'Well now, prove it, Sheila. As John would say, "Put your money where your mouth is." Be a depressed widow boring the arse off everyone, or get on with life. Your choice.'
In The Two of Us Sheila Hancock relived her life with John Thaw - years packed with love and family, work and houses, delight and despair. And then she looked ahead. What next? Gardening, grannying and grumbling, while they all had their pleasures, weren't going to fill the aching void that John had left.
'Live adventurously', a piece of Quaker advice, was hovering in her mind. So, putting her and John's much-loved house in France on the market - too many memories - she embarked, instead, on a series of journeys. She tried holidaying alone, contending with invisibility and budget flights. She tried travelling in a group, but the questions she wanted to ask were never the ones the guide wanted to answer. She tried relaxing - harder than you might think. Finally, heading out of her comfort zone, she found her travels and new discoveries led her back to her past: to consider her generation - the last to experience the Second World War - and the kind of person it made her.
Just Me is a book about moving on, but it is also about looking back, and looking anew. Sheila, whether facing down burglars and easyJet staff (cross her at your peril) or making friends with waiters and taxi drivers, whether unearthing secrets in Budapest, getting arrested in Thailand, exulting in the art of Venice or mingling with the Mafia in Milan, is never less than stimulating company. Honest - because if you can't say what you think at seventy-five, when can you? - insightful and wonderfully down-to-earth, she is a woman seizing the future with wit, gusto and curiosity - on her own.