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Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then I'll Begin with Christine Hayward
Episode 714th September 2023 • The Second Chapter • Slackline Productions
00:00:00 00:32:51

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Christie Hayward is living in two worlds- the one that she loves to reminisce about and share with audiences in her show, Memories of the Early 1950s, and the one where she’s checking things off her bucket list, including presenting the show at her first Edinburgh Fringe at age 77. 

And it’s not just performing- Christine is busy running a plant business alongside her husband, Keith, and as one of the reviews for her show said, she “stands as a testament to late-life aspirations”.

For more about Christine, go to http://poemsong.co.uk/

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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!

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Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then I'll Begin with Christine Hayward

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And it's not just performing. Christine is busy running a plant business alongside her husband, Keith, and as one of the reviews for her show said, she stands as a testament to late life aspirations.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

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[00:00:42] Christine: I am pretty knackered but that's to be expected when we're only three more days to go.

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[00:01:02] Christine: Yes, that was the 22nd. That was two days ago.

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[00:01:11] Christine: Yes,

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[00:01:28] Christine: right. I always look on the positive side and even if we only have one person in the audience, that person is really important and there have been days when we've had one person. There have been days when we've had no people but we've had seven. And that means that we can talk to each person and get their memories, share memories, and that has been really good.

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[00:01:59] Christine: I'm trying to enjoy the memories. The people that come are a lot. Most of them are, were young in the fifties as I was, and we appreciate the times that we had then. Even though we didn't have all the fancy technology then, we had good lives. People, children could play in the streets safely. They had groups that they played with.

They weren't all separate on their little mobile phones like, like children are now. It was it was good community. And we don't, we always end up by saying we don't envy the young people today, even though they've got their smartphones and their computers and central heating. We don't think that they are as happy as we were in the fifties.

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[00:02:51] Christine: For the first few years, I was born in Peterborough until I was about three, then we moved to a little town in Wales, Llandyfri, and we were there from when I was about four till I was ten, and then we moved to Stockport near Manchester.

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[00:03:22] Christine: I start off by saying to the audience, I say, Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. and that was how a children's program started on Listen With Mother or Watch With Mother. And so we talk about the music that we had then. And I do compare it with music that young people hear now and say that we had good tunes and good words in our songs in the 50s.

And I do a comparison with one or two bits of music now. And we had the radio, we listened to Uncle Mac's Children's Favourites on Saturday mornings. And it was a highlight of the week to hear all our favourite songs being put on the radio.

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[00:04:17] Christine: For the last 33 years that I've known my husband. We've had some holidays ourselves, but a lot of our holidays have been with Hart Male Voice Choir, the choir that he sings with. They might be long weekends, or it might be a few days away, and I went along as a wag, you know what

wags are?

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Nope. From podcaster, most of you probably know, but in case you don't wags are wives and girlfriends of famous typically athletes, but, um, That's what Christine is referring to.

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His wife is actually an accountant, and she's here at the Fringe in charge of all the money. I think dealing with millions of pounds every day,

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[00:05:27] Christine: She did write me an email today looking forward to going home at the end of next week, I think. So that's why I decided this year, because I'm getting a bit... Immobile. My hips are not good. My knees are not good. I've got a bad shoulder. And our accommodation here is on the top floor of student accommodations.

So it seems to be about a hundred steps that I have to negotiate going in and out. So it's I don't think I'd be able to do it again.

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[00:06:03] Christine: Yeah. A lot of the young people that I'm meeting on the Royal Mile, they're there with their leaflets. So I stop and I give them one of my leaflets and I say, did you get a good audience last night? And they say, yes, I had a hundred. And I say, yeah. And we chat away, and I give them the line about, please talk to your parents, your grandparents.

They're, they are your history. They want to talk to you about how they made the world better in the early 50s, after the Second World War, and we still had rationing, and they wanted the world to be better, and they want their children to know that. And then I do say to these young people, I say, in 50 years time, what will you be telling your grandchildren about?

and the grandchildren might have their little pet robot as a security guard, and the robot might say, what was the fringe? And one young man, he said we might not be here in 50 years time. The way the climate's going,

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[00:06:58] Christine: Ian, et cetera, et cetera.

It's lovely talking to them because they do actually take an interest in what I'm doing.

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[00:07:17] Christine: Yeah. Yeah. We I don't want to come again. I shouldn't say this, should I? But it's a once in, like a bucket list, it's a once in a lifetime. It's traveling on the Orient Express. No, I shouldn't say that because I actually worked for the Orient Express. And

so I went on all the trips.

