This week I turn sixty. The big SIX-OH! And you might think I’d be a bit coy about it; let my birthday slip below the radar – given that we live in a yoof dominated era with a tendency to dismiss anyone over fifty. Oh, how I loathe “okay boomer” as a buzz phrase – it is beyond disrespectful. So, despite this, I am celebrating – no, MILKING – my sixtieth for all it’s worth.
The last eighteen months have been some of the most surprising in my increasingly long life. There was Covid, of course – no one saw that coming. Equally surprising – and in an entirely good way – was that I signed a two-book deal with Bookouture, a huge publisher I admire, that I had previously thought out of my league. So, working with my brilliant editor, Therese, I duly completed said two books; The Perfect Liar and Close My Eyes – and even had a modest hit with the former, which one NetGalley reviewer described as a “modern day Ripley”, so I’ll take that, thank you very much.
But there was an even bigger surprise to come during the Christmas holidays – and this one was not entirely pleasant: I found a lump which I knew at once to be breast cancer, got an official diagnosis in January and my treatment began shortly afterwards.
There were scary bits, confusing bits and not surprisingly, sad and painful bits, but we coped of course – everyone does. And thanks to the incredible breast care teams at both Chichester and Portsmouth hospitals, the experience wasn’t nearly as upsetting as it might have been, and I am turning sixty grateful to be cancer-free, and life continues much the same.
Well, almost. Except that it feels like the new improved version because in June of this year my wonderful one-in-a-million partner Mark proposed to me on a windy beach in East Yorkshire. I was and am ecstatic about our next chapter together and can’t wait to get hitched next year.
But there’s nothing like a health crisis, getting engaged and a landmark birthday to make you re-prioritise.
A little over three years ago, Mark and I moved to Chichester in West Sussex. We moved from Kent, leaving behind family and friends and it was meant to be a big adventure. And who knows, it might have been, had Covid not blown the world to bits.
Alas, so much change, even the good stuff – especially the good stuff – could not easily be shared with the people we love the most. We had naively thought Kent and Sussex to be neighbouring counties and they are on the map. But the two-and-a-half-hour drive between us and my family and closest friends, knocks out any degree of spontaneity and don’t get me started on the traffic.
And so, we face yet more change. As I write this, our house is sold STC (fingers crossed, touching wood etc) and we hope that by autumn we’ll be back in Kent and making up for lost time.
Sixty doesn’t seem so bad and the alternative is much worse! Ageing gracefully, probably not (and that’s between me, my surgeon, my beautician and my family genes), but ageing gratefully? Hell, yeah! Bring it on.
Celebrations have already begun. A huge thank you to Mark, Ali and Rob, David and Lyn, Josh, Lewis and Claire for giving me a special night to remember full of magic and sparkle, champagne, cake and outrageously generous gifts. And laughter… soo much laughter. Thank you for everything. I love you all.