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Interview with the Author
You couldn’t make this up, you really couldn’t, and when thinking of a title for her shocking, engaging and all too relatable memoir there was only really one that Ruth Tunnicliffe could use. Because the mum of three has lived quite an eventful life, and by putting pen to paper this work of pure liberation will be sure to help other women treading similar paths of enforced agreeability.
A fault in society is that women are effectively conditioned to please others, to not shout too loud and not to complain. And Ruth’s life which is documented so beautifully in You Couldn’t Make This Up, is a demonstration of how ‘putting up and shutting up’ can result in the most catastrophic and bizarre situations.
Ruth said: “I always wanted to make people happy, and doing something that would make someone unhappy, even if it was for the best, was unthinkable and the worst thing ever.”
Ruth predominantly wrote the book as a way to explain her life to her three children, her eldest boy and girl she was forced to leave behind in an urgent police-backed escape from her abusive first husband. She said: “I was never frightened leaving the children with him because that’s all he really wanted. As soon as I had given birth to those kids he wanted rid of me, he wasn’t interested in me but he would never harm them.
“He would have harmed himself if I’d taken them and I knew that much 100% so I couldn’t do that. “People said to me ‘you need to write a book’ because of all the things that I happened, and I thought I would start writing things down. “Basically just to get them out of my head and on paper. “With leaving the kids I could never get over it. I emotionally couldn’t let it go.
“I was constantly grieving.
“I was living with that guilt and beating myself up constantly and it was just driving me mad. I had tried counselling and it didn’t work and it just made me cry it just made me feel even more guilty. “But then I started to write, and I want the kids to read it so they will understand why I did it, and that I didn’t actually leave knowing I was leaving. It wasn’t planned it was a necessity. “When I started writing I got to that point in my story and I just stopped, I couldn’t write anymore, I was getting too upset whenever I tried to think about it. “But with the lockdown, I thought ‘I should pick up that book and try and finish it, even if I just print it off and give it to the three kids that’s the most important thing.’ So I made myself finish it.”
In Ruth’s life story a second marriage followed which Ruth almost drifted into, not wanting to disappoint a man who clearly liked her a lot more than she liked him. But this man was also paranoid and frightening and near-forced Ruth to go to live in Cornwall even further away from her children in Yorkshire so that she could care for his ageing father and he could claim the inheritance. The situation came to a head years later when Ruth, her third son, and daughter who by that time was living with her, were forced to go into hiding when he began stalking them and behaving erratically and dangerously.
After both of these incidents, Ruth set about cheerfully building back her life but faced prejudice from friends and acquaintances who naturally thought they would have done things differently.
Ruth said: “Their dad got away with it scott free and everyone was pitying him and he was going around getting all the sympathy, and I was ashamed because I let him treat me like that. Also because he was their dad I didn’t want them to have a dad who would do that.” But what the book shows is how these things can and do happen so naturally, that before you know it you are in a perilous situation! There is also a lot of humour in the book, and Ruth is not afraid to laugh at herself, and focus on the humour in a situation. Particularly when her daughter is involved.
She said: “Some of it is funny, especially with my daughter, she can see the funny side even in the worst of tragedies! There is a bit in the book where we are in hiding from my second husband and racing around putting all our stuff in bin bags, and I have just got a call from a social worker to say that they have found a place for us in a hostel. “I turned to tell the kids and she immediately says ‘HOSTEL I’m sorry?! Don’t you mean a hotel?!” And we all fell about laughing! She can just make anything funny within an instant!
“We did have some fun, I have had a lot of fun in my life it hasn’t all been misery and I hope that comes across in the book.” No situation was more perilous than the final adventure in Ruth’s book. A transatlantic hell ride from Nashville to New York in the clutches of a mad Facebook scammer that had promised to start up a business with Ruth and get work for her daughter.
This man, as well as physically abusing Ruth, drained her credit card. And by the time she finally managed to escape and run to a Brooklyn police station she had nothing but a small suitcase and the clothes on her back to her name. Ruth said: “I just knew I had to get away from him, he was a psycho, and I’d clocked the police station down the road and thought ‘I’ve just got to get there somehow’. My legs felt like jelly and I can still feel it now.