So I've done that.

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So I want to know more about both of those things.

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[00:07:52] Kristin: I always think of the options for the longest time for women and now it's much broader obviously, but for a long time it seemed like you could be a secretary, you could be a nurse, you could be a teacher.

And I don't know if that was your experience.

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[00:08:17] Kristin: And how did you end up on the Orient Express?

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What sort of band do you want? What sort of flowers do you want on the table? And are you printing your own menus? And then I'd tell the chef, and I'd tell the bar, and I'd tell everybody in the hotel what these people wanted. And it was a really busy job.

It was very busy and interesting because, of course, I met all sorts of people having all their functions and meetings and and I was still living with my parents at the time, and then I decided that I wanted to move away. I came and worked in Walton on Thames. No, Weybridge to begin with. Weybridge.

There's a big hotel in Weybridge called the Oatlands Park Hotel, which I think was built by Henry VIII. And I was a manager's secretary there for a few years. Anyway Secretary Rob's moved on. I moved to Walton on Thames and got a flat, and that's when I joined the Operatic Society.

When I met Keith, we were both in our forties. I was 42 and he was 40, I think. And he saw me in a musical show, and he's got a couple of friends that... I happen to know as well that this married couple were for years were trying to marry him off and they would invite him around to supper and there'd be another woman there and he kept meeting all these women that he wasn't really interested in.

nyway, I knew this couple at [:

It was brilliant tat which showed off all my wares and I got a big wee, anyway, Keith was in the audience and he could see me on stage . And anyway, afterwards, the two friends collected him from the seat and they said, oh, come into the bar, there's somebody we want you to meet.

And he thought, oh, it's gonna be another bloody woman, isn't it? And he came in the bar and he saw me and he looked me up and down and he thought, I think that's the bit of stuff I liked on the stage, . And I said I'll have to return the compliment and come to one of your choir concerts.

And he said, oh, be my guest and I'll give you roast dinner, a roast lamb dinner before the Christmas concert. So that was how we met.

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[00:11:06] Christine: Yeah that was where it started. Yeah. Sorry, that was nothing to do, really, with music, but there we are.

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[00:11:30] Christine: No, they weren't. No I wasn't really interested. I got my flat when I could afford to rent a flat. I didn't have much money, but I thought, no, getting a flat is important. This is going to be me for the rest of my life. And I couldn't afford much furniture. I had a mattress on the floor in the bedroom because I couldn't afford a bed.

I had my clothes in piles round on the floor until I could afford a small wardrobe. And eventually I bought a cooker and eventually I bought a carpet and I really enjoyed. Saving and making the money for them rather than just expecting things . And I gradually got it and then the right to buy came in.

So I was able to buy the flat for, I think it was 13, 000. I was about 30 then. And then when I met Keith and I moved in with him, we sold the flat for, I think, 55, 000. So that was a nice little profit. So it was worth the money. It was worth being careful all those years about money.

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Whereas it sounds like when Keith came along, it just happened to be the right person at the right time versus

Feeling the need to get married.

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Hmm.

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[00:13:20] Christine: Yeah, I did get paid when I did my, when I show. My accompanist didn't want any money. Because she she had no problems with money. She had a big house. And at that time her husband was alive and he had a really good job. So they were very well off. And she did it because she enjoyed it. So whatever fee we got, I kept.

Which which was nice. But we did all different topics. So one topic was the history of the musical, where I talked about a lot of detail of musical that generally people don't know, or Christmas past and present. So the traditional Christmas stocking, rather than laptops and things that you get now in the stocking, I talked about the traditional little things that we had in the stocking.

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[00:14:22] Christine: Yeah. A man this morning in my audience today, he said, It's the only time of year I got an orange in the Christmas stocking.

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[00:14:39] Christine: Yeah. And one of the songs I do in this program here at The Fringe is Little Things Mean a Lot. And it's, I find it very moving every time I sing it. Touch my hair when you pass my chair, Yeah, love, yeah. And Keith does that and my hairband falls off and yeah.

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[00:14:58] Christine: Yeah.[00:15:00] Keith is 82. And people say to us, I'm thinking of retiring and I'm nodding and he's shaking his head. he wants to just go on until we drop. So that's it.

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So I would rather say what, I would rather say what's next. And I know you were mentioning that you had a horticultural business.

