Founder's story

We have raided the memory bank of our founder and MD Christina Parry, to show some personal adventures that retirement makes possible.
We hope these will inspire and energise your own plans, to whet your appetite and create your own unique future. 

I applied through Trustees Unlimited for a few advertised trustee roles, when other commitments tailed off, and was delighted to be appointed as a trustee of Age UK Bromley and Greenwich, a local service delivery charity, in 2013.  This is an on-going commitment, and I am no longer the newest trustee on the board.  
There are trustee meetings every two months, with papers to read beforehand.  Finances are always a big item, with important investment decisions.  Recently the Board has agreed to develop some services on a social enterprise  basis, an innovative new direction that will need careful monitoring.  
I like being involved, and try and see services in action when I can.  It is encouraging to meet others from the charity when I am out and about.  
Recently I was able to spot one of our shopper service volunteers in the supermarket, and ask her how she rated the experience.  Nice to have direct feedback, which happily was a good news story.  Usually on the Board we hear more about things that go wrong, or pose problems.
Charity Trustee,
Age UK Bromley and Greenwich
The City of London, home of the Livery
 Every year the City of London hosts headline- grabber events at the Mansion House, ceremonial home of The Lord Mayor of the City.  These events are central to London's role as a world-leading city, fostering the well-being and reputation of the nation and the City.
Most years, I attend the Annual Banquet of one livery company, the Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (WCCSA).  WCCSA is dedicated to upholding high professional standards delivered with integrity.
I qualified as a Chartered Secretary many years ago.  I applied and became a Liveryman when I was looking towards a future with more time to call my own.  
I enjoy taking part in London City life, usually with people who have quite different experience.  There is also the allure of going behind the closed doors of the Livery Halls, for first class dining in convivial surroundings.
More recently I have become a WCCSA Court Assistant, with delegated responsibility in running the Company.  My special role is Chairman of the WCCSA Education Committee.  I am pleased that we are running an expanding programme of community engagement, currently with two secondary schools and two university courses, where we offer speakers and skill-building sessions for students.  This keeps me in touch with all things educational, and ensures I put some personal skills to good use.
Literature, learning and feisty ladies
How do you read a novel?  Why do some books grab you but leave others cold?  
My wonderful literature group is slowly unrolling the wrapping of life through literature.  
Far more than 'a book club', we have a professional tutor who expertly pushes the boundaries of our literary understanding.  
Covering about three books a term centring on a theme, we meet new authors and old favourites, looking at how they bring to life characters flaws, and the internal landscape.  Questions and debate offer a window on our own lives and dilemmas, our shadows and joys.
The group itself is the magic ingredient.  Ten or twelve feisty women with a wealth of world experience, who are dauntingly well-read, whom chance has thrown together in the locality.  Friends join and leave seamlessly as lives change, replenishing the nucleus of witty intelligence.  Fun, friendship and expanded horizons - this is real living, armchair fashion.
Staff management, coaching, mentoring and training, was a big part of my working life.  It is what I enjoy and was loathe to lose when I left employment.  
Nowadays, former colleagues often refer people to me, and it is rewarding to find I can give useful informal  feedback.  
Contacts led to a role with Rochester Diocese, and the clergy Ministerial Development Scheme, and I act as one of the Bishop's appointed reviewers.  I usually see about five people a year for a structured confidential discussion, independent and focused on people as individuals.
I feel privileged to work with committed prefessionals, who do  hard jobs under difficult circumstances.  I hope my involvement is helpful, and I have been encouraged by the feedback.
Coach and Mentor
Referrals, Rochester Diocese and beyond
Teaching in China
2008 - 2009
Fuzhou and Quanzhou, Fugian Province, deep in Southern China, teaching English to students hoping to attend Western-style universities.  Three separate visits and first hand experience of climate extremes in this part of the world.  So cold in March.  Full winter gear even in bed, and no heating in the concrete and glass university flat to warm you up.    Come Summer, ferocious tropical heat, with fearsome storms bringing floods and heat exhaustion.  
Food rather startling for Western tastes, especially in the university canteens.  Good fresh vegetables and occasional sweetmeats.  
Utterly charming and helpful people everywhere, students, teachers, parents, street encounters.  Westerners so rare, and the cultural differences so great, you become very accepting and tolerant, and ready to find help.   Lucky to have English-speaking assistants and students eager to learn, fill in the gaps, and escort us on the bus.
Teaching could fill its own book.  The style here bears no relation to how Westerners learn.  Rote learning and chalk and talk is expected, and little emphasis on independent thought or innovative projects.  Will be very hard for the students to make headway in Australian, Canadian or British universities - which is where they're aiming.  Huge learning curves on both sides.  

