Who Am I?
So I feel that maybe my photo needs an explanation before I start. This is me in a very happy moment indeed. It was taken by our daughter on the morning of our son's wonderful wedding day. We met together with his best men and had breakfast, his last as a single man. To kick off the celebration we had champagne (I absolutely love a glass of champagne). As I was driving I only had one glass, and a sip to toast the happy couple much later in the day. If you look closely you will be able to see my stubby thumb. Both of my thumbs are the same, and match my Mum's and my Grandma's. I grew up just thinking they were inherited and knowing nothing else about them, but have recently found out that they aren't always inherited and they have a fancy name, brachydactyly type d. It turns out there are lots of people, all over the world with thumbs like mine. I would always hide them away, but now I am proud to be a part of a select group of stubby thumb people!!!!
So from the above I am sure you have worked out that I have a husband (we got married thirty years ago next month), a daughter and a son. We also now have a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter, and our daughter's partner too.
I was born in Cheltenham, in the same maternity hospital as my husband and our children were all born in. At the time my parents lived in the Cotswolds in a Police Station. My Dad was a Policeman and they had lived there for a few years with my two older brothers.
When I was eighteen months old we moved to a town just outside Bristol, where we lived until I was eight. I went to playgroup and then infant school there, but spent as much time as possible in the garden at home or round the corner in the park. There were some swings in the park, so you would always find me hogging one to myself for as long as possible. I still can't resist sitting and swinging on a swing. I love the feeling of freedom it gives as you soar towards the sky.
The powers that be decided to change the counties, which affected the make up of the local Police Force, so we moved to Cheltenham, so that Dad could remain in the Gloucestershire Force. I started in junior school and was allocated a 'friend' to look after me. She has never managed to shake me off and 40+ years later we are still friends!
I joined Guides at the age of ten, my brother was the Scout Leader, and the Scouts met downstairs, whilst the Guides met upstairs, and never the twain shall meet. Well, until I arrived. I would much rather have been a Scout (no girls were allowed in those days), so I used every opportunity to suggest joint outings and events. My poor brother, I must have driven him nuts! We went to York for the day on the train (on a special £1 ticket), regular ice-skating trips and much, much more.
As soon as I reached fifteen I joined the Venture Scouts. I couldn't wait to start, and had an amazing time. (They allowed girls to join). On my second night there the committee announced that they needed a new secretary. The treasurer looked at me and informed me that as my name was Ruth, and the last secretary was Ruth, then it would be easiest if I did it, then they wouldn't have a new name to remember!!! That was the start of me being a voluntary committee member for the next thirty five years, in one form or another. It was also the start of being a Scout in various roles (and I am still a member of the movement).
I met my husband through a fellow Venture Scout, and we married in 1989. (Yep, we celebrate 30 years together this year). I had joined the Civil Service when I left school (I really wanted to be a Norland Nanny, but that wasn't possible), but having met my husband he encouraged and supported me to work as a Nursery Nurse instead. I then went on to become a childminder, which worked so well with having our two children.
Eventually this led to me owning my own business, running a before and after school club and holiday playschemes, at the school our children attended. I absolutely loved doing this. To be able to provide excellent care for children who's parents had to work was so rewarding.
My husband had always had a dream to run a Scout Campsite, and in 2001 this became a reality when he became the Manager of a Scout Activity Centre in South East London. This was a huge move for us as a family, but one we fully embraced. It meant that we got to live in a 16th Century cottage, in 86 acres of field and ancient woodland, just 16 miles from the centre of London.
I continued to run my business, popping back regularly and keeping in almost daily touch via fax machine (it wasn't even that long ago in the scheme of things, and yet the words fax machine now seem alien)! Our daughter attended every dance class going, and as a result I had helped with uniform and shoe fittings for many years. This then opened up the opportunity to take over a business selling dancewear for the dance school.
In the meantime I was also helping out on the Centre with their Admin, whilst being a wife and Mum. I also became a School Governor, a role that enabled me to grow and develop as a person, and for which I owe the school a huge debt of gratitude. I learnt so much in those eight years, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend becoming a Governor.
Due to a change in leadership at the primary school I had to close my childcare business. This was a huge wrench for me, as it was something that I was so proud to be a part of. However, my hours increased at the Centre and I continued to sell the dancewear. (I can still look at a child and know what size leotard and ballet shoes will fit them)!!!
We were so lucky to live so close to the capital and would often take the short train ride in to see a show, or visit a museum. We also had a huge number of volunteers who supported the Centre. We made a lot of lifelong friendships, for which we will always be grateful.
We held lots of events and International camps, and we were all involved in one way or another. Our children were so lucky to have the opportunities that living on the Centre gave them. On leaving senior school they both secured places at the BRIT school, enabling them to continue their dedication to dance and technical theatre. This led them both to Uni in London, continuing their passions.
In 2014 my husband was promoted, and we moved to Oxford. This meant me finishing my job with the Scout Association and having to give up my dancewear business. Both our young people stayed in London, so it was a huge change for us all. I found a wonderful job as a Ward Clerk at the John Radcliffe Hospital, and met the most inspirational staff and families.
Sadly, just eighteen months later my husband was made redundant. It felt like our world had fallen apart, but we found the strength together to find a way through. He found a new job, at Ackers Adventure in Birmingham, where he is the CEO. This meant another move, and I had to give up my job yet again.
We settled in Warwickshire, a forty minute drive from our parents, and about the same into work for my husband. Our daughter moved back home so that she could focus on starting her own business, and I was determined to get a job at Ragley Hall, a local private estate that I had fallen in love with as a young child. I joined the Events team and had the most incredible (and challenging) six month contract.
I was so tempted then to become a Celebrant, but the need for a regular income drove me to find work with a local training company. I made some wonderful friends, absolutely adored helping to create new training products, and in particular proof reading, but it wasn't the job for me. Five days a week staring at a computer screen isn't my idea of a rewarding job.
Our son married his best friend, and the love of his life, and we had the most incredible day celebrating their wedding. I didn't seem to have the energy levels that I normally have, but I put that down to my age.
In the July I had a horrendous pain in my side that drove me to the Doctors. After rigorous tests it was confirmed that my ovary had thrown a large party, and created what would become a 9.5kg cyst (Cyanide Cyd) which was removed in the September, eleven weeks after I visited the Dr. I had major surgery (and a full hysterectomy) and have a lovely scar in the shape of a zip to prove it. I was made redundant a week before I went into hospital and was devastated. I may not have felt that it was an ideal job, but the thought of having to find something else, whilst I was recovering, was too much to comprehend.
We struggled on financially, and I began to look for work, but something kept on drawing me back to the Funeral business. My Dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimers and had been in a nursing home for two years. He died in the November after my operation, just as I was getting back on my feet. My Dad wasn't religious, and so we asked for a Celebrant to deliver his service.
As I drove home from our meeting with the Celebrant I knew absolutely that being a Funeral Celebrant was the job for me, and so the search for training and more information began.
I signed up to do a course with Civil Ceremonies and began the home learning. Our son and daughter in law had a baby girl in the February. Just the most amazing addition to our family, and loved beyond measure. Being Nonna and Grumpy is such a privilege.
I completed my training at the end of April, with an intensive week spent with 11 other committed people, learning absolutely everything there was to know about being a Funeral Celebrant. It was tough, tiring but extremely worthwhile. We had two written exams on the Friday afternoon, and I drove home elated and exhausted.
It's been a tough journey. Work is either feast or famine. I am reliant, mainly, on Funeral Directors and Arrangers giving me the work, and more and more Celebrants are qualifying, or setting up in business, each month. However, I absolutely know that this is the job I want to be doing. I know that being there at the most difficult time in people's lives, being able to support them, and ensuring they can give their loved one the very best send off possible, is the most rewarding job that I can do.
I am humbled by the people that I meet. To be able to learn about someone's life, and then share and celebrate that, with people who loved and cared about them, is so rewarding.
As you will know if you have read my recent blog posts, my father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the end of last year, and I recently nursed him through his end of life. I also delivered his funeral service at his request.
Life hasn't always been easy to date. We've had our ups and downs, but we have so much to celebrate. We have two wonderful children, their lovely partners, a granddaughter who lights up our lives, extended family, and friends who we like to count as family. To achieve 30 years of marriage in this day and age is definitely something to celebrate (and no, I have no idea at all how he has put up with me).
I very much doubt that life will be plain sailing in the years to come, but I know that every job role, every person that I have met, every little thing that I have experienced, good or bad, have contributed to where I am in my life now. I know that with the love and support of those around me, and a walk in the countryside, or by the sea, then I can face anything and get through it.
I also know that I absolutely and unconditionally love my job, and I feel that every single road has led me here, and it is where I should be.