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whatever problems they have, we are always there for them.

When somebody phones, as they often do, they say, very hesitantly, Is that erm? Is that Hart Kanner? And I always say, yes, this is the real me. It's not a computer, it's not a, what do you call it, a drop something. And I always say, this is the real me. And I always get a laugh. And that always, sets us off on the right foot.

And then they usually have the same question, My cannas didn't survive the winter. And I say, Join the club. it's interesting. The flowers are lovely. We've got a big garden in Farnborough. And and I'm potting up and doing things with the cannas all the time. And we've got a nursery at Bisley, which is two and a half acres.

And so we've got, I think, seven or eight poly tunnels there. I'm not sure if Keith can hear what I'm saying, but he'll probably, no, I think he might have fallen asleep. Anyway, so we've got all these polytunnels full of all these different varieties, and we sell by mail order. And I am the packing department, so orders come in on emails, and I print the order, and I enter the money on the spreadsheet, and I ask Keith to bring canners back from the nursery, and then I...

I bag them all up and I put them into bags and I label them and then I put the sack over my shoulder and take them to the post office and post them.

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[00:17:28] Christine: yeah, there's a charity called Plant Heritage and all collection holders are part of Plant Heritage and we have a booklet every year about all the different collections. We started collecting before I met Keith, he started collecting camas and he just built up his stocks and then he realized that there wasn't a really good supplier of the more unusual camas and so he was collecting and building up and then he thought let's turn it into a business.

So that started at about:

But the thing was that the celebrity that opened the marquee was Penelope Keith and she chose our stand for the publicity photographs.

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[00:18:34] Christine: because we had beautiful flowers and she decided to have her photos taken amongst our beautiful flowers. There you are.

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[00:18:43] Christine: We put canners in black plastic pots and black plastic pots should be totally hidden. We also had them in neat rows. And they should not be in neat rows. One has to be artistic, and we weren't. We just had neat rows of beautiful flowers. And there we are. We didn't get any brownie points at all. But we have had, no, we have had a few gold medals. We did learn.

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[00:19:13] Christine: They get they get covered up and we always have a theme. One year we'd been to Argentina to see cannas growing in the wild. And then when we came back, we did our stand on the theme of an Argentinian garden

we've stopped exhibiting because it meant getting up at 4. 30 in the morning and getting to bed at 11 o'clock at night. And on the way home I'd be checking all the money and sorting out the float for the next day and then early in the morning we'd go to the nursery to pick up more stocks to replenish what we'd sold the day before and it, it's exhausting so we've stopped doing that.

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[00:19:48] Christine: still

ers because one has not been [:

[00:20:04] Kristin: I just was noticing how my front garden has really suffered this summer because I've been away a lot with my partner working in Budapest for the summer. So I think I'll have to make sure to go on your website in November and start looking for some things to maybe replenish the front garden, though I probably will end up being one of the people contacting you and going

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do with them now? In every order I always put a sheet of paper which is cultivation notes, and a sheet of paper which is the frequently asked questions. And it basically tells you how to kill your canners in two easy lessons. But no, it tells you all the good things to do. Now some people do all the right things, and if a plant wants to die, it'll die.

Some people do all the wrong things, and they get wonderful plants. There's a lot of luck in it. But when they do flower for you, they're lovely and bright.

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[00:21:01] Christine: People contact us. We don't advertise. My accompanist, Margaret. She loves playing the piano, but she decided a few years ago that her eyesight was not so good and her fingers were not working quite so well. And she just said, I'd really like to cut down and then lockdown happened.

In fact, it was a good time because that meant that we didn't get any inquiries.

So we didn't have to keep turning people down. I traveled with her and she, if needed be, she put the keyboard in the back of her car because she got a big swish car, and we'd go with her keyboard and then set it up, do our hours program with no microphone, no special costume, just, we just went into the room full of people, but Care homes I like particularly because many years ago I was at a care home and I was talking about springtime, spring cleaning, and I said to the audience, so what's the difference between a dolly and a posse?

And there was silence. And then a lady started talking in the audience, chatting on, and the people around her said shush, shush, But the staff were really excited because she hadn't talked for years. And I triggered her to start talking again. And I'll never forget that. That was many years ago.

And then there was another care home that I went to. And every afternoon they had an entertainment. And one very elderly gentleman came down with a little wheelie trolley. Those little triangular ones. And he would come down and he was very deaf and he couldn't see very well. So he never spoke to anybody.