Fastnet 2013
Offshore Sailing Race

Yachtsmen the world over aim to take part in 'the Fastnet' if they can - and why should a novice amateur sailor rule herself out?  This was the thinking that led me onto the crew of Dream or Two's Koru for the 2013 Fastnet Race.
Five days non-stop sailing, from the Isle of Wight, across the Irish Sea, round Fastnet Rock, and back to Plymouth.
One of my great retirement experiences, and I am indebted to Jannine and Rae at Dream or Two, who had the courage to trust and accept me as a crew member.  Thanks to them, 'I was there'.
Read more
Creative Writing
2013, 2014
As an avid reader of all things fiction, I set to wonder 'how do they do it'.  There's supposed to be one book in everyone.  Getting bored with reading how genius works for other people, it was time to plunge in at the deep end, and try it.
 I used the soft option, rather than the ice-pack at midnight, and enrolled on a Creative Writing course.  The one I chose was organised by the WEA (Workers' Education Association), tutor Elizabeth Sarkarny, and held weekly at the Museum of London.
An action plan to recommend. It was stimulating to meet a cross section of Londoners, from true cockney to migrant workers, with incredibly different takes on story-lines.  We wandered around exhibits, with little time to wait for muse to strike, before back to the class to try our hand at writing our own pieces.  Then the nervy moment of reading them out loud, sometimes to acclaim, more often to helpful feedback.
Some of our efforts are on the WEA website, at   if you want to take a look.  
 A former colleague in Marie Curie was looking for input when setting up a new service, Marie Curie Helper.  This was based on using volunteers to deliver front line support to terminally ill people, a novel concept for the charity at that time.  
This led to my long term involvement as Volunteering Consultant with the charity.  I was delighted to have chance to use my skills for a good cause.  
I undertook research for the Project Director to test and determine the best service model and scope demand.   I wrote the manager's manual, and represented the charity at meetings.  
Not long after Marie Curie Helper was launched it became a flagship mainstream service for the charity, and attracted continuing funding.  In 2012 the Marie Curie Helper was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award for Volunteering.  I was very proud to have been part of the story, and I put together the successful nomination.  
My involvement continued for several years, branching into staff events, mentoring and coaching, and representing the charity at international events, until the link came to a natural conclusion in 2014.
Marie Curie Volunteering
2009 - 2014
I envisaged being snapped up as a non-exec director when I left work.  Life didn't turn out that way.  
It was difficult to find the right opportunities, and the advertised ones led to highly competitive interviews.  But after a few false starts I secured an NHS non-exec role in an acute hospital trust.
Getting deeper into the role, I learned that the organisation culture and history was confused and antagonistic.  The trust had crippling debts and a revolving door of senior executives, with Board membership changing even more often.  The role came to an abrupt end a year later when local trusts merged.
The chronic instability persisted long after the merger, and my own departure, leading eventually to bankruptcy and take-over.
I found the experience unsettling, and very poorly paid for the amount of work and responsibility involved.
Swapping one high-pressure environment for another was not a sensible retirement game-plan - a learning experience the hard way.
NHS Non-Exec Director
2008 - 2009
Editorial Board 'Marksman'
Since I retired I have helped plan and write Marksman, the magazine of St Mark's Church Bromley,  published every two months.  
We try and find themes of wide interest, and commission articles from experts, as well as from authors who can write from personal experience.  The local dimension is important, and we try and relate our Christian worldview to what is going on in our town, streets and homes. 
We work to  stringent limits.  No room for acres of waffling.  300 words maximum, on topics that take up miles of library shelf space.  It is always a challenge to say something worth reading - and brings home how much we rely on platitudes in our daily life.
Read Marksman at 

On the track of Dolly, Johnny and Elvis 

'In my Tennessee home' - the place to be once in a lifetime, and perfect in Spring 2014.  A mind-blowing personal odyssey to Tennessee, from East to West across the State, in the footsteps of all-time music greats.  
Pigeon Ford and Dollyland - wild rollercoasters in totally naff setting. 
Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry live and on air, with Johnny Cash and music on the streets to blow your mind.
 On to Memphis, sophisticated and downbeat, retro and modern, city of contrasts and Gracelands, home of the King himself.  
And the heart-rending scenes of the other King's last days  -  Martin Luther King, and the Civil Rights movement.   
University Seminar Round 2012, 2013
 My MA degree under my belt, I decided to test new-found knowledge.   As a mature student  I had attended post-grad seminars and conferences, at home and away, as a means of enriching my personal experience, and thought I could give this a go as a presenter.
I applied to a number of academic events for the chance to deliver a short paper, and was pleased to be accepted. 
This saw me presenting my dissertation topic and academic reflection, on 'Theology and Christian Philanthropy', at post-grad seminars. This took me to London, Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge Universities.   
Scary stuff!   Very different from business events and talks.  Not comfortable, but stimulating, with intelligent audiences of challenging people.  
I learned a lot.  And it created unique opportunities to get behind-the scenes in some of our most historic institutions.  
Forty plus years after graduating in Geography and Politics, I applied to study part-time for an MA in Christian Theology.  This felt a big ask, with no subject background, and no academic career expertise.
Determination proved all, and a few months later I was struggling with basic and advanced texts, in company with clerics, teachers, retirees and young post-grads.
Truly enriching and challenging, it was hard-going, and hard labour, but intensely rewarding.  
I emerged three years later with far more than the coveted MA with Distinction (of which I am very proud).
It led to wonderful times in Malta, lots of new contacts in some very obscure but fascinating places, and an on-going relationship with theology, serious study, and Christian worship.  A true blessing.
MA Christian Theology, 2009-2011,
Heythrop College, University of London
Under the Erasmus university student exchange scheme, off to Malta for Spring 2010, in place of London University.
Seems I am the only person to do this from an MA course at Heythrop - so lots of preliminary work to set it up.  In fact it turns out to be quite doable, living in a rented large apartment near the University outside Valletta.    
University of Malta
Spring semester 2010
Colleagues are all mature students, interesting people, and exciting to share so much of their lives first hand, especially as their experience is quite different from mine.

The lectures turn out to be a tedious bus ride away. Twice a week trundling to a monk's cell in a converted Carmelite convent.
Malta itself became a treasure trove, with lots of time to explore.  Joining the Malta Geography Society and Malta Ramblers Society take us behind the tourist facades.  Another facet of Maltese life and culture.  Can't believe my luck.
When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.
Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.
Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithaca means.
-K. P. Kavafis (C. P. Cavafy), translation by Rae Dalven
There are various translations of this  poem, and this is the one I like.  The Sean Connery reading is a gem  - well worth listening to: