For anyone who follows me on Twitter, Facebook, or knows me in real life, it’s safe to say I’m a feminist. I believe that everyone is equal and should receive equal treatment. Everyone has their strengths, though the strengths may differ, people are people. And people should treat people nicely.
And I’m very very grateful that the way I am is thanks to some very special friends who have touched my life in different ways. They’ve changed my opinions, moulded me, supported me, they’ve been there for me.
Now much as I would like to thank all the women in my life, I can’t. You are all, and the blokes too, fantastic. Whether our encounters have been short and sweet, or long and more of a rollercoaster in nature, I have a lot to be thankful for. So, I’ve selected one or two, who are truly inspirational, who I consider it my privilege to have met, been friends with and sometimes worked for.
I know lots of ladies are going to put their mum forward. I will because she had her faults, she wasn’t an easy lady to live with at times and god knows, broke my heart on more than one occasion, but I loved her and learned so much from her.
I learned not to judge, I learned to love, I learned how to cook. I learned to accept people as they are, to listen and how to fight my corner. I also learned how to pull a beautiful guilt trip.
I miss her a lot – we used to speak on the phone every day. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t tell her, though I know she kept secrets from me. She died in 2010, ten days after my gorgeous nephew was born. She never got to meet him. And though it’s easier and the days are few and far between, every so often I automatically go to pick up the phone to call her.
Without her, I not only wouldn’t exist, I wouldn’t be who I am. Thanks mum.
Pat was one of my first bosses at the University. We met and immediately clicked, got on well, worked bloody hard to pull together one of the biggest projects either of us had worked on – building it from an old unusable database and a handful of notes.
We supported each other, she put up with my wandering into her office to swear, I hid her from the world when she had a hard deadline. I put days in her diary sneakily, so she could work at home and we could deliver what was needed.
Still now, though she’s moved down south, nothing has changed. We can meet once a year, or even less, and within ten minutes, we’re up to date, we’re just the same. Though without the fag breaks.
Sometimes you meet someone who you want to grow up to be. Carole is that. A computer scientist, she’s been with the University (forgive me Carole) for almost as long as I’ve been alive.
I was lucky enough to work for Carole for about 4 years as her Executive Assistant. I say lucky, despite the 11pm phone calls when her flight was cancelled in Stockholm, or the 6am text messages when airport staff went on strike randomly and she was stuck in Madrid in December. Or the late nights in the office, working til 10pm keeping her company.
Because she’s amazing. Type the name ‘Carole’ into Google and see how high she is. She’s that well thought of, that smart, that fun, that’s Carole. She’s worked to support women in SET roles, she’s fought to get where she is and inspires such amazing loyalty.
And her clothes and shoe collection alone inspires awe.
Sara Jane Etchells
You may know this story. Sara Etchells (nee Duncan) was diagnosed with breast cancer and as part of her treatment underwent chemotherapy. She involved her family in her treatment, not keeping it secret, but talking to them, ensuring they felt part of it and not left out, so they could help her fight.
As part of this, her now husband filmed their daughter, Lola, cutting off her hair. It, understandably, made national press. It’s a powerful film. And all the way through, Sara documented her treatment, her family life.
She’s also a creative person, and it’s because of our mutual love of craft that we met.
She now has lovely long blonde hair.
Many of you may know Fran as the Barker Baker. She and I met via Levenshulme Market and her huge suitcase of bread. We spoke via twitter, discovered we worked close to each other met for coffee.
Fran made mistakes in her life. She admits them, is open about them and in the space of a year has made an incredible change to her life.
12 months ago she was served with a suspended sentence for fraud. We’ve spoken about it a lot. And as she sat in that court room, terrified, she realised just how much of a turning point this could be. Unlike so many who don’t get the rehabilitation they need, Fran’s made of much sterner stuff.
She walked out of court with a second chance and changed everything. She went to rehab. She attended every single probation meeting, made sure she did everything by the book.
And then did more. She created her own business, she trained, learned how to bake, she passes on her baking skills. She gives to those less fortunate than herself.
I know some will say this is guilt. And that now, as she faces going back to prison, because though she’s turned her life around, she hasn’t been able to pay the thousands of pounds in compensation the court demands that it’s only right, I want to disagree.
Anyone who meets Fran can see just how genuine she is. There’s no cover here, there’s no guile. With apologies, we all fuck up. We all get things wrong. But we all deserve a second chance. And I know that even if she does have to go back to prison, she will still be one of the strongest and inspiring ladies I know.
So this last one is a bit of a cheat. Barakah Foods are a family. I first met them when I had spare cake and they offered to help me eat it! After a swap for some of their home made curry, I was hooked.
Manzoor and Aiysha not only create some of the best take away curry in Manchester, they also do some of the most incredible charity work.
You see their take away funds their donations to those who can’t afford to feed themselves. Those on the breadline, those on the streets. They will help. Wherever they are. Barakah Food Aid is one of the best kept secrets in Manchester. Though I’ve just ruined that. But rightly so.
Because they are awesome. I’ve never felt so humbled to be in someone’s company. Because the good shines out of them.
They’re now at capacity in all areas. They’re turning orders away. And this saddens me. I know they’re looking at crowdfunding and searching for an investor. It’s one of those times where I pray for a lottery win, because I’d just hand it over.
These are just some of the amazing people who you can find in Manchester (sadly Pat is only aorund occasionally now!) and a fraction of those who inspire me.
I’d love to hear who inspires you – who do you look to when you need that push, that moment of clarity to keep you going.
We should celebrate all of them.