I never realised as I sat there having that photo taken on a lovely day in Brazil that soon my life would radically change and the person I was that day would slowly dissolve away like sparkly fairy dust.
Before that day I was working as a tutor in further education. I loved work. Over my life time I have taken on many jobs being a Leo I just enjoyed challenges.
When I was 16 I lived in Cyprus with my family dad was in the RAF. I completed a typing course as most of us did way back then. We would be clack, clacking away at those big heavy typewriters. Before we even started our nails if they were long would be forcibly trimmed back by our tutor, “girls you can’t possible type with talons” and well we just accepted that, thankfully back then I was a nail biter so never had to face that assault on my body. Some of the girls would cry for days looking at their beautiful finger nails all cut down to the tops of their fingers and bits of coloured nails lay sadly tossed onto the floor.
I loved typing and excelled at it. My words per minute were top of the class I could hit accurate speeds of 80wpm. I passed all my typing tests but sadly did not do so well with GCSE in English and Maths. I can’t remember my results now but sure that I failed maths, although I did pass Commerce and English but only scraped through that. Ah well never let these things get you down over the years I have to say my life was good as far as working was concerned.
So in the sunshine of Cyprus you would find me in the typing pool, as I was an accurate typist they promoted me to typing the accounts on a long platen machine. You had to type on A3 paper sidewise and use tabulations, there were no computers back then. It was down to skill and precision oh yeh and the need for maths to work out the tabulation points. I found this really it was so complicated yet I excelled at it. I loved it.
It was fun working if my memory serves me my wages were about 20.00 a week for 37 hours. A job became vacant as a secretary/typist for a Flight Lieutenant in the Mechanical Transport Section, which I applied for and got. I loved that job and it was a huge promotion for me I was told a lot of people applied for it but I got chosen. My boss was such a great guy, Flight Lieutenant Bateman, I worked hard for him, and of course the place was teeming with men which gave my ego a boost The photo was taken a few years after I left but that is the motley crew at the time working at the MT Section in Cyprus.
It was my first sojourn into working in a man’s environment and have to say I enjoyed it and over time learnt to stand up for myself in a male work place, which stood me in good stead in the future as I often ended up working in engineering companies.
I met my first husband in Cyprus. He left before I did as he was stationed back to the UK. However, we got married eventually in minehead it was a lovely wedding I have to say both my parents were against it they didn’t trust my choice perhaps really I should have listened to them. I married my soldier Michael James Turner-Sterling. He was married in full dress uniform and to be fair he did look smart.
I was shy off 19 in July when I got married. Michael was a hard man, very aggressive and controlling, and it was my first lesson in love the hard way.
After the honeymoon we were stationed in Camberley at Sandhurst no idea what he did there he was in the RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Corp). We had a small bedroom in some ladies house, all I can remember is it was lonely and there was no drain to the sink, so everytime I did dishes I had to make sure there was a bucket handy. Still well you just got on with it. Lucky we were not there long before he was called for service in Germany Munster. Without hesitation I had everything packed in an MFO box, and off he went, whilst I waited at my parents house for him to find us a home. Finally the call came, and at 19 without hesitation I found myself travelling to Munster Germany on my own with my suitcase excited to start a new venture, I don’t remember being scared just excited.
Michael my husband had secured an upstairs studio apartment temporary living with a German lady Frau Pennykamp. Gosh she was a bit of tyrant and didn’t really speak much English. I was left for days on my own whilst Mike was at work, and it was lonely but thankfully we were given a married quarter flat after just a few months of moving there, and once I had settled in I got to know the other girls and we would while our days away having coffee mornings, and shopping and in the evening meeting friends for drinks and spontaneous jamming sessions as we had met German friends who were into folk and guitar so life was never boring.
I had my first daughter Nicola in Germany. It was a lonely time as there was no support from family but my new Army friends helped and so did SAAFA.
I worked in the NAAFI for a time just to get out of the flat before I was pregnant, but once baby came well I was too busy for that. My best friend Linda came to stay with us for a holiday which was brilliant and my dad came over twice to support me, when I was having marital issues (thats not for now).
After 3 years Michael again was posted but this time to Hong Kong. I had to travel with a young child it was such a long way back then, we stopped in Goa, thankfully Nicky my first child was a model baby and behaved herself and slept most of the way. We finally and exhaustively arrived at the airport which was a scary thing, as in those days the runway was actually on a strip of land between water, eek as I looked out the window my heart racing and clutching Nicola to me, the thoughts of crashing into the sea came into my head and believe me when I tell you I was glad to feel that bump of landing.
Living in hong kong was just amazing I loved every part of it, even the tropical storms, I grew up fast there emotionally and spiritually. The shopping, people hustle and bustle of life, the odd superstitions. It was just amazing. I lived to start with on Hong Kong side before we moved to Kowloon. Hongong i lived in a high rise sort of flat. When I had to put my washing upstairs, I could literally see the aeroplanes go by and from my balcony I could see the people inside the plane and wave at the time, as they were going to land at Kai Tak.
I became strong because well I had too, living with a controlling man thousands of miles away from family there was no other option. But I think it was this period of my life that defined who I would become. It was become hard or not survive.
I had my second daughter in Hong Kong Miranda. I nearly lost her when suddenly without warning I was hit my excruiating pain, which turned out to be a massive cyst on one of my ovaries. I was taken to the hospital on an emergency and thank the lord they managed to remove it without harming my baby, I was only 3 months pregnant at the time. I had a good recovery and an easy birth thankfully.
My best friend Linda came to stay with us for a holiday which helped.
Sadly in that period of time, we lost my sister in law Lorraine who was a bridesmaid at our wedding to leukemia it took Michael hard to be honest as he thought the world of her, and I honestly don’t think he ever got over her death. We had gone back to the UK to see his family and I noticed at the time she didn’t look well. Yes it was a very sad time. She was an amazing Morris Dancer and only 16 when she died.
One saving grace which kept me sane was back when we were in Hong kong the army encouraged married couples to go on holiday we were allowed a 1,000 mile radius from Hong Kong and they would pay the flights and most of the hotel bill. Whatever was left we had to pay. Wow it was a holiday of a lifetime, one which I will never forget. We chose to go to Thailand.
It was just amazing we did a two tier holiday, Bangkok for a week then Pattaya. It was breathtaking the scenery, the temples, the food, I remember Bangkok as being noisy and busy, and the taxis were little motorcycle put puts which choked the air with their exhaust fumes but you didn’t care as the excitement far outweighed any concerns you had for possible health issues.
Our holiday was good we had a lovely time, and well it almost felt normal, and Mike was actually happy and calm. I think the pressure of his job at times was too much for him. He was very hard on himself and others around him. Everything had to be his way and he expected only the best. I was not allowed to have faults, if I wrote to my family he would read the letter before it went and any spelling mistakes he would denote them with RED biro………… When he came home from work the house had to be spotless the toys put away the children quiet and ready for bed even at 6pm.
I remember even now to this day, Michael coming home from work and literally going ballistic because I had not cleaned the rubbish bin, it had been a long tiring day. BUT no excuses were allowed and he was quick to shout at me and cal me a lazy cow, as he poured himself his usual whiskey and sat waiting for his dinner. I was simply not allowed to have any failings.
This was so instilled into my brain that I am still sort of the same, I cant abide mess, everything has to be organised, perhaps in some bizarre way it did help me over the years, as I become a great Head Housekeeper at a hotel for several years and loved it, and I enjoy cleaning I find it quite relaxing, and when my brain is in a bad place if you know me and see a sparkly house you know that I am depressed or was.
Slowly overtime his verbal abuse turned me into a meek person, I became scared of him, as his demands were not only mental but physical too. The children especially our eldest had to be perfect. He told me once his step father made him tie his shoelaces at the age of 2 and if he didn’t do it right he would be punished.
