The word ‘retirement’ encompasses the notion of ‘stopping work’ but it gives little clue or guidance about what comes after the gold watch.
Most of you already know the story of what I decided to do when faced with my own ‘retirement.’ You may think this was about money, but it really wasn’t. Despite being told by a financial advisor when I divorced at 42 that I should ‘marry someone with a good pension pot as quickly as possible’, I decided to do all in my power to secure my financial future so that I could retire fairly comfortably at around 65. I’ll admit to a fair amount of luck with property deals (one at auction), some judicious investments that paid off and a very disciplined savings regime, but the year after my granddaughter India was born in 2013, I was in the fortunate position of being able to ‘retire’. The trouble was that I just didn’t want to. India’s birth and subsequent struggles for survival had powerfully brought home to me that life is both precious and fragile. In a moment we may be gone, but at the same time I am part of a generation of women which is likely to be the longest ever lived. That was the conundrum that I was wrestling with. How was I going to live for another thirty years or more with purpose and meaning and a zest for that extra bonus of life if it was granted to me?
When lockdown forced us all into our homes last March, I had the idea of creating Zoom interviews with various people who I thought you might like to meet. We started on Tuesday June 17th with Mags Walker, the founder of Toolally earrings and during the summer and early autumn I hosted a number of these interviews with various inspirational and interesting people. Then in October, when we were once again confined to barracks, I had the idea of adding into the mix of interviewees any Super Troopers who would like to share their interests, hobbies or life experiences with us. I am delighted to say that this has been a wonderful success and we have heard from some truly amazing women who have all, in their own highly individual ways, answered the question ‘as an older woman, how do I live with purpose, meaning and a real enthusiasm for life?’
The stories we have heard break down into four main groupings: ‘Giving back’; ‘Teaching Others’; My Passion’ and ‘A Change of Direction’, although some fit in more than one of these categories and pretty much all of them could be called ‘my passion’ because these women love and enjoy what they do!
I have put Marieke Derrington, Joan Packard and Leslie Day into this group. All three have given their time and energy to extremely worthwhile projects which in Marieke’s case involves the support of pregnant mothers and babies in a remote rural region of Uganda; in Joan’s case to an organisation which gives respite holidays to Belarussian children affected by the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and Leslie, who gave a year of her life to become the very first Lady Master of her livery company in the City of London. All three projects involve raising funds for their respective charities and all three women have formed strong bonds and links with a wide variety of people through their activities and all three had fascinating stories to tell.
Four of our talks were from women who are still imparting their knowledge and experience to others. Delia Chiaro is a lecturer in Italy at the University of Bologna and she shared her insights into humour in the digital age, whilst Angelique Du Toit, another University lecturer, talked about colour and confidence for older women and showed us her recently published book ‘H.A.G.S with Attitude’. Amanda Ogden meanwhile is passionate about textiles and quilting and so she runs tutorials in those subjects both in her studio and on her YouTube channel. And finally we heard from Denise Howells who has been helping people to calm down by teaching meditation and mindfulness, especially helpful during lockdown during which she’s been running her sessions on Zoom. Denise included a short guided meditation for all of us which proved to be extremely popular!
My Passion For….
Three of our contributors shared their hobby, which in Leslie Sharp’s case has turned into a business as she has now written, done the illustrations for and bound some extremely beautiful books which are now published and for sale. Jacqueline Trotman showed us just a few of her delightful sewn creations which included a doll, some quilts and some exquisite wall hangings. Like many women who are supremely talented, Jacqueline was very modest, having been approached by me to share her work when I was impressed with it on our Super Trooper’s FB page. I hope that she was able to understand that many of us were in awe of the standard of her work. And finally from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, we were joined by Pauline Ayersmenk who took up the art of Bonsai in her 70s and who admits that it’s now something of an obsession!
A Change of Direction
Finally, three of our contributors to the Tuesday Teatime Talks have all undergone a major change of direction in their later lives. Nicky Griffin became a fashion model when she was approached by someone whilst in a bank queue about being in a photoshoot for a hair care company. Her twin girls had just left for university and Nicky was wondering how she’d be able to cope both with her business and her empty nest when a whole new career in modelling opened which has taken her all over the world.
Another wonderful story of new directions was told by Wendy Jackson-Hill who was ordained as a priest in her native South Africa but who then decided to emigrate to the UK with her British husband. She was eventually able to get a full-time position in a parish in Plymouth before retiring aged 70. And finally just this week I have talked to Annette Redlin-Ashton who appeared for our interview in a full Georgian costume, complete with a cheeky bonnet. Her love of dancing and the Georgian period in general has opened up a whole new life of friendship, fun and travel, so much so that she has just moved from Yorkshire into a Georgian period flat in Bath very near to where Jane Austen once lived.
Wendy Jackson Hill
Many of our thought-provoking and inspirational talks have been from women who might describe themselves as ‘retired’. Yet, as you can see, they are very far from idle or lacking in purpose or direction in their lives. And how about you? Do you have a story to inspire us either because you have a great love for something, which may have a teaching element or perhaps you have taken a new direction and would like to tell us how it has changed your life. Or perhaps like Marieke, Joan or Leslie you are involved in an endeavour that enriches the lives of others. If so, I would love to have an initial chat with you via Zoom to explore possibilities, so please send me an email to marketing@lookfabulousforever to tell me what you have in mind. And maybe we can find a new word for this period of time of apparent ‘retirement’ when, as all my interviewees have demonstrated so brilliantly, it’s possible to lead lives full of passion, purpose and fulfillment. ‘Renaissance’ might fit the bill!
And many thanks to all the wonderful interviewees in our header image. Top left to right: Angelique du Toit, Lesley Day and Delia Chiaro. Bottom left to right: Nicola Griffin, Marieke Derrington and Amanda Ogden.
Upcoming Event Information:
Virtual Teatime With Tricia and Penny Kocher, Fashion Blogger
Penny Kocher is a dedicated blogger who writes about many things, including her love for charity shops, the ageing process, and cultural matters around books and film
Day: Tuesday 27th April
Meeting ID (if needed): 865 9358 4204
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB
Film Club: 45 years
available on Curzon Home Cinema
Day: Friday 7th May
Meeting ID (if needed): 889 2101 7357
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB