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Skills For Life

My Story

First Compendium 2012


Preface Writing is fun. Writing is rewarding. Writing is for everyone. Most of the students whose stories you are about to read had never written anything before they began the Skills for Life Adult Literacy course. But with some hard work and a little encouragement they were soon writing their own stories. This first edition of ‘My Story’ brings together a collection of the students’ work for your reading pleasure. The students who have contributed to this book are from all walks of life and, as you will see, have very different and interesting stories to tell. In reading the work, we hope that you will be inspired to pick up a pen or your keyboard and have a go at telling your own story.


Contents Summer in the Ardeche by Alison Kelly

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Autobiography of Mrs Teresa Elmes-Porter

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My Story by Bill Hackers

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My Story by Claire Furnell

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My Story by CR

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My Story by Dawn Hogg

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My Girlfriend’s Volunteering Trip To Vietnam by Dean Wall

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My Story by Hussein

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Happy Daze!!!! by Lee Rabjohns

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My Story by Malcolm Morris

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My Diabetes by Jodi S.

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My Story by Tim Johnson

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My Story by Lee Ellis

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My Story by Sari Wright

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My Story by Raluca

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My Story by Sabrina Evans

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My Story by Sarah Allen

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My Story by S.W

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My Story by Tracey Searle

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My Story - Tunisia by anonymous

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Plymouth in March, 2012 by Taro

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Summer in the Ardeche by Alison Kelly The alarm went off at 6:30 am! As I awoke I knew that the next few days would be testing. Putting on my swim gear and wetsuit, I made my way down to the meeting area, leaving the warmth of the purpose built chalet to brave the early morning chill of Southern France. The other instructors were all there, discussing the plans for the next few days, to get thirty six boisterous secondary school children down part of the 120 Km Ardeche river. We arrived in mini buses, the twenty-five minute drive there seemed to take forever. Among the children the mixture of feelings on the bus varied from sheer excitement to complete terror. Some chatted eagerly about paddling the rapids and camping out, while others sat quietly with thoughts of all the comforts of home and the fast icy water of the Ardeche. The boats were unloaded from the trailers and barrels containing food, cooking equipment, first aid kits, warm clothes, tarpaulin and rope were evenly distributed among the instructor boats. Each instructor had their own boat. Mine was green, lightweight and had all the extra comforts regular paddlers needed. I’d put in foam to protect my knees from the hard floor of the boat and had ropes arranged at either end to hold the barrels securely in place. I was ready!

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Flickr: Sylvain Naudin

The children struggled with the straps on their helmets and buoyancy aids and I watched as they started to help each other. The last few days of team building activities had certainly proved worth it and the group had already started to bond. With eight in my team I’d also got to know them quite well, had remembered most of their names and had already picked out the different characters in the group. James, a loud little boy with a tendency to show off, his rich parents had kitted him out with all the latest gear, even his torch was designed by NASA. Jessica, a quiet girl, was a bit odd looking and had a really annoying habit of clinging to my leg. She seemed wary of the water and a bit hesitant to try new things, however she was a chirpy girl and quite comical at times. Little Shaun was full of beans, a right little charmer, he didn’t have the latest gear, he didn’t mind getting dirty and got stuck right in enthusiastically with all the challenges. I’ll have to watch this one though, his attention span is next to none. We glided down the river the temperature hitting 32c, the cold water now seeming like a Godsend. With safety foremost in my mind, I positioned myself at the front of the group with my friend Amy bringing up the rear. The children where paddling in pairs, with four canoes in our charge it wasn’t hard to keep track of everyone. That was until James’s plan to capsize the girls went wrong and they ended up floating down the river themselves leaving echoes of laughter for the group behind. With the morning over, the group paddling competently and spirits on a high, I was hungry and looking forward to lunch. The boats where rafted together and pulled onto a picturesque beach where the kitchen crew unloaded the food barrels. The food was devoured in no time. Although there were a few complaints from James, my plain cheese baguette and apple tasted fantastic and filled me right up. The hardest part of the river was yet to come and I’d need all the energy I could muster to get the children through the fast white rapids at Devils Rock.

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On approaching Devils Rock the atmosphere began to change, as the sheer extent of the fast white rapid became obvious. I positioned myself tightly against the rock to direct the boats as they came down. Amy went first, swinging left to avoid the rock, slicing the waves quite easily with her beaver tailed paddle and using a stern rudder to steer. Positioning herself at the end of the rapid, she was ready to pick up anybody who might not have made it. The first boat appeared carrying James and Shaun who clumsily thrashed at the water, narrowly escaping the large jagged rock. They got completely drenched and almost lost a paddle, but with James giving directions and Shaun putting in the power they overcame the rapid with guts and determination, while the girls closed their eyes all the way down and would have probably capsized if it hadn’t been for a little coaxing and motivating from Amy and myself. With the day nearly over and everyone exhausted, we still had to find the energy to unload the boats, set up camp and get some hot food in our bellies. Unloading some tarpaulin and rope from a barrel I suggested ways of making a bivouac and left the group to it. Lizzy naturally took charge, an intelligent girl who beamed with confidence and had obviously done this sort of thing before. After many attempts the final bivouac took on a tent form, with stones placed along the bottom to keep it down, the kids had done a fantastic job and I was certain that if it did rain, we would all stay dry. The next day’s paddling was calmer. It gave the kids a chance to take in the pure extent of the limestone cliffs that reached 300m high in some places. They asked me question after question about the river. I told them of how French explorers found a great chamber in the limestone cliffs, untouched for millions of years, containing engravings of lions, groups of horses heads, bears with their mouths open, rhinos fighting and large animals roaming in cold landscapes of tundra, birches and lime trees. I told of how the explorers delved deeper and found four more chambers all connected containing flints, burnt bones and human prints. The children found this fascinating, losing themselves in a world where we didn’t have modern day luxuries such as matches and cars but relied on flints and canoes. I could see the mini buses in the distance and as we approached the end of our adventure there was an air of achievement among the team, but also sadness. Some happy to finish, some sad to leave. However, I know everyone will take something with them in one way or another, including me.

