We’ve wound back the clock
While the rest of us are going back an hour this month, meet the readers who are rolling back the years
Four women on how they learned lessons from the past to find a new direction for their lives and reimagine the future
‘Skating gives me joy and makes me feel young again!’
After a health scare, Suzan Clements, 58, from Nottingham, has found happiness through her childhood hobby.
‘Lacing up my white leather skating boots, a thrill of excitement runs right through me. In an instant, I’m 12 years old again, whizzing over the ice without a care in the world.
Back then, nearly half a century ago, going ice skating had a certain theatre about it. Wearing a red Crimplene skater dress and matching pants that my mum had made, I would get the bus with my friend Andrea to the rink in Nottingham. An organ would play as we wobbled around, then we’d stand back and watch the experts, marvelling at one girl a year older than us who took our breath away – her name was Jayne Torvill!
I wasn’t quite up to Jayne’s standards, although I loved my time on the ice. But then, like so many teenagers, I moved on to other things, and my skates were put away and forgotten about.
When I got married and had my daughter, Alicia, now 25, I juggled being a mum with working as an interiors stylist. Then Alicia’s dad and I split up and I forged a new life, working with homeless people with mental health issues. It was amazingly rewarding work, but incredibly stressful.
When I was diagnosed with lesions in my breast in 2011, suggesting early stage cancer, I was deeply shocked. It turned my world upside down and was a huge wake-up call, forcing me to examine every part of my lifestyle. I realised I was mentally burnt out. I needed time and space to heal my mind as well as my body. I didn’t know it then, but ice skating would end up being the final step in my recovery.
Four years ago, a friend who’d heard me talk about how I’d loved skating as a child asked if I would take her 13-year-old down to the new rink in Nottingham. I agreed, but with trepidation. As I cleaned my old boots, I worried that I wouldn’t even be able to stand on the ice, let alone skate.
The old rink had been knocked down and replaced by the National Ice Centre, and there was a queue of noisy youngsters snaking out of the door. With the loud music thumping inside, suddenly I felt very out of place. But all that changed the moment I stepped on to the ice. I was transported back 45 years and loved it again.
“I didn’t know you could skate so well,” said my young friend. “Neither did I!” I laughed.
Twice a week the rink held a ‘Social Ice’ session for over-18s and I’ve been going ever since. I love how friendly and supportive everyone is. I had a few lessons at the beginning, but I’ve learned most from the others in the group, especially two men in their eighties who still have all the moves!
Although it still hurts when I fall over, despite my padded Lycra shorts and knee and elbow pads, skating has been a real tonic for me. It takes me back to being that young girl who did things just for fun. Somehow, as we grow up, we tend to lose that part of us. Now I skate just for the sheer joy of it. I know that the moment I step on the ice, I’ll leave all my worries behind. Skating gives me wings and makes me feel that anything is possible.’
‘I grabbed a second chance at being a mum’
With one child flying the nest before the other starts school, Vicky Hocking, 40, from Paignton, Devon, has a fresh perspective on motherhood.
‘Stomping around outside is my favourite time with my three-year-old son, Barnaby. A typical boy, he loves racing around in the fresh air, whatever the weather. With age has come patience, and I’ve learned to laugh at the mess and worry about it later.
We love nothing better than passing the days in the great outdoors, in the garden or at our beach hut, which is a far cry from when my daughter, Tiffani, was a toddler over 15 years ago. Then, as a first-time mum in my twenties, playing was more about being indoors surrounded by mountains of noisy plastic toys than making mud pies…
Lots of things about motherhood were different first time around. It wasn’t that I didn’t love being a mum – I did – but, as the first of my friends to have a baby, I often felt both out of my depth and out on a limb. Then, after Tiffani’s dad and I split up when she was five, I became very self-sufficient, working in different jobs to make ends meet. Tiffani and I made a brilliant team that I was very proud of, and there was no room for another baby. During my single years, it was easy to convince myself there never would be.
Then, eight years ago, I met my husband Dean online. I knew he was “the one” but there was one thing I had to be honest with him about. “I don’t want any more children,” I told him. Dean promised me that he loved me and Tiffani, whether we had another child or not.
But with him in my life, things changed. We got married and bought an old vicarage near the sea, which we did up together. Tiffani, who’d always loved performing, was getting noticed
‘I have no regrets about having another baby. The age gap gave me time to focus on them individually’
for her acting talent, and I was happy, confident, and more relaxed than ever. With fantastic friends and family around me, I began to think there was no reason not to have another baby.
I was still nervous. I had worked hard to build up my career as an estate agent and I wasn’t sure I was ready to put that on hold and wind back the clock. I was also aware that there would be a big age gap between my children, and I worried how Tiffani would cope with a new sibling.
I dealt with my worries by making sure I was completely prepared. I resolved to throw myself into motherhood in a way I perhaps hadn’t first time around. This time, there seemed to be so many more activities on offer. Instead of feeling cut off from the big wide world, I feel like Barnaby and I are right at the centre of it.
