To be born in the middle of World War II in the East End of London and then to be orphaned at nine months is probably not the best start anyone can have in life. But thanks to the love and care of my adoptive parents I can look back on a childhood of happy memories.
Growing up in Leigh-on Sea makes me an Essex girl – but without the "Estuary" accent, which was schooled out of me by a wonderful elocution and drama teacher. She gave me a love of speech and language that has stayed with me ever since and led to a career in speech and language therapy.
We attended Leigh Wesley Church – a most beautiful building with a large and vibrant congregation and a talented choir, in which my father sang baritone. An abiding memory is that of going to evening service, particularly on summer Sundays when the sun, slanting through the western window, spun patterns of colour over us all. The lessons learned in Sunday school – held on Sunday afternoons in those days – the traditional hymns and some really fine preaching, together with examples of practical faith in daily living set by my strict but loving parents, gave me a faith that has at times been severely shaken, but never lost.
College was a testing, questioning time, as indeed it should be, but the London University Methodist Society absorbed and answered the challenges I set – and found me my first husband. He was a liberal thinker, whose liberality took him beyond Christianity into exploring other faiths – and finally none. I followed a more traditional path, becoming a Local Preacher in 1970 – but our differences and other difficulties sadly increased, and the marriage foundered and ended.
Following my career – which I picked up when my four children (two mine, two fostered) were in their teens – I came to the University of Reading, and met Bill in the phonetics laboratory. Some of you may know Bill's work as a professor of phonetics took him to Germany and I spent eight years there from March 2000 – not becoming fluent in German alas – but doing some teaching, creating a garden and doing some writing.
Since our return to the UK we have immersed ourselves once more into the life and work of the church, and I am honoured to be asked to be a steward again. I hope God grants me the ability to serve you well.