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Autobiography of Mrs Teresa Elmes-Porter Let me start by when I was a baby. My mum and dad lived in an attic room in a tenement house. My mum and dad did not have it good but as I was growing up things were improving with money. When I was a child, I used to go scrapping with my dad. I enjoyed doing that; it was fun for me then. My school days were not the best times for me as I was bullied all the time. We moved about, but when I grew up I went out to work and earned some money which helped my mum out. Don’t get me wrong, Mum would not take all the money that I worked for. When I reached the age where I was old enough to leave school, I could not wait to get outside the gates. Then, when I reached twenty one, I fell pregnant with twins, but I lost one, but they saved the other one, a son. So I was a proud mum. I still am now and I would not change him for anything. I love my son to bits. When my son was of an age when he could go out playing, he would not stay in; he was an outgoing child. Now I am married, and have a home of my own, it is nice to have an independent life. I thought that being married to the same man for 21 years would be impossible, but there you are! I am also a grandmother to two boys and there is a third one on the way. But, I have had my ups and downs. Please do not alter anything, as this is my life story.

Flickr: webhamster

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My Story by Bill Hackers My name is Bill and I grew up in Portsmouth. I lived in Cobourg Street. My school was at the end of the road. I enjoyed school but I didn’t learn anything. I left school with no qualifications and went straight to work at Drings Box Factory packing cardboard boxes. After the box factory I worked on the road-works for 26 years. I travelled around from job to job. I eventually settled in Plymouth 13 years ago. Now my life has changed since going to City College Plymouth. I went to college because I felt I wanted to learn to read and write. I passed my entry one test last year and achieved Adult Learner of the Year 2010/11. I received £100 and a certificate, I felt very proud of myself. My teacher Chris Brown and Sue supported me in achieving my dream, I never doubted that I would learn to read and write; my ambition in life is to write a book about my life.

Flickr: shimgray

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My Story by Claire Furnell My name is Claire and I am writing my story about fighting one of my biggest fears, which is a phobia of school situations. It all began when I went to a Working Links appointment, which was at half past nine. I climbed the stairs up to the fourth floor, pushed open the double doors and signed in at reception. Before I knew it my name was called. I stood up to make my way over to my adviser, Emma Cake. Both of us talked about job vacancies, before I knew it Emma was offering me a English literacy course at the C.F.E. I was very excited to be able to improve my English. The big day came and I was scared. I got on the bus very nervous but was ready to fight my fear. I came to my stop and as I got off the bus I lit a cigarette and walked the rest of the way to college. I got outside the college and my knees began to wobble. My whole body went into shock and I started to shake violently. I felt like I’d been lit on fire, I then began to sweat but soldiered on and eventually made it to the classroom door. I peered through the open door and I saw the table and chairs. All of a sudden tears filled my eyes as I saw the white board. My sight was blinded by tears, and I began to feel dizzy. I then saw a friendly face walking down the corridor towards the classroom I was attending that evening, I soon realised that it was my tutor.

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Flickr: Thomas Favre-Bulle

Oh how nice and kind he was to me. I sat by the door and was told that it was ok for me to go outside if I needed a break. I soon calmed down and began to enjoy the class, before I knew it I was speaking and answering questions aloud. At break I started to talk to one of the other students in my class. I walked up to the bus stop with him and eventually my bus came, both of us said goodbye. I got onto my bus and as I was travelling home I pondered about that evening, I thought how much I enjoyed the class.. The following Thursday I arrived early and was really looking forward to going to the class again. I have now conquered my fear of class room situations and am glad that I stayed on this literacy course. This course has now changed my life for the better. I now realised I can do what I thought I couldn’t do.

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My Story by CR I am writing about living in Plymouth with Colin. Colin and I met in town after I put an advert in the newspaper, we went to the pub for a drink. Colin and I moved into a flat together in August 1997 after going out with each other for two years. Moving in with Colin changed my life because he makes me happy. Thirteen years ago, I got a job at Special Batteries Limited. I am pleased with my job making batteries. I enjoy going to work and I work with nice people. My hobbies are reading love stories or horror stories, I also like to watch DVDs. On a Thursday evening, I go to college to learn English. I enjoy going to college.

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My Story by Dawn Hogg My name is Dawn Hogg. I’m 24 years old and I live in Ernesettle. I’m tall and medium built and have brown hair. I like talking to my friends on Facebook because it’s a great way to contact my friends from school. I dislike people who take the mickey out of my disability. What I enjoy in my spare time is to go into Plymouth once a fortnight and spend my money. My dream job is to become a hotel receptionist in Plymouth. When I leave college, I want to become a secretary like my auntie Nicola. I would love to meet the casts from different pantomimes who often stay at the hotel. My dream partner would be Peter Andre because he’s fit and good looking and also I would love to meet him in real life. Things that annoy me are when I get something wrong at home or at college. The things what please me are coming home to see my lovely family. My bad habits are shouting at people like my dad and my brother. My good habits are being nice to people and never holding a grudge against anyone. What people like about me is that I’m caring and friendly and do anything for anybody. The person I trust most is my mum because she lets me do what I want sometimes. My unusual experience was when I used to change dirty nappies for my nephew. It put me off having my own kids. My special talent is chopping onions and carrots on the wii. The game is called Wii Party. My skills are trying to be the best I can each day. The best day of my life was my eighteenth birthday because my mum and dad got me a white limo and organised me a party without me knowing about it. On my 21st birthday, I had a family meal with my best mate. The worst day of my life was when I sat on the back of my mum’s bike and got my ankle trapped in the back wheel and was rushed up to the hospital.

