In Praise of Older Women
Lostwithiel, Canterbury, Epsom and, very soon, Winchester. Four places I have never been before and doubt I would have visited if it hadn’t been for an invitation from the kind of older woman who ‘gets things done.’ You know the sort. Organised, sociable, reliable and outgoing. The absolute backbone of most communities when something needs to happen which will take time, effort and efficiency, all of which will be given freely.
I am of course speaking about those recent occasions when I have been invited to join the meet-up of a group of Super Troopers for either lunch or tea
The interesting thing on each occasion was that we were almost all complete strangers to each other and yet it felt as if we’d known each other all our lives. And what is also remarkable is that I can’t think of any other set of circumstances in my lifetime when this could have happened in the same way. Our Super Trooper community emerged from the desperate situation in which we all found ourselves at the start of the pandemic. Alone at home, socially isolated and extremely fearful of being infected by Covid, I kept thinking ‘how are we all going to get through this?’ Overnight I had gone from thinking of myself as a fit, active and robust 72 year old to being told that I was ‘extremely vulnerable’ and statistically at great risk of severe illness and death.
My first idea was Teatime at the Ritz, daily videos to provide a point of contact with content that I thought our customers and followers would enjoy with a cuppa every afternoon at 4pm. And then I also had the idea of creating a members-only Facebook group to make my TATR audience manifest. I wanted to see these women who left lovely comments under my daily TATR videos and under these blogs that I write every week. I also wanted to put faces to the names of those LFF customers who told us that they loved our beautiful makeup and what it did for their confidence as well as for their faces. And so Tricia’s Super Troopers was born, a name I chose in order to channel a kind of ‘blitz spirit’ of grace under fire and we took as our motto ‘KBO’ or ‘Keep Buggering On’ a Churchillian phrase which summed up our only option which was to accept our enforced isolation, endure it and hope for better times to come.
Now that the better times are here, in theory, we have no further need of the Super Trooper group and yet it’s still going very strong and has now grown to around seven and a half thousand members who reflect the very best of what human beings can offer each other. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can be rightly accused of many terrible things but, for the most part, we Super Troopers have managed to avoid those worst aspects of social media like microaggressions, back-biting and personal attacks. Instead we have, thankfully, managed to find a way to enrich each others’ lives in the following very tangible ways.
A Source of Kindness, Consolation and Empathy
For me this is by far the most significant for us older women. Life threw us a huge curveball with the pandemic and inevitably continues to do so. One of our early members, Gaynor Ashton, told us she had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Gaynor would post from time to time and then was unable to do so as she neared the end of her life. Gaynor would have died knowing that hundreds of women were thinking of her and mourned her passing and who, as I do, still think of her from time to time. And the same is true for those of you who have been bereaved of your beloved mothers, fathers, husbands, sisters and brothers, and in one tragic case a daughter who lost her life in a dreadful freak accident. You have shared your pain and grief with us and we have (I hope) been able to offer you our love and consolation.
Gaynor Ashton's fabulous entry into one of our style competitions in the group
Inspirational and Fun
That all sounds rather downbeat, but on Super Troopers there is also a great deal of celebration of life. We’ve shared nostalgic photographs from our childhood and early lives including all those weddings in the 1970s and it's wonderful to see the ‘fifty years and still going strong’ anniversary photos that regularly get posted. We’ve also run lots of competitions for which we’ve often had hundreds of fantastic entries ranging through makeup, fashion, places we love, people who inspire us and, early in the pandemic we had a ‘turn yourself into an art work’ competition which was brilliant and showed what a creative and inventive group we all are! Margaret Loyot Smith won a special prize for her several submissions - including this amazing Van Gogh self portrait.
Super Trooper Margaret Louyot-Smith as Van Gogh for another of our lockdown competitions
Showcasing Skill and Talent
Last week I wrote about my fledgeling attempts to draw and paint. Quite brave considering the number of talented artists on Super Troopers. Of course, they gave me nothing but encouragement but I’m not expecting to rival all that skill anytime soon. Then there are the bakers and cake makers extraordinaire. Our community did a lot more than making excellent sourdough bread throughout lockdown and beyond, as evidenced by photos of delicious and sometimes highly elaborate cakes. Suzanne Wainwright used her skill as a designer of quirky and original jewellery to make hundreds of pairs of earrings and necklaces to brighten the lives of her fellow STs, and Lily Bollinger and her husband created a whole new business making and selling decorative face masks.
