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Ageing, ageism, photography, stories

25th January 2017

Muffie Grieve, 82

Muffie has been playing tennis for over 70 years, and first played for Canada in her forties. Last year she took home two world championship titles for Over 80s Doubles at the International Tennis Federation Super Senior World Team and Individual Championships. She married her second husband last year and is currently learning Spanish.

“I don’t consider my age a factor at all. It was never traumatic to me to be30 or 40 or 50 – it just doesn’t worry me. As you get older and become a success at something you gain tremendous confidence. You know yourself and what you want – and you also have the ability to say no to things. The only negative is that your body sometimes lets you down but what the hell? I see tennis as a lesson for a lifetime. You win some, you lose some and you fight again. Nobody goes through life without problems – but you learn to deal with them.

I have a very positive attitude about everything. I don’t do negatives at all.

I was evacuated to St Ives during the war and started playing tennis there at school. By the time I was 14 I was showing promise and went on to play for my university team in London. When I was in my 40s I was living in Toronto and there was a new international women’s team in Canada. I got on it and that was the beginning of a lot of competitive tennis!

So how did I end up in Canada? After university I decided with a friend to go travelling to Australia. The trouble was she met someone, got married and moved to Canada with him before we went! I thought that was a bit of a pain but then she called and said ‘why don’t you come out here anyway?’ I went, planning to go onto Australia afterwards but of course I got to Toronto and met my husband skiing and that was that. He had been at my university exactly the same time as me but we’d never met!

I’m absolutely a feminist and always have been. I have three brothers and I remember my father saying to me – ‘anything the boys can do, you can do too,’ which was pretty amazing in that day and age. I was the first woman ever to be president of my tennis club and my feminist outlook has shone through in my work too. My first job was in hunting geophysics – we used to do aerial surveys all over the world looking for oil and things but it was always the men who got to go on the trips. When I told my boss I’d like to go on one he looked at me like I was mad and said it was impossible. I went over his head to the chief geologist who eventually let me go to Spanish West Africa.

I have a very positive attitude about everything. I don’t do negatives at all. Bertrand Russell who I’ve always admired, wrote a book called The Conquest of Happiness which I read at university. He talks about worrying as a useless negative. Instead he advises looking at the problem and deciding what you can do about it. If you can’t do anything – forget about it! It’s probably my mathematical, logical outlook but I’ve always been like that.

Of course there have been trying times. When I was 62 I had a brain tumour – I found out quite fortuitously on a business trip when I got out of the car and couldn’t walk in a straight line. I had a big operation – seven hours on the operating table. I remember thinking there was nothing I could do apart from be fit – and apparently I was – my heart was beating just as strongly at the start as it was at the end. It was unnerving at the time but what can you do? I think in tennis you learn to pick yourself up and charge on.

A lot of how you age is to do with genetics. Having said that I am careful with what I eat. I don’t like sweet things which is fortunate. Tennis and golf keep me active plus I walk a lot and go to pilates. I also enjoy the odd martini and a nice glass of wine! My next goal is to break 90 in golf.

After my first husband died, I was alone for 14 years. My attitude was that if someone came along to enhance my life then terrific but it certainly wasn’t imperative. I am quite happy by myself. About five years ago I did meet someone – he’s 86, a golfer and he’s very loving and easy going. We married last year and had a big family party.

Yes we do live in an ageist society – but it is changing. More people as they retire are staying active, you see older people out skiing, golfing, swimming and travelling. They aren’t lying around letting the world go by. Attitudes are changing but there is a definite cult of youth.

My life motto? Be positive and never give in.”

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