Sadly this bullying by his step father defined who he was. Michael actually was a confused man, he had a turmoil of his own going on but over the years I took the brunt of it, and found myself protecting my family more and more until the day it drove me to do something I will never forgive myself for, he took away my dignity and sense of worth, and in desperation for my own sanity I nearly succeeded in ending my life. It was a hard period and I still feel guilty that I could be so thoughtless as to leave my two girls unprotected but at the time thousands of miles away from family support I could see no other way out of it. Lucky I was unsuccessful and I felt ashamed of myself for allowing him to become so much in charge of me.
I recovered with the help of support from a therapist and this was the time, I changed and took control of my life, and really stood up for myself.
The weird thing is after my stay in hospital I had to see this therapist, and my husband was forced to see one too. Now the guys office was on the 13th floor, so Michael told me he walked up to the 14th floor and walked down to his office as he didn’t want to be seen going in there. I wish really he had help when he was younger as he wasn’t a bad person not at all, he too was abused and this was the only example of a relationship he had. It’s true what they say.
It was an odd transition period as in a way we had switched as now I was the strong one and stood up for myself and the day he tried to bully me was the day he got a shock which stayed with him for the rest of our marriage. He learnt he had pushed me too far and nearly paid a price for that. I can’t say much suffice to say he saw just how red and angry he had made me and it scared him.
Things settled after that, and we were stationed back to the UK to Tidworth. We stayed with my parents until we got sorted. In that time I had to have emergency surgery as I had been suffering terrible pain for 2 years and it turned out to be a massive gallstone which had blocked my gallbladder I was only 26 tall and slim so was totally not expected to be that.
It left me very ill and I had to stay in ICU for a week. I never thought that I would get over it but well I did thankfully I always seemed to be able to bounce back quickly. A year later I had to have a total hysterectomy as they found my womb was full of endometriosis, and fibroids and some dodgy cells so out it all came. I was not long out of hospital before I went to work to pay off our credit card debt. I worked in the hospital laundry a horrible job and a tiring one, and still I had to look after the house as well and the 2 children I was about 27 at the time.
We stayed in Tidworth until Michael was discharged from the Army as he had enough basically. We arranged to go and stay with our friends Roy and Lesley up Wigan way until we found a house.
As Michael had managed to get a good job a mortgage was offered and we found our terrace 2 bedroom house, with garden. We moved into 121 Baker Street yes we did lol. Everytime I hear that song it reminds me of my life back then. 121 Baker Street, Poolstock, Wigan.
We had an amazing view in those days of the 2 Westward Cooling Towers. They never actually bothered us, we would go for walks around and they sort of just became part of your life. When you saw them after being away you knew you were close to home. They were home for beautiful wild orchids (which were protected).
We met some lovely friends there and I got work too.
I got a great job with Wigan county council as an outreach worker team leader (I had gone for the lower paid job but they were so impressed with me they offered me the lead). I was so proud of myself and ran a team of 3 people and our aim and objective was to move young people from education into Youth Training Schemes.
We did well; even this scheme called YTS was slagged off as using slave labour it wasn’t, not if done properly. The young people we moved into jobs were well supported and the small business that they were allocated too were under no illusions as to what was expected of them and how they had to treat the young people.
I had one girl who wanted to work with a mortician, yes you read that right, and I managed to find her a placement, and she was success story as after her period of training she stayed with the company who were very impressed with her. We had others too. I loved that job, and my training as a youth leader (I did a course whilst we were stationed in Tidworth and became a youth leader through Wiltshire County Council and ran a youth club then). This helped me a lot in the outreach Leaders job in Wigan.
Life was ok not perfect we had ups and downs more downs than ups, and my strength and resolved made it possible for me to finally decide that enough was enough. I think being offered such a good job made me wake up to the fact that there was little wrong with me, it was my husband who had the issues not me. I was finally waking up to the fact and my confidence was growing. Actually what made me decide was something Michael did to me. He had bought me a beautiful pedigree Afghan hound a male I called him Darak. I loved that dog. He was just stunning the kids loved him too.
