Grandmother, 80, accepted on to university course

Hilary Chalkly, 80, from Swing Gate Lane, Berkhamsted

Hilary Chalkly, 80, from Swing Gate Lane, Berkhamsted

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An author and grandmother is studying for a masters degree for the first time at the age of 80.

Hilary Chalkly, of Swing Gate Lane in Berkhamsted, will enrol on the two-year MA course in creative writing at Kingston University next month.

She will be enrolling at the same time as thousands of excited 18-year-old ‘freshers’ across the country, but the mother-of-two believes you are never too old for higher education.

Mrs Chalkly, who lives with husband Syd, 76, and is mum to daughters Gill and Libby, said: “I want to impress on people that 80 is the new 60.

“I applied to Kingston tongue-in-cheek but I was absolutely gobsmacked when I got the email to say I had been accepted. I was thrilled!”

The course will be held one day a week over two years at the campus in South London, and is one of several writing-related courses Hilary has done since leaving school at the age of 15.

The grandmother-of-one, who spent 15 years working on Hemel Hospital Radio, said: “I’ve always dabbled in writing all my life. I was good at essays at school and I wrote a couple of articles for Melody Maker.

“I worked locally for many years before I retired. Then back in 2010, I was sat at the kitchen table with my two daughters and they said: ‘Mum, you’re vegetating’.

“It took someone to jar and jerk me to make me realise that I had become static,” said Hilary, who was born-and-bred in Berkhamsted.

Hilary, who is working on her first novel, flicked through a course prospectus for West Herts College and settled on creative writing.

Hilary got the studying bug so after the Dacorum course, she and her friends enrolled in a Workers’ Educational Association course in Leverstock Green.

Following a City Lit course which finished in July, Hilary and her pals set up their own writing club and now meet regularly in Holborn to critique each others’ work.

“Having others read your work is a really eye-opening experience,” said Hilary.

“I’m currently in the throes of a novel which is inspired by my grandparents’ house, where I used to go in the school holidays.”

Hilary is looking for fee sponsorship. If you can help, email thegazette@jpress.co.uk