Philleigh Way repeating

How does one give thanks properly (and sincerely) for gifts; especially those that unexpectedly go on giving?

A last minute invite from Philleigh Way, a relatively new cookery school located deep in south Cornwall’s beautiful Roseland, en route to the King Harry Ferry crossing, recently turned my hum-drum life on its head.

I can’t tell if it’s the tediousness of middle-aged tiredness, the relentless repetition of family meals or that I’ve simply become distracted by other things and different projects, but lately I’ve lost my mojo for ‘food’, ‘cookery’ and ‘blog writing’.

So, my first apprehension came from the fear that I wouldn’t be able to choose words to deliver the flavour. Plus, a whole day’s course ‘cooking with vegetables’ might…well… It really worried me what I might be letting myself in for.

I love vegetables (don’t get me wrong) but carrots, and the like, get their uninspired place alongside the meat and potatoes for the benefit of the ungracious teenagers, chemically at odds with their ‘greens’, I feed at home. The thought of unwelcome repetitions of oniony burps, cabbage farts, and unanticipated beetroot pink pee took the edge of my characteristic acceptance of this particular offer with normal spontaneity and glee.

In essence, I’ve become grumpy, but I forced myself to accept because it would have been ungracious and cowardly not to.

I’m really glad to say that I learnt many good lessons that day.

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Asparagus, Blue Cheese and Spinach Tart

Lesson 1:

As a self-taught cook, because I wouldn’t take on board what my mother had tried to teach me, I’d never understood the basic ‘half fat to flour’ in making pastry. Chef George Pascoe, fifth generation of his family at Court Farm in Philleigh, had us using butter for a vegetable tarte tartin recipe. He talked about the alternatives quoting his Cornish granny while he demonstrated. She’d always used lard and margarine as the fat for making pastry for pasties, “Because I’m not made of money, Georgie Boy!”

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Sherry, Three Corner Leek and Cornish Blue Cheese Linguine

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Beetroot Tarte Tartin

Lesson 2:

The first dish of the day was a Beetroot Tarte Tartin. I can tolerate beetroot’s earthy flavour in tiny quantities as crisps, baked in cakes or within chocolate brownies, otherwise it’s a vegetable I steer a wide berth of. So my heart sank, “What other vegetable might work?” I asked. George was upbeat and encouraging and suggested a fennel bulb as an idea because, if you don’t like what the recipe says, use a bit of imagination and make it something else. Others in the group who tried it afterwards, thought is tastier than the beetroot version.

Fennel Bulb Tarte Tartin (Serves 1 as a main)

Ingredients

  • 1 Fennel Bulb (sliced)
  • 20g butter
  • 20g brown sugar
  • 30ml white wine vinegar

For the Pastry

  • 100g strong flour
  • 50g cold butter (diced)
  • Enough cold water to bind

Method

  1. Put the butter with the flour and mix until the butter is completely covered to make a rough flakey style pastry.
  2. Add the salt then enough water to form a dough. Knead until smooth. Roll and fold back on itself 5 times then rest the pastry in the fridge.
  3. Place the butter, wine vinegar and sugar in a small 15cm pan and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the fennel slices, making sure the whole of the pan is filled and simmer for a couple of minutes
  5. Roll out the pastry to roughly the thickness of a pound coin and 15cm in diameter
  6. Place on top of the fennel and bake at 200 degrees centigrade for about 20 minutes.
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Fennel Tart Tatin (a variation on the Beetroot)

Lesson 3:
Making fresh pasta is quick, fun and easy (if you have a machine to roll it) and it certainly makes a difference in taste to anything you can buy in the shops. It’s actually something good to get kids involved in. Ultimately, although I was too full by that time to eat it all, the Sherry, three corner leek and Cornish Blue cheese linguine was may favourite dish of the day.

Lesson 4:
Forage and eat fresh. Each dish was liberally flavoured with fresh herbs picked from just outside the kitchen. Three corner leeks were readily available from the hedgerow opposite and the spicy pesto we made for our gnocchi came from watercress growing on the farm we collected during the lunch break. Picked on a bright day in the Spring sunshine, the pungency of flavours in new growth is worth having. Food without it seems bland.

