Today I’m delighted to introduce Christine Webber to share her thoughts with us. Christine and I first came into contact when I was asked to read and review Who’d Have Thought It? which I was more than happy to do. As a result I’m now looking forward to her forthcoming book It’s Who We Are – of which more later. Being of a similar age and mindset, we’ve kept in touch and I’m as keen as anyone to discover more about her.
Christine Webber originally trained as an opera singer but had to re-think her career plans when her voice professor told her: ‘Your voice is OK, but your legs are very much better!’
Musical theatre beckoned. There was some success. But not much.
In 1979, she became a news presenter for Anglia TV. At last she had found something she enjoyed that other people thought she was good at. It was such a happy relief that she stayed for 12 years. Towards the end of that period, In Honour Bound, her first novel, was published.
After leaving Anglia Television, she became an agony aunt for various publications including TV Times, Best, Dare and BBC Parenting. And she wrote a relationship advice column for The Scotsman and one for Woman, called Sexplanations. She also regularly broadcast advice on Trisha, The Good Sex Guide …Late and from the BBC’s Breakfast sofa.
During her ‘problem page’ years, she decided to train as a psychotherapist. This led to her having a practice in Harley Street.
Christine has written twelve non-fiction books including How to Mend a Broken Heart and Too Young to Get Old. She has also ghosted and consulted on several celebrity books. But her intention was always to find time to return to writing fiction. In 2016, she published a novel about romance in mid-life called Who’d Have Thought It? This new novel also explores what it is to be fifty-something (or older) in today’s turbulent world.
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
I trained as a singer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the mid-sixties. Though I really wasn’t good enough to have a viable career in it, music is the thread in my life that holds everything else together. It’s hard therefore to limit myself to five works. But here goes:
1. I didn’t actually know what a ballet was, but when I was about eight, we had a school visit to see a production of Coppelia. I was transported into a completely different and thrillingly wonderful world, which I just knew, right there and then, was always going to be important. So, I will pick the well-known Mazurka from that ballet as my first choice.
2. My mum was Scottish and had a lovely contralto voice. And she particularly liked a song called Oh Rowan Tree. That’s Number Two.
3. For my third choice, I’m picking ‘Two Sleepy People’ sung and played by Peter Skellern. I was in the same year as Peter at the Guildhall School. He was very quiet and unassuming. No one would have guessed what a star he’d become. I met him years later on a television programme. He hadn’t changed a bit – he was just a lovely, musical, sensitive soul. I was very sad to learn some months ago that he had died of dementia. But his music lives on
4. When my husband and I were in Vienna at a medical conference in December 2006, we went to hear the Mozart Requiem in St Michael’s church. It was a full mass rather than just a concert, and it was on the actual anniversary of Mozart’s death. Even more extraordinary was the fact that the completed parts of that work had been given their world premiere in that very church in 1791. It was a deeply moving evening. So, I’m selecting the Mozart Requiem for this list because I can never hear it without thinking of that amazing occasion.
5. My final choice is the last movement of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony when the choir sing the Ode to Joy. When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, there was a concert soon afterwards, from Berlin, conducted by Leonard Bernstein which was televised. It was extremely emotional, but inspiring, particularly that final chorus. I find it incredibly painful to hear right now because of all the upheaval over us leaving the EU. But at the same time, it reminds me that goodness and joy are more important than anything, and that hopefully they will prevail.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My collection of Vinyl and CDs
My well-stocked Kindle
A good, soft, dark-grey eyeliner pencil
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
It’s OK, you will escape Croydon eventually.
It’s never too late to start things that you love (I began taking ballet classes at 63) but having said that, why don’t you get on with it now?
Happiness is a choice. And you can keep opting for it – rather than dwelling on the bad things that happen – till happiness becomes a habit. When you grow up you’ll write a book about it. But start selecting the happiness option now and life will improve for you – and even more for everyone around you!
You’ll be 40 before you feel totally and truly loved – but it’s worth waiting for.
Work hard at being super-fit. Not just for your body but – much more importantly – your brain.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
When I was an out-of-work actress I worked as a Fisher Price toy demonstrator in Hamleys.
During my time as a television news presenter, I once interviewed a lion tamer, at a circus, inside the cage alongside six lions
Back in the very early eighties, I helped to found a cardiac charity which became known as The Norfolk Zipper Club. It’s a wonderful organisation – not least because it has raised over a million pounds for Papworth hospital, which is where most of the members had their life-saving surgery.
I was in a group of medical journalists and doctors who were kidnapped and forced to spend the night in a freezing cold hotel on the banks of Lake Titicaca in Peru. Fortunately, we were freed the next morning.
I’m mad about rugby – Irish rugby in particular – and am a member of Munster Rugby club. I’ve got the jersey, hat, scarf and everything!
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
I want to join a really good choir
I have a huge desire to see St Petersburg and to go to an opera and a ballet in the Mariinsky Theatre
I want to make the trip to see my team, Munster Rugby, play at home at the legendary Thomand Park.
I absolutely love Switzerland – not just the scenery, and the order, and the efficiency of it all, but the fantastic and different types of rail transport that they have. I hear that there’s a brand new funicular railway, the steepest in the world, quite near Lucerne. I definitely want to go on it!
I want to master a piano piece by Chopin called The Grande Valse Brilliante. I can play some of it but there’s a chunk near the end that is really difficult and I just need to find the time to work slowly and carefully on it, and get it into the fingers and brain. I’ve been promising myself I’ll do it for about eight years. Maybe 2018…
Thanks so much for sharing with us Christine. I’m pleased to say my trip to Lake Titicaca was far more mundane than yours, but what a great story to dine out on! I doubt very few others can lay claim to being kidnapped or in a cage with lions (despite having the lion tamer in there – the 6 lions I think had the edge). I think that trip to Thomand Park should be on the cards for 2018.
o – 0 – o
Christine’s Fiction Books
Christine’s forthcoming book published 16th January
It’s Who We Are is a story about five friends in their fifties who find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. It takes place between October 2016 and June 2017, against a backdrop of all the political uncertainty and change in the UK, Europe and America. The novel is set in East Anglia, London and Ireland, and explores the importance of friendship, kindness and identity – and how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you.
A year after discovering that her husband no longer loves her, Dr Annie Templeton wakes up with a sudden relish for singledom. However, she soon realises that being single in your fifties is very different from being single in your twenties.
How, she wonders, do people of my age – with careers, adult children doing unwise things with unwise people, parents going gaga, and friends falling ill, or in or out of love – ever have the time and energy to find a new partner?