It was all brought home to me at his third birthday party recently. The rain poured down but we had 30 children jumping around our garden, playing at our mud “kitchen” or bouncing on the trampoline in their waterproofs, with their parents looking on from a marquee. Looking at all those families – our new friends – I realised how far we’d come.
Tiffani is about to head 200 miles away from home to take up a place at a performing arts school and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She’s a talented, ambitious and independent 17-year-old and, despite the age gap between her and her brother, she is devoted to him. She may be leaving home before Barnaby has his first day at school, but I have no regrets about turning back the clock and having another baby. The age gap has given me time to focus on them both individually, and if I hadn’t had Barnaby, I’d never have found out how much I love making mud pies!’ She may be older than her fellow students, but Linda Agricole-walmsley, 35, is loving her second chance at education. She lives in Barnsley with her children, Callum, 15, Jasmine, 13, and Jada, three.
‘When my university lecture finishes I don’t go off to the library with the other students. I rush home to cook dinner, before taking my son to football or my daughter to dancing. It’s hard work juggling a college course with a busy family life but I’ve never been happier.
I’d loved my job as a teaching assistant, but when I scaled back my hours after Jada was born three years ago, I struggled to make ends meet. Things got harder still when I split with Jada’s dad earlier this year. Even finding the money to take my children to the cinema was difficult. At the same time, I wanted to be a strong role model, to show the kids that anything was possible.
My dream was to train as a teacher and I discovered there was a foundation course I could do at Sheffield to boost my qualifications before embarking on a degree. Jada was just a year old – but I didn’t want that to be my excuse for not doing it. I decided to grasp the opportunity with both hands.
Now, I’m halfway through my education, culture and childhood course, and I love it. It’s like being born again. I feel as though I’m achieving something important for both myself and my kids, and it gives me great pride to have been asked to be a mature student ambassador for the university.
But it hasn’t been easy. Often the only way I can get my coursework done is to get up at 5am and work before the children wake up. To make ends meet, I have a part-time cleaning job.
On my first day at university, I thought, “What on earth am I doing?” I worried I’d be the oldest person there, but actually there are people of all ages. I’ve become good friends with another mum. We meet up for breakfast every couple of weeks – that’s our student social life!
I’m now hoping to get a job in social work and have that goal in mind whenever I’m finding the work tough. Imagining my children at my graduation always spurs me on. It will be worth everything to make them proud.’
‘Going to university has opened up my life’
‘I’m back where I belong’
Rebecca Perkins, 54, from South Wales, has found she finally fits in at the small town that she once longed to escape from.
‘If I’m ever unable to concentrate, I slam my laptop shut and head outdoors to clear my head. Soon my toes are scrunching in the velvety sand of Langland beach near my home. Although I moved here only a few months ago, I know the area like the back of my hand. Nearly 40 years ago, this was the place where my friends and I would stretch out on towels and put the world to rights.
I grew up in The Mumbles, a seaside village in Swansea, South Wales, but as soon as I was 18, I wanted to get away, to escape the place where everyone seemed to know everyone else’s business. I was blind to the beauty of the sea view from my bedroom window and, as I headed off to university in Surrey, I barely looked back.
I moved to London after I graduated, bringing up my children, now 27, 24 and 19, and loved having everything on my doorstep. I made good friends and threw myself into being a mum. But not everything was perfect, and a decade ago I took the very difficult decision to leave my marriage. Doing so changed my whole outlook on life. I’ve since trained as a “mid-life” coach, helping others reach for the stars, no matter what their age. I believe we tell ourselves that we “shouldn’t” do something or that we “can’t”. Actually, we should and we can! The only thing stopping us is our thoughts.
Much as I loved London, my coastal upbringing had more of a pull on me than I’d realised, and whenever I went back to Wales, that gorgeous Langland beach was the one place I’d head to, rain or shine. Walking along the coast path cleared my mind.
The sea calmed me, but something was still missing. I felt that I needed to unlock my younger self, the girl who had lain on that sand without a care in the world. The idea of moving back to the town I once longed to escape took hold.
The people I loved were still there. Since my dear mum was diagnosed with dementia three years ago, my monthly dashes along the M4 to see her and to support my dad, and my sister, who still lives nearby, were never quite enough.
But I didn’t realise quite how ready I was to make the move until my partner, Dave, gave me the push I needed. We’d talked about moving to South Wales together and one night back in January this year I caught him scrolling through houses on his tablet. “I think we should maybe do this,” he said. Three months later, I’d rented a 1920s Edwardian villa, moving there ahead of him, and I wondered why it had taken me so long.
Coming back home has been everything I hoped. I get to the beach most days, and now I can pop for a cup of tea with Mum and Dad instead of making a big song and dance about it.
Since I took that first, huge step to divorce,
I feel like I’ve been continually winding back the clock.
Every year has got better. Now, doing the right thing for myself at the right time has made me feel younger.
I swear I even have fewer wrinkles than I used to! I’m back where I belong.’
‘I loved London, but my coastal upbringing had more of a pull on me than I realised’