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My Girlfriend’s Volunteering Trip To Vietnam by Dean Wall The fifth of January 2006 – this was the day my girlfriend left the United Kingdom to embark on her amazing adventure to Vietnam, to teach English to Vietnamese children at school. This was a three month trip, which I was not looking forward to. When the departure day arrived, I was feeling very sad. The thought of not seeing Lynzee for the next three months, when we had spent near enough every day together since we met, was horrible. I remember the long drive from Plymouth to London Heathrow; the sad thoughts going though my mind, ‘How will I cope without her? What will I do every day? I met Lynzee at the airport as she was already there, having travelled up the previous day. She was busy and bouncy and so looking forward to it. I was sad but happy for her to be doing something so amazing. I said to her, ‘Please be careful and look after yourself. I love you.’ She gave me a great big smile, told me she loved me more than anything in the world and then gave me the longest kiss I can ever remember. It felt amazing, but at the same time the thought of this being the last kiss I would have for three months, broke my heart. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I hope the time goes quickly so I can see her again soon.’’ The drive back to Plymouth seemed to take forever. I was so upset it brought tears to my eyes. I remember saying to myself, ‘Come on, Dean. Pick yourself up. It’s only a few months. It’s not like we are not going to talk

Flickr: carlescs79

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in the next three months.’ I just wanted time to fly at that point. The following day I had a message from Lynzee saying she had arrived at Hanoi Airport and that she was okay and it was amazing there. She said that she couldn’t phone until the end of the week because she had to sort out a Vietnamese SIM card for her mobile phone. I was okay with that; I was just glad that she had got there safely and that she was happy. This was the day I decided to send her an e- mail everyday, as I knew Lynzee had access to a computer at certain times of the day. I just sent her e-mails letting her know what I was up to and asking her how she was getting on. She always had different thing to tell me, which was awesome; things she had seen and done. I was glad Lynzee was having a great time. I was slowly counting down the days, going to work, being with my friends, but never forgetting about where my amazing girlfriend was and how much I wished she was back with me. Luckily for me, her family had invited me round to their house every Sunday for Sunday dinner, which was very nice of them. I think they did it just to make me still feel a part of the family, even though their little girl was in another country. I often thought to myself whilst sat at the table, how strange it was sitting there eating dinner without Lynzee. As the weeks went on, it was getting closer and closer to the day I would be meeting Lynzee at the airport and bringing her home. The excitement and joy I was feeling in the week leading up to her coming home was immense. We could only speak on the phone once a week because the calls cost so much. The last phone call I got from her was on the day before she was leaving to come home. We couldn’t wait to see each other. I remember saying to her, ‘Only twenty-four hours to go, Babe. I can’t wait to see you. I’ve missed you so much.’ She replied, saying, ‘I missed you so much too. I’ve really missed you.’ This put a great big smile on my face. The day finally arrived. The drive back to Heathrow was the quickest I’d ever known. The journey had no problems: no traffic jams, perfect weather; no problems at all! Lynzee was arriving at Terminal 3, so I parked my car in the short stay car park and made my way to the terminal. I had got there about half an hour early, so I was buzzing with excitement, but also, weirdly, had butterflies in my stomach.

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Finally, the time had come. There she was standing at the top of the escalator with her massive suitcase, long, blonde hair and brown tanned face. She looked so beautiful. I hadn’t seen her in three months and all of a sudden there she was looking fantastic. Our eyes met as she cascaded down the escalator. She threw her bags to one side, ran at me like a bull running at a matador and wrapped her arms around me. It felt fantastic; warm and fuzzy, although she did smell a bit funky but I think I could let her off as she’d just done a twenty-four hour trip. We hugged and kissed for what seemed like hours, but it was only minutes. The journey was spent chatting about her adventures, the things she had eaten, things she had seen and done. It was the best home journey of my life.

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My Story by Hussein I remember when I was child, about ten years old my family lived in Somal town is called Khalidia, was part of Ramadi city, it was about 100 Km far from the capital Baghdad, nice place for living, because it was close to the river called Euphrates, and beautiful country side. There was thousands of date trees around us, and other fruit trees too like fig and pomegranate. Life was so easy, in the summer going for fishing in the river and climbing trees to get figs and dates. My dream was to be musician to play the uod it’s similar to guitar, I went to the school with my oldest brother he was one year older than me and always we were together. The Arabic language was so difficult for to me to speak, because wasn’t my first language, in the school I was studying Arabic subjects, wasn’t easy, because I was speaking Kurdish. View years later, we moved to north of the country, because my father missed his home land, we became big family. I start working in the restaurant at summer to help my family’s expenses, I went to college to do alliteration course for three years, after when I finished, I went to higher education but I couldn’t do it,because my country was at war and more sanctions made the life so bad for most of the people, I left college and looking for work, after three years I came to England.

Flickr: Arian Zwegers

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Happy Daze!!!! by Lee Rabjohns My favourite memory of my youth is of a holiday I had with my good friends. It was back in May a good few years ago now during the ‘Run To The Sun’ week held in Newquay every year. As I was the only one out of the four of us who could drive and owned a car, I was nominated to drive us there. The car I had at the time was my very first car, this happened to be a rusty old Metro and it was, to me, the best car in the world, but I was bias. The day came and my friends and I were ready for the off. We packed up my tiny car with way more luggage than I’m sure was legal. With my friends crammed in and with me at the wheel we were ready to go. The weather was perfect the morning we set off, the sun was just coming out and we knew it was going to be hot. Our holiday seemed to begin from the minute we started driving, we had so many laughs and sung along to our favourite cd at that time, (2Pac All eyez on me) on a sound system that was way too loud for my tiny Metro but none of us cared, we were young, I had just passed my driving test and we were about to embark on a full week of freedom. It was the happiest we could have been at that moment.

