“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”. So much has been said in many an article, book or report about the power of your inner-circle. The people you choose to surround yourself with are those that will most likely shape the trajectory of your life .
One of the segments I have always wanted to write is a showcase of some exciting and significant people that I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with over the course of my short 34 years. They could be colleagues, trusted professionals or good good friends – often, they span all three. Whoever they are, rest assured I am blessed to call them a friend and draw much inspiration from the paths they have chosen to tread.
Perfectly Peculiar, not because they are odd in any way, more that their idiosyncratic journeys, skills and experiences really do mark them out from the crowd.
There will be certain core questions I will ask each of these people (in the interests of continuity) but also, in light of their idiosyncratic glory, or particular peculiar passions, I will probe down certain avenues that will hopefully showcase the sorts of people they are. I hope through reading you get a flavour for why these folks have a special place in my heart.
‘Smiling Always to Get a Smile Back’
I can think of no better person to start off this segment that my good friend, Andrea Wards-Eversley. I first met Andrea when at a coach matching event (think speed dating for career advice) in Manchester, UK. I was in the market for someone to help steer my little enthusiastic ship towards some exciting destination and I got significantly more than I bargained for. She has worn many hats in her lifetime from air traffic controller in the WRAF, award winning singer, successful businesswoman, confidante, mother and friend to name but a few. I spent a few moments recently asking Andrea a little about her life.
Full Name: Andrea Wards-Eversley
Born: 1943 – Blackpool, Lancashire
Currently Residing: North Littleton, Worcestershire
Relationship Status: Living with Paul, partner of 20 years
Family: One daughter (passed away from Cancer 9 years ago “Leaving me with 2 grandsons, 32 and 38 and 2 great grandkids. They’re all beautiful” Communication with her friend worldwide.
Occupation: Business Consultant
Hobbies: Jazz Singing, Reading for the Blind, Real Estate, Fund raising for two Hospice Charities, Gardening
If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
“Fat!” (raucous laugh) “Happy!” “Grateful is a good word.”
What does success look like for you in life?
“Success is achieving what you, in your mind, wanted to achieve. As soon as that is done, you move onto the next thing….”
Talk to me about how you got to where you are today.
“That is an almost impossible question because there are so many chapters in my life. The only answer I can give to that truthfully is by being totally and utterly honest with myself. Without that I wouldn’t be here now.”
In which case give me a few snapshots from your life that would help a reader understand the sort of woman you are.
“In the late ’60s, my late husband and my then 5 year old daughter, Sherri, and I were journeying around the Mediterranean on our motor yacht. We had docked in Palma de Majorca to enrol Sherri in a day school, meanwhile I set about calling into the bars to see if I could get singing work to pay our way. Whilst singing my way around the club scene there, we made a good few new friends, not least a young Lord and Lady on their Grand Tour of Europe, who, like us, had run their funds dry and were looking for work. We took those two on as a deck hand and cook, paying them not only in food, board and good times but also by helping them walk through some of the challenges they have in their life. Like a live-in life coach! When they had all they needed, they went on their way. That sort of thing has happened to me a lot over the years.
While we were living on that yacht that we were invited to a holiday camp, and introduced to a group of men enjoying the facilities there. Not knowing who or what they actually were, I invited them for dinner, quite a few times. We only later found out that this group was made up of some cruel, cruel men, mercenary in nature – one of them nicknamed ‘The Butcher’ given the brutal way he had killed those who opposed him. The difference was we were dealing with them as if they were any other person. In fact, I only ever try to see the good in people. What they did was wrong but if I come across people that are unhappy or troubled I can’t help but help. I still have a file stored by Interpol from the run in with those guys, I think.
After a few years in the Balearic Islands, we decided to motor over to Morocco, not knowing it would lead to disaster (I’ve still got the cuttings from the press). As we passed through international waters the boat was peppered by sub machine gun fire, fired by a group of Franco’s ‘legalised pirates’. I dove to protect Sherri from the bullets and in no time at all the pirates had boarded. These were men whose emotions were wildly out of control, standing there screaming and shouting at the tops of their voices at all three of us. Taking control of the boat they towed us to Spanish controlled Ceuta, bordering Morocco. We were put to shore in what we were wearing, they took everything we owned from us, including the yacht. It was only much later that the Franco administration admitted they had attacked the wrong yacht altogether. We might not have been the target but the impact could not have been more devastating.