When you write you actually go back to that situation, and I hope that’s come across in the book because every chapter that I write in the book it was like going back there.” It is safe to say that Ruth’s story is a page-turner, a book you read in one on two sitting and can’t put down.
Written as Ruth speaks, reading the book is like sitting down with a friend as they tell you the best ‘real life’ stories ever. But it has also served as a very cathartic and healing process for the author, who has been through so much and rebuilt her life more times than most people will ever have to. As a final thought, she added: “When I finished the book I just thought ‘That’s it, I’m almost clean again’ It sounds really cheesy but that’s how it felt. In each chapter, I was getting rid of all the upset, all the guilt.
“My life has been guilt from the minute I left the kids and everything seems to be down to that, and I have now released myself and know me now. More than I ever did before. I am now 150% me, I do care about other people, it’s in my nature, but now I have put everything in its right place. All my ducks are in a row and I can relax now.”
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Interview with the Author
A positive ‘can do attitude’ and simply asking for what you want has stood Thomas Noblett in good stead during his remarkable life.
A life which is a true underdog story, which has seen him overcome disability, race hatred, brutal bullying, poverty, brushes with gangs of inner-city London in the 1970s, break swimming records despite not knowing how to swim, and even having a private meeting with the Dalai Lama! Thomas is best known as the gregarious hotelier in the popular reality TV series The Lakes, but anyone who sits down with him for an hour or so (or picks up his forthcoming book) will be truly astounded and inspired.
Thomas said: “While growing and living I think that everyone strives to better themselves, it’s all about human endurance and belief in yourself. But most importantly who you surround yourself with is what forms the building blocks of all of your achievements.” This is something that Thomas has learned the hard way, and as a young boy with an Irish accent plunged into the prejudice and struggles of the inner-city London schooling system it was hard to keep on the straight and narrow.
“Heading to London, the promised land was a shocking reality, it really was dog eat dog, racism was at the forefront and even though my father served over 12 years in the British forces that all fell by the wayside. No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, that was the mentality.” Said Thomas. Even before this Thomas had many hurdles to overcome, his father was a drinker and a dreamer, this led to a chaotic childhood of house moves and squandered opportunities. He was also born with club feet, an affliction which many in his father’s side of the family believed would see him consigned to the scrapheap of life.
Speaking about the genesis of his life he said: “I had Irish protestant parents, and a lot of the protestants in the south are farmers who had a lot of land but were dirt poor. My dad who was next in line to inherit the farm in County Wexford knew it wasn’t for him and he left to join the British Navy. “My mum, while being from a farming family herself, was a little bit more delicate than the robust farmers, but she was very taken with my dad who had seen the world when he turned up to the dancehall!
“He had a little bit of edge, they got together and then he went back into the Navy, but he was smitten, he wanted a bit of stability, he wrote these most beautiful letters to her, in one of the letters he asked her to marry him.”
Thomas’ was born in Portsmouth where his father was stationed during Navy service, but the family soon moved back to Ireland, in the hope that they would ‘find their fortune’.
Thomas said: “Ireland had moved on, and was my father and the family welcome? Probably not because they didn’t have any work and there wasn’t enough money for him to work at the farm, we went from different family member to different family member and it didn’t really work out. “ He added: “With my parents, while they lived in very similar surroundings and had similar upbringings, they were worlds apart in many ways. I think they saw in the other the strengths and desires that they were both lacking in their own lives.”
Baby Thomas also had club feet, a disability that his father felt was shameful, but that his mother fought hard to get him treatment for.
He said: “Clubfeet were seen as a bit of a curse in Ireland, on my mother’s side they were caring and they were trying their best and knew I needed surgery, but on the other side they were a little more dismissive and said things like that it had happened because my mum sat about during pregnancy. She certainly wasn’t a sitter arounder, and they were cruel.
“It disappointed my father that I had come out with a disability.”