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Flickr: psmithson

Later that afternoon we arrived at our caravan. The weather was hot and the sun was raging in the sky. After literally dumping our luggage in the caravan we went on the hunt for the nearest off licence and we each bought ourselves a bottle of cheap and nasty cider, with a bottles in hand we headed for the beach where we sat on the biggest rock we could find. We sat there for hour after hour drinking, talking and laughing. I look back on that time with huge smiles because, even though the drink was nasty and we weren’t on a tropical island, in our eyes we were kings sipping on champagne: masters of all we surveyed.....Happy Daze!!!.

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My Story by Malcolm Morris Over the last ten years, I’ve been lucky to have been able to see some great parts of the world and meet some very interesting people. I remember when I decided to travel and see the world; it was back in 2001, just after my Nan had died. She was such a big part of my life and, when she died, I thought, ‘Life’s too short!’ I then started thinking about all the places I wanted to see and, along with my brother; we would just save up and go. The first few years I went to Kenya. I went on a number of safaris and stayed in some great places. I made some good friends over there; some of whom I still keep in touch with, after ten years. A really memorable day was a short trip that my brother and I went on, with a friend from the hotel we were staying in. He took us to a local village where he lived with his mother in a small dwelling. To get there, we had to use a canoe to ferry us over the creek. There must have been five or six small huts there and everyone came out to greet us. My friend’s mother had a few chickens, and while we were talking to everyone, she invited us to stay and have a meal. She was an old woman, but she could move! When it came to catching the chicken, she dived to the floor, grabbed it and broke its neck. While eating the meal, we must have talked to everyone for hours. Once we had finished, we walked just outside the village to a little hut that they called their local bar. It had a few tree stumps for chairs and we sat on these

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Flickr: rich115

and drank some local ‘moonshine’, which blew our socks off! I have great memories of Kenya, but this day really stands out. Of all the places that I’ve been to, if I had to pick one day that stood out the most, it would have to be the day I walked on the Great Wall of China, in Beijing. Before we set off, a member of staff from the hotel we were staying at, explained to us that, when we got to the wall, we should walk left, as everyone tends to walk right. She told us that this was because the left route was very steep in some places. When we got there, it was snowing, which made the scenery even more beautiful. We walked for hours and, during that time, we must have seen only five, or six other people. I remember stopping at a high point, looking at all the mountains covered in snow and thinking, ‘Wow, what a sight!’ Whilst walking, we completely lost track of time, and only turned back because the wall was damaged. I was freezing when we got back, but that was easily one of the best days of my life.

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My Diabetes by Jodi S. As far as I was aware, I was a happy, healthy seven year old tomboy. I was always out playing football, making a den or playing with my older brother, Ryan. We were living in Blackpool at the time as my dad had been offered a great career opportunity. We made the journey from Plymouth in 1993 and, for the first year, everything was going great, until one night at the beginning of December. I can remember waking up in the morning and feeling all wet on my pyjama bottoms. I started to cry, thinking I’d be in trouble. My mum tried calming me down then, very slowly, asked me, ‘Are you in pain?’ I shook my head and answered, ‘No.’ I was confused and wondered why she had asked me that question. When I looked over her shoulder, it was then I realised why. Amongst the urine on my bed was a little pool of blood! That very same day, my mum took me to the doctor’s to see what was wrong with me. After explaining the situation to the doctor, (who I remember looking like Sir Trevor McDonald), he asked my mum a series of questions. ‘Has Jodi been losing weight?’ ‘Has Jodi been more thirsty than usual?’ ’Has Jodi been passing urine more than usual?’ ‘Has Jodi been sleeping a lot more?’ My mum, Michelle, answered yes to every single question. That was all the doctor needed to hear. I was referred straight away to the hospital for blood tests. Waiting for the results, I could see the look of worry on Mum and Dad’s faces. I, on the other hand, had no idea what I was waiting for.

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Flickr: DeathByBokeh

Doctors confirmed and diagnosed me with Type One diabetes. My family had no idea what this was, but quickly learned that they would have to inject insulin into me until I was old enough to do so myself. On December the 10th, I was admitted to hospital. I thought I was there because I had a sore ‘moo-moo’. What did I know? I was only seven. When I learned that I had to have daily injections, I cried. I cried a lot. All I knew was that injections were painful and that I didn’t want them. Little did I know that they would be saving my life. Adjusting to my diabetes became second nature to me and my family. We moved back down to Plymouth and were happy. A few years passed, I started secondary school and was excited about becoming a ‘teen.’ One sunny afternoon, I was out with friends when I heard my mum shout from our front door, ‘Jodi, your tea is ready!’ Before eating I have to inject insulin; two types, ‘clear’ and ‘cloudy’, I called them. I suddenly realised that I didn’t have enough ‘cloudy’ insulin. Feeling good in myself, I decided not to inject. The next thing I knew, I was on my way to the hospital in an ambulance. My sugar levels were dangerously high, so I needed to be connected to several drips to bring the levels back down to normal. I can remember feeling very dehydrated and being violently sick, but I couldn’t have anything to drink because I couldn’t keep it down.

