56 year old Mandy is a riot of many things. We stopped off in Runcorn, Cheshire for a cuppa and a chat about online dating, her work with children, and for a peak at her cheeky tattoos…
Meeting Mandy is a riot before you’ve even stepped in the door and she just so happens to be a SunLife customer! First, there are four dogs to artfully trap between your legs to ensure they don’t get out the front gate, then there’s the postman you’ve got to get past as well – a postman who doesn’t seem to want to leave either.
Chatting away happily on the doorstep and armed with various packages for Mandy’s first grandson, he finally lets us past; “You’ve got your hands full with this one,” he says by way of welcome, laughing.
56 year old Mandy is a riot of many things; of colours, of stories, of wisdom, of fun. With hair dyed as many colours as there are dogs, she finds it’s a helpful conversation opener – especially within the workplace – where she works with children in residential care, “It can help the kids open up,” she explains, adding “and well, it’s just fun, isn’t it?” A word that sits at the centre of her life, fun seems to come across in everything Mandy does – which isn’t to imply she doesn’t have a lot to do.
With three kids, her new grandson and a partner who’s on the road for most of the week, she also looks after her 75 year old mum and works full time. “I’ve still got responsibilities, but I’m in a position where I can live my life for me… I’m confident in my job, I’ve worked up the ranks, I’ve brought the kids up, but I don’t need to ask permission from anyone, for anything!” she gleefully explains, adding, “If I want to do something, I’ll do it.”
And do things, she does; whether it’s ghost hunts with her daughters across the country, Butlins for fancy dress weekends or trips to Corfu with best friend Dale, Mandy is adamant to spend her time happily; “I think the biggest shock about being this age is that I never realised I’d be as busy as I am, or that I’d have as much energy as I do!” Talking through her busy plans for the year, she adds: “I’m still trying new things all the time, my life is very much – finally – about ‘me’.” Like others, Mandy relishes the time she can take to concentrate on herself, “You realise in your fifties that it’s time for self-care. You’ve been caring for people all your life, but we have a confidence at this age, a confidence that comes from having gone through life.”
Like others her age, Mandy found herself back on the dating scene at 46. “I got launched into the single scene in my forties and it was a whole new world!” Meeting current partner Andy on the Internet, they’ve been together for nearly ten years, although she admits she could “barely turn a computer on” at that time. “Now I love the Internet” she laughs. “I’m always snooping about on it… I follow celebrities on Twitter and I’m always putting things on Instagram and Facebook.” Interrupted by a noisy message on her phone [“everyone’s got a different ringtone, so I know who’s trying to get hold of me”] Mandy suddenly remembers her favourite place to spend time online, “Oh Pinterest!” she exclaims, “write that down, I love Pinterest! I like looking for tattoo pictures…”
It was at fifty that Mandy got her first tattoo, having wanted one for years. “I never found one that was significant to me and I didn’t want a run-of-the-mill one.” Not surprisingly, Mandy wanted a tattoo that was just about her, so when partner Andy suggested she get one on her bum, she was sold. “He told me I’m mumsy, but that I’m also sassy, so I decided to get a saucy tattoo!” Hitching her skirt up to her waist, she shows us a cheeky looking fairy who’s naked save for a tiny pair of knickers and some wings, “my daughter always jokes that at least one of us is wearing knickers!” Soon, other tattoos followed and Mandy’s newest wish is to get her new grandson’s feet tattooed on her, “I’m hoping for more grandchildren, but don’t get me wrong, a lot of women my age might be grannies, but we don’t do granny fashion!” Ambassadorial for her generation to the end, Mandy gives the tattoo on her bum a sassy slap, checking “did you get that? Make sure you get that on film”.
It’s important for Mandy to feel like her passing isn’t depressing for her fun-loving family. In terms of her funeral, her song of choice just makes you smile straight away: “I want Dancing Queen to be played and I want everyone to get up and dance, and if anyone thinks, ‘eh, why are they playing this?’ then they need to put the song back to the beginning and tell people. I want dancing at my funeral”.
With the dogs now jumping around her feet wanting to join in on Mandy’s fun, her attention quickly turns back to the only ‘kids’ now living at home. “It’s time to walk these little ones in the woods now,” she explains, telling us “some people don’t like to do things on their own, but I love my own company… I can do my thinking in the woods, too”. With a brightly coloured rain jacket and a broken but bright umbrella to pop in the boot, she pauses before letting us leave, “I need to take a picture of you all to send to the family Whatsapp group!” she remembers, grabbing her phone from her pocket. “The kids have been teasing me about this all day…” Giggling at her own message, she looks up to give us a massive, brilliant Mandy smile; “It’s been dead fun today though, hasn’t it? I do like a bit of fun…”
Posted on 16 December 2016