Big Life Change, Worcestershire

PUBLISHED: 16:42 10 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:16 20 February 2013

France Life Change

France Life Change

Have you made a New Year's resolution to finally get out of a rut or have things taken an unexpected turn? Sometimes life throws up challenges like illness or redundancy. Sometimes you just have to make a change for the better.

Big Life Change

Have you made a New Years resolution to finally get out of a rut or have things taken an unexpected turn? Sometimes life throws up challenges like illness or redundancy. Sometimes you just have to make a change for the better. Rachel Crow meets five people who have made a Big Life Change.

A new career: car designer to poet

Spoz, aka 46-year-old Giovanni Esposito, worked at MG Rover for 25 years until April 2005. Today he is a poet, singer and songwriter.

I worked at MG Rover, Austin Rover as it was then, in Longbridge from 1980 in the chassis design department and was there until it all collapsed around our ears in April 2005.

Id always really been into music all I wanted to do was play guitar in a rock band, so with my first pay packet bought an electric guitar and an amp and taught myself. I soon found I had a way of writing quirky lyrics. I remember at school I really enjoyed Wilfred Owen and other World War I poets and occasionally on the radio poets like John Hegley and John Cooper Clarke popped up. I just loved their clever word play, so used to incorporate that into my song lyrics.

I was in a few bands and my hobby was playing gigs. Then a year or so before Rover stopped I started performing poems at gigs. I took part in BBC Radio 4s Ear Candy, a search for new writing, comedy and performance talent and through that met Richard Grant, known as Dreadlockalien, who was running a poetry collective called the New October Poets. He was a chef at the time but about to start poetry workshops in schools. I booked the day off to see him do his first one and thought: this is what I want to do.

About five months later Rover closed and the first person on the phone was Dreadlockalien. We set about running the workshops together and I now run most of the ones in Worcestershire.

I became Birmingham Poet Laureate in October 2006 and work went through the roof. Also in 2006 we started running a school poetry slam in Worcestershire which is like X Factor, except with poetry and have been running the project every year since. This year we have 30 schools involved.

The idea behind our poetry workshops is to detach it from the approach of heres a poetry book lets read it in class, its all about making the poetry heard and bringing it to life. Poetry now in school is like saying to a mechanic heres a box of tools and I want you to tell me what all of those tools do, but heaven forbid you pick any of them up and use them. We ask kids to move within the words, and if they get stuck to make it up as they go along.

Being a freelance poet is 24/7. I have written musicals as well. I suppose Im a raconteur of some description. I like telling stories, whether musically, poetry or lyrically and all of those together. I didnt know how this new career would work out. I went into it hoping for the best and fear of the unknown is sometimes less severe than fear of the known.

How to be a poet

If youre interested in performance poetry, Spoz advises: The best thing to do is get involved in festivals, like the Worcester Literary Festival in June and meet and network with people. There are various poetry slams run by different people and Ive made a fool of myself quite a lot at those things and also open mic events. There are many different genres of poetry and you wont like all of them, there are many I dont like. In short, have a go!

Losing weight and getting a life

Worcester University student, Beki Grundy, 22, is studying for a post- graduate certificate in Social Welfare. In 2009, Beki weighed in at 17 stone 9ounces. She has since lost seven stone with the help of Worcester Lighter Life.

I was always a bigger child when I was growing up. I was active and did a lot of sport and competed in horse riding, but struggled because of my weight and I think it stopped me being the person I wanted to be from a very early age.

When I started at Worcester University four-and-a-half years ago I started to really pile on the pounds as I stopped sport and was eating all of the time. I was about 14 or 15 stone in sixth form, but went up to 17 stone 9 ounces at my biggest. I would spend hours getting ready but agonise about walking out of the door.

I had tried weight loss plans before and I was always conscious that I should go on a diet, but Id never do it properly and just cheat myself into thinking I was. Then in 2008 I had an operation to reconstruct my knee and it was a very slow recovery because of my weight. That made me think I had to do something drastic.