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A few days later, I was allowed home, but I didn’t take it easy as I was supposed to do. I started to stay out later, drinking and smoking with friends. I was rebelling against my diabetes. All I wanted was to be ‘normal’, just like my friends. I didn’t want to inject before meals, I didn’t want to worry about how much sugar was in a bottle of juice or how many carbs were in my meal. At fifteen, I was worried about boys and fashion; not injections and counting carbs! I carried on trying to be as normal as I could be. I was still smoking cigarettes, thinking I looked ‘cool’ and acting like I didn’t have a care in the world. Little did I know of the damage that it was doing. In the year 2010, I had to have eye surgery; the blood vessels were about to erupt at the back of my eye, if they were left untreated. I could have lost my sight, but even that didn’t give me the incentive to give up smoking! After years of being in and out of hospital and abusing my body, I decided that I was going to take better care of myself in the new year, 2011. But, worse was yet to come! It was a brand new year and a brand new me. I was looking after myself and, for the first few weeks of January, I already felt better. February arrived and I could feel a cold coming on – it always does the rounds – but my cold turned to flu and, after a couple of weeks, I got worse. Being worried, I went to the hospital to see if they could tell me if it was anything more serious. They sent me home and told me I’d be fine in a couple of days. WRONG! A couple of days turned into a couple of weeks and the weeks into months. I had lost count of the number of times I went back and forth to the hospital, hoping with each visit that they’d be able to tell me what was wrong, but no joy. I lost around four stone. I couldn’t eat, or drink because I was violently sick about twenty times a day. I was so weak that my mum, my dad and my two little sisters took it in turns to take me to the toilet and to bath me. You can just imagine how degrading that felt. One evening, I was lying on my hospital bed, hooked up to countless drips (again!) when I had a thought, ‘I wonder if it’s my new insulin that is making me so ill.’ You are probably wondering how something that is supposed to save lives could make you so ill. Those were my thoughts exactly.

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I discharged myself from hospital (let’s face it, I wasn’t getting any answers form them) and decided to stop taking my night time insulin to see what would happen. Within a week, I was already feeling better. I was able to keep my fluids down and had started eating kids- sized portions at meal times. It felt amazing not having to rely on my mum or my little sisters to take me to the bathroom. I was still a little wobbly on my feet, but was able to walk around the house on my own. With each month that passed, I went from strength to strength, but I wanted answers! Why hadn’t any of the doctors realised what was happening sooner? Why did I have a bad reaction to something that was supposed to be keeping me alive? And, what would have happened if I had carried on taking the night time insulin injection? To this day, I still don’t have the answers, but I’m ninety nine per cent sure, that I wouldn’t be here if I had carried on injecting myself with that poison. After all that has happened, I now take extra care of myself. I eat at the right times, inject when I have to and eat a bit more healthily too. I feel one hundred per cent myself again. I’ve even started a new fast paced hobby; it’s called ‘Roller Derby’, but that’s a whole different story.

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My Story by Tim Johnson My Life My first memory in music was listening to Buddy Holly, Michael Jackson and The Rolling stones . When I first heard them I thought they were all brilliant, especially ‘Billy Jean’, ‘Tumbling Dice’ and ‘Every Day’. When I heard those artists for the very first time, I thought they sounded incredible. I still like Buddy Holly, Michael Jackson and The Rolling Stones very much. At the moment the bands and solo artists I am listening to are David Bowie, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Big Star, Soft Boys, Television, Joy Division, Beatles, Brian Eno, Talking Heads and The Velvet Underground, all of whom make me want to work with a songwriter or a band. I have worked as a song writer with a band in the past. Today, I heard a small amount of The Incredible String Band, which made me want to start writing again like I did in the past, because when I was working with a band years ago, I enjoyed it very much. Art The first artist I really enjoyed was Andy Warhol because of the way he could make artistic things like brilo pads boxes, Campbell’s Soup cans and wall paper with a cow on it look quite surreal, but also interesting, memorable and ground breaking. In my opinion, Salvador Dali’s best painting was the man on the holy cross looking down on you from the ceiling. It was incredible when I went to see it in New York last year, and in my opinion is the greatest painting of all time.

Flickr: Yohei Yamashita

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My Story by Lee Ellis My name is Lee. I was born in Plymouth at Freedom Fields Hospital. I live with my Mum and Dad in a two-bedroom house in Keyham. I attended Drake Primary School from the age of four to eleven, I then went to Stoke Dammeral at eleven and left at the age of eighteen. I then went on to do a PLP course at Work Base Learning at City College Plymouth. After that I joined the Prince’s Trust team and studied at Martin’s Gate. I am now studying English on a Skills for Life Adult Literacy course.

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My Story by Sari Wright I was born 31st May 1960 at home. My mother was a single parent and she lived in Ham, Plymouth. She brought up five children on her own. She was a hard working mother. She wasn’t one of these mums who molly-coddled you. She believed if you made your bed you had to lay in it. Dad left when I was eight years old and mother found it very tough, but she was a good mum, but tough. As it was at Christmas l always remember. l am not a lover of Christmas. As a child l misbehaved, so to keep me in line l had to go and live with my dad. This was at the age of 14. I did enjoy living with my dad but l had a boyfriend and l fell in love and left my dad and got married. My dad did not want me to get married. I had my daughter, the year was 1980. I was married for 7 years, but now I am divorced. I always thought my parents did not give him a chance, but l must say he was violent, so maybe they were right, but we had our good times. I must say when he was good he was good, but he just had a anger problem. As time with on I meet LEON dad I was with him for 5 years. My son was born in 1988 but unfortunately that relationship ended because he was a ladies man. I did not have any maintenance for the children, did try to get some but unfortunately with no success.