Darak was only young and for some reason took a total dislike to anything that belonged to Michael and would destroy it, shoes, phone you name it if he left it out, the dog would chew it. I got home one day to take him for his walk, and he wasnt there. I found out that night that Michael had sold him to someone as he was fed up of the dog ruining his stuff. He never told me he was doing this, just did it. It broke my heart and I never forgave him, and as far as I was concerned that was the end of my marriage.
My parents came to see me and we talked and finally I got the strength to leave my husband. I had to for my own sanity and my children’s safety too.
We seperated after 11 years of marriage, I really did try to make it work, but since Michael left the Army his behaviour became more erratic, he drank way too much he did work hard no doubt about that, but my family had to come first. We agreed I would stay in the house, and he supported me with maintenance, and life kind of settled into a new routine.
Then I did something so stupid, I still can’t get my head around why I did it.
Life for me and the girls was good when he had left, I was working well, the bills were paid, then suddenly Michael started to come round more and would ask constantly if we could get back together, he missed us, he swore he would change. He told me had been offered a great new job with a company called Kalamazoo Business Systems, and had been offered a job in Kenya. He wanted us to start fresh and give our lives together another go.
Why oh why did I do it? I still cant work it out. I really was in a good place on my own and had been dating but I think part of me felt the children needed their father even though he wasnt the best dad he was thier father and seemed to have changed to them. Perhaps my leaving him had shook him up a bit. He did seem different much more calm.
Like a fool I agreed. We put the house on the market and moved to a temporary house in Staffordshire whilst Mike underwent training for his new job. Then before I knew it we were on a plane to Kenya to start our new life. In all this time, I have to say he was not the same, he was far more caring so perhaps I was lulled into a false sense of security.
We were allocated a lovely house with grounds, a live in gardener handyman called Vitas. The house or villa was lovely with lots of kennels and grounds so we got two labradors cream and black Penny and Tuppence, and my life settled into a routine. Girls were placed in school, we managed to find me an old banger to drive around in, i got involved with the local RSPCA and helped as a volunteer and even took in animals to recover, so yes life settled it was all ok really.
I loved Kenya the people were just amazing. I also got involved into the environmental issues of Kenya as well which even way back then was a worry, with trees being cut for charcoal leaving a lot of land barren with no protection so topsoil would fly away in the wind, making it hard for the plants to grow. We would visit villages and try to show them and teach them other ways to make cooking fires.
There are a lot of new initiatives now to try and address this issue and you can go and volunteer there. https://onetreeplanted.org/products/kenya
Yes it was a very interesting time in my life I have no regrets just sadness.
I never felt scared or unsafe, even when Mike had to go to Mombasa to work for a few days things were always good.
We lived there nearly a year. It took forever to sell our house in the UK and the upkeep of the mortgage was hard work and it was a relief to finally find out it was sold. It took the usual 3 months for contracts to exchange and complete.
Then my world came tumbling down…………….
The news finally came the house was sold what equity left was agreed to go into our joint bank account was about £3,000 lot of money in those days. Then well life just changed. Mike no longer was a tolerant man, but horrible. Just like that over night I swear. The children irritated him, I could not do a thing right. He made it as horrible as possible for me.
The catalyst came very quickly. It had been a difficult day I remember my eldest was playing up and I was tired as I had been on my own with the children and felt raw and beaten. I was at the end of my tether and I foolishly said to my daughter “you wait until your father gets home young lady!”
He came home and punished her, far too aggressively and I then realised he had not changed it was all for show, somehow to keep me close whilst the house was sold. Once the papers were signed I was no longer needed. I woke up to it and decided to protect myself and my family I had to leave. We discussed it and arrangements were made and within just a short time family contacted and with my girls arm and arm I left him never looking back. It was so hard to go back to UK I felt a failure a fool. I had been played. But it wasn’t until I got home I realised just how much.
