It’s my last post before we go away and so I thought I’d do something a bit different. Several times a year I’m asked by magazines, newspapers or other bloggers to do interviews which isn’t usually as grand as it sounds, it means they send me a list of questions to answer and sometimes they publish them, sometimes they don’t. It’s something I never really have time to do but quite enjoy doing because I find it helps to crystallise my thoughts. There are also questions that come in from readers along a particular theme which makes realise that others of you may be wondering about the same thing. So today I’ve chosen 25 of the best questions from the past year, all from different sources so they may feel a bit disjointed but I hope you’ll enjoy them and maybe join in yourself to see what your answers would be. Here we go: Midlifechic Q&A – 20 questions… and 5 more.
Midlifechic Q&A – 20 questions… and 5 more
1. You can have as many accessories as you want (bags, scarves, earrings etc) but you can only choose ten pieces for a British summer capsule wardrobe including shoes – what would they be?
I answered this back in May when we weren’t having quite the lovely hot summer that it’s turned out to be but even so, I think my list would remain the same because surely it can’t last?! I’d probably centre it on ecru and navy and use the unlimited supply of accessories to add colour.
- 1 shirtdress
- 1 cotton midi-skirt
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 silk shirt
- 1 halterneck tee
- 1 sweatshirt
- 1 cropped ecru ivory denim jacket
- 1 pair of white trainers
- 1 pair of citrus coloured sandals with a low heel
- 1 pair of flat sandals
I could manage with that, it might get a bit boring but it does make me wonder why I have so much stuff in my wardrobe.
2. What’s the secret to making yourself stand out in midlife?
I’d say there are two things you need to do:
- Wear colour – and find the ones that suit you because as your pigment fades they give your face the boost it needs.
- Smile – most midlife mouths droop at the corners whether you’re happy or not (aka grumpy resting face). Smile and you’ve fixed it.
3. What’s the one piece of style advice that most women need but don’t get?
Apportion your personal spending budget to your hair first – if that looks great, everything else will. And don’t follow fashion with your hair just find a style that suits you and make it your signature look. There are so many midlife women out there carrying designer bags and yet their hairstyle is doing nothing for them, it makes no sense.
4. When you’re not sure what to wear, how do you plan an outfit?
I always start with the shoes, it’s a midlife truth that if your feet aren’t happy then neither are you. Very often these days I’ll end up choosing something from my rapidly expanding collection of trainers and so the rest of my outfit has to work from there. My first question now when I’m considering an item of clothing is ‘will it work with trainers?’ It means that I tend to wear midi lengths for skirts or dresses and trousers that are cropped.
5. What’s the best piece of style advice you’ve ever received?
Very few women can wear black – or pure white – and look healthy.
6. What’s your favourite trend at the moment?
I love the revival of some of the nineties pieces such as halterneck and racerback tees, they look great with everything and give you a simple, pared down silhouette.
7. What’s your least favourite trend at the moment?
The ubiquitous buffet dress – loose at the waist and often floral. I appreciate that it’s comfortable but only a small number of tall women with fine bones can pull it off with panache, most need more structure.
8. In terms of your own personal clothes spend, has there been any particular change over the last twelve months and is it lifestyle related?
Yes there’s been a big change, I’ve hardly spent anything with Hush which is a brand that used to make up a big part of my wardrobe – over the last couple of seasons it’s lost its magic for me. A lot of that budget has gone to Sweaty Betty which is partly a lifestyle change because I’ve been doing more exercise but also a belief that they do sporty, comfortable, chic and form-flattering athleisure so much better than anyone else.
Midlifechic Q&A – 20 questions – about the blog
9. In some posts you capitalise nouns such as seasons and others you don’t. I’ve noticed you do it consistently so it can’t be a mistake but why?
Aha – this always makes me smile because I love to know that there are other pedants out there like me. I promise I know that I should use lower case when it comes to things like seasons however there’s a different rule in retail, it’s largely to help people with disabilities, specifically visual ones and it’s ingrained in me. The reason behind it is that with something like Spring / spring, the capital makes it easier for people to distinguish the fact that you’re talking about the season and of course it’s particularly important in the US where they have Fall / fall too. For consistency retailers carry the practice across Summer and Winter too. So if I’m using the seasons in a retail context or post I always capitalise whereas if I’m just chatting away about summer weather I don’t. It’s the same with capitalisation of things like ingredients such as Retinol and other retail-isms.
10. Why have so many people stopped blogging?
Because it’s quicker and cheaper to use Instagram – and you can make far more money there. If you think about it, a really good blog post will take at least twelve hours to write whereas an Instagram post can be dashed off in about 30 minutes. Sponsored blog posts may earn between £200 and £2,000 a time depending on how many readers people have. Instagram posts start at about £400 if you have over 20k followers but soon after that can achieve £1,000s and tens of £1,000s. I look at the budgets that the eldest handles for Instagram and wonder what’s going on with the world these days.