Flickr: (UB) Sean R

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My Story by Raluca Everyone has his own story and, until now, I have never met a person without any drama in his or her life. The source of knowledge lies in our own experience. And me...well, that is what I am looking for: pieces of my own ego. I am still watching all the people that surround me, I want to see what they are showing me, I reflect myself in their eyes and I want to learn the lesson they are teaching. But now, I don’t want to share my drama! Maybe you will find it boring; maybe you will find it amusing; maybe you wouldn’t see a drama in that; or, maybe it was just MY drama! So, I think that most interesting to you is to find out what I have learnt from the biggest and famous school of all: life itself! I couldn’t choose my family, I was born in it. So, even if it was far from being perfect, my family gave me the best opportunities possible in a communist system. That system taught me the hard way of achieving everything through sacrifice only. The picture of those times is well-known only by the witnesses who have lived the same, in the other world that was lying behind the Berlin Wall. So, I have learnt to work! Later in life, I was able to choose my friends. They were forming the chosen family I would have wanted to be born in. We had beautiful times together, we were sharing whatever can be shared between people, without being aware of the risk of being disappointed. So, I have learnt to share!

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Flickr: nilexuk

Being a teenager was fun and stress-free! All those years have passed just like the blink of an eye... And I have found myself as an adult, more or less prepared for anything. Having a job and a group of good friends, life seemed to be easy and sweet. Later on, I have met THE man... Nothing was easy anymore! Because my family did not agree with my choice and most of my good friends did not understand me, I had to swim against the tide and tried to grow the seed of love in my soul. So, I have learnt to fight! That seed finally grew up and three years later, my miracle appeared. Our daughter taught me about another kind of love, a deeper and absolute love. All of a sudden, everything has changed in my life, my mind, my priorities, my goals. Everything was (and still is) related to my child, my world is revolving round her. So, I have learnt to change! All the lessons I have learnt were connected to the facts that were happening in my life. All those facts, along with many others that I haven’t told here, compound my story, a story that can be described in many words, most of them being verbs and less adjectives. That’s because I am the action kind of human being and not the contemplating one. Whether that is good or not...I will find out! Then, I will have learnt another lesson taught by the full-time school that all of us have to graduate in. My duty is to continue this story, to improve it, to make it a fairy tale, if possible. The moral of my story is to always learn your lesson, no matter how hard and painful it is. And so, you will have the knowledge! “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”– Mahatma Ghandi.

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My Story by Sabrina Evans I was born in Nottingham Woman’s hospital. It was a breech birth. I was okay until nine and a half months later when I got Meningitis and almost died. I was sent to Derby Hospital for a brain scan. I stayed there and had a shunt fitted. We were in the middle of moving to Plymouth. I had regular check-ups at Plymouth, but had balance problems. I went to nursery and a main stream school until I was eleven years old. Then we moved back to Nottingham, where I finished my education. I then went to a catering college and worked in a couple of kitchens. I then met my partner and moved to Plymouth. I have lived in Plymouth for twenty four years. I like it a little bit, but not much. One good thing about Plymouth is my children were born in Derriford Hospital. I am in my second year at City College Plymouth, which I enjoy.

Flickr: shining.darkness

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My Story by Sarah Allen My name is Sarah Allen. I got married on the 18th April 1997. It was a good day, but my mum was a challenge, she said that it wouldn’t last. I am going on a Country and Western holiday with my hubby . I have been married for 14 years. It makes my mum happy and my dad is happy too.

Flickr: edgebrook

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My Story by S.W My early years are hard to remember. I grew up in a council house in Grenfell Avenue, Saltash. I went to playschool at the Wesley Church and can remember skipping there. My brother, Lawrence, and I shared the same bedroom. We generally got on well, but he did enjoy annoying me, ‘Just ignore him!’ Mum used to say. I did, but it never worked. I went to Burraton County Primary School, which was ten minutes away from where I lived. I always remember walking past a house in Hobbs Crescent and watching an overweight family get into a small family car. The suspension used to strain considerably; it always made me chuckle. I really liked my teacher, Mrs Ritchie. We got on really well. One day she was replaced by a supply teacher called, Miss Hobbs who scared me. She used to shout a lot to the extent that I didn’t want to go to school. I played truant and hid beside my house. One day, my granddad caught me and took me back to school, screaming and shouting. Luckily, the teacher was not there for long. My school had an outdoor swimming pool, which was rare. I loved it. At the age of seven I joined the cubs. In no time at all, I had the badges going up on my green jumper: Home help, First Aid and many more. We went camping to Bude, Weymouth and Penzance. I did lots of activities and was promoted from ‘seconder’ to ‘sixer’. I joined the scouts after that, but it was not as good and I left shortly afterwards.

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Flickr: puritani35

My early years at secondary school weren’t much fun, mainly because of my maths’ teacher, Mrs Webb. She seemed to pick on me a lot and the more questions I got wrong, the more she shouted. The strange thing was that, before this, she was a close friend of the family. Shortly after this, and to my great relief, I was lowered to the next set down. Rural Science was a subject I enjoyed; feeding the lambs was good and potting plants in the greenhouses. I went on a week of activities with the school, which included horse riding, windsurfing, camping and orienteering at Mount Edgecumbe. It was great fun, especially the wind surfing – mind you, standing up on the board was a challenge in itself! After school and on Sunday mornings, I did a paper round. It was a pain sometimes, especially in the foul weather. The wages were £3.60 a week and £1.50 for a Sunday morning. Most of the people who ordered The Sunday Times never had a letter box to accommodate it, so it got shredded, or wedged. On leaving school, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. My parents suggested the R.A.F and my Uncle Michael was in the force at the time. Looking through the careers’ book, I became interested in the post of Aircraft Technician. I sat the entrance exam and ended up with a choice of R.A.F Regimental Gunner, steward, chef, painter and sprayer or driver. After speaking to my uncle, I seemed that the chef’s training was the best option,

