Mike Edwards Photography

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I was born in Snaresbrook at the end of the 2nd World War. My Dad was a gunner in the RAF, and survived 38 missions over Germany. He never talked about his experiences, and wouldn't even let me have a German pen friend! I was an only child, and spent three of my early years with my parents in Portuguese West Africa (Angola), where Dad worked for a firm of importers. Why only three years? Well, I became undernourished, because all I would take was powdered milk drinks!

So, on our return to this country, I discovered the delights of Fairy Cakes, and all was well with the world! I had a chequered education at St.Joseph's Convent. I was a bit naughty, and once got rapped across the knuckles for the offence of poor handwriting. But I liked the Nuns, and somehow managed to gain the privilege of arranging flowers at Church. At Chingford County High, I discovered the joys of the English Language but was too shy to take on any roles in School plays. I really wanted to be involved in Drama somehow so at thirteen years old, my friends and I used to go to see John Geilgud act in theatres in London - leaving our parents at home!!

Being a girl as an only child in those days, your career path was marriage, and money wasn't to be wasted on Further Education, so short hand typing it was. I loathed it for four years, and then got married instead and started a family, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Being at home, guiding and establishing the minds of children felt such a privilege.

Then I got worried I might turn out to be a lady who lunches, so I went back to formal education. I took 'A' Levels and thought I could be a Social Worker at one point, but found a Course in Drama, Poetry and Literature locally. With my cream suit and 80's shoulder pads, I realised that Social Work wasn't really for me. The course tutor became a good friend of the family, so much so that in his last years, we cared for him. But he didn't fully explain that the course was a Teaching Diploma. I had no intentions of teaching, but what wonderful years. I read everything I possibly could, night and day, and immersed myself totally. Which is probably why I passed!

From 1985 I taught Drama in Primary school, and have been immortalised on a tea towel with the children's drawings of the teachers. There I am, with my big, long hair, bigger earrings, and beads. At story telling time the children at my feet would stroke the outrageous shoes I chose to wear. They were lovely kids. I was also teaching privately, and eventually after fifteen years, the form filling at State School became too onerous, so I packed it in and just taught from home, which I still do. It used to be mostly adults, wanting to gain confidence for a wedding speech, or a work presentation. Now it's mostly children, especially Asian youngsters, wanting to learn good techniques for school, university or job interviews. It's no wonder they are successful, because they are diligent in all areas of their education. They are also very loyal, and one of my student's mothers is like my own personal Yell.com. I don't need to advertise, or even yell!

I also used to teach Confidence Speech Classes locally, and had a lot of fun at Leyton in the days when Adult Education was free, and attended by some people trying to save on their heating bills at home. Why this class?", I might ask a new student, and get the response that the Guitar Class was full! There was a high proportion of Caribbean immigrants who wanted to change the way they spoke, to gain acceptance, work, and to be generally understood. So, when the Head of the Local Authority told me not to change people's voices, I upped and left. Mind you, I was ready, as coming home in the late and cold evenings was becoming a bit unappealing.

But I really enjoyed helping people gain confidence with their voice. If you don't like the way you sound, you won't want to express yourself, but all that can change, and over the years I've received some lovely letters from clients, thanking me for helping them deliver good speeches or presentations in public, after starting with me in a nervous sweaty state. There are all sorts of reasons why peoples' speech isn't clear, but one sad case I recall was a man in his forties, who had a real inability to open his mouth enough to speak clearly. As a child, his broken jaw was wired, but when the wires were removed, he was never told that he could now exercise his jaw. So he didn't - ever. I helped him to open his mouth properly for the first time in years!!

Was my finest hour appearing on The Only Way is Essex?? I was 'found' and was asked if I could appear on the programme, giving a speech lesson to one of the young characters. I accepted, rather naively, so we had eight film cameras in this room for the whole day. All for about ninety seconds of film. Fame at last..........?

I have no intention of stopping the work that I love, with people that I like, and whose lives I can improve ever so slightly. And I still could have time to be a lady who lunches!