He just came in every afternoon to whatever the entertainment was. And he sat in his armchair and at the end, he just got up and toddled off without speaking to anyone. Anyway, I did a lovely poem called Three Apons a Foot. Do you know that one?

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[00:22:53] Christine: by Mariette Edgar. I'll have to tell you a couple of verses, otherwise you won't get the story.

So I was doing this poem that started, I'll tell you an old fashioned story that grandfather used to relate of a builder and shipping contractor. His name, it was Sam Ogleswaite. In a shop on the banks of the Earlwell, old Sam used to follow his trade in a place you'll have heard of called Bury.

Where black puddings is made. Anyway, I did this poem, and at the end of this poem, this little chap in his chair, he said, when I was a lad, he said, when I was a lad, I stayed with my auntie. She had a cottage on the bank of the Ewa, and we had black pudding every day. And she took me into Burry to the swimming pool.

And, everybody in the room looked at him and thought, he talks, and it was wonderful, to hear him chatting away, remembering when he was a lad. Ah, so very rewarding. I really miss doing those entertainments because they were very rewarding.

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[00:24:04] Christine: Yes, I think so. Yes. In fact, I had, I put an advert in the U three, a magazine called Third Age Matters in June. And the next day I had a phone call from someone in a town very near to Farmborough. He said, I'd like you to come to my U three A group. We have 80 in the audience, and we'd like to have your program that you're doing at the Fringe.

for two years time, December,:

[00:24:32] Kristin: That's very good advanced notice. You'll be able to, let me just mark my diary.

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[00:24:53] Kristin: You mentioned some of your favorite experiences working in care homes, specifically those two that basically spoke when [00:25:00] they weren't speaking. What do you think's been the best experience you've had performing at the Fringe?

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And he'd got tears in his we all had tears in our eyes. It, it was a lovely moment. They've, everybody has got stories to tell and memories, even though I knew about the Fog of London to hear about a man who was a little boy there who was there, and he could remember it as if it was yesterday.

Oh, magic audiences. They're lovely.

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And I do think there's something to be said about just honoring people's stories.

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Or didn't anybody else want it?

And I thought, hey, and my niece, I've got a niece who's coming here tomorrow, actually, to see the show. And I sang at her wedding. And my parents were both in wheelchairs, just in front of me when I was singing. And they didn't react at all. They never said anything afterwards. I did a couple of really lovely songs.

And and they never said anything afterwards at all. Which I thought was such a shame that they couldn't. Couldn't admire anything I did. I was always useless.

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[00:28:01] Christine: Yeah. Yes, it is very rewarding.

I always look on the bright side. And my husband is from Yorkshire and he looks on the downside, he talked to our audience today when we finished and he said, Oh, we've had days when we've had nobody in the audience.

And I said, No, that's not what you tell people that have actually paid to come,

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[00:28:32] Christine: Yeah. So I keep looking out thinking, I'm visualizing a bigger audience, so if they do come in the next three days, oh, I'm ready for them. Yeah, I'm ready for them.

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[00:28:55] Christine: Yes, I can sing a bit of a song because I do one unaccompanied.

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[00:29:00] Christine: I am dreaming of the mountains of my home, of the mountains where in childhood I would roam. I have dwelt near southern skies where the summer never dies, but my heart is in the mountains of my home. I can see the little homestead on the hill. I can hear the gentle murmur of the rill. There is nothing to compare with the love that once was there in my lovely little homestead on the hill.

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[00:29:40] Christine: That is called My Little Welsh Home.

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[00:29:53] Christine: Good, good.

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[00:29:58] Christine: The thing I've written [00:30:00] down about what I do is that the audience people are more important than me. And what I do, it's the audience who are the important ones.

I really don't feel that I'm important. It's they are important and if I can draw that outta them, then that gives me great reward.

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I have one question for you that my audience will definitely be interested to hear. And that is if someone is considering a big change, whether it's, changing their career or taking a show to the fringe as a bucket list thing. What would your advice be?

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Follow your dream. Try your dream. Have a go.

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[00:31:23] Christine: but certainly age and immobility has to come into that certainly where I'm concerned.

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[00:31:43] Christine: Yeah. Yeah.

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and thanks to Keith. Thank him for his technical prowess

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[00:32:09] Kristin: And thank you and best of luck for the last three days. You've got

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