I first came to Brackley in September 2004 when I accepted a job as a Spanish and French teacher at the local high school, Magdalen College School. Through my activities in the school, the Spanish evening classes I ran and my hot and sweaty Zumba sessions I soon became involved in the local community and it wasn't long before this Scottish lass looked upon Brackley as home.
I adore the town itself - it's a tranquil, historical market town and, in my opinion, pretty as a picture. But most of all I love the sense of community and the kind, generous and giving people that come together to create that community.
That is why today, in the festive spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving I wanted to recognise some people here in Brackers. My relationship with most of these individuals began as one of business in nature - they had a product or service to offer and I was a paying customer. But as the years have passed they have extended the arm of support and encouragement in one way or another and, as such, they are more than simple business associates - they are my friends.
I liked Jamie from the very first moment I met him. Ok, it may have had something to do with the Scottish twang with which he spoke (we Scots have to stick together after all) but after working with him on a few creative projects I soon realised I like him because he is kind, loyal, thoughtful and exercises the patience of a saint as he puts up with my ramblings, suggestions for changes e.t.c, e.t.c. And he is outstanding at what he does. I tell Jamie what I want and he always comes up with the goods, including the Ginger Warrior packaging he is holding in his hands! Thanks, Guv. You really are the best.
Rach, dear, sweet Rach who has seen me butt naked more times than she would care to imagine. Before any vicious rumours start spreading about the nature of our relationship I ought to point out that I only present myself in my birthday suit when I have the occasional spray tan. And naked really is the best way - no white lines left behind! Her treatments leave me feeling a million dollars but so does her kindness. At the recent bake sale I organised for the local primary schools Rachael and her lovely mum were two of the first volunteers to help sell our wares. And they sat there for hours selling cakes, both with friendly, beaming smiles on their faces, just happy to be there and to help.
Like the large majority of you, I'm sure, going to the dentist does not prove to be of my most favourite activities. I don't dread it, per se, nor do I experience a sleepless night the day before but as I step foot into the surgery my stomach usually performs a somersault or two. That was until I started having my pearly whites inspected by Martin. He's an oasis of calm and reassurance and now I only flinch a teeny bit as he approaches me with an oversized syringe in hand. We've shared many chats over the years and every now and then I'll pop in to see him even when I don't require him to scrape and polish - I simply enjoy our banter. Plus he did a jolly good job of whitening my teeth and kept on bleaching until I was a happy and satisfied customer! Thank you, Martin.
First of all Steph was one of my stalwart Zumba ladies. Then she became my friend. Recently she started working in the Town Hall, a job which she thoroughly enjoys and one that gives her the opportunity to put her outstanding people skills into action. She's a natural born organiser who would do anything for anyone and I know that because I have oft been the recipient of her thoughtful and generous spirit. In short, I have always felt that Steph has my back in any given situation and I just want her to know that I have hers. Oh! And did I mention she makes a mean, mean fruit loaf?!
I have a soft spot for Nigel who, along with his fabulously energetic wife Dawn, owns and runs the very popular Red Lion in town. He has treated me to more free cokes and hot chocolates than I deserve (I'm a cheap date) and has become someone that I trust implicitly and feel that I could chat to about anything I have on my mind. And I often do just that! Nigel sits and listens patiently (or he pretends to!) and advises without judging. He has been a keen supporter of my venture into the blogging world and I just wanted him to know how much I appreciate his encouragement and friendship. You rock, Nige!
The lovely, bubbly and endearing Angie has been chopping away at my cascading locks of orange for around 8 years and she has still has yet to convince me to go for a sleek chin length bob. Sorry Ange, not going to happen in this lifetime or the next. I genuinely look forward to the time I get to spend chatting to Angie as she rids me of my pesky split ends and I always leave with a smile on my face; not only because she cuts my hair exactly as I request ("only the very, very ends, please!) but also because she is a little ray of sunshine with a wickedly infectious laugh. HAIRS to you, Ange!
Here's my dear friend Liton representing Shah and his team over at the Dhan Shiri. I started frequenting the Dhan Shiri back in 2009 when Craigy Boy and I began courting. (I just love the word courting!) I hit it off with Liton and the rest of the gang immediately and that sealed the deal: it's me and Craigy's go to restaurant in town and we've never been disappointed with either food or service. But more important than the fine Indian cuisine and far more appreciated is the fact that when it comes to support for events in the community I know I can count on my boys: whether it's graciously and gallantly hosting my annual Zumba curry night (picture 70 plus raucous and possibly slightly inebriated ladies practically dancing on the tables to their favourite Zumba tunes), providing vouchers for my charity events or treating me to an ice cold glass of coke when I pop in for a visit after a hot and sweaty Zumba class, they come up trumps every time and I love them for it!
The Green Room came to Brackley just over a year ago and I immediately felt at home in the cosy, comfortable surroundings and discovered a penchant for their cookie dough hot chocolate and fudgey gluten free brownies! Jo manages the team and does so with an air of calm but always with a smile on her face. Along with owners Jane and Gordon, Jo and the dedicated staff at the Green Room are already becoming known in Brackley for their willingness to become involved in the community and various charities. I have attended a few of the events they have hosted which always prove to be a big success. The added bonus is that it's a less than two minutes walk from our house and as such Craigy Boy and I are devoted regulars!
Faz is well known in the town for his friendliness and congeniality and I have been on the receiving end of those admirable attributes on several occasions. Whenever I have been involved in a community event I know, without hesitation, that I can count on Faz for support in some shape or form. In fact, more often than not Faz will approach me in the street and urge me to let him know if I have any projects in the pipeline with which he can become involved. He is one of life's genuinely kind souls and deserves every success with the opening of his new restaurant. You can expect a visit from me and Craigy Boy very soon, Faz so get the coke on ice!
Lisa is a recognisable figure in town not only as the owner of everyone's favourite sweet shop but also as one of the lead admins on a Facebook page for the lovely ladies of Brackley. Looking back I have realised that Lisa has played an important role in pretty much every event I have organised from charity Zumbathons and quiz nights to my annual zumba curry night and themed parties. She was either providing me with a delectable buffet of sweets and candies or helping me advertise my events through her Facebook page. In fact, I do believe I have Lisa to thank for the incredible turn out of 120 people at my very first Zumba class on November 3rd 2010. Lisa created an event on Facebook and word spread like wildfire and as a result my venue was packed to the gunnels. So I owe a great debt of gratitude to Lisa as well as her husband, Carl, who, as owner of Roo's Signs was responsible for fabulously pimping both my rides! Thank you, Slater family!
And there you have it, Warriors! Just some of the many people I admire, respect and really like here in Brackley. What about you? Is there any one individual or a group of people in your own local community who have made a difference or brought sunshine to your life? I would very much love to hear about them!