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Midlife Women’s Discovery 3 Day Retreat in Cheshire, UK


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Do you find yourself wondering what life’s about at times, or struggle to find your purpose? Maybe your lacking passion and inspiration or want a new direction.

Our retreats are designed to help you tap into your emotions with journaling, look for opportunities in the universe with tarot and unblock your energy with reflexology and Qi Gong.  Also included are 3 yummy vegetarian meals a day plus homemade vegan cake, because life is always better with cake. The cottage is located in stunning nature with an award winning pub nearby – just saying! Walking, talking, laughing, the odd drink and a dance if the mood takes you, are all on offer.

Dates: 10 – 13 July & 13 – 16 July. Prices from £295 with discounts for AoA members.  Soul Sisters looks forward to having you.

https://www.soulsisterscommunity.com/retreats-for-women

My Love Affair with Italy


1 Minute Read

Annie Llewellyn has an academic background in Psychology and has lived and worked in Wales for many years. She is grateful for the years she spent in academia because she was able to teach and research In Europe. In 2002, she met and married an Italian and has never lost her love for this amazing country. She is now resident in Italy for much of the year and works remotely while still trying to work out the bureaucracy and the language.

The route to Italy began when my daughter came home for the weekend with a copy of an advertisement that she had found in the Sunday Times ‘Lonely Hearts’ section and I think she wished to divest herself of coming to seek me at weekends so that she could spend more time with the current boyfriend. The advertisement said that the gentleman concerned had a cottage in Wales and a house in Italy and was looking for someone to share his life with and I put it on one side thinking he would have loads of applicants.

One day I was feeling particularly lonely, and I decided to phone him, bearing in mind that I hadn’t seen a photograph as this was before the days where you swipe left or right based on physical characteristics. We had a chat on the phone, and I felt quite excited to be asked out on my first date. I dressed very carefully in a red dress and high heels (never usually wear these things). I found my date waiting for me in a high street in a mid-Wales town and we went to a rather seedy pub full of slightly inebriated locals. To say it was ‘love at first sight’ was simply not the case and in fact, it was very much the opposite. He was a slightly rotund, very well-dressed businessman whose accent belied his private education and his Italian ancestry. We looked slightly out of place I have to say in this rather run-down Welsh pub on a Saturday night.

The conversation though was interesting, and we spoke of many deep things such as the sudden death of his previous partner at a young age and his heartbreak at this. I saw a survivor and someone who was very likeable. I spoke of my yearning to travel to see other countries now that my children had grown up and I had time on my hands not to mention the unfaithful but long-lasting relationship with a younger man (we can go there another time). Richard – yes, that was his name – talked of how he longed to wander the beaches with his dogs on a rope lead and divest himself of all connections with money and become a gypsy. I have to say I only found out later than he knew how to sell himself, but I digress from my story.

I got ready to leave and said that I had enjoyed his company, but I didn’t think we were especially suited. I also thanked him for arranging to meet and moved to get up and go and I wished him well with finding the right person. He then said: ‘Would you like to eat?’ and I had to admit to feeling peckish and so we found a local Indian and we ate a good curry. He confided that I was the fourth date of the evening and that there had been 350 applicants so far, but I was the best of them all.

Of course, after the troubles of my previous relationship where I had lost not only my husband but most of our worldly goods which went to buy his new younger model a house and car – this somewhat bolstered my ego. We parted as friends and he said that he would phone me before he left for Italy the next day to complete on his house and I wished him a good trip and drove away thinking that I would never hear from him again. Yet, the next morning I received a text thanking me for a beautiful evening and promising to ring me on his return from Italy. My thoughts returned to him during the week as I wondered whether he had completed on the house and then on Thursday morning he texted me to say that he had completed upon the house. And I replied that ‘I am delighted that you have achieved your dream’ as he had been born in Florence and the text came back to say ‘you are my dream’ and I honestly had to get out of the bath to read it properly because the bath was steaming up the screen of my phone. I had never considered leaving Mid Wales again let alone taking up with a foreigner who admitted years later that he had sent it over a drunken lunch with his sister.

