Whilst I was recuperating I decided to reschedule some of my earlier posts to reach the wider audience that they have now. They’ve been ‘made-over’ to include the YouTube videos that are now a standard feature and the booklist has been brought up to date. My regular feature will be back in January.
Today I’m delighted to feature author Christine Webber. Christine and I first came into contact when I read and reviewed Who’d Have Thought It? Being of a similar age and mindset, we’ve kept in touch since.
Christine Webber originally trained as an opera singer but had to re-think her career plans when her voice professor commented: ‘Your voice is ok, but your legs are very much better!’
Musical theatre beckoned. There was some success. But not much.
However, eventually, in 1978, 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 relief that she stayed for 12 very happy years.
Next, she became an agony aunt and wrote columns for various publications including Best, BBC Parenting, The Scotsman, TV Times and Woman.
During her ‘problem page’ years, she trained as a psychotherapist and started a practice in Harley Street which she shared with her late husband, Dr David Delvin.
She has written 12 non-fiction books including How to Mend a Broken Heart, Get the Happiness Habit and Too Young to Get Old, and has broadcast extensively over the decades on mental health and relationship issues.
In 2016, she embarked on a fresh career as a novelist. She writes about, mid-life to older people. She has brought out three titles – Who’d Have Thought It?, It’s Who We Are and So Many Ways of Loving. A fourth should be ready by early 2022.
Additionally, she found that the pandemic and lockdown focused her mind on positive ageing and how vital it is for us all to stay as young as possible for as long as possible. So, she now writes a column on the topic for the East Anglian newspapers and is making video podcasts which can be found on this website. She also offers personal coaching by Zoom. And, now that restrictions have been eased, has returned to giving public talks.
Over to Christine:
Which piece of music/song 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:
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.
My mum was Scottish and had a lovely contralto voice. And she particularly liked a song called Oh Rowan Tree. That’s Number Two.
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.
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.
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.
What (apart from family and friends) would you 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 a piece of advice for 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 something 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!
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
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… Did it happen Christine?
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
So Many Ways of Loving
So Many Ways of Loving is a novel in which, at first glance, nothing much happens – there’s no espionage, no high-speed car chases, murders, or haunted houses. But in a sense, everything happens – loss, death, grief, serious illness, but also birth, unexpected romance, fresh adventures and numerous possibilities. Three women in their 50s and 60s travel through the most momentous year of their lives, and as they do so, they are reminded of just how much we depend upon family, friends and pets.
It’s Who We Are
Five friends in their fifties find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. Meanwhile, the world around them seems to be spinning out of control.
The events of It’s Who We Are take place between October 2016 and June 2017, against a backdrop of all the political uncertainty and change in the UK, Europe and America.
The story is set in East Anglia, London and Ireland, and is about friendship, kindness and identity. Most importantly, it highlights how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you.
Who’d Have Thought It?
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?
Who’d Have Thought It? is a romantic comedy, which will make you laugh and cry – often at the same time.
In Honour Bound (First published 1987)
Set in 1980’s London, Helen Bartlett, a popular TV news presenter and Sam Aziz, a glamorous middle-eastern cardiac surgeon, meet on a live programme. They dislike each other on sight, and the interview is a disaster. But that is not the end of their story because later that evening, they find themselves at the same dinner party.
Over the weeks, hostility morphs into passion, and soon they fall desperately in love.
Both are looking for the right partner with whom to settle down and produce a family. They seem made for each other; they delight in the joy that they have found, and plan to marry. But then, the differences in their cultural backgrounds start to manifest themselves. And a debt of honour that Sam cannot ignore returns to haunt him.
Struggling with their torment, while she is so much in the public eye and he is performing life-saving surgery on a daily basis, places them under intolerable strain.
Must they relinquish the most magical relationship either of them has ever known? Can they find a way out of their dilemmas? Or do they have to accept that no matter how modern we are, we cannot fly in the face of the traditions that served, and shaped us, for centuries?