Amy recording

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Amy Nuttall: Downton star says “Caring for my mother during her final few weeks was a huge privilege.”

Amy recording

Actress Amy Nuttall recording a song for the Brain Tumour Charity

Born in Lancashire in 1982, Amy Nuttall became the youngest ever understudy to play the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera aged just 17 and joined Emmerdale the following year. Since then, she’s combined screen roles in Downton Abbey, Death in Paradise and most recently Mr Bates vs The Post Office with parts in musical theatre including My Fair Lady and Cabaret and Spamalot. She lives with her nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old son in Buckinghamshire.

Amy Nuttall recording

Amy recording Thank You Mother

Why have you recorded the song Thank You Mother to raise funds and awareness for the Brain Tumour Charity?

I wanted to do something to raise awareness after my mum died of a brain tumour glioblastoma back in October 2023.  

Tell us more about the Brain Tumour Charity…

They are an incredible charity. Brain tumours are so underfunded. Of all the money that goes towards cancer research, less than 3% goes towards brain tumours.

I’ve seen first-hand how devastating this disease is. And we just need more awareness and more funding so that they can catch this disease earlier and people can understand the symptoms earlier.

Amy Nuttall and her mum smiling

Amy and her Mum, Elaine, smiling. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

Why did you choose this particular song?

Shortly before she passed, I played this song to her.  It was a song I was given to learn back in my early twenties to sing to Gloria Hunniford at an event in London, shortly after her daughter Caron Keating had passed away. 

Were the lyrics particularly pertinent?

The words in the song are very poignant to my relationship to my mum and I knew instantly that I had to do something to raise awareness.

Has revisiting the song so soon after your mum’s death been cathartic?

Absolutely, yes although I worry about this all being over, because then I will need to address my grief a bit more, because until now, it’s felt like she’s still with me and in many respects, because I’m singing about her and talking about her all the time, and I do feel a huge comfort in doing that.

Amy Nuttall as a child

Amy as a child with her Mum. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

Of the many roles you’ve performed in your life – actor, mother, wife – how challenging was the role of caring for your mother?

My dad and my sister were there with me for mum’s final weeks, and looking back it was quite traumatic.

We were all going through some sort of trauma. But at the same time, it was a huge privilege. I feel so grateful I was in a position to be able to be there for her.

It must have been an unbearably bittersweet period…

It was. It was crazy and full on but also, we had some really beautiful times. It brought the family very close together.

Amy Nuttall on her wedding day

Amy getting ready with her Mum. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

Was her illness quite sudden?

Yes. A week before she walked into hospital, she was down at my house in Buckinghamshire, because she always came down to help me with childcare.

She was complaining a little bit of feeling very tired and wanting a nap and I gently teased her a bit and said, ‘Oh, are you having another nanny nap? You’re not that old yet mum,’ but what we didn’t know was she had a massive brain tumour, and it just totally blindsided us all.

Were there any other symptoms?

Her balance was suddenly off, and she started falling to the left all the time so at first, we thought it was vertigo.

What did the doctors say at that stage?

When a doctor came to the house she said, ‘I think you might have had a mini stroke. You need to go to A&E.’ My dad then took her to A&E and he said, ‘maybe we should take an overnight bag?’ and mum was like, ‘Absolutely not. I am coming straight home.’

What happened at the hospital?

They did a scan and found a massive brain tumour, and unfortunately at that time some doctors and neurosurgeons were striking, so it took ages to get answers, whilst mum was rapidly declining.

That must have been incredibly traumatic?

It was very, very stressful. Then after three weeks she came back home in a wheelchair, and we had the whole shebang of a hospital bed in my parents’ lounge in this old stone property in the middle of nowhere.

Suddenly I was cooking dinners every day and we had a baby monitor in with my mum so we could hear if she needed help if we were in the kitchen.

Amy Nuttall and her mother

Amy and her mother. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

In such a challenging time, did you discover some inner resilience that you didn’t realise you had?

Absolutely, yes. There wasn’t time to stop, honestly. There was always something that needed doing.

We were in charge of this mountain of pills and inhalers. Suddenly, we kind of became nurses. Everything was just extremely overwhelming, but mum always used to say how thankful and how lucky she was to have the family that she had. To have my dad and her two girls with her for her final weeks.

