Dear Miss Sixty….

Dear Miss Sixty,

Is sixty the new forty?



Dear Orange-is-the-new-black,

Firstly, I don’t really go with this whole things-being-new-other-things thing. Orange is not the new black. Sixty is not the new forty – sixty is just fine as it is.

I’ll concede that it is a bit of a milestone age. It does require something of a rethink on some levels. All those advertisements featuring smiley grey-haired people aimed at the ‘Over Sixties’…. They’re suddenly for us. Good grief. Life insurance, funeral planning, walk-in baths…whole unimagined vistas hove into view.  Facebook has been urging me for quite a while to discover the Anti-Wrinkle Treatment That Dermatologists Don’t Want You To Know, and illustrating it with curious pictures of an obviously young woman peeling off layers of cling film.

And I know, I just know, that women of the generations before ours will read this, and other comments like it, with gently raised eyebrows. Just as nowadays I read about the pain of journalists (usually) facing some huge, unexpected age -thirty, say – and lamenting their fading youth. Come on, girlies, is what I want to say – and would say, given half a chance. Get a grip. I recently read an article by someone called Nicola Mostyn in the Big Issue.  She listed her woes: hangovers more epic than the night before, hasn’t listened to any new music since 1998, only bends down to pick up things which are really important…. ‘These days,’ she says, ‘if I try to cajole myself into working hard, I immediately want a cup of hot chocolate and an early night. I can only presume that my biology is readying me for retirement, where the ability to be happily indolent counts as an evolutionary edge.’ Gosh, Nicola. That blythe comment about retirement does give a clue….Nicola is thirty nine.  Bless, I hear some of you saying…. but not me. Not Miss Sixty. My chilly and reproachful gaze would freeze Nicola’s blood should she ever be so foolish as to venture into my field of vision.

So, Orange-is-the-new-black, I think we’ve sorted that out. Please find another, better name, and a much better question, before you write again.

Dear Miss Sixty,

I’m a hard-working baroness who recently resigned from a job as Minister for Equalities because of my government’s policy on Gaza. Now I read in the press that I had delusional beliefs in my own abilities, and resigned because I hadn’t been promoted in Cameron’s reshuffle. This is seemingly being put about by my erstwhile colleagues. Is this fair? Baroness W

Dear Baroness W,

No, probably not. It’s not always easy to feel very much sympathy for Tories, even (and perhaps especially) Northern and non-white Tories, who, one feels, should somehow just know better, when their erstwhile colleagues savage them.  I did read, however, that it wasn’t your gender or race that most alienated David Cameron, but your Yorkshireness.  This is clearly a good thing, therefore, and something you should work on.

Dear Miss Sixty,

Is there a Mr. Sixty? SY

Dear SY,

Of course not.

[Editor’s note: Miss Sixty is, of course, both happy and competent to also deal with queries from male readers, and welcomes their letters.]

Dear Miss Sixty,

Helen Mirren, twerking? Has the world gone mad?  Appalled, Nottingham.

Dear Appalled, Nottingham,

Well, I’m with you up to a point. And if it was, say, Anne Widdecombe, or Julie Goodyear, or even Ann Diamond, then I would be very concerned indeed. But we’re talking here about Helen Mirren. Leave aside the fabulous over-sixty-bikini-shot. She seems to win awards every year, and consistently turns up on the red carpet looking marvellous and waving statuettes around. I do like her. So, in my opinion, if she deems a little twerking to be appropriate, then who are we – who are any of us – to judge her?

Miss Sixty replies in brief:

Janie G – There’s always a balance to be struck between positive thinking and, bluntly, stupidity. I’ll say no more than that.

Susan – I’m fairly sure from your letter that Radio 2 is at the heart of this.  Why not try tuning to Radio Hereford instead? Good luck.

S D-M – That’s very kind of you. We do our modest best.




Dear Miss Sixty,

My partner wants us to go on holiday to Guernsey  this year, as we always do. I, however, would like to go somewhere different – I just don’t know where.  Where would you go? HY

Dear HY,

Good for you. Travel is nearly always good. But choosing a destination can be tricky. While there’s a lot to think about, the main consideration, in my view, should always be the temperature. I can see the temptation of sitting in the shade beside a deep blue swimming pool with a gently fizzing glass of lemonade beside you, and a copy of ‘Middlemarch’ open on your lap, but the point is that you do have to leave the swimming pool sometime. And when you do, things can go downhill very quickly. Hair plastered to head, perspiration running down nose, causing sunglasses to slide off, sarong clinging to legs, suntan lotion squidging between toes, freckles threatening to join up….It’s all best avoided.

This therefore rules out most of Europe, Africa and Asia. The United States is also extremely hot. It may be winter in Australia, but it’s currently recording the same temperature as Rome. We are left, I think, with a choice between Scandinavia and Scotland. And there are midges in Scotland.

Stockholm, HY.


Dear Miss Sixty,

I see that Madonna has made her contribution to peace in the Middle East by being photographed with two male dancers, one painted with a Jewish symbol, the other with a Muslim symbol. Do you think that we should all be making such gestures towards reconciliation? CC

Dear CC,



Dear Miss Sixty,

Do you think that sixty is an age when we should start to feel, well, a bit deflated? Promise unfulfilled, hopes fading, all of that? I sometimes water my begonias and feel quite discouraged. AC.

Dear AC,

I think I understand. Begonias can be a bit discouraging.  But I’m inclined to think that, firstly, we should really be quite pleased, and grateful, to have reached the age of sixty at all. None of the Brontes did, or Jane Austen. Or Shakespeare. Now, I know that’s a bit of a two-edged consolation. They, after all, had already created magnificent masterpieces, and died, whilst still younger than us.

