This article first appeared in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald in early February 2014.
A love story
Today mum Liz Badcock is a loving mother, doting wife and fledgling entrepreneur.
As she turns 40 this year and enjoys watching her 20-month-old son Harry grow up – she knows she’s lucky to have him, her husband Phil or her new business as a weight consultant.
Liz, who lives near Chippenham, is a recovering addict. She’s spent 20 years battling alcohol and drug dependency, a problem which began in her early teens.
“I had a lovely childhood,” Liz told me. “I’ve got loving parents who have always done everything they can to support me. I cannot, in any way, say that I wasn’t loved at home.
“However, I was always a needy child who craved attention. I grew up well before my time and at 14 I was out clubbing and drinking and getting a lot of male attention.
“Most of my early teens were relationship after relationship, getting used for sex, getting drunk and taking ecstasy and cocaine. I got engaged at an early age, cheated, drank heavily and was never happy.
“By the age of 21 I went from one abusive relationship to another, taking drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and resentment towards myself for putting up with it.”
Liz began a cycle of heavy drink and drug use alongside self-harm and many related issues. Even when she met her husband Phil, who comes from Swindon, she was unable to deal with her various addictions.
“We married on August 29 2003. I drank all day and stayed up until 4am , then I began to drink whisky. On our honeymoon I drank vodka and orange every day trying but failing to disguise it. When we got back my husband insisted that I see a doctor and they diagnosed me with depression and anxiety.”
A partial recovery began with Liz becoming dry for a few years and she began dealing with her weight problem, losing seven stones in six months.
“However I was taking huge does of valium each day to help me diet and smoked very heavily.
“I was sober until December 2007 but things were no better really.
“My doctor stopped prescribing me valium so I took out loans and credit cards and sat at home while my husband was at work, ordering pills from the internet. The amounts were huge when I finally went into rehab in 2008 I’d spent £57,000 on drugs and alcohol.”
During this period of time, Liz and Phil had tried for a baby through IVF with no success. This failure led to a suicide attempt, more attempts at rehab treatment and various relapses into addiction.
Husband Phil stuck by Liz throughout always believing she could change her behaviour.
“Lots of our relationship I was either drunk or high on valium. He always supported me and he’s always been strong. I don’t know, if the boot had been on the other foot, whether I would have been strong enough to support him if he’d been an addict.”
Then in September 2011, something fundamental changed in Liz and Phil’s lives.
Liz said: “I went to the doctor’s after another binge and told her I was late for my monthly, believing this was due to the alcohol abuse. She said I should do a pregnancy test which I thought was a joke. I did the test and found I was pregnant.
“I knew I had to give up the valium, the alcohol and smoking and I also wanted to lose weight once the baby was born. I tried to make amends with all of the people I had hurt and I promised myself I would do right by my unborn child and felt that this was a miracle and a blessing. I quit everything. Harry saved my life.”
Being a recovering addict and being pregnant isn’t an ideal combination. Liz knew that her history could affect Harry in the womb.
“I knew due to my lifestyle that Harry could be at risk. In the early months I had a scan every month as there was a chance that Harry could be very small. At my 20 week scan, it was clear that everything was fine and that he was looking healthy. In fact I then had to have scans to ensure he didn’t grow too big so that I could deliver him safely.”
Harry was born in June 2012 weighing in at 9lbs 11oz. However, Harry wasn’t the only one who was heavy. By the time of his birth, Liz weighed 22 stone and, even after having her son, she still tipped the scales at over 17 stones.
“I knew I had to do something about it so I went back to the Cambridge Diet plan which had worked for me before. However this time, I was going to approach it differently. No drugs this time.
“Now I’m down to 12 stones and will soon fit into size 12 clothing. I’ve still got some way to go but I’m on healthier journey.”
In fact, Liz has now become a weight consultant herself and she’ll be opening her own Cambridge Diet business at Body & Soul in Corsham, Wiltshire at the end of March.
“As I face my 40th birthday, believe me my life looks a lot different. I’ve learned to love myself and I’ve come to believe I am a good person. I know life is to be enjoyed and people deserve love and respect.
“I’m now in a position where I can go into a pub with my friends – something I’ve never achieved before – and it doesn’t matter that I don’t have an alcoholic drink, I don’t even want one. I used to envy people and now I just think why would I have a drink? Why would I ruin everything? I’ve got a great husband and a happy, healthy child.”
This article was first published in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald on Thursday November 14 2013 and it’s reproduced here by request.
Ever heard of the artist Syd? Or the Stencil Shed? If you live in the Malmesbury area, these names should be familiar.
Syd, whose real name is Luke Hollingworth, lives in the town, works in the town and has found his artistic niche in his adopted county. His street art can be found in the rural community and he uses the pseudonym ‘Syd’ which was a childhood nickname.
Even on the day I visited he was wondering who in Wiltshire would allow him to put an image on a boring wall or brighten up a dull space.
“I’m always looking for a space to create art. At the weekend I did an image of a green hare on a wall which was dull and needed brightening up. But I want to create art which is fun, sometimes thought provoking and I want to create it legally with cooperation.”
Today Luke’s life as a 37-year-old husband and father in Wiltshire is a far cry from the ambitions of his childhood – when he vocally vowed he would never become an artist like his father Brian who is an accomplished sculptor.
Luke just didn’t believe there was any money to be made in the world of art. He went to university to study business and began a career in sales and marketing. He worked for big brands including Coca Cola and Dyson.
It was a job with the latter company which brought him down from Nottingham to settle in Wiltshire. Then he met his wife Mandie and gradually the art began to take over. He left his job to try his hand at being an artist who can earn money.
Locally, Luke became best known two years ago for entering the Shed of the Year competition – an event originally flagged up to him by his mum Shelley.
“My shed had become my workshop when mum told me about this competition. It really appealed to me and I decided to try some unusual marketing to get people to vote for me.”
In 2012, Luke spent a night hiding his art works around Malmesbury and on the back of each item was a note asking people to vote for him and his shed. His efforts led to local and national media coverage. In 2012 and this year, he’s come third in the overall competition and has also won the award for Best Workshop and Studio Shed on both occasions.
Visiting the shed is an amazing experience. Apart from gorilla guarding the path, there are eyes which stare at you as you approach and a silver skeleton by the door. Then on entering, it’s a cosy haven, complete with woodburner and mini-bar!
My favourite creation was Luke’s modern day take on the Michaelangelo paintings in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City – not the first thing anyone expects to see on the ceiling of a garden shed.
His art does have a Banksy feel but with a strong Wiltshire edge. Many make a subtle political point – and the jackdaw features heavily. Luke tells me that the people of Malmesbury call themselves jackdaws.
In fact Luke’s work has been mistaken for a Banksy before. He once did a piece of artwork in Glastonbury, showing organizer Michael Eavis dressed as a gangster.
Now, 15 months after the birth of his first child, Luke’s vision of success doesn’t look the same as it did before.
“I would be really proud if Daisy said at school ‘my dad’s an artist’. You do what you have to do to get by and to pay the mortgage but doing something you love and are passionate about is even more important to me now. I want Daisy to be proud of me and to recognize this or that art as my work.”
His passion for art is growing with age and experience. When Daisy’s first word was ‘owl’, he painted her an owl to capture that special moment.
“That painting in our kitchen will always be Daisy’s and will remind me of her with its bright, big eyes and piercing look.”
When Luke decided as a young man that he was not going to try to make a living through art, his chances of denying his creativity were ridiculously slim. Yet even at a very young age, his talent bubbled to the surface. He won an award for his sculpting talent aged just eight. At home, creativity was all around him.
Where did that hare come from?
“I’d often help Dad with the finishing off his ‘littlelies’ as he called them – small sculptures of frogs and hares that he made to sell. At Christmas we always had an exhibition at home and we always helped Mum and Dad prepare and invited people around to see the artwork.”
The reality and struggle of trying to earn a living as an artist was apparent then.
“There were times when Dad was stressed and anxious and now I realize these were times when money was tight, there were recessions and it was very hard to make ends meet.”
Now aged 37, Luke jokes that he’s become exactly like his Dad – clearly a personal hero in his life. He’s a working artist who also has a foothold in a ‘normal’ job too. He’s a gardener at local Abbey House in Malmesbury for the Pollard family.
“You do what you have to do. My wife used to laugh at me saying I was the guy with the business degree who was doing the weeding.
“But I have to say, all in all, I’m very happy and fulfilled in my life.”
Luke’s marketing stunt for Shed of the Year 2013 was to create a mock-up work of artist Damian Hirst, pickled in formaldehyde, and he put it in a field for cows to admire.