When he was only three the opportunity to have treatment arose, but he had to endure months in hospital following surgery to correct the deformity, a time he said was scary as both the nurses and the children bullied the young boy, who was struggling to recover separated for spells from his family. He said: “In Portsmouth they put callipers on my feet to try and bend them around when I was a baby, but it didn’t work. The doctor turned to my mother and said I would never get a job where I had to be physically active. “So my mum went to Dublin Hospital and she met an English surgeon who said there was a corrective surgery that they could do. My father didn’t want to know and thought that was my lot I needed to get on with it.
“But I went to the hospital in Dublin and had the surgery. The nurses were not particularly nice, and the children around me were not particularly nice. My grandmother was really doting, she and other people used to bring me in toys, but the nurses would take them and the other kids would try and bully me, you really had to have your wits about you! There is nothing crueller than children.” But what that difficult and formative time did was instil in Thomas a drive, a sense of ‘sticking it to them’ and a passion for challenging himself.
In 1967 when Thomas was four and still recovering from his surgery, the family moved back to England, after his father suffered a fall at work and received a disability payout which was enough for the deposit on a house. But the plan didn’t work out quite as expected, and the family spent time again moving between spare rooms at relations and friends homes.
He said: “So we turned up in London, obviously I was British born but I had an Irish accent and so did my brother, there was a lot of prejudice at the time. “We were moving around and no one wants you in their house for that long, it doesn’t matter how close you are.” The family did eventually settle in their own lodgings, and in secondary school, Thomas made a conscious decision not to fall in with the gangs which simultaneously felt so alluring.
He said: “I wanted to join the police force or the RAF. A good thing about my mother is she put us into organisations that kept us on the straight and narrow, like the Scouts and the Air Training Cadets and also through church brigades and schools it guided you towards a more moral living, instead of hanging around with gangs and getting up to mischief. “I’m not saying I didn’t get up to mischief because I did, you are still hanging with some of those people who want to do that even at a young age. “Back in the 1970s, you went from glam rock and the Bay City Rollers and then all of a sudden you have Sid Vicious and the gang! Growing up in the Eighties was probably the best era, but the 1970s was a really grim decade.
“Irish people were stereotyped, the Irish then were treated the way people think of the Polish and the Romanians now, probably even worse because racism was paramount at that time. “There were plenty of trials and tribulations associated with growing up in inner-city London, I found the gangs really quite alluring, but knew I had to stay on the straight and narrow to survive. “One incident at school, we moved into a new building with new desks and equipment. The kids just walked out with them, stole them. Said they would make ‘good gifts’ and they got away with it. This felt normal to me at the time.” During this time bout of well-placed mischief ended up landing Thomas with a job that shaped the entire course of his life.
When he was 14, with a pal, he lied about his age to get a job at The Savoy Hotel, giving the working-class kid a snapshot of a different and exotic way of life. He said: “I always had a sense of adventure so I thought I would join the police, but I had a Portuguese friend who said ‘my dad works at The Savoy Hotel’, at 14/15 we looked like blokes, I had facial hair and was big for my age. “So at 14 and-a-half I went to The Savoy, the guy said ‘how old are you?’ I said ‘16’ and he looked at me I said ‘18’ and he said ‘sign here, you start tomorrow’!
“I would attend school all day and then I and my friend Jose would run to The Savoy that was three miles away and do a shift at night. We did everything, waiting-on, banquets and it was good money. “We looked like fellas and we were old heads on young shoulders who were able to adapt. We were getting paid £4.25 a session, which in the mid to late seventies was quite a bit of money. “I was quite easily working from six o’clock in the evening until two o’clock in the morning and then going to school afterwards. We used to see a star a night because places like The Savoy were their stomping grounds. During his evenings at The Savoy, Thomas was at the forefront of the history of the time, seeing politicians and stars as he waited tables. He also learned how to talk to people from all walks of life, and credits some of those interactions with the way he lives his life today.
By the time he left school, while others were starting out in their first job or joining the 1980s dole queue, Thomas had years of experience in the hotel industry and a burgeoning career under his belt, working his way up to managerial status at the hotel. Like his father before him, he had a lust for adventure, and while his father chose the Navy, it seemed like the life of a high-flying hotelier was going to be for Thomas. He said: “To work at The Savoy in the Eighties was an absolute dream, and I am so proud to have done that.” The job at The Savoy, which saw him being fast-tracked to managerial status, gave Thomas a head start and a fast-paced high-flying career as part of a management team for hotels in Bermuda and Dubai with wife Clare in tow, as the pair enjoyed their twenties.