But the answer to your question, I suspect, is that it all depends. If you want to perform on the parallel bars at the Commonwealth Games, or be in the Cuba women’s volleyball team, or be feted as an infant terrible, then basically your moment has passed. There’s no wrapping that up. And you’re way too old to die young.

On the other hand, there are all sorts of ambitions that can mature slowly, with us.  Margaret Simey didn’t enter public life until her late fifties. Penelope Fitzgerald wrote her first novel at sixty, and Mary Wesley at seventy. Doris Lessing received the Nobel Prize for literature at the age of eighty eight. Diane Athill won the Costa Award for her memoir ‘Somewhere Towards the End’ at the age of 91. It just goes to show.

(I’d refer to my own recent, very small foray into the publishing world, but modesty, of course, forbids.)

The point is that, in general, we in the West are not only living longer, but ageing better than ever before. We live in a stable, affluent society which is not at war. We live in an era of inoculation and antiseptic.  We may not always manage to feel it, but we are extraordinarily lucky.

So, AC, whilst I do sympathise with your sense of deflation, it could be that you need to conduct a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full sort of audit, and then perhaps sit down and decide what you’re going to do with the life and potential you have left….Begonias, I venture, may not be quite enough….

Dear Miss Sixty,

Are people having more sex these days? –Anxious.

Dear Anxious,


Dear Miss Sixty,

There were some wonderful products in the 60’s. I recall Birds Eye Frozen Cod Balls in Batter, Goblin hamburgers in gravy, and Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pies, topped off with a lovely, damp flaky pastry. There were Vesta instant curries, and a particularly sweet Ski strawberry yogurt which has since vanished.  Where are they now? Greta H 

Dear Greta H,

I know. I miss them too. Well, I miss Goblin hamburgers in gravy. They were a perfect 60’s meal, served with Smash instant potato and perhaps a tin of garden peas in sweetened salted water. With pink Angel Delight to follow.


Miss Sixty replies in brief:

Agnes D – No, this is not a good idea.

JK – I have covered this topic previously. Please refer back.

LL –  I will deal with this in depth in a future post. 

Miss Sixty speaks….

Dear Miss Sixty,

Please help. I’m a hard-working Home Secretary, of middle years. I wear well-cut sensible suits and typical Conservative pearls. I did, I admit, go through a phase for leopard-pattern shoes, but I’m over that now. So imagine my feelings when I heard that a journalist had described me as ‘hot.’ What does this mean? And what can I do about it?  T.M.

Dear T.M.,

What a very unpleasant experience. Generally speaking, as I understand it, the term ‘hot’ is used for someone you’d like to have sex with. Women use it as well as men. But the difference is that when women use it, it’s generally a compliment to the person concerned. It means that they are physically attractive, in addition to whatever other status they have. But, occasionally, when men use it, and especially male journalists, it isn’t intended as a compliment. Its intention is to dismiss your status as Tory politician, ghastly though that status may be, and focus instead solely on your body, and whether or not the author would like to shag you. Berlesconi, of course, could not do otherwise. He once noted that Angela Merckel had a backside which was not worthy of penetration. I just mention in passing that, whereas she is still German Chancellor, he is currently doing community service….

Retaliation is tricky. Because, as I’ve mentioned, if you respond by saying that he, too, is hot, then that’s potentially a compliment, and he’ll just smirk.  In fact, whatever you do, he’s going to smirk.  Dignified silence is probably the way to go, T.M.

Dear Miss Sixty,

Basically, like you, I’m sixty. I want to know whether it’s still okay for me to go into TopShop and New Look, or whether I’m best sticking to Dorothy Perkins. KC.

Dear KC,

A good question. I think the trickiest stage in shopping terms is generally mid to late forties. It’s then that you realise that you don’t recognise any of the music they’re playing in Topshop any more. You also realise that every single customer, not to mention every single shop assistant, and also the manager, is young enough to be your daughter. Sometimes women at this stage force their own daughters to accompany them, so they have cover whilst browsing through racks of unsuitable mini skirts.

But by the age of sixty, frankly, you don’t care any more.  You can shop anywhere you damn well please. You can buy anything you damn well please. As grown up world citizens, we should obviously shun labels whose clothes are made too cheaply for their makers to earn a living wage. We should, I feel, probably also shun most things made of nylon or polyester, and things with elasticated waists, at one end of the scale, and transparent neon tops and beads that look like boiled sweets at the other.

But other than that, KC, feel free and run free. Miss Sixty is with you.

Dear Miss Sixty,

Have you noticed how few road safety adverts there are these days? Do you remember the wonderful ‘Don’t Be An Amber Gambler’, and the joyful little animated cartoon for ‘Don’t Weave Between Lanes’?  Best of all was Reginald Molehusband and his reverse parking. I miss all these. They made me feel safe. CB

Dear CB,

Me too. They were great days. Robin Reliants took on motorways, insecure suitcases would fly from roof racks, and oil leaked freely from smoking engines.  CB radio was all the rage, and a thick cloud of exhaust hung over the whole country. All gone now, sadly. 

Miss Sixty replies in brief:

Tulisa C: I agree. He’s a very bad man indeed.

First female warship commander: Yes, tricky. It’s probably just as well that you’re on annual leave right now.

Robyn R: Please. Don’t bother me with trivia. Having said that, your initial troubles me. I sincerely hope that your parents didn’t name you Robyn Robbins. Or Robyn Robinson. Or even Robyn Robertson. Please write again. I need to know now. Robyn Rubens? Rembrant? Rollins….?