Two years ago, accountant John Froggett was reeling from a recent divorce and the prospect of reaching the significant milestone of 60. He was not looking forward to the prospect. Life was pretty grim. While his work life was looking stable, with his two sons conveniently and competently coming into the practice he set up 20 years before in Royston, Hertfordshire, life didn’t fill him with much hope.
Intending to take his foot off the pedal of the business and hand over to his sons, the reality was far from attractive. Did that mean he was on the scrap heap of life? What was left for him?
He had struggled and succeeded to keep a roof over the head of his wife and five children, but none of them seemed to need him anymore. He was living alone. Rather than take the part-time hours he found himself working all week as there was little else to occupy his time.
Having been a Samaritan a few years before and discovered spiritual expression through meditation, he started running a few meditation sessions locally but this did not fill the gaps.
Is this as good as it got he thought?
I realise, looking back, that this feeling, the lack of excitement about the future particularly, could easily lead to depression and mental health issues. Having been in a 30-year relationship, with it’s ups and downs, I couldn’t imagine starting life with anyone else, although I craved that security and companionship.
Talking to my friends who are a similar age, this is not an uncommon position to be in. A late mid-life crisis also brought about a swathe of body art which is so unbecoming – I keep wondering what it will look like on a 80-year-old. Then tell myself to shut up! It will look a lot like it looks on a 60 year old! (there’s a disconnect as my body image is that of a 30-year old!).
I wanted to offer some hope that you just don’t know what’s around the corner. Life still has surprises at any age, and we owe it to ourselves to take these opportunities and run with them as if our life depended it. Which perhaps it does? I’ve often been horrified to read of friends dying just after they retire – men who’ve ‘lived’ for their retirement, saved and built up a nest egg and put stuff off, and now, well, what a waste!
So what changed?
It was my ex wife who was the initial catalyst. Fed up of keeping me company she said I should look at online dating. At my age? I thought! Undeterred she took my photo and helped me set up my account. Well that was a revelation! So many single people out there! It took three months to find someone with whom I felt I could form a long term relationship. But that was not all. Having always sung around the home, my new female friend decided I had a voice which should be heard and asked if I’d consider going into the recording studio. Turns out she had an independent record label!
How did you feel about this?
Terrified. I don’t think I’ve ever been so out of my comfort zone. I don’t even particularly like the sound of my own voice. But because it was day three of a new relationship I thought I’d better give it a go! Helen and her producer daughter Lauren were patient and kind and I got into the swing of it. I gradually lost my embarrassment and inhibition. One of the tracks we recorded that day ended up being released as a charity single in aid of the local Home-Start branch.
Did it just end there?
Well I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I struggled to take it seriously. I mean, who was I to start a singing career? Surely it was too late. No point getting my hopes up. Keep calm and carry on. And as I said, I didn’t think my voice was that good and really, I struggle to remember the words to songs, so what chance did I have? I drove Helen mad with my non committal energy. She had arranged for me to showcase three songs for a superb charity event in Colchester for The Warm and Toasty Club and I couldn’t decide whether I was excited or terrified. I put off preparing properly – I can see in retrospect.
How hard can it be? Turns out it’s bloody difficult. But as we drove away all I could think was ‘I want to do that again’. Yet, I still wasn’t sure I could do it, to become a performer. Nothing could be further from my desk bound existence up til that point. I was in shock!
How did you overcome this?
They say if you carry on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got. It’s something I believe quite passionately in. I am also known for my ‘it is what it is’ catch phrase. Which is full of inertia and resignation. So there was a massive internal struggle.
It was starting to affect my budding relationship. I could see the frustration in my partner. It took a reading from a psychic (in which I had not previously believed) to challenge me to go with the flow. What will be, will be. Another cliché. But what had I got to lose? So I let myself ride the crest of the wave, recorded my debut album under my stage name Joe Rose and had a single played by Elaine Paige on BBC Radio 2. What a high that was!
Then at Christmas the Mail on Sunday featured my album Class in their best musical stocking fillers feature – astonishing! So who knows where this will lead? All I know is I am up for anything, and for as long as they want me to sing, I’ll be there on stage giving it my all!
Helen Froggett-Thomson is an award-winning business strategist and coaching catalyst for Thomson Training. She has run tailored sales and business growth training sessions for over 30 years