Hello and welcome!  I am a portrait photographer based in North London.  I absolutely love what I do which I hope shows in the photographs that I've taken. I shoot predominantly with natural light at your home or on location which gives my images a very personal and natural style. If you're looking to book me for business headshots, please take a look at my dedicated corporate and personal branding page. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and looking at my photos, if you would like to make a booking please call me on 07527 711 967 or drop me a line HERE.  

40 OVER 40 Jennifer Kennedy

December 15, 2021  •  12 Comments

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#6

Jennifer Kennedy - Menopause Blogger

 

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It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to one of the nicest, game for a laugh women I've ever met.  This is Jennifer Kennedy who writes a hugely popular and hilarious blog all about midlife and the menopause.  But why is she ready for a bracing swim I hear you cry?  

Well, I first stumbled across Jennifer when one of her blog posts about the trials and tribulations of open water swimming popped up on my Facebook feed and I couldn't stop laughing.  The post has since been shared thousands of times.  It was so funny in fact, that I messaged Jennifer and asked if I could feature it on my Dear Hormones podcast and also to see if she'd be willing to be one of my 40.    SHE SAID YES TO  BOTH!  I then tentatively asked if she'd consider posing in a vintage swimming hat down at the lake in my local park fully expecting her to tell me to eff off.  But of course she didn't because, as previously stated, she's one of the nicest women ever.

So here she is!  Jen actually talks at length about the benefits of a DryRobe in the original blog post (well, the benefits of wearing one in a beer garden at any rate) and my original plan was to photograph her wearing that. We did actually start off with the DryRobe as you'll see below but when she volunteered to strip down to just the towel, well, I couldn't have been more delighted.  

Jen has very kindly answered a few questions for me, and boy does she have some words of wisdom for you all. 

 

This project is all about celebrating women over 40 - what would you say are the best things about being the age you are now?

Well - in a nutshell - it is better than the alternative!  I am 52 now and getting to this age is a privilege that has been denied to several of my friends and family.  People talk of a mid-life crisis but to me it is a mid-life celebration.  It's like life has taken me by the hand, looked me in the eye and said 'ok - we aren't messing about any more - time to enjoy every minute and stop caring about doing the 'right' thing.

 

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If you could go back and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Don't fear failure. And don't keep waiting for the 'perfect time' to do something you want to do.  It is better to fail at something you are passionate about (I had three rejections for my first book) than succeed at something you don't give a stuff about.  It means you are on the right path even if it is a bit rough just now.  

 

Your blog is hilarious and resonates with so many women, what prompted you to start writing it and what kind of feedback have you had?

I just started writing it for some friends - more as a bit of a laugh than anything.  There was so much doom and gloom about the menopause - I wanted to read something funny.  There has been a lot of research done recently that combining humour with taboo topics can make them easier to talk about.  I remember getting to 100 followers and thinking WOW.  I now have 42 thousand followers and love reading all their comments and feedback.  The personal messages are great - I get loads from family members who say they read it together and laugh and roll their eyes.  I get feedback that it is relateable and readable and therefore helps all the significant others of menopausal women understand what is going on. 

 

Here's Jen in the infamous DryRobe made famous in her blog about open water swimming.

 

Menopausal symptoms can be pretty scary at first, what kind of symptoms have you been having and did you know what was going on when it all began?

I initially thought I had tourrettes - I was telling so many people to F*** off.  I really had the rage inside me - it was like the incredible hulk  going from 0-60 in about 3 seconds.  The emotional turmoil really was the worst.  Crying one minute.  Raging the next.  Despondent the next.  In Scotland we often have four seasons in one day - it wasn't unusual to have four extreme emotions in just one hour! I was described as Snarky (mix of sarky and narky) on many occasions..  I had no idea what was happening as I just thought menopause was stopping your periods - I did a fist pump when the doctor told me what it was - I was so relieved. 

 

So many women still seem to shy away from the idea of being menopausal (perhaps in denial), why do you think this is and what can we do to change it?

I think many women don't fully understand the menopause and if they do they don't want to address the fact they are getting older.  High profile celebrities such as Davina and Mariella Frostrup speaking out makes such a difference for menopausal women everywhere. We can change it by being honest - with family/with friends/with colleagues - the more we talk about it and make it normal - the easier it will be for future generations.

 

Funniest menopause related moment?

When I was stopped in work by a polite woman telling me I had a pair of tweezers stuck to my crotch! I was wearing a lady magnet (an expensive magnet you attach to your pants that supposedly alleveiates the symptoms).  I had been tweezing my chin in a traffic jam and dropped the tweezers as I drove on! Those magnets are strong!

 

Sum yourself up in 3 words

Quirky; Complex; Positive

 

Jen says to develop a 'f*ck-it list' and start working through it.

 

What’s the key to surviving midlife?

Enjoy it - develop a 'f***it list and start working through it.  Maybe you always wanted a fancy sports car but settled for a sensible family car.  Maybe you want your belly button pierced.  Maybe a tattoo.  Maybe you want to head to Greece and write poetry on the beach.  This time is yours so see it as the next fabulous chapter of life.  We only live once - but if we do it right - once is enough!

 

You wrote a brilliant post about open water swimming and the menopause - did it help with the symptoms?  Will you be going again?

Well.... I live in Scotland and it is totally freezing all year round.  So I will do it again - but possibly in warmer waters.  Anyone want to buy a wetsuit?

 

You can hear Jen's open water swimming post on my Dear Hormones podcast, she's featured in S2: Ep2.

You can follow Jennifer's blog on www.facebook.com/menopausalwoman - or search 'Is It Just Me' in the app.  Her book, Martha Gets the Menopause, is hilarious and available here - Martha Gets the Menopause | Etsy - the perfect stocking filler!

 

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Elizabeth Day

December 03, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

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#5

Elizabeth Day

 

Elizabeth Day Elizabeth Dayby Jenny Smith

 

 

If you're a fan of Elizabeth's chart topping podcast How to Fail (and why wouldn't you be) you'll know she writes the most amazing introductions for her guests, but writing one for Elizabeth that will do her justice is nigh on impossible. Where to start?  

Elizabeth is a journalist, author, podcaster and TV presenter who, by speaking openly and honestly about her own life and 'failures' has helped so many other people come to terms with theirs.  With nearly 25 million downloads, her podcast has shone a light on all the things that haven't gone right in someone's life and how those so-called failures have been integral to their later successes.  Each episode is an uplifting and empowering listen and has drummed the message home to millions of people that failure is actually just the start of something else.

As if all of that wasn't reason enough for me to want her as one of my 40, Elizabeth's choice to speak out about fertility and miscarriage makes her all the more inspiring. Having been through fertility treatment myself, I remember how much of a comfort it was to read anything and everything about other women's experiences.  Elizabeth's decision to share her fertility story and speak openly about her heartbreaking miscarriages will in turn make so many other women feel seen and less alone.

I feel incredibly lucky to call Liz a friend and am so thankful to her for agreeing to be part of my project, thank God she's over 40...just.  Keep scrolling to see more images and to read some inspiring words of wisdom.  

 

Elizabeth DayElizabeth Dayby Jenny Smith

 

How did you feel about turning 40?

I felt really good about it once I was actually there. It does feel like a particularly important age for women specifically because it’s at a time when you are confronting a future that will change biologically.  For me it carried an extra sense of import because I hadn’t had children by then and I had desperately wanted to.  I had tried and failed to do that so there was a sadness that came along with it because so much of the media narrative around procreation is really negative and critical and quite harmful after you turn forty.  It’s seen as this great cut off point for women where your fertility falls off a cliff edge, that’s literally the terminology that they use, and so it feels quite scary.  At the same time you’re also being fed a cultural narrative of 'age empowers you', 'age is wisdom' and we should 'embrace it', all of which is absolutely true and I completely stand one hundred per cent behind it, but that’s quite a lot to have in your head in the run up to a birthday celebration. 

Once I got there and once I had the existential moment of thinking 'what is my life’s purpose, am I doing what I want to be doing, am I giving as much as I can be giving, yes I’m not yet a parent but what has that taught me?' it really made me look in the face of how I was living my life and I’m actually very grateful for that now and I think it’s a necessary part of progression and evolution.  Once I’d got through that stage I felt great about the act of turning forty because suddenly this thing that I'd been worried about had actually happened and suddenly I felt really liberated by not having to worry about it anymore.  I have to say that my forties have been my best decade yet. I feel that I know myself so much better than I ever have before, I truly do feel the benefit of all those decades of wisdom that I’ve accrued.  I think your twenties are a time when you’re still unsure of who you are; you’re scrabbling ferociously to make it on the career ladder and to find your person romantically and to maintain your friendships and to show that you’re having a good time and it’s just exhausting, and then your thirties are a time of consolidation and making some big decisions and your forties are when hopefully you reap the benefit of some of that work on yourself.

 

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My forties are absolutely brilliant.  I count myself very lucky to live in an era where I see so many incredible women owning their age and experience and I feel that forty is no longer the marker that it was for my mother’s generation. I feel full of hope. A lot of women in their twenties listen to my podcast and feel really lost, and I always say just because your twenties aren’t necessarily your decade doesn’t mean your thirties might not be, or in my case my forties. We are so encouraged to think of life as a race where we have to be the first or the youngest to do things but it’s often much more impressive to achieve something with the full wealth of yourself and knowledge behind that achievement.

 

You launched your podcast in the year you turned forty. Do you have any advice to women wanting a change in direction later in life?

Go for it!  There is no such thing as 'too late' there is only ever the right time.  The benefit of doing something when you're older is that you know yourself more and you have so much more wisdom to impart. It is no accident that most of my favourite ever interviewees are seventy plus. There’s a sense of perspective and context and hard won knowledge that you have the older you get that is an absolute blessing to share with anyone.  Women have had millennia of having their voices silenced or marginalised and it is time on a collective basis to step into our power and to start raising our voices higher. The people that I really want to hear from are marginalised women and that includes women of a certain age, women of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, women who live with a disability or a chronic illness, women who are child free by choice and women who have not become parents although not through want of trying. There are so many different kinds of us and I think we all need to be encouraged to speak our truth.
 

I launched the podcast around six months before my fortieth when I was going through a mild existential crisis and I don’t think age is any coincidence. The whole thing about failure is that if you can survive it, you can learn from it and that turns it into a kind of success.  I had realised at that point in my life that every time I had experienced something that was world shattering, deeply upsetting, heartbreaking or difficult, I had survived every single one them and I realised that I had been taught something that I probably needed to know and that all went into the podcast.  I needed to be that age to be at that stage.  

 

 

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What's your take on the ageing process?

It’s a privilege and an honour.  I think the key to getting comfortable with ageing is to see more and more women in projects like this brilliant one that you’re doing being represented in the public eye, ageing in whatever way feels appropriate to them. That’s how we as a society get more accepting, get more comfortable, get more supportive of the ageing process in whatever way it chooses to manifest itself.  So I like to think that instead of wrinkles I’ve got wisdom lines and I genuinely feel that true beauty comes from accepting yourself and projecting that authenticity into every space that you find yourself in.  

What advice would you give to 20 year-old you?

It’s impossible advice to follow but I would tell myself to worry less because most of the time things really work out, and even if something doesn’t feel like it’s working out at the time I promise you that given the fullness of the years you will be grateful for that thing that didn’t work out. Either because it would have taught you something or because it wasn’t the right thing for you or because you'll be closer to the thing that was meant for you.

Any wise words that you've garnered from speaking to so many people about their failures?

We should try to view failure as data acquisition.  So instead of spending your life feeling fearful of it and not taking the risk in the first place, what if you approach life like a scientist coming up for a cure for a terrible disease or a vaccine for a global pandemic? Any time an experiment doesn’t work, that scientist would be able to eliminate the thing that isn’t providing the solution.  So with every failed experiment they actually get closer, through a process of ruling out, to the successful one and I think that is how we should view failure. Every time we fail or we make a mistake it’s giving us invaluable data for the next time that we try. You can use it in any area of life.  I went through a spurt of online dating in my late thirties and if I’d know that then, any time I had a failed date I would have said 'thank you for eliminating yourself from my enquiries because you are bringing me one step closer to the person who is right for me'.  It helps you understand what you actually need and it strips back any pretence. Failure is an incredible teacher if you let it be that role for you.

