(Cisano, Lake Garda, at dusk)

For many women doing what we want can be unnerving. It’s like crossing a road except we’re not looking left and right and left again we’re looking for a child, or a husband, or a patient, or a student… anyone who might need us before we can step forward. Girls are trained to put other people first and professions like motherhood (it is one) or nursing or secretarying hone that training to the point that even when there’s no-one else for a fifty mile radius we still struggle with feelings of selfishness if we do what we like. If that’s you then pretend there’s a Lollipop Lady in front of you holding out a big STOP lolly – call it cognitive behavioural therapy – and say to her, “Fancy a cuppa?” and you can tell her anything you like over that cuppa because she’s another woman so she’s interested and she’s also a figment of your imagination so she won’t tell your sister or cast it all up later. The first step to doing what you want is to have space to daydream, to let your mind wander, and to wander along with it because how else will you know what you really want to do if you don’t dream?

I practised mild aversion therapy on myself. I made a cup of coffee or even, yes, a gin and tonic, and forced myself to sit in the garden or at a window with a view. No thinking. No planning. Just sitting. Then gradually when I got used to having a bit of space and no parent or boss or client appeared I began to think it might be alright to get up and do something. Just for me. That’s how I started making rings and hats. One day sitting in the do-nothing chair watching the jostle and bustle at the bird feeder I began to feel antsy. Surely there was someone I needed to phone? Or ironing to do. I should really tidy the kitchen cupboards before the visitors arrived. What if they needed some brown rice flour in the middle of the night and saw the state of them? I would be mortified. So I grabbed the button box and organised the buttons into piles on the table because it was totally unnecessary and I found a few black and silver glass buttons I remembered from childhood. I had some 14g sterling silver wire so off I went and made a ring that gets an awful lot of compliments.

You can do what you want and the world won’t end.

Unless what you want is to sneak into Mr Putin’s or Mr Trump’s office and press a red button.

(don’t wait till you’re this old to enjoy the flowers)

I believe absolutely in happiness despite age or size or singleness. I read an interview a while back with eighty-four year old Joyce Carpati, one of Advanced Style’s leading ladies, and she said she never baulks at telling anyone her age because ageing is a privilege denied to many and that was a thunderbolt for me. I had had a decade of a demanding job and almost a lifetime of bending myself into a pretzel to accommodate other people ending in the mother and auntie of breakdowns. At 50 my physical health was broken, my mental health was borderline, and I felt too old and exhausted to do anything. I even felt unworthy of the opportunity to do anything. I was waiting to die and Joyce saved my life.

My Right to Happiness Has Not Been Confiscated

I believe in travelling alone, wearing beautiful clothes, and making “age appropriate” what’s appropriate for you at the age you are now. And the size you are. And the state of health you’re in. It doesn’t matter if you have greying hair, or are a size 8 or 16 or 26, or are over 40 or 60 or 80, or if your partner died or left or just never came along; your Right to Happiness has not been confiscated. As we get older it can be too easy to give in and start thinking “it’s my age” or “it’s too late now” or “I wish I’d done it when I was thirty” and so on. All these thoughts are poisonous and will fill your soul with toxic sludge if you indulge them.


(wedding flowers in Seton Chapel, East Lothian, last summer)