But by the time 18 months in Dubai was through the fast life was starting to catch up with Thomas, and he knew that he needed some different kinds of challenges. He said: “In Dubai, I was witnessing the country becoming what it is today, every time you go there it is unrecognisable from the time before, all these buildings are just popping up like mushrooms! “I was getting used to the lifestyle, every country I went to I always played sports there. When I was in Bermuda I joined the football and rugby teams and mixed with the staff and in Dubai, I joined the rugby and football teams too. I was getting sucked into the lifestyle though, I was drinking too much and I was always being invited here there and everywhere. “I would finish work and then go to a function and then be back up at 7.30 am to take the meetings and eventually Clare just said to me ‘we can’t live like this’. I had to agree with her because we were going nowhere fast I was only working and entertaining.
“I think drinking is a curse of the Noblett’s, and its something that my father suffered from. I don’t think the Nobletts are meant to drink, I don’t think our bodies are adapted to it. It turned my father from an OK man into a mad man, when I realised that drinking was having an effect on me I knew I needed a change.” So the Nobletts returned from their travels and returned to London, but the lure of the Lake District was soon too much for them to avoid. And for the first time in this project, Thomas and Clare would be running a hotel together!
Thomas said: “I actually started again looking for jobs in the far east, and Clare was worried that I would get something! We had already had ten good years of adventure, Clare wanted to spend more time with her parents and settle down a little bit. She saw the job advertised for a couple, and we went along for a laugh! “They said they would like us to do it, and that even though Clare had no experience in the hotel trade, they felt that what she brought was her wonderful nursing skills and her eye for detail. “So within 24 hours, we got that job! It was the first time that we had worked together but it felt really right. We grew up together and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Clare is very dedicated so I knew she would be a fantastic asset to iron out some of my flaws. It was a perfect match.”
So Clare and Thomas moved to the Lake District, then set up a hotel in Cornwall before returning to the region to make a huge success of the Langdale Chase Hotel upon their return. The hotel appeared in the national media numerous times, and as part of the reality TV series The Lakes which made stars of the charismatic couple. But something was missing for Thomas, and he needed an adventure. That old childhood feeling of needing to push himself resurfaced, and he knew that he needed an exciting challenge. At this point the couple had founded successful white-collar boxing events at the hotel, to raise money for charity. Stars including Amir Khan attended to support the nights boosting the coffers of a number of anti-bullying charities,
It is at one such event that Thomas jumped in the deep end, with a bet which would lead to yet another change of direction… Picking up the story Thomas said: “Bearing in mind I couldn’t swim, I was at one of these events and someone bet that I couldn’t swim the length of Lake Windermere. They laughed their bellies off when I said ‘I’ll do that I’ll show you and then three months later I swam the length of the lake!” And not to stick with just one challenge, with the wind of success in his sails, a year later Thomas swan two lengths of the lake, as part of his training for swimming the English Channel. Swimming became a major part of Thomas’ life, and from non-swimmer, to unlikely athlete he transitioned like a proverbial duck to water. He said: “Even in Bermuda I only got into the sea about four times, and the only bit of swimming experience I had was from when I was a child in London and I was given my 25-metre badge!
“When I did the length of the lake it shocked a lot of people, but a year later I did my first attempt at the English Channel, which I should have completed really but nothing in life is easy on that one. The boat broke down. I think that was for a reason because I think if I had completed that the first time I might have become a bit to gung ho.“With the swimming it really was a baptism of fire, I was thrown into the limelight too. I think for some people a bit of spotlight is their main goal, but for me, it was just about completing the challenges and proving myself and others wrong.
“I had in might sights signed up to do Everest, but Clare said if you do Everest I can’t hang around anymore, so I did Kilimanjaro instead!”
Thomas also cycled for Land’s End to John O’Groats, but wild swimming became Thomas’ passion, and he holds a World Record for swimming with a relay team up and down the lake during storm force winds over four days and three nights. So, if you don’t ask you don’t get, go for it, and the more unlikely the outcome the better for Thomas, we have learned this much about him so far. So what better example of this ‘can do’ attitude, than the story of how Thomas and Claire secured a private and very personal meeting with the Dalai Lama himself during a holiday to India with Claire.
Thomas explains: “We just asked! And we initially got a letter back from his brother to say that he didn’t just see people on spec. But then we got a second letter which said that in fact, the Dalai Lama did want to see us. And that’s how it started and we couldn’t believe it. “When we arrived there were others waiting for an audience too, a defence minister and some members of the Thai royal family, there were two or three other people who had made a journey across the Himalayas and a father with a schizophrenic son. “So we are all in this room together and I remember looking at this defence minister and he was kicking off saying ‘don’t you know who I am?’ “We really felt out of place. Then they said everyone could come through, and me being eager I jumped up and was right at the front of the queue, urging Clare to keep up with me. “So we were all there waiting to go in, and these two security guys said ‘you, wait you need to come here, got to the back of the queue’. So we went to the back of the queue and we really thought we wouldn’t get to meet him. “So then we saw the Dalai Lama come in and people started filing through, but then a handheld me back again, and we thought again that we wouldn’t get back to see him. “But then a man introduced himself, and it was the Dali Lama’s brother who had replied to my letter. He said ‘stand back, just relax and let everyone else go through, thank you for the letter, the Dalai Lama wants to see the rest of the people and then he wants to meet you.’ “When we did get in I was in awe, the Dalai Lama said ‘Clare, Thomas, come here, come here! I’m so sorry that you had to wait, it doesn’t matter everyone has gone now we are alone! “So we were like the guests of honour! I was so starstruck. He said to Clare ‘I know you don’t like flying and I know you don’t like being out of the environment that you are comfortable with, but life is like turbulence’. A lot of Clare’s friends know she hates flying, but there is no way that he could have known that. “Then he went ‘Thomas, calm down, relax, you are always trying to achieve and overachieve. Life will come to you naturally. “He told us how life should be, and then he produced two golden Buddhas and said ‘always travel with these’. “Then he said ‘I have something else for you’ and then he went and brought out some books of Buddhist teachings and gave those to us too! “What we experienced was just amazing.”
Thomas Noblett is an everyman, and his stories and achievement are in many ways as relatable as they are extraordinary and inspiring. And to help to drive others to adopt the positive mindset that has got him so far in his own unique life, Thomas has penned a book about his life, entitled Against The Tide: The Ups and Downs of a Gladiator.
Thomas added poignantly: “My fuel is people saying ‘you can’t do this’ so when they said I couldn’t do the length of the lake I had fuel in my mind and heart that I would prove them wrong. If they had thought I could, I would have lost the drive and energy. “I feel my disability has been a great aid and my driving force. If I had been ‘born normal’ I don’t think I would have had as much drive or ambition. I think being put in that situation makes you try ten times harder. When I was playing football I might not have been the most skilled but I was the most dedicated because I always had that philosophy in my head. I always got picked for the team.“I’m proud of my magic feet because they have been my driving force.”
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Interview with the Author
Claire Gabriel experienced a living nightmare at the hands of an abusive American ex-partner, who was not only not what he said he was, but actively tried to harm her.
In a cautionary tale, Claire has bravely committed her terrifying experience to paper in a book which is designed to both support and inspire other women.
Following a recent break up, Claire met the man who made her life hell in a Paris bar in 2017. He was from Beverley Hills, from a famous family this much we know is true, Claire says she felt spoiled by him but most importantly he felt like a true soul mate with matching interests, likes and dislikes.
Claire admits that at this time she was vulnerable due to her break up, and enjoyed the excitement of the early relationship.
She said: “It was like a fairytale, all restaurants and gifts and it was very nice. I had just broken up with a boyfriend, six months prior to meeting him, so I think I was in a bit of a vulnerable state.
“He arrived like an angel in my life, but then it started to change, he used to do very strange things and was very paranoid.
“But I must admit all of that at the time was interesting for me because my previous boyfriend had been very, very serious and emotionally cold, and this man was being funny all the time, and exciting, this was a complete opposite.
