Born and bred in southern Hampshire, United Kingdom, movement, music and expression were a part my life from an early age, initially through ballet dancing, where my Grandmother accompanied us on the old piano. I remember in those days having already considered becoming a ballet teacher when I grew up; I was in awe of my teacher and how she was able to teach all of us together and as individuals.
Performance was a natural part of this world, every year we offered both a classical dance and a character one, the latter being my preferred although I loved all the costumes and make up. I never had stage fright, I felt the anticipation excitement and enjoyed the short time entertaining our families, as much as I loved watching the other dancers, especially the older girls and boy.
My wishes to continue ballet training were dashed as I grew up when I realised at an exam in London, that I really didi not have the ideal physical proportions to become a successful dancer and so followed another passion, the study of the human body and I later trained as a nurse.
In between the time from 16 when I was offered a place to train at the John Radcliffe in Oxford and 18 when I had also studied Art and Design to A level (as well as Zoology) I rebelled and decided I wanted to go to Art college. However, my parents managed to persuade me to take up the nurse training first as the Art degree could always come after – and so it did…after gaining my registered nurse qualification, I did three months staff nursing on a lung ward and then left Oxford for London via a nannying post near Amersham, where I was able to collate my portfolio in time for the interview at the Middlesex University in London to study Printed Textiles. I got in as a ‘mature’ student, I was 21 – mature was not a word I would use as a way to describe my status!
Three years later after gaining the degree, specialising in costume design, in 1986, I began making costumes for a band, around the theme of the so uncool it had become cool, look of the 1970’s. This band was inspired by walking around the Brick Lane market in London’s East End and collecting the old Top of the Pops records. Outfits and footwear were sometimes found here, very rare in those days. The band were looking for a lead singer and as my boyfriend was the guitarist he persuaded me to stand in until they found one…well, 15 years later, I was still performing in high platforms, silver space themed costumes and accoutrements, with bags of glitter encouraging the audience to find their stardust within. The band was infamous as a party enthral and I even found myself on the front cover of the NME in 1988 – a year before my son was born.
I had a break from the performance side for a couple of years, rearing my babe, until a very good friend got married and wanted us to play at her reception – the game was on again and I remember playing at the street festivals where we lived in Stoke Newington in London, the last one being in 2000, just before we left London for the New Forest, but I am skipping an important phase…
When my son was two and a half, his Dad and I split up and I then became a single Mum, although he saw his Dad every other weekend.
When he was 4, in 1993, I was exhausted, I recall waking up one morning and feeling so old, and yet I was only 32. It seemed like nothing would shake me from this fatigue, I also had suffered from a tenosynovitis on my forearms and was looking to strengthen them up in a less intense than the gym way. So I started asking around friends and researching alternative health care possibilities, I was already interested in Homeopathy and treated my son with it regularly, learning enough to offer first aid treatment. Acupuncture was also helpful for the arms and the Alexander technique came in very useful for postural awareness. But I wanted to find something that I could do for myself, for various reasons, not least financial…
One of my son’s friends parents, Ged Sumner, offered me some healing and I had a couple of sessions after which he asked me if had I tried Chi Kung? Chi what? was my reply! I had enjoyed some yoga sessions with his wife, but that was not quite IT. He invited me to go to his local Chi Kung classes and you know, the first time I did it, it was as if my body recognised the moves somehow, the graceful arm movements were not dissimilar to ballet, I guess it was getting back into a zone of movement and healing, although I didn’t know that at the time.
This became my quality time, just for me and as I had a friend who lived in the flat below us, babysitting was an easy and free possibility – thanks Mr. N – and after a couple of years I found myself being able to train three time a week.
My life began to change quite radically as I studied more the Taoist philosophy that underpinned the Chi Kung and met other like minded people. My horizons opened out, I felt as if I had more choices and had an inner guidance system I could trust.
I was still costume designing and had begun to get involved in feature film projects. A friend moved in for 3 months to help take care of my son when I was on set and running all hours, it was tougher than nursing! and the only time I got to relax was when I was driving to and from location, this is when I learned how to use the seat and headrest to a fuller capacity. Some of the Chi Kung moves began to creep into my everyday life as a form of body/mind maintenance, shaking, turning, breathing, refuelling. I realised that I would never had been able to consider this intensity of work before practicing Chi Kung, it was more demanding than nursing!
