Oh No !
Not another book on OldAge? Yes and a good one…..
Self-appointed ambassador for the baby-boomer generation, Esther is a professionally incautious 68, shouldering her way into what she calls the Third Age with the energy, self-belief and studio gloss of the That’s Life! BBC television presenter she once was. “Don’t put a sell-by date on my forehead because I won’t accept it,” she says.
These days, she lives alone in her lofty Hampstead home. It is eight years since her husband died, aged 69, of a ruptured main artery, but she says she still feels his spirit about the place: “It is one reason why I can’t leave this house.”
There is no shortage of practical advice in her bracing and sometimes bossy book about how not to go gently into old age.
In a chapter called “What Does ‘Old’ Look Like?” we are told crisply: “Women who suddenly grow new black moustaches are well advised to find a strong light, a magnifying mirror and a pair of square-ended tweezers.”
And on wigs, Esther is in her element as champion of the shy consumer. “There is no need to spend hundreds of pounds on perfectly woven real hair, sold by Greek nuns,” she raps.
“These days, there are shiny little nylon numbers in any colour, and many different styles, woven on to an elastic base, which stay attached and arranged even in a tempest and cost a fraction of the real-hair versions.”
Her voice is still blasting through the thickets of daft regulation, injustice and scam. She can’t give up. It is 14 years since the long-running That’s Life! was taken off air (at its peak it had 22 million viewers). Since then Rantzen has proved herself a mistress of reinvention on telly shows, but she still thinks of ideas for the programme and lives its legacy.
She is president of ChildLine, the charity she founded against child abuse.
She works with the NSPCC, Help the Aged, Age Concern and Marie Curie Cancer Care. In May, as patron of Red Balloon, a charity that “recovers” bullied children, she launched a £1 million appeal for an anti-bullying project in memory of James Bulger, the murdered three-year-old who would have been 18 this year.
“It would be easy to mock the Esther-knows-best school of positive thinking. Some of the battles she joins have already been won. No one seriously regards her generation as social driftwood any more. Grey power is on the march.
This is a funny, honest, energetic book. I warmed to her more and more…..