11. Why do you keep on blogging?
Because I love it – both the act of writing and the community I’ve built. I don’t have the art of short, snappy Instagram posts – I tend to only feel satisfied when a blog post hits the 3,000 word mark, it’s my natural stopping point. And of course I have a day job so my priority with blogging is personal satisfaction over earning money whereas influencers view their blog or Instagram feed as their career path and aim to earn as much as they can from it.
Midlifechic Q&A – 20 questions – about family
12. What’s the secret to a long and happy marriage?
In a way it’s simple – if you each put the other’s happiness ahead of your own then you’ll both be happy. People have told me it’s a sacrificial way to behave but the end result doesn’t work out that way. Whether it’s a small sacrifice that’s being made such as who cooks that night or a large one such as a job decision, if it’s something the recipient truly wants then they’ll gracefully accept, returning the favour next time and if they don’t, they’ll take the hit knowing that it was their own free choice rather than an obligation. Either way, both parties win.
Oh and laughter – if you don’t make each other laugh then it’s going to be tough getting through the rest of your life together.
13. What advice would you give to people whose children are turning into teens?
This is harder, I’m going to have to give a four pronged answer this time.
- Laughter is king again – of course. Be daft with your kids, let your guard down, one of the most important gifts in life is the ability not to take yourself too seriously.
- Take time just to ‘be’ with your kids, even when they’re little you don’t always have to be doing something. If you develop the ability just to hang out together you’ll always be happy and relaxed in each other’s company.
- Bear in mind that they’ll probably only spend five of their teen years with you and yet they’ll remember that time far more clearly than their childhood. It’s important not to ‘sweat the small stuff’. Is it really worth fighting the trainers by the door, the towels on the floor, dirty mugs in the bedroom…? Save the battles for the things that really matter and the bonus is that you’ll find they listen to you when it’s important. Try to avoid them leaving home with memories of their teenage years running at a constant low level of conflict.
- Know that your children are who they are, not who you may want them to be. As a parent your job is to coax out their true selves, find their talents and their joy, encouraging them to build on that. I hoped that pushing children to be something they’re not had died out with our parents’ generation. As a grammar school girl I saw lots of my bright friends pushed into subjects like medicine or law and so many of them have spent their lives hating their jobs. Two of my boys have been to the same school and yet again, their unhappiest friends are the ones being pushed into degrees they don’t truly want to do. They clearly have a passion for something that you can see lights them up – but it’s less lucrative. I understand parents wanting security for their children’s future… but we mostly live long lives these days and happiness and fulfilment are so much more important than flash cars and big houses.
14. What’s the most important lesson you took from your parents?
It wasn’t so much a fact as a way of being – and my mum would be cross about this answer but it came from observing my dad who was a man that people immediately warmed to. A mystical friend once told me that he had the most golden aura she’d ever seen, I knew what she meant but being an analytical person I’ve spent years trying to pin it down. I think it came down to his gentleness, warmth, humour and perhaps most importantly his humility. It was a bit like the CocaCola recipe though, he had it all in just the right proportions so I’ll spend a lifetime trying hard to match him but I never will.
Midlifechic Q&A – 20 questions – about life
15. What’s your greatest fear?
Clearly – anything bad happening to anyone I love.
On a smaller level, Instagram. I often get badly trolled when I post and it really bruises me but it would be good for the blog if I did it more often so I really need to toughen up. (By the way, I’ve set myself a project of posting every day when we’re in Newcastle so if you see me please do say a friendly hello. And on that note I’d like to fill my feed with real people who are doing real things rather than ‘influencers’ so if you don’t mind me following you, please can you pop something like ‘Midlifechic reader’ in your comment and I’ll add you to my mix of friendly faces).
16. What makes you unhappy?
Upsetting someone. I seem to have upset a lot of people over the last year or so, mostly on my blog or social media – I’m not sure if I’ve been clumsy or if people are more sensitive than usual. If I’ve been careless then I can take it on the chin, apologise, fret for a while and then move on. The most frustrating thing is when somebody reads something into a post I’ve written that wasn’t there. It’s actually made me question all of the literary criticism courses I did at university because I’ve come to realise that sometimes the words on the page mean just what they say, nothing more. Oh and I’ve learned that I have to be careful with humour too, especially British humour… and northern humour at that because it doesn’t always come across as well in writing as it does in the moment.
17. What’s the trait you dislike in others?
Cynicism, people think it’s funny and cool to be cynical but it sucks the magic and hope out of any conversation. Sarcasm can be very entertaining but cynicism is just a destructive way of thinking and speaking.
18. What’s the trait you dislike in yourself?
Always feeling I could have done better… about everything I ever do… always.
19. What kind of friend are you and what values matter to you when it comes to friends?
I hope I’m nice to everyone but friends for me tend to be people who have something particular about them and I suppose when it comes down to it, that must mean shared values. I’ve never been one for tribes or cliques so the people I’m closest to are all very different to each other which is a shame in a way – it means they often don’t get on well together so you’ll rarely see me out in a big group.
