Beauty and Urgency Part One


I went on a retreat in November for 10 days at the absolutely amazing and breathtaking Taraloka.  It was a retreat based around the Four Reminders which I have talked about before in this blog;  a retreat called “Beauty and Urgency”.

It was a very special retreat for me… a lot of firsts!  The first retreat which wasn’t led by Order Members (friends) who I know well.  The first retreat where I knew no one.  It was a longer retreat than I had done before – 10 days compared to the 4 done over the Easter weekend.  It was my first retreat for those who are working towards Ordination.  My first women only retreat….  So many firsts.

The retreat was so powerful for me.  A lot of time spent in silence; hours spent in meditation; time spent “just sitting” and reflecting.  I learnt such a lot about me; about my previous (and present) patterns of behaviour.  I learnt more about the Dharma.  And I realised – again – how much I love this Buddhist life.  The women on the retreat – both the Order Members who led it and my fellow retreatants – were so warm and beautiful; their love sustains me still.   The retreat was also a reminder of how far I have to travel.

I had all of these plans, these expectations of how I would be on my return.  How I would be acting, what I would be doing.  Life was going to be calmer yet more full.  I would be living according to the beauty that is this life, and the urgency caused by its very impermanence.  I even had plans for this blog – posts I would write….

Expectations!  Expectations are dangerous things.  They can arrive quickly and easily then laugh in your face.

For a whole host of reasons life has not been as I expected since my return and I have not (until today) implemented many of the plans I had made.  My mind has been all over the place.   I spent some time last week beating myself up about this, feeling the usual guilt arise.  But now – I just accept what it is.  I cannot change what is happening; I cannot change the last few weeks.  However, I can change my reactions to it all and I can resolve to act differently now.

My brain is beginning to function again.  I am starting to go through all of the notes which I made on retreat.  I am beginning to look through my photos.  So this is the first (I hope) of a series of posts about my retreat at Taraloka.




Happy first birthday to Becoming More Tee


Well it has been a year!  A year ago today I wrote my first blog post.  It was about my walk with Pretzel.

I remember that weekend well.  I had been very miserable – lots of things were not going as I thought that they should!  I was in danger of giving in to it all and wallowing in sadness and depression.  But that Saturday morning I woke up and decided that things had to change.  I had to look at things differently.   I had to change what I could change and find a way of accepting what I couldn’t.  I spent most of the weekend setting up this blog.  Things hadn’t changed – the situation was still the same but I made up my mind to think differently about it all.

The mind is everything; what you think you become

Things have changed a bit since then. Everything is impermanent; nothing stays the same.   Some things I have managed to change for the better.  Some situations just got worse and new things are always surfacing.    Life is not perfect – but it never will be.  But I am handling it all better – well, most of the time.

I have just reread the “About Me” blurb for this blog.  I was considering rewriting it.  But – no!  It all still stands.  I am still on this incredibly difficult but exciting journey.  I still wander off my path all too often but get back to it and continue walking.  The man who showed me this path is, sadly, no longer very present in my life.  He reappears briefly now and then.  However, I am still so grateful to him.  I would not be where I am today without him.

I know that I haven’t been posting as much as I used to.  That isn’t because I am losing interest.  It is more that there are lots of things that I am still processing.  My thoughts are often not clear enough to be able to write about them in any coherent way.  But there are things coming up that I know I will want to write about so I am sure that there will be more posts soon.




Why hasn’t the bird stepped out of her cage and flown to freedom (Part 3)

Convention  Realisation!

All of the reasons for living the life that I was living are all tied up together like a bag of tangled wool.  I did what I thought I should do because of fear, because of fear of going against convention which all led to a distinct lack of imagination.  Now I am not berating myself for that any more.  I chose what I chose and I have had  / am having such a good life overall.   My intention here is not to look back and feel regret but to learn from what it all.  I want to live a life in which I am true to what I want and which is helpful to others.  I am trying to live less selfishly and more open to the needs of other people. I need to feel a certain amount of freedom to be able to do this.

What I do not want to do is to continue around the same wheel.  I need to get off the wheel and start the spiral; in fact I have, I think, stepped a little off the wheel.  I just have to live mindfully and make decisions carefully;  I cannot afford to slip backwards!