During the time that Richard was away, there were several gossipy lunches with girlfriends and the consensus was that what had I got to lose? Well, there was the issue that he wasn’t my physical type; my style of man was more along the lines of a tortured poet but as my friends pointed out my last attempt at tortured poets had certainly not gone well. A week after Richard’s return from Italy he invited me to his farmhouse in South Wales and we sat outside drinking gin and tonics and the first night he cooked me a beautiful meal of roast duck with all the trimmings and the housekeeper had put flowers in the spare room next to my bed.

We spent the days exploring the nearby market town and getting to know each other and, in the evenings, we ate out in Abergavenny. It is true that Italian men have the gift of romance and this one played Maria Callas, and I began to enjoy the ease of his company. Despite the heavy romancing, I continued to sit on the fence but four weeks later the school holidays were drawing close; and Richard made me an offer of two weeks in Italy followed by two weeks in Spain and I was absolutely hooked. I had probably been planning to spend the holidays scrubbing the skirting boards and put that against jetting off to a country that I already loved and of course, I accepted.

Before we left, I was introduced to the Italian mother and she was utterly lovely a gorgeous, lithe lady in her late 80s living in Fulham. She had once been part of the Folie Bergère in Paris where she had met her Italian Count but sadly the Florentine family didn’t feel the same. I too was similarly dismissed when I met Richard’s children who apparently treated all his girlfriends in the same way and would clearly have preferred him to return to their mother so that they could resume their private education.

I had anticipated a lazy drive down through France to Italy but any hopes of that were dismissed as we navigated the M4 to the ferry. Once Richard joined the motorway down to the South, I began to realise there is no such thing as a lingering road journey to an Italian. It was hot and he drove very fast and in mid-France, I began to dream of flights wondering how much more I could take of this road trip with Puccini blaring from the speakers. I quickly learned that Italians manage their women in a manner that is subtle but designed to get their own way.  We arrived at the house 18 hours after we left Dover having navigated the long incline to the house, a truly nail-biting drive and one of the most dangerous in Italy. There are 13 hairpin bends and some of them are the switchback type. Passing places are few and it is a single-track road much beloved by cyclists and people in camper vans seeking a rural idyll after the joys of Florence, Rome, and Sienna. We arrived about 3 am in the morning. I was absolutely shattered and planned to catch the first flight home from Pisa as soon as morning light dawned.

I awoke the next morning to warm sunshine flooding the room and threw open the shutters and I was blown away by the view. It was literally love at first sight as my eyes took in the rugged mountains, the breathtaking views and the valleys shimmering in the warm sun below. I would come to love that view and I drank it in every morning and was there until late evening draining the last drop of prosecco from my evening aperitif. You couldn’t hear a sound and after the hectic drive and the journey, I felt that I had come home. Many people experience this when they first come to Italy and indeed, I had felt this on my first trip, but something gripped me on that visit that has never left my soul. I love the bones of Italy and I don’t feel the need to do the touristy things that Italy offers to many (although I do them in passing) but it is the experience that grabs me more than anything. It is being alive under the Italian sun as it were and simply being and there is no more pleasurable meditative state.

Every day I fell further in love with Italy and Richard. I would sit and people watch, and few words were exchanged between Richard and me as I immersed myself in people watching and eating dinner late in the evening at different restaurants. I loved to peek into doorways as we paused to gaze at the tranquil gardens where I imagined sitting in the evenings. The Italians, of course, rarely sit in their gardens during the day preferring to shade themselves from the sun. I lit candles in the evening on the terrace and Richard prepared simple food, which we bought from the market vendors during the day.

Richard and I were not lovers before we embarked on the trip but I fell in love with him during this trip. It wasn’t my usual passionate kind of encounter but the simple love of a man and woman who meet in mid-life and are appreciative of the time they spend together and are merging in a kind of simplicity that is hard to define. We spent long hours listening to the voice of Maria Callas singing arias from Madam Butterfly and indeed the aria was played at Richard’s funeral some eight years later. Richard admitted that the trip was one of the happiest that he had ever made to Italy. Just us and the landscape – what a joy!

We returned to Italy every few weeks (flying, of course). Richard didn’t change, and many times he dragged me from the sanctity of the house back into the hire car to various sites of interest such as Florence, Siena, and Assisi where I was expected to drink in the atmosphere in a few hours. Richard proposed after a visit to Bologna to see his sister and he bought me the most beautiful diamond ring and I think I was the happiest I have ever been. We married in Florence just before Christmas eighteen months later on a beautiful frosty, snowy day in the Palace Vecchio. The wedding ceremony was conducted in Italian by candlelight with beautiful frescoes in the background and centuries of history surrounding us.