So Much Wisdom and Experience
I needed a new energy supplier when my own went bust a year ago. A quick request for recommendations on STs brought me to Octopus Energy and I have been mightily impressed by their service. I’m not really a gadgety type but I have acquired two new ones thanks to conversations on ST. One is a Karcher window vacuum washer (absolutely brilliant!) and the other is a new acquisition - a WaterPik Water Flosser after I confessed to my fear and loathing of dentists. I’m using it two or three times a day and it's marvellous. Then there are those awaiting medical procedures or operations who just want some reassurance and advice. They start by saying “has anyone else…..” and back come the responses full of kindness, support and helpful advice. Even husband-specific ailments are discussed with one Super Trooper posting “I have just read out all your replies to my husband and he is now feeling so much better and less fearful”.
Very Stylish and Well Made-Up
My very best part of being a member of Super Troopers has been seeing myself reflected back to me. There is a saying ‘you have to see it to be it’ and this is so true of style, fashion and makeup. We live in a visual desert when it comes to positive images of older women. Women like us are so rarely seen on billboards, in magazines, in advertising or in those huge photos in hair salons. There are so few places to go for inspiration, to think ‘I love that on her, I wonder if it would work on me?’ However with Super Troopers I have finally found a source of positive and life affirming images. We recently ran a competition for ‘Mothers of the Bride/Groom or wedding guest outfits’ and there were some fantastic looks, elegant, sophisticated and, above all, relatable. It’s the same with makeup. There is constant affirmation that we are allowed to enjoy and enhance our own beauty and this is how fabulous we can all look.
And Finally - Generosity and Open-Hearts.
Our first fundraiser within Super Troopers was set to raise enough to pay for a midwife for one year in a rural part of Uganda. This was supported by ex-midwife Super Trooper Marieke Derrington who (before Covid) had been to Uganda and seen the huge benefit to the local community of proper care during and beyond childbirth. Your generosity ended up paying for two midwives! Then ST Sue and husband Tony Seston offered to combine their Hadrian Wall Walk as a way to raise funds for a charity of my choice. I decided on Unique for Rare Chromosomal Disorders which gave us such great support after my granddaughter India was born, and again, the total exceeded the target. And now, until the end of May we are supporting another extremely poignant cause thanks to STs Joan Packard and Gill Blundell. This is to raise desperately needed funds for an ambulance and medical supplies to transport hospitalised Ukrainian children and those in orphanages (often with special needs) away from danger. Our target is £2000, and I am happy to say that we are already at £1619! Here is the link if you would like to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ccllukrainesupertroupers
Some of the Ukrainian children hosted for a UK respite through the charity 'Chernobyl Children's Lifeline', who we are currently raising money for
There is a saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Well I think it also takes a village to guide and sustain us through the shallows and into the deeper waters of older age. Do you remember seeing images of grandmotherly-types sitting together outside their houses in rural Sicilian communities? Well I think of Super Troopers as a bit like that but with much more stylish clothes and makeup! A place of belonging and shared identity. A place to see and be seen. A place of kindness and understanding. Something to cherish in our increasingly atomised world. Thank you Super Troopers for your company over the past couple of years and I truly hope to meet very many more of you in the flesh (so to speak) in the coming months and years.
Does the Super Trooper community sound like something you'd like to be a part of? You can join us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/831268570723982
Upcoming Event Information:
Upcoming Event Information:
Friday 27th May
Film Club - Compartment No. 6
Available on Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon Prime and BFI
Watch the film before and join us for a discussion!
Day: Friday 27th May
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB
Monday 6th June
Makeup Magic Monday - Makeup and the Menopause
Join us in June when Sally and Tricia will be discussing everything you need to know about makeup when pre, during and post menopause
Day: Monday 6th June
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB