The first two decades were spent pretty much in transit. As a doctor’s daughter we were on the move a fair bit to wherever the next hospital placement would be.  From America to Wales and onto South London, my friendships were often short lived in those early years.

I tried to avoid getting too close to too many people, as in the back of my mind I knew that at some point I may have to say goodbye.

So instead I chose to invest all of my time and energy into one or two BEST friends and perhaps two or three other really GOOD friends. 

They were the ones who I giggled with at school, passed notes across the desk to, practiced dance and make up routines with at home, went shopping with, cried on their shoulders over various failed relationships and told all my inner secrets to. They provided the fun, the laughter and the drama which most of us I’m sure will have experienced along the way. 

Now I’m sure I have mentioned in some of my previous blogs, that I unfortunately lost one of these really good friends, in our last year of university. The effect of that sudden loss, has haunted me to this day.   

It further compounded my cautious nature. I constantly avoided becoming too close to people, because the fear of losing someone else or having to yet again say goodbye, was too much to bear.

Thankfully, not long after that, I met my husband, who became my best friend too and slowly through 26 years of marriage, he has helped heal a lot of my wounds and given me the security and the courage to branch out, reconnect and trust in my female friendships again. 

I grew to understand that saying goodbye and losing people dear to us was sadly just part of life. Something that didn’t just affect me obviously, but anyone and everyone.

In my married life and through our children I have been fortunate to make some really wonderful girlfriends along the way. 

I still have my inner insecurities providing a voice in one ear warning me not to get too close, but I have become a lot better at trying to ignore that voice and live in the here and now.  After all, none of us have the luxury of knowing how long a friendship or indeed a life will last.

The power of female friendship cannot be underestimated. Girlfriends come in all shapes and sizes, and we choose to have them in our life to compliment our own personalities – like little missing pieces of a not quite finished jigsaw puzzle.  

There will usually be a few fairly obvious stereotypes in each group; The confident, popular, pretty, outgoing one who will always be first on the dance floor and never without a boyfriend. The shy, quiet, understated, sensible one we all go to for advice.  The comedienne whose job it is to entertain, leaving us permanently in fits of giggles, the gym bunny whose figure you can only ever dream of and makes you feel guilty every time you reach for that slice of cake and the one who is full of insecurities, and lacking in self confidence, who slots in somewhere in between them all!

So often we hear the phrase ‘friends are the family we choose for ourselves’.  But for me, if I’ve learnt one thing along my journey into midlife, it is that there are friends, there is family and then there are friends that become family. 

The latter are exceptionally rare to come by. And when they do, hold onto them tight and never let them go.  These are the ones that know you inside and out, warts and all, through thick and thin. They will forever support you, lift you up, go to the ends of the earth to be there for you and will always have your back.

I will never forget the opening line of my father’s speech on my wedding day.  He told a packed room full of friends and family that he was a very wealthy man – there was an audible gasp in the room at his arrogant opening statement. Thankfully, once they allowed him to get to the end of his sentence, they soon realised they had been too quick to judge.

‘My wealth’, he said, ‘is like a tightly-woven tapestry. It can be measured by the intricately intertwined patterns that represent a life full of good friends and family.’  

It took me a few minutes to understand where he was going with that opener, but now, when I look back at my own life so far, I can totally relate to where he was coming from. 

The only difference for me is that I like to look at my tapestry as a shawl that has similarly beautiful patterns woven within it. 

Some may be faded and in places gone for good. But I know they were there.

And the ones that remain I will take with me and continue to wrap myself in, as I step into the next chapter of my life. 

So ladies, forget about diamonds being a girl's best friend. As far as I’m concerned, best friends are more precious than any gemstone that may come your way!

I also have decided to announce some breaking news..... after 40 years i’ve finally braved wearing a bikini!.

Sadly I’m not on holiday on some tropical island, but never the less, It’s totally liberating and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the body confidence to do it, I’m ashamed to say (don’t tell me off!).

However the phrase; ‘this life is not a dress rehearsal’, popped into my head about half an hour ago and it suddenly dawned on me, if not now, when?!

So here I am aged 51, lying in all my glory, scars from 4 c-sections, 1 hysterectomy, a gallbladder and hernia op mostly hidden away, not caring what anyone else thinks I look like - well only the dog can see me right now, so all is good!

But tell me.....Is this the first step towards turning into one of those sweary, rebellious oaps who have no filter perhaps? (I do hope so!).

Meanwhile if anyone else is looking for some flattering 40/50 yr old plus swimwear, I have finally found two companies, who make fab bikinis cut for us midlife women, that don’t make us look like we are trying to fish out some dental floss from our nether regions!: Thankyou Pour Moi & Fig Leaves.

Enjoy the sunshine all!

As I walk down the hill, I pass my local beautician and I stop and smile at the sweet notices she has displayed in her windows, next to the closed sign:

Andra tutto Bene, Italian for; 'Everything will be fine'

 

I pass my local dress shop, which I've been meaning to pop in to, over the last few months, to buy a dress for my niece's wedding, but as ever, wanted to wait until I'd lost a bit more weight.

I shed a silent tear at the realisation that my niece, who I absolutely love and adore, has had to postpone her May wedding, which she's been planning for the last 18 months, until a date in the future, when we can all celebrate properly and show her the love we have for her and her gorgeous fiancé.

I walk past my local corner shop, which has a small note on the door saying 'only one person at a time please'.

I hear an eerie creaking sound somewhere above me, and I look up to see our local estate agent's shop sign, swinging back and forwards in the gentle breeze - the sound reminds me of one of those old western movies, when you hear the bar saloon door creaking back and forwards, as a piece of tumbleweed blows past, just before guns are drawn for a shoot-out.

I arrive at the park to what now looks like a crime scene.

The playground is sealed off by police tape stating 'Caution, do not enter'.

The outdoor gym is decorated in a similar fashion and the brand new beautiful nursery and coffee shop, now have their shutters tightly locked down.

There's an air of impending doom surrounding the park. Suddenly i don't feel safe anymore and desperately want to go back home.

There are two old ladies sitting on a bench in the distance 2 meters apart, one leaning on her stick, the other rummaging in her Sainsbury's shopping bag looking for something.  I sadly take a wide berth to give them plenty of space to keep them safe from me, just in case I could potentially be a non-symptomatic carrier.

I shout over to ask if they are ok and ask if they need any help.  If it wasn't so sad, it could almost be a Catherine Tate sketch. They both fiddle with their hearing aids, look bewilderingly at each other and ask me to speak up.

There are 4 other people here. We are all walking a good 10 meters apart, one in front of each other, heads down, hands in pockets walking around the perimeter of the park as if we are prison in-mates circling the courtyard.

I'm conscious I've been out for 20 mins and should return home from my daily allowance.

As I walk back up the hill I pass a bus with the sign; 'no service' on its front window.

I see a man whistling and clipping his front hedges.

Another man fixing his bike outside the closed pub.

I hear a helicopter whirring over head.

The birds chirping more loudly than ever before.

The sky is bright blue and the sun is shining.

On any other day it would have been a gorgeous walk.

But it's no ordinary day and I feel a sense of relief as I let myself back into the house.

My teens are finally out of bed.

My oldest daughter is working at the dining room table, opposite my husband who is also working.

I can hear one of my boys composing a new song on his guitar, he's now turned his bedroom into a make shift recording studio!.

One is sitting in bed writing a blog for his football team.

And the other is slumped on the couch with headphones on, learning lines for a new play he's rehearsing for.

I'm so relieved they all have so far, been able to find things that they can fill their time with at home, when I know for most of our kids the boredom and loss of freedom is going to hit them hard soon.

I feel grateful for everything I have. Everything I have taken for granted.

A home, a family, food in my fridge and good health.

Yes I miss my parents, and my extended family and friends already and I feel desperate sadness for those that don't have the simple basic human needs that I am lucky enough to currently have. I want to help them all, but I know I can't right now.

Although I feel total and absolute sadness for our new reality, I also feel a sense of calm and peace today. I've been anxious and tied up in knots for two weeks now, but like any form of shock, I think i'm slowly adjusting to our new way of living.

Like all of us, I am eternally grateful to all of our NHS staff who are putting their own lives at risk, to save ours. To the emergency services who will be trying to keep us all safe too. And to the school teachers who are taking care of our key workers' children, to the shopkeepers, delivery drivers and pharmacists, who I will never, ever take for granted, ever again.  We all owe you ALOT.

And a note to all of you out there.  If you are worried about anything, during this very difficult time, please keep checking your local government and health care websites for updates. 

And remember you can always come to our Facebook Group to share your feelings, stories and hopefully some uplifting posts too, so there is no reason to ever feel disconnected or alone.  