The years I experienced with this man were years that I will never forget, and he never made life easy, but he did his absolute utmost to make me happy. When he became ill six years after we married, it didn’t slow him down and he didn’t involve me in his treatment. He died two years later, but he gave me something that was beyond money. He introduced me to a different way of living and a life that I had never experienced before. In the last two years of his life, I gave up my job and we spent time in Tenerife because he liked the climate and the small mountain house remained closed. I was with him in the final stages of his life and his last words to me were ‘don’t leave me’ as he sank into a morphine-induced sleep.

I was heartbroken and it was two years before I was able to return to Italy as I couldn’t face returning to the house and life there without him. He left me his share of the small mountain house and I knew it would be hard in practical terms to live there full time and so started to think that selling the house was my only way of keeping afloat. I hadn’t realised the extent of the practical problems that living in Italy inevitably brought until I started to engage with bureaucracy. I spoke only a little Italian and even now it is a work in progress, I learned that Richard’s way of dealing with taxes was to ignore them. This is not so easy for the person left behind. I came to realise that the man whom I loved so deeply had left me his part of the house but not the income to support it. I returned to my job and picked up the threads of my life and paid off all the taxes that were owed. Healing came more slowly and there were relationships post-Richard, but they were not important.

I yearned to spend more time in my Italian home and popped over for brief visits to pay bills but I couldn’t face spending longer without the man I had loved so much by my side. It was the support of a loving therapist that made me see that I could create new memories and that Richard would want me to return and I began to want to give it a try. I cleared the house of memories and had the place revamped and so I started to appreciate once more the peace of the country I had come to see as home. I decided to cash in my pension to give myself some capital and a monthly income, but I also negotiated a few hours of teaching on Zoom and I managed to sustain a level of income that would make living in Italy work. I was faced with loads of practical problems such as driving on the other side of the road in the terrifying mountainous area in which I live, but is something I was able to overcome.

My week is now punctuated with visits to the Wednesday market in the nearest village after navigating the thirteen hairpin bends where I buy locally grown fresh vegetables and fruit often for as little as one euro. I also buy a spit roast chicken from the rotisserie in the marketplace, and I eat this with fresh salad or pasta.  On Saturday, I get on the local train to visit Lucca and enjoy a cappuccino with a friend and perhaps wander around the market to see what bargains are available. I have picked up designer cashmere sweaters for as little as 5 euros. Once a month there is the antique market where people gather to buy the beautifully restored, shabby chic furniture and magnificent chandeliers. I often join friends for lunch and revel in the odd purchase I make such as crystal chandelier droplets for my Christmas tree. Trains are cheap in Italy, and I can travel to other places quite easily to experience a different side of Italian life.

I live in the moment in Italy and appreciate the compensations of my life as I get up to greet the dawn on my terrace and gaze down to the valley below watching as the sun clears away the clouds. I can often be found swaddled in a blanket, sipping my morning tea alone on my terrace engulfed by the silence. I am alone but the airport is not far away and I am only half a day’s travel away from my children and friends.

Single women are drawn to Italian life and there are always people around who will chat and readily express their envy when they realise you are not a tourist but live there. Friends who visit are drawn to choosing their own place, but when they return home; I return to my life of silent contemplation where I read by my fireside in the evening, or I light a candle and enjoy a glass of frizzante wine alone. I don’t often feel lonely because I have found my peace and I have memories from the past and hopes for the future that I am planting as I go. There is no rush even though my memories of Richard remind me that life is brief and that all we have is now. However, I know that I have everything and that is more than enough.

“Deep in the soul, below pain, below all the distraction of life, is a silence vast and grand – an infinite ocean of calm, which nothing can disturb. Nature’s own exceeding peace, which passes understanding. That which we seek with passionate longing, here and there, upward and outward; we find at last within ourselves.”

Richard Maurice Bucke

AofA People: Joolz – poet, novelist, artist, illustrator and tattooist


6 Minute Read

Joolz, 66, is a poet, novelist, artist, illustrator and professional tattooist. She came to prominence in the 80s when she was often called a punk poetess and was instrumental – Justin Sullivan, the lead singer was her partner at that time – in the rise of New Model Army. She’s still writing, painting, drawing and expressing her opinions from her base in Bradford

Where do you live?