However as well as films I also designed and produced beaded wedding gowns and was creating a beautiful crystal embedded velvet number for one of the make up girls from the film, when I got shooting pains up my right arm particularly from all the pinning and stitching that was required for working with this tricky cloth. I was half way through and of course a wedding date was looming. I used herbal creams and wrist braces, eliminated any work that was not essential – even driving was tricky. My son was 8 and could walk to school, I had a handy dishwasher, phew, and got help in the house at very lo cost, all so I could finish this piece of magical craftsmanship. I still didnt get a finished photo of the deep green and magenta dress and jacket, but I did have to give up costume design…
What to do?
A single Mum, unemployed, but thanks to working tax credit and his Dad for always paying the child support, we covered our basic living costs but what to do? this was my career, I loved it, well not the punishing hours and constant neck and arm ache. So here was my body making me listen to the quieter reasonings of my mind.
Ok I’m listening – what do people want that I can offer in my semi-incapacitated state? My arms were slowly healing, I had a friend who practised Reiki on me and I was able to carry on with my Chi Kung training as there was no tricky arm positions and anyway Chi Kung works with you, encouraging, not forcing but allowing…
My son’s friends would come round and play with the odd fabric offcuts we had in various bags around the place, some keen ones asked if they could make a purse, or a bag…lightbulb moment! Here were a group of gorgeous kids at the local school, where crafts was not part of the curriculum and yet they had a natural desire to create.
So I set up weekend afternoon sessions, sewing, fabric dyeing, fabric painting, papier mache, whatever they wished to learn, although it was mainly sewing, making gifts like cushions and dolls clothes or having a project, like an underwater theme where each child chose an animal/fish/flora to express through fabric creating a huge scene in out thankfully large kitchen and living room. Their parents were only too happy to pay for creative child care 🙂 and I found that I really rather liked working with the kids, it was more like play.
Things progressed, my arms were still healing, I did Reiki 1 training and loved the connection this had with the Chi Kung. Just before the turn of the millennium a few things happened to help me consider moving out of London, not least that my son was turning 10 and was getting anxiety disorders from having bullying trouble at school and he was set to move up to the secondary school which didn’t feel right. We had been traveling up and down to the New Forest, as had good friends there, one time traveling back late one night with my lad strapped into his back seat sleeping position, I had a flash that one day we would be doing this the other way around. How to organise this idea? The fullness of time unfolded and these friends who ran a small school, offered me a part time job bringing my crafty ideas into their school. I later also taught human biology, it came naturally.
My CK tutor had already got me teaching an early morning class and I was looking into setting up regular teaching sessions myself, could I do this is the New Forest? After enquiring at the Adult Education centre I would need to complete a 6 week course on teaching adults and then I was in, I was on it! I did this training by visiting whilst still living in London, and we found a sweet little thatched cottage slap bang in the middle of the New Forest. In the summer we moved, there was the foot and mouth outbreak, so there was disinfectant mats on all the cattle grids, and visitors were few and far leaving us to utter peace, with the cat and the rat, in our little garden, under the trees, with an open fire and quaintness all round. This along with horses wandering around outside the cottage was enough to tempt my son away from his old life, reassuring him and his Dad that they would still be able to see each other at the weekends via the very convenient train network. This was the dawning of the age of the mobile phone after all.
The month before we moved away from London was the last street party in Stoke Newington where we had lived for 10 years. The Eight Track Cartridge Family did their last gig, with my son being ‘Little Jimmy Osmond’ introducing us and wearing his 10th birthday present from me, a white ‘John Travolta’ suit, with a silver lining, the first item of clothing I had made for 2 years – I had also developed a range of star-shaped wheatie bags, Apollo Stars, but they are another story. He is now is a Brighton based band ‘Jouis’ where he plays keys, writes songs and sings and that is his story.
Installed in the natural forest where the chi was enormous and hugely connecting and supportive I was initially a bit lonely until I gradually began to meet people, both from across the road and down the lane and from my son’s new Waldorf School and through the Small School I continued working in, began to offer human biology classes to the secondary kids and basic science experiments to the primary. The Chi Kung class was once a week in the evening and as my lad was becoming more independent and the folk over the road were splendid, I was able to go out and teach in the evening.
I ran back to London every few months to continue Reiki training and see friends.
Then Ged opened the College of Elemental Chi Kung with Thalbert Allen in London, to offer teacher training seminars and element workshops. And I wanted to get there…how was I going to make that possible? Financially I was only just managing. So I began to save ‘Magic £5ers’…