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60 years on c1960 Norbury Church of England Primary School, Hazel Grove Ann aged 7

03 March 2021

I was a fat child. Today I’d be labelled obese but back in the late 1950’s no-one, except perhaps scientists referred to notions of obesity. Aged about 7 years old, I stood out in a school photo when I was clearly ‘oversized’ compared to my peers in Junior 1 - that was what we called year 3 back in the old days!. I now understand that I was probably depressed, and I had begun to comfort ‘overeat’. My Mum and Dad were ‘big’ and so it was also my family norm – although clearly as the photo shows, it was not the societal norm.

However, I was also a very active child. I loved ‘playing out’ (as we say in the North), and spent hours riding my bike around what was then a new and largely carless housing estate in the outer suburbs of Manchester. I transferred to a brand new school for Juniors 2, 3, and 4 (years 4-6 in new money) and threw myself with ‘gay’ abandon into the wonderful array of physical activities my new school presented - Scottish Country dancing, netball, rounders – you name it….I didn’t care that I was fat because I was like my parents and they loved me. I did get bullied and called nasty names, but my Mum brushed this off reciting the well-rehearsed but seriously questionable mantra ‘Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you’. I might have taken some comfort from that – but in reality I also continued to take comfort from food - chocolate and sweets and scrumptious home-made sugary puddings (it didn’t help that my Mum was also a good cook and something of what we today call a ‘foodie’).

So fast forward to today – 60 years on. My love of being active remains. I’ve cycled, walked, trekked, swum, played tennis and generally kept relatively fit ever since and I am a regular charity fundraiser. I swam the English Channel (in a pool) last year for Diabetes UK and walked Hadrian’s wall the previous year for Alzheimer’s. I am grateful to the strapping, sturdy, strong, muscular legs that I’ve hated most of my life and that now I’ve come to love. I am deeply grateful for them because without them, I could not be taking part in the City & Guilds Covid Buster 10k next week. I have been involved all my educational working life with City & Guilds and I shall proudly become Chair of the Board in October this year. It is fantastic to support a companywide event like this to raise our collective spirits and lift morale as we prepare to resume something like pre-pandemic working life. I have been in training over the last few weeks - upping my regular daily pandemic fitness regime of 10,000 daily steps and taking advantage of the beautiful Spring weather we had recently to trek through the fields of North Buckinghamshire. A wonderful way to warm up for our event on 12 March. I look forward to taking part with you all next week.

By the way, I am still technically obese today – all the statistics conspire to tell me my BMI tips me just over the overweight line. Happily on every other health indicator - blood pressure, heart rate etc I’m at the oppositive - excellent - end for my age group. I still love food and wine. I am a foodie. I still occasionally overeat although I’ve never been a binge eater and I haven’t ever really had what could be described as an eating disorder. Years of therapy in my 30’s and 40’s helped me to see, understand, and view compassionately the origins of my depressive personality. As a result, in my second half of life, I’ve generally been able to adopt a positive attitude to dealing with the challenges life throws at us – and it is with this attitude and approach that I shall tackle our Covid Buster 10k.