I live in the same house in Bradford I’ve lived in for 35 years. It’s an end terrace in a hidden cul de sac in a very poor area but by chance has a large garden with trees. It’s extremely untidy and full of stuff and art materials. It’s very comfortable despite being in disrepair.

What do you do? I’m an artist, writer and tattooist, although I’m semi-retired from tattooing because it’s exhausting work. I have my own studio and set my own rules so I don’t have to get up early or any of that nonsense. I spent my whole adult life working at night either on tour with the band or just because I like it and it racks me off when people say ‘not up yet?’ I probably didn’t go to bed until 3.00 am whilst they were snoozing at 9.00pm. I’m sure it’s lovely to see the sunrise and I often do, just before going to bed.

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

I will be 66 shortly. My current joke is ‘one six short of the Beast’ which no one finds funny but me. Life is a see-saw – when you’re young you have all the energy and no wisdom, in middle age, it’s 50-50, now it’s all wisdom and naps. It’s frustrating my body which was always fit and strong is still strong but less fit and I live with the constant pain of arthritis in my knees due to motorcycle accidents and the sports I did but hey. Everyone has something wrong with them. I don’t put up with bullshit and I speak as I find, so people try and pigeonhole me as a grumpy old woman but I’m not. I’m half in this world and half in the other world so I see things much more clearly than I did.

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

Insight and courage, I was a very damaged and hurt girl, I suffered serious sexual and physical violence, decades of abuse and bullying – now I understand and despite the legacy of CPTSD and depression, I’m actually much more liberated and free than I was. At 25 I didn’t have knowledge that I didn’t need anyone else to be happy. Now I like people well enough but I don’t need them.

What about sex?

I have a partner who’s 30 years younger than myself and extremely good looking. All my bits are in working order. It’s not a problem. I don’t lack for suitors either, but that’s their gig, I’m not bothered.

And relationships?

They have been extremely problematic in the past and I’m shit at them, I just take it day by day. I don’t expect the traditional holding hands in the twilight of our year’s stuff now. I had years of domestic abuse physical and psychological so I’ve seen the worst relationships can bring and I’ve also seen the best. I think people expect too much of their partners sometimes. They want a mother, father, sibling, best mate, nurse, counsellor and lover all in one and that’s a terrible burden to put on someone else. Just look at them as a person like yourself with problems like yourself that you’ve entered into a partnership with so you’ll each have someone to be close to over the years and never ever marry someone you couldn’t spend two weeks in a two-man tent in the Lake District with.

How free do you feel?

Extremely free. No one tells me what to do and I won’t be shouted at by anyone. I do as I like and make what I like.

What are you proud of?

Surviving. Being successful in every career path I’ve taken. Being a hard worker and researcher. Loving people. Loving my cat Scout. Having nice grey hair.  The garden.

What keeps you inspired?

Absolutely everything. Every day is a revelation and brings fresh insight. I’m not even kidding or bullshitting. Just keep your eyes open it’s all out there.

When are you happiest?

In bed reading with Scout lying beside me. Scout is a 9kg male Black Smoke variant Maine Coon cat so it’s like having a dog that purrs. We love each other. I feel safe, warm and comfortable and can dream of other places, places I’ll visit when we can travel again.

And where does your creativity go?

Into everything I do and am.

 

What’s your philosophy of living?

I don’t think too hard about that. Don’t get wound up about small stuff. Tell the truth and shame the devil. Stand up for what you believe in but question everything. You don’t get owt for nowt so be prepared to pay the price. Love with all your heart, if the loved one turns out to be shit that’s their karma. Women should always have money of their own and men should give up trying to control everything. Children are our most precious resource, don’t spoil or hurt them. Don’t use children as props to your ego or weapons against your partner. Respect your Elders, you don’t have to like them but they gave you life. Be polite.  Swear if you feel like it. Let your hair go grey and be proud of it because it’s two fingers up at Society that says we should be ashamed of being old.

It’s just part of the journey. We all die. I’ll make an end of it myself if I’m too ill to go on with dignity like my father did. At least I hope I’ll be that brave. There’s nothing to fear in dying, just try to do as much as you can prior. Think of it as the end of the summer holidays and that bright shore waiting.And dying?

Are you still dreaming?