Starting all over again in the U.K I set up shop off Fleet Street in London as a Recruitment Consultant – an infrastructure made up of one phone, one desk and a telephone directory. 8 years later, after a lot of hard work, we sold that for circa £4 million before moving to South Africa. There are many more chapters but I’d be here all day. Still more yet to be lived!’
Why are people drawn to you?
“Empathy. The ability to feel and see others as they see themselves. I think it is a God-given gift but you can work on that”
Helping people seems to be a recurrent theme in your life.
“It was inherent from when I was 3. At nursery I was acknowledged as a born leader. My mother and father separated when I was 18 months old, leaving me and a 7 year old sister too. I can safely say that from the age of 3 I had taken into my psyche, my mother’s angst and my whole raison d’être became to make her happy. My sister was very resentful of my mother for separating from my father and so I set about making her happy too.
I have always had that within me to try and smooth the waters. To try and help them.
I remember, when I was 11, I had a huge great steel post fall on me while I was playing Netball. It had really made my head bleed at the time and left me with severe headaches for weeks so I was admitted to the Manchester Royal Infirmary for a lumbar puncture where they told me I would have to stay for a little while under observation. It was during my stay there that I remember coming into the ward one day and seeing a woman sitting on the windowsill.
The atmosphere around this woman was very peculiar and everyone seemed to be giving her a wide berth. It soon became clear that the lady in questions was very unhappy with her life and was sitting on the sill, waiting for her moment to jump. I very softly started talking to her, asking her if she was okay, telling her how special she was and basically showering with a little love until she turned around and came back into the ward. Within moments the nurses has approached to help settle the woman once again but it had been the act of showing her that she was loved that convinced her to life another day. That really is all takes sometimes to change someone’s whole perspective.”
What is your favourite drink?
“Water. You can’t live without it and I want to live.”
One big regret in life?
“Not following my true gut instinct to walk away from a situation that would have been the right thing for me to do. I was too weak to do it.”
The world would be a so much better place if…
“…only we treated each other as equal”
The one thing I never seem to get round to is….
“Self-motivation. I can help others but I find it difficult to live my life.”
This might be a little bit controversial but….
“I hope I don’t have those views! If I am faced with anything that is new to me, I have hopefully got the ability to find out, to learn about it and make it less controversial to me.”
Cats or dogs?
When you close your eyes what is the first image you see, why?
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried, what was so funny?
“I laugh every day. I can’t answer that! I can’t not laugh. I laugh everyday at life.”
You have an hour before you pass away, who do you call and what do you say?
“I’d call my beautiful daughter Cherie, already passed and tell her I will be joining her soon, my mother, sister, mother in law and father in law, my best friend Peggy, then would look at Paul, my partner, and just say ‘thank you for giving me such happiness’.”
How do you make people smile?
“By smiling, you always get a smile back”
How do you know when you had a good day?
“Because I can feel it, because I can say, I got my man next to me, I am comfortable, I am warm, I am looking at a photograph of my daughter, life is good. It is mainly when I have done something for someone today.”
If you had only one tip to give me what would you tell me?
“Be truthful to yourself because if you do that, you can be truthful to everybody.”
When I switch on the news I feel….
“Sad. Because there is so much heartache and sadness in the world. It’s not necessary. We should be looking after each other, not hating each other.”
If I were Prime Minister for a day I would….
“Give money to the NHS.”
What do you feel about Brexit?
“I can’t tell you until everything is settled. We have a good ally in the President Elect (terrible terrible person, however) I was a ‘Remainer’, I feel we should have remained. Because we are Europeans, we are a little tiny island of 69 million, we were part of the European Union and should have stayed there, for the free movement of people, amongst other things.
Any final words.
“These are choices that we make, if we want to be a victim we will be a victim, the choices we make shape our destiny, when you get to that realisation you become a real person.”
“You take strength from your darkest area of pain, fight with it, not against it.”
“A comment on Life the Universe and Everything?. 42! There is no other answer.”