I was looking on the internet out of desperation and came across LighterLife. I didnt know anyone who had done one of their diets but I went to an information session and that was it. My partner, Ben supported me 150 per cent as he could see my weight was holding
me back.

I knew that I had to completely remove myself from food, which almost allowed me to push the reset button on myself. I followed a total abstinence diet programme where you abstain from conventional food and have four nutritionally complete shakes or bars a day for six months. I started in July 2009 and the weight came off really quickly. I had reached my target weight of ten stone five the week before Christmas. The first few weeks of the diet were really hard, but the scary thing is I found it so easy to do after that and I think that made me realise how wrong my relationship with food was before; it was controlling me.

I feel brilliant now and it has completely changed my life. First of all I am maintaining my weight and not consumed with eating and using foods to control things like stress. I achieved a First in my degree and I think losing the weight allowed me to focus on my work and for my academic ability to shine through. Im also really proactive at University now and represent the students on various panels. Im pursuing my career to go into lecturing and before would never have had the confidence to stand up in front of people. Im more tenacious of my abilities and a bit more proud of myself. Im hoping to get the funds together to go to Fiji next year and get involved in projects on youth justice and preventing violence against women and I would never have thought about doing something like that before. And I will never stop cherishing every compliment I get.

Find out about losing weight

LighterLife is a weight loss and weight management programme for men and women. For more details visit or call 01905 360447.

A new career: army officer to teacher

John Farrer served as an army officer for eight years before embarking on a new teaching career at the age of 31. He teaches history at Abberley Hall School, an independent co-educational boarding school for 7 to 13 year olds.

I went to the University of West of England in Bristol where I studied English and History. I wasnt sure what job I wanted to do afterwards but my father had been in the army for a while and said why dont you give it a go? In autumn 2001 I went to Sandhurst for my officer training and then decided to join The Royal Armoured Corps.

I lived in Germany for five years and while there was sent away on tours of Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, so it was quite a busy time. My last job before I came back to England was a two-year posting in Pakistan, based at the High Commission in Islamabad working as a liaison officer to the Pakistan army.

Id thought about leaving the army for a while but there was still a lot going that I was interested in getting involved in. Iraq and Afghanistan were high-profile and exciting, in a way, as that is the type of challenge you want as an army officer because you spend all of that time training and rarely get a chance to put it into effect. It was tough but I wanted to see what these places were like. Im thankful for my decision to go into the army because it was a great experience.

Teaching was always something that was in the back of my mind to do. It was daunting to leave the army as it is a great career, so I did spend a bit of time thinking if I was doing the right thing. Anyone leaving a job is going to find it mentally quite tough because youre giving up the security of a monthly pay packet but its all about timing and having a plan.

I came back from Pakistan in April and saw the advert for the job at Abberley School which sung out to me as a place Id like to go and work. I started on a Graduate Training Programme here in September, a part-time course where you teach and train at the same time.

As an officer in the army you learn man management from a very early part of your career. You have to understand people and know what makes them tick. Thats a skill Ive taken away into teaching. With children its the same and its the human interaction I particularly enjoy.

With teaching Im going home looking forward to what I am going to do tomorrow and variety is whats important to me. No two days are the same and its such a busy school. With the school timetable you know what you are doing every day of week. Sometimes, in the army you werent quite sure what you were doing in one months time. That, and the opportunity to travel, was part of the reason why I joined but I got married this summer and want a bit more of a stable life. Now for me the best thing is having a base back in England.

Find out about teaching

There are many routes into teaching, for more details visit For jobs in teaching visit

Living with serious illness

Charmain Leek, a 42-year-old mother of two, lives in Worcester and
runs her own business. In 2005 she was diagnosedwith multiple sclerosis.

Ive been working as an audiologist for over 24 years and about six-and-a-half years ago started up my own business, Clear Hear. At the same time I found out that I was pregnant with my first daughter, Holly so it was a really busy time caring for a newborn and building the business. During Christmas 2005, when Holly was 12 months old, I noticed that I didnt have much feeling in my legs. I went to see my doctor and after numerous appointments had an MRI scan at South Bank Hospital in Worcester, which showed I had lesions on my spinal cord and brain: I had MS [multiple sclerosis].