Every day.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

My entire existence is an outrage to many so I don’t have to do anything special.

How to Live a Rich Life Alone


8 Minute Read

I’ve been pondering this question lately, prompted by a number of posts about single life on the Advantages of Age group.

I was particularly struck by the post on Bella DePaulo’s book, Singled Out – How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatised and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. Also, the topic was already on my mind because last year I started writing a memoir. It’s about a life lived alone, almost entirely without a family or a partner.

Growing up, my father lived on the other side of the world and my lovely mother (5ft-nothing, bright and resourceful) was often absent, by virtue of being severely mentally ill. Running wild at 10 years old, I was sent to boarding school. When I was 15, my mother began an unprecedented 22 years in care. But that’s another story.

At boarding school, friends’ parents generously invited me to spend the school holidays with them. When I left school after my ‘A’ Levels, I spent the summer living with my gang in a Ladbroke Grove squat, then took myself off to a new life at Goldsmiths’ College on the 36 bus.

I did manage a couple of relationships at university – weirdly opting for guys who turned out to have mental health problems. I had a number of short relationships throughout my 20s and early 30s. I had my heart broken twice (usual pattern was to fall head over heels for someone who didn’t feel the same way about me and grieve over the break-up for years after). Then, apart from what a friend memorably called my long term ‘non-relationship’, I just called it a day.

My father died when I was 24, my mum when I was 37. I don’t have any siblings. I don’t have children of my own, and I’ve never lived with a partner. I’m rarely in touch with my cousins. I guess in family terms, I’m about as alone as they come.

One good consequence of going to boarding school is that I made a handful of friends for life. I’ve known my best friend since I was 12 – and I’m fortunate to have other close friends (from that era and later) who feel like family.

I’ve never really missed having a family of my own, but I’ve always felt the need to connect. I started out as a journalist – I loved interviewing people and telling their stories. I moved into documentary film-making – always focusing on those who are usually ignored. In 2000, at the age of 38, I toured the Southern States of America with an advance to write a book about the death penalty. At 39, I did an MSc in Criminology & Criminal Justice at Oxford University. I stayed in Oxford and worked in Restorative Justice until 2005. Then, after failing to get work when I returned to London, I opened a shop selling Spanish arts, crafts and eventually tiles, which I distributed worldwide. In 2018, I closed the business, rented out my house and came to live in Spain, where I’ve owned an old ‘cortijo’ (cottage) since 1997.

Where others have had structure, I guess I’ve had freedom.

I did feel lonely while I was running the business. Working alone and living alone was a double-whammy, especially with the pressures of the company. I made friends through it but was often too tired to socialise.

Life as an older single woman in rural Spain can be a bit challenging too. The majority of English-speakers are retired couples – ‘Barbara and Brian’, ‘Martin and Jane’, ‘Judith and Bob’. You rarely hear a woman’s name spoken on its own. If you do, she’ll be a divorcee or a widow – I don’t know any older woman here without children and grandchildren. Spanish society is even more family-focused. And to the Moroccans, you are not even a woman unless you’re a mother!

I’ve never felt overt prejudice, indeed I have friends and acquaintances in each of these groups – I just get left out of things. With some honourable exceptions, it does seem that couples socialise exclusively with other couples, plus the occasional single man or woman who was married once.

You could get very lonely – and I certainly hated the feeling of being left out, to the extent of being relieved when the first lockdown started, so I couldn’t be. But I’ve never felt that not having a family (or job) means I have less value as a human being. And, as single people form a surprisingly large proportion of most Western societies, it’s surely time for us to be taken seriously, and for the discrimination to stop!

So, in the absence of a family, what does give my life meaning?

Firstly, connecting with diverse groups. I’ve always made friends with all sorts of people. I’ve travelled on my own since I was in my 30s and I cherish the connections I’ve been able to make with people all over the world. It works on a small scale, too. Recently, my day was completely rescued when I managed a friendly chat in Spanish with the local chemist followed by another with my Moroccan neighbours on the way home. Recently, in the absence of workmates, I’ve been connecting online. I take part in online ‘Cave Days’ – joining other freelancers (mostly in the USA) to work together on Zoom. And luckily, I do have some good friends locally – mainly older single guys, younger single women (English, German and Spanish) and the abovementioned honourable couples with whom I share mutual interests. Phew!

