Gail Garbutt is our latest Woman of the Week. She is a big fan of Annabel & Grace (sensible lady!) and over the years we’ve often ‘talked’ with her on social media. Brought up in “a freezing house in Gloucestershire”, she now lives in Wiltshire with her husband and two grown-up sons…
Tell us about yourself
I’ve been married to Peter for nearly 34 years, the first 25 as an army wife. We have two sons of 31 and 28. Since buying the first house we’ve owned and lived in, in 2002, I set up my bed and breakfast business. It started as a way to make money and to be at home when the boys were growing up, and has just rolled on since then.
How have you changed since you turned 50?
Life was torrid in my 50s. My mother developed dementia and it was really difficult managing and helping her through her decline – it takes over your life. My children too took time to find their feet after leaving school and that was hard. That said, the best thing I did during my 50s was to take up cycling. I took part in two overseas charity cycle rides for the British Heart Foundation in memory of our daughter who died when she was four months old after heart surgery in 1989. Cycling from Agra to Jaipur in 2000 and then from Ho Chi Mien to Angkor Watt in 2001 gave me the chance to raise a lot of money for the BHF and absorb some of the pain that losing a child means you carry with you.
Being in my 60s has been fabulous for me. One son has just qualified as a doctor and the other has found his feet as a manager of a large pub in Tooting. I’ve finally published my book Spot On, Good Names for Dogs which is something I first thought of 15 years ago! And I became the owner of a dog again – Sixty, who we all love.
Where have you lived?
Well I’ve moved a lot, army wife – Berlin and RMA Sandhurst were the best postings, but I also loved time in Dorset and North Yorkshire. We live in Mere, West Wiltshire now and have so many friends it would be mad to move; however Bath does have a pull and I think perhaps when my husband retires we might try living there for a year.
What you like to do in your free time?
Lots of reading, playing bridge in the winter, and I love National Hunt racing. In the summer I’m on my bike and working in the garden/my allotment.
How would you describe your sense of style?
It has to be said I tend to spend more on my accessories than on clothes themselves. Charity shops provide me with a lot of basics and then there’s White Stuff or John Lewis and a local shop, Preview in Wincanton, for the gaps in my wardrobe. In the winter I live in my suede boots from Mandarina Shoes, which I discovered through Countrywives. Oh, and I couldn’t live without my wellies.
Have you embraced technology?
50/50. I feel I’ve embraced it on my phone and use social media a lot for the book and the B&B. However I’m not so hot on my computer and would have no idea how to put together a power point demonstration or use mail merge, and this needs to be addressed.
Any favourite beauty products?
Whatever’s to hand and is usually by No.7 and Mac eyeliner pencils.
Do you have a beauty tip?
I’ve copied the advice Grace gave on her Four Minute Daytime MakeUp video.
If you cook do you have a signature dish?
Well I cook a lot of breakfasts! For the B&B my signature dish is smashed avocados on seeded toast with poached eggs and roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine. It’s fantastic too for lunch and supper and if you’re not a vegetarian, then a couple of slices of bacon on the side don’t go amiss.
My most used cookery book is Plenty by Diana Henry.
What’s your tipple?
Do you have a favourite book?
God, this is hard. Currently reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng which is excellent. But my Desert Island Discs book would be Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.
What TV do you like to watch?
Good documentaries- loved a Very English Scandal – and I never miss a moment of Strictly Come Dancing.
Do you listen to music?
Not often but I do try to go to see a band once or twice a year; Elbow at Westonbirt Aboretum last June were amazing.
What can’t you live without?
My girlfriends and Radio 4.
What’s your top tip for #womenover50?
It’s said that when you’re old you don’t regret the things you’ve done, only the things you didn’t do. Be brave, there really is very little to lose and much to gain.
Click here if you would like a copy of Gail’s new book – for yourself or as a thoughtful gift.
For more information on her B&B, click here
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Gail, click here for more fascinating Woman of the Week articles.