Are there any lessons that you’ve learnt from such an emotional time?

Be kind to yourself, make memories where you can, whether it’s having a cup of tea with that person, talking about happy memories, telling them you love them, obviously over and over again. And also, getting support for yourself if you’re the caregiver. You need close family and friends to lean on.

Are you getting some help personally Amy?

I am coping alright, thanks. Doing this song and working with the Brain Tumour Charity has been hugely cathartic and helped me with my grief. And I am fortunate I’ve got a very good close-knit family to lean on and we all talk, and we have become a lot closer after all of this, so I’m doing alright thanks.

Amy Nuttall’s single Thank You Mother is out now. All Proceeds go to the Brain Tumour Charity.

BucksFizz.Retro

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Cheryl Baker: Bucks Fizz star says “I don’t feel my age and I certainly don’t act my age.”

BucksFizz.Retro

Cheryl with her band mates from The Fizz. Photo credit: Instagram @thefizzcmj @Ruth

Born Rita Crudgington in 1954, Cheryl Baker won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 with Bucks Fizz, triumphing with the iconic song Making Your Mind Up. The group separated seven years later after 20 hit singles before Cheryl embarked on a successful TV presenting and musical theatre career. She has two twin daughters, Natalie and Kyla, with her husband Steve Stroud and lives in Kent.

Cheryl Baker

Rita Stroud aka Cheryl Baker

How many candles did you blow out on March 8th this year?

I blew out 70 candles this year and I didn’t think there was a cake big enough.

Is it a landmark you’re embracing?

I’ve discussed this with all my friends from school, who I still see regularly, and we’re still all nuts, we still laugh and love just like we used to.

When I was younger, I used to think of 70 as old, but I don’t feel old. I’m still on stage. I still rip my skirt off. I still dance about.

I have great friends, I’m still working. I love my life. Seventy doesn’t define me as I’m not 70 in my head.

How old are you in your head?

I feel the same age as I was when I was 21 or when I was 15.

When I was about 14, I remember saying to my sister Sheila, who has just turned 81, that she was quarter of a century old and I used to think of people in their seventies, ‘what’s the point of living anymore? You’re so old. Just die!’

But now I’m 70 I certainly don’t feel that. I don’t feel my age and I certainly don’t act my age.

BucksFizzTour

The Fizz are back on tour this summer. Photo credit: Instagram @thefizzcmj

What’s the best thing about ageing?

Wisdom. I still love learning stuff. And I love cooking. My family is very musical, but we love cooking, especially if it’s with a new ingredient we haven’t heard of.

I like the fact that my kids come to me because they know I know stuff and I only know stuff because I’m old. 

You were born Rita Crudgington, but the world has known you as Cheryl Baker for 50 years. Which persona is the real you?

I wear both hats, although I’m Rita Stroud now not Crudgington. When I’m on stage, I’m definitely Cheryl Baker. Rita Stroud would not go on stage and rip her skirt off. She just wouldn’t.

Rita Stroud is embarrassed to sing in front of people. Rita Stroud went to Asda this morning with no make-up on but talking to you now Cheryl Baker wouldn’t dream of doing that with no make-up on. I like wearing two hats. 

 

It’s now 43 years since you won the Eurovision Song Contest with Making Your Mind Up. How different do you feel from the 27-year-old Cheryl who famously ripped off her blue silk skirt mid-song?

I don’t feel different at all.

After losing the first time it was a dream to win second time but I’m still the same person. I’ve still got the same silly sense of humour.

I still cry with laughter. Non-stop. I love laughing actually. I love humour. I’m the same person. I’m just older.

Album artwork for Everything Under the Sun by The Fizz

Album artwork for Everything Under the Sun by The Fizz

Do you think following your passion in life has kept you younger?

I really do, yes. You can change your life, with the way that you think and the way that you act. If you’re a lazy person, and you eat too much chocolate and cake and stuff, then you’re probably going to put on weight, and you might be unhappy with that.

You can do something about it. I’m a very much an optimist and I think if something bad goes wrong in my life I always think that something good is going come out of it in the end anyway.

