This ‘disorder’ (as I don’t like to call it) is well scientifically and medically documented, but still hard to put into words. The notion that it is about an inability to sit still is nonsense in most of us, though the hyperactivity may be considered to be internal, a driver of our restless lives. We have huge issues with procrastination, an inability to get started, and then we have hyperfocus, the ability to spend hours in a different world, undertaking a single task.

I started looking, as I so often did, at art and literature for answers. In her book Flights, the Nobel author, Olga Tokarczuk, describes a condition that she calls Lazy Venus syndrome Although she never uses the term attention deficit, she describes someone with ADHD perfectly and beautifully.

“The result of this situation is that I have, as I see it, Lazy Venus syndrome. In this case, we’re dealing with a Person whose fortune has gifted generously, but who has entirely failed to use their potential. Such people are bright and intelligent, but don’t apply themselves to their studies, and use their intelligence to play card games or patience instead.

This … induces a strange kind of laziness – lifetime opportunities are missed because you overslept because you didn’t feel like going, because you were late because you were neglectful. It’s a tendency to be sybaritic, to live in a state of mild consciousness, to fritter your life away on petty pleasures, to dislike effort and be devoid of any penchant for competition. Long mornings, unopened letters, things put off for later, abandoned projects. A dislike of any authority and a refusal to submit to it, going your own way in a taciturn idle manner.”

It is interesting to compare Tokarczuk’s description with a more conventional list of attributes of ADHD:

  • Easily bored, Gets frustrated, Anxious
  • Does not meet goals, Easily distracted, Searches for stimulation,
  • Sense of underachievement, Restive
  • Disorganised, Can’t get started (Time blindness)
  • Resistance to authority, Impulsive, Doesn’t follow procedure
  • Impatient, Procrastinates, Lots of hobbies
  • Called dreamy. Hyperfocuses.
  • Has an aversion to paperwork

People I talk to, especially artists, often recognise this sort of language because it has been applied to you. Indeed, it reads like my own school reports. They (and my mother) constantly told me I lived in a dream world ‘to live in a state of mild-consciousness’. We are often categorised as lazy ‘a strange kind of laziness’ despite being intelligent and highly creative. We tend not to finish things, getting distracted or starting something new. We tend to be impulsive, getting into trouble and resisting authority in different ways, ‘A dislike of any authority and a refusal to submit to it’. People with ADHD will often ask themselves how they can be lazy when they spend so much time being busy, starting and getting on with multiple interests ‘abandoned projects’. We tend to have a dislike of paperwork ‘unopened letters, things put off for later’. ADHD can drive fierce creativity but it can also ensure that creativity never finds lasting expression.

In his book Adult ADHD: How to succeed as a Hunter in a Farmer’s world, Thom Hartmann says that the forgetfulness, disorganisation, impulsivity and boredom that ADHD brings can be as constructive as they can be destructive. To be fair, attention deficit can be hugely destructive and far more intense than I have experienced. It is a formal medical condition that can ruin lives and there is a lot of disagreement currently (especially in the US) about over-diagnosis and medicalisation. My interest is not in the medical side or in the politics of this, but in understanding how or whether attention deficit relates to creativity. In this, I mean all forms of creativity, the ability to come up with new ideas, to execute creative work within any field. It is clear that this is an ability that not everyone has – not everyone wants it – again, creativity could be seen as a curse as in the Chinese saying, May you live in interesting times. There is a double edgeness to creativity, an understanding that true artists stand close to some edge, that they may pay heavily for their talent – and not everyone wants that.

I have become fascinated by the double-edged sword of this syndrome which gives great creativity through the restless search for stimulation while undermining it repeatedly with distraction. Impulsivity is important for creativity, as is a resistance to a normal way of doing things, and a willingness to experiment, but finding disorganisation and frustration will often destroy what has been started. I used to fear that my creativity would leave me, while at the same time having no understanding of what drove it. Now I can look at myself and my behaviour and see what I am doing. I haven’t changed in how I operate in life, but I am more at ease with why I am as I am. When I was an entrepreneur, my advisors would demand consistency – and consistency is the exact opposite of attention deficit. I even came up with a phrase to refute them: consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Now, with my new knowledge, I look back at that time and that attitude and understand that I precisely understood my way of being in the world even when I had no way of thinking about it. Now I do.

If you have read this far and are now thinking what I describe is just the description of normal people, of a certain creative type, or of human behaviour, then consider that maybe you are looking at the world from within attention deficit, that you yourself have Tokarczuk’s Lazy Venus syndrome. Welcome to the club.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Pope

AofA People: Ben Cornish – Juggler, circus performer, workshop leader


3 Minute Read

How old are you?

 59

Where do you live?

I live in Exmouth in Devon just a 2-3 minutes walk from the beach.

What’s it like to be your age? 

I’m definitely not one of those people who says that I don’t feel any different to how I did when I was 18/25 etc.

I feel like I have always felt the age I am. That said I tend to try and avoid being responsible for anything after years of bringing up children!

Certainly, I am aware of aches, pains & things not working as well as they used to. A few years back I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and then a couple of years later contracted late-onset asthma.

So after 50 years of never being ill or seeing a doctor, my life has changed quite radically.

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

Paradoxically, in some ways, I am less opinionated than I was at that age but I am more certain of what I do know now.

I am far more patient now than I was as a young man and yet outraged at more things. For instance, how can so many people in the UK still vote for the bastard Tories? Parking charges, not being able to contact anyone etc

What about relationships?  

I have a smaller circle of friends than back in the day but the depth of those relationships is greater.

How free do you feel? 

I have been self-employed all my adult life and that has resulted in a life with a great deal of freedom.

I still feel free, but with all the restrictions imposed by COVID and the feelings of environmental responsibilities, perhaps less so than in the past.

What are you proud of?

My children. The fact that I have some really long-term relationships with wonderful people. I have never been unfaithful.

I have earned my living (as a comedian, juggler, workshop leader, and circus performer) doing something I enjoy that gives people pleasure. I can still make people laugh.

What keeps you inspired?

I love what I do & feel like I continue to develop my creativity and understand the mechanics of that better than ever.

My partner, Ange, who is a prolific landscape painter, constantly inspires me also. My incredible 90-year-old mother is also an endless source of inspiration and support.

When are you happiest?

Eating delicious food with friends and family. Walking on a beach with Ange. Practicing.

Being at juggling festivals and playing with friends I have known for many years.

Where does your creativity go?

Into my practice and my teaching. Playing the ukulele & trying to write songs & I have just finished writing my first book. It’s called Juggling and the Art of Practice.

What’s your philosophy of life?

Energy & charm will always trump talent.

