Growing up as a spoiled brat; pony, ballet, green fields, I knew I was going to be a great scientist or an Astronaut; I planned A levels and universities, dreamed of sweetly balletic turns in Zero G whilst flying over the Earth on my way to Mars. Old fashioned, Victorian inspired father dictated otherwise; a girl must be married. Education is wasted on women, they only need sufficient skills to read a cookbook and write a shopping list. No A levels; No university, no hope.
Rebelling, I ran; met a boy, rode motorcycles, raced through obstacles until stopped at full throttle by a drink driver on one of the hottest nights of 1976. Boy died and so did I but I was luckier and was saved by a man who had had serious trauma training in a war zone and saved my life by unorthodox methods for the time.
Months in an army hospital, fittings of prosthetic limbs … end of the ballet then … bullied by the sweetest Sergeant Major of a physio and adopted by those returning from Ireland, I was taught that you take no crap, you are responsible for yourself; only you can motivate yourself and that Bushmills is better than any amount of painkiller drips. I was 17 and without a plan.
Was organised into taking a shorthand typing course by a dear old lady who had a “throw yourself in front of the racehorse attitude to life”, and then worked for a company that had just installed its first computer. Logic dictated that as I could type and the computer had a keyboard, I should be in charge of it. It was thrilling; stand-alone suite of rooms, double doors, airlock etc. I loved it, was like working for the secret service in a 1960’s spy thriller series. Whirring disks, tape drives and huge floppy discs with a teleprinter and secret code to learn … all I needed was a Volvo P1800 and some kinky boots. The company went bust but I had learned, fast and furiously. Computing, programming, the digital revolution; saw the first PC arrive; large, bulky and slow but it was already eyeing up my PDP and preparing for a takeover. I could see the future blinking at me with a small green cursor.
I moved to a Motor Racing Circuit, installed their first computer system, and travelled around the UK running Formula 3 motor races; Brands, Silverstone, Snetterton, and more. Learned to think fast, never panic, call the ambulance, handle angry, testosterone driven hyper young men in dangerous machines with a killer instinct. Good training for F.E.
Married, children (two) lived in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and came back to England when the wind changed and I’d had one too many Earthquake escapes. Got a job as an LSA in a local college, studied for my first degree with the OU at night, while they slept, then did another one too. Was offered a teaching role (GCSE Maths resits), did well, then A level science. Now I was raising 2 children, mostly alone as husband toured with rock’n’roll bands, teaching full time, finishing my second degree and completing a PGCE. It was the best fun. Teaching in F.E. gave me the opportunity to do what my trauma man had done; give people a second chance.
Taught some amazing students who I still keep in touch with; Environmentalists, Artists, one is an Egyptian Archaeologist looking for Nefertiti, honoured to have had a small part in shaping their futures, giving them the tools to be the people they will become. Completed my Masters and felt that I was vindicated; a woman was not just for jam making.
Climbed the slippery pole to a management post, moved colleges, climbed higher and ran full tilt into redundancy. Went into interim management and learned more in a few years than I had dreamed possible. Proud of my children, who have grown into beautiful, functioning, capable, mature adults who make my heart skip every time I think of them. Proud of my husband and thankful for his love; someone who has supported me through endless late nights, work deadlines and trips into hospitals when I continued to be careless with my limbs.
Life is never what you think it will be; but to make it work, to get the better of it, no matter how many times it kicks you over and stamps on your face is a lesson well learned. There will be more lessons but the joy that comes from outwitting the lessons is immeasurable.
Living, dying; they are the same thing if you do them wrong.
It taught me that if you get a second chance, grab it, run with it and do everything you can to make the most of it. That’s what I teach my students. F.E. is their second chance and I must never let them waste it.