Having been born the youngest child, the passing of a few years found me surrounded by sisters and just one brother. The phrase middle child syndrome had not yet been thought of and as there were nine of us children I doubt anyone would have had time for it.

mjI had a very happy childhood – probably idyllic. We had free run of a huge Sussex garden and I always had sisters and friends to play with. Neither abused nor made to feel stupid, I passed the eleven plus at a Catholic primary school and went on to Grammar school in Hove. I was treated very kindly by several teachers who did their best for a stroppy teenager who hated their school.  The headmistress however considered it a crime to be poor which I suppose we were. My resourceful father saw there was always food for the table and my mother always had enough sugar spare to starch a petticoat or two. Within this caring and sharing environment I was also taught self -reliance and from the age of 13 did a number of jobs.  Mornings and evenings I delivered newspapers and all day Saturday, telegrams.  Part way through Grammar school we had to move away from our seaside home.  My father had a job at Bletchley Park and we moved to Bletchley which was just becoming Milton Keynes. I thought the Grammar school there was rubbish. I hadn’t really thought what I would do after passing my A level’s but someone mentioned the WRAC which I hadn’t heard of. As I passed the Army Recruiting Office on my way home from school, I decided to call in and enquire.

I served as a Regular Officer in the Army for five years and loved every minute of it, seeing most of the south east of England and none of the rest of the world.   Finishing my army career as a Staff Officer in a large Regimental HQ, I left with the added bonus of a husband, an officer in the Royal Artillery.  While we lived in army quarters, he served three times in Northern Ireland and in the Falklands Conflict. Our two sons were born during this time and so I did all the stuff army wives do on their own; bringing up our boys, managing the household and finances and keeping the home fires burning.  For many years I was a member of the NHR (now NWR – National Women’s’ Register) and for twenty years a scout leader.

With both boys at school I re-joined the world of work outside the home after taking a ‘back to work’ course in accounts. After working for various small businesses I moved to General Practice in the NHS as a Fundholding Manager. There was no handbook for this role in the NHS so I wrote one (Fundholders’ Handbook 1998). Discovering that many Doctors have feet of clay, I learned my way around the NHS systems which was to come in useful later.

I moved from the NHS into publishing, working for an international publisher of medical books and journals. During this time I cared for my mother-in-law who had dementia and also helped family to care for my parents who didn’t but had other health problems.  There was no handbook for this either so I learned more about the NHS and wrote the Essential Carer’s Guide now published in a second and updated edition.

Now widowed, I work for Alzheimer’s Society and have experience of both sides of dementia care – as a carer to friends and relatives and professionally through my work giving daily support to people with a diagnosis of dementia and to their carers. As a result of my interest in dementia prevention and research I wrote The Essential Guide to Avoiding Dementia -Understanding The Risks.

Additionally I am an associate Director of ELM (End of Life Management) and co-authored End of Life; the Essential Guide to Caring which won an award for increasing the public understanding of science. I have also co-authored The Essential Guide to Life After Bereavement.

Although I admit I enjoy writing very much (even writing lists) I also believe strongly in the sharing of knowledge. Having struggled to find so many answers myself it seems the right thing to do to pass the information on.  I write about what I know and have learned (it may be some years before I write a guide for allotment holders).