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

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

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


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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


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.


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.


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.


wags are?


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.


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,


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.


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,


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


so I went on all the trips.

So I've done that.


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


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


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.

[:[: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.


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.

[:[:ers because one has not been [:[:[:

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.


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?


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.

[:[:for two years time, December,:[:[:[:[:

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.


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


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.


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,


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.


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?


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


and thanks to Keith. Thank him for his technical prowess


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