Lesson 5:
A cooking course is, at the very least, a pleasant distraction from normal life. Or it can be good tonic for the soul and make you love cooking just a bit more. At it’s very best it will shift old habits and might completely change and attitude to food and the way you cook.

Vegetables have started to take pride of place on my plate as main course dishes in their own right. Meat is frequently relegated to ‘garnish’ and I’m more interested in cooking again. Bizarrely, the family hasn’t complained, their plates are clean and the smells are always fragrant.

This has been, for certain, a cooking experience with very welcome repetitions.

Philleigh Way’s Farmhouse Cookery style is inspired both by George Pascoe’s experience gained from working in some of the top kitchens in Cornwall and around the globe and from the family recipes handed down by the Pascoe generations.

The cookery school, sourcing fantastic local produce, borders the river Fal with the ocean a few miles away. It’s a balanced landscape of arable fields, pasture and ancient oak woodland making it an inspirational place to learn about food and its provenance.

 

For more information about other Philleigh Way Cookery Courses

Contact: 

Telephone: 01872 580893

Email: info@philleighway.co.uk

Philleigh Way Cookery School
Court Farm, Philleigh, Truro, Cornwall TR2 5NB

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Falafel, Flatbread and Tatziki

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George Pascoe making the gnocchi shapes

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Gnocchi, Roast Tomato Sauce, Watercress Pesto, Parmesan and Herbs.

 

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Philleigh Way Flowers

 

 

 

 

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Very Underprepared in the Feeling Festive

Christmas has barely touched me yet. Except for two preparations:

Sloe Schnapps (don’t let the Cork Dry Gin bottles fool you)  and the Christmas Cake.

This is how they currently look.  Tomorrow, I must write the Christmas letter 😦

Come back every few days to see if, and how, my Chrimbo preparations  have progresses….photo photo[1]

Moving on a little. Still no inspiration for the Christmas letter but the cake is developing slowly. The plan, in my head, is to make the cake look like a wrapped Christmas present with a bow…

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Almost 50

Reaching my half century feels as remote a possibility as it was when I was just turning twenty. I just can’t get my head round the fact that I’m soon to be that old.  At 49, I’m panicking that ultimately my life won’t have amounted to all that much, and the potential I showed at 21 was blown away while I drifted through one open door after another without considering if it was the right door, or if I should rattle the handle on a few closed ones first…Photo on 11-09-2013 at 18.43Photo on 11-09-2013 at 18.37 #2

Truthfully, I can’t pretend that I feel all that young anymore now that I can’t read without glasses and the skin on my hands is looking baggy, but neither do I feel ready to be considered old. My grandfather, at 60, said he was just approaching his middle-age.  We laughed about it, funny old Grandpa who survived two World Wars and died in a nursing home aged 95 – but now I get that what he said wasn’t meant to be funny, it was how he must have felt and what the mid-life crisis is all about. Life accelerating, whizzing all too fast.

The debris of my life past, littered with the quest for many adventures, and peppered by the ravages of family, friendships, relationships and kids are nothing other than a succession of journeys of self-discovery while I’ve been trying to find out who I am, what my talent might be, and what’s going to spark my desire to get up in the morning and to make something significant out of my day.

As soon as I can shake the offspring I’ll be ready to begin the thing I should be doing with my life and not just constantly rehearsing for it. The sad fact is, that while I’m now rapidly approaching my 50th decade I’m still just as unsure as I ever was what career path to follow.  Added to which, in a world of rapidly increasing change I’m running on a hamster wheel in order to assimilate new skills onto into my resume at a furious pace but still I don’t move forward. I just do it in the desperate attempt to slow the slide into the invisibility of old age.

This post was prompted – and frankly, if I’m to do anything nowadays outside the relentless everyday routine it needs to be prompted by somebody else’s inspiration. So thank you Tara Cain for your week 157 of The Photo Gallery: Selfie where I can have an excuse to turn the focus back on Me, me, me!

