I was brought up in Nottingham, and studied English Literature at Bristol University. My career was in IT, including stints working at the BBC in London, a software house in New York, running my own small consultancy business in the UK, and finally working with Logica (a large IT consultancy firm)
Although I did enjoy the challenge, I sometimes found it difficult to manage my work/life balance. In my mid 40’s, I took a long hard look at my health, and didn’t much like what I saw! I was overweight, a heavy smoker, working very long hours and frequently working away from home. My father had died of a heart attack at 58, and my mother had a lucky escape from oesophageal cancer. Something had to be done. I started by giving up smoking, not easy, but I found that aversion therapy worked for me. I soon noticed an improvement in my breathing, but like many people I piled on weight. Dieting alone was not going to be enough – I needed to exercise, but I had no idea what to do. I was very lucky to find an excellent personal trainer, and from small beginnings (power-walking a mile) I built up to running Marathons. I was never a fast runner, but I was very persistent!
My husband John also worked for Logica, and when we were 60, the company asked for voluntary redundancies. We didn’t waste much time deciding to volunteer! Our first years of retirement were great – we spent a lot of time at a farmhouse we’d bought in south-west France, travelled around the UK and Europe, and had a 3 month holiday in New Zealand. John played a lot of golf, and I set up a fund-raising group for a local charity in Essex. We’d always said that we’d move from Essex when we stopped work, and after a few trips to different parts of the UK, we settled on the South Hams. We bought a beautiful old property in a tiny and very isolated hamlet near Dittisham, knowing that it wouldn’t be practical in our old age, but expecting to stay there for 5-10 years. Unfortunately, old age arrived ahead of schedule I developed serious arthritis which made walking difficult, but far more worrying, John was diagnosed with dementia.
We moved to Kingsbridge in early 2016. John’s condition deteriorated very quickly, and he went to live in Quay Court, where I could visit him every day. I continued to struggle with my mobility, until I had hip replacements in late 2017. I am still in rehabilitation, but can now walk a few hundred yards without a stick. John passed away in February 2018, so all in all, it’s been a very difficult couple of years. Although I want to be self-reliant, I do still need a bit of help. I’ve had such excellent medical care for John and myself, and I’ve also been supported by local groups and individuals. The Kingsbridge community has been welcoming, friendly and supportive. Since moving to the South Hams, I’ve been in the Children’s Hospice South West Friends Group, but needed to do more. When I heard about the SHAW initiative, I wanted to be involved, and I hope I will be able to make a good contribution in a number of background jobs.