“In some ways it was weird, for example, he didn’t want me to know his real name, and he changed phone numbers all the time and had more than 15 sim cards. But he always had an excuse for that and the relationship filled a hole in my life, I needed that.”
As the relationship progressed Claire started to doubt her new beau’s intentions, and question the secretive nature of his dealings.
He would spend a lot of time in Africa and Russia, and told her he was dealing in gold, but his behaviour became erratic and Claire soon realised that he was abusing her in ways she hadn’t realised before.
She said: “A lot of people around me tried to tell me that things were going wrong with him, they started to find him very strange because he had no money, and I was paying for everything because he told me he had to invest everything in the goldmine.
“When I met him he didn’t even want me to know his real name.”
During the traumatic chain of events Claire almost found herself homeless, after a betrayal of trust which saw her partner rent out the flat she was living in behind her back, leaving her possessions in boxes outside, with him nowhere to be seen.
Of course the story doesn’t end there, police intervention, shocking revelations and a long journey of understanding and recovering were to follow for Claire.
But that journey has made her stronger, and she decided to write it all down as a way of helping other women.
Claire’s tell-all book is more than just a memoir, and more than just a recollection of a unique incident.
The book tells stories gaslighting, deceit and betrayal as well as physical abuse against Claire which, when read by others will give them a toolkit for spotting abuse in their own lives.
Claire, a school teacher said: “It was really important for me to write this book, as I never thought or imagined that something like this could happen to me.
“There will be other women out there who are in the same position, and my book shows just how this kind of thing can happen so easily, and to intelligent people, contrary to what other people might think. We always wrongly think that it could only happen to others.
“The hardest part is recognising and accepting that you have been manipulated. This is the beginning of healing.”
And speaking about the process of writing the book Claire added: “I had written a book before, I like writing and it is a kind of therapy for me, ever since I was a little child.
“This was my outlet after what happened as things started to get worse and worse and I had a lot of crisis to deal with. I didn’t even recognise myself.
“In some ways I was angry only with him, but in many ways I felt guilty about what had happened too and for the times that I wasn’t nice to him!
“It is my hope that others will read this book and recognise some of these abusive traits in their own lives and realise, like I did that they have been victimised, that for me is the ultimate goal.”
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Interview with the Author
What could take a British woman from running a rural British Inn with her husband to becoming a trailblazing entrepreneur, journalist and cartographer in the Middle East?
The answer, ironically, is an oil embargo, which started Anne Malin and her husband Bevis on the adventure which made her a household name in the Sultanate of Oman. It is situated on the south-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
Today Anne is known as Oman’s `mapping lady’, after years of producing high-quality maps and street guides for business, government and consumers.
She was also a prolific writer in the 80s and 90s and has written articles on a wide range of topics for leading Middle East and international newspapers and magazines. And she is both a familiar face and voice in the nation, after many years of work on both the news and as a voiceover artist.
Yet Anne admits that she had no greater ambition than to be “the perfect wife and mother,” until the vagaries of international politics intervened, almost half a century ago.
“Our Inn was in the countryside, on the border between Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, and we had people from a 150-mile radius who would pop up at a weekend to have dinner in the restaurant,” she says.
“But with the oil embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia and Iran in the ’70s, first of all, petrol was rationed. And then the filling stations closed down because they didn’t have any oil to sell – so of course, our takings went down. And we decided that was it, and we put the place on the market.”
Bevis took a job in Oman shortly afterwards, but for all that Anne has come to embrace their new home, her first steps were tentative. Initially, Bevis went there, with Anne joining him for a holiday, before moving there permanently with their children in 1978. And if she admits to some ignorance about the country she was not alone – “Even our luggage went to Amman, Jordan, (they have the same spellings in Arabic and the names having a familiar ring ) because of a mix-up,” she remembers with a laugh.
“But I had only been here just a few months when things began to happen,” she adds. “A job came up in television, behind the scenes as a production assistant with Oman Television, and to my surprise I got it.”
Within two years Anne was made a presenter for Oman Television News, a role she held for 20 years, and in her own words, “One thing just led to another. Being on television opened up many doors’’.
