A good word…inspire:
1. fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something.
Who has inspired me? Got me thinking… so many areas to think about… and makes me think of what my passions have been over the years. There are two types of people who have inspired me; those who I have met and who through their interest in me and the care they showed me have had a profound effect on who I am today. And those who I have never met, but who through their actions, deeds, philosophies fill me with admiration and who make me want to aspire to be or act like them.
As an eight year old I was introduced to gymnastics by my PE teacher at primary school. Mr Biscombe. I was a quiet little thing, didn’t say boo to a goose in public (although a complete chatterbox with my friends). He recognised that I had some talent, he nurtured it, he believed in me and he encouraged me. I spent the next 20 years of my life pretty much immersed in gymnastics as a gymnast and a coach. It is probably partly because of Mr Biscombe that I became a teacher.
As a nine year old I was introduced to French at the same primary school by Miss Larraine Francis. She was passionate about French and her interest in all her students was clear. She treated us all as if we were special and brought out the best in us. I have spent the rest of my life with a passion for learning languages, for exploring cultures and travelling. She also shares my love of Roquefort cheese! Miss Francis is probably the other reason that I became a teacher.
(Oh, and do you know the best part? Mrs Biscombe and Miss Francis, my two favourite teachers, fell in love and got married!)
My Mum and my Dad both inspired me too but I didn’t think they did when I was a teenager. They were just, well, Mum and Dad! Doh! Looking back though, how much of what you do is not inspired by your parents? They are the ultimate believers in you, everything they do is for you, even when you don’t think it is!
As a gymnast I was inspired by my coaches, Mrs Pollard and Mrs Marjorie Carter. Mrs Pollard was an old lady – well she seemed that way to me as a 10 yr old – small, wrinkly, white haired and extremely agile. She could still do the splits and handstands. I was determined that at 60-something I too would still be able to do the splits and handstands! A few years to go yet but the challenge is still on! I was terrified of Mrs Carter at first but soon realised her bark was worse than her bite and as I got older and started to coach alongside her I appreciated her determination, strength of character, integrity and absolute fairness. Her belief in us all was absolute.
Olga Korbut – every gymnast’s idol in the 1970s. I so wanted to be like her, do what she could do. But it was Elvira Saadi who inspired me with her grace and poise. She was the gymnast who “flew under the radar”. She didn’t turn the tricks of Korbut and the Comaneci, she did her own thing beautifully. I never met these people but I was inspired to train hard to be like them.
As I left gymnastics behind, my new passion was the outdoors. In particular caving. The old guard of the caving club were incredible. Their longevity, their dedication to their passion and their perseverance to keep doing what they loved was, is inspiring. As their bodies grew old, they moulded their actions to their abilities. They caved less “hard” but still went out every week passing on their passion and their skills freely to any who would listen and accompany them. They tell their stories, many have gone down in the annals of caving lore, embellished, growing richer in the telling. I have moved on, I wonder if I was still in Yorkshire whether I would still be caving, but motherhood and a move to the other side of the world has broken the continuity. Who knows – it is never too late…
Norbert Casteret is my caving hero. Maybe partly because he is French and he links two of my passions? A highly talented sportsman he won many national honours in an array of sports; diving, running, boxing, ski jumping. He also explored more caves than appears humanly possible often with very little equipment. It is documented that he stripped off, attached his clothes to his head with a candle and matches firmly enclosed as he swam through sumps to continue exploration of caves in the Pyrenees. Anyone with that sort of dedication has got to be inspiring hasn’t he? But he was also deeply patriotic and risked his life in the Resistance during WW2 rescuing many fugitives and hiding important documents deep in the caves.
The last person who inspired me (not the only one but this post could get even longer than it already is if I go on!) is a colleague of many years in the UK. Actually, I’m going to cheat here and slip another inspiration in. Both these women, had qualities which I admire and aspire to. I’m still working on them. Mrs Adam, a diminutive, white haired Scotswoman with half moon glasses who taught me Latin had such presence and commanded such respect that even the biggest, loutish boys at school would obey when she stood at the end of the corridor and shouted “WALK!”. She was fair, had high expectations of us all, was always prepared and taught us with interest and passion for her subject. Mrs Sue Cross, my dear colleague, just retired, had such serenity, her classroom door was always open, invited anyone in and her students were always clearly engaged in whatever task she had set them. Her passion for French was, is, such that her students couldn’t fail to be infected by it. She rarely raised her voice, was calm, firm, fair and stood absolutely no nonsense. Of course, she had difficulties from time to time, don’t we all. But she didn’t pretend, she asked for help when she needed it. She accepted everyone and was generous with her time to help others. And her sense of humour was infectious.
It is the human qualities of all of these people which connects them and inspires me. Their passion, their humanity, their integrity, the way they communicate with me and show absolute interest to make me feel special, their belief in me. If I could go half way to being anything like any of these people, I would be a rich woman.