Cliff Richard’s 60th anniversary tour


Yesterday wasn’t going well. A friend cancelled an evening out with half an hour notice. I sat glum into my Waitrose cuppa, watching the trains go by, feeling let down again. And so when the phone call came asking me to take my thalidomide lady to the Brighton Centre to see Cliff Richard I smiled. Every cloud has a silver lining. If the phone call had come twenty minutes earlier I would have said no and missed another opportunity of seeing Cliff, because the first time around, when I was 10, he came to my primary school but I was off school that day with a sick bug. Not that I was fussed. Cliff Richard has always epitomised the very drab, the very vanilla of the music industry and is most definitely for old fogeys, Mr One Hundred Tunes of Bland Shite, so I thought, along with the likes of singers like Jason Donovan and Daniel O’Connell. But with my advancing age, now over fifty, I guess I’ve reached old fogey territory and actually I revise my long standing opinion of Cliff – he was in fact bloody fantastic!

What an amazing guy Cliff Richard is. This year he celebrates an incredible 60 years in the music industry, an accolade few can claim. He brought tears to my eyes, there’s almost something God given, something divine about a guy who still manages to storm the stage, from one city to the next at the grand age of 78. At that age my dad had a walking stick, varicose veins and heart problems.

You really wouldn’t guess Cliff’s years. He has the body and energy of a twenty year old, the face of a forty year old and the passion of a thirty something. He’s slim, dresses like a teenager. I loved his glittery trainers and tight black trousers. Very sexy for an old man! With an upward audience of sixty plus, mostly ladies, the blue rinse brigade dressed in comfy cardies, I found myself swaying in the aisles with them, soaking up this wonderful Christmasy atmosphere. Cliff has a way of making you feel good and in his words ‘I earn my living making ladies smile.’

Between songs he engaged with the audience telling stories about his life. He told us he’d recently travelled on London underground. ‘Paul McCartney went on the tube. And do you know how he got away with it? A woman on the train said I know who you are. Who am I? Paul replied. Paul McCartney. No way, Paul replied. Paul McCartney would never travel on the tube. So I did the same and a lady on the train said I know who you are. You’re Cliff Richard. No,I replied, I would never go on the tube.’

As incredible as Cliff was, so were the audience. We sat with several disabled people and one lady, wizened, probably in her 80s, in a wheelchair had travelled from the north by herself to see him and afterwards was staying in a hotel. She had booked every single one of Cliff’s concerts. How amazing is that? A real die-hard for you.

And now I shall be heading over to Amazon to buy his new album, ‘Rise Up,’ the title chosen because after the bad times of his life he’s risen up. What is his secret I wonder? Maybe it’s the impact of his Christian faith that keeps him going. Unlike many singers he’s not succumbed to drugs and alcohol, he leads a pure life, finding energy and faith within himself, a spirit that keeps him going.

Thank you for reading.

Loneliness and the lonely stages of our lives

The topic of loneliness is now receiving a great deal of attention and political prominence. The BBC has just published the findings of its survey into loneliness, the biggest of its kind to date.

Loneliness is the big scourge of modern life. Throughout my life I’ve felt desperately lonely. My candour on this fact makes me cringe. We aren’t supposed to be lonely. It suggests we are social misfits, weirdos and it’s embarrassing for us to admit how we feel. I used to think that it was mild depression and that’s the label I gave to my emotions but in recent months, as more commentators discuss the growing phenomenon I’ve come to realise that it’s loneliness not depression. There have been pockets of my life when these feelings have been intense. Growing up my parents had a poor marriage and were so consumed with their own problems that they argued a great deal. They were also focused on earning shed loads of money and didn’t come to my sporting events and we didn’t go out as a family much. Family life was isolating and my sister was always out with her friends. University life was lonely. That is the subject of my earlier blog. In my late twenties I married and had children. My husband worked abroad while the children were young. When he returned at weekends he was more interested in going to the pub than spending time with us. I made lots of friends when the children were little and there were coffee mornings and lunches out and toddler groups but when I was alone again the emotions kicked in and I felt desperately isolated. And when my marriage broke down I spent the next years in and out of relationships which created it’s own issues. My life was no longer stable. I couldn’t rely on any of these men and they all had their own issues to contend with. Internet dating is how many of us find partners these days but it’s a cold and soulless way to meet somebody and we are judged on how good our photos are. Internet dating brings its own loneliness into the mix.