In addition to news broadcasts, Anne worked on a variety of documentaries and news projects during her time with Oman Television, including the global broadcasts of the 30th anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said’s accession to the throne, and various reports on Oman for global distribution. She and her husband were also appointed as commercial representatives in Oman for the International Herald Tribune.
The Mapping Lady: A Memoir of Oman, describes Anne’s first impressions of the sultanate and how she fell in love with the country – so much so that she admits to being horrified when she first saw tourists arriving.
Yet ironically that led to perhaps Anne’s greatest legacy to her adopted home.
“To my shock and horror I saw a tourist bus, my first tourist bus,” she says. “Rather selfishly we called Oman at that time, `our secret paradise’, and I thought ‘Oh my God this is going to change everything.’
“I went to tell my husband, he said ‘It’s going to open up some time, why don’t we do something?’ So we published our first guidebook and our first Pictorial Tourist Map in 1989. There were hardly any roads then. Images surrounded the map depicting the culture. They were received very well.
“And then, after just our second publication, we were invited by the Municipality of Muscat, to do a map of one of the big towns for His Majesty the Sultan`s National Day celebrations in 1992. We were nervous because we were still beginners, but we were thrilled, we were very happy.”
Anne’s publications include the popular A to Z Street Guide, the Salalah Street Guide, Muscat City Map, Salalah Map & Guide, Matrah Business District Map, the Map & Guide to Musandam and the Oman Map & Guide. She has also acted as a consultant for creating new mapping publications for many commercial and government organisations in Oman, including the Ministry of Tourism, Diwan of Royal Court, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Muscat Municipality, Dhofar Municipality, National Bank of Oman, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Shell Markets, British Petroleum and Oman Oil.
Bevis passed away in 1996, but Anne continued to work with the same zest, exploring every nook and cranny of the land, and as more and more travellers discover Oman each year, Anne’s maps have been distributed all over the world. But Anne’s love of the country has not only been about geography or cartography as they have been about a passion for the people and culture of Oman. Oman is roughly the size of the UK and diverse – from the rugged pinnacles of the Musandam mountains to the coconut-laden beaches of Salalah in the south and the Rub Al Khali desert– it is a land of surprises which always astound the visitor. Her book is an open Window into Oman.
She says: “Before I came here, I knew nothing about the country, we’d never heard of the place. I was perhaps a little hesitant. There are a lot of misconceptions about the Arab world, and Oman is so different from other places. We don’t interfere in other people’s affairs. We’re peacemakers’’.
“The people here are so friendly. Our ruler of 50 years, Sultan Qaboos, who died in January, came to the throne in 1970 and there was nothing here – only 7km of road, very few buildings, two schools plus an American mission school in the entire country, and only one hospital. He just built the place from scratch.
“One of the very first things His Majesty did was to encourage women to work from the very beginning, from both rural and urban areas, and he gave them all equal rights with equal pay.’’
“I was surprised in 1978, to see a female police officer directing traffic on a roundabout believing it to be a male-dominated field. Oman has been voted as one of the safest countries in the world to both visit and work in. And it’s beautiful – from where I live I can visit and walk in the valleys, I can safely drive alone, even at night, there are mountains outside my window and a beach five mins away from my home.”
Anne also hopes that her book might inspire young women: “My goal in life was to be the perfect wife and mother,” says Anne. “And look what happened to me!”
The Mapping Lady: A Memoir of Oman contains maps and many images to illustrate Anne’s stories.
Anne is currently seeking publishers for planned publication in 2021.
Click here to read more
Interview with the Author
The practice of forgiveness and love are the two the hardest things that humans are called upon to do in life.
But for author Asha Emamdee, forgiveness has transformed her life, and ensured that her transformational and harrowing journey to live in the UK has led to a positive path.
Asha’s first novel, Minousha and the Dancing Water is out soon, and is based on the authors’ own life.
The book is written in the fantasy style and the themes within the story help readers do what Asha has done so wonderfully in her own life, overcome past traumas by helping others, and smashing internal barriers as well as the glass ceilings presented to her by society. There were many glass ceilings on her way: being an Asian woman, disabled, woman with self-esteem and education issues and living in the UK.