You can see Luke’s artwork at:
www.thestencilshed.co.uk or www.facebook.com/TheStencilShed
And his Dad Brian’s work (based in Nottingham) is:
Since being in business, I’ve come to realise that understanding yourself can be key to success.
There are lots of things I know about myself but when I became self-employed, there was one thing I didn’t know – could I actually do it? Could I generate any money at all through my own efforts?
You see, I didn’t want to be self-employed. I was doing a job I loved and I wanted to carry on doing that job – sadly though that job no longer wanted me. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was a business decision and about 1,000 people lost their jobs at the same time.
Now I am almost at the five year anniversary of being self-employed and I’m still here. I’m not rich by any means but I’m earning my own money, through my own efforts and endeavours and that’s got to be something to celebrate.
However, I’m also wanting to be better in what I do. So I’m taking a course! I’ve been searching for ages for something which will make me better but which will engage me. During this course, which I’ll blog about many times I’m sure, I’ve been reading text books.
I don’t know about you but reading business books has been without fail, a hideous experience. They are mostly badly written, rushing off into different directions and lacking in real life examples. Frankly, many are simply tripe.
But I’ve just read one in a single day. That’s a record. It was called Taking Flight…do look it up. It tells a very simplistic story about birds in a forest who have to act when trees start falling down…no literary masterpiece but it does the job required…it shows how certain personality types can work.
It’s all about personality types – using the DISC model – which until recently I knew nothing about. Now it’s all around me. I’ve had two personality profiles done and they do capture lots of things about me.
The truth is, I do know these things but knowing and grasping the reality are two different things. Applying that truth is also tricky.
I’ve found out – in bird analogy – that I’m a parrot, with a large element of eagle and a quite large portion of dove. I’ve got very little owl though.
If you know this book, the previous sentence will make sense.
The biggest immediate impact is that I’ve started to recognise others around me, mainly in my friendship group and realised that the dynamic is visible. For example, one of my children is very, very caring and very detailed orientated – which drives me absolutely potty. But it’s not her fault, that’s her response to things and that’s okay. Now I know it’s okay, I find I’m not so irritated by the constant questioning and asking the same thing over and over again.
I also spent some time with two old friends and hardly got a word into the conversation – very unusual for me. I ended up feeling that I was of little value as no one seemed that interested in me or anything I had to say. As I started the self-pity dance, I realised that these were two eagles vying for position without realising it. As a personality with both eagle and dove, confronted by this, I simply gave up and shut up rather than expend energy trying to be heard. I don’t feel angry at all, I’ve just realised that it’s better to see them individually if I personally want to feel listened to – otherwise I’ll continually be a spare part.
Now I’m hoping to become better at business through this learning….here goes!
No, I’m not a peacock..I’m a parrot….
Guest post from my Twitter friend @Ianaf72 or Ian Francis from Swindon – we had a little twitter chat about being tired and I challenged him to write a guest blog. Here it is!
‘Man was made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired’
I’ve included this quote, not because it’s particularly relevant to this blog, but because I hope it would make me seem more intelligent to the mums who work in media reading this site.
I’m not intelligent. The fact I’m typing this, when I could be taking the opportunity to sleep, is proof of that.
And in my case, that is my failing: that I don’t manage my time effectively and take the opportunities I have to rest. I could play the sympathy card and state that I’m tired because I’m a modern dad with a two and a half year old daughter (which is partly true) – but she sleeps much better nowadays. I’m just bad at listening to my body.
Now’s the time to sleep? or is it?
Take last night. My wife was away (she was working, not on a jolly) and I was solely in charge. I managed bath-time and bedtime with efficiency, and got to eat before midnight. I went to bed early (I was in bed by 8.30!) What did I do? Did I crash, safe in the knowledge that I’d get a few hours solid sleep? No – I did some work (I did work, promise) – 1 point to me; I then spent far too much time on twitter (as always) and then played Football Manager (you’ll know that ladies, it’s what takes loving partners away from you for weeks at a time). Minus 2 points. I finally turned out the light at 11.30pm.
So – I can whinge and whine that I’m tired; and I can tell myself that it’s the pressures that life places on me – but the reality is, I’m obsessed with the unimportant things which steal time from us all if we’re not careful.
I guess I can catch up with my beauty sleep whilst being made to watch Despicable Me for the 200th time.
Off to find out-of-hours medical help...again
Have you ever had an evening where you’ve been frustrated because you can’t easily access a doctor when your child is ill?
When you know what’s wrong but you might need medicine so you will have to see a professional?
I’ve just had such an evening at home in Swindon…again.
When you have children you learn many things which have been hidden from you before. Such as, why do children get really ill really quickly? And why, when this happens, is it late at night or at the weekend? Or the week when you are working full-time as a big project comes to fruition?
All of those things have crowded in on me over the last 24 hours.
My child came home last night with a temperature and a sore throat. Taking a look showed a clear throat infection so a trip to the doctor was unavoidable. It was 7.15pm.
When my first child was born, after hours care in Swindon was excellent and easy. There was a number to ring, you called the number, explained the situation and then got a time to attend the clinic on an industrial estate in town. On site, there were a number of cars for doctors who went out to do visits.
Now things are more confused. The previous facility was replaced by another near the local hospital – the Great Western. Again you could call as before, or you could turn up and take your chances with the queue. I’ve done both.
That usually worked fine. Then somehow – and I admit I missed it -things changed. The last time I took one of my children to that facility there was a huge sign on the door. It said,like accident and emergency, they did not deal with minor ailments. This included sore throats, sickness and diarrhoea, just two of the things that afflict children all of the time and often need medicine. And there was another walk-in centre in town. So off we trekked to that place in town and waited for two hours. Only to be told then that the severe throat infection was viral and did not need any medicine.
This time I made the call and waited an hour to talk to a doctor (why do we have to do this?). A call came through but I didn’t get to it in time – they called off after three rings. So I called back, apologised and asked to speak to the doctor. This was within 30 seconds of that call. No, I had to wait again. Another hour. By this time, my four year old was in bed, it was 10pm. Nevertheless the GP asked me to take him any way.
So off we went, complete with sleepy child in bed clothes. Luckily there were only two in the waiting room. The big sign on the door was gone but it was at reception where as I went to the window (the male receptionist was not on the telephone) put his hand up to shoo me back and said ‘I’ll be with you in a minute’. What is it that such medical facilities can make you feel like an irritant, rather than a customer or client?
So I read the sign again. This extraordinary sign that said ‘like accident and emergency we don’t deal with minor ailments’. Some I could understand , like minor bumps and bruises, but others I didn’t get.
What was this place for then? What is minor and what is major and what’s in-between? Is this the in-between place? Sore throat was on the list of minor ailments but here I was with a child with a sore throat. Is it okay to go to the in-between place if a doctor says so?
We were seen quickly, no medicine required, told to come back if things got worse. That part of the service was great.
Overall, I’m confused by the out-of-hours service. It used to be clear and straightforward. Now it’s murky, requiring parents, it seems, to self diagnose and then choose which is the most suitable place to visit. In other words, waste many hours finding the right place to go at the wrong time of day.
When I was a child I suffered many, many ear, nose and throat infections – and my GP visited me at home every time. I remember him well – Dr Baizely. I don’t expect that now of course. But I do expect something better, something that works for me as well as for the NHS. It doesn’t feel efficient.
Surely there’s got to be a better way? What’s it like where you live?
Today many children went back to school – as a mum of three, I have three of these days to deal with this year as all three children are at different stages.
Today will possibly be the most long-winded and it reminded me of the trauma that many working parents feel when they are trying to do the right things for their children at school – and get to work on time. It’s a daily battle.
Being self-employed I’ve deliberately kept all three days as free as possible and I’ve not regretted it. After years of children at school, I finally found that it’s best to be as free as possible on days like today. It’s brought the stress down to a bearable level.
Last Friday it was first child to secondary school – getting up far too early, stressing about uniform, putting a tie on for the first time and the horror of my daughter in realising that she has to master this every day for the next few years! What a trauma. Then it’s the ‘what if’ period – what if I can’t find my friends? what if I get lost? what if I can’t find the toilets? what if I’ve forgotten my PE kit?
Notice that these ‘what ifs’ are not the same as us parents? Like, ‘what if the work is too hard? or what if my child gets bullied? or what if my child is naughty?’
What I did not have to do was take my child to school – no it’s now an early bus there and back, but that brings it’s own trauma about safety, on the road and on the bus.
Still we got over that day and today it was child number 2.
This trip is a move from Yr 4 to Yr 5 of a very laid-back child who is having a new teacher and some new cardigans but everything else is familiar.