There were incredibly happy moments during relationships and I think for me the least lonely time is when you are physically intimate with another person as long as it’s with the person you love. Sex has a wonderful way of sweeping away loneliness. Physical touch, cuddling, kissing, waking up to another person and the heights of pleasure bring joy and happiness – but remove all of that and the loneliness kicks in once again. They say that it’s better to be in a bad marriage than to be alone and I can certainly identify with that theory.

Thank you for reading. You may like my book ‘Holiday’ which highlights relationship problems and loneliness. Here is the link on Amazon:

Thank you for

The loneliest years of our lives

BBC Radio 4 has just announced the results of The Loneliness Experiment, a nationwide survey into loneliness. It’s the largest survey into loneliness and the results show that the age group 16 to 24 are the loneliest group. You may find this surprising. Let’s pick through the possible reasons for this.

Social media instantly springs to mind. Young people don’t seem to hang out with friends anymore, in each other’s bedrooms or in the local park. There is less face to face contact. They connect with friends via their phone screen instead, whether this is through Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. My own kids don’t sit down to watch soap operas with the family like we did when we were growing up and they are often so busy with activities that family meals aren’t possible. They remove themselves from the family area downstair and hide away in their bedrooms. My book ‘Every Family Has One’ addressed loneliness issues among teens and among the parents dealing with their depressed teens.

Loneliness isn’t something we freely admit to. There’s a social stigma attached to it. And young people I can imagine are least likely to admit to feeling lonely because at that age it’s all about popularity, how many friends you have on Snapchat and how many people are following you on Instagram. Young people scrutinise the photos of their peers. ‘He’s having an amazing time in Australia,’ ‘She looks happy with her twenty friends on the beach.’ A picture though only tells what the person wants you to see. A different story lurks behind those happy faces. To be lonely is weird. It’s embarrassing. You’re labelled a social misfit and nobody wants to be that. And so the natural tendency is to hide these feelings. But we’re human and being human means that we cannot always feel on top of the world. We will go through lonely patches. It’s inevitable no matter how much we go out or how many friends we have and whether we are in a romantic relationship or not.

The loneliest time of my life were the university years. I studied 300 miles from home and missed by mum and the friends I’d made in my home town and the social life I had. I tried everything I possibly could to adapt to university life but the sad truth was I couldn’t wait to graduate. Returning to Lancaster University several years ago, on route to the Lake District brought it all back to me. Walking round the campus sent a chill through me. I could have been returning to a prison after freedom. The emotions that shot through me were the same.

The only way to beat loneliness is to get out there and mix as much as you can, engaging with others face to face but when that doesn’t work the only thing is to accept that so many of us are lonely – it really is a natural state of being a human.

‘Every Family Has One’ is available on Amazon:

Three years flies by at university

It’s that time of year again when parents wave goodbye to their teens going off to university. Three years ago I stood in a queue at Gatwick with my daughter who was flying out to Belfast to start at Queen’s University. I was a nervous wreck, sniffing, fighting back tears as images flashed through my mind of her life – her first words – ‘what doing,’ first walk and picking up every leaf on the way, her tantrum in the middle of a shopping centre. How had we arrived here? Her childhood was gone. All those school runs, all of those school lunches I made each morning, that whole routine that I thought would go on forever had stopped and it seemed so abrupt. When your teen returns that first Christmas from university you’ll notice subtle changes in their behaviour and by the time they graduate they’re cock sure, ‘I know what I’m doing mum’ is a phase you’ll often hear. I can’t believe all of the things my daughter has done since that first queue at Gatwick. She’s achieved so much and I’m very proud of her. She’s travelled to Bali, she’s worked with elephants in Sri Lanka and completed a successful year’s work experience. Everything changes in those university years so mums, brace yourselves, because your child has now flown and reaching the heights of their abilities and talents. Out in the world they’re at last testing what they are capable of and for many it’s so much more than we ever achieved.

I attended a talk by the Jo Cox Loneliness Foundation. Former MP murdered a couple of years ago spearheaded the campaign because she had been desperately lonely at university. I was surprised to learn about this campaign because I didn’t imagine people would be lonely at university. I didn’t enjoy this period of my life and it was the loneliest time but thankfully my daughter is more outgoing and hasn’t experienced this. Many teenagers are too afraid to admit to be lonely and out of their depth in their new life and it’s important that we pick up the signs and that we make sure they are happy because while three years can fly by it’s also a long time to suffer.