Family & Education

‘I can’t imagine who I’d be without my sister!’

'My sister Sue is like an extra limb,' says Linda Kelsey - and that's why she and Sue have launched a new blog all about the joys - and pains - of sisterhood.


Susan and Linda. That’s what our parents, who clearly were too busy to dwell on the business of naming, decided to call us. I have more friends called Susan than you could shake a cinnamon stick at. Ditto, an abundance of Lindas in my life.

No one is called Susan or Linda any more. So when we decided to launch our shiny, brand new blog we liked the alliterative sound of Sister Sue & Me and reckoned that it would resonate with our generation at the very least.

But more important than the names, of course, is the word sister. I can’t imagine who I would be if I’d never had a sister. My sister Sue is like an extra limb. She is so much a part of me and my life that sometimes I catch my reflection in a shop window as I pass and I think I actually am her. When I cackle, in an out of control fashion, which is often, my partner looks at me and simply says “Susan”. In other words we share the same cackle. And the same crackly voice. And the same inability to sing a single note in tune. As well as the same inability to put on weight as we age (not as much of a blessing as you might think). And, most important, the same unconditional love for one another.

But we are also different from each other in many, many ways and our lives have taken alternative paths.

Susan is 71, I am 69. For a couple of nice (ish) Jewish girls from Finchley, who came from a background which led to many girls giving up work the minute they wed, we haven’t done too badly for ourselves. Susan grew up to be a children’s dress designer at David Charles, making posh frocks beloved of Jewish mothers and their daughters and featuring at batmitzvahs from London and Leeds to New York and Sydney for 50 years. She only retired when she and her husband David decided to sell their business just in the nick of time for lockdown.

I became a journalist, an editor of magazines including Cosmopolitan, an author of three novels and for the past 15 years I’ve been working as a freelance journalist.

Susan has been married once. Me, married and divorced twice. I’d be on my third marriage by now if my partner was able to persuade me. “Don’t you dare,” says Susan. “You’re a decent girlfriend, but a lousy wife.”

I’ve no idea what she means by that. My second husband, father of my son and loving partner for 23 years until it all went wrong, was a German called Christian. Susan’s husband is a local boy of the faith from Maida Vale. It’s that kind of thing that makes us different, but never distant, especially as we live only ten minutes away from each other.

I have a thing about seders and Friday nights and never panic about guests or making ten dishes at once. But that’s about as Jewish as I get. Susan insists that she will be buried in the cemetery where my parents have been laid to rest. I want my ashes to be sprinkled (illegally) on Hampstead Heath, close to where my adorable labrador’s ashes now reside.

According to Susan, I am irredeemably messy, to put it bluntly, a slut. She has OCD as far as I’m concerned when it comes to cleanliness.

Susan is an elegant creature, yet she thinks the only colours worth wearing are beige, white, grey and black. Mostly beige actually. Give me a spot — leopard, preferably — and I’m in heaven. Her dainty kitten heels contrast sharply with my biker boots. I have a mania for the Middle East in my kitchen, and am partial to baking. Susan is more a roast chicken kind of girl.

For a woman who thought she would go on working for ever, Susan has adapted relatively easily to retirement. But when she realised, after attending drawing classes for a few months, that she wasn’t about to become the next Artemisia Gentileschi, I realised she needed a challenge. We’re not too old for a challenge, are we?

The two of us debate everything together — from politics to books and theatre to life and relationships. Writing is what I do. Writing is something Susan has discovered she enjoys and is good at. I said, “How about we launch a blog and talk about our lives and everything we have views on. As devoted sisters, but from very different perspectives?” She’s no slouch when it comes to making a decision. We were off!

Now, of course, business being in our blood, we have ambitions. We know the lingo. We can become granfluencers, we giggle. We dream of beating Helen Mirren to sponsorship deals with l’Oreal. I suggest we could become the face of vaginal lubricants for post-menopausal women. You can take the girl out of Cosmo but you can’t take Cosmo out of the girl. My sister groans.

The state of sisterhood is a complex one. Sisters can love one another one minute, hate the next. They can drift apart — or fall out — because they don’t like one another’s husbands. They can say they’ll never allow themselves to be put upon again, then rush to the rescue five minutes later. They can spend their whole lives hung up on which of them was the most favoured by their parents, and which the biggest pain in the backside as they grew up. And they can share memories and intimacies in a way that neither lovers nor girlfriends can quite compete with.

As we explore our lives and opinions on our blog, we are hoping that other people will share with us their tales of sisters and family.

For sister Sue and me the sister bond is unbreakable. We sat together at both our parents’ bedsides in the last days of their lives. We holiday together whenever we can. We walk and talk together for hours at a time. And now that we are working together we ring, text, email, WhatsApp a dozen times a day.

Do we ever irritate one another? Of course. And often. But not a day goes by when I am not truly grateful to have sister Sue in my life.


Linda and Susan’s blog can be found at:

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