World Menopause Day: Landmark opportunity inspired WAY member’s short story on menopause

October 2023

When writer Cath Holland’s husband Andy died of bowel cancer in 2019, she wasn’t able to write her own stories at first. As a music writer and seasoned short story writer, she could still pen profiles of artists and musicians, but grief was such an assault on her both physically and emotionally that her own creativity and imagination was stunted. Her personal story was too painful to write about. 

Woman in a dress with red hair holding an open book and talking into a microphone

Around a year after Andy died, Cath joined the charity WAY Widowed and Young – a peer-to-peer network that supports people who’ve been widowed before their 51st birthday. Cath was able to join WAY thanks to support through the charity’s Memorial Fund. Meeting other people who’d been widowed at a young age through WAY helped to set her on a path that changed her mindset and, eventually, the words started to flow again.

So when Cath saw that WAY was offering members an opportunity to stay in a Landmark Trust property earlier this year, as part of the Trust’s 50 For Free scheme, she jumped at the chance to spend some time away from her home in Birkenhead and write in rural surroundings.

For three days back in March, Cath (alongside a fellow WAY member) turned the White House in Shropshire into a writing retreat where she could write undisturbed – inspired by timber beams and views across ancient orchards. And now one of the stories she finished while at the retreat is being published in an anthology of writing that’s being launched on World Menopause Day (on Wednesday, 18 October).

“I’d already started the story, and then I finished it when I was at the White House,” said Cath. “The White House gave me that time and space to write. It was like going back in time into a time capsule. It’s a really grand house, a fabulous place to just sit and think, ‘wow, imagine all the things that happened here’. It really widens your imagination.”

“The location was the ideal place to edit and write new work, which focused on the ongoing effect of bereavement and how I am establishing a new life for myself,”

“I literally spent all day writing different short stories, different poems, bits of nonfiction pieces as well. This short story is one of the pieces that I polished and came out with at the end, which I’m really pleased about.”

Cath’s short story ‘From Menarche to Menopause’ – the opening piece in the new anthology published by London-based Arachne Press – is a satirical piece focusing on how women and girls are exploited commercially through their reproductive lives and beyond. 

“Menstrual products are expensive, and females have no option but to buy pads and tampons each month for up to 30 years,” said Cath. “It has become more and more obvious to me that things are now on sale for peri, menopausal and post-menopausal women, which are for the most part unnecessary and don’t make this transition into a new life any easier. Instead, it just costs money which could be better spent on treating ourselves to something nice and special.”

Cath – who recently appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour talking about her writing, and also performed spoken word pieces on BBC Radio Merseyside – will also share an edited version of her story at The Everyman in Liverpool on 18 October, to mark World Menopause Day.

“Huge thanks to the Landmark Trust and to WAY to making it possible for me to spend time at the White House,” she said. “The time was so precious, and gave me space to concentrate on my work.”

Menopause: The Anthology (Arachne Press) includes short stories and poetry from women experiencing menopause whether naturally or as the result of surgery.  

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Talking to and socialising with others who’ve been through a similar experience can be a lifeline when you’re adjusting to life after loss.

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