Secondly, music. I’ve always been passionate about roots reggae. During the first lockdown I made a Spotify reggae compilation for my UK friends. It went down well, so I developed it into an on-going series of youtube ‘world reggae’ compilations – the Lubrin Dub Club. I love researching new music to put on the playlists, and dream of finding a way to take this further.

Thirdly, nature. I go on fantastic walks, often by myself. A few weeks ago, I noticed a little path behind the mountain spring where I get my water and decided to follow it. It led to two beautiful fields with almond and olive trees, behind which were more fields and mountains. I made my way up through the fields, to see if there was another path into the mountains. After wading through the last field of freshly ploughed earth, I was rewarded with a tiny track leading up between two hills. I followed it until it was nothing more than the suggestion of itself, before it picked up again, leading down to the main track and a fantastic view of the sea. I have to admit I’ve rarely felt happier; in the warm February sun, miles from anywhere with just a few little wheatears flying around, wondering who the last person to walk there had been, lost in my thoughts. It was the best meditation.

These three things make my heart sing. But also important are the projects:

Writing

I’ve just finished developing and teaching an online Creative Writing course which was a success. It’s morphed into a fabulous little writers’ group, and now I’m back to my own writing – a blog, a memoir and shorter pieces – stories, and essays like this one. Memoir-writing has had unforeseen results: I’ve reconnected with old friends, one of whom introduced me to the Advantages of Age Group! Ironically, I’ve also found a Chinese ‘step’ family in the UK. My father’s life-partner was Chinese and writing about them has led me to her nieces and nephews who I knew as a child. It’s been exciting!

Learning Spanish

Using NotesinSpanish.com and language ‘intercambios’ with Spanish friends, I’m hoping to reach a level where I can interact more meaningfully with the Spanish population.

House & Garden Projects

I aim at a job a day. I like the way that small actions can lead to big results.

Volunteering and Helping Others

Before lockdown, I was teaching basic Spanish to Moroccan women in the village. I may be befriending an asylum seeker in London for a daily phone chat soon, and perhaps volunteering in Spain again when my Spanish is good enough.

Last but not least, there are always surprises to look forward to.

Reconnecting with my Chinese ‘step’ family was one surprise. Here are two more:

In 2016, I won a holiday to Jamaica!

And in 2019, a guy came to stay as a Workaway volunteer. After an uncertain start, we got on really well and it was lovely to have someone to bring in the wood, set the fire, get on with the DIY and share the food I made in return. I enjoyed the company, and missed him when he had to go. I don’t think we would have made a successful couple, but never say never!

A friend recently introduced me to a new concept, the ‘Security of Insecurity’. She said you can never relax when things are ‘perfect’ because you can be sure they won’t stay that way. When your life is more fluid, you know that anything can happen. Perhaps you’re more prepared for change. Surprises (and they do seem more plentiful of late) can be great, and they certainly keep me interested in life.

REQUEST FOR INTERVIEWEES: My memoir explores not just my own life, but those of other ‘family light’ women. I want to see whether there are common themes, and look into the future – what are our options for retirement/old age? I’m interested in co-communities (intentional communities) – my personal quest could be to find one outside London, in a diverse community with a good reggae dub club on the doorstep! Please message me if you’re willing to be interviewed, or have other information to offer. Thank you!

Penny Pepper on her Naked Punk Tour


4 Minute Read

Penny Pepper, 59 – poet, performer and writer. She found her voice through writing for punk fanzines and is now on her Naked Punk tour. ‘Punk fired a freedom in me to start accepting myself, that I was okay as a human being, as a woman, as a creative, who could challenge the categories imposed on me. It is the energy that triggered my activism, and my passion for social justice and equality.’

It’s a sad moment when I realise I’ve forgotten to pack my favourite knickers, as I arrive in yet another hotel room, many miles from my Hastings home.

Where am I? I sometimes forget as hotels are my second home at least every four weeks. This time, oh yes. Bristol. The Naked Punk (me) will perform a spoken word set, plus extracts from my memoir, First In The World Somewhere. And at the iconic music store, Rough Trade, only one of four branches in the entire world, damn it!

Here I am, pushing 60. A wheelchair user with a personal assistant (the preferred term) who is my driver, back scrubber and all round right-hand woman. For most of my Naked Punk tour, this personal assistant has been Emma. We work together well, have a laugh together and sometimes a cry together. For instance when we arrived one night, at a Premier Inn in Hackney, London only to discover there was no parking. None at all.