However, what a parent so easily forgets over the summer is the hurdles one has to deal with in simply getting your child to school.
The traffic is worse and finding a parking space that a) isn’t a daft and unsafe place to park b) isn’t inconsiderate to residents. And then there’s always the risk that residents will simply object to you parking outside their house, even if it’s not unsafe or illegal to do so. I had this the other day (not on a school day) but on a new estate where there were no road markings at all. I was a visitor to the area, there were no yellow lines, no parking signs at all but a resident wrote me a snotty note and put it on my windscreen informing me that I should ‘park round the back or else’. Clearly he or she thought I was psychic and would know by osmosis that there were parking spaces elsewhere.
Back to today, my child gave me a quick kiss and disappeared, eager to see her friends and to find her way around a new classroom.
I then had to have at least five conversations with other parents about their particular experiences. Some clearly were parents who were short of adult company over the previous six weeks. I had the time, so it was no problem. But when you are working it’s so rude to say ‘that’s great, bye!’. Then I remembered her new cardigans and also the medical form for her asthma medication.
On entering the school office, there was a queue of mums waiting to do similar things.
I could see those eager to be away, hopping from one foot to another – knowing how they felt, I was relaxed about letting them jump the queue.
But then the form-filling – is it really necessary to fill out at least two forms saying the same thing? My child has asthma, she can self-administer her medication when she needs it – which is about once a week. She’s proficient at it, she’s learning to carry her inhalers herself at all times – but she’s not allowed to at school. This I know and accept. But there must be a more efficient way of dealing with this. There was one form and then another, both asking the same thing. This exercise took about 20 minutes and then I had to wait for her new cardigans – luckily that took about a minute.
So my youngest child was pretty bored by the time we left school at about 9.30am – goodness knows what it will be like on Friday when he starts for the first time. I’ll be lucky to get a coffee in before I’ve got to pick him up at lunchtime. Oh joy!
First day at school can seem like a long, uphill slog
This morning as I drove down a dual carriage way in Swindon – a cyclist, making his way out of town on the other side of the road, crossed the very wide green verge and then crossed in front of two lines of cars on my side of the road.
Luckily there were roadworks and all the cars were moving slowly so his U-turn was not that dangerous.
But it was annoying.
Annoying because within metres of this dual carriageway on both sides is a dedicated cycle path. There is no where on that stretch of road that could not be reached by this cycle path.
It was the second day in a row that I had to avoid a mad cyclist when a cycle path was a mere two seconds away.
Both of these road users were cyclists in all the gear – aero-dynamically shaped helmet, lycra body suits, lightweight shoes. Does this mean that they feel they are a cut above the cycle paths – which let’s face it are suitable for all of those on bikes?
I’m not against cyclists per se – as a family we do go out cycling but we do avoid traffic and roads as much as we can. This is easy to do in Swindon which has been designed with the cyclist and pedestrian in mind. Places are easy to get to via road, cycle and on foot.
It infuriates me when cyclists fanny about on the main roads when there’s a safer and better alternative nearby.
However there’s a breed a road-user that annoys me even more. It’s the mum (or dad) who parks as close to his/her child’s school as possible regardless of whether it’s safe or not. Often not.
This is a problem I encounter every day. I was brought up across the road from a infants school so I know about inconsiderate parking. But at my children’s school in Swindon, this lack of care has reached epic proportions. I’m not being santimonious – I drive my children to school but I always think about where I park – am I blocking someone in? Is this a safe place to park?
I’ve even had words with a resident who didn’t want me to park in her street, even though I was perfectly legal to do so and was not blocking anyone. She just didn’t want the likes of me (annoying parent dropping child at school) near her house. Well, she chose to live there, so get used to it.
However I do hate the ‘mad mums’ syndrome. The aim is to choose the worst parking position possible and cause maximum havoc. The minimum standard is to park across a resident’s drive. The best strategy is to park on a corner of a road, blocking every other vehicle’s view or to park on the pavement next to the school and then doing a three-point turn from that position.
In spite of increasingly angry letters home from the headteacher, it’s a losing battle. In the last letter it was as close to a tantrum as you could get in a letter. I’m not surprised as children’s safety is at risk on a daily basis. Many (though not all) of these drivers are young (under 30) and often seem to think they have a right to park in the most dangerous way.
Just how much disruption can you cause when parking near a school?
So I’d welcome some creative suggestions as to how to shame these drivers into being safe – without breaking the law of course!