I know that I have lived a lot of my life according to how I think I should live.  Convention; what is right.  I was brought up to think that the aim of life is to get a reasonable job, get married, have children and go on holiday once a year.  That’s what my parents wanted for me.  Now – they wanted that for me because that is the right way to live but also because they were so happy living that way.   My Mum and Dad lived for each other and for their family and friends.  Because that was the way in which they wanted to live, their life left them free to help others.  They were always doing things for others.  My Mum still does whatever she can although her ability to do this is restricted now.  There must be a lot of elderly people in Hereford who are missing the hot meals and cakes which Mum used to make for them.

This post started off looking at convention and my need to conform.  But, just now I have changed the title to “Realisation”.  As I was writing about my Mum and Dad, I saw that they chose the life they led in many ways – it was the life they wanted!  Ok, they were, as we all are, constrained by circumstances such as lack of money, illness …  but they did live authentically.  They were true to themselves.   And part of that life was looking after family and friends.

I  keep talking in the past tense.  Over the last couple of years, life changed so much for them and now Mum is on her own.  The life that she was living with Dad has gone.  But my Mum still carries on living life as fully as she can.  Her friendships continue; her faith continues; her determination not to wallow in sadness and grief continues.  My Mum still cares for the people around her and does what she can to make their day better whether they are the Home Staff, fellow residents, family or friends.  There are such a lot of lessons to be learnt from my Mum.


Why hasn’t the bird stepped out of her cage and flown to freedom (Part 2)


I was talking with a friend – well messaging via Whatsapp actually rather than talking – yesterday and this morning.  This friend is an amazing man and always makes me think more deeply about myself and my life.  He is the one who introduced me to Buddhism in the first place so has witnessed a lot of my growth, frustrations, my journey.  He knows me very well, better than anyone in some ways.  Anyway as we were messaging I began to realise how much fear has played and is still playing in my life.  I knew that it was there (as discussed in Part 1 of this [possibly grandly named] mini series; but I hadn’t fully experienced how deeply seated it is.

In embracing Buddhism I have had to look deeply into myself and face what I am, how I have got to be how I am and accept it; not only accept it but to try to feel compassion and love (Metta) towards myself.  There is a lot in that which I won’t unpack completely here – it would take a book or two!   But what is relevant is this:  Buddhists believe that there is no set self as such.  The self is ever changing.  I might repeat the same behaviours, feel the same things etc over and over again but that is not because I am a set self.  When I studied the Self at University all of those years ago, the idea of a set self seemed prevalent and that is what I believed at the time: I am who I am; I may be able to tweak myself but I cannot fundamentally change. I seem to remember writing a few essays on the subject all with the same conclusion.  But now I see that I am who I am because of conditioning and how I have reacted to situation and events.   This means that I can change. Just saying “that’s who I am; I cannot change” does not cut it any more.

Back to the fear thing!  I think that fear has manifested itself and continues to try to manifest itself in many ways.  Fear of looking deep inside myself and facing what I might find; fear of doing something that is not conventional / not normal; fear of doing something new; fear of being someone new; fear of being alone; fear of doing things alone…..  So many ways in which fear has played a part in my life.  So many times I have moved towards a more authentic life, a life more suited to me – and so many times fear has played a part in pushing me right back on the same old path.

But not this time!  Now is the time when I accept the fears.  Accept that I am afraid.  Now is the time to confront those fears and to question them.  Look them in the eye.  I have made steps this year on my journey down this different path.  And I know that I need to rest here for a little while to do what I need and positively want to do now.  I need to work on myself, learn more about this Buddhist path that I am on and to reflect.  What I don’t need to do is to give in to my fears and go back to the same old well-trodden path to which I have always returned.

I have mentioned the fears involved in facing myself and what I am at the moment.  It means taking a long hard look at my reactions to events and situations over the years.  It can be so extremely uncomfortable to do this!  My past  behaviours, actions and emotions were often so flawed, so unskilful.  And yes – they often still are; I am just slightly better at using the gap between the event and my possible reactions to it.

Yes – fear has definitely helped to keep the bird in its cage.  I may have stepped outside of it a few times in the past but fear has pulled me right back in.  Now is the time to step outside and look around.  Ready for flight.

