Interview Series | Kick-Ass Women: Philippa Clare

 

Philippa Clare – LEGEND!

I hope you managed to catch the 1st in this interview series that I begun in December, where I get to interview some of the most amazing women that I either admire from afar, love up close or just straight up fan-girl over. I have only really met Philippa once when she came up from London to speak at a work conference I arranged. But that one meeting was immense, unbeknownst to Philippa as she really had a huge impact on me and I immediately developed a girl-crush on her. You see, Philippa is a kick-ass women who embodies “just do it”  – but I will let her tell you:

Hi so firstly could you tell everyone a bit about yourself (day job, special interests etc)

Hello – I currently run a national Partnership between Help for Heroes and The Prince’s Trust. It means that day to day, I work alongside wounded, injured or sick (WIS) service personnel and veterans. This Partnership support them into opportunities at the Trust if they want to work with young people; H4H provides funding for training and a short term salary. I spend a lot of time travelling around the UK, either meeting new WIS candidates or presenting at military bases and recovery centres so key people are aware of this opportunity and can help refer WIS to me. What I tend to find is that this opportunity is magic both for the WIS and the young people – our young learners look up to the WIS and are inspired by their achievements in adversity, and the WIS get a boost to their own recoveries by being able to have a positive influence in someone else’s life. It’s a mutually powerful and reinforcing cycle!

Beyond work, I love getting out and about doing different things. So from singing with the City of London Choir, to cycling, climbing, hiking, wild-camping and sailing etc, I try to create lots of opportunities – opportunities for trying new things, meeting new people, and testing my abilities and resilience.

A couple of examples would be: I found recently that anyone can kayak on the Thames – Westminster Boating Base offers this for £8 on a Monday evening and you can float around for hours (where can you do anything for £8?!); I took some mates and it was completely ace, really interesting to see London from that perspective, on the water at dusk.

On another occasion I had a weekend that I’d kept free for an adventure… none of my mates turned out to be free but what I’ve learnt works for me is not to wait around for other people, but to crack on and do stuff. Mates then join if they can, or I probably meet new people along the way. So with a 48 hour window to fill, I devised a plan to escape London, roughly using a “Time vs Cost vs Purpose” outline to help identify options. I chose a trip to the Malverns (Time = no more than 2 hours travel; Cost = no more than £80; Purpose = hiking, camping, good views, and fresh air). 48hrs later, I had walked 18miles; wildcamped in the mouth of a cave, with amazing views of distant fireworks, bats flying overhead, listening to owls in the trees around; and, with a mug of hot coffee in hand, seen the sun rise (it was honestly like a movie, the sun really did throw its golden rays on the horizon and they crept closer until all the hills around seemed alight with colour!) Brilliant.

I know you have been involved in the Invictus Games and now Help for Heroes, could you share with us how you got involved in military charities and what this means to you.

I was lucky when I was a kid – I grew up toddling around warships, running around parade squares on military bases, and I went to a military boarding school on the east coast (we had to march everywhere and where old military uniforms for “divisions” on Sundays); also both my parents served in the Royal Navy. Probably some of that stuff shaped my affinity to the Armed Forces!

I love that the Services demand of you to be the best you can be, and to put others before yourself. There is something about individuals who have signed up for that, been achieving that, and then find that taken from them when they acquire a physical or mental health injury. The Invictus Games is amazing, it affords these men and women the opportunity to re-challenge themselves, to celebrate achievements in adversity and re-define their own futures by accepting their injury and carrying on regardless. I loved working with the competitors during the inaugural 2014 Games; their banter was epic (limbs were regularly stolen, hidden or tampered with!) and their camaraderie so inspirational.

