Sylvia has co-edited books of poetry and Yiddish film as well as researching and writing the script for two short films, L’Esprit de L’Escalier and Dream Life of Debris. She is currently writing a film script with her son, Layo.
“When you’re young, you’re quite ego-centric. You want to eat and drink life and you aren’t too interested in what happened in the past. As you get older, you realise there are things you can’t quite make sense of and there were questions to be asked. One of my greatest regrets is not asking my parents more about their lives before they came to England.
I don’t think of my age as a factor at all although clearly we live in a ageist society obsessed with youth.
My parents were refugees from Germany and Austria, so even though I grew up in London, as soon as I closed the front door I could have been in Berlin or Vienna. The music on the gramophone was Marlene Dietrich, my mother made wonderful Viennese pastries and my parents’ friends were mostly refugees from across Europe. I grew up absorbing German like blotting paper – I think being able to speak different languages gives you a broader view of the world.
Given their circumstances it was important to my parents that I could provide for myself so that if anything went wrong I had the means to escape. Perhaps for that reason they thought my creative aspirations were somewhat self-indulgent.
Recently, I’ve been working with my son on a film script – a thriller. We’ve just finished the first draft and I’ve absolutely loved working with him. It was exhilarating. Layo is very focused and energetic. It’s bought us very close because we’re inside each others’ minds.
I don’t think of my age as a factor at all although clearly we live in a ageist society obsessed with youth. My life is eclectic and fluid so I don’t give it too much thought. I don’t envisage ever retiring. I have friends of all different ages and backgrounds. Some of them are quite young which keeps me young I think. I also do pilates and yoga and travel a lot which is stimulating and I’ve joined a drama group at a new theatre near me which takes me out of my normal comfort zone.
The most enjoyable age in my life is now. I may once have been young and attractive but now a lot of difficulties have been resolved, a lot of relationships have deepened, I have a sense of freedom and there’s no pressure to conform. Being older is fine as long you’re in good health.
My life motto? Don’t ever live anywhere without a garden – it’s the best therapy in the world.”