A positive person can make positive things happen. And likewise negative people can make negative things happen. I really believe that. You are in control of your own destiny. 

Performing with Bucks Fizz Eurovision

Performing with Bucks Fizz at Eurovision, 1981

Do you love performing as passionately aged 70 as you did when you were 20?

I adore it. I absolutely love it. I come to life when I go on stage and when you hear the cheers of the crowd who are just there to see you, I just can’t wipe the smile off my face. I jump up and down like I’m 21 again.  

Are you the same off stage?

I went away with my sister and some friends on a long weekend last year, and we were all up dancing. There was definitely some bad behaviour. I love bad behaviour. It’s fun. I’ve always been a bit naughty.

Cheryl Baker

Cheryl Baker

What would your message be to people of a similar age to you who don’t embrace life quite so passionately?

I do see friends who say, ‘Oooh, I couldn’t do what you do,’ but then I couldn’t do what they do. I couldn’t sit and stagnate. Life’s too fantastic for that. You’ve got to live it.

Some people are quite happy to just sit and be couch potatoes and let the television rule their lives, but I could never be like that. I have to keep myself busy.

I hate getting up in the morning and thinking, ‘I’ve got nothing to do.’ Everyone lives their own life and if that’s what they want to do, that’s fair enough, but there is a life out there. There’s so much out there that you can do. You don’t have to just sit and watch the telly.

Cheryl Baker

Cheryl Baker will perform with the Fizz at the London Indigo O2

You’ve already achieved a lot but what’s still on your bucket list?

My bucket list was to win Eurovision, and I did that 43 years ago. My aim now is to see my children be successful in whatever they want to do in their life.

And when you’re 80 or 90, will you still be ripping your skirt off on stage?

When you’re on stage you take people back to 1981, so if I possibly can I’ll still be ripping my skirt off when I’m 80 or 90.

THE FIZZ (Formerly Bucks Fizz) will be performing at London’s Indigo 02 on 28th June.  For tickets go to: https://www.theo2.co.uk/events/detail/the-fizz

Jill Scott and her Nan

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Jill Scott: Legendary Lioness shares why “My grandmother literally is my best friend.”

Jill Scott and her Nan

Jill Scott and her Grandma Jean. Photo credit: Tetley

Part of England’s 2022 European Championship-winning Lionesses, combative former Sunderland, Everton and Manchester City midfielder Jill Scott MBE won 161 caps for her country before her retirement and has since gone on to have a successful TV career as a football pundit on the BBC and a team captain on the Sky One sports quiz A League of Their Own. She also won the 2022 edition of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and is engaged to Shelly Unitt, who she runs a coffee shop with near her home in Manchester.

You live in Manchester now, but what’s the first thing you do when you return to your hometown of Sunderland?

I always go straight to my grandma’s house and have a cup of tea with her, especially as life’s been quite hectic recently, in a good way. It’s just nice to sometimes pause and reset and realise what’s important.

Why is your nan so special to you?

She literally is my best friend. I know people throw that around, but we just get on so well. She’s 89 now, so that’s a big age gap, and she lives by herself and is so quick-witted.

Do you spend a lot of time laughing?

Definitely, she always makes me laugh so much, and she comes out with some proper funny stuff, and it’s not just that, ‘Oh, I should laugh as it’s my grandma,’ she’s properly funny, and I love her more than anything.

Jill Scott and Grandmother

Jill and Jean share a cup of their favourite brew together. Photo credit: Tetley

Were you close when you were growing up?

When I was nine or ten, she moved away to Sussex, and I found all my letters from her the other day as we used to be pen pals. From a very, very early age, we just had this special bond, and I think she’s an incredible woman.

What do you call your grandma?

Her name is Jean Redford, and we all call her grandma, but she’s actually called The Ganny! We’re always like, ‘Shall we go to The Ganny’s house?’

She’s got a really small living room, but we get about sixteen people in there sometimes, and it’s absolute chaos, and she always jokes, ‘I know I say I want to see you all more, but when there’s that many of you squeezing in here I can’t wait for you’s to go.’

She’s very to the point.

Which traits do you share with your grandma?

I don’t think she ever kicked a football, but a lot of people say I’m humble and grounded like she is, which makes me happy.

