Hope you are feeling well and have a bit of hope in your heart, despite everything that is going on around us right now.
We may have met in University, amidst the bright lights of London, bungy jumping in the jungle or on a night bus through Cambodia.
Did we go to the same school? Ride horses together? Party into a New Year under the fireworks of Sydney? … I know some readers have been with me ’since my Look magazine days’, 11 years ago. And many have quietly followed my updates from across the globe, direct messaging or commenting out of the blue, every now and again.
Wherever we met – in real life, or online – I hope our memories together have been fun! If you are one of the few that have experienced any bad times with me; ah well – we lived to tell the tale!
… This post is here to (begin to) clear a few things up and to kick off my efforts in shedding some light on why I’m back in Wales.
The “Why I left Sydney” story became a heavy read; so I’ve split it into sections. I will share them across this week.
Every post will recap moments in time that mattered to me and will include ‘lessons’ that have stood the test of time. I will also nod ahead to the future. What’s now? What’s next?.
As always; this is a true account of my story, told solely from my point of view.
While I am always honest, I guard the truth too – it’s not fair to name people who have come in and out of my life. It’s also not possible to delve too deeply because some things are private / work-related or they may affect my family. But rest assured; what follows is fact.
I often think about my writing style and how best to present myself. At the end of the day; I can only be myself and write honestly about what I know; my life and my experiences thus far.
This Part 1 post lightly covers me growing up in Pembroke. From 1985, up to the the day I left when I was 19, in 2004.
To ‘come home’, I had to have a home to leave in the first place right? I sit here typing this from my family base in Pembroke.
I go back to the start of my life; to frame where I am now … nearly 35 years later.
Ok, enough framing! Let’s go!! Hope you enjoy this, with a cuppa tea in hand … ☕️☺️
The little writer in me
I was always writing stories about horses when I was a little girl. Books upon books filled my childhood bedroom. I used to read in the back of the car until I was sick! If Mum took me on an adventure, I would read under the M4 motorway-lights as the car whizzed home in the dark.
My Great Gran, Nannie Lain, used to write often. I like to think she passed her love of writing down to me; to carry forward for as long as I can.
One minute you are 14, the next you’re 34
I was born on the 26th August 1985, Bank Holiday Monday – the last hurrah of the British Summer. Madonna’s ‘Get into the Groove’ was the UK’s Number #1 song. My Mum was 18 when she had me. I don’t know how she made our life work, but she did. We found our groove from the get-go!
… Last time I checked; I was sitting at my babysitter’s house in Lamphey wishing I was 14. My babysitter’s eldest daughter, Abby, was 14 and I wanted to be the same!
Take That were life back then. If Abby liked Mark, he was my favourite for that day too. Obvs we quickly realised Robbie was the firm fave and he has been ever since!
Fast forward all these years and Abby is my closest, life-long friend. Robbie is still our ultimate. Take That and 1994 – when my Mum took us to watch them live in Wembley, when I was 9 – are still two of our fave topics.
Lessons: Time really does fly! Blink and you miss it. Mum taking us to see TT is just one example of her awesomeness. Yep; I still want to be 14.
Growing up in Pembroke. The early years.
Looking back on my little-me life; I wouldn’t change anything.
So much of how life pans out is directly linked to how you are brought up. Until you are old enough to make your own decisions and see adults for what/ who they really are; you are under their wing.
Luckily for me; Life offered someone out of this world to look after me; my Mum. Mum is like a ray of light. She’s always been that way and never changes. There is always a positive side to every situation. Nothing is too much trouble, she’s always looking on the bright side and is forever fun.
Bringing me up on my own at 18 must have been (extremely!) hard work but I don’t remember any moaning or anything wrong. I just know I was always with my Mum and we laughed all the time.
Mum just so happened to look like Kate Moss. She’s the coolest person I knew (and still know today). Even though we have been living miles apart for years now, just talking to her makes everything make sense.
Also, luckily for me; My Dad left when I was a baby. I do remember spending a bit of time with him as a toddler but these fleeting memories revolved around the pub or gambling. Fact is; I was lucky he left.
If he had tried to come back into my life it may have panned out very differently. I knew ”I didn’t have a Dad” but I never pined for him. I never felt at a loss growing up. I was too little to know any different.
I grew up naturally kind and loved animals. I loved school and learning. I found an immediate obsession with horses. I wasn’t a ‘fair weather rider’, I was fully committed and wanted to spend every spare second with a horse.
If I wasn’t riding one, I was reading about them, watching VHS videos, collecting china figures at car boot sales, trying to perfect drawing their heads or writing whimsical stories about them.
