Cynthia has lived for 92 years in the same house in the outer London borough of Brent that has been rented by her family for over hundred years. This part of Brent has seen a huge rise in crime over the last forty years, and she has been burgled five times within recent years, yet she still refuses to move away into sheltered accommodation.
Cynthia is a fully independent woman, who cooks the majority of her meals from scratch – sticking to the traditional red meat, potatoes, boiled vegetables and gravy - for a daily lunch, and takes it sitting in front of the window overlooking the bird table. With two nearby convenience stores, she can collect the majority of the food she needs easily, only asking her nephew or neighbour to help with the heavier items such as bags of potatoes every few weeks.
As the youngest of five siblings, her life has been full and active. Cynthia left school at the age of thirteen to take over the day to day running of the home when her mother became ill and eventually bed-bound.
Cynthia and her four brothers have all been skilled with their hands; her eldest brother – Frank, was a professional golfer (making his clubs by hand), the other three, John, Nelson and Robert were all in engineering, as was her father, who worked at the East London Dry Plate Company. Cynthia joined this family of men with steady hands by working as a nurse with blood donor vans during the 1960s and 70s. She continued to ride her motorbike until she was well into her eighties. Now into her 90s, she maintains her love for murder novels, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and television detective dramas such as “Inspector Morse”.
This work is a study of a remarkable woman living a life that is not unusual. Elderly independence is often overshadowed in the media, and therefore our conceptions of society are fuelled by tales of the elderly unable to cope on their own, having to rely on services such as “meals on wheels” and home help if they wish to stay in their own home. These images of Cynthia prove that this is often not the case.
This photographic documentary is not intended to be a political standpoint on the issue of the way the elderly are considered in British society. It is simply a study of Cynthia’s life, and to show that there is hope for independence when you’re living in your Third Age.
A Thousand Finish Lines, Queens Park Art Centre (Installation Photographs) 2015