 

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You have been so brave in speaking out about fertility and miscarriage.  I remember when I was going through my own fertility issues how helpful it was to find other women speaking out about it.  What kind of response have you had after sharing your own story?

I’ve had an incredible response and I have to say Jenny, you are an incredibly important person for me along this path because when I was going through IVF you were the only other person I knew in real life who had gone through it. You provided me with such wonderful compassionate support and knowledge and I think many women are denied that. I have made it a bit of a mission to ensure that no woman feels lonely if they are going through it, that they can go somewhere where I would have written about it, or someone else will have written about it or someone else will have come on the podcast and talked about it and we gradually demystify  the stigma, the inappropriate stigma, and the completely unwarranted sense of failure that so many of us feel.  

In speaking up I found it tremendously cathartic because I felt less alone and more connected and I feel I belong to this community of incredible female warriors.  I get messages from mostly women and sometimes men, on a daily basis saying how much it means to them and how they feel seen so I feel that it's part of my life’s purpose. I feel really overwhelmed with gratitude for that and I won’t ever stop speaking about it.  I have definitely found their comments a comfort.  When I wrote Magpie, which has a fertility theme, I acknowledge all those people who have shared their stories with me because it means so much to me on a personal level and I believe, as a collective unit, we are making a powerful change.  

 

Thank you SO much for taking part in the 40 OVER 40 project Elizabeth.  Don't forget to check out Elizabeth's website which has links to all of her incredible books, links to her podcast and a shop to buy some very cool How to Fail merch - perfect for Christmas pressies!

 

 

My podcast Dear Hormones is available to download here.  Kate Bauss and I read letters from women sharing stories about all things hormone related.  Hopefully it will put a smile on your face and make you feel a lot less alone at the same time.
Dear HormonesDear Hormones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Michelle Griffith Robinson

November 17, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

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#4

Michelle Griffith Robinson

 

Michelle Griffith Robinsonby Jenny Smith

 

Let me introduce you all to the fabulous Michelle Griffith Robinson.  A former triple jump Olympian turned life coach, Michelle is now an ambassador for The Menopause Charity and has repeatedly spoken up about her own menopausal journey.  In fact, I first discovered Michelle whilst idly googling the menopause and came across a really open and honest account about her relationship with her husband and the affect the menopause has had on her libido.  It struck me that many people won't even discuss this with their partners, let alone go public in a national newspaper with the details and for this I hugely admire her. Without women like Michelle speaking up about the various issues we face, many of us would feel isolated and alone.

The Menopause Charity is working tirelessly to improve the lives of women.  Its mission statement is to bust myths, overcome ignorance, and make menopause symptoms history and Michelle works closely with the charity to make these things a reality.

There are some people you meet in life who you wish you'd known forever, and Michelle is one of those.  The welcome I felt when I turned up at her house was so warm and inviting, like she'd known me all my life.  I love people like that!  We had such a great chat during our session and being a life coach she imparted a few words of wisdom too.  In fact everything she said I wanted to write down and turn into my own personal mantra.

 

Michelle Griffith Robinsonby Jenny Smith

 

Michelle was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about this time in her life.

There is still such a stigma among many women about getting older.  What are your thoughts on the matter?  

The stigma around ageing in women is slowly changing as we are more visible across the board in life. There is still much needed work to be done to depict this across TV! 

 

What lessons did you learn from being an Olympian that serve you well now?

Some of the key lessons I have learnt as an Olympian are ‘you never give up’ and ‘whatever work you put in, you are able to draw on it at a later stage, trust the process’.

 

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Appreciate everything about your body.

 

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Has there been any particular highlight since turning 40?

The highlight since turning 40 was having my son when I was 13 days shy of 42 years old! Our bodies are definitely impressive.

 

How has your peri/menopausal journey been so far? 

My perimenopausal journey has been a journey of learning! As an ambassador for The Menopause Charity I am determined to keep learning and sharing to help others to navigate this journey. My words of wisdom are keep a journal of your journey!!