When I saw this Partnership job vacancy online, I was so keen to put my hat in the ring; it echoed everything I believed in, everything I wanted to support and it bridged two incredible national charities. It is such a privilege to work in this role. I get to support the Trust, helping young people make the best of their lives and overcome challenges. And I get to support H4H, helping WIS make the best of their lives and overcome challenges. It’s different ends of the same spectrum – and they meet in the middle to gain the fundamentals of what most people really want (besides perhaps unending wealth) – a sense of personal value, a defined purpose, and feeling part of a community.

I know you are also involved in other charitable work, including a Sailing project, what drives you to get involved & make that difference?

Very selfishly – I find it interesting, I enjoy giving back to others and I learn a lot at the same time. Probably not winning any altruism awards there!

It’s important to me to keep creating opportunities. Think I mentioned this earlier and it relates to wellbeing and resilience. In seeking new activities, people and challenges, you expand your social circle, you grow your sphere of experience and you surely cannot help but improve and develop personal strengths. And those strengths may be technical (tangible skills like sailing, cooking, engineering etc) or they may be more broad (coping with change, handling challenging behaviour etc). Either way, by giving back to others, you’re also giving to yourself. As we all know, but at various stages sometimes forget, people are at the heart of life – nevermind money, bills, things, jobs etc – it’s relationships and human interaction that strengthens (or weakens) our wellbeing. So by investing your time, experience and passion in others, you are investing in yourself, too. A big “NB” of course, is that it’s necessary and healthy to balance this altruism with genuine selfishness! You’ve got to do stuff that works for you, you cannot always give back or help or do good: it is a balance. Probably the most obvious thing in the world but I’ve only really identified that for myself recently. 

What do you enjoy most about working with Veterans?

I really respect the values that the military demands of its women and men so, generally, it’s great to work alongside people who feel the same. There’s also a familiarity for me about the military way of life – training, deployment, banter, behaviour, routine etc – that means I can more or less empathise with their backgrounds whilst also understanding civilian life, and the differences in transitioning from one to the other. Perhaps as well, it’s that the outlook on life of the veterans I work with is so deliberately positive, so can-do and selfless, despite everything, that it’s just hugely inspiring to be around them. 

What are you most proud of?

Just over a year ago I was given the opportunity to create something new. When the Trust signed its boat over to Turn to Starboard (a charity that sails WIS veterans, operating from Falmouth), in the contract was a statement referring to an overlap of use of the boat, enabling PT young people to sail onboard her still for a period of time. I’m not entirely sure why I got the gig, but people knew I like sailing and I work with WIS! So since August 2015, I’ve worked with Turn to Starboard to set up a Course onboard “Spirit of Falmouth”. Broadly speaking it’s a sailing course – we have 6 WIS and 6 PT young people onboard “Spirit” for 6 days; we sail around Falmouth and they all literally learn the ropes, learn about charts, navigation, putting sails up and down, etc.

More than that, though, it’s about individuals overcoming physical injuries, mental health injuries, confidence challenges, dramas at home and more. Each WIS is buddied with a PT young person during the week and they complete activities together at the start and end of the day; they also work in a Watch system to sail the boat, to cook and clean; and we all eat together in the evening, review the day and chat about hopes/fears/achievements. Candidates learn new skills onboard, meet new people, see new views and just …take a breath. Together, they increase their resilience, joy and motivation. We’ve seen some wonderful, lasting outcomes – a PT young person was so motivated he got a job once he went home; a WIS candidate said it had given him a new lease of life. And lots more. At present I recruit candidates, brief them, support them in joining the boat, meet them onboard, shape the content of the course, co-deliver the course, and provide post-course support, signposting to other opportunities and organising reunions when possible. We have run 6 course so far – and it’s been epic. Such a privilege to get to work with so many inspiring people!

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Uh, tricky – loads of challenges, but a couple stand out.

On a personal level, this would probably be setting decent and healthy work-life boundaries! I get caught up in my job; I’m lucky that it’s great. But it’s still key to crack on with stuff that is for me, and attach a value to doing not very much at all or doing stuff just because I like it not because it has some wider benefit. 