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so I thought I’d give it a go. I was accepted and then spent the next weeks training and trying to get to the required level of fitness. On the 6th November 1989, my parents said goodbye to me at Plymouth train station. I was on my way to R.A.F Hereford. There was lots of emotion; I had never left home before and now I was going away for seven weeks. I arrived at the station with my fellow recruits. As we left the station there was a tall R.A.F corporal who, as soon as the platform cleared of other passengers, started bellowing orders at us. God! We were like rabbits caught in the headlights of a car. When we arrived at the base, I realised that there were about fifty of us. Over the seven long weeks, I turned from a spotty teenager into an independent, young, strong man. It was so draining physically and mentally. Week by week people were leaving and it was so tempting to follow them. I was taught to iron; sew; load, clean, fire and strip down a 7.62mm SLR rifle (later converted to the SA80 5.56mm). I also learned military training and nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. If you ever dozed off during a lesson the punishment was severe. It soon woke you up! My last day was my passing out parade. My family were coming to watch. I made my parents so proud. I will never forget the expression on my mum’s face. Trade training was seventeen weeks at St Omer barracks, Aldershot. It’s an army town and home to the Parachute Regiment. I learned how to prepare, cook and serve food to the highest standards. On a rare night out, some fellow recruits and I went to a pub in town. We weren’t there long, because we had walked into a pub full of paratroopers who, I guess, weren’t too keen on seeing R.A.F guys in their pub. In my final exam, I finished second from the top of my class, much to the surprise of my instructor, Corporal Paul Bransby. Arriving at my first posting, I was so nervous. R.A.F St. Mawgan was great; on the coast surrounded by beaches. I was there for seven years. I learned so much, made some great friends and colleagues, went on detachments to The Falklands, The Ascension Islands and various locations in the U.K. I left the force in April 1997 when I realised that St. Mawgan was closing and my trade was going civilian.

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I started working for the Post Office on a temporary contract; it was good while it lasted. It’s surprising what you see early in the mornings! At weekends and in the evenings, I was working on the railways doing track maintenance. It was physically hard, but well paid. Again it was only temporary. I then applied for a full-time position working in a factory, manufacturing automatic door seals for various brands of car. I was happy when I got the job and started immediately, but it turned out to be very repetitive and mundane. I tried to learn as many different skills as I could. This paid off as I was then offered the position of Production Line driver with an increase in pay and more responsibility. After a while, I got quite friendly with a colleague and we became a couple. One day I found her in tears; she confessed to me that she was pregnant and wanted to keep the child, even though we had not been together that long. We were both so excited and shortly I moved in with her. On the 25th July 2002, our son, Adam, was born. His birth was the most amazing experience we had ever been through. Over the first few months, it was hard, but we were managing. Then, sadly, we realised that we no longer felt the same about each other. We tried to stay together for our son, but things became unbearable. I had to leave, for his sake more than mine. I still see him every week and do what I can for him. Things are reasonable between his mum and me and his step dad, which is good. The factory was going to close and move its production to Poland, so I applied for a post with the M.O.D at Torpoint. The position was for an Oil Fuel Depot Operative: basically supplying barges with fuel and checking pipelines. It’s good hours and the pay is good for the area. Things are changing here now, but, at least, I’m in employment, so I can’t complain. This is my life, very briefly, so far!

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My Story by Tracey Searle I live in Plymouth. I am 30 years old and I have lived in Plymouth all my life. I am a student at City College. I cook lots of things, especially cakes and buns. My family’s favourite meals are home-made pasties and Spaghetti Bolognese. I am a very good wife because I have got a lazy husband, and I have to do all the housework! My friends, Sue and Robert, come and help me tidy up the house sometimes. My husband likes motorbikes, but he had an accident and wrote off his bike. I have a dog called Harry. He is a Shih Tzu cross Jack Russell. He is sixteen months old. Every day, I walk to the Tamar Bridge to exercise Harry. I have a dog trainer who is called Mandy and she is teaching me to get my dog Harry to sit down, lie down, roll over and go through a tunnel. I am a mum and have a daughter called Rhianan. She is five years old and her birthday is on the 29th March. We are going to Frankie & Benny’s in a pink limo. Rhianan has invited eight friends, who are dressing up as princesses. My hobby is growing vegetables. I have a vegetable plot in my garden which I work in every day. I grow cabbages, onions, carrots, beans, potatoes and raspberry canes. I use my own vegetables when I cook meals for the family. My mum and dad are called Janet and Derek. Mum likes playing Bingo, and she cares for my dad as he had stroke six years ago.

Flickr: currybet

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My Story - Tunisia by anonymous Once again, the blood pumped furiously back into my vital organs, allowing my basic senses to bring my unconscious self back from probably the most deepest sleep I have ever slept. The very first thing I remember feeling, whilst trying to focus on the images around me, was the feeling of utter confusion.’ ‘Where am I?’ and ‘What’s that noise?’ So, I briefly glanced around after I was able to focus a little more on what was going on. Suddenly, I felt extremely nauseous. Not the kind you would get from travel sickness or physical illness, but the kind you’d get from excessive drinking and taking copious amounts of illegal highs, and all without remembering a single second of what you have done. I woke up and couldn’t recognize a single thing around me, and when you have no idea where you are or what time it is, or even what day it is, you would too, I reckon. So yep, I felt as sick, as a sick man who felt sick. And I think I would have been if I had food in my stomach. I focused a little more to try and get my bearings......... And then the questions started to run through my head. ‘What the Fu.........is going on?’ ‘Why is there a couple sitting next to me, talking German? ‘ ‘What is that flashing light doing outside this window?’