 

Sum yourself up in three words

Bold, authentic and kind.

 

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You're an ambassador for The Menopause Charity, how did this come about and what has it taught you about the menopause? 
 

Lorraine Candy who hosts the Postcards from Midlife podcast put my name forward which I am grateful for as I feel I can bring my own personal experience through the lens of a black woman to encourage others to share their experiences. 

 

Do you think being a life coach is helping you navigate your older years?  What words of wisdom do you have for women over 40?

It has been surprising how many myths are out there and how these myths act as barriers for women during this transition. Being a life coach has definitely allowed me to look into how I manage myself and found ways to circumnavigate this journey. My advice to women over 40 is to own who you are, remember your greatness and love YOU. Your experience should be championed!

If you are passionate about something go and get it and don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way, remember it’s one life enjoy it to the maximum. We are all a work in progress.

 

Huge thanks to Michelle for taking part in the 40 OVER 40 project.  Please check out my podcast Dear Hormones if you want to listen to other women sharing tales of when their hormones have got the better of them.  You'll laugh but you'll learn something too.  And keep your eyes peeled here for when I announce my next fabulous lady to take part.

Dear Hormones PodcastClick to listen

 

 

 

 

 


Carolyn Harris MP

November 12, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

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#3

Carolyn Harris MP

 

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It's not possible to talk about the menopause these days without mentioning the incredible work of Carolyn Harris MP who has finally managed to get the subject on the political agenda.  A bill has just been passed in parliament making HRT affordable for all by allowing women to only have to pay for one prescription over the course of a year rather than several payments each time they need a repeat prescription.  But the bigger picture of what this bill means is that a taskforce has been set up, co-chaired by Carolyn, where the menopause will get the attention it deserves.  

It was an absolute delight to meet and photograph Carolyn for this project.  She's is thoroughly down to earth and really has her finger on the pulse of what we, as a public, want from our politicians.  By her own admission, she is living proof that anyone can become a politician having once been a barmaid and dinner lady.  She's a great believer that politicians should have real life experience before moving into the field; she was 55 when she became an MP.

My aim for this project was to shine a light on inspiring women over the age of 40, especially those who are speaking up for menopause awareness.  Well, I don't think I could have wished for a better person to take part.  Thank you Carolyn and thank you for wearing that awesome fur coat too!

 

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Thanks for taking part on the 40 OVER 40 project and for all your hard work for menopause awareness.  Can you tell me how the HRT Bill came about?

We'd been looking at what we could do to improve the whole agenda around the menopause including workplace practices, doctor's training, women’s lack of knowledge about it and the fact that we’re sending kids out of school and they know nothing about what to expect.  Everything comes back to that really, if we were prepared at school age then we probably wouldn’t be as disadvantaged as we are now. I focused on HRT after talking to an English colleague who was paying for her HRT prescriptions, where as I’m welsh and I don’t pay for prescriptions at all.  It was a bit like putting the lightbulb on. The HRT Bill is only a tiny tiny bit about the menopause revolution but it was the bit that we could use to get the government to do something. It’s done what I wanted it to do which is to give the attention to the menopause full stop, so every time I’m asked about the HRT Bill I say it was never ever about free HRT it was about the political agenda and the social agenda and the economic agenda and everyone’s awareness about the menopause. 

 

What are the next steps?

We need to keep the momentum going and that will happen in two ways. One is that the government has put a task force in place which they’ve asked me to co-chair.  The way I see that working is that when government are making policy the menopause will be taken into consideration in any future policies going forward.  The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) will be looking at the bones of it if you like, we’re going to be looking at good workplace practices, looking at why medical schools don’t put it on the curriculum, we’re going to be looking at what kinds of things are we are telling our kids in schools about what to expect, we’re going to be talking about relationships and what happens to relationships when a partner appears to lose interest when in reality it’s the menopause. I want to talk to women who, like me, have been experiencing the menopause but not realising it and maybe like me who’ve been on antidepressants or they’ve been on medication for fibromyalgia but still not feeling any better and they go back to the doctor and get sent for more tests and then have medication for something else and nobody is saying hang on let's join the dots here, this may be the menopause. I want every workplace to recognises it, every woman to understand what she’s going through, every doctor and nurse in general practice and in private practice to have a knowledge of it and be able to diagnose and prescribe and have kids who, when they leave school, understand that there will come a time in their life when somebody close to them will experience this and what they need to do to deal with it.

