I turned the box on, and for no apparent reason I watched the advert for The National Trust. It’s been on loads of times but this time it registered. I sat down at the lap top and brought up a form from the Trust that would enable me to volunteer.
Nearest place to me, a mere 16 miles away, is Chartwell, Winnie’s gaff.
After a couple of emails I visited them last Thursday. Put on gardening boots and a puffy jacket with no sleeves, and set off. I had the written directions and a map. Still I got lost. From Penshurst Place, instead of going through Chiddingstone, I followed the road round. I could hear my own voice saying that Bidborough was on the way to TWells and I needed to go the other way.
I turned me little red car round and stopped in a layby. A very well spoken delivery driver pointed me in the right direction. A retired man of my generation driving a van full of overpriced groceries;
‘Follow me’ he offered. But I had to wait 8minutes for him and I was already late for the interview.
‘Are you filming?”asked the driver.
He recognised me off the telly, I”m not filming I said but 8 minutes would make me seriously late.
I finally arrived, parked up and walked through to the restaurant. I was bought a Peppermint tea and given a guided tour of the herb and vegetable garden. Shown Gavin’s water feature, which wasn’t working, the potting shed where Harry from Grimsby was potting, then shook hands with the other female volunteers who were pruning fruit bushes. I could feel the healing energy seeping out of the newly turned earth.
Studying my map and written directions I set off to the cottage, 39 mins max, then eat lunch with the old git before he left for the theatre. Nearly two hours later and a detour through Sevenoaks, I finally arrived home, filled out the application forms and sent off my shoe size for my National Trust over boots.
I await my start date, and then I will learn how to harvest – in May – I’ll be put to work in the garden. I will learn how to rotate a crop, call a spade a spade, take a lunch box and generally feel useful. Keeping our heritage alive, and me the old Jew from Mile End who wouldn’t know how to cultivate a Jerusalem artichoke even if you paid me, which they don’t, although they do give you petrol money.
It’s been a tough one this getting old thing. I’m not ready for the Knackers yard but you could be forgiven for thinking that I should be put out to pasture. The shame of aging in a culture of aggressive take overs and closures, is pervasive. Colouring the grey, disguising the crows feet, pulling in the core flab and wearing appropriate clothing for an old crone is all consuming. Except I refuse to be defined by my chronology. I have been working just shy of 50 years. I have acted, sung, played, presented, written, eaten and cried my way to the top table. I have listened, cared, tripped up and risen from the ashes more time than the effin Phoenix.
I have been sacked, insulted, squashed and belittled. Told that that is just the way it is. But that is not the case. The way its is is only the way it is if we let it be so. Trump represents lazy thinking, mouthing baloney on behalf of a frightened so-called majority. Theresa May, our unelected PM, who has about as much compassion as a swollen slug. She doth not represent me, she represents politicians who fight amongst themselves whilst the Nation crumbles from the inside.
I’m damned if I’m going down silently. I will pull weeds, sing in a choir, campaign for the our planet, I will speak my truth, I will wear my dungarees rolled, I will flaunt my red lipstick and I will turn over Churchill’s earth turning a bind eye to his political allegiance. I will created programmes that may never see the light of day because those in the big chairs deem me too old to be seen, but they won’t stop me. I will talk to whomsoever I please, I will give my last 20 quid to the homeless guy who is startled at his new found reality. I will stand with placards outside our local hospital and I will condemn the self serving spokespeople of our wonderful country.
I am a second generation immigrant, my husband the grammar school boy from an illiterate Irish mob who signed their names with a cross. I will support my daughter in her creative endeavours and speak out at the injustice of her generations sadness.
And if I hadn’t put the telly on and seen the ad I would never had known this is how I felt. They are closing The London Studios where I learnt my craft alongside Cilla and O’Grady. They have closed the BBC where I learnt how to speak to camera and eat creamy porridge with Victoria Wood. They have shut down TVam. They have sold off GFL’s studio. They have appropriated my birthplace, sold the East End to the highest bidder, but I will wear my trousers rolled and remember what my belligerent father used to say that when Capitalism goes down we’ll all go down with it.
Yeah, but not without a fight. Every time a blade of grass breaks through concrete I’m aware that nature is stronger than us, Chartwell here I come.

5 thoughts on “Chartwell”

  1. First of all it’s lovely to hear from you again, us oldies using a blog forum instead of social media! But then again, there’s nothing wrong with it and we don’t have to be ashamed of being more traditional than the youngsters of today. Sadly, today’s youth have zero respect for anyone older than 40 for the sole reason that we are not as savvy as them with regards to technology. In their eyes that’s the future and nothing of the past matters. It pains me that they have no interest at all in learning from the older generation’s morals and opinions in all life matters. It’s a generation of zombies!
    Jeni, be proud of who you are and what you have achieved during your colourful like so far and don’t give up on your future dreams. You have a lot to offer a world that’s gone mad. And we need your comforting voice on air again other the the likes of KH. The fact that she is allowed air time, shows us where the world is going.
    We have to be proud that we belong to a more sane generation (although I’m in my 40’s) and not be intimidated by the ‘chutzpahdik’ youngsters!
    Best of luck Jeni and wishing you happiness and good health.
    All my luv.

  2. You go for it Jeni how I admire you, you have so much to give. So keep on doing what you do best. Making people happy. Love. Xx

  3. I don’t mind the grey hair just don’t want to think middle aged. I am very excited by Diem 25 a pro EU group who want to democratise the union. I watch their pod cast on brexit hosted by the Guardian and felt inspired. Got to keep thinking and keep being kind.Good luck to you Jenni

  4. Go for it Jeni. Life is for living. A good friend of mine says always do everything you can while you can. At our age the knees give up long before the spirit does.

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