Always try to create value wherever you are and whatever situation you are in.

My outlook is informed primarily by 25 years of Buddhist practice (Soka Gakkai member for 25 years, now lapsed)

Dabbling in Osho-lead philosophy…spent a month in the Ashram in Pune 6 years ago

Friendship and kindness are the most important things in life.

You can’t take anything with you when you go.

And dying?

See above. I have no real fear of death.

I came very close in August 2019 after a massive asthma attack & at the time, felt that if I hadn’t made it, I wouldn’t have had any regrets.

Are you still dreaming?

My actual dreams are rarely remembered. I have never really had much ambition.Are there still things I want to do?

Yes, but are they of burning importance, no. I am largely content in life with what I have, what I am doing & where I’m going.

You can see Ben juggling here – https://www.facebook.com/benjuggler/videos/10214707312781883

www.circusberercus.co.uk

@147womendinnerparty – An Exhibition in Celebration of 147 Forgotten Women


1 Minute Read

‘If lockdown has taught us one thing worth remembering in 2020, it is how much we have missed eating and drinking with friends and family. To enjoy being human is to share food, drink and the exchange of conversation across a table, not a zoom screen. To listen to another is what it is to be a good human.

I wrote that in 2020. It is also human to forget. Already the idea that we had that time when we couldn’t see each other for dinner or a cup of tea is vanishing into the mists. This is why some don’t seem to care about Downing Street parties. I suppose they have already forgotten that to speak to someone in the street 2 metres apart – was a rare treat. Meanwhile, I was spending my time meditating and embroidering my moth holes… I wrote about it here.

I was in Delphi, Greece when Lockdown happened, visiting the ancient Greek site the Temple to Apollo. We knew it was going to happen but not when. We had bought our tickets months before and faced with grey, cold, damp, uncertain times in Britain It was a Mediterranean dream, empty of people, full of flowers, spring sunshine and an azure blue sea. I wandered around the ruins, did a ritual at the spring on the side of an empty road with a single police car monitoring our movements, I knew about Pythia and wishes. Suddenly the museums were closed, along with the restaurants and the gallery in Athens where we – the artist Wilma and I – were supposed to be in a mixed show. We ate takeaway meals in our bedroom from supermarkets. We swam in freezing water to stop getting ill. We flew back early in time for Lockdown in Britain.

I had a revelation the way you do, whilst at the Temple of Apollo, where the High Priestess, Pythia, foresaw and proclaimed. Why has nobody heard of Pythia? Pythia was a position rather than a person, but these High Priestesses held the most powerful position of any woman in the Ancient World. Leaders would ask for their sage advice and they gave the answers from a state of trance, therefore it wasn’t a women’s word it was Apollo speaking through her! Pythia wrote 147 Maxims for humans to abide by, carved into the stones around the temple.

I have been collecting Motto ware on and off for 15 years. It has a particular home-made quality. In fact, the potteries that started up in the late 1800s making souvenirs for holidaymakers, employed mostly women who made these dark terracotta plates around Torquay and Devon. They are beautifully crafted, each one individual, but all with a set of designs that are interpreted by each painter slightly differently. What interested me were the mottos. Quaint sayings in local dialect etched in but weren’t it time more people knew about Pythia’s maxims?

Britain is becoming an Island once again post Brexit. I wanted to recreate a dinner party that was about being on this small island and how we have treated women as less than equal. Pythia was one of these forgotten women in Ancient Greece. Her maxims were taken on by Socrates and Aristotle, founders of Western Philosophy, as their own and then adopted by all the main religions; male religions.

All of us need reminding that women have been part of the conversation since the beginning, not since the 20th Century. Politicians have put laws in place to restrict women, historians have wiped them out of history, then they have been replaced by men. On talking to Mandee Gage, a ceramic artist, about collaborating on the possibility of making 147 pieces for @147womendinnerparty at Vout-o-Renees, my club and gallery, she reminded me of Judy Chicago’s historic piece that I remembered seeing in Edinburgh on tour in the early 80. It happens to be 50 years since it was first conceived. Unlike Chicago’s dinner party, our tablecloth is hand-painted, there is no embroidery and only Mandee Gage and myself have been involved in the creation. Each piece whether a plate or cup, candlestick holder, vase or jug is traditionally painted not always with the motto ware designs of cottages, trees, sailing boats. Simple design but reinterpreted by us to suit the woman each piece is dedicated to. The mottos are also very different;  they have been replaced by the Pythia’s maxims.

 

From top to bottom – Jaqueline Gold, Julian of Norwich, Angela Burdett Coutts, Yvonne Connolly.

@147womendinnerparty is on a smaller physical scale than Chicago’s dinner table, but no less important as we celebrate not 39 women but 147 Women who have made Britain what it is.  Not all will have been forgotten by everyone, some may well be famous like JK Rowling, but Storm Jameson in the 40s was as well-known in her time and is no longer in print, or Dodie Smith whose creation lives on in ‘101 Dalmatian’s’, but nobody knows her name. If you are in their field, you might know their name, but they are not publicly acknowledged or necessarily attached to the important work they achieved during their lifetime. They might not have all been born on this small island but they have settled here and adopted our land, at a time when freedom of movement didn’t solely rely on how wealthy you were to enter a country, The 18ft dining table is laid out with each of the 147 pieces dedicated to each woman and their portrait is on the wall with a small biography on what they remarkably achieved. From Pythia to suffragettes to the eco-warriors of today, to queens and Nobel prize winners, inventors and lawyers, scientists, philosophers and artists.

Thus, this installation raises the dead and begins another conversation about men and women, feminism and power, creativity and achievement, the lost and found. By making these pieces we remember how the original unnamed potters and painters have been lost, how Britain was a place of slavery for so long and many of the rich and powerful thought nothing of it, and how the trend still continues as companies refuse to acknowledge the creativity of their individual employees, much as the Torquay and Devon potteries used to behave. Those names have been lost but with the miracle of the internet, we can all find women who should be better remembered.  It doesn’t always have to be Shakespeare and Marlow when there is Aphra Benn and Mary Montague! The things in our home don’t have to be mass produced, we make choices to forget or remember but being conscious and acting consciously is our daily choice. Celebrating women is the very essence of this show.

 

Teapot to Mary Wollstonecraft.

It has been a long two years and simultaneously, it has whizzed by. A thought became an idea, this then became a reality once I’d spoken to Mandee and we began making. As I researched and talked to other women including Danielle Neary, it also became a podcast @Shadowspies where forgotten women and their stories were brought into the light. It is hard to get your head around,  whatever gender you are, how subjugated women have been for hundreds of years and how many times women have been denied the credit they deserve for the work they do, whether that be as Bletchley Park code breakers, spies, scientists or mothers and carers. I guess we just don’t want to think about who bares the responsibility for the lack of parity. I hope children will see this exhibition and think, things have changed because of what we, as single humans do to make the difference, to make it better for others as well as ourselves, wherever we have come from. In political speech – because Its the Right Thing To Do!

