The biggest magical moment is having kids
They were usually in trouble, and I’d take them in. In Mexico I took in a spider monkey, in Malaysia I took in a macaque, just little baby ones they were, and they get to know you. But they’re exactly like kids; they’re moody, bad tempered, jealous, angry, all the traits that kids have. They scream at you. You’ve got to have them on a chain, and they poo wherever they want to, so you have to have a nappy on them so they’re a bit of work. Mine in Malaysia loved swimming. He’d leap off my head, swim through my legs and crawl up my back onto my head and leap off again. And as soon as I wanted to go in, he’d scream at me. It was beautiful. I love monkeys.
I loved Club Med. The concept is super, guests come to your home, it’s not coming on holidays so much. Started off by a guy who was in a concentration camp during the war and he said, “if I ever get out of here, I’d like everybody to get together, whatever nationality, whatever jobs they’ve got, whatever religion, just get together and realise that we can all be….” And that’s how it started. We all wore flowers in our ears, there was no money, we had beads around our necks, simple gear like a sarong and everyone was treated equally. We had good clean simple fun. You know, silly things, you could go on stage and try and dance and sing, you could do anything. It was just fabulous. So I left everything at home and continued working with them for about 22 years.
I try with everything I do. I try my best. I don’t always succeed; I have a lot of faults. I talk too much; I drive people crazy with that. Depends on the day, sometimes I can think ‘oh I wish I’d done more with my life’ and other days I think ‘my god wasn’t going tandem out of a plane enough, wasn’t the Olympic possibility enough, wasn’t having two kids, three grandchildren enough?’ I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful house, lovely relationship, and living here we’re all lucky. A lot of it’s luck. Life is full of balance. You can obtain it, you can lose it, you can miss out on it, you can find it, you can work at trying to get it, so you have a little go at everything. Eventually you end up with the most balanced life you can have, so you make your own life and there are all these things that come in to throw it off course but if you’ve got some kind of stability, ... We can’t go through life without the bad times.
It’s just my little world, it’s fairly inconsequential in the great scheme of things. We all think we’re so damned important and we’re nothing. I do have an envy inside me, wishing I’d done more to help others in my life. One of my heroines was a nurse, a lady who never leaves my mind. She looked after me after I had my car accident in Bahrain. She cared so much. I was on my own. The motto of Club Med is ‘happiness is our business’ and I’ve never forgotten that. So I haven’t done much in my life to help other people, but having said that I have made some people happy. I suppose in one very tiny way that is our responsibility, not to hurt people but to make people happy. Having said that, why do I argue so much with my boyfriend when I say I hate to hurt people? It’s such a silly thing, arguing. But we do, don’t we?
My kids aren’t near me, and I wish I had spent more time with them. That is a real wish. I wish I had spent more time with my children, and my grandchildren. But it wasn’t my life for whatever reason.
I think it’s true that we’re not seen (as seniors), we’re not heard, not listened to, I also know in all honesty that some old people can say the same thing over and over, but it is important. We still have a worth; we still have experience on our side. We may not be smart, we might lose our way in a conversation, we might dither a bit, we might sound older, we might not even be as interesting as we think we are, but we have so much experience we can talk about, and we’ve done so much we can talk about and should feel very proud of.
Berenice is a stunning woman with sparkling eyes, vibrant and vital, who has lived around the world. Holding a divine soft accent and so well spoken this incredibly interesting lady originally hails from England. Berenice qualified for two Olympic games (1956 and 1960) in sprint swimming but twice wasn’t able to compete, the first time for not being a Singaporean citizen and the second time for getting into a horrific car accident which still physically affects her today. Most days now she swims across Byron Bay with a group of long-distance swimmers. She has previously been a model, real estate agent, Yellow Pages salesperson and started and ran a B&B.