Be safe. Be well. xxx

You can read the full piece, online here.

Enjoy!

Joining Liz and Katie after, for a panel discussion and q & a’s, were the CEO of The Eve Appeal, Athena Lamnisos, along with some of The Latte Lounge website advisors and bloggers:

Menopause GP, Dr Louise Newson, Founder of The Menopause Support Network – Diane Danzebrink, Director of Jo Divine – Samantha Evans and Author of My Menopausal Vagina – Jane Lewis.

The morning was very well attended by members of The Latte Lounge Facebook Group as well as being streamed via Facebook Live to over 16,000 women.

Guests enjoyed a delicious breakfast at The Grove Hotel and won some amazing raffle prizes too. Liz ended the mornings proceedings with a book signing and all guests were given a copy of The Liz Earle Well-being Yearbook, Volume 2 to take home. In the afternoon, everyone was able to enjoy the luxurious Grove Hotel Spa facilities and relaxed in the tranquil countryside setting.

Commenting on this LATTE LOUNGE LIVE, Katie Taylor said:

“We were so thrilled to be holding our Live Latte Lounge with Liz Earle, who is someone I have always admired for many years.  I am so grateful to her (and to all of our speakers) for giving up her time to come and help us celebrate our 3rd birthday and raise money for The Eve Appeal too.

Thanks also to The Grove Hotel and our other sponsors Sylk, TENA and Become for enabling us to host this event in such a stunning venue.

Last year we held our inaugural Live Lounge, hosted by Andrea McLane, to celebrate our 2nd birthday and to launch our website.  I can’t believe how much we have achieved in such a short space of time.

Like Andrea and myself, Liz has also shared a very similar journey, when it came to being slightly taken by surprise with what we all know now were peri menopause symptoms.  So I was absolutely delighted when she agreed to come along and help me host this very special day, knowing how much she could relate to everything we are all striving to do to support women through midlife and beyond.

Our Facebook Group grown from strength to strength in this past year, with over 16,000 members now.  And also our year old website has also become an incredibly useful and much loved landing page and stand alone resource for all midlife women both on and off our Facebook Group.

In this past year, we also launched, what is now, a very successful Instagram account, a monthly Latte Lounge Podcast on Radio Gorgeous, and a regular monthly members newsletter.  We really feel we have become a 360 degree platform supporting so many women in so many different ways.

This could not be possible without my incredible team of admins,

our brilliant medical and legal advisors and our wellbeing bloggers and experts who all support the website and our members day in day out.”

Liz Earle said:

“I am delighted to be able to support this Latte Lounge event in aid of The Eve Appeal, The UK's Gynaecological Cancer Research Charity. From mid-life wellbeing and gut health to happier hormones and the menopause, and am look forward to sharing the wisest ways I have found to look good and feel better than ever.”

The Grove Spa Director, Jamie Pagan said:

“We are pleased to support such a vibrant Facebook Group on what is their third anniversary. The panel of guest speakers attending on the day, including Liz Earle, will provide specialist wellbeing advice enriching the lives of all fortunate enough to attend the event. We look forward to hosting which will be a great day.”

Sylk Natural UK said:

"Only a third of menopausal women will seek medical help for vaginal dryness. There's still a stigma around women using lubricants and it's time we change that. Events like this shine a spotlight on the Menopause Journey and encourage open and honest conversation around the symptoms which can be hugely debilitating for some. Well done to The Latte Lounge for championing the Mid-Life Woman.”

Become said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to be working with the Latte Lounge and supporting The Eve Appeal. With over 10 million women struggling with menopause symptoms (including hot flushes and night sweats) at any one time in the UK, we believe it is crucial to transform how modern women talk about, think about and take on their menopause. Events like this absolutely support these goals.”

The event was very generously sponsored by:

The Grove Hotel and Country Club, Sylk Natural UK, Tena Lady and Become.

Raffle & Goody Bag prizes/gifts had been kindly donated by:

Liz Earle MBE, Sylk Natural UK, TENA, Become, Healthspan, Erica Harel, hhdesigns, abacus foods and Philip Kingsley Hair.

ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS:

KATIE TAYLOR & THE LATTE LOUNGE

Katie is the CEO & Founder of The Latte Lounge. She set up this online midlife platform for Women Over 40 after suffering from debilitating peri-menopause symptoms at the age of 45 and is now passionate about supporting, signposting and celebrating all women in midlife by providing them with a forum that offers easy to understand, helpful, professional and trustworthy information.

