Friday, 30 September 2011

'It's hard seeing my little girl grow up without her Mum'

Regular readers know all about my link with the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation. You will know that just over a year ago I was contacted by a friend of Joe's, Dinah, who asked if I could help improve services in the Huddersfield area. Joe had taken her own life a few weeks after having baby Emily. I met Chris, Joe's widower, and now in just over 12 months the charity is making national headlines.

This week Chris told his story in the Express. Read the article here.

When I first met Chris, although of course I was empathetic and sympathetic, it wasn't until I lost Clive that the true understanding of the pain of death hit me - big time. Yet in contrast I count myself lucky - no matter what anyone had done the day Clive's heart stopped it was 'his time'. There is no-one to blame. No remorse. Just loss of an incredible man, who continues to inspire. I don't have the delights of our baby growing up and him not being here.

This is yet another reason why fighting against the stigma, ignorance and lack of services of postnatal illness continues to be my purpose in life. Seeing the joy that my niece (born 4 days before Emily) has brought for her Mum and the rest of the family contrasts sharply with the hole left by Joe.

As a society we need to work together to ease the pain, suffering and ultimate loss of lives through this illness.

Please visit the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation website to sign up for our newsletter and pass the link to anyone you know who is involved with young families.

Elