Written by Judith Holder


Grey Pride

Judith Holder’s still busy creating her later-life manifesto, with Point #4 – get yourself a lady shed.

Illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

Illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

I notice that I enjoy my own company more. I crave my own space. Recently I have found myself pin-boarding garden sheds or summer houses which I could put in the corner of the garden beyond the compost heap – where no one goes or would much notice its arrival.

I’d customise my shed and fill it with all the things which reflect the new me and involve no compromises at all in terms of what other people think.

I can already tell you are feeling a bit nervous. It strikes me that I have never been able to do this – a blank canvas without parents, or friends or children or indeed partner having a 50/50 say in it. OK then, a 20/80 say in it, I’m not very easily pushed around.

I would paint it in bonkers colours so it looked Caribbean and play my favourite music at full blast. I’d play the Beach Boys and sing along to the lyrics until I made myself a bit hoarse. I’d dance to Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner and close my eyes and lose myself.

I didn’t dance enough when I was young, or older come to that. It just puts a great big fat smile on my face. I’ve started jiving and what’s wonderful is that the dancefloor is full of people who no one would look twice at: gas fitters, delivery men or workers for the council. But on the dancefloor they are amazing.

jiveI would dance a little bit every day in my lady shed and my friends would join me.

I’d also loll about. Just lie on my sun lounger and look at the sky. I’d take it outside on my little porch and wrap up in a sleeping bag and a hat and boil a kettle for my hot water bottle. I’d look at the stars at night and stroke my new gerbil/spaniel/stick insect.

I need to be outdoors in a way that I didn’t when I was young. I might get myself a nature table or a book on birds and start to be a bit more grown up about knowing the difference between a birch tree and a beech.

My new hobby is bonfires and I would squirrel away bags of leaves to dry out or bits of recycling to start them. I am never happier than with a mug of tea and a bonfire and with my anorak on. I would spend autumn evenings watching the flames and breathing in the smell.

I’d fill my day with doing and making things. It’s as if I have suddenly worked out what makes me happy. Making marmalade, growing radishes, dancing, learning how to crochet.

I’d crochet blankets in shocking pink and bright green from recycled duvet covers and give them to people I love. I’d keep chickens and sell the eggs on a little table at the end of the drive, and I would help out at the weekly lunch club for the seriously old and take them some of my blackcurrant jam. I might even start gardening.

Simple pleasures. Something you can stand back from and see what you’ve achieved, some peace of mind, time to listen to the afternoon play on Radio 4, and going to bed feeling worn out but pleased with my day.

This is a really positive characteristic of getting older. I suppose it’s a sort of mindfulness – noticing the things that make you happy, like getting into clean sheets, a sheltered chair in the sun out of the wind, or the first snowdrops.

If there is any point to old age, as Simone de Beauvoir put it, it is to discover who you really are. It’s both a cause for celebration and might stand me in good stead for whatever comes my way in old-lady land in the not too distant future.


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Written by Judith Holder

Producer/writer of the BBC Two series Grumpy Old Women and the spin off books, and co-writer with Jenny Eclair of the three stage shows which have been international hits.