Sitting round my pool today is a lady that not only makes me smile, but writes thought proving amusing Blog posts. Her Blog is titled, Just Me, Nobody Special. This could not be further from reality, so please grab yourself a glass of chilled bubbly, take a lounger next to my pool and settle down to welcome my lovely guest, AnneMarie Groves.
Whilst I know you suffer from a muscle wasting condition, Muscular Dystrophy, which confines you to your home these days you have lived a very interesting life. Sailing and working on Tall ships, when not sailing through the seven seas, you’ve been gallivanting around the globe to rock concerts, in particular following and promoting, Stephen Gibb.
Please tell us about your time on the Tall ships and what made you work on these rolling beauties?
Actually they're holidays, Lord Nelson and Tenacious are designed and built to take able and disabled people. You sign on to the "Ship's Articles" as crew, but you've paid to go. You are a member of one of the four watches that 'crew' the ship. That might be setting sails, bracing yards, on watch, at helm or cleaning, taking down the shipping forecast or meterological observations, light maintenance, instructional talks, preparing the crew food etc. I was only going to do this once, so signed on to a biggee Southampton to Gran Canaria 4-weeks. It was the most terrifying, exhilarating, baffling, encompassing, exhausting yet enlivening experience ever. So I did it another three times, lol. The second voyage, Southampton to Kings Lynn got a little hairy when I nearly went overboard strapped into an adapted dentist chair in the English Channel. My final voyage from Bermuda via Grand Bahama to Miami Florida put us firmly in the Bermuda Triangle, but other than reminding the US Navy in the wee hours that power gives way to sail, it was an uneventful trip.
I've been thrown together with strangers from all over the globe into this unique world, a mixed range of conditions, ages, backgrounds and abilities. We've exchanged life anecdotes and shared much laughter. There are no differences, no one is left out, it is the purest form of all inclusive team work. I kept very detailed diaries of my voyages as a special person once told me, make a note of good memories because you'll be a long time revisiting them.
What is special about Stephen Gibb that you have become quite involved in
It began with a bit of a jest. A friend outside his Dad's studio asked how much to get his (Stephen's) autograph and he replied "A fiver", so my closest friend and I (already fans of his music) sent a five pound note with a photo and he sent back the signed photos and the five pound note. I should explain that Stephen's Dad is Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. This was in the early 00's and the Bee Gee fans were all squeaky gushy about 'little Stevie', which makes me cringe. Here was this almost twenty year old beefy, tattooed, charismatic heavy metal guitarist with skills and reputation of his own being referred to like some cutesy toddler. We set up a home page and began to properly research the music he had worked on and it was substantial. That quickly grew into the dedicated site there is today, and it still (I hope) accurately records his work and recordings. He's had the opportunity to be with some amazing people, not because he is a son of, but because he is a very talented, focused, intelligent gentleman.
In 2003 I met him at the studio just a few weeks after his Uncle Maurice had died. Shortly after that he joined a band called Crowbar and they gigged in Berlin, so my BFF and I hopped a flight and surprised him. He took us back stage and told everyone we ran this website about him and joked we were his cyber stalkers. We've kept in touch. In 2016 I took my Sister to be in the audience of The One Show to see him support his Dad on the promo tour of the album they had written together "In The Now", we had a fantastic chat after while his Dad met the other select audience members.
You once worked for a Baron, what was this about?
My parents owned a business at the edge of the Baronial estate, so the family and estate workers were customers. I went to primary school with two of his daughters. Our paths frequently crossed at various village events, piano recitals, parties, etc. Part of the estate was a tourist attraction, a country park with golf, boating, fishing, heavy horses, falconry, open grounds, gardens and woodland, as well as holiday cottages and event theme days. I was employed as the managers secretary, which really was a very loose title, over the years I did all the admin and accounts, as well as wrangled ducklings out the shop, babysit a poorly hedgehog, dress as a belly dancer for camel racing day, answer endless questions on a whole gamut of subjects. Also report to Lord Somerleyton (the third Baron) and deal with his queries, during this time he was also Master Of The Horse to Her Majesty The Queen, as well as an equerry, so was often away. Working in a family business is very different, and my family and I were so well known by the family they'd often bypass the manager to speak to me. I have many happy memories of days there, as well as conversations with His Lordship that ended 'but you don't need to know that'. It is not straightforward care taking an historic place, it's supposed to be self sustaining, yet modernising in a fashion that keeps it as it's always been, it's presumed there is cash to spare but repairing Victorian chimneys or rehogging a three mile track are not things B&Q can do. There is an obligation to keep everything, from Georgian wall hangings to Victorian furniture, you don't have the freedoms to throw away. It has an aura of a privileged life but it is far more regimented with added expectation than you'd imagine, constantly being scrutinised and remarked upon, plus watched by the press.