Two Weddings

Into the Archives. Two weddings, 70 years apart. My own and my grandparents.

A captured moment in time. Similarly informal, each featuring an additional small infant.  Symbolic portents of our own personal contributions to a growing world population. Even my rose bouquet, long veil and the length of my wedding dress is not dissimilar from my grandmother’s. My husband’s cravat, waistcoat, and tails is not unlike my grandfather’s.

I’m always amazed  that Grandpa, who was born in 1888, would have remembered Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. He’d have been about the same age as my own children who witnessing our present Queen’s Diamond celebrations. My own lifetime already reaches into 115 years of tangible memory.

Delving into the archives reminds us that no matter how much the era may be very different, there are threads that bind us and we still build our memories marked by weddings, jubilees and anniversaries in very similar ways.

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Falling to pieces

I don’t do depression, stress, anxiety or sadness very well. I’ve been brought up in one of those families who, to avoid misery, attempt to make light of even the worse predicaments. We’re not inclined to wallow in pity, or wail on each others shoulders, or seek much in the way of consoling hugs.

My parents appeared to keep themselves so busy that they gave no time to worry about bad stuff before it happened. With my mother’s growing dementia, my father was able to carry on.  He didn’t show anxiety or spend a lot of time talking about her. He just got on with the business of her care.  And when we finally lost her last October, after a gruelling ten months of slowly dying, he did,  just as my mother would have,  got on with the business of arranging whatever needed to be done, in the most practical and pragmatic way.

Old age might have bits falling off them, but never did either one fall apart.

Typical then, that I’ve tried to follow this example and pragmatism has been, pretty much, my own coping strategy:  Keep busy and the mind occupied. Avoid self-reflection (unless forced). Never ask to be pitied or give into wallowing in regret. For there’s nothing worse, is there really, than being in the company of a gloomy person? Even the most sympathetic souls will have a limit on their time and tolerance.

More than anything, I’m terrified of sinking into depression. The first signs are when I reach for the wine, chocolate (or both) and emerge in the morning with puffy red eyes and a terrible headache. I’m scared of how bad I could get.  My constant escape from being holed up with my miserable self  is to seek some other  seemingly more productive distraction. This might be work,  the garden, or a course that will teach me a new skill or challenge me in the pursuit of some higher potential. Anything to avoid maudlin self-pity.

The net result of all this frantic activity aimed at actually avoiding time to think, is inevitable exhaustion. Made worse with bouts of menopausal night sweats and sleeplessness.

Mummy_falling_apartBefore long I start to unravel. Things take longer to do, I make mistakes, I forget things, I get impatient with my children, we eat late and then I snap. Sometimes in a rage, other times in tears in the depth of the night. But I don’t just fall apart because I’m over-tired, there’s always a trigger which gets me thinking and then the despair washes over  me like a spring tide.

Last September, I embarked on an MBA course. I believed it would fast track me to better pay and better employment. I thought it would add significant value and credibility to all the experiences I’ve gathered ‘moss-like’ over the past 25 years or so of my working life. I knew it would be hard work but it would stimulating,exciting and rewarding.  Therefore – in spite of already having no spare time because it’s easy to under-estimate the time looking after family takes –  I believed I manage it somehow.

I was wrong.

I’ve been brushing all the truths I’ve wanted to avoid aside. Over the years they’ve been mounting up. Sadnesses quashed in a cupboard and gradually growing into a monster. Only a question of time …before this lump of grief would burst forth and smoother me.

I can’t say when it started. It might have its root in the fact that my husband’s employment is offshore. For years it was irregular making planning time together impossible. Now he is only home on a four-week on, four-week off  basis and any training courses eat into his time home. Consequently, I’ve lived this emotionally supported half-life. Half a single mother, half a wife and in a state of permanent limbo. Counting the days ’til he returns and the days ‘before he leaves.  Even though I’m used to it, I can’t stop the feeling that I’m missing out on married life and my sons have grown up with a part-time father.