Everything I might need at a hotel goes through a triple checking process on the phone in advance, but alas this far from foolproof. While a young person on reception does not equate with incompetence, it may equate with slow and confused service, especially if you are, gasp, unusual. Poor young things, well groomed and the epitome of polite; they rarely have a clue about the shower blockage or why your room has the wrong bed height – despite those phone calls. They can resolve internet problems though, mostly. Even if they do start by looking at you as if you’re their granny who has never heard of this inter-tweet-net thing.

There are desperate moments on the road. I wish I could at this point bring in the drugs, sex, and TVs being smashed through windows. But in reality, it’s pain killers, bad telly and ‘accessible’ wet rooms that tend to flood your entire room, bringing with it the delicate aroma of the local sewage plant.

I am a bit rock n’ roll in my approach to unpacking. Emma hangs up my clothes, but otherwise my method is to throw items THERE, on the desk below the TV. Here I leave everything from lipstick to Kitkats, note books to baby wipes, empty Dorito packets to a tissue box which is de rigeur. Oddly at home I teeter into OCD tidiness. On my road trip, meh. Let it sprawl and multiply. Earrings do the latter on the road, which I think has something to do with my self-inflicted visit to a local makers’ market. Or the mall.

My hotels are booked to be as close as they can be to the venue. This means less worry about the dreaded parking and makes me more relaxed for the important bit. But in Bristol, it means working out how to get off the noisy ring road, and avoid the Bear Pit roundabout subway where there is a sleepy gaggle of street folk. I lived in London for almost 30 years – I ain’t scared. But it smells bad and brings us out to another fuck of a noisy road. Emma solves it. We come out of the Hilton Cheap and into the posh mall.

Because I am a touch on the delicate side, I always rest the day before a gig. I don’t mean lying in bed being fanned, but I do relax. This time I chilled out by way of buying a hairpiece. Long and pink. Essential for mermaid days.

A gig brings a little tension into my stomach. I’m not nervous when I perform but I percolate the anticipation for hours in multifarious ways. There is the twitchy excitement, the fretting about time, and therefore the hours in the ‘green room’.

Once this was an empty classroom. Another time it had two rows of mirrors and I got to use HRM’s Queenie lift. Here in Bristol, it is actually in Rough Trade, a table set by the photo booth amid all the records. A little disconcerting as most of the walls are glass. At least I don’t need to do a costume change.

The gig goes well despite a scary ramp, which I shoot up from the audience. Next time I need to play some music to accompany my daring ascent. It’s a decent crowd and they respond with cheers, responses and applause throughout.

I glow and grin. Job done.

Next journey Wiltshire. Next gig, WOMAD JULY 26-28th. Get me.

For Penny’s tour dates – http://www.pennypepper.co.uk/upcoming-events/

AofA People: Debra Sofia Magdalene, Spiritual Entrepreneur


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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: Emma Salgueiro – Creative director: Graphic design, copywriting, and development of websites projects


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Creative director: Graphic design, copywriting, and development of websites projects. I’m also a comedian, specialized in the “Alternative World,” and I’m writing an “erotic-conscious” novel.
On the other hand, I’m starting to co-create a Conscious Sexuality Movement (sort of tantric), for “normal” people from 30 to 60, with small gatherings and a festival to happen in the UK on 2019.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Madrid and Ibiza

AGE? 50

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

Interesting and peculiar, as normally I’m surrounded by much younger people.

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

Wisdom, more humour, and taking myself less seriously.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

Grrrrreat! (quite an expert on the matter, hahaha)

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

Starting a very fun and sexy relationship at the moment.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

Quite a lot, besides when my nomadic life makes me struggle with money issues.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

My talent as a comedian.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

That something greater than us, and our limited vision.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

When I make people laugh.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

To my writing and performing.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

We are here to shine at our highest potential. Taking life as a hero quest, in which to learn and evolve, avoiding getting attached to drama as much as possible. Let’s Be Light!

AND DYING?

Dissolving into the Light once again and getting ready for a new incarnation… or not.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

More than ever before!

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

Jumping on stage in front of 320 people without knowing what to say and keeping them laughing non-stop for 20 minutes.

Surprise Me

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