Wild Women: Claire, big, brave life changes
Meet Claire, a fascinating woman with a fascinating line of work. We spent a delightful half hour discovering the plot twists in the life of this long-time customer.
1. What did turning 50 mean to you?
It takes the pressure off in a way because I feel more confident. I think I’ve started easing into who I am and feeling grateful. I think to myself, “I really need to make the most of the now and not fret about the small stuff.” Janet Street Porter always said just keep everything moving. I feel that.
2. Two years ago you moved from Sussex to Cardigan. What prompted that move?
I’d had a really stressful eight years of looking after both my elderly parents, who became very ill at the same time. I was that classic woman in her forties to fifties, trying to juggle everything, a sort of a sandwich carer looking after two generations, at the same time.
I then lost both my parents in the first lockdown, within three weeks of each other, and my daughter went to University so my husband and I decided that a change was as good as a rest. I’d been running on empty for a long time and I just felt that I really needed to put myself first. I think as women, we tend to be always caring for everyone else, putting our own needs last.
One good thing about COVID was that it showed us how much of the business you could run from home. I suppose the fact that we're business owners means we’re quite entrepreneurial - big ideas don’t phase us. So we thought we’ve just got to grab these years while we’ve still got the energy to enjoy the benefits. And we made the move to Pembroke with our two sausage dogs.
3. That sounds like a very intense time. You must have dug deep to get through it…
I leaned on your products just to keep me going. In a situation where you're a key player, you just have to dig deep. As women, our stamina is incredible. We're very resilient creatures. The last two years have made me realise how capable I actually am.
Now I need your product more than ever to help build up my physical stamina and resilience again. I could come a cropper with delayed stress reaction, so yes, I'm really determined to put myself first now. That’s the golden nugget I’ve drawn from these difficult situations.
4. Which products did you turn to?
Ashwagandha helped me with the stress and Omega 3 is just a brilliant supplement, helping the brain with all the messages to your cells. I'm very interested in cellular nutrition, I always have been. Although we like to think that we're eating properly, we’re probably not. And also, it's about absorption, isn't it? If you can't absorb the nutrients from supplements then it's a bit of a waste of time. That’s what I like about your products - that they're easily absorbed and reaching my body at a cellular level.
5. We couldn’t have said it better Claire. You have a fascinating job, do tell…
I actually have two roles. I used to be a translator in Italy so my first love is being an interpreter and speaking Italian. I now teach Italian online but the mortgage is paid by the cheesemaking business my husband and I own.
6. Mmmm…. cheese. How did you get into this line of work?
In the late 90s, my husband was the technical manager for an Italian company that made vegetarian Parmesan using a vegetable rennet. He saw the demand for a cheddar with Parmesan characteristics. Parmesan is made with skimmed milk whereas Cheddar retains some of the cream so you get this lovely melty, creamy cheese. It’s called Sussex Charmer. We also make butter with the surplus cream.
7. How did the Sussex Charmer word grow?
We started out doing the farmer’s market and expanded to delis, then on to places like Waitrose, Co-Op and should be going into Morrison’s soon. And we sell it online too.
8. With such a busy life, how do you carve out time for yourself and relax?
I try to turn my phone off in the evening and snuggle up with my dogs on the sofa. I’ll watch something quality on TV, a Scandinavian drama like Borgen. I find reading a chapter before I go to sleep so therapeutic. I'm reading all of the Lucinda Riley books, just wonderful.
9. Any advice for younger Claire?
Get those shoulders down, we've always got such hunched shoulders, and just enjoy the ride. And don't worry so much. I'm a warrior worrier so just relax and enjoy each day.
Oh and learn to say no. Be selective and don’t just agree automatically without working out what impact it will have on your load. People will dump their tasks on to you, especially if they see you as a 'doer'. Preserve your own resources, which are incredibly precious.
And finally, free up your diary! We’re are all guilty of thinking our weekends and evenings should be choc full of plans, but I've discovered that the most luxurious thing of all is to have a FREE diary. Nothing is more draining than not being in charge of your time, so take back control and cancel those non-essential commitments. You will bloom!