A book accompanies the exhibition which includes images and biogs. All pieces are for sale prices from £40 to £250 includes a book. voutorenees.com

 

 

Emily Williamson  and Moina Mathers

 

@147WomenDinnerParty -An installation in 147 pieces by Sophie Parkin & Mandee Gage

Showing At –

The Stash Gallery@Vout-O-Reenees, London 10.2.22 – 26.2.22.

The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend 6.3.22 – 28.3.22

Broomhill Estate Sculpture Park + Gallery 8.4.22 – 2.5.22

Thank You from Suzanne to all the Members of AofA


7 Minute Read

I live by the principle that you don’t know until you try with very little consideration to the consequences. This attitude has in the past gotten me into sticky situations, primarily where men were concerned. Advantages of Age was no different, although with far better and more exciting results!

I was sitting with new friends introduced by Rose in my hot tub back in December 2015. We were lamenting the media’s attitude towards ageing as being a state to be avoided at all costs, despite its inevitability, when Amanda remarked, “Someone should do something called the Advantages of Age.” Having had a few glasses of prosecco, a little drunk, I nevertheless thought this sounded an excellent idea, and once everyone had left for home, I went online and purchased the website name advantagesofage.com. Then I set about creating the site, sourcing more positive representations of ageing. By the time of the next hot tub gathering, three months later, the site was live. Rose came on board as editor, and the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Over time, we’ve grown beyond the site to host activities and the Startup School for Seniors, which I run with Mark Elliott, who officially joined Advantages of Age as co-director in October 2020. During the past year, I suspect as a result of COVID and Rose’s more direct involvement, the Facebook group has become a very buzzy place where differing opinions are freely expressed in a manner befitting our age. In other words, without it turning it into a bun fight. I gave up most of my work four years ago to set it up, and it’s great to be able to take a back seat now and feel I can participate in the discussions without always having to be the one to start them.

I’m fortunate to be working with Rose and Mark on two different sides to the business, both with different skill sets and interests but with our shared aim of helping people over 50 manifest the life they desire in whatever form that takes. We are passionate and committed to this shared objective. Although we don’t have the hundreds of thousands of members that some organisations aimed at the over 50s do, I  believe our group is far more eclectic, engaged and exciting than the others!

The group has led to me having a much bigger circle of friends and new businesses. Despite being called Advantages of Age, the new connections I’ve made and the discussions in which I’ve taken part has led me to want to take action around two crucial topics – housing and employment, for which being older come with challenges.

As a direct result of living with lodger my age and the conversations with others in the AofA group in a similar living situation, I created nestful, my business supporting more people over 50 in finding compatible people with whom to share.  It really was those early conversations with AofA members that made me realise how many older people are in this situation financially. In other words, they have to share. That’s how this business came into being.

Moving into the housing space led me to all sorts of other realisations about the challenges of housing in later life. I was also invited to participate in panel discussions and to become part of a growing community of academics, business owners and investors interested in the impact of our ageing society on different aspects of life. Advantages of Age is starting to become recognised within these influential communities, which is gratifying.

Sadly, the pandemic had a crushing impact on nestful. Many of the older homeowners who are part of the nestful community identify as vulnerable; they didn’t want their spare room occupied by a stranger. The business flatlined, although I’m hopeful that we may begin to see more older people consider the benefits of sharing, both from a financial and a social viewpoint, by the spring.

As one door nearly closed, another opened. I saw friends and group members losing their jobs with no possibility of permanently rejoining the workforce. Startup School for Seniors is an Advantages of Age initiative that goes into its sixth term in January. It first received funding in September 2020 to build the eLearning platform on which the course sits. It has its own Facebook group for members. It is financially self-sufficient due to tenders we’ve won to deliver the programme to residents based in London, Central Bedfordshire and Dorset.

I submitted a grant application on behalf of Advantages of Age to perform with other musicians aged over 60. It was successful so we created a jazz concert of standards on Kilburn High Street, as part of the London Festival of Ideas. The musicians enjoyed it so much that they recommended we perform on high streets in other deprived areas of Britain!

Approaching 2022, we are considering more ways to support and receive support from our members. The first website we created in 2017 is currently undergoing a significant refresh, focusing on the hundreds of exclusive articles that Rose has commissioned over the years from both published and unpublished writers. It’s a goldmine and my go-to place when I want to read inspiring stories about growing older. Other Advantages of Age members have said the same. If you haven’t already, check it out. It deserves more recognition, and we would like to be in a place where we can pay to commission articles that support our ethos. We want to host an Advantages of Age Awards Ceremony in 2022 with both fun and serious categories, spotlighting organisations, people, media that promote positive ageing and those that could do better. COVID permitting, we want more opportunities for members to meet, either face to face or virtually. We’ve mooted the idea of an AofA Book Club, as we know many of you enjoy reading. This year we had a couple of fabulous walks – one on the South coast in Emsworth organized by Nadia Chambers, and the other (funded by TFL) around Nunhead cemetery with superbly well-informed psychogeographer and author, John Rogers. This is another area we see growing and John is equally keen to create more walks for us; members may well offer to take us around their areas too.

We talk about premium membership, but we’re aware that we could improve it from the research we’ve undertaken. It’s unclear what it delivers, and we know that for the vast majority of the premium members who pay a monthly £4 99, it’s about supporting us to help pay for the website, for paying for Rose to moderate the Facebook group – which takes time – as well as commissioning articles and any other staffing requirements. We’re in the process of transferring this aspect of Advantages of Age to Patreon, a platform expressly created to help champion creative individuals and organisations that would benefit from financial support in order to evolve. Stay tuned for that announcement.

I can see so many brilliant opportunities for Advantages of Age. From a small kernel of an idea in a hot tub, we have grown into a tree with many branches, of which I’m enormously proud. Whether it’s Rose’s Arts Council funded project ‘Dance me to Death,’ the poetry project she has curated, Startup School for Seniors, more informal social events, the Facebook groups. We want to encourage and support more people who want to flex their creative muscle or in other ways, like championing a JustGiving campaign or other crowdfunded initiative. We’re a group that clearly cares about one another and have seen what happens when people come together over a shared concern and what a difference that can make.