Asha came to England 30 years ago aged just 19, a refugee of circumstance from her home country of Mauritius.
Growing up Asha’s family and Asha herself experienced a number of severe and profound traumas, including her father’s false imprisonment for murder and her mother’s suicide.
In order to get to the UK Asha herself endured severe immense hardship, and physical and sexual abuse which resulted in a suicide attempt. Severe depression and PTSD were included in the diagnosis.
For over 30 years, Asha has worked hard to turn her trauma into a positive outcome for herself and others, and qualified in the legal profession offering her services for free to those in need.
Asha is a successful and strong woman of colour, and tells how the gift of writing, nurtured by her parents as a little girl, has helped her weather storms throughout her life:
She said: “I have always loved writing, when I was growing up in Mauritius I used to spend my time on top of the trees writing. If I couldn’t do that, I used to hide under the bed writing, and there were always books in my life from a very young age.
“My parents could not afford books, my mother worked as a cleaner in a college where I would study. She would bring the books the teachers left behind for me to read during the weekend.
“It was a deep passion and both of my parents were into it. When they saw me have this passion and doing well, they would encourage me so I always felt a deep peace writing and reading.
“So because of all the trauma I had I always look inside for the answers.”
“The book was written with the express aim to help others in the way that I helped myself. It has given me joy, peace and healing and I want to reach out and help others too.
“If we give children the tools to look inside themselves and find out what is going on imagine when they grow up how they will be.”
Asha has now lived longer in the UK more than she lived in Mauritius, but even after all this time, her experiences of life away from her home country, and the attitudes she has faced are enlightening. She said: “I still feel like a foreigner here sometimes, very often I don’t feel accepted in this country and I feel like I don’t belong and as though I am someone outside looking inside. “Sometimes I question myself, thinking ‘have I done something? Have I said something?’ But when I explore that more I realise that it is always to do with the other person.
“It’s not just in the UK it’s the world, the world seems to be full of people who have very low self-esteem, it’s not because I am Mauritian, or if someone is Irish or any other races, whatever, it all boils down to self- esteem.
“If we don’t love and respect ourselves and hold ourselves in a kind and respectful regard, how are we going to project that outside? If we are not comfortable in our own skins and comfortable with our own emotions, how are we going to be comfortable with other people and their emotions?”
It would have been easy for Asha to be driven by anger, and be driven to success by seeking to prove people wrong.
But far from taking her power from resentment and anger, Asha has chosen to take her draw from within and describes how she believes this is the only way to achieve true peace and satisfaction. She said: “The theme of my book is love and forgiveness, and also about good fighting evil. It’s the light fighting the darkness. Look around you, in the world of politics and in most institutions and in most relationships, there are wars.
“If we don’t forgive ourselves how can we forgive others? I have no interest in fighting with other people and proving them wrong, I have nothing to gain from that. The best fight is to fight with your own demons and win. The best revenge is to love yourself and shine like a beacon in the dark world!”
“When I came to this country, in a cold November, my aunt and my uncle put all my belongings in a bin bag and threw me out in the cold winter. I was told I would amount to nothing and I will come back begging!
“I told them ‘when I come back you will be very proud of me and you will not be able to look me in my eyes’. Years later, when I saw them again over 25 years my uncle said ‘you have peace and happiness in your face’. That’s all that mattered to me and I went upstairs and I said ‘thank you God for that’.”
I refuse to prove anything to anyone, I spend my energy wisely. I had fought my own inner demons and found peace.”
And speaking about the long and harrowing journey of self-exploration, which led to Minousha and the Dancing Water, Asha added poignantly: “I remained true to my values, principles, promises and above all to my commitments to tell the truth like my parents taught me. Because the truth will set me free. I was born free but through life journeys and through all the traumas, I denied myself the opportunity to believe in my true magnificence.
“By facing those lies, I feel liberated. I served my life sentences and I know how it feels to be imprisoned by the lies we tell ourselves.
“I embarked on the journeys to help others. Before we help others, we help ourselves.
“I made sure that I live a life that my parents would be proud of, and I am proud of myself.”