It’s not every day here at Red Letter Days that we receive an e-mail leading us to something and someone so out of the ordinary. However, back in June we received one which introduced us to 70 year old Susan Bathurst, a remarkable individual who runs a B&B in The Cotswolds with a captivating story and whose path crossed both Red Letter Days and Willow (who coincidentally have been charity partners for several years).
It’s fair to say that Susan from Cirencester is not your average pensioner! Susan first came to our attention when she emailed our Customer Services Team to donate a competition voucher she had won, giving it to our charity partner Willow, who provide Special Days for seriously ill young adults. Susan won her Red Letter Days voucher as part of ‘Colourful Characters’ run by McCarthy and Stone. This nationwide search set out to find and reward the young at heart, those living life to the full and not letting their age be a barrier in any shape or form. The finalists have been picked by a panel of judges but it is up to the public who wins. Public voting is open from 11 July and closes on 29 July, with the overall winner announced in August. Check out McCarthy’s terms and conditions for more information.
Excited to learn more from retiree Susan about her colourful life, we reached out to her to discover more!
Hi Susan, who nominated you for Colourful Characters competition and why? How did you find out you were one of the finalists?
I was having a laugh with some friends and they suggested I go for it and so with huge tongue-in-cheek, I completed the form. I suppose I have to admit that my life is a great deal busier and more varied than most people 20 years younger. I was having a mug of tea with an editor I used to write for, when Corinna (from Colourful Characters) telephoned and told me I was a regional finalist. I had completely forgotten all about it until I received that call!
I can see that you were recognised by the judges for your ‘go for it’ attitude – tell me about a couple of your most memorable adventures!
Probably one of the most memorable adventures I have ever had was being part of a group that went across the Karakoram Highway from Gilgit to Kashgar in 1986. The border had been closed for 50 years and we were the first ‘foreign devils’ (Europeans) that most of the indigenous population had seen. We were lucky enough to stay in the grounds of the old Russian consulate mentioned in all those books about The Great Game, described by Peter Hopkirk and Fitzroy Maclean. Much of it was still there, although derelict and crumbling. We visited the Sunday bazaar before it was homogenized by the Han Chinese. It was my inspiration to travel further in the ‘stans’.
Visiting the Tsaatan (reindeer) people in northern Mongolia on the Russian border was an adventure that was very testing, especially for the horses! Leaving the lake district of the Khovsgol province involved a long day negotiating thousands of acres of swamps and climbing over the snow-covered passes which dropped down hundreds of feet into a lost valley to the ring of tipis and grazing reindeer. That evening the guys played volleyball with the Tsaatan and there was the most golden of sunsets – over 4,000 miles from home. Staying with real people surviving in such a harsh land helps to keep one grounded.
How does being in the final nine of the competition feel and why is it important for people to realise that age should not be a barrier in getting things done?
Being in the final nine is unreal and undeserved. The fact that I am able to lead the life that I continue to lead has been such a gift, it has not been earned. However, if advertising the things that the finalists do encourages others to have a go, it, then it will enrich their lives. Ideally everyone should die reconciled with the lives they have led. There’s no need to molder just because one is in receipt of a pension!
What made you donate your voucher to Willow? And why did you think it was important to pay it forward?
I wanted to pass on my prize because I didn’t feel that I warranted it. My life has already been, and continues to be, a succession of Red Letter Days! I used Google and found Willow and it seemed to me a no-brainer that someone who had won such a prize because of pure luck of circumstances should hand it on to someone whose circumstances were quite the opposite , through absolutely no fault of their own. Hopefully it will bring a bit of respite and fun to someone who more than deserves it.
To quote part of Susan’s original e-mail to Red Letter Days ‘I was not aware (so I suspect there are others like me) how generous Red Letter Days is to Willow, nor quite how widespread the Willow orbit reaches’. She was keen for us to ‘use any of this for raising any profiles’ which we hope this blog piece will do!
I read that you are a keen photographer – what do you love most about both of these hobbies?
I have always been very visual and studied drawing and painting in Marseille and then at St. Martin’s in London. Photography is an instant way of recording places and people accurately. When travelling, I take thousands of photographs. I make photo-books and write about my travels when I return. It is the perfect way to make notes for later use. When I first loaded photographs onto my computer I didn’t realize that with the click of a mouse I could randomly change them every 30 seconds as my screen saver. They are a constant reminder of the places I have visited and the people I have met! I can re-visit Cuba to Kyrgyzstan to Chile and back via The Georgian Tusheti to the backwaters of Kerala in two and a half minutes. Marvellous!
What would you do if you won the holiday of a lifetime prize?
In the unlikely event that I were to win the Saga Holiday of a Lifetime I shall give it to charity either to be used to raise funds or donated to someone much more deserving. At the moment I am researching how best to do this but I am homing-in on charities for carers.
If you think Susan is as wonderful as we do – vote for her to be the overall competition winner of Colourful Characters by visiting the McCarthy and Stone Facebook page before 29 July 2016!