My mother’s dementia and death robed me too. It’s a double whammy in the grief department as you lose them twice. What should have been the release has turned into me realising how much, and for how long I’ve missed her words of encouragement and support. But mostly her sharing  my lovely growing family.

The final trigger was a little piece of local news, in which I even had my piece to camera on local ITV news. In the interview my reaction was very measured, because the impact of what had been said had quite hit me yet.  Your words hurt us…Mr. Brewer

The thing is, I am a mother of a disabled child.  And deep down the loss of my dream for him hurts like hell. He should be now taking his GCSEs. He ought to be thinking about a college course, about what girlfriend (or boyfriend, it no longer matters) he’ll take to the Year 11 ball…

More than anything, I wish he was able to be independent, to be starting out on a life of his own choosing.

I’ve found the experience of disability extremely isolating. I stopped, very early on, from meeting mums who had their babies around the same time as he was born. His not meeting milestones when other babies did became very disheartening. However, meeting mums with other special needs children –  was even worse. My son has no diagnosis so I couldn’t compare him to any other or join a recognised group such as Down Syndrome. More often, I’d look at other parents with disabled children and feel lucky because, I believed I didn’t have as many care issues, even if I was just kidding myself. Parents of special needs children take on a heroic stance to the onlooker. I’ve been admired for my courage and ability to cope. Only inside I’ve felt constantly  like a wretched failure.

Family life gets more complex as my children get older. The widening gap as my younger two surge on in their lives leaving him far behind and lonely. The thing I’ve been keeping buried and trying to avoid is that my hopes of reclaiming ‘my time’, as the children get older, is a fantasy. Dreams of achieving an MBA is foolish. One moment I was putting all my energy into my course then quite suddenly I lost all desire for it.

Overnight. Bang. I couldn’t open a book. Nine marks from passing the current module and the whole thing felt pointless, meaningless and fraudulent. If I passed, I wasn’t sure I’d actually learnt anything I could use. My rational head says: ‘just do it’. Physically, mentally, emotionally it’s a struggle.

I’m not sure. Is this stress talking or depression taking hold?

You see, disability isn’t a choice.  It’s a responsibility. That’s why the flippant, mis-judged remark of Councillor Colin Brewer is so hurtful. It’s why it can’t be eradicated with a mere apology, brushed aside, dismissed and forgotten. My son is a lovely, joyful person and he has changed me from the person I was in so many ways. Not perfect by any means, but I am a better human being. He deserves the full life with all its opportunities that most of us take for granted. He won’t get half of it. But he’ll get more, a lot more, if I open the door, let out my grief and accept it. I am his mum, his champion and his pal.

The gut wrenching twist is Mr. Brewer, having been obliged to stand down as councillor for Wadebridge East in Cornwall at the end of February, stood again for election last week and was re-elected by just 4 votes.

Words fail me and, worse still, I’m at a loss to know how to pick up all the shattered pieces again.

My son didn’t choose to be disabled.

I’ve always had this sneaky suspicion that you have to be just a little bit arrogant to be a politician or a county councillor. It’s probably in their DNA.

That’s not as condemning as it sounds. We need people with belief in their own convictions because they are the ones to stick their neck out, sure in their own sense of being right. The ‘biggie’ is: can we trust them to be a servant of the people and not just on their own ego trip?

The hot local news today is Cornwall County Councillor Colin Brewer’s  ‘ill-judged’, in his own words, remark to a Disability Cornwall member of staff, where he said disabled children “should be put down”. He believes his letter of apology was enough. Public outrage  suggests it’s unforgivable.

The story has been going steadily national throughout the day. The general reaction says it’s stupid, scary, insensitive and upsetting in the extreme or …two Heil Hitlers short of a black moustache. 

As a councillor and representative of other people’s voices,  it doesn’t matter what the extenuating circumstances around it were. Being caught at a bad time on a bad day might have just been the tipping point  for Councillor Brewer to drop his guard and reveal what contempt for the disabled he really thinks.

