One of the best things about Framlingham is FramSoc, the society run by Framlingham College. Each term they organise a series of events such as talks, outings and a book club. These events are always popular and have given us the opportunity to do so many things we would not have otherwise done such as punt down the River Cam, meet author Esther Freud and see the Cambridge Floodlights review. This week we've been to two more exceptional events.
On Wednesday it was a talk by the remarkable Karen Hester. Karen's life story (to date -she's still relatively young and I'm sure that there's a great deal more to come) is one that, if I put it in a novel, I'd be accused of making things up. Forced to run away from home at sixteen by a wicked and brutal step-father, Karen joined the army and chose the Transport Corps. Within months she was the youngest person ever in the UK to obtain their HGV licence (a record that she still holds today) and she was on the road to what should have been a dazzling army career. She rapidly rose through the ranks but when she married and became pregnant a few years later the army gave her the ultimatum to either abort the baby or leave the forces. She chose to keep her child and followed her army husband overseas to Germany.
A few years later the marriage, sadly, failed and Karen found herself back home in Suffolk with two children. She had set up a business in Germany but had to liquidate her stock when she returned and she found herself working part time in the evenings as a cleaner at Adnams brewery in Southwold. When she tired of night work and gave up the job a couple of years later her boss didn't want to lose her and offered her a day job in procurement. I won't repeat Karen's entire talk here but suffice to say, she did a very good job and continued to do a good job in every position she was offered in a meteoric rise through the company which has ended (to date that is) with her on the board of Adnams.
It's little surprise to see what she has achieved as she is a person of rare determination to succeed through natural ability and sheer hard work. I share much of her business ethos - she likes to talent spot from within the business often promoting from the shop floor (nothing gave Marion and me more pleasure than seeing, for example, a schoolgirl office junior become a senior manager, a metal worker become a senior sales executive and a schoolboy shop floor worker end up as Operations Director) ; she doesn't hold with days off for colds (I can count my entire career days of absence on one hand); she was an early adopter of green business practices and she likes to ensure that everyone has good terms and conditions. I'm certainly not the workaholic that Karen is (five p.m was my working deadline) and I certainly didn't end up on the board of a major company but I liked what she said and her life story should be held up to all budding entrepreneurs as an example of what can be achieved if you are determined to achieve it.
I mentioned that Karen left the army because of her pregnancy. You wouldn't expect someone like her to take that lying down and you would be right. Not only has she gone from being a single mum and part time cleaner to the board of a large brewery she also took the army to court and won the rights for women to have children and keep working in the forces - a landmark court victory that has benefited thousands of female soldiers.
I usually write just a paragraph on the blog for each item - there's no way I could do justice to a woman like Karen Hester in one paragraph and I haven't really come close to doing her justice in five!
Our second FramSoc event of the week was a trip to the fabulous Aldeburgh Food And Drink Festival at Snape Maltings yesterday. Here, in warm autumn sunshine, we joined Vivia Bamford, cheesemaker and forager par excellence, for a fascinating walk around the surrounding countryside to discover the natural foods that we usually walk past without so much as a glance. Vivia would give Bear Grylls a run for his money in the survival stakes. She showed us a wide variety of flora that we could use in our everyday cooking as well as several that we should give a wide berth. It was an excellent introduction to foraging and I would strongly recommend anyone around the Framlingham area to check out when Vivia is doing her next one. You can check out and follow her blog here.
In other news I've been doing a bit of metal detecting. I think today's blog is long enough as it it is so I'll leave the finds for my next one.