What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I guess there are two which happened at the same time. The first was starting up a successful business as a hypnotherapist, counsellor and psychotherapist 12 years ago after 30 + years in corporate life.
The second was exploring my creativity in visual arts in more depth. I'd painted and drawn every year around West Penwith for many years when taking business trips and holidays here. I joined several groups of artists in Swindon, taking classes and exhibiting regularly and recently opening up the house to the Swindon Open Studios where people could see my working environment ( and eat cake). Last year I ran a print workshop in a local community centre which was a lovely experience, helping people realise how creative they were too.
What motivates you to do what you do?
As an idealist I try to change the World in my work as a therapist, an artist and an environmentalist. I can see how good we can be as individuals and organisations and how great some institutions have the capacity to be. But I am often astonished by selfish motivation, narrow thinking and lack of altruism.
I want to save the planet environmentalist and have been trying in one way of another for over 35 years since working with renewable energy and energy efficiency back in the 80s. I've been an activist ever since, chairman of a local coppice group, protester about over development of green areas, asking difficult questions of politicians, for instance why public buildings don't have solar panels on them ( I'm still waiting for answers on that one).
The beauty of the land and sea motives me to try to capture it in paint or anything I have to hand.
I believe it is important to walk the talk and so I have invested what small amount I can in solar, wind, ethical banking, and we have an allotment! Incidentally, on a recent trip to Cornwall we found it hard to charge our electric car (EV) west of Truro. That makes it harder to for those with EVs to contribute towards the local economy.
What do you owe your mother?
A lot. Mother is 95 and was the youngest of 9, born in Cornwall of Victorian parents.
Strongly religious and a great believer in duty and that feelings are irrelevant, she still has firm Victorian values. Growing up in the 60s and 70s was somewhat interesting as a result. I owe my love of Cornwall, independence and my manners to her but my lifelong sense of wanting equality for all and rebellion against mindless entitlement I think probably go back to our conflicts earlier in life.
Which women inspire you and why?
Emily Bronte due to her untamed imagination and Maya Angelou because of her dignity, self belief and ability to overcome abuse.
What are you reading?
I tend to dip into several at once. “Where on Earth is Heaven” by Johnathan Stedall. Now I want uplifting and lighthearted reading as I am recovering from surgery and chemo for Ovarian Cancer. I finally finished the required reading for surviving OC and one about starving cancer which were hard going. I've just bought “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, and “The Alchemist” by Paul Coelho, I trust they will do the trick.
What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?
More than I thought on reflection. I won't list the major ones otherwise it'll sound like as though I'm still attached to them and I'm not as furious about them now. But there was general sexual discrimination and intimidation fairly commonly in offices during my time in the civil service and in corporate life.
I was even sent on a course for Women's development in the 70s and when I returned was informed by my boss that he would not be interested in implementing anything that I had learned. In the 80s and 90s I was told by a succession of male managers in annual appraisals that I “couldn't boil the ocean” when I my job was to review procurement processes and I listed the failing ones and what needed to be put in place to improve the future of the business.
I did get an award for raising awareness of bullying in the workplace ( by then it was a female Director) which involved a zero tolerance approach being implemented which was good. I left due to burnout in 2004. I married, retrained as a counsellor and psychotherapist and became self employed in 2007. All the gender barriers disappeared!
How can the world be made a better place for women?
Education of women to believe at an early age they have a right to equality and respect. It is important to help women to build their self esteem to improve equality so they realise authority figures need to earn respect just like anyone else.
Educate all people to understand that it is a privilege to help others and that paying tax is a Good Thing! The majority of women would benefit. So many caring and capable women keep the NHS, schools, residential homes and other institutions going on goodwill alone. If they expected more and felt more entitled they may obtain it.
I'd like to see women informed about what comprises healthy relationships.
Again all women would benefit. It isn't well known that they need to sharpen their bullshit radar and have good boundaries and self esteem to let other people know what is and is not acceptable behaviour. I 'd like to change the media culture which has been to make money by making women feel inadequate so that they continually buy beauty products, cosmetic surgery and fashion to feel better about themselves momentarily.
The Mindful Employer Network which I have been part of for 10 years has made great strides in improving work life balance and work related stress with many employers in our area, encouraging questions to be asked compassionately and how to recognise certain behaviours. Some men have found it totally counter cultural to their experience of work but now understand the need for change.
Describe your perfect day?
Wake up in Cornwall, breakfast overlooking the sea. Being in the landscape and drawing one of the sacred sites or fantastic coastal scenes in West Penwith with a view to creating an image in different media. The perfect evening would mean no cooking, maybe a concert or just more gazing at the sea.
We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?
Rowena Cade as she had such a vision and did most of the work of creating the Minack Theatre on her own.
I also particularly like Marion Hocken, a local artist born in North Cornwall. She was searching for something spiritually and personally which resonates with me. A traditional flower artist originally, she was influenced by Lanyon and I see a lot of Christopher Wood's palette and sense of composition in her later works. She was a founder member of the Penwith Society and painted a very controversial picture called “The Hollow Men” which I love. She remains largely unrecognised but I feel an affinity with her.
Give us a tip?
Know what to look for with Ovarian Cancer which is often ignored or misdiagnosed leading to late detection and far less positive outcomes.
The 4 symptoms (only one of which may present) are:
1) needing to pee more frequently
2) abdominal bloating or swelling
3) back or pelvic ache or pain
4) eating less and feeling fuller
Pester your doctor if you have any of these, ensure you ask for a CA125 blood test and a scan which can rule it out. Please don't ignore it like I did, thinking I was wasting the doctor's time.
Sadly there is no funding going to research my particular (rarer, Low Grade Serous Carcinoma ) type of OC. It can hit any woman at any age and my type is often found in younger women. We are trying to raise awareness and to fund some research by Prof Gourley in Edinburgh who has agreed to help.
If you'd like to know more there is a lot of information ( and the chance to contribute to research funding- every penny counts) at www.Cureourovariancancer.org . My story is on there along side others' which will help women to understand what signs to be aware of, what to expect and if any of this resonates, maybe help us to mobilise to get the research we need to have better outcomes and better hope for the future.
A direct link to the Professor Gourley's research “Just Giving “ page is here.
About Alex Alex was raised in Oxfordshire and has always been interested in art, nature and healing in all its forms. She worked as a civil servant for 15 years ( latterly as a buyer in alternative energy and computers) at a large research laboratory and then was headhunted in the 80s to work in London for a large blue chip telecomms company. She travelled to many countries training buyers in EU law,, ethical trading, and process reengineering. She has been painting and drawing for many years and travelling to Cornwall, particularly West Penwith, to investigate her family history which has inspired her work recently. She exhibited her work as part of Swindon Open Studios since its inception in 2004 and held solo exhibitions locally. She also runs her own successful hypnotherapy and counselling business after leaving the corporate world where she uses art as a therapeutic tool where verbal skills are insufficient to express emotions. Recently diagnosed with a rare type of Ovarian Cancer she is recovering from surgery and chemo and deciding on the direction of the next chapter of her life.