I want to echo Rose in thanking everyone who has participated in a discussion in the Facebook group(s), attended Startup School, provided Mark and myself with feedback, and paid to be a premium member. The kindness you have shown to us and each other is remarkable, especially during this time when such divisiveness is all around. As we enter 2022, I look forward to taking Advantages of Age to the next level and us all having some part to play in that. Thank you, AofA members, for being you!

Thank you AofA Members – Round Up 2021


1 Minute Read

‘AofA is my favourite place on the internet these days’ Marianne Power, author Help Me – how self-help has not changed my life

Back in December 2015 when the idea was mooted for Advantages of Age in Suzanne Noble’s legendary garden hot tub, we had no idea what it would become. We just felt strongly that we – a group of older women – were being misrepresented by the media.

That ‘old’ was being portrayed as this hideous entity that we didn’t recognise.

Old, we decided, needed to be reclaimed and redefined. We weren’t afraid of looking older, just pissed off with the idea that looking older was something to be repelled at all cost. And that being meant diminished energy levels plus a falling off of our creativity and entrepreneurial spirits.

Suzanne was and is a serial entrepreneur, I was a PR, writer and poet, another of us runs the MA in Screen Acting at one of the top London drama colleges, another was creating websites, and another was a street anthropologist and author. We were aged between 46 and 63. We wanted society to reflect the breadth of our different experiences. We were single, divorced, dating and I’d recently found a Living Apart Together partner. Some of us had children, others didn’t.

Caroline Cadenza | The Advantages of Age

Oh and we wanted to include men in this campaign too. Of course. Together, we wanted to sally forth.

By 2017, we’d received Arts Council England funding to put on a series of performances and mini salons around the taboos of ageing – from death to sexuality to style. This culminated in the Flamboyant Forever open-top double-decker bus tour of London which was a phenomenal success. People met and are still friends. There was a lot of strutting in OUTageously colourful outfits. It was wonderful.

And the FB group started up. Which has given us a way to connect to older people all over the world. What I love about the FB group – Advantages of Age – Baby Boomers and Beyond – is how lively and how considerate most people are. At first, not many men joined in. But over the years, many more seem to feel included.

For me what is important and significant is that we are able to have dialogues with each other about uncomfortable subjects. Not always, of course, I am a big supporter of the humour in the group, the proclivities towards rock n’roll, the everyday kindness towards each other and I am proud of the way that conversations can be had about mostly recently for instance, whether we have children or not. And how society treats us as older people if we do not.

One of us who is divorced with four children wrote this within the thread –‘ Love hearing all these thoughts. As someone who always planned to have children (albeit never very keen on anyone else’s!) and went on to have 4, now all in their 20s, without much, if any reflection, I do struggle to understand those who choose not to, so really value this convo as contributing to my understanding. I think it’s really important to understand each other, and so easy for those of us who have chosen the “norm”, or majority, or socially acceptable route to be lazy about that. And I guess that’s where the infuriating comments come from – ignorance and an unwillingness to understand?’

In a society that is now dogged by division and polarisation, it is vital to be able to express ourselves so that others hear us. And I feel that we often do well here. We even managed to have a dialogue about Covid not long ago where the vaccinated and unvaccinated exchanged information rather than insults.

Recently someone posted – you are all very welcome to post what you think would be appropriate to the group which ranges from vintage photos to obituaries to dating and sexuality stories to stories about older people, often inspiring ones – What can you talk about for hours? The responses were wildly, incredibly impressively eclectic in the best way. From academic to down-to-earth, they were riveting in terms of the richness that is in the group. One woman said Thanatophobia, another man said Ending questions with prepositions, another woman said The Plight of Afghan refugees in Sweden and another The Films of Peter Greenaway. I was entranced. Someone suggested we form a human library. Good idea.

Sometimes I post a personal question like – What are you doing tonight? And then I’m amazed at the variety of the activities from dancing at nightclubs to singing in choirs to looking after grandchildren to writing poetry. I really enjoy those snapshots into your lives.

During the lockdowns, it was hard for many of our members and some have been left with long Covid. That is tough. One of our members – Hanja is very much a poster woman for us, 84 and so sprightly in mind and body – is in hospital at the moment and she’s not very well. It’s not Covid but the doctors don’t know what it is yet. She often entertains us with her witty comments and also the articles that she’s written for us, particularly the one about her resilience on her own at 84 in lockdown. Thanks, Hanja and we send you our love and hope that you recover soon.

Death is one of our favourite topics. I know that sounds a bit strange but expanding our vocabulary around death and dying is part of our core ethos. After all, we are alive but we are closer to death than we have ever been. Society is changing but there is still a long way to go – we need to develop our awareness about how to talk to the dying, and if we are dying and ill how we can talk to our family and friends. We know that connection is everything so being able to have good exchanges about death, but also our funerals, our wills etc increases our choices in those areas.

Actress Helen McCrory died this year of cancer at 52. Damien Lewis, her husband led the way – no doubt urged on by her beforehand – in being real in how he talked about her afterwards. Many of us said we were in tears at his and her humour, courage and openness.

“Helen was an even more brilliant person than she was an actress,” the 50-year-old actor wrote in The Sunday Times. “She was a people person, sure. ‘I’m much more interested in who I’m with than where I am,’ she would say, and innately wanted to share. But she also lived by the principle of kindness and generosity. That you put these things out into the world to make it better, to make people feel better.”

Lewis, who wed McCrory in 2007, said he has “never known anyone so consciously spread happiness” and that even on her deathbed, she repeatedly thanked her caregivers. He said she always “over-tipped,” especially taxi drivers and wait staff, a job she once had herself. The actor said McCrory always “made each person she met feel special, as though they were the only person in the room.”

“I’ve never known anyone able to enjoy life as much,” Lewis wrote. “Her ability to be in the present and enjoy the moment was inspirational. Nor was she interested in navel-gazing. No real interest in self-reflection; she believed in looking out, not in. Which is why she was able to turn her light so brightly on others.”

Lewis said their children Manon and Gulliver “have in them the fearlessness, wit, curiosity, talent and beauty of their mother.” He said McCrory told the kids repeatedly, “Don’t be sad, because even though I’m about to snuff it, I’ve lived the life I wanted to.”

The actress also encouraged her husband to move on after her death. Lewis wrote, “Only a couple of weeks ago she said to us from her bed, ‘I want Daddy to have girlfriends, lots of them, you must all love again, love isn’t possessive, but you know, Damian, try at least to get through the funeral without snogging someone.”’

Somehow her spirit seems to encapsulate much of what we aim for in Advantages of Age.

I’ve always said that we are Death, Sex and rock n’roll. We watch Strictly and The Slits.

We care about gardening and still go out for a boogie. We laugh and we are able to be considerate when needed. And campaign too. Most of us feel that Assisted Dying should be made legal now.