Why hasn’t the bird stepped out of her cage and flown to freedom (Part 1)


I haven’t written a blog post for a little while – mainly because I have been thinking and pondering about my life – how I have got to where I am and where I am going next.  It’s a big subject!  But it needs exploring because, otherwise, I am in danger of continuing to go round on the same wheel again and again and again.  I have started to write pieces for this blog but – as I write – I realise something new every time….  And I have had to start again!

I have started reading a book by a Buddhist Order Member called Manjusvara – “Writing Your Way”.  Manjusvara means “Gentle Music” – what a lovely name to be given at ordination!  He runs writing courses called “The Wolf at the Door” which I would love to attend one day.    His basic premise is that writing is much more than the finished article ready for publication; through writing the person discovers hidden dimensions of themselves.  In the forward, his friend says that Manjusvara is:

“a man who fully lives his philosophy, whose daily life is an enactment of his core beliefs.  That is why this book will be of great interest to all those who are trying to live emotionally richer and more harmonious lives in a world dogged by materialism and pressure to conform!”

So I have been using writing to explore the decisions that I have made.  I am not exploring them in order to feel guilty or to feel regrets or to imagine what would have happened if I had made different choices – there is little point in that.  No – I am looking at the motivations behind my decisions.  I am looking to see if there is a trend, a common thread.  If there is a link, then maybe I can step off the roundabout and make different choices in the future.

So I look to the decisions that I have made.  And, actually, some of those decisions were damned brave!  Took courage…  took a lot of sparkle!  Looking back – those were my best ones.  Other decisions were not as great – and, I think that I have some themes to explore:

  • convention. Being tied up with the ropes of convention, what I should be doing, what “normal” people do
  • fear!  The fear of making a mistake; the fear of judgement; the fear of the unknown
  • A lack of imagination.  Being only able to imagine my life being led in a certain way.

And those three things lead to a live less lived!  As the Meatloaf song says,”You’ve been living your life like a girl in a cage And you whisper when I want you to shout”.  

To come back to Manjusvara’s book – one of the exercises he sets is to think what would make a good title for your autobiography.  At the moment my thoughts are around being a bird in a cage unable to fly free- but that cage isn’t really a cage!  It is a cage built of those three things – fear, convention and my lack of imagination.  Every so often I have taken a step through the door only to turn and go back inside shutting the door behind me.

Of course, there is a lot to learn from my good decisions – or what I now see as being good decisions.  The categorisation of a decision as “good” or “bad” fluctuates over time depending on what has happened since and other factors.  And what makes a good decision or a bad decision may be affected by circumstances outside of my control….  For example, my decision to leave teaching to do a PhD did not turn out well but that was nothing to do with the original decision but things that happened later.

I am in danger of going round in circles now!  Getting myself into a muddle…   So I will leave it there!

Rambling over for today!

Decisions… Decisions… Decisions


I started this blog to look at and document my journey to “becoming more Tee”.  I wanted to change myself, change my life, change my path.  I had seen that that was possible.  That was back in November.  Since then a lot of my life has changed.  Much that has changed has been caused by the decisions that I have made; other changes have been caused by other people’s decisions or to the undeniable fact of impermanence.   And I have changed – hopefully for the better.  I have walked further down the path, moved forward in my journey and now I am at a crossroad not exactly sure of the best way to go.  Actually “crossroad” may not be the best analogy – that sounds too clear cut!  Choose whether to go right, left or straight on (never backwards).  I think that it is more as if I am in a campsite at the edge of a wood with several entrances.  I can stay here for a while.  I can enjoy it here for a while, living in the present, seeing the joy in the present.  But, at some point my resources will run out and I have to choose an entrance and a path.

Making a decision about how to live is hard!  How is it best to make these decisions?  Agonise over them?  Write endless pros and cons lists?  Talk with friends – risking boring them to death?  Jump in quickly without too much thought trusting ones instincts?  Procrastinate until a decision is made for you by circumstances or other people?  Follow the common, normal, accepted path (e.g. get a job, house, partner, have children, retire….).   Have an end goal to which everything is directed?  Looking back I have made decisions by all of these methods at one time or another!

Last year I thought outside of the box, ditched the route that I was on and made a somewhat (to me) radical plan.  I made the plan quite quickly but thought about it from as many angles as I could.  Now I have achieved the plan as far as it went – I have sold my house, bought and moved into a caravan, resigned from my job and taken my youngest daughter out of school.  The boxes are ticked.  I have done what I set out to do.  But what now?  What do I do now?