You live in a rural part of the UK, tell us a little about the area and what makes it special?
Rural is the word. Our family business was on a t-junction, each direction was 7+ miles to the nearest town, no regular bus service, it was a little bit frozen in time. I was the only child, I think the next youngster was at least 8 years older than me, there were a couple in the next village my age but that was a mile away. It was isolating in a sense that school friends were miles away, there was no hanging out in town, no cinema trips or bowling, no eating out or sleepovers. It was a simplistic, innocent environment, I played outdoors in woodland, or read books, did my piano practice (reluctantly) for the exams, I was in the church choir, we rehearsed at my house because I had a piano and the choir mistress was my piano teacher. Everyone knew everyone, so within the villages it could be suffocating. One time one of the new managers at the country park stormed into the office remarking "Can't I go anywhere in this village without someone knowing you!", lol, nope, that's villages for you. The village is on the river, and has an ancient priory, I remember going there to see the sows and piglets and scratching their backs, it's a prestigious restaurant venue now. There is a sense of space and calm there, it's not bustling and noisy like urban areas, where I live now.
You have also created some beautiful and eye catching cross stitch pictures, was this your way of relaxing?
When I was out of work and trying to find a job if you have a disability it is draining, annoying, sometimes humiliating, it takes a long time. Being home for endless hours I needed something to do. I adore tigers, I came across a cheap kit and on the spur of the moment bought it and did it, then one Christmas my Mum bought me a couple more. I'd sit at home and stitch for hours, sometimes 5/6/7 hours a day slowly revealing these intricate characterful images. Relaxing, maybe, but it appealed to my mathematical puzzling, how to do a few stitches here and a few there using the least thread but not jumping vast areas. My BFF loves the "All Our Yesterdays" collection and she would buy one, maybe start and I'd finish it. I did an elephant for my Sister, I'm proud of that. The trickiest a four foot bell rope on Irish linen, using single thread embroidery silk, that nearly sent me boss eyed. I haven't the dexterity to do it now, sadly, I've moved to crochet but have to limit myself to an hour or two otherwise my hands and arms cramp up.
These days you keep your Blog up to date with your wonderfully witty and engaging posts, how do you come up with ideas to write about?
The mental meandering that cross my keyboard
I've always got ideas, usually themes, sometimes I wish I could just download my thoughts, be a lot easier, lol. It all depends on whether I can come up with more than two sentences in my head, often it pops in at stupid o' clock as I'm trying to get to sleep. If my mind keeps wandering back to it, then I tend to draft a blog post, think of a catchy title and find a picture. I so do not want it to become a whinging moan fest, which it could with my present mindset.
Social media is a mine field! It can quickly become negative, angry, attacking and intimidating. I've had such interactions with music fans especially with my work for Stephen, I've been called all sorts, been threatened with all sorts, had people try and befriend me for ulterior purposes and I've met some genuinely respectful, intelligent people (I even got on a flight to Houston to meet a lovely lady). So I try and make my posts non-personal, avoiding controversial issues, keeping to the subject. Sometimes blogging feels rather like that tree in the woods, if there's no one to hear it falling does it make a sound, if there's no one to read it does it make any impact. My blog is more like a fly poster, maybe some day some one might notice it, so I'll stick it up here.
I'd like to think my few, so few, readers go "Ohh yeah, never thought that" or just have a chuckle or a smile at a turn of phrase. Something that counterbalances the stress and pressure of modern technological fast paced lives. Mind you, I am a stubborn Aeries, so with the blog, like the website, I'm too invested in it to be able to walk away.
Thank you AnneMarie for coming on down, lolling on my loungers and drinking me out of bubbly whilst talking about yourself, I admit to having loved every minute and I am still laughing… honestly! Though I still argue, you’ve got the title wrong on your Blog!
Haha, no it's not. I'm just me, getting by, almost managing. Thank you for letting me ramble on and slurp these delicious bubbles. Now where is the cabana boy, I think I'll take a cooling dip, if I may?
You can visit AnneMaire’s wonderful Blog by clicking Here.
(P.S. You don't have to register to read or comment *hint-hint* nor do you get bombarded with emails, ta muchly AM).
A HUGE thank you for stopping by and please come back again very soon to see what is happening here next!
Have a fabulous day and I hope the sun is shining on your face and in your heart.