A huge heartfelt thank you to all the members in the group and particularly those who contribute by posting, by adding their comments to threads and by caring about this world that we live in. Please do carry on.

Helen McCory declared that she’d lived the life she wanted to. In Advantages of Age, that’s exactly what we’d support you to do. Not in just a way where we are all individuals but also as we are all part of a tribe, a family, a collective, a community. We act for each other as well as for ourselves.

Since we started Advantages of Age, Suzanne and I have gone off in different directions. Suzanne has started nestful which helps to house like-minded people in houses/flats/homes owned by the Over-50s. She’s also created Startup For Seniors with Mark Elliott – a much-needed enterprise to support Over-50s into new businesses. Both are flourishing. Suzanne is also out there singing jazz and blues, at the moment in Las Palmas.

Meanwhile, I have been doing a poetry project – Willesden Junction Poets and BeWILDering, a book of our poems about the station – funded by Brent2020, and this year Dance Me To Death, a performance, exhibition and short film where a group of Over-60s non-professional dancers (including me) honoured our beloved dead through ritual and dance. This was funded by Arts Council England.

The reason we come back to Advantages of Age and keep to our mission of a revolution for older people is that we are both living the lives we want to. We passionately want this for all our members too.

Wishing you a wonderfully nourished and fruitful 2022.

How Lockdown Led Me To Photography


1 Minute Read

Until the lockdown and the worldwide pandemic struck back in March 2020, I spent my life racing here, there and everywhere, barely stopping to study my surroundings. I have had a busy life with various jobs and two children, and I didn’t realise it, but a hole needed filling. Photography did that.

I found it challenging to remain locked in during the lockdown and soon realised that the allocated exercise time plus the great advantage of owning a dog allowed me to walk around London and explore.  

It was eerily quiet with empty streets, and I began by taking photographs with my i-phone of the deserted roads. I will never forget standing at the top of The Mall at about 9 o’clock one weekday morning during what would have been a rush hour, and there wasn’t a single car in sight. The parks were equally empty at the very beginning of the first lockdown. It was then that I started studying my surroundings in close detail, from flora and fauna in the parks to the detail of buildings and structures that I had known all my life but never truly looked at before. So many people have said to me that although they knew a building, bridge or structure exceptionally well, they had never seen it from that angle or noticed details that I could point out through my photographs. 

Since I was a child, photography has been part of my life, but I never saw myself as a photographer. My mother was a keen photographer and a very good amateur watercolourist. Until lockdown and Covid 19 struck, my photographs mainly consisted of happy snaps of my friends and children. 

Then, last August, I won the Evening Standard Life in Lockdown Competition 2021. Not only first place but also fourth and ninth out of twenty. The first prize was for a photograph I took of Albert Bridge in Chelsea, and I can only say that after I had taken the shot, I jumped for joy with excitement. I had this instant feeling it was the one. And I’ve had that feeling a few times. The photograph that came fourth was taken early one morning in Hyde Park of two people walking near the Serpentine. They were silhouettes against a very crisp light on a chilly November morning in 2020. The ninth prize winner was a view of Buckingham Palace taken through two pillars of a balustrade at one of the entrances to St James Park. The pillars gave the impression of looking through a keyhole, and I chose it to be the cover of my book LONDON SILENCED.

Winning that competition gave me the confidence to do more photography, and in-between lockdowns, I was venturing further afield, discovering parts of London that I hadn’t known before. I was fascinated to learn the history of various areas such as Clerkenwell and Spitalfields. Clerkenwell has one of the oldest domestic buildings in London, dating back to the 15th century. The oldest is part of the Tower of London. Not many houses survived before the Great Fire of London in 1666.

I am drawn to the river. One day is never the same as the next, and photographs from the same spot look different in changing weather and light. I hadn’t realised how busy the river is for transporting building materials, waste and goods, and the Uber Riverboats transporting people, some of whom commute daily on these boats. Smaller companies rent out ribs and various types of boats, including a Venetian taxi boat, the first one to be licensed by Port of London. 

Not to mention the many houseboats, some of which are permanent residences and feel rather village-like on the river.

I can genuinely say that creating the book resulted from social media. I received an enormous amount of positive feedback and encouragement.

Publishing a book is like being on a roller coaster. There were many times when I was filled with doubt that anyone would be interested in what I had to show them. This contrasted with the huge thrill when I realized that people did appreciate my work and bought the book. 

I have been approached to have an exhibition of my photographs in the new year. I have had some of my images blown up to 3ft square and larger, and I am delighted with how good they look as it is a far cry from seeing an Instagram post on a smartphone. 

The moral of this story, as far as I am concerned, is that every cloud does have a silver lining, and one never knows what is around the next corner, but you have to be open to all possibilities, seize the moment and be ready to take some chances in life. Had it not been for the lockdown, I very much doubt I would have slowed down enough to realise what must have been lurking inside me all along – an eye for composition.

My book is for sale via www.claretollemachephotography.com and through four independent bookshops, John Sandoe, in Blacklands Terrace. SW3, Belgravia Books, Eccleston Street. SW1, Heywood Hill in Curzon Street, W1 and Mayhews in Motcomb Street. I am currently trying to get broader distribution for the book. (Any ideas gratefully received!)

 

©2021 Clare Tollemache Photography @claretollemachephotography

AofA People: Gilly Hanna – Dancer, Advertising Copywriter


4 Minute Read

Gilly Hanna is a founder member of Grand Gesture, a performance company of older dance artists in London. She’s also an advertising copywriter; and in past decades has worked as an aerobics teacher and library assistant.

What is your age?   63

Where do you live?

Central London, in Wapping. I’ve lived here for over twenty years and love this quiet, historic, riverside neighbourhood. Like many older Londoners, I did once consider downsizing to a place by the sea but soon realised I’d miss London too much. No other place is as diverse, multicultural, buzzy, green, fashionable, arty, walkable, villagey, and old, yet always new. I just hope Brexit and the Tory government won’t lead to London’s decline.

What do you do?

I work as a freelance copywriter, on an ad-hoc basis. I was a creative director in advertising for several decades. Sadly, the ad world is notoriously obsessed with youth and I was edged out of full-time employment in my early fifties. Only 6% of people in ad agencies are over 50, yet people in their fifties are the UK’s largest age group! I’m also working on Grand Gesture projects, such as choreography, filming and running our website.

What’s it like to be your age? How do you feel at this age?

I’m starting to settle into the idea of being in my sixties. It’s an interesting time, but rather daunting too when you realise how ageist our society is. In Grand Gesture we’re campaigning to have more age on stage. Older people need to be seen and heard a lot more.