I try not to get too carried away with life, and whatever amazing experiences I might be having, the space I feel safest in is with my family and my grandma.

And not that I’m bigging myself up, but people do say that I’m quite quick-witted, and she’s definitely the master of that, so maybe I’ve picked that up from her.

 

Jean Redford.Watching the Lionesses

Grandma Jean watching the Lionesses in action. Photo credit: Instagram @jillscottjs8

How supportive has she been on your football journey?

She’s always been my biggest fan. She’s got this red book that she has collected cuttings in since I was in nursery and was in the paper when I was about three years old.

She’s collected every single article since. So, whenever anyone she’s not met comes around the house, she gets out her red book and shows them. It’s like This Is Your Life.

She’s just very, very proud and asks me to leave some signed photos, so if someone comes round to fix the TV, she’ll give them a pic of me.

It’s really sweet, but it does feel like I’ve died sometimes, as there are so many photos of me in there. It’s like a shrine.

She’s also always been a sounding board for me when I’ve wanted to discuss things, which has been incredibly valuable. And just having her there and knowing that she loved me whatever was so important to me.

I’ve told my grandma everything in terms of football, because I feel like she’ll never judge me no matter what I do, no matter what decision I make.

She’ll always think I’m the best person and it’s so important to have someone like that in your life who they’re not bothered about the success side or whatever else.

They’re just proud of you as a family member or granddaughter, and that’s why our bond is so special.

 

Grandma Jean meets Sarina Wiegman

Grandma Jean meets Sarina Wiegman. Photo credit: Instagram @jillscottjs8

What lessons do you think people can learn from the older generation?

I think listening to the stories of the older generation’s struggles can help us realise how lucky we are, and sometimes it’s really valuable to take a break from technology and the pace of modern life to take a step back and listen to some wisdom.

She’s taught me to be grateful for the little things in life because she definitely didn’t have it easy.

She had three kids under the age of three living in one room above a shop, and that makes you realise how easy it is to take things for granted.

She always brings me back to reality. But it works both ways. Sometimes, I tell my nan how things have changed so we learn from each other.

When the Lionesses won the Euros, the first person you name-checked on live TV was your grandma. Was that planned or spontaneous?

She was just in my mind, because as soon as we’d won you go back to that feeling of feeling so happy and I could just imagine her watching the TV.

Obviously, I couldn’t phone her at that moment, so I just wanted to get a message to her as I knew she’d be beaming with pride.

I knew she’d be alone as she likes to watch the games on her own so she can concentrate, so that was a special moment for me.

 

Jill in action as a TV pundit. Photo credit: Instagram @jillscottjs8

You’re engaged to Shelly. How pivotal will your grandma be in your wedding plans?

She was one of the first people I told when I got engaged, and she’ll definitely be on that top table.

A lot of the plans will probably centre around my grandma. Like, where we’ll have the wedding and what will be easy for her because I think it will be special for her to be there.

The younger generation aren’t always keen to spend time with the older generation. Why should they perhaps reconsider that mentality?

A lot of elderly people do get lonely, so it’s important that we check in on them because they can go days sometimes without seeing people. You don’t realise that when you’re in that situation that can sometimes escalate into feeling like they haven’t seen anybody for a week, ten days.

I think it’s just so important for young people so get around your grandma’s, stick the kettle on, put your iPhone away, and just have a good chat with your grandparents, because they are very, very special moments. Make sure you make the most of them moments.

 

Why are intergenerational relationships potentially so valuable?

My relationship with my grandma has provided me with a best friend.

I think about the amount of things I’ve learned from her that I’ve taken into my life, and then the things that I’ve experienced that maybe she didn’t get the opportunity to do.

But the fact that I can share those stories with her and say, ‘this is what things are like now,’ because the world’s changed a lot from when she was born.

So, we can educate the older generation, and they can educate us. If you have a chance to still see your grandparents, I would savour every moment you have with them.

 

Jill Scott, the new voice of Tetley, joins Britain’s iconic tea brand as they aim to deliver one million ‘That’s Better, That’s Tetley’ moments to community groups and individuals across the UK. Tetley found that 57% of Brits think it’s the little things, like having a cup of tea, which improves their mood the most. To nominate a community group or individual head to www.thatsbetterthatstetley.co.uk

John Lydon

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John Lydon: The punk pioneer talks grief, caring and dementia

John Lydon

John Lydon with Public Image Ltd (PiL) Picture credit: Rob Browne

North London-born singer John Lydon, 68, left school aged 15 and lived in a squat with John, ‘Sid Vicious,’ Ritchie. After meeting Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, the pair, along with Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook, formed The Sex Pistols, igniting the punk movement.

The band’s 1977 album, Never Mind the Bollocks, remains one of the most influential records in music history. Lydon now fronts his band Public Image Limited and lives alone in California. His wife of 44 years, music promoter and publishing heiress Nora Forster, passed away aged 80 from Alzheimer’s in April 2023.

 

John and Nora

John and Nora via Instagram @pilofficial Picture credit: Andy Cantillon: JRJL Productions

How challenging has it been to acclimatise to life without Nora?

It’s been hell. The first two months were really, really hard, and it’s very, very hard at night. Very hard.

I’m prone to just breaking down for apparently no reason at all. I don’t know what the trigger points are, and I’m glad for that in many ways, as it’s a constant reminder of how human I am.

And it’s what I have to come to grips with; yes, I’ve lost her, but that doesn’t mean I should lose myself.

 

John Lydon Public Image Limited (PiL)

John Lydon Public Image Limited (PiL) pictured performing on The Late Late Eurosong 2023 special. Picture credit: Andres Poveda

As her primary carer for the last few years of her life, on a practical level, how has Nora’s passing impacted your day-to-day life?

I stopped knowing how to deal with food regimes; like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, because it was always catered around Nora, and now it isn’t. I’m eating solo so I lose interest in it.

It’s very, very hard to come to grips with as I find myself doing things automatically for her, and then when I’m halfway through that process, it’s like, ‘she’s not here,’ and then I can’t eat it because it makes me feel selfish.

Before she passed, I would never give her anything as dull as porridge. I’d make exotic omelettes and put all kinds of surprising elements in them.

 

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It was one of the great joys for her; having Alzheimer’s she wouldn’t know what the next mouthful would taste like, and she’s let me know and that was a great way of communicating with each other.

If there was a bit of smoked salmon in the omelette, she was like, ‘Ooooh.’ I tried my hardest to reintroduce her to new experiences all the time and I discovered things that she would not have eaten normally; like she’d found a great flavour for garlic for instance.

Oh My God, she loved that, but all her life she wouldn’t touch it. I think that maybe she didn’t want to be repulsed by Spanish breath.

John Lydon

John Lydon now performs with Public Image Ltd (PiL)

It was a very good way of communicating between nappy changes and house cleaning and dish washing, and that was the regime I found myself locked in, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t moan about that.

I find the joy in it. Nora would love to laugh at me, and she’d be sat in her chair, and there I’d be running around with the hoover like Freddie Mercury, and she’d just giggle away.

Life has got to go on, and you’ve got to have the humour with it because there’s nothing intelligent about being morbid or wallowing in the tragedy of it all.

I’m not going to do an Edgar Allan Poe. No, that would be a very, very wrong thing to do in light of my love for her. She loved my humour. And I loved hers.

 

Need help to care for your loved one living with dementia?

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Was there any sense of relief when she eventually passed away as you were caring for her 24/7 for several years following her diagnosis…

The years leading up to her eminent demise were harder than the other side of it because now her suffering has stopped. But there’s still the selfish part of me going, ‘Why?’

 

Your routine caring for Nora was so regimented – it must have left a huge gap in your daily routine…

I got into really loving that taking care side. I really, really missed it.

I’ve got to say after her passing, I had to really ask myself, ‘Was I missing the routine of taking care of her or her herself?’ You have to really figure this out.

My memories were immediate; of the immediate last four of five years, but I’m slowly now remembering all of the things that brought us together in the first place.

They’d vanished. They weren’t there for quite a while. Every single one of these moments is a tear-jerker. I cry like a big baby all the time.

 

“I’m a natural born carer but after Nora passed, I had to really ask myself, ‘was I missing the routine of taking care of her, or her herself?’
John Lydon

It was very painful to watch Nora dying that night. Very, very painful. Slowly suffocating because the body gives up.

The brain was still there. Something was still there that wanted to survive because Nora was a great trooper and very, very brave and faced life with great gusto and that’s all I’m left with now… I can’t watch those ghost programmes anymore, because the comedy has gone.

Me and Nora would sit down and laugh at them as much as we would at Steptoe & Son.  I watch them now alone, and it’s no entertainment at all. All that’s gone. I’ve lost a really, really good partner.

 

John Lydon

John Lydon on stage with Public Image Ltd (PiL)

Resilience has been central to your existence over the decades. How much has that been tested since Nora passed away?

I can’t let her down. I can’t mope around the house like a sad sack; woe is me and all of that, because that would really annoy her.

I have to be vivacious in my outlook on life and get up and do things. Otherwise, I’d be letting her down so terribly.

So how do I spend my days? Not feeling sorry for myself but feeling sorry for the loss.

I have to come to grips with it. There’s always that vague hope – and I suppose it’s rooted in religion drilled into you when you’re young – that she’s there still watching, and if she is, I would just hope that she’s in a good place.

 

Your experience has taught you a huge amount about Alzheimer’s and navigating the many challenges the disease sparks. Do you plan to share that knowledge?

One way or the other, I’d like to connect myself up with visiting Alzheimer’s patients because I now know the route to get in, and that, basically, comedy, humour, and just good faith helps.

There’s a lot I’ve learned and a lot of information I garnered from being so intimate with it for so long that I’d like to share.

It’s not only the victims themselves, it’s how those around them are victimised by this disease, too.

 

John Lydon is on tour this Summer. Photo credit: Instagram @pilofficial

Your public image has always been that of an irascible rebel, so some people might be surprised by your caring nature. What are the roots of that side of your personality?

I’m a natural-born carer. It might have something to do with the fact that when we were young, I was the eldest, and my mum was sick a lot, and my dad had to work away, so I’d have to be the one to get my younger brothers up and get breakfast ready for them. And I liked it.

I was always late for school, and I went through hell for it for myself, but I like looking after people.

It’s something that I find really, really enjoyable. And it was the same with Nora before she died. I feel the same with band members. I want to make sure they’re all right.

And how will I fill that space where I had been caring for Nora? I’ll go back to caring for audiences.

 

I'm a natural born carer. It might have something to do with the fact that when we were young, I was the eldest and my mum was sick a lot and my dad had to work away.
John Lydon

How much of a tribute to Nora is your latest album End of World?

It’s a very, very joyful record, and it’s one that Nora – when I played it to her – absolutely loved. She loved it and was exhilarated by it.

It goes without saying that there will never be another Nora…

There won’t be a substitute or a replacement. There can’t be, and I don’t need one, so I’m sort of getting used to the fact that I will be alone for the rest of my life.

So any of you stalkers out there looking to be Mrs Rotten… fuck off. It ain’t going to happen.

 

John Lydon’s I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right UK speaking tour starts on May 1 2024. For tickets, visit www.johnlydon.com

melanie cantor

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Melanie Cantor: Celeb agent turned author says “F**k It! Let’s Just Do It.”

melanie cantor

Melanie Cantor, former celeb agent turned author.

Born in 1958, Melanie Cantor grew up in North London. Her career started with a secretarial job at the Daily Express before switching to media PR, becoming the launch press officer for TV-am in 1982. From there, she set up her own PR firm with clients, including Michael Aspel and Lysette Anthony, before becoming a full-time agent for TV-am weathergirl Ulrika Johnson. In 1998, she established Take Three Management, taking on further celebrity clients before launching her writing career in 2010. Divorced, she has two sons, Alexander, 38 and 36-year-old Joseph, and she lives with her dog Mabel in Northwest London.

What does ageing mean to you?

Ageing doesn’t feel as threatening to me as it might have been to my parent’s generation.

From my perspective, I’ve completely embraced it. I enjoy the process of ageing because I feel that with it comes experience and wisdom.

My youth was great, but I’d never want to go back there, and the truth is I’m having the time of my life now.

I’m footloose and fancy-free. I’m my own mistress, and ageing has empowered me.