Professionally, it would be how to work as constructively as possible with a huge range of people – from PT young people; WIS; colleagues; external partners etc. I have my ways of working and my plans/goals etc but they hold no value if I can’t communicate what I mean or want effectively, or to bring others onboard by speaking to their ways of working; it’s an ongoing learning curve : D

Do you feel any extra pressure as a woman in your personal or professional life?

I am so passionate about the achievements of women. About figures historically, and those today pushing boundaries and forcing an imbedded patriarchy to change – or at the very least, think about changing.

I feel pressure on myself to be the best I can be all the time; to play any part possible in endeavours that will help change for the better how women are viewed and treated both personally and professionally. It is an anathema to me how equality of women’s lives to men’s lives has ever – ever – been an issue. It’s illogical, it’s based on straightforward lies, it’s just indefensibly wrong. But what, at a wider level is about power, gets boiled down to stereotypes. So we end up with the whole pink/blue; princess/pirate nonsense. Even now, in adult life, outdoor kit and training kit is all coloured for gender. It’s not at the same end of the spectrum as wage-gap, domestic violence, laws on maternity leave etc but it’s endemic and infuriating all the same!

So do I feel any extra pressure as a woman? I don’t know about ‘extra’ but I definitely feel pressure. I am hyper aware that society tells us ‘x, y, z’; that religion says ‘x & y’; that history teaches us ‘x’ but that it’s on each of us now, today to continue making a difference. We need to support other women, check ourselves on our own preconceptions and judgements, and generally be the best we can be by not ever standing for negativity based on gender. 

If you could spend 1 whole day with someone who inspires you, who would it be?

I take huge inspiration from Freya Stark. Born in 1893, she lived a fierce, interesting and varied life for just over 100 years. She wrote many books, but the one that most captured me about her own life is called “A Passionate Nomad”. I’d definitely recommend it! She travelled in Arabia to places a westerner had never been before – let alone a woman; she learnt several languages; was recognised by the Royal Geographical Society; and her skills were requested by the Foreign Office during the war. She travelled a lot on camelback and stayed with local tribes, recording this work and more via many essays. By all accounts, she was tough, determined, interesting, bright and no-nonsense. I would definitely aspire to those qualities and would love to spend a day with her!


WOW – what an amazing interview, thanks so much Philippa for taking part. I doff my cap to you – you amazing lady!!

G x

Interview Series | Kick-Ass Women: Elizabeth Fox

I am very very pleased and proud to be starting this brilliant series of interviews with some inspiring women who I know, would like to know or I just straight up fan girl over. I wanted to start the series with an interview with someone who I met through my husband Michael. He lived and worked in the US at the end of the 1990s and became friends with Elizabeth. They kept in touch over the years and when Michael and I got together, I am so happy to say that Elizabeth became my friend too.

Tell everyone a bit about yourself (day job, special interests etc).

I am 40-something, single, and live in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. I am employed as a technical writer for a computer software company and have so many hobbies that I don’t have time for them all. Some of my favorites are traveling, cycling, running, playing the mandolin, baking, reading, and eating more chocolate than I should. I’m one of those people who could never possibly be bored. Additionally, I have two nieces and a nephew who I absolutely adore, and a dog, Kirby, who greets me with a smile and a tail wag when I arrive home from work each evening.

Most people, including me, would like to include exercise in their life. Could you tell us how you keep and maintain your fitness in the heat of Alabama? 

Contrary to popular belief, Alabama is not hot all year ‘round. However, we do have to contend with some major heat in the summertime, which, while it doesn’t bring all outdoor activities to a halt, does force us to choose our activities and times wisely. My main fitness activities are cycling, running, and walking, and I find that the changes in seasons bring a natural change in activities. I predominately cycle in the summertime because the days are longer (cycling requires more time than some activities) and the weather warmer. During the hot months of July and August, I ride early in the morning to beat the heat. Once the weather gets cooler, I begin a more consistent running program that keeps me moving through the cold, short winter days, and also provides an efficient way to burn calories in a shorter amount of time than that required by cycling. And I walk all year ‘round simply because it’s good for my mind and body, and because I can take Kirby with me, which makes us both happy!