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

Wrinkles. Nearly forty more years of experience and memories. Self-acceptance. I always wanted to be an extrovert and was often criticised for being stand-offish or too quiet. Finding out that I’m an INFP, one of the Myers-Briggs personality types, has given me peace of mind that it’s okay to be an introvert!

What about sex?

Hugging, holding hands, touching, being close makes you feel good, I do need physical affection. I’m also into erotic art forms like burlesque, celebrating vintage showgirl glamour and the 1940s pinup. I’d love Grand Gesture to do a fabulously theatrical exotic dance performance one day! I think it’s important to express your sensuality and sassiness as you grow older.

And relationships?

My closest relationship is with my husband who I met in ‘76. He’s a guitarist and we had a band and wrote radio commercials together in the eighties. We recently wrote and recorded a song for Grand Gesture, called We Love Living. As an introvert, I only have a small circle of friends. Being reserved and shy, I find it hard to make new ones.

How free do you feel?

I thrive on structure and routine, so lockdown restrictions didn’t bother me too much. Having a stable routine keeps me grounded and frees my imagination. I’m a minimalist and feel freer with fewer choices.

What are you proud of?

Co-founding Grand Gesture and helping to push boundaries in creatively staging ageing. Having a successful career and winning awards. Learning new things in lockdown, such as cutting my hair, editing videos and baking tasty sugar-free, flour-free cakes!

What keeps you inspired?

Curiosity. Being open to new ideas. I’ve recently discovered Wabi Sabi, the Japanese philosophy which celebrates imperfection and the passing of time. I’m also seeking inspiration from age activists like Gang des Vieux en Colère and Ashton Applewhite; older bloggers like Alyson Walsh (That’s not my age) and dancers like Charlotta Ofverholm. I’ve started exploring elder tales for a Grand Gesture project too.

When are you happiest?

I’m happiest when I’m absorbed in a creative project. But I’m pretty happy most of the time. I don’t like feeling down or negative, and if I do, walking or dancing will usually boost my mood. Motion is lotion!

And where does your creativity go?

A lot of things. Marketing, choreography, writing, the house, the garden. I’ll put my imagination to anything that needs a great idea or a new solution.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

It’s harder to shock or scandalise these days. But in Grand Gesture I’m releasing my inner rebel and rejecting the norms of ageing by having fun and being audacious. It’s time to rewrite the ‘rules’ of what it means to be older. Ageism is unfair and unnecessary; we all need to confront it and laugh at it.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Keep an open mind. Find your passion. Do your best, and that can be good enough – I’m always fighting my perfectionist tendency. Follow the Golden Rule, which is the principle of treating others as you would want to be treated. Appreciate oldness. Stay playful. And remember, you’ve got to be in it, to win it.

And dying?

Quickly, quietly, painlessly, and feeling content that what I’ve left behind is in good order and in safe hands.

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, it’s never too late to do something great. Hopefully, the best is yet to come.

The Culture Interview – Daphne Lander and Anne Jones who have written a musical.


12 Minute Read

Daphne Lander and Anne Jones are both in their mid-70s and they’ve just written a musical Artaban which is about to be shown in the West End.

How old are you both?

Daphne: Anne and I are both 75 – Anne is just older than me by a few days – she is 24th December and I am 29th.

Anne: We were both born under the star sign Capricorn and have always had similar interests and outlooks on life. I understand that a trait of the Capricorn is we will always achieve what we set out to do! Certainly, this trait has helped us both through the exciting but, at times, challenging journey we have travelled with our project to create Artaban, the musical.

How do you know each other?

Daphne Lander

Daphne: We met at secondary school at age 11 and so have been friends for many years.

Anne: From the day I met Daph, at our first year at Mayfield School, Putney, which was one of the first comprehensive schools of the fifties, I was attracted to her vitality and – sorry Daph – slightly crazy ways! She was a natural actor even then and entertained the class with her antics and impersonations. We competed for the best marks in English each year and both enjoyed writing and drama. In the fourth year we were involved in the annual Drama Competition; our class put on an extract of King Lear and it was a natural that Daph played King Lear and I was the director. We became close friends then and have stayed close since with the form of friendship that can revitalize itself even when we don’t see each other for months on end.

Daph went on to shine in the amateur dramatic arena and I went on to write books; I have seven self-help books published to date.

Why a musical at this point in your lives?

Daphne: I don’t think I set out originally to write a musical – it was more in my mind to write a play which in fact I did, but then when Anne read the story, she saw it as a musical and found Rick Radley who was able to write the music inspired by Anne’s lyrics. So, through many amendments the musical was born.

Anne Jones

Anne: The idea of the musical came once Daph passed me the book The Other Wise Man. I had never considered writing for the stage before then.

How did it come about?

Daphne: I was Chair of a drama group and in the choir at my Church and had written two plays already – one celebrating the centenary of the Church and the other adapting a radio play for the stage. A member of the congregation approached me one day with a book in his hand and said that he thought I would be able to do something with it. Meaning I guess, he thought I would adapt it for a play which the drama group could perform – I read the story and was enthralled by it and sent it to Anne who was similarly moved.

Anne: Daphne passed me the book The Other Wise Man written by American Henry van Dyke, a philosopher, clergyman, and short story writer of the early twentieth century. As I read it, I could see it being performed in vivid colour and vibrancy on the stage as a musical. I could see a full cast dancing, singing, and performing on a major stage – I could even see some of the dance sequences! Which is odd as I cannot write or play music and I cannot even sign in tune! And I don’t dance either! But I felt compelled to work with Daph to create a musical and as I enjoy writing and have written some poetry, I thought I would enjoy writing the songs. Daph had stage experience, so the stage play was a natural for her.

Why are you fascinated by this book The Other Wise Man ?

Daphne: The story is very strong on many levels – if you are a Churchgoer then it resonates with the story of Christ and his message to the world and if you are not, then a story of compassion to your fellow man and making sacrifices means something to everybody. The story came out of Henry van Dyke’s head – he said and I quote ‘I do not know where it came from – out of the air perhaps. One thing is certain, it is not written in any other book, nor is it to be found among the ancient lore of the East. It was a gift. It was sent to me.’ How could you not be fascinated by this story?