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Flickr: caribb

‘How the hell did I............?’ ‘This must be a bad trip? What the Fu.......am I doing on a frigging airplane? And please, where in all of God’s earth, am I going?’ ‘Sir, would you like to take your seat please, we are just about to land.’ ‘Land! Land where? Where the hell are we landing?’ ‘Tunisia Sir! NOW PLEASE take your seat and fasten you belt. We are on our final approach.’ Now I was even more confused. ‘Tunisia. Africa. What the Fu..............’ I was in what you might call ‘a state of shock’, and if it were not for my German companions, then I think I would have fallen apart on all levels; well the ones I had left that were, just barely, holding me together. The memory of the landing and departure ended up being just one big blur, and the next thing I remember was standing outside, trying to bum a fag off someone. Unfortunately, the German couple that shared in my terrible ordeal, didn’t smoke and were being told where to meet the bus that would take us to our respective hotels. It was like a nightmare, it was like a bad trip I’d taken and I was gonna wake up and be either at the local cop shop for trying to take a lamp post home with me or be back in my pit of a room: the sanctuary I would later come to miss.

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So, the bus turned up, we left the airport and did not have one single clue where the fudge I was going. They could have been taking us to a Tourists’ Terrorist Camp for all I knew. I didn’t have a fudging clue! Then all of a sudden we pulled up to one of the biggest and most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. Plus everyone that got off the bus with me was English. My luck was on the change. I walked inside and it was all just........... gleaming. It looked like it was all made out of marble. I just stood there in awe. ‘Would you like to walk this way please sir’, ‘Umm.....How long have I umm.....booked for?’ ‘Ticket please sir.....................it look’s like One week, Sir.’ Oh great. One week. How the hell am I gonna survive for one week with nothing to eat or drink? Considering you shouldn’t really rely on the tap water in Africa, if you know what I mean. ‘That’s right sir, one week, all inclusive. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, all drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, free use of swimming pools, in and outdoors, fresh bedding every day, plus a complementary tour into and around the Medina (market), in the centre of Skanes.’ Another stroke of luck. Fudging free alcohol! I have scored big time. Its eleven-thirty at night, the bar doesn’t shut until two, the hotel has its own night club and the alcohol is free. I must have died and gone to heaven.

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Plymouth in March, 2012 by Taro Dear Anders! Since we have not heard from each other for some time, I thought it might be a good idea to up-date you on where I am in my life right now. My wife, Cecilia, and I moved to Plymouth in England late last year. Cecilia works here in a dental surgery where she is a self-employed orthodontist. We first started discussing making a major change in early 2011 when we suddenly realized that our daughter, Paula, would be leaving school in spring and most probably would move away to one university or another. Paula’s elder brother, Jens, had already moved out a few years earlier and is now studying economics at the University of Lund, in the south of Sweden. Cecilia and I saw this as a great opportunity to completely change our lives from what we had been doing, and where we had been living, for the last 20 years. With both kids ‘out of the nest’ we realized we would no longer need the house we lived in and, with the gloomy outlook of the house prices development predicted for the next couple of years, we sold the house right after the summer holidays. I, myself, was not too keen on finding another proper job. I have worked hard for more then 30 years in different companies and for the last 12 years or so have had fantastic jobs as Managing Director in small and medium-sized,

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Flickr: Mark A C Photos

mainly Swedish but also one Dutch and one Swiss, companies. All those years have not only given me a lot of friends and very enjoyable memories, but also the possibility to accumulate some decent sized pension funds which will provide me with enough income once I decide to definitely retire. Cecilia, on the other hand, is eager to work another three to five years, so after looking at some optional places to move (Dubai and Norway were two alternatives) we decided for England and Plymouth. So here we are! We have had no reason to regret our choice. We now live in a nice two bedroom apartment right on the sea-front in Plymouth. We have a beautiful view of the Sound (as the water just outside our apartment is called) with quite lively boat traffic going in and out of the very large and busy naval base in neighbouring Devonport. Cecilia also enjoys her short ten minute walk to her surgery, as opposed to the two hours per day commute she has had to put up with during all those years in Stockholm.

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Plymouth in itself is of somewhat limited interest to a visitor. The City Centre, which was badly damaged during the second World War, seems to have been designed by architects from the Soviet Union. Even in tourist brochures it is being described as more functional than beautiful. I think that is a very appropriate description. Having said that, the city offers some very nice seafront attractions, like the lovely Hoe and the interesting Barbican district with plenty of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs and a rather large port of leisure boats. Cecilia and I have also bought a small, second-hand, Korean car in good shape. With this we try every week-end to find a new interesting place to visit in the fantastic surroundings, either here in Devon itself or in nearby Cornwall. Both of these counties offer a huge number of cosy, medival villages to visit. We usually try to combine these outings with taking a walk along one public footpath or another. There is absolutely no end to the number of options available. You should bring your wife and come and see for yourself. The other week we made such a visit to near-by Bigbury-on-Sea and after walking across the beautiful hills and fields we took a well-deserved break in a lovely pub called The End of the Journey. This pub was established in the late 13th century. Can you imagine, it was there 200 years before Columbus found America!!! As we left the pub and made our way down the hills towards the shore, you could without difficulty imagine a hoard of shouting Vikings coming charging at you. There is still an awful lot to tell you about our new life here in England and I will be back soon again with an updated and more detailed report. Until then, please give my very best regards to your wife and look after yourself. Best and friendly regards, Taro

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Images from Flickr under Creative Commons License Some rights reserved

Skills for Life Š City College Plymouth 2012


My Story - Skills for Life