Mum; if you’re reading this. Thank you for all the miles and many hours you drove (and gave up for me!) in my quest to ride, and compete, as often as I could.
My earliest years confirmed: My Mum was strong in every way. There was nothing she couldn’t do. I cannot remember Mum ever being mad, angry or disappointed in me growing up.
All my younger memories are peppered with sandy toes and horses. What more could a pony-mad little girl ask for? I had 50% of a parental unit, yet 100% of the love. I was alright. In fact; I was very lucky.
Lesson: I don’t think there were any ‘lessons’ to be had at that point. All I know was my childhood was happy and busy. Mum was always doing something and working hard. You’d never catch her laying in bed, being lazy or hungover. She was always sorting activities for us to do with family and friends. She spent a lot of time studying and reading; her work ethic would have been naturally ground into me from my earliest days.
Please note; my Mum doesn’t know I am writing this! But I hope she will read it 🙂 … We didn’t talk about the things I am sharing; I just learned so much from being near her.
The word ‘bored’ was not within her vocab and there was always something arranged to look ahead to. We went on little holidays to Butlins, Blackpool or camping in Newquay, Cornwall. We also went on lots of weekends away to Cardiff and Bath.
My Aunt, Grandparents and family friends were the grown-ups in my life. My babysitter/ saviour (Judy) looked after me regularly when Mum went back to University to train to be a teacher. There were a lot of genuine, kind-hearted people in my life from Day 1. Fortunately the majority of them are still here as I type this.
Lessons: A few words instilled in me from as long as I can remember include:
* ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ at every opportunity
* Don’t talk about yourself all the time (the world doesn’t revolve around you)
* Always ask questions and show you are interested in what others have to say
* Work hard, you never know where you might end up
* Nobody likes a show off
* Be nice
* Have fun
* Black goes with everything
* You’re cool Lar – you can wear anything you want
Big school, more horses and boys
Going to comprehensive (senior school) was a big thing for me, as it is for every kid. My junior school life had been seamless. Lamphey is a lovely village-school, filled with good kids and nice families. Our local comp’ was big and intimidating, with kids piling in from all walks of life.
In school I taught myself how to ‘‘run with the fox and the hounds’’. I was ‘’friends’’ with ”everyone”. I had groups of nice-friends, who are still in my life today. I also had a handful of troublemaker-friends who I thought were fun. In reality, I got bullied by the troublemakers when it suited them.
Academically, school was easy. My English teacher always looked out for me. I loved Mrs Allerton – she always told me how much potential I had and tried her best to steer me away from the naughty-kids.
I became the brunt of lots of jealousy in school – mainly because I was ‘one of the boys’ and some students didn’t like it. I didn’t understand; I had always been a tomboy. I carried on going skateboarding with the boys and generally getting into all sorts of mischief.
My horse obsession was instilled in me for life by this point. I was over the moon to own my first pony, Cariad when I was 9 – again, thank you Mum!
I met my second one, Holly, when I was 12. Regular readers will know I still have Holly today, she’s been with me since 1998.
Outside of school and messing around with boys, horses continued to be my everything. I was supremely dedicated.
I often rode my bike from home to the horses. In the winter I would go twice a day to feed and muck out. Horses are really hard work but it was never a chore. I loved my horsey life. I started show jumping at local, then national level during my school years.
Lessons: My love for horses taught me both love and passion for sport and animals. Competing made me mentally strong – because no matter how hard I trained or how many hours I put in – there was always a chance I would not win.
Therefore; losing made me humble. I never entered a ring thinking I would win. But I always had hope. I would whisper in Holly’s ear before we would jump, she knew what she had to do. She was the best thing that I could have ever wished for in my younger years.
Lessons: Running with the ”good and the bad” people is only going to end one way; and it ain’t positive!
I started going out on weekends when I was in school. A group of us used to sneak out and pretend we were old enough with fake ID’s. If my little sister did that today (she’s 14) I would D I E!
It was pretty normal back then! As you can imagine, I got up to all sorts while pretending I was 18! I was out of my own league back then, playing with the adults when really I was just a child. Stay a kid for as long as you can!
I was due to stay on to finish my A Levels in school and while this would have been a great choice academically (because I knew my teachers well and loved my English teacher). At the last minute; I decided to apply for college.
I saw it as a chance for fresh horizons, meeting new people and experiencing something different. I remember changing my mind on the last day of applications and running with it. College was now my new pathway to University.
… This is my earliest memory of making a last-minute decision on something very important. I wouldn’t have known it back then but this was a prime example of me following my instinct. This is something I continue to live by today. If it feels right; I trust myself to do it and onwards I go!
