The story of The Winter We Met revolves around the closure of Willow Court care home and how that threatens the residents’ beloved Christmas party.
When I wrote this book I wanted to show how the elderly still live vibrant lives that matter and don’t fit the negative stereotypes. I think it’s easy to forget this sometimes, as wrinkles or health problems associated with ageing can hide the still vital personality inside – especially in a modern society that is so obsessed with a youthful body image. I’m continually inspired by the older generation.
My much missed mother, for example, followed many hobbies during her life – reading, drawing, pottery – and continued such pursuits in her retirement, along with volunteering. My octogenarian father has recently embraced the online world and now messages and sends Gifs, and Skypes as well as anyone. And his mother, right into her late eighties, walked around in high heels despite problems with her hip, and wore flamboyant clothes and red lipstick, enjoying an enduring interest in fashion.
More than ever retirement isn’t about fading into the shadows, many pensioners pursue vital, fulfilling lives, continuing to learn new skills, mixing with friends, enjoying hobbies, helping their families. Like everyone else, they still have dreams. Still fall in love. Still enjoy sex. And this shouldn’t be a surprise.
I truly believe the words of George Bernard Shaw:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Several famous older people hugely inspire me. David Attenborough who is in his 90s still follow his passion for the natural world and fighting climate change, demonstrating that it’s never too old to make a difference.
And I’ve long admired Joan Collins’ attitude about ageing:
“Growing old is something you do if you’re lucky”
I’m in my fifties now and sure, it’s a shock sometimes to put my glasses on and really *see* my face in the mirror, wrinkles and all. But in a way I’m fond of the flaws – each one tells a story. For example due to getting shingles during lockdown I know have trail of pock marks down my forehead – and in the future I’ll look at them and they will remind me of the tough times in 2020 and how we all got through.
The pay off of time passing is – hopefully – a little wisdom and contentment. I’m much happier than I was thirty years ago and now have a boxful of tools to live by – mindfulness, gratitude, kindness – that I’ve gained through tough life experience. Challenging as it has been, I wouldn’t swap that any day with the vigour of youth.
I really feel I’m getting to *know* who I am now and because of that I care a little less what people think of me – as long as my conscience is happy, so am I. This has been a huge gift and I’m excited for what else I will discover if I’m lucky enough to see future big birthdays go by.
It was a joy to create the characters living in Willow Court – none of whom care very much for other people’s opinions!
Alf the conspiracy theorist
Flamboyant actress Pan, who’s a little confused.
Down-to-earth avid reader Alice who looks out for everyone.
Smart, uptight, business-minded Glenda.
Movie buff and family-orientated Betty, suffering from dementia
Former fireman Fred, a jolly good sort.
I’m thrilled that so many readers have loved this aspect of The Winter We Met.
The carers play an important part in the story too. Before lockdown I feel as if care homes were only in the papers if there was a case of abuse or neglect. But this pandemic has shown has just how truly caring the majority are, real homes from home, run by staff who’ve gone above and beyond during this difficult time.
And that’s why The Winter We Met is dedicated to those superstars 🙂