You have also been lucky enough to explore some of our great planet – do you wish you could travel more? Where would you go?

Traveling has been one of my greatest joys as an adult, and I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to see some amazing places in the past 20 years. While some people are content to stick close to home or maybe travel every now and then, the act of traveling actually intensifies my desire to see and experience more new things. I am constantly in awe over how many different sights and cultures the world contains, and I have a natural desire to explore them and get to know the people and their daily routines.

These days, I would jump at the chance to go back to most any of the places I’ve been before and know fairly well, including Paris, Normandy, and Provence in France, Cornwall and the Cotswolds in England. At the same time, there are so many places that I’d like to get to know better, such as the Alps (both French and Swiss), the Lake District in England, the beautiful countries of Austria and Germany. The United States and Canada also hold so many destinations to which I’ve never been, such as Yellowstone National Park, Prince Edward Island, and New York City. And New Zealand and Australia are also on my list. I could go on and on . . .

As a woman of faith, how do you think this impacts your day-to-day life?

My faith impacts every minute of every day of my life. The main way is through the way I view and react to less-than-ideal situations. While there is much joy and pleasure to be found in this world, there is also much sorrow, pain, and disappointment. Because I have hope as a child of the God who promises to make all things new and perfect, my hope and joy are not circumstantial; my hope is not dependent on people or situations, which can often be disappointing. Rather, my hope is based on the fact that God is at work accomplishing something greater, and that he uses disappointments and tough situations for good in the lives of his people; these things are not wasted and are not for nothing.

This does not mean that I don’t experience disappointment when someone fails me, sadness when plans fall through, and grief when someone I love dies. It does not mean that I never get sad or mad about even the smallest things. But it does mean that I have the opportunity to remind myself daily of what really matters—eternity—which puts things into perspective and give me a hope beyond my daily experiences and feelings.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes from Revelation 22:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

How wonderful that God himself will one day wipe away my tears based on the fact that there will no longer be the need for tears or sadness or disappointment! What a source of hope and joy!

(There’s so much more to this story, so feel free to contact me if you want to know more.)

Do you feel any extra pressure as a woman in your personal or professional life? 

Naaaah, except that I’m the one responsible for making sure my mortgage gets paid and my groceries get bought and my dog gets fed, all of which are motivating factors when it comes to showing up for work each day. 🙂

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the fact that this once shy, introverted girl has learned to be more bold and outgoing. I’ll always be an introvert and can still be shy at times, but I am much more confident in social situations and around people I don’t know than I was when I was younger. As a result, I’m more motivated to meet new people and try new things (even if I’m not completely sure I’ll succeed!).

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge has been maintaining contentment despite the fact that my life does not look the way I’d imagined it would at my age. I am very family oriented and have always thought I’d be married with children at this point. Instead, I’m a single pseudo-career woman who actually isn’t very interested in a career. But obviously, what I have desired for myself has not been God’s plan for my life thus far. My biggest challenge has been to stay focused on the gifts God has given me through my singleness, such as the ability to travel, pursue fun hobbies, and spend more time with others, rather than sink into sadness over what I don’t have. I certainly have much to be thankful for.

If you could spend 1 whole day with someone who inspires you, who would it be? 

My mom. She has been through the wringer in her lifetime, and yet has continued to be a joyful, faithful example to me and a servant to many. She inspires me to read more, study more, serve more, and look at situations less selfishly. I am thankful for her inspiration and guidance in my life.


Thank you so much to Elizabeth for agreeing to taking part in this interview series. A really refreshing, honest and touching interview from woman who inspires me on a daily basis.