 

Carolyn Harris MPby Jenny Smith

My mother never ever ever spoke to me about the menopause, I’ve said this umpteen times but I can remember her having a conversation with her sisters and I was told to leave the room and I was 36! They didn’t want to be talking about that kind of thing in front of me but that was what it was like then. Les Dawson taught me more about the menopause than anyone else when he was making fun of it saying he was on the change.  It was like something nobody spoke about and if you did speak about it you spoke about it in hushed tones.  Why do we pretend it’s not happening? Of course we’ve now had the private members bill and started the APPG, and then Davina McCall did her documentary and Penny Lancaster did her stuff and all of a sudden these women, who are actually in the spotlight who historically would be terrified to talk about the fact they were getting older because they’re in a business which doesn’t allow you to get old, are speaking up.  The reaction has been phenomenal.

 

What's your take on the ageing process?

I feel a lot better about it now.  I go through this whole thing where I think, what have you done with your life?  I think what’s going to be on my tombstone? And sometimes and think oh God I’ve never really done anything. I’ve got an interesting job but I’m not special in any way, it’s just that I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been in the right place at the right time. I worry that there are women out there who, like me, have got the basic skills but are not actually getting to use them because they feel 'I’m too old for this'.  I was a dinner lady and a barmaid, that’s how I started out, and I just think that there are loads of dinner ladies and barmaids and people who work in shops and factories who have got a fantastic story to tell, a fantastic ability who are really in touch with reality and we need more of those women to come forward and to actually start thinking about what it is that they can do to make life better for other people, and then age doesn’t matter, does it? It’s about using your experience. Life experience is the best university of life. So many people who are really well qualified academically have got no common sense at all so life experience is so important in making the right decisions in life and to treating life as a way of using your experience to make somebody else's life better.  That’s what I think about age, it’s the experience it gives you that gives you the skills to do wonderful things.  

 

Carolyn Harris MPby Jenny Smith

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I‘ve got terrible imposter syndrome, terrible, and even now I keep expecting someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and say you shouldn’t be here. I didn’t go to university until I was 34 and I think if I had my time over again I would be saying to myself you can do this and you are no worse than anyone else, you are just as good as everyone else. I’m brilliant at telling other people that but I’ve never been very good at telling myself that, I think I would be giving myself a talking to about how I can do these things because I’m as good as anyone else.

 

What advice do you have for young women who are considering a career in politics?

It can be a bloody horrible place, let’s make no mistake about it. Social media and the way people talk to politicians, especially women politicians is an absolute nightmare, it’s horrendous, but go out there and do something else first. Cut your teeth on working in a shop, working in a factory, working just a normal job.  You haven’t got to be from a section of society which is privileged and has all singing all dancing education and opportunities.  I think the best politicians are those who represent the people because they are OF the people. I know my constituency because I was born there, I was brought up there, I know the history of it because I’ve lived it and I would never have wanted to come into politics any earlier than I did because I think I brought with me a deeper understanding of what it’s like to live in Swansea East, I know all the problems that people experience. I’ve gone through times when I’ve worried about how I was going to pay the electricity bill and worried about when the phone bill is due and how are we going to pay for xmas, and it’s only then that you understand that you can really help the people you’re meant to be representing. Not telling people how to live, helping them. Never be afraid to do something else on the way to getting to your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being a waitress, if you want to be a doctor and being a waitress is going to get you there, brilliant.  Or you can be a waitress all your life and still be wonderful. 

 

Carolyn Harris MPby Jenny Smith

What are your thoughts on getting older?

Age doesn’t mean a thing when you’re aiming for the stars. If you get there when you’re 15 or you get there when you’re 105. If you’re meant to get there you will get there. Just use all the experience you were given.  

Thank you Carolyn for taking part in the 40 OVER 40 project.  To hear more about Carolyn's own experience of the menopause download my podcast, Dear Hormones, out on 23 November 2021.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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