Straight after the diagnosis I also discovered I was pregnant again. I was really worried what would happen as Id had a couple of miscarriages before but she survived and Daisy is now four years old.

When I was told that I had MS, it felt like someone had pulled the rug from under me. I went through a really low period and it took me about and year and a half to come to terms with it. When I look back now I think Id had MS for quite some time. The feeling in my legs eventually came back but I suffer residual symptoms of numbness in my hands and feet. You wouldnt really know I had MS other than the fact I trip over and drop things quite a lot.

You start to appreciate your health and your fitness and about two years ago I wanted a way to keep fit that I could juggle with running a business and family life so I started to run. I run for an hour in the morning and will go out in rain or snow accompanied by my beagle, Barney, and I just love it; its become my me time. Along with a friend we started to do 5k runs for local charities like Acorns and St Richards Hospice and then in October I did the Birmingham half marathon for the first time and raised 1,300 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. This year I hope to do the Great North Run and Stratford half marathon. My main problem with running is that my feet go numb. My left foot was very painful during the half marathon but my friend, Teresa, kept me going. I think I enjoy
running because if ever I go downhill, and I dont know if I will, I will think at least I did that and its my personal goal.

Im not going to let MS beat me and I dont want a person to judge me as Charmain whos got MS. You dont have to resign yourself to the fact that lifes over because in fact its been the reverse thats true for me.

On running and MS

For more information on multiple sclerosis visit
If you want to take up running you can find useful advice and tips at Athletic Club welcomes runners of all standards (, telephone Derek Cowdrey on 01905 358508. There are running clubs in most towns in Worcestershire to find your nearest check out the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Sports Partnership website and click on Find a Club.

A new life in France

Nick Trollope, 53, moved from Malvern to France in 2004, with his wife Tina and son Daniel.

We used to live in Malvern Link and I ran a couple of businesses in electronics manufacturing and security installation, while Tina was the secretary of a charity in Upton. We hadnt really planned to move to France and it happened very quickly. We sold our house in Malvern in November 2003 within 12 hours of putting it on the market and, as wed had our current house in France for about 12 months as a holiday home, decided to move over here. We arrived in France on 4th January 2004 and our son Daniel, who was three-and-a-half at the time, started at the village school on 6th January. I have three other children who had already left home and are still living in the UK.

It didnt take long at all to organise the move as we already had the house over here, so we just hired a large van from Brookhire and moved over.

My grasp of French was poor when we moved, but it has improved and I recommend the local bar for learning the lingo! Daniel struggled with the language, or rather, not being able to communicate for a few weeks, but is now thoroughly French.

Settling into life over here was fairly straightforward... until I tried to register a business. I work as a renewable energies engineer and the hardest thing weve found is French bureaucracy. Nothing here is simple! It is much more difficult to stay here now, due to changes in the law.
We live in Yvignac la Tour in Cotes d'Armor, Brittany. It is a typical Breton village of 1,100 people with two bars, a boulangerie, hairdressers, a church and not much else. We had originally been looking at properties in the other end of the region but Tina fell in love with this house, almost in passing. The people here were very welcoming.

Things have changed considerably in France since we moved over prices are much higher than when we arrived but I dont miss our old home in Malvern although I miss my friends. Tina misses Malvern more than I do but we visit often.

If anyone is considering a similar move Id recommend them to be retired, or of independent means. As George W. Bush put it: 'the French don't have a word for entrepreneur!

How to Move to France

The France Show at Earls Court, London (14-16th January) is a great place to start. The show gathers together a huge range of experts to offer all the advice you need to make the move. As well as thousands of dream French homes in the French Property Exhibition, youll find travel advice, meet tourist officers from the different regions and immerse yourself in French culture with language classes, wine tastings, cookery demonstrations and the largest French market outside of France. Tel: 0844 871 8817 for tickets or visit

Archant Life (publisher of Worcestershire Life) also publishes a range of magazines dedicated to life in France. Living France, French Property News and France magazine and their associated websites are essential reading for Francophiles (visit and click on Portfolio to find out more).


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