The thing is,  I’m not quite normal. I have this wonky chromosome in my genetic makeup. You wouldn’t know that I have a bit missing  to look at me or that I reveal myself as anything out of the ordinary. But the rogue in the DNA might be why I have a disabled child.

I inherited it from my father and passed it to my eldest son. Who knows, my other sons may have it too. And there’s a possibility that this curious blip is the reason he has a general global developmental delay and macrocephaly. But however his condition came about, it doesn’t stop the guilt that it’s all my fault. I made him, after all and he’s a bit of me.

I only know what it like to be the mother of this one particular disabled child and, truthfully,  if I had one wish it would be to make him ordinary.  If only to be able to grasp the same opportunities in life that ‘normal, able-bodied’ people have. At 16 he’s practically an adult with rights of his own. Therefore he should have a voice and a chance to speak out, except that forming words and the normal communication the rest of take for granted is manifestly impossible for him. I’ve no real idea what it is like to be him, since he can’t actually tell me, so I’ve had to learn how he feels by being as empathetic as it’s possible to be.

And that’s it in a nutshell:  the gift that having a disabled child in the family brings us. Empathy, kindness, sympathy, patience and humility. The most important human qualities. My  other ‘normal’ children  have these qualities too and I know they will go out into the world being better people because of it.

As a footnote: I’m pretty sure,  in the wonderful variety of the human species, there are wonks and wiggles and missing bits quite possibly in the genetic make up of just about everyone out there. Consider all the colourful character variations there are in the human species and multiple them ten fold. That’ll be your  ‘disabled’ spectrum. Special, extraordinary people, we need them.

The Sibling Bond

My younger two boys hate each other, they tell me. The big one is mean to the younger one. You know how it goes. The older they get the more insulting they’ve become and the richer the language used…

But the evidence here is quite the contrary…

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They rarely seek the companionship of friends because they’ve always have been the best of buddies…

Now they are older they can trade insults with each other on Facebook when I object to the term ‘f-ing bastard’ flying about the place. Their voices are louder and deeper and knees get shoved into groins.

But  the truth is still pretty clear.

This post is part of Tara Cain’s Photo Gallery Week 129 ‘Bond’

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12 days of Christmas in cakes

For the past twelve years I’ve been making a Christmas Cake. they don’t really follow a recipe except that they are heavy and dark with fruit and nuts bound together with a bit of cake mixture and soaked in whatever alcohol that comes to hand. The cake is so good, rich and well-preserved that we nibble through it slowly having tiny slithers at a time.  We can go on treating ourselves to the occasional slice of Christmas cake right into summer time.

Partridge in a pear tree copy

2001 – A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

This year my cake was mostly made of fruit and nuts that passed the sell by date six years before. After my mother died we discovered a stash that she must have bought when she’d still been able to make cakes. However with her dementia and my father’s reluctance to explore the back of his kitchen cupboards, it had gone unopened and undetected.  I was on the verge of committing it all to the bin, had it not been the instinct of  my mum’s wartime frugality that stopped me. I’d chuck it out, I decided,  if, after investigating, it wasn’t fit to eat.  Walnuts don’t age well so they went into the compost bin; the hazelnuts were a little stale but edible; the fruit more shrivelled and dry. All were treated to a 24 hour soak in orange juice, port and brandy and emerged fat, plump and very sozzled. Ultimately a head start.

Each cake’s decoration has followed the 12 Days of Christmas as a theme….but now I’ve just finished with the “12 Drummers Drumming” one, what’s next?

Here’s the full set of my 12 cakes. Never before all seen together (how could they since they’ve all been eaten!) My first, the Partridge one was always my favourite.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by “my true love” on one of the twelve days of Christmas.

