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I met my old bird role model and I liked it

I ❤️ Sheila Hancock

Me having a fangirl moment with the legend that is Sheila Hancock.

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I’ve long been an admirer of the wisdom/chutzpah/refusal not to speak as they find of old women. And I don’t mean old starting with a 5 or 6, although I love talking to them, too. I mean starting with an 8 or 9 or even 10. I’ve rarely had a conversation on The Shift with Sam Baker podcast I haven’t loved or learnt something from. But the ones that have really stuck with me, that have shaped the way I think, are the guests who’ve lived through extraordinary times, survived and thrived. None of them thought they were anything special but every single one had something special to say.

Like novelist Isabel Allende (Opens in a new window) who, at 80, has lived through lifelong exile from her Chilean homeland, the death of her daughter and is on her third husband. She told me about getting married to save her new husband from embarassment at the hands of his granddaughter (who had told her teacher, an Allende fan, that her granddad was sleeping with Isabel), being fatally hetrosexual and why she believes feminism is what lies between our ears, not our legs.

Like, New Yorker Hilma Wolitzer (Opens in a new window), now 94, who had her first short story published at nine and her latest short story collection last year, told me about discovering feminism and having to get her husband Morty’s permission to start working (outside the home) again after her children started school. Morty died of covid during lockdown. Hilma who was also in hospital with covid at the same time didn’t get to say goodbye. They had been married for more than 60 years.

And screenwriter Delia Ephron (Opens in a new window), a mere child at 78, told me about losing her beloved sister Nora, her husband Jerry and then getting the same cancer that killed Nora in a matter of years. And how a chance encounter with a former boyfriend (who TBH she didn't remember!) led to a second chance at love.

All these women have a lot to say about not just surviving but thriving. I feel like I’ve learnt important lessons from every one of them. But the most inspiring, the most motivating, the most liberating of all is the living legend that is Sheila Hancock. (She will hate being called a living legend but I’m just calling it as I see it and I know I’m not alone.)

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Topic long reads