Woman of the Week: BackPacking Granny

We are all special in our own distinct way. Whether you have achieved great heights in your career, raised rounded happy children, or are leading a peaceful fulfilled life. Our Woman of the Week feature highlights all kinds of #womenover50 to show what kind of lives we are living right now…

We are thrilled to start this new series, Woman of the Week, chatting to Charlie (or, as she is better known to CW readers, BackPacking Granny) about her life. Grace, Ellie and I have always admired BPG because she is full of life and fun and even though she has, at times, caught a curved ball she still manages to laugh and live her life to the full. Being single now and turning 70 has never stopped her from doing all the things she loves to do. 

Woman of the Week

Career: I trained at RADA as an actress, and played a variety of roles, from President of the Guild of prostitutes in I Claudius, to Trevor Howard’s floozie in Waltz of the Toreadors, and, just by way of a change, a nun in Lionel Bart’s musical Maggie May! It was an interesting and varied career spanning the West End, Rep, films and TV from the early 60’s to the 90’s. Since giving up my acting career I have become involved in a children’s organisation in Thailand. I absolutely love working there but most of the time I just help raise money. When I first went out to Thailand I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hack the emotion I would feel with kids who have Aids or severe difficulties but, after a few days, you only see the kids and their spirit and smiles – I am devoted to them.

Marriage: During my time in the theatre I married a soap star who signed autographs all the way to the altar; a comedian who was half of a double act so I was one half of the other half; and finally a very rich man! I wasn’t a very good picker. I am now single and have been for the past ten years and loving it, and my children tell me that if I ever consider marrying again they will put me in a straight-jacket.

How old do you feel?: I felt older on my 30th birthday than I did on my 50th birthday, in fact I rushed out and bought lots of creams for my face. I still have one of them and it has been used for sore bottoms for scores of children and grandchildren! How old do I feel now ? About 12, but my mirror tells me otherwise!

Where do you live now and in the past?: I have lived all over the world and every place is special in a different way. There is nothing I like more than to have a decent length of time in a different country and get under the skin of it and learn about and understand how people think. A smattering of French and Spanish and a lot of acting has been a huge help in communicating. I am never frightened to ask questions and everybody in the world is interesting in one way or another. My soft spot is the babies.

How do you fill your free time?: I don’t have any free time!

Which item in your wardrobe could you not do without?: My bra!

Have you embraced technology?: I am absolutely useless at technology. Anything that is mechanical hates me. I have caused an entire hotel to be plunged into darkness by just turning on a hairdryer. However I adore Skype and Facebook as they enable me to speak to my children and grandchildren. My parents packed me off to boarding school when I was 10 years old and then moved to the other side of the world – God knows what I had done to them to take such drastic action – I was unable to speak to them for 3 years. So you can understand why I love the new technology which makes it possible to keep up with everyone. My grandchildren are so used to Facebook that we have wonderful conversations and kiss the screen to say goodbye.

Do you have a ‘can’t do without beauty product’?: There is a product made by Look Fabulous Forever which is a base that you put under your lips and it stops them bleeding… wonderful. Tricia, founder of LFF transformed me recently and got me out of a rut and I have embraced all of her tips. Click here for Look Fabulous Forever.

Do you have a beauty tip?: An old theatrical trick is to put a little bit of darker lipstick in each corner of your lips and it makes you look as if you are smiling.

Do you cook or do you have a favourite meal?: I don’t cook but I do mix the drinks. I love all food if someone else has cooked it and of course I do like a glass of wine!

What do you read or watch on TV?: I have a diverse taste in books. I loved Big Little Lies, recently on Sky Atlantic, especially because I have an interest in abusive relationships.

What music do you like to listen to?: Big bands and African dance music.

Is there anyone that you admire or are grateful to?: I am incredibly grateful to my daughters-in-law for putting up with me. I aspire to be the best Granny I can be. I had a magical Granny whom I adored and I hope I can put magic into my grandchildrens’ minds and inspire them to know that they can do anything if they set their minds to it. I call it ‘blowing sunshine up them’.

What is your top tip for women over 50?: To love every day. I haven’t quite grown up yet and find it difficult to grow old gracefully and I just hope that my body won’t give out on me before my death. Since I have bored people to tears during my lifetime about diets and moaning about my figure I hope to have the following epitaph put on my grave –  “This woman was never thin – she is now!”

Thank you Charlie for sharing all of this with us and being our first Woman of the Week. As was to be expected, your answers reflected your bubbly, kind and infectious personality.