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Born and bred Londoner shares her downsizing journey to the South Coast

06 April 2021

vanessaB

I was born in Stamford Hill, north London where we lived until I was 7. We then moved to Upper Clapton, East London and lived there for 6 years before moving to Edgware, north-west London where I continued to live until moving to Fleur de Lis Wimborne just recently on 16 February. I have one older brother, Russell. He and his wife live in Watford. 

I left school in 1971 with one O level in English Language and CSEs in typing and French. It was obvious from those grades that I wasn’t destined to have a glittering career! My first job after leaving school was at NatWest which I hated and left after 6 months. I then worked as a telex operator at a travel agency in Oxford Circus and then as a publications administrator at The Kennel Club in Piccadilly, London. I then went back to being a telex operator with Legal and General for 11 years before being made redundant. After my redundancy, I began training as a dog groomer as my mother and I planned to move to Norfolk and open up a tea room combined with a dog grooming parlour which sadly never happened. In December 2020 I retired after 33 years as a receptionist at Public Health England, formerly known as Health Protection Agency, formerly known as Public Health Laboratory Service.

I have had many interests and passions over the years, some of which I hoped to turn into a career but it was not to be. I liked, and still like, writing and dabbled in script writing whilst still at school, an interest no doubt inspired by my father who had written comedies and dramas for TV although sadly none were accepted. He specialised in comedy and wrote gags for comedians at that time such as Harry Worth and Roy Castle and Northern comics Colin Crompton and Nat Jackley. I received some input from writer Dennis Spooner, who had also started off as a comedy writer but was more renowned as a TV screenwriter as well as creator of many TV series during the 60s such as The Saint, The Avengers, The Champions etc, including my personal favourite, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). But I was very young and quickly lost interest so my writing career ended before it had even started.

I have always had a passion for dogs, inspired even more so after my stint at The Kennel Club, and acquired my first dog, a 5-month-old Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie as the breed is known, in 1976. We called him Sherpa (my father’s suggestion) and I wanted to show him but he grew too big for the breed standard so I trained him for competition obedience. We did quite well although we never attained the dizzy heights of Crufts which had been my ultimate goal. By this time I had qualified as a dog training instructor and helped run weekly dog training classes for a number of years. I later acquired a 10 week old Sheltie puppy which I called Toby, to train for obedience competitions but unfortunately, he developed a genetic tendency to nervousness and didn’t have the temperament to withstand the atmosphere of the obedience ring. After losing Sherpa in 1990 at 14, and Toby 4 years later at just 10, we then adopted 3-year-old Kramer, a large, handsome and very naughty Sheltie. He was a real character who brought much joy to us and we missed him terribly when he died 7 years later, also aged 10. By this time Mum began to develop dementia and I really didn’t want another dog as not only did I not have time to care for another dog as well as Mum, but I couldn’t bear the heartbreak of losing another one.

During the late 80s ITV began repeating my favourite 60s TV series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and I was hooked on it all over again. In 1989 I formed an appreciation society for Randall and Hopkirk which at its peak gained about 400 members. Unfortunately, I had to disband the society in 1994 but there was a small group of original members with whom I became close friends and ever since we have continued to meet up two or three times a year (although sadly not since 2019). We used to visit Elstree locations where these shows were made and which conveniently was not far from where I lived but having exhausted all the locations some years ago, we now just meet up for lunch and a great day out together. I hope it won’t be too long before we can start meeting up again.

My passion for Randall and Hopkirk spanned further interest in cult TV and films of that era and during the 1990s I enjoyed visiting TV and film conventions, even organising one of my own in 1993. Very hard work and very stressful so never again! One that I still continue to enjoy visiting each year (sadly cancelled last year due to covid restrictions) is the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester. As well as getting to see some well known as well as little known horror, sci-fi and fantasy films from many different eras, meeting actors, directors, writers, special effects artists and anyone else associated with the films that are shown, it’s a social event and many times we forfeit seeing a film or listening to a guest interview in favour of spending time with our friends in the bar!

In 2004 I fulfilled a long time ambition of mine to fly a plane! Elstree Aerodrome was just a few miles from my home and whilst passing by it one day I impulsively drove in to book a trial flight. Wow, it was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done and I quickly became hooked on flying. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most expensive hobbies and I had to cancel my training after 21 flying hours due to lack of funds. A year or so later, just for fun, I took a one-off trial lesson in flying a helicopter! Equally as expensive and equally as exhilarating although I much prefer fixed-wing. But such an amazing experience.

In the summer of 2020, far from the lockdown providing more community spirit and friendships, I realised just how much community was lacking in Edgware and how much the area had deteriorated and decided that perhaps, after living there for most of my life and living in London all my life, it was now time for a change. Dorset was a county I was familiar with, often visiting Bournemouth or Poole and other areas of the county as well as being in a long relationship with a man from Weymouth who I had met whilst on holiday there. Sadly, after more than 13 years together, he passed away in April 2019 and my plans to retire to Dorchester, so I would be nearer to him, frittered away. But when I received a brochure from Renaissance on their newly built Wimborne retirement development it set the wheels in motion and after viewing some of the Fleur de Lis apartments last September, and visiting Wimborne Town Centre and The Square for the first time, I knew immediately this was where I wanted to live. I have made many wrong decisions in my life but happily, this is most definitely not one of them! In fact, this was the best decision I have ever made and I’m very happy to be living here at Fleur de Lis!

If you’re looking for a home with a strong sense of community, wonderful amenities right on the doorstep and a gorgeous coastline nearby, our homes at Wimborne could be the place to start your next chapter. To book your private, one-to-one viewing, please contact our team on: 01202 618 052 or email [email protected].