In my own shoes – Gill’s random thoughts on turning 60. #Gill60

File 18-05-2016, 05 37 14I had all sorts of ideas about how I might mark my 60th birthday in terms of social media. I loved #60yearsoflearning by @ShirleyAyres; I loved @AnnieCoops’ photos over the years to mark her 50th;
I loved the wonderful film that Sheena Byrom’s (@SageFemmeSB) family made to mark her 60th.

But life has been just too busy. So I thought I’d simply write a blog to capture a few of my thoughts. I might do a Steller story too.

I feel incredibly lucky. I can remember my mum having to retire at 60. Happy birthday and off your pop … regardless of whether you are enjoying your work or have so much more to contribute! Mum is now 94.  34 years ‘retired’. I am glad things have become much less rigid. One of my children asked me recently when I am going to retire … and I laughed.

I had a bit of a party on Saturday. It was really lovely but all rather random. Some wonderful friends came. I tended to invite people as I saw them or was in contact with them – I wish I could have invited everyone!

People were asking ages ahead whether I was ‘all ready’. Hmm, hardly. We had a new toilet fitted on Thursday (the plumber was just back from holiday) and my son-in-law-to-be was out there with his circular saw (and dogs!) on Thursday evening cutting a new worktop, delivered that day. Luckily it stayed dry. We had just had a palette of Whose Shoes boxes and boards delivered and waiting for attention in the middle of our living room and a large shipment of mini shoes from China (hooray!). People do not see what ‘sits behind’ a small business but, as they say, it all came right on the night.

File 18-05-2016, 05 37 26A big hit at the party was a cardboard frame that my friend Sarah, who made the mistake of arriving ten minutes early, knocked up with her children for people to take photos!

The previous time I had a bash was when I turned 50.

My dear friend Lindsay played a big role in arranging my 50th and this time I was tempted not to bother as Lindsay is no longer here. Inevitably lots of people have died over the last decade, but my dad and Lindsay are the ones I really miss. And ‘Betty Boogie’, my mum in law!

My dad was a real character and very down to earth. When I got married, his ‘wedding speech’ was very short. He had had it prepared and told me it regularly from the age of eight: “It is not so much a case of losing a daughter as gaining a bathroom”.

Dad was an avid Daily Telegraph reader. From the age of about 75, he checked the obituary column in bed every morning. If he wasn’t in it, he got up.

10 years ago. I had had cancer. I had undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and was on long-term drug treatment. I am not sure I expected to make it to 60 and, as so many people say, it really made me see what was important in life and not to waste time on stuff that really doesn’t matter.

Gill swing seat 50My friends had clubbed together to buy me a swing seat for the garden and I still love it. Like the sea, it is one place where I can totally relax.

10 years ago, I was still ’employed’ and Whose Shoes? wasn’t conceived. I have written elsewhere about why I jumped ship, my favourite version being on Sarah Reed’s blog. Since then, I have learned a lot (particularly from the School for Health Care Radicals #SHCR) about what happened and why. Helen Bevan named me the ‘No 1 Radical’ – not sure that is true, there are so many people making fantastic changes, but a huge compliment.

Gill & Helen - SHCR1I am thrilled that I had the courage to refuse to be undermined or for my creativity to be held back: I jumped ship in 2008, escaped a culture of big egos and pointless meetings, and set up something with the potential to really make a difference. Something exciting to stop me clucking over the children as they moved on… 😉

Setting up a small business is really tricky: you have to ‘know everything’ and I felt I knew nothing. I just had a passion to find a way to listen and value the ‘wisdom in the room’ and develop a system of true co-production, which is at the heart of Whose Shoes?

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As you may imagine, it has been a mega rollercoaster – riding the depths of the recession and being invited to speak in all sorts of interesting places including Malta, Paris, Australia and Puerto Rico!

10 years ago, I wasn’t on Twitter. All of my friends were real life friends – now so many of them are social media friends who turn into real life friends. I loved this cartoon that Katie @BirthCompanion drew of me recently at a #MatExp event where they were laughing at me running a mini Twitter masterclass, helping Baroness Cumberlege to tweet!

My party was an amazing mix of a ‘bit of a tweet up’ alongside fabulous family and friends who have stuck with me despite Whose Shoes? , social media … and all the things that seem to take me away from them! My friends Yvonne and Rosemary, who have been there with Lindsay as the children grew up, Trinny-ed and Susannah-ed me and knocked things into shape before (and indeed during!) the party, along with my lovely daughter Jenny. Flo @fwmaternitykhft and her husband got busy with the helium and arranged balloons. We need these people in our lives who just see what needs to be done, understand us and er … JFDI.