G x

You can find Elizabeth on Twitter: @efox25

Blogger Interviews No: #1

You know, I love people and I love blogging and so I thought I would start a new series of blogger interviews as it really interests me to see how people came to blogging and why they do what they do. I haven’t really found many local bloggers close to me yet, well with the lovely exception of one.  She’s so lovely in fact, that she agreed to answer a few questions  – so let’s get started…

What is your name and what is the name of your blog?

My name is Tilly, and I blog at Lavender Lemonade (www.lavenderlemonade.net!)

Where are you from (originally)

I’m from Bradford, a city on the western side of the Pennines.

If you won a million pounds this afternoon, what would be the first thing you would buy? 

I would buy a house, so I have a place to call my own instead of renting like we currently are! Then I can get to grips with making a house well and truly my own instead of being constricted by rental agreements. Although I’d like to add our landlord is amazing and we can do what we like anyway.

How long have you been blogging and why did you start? 

I started blogging in school, on a website called Livejournal. I started blogging publically in my early twenties on Paper Crowned, then due to offline commitments I had to take a long break. In 2015 I came back and I haven’t looked back since!

How did you choose the name of your blog?

I settled on Lavender Lemonade because it fits well with my life right now. I adore lavender and have a garden currently cultivating lots of it, and cooking with it is certainly the way I’d like to go – I thought Lavender Lemonade was a cosy, homey name which suited my vibe. On a more serious note, I partially settled on the name as the drink was recommended to me for anxiety and it stuck in my head.

Is there any subject that you think of as “off limits” on your blog? 

Too much information regarding my step children, my partner and our personal lives. I don’t mind sharing where we go and what we do, but past that is a no-go. I applaud bloggers who can write freely about their intimate life, or their trials and tribulations but it just isn’t me.

As I moved to the North West, my blog is a fantastic way of keeping my beloved family in Bradford updated on how I’m doing and how I look. They don’t need to see more troubling or negative aspects of things I encounter in my life spattered over the internet.

How do your friends and family feel about your blog? Do they “get” it? 

My family do – in fact, my Grandmother is an avid reader and that makes me prouder than any follower number. With that in mind I strive to keep my blog something that I hope makes her proud. Friends have an inkling I think – but I haven’t discussed my online hobby with them as such. If asked about it, I’d be happy to really introduce them but I don’t think its something that would come up in day-to-day conversation.

What’s your best experience of blogging so far? 

I’ve had the opportunity over the years to be blessed with lots of experiences while blogging – meetups, events, hampers – but the one thing I feel that keeps me going is the people I meet through being a blogger. Its such a widespread hobby these days, and I adore the fact I can connect with people from all walks of life and we have something in common. In fact, Gill, I met you through blogging before I moved here! I’d say that’s a pretty positive experience!

Do you have a long term plan for your blog – is there anything you would like to achieve? 

Eventually I’d love to Vlog. I’m a shy introvert, so I think it could be something positive for me to aim for – over summer I’m aiming for more regular, structured postings and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and Lavenderlemonade.net.

Do you have any tips for someone thinking of starting their own blog? 

Social media is a great way of meeting more like-minded folks. Take advantage of that and you’ll go far! The only other thing I’d have to say is you don’t need a fancy camera or an expensive setup. I started blogging with my iPhone 4 and an old laptop. I’ve build up from there to a £450 CANON camera and my own notebook specifically for the blog but it was something that developed over time. Learn to see what works for you and build on that, all bloggers started small.

^^********************^^

So there you have it and some great advice there at the end too! I love the fact that Tilly’s blog helps keep her family up to date with her adventures, whilst also informing the wider world of the fab places she discovers. Thanks Tilly, I am sure we will all look forward to lots more blogs and maybe even Vlogs in the future! 

Don’t forget to check out Lavender Lemonade and do get in touch if you have any questions about blogging. 

Till next time. 

Gill x