Can older learners still cut it in the classroom?

A few years ago, I  left home for three months to live at Ruskin College, Oxford on a Ransackers Course. This was an incredible initiative designed to inspire older learners who had not previously benefited from higher education. An intensive course it’s aim was enable new students to write a full dissertation and included tuition, accommodation, free meals and most wonderfully, a pass to the Bodleian Library.  Ransackers was aimed at those from a generation that has had limited opportunities for education and who have burning questions or a project they are deeply committed to. I applied for the course  and went along to meet the tutor and to present my project and discuss if I would be able to commit to the learning process. They seemed to think that I was eminently suitable, but I wondered how I would take to full time study. I know that I am capable; I have run a business for over 20 years, but reading for me has been more entertainment than for learning.

When I left home in Wales  I had a clutch of O Levels and a lot of enthusiasm for life. My first job was in London employed by the BBC as a secretary in The Urdu Service at Bush House in London. Whilst I learnt a lot about people in that building and their very different cultures , I was a terrible secretary. My typing was so bad that for important letters, my boss, a journalist called Towyn Mason, would type them himself very quickly and accurately with two fingers.

After working in different areas of the BBC, I finally found my niche in food by winning Cosmopolitan Cook of the Year Competition. The first prize was a year at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, sponsored by The Butter Council. In fact I won a whole new career via this prize and my first job was as the chef of Justin de Blank’s country house hotel in Norfolk. From then on I ran various kitchens and set up my own outside catering business, specialising in large events.

Now after 27 years of marriage and combining bringing up our two boys with running a catering business I  left home to study. After a life as a food writer and caterer I was able to explore  the way we eat now and the lost cooking skills of at least one generation. More specifically I examined the benefits of cooking from scratch and  the lack of knowledge the youth of Britain have towards the food they eat. I am always interested in hearing how people manage to cook, eat and share food with their families, whilst juggling different timetables, jobs and social commitments.  As a caterer I learned  to be highly organised, how to manage people and organise my time.

I was so inspired by the Ransackers experience that I am now studying for a BA (Hons) degree in Philosophy & Psychological Studies with the OU and aim to take a Masters in Business Psychology. I am particularly interested in technology from a psychological aspect and how we are evolving (or otherwise) to cope with the rapid changes taking place in our work and personal lives .

 

A Fashionable Dinner

 

specially designed menu for fashion launch
specially designed menu for fashion launch

I recently came across this old hand written menu, which was created for a fashion launch way back in 1989. The designers of fashion house, Workers for Freedom, launched their new all-white collection and we designed the dinner around this theme. There were around 100 guests, who we seated at one huge, long table in the Mall Galleries on The Mall, London. I organised the menu with tiny little punctuations of colour, such as the glossy green lime leaves for the main course and three tiny raspberries for the pudding. The cheese sables were sprinkled with a shower of white sesame seeds, the cocktail was clear and the chocolate truffles were white.

By all accounts it was a massive success, but having worked hard on all the details of the event,  I was on a plane bound for Australia so wasn’t there on the evening.

 

Relaxed Weekend Lunch Party

an array of mezze starters
an array of mezze starters

Stretchable Lunch Party Food

This is the ideal family weekend lunch; easy to assemble, tasty and can be stretched if more people turn up. My friend Dawn and her Jack joined us for lunch on Easter Monday and I made a lunch to suit everyone. I’d made some focaccia bread and teamed this with a selection of mostly veggie mezze. My spiced lentils with salmon would be ideal for Dawn as she is mostly veggie, but eats certain fish. Finger food pud and Easter eggs to finish then we sat in front of the wood burner and chatted all afternoon. “Welcome to hanging out, mum”, cheeky Jack told his mum.

tasty weekend lunch
tasty weekend lunch