I am delighted to be a Granny. One little boy, now aged seven months. Gorgeous! It was a special moment having birthday piccies in the garden as the party began. I hope one or two more grandchildren might come along before I am 70. Who knows? The evening morphed from a String Quartet to heavy rock – I have very eclectic tastes!

File 18-05-2016, 07 18 00

Me and ‘my boy’ – ‘The Cricketer’ painted by my amazing friend Lindsay.

10 years ago all of my three children lived at home – and now they have all flown the nest and have their own lives and homes. It wasn’t a linear process. There was a lot of coming and going. They all live very locally, which is lovely. ‘The cricketer’ (now a maths teacher) very nearly settled in Australia, which I guess could have been lovely in a different way. Life is very arbitrary.

Jenny gets married next month and we have just enjoyed a fantastic hen weekend. I got big brownie points for dancing until 2am. Apparently that is not what you expected to do at 60. I am not a big fan of doing things I’m expected to do. Wonder if I will still be doing that in 10 years’ time – I hope so.

HSJ - Alison & Gill IMG_0115My mum has become a little bit of a celebrity on Twitter, tweeting and blogging as @Gills_Mum. At my party, she knew quite a few of my Twitter friends in real life, which is brilliant. we toasted friends and absent friends. At the end of the party Theresa, my ‘oldest’ friend, since the age of 11, took her back home and sat and chatted with her having tea until 1.30am! They apparently had a lot to catch up on. I hope I will make it to 94 and will be like that.

File 18-05-2016, 05 38 22I am doing some random things to celebrate my birthday. I spent a lovely day on Monday with Lisa Rodrigues. We have only previously had snatched conversations, but yet she travelled up from Brighton to Rugby and we spent the whole day together and could still be talking now! So many ideas to share and explore!

Flo made me a wonderful photo book: the #MatExp story. Wow! We have talked about writing a book, but she just did a JFDI version, and that’s really all it takes.

A couple of months ago, ‘Mr #WhoseShoes’ was unexpectedly made redundant. It coincided with the time when Whose Shoes? is ‘taking off’ and in danger of no longer being fun, as I struggle to keep all the plates spinning. We are going to do it together, bringing a new work-life balance for both of us hopefully. It means we can travel together and combine work and play in new ways.


At the end of the week we are travelling up to Cumbria. Hoping to do a lot of walking, although the weather looks a bit grim. A workshop with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, a couple of meetings at the University of Central Lancashire, and possible visit to Morecambe Bay … and a wonderful catch up with my great friend Jenny @JennytheM. Work and play, all intertwined.


I have a wonderful friend Sam Majumdar @SamMajumdar – along with Flo, one of the most person centred surgeons that you could meet. Over time we have become mutual mentors. I build networks and see where the energy goes. I find people who make a difference. I follow my heart and don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’. Sam has been hugely influential in this – thank you! As I say, it is mutual and I have the huge pleasure of publishing his first blog shortly – watch this space!

People who don’t ‘get it’ think I work too hard. But for me work and play are pretty much inseparable as, with Whose Shoes, I am following my dreams and meeting inspirational people, many of whom I believe (hope!) will remain lifetime friends.

Presents have poured in from friends old and new. I feel blessed and very loved. My house is filled with flowers and indeed booze. I have a fabulous new ‘juice bar’ to play Spotify music wherever I go. I certainly had no concept of that 10 years ago.

So now,  for my sins, I am a sexagenarian. It is an interesting word and seems to offer a lot of potential. 😉

I wonder what the next 10 years will bring. I can’t wait to dive in!!

About Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?

Passionate about personalisation in health & social care. Creator of Whose Shoes? - an imaginative approach to helping people work together to improve lives.
This entry was posted in Blogs, co-production, community engagement, dementia, Gill's Mum, in my shoes, personalisation, social media, well-being and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In my own shoes – Gill’s random thoughts on turning 60. #Gill60

  1. Charmaine hardy says:

    Really enjoyable read Gill I envy you having so much in your life. At 60 I thought my new life was ahead now it’s all on hold & has been for nearly 8 years. One day! Char

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. DozzaGadge says:

    Belated birthday wishes Gill.Still walking and have just returned from a four and a half mile walk with my ” Walking for Health” group in beautiful Northumberland.Enjoy Cumbria.xx


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