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

Prima (UK) - - Contents -

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’

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