…and so forth, until the last verse:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

12 Drummers Drumming

11 Pipers Piping

10 Lords-a-Leaping

9 Ladies Dancing

8 Maids-a-Milking

7 Swans-a-Swimming

6  Geese-a-Laying

5 Gold Rings


4 Calling Birds

3  French Hens

2 Turtle Doves

…And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Two turtle doves

2002 – 2 Turtle Doves

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2003 – 3 French Hens

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2004 – 4 Calling Birds

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2005 – 5 Gold Rings

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2006 – 6 Geese-a-Laying

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2007 – 7 Swans-a-Swimming

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2008 – 8 Maids-a-Milking

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2009 – 9 Ladies Dancing

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2010 – 10 Lords-a-Leaping

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2011 – 11 Pipers Piping

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2012 – 12 Drummers Drumming

Understanding the story of my own life…(c.1983)

This was me (looking at the camera) with a lass called Kirsty from Edinburgh (I’d love to know where she is now), cooking on a make-shift fire and grill on the shores of Lake Turkana (romantically called ‘The Jade Sea’). We were miles from civilisation and a cold drink. It was 1983 and I think it might have been around my 19th birthday or thereabouts. A day marked famously because I’d  got the privilege of having the bed springs to sleep on all to myself.

I’m posting this for two reasons. The first because I’d planned to follow Tara Cain’s link theme ‘The Eighties” on her blog, Sticky Fingers….but due to technical problems, i.e. my scanner going all temperamental on me, I missed the link before it closed.

The other reason is the fact that I’ve just started studying for an MBA (Masters in Business Administration). Yup, I’ve gone back for a bit of re-education….

Although, perhaps first I should explain the ‘bed springs’ reference  because I’ve just left that one hanging there.

In a nutshell, post A’levels I spent a year in Kenya as a volunteer teacher with Project Trust . Since we were really very young, we were sent in pairs (my co-volunteer, who took the picture, was the wonderfully dry, yet master of the understatement, Lucy Roberston. She went on to study bio-chemisty who and then got a PhD in Turdology. In other words she studied parasites in poo).

During the holidays we’d meet up with all the other Project Trust volunteers at our base in Nairobi and plan trips to the most far-flung corners of the country. We’d hitch-hike everywhere and try to out-do each other as who managed to get lifts on the most bizarre  or memorable transport possible. To get to the Eastern side of Lake Turkana (where this picture was taken) right in the northern deserts of Kenya we’d rode on the tops of supply lorries full of sacks of maize flour, we returned bumping around in empty trucks. The only people were nomadic Turkana tribes people with their camels. Getting to these remote areas often had the added excitement of travelling in convoys with armed guards to protect us from bandits. During that year I got lifts in everything from the backs of pick-up trucks to air-conditioned Mercedes Benz, from 4-seater light aeroplanes and once on the deck of a cargo ship travelling North from Mombassa to Lamu for Christmas.

We hitched everywhere because we were young and hell-bent on squeezing every last ounce of experience out of our gap year, and we had no money. We were on the grand salary of 900 Kenya Shillings a month or £45! So when we rented a room overnight we selected the cheapest safest places we could find and then 6 of us would all cram into a single room . We’d take the mattress off the bed (a simple metal bed frame with a mesh strung across to give a bit of spring) and put it on the floor so the two luckiest could top and tail on it. Two would get the bed springs and the two, who drew the short straws, got the concrete floor.

That year of my life, pre university, pre jobs, pre growing up and being responsible has certainly influenced the rest of my life. I didn’t think I was brave or extraordinary or particularly mature. I was just curious. My mother naturally didn’t want her 18-year-old, and youngest, daughter to disappear to deepest, darkest Africa for an entire year. I just resented her tearful pleading that I shouldn’t go because it undermined my confidence. My dad, bless him, didn’t give in to her and supported me just when I needed to be believed in.

Over the last 3 decades, my experiences have been very ordinary. University, jobs, love affairs, jobs, marriage, children, jobs and work. I’ve not had a holiday for a very long time and me going anywhere outside Cornwall now is a pretty rare event. I had a 3-year blast on a teaching contract in Botswana in the early 1990s which probably used up quite a chunk of my life’s travel quota (if there was such a thing)…

But maybe, just maybe I’m not so ordinary?

