There were two men, two close friends, who went out to lunch together in December 2017 to celebrate Christmas and friendship. They opted for one of those degustation menus with 12 courses. They promised that they would share the coaching questions they were asking each other with each pairing of wine and food but the questions ran out at #7. Draw your own conclusions!
Since those two men were Michael Neill and Robert Holden, co-conspirators of one of the most fun and stimulating days out I’ve had in London thanks to (I think) Alternatives and which coincided with my birthday quite a few years ago now in 2012, I thought it would be worth collecting, sharing and answering their questions here. Want to have a go too?
What was your favourite thing about 2017?
There were two or three of them, but I am going to go with publishing my first proper book, specifically the moment where the proof copy arrived from CreateSpace in December. I had not expected to feel so emotional holding my own words in my hand. It took me by surprise. It was the surprise which was my favourite thing about 2017. Expect the unexpected.
What was one of your most meaningful successes of 2017, and what made it so meaningful?
Interesting to note from this, the first of two questions about success. that I don’t measure my life in “successes” necessarily, though no doubt I’ve enjoyed my fair share of them in my life. Is the slant on success a man thing, or just not a Judith thing? Not, I think, that it matters either way.
In anticipation of publicity around my book, I asked my client Alison Read to fly to London and take some photos of me. I was delighted with the results, specifically the personal ones which, although they are quite dark, exactly match my brief to Alison. I wanted her to reflect that a woman in her sixties, au naturel and reasonably wrinkly, can be quite beautiful in the right light. The kids in my world laughed. I didn’t think it was funny, I was being deadly serious, and in a moment in the kitchen after the formal shoot was over, Alison got her camera out again and these more relaxed shots are just what I wanted. The other pink and business-y ones are lovely too but in an entirely different way. They reflect a different me, the me at work. Jolly, upbeat and pink. Professional. Ready to serve.
These photos are meaningful to me. What makes them so? I know I am beautiful but I am often disappointed that I am mostly quite unphotogenic and the lens does not capture all the qualities of the authentic me which I so value. I think these photos do that. I also wanted them to reflect lots of other aspects of me… intelligence, love, life, curiosity, empathy, humour, sadness. I think they do that too. All round, for both me and Alison, I believe this to have been both meaningful and, yes, successful.
I notice I lean naturally to the left in these, as I do in life generally. But, of course, in the kitchen that afternoon I was leaning to my right. Go figure. There’s one where I look a bit like Jenni Murray. I’ve been taken for her before, yes I have. And Jo Brand. And Claire Rayner too (RIP). Clever, thinking women all. The peering over the top of my spex will always get me likened to Jenni. Add a pashmina, and put the spex on an old lady chain (as if), and I’m a dead ringer.
What’s one thing you did in 2017 that you will never do again?
I fell over. Flat on my face. Banged my head on the way down, and banged it again twice on the stones on which I landed. A bit like a Tom & Jerry cartoon, I saw stars and there was a tweeting about my head (no, not a Tweeting, thank goodness!). I hope nothing like that ever happens to me again although it was my worst fear, it came to pass and I survived entirely without injury. I think it was rather like how they teach you to fall “drunk” at drama college. If you fall like a dead lump and don’t put out hands to try and save yourself, you generally don’t break a bone. No defensive injuries. The bang on my head and the momentary discombobulation meant I wasn’t compos mentis sufficient to try and save myself, though my body kind of went through the motions. The slippery front step put the kibosh on that. The bruises are (nearly) all gone, and the blood blister only lasted and very few days. I didn’t even break the skin, not even one of those nasty playground scrapes, remember those? A scab forms and it is a hurty for quite a while. It was a miracle for sure, and one I have no desire to repeat. I was very lucky.
What was your most enjoyable success in 2017?
There they go again with that S word. What did I most enjoy in 2017? Reading, writing, podcasting, working with clients, taking loads of leisure time whenever possible, laughter, exploring hitherto unknown parts of the UK, finding new back doubles both real and metaphorical, being a Spotify DJ at a couple of family parties and while we are on the topic of family parties, my brother’s 60th and my niece’s 30th, two FAB evenings where I came home with the dawn, totes emosh and only with emosh not with any other consciousness-altering substances. High on life.
Also, Marion and I had a lovely day out in Canary Wharf just before Christmas, not having seen each other for years. We had a cocktail which I thoroughly enjoyed, my first booze for quite some time due to my low-carb lifestyle. Limoncello and Prosecco, surprisingly nice. Celebratory fun, a special treat. Friendship. Priceless.
What have you learned, seen or experienced this year that has changed your life forever?
I left London to began life as a digital nomad, still in the UK for the moment but headed all over the globe in due course. It was a wrench but not as much as leaving Canary Wharf in 2008 when I followed the removal van across from East to South West London, driving my car in tears.
It is quite interesting the extent to which I consider myself to be a Londoner having lived there by choice for 40 years and yet how all the things I need for a happy life are mostly nothing to do with geography. I already knew I could live anywhere so long as I am warm (or air-cooled) and safe, have access to a comfy bed, washing machine, wifi and moisturiser. My ultimate goal as a home-from-home for at least six months of every year is an island in the Caribbean which was wiped out by Hurricane Irma. That day I thought my life would be changed forever but the island is coming back. #SXM Strong.
I think a big part of my resistance to leaving London can be laid at the feet of Samuel Johnson:
“You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
I wasn’t tired of London and I most certainly am not tired of life. I don’t think I shall ever tire of London but I had long since ceased to use all that London has to offer so my losses are minimal. In my soul, I still think of myself as a Londoner. And, who knows? Maybe one day I shall return. There is in London all that life can afford. SJ was spot on about that.
What are you planning to do in your next lifetime that you could be doing in this one?
Gosh! I have no plans for my next lifetime, although I do expect there to be one. I feel I have a lifetime left to me in this one and honestly, I feel I could pack another lifetime’s worth in since reinvention is perforce the name of my game. Accountant. Business Coach. Author. What’s next on this great big self-employed adventure. I wonder?
God tells you that you’ve got to let your children grow up and live their own lives, but that you’re allowed to give them one piece of advice for the journey. What advice do you give them?
Thankfully God didn’t give me any children, not that I left it entirely up to him. But if I were to be advising my niece and nephews, or your children, it would probably be about “to thine own self be true”. It takes so long to (re)discover thine own self, and then to strip away all of the stuff which keeps us from being true, that the sooner we start, the better. “And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”