Anne: Although I am not religious, I was brought up with the story of the birth of Jesus and the message he brought. I am a spiritual healer and teacher and the story of Artaban the Fourth Wise Man resonated so well with me. Artaban missed his opportunity of giving gifts to Jesus in Bethlehem because he was delayed by his need to help a sick man he saw on the side of the road. Despite his overwhelming desire to join the other Three Magi he felt compelled to help the man and missed the family who had moved on to Egypt by the time he arrived. He then spent the next thirty odd years of his life looking for Jesus but also stopping off to help those in need. Like so many of us he was faced with a dilemma and pulled in two directions. To do the right thing, to be compassionate and help others (including our families) and to follow our personal dream and seek our own fulfilment – to follow our hearts calling. It’s only a small book but the message is strong and as timely now as it was when Henry first wrote it. It is also a tale of good and evil. The story tells of the corruption and greed in the world at that time making the lives of ordinary folk miserable and the cruelty and oppression of the despotic Roman leader Herod. Similarly, we don’t have to look far in today’s world to see the two sides of humanity. The wonderful acts of kindness on the one side and on the other the scamming of the innocent and the misuse of power of many world leaders.

Was writing it at your ages, an advantage of age?

Daphne: I guess the main advantage was in being retired which gave the time and space to write it. I don’t think if I had still been working full time it would have been easy given the time that it has required to polish it to its present state.

Anne: As Daph says, I have more time now than I had when working full time. But I think age has brought a certain level of WHY NOT philosophy to me. I don’t feel scared to try something new because if it doesn’t work it just doesn’t matter – I won’t lose my self-esteem if I do something that is rejected, whereas when I was younger success mattered. Now I am prepared to give anything I feel good about a try, give it a chance and to stretch myself, to push out boundaries and not be intimidated by anxieties about what other people may think about me or my work. Once you take the fear of failure from a project you have a far higher chance of success.

Is it religious?

Daphne: The basic premise is religious because the story is undoubtedly linked to the birth, life and death of Christ. We cannot deny that this is the backdrop, but we strove to broaden the story so that Artaban could be every man or woman who has a quest or goal in life, who has to battle to fulfil that goal and has to make sacrifices along the way. This has had particular resonances recently with the COVID pandemic when so many people worked so hard to help others often at great danger to themselves. The carers of this world got the recognition that they deserved but at what cost? So the story reflects all and none of the religions I guess.

Anne: It is based on a religious story but the message is spiritual and of human kindness. Also the battle everyone has at times to feel good about themselves. Araban felt happy to help others but unhappy that he wasn’t reaching his goal, fulfilling his quest to meet Jesus. It’s a very happy and uplifting story and the music reflects this mood of hope and the power of loving kindness.

Can you tell us something about the songs?

Daphne: Over to Anne on this one as I didn’t have any input into the songs at all – apart to stand in awe as the lyrics just kept coming into my inbox – each one better than the last!

Anne: As Daphne shared earlier, Henry was inspired to write this story from a source beyond his understanding and I experienced a similar sense otherworldliness of where the words came from! I would read Henry’s words from his book and then think how to put them into a song. And the words just came! I also held in mind the mood and the feelings I wanted to share with each song. I looked back into my own life’s experiences to find inspiration; especially relating to the love story that winds its way through Artaban’s journey, with the inevitable highs and lows, close times and separations. The words we write will always have greater resonance and authenticity when they come from our personal experiences. The most exciting time was to hear the music created by Rick that brought my songs to life – such a thrilling experience!

What was the process of writing like?

Daphne: Sometimes very easy and the words just flowed and at other times very difficult to get just the right “tone” – I have always enjoyed crafting words and I had a superb story to base my words on – although Henry did write in the vernacular of his times – lots of thees and thous which had to go. Also, the story changed along the way so there was always something new to think about and put a new twist into the story. My words reflect the Artaban that Henry wrote about, and I hope he would approve of what we have done with his hero.

How did the staging develop?

Daphne: Through many processes! We have been helped along the way by lots of people all of whom have contributed in different ways. A neighbour of mine introduced us to a musician who in turn led us to our musical Director Kipper Eldridge. Through that contact we staged a workshop in Pimlico which taught us a great deal and which has stood us in good stead for the forthcoming Showcase in St Paul’s Church – sometimes you have to fail and pick yourself up again and learn from your mistakes – just like Artaban! Another friend mentioned the Actor’s Church and we were so pleased that the Church was interested in staging it. We were introduced to a casting agency who have sourced us a great cast and a lovely Musical Theatre Director – so all of these elements have led us to this point.

Anne: As Daphne says we have been down some dead ends, fallen into some bear traps but, fortunately, we have managed to keep our sense of humour and sustained our friendship with all the members of the production team. Not only have I loved the creative times with Daph and Rick Radley, the amazing guitarist and singer who composed the music, but also our partners have been a vital component in the creation and production of Artaban and made it fun.

Do you want to write more?

Daphne: Not for the time being – I have spent so many hours with this that I think now it’s time to let Artaban find his way into the world and I will watch him hopefully entertaining and inspiring many people in the future. That would be a wonderful end to the story.

Anne: I would love the opportunity to write more songs – I found the experience of writing the words and hearing them transformed by great music one of my life’s greatest thrills! Yes, I think, I will write more songs once this production is over and we pass Artaban into the hands of professionals to take him on the next stage of his journey.

About Artaban – the story

We meet ARTABAN, magi and astrologer, in despair of a world filled with corruption, oppression and greed. But all hope is not lost; he and his fellow magi have discovered from their studies of ancient prophecies that there will be a new leader; a king who will bring light back to the world.

This uplifting story follows the adventures of ARTABAN the fourth Wise Man on his lifelong quest to deliver his gift of gemstones to Jesus. Will he succeed? Will his sacrifices reveal the true light and purpose of his life? As the story unfolds, we are introduced to the assortment of colourful characters ARTABAN meets on his journey.

With breath-taking performances by a West End cast, we witness his struggles and achievements. The story is brought to life by the vibrant music and songs which tap into all emotions.

A rock vibe is interweaved throughout, taking you on a mesmerising journey, as the songs morph from the soulful tracks “Sacrifices of the Heart”, “Love goes on Forever” and “Journey’s End” to the gritty, impactful guitar riffs of “Herod” and “Artaban”. The rousing finale of “I Now Understand” will have you bubbling over with hand-clapping, foot-tapping joy.

For more information (and to listen to some of the original music) see: https://artabanthemusical.co.uk/

To book tickets: https://actorschurch.ticketsolve.com/shows/873618294

AofA People: Lorraine Bowen – Performer, Singer, Crumble Lady


7 Minute Read

Now known as The Crumble Lady, Lorraine Bowen won David Walliams’ Golden Buzzer on Britain’s Got Talent and has attracted tens of thousands of new fans of all ages; children are singing the Crumble Song at school, as are grown men in factories.

Lorraine Bowen is a unique performer! Quirky costumes, original idiosyncratic songs, vintage Casio keyboard played on an ironing board. She adores the fashion sensibility of the 1960s and has one of the largest polyester wardrobes in the UK.

