Every Christmas since 1995 I have written a round-robin letter about my year to send to friends with their Christmas card. That means that I have documentary evidence of my last decade’s highs and lows, so it would be a shame to ignore it – hence this look back over my shoulder. And just like the media reviews of the last 10 years, I’m going to focus on constant themes and landmark changes. Here goes ……..
The start of the new decade provided both the biggest change to my life and the constant backdrop to it, as 2010 was the year I retired from the Civil Service. I was thrilled to leave, and love my life in retirement, with new friends and activities, and being busier than ever before as it has progressed. My first aim was to make improvements in my fitness, after having a mostly sedentary job for 35 years, and my regular weekly fitness regime is another constant backdrop, and one I couldn’t live without. Over the decade I celebrated my 60th birthday, and so other things I couldn’t live without now include my State Pension (from age 63), and my Senior Railcard and Bus Pass.
Another backdrop and recurring theme in my letters is my life in the theatre – there is not a single year of the past decade that I don’t mention theatrical achievements both onstage and off. Highlights include my role in the Criterion Theatre’s 50th anniversary celebrations (2011); taking part in the RSC’s Dream 2016 competition for amateur groups to play the mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2015) and so nearly showing my Bottom on the RST stage; helping to recruit and relaunch the Criterion Youth Group and directing them in The Prince of Denmark (2016/17); and retiring after 11 years as a Drama Tutor at The Criterion (2017). I’m pleased to report that I’m still active onstage, directing and undertaking Front of House duties after 15 years of membership.
There are 3 landmark changes that have seriously impacted on my life, coming fast and furious over a short period between 2015 and 2017:
Mum’s death 2015 Although my siblings and I all noticed my mother’s increasing frailness, her demise was unexpected and her death mercifully swift: from her surprise admission to hospital to her death from cancer at home, surrounded by her children, was a period of only 5 weeks. Her dying message to us was to look after each other, and we honour that through regular get-togethers throughout the year, often as an extended family, probably more frequently now than when she was alive. She lives on through her strong children, her expanding number of descendants and our sense of humour and fun. RIP mum.
Moving house 2016 I’m so glad I moved to a new shared-ownership development for over-55s living independently, as it has changed my life, and in some unforeseen ways. I absolutely love my bright and airy second floor apartment (with lift access), in contrast to a triplex apartment with 3 internal staircases and 2 flights of stairs to reach my front door! It has a bar, restaurant, café, hair salon and organised activities onsite, car-parking, a nearby shopping park, and supermarkets within walking distance.
But, more than that, I might live on my own but I also live in a community of active people who initiate events and activities, who have become friends and helpful neighbours in the last few years. Plus, once they found out about my drama background – well let’s just say that I’m now known as “Panto Chris”, since they roped me into organising a Christmas Show and then directing 2 pantomimes, something I’d never done before!
Becoming a published author 2017 I’d been a writer all my life and had dreamt of becoming a published author. Somehow in autumn 2016 a few things fell into place (not least having a bit of capital after selling a house) that meant that I could realise that dream. I never expected to write a non-fiction book but Solo Success! You CAN do things on your own – a self-help guide for people who live alone – was published in September 2017. And that I thought was that. No – I needed to promote myself and my book on social media. So, I became a solo lifestyle expert, writing, blogging and speaking on solo lifestyle issues across a number of social media platforms. Although my book isn’t a £million earner, it still sells, and this year, I was thrilled when it won a Gold Award in the Janey Lee Grace Awards (Wellness category). The discipline of writing regularly has become embedded into the fabric of my life, and I now look forward to continuing my journey as a writer.
I also anticipate the new decade with excitement.
2 January 2020