Email: Katie@lattelounge.co.uk

ATHENA LAMNISOS & THE EVE APPEAL

Athena Lamnisos is the Chief Executive of The Eve Appeal - The only UK national charity raising awareness and funding research into the five gynaecological cancers – womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal.

For further information, please Tel: 020 7605 0151

or Email: athena.lamnisos@eveappeal.org.uk

LIZ EARLE MBE

Liz Earle MBE is a wellbeing entrepreneur, TV presenter and the number one bestselling author of over 35 books on a range of health, beauty and wellbeing topics.  These include her latest bestsellers The Good Menopause Guide and The Good Gut Guide. A global brand pioneer, Liz co-founded (but is no longer connected to) the multi-award winning Liz Earle Beauty Co., before moving on to launch Liz Earle Wellbeing. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine (published internationally by Hearst), Founder of Liz Earle Fair and Fine, an award-winning range of Fairtrade gold botanical jewellery and the host of the popular Wellness with Liz Earle weekly podcast.

Please note: Liz Earle MBE Photo credit: Georgia Glynn Smith

DR LOUISE NEWSON

Louise is a GP, menopause specialist and director of the Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon. She is also passionate about improving knowledge about safe prescribing of HRT.

DIANE DANZEBRINK

Diane Danzebrink is a Menopause Counsellor, psychotherapist & wellbeing consultant with professional nurse training in menopause. She created the #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign calling for mandatory GP education in menopause which has 25k signatures to date.

SAMANTHA EVANS

Samantha Evans is co-founder of online sex toy retailer Jo Divine https://www.jodivine.com/. As a former nurse, sexual health and pleasure expert and menopausal woman, she has written extensively about sex and the menopause and advises women and their partners about practical ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure.

JANE LEWIS

Jane Lewis, who is 52, suffers with vaginal atrophy ( the hush hush of menopause), admins a support group & has co-written “Me & My Menopausal Vagina “ with her daughter Penny.

ABOUT OUR SPONSORS:

THE GROVE HOTEL

Set in 300 acres of stunning Hertfordshire countryside, The Grove is the ultimate five star retreat. Lovingly restored, the former home of the Earls of Clarendon is situated just 18 miles from London, and is home to an award winning spa, championship golf course and mouth-watering restaurants.

SYLK

Sylk is an intimate, plant-based moisturising lubricant that provides immediate relief from vaginal dryness. A water-soluble, pH friendly lubricating gel, Sylk’s female-friendly formula is kind and gentle to sensitive tissues.

TENA

TENA provides incontinence products to people of all ages to enable them to continue to live an active life. Trusted by millions TENA is the global leader in the incontinence market.  Offering products that help manage urinary incontinence throughout the day and night. For over 60 years TENA has been creating discreet and effective solutions for this surprisingly common, yet infrequently talked about, condition

The TENA range for women includes:

Lights by TENA

Discreet Liners that lock away moisture through its 5 in 1 freshness™.

TENA Woman

A range of liners, pads, pants and incontinence underwear that are discreet with a comfortable fit and built in triple protection™ against leak odours and moisture.

BECOME

Female led, FemTech Company Become™ is an innovative brand working to break barriers surrounding the menopause. We provide groundbreaking solutions to alleviate hot flushes and night sweats through our patent-pending Anti-Flush Technology™.

Our research, feedback and reviews prove we are helping to change the lives of women around the world with our range of intelligent, every day apparel.

Our product works in four unique ways:

It cools the skin - The soft, lightweight fabric is made with a flat thread and knitted on a cross section to maximise surface area to transfer warmth away from the body. Tiny channels in the material drive away heat and encourage cooling.
It wicks moisture - The fabric has two innovative coatings. The first works in much the same way as skin. As body heat begins to rise, it works hard to bring the temperature down by evaporating moisture away.

It releases heat back: The second fabric coating absorbs and stores the heat from the surface of the skin during a hot flush or night sweat, then releases it back during the chill that follows. This helps maintain a stable body temperature and lessens fluctuation.
It reduces odour: Our hi-tech fabric also controls odour. Traditionally used for extreme sportswear, an anti-microbial finish creates a barrier between the bacteria and the fabric, immobilising the odour source and locking it in.

www.webecome.co.uk

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