I might have moments where my aching back reminds me I’m ageing, but other than that, I don’t feel any different.

 

The F**k it list

Melanie's new book: The F**k It List

You’ll turn 67 in July, but how old do you feel?

I think I’ll probably stay in my 30s forever.

Have you always felt younger than your years?

No. When I was a press officer at TV-am, when I was about 25, I thought I was terribly mature, grown up, and old.

Now I look back, and with my own kids in their thirties, I realise I was still a kid. Today, I just embrace each decade as it comes.

Your energy and outlook are more vibrant and outgoing than most 66-year-olds. Do you deliberately hang out with younger people to maintain your youthful worldview?

I hang out with all age groups. I’ve never judged anybody by their physical age.

What’s important is what’s going on in their mind. It doesn’t matter how old they are. That’s how I judge people.

Melanie Cantor

Melanie Cantor. Photo credit: Instagram @Punk.Pensioner

Few people are brave enough to shift careers after the age of 50. Why did you take the leap?

I’ve always been a risk-taker. Not physically, I’d never do bungee jumping, but generally.

When I turned 50, I realised I just wasn’t passionate about being an agent anymore.

I felt like I’d done it, I’d lost the will, and I didn’t want to do it if I didn’t feel fully passionate about it anymore, as it would be unfair on the people I was representing. So, in 2007, I just gave it up.

I’d always wanted to write a novel, so I just went for it, but it wasn’t easy, and there was a lot of rejection.

My first novel, Fabulous Monsters, got turned down by 20 out of 21 publishing companies it was sent to before Harper Collins picked it up, but then it got rejected by them at the Sales & Marketing stage and later by Pan Macmillan, so it never saw the light of day.

I was left in the wilderness and suffered more rejections, but I love writing, so I persevered, and I started to get a better kind of rejection and then ultimately found success with my book Life and Other Happy Endings.

Eventually, it got picked up by Felicity Blunt after nine years of failure, and that feeling was unbelievable.

 

Your new book, The F**k! It List seems very much in tune with your proactive mindset…

I am a f**k it person. Absolutely. I’m definitely a ‘just do it,’ person, I really am. And being single helps.

Not to say that I want to spend the rest of my life alone, but it has liberated me, and I’ve learnt so much from being on my own.

What would your message be to people who have dreams as they get older but are reluctant to chase after them?

Know yourself. Know what you’re capable of.

Recognise and acknowledge that you are actually the person stopping yourself from doing the thing you really, really want to do.

If you’re aware of that, you might then be able to fix it and go, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ ‘I really, really want to write.’ ‘I really, really want to travel the world,’ Whatever it is, I am the person stopping myself.

Look at yourself and go, ‘Why am I stopping myself, and how can I move forward?’ That would be my advice.

 

Melanie Cantor

Melanie Cantor. Photo credit: Instagram @Punk.Pensioner

That positivity has reaped benefits for you in the past. What happened when you sat next to American actress Jessica Biel’s mother at a wedding in the Hamptons a few years back?

After the wedding, Jessica said to me, ‘Thank you so much for talking to my mother,’ and I had no awareness that me talking to her would reinforce her sense of self.

In the end, Jessica ended up optioning my first book, which was incredible. It didn’t go the distance and make it to the screen, but even getting that far was fantastic.

It’s almost karmic, though. If you put something positive into life, positive things tend to come back to you…

That’s definitely true, and the belief in that has helped me through the really difficult times.

I know this sounds corny, but the more authentic you are, even when in the dark hours, the more you will come through because you’ve been true to yourself. We all have to go through our own personal little tragedies in order to grow and move forward.

 

How are you feeling about the future at this point in your life?

I continue feeling excited about the future, excited about my family and I now have a granddaughter so that’s really special.

Before my granddaughter was born, I used to think, ‘if I died tomorrow, that would be fine because I have had the best life,’ but now I think, ‘I don’t want to die tomorrow, I want to see her grow up’.

I look forward to being a writer for as long as I can and to having special times with family and friends.

For me life is all about that. If you’re surrounded by good people, then you will come through even the darkest times because you have that support around you.

The F**k It! List is published by Penguin on May 9th.