I like down to earth people who don’t see themselves as being better – or worse – than anyone else. My friends know that I don’t do small talk and neither do they, we get on because we talk about all kinds of things. They know that I don’t care about what they wear but that I’ll always give them honest advice if they ask. Quite a few of them enjoy a glass of wine or three and maybe even a bit of a dance as we move onto glass four. Having said that I have lots of friends who don’t drink at all. I go down rabbit holes when I’m working (or blogging) which means I’m not good at being always in touch so I get along best with people who can pick up where we left off even if we haven’t spoken for months. However I’m always there and I think my friends know that I’ll drop what I’m doing if they need me.
So for me the values would be based around being: honest, straightforward, independent, trustworthy, intelligent and up for a laugh and a bit of an adventure.
20. Have you met anyone famous?
During my time working at both the BBC and at Selfridges I met and spent time with lots of celebrities. At Selfridges we often had to host them for a day or evening while they were there for a personal appearance. It sounds exciting but actually it was something that most people tried to avoid because you never knew what you were going to have to deal with so we operated on a kind of rota system. The people who were absolute pleasures included Martin Clunes, Jilly Cooper, Nerys Hughes, Graham Norton, David Gower, Emma Forbes, Kylie, Peter Andre, Joanna Lumley, Michael Palin and Pavarotti. There were many others who were absolute horrors but it wouldn’t be fair to name them here.
21. Who would play you in the film of your life?
Emma Thompson would be my dream – although she’d have to work on what people call my ‘posh northern lilt’ whenever they see me on Instagram stories!
22. What possession do you treasure?
I have a ratty old blue hairbrush that I use every day, it’s been rescued multiple times – the boys even had to climb into a skip in Turkey once because a cleaner had thrown it away. What’s so special about it? Well it’s from the morning after the night when Mr MC and I realised our friendship was turning into something far more. I hadn’t planned to stay the night at his flat but I did and so I had no overnight bag. He got up early while I was still sleeping and crept out to buy the things he thought I’d need such as a toothbrush… and that hairbrush. As you know I’d come out of a cruel marriage and my former husband would never have done anything like that. What was a small gesture to Mr MC showed me how it felt to be cared for and it spoke volumes about the man who was becoming ever more important to me. And so I’ve been using and treasuring that hairbrush with all the happiness that it foretold, every day for the last 23 years.
23. What are you most looking forward to?
Well I have to get over the hurdle of the boys leaving in September first – in a short space of time we’ll go from a house that’s been full of life for 20 years to just the two of us. However once we’re over the shock of the amputation, I’m looking forward to a new way of living. I’m praying that Covid will jog on this autumn (I know, I know) and we can get on with our lives. Like most people I’m desperate to travel again and I’m looking forward to having more space in my life for friends, both the old ones that lockdown has taught me are the most important and new ones I’m yet to meet.
24. What song would you like played at your funeral?
I like to think that even when my body dies, the rest of me will stay around my loved ones until their time comes so my funeral song is “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor to remind them that I’m still there (but not in a spooky way!). It’s the song we played at the boys’ christenings so it’s part of our continuing pledge to them.
25. What do you want to say about ageing?
Firstly it’s a privilege – not everybody gets to do it, I feel so cross when people grumble about it.
For a lot of people good things come with age – more time, more money, more confidence. Older women are savvy and sassy, they have a charm that younger women don’t and it comes from their experience which has so much more value than our society is willing to recognise. As the women who have changed so much for those who are coming behind us, we have to be the generation that ages differently; we need those who are younger than us to realise how much we are – and yes I mean ‘much’ because as we age our total worth just keeps on increasing.
Ageing is one of the last socially acceptable prejudices, there is so much unconscious bias against older people and we need to start challenging people anyone who makes ageist jokes or comments. It’s up to us to lead the way and be exemplars of positive ageing, showing that we’re not anybody’s stereotype – we’re vital, relevant and strong. We need to have a clear eye on the future because the provision for the elderly in this country is appalling and so we need to start thinking and acting on how we want it to be when we get there, moving forward together to ensure that life’s later years are ones that everyone can look forward to.
And so there you have a random trip through my mind, prompted by a number of different people. With that I’m heading off but as I’ve said I’ll be over on Instagram, I have no idea what I’ll talk about with space for only a few words but I’ll give it a go. The next blog post here will be on Friday 13th August – the youngest’s 18th birthday which feels significant. By then we’ll have A Level results in hand and the last piece of our family puzzle should be in place for a while. So I’ll see you on the other side and until then I just want to thank you for reading as always but particularly over the strange seventeen months that we’ve all been through. Your thoughts and comments have made this blog into something so much more than it otherwise would be – and your friendship has kept me smiling.
Disclosure: ‘Midlifechic Q&A – 20 questions… and 5 more’ is not a sponsored post
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