I have to keep questioning my sanity. Why, for feck’s sake, have I just enrolled on a 2 year Executive MBA course? I’ve been working only in a freelance capacity for the past 10 years and I don’t have any real experience of business. Maybe I’m still trying to work out what my ‘proper job’ should be? Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis – only with women we don’t have time for these we just have ‘the-men-o-pause’ or the ‘bugger off, it’s my time’ strop.

This week –  it’s “Leadership and Self-awareness.” …we have a lot of leadership and self-awareness issues at home along the lines of “why is it me who has to pick up all your crap?”

So, can I have the makings for being a good leader? Apparently it can be learned rather just be in the genes so to speak. The first task has been to ask people I’ve worked for and with to complete a 360 degree feedback report about me.

I was worried, since I work alone and at home, that they’d be no one who knew me well enough to comment. However, not so. Learning what other people have observed about  me (and I’m a bit choked to say it) has been the biggest confidence boost to date and really quite overwhelming.

The nicest things that were said about me was from someone I’ve never actually met in person. Apparently I excel as ‘an effective  communicator and I demonstrate strong values, ethical standards and personal integrity’. I’m very proud of that. “Goes the extra mile.” (If only that involved burning calories rather than just the midnight oil *sigh*) “Does not act on spontaneous suggestions, sticks to her guns, tho’ not blindly,” and “Will challenge and advise client when in best interests to hear difficult truths.”  Finally it has been important to be told that I don’t have enough confidence in my own “considerable” ability, neither do I “influence people as effectively as I should. I let others take the lead even when I know better”.

To become an authentic and trusted leader today, I read, I must first learn to understand the story of my own life.

So I’ll start with that fearlessly pragmatic girl on the beach? She was certainly the starting point for who I am today, and since discovering I’m not without leadership potential, I can feel a lot more encouraged.

As a footnote,  I’ll take the comment, that I’ve madesome decisions occasionally off-beamas a compliment even if I suspect  it may have been a criticism.

In my children’s shadow

The thing the don’t tell you about becoming middle age is the becoming invisible to the world and self-sacrificing to the family.

Middle age is being thrown into a swirling tide of teenage hormones pushing you in all kinds of emotional and physical directions mostly involving a car. Middle age is when you start checking yourself for keys, ‘to do’ lists, reading glasses and ominous lumps.  Middle age is staring into the faces of your crumbling and aging parents and realising that they can’t do your baby sitting anymore.

When was the last time anyone took particular notice of me? When was I last congratulated, admired or rewarded? Somebody, surely must have said ‘well done’ when I earned a place at  a university. Or was it with the achievement of my undergraduate degree, the first proper job, a nice steady boyfriend, becoming engaged, getting married and having a baby? Of course I was congratulated then. I have cards and pictures to prove it. Being in the cherished limelight is special and unfortgetable and it encouraged me to do my best.

That being congratulated from the first time you held a spoon and fed yourself, tied your own shoe laces, wrote a poem, took exams and passed your driving test it makes mums pretty good at remembering to congratulate their own offspring and others.

For years now I’ve beat myself up for being a bad mother and a less than dedicated employee;  for eating too much, for lacking self-discipline, for having no interest in exercise or energy for sex (or is it the other way around?).

Then in just in one week I stood in the shadows and watched each of my children stand in their own spotlights. They each experienced something rare that should make them feel as special as I know they are.

One received a standing ovation as part of his school’s singing and signing choir at the Hall for Cornwall.

One shook the hand of the next in line to the throne.

Receiving the first DUKE OF CORNWALL COMMUNITY SAFETY AWARD

The third tonight touched Ed Coode‘s Olympic gold rowing medal from Athens 2004  and received a Science medal of his own as the best in his school.

Middle age is when you accept it’s time to stand aside and let the next generation through.

Pondhu School medal winners and class teacher

This wasn’t written as such, but it seems to fit, so I’ve made it an entry for the #PGRaisingOlympians Celebrate Their Success Linky