I had my first ‘proper boyfriend’ at this time. He loved music, I had my horses and I started to work with my Uncle on the weekends. Life was easy for us both.
However, while I had made the right choice to attend college. I quickly lost my focus and started to mess around.
… During that first year of my AS-Level studies – after my horse and I got knocked over by a van in a freak accident – I had to have an operation on my foot.
My horse survived and went through three operations on his fetlock (ankle). Everything was going ok with my recovery, until I decided I would start bunking off college to spend time with my boyfriend. On the rare occasion I did attend; I could catch up, right? … I basically started to be a lazy little shit.
I took my education for granted at this point. I was intelligent and could do my work. I (naively!) thought I could skim through by the skin of my teeth. It quickly became apparent that AS-Levels needed commitment. Taking the Mickey was only going to harm my future in the end.
…. When it came to the close of my first year in college; my three main lecturers summoned me for a meeting. They explained I would be awarded a U (Unclassified in English).
This was based on the fact I hadn’t been to hardly any lectures that year! My Mum didn’t know this – I used to say I was off to college then drive to my boyfriend’s and we would watch Friends all day. Oopsy.
In that meeting I remember saying ‘’I’ll catch up, I’ll do all the work before term ends’’, or words to that effect. My lecturers were very blunt with me; I go back and start again or I’m off the course altogether. They didn’t have time for any more tomfoolery. I had been busted! Trying life as a naughty-kid wasn’t so funny after all!
… This was a serious wake up call for me. If I wanted to go to Uni, I had to work. Simple as. I couldn’t let my Mum down. I couldn’t let myself down.
I agreed to go back, no messing.
Obvs, when I applied myself, I aced it! I turned that ‘U’ on its head and was awarded the ‘A’, in English, that I needed to secure my spot in Cardiff University.
… My three years in Pembrokeshire College showed me how much I needed to work hard in order to get where I wanted to be.
During that second year of returning to college, I lived with determination to succeed. Outside of studies I worked my first proper job.
I worked with my Uncle Mike, from 2002. He is a yacht broker – selling boats on his customers’ behalf. I was Mike’s Assistant on my weekends and during holidays throughout college.
Lessons: My years with Mike taught me so many valuable life lessons from just being around him as he built his business from the ground up. He always worked hard, doing whatever he could to close a sale and make that needed commission. He always kept both the seller and buyer front of mind at all times.
Many salesmen are regarded as ‘dodgy’ but I can always stand by Mike, knowing he is one of the most trustworthy salesmen you could ever wish to deal with. Working with him showed me a man’s world and instilled honesty and integrity into my work ethic.
Living in love
During college, the aforementioned boyfriend and I broke up. It was a shock as we’d been together for a year or so. While I was embarrassed and hurt, it wasn’t the end of the world by any means. I remember feeling an inner resolve at that time; I’d brush myself off and start again!
Off the back of that break up, I started hanging out with someone else. One night I was meant to meet him but couldn’t get hold of him. We weren’t actually officially dating, so no biggie.
When that meeting didn’t come together; it led to a chance encounter with someone I had a crush on since I was 15 (I was around 19 at this point).
… From that random collision of worlds; everything changed for me. Soon, I was in love for the first time. It was the best thing since sliced bread. I was so happy I couldn’t believe my life. I felt like Beyonce and Jay Z in their Bonnie and Clyde video – we were best friends. It was the best. Life was the best. When I wasn’t with my horses, I was with him. What a time to be alive.
So I saw out my college days with love. I got the (A,B,B) grades I needed to get into Cardiff University to study English Literature. Cardiff Uni is the home of the UK’s most respected English department – headed up by the legendary Professor Martin Coyle. This was no easy feat. I will forever be proud of this achievement.
Lessons: There’s no feeling like true love.
Lessons: Always work hard, don’t ever let yourself down!
What I left behind.
When I left Pembroke to move to Uni in 2004, I left what I consider ‘everything’ behind. My Mum, Stepdad, wider family, friends. My horses, my dog and my love.
The day I moved to Cardiff will be forever etched in me. I didn’t want to leave him behind. I clearly remember walking out of his house that morning and driving away distraught but determined.
I had to go to Uni, had to. Must. Wanted to. I knew it was the right thing for me, for my future. I had so much to achieve, I couldn’t let the opportunity slip.
As much as I knew it was the right thing to do. It was not easy – it was horrible. I left in pain but with hope in my heart. I would only be 100 miles away. We would make it work.
Ready for Part 2?
Read it now: ”Cardiff: Heartbreak & Hard Work”