I stayed with my sister and my father helped me find a place to live back then renting a place with children was pretty hard but he found me a lovely flat in Nailsworth (never even heard of it but it was a beautiful village), and I wasn’t too scared as I knew I had money from the sale of the house at least so I thought £1,500 a fortune to me.
I had a rude awakening when I did arrive back to the UK and checked the bank account as instead of the expected money from the sale of the house, there was only £80 in there. My father helped me to sort it out and it would appear somehow paperwork instructions were believed to have been sent to our solicitors which I had no knowledge of signing transferring all sales into another account which didn’t even have my name on it. When we managed to contact Michael about it he totally denied anything and being so far away with no reciprocations from Kenya there was nothing I could do about it.
I was penniless with no home, BUT the anger in me somehow kept me from going insane, and I became so strong just had to as my girls needed me I had to protect them. So with 80.00 we got some second hand furniture i can remember it now an old cottage suite some beds and bits and bobs and we started our new life and I managed to get benefits until I could find a job.
The girls soon got into a school and met friends, and my new life began. I never received another penny of my ex husband as he worked that well as you couldn’t force money out of Kenya. So for many years it was down to me, and this man got away with looking after his own family and then took on a new wife and a step daughter, having told me over and over again he didn’t want children. But he had needs and he needed someone to look after him, so he soon found another women and a step daughter.
I settled into Nailsworth and soon got a job. Using my secretarial skills I teamed up with a friend Julie who I had met and we opened our own secretarial services, both got jobs straight away, which turned into full time work. From that day I was never without work.
I worked in an estate agent, run a restaurant, no challenge was too hard for me, I started to heal, and eventually after a failed new relationship, we moved into Stroud, and I got more work, the girls met friends and had a lovely life.
I worked for a temp agency and did so many jobs, and attended courses, learnt Export documentation, ran offices, another estate agent, I never stopped, always working and honing my skills. The girls did well at school and with all my hard work I managed to get them a pony each, and they went off riding. Life was as good as it could be.
We moved a few times but I enjoyed those challenges. I realised men were well a waste of time, my children were more important to me. They became my reason for living, and though I know my life had dark days I also had good times too. Taking them off on holiday, riding with them, it was good. I did drink way too much at times, this was the aftermath of living with my husband, but overtime with help I managed to even sort that out for myself.
We moved again to Stonehouse, where I had a job where my new husband Mike worked (yes I know confusing), when the business did a dip I was made redundant, but never let it stop me, walking through the town one day I saw an advert for a community worker just the same job I had in Wigan all those years before, applied for it and got it. It also included running the local learning centre, but I also had to learn Microsoft Office and use a COMPUTER oh my goodness gone were the days of clack clack or electric typewriters, I had to use a Computer and learn to use the operating system.
I did it in 3 weeks, took every course and passed all the exams on Microsoft and ended up running the college, teaching the students, supporting them, then I got headhunted by the local college, and worked teaching adults in further education, which meant I had to attend night school and complete a teachers training certification which I am proud to say I passed both levels with flying colours. Nothing could stop me, I even become an NVQ assessor for Business Admin.
I had my my Mike and we were living together he was amazing so different. My eldest had left by then and was starting her own journey with her new husband.
Life was good finally.
Finally I had a life to be proud of, a man who loved me for me. My first husband had come back from Kenya and we had made friends again, I dont think its good to leave blackness in your heart it just consumes you, and I forgave. He had broken up with his second wife, and was trying to get back to being with the girls, but suddenly fate stopped that he died suddenly in his early fifties, at least he got to see our daughter Nicola married and he met his grandchildren, but well life wasn’t so good on him.
In the meantime, my life was always busy, I worked long hours, my new husband Mike and I bought our council house, he worked away a lot as an engineer, overall our life was good. I was head hunted again, and was running a city college flexible learning centres 11 satelite centres, 54 tutors, putting into place new examinations for I.T. such as ECDL, and IBT2, running community courses, teaching business admin, basic cooking in the community, I even did a course on how to survive the Millenium with a bunch of ladies which was a real hoot but it was fun to do.