There are some certainties.  I will be home schooling my daughter from when term would start for her in September.  And I am so determined to do that to the best of my abilities.  Get her out and about, help her with studying for GCSEs, involve everyone I need to in order to make her schooling as interesting and beneficial as possible.  . I also want to be available for my oldest daughter who will be starting college studying for her A levels – a wonderfully exciting time for her as she approaches adulthood.  So any work I do will need to be part time.

Another certainty is my training for ordination.  Practising the Dharma, immersing myself within it, following it – that helps to shape my life.  The Dharma is my raft towards Enlightenment.  So my way of living my life is clear to me in a broad sense – I want to live a life of service to others, following the precepts as best I can and deepen my practice as best I can, however I can including through meditation, spiritual friendship, reading and retreats.

So there is a lot of certainty.  But so much is still unclear to me.  When do I start to look for part time work?  What do I look for?  What do I want to do?  And – I have no idea!!  None at all.  I have decided to take July and August off completely, but July is nearly over….

I was messaging an old friend today.  And this made me think how decisions I have made have affected my life – including those times when I let circumstances and other people make those decisions for me. 35 years ago I was madly in love with this friend.  But I was a very timid teenager with very low self-esteem.  He was funny, good looking and extremely popular – there was no way that he could be interested in me!  So I never let him know  (well until years later) – and eventually he started going out with some one else and I got together with the guy who would become my first husband.   Yes – some of my decisions were not (in hindsight) the best I could have made – including choosing marriage over the opportunity to do a PhD….

But all of the decisions (good or bad, skilful or unskilful) I  have made (or have not made) have led me to now, to the person that I am today.  And that is okay.  I also know that I am extremely fortunate to be in a position where I have choices – so many people are trapped.  So I know that I am lucky.  I am enjoying my life at the moment.  I have just got to decide where to go from here!

A Farewell – Part 4 Exciting Years


I had my exit interview yesterday.  It was a strange thing.  But it brought back so many memories and made me recollect how much I used to love my job.

Moving to the central team did bring change.  It was a move to the County Council.  There were more rules, more conformity, less improvisation, more hoops to jump through.  But I enjoyed the years from 2006 to 2016.  These were the years where I had a very varied role.  I was involved in strategic, operational planning.  2016 onwards was just about data, data and more data.  The previous 10 years were much more fulfilling.  One of the highlights was managing the Wealden Community Development Workers – a dedicated and diverse set of people.  Also running workshops on how to do evaluations – I met some truly fabulous people.  And the Ofsteds – about 24 of them.  My team were always heavily involved – late nights, stress and anxiety.  We ran on cake, coffee and pure adrenaline.  We had one fabulous inspector several times who was tough – but he taught us so much. And then there was the Ofsted Inspector who was more concerned about his own agenda  – I had to make an official complaint during his inspection – that was tough.  But we all pulled together as a team.  The energy of everyone involved was incredible.  We were all so determined to do well.   The day we got “Outstanding”….  well words still do not describe it.

And my team…  three amazing people.  So dedicated.  So interesting.  I loved managing them.

Mixed into all of that were the restructures.  We had to save money.  I managed to cling onto my job somehow – although it became more and more restrictive and involved a paycut.  Times of trauma and upheaval. We lost some excellent people because the whole thing was about the job role rather than the capabilities of the people.

The last two years have been hard.  I have been hemmed in by data and have often felt the pressure to skew it to make things look better than they are.  I have never given into it but it did not make for an easy life.  I cannot blame people for that – they were just trying to protect their job, the services they offer and the families they serve.

Three more days to go…


A Farewell – Part 3 Getting the job!


In the November / December of 2004, a job came up at Eastbourne SureStart (is it one word ore two?  I never could work it out!).   It was a job that I knew that I could do.  It was as a Reseacher / Evaluator looking to see if the programme was making an impact on the families.  In those early years, a lot of time, money and resources were put into looking at the impact of the programme; both nationally and locally.   It was really difficult to prove an impact as the work was preventative so no one truly knew what would happen without the interventions and, just to make the job harder, any results would not show up for many years.  Anyway, the job came up and I applied and was offered an interview…

Now, at this point, I should mention that I had done loads of interviews in the past.  A two day round of interviews for my job at Equitable life involving presentations, group interviews, psychoanalytical tests, numeracy and logic tests etc etc.  A gruelling set of interviews for teaching jobs – the first time I taught a secondary school class was in an interview for a job as an Information Technology Teacher at a secondary school.  I had done my fair share of interviews.  But my self esteem was low.  I had been in pain for months.  I had had a baby.  I had been out of the job market for 18 months.  And the offer of an interview came through – I had to do a presentation.  I almost turned it down.  It was a close call.