Lorraine began her career playing the piano with Billy Bragg in massive venues in the UK and stadiums in Europe as well as both sides of the Berlin wall. Since then she has produced 6 albums, 100 videos on her Youtube TV Channel and regularly performs nationally and internationally.

How old are you?

59 (60 on 31st October)

Where do you live?

East Sussex, England

What do you do?

Musician, performer, composer, BGT Golden buzzer winner, crumble lady….. bonkers lady!

I write songs, put on shows, wear polyester fashions, think of new ideas, write lyrics, make videos on TikTok and YouTube, sing, dance and muck around on stage.  Others call it performing!

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

At 59 you start to see the world in a more landscaped view.  Women of my age should be in charge of the whole world cos we’ve seen a lot, been through a lot and can see the problems and could work through the answers in a more levelled state than a lot of leaders!  It will happen…. It will!

I have stability now that I didn’t have at 25.  Mind you I’ve had to work for it!

What about sex?

Sex?  I’ve got to do the washing up first!

And relationships?

Relationship – 36 years old relationship now.  Met in a pub in Deptford in 1986.  We were punky in nature – still are at heart.  It’s good to keep the grunge at heart.  Privilege isn’t a good thing really – it’s much better to have risen from the dirt and grime – makes you appreciate everything.  If you’ve been through the rough and tumble in life it keeps you centred and focused.  Nothing is a nightmare.  Well, another tornado in Haiti is a nightmare but the dishwasher blowing up isn’t a nightmare.  Keep it real!

How do you feel at this age?

I feel free and fanciful…. But like others, I do often worry about the world, climate change, right-wing terrorism, stupid people and what’s going to happen when I’ve got dementia and am dribbling down my own chin…

What are you proud of?

I’m very proud of my daring creativity over the years.  I’ve written lots of songs and haven’t cared what fashion they fit in, what lyrical strain they fit in – I’ve just done what I fancied and largely it’s turned out well!  My YouTube/Spotify stats tell me my biggest listening age group is 18-25s – how hilarious is that!

I’m proud that I never had kids and am part of a growing group of women who relish being free from all that.  I’m proud that I feel as a woman I’m at the forefront of a new frontier, a new age of thought.  We don’t have to conform.  We are new! We are pushing the boundaries and the boundaries are ever dissolving.

Mind you, I realise no one sees me in the street.  I’m 59 and therefore invisible… except when I’m proudly wearing my bright 1970s polyester jackets and you can see people squirm and smile at my fashion sense!  Ha ha!

What inspires you?

What keeps me inspired is that the world is quite a boring place really. Really boring. It’s up to us to brighten up things, look forward to a new day of being here, keeping it positive, keep the energy gushing out doing good things whether that being creative or working towards goals that are good. I love a new project and if there isn’t one there I’ll make one happen.  I’ve got a big show – my Greatest Hits show – in London on 10th October at ‘Above the Stag’ cabaret lounge and so am working towards that.  Also have been given a tremendous night in Brighton on November 20th to put on my Polyester Fiesta show.  Lots of my models can’t make the date …. so I’ll get some new ones!  Lots of work but a great challenge – HURRAH!

When are you the happiest?

I’m happiest when working on music…. Lyrics that make me laugh out loud, lyrics that won’t work and I wake at 5 am in the morning to scribble something down on a notepad by my bed!  Honestly lying on a beach in the sun doesn’t make me happy at all!  Being happy comes from achievement.  Working hard towards something than seeing how the hard work has made others laugh or brought about some catalyst in life.

Where does your creativity go?

My creativity goes towards my music/lyrics/songwriting/composing.  I’ve just finished writing a musical during lockdown – that took ten months – it was commissioned by a lovely young chap in Germany.  Sheer delight!

Then I recently wrote three environmental songs for piano and voice: ‘Down to Earth’ … and now I’m working on my live shows and wait for it.. a classical piece for mezzo-soprano, piano, cello and timpani!  Why not?  I’m 59 and can do what I like!

Do you have a philosophy of living?

Life is short – make the most of each day. Try to say to yourself – I’ve achieved this or that today… it might only be saving a bee from dying at the side of the road but that’s very important too!  (Without bees we as humans are dead in 9 years. My grandfather was a famous beekeeper in his day and warned of the destruction of the natural world). I think humans have got about 20 years left to sort themselves out…. Else it’s BOOM!  And unfortunately, everything else comes with us.

And dying?

My song ‘Would you like to be Buried of Cremated’ sums up everything!

Audiences love it as it puts life into perspective and you get them dancing on the table!  Total joy!

Would you like to be

Buried or cremated,

Mourned or celebrated?

I’d like to know,

Before you go

 

Would you like a coffin

Or any ‘ol thing to go off in?

Do let me know

Before you go

 

Cos

Life is such a day to day affair and often quite surreal

One minute you’re waiting for the bus

And the next you’re underneath the wheel, So!

 

Would you like your funeral

With all your favourite tunes and all

Can we dance

If we get the chance?

 

Cos

Life is such a day to day affair and often very weird

One minute you’re a little baby girl

And the next you’ve got a really long beard, So!

 

Buried or cremated?

Mourned or celebrated?

Can you face the music? cos

It’s up to you to choose it

 

Buried or cremated

Mourned or celebrated

I’d like to know for certain

Before you draw the curtain!

Are you still dreaming?

Of course, I’m still dreaming! I’m just about human and only humans have dreams and beliefs… no other animal or mammal would be stupid enough to have them! Why do we have them? It’s crazy!  They are a yearning, a make-belief that there is another way that could be better out there/something better that we could do… so dreams have to be fun. Dreams can lead to you doing crazy things so keep having them!  As a geeky spotty teenager, I used to dream of being a fashion model… now I am in my own Polyester Fiesta fashion show… I didn’t fit in with other people’s reality so made my own dream come true!   Have a go at your own!  Go-Girrl!

LORRAINE BOWEN’S GREATEST HITS TOUR DATES

https://abovethestag.org.uk/cabaret-lounge/lorraine-bowens-greatest-hits

Lorraine Bowen’s Greatest Hits

SUN, 10th OCT

15:30 – 17:30

Above The Stag Theatre & Bar (map)

72 Albert Embankment, LONDON SE1 7TP

Lorraine Bowen performs her Greatest Hits from her many original albums and of course the BGT famous Crumble Song!

 

SAT 20th NOV

Lorraine Bowen’s POLYESTER FIESTA

At the Ironworks Studio, Brighton, BN1

Lorraine and friends strut their stuff on the catwalk on polyester’s 80th birthday!  Nylon, Crimpelene, Terelene and more – come dressed up in your best flowery dress and join in the audience catwalk competition!  Fun night guaranteed!

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