Yes that was how I was before the picture was taken in 2000.
A beaten women, who rose from the ashes like the phoenix and worked hard to be who she became, a FIGHTER, a WARRIOR, I learnt that life isn’t like a box of chocolates, it’s hard work, it throws curveballs at you, and takes you through a maze of emotions, each time you think you have found the way out of the puzzle another issue takes its place.
You have to deal with it, find a way. Never harm another human being, we are all trying to survive the best way we can.
Everyone of us comes with baggage no one is perfect. Before you criticise someone for not doing something right ask yourself why is your way better?
I could have given up way back but I didn’t. Each knock back I learnt from it. I improved my life and hopefully the people around me, I loved all my students, and I worked hard.
I loved my family unconditionally, I even mourned the man who made me who I am now, as even though our lives were rocky I knew he had a bad life when he was brought up by a mean step father, always forgive it is not worth, losing family as we will always need them one day.
All that behind me, that day I was sat with my mike on that rock in Brazil all that is why I am writing this now 20 years on, after finally finding out I had progressive MS, lost my mother, and my beloved, all that before that day is why I am here now writing my story.
Without all the growing up and learning how to become a good person, I would not be here now to look back on a wonderful life.
A truly wonderful life, even with the black times, it has been a wonderful life, the saying life is what you make it is so very true.
Life is what you make it, your life is in your hands you can’t blame others for your failings, they are your failings, always when you look out the window instead of looking out on a bad day, see the beauty in what you are looking at. There is always beauty just in a flower, or birds eating off a bird table, the sky making strange shapes, so much good around us.
No dont blame your failings on anyone else. Improve yourself and own up to your own failings.
People look at me now and see an older women a disabled women using aids, a women who struggles to walk or sometimes even talk, I just want people to learn the story behind the disability, how I got here, how I manage. Who I was. I love my life and people. Yes I am disabled I got given the joker card and was given MS to deal with. My life before my MS defined how I would deal with it.
Always look at your strengths they will always be there when you need to draw on them when your having a bad day. I hope you enjoyed my story. It is all true as I remember it.
This is me Zenda Trim before and now, just the same person, but one perhaps a bit wiser now.
Life’s like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Below some of my life and memories. I have had a good life and will always think of those moments as they matter.
4 thoughts on “WHO was I before I got sick?”
Hi! Is there an email I can use to contact you?
Hi sorry for such a delay been poorly. Yes you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I read this amazing and moving story of your life late last night and thank you for sharing it with me. Many people would ask how you managed to survive and still remain the person you are now, kind, with a great sensitivity for others and the ability to turn such difficulties into normality that is borne with humour and great resilience. I knew from the moment we met that you would be a great person to know, with compassion and understanding of other women’s difficulties and problems. Kirsten was right when she told me about you and said we would get on well, I am sure we will and look forward to mynew life here.
Please call on me any time if you need company or help. I sometimes give the impression of aloofness but am not like that really. Was always shy but had a difficult second marriage which made me withdrawn, you will understand that. It is taking a while to get sorted and shipshape, I don’t like messy untidiness which confuses me but this is the best move and the last I hope after sixty years of uncertainty and I am blessed with my daughter Kirsten with whom I can laugh and enjoy time with her family knowing they care.
It is great to meet you and hear your story with so many similarities to my own which I have wanted to write down as you have for many years. Maybe I will get around to doing that one day but to find myself next door to someone who has had similar experiences is amazing and so encouraging.
Thank you for sharing your story with me and being my neighbour in this new place. I wish you peace my friend Zenda and pray for happy future times despite our disabilities. We make a right old pair don’t we but we must have fun and goodwill to survive in this life! Here’s to a new life.
Hi neighbour was that why you were up late last night? i am glad you read my story, i can show you how to write yours whenever you feel ready. Its a privilege to meet you.
Sadly the heat is wiping me out everything becomes an effort lol. Will be back to feeling more like myself once this hot spell breaks, then watch out lol. xxxxx