Yes – I almost didn’t go for that interview.  I was so scared of the presentation.  I remember getting the letter, crying and then putting Callie into a pushchair and going for a long walk. I gave myself a good talking to.  By the time I returned I had decided to go for it.

Over the next week or two I prepped for the interview.  It was the days of projectors and laminates.  I drew up the laminates.   I practised my presentation over and over again with a borrowed projector.  I rehearsed it in my head as I went about my daily life.  Never had a presentation been so rehearsed.

So I got the job.  Researcher / Evaluator at Eastbourne Sure Start.   I can still remember the excitement.  I was so happy to have got a job with people who had helped me so much in an organisation which did so much good.

I loved that job.  The team was so fantastic to work with – and everyone just mucked in and did what they needed to do to help the families.  There was no “that isn’t my job”, “you are stepping on my toes”.  Everyone just worked together.  It resulted in such a rich and varied working environment.  I loved doing evaluation, trying different ways of measuring impact.  I enjoyed talking with parents.  Writing the reports was just my cup of tea.  But I did much more than that.  I helped in the groups when needed, sometimes running the singing sessions at the end; I ran a group myself for a while; I helped run the parent forums.; I helped at a Dad’s group in Hailsham on a Saturday morning.  It was a lovely, enriching time.  New Children’s Centres were opened.  Dora the explorer came and visited Willingdon Trees Children’s Centre with her sidekick, Boots.  New services and activities were constantly being introduced as the needs of the families became apparent.

I worked at Eastbourne Sure Start until April 2006.  I did take 3 months out when I had Lexie.  Lexie was introduced to Sure Start at a very early age.  I took her to groups when she was just a couple of weeks old.  I wasn’t really away for those 3 months I must admit.

Then in April 2006 Sure Start became Children’s Centres and I joined the East Sussex Children’s Centres central team.  I was sorry to leave the Eastbourne team but I was ready to move on.  So began 13 years of surviving restructures (just), differing job titles and Ofsteds.

A Farewell – Part Two The Early days

So the coffee morning was my first contact with Sure Start.  The number of services and activities available to families grew in the next few months / years.  Drop in groups – Pop in & Play, Music Groups, Messy Play.  Training courses with creches running alongside – Parenting, First Aid, Back to work, Story Sacks.  There were groups for Dads often held on Saturday mornings.  Grandparent groups… So many activities for families.  There were services for those with more specific problems – Family Outreach Service (FOS later to become the Keywork Service).  A Dietician, Midwife, Dentist and assistant, Librarian (sorry Deborah, I cannot remember your title!).  So many excellent services provided by dedicated staff.  I attended as many as I possibly could (sorry, not sorry).  These services became my lifeline.  I made so many friends and learned so much.  I made story sacks – one of which included a knitted giant, pink Stegasaurus.  Callie benefited enormously making friends (children and adults), developing her social skills.  She just had fun.  My back slowly got better but in the days when it was playing up, there was always someone to help.

One of the most valuable aspects of those early days was that services were founded and adapted to ft the needs of the local community.  Local organisations were involved in the decision making as were parents.  I spent many an happy hour in Parents Forum  and Local Programme meetings.  This all meant that the services in Eastbourne were different to those in Hastings or Lewes – because the needs were, and still are, different.  The services in Eastbourne Town Centre were different from those in Willingdon Trees.  The whole context of the local community was taken into account – transport, deprivation, existing services, employment….

Eventually, before the days of the 12 week volunteer training course, I became a volunteer.  I worked with a lovely friend running a fruit and veg store at the Pop in and Play session on a Friday morning at Willingdon Trees.  Hence the lead picture.  Clare would meet a fruit and veg supplier early on a Friday morning and would buy a pile of fruit and vegetables – whatever he had.  We would then make up mixed bags and sell them to the families attending the session.  We supplied cooking directions and recipes.  Great fun 🙂

So that was my life until December 2004 when I applied for a job at Eastbourne Sure Start as Researcher / Evaluator….

A farewell – Part 1 My first contact with Sure Start


Two weeks today is a big day for me. It is my last day working for East Sussex Health Visiting and Children’s Centres.  I have been immersed in Children’s Centres for over 15 years.  A long time.  On my first encounter, my eldest daughter Callie was a few months old and Lexie wasn’t yet thought of!  My last day will be the same day as Callie’s prom.  A long time indeed.  So I thought that I would take a look back at my time there. I will break it down into small sections – as usual I have a lot to say!

It was Eastbourne Sure Start back in those days. The Sure Start programme was amazing. It provided much needed help and support to families with children under 5. In the early days, it only served families living in the most deprived postcode areas. I always saw this as a bit of a problem because we all know that your postcode / money situation doesn’t always equate to the number or depth of problems you experience. But that changed over the years so that any family with a child under 5 could get help and support when needed. But not only that – there were provided with top quality play groups (Often called Pop in & Plays) where families could meet up, experience excellent quality play and create much needed networks of friends. At these free, open to everyone sessions, parents had the chance to talk to highly qualified, skilled, kind, supportive practitioners; this led to problems, worries and niggles being picked up and sorted before they became deeply rooted and damaging.

So on to my story.  When my daughter, Callie, was around 6 months old I managed to get to a coffee morning put on by Eastbourne Sure Start.  It was one of their first services, the first in the area where I lived anyway.  I said “managed”.  This word does not quite convey the painful struggle I had to get my baby dressed and into the push chair to go for the short walk across to the community centre.  During Callie’s delivery I had slipped a disc (my second. The first had resulted in an operation to remove part of a disc. The op has a fancy name which I can never remember!). I had been in all sorts of pain ever since.  For months I could barely pick up my little girl.  I had been taken into hospital, had the doctor out giving me morphine injections etc etc.  I was very good at fooling the Health Visitor into thinking that I was coping ok and I was actually as ok as I could be.  I did get through it but thank goodness for Callie’s Dad who definitely stepped up to the plate and looked after us both whilst still working full time.  But despite my natural resilience and stubbornness, Andy’s help and the support of friends, I was feeling pretty rubbish.    I can truly say that that activity with the unassuming name of “coffee morning” changed my life.

As soon as I stepped through the doors of the community centre I was greeted with warmth.  The lovely Community Development Worker (CDW), Clare, sat me down and gave me a much needed cup of coffee.  She gently took Callie out of her push chair and put her on the floor with some toys.  I was soon happy and relaxed chatting to other parents and staff.  Callie was her giggly self. (She is going to hate me if she reads this – sorry, Callie!)

Before I go on – I should say that the focus of these drop in services later changed.  First of all, before anyone runs around shrieking, I should stress that it was all handled very safely.  There was no danger of any baby or toddler being scalded by hot drinks.  Just to make that clear!  A while after, hot drinks were not served at these drop in sessions.  Secondly – I said that Callie was set on the floor whilst I sat on a chair.  In fact all of the mothers sat around on chairs whilst their babies and toddlers played on their own, together and with the practitioners.  That all changed later when the drop in sessions became Pop In & Play sessions.  The chairs were taken away and the focus became on parents playing with their children; lots of time, thought, knowledge and experience was put into making sure that these sessions were of the utmost benefit to the families.  But, in the early days they were coffee mornings.   And – I am sure that I am going to upset a few people here – I believe that they had their place.  For many stressed out mums, dads, grandparents, carers (including myself) that cup of tea, coffee was the first and probably only one we drank hot for the entire day.  At home, most of my cups of coffee were left cold and half drunk on the side.  Also -myself and many other parents needed – yes needed – some time just to chat with other parents.  Most of us spent 90% of our time playing, feeding, changing and thinking about our precious children.  We needed a little bit of time to talk with adults, to get our sanity back a little.  Well, I did anyway.

Another thing I feel the need to say (and it’s my blog so I will!) is that, on the surface, I did not look like the type of mum that needed the help of an organisation like Sure Start.  I was married.  My husband had a good job. We owned a nice house with a garden.  I had the qualifications and experience to return to a good career when Callie was older.  But I definitely needed help and support which I got.  That’s why Sure Start was amazing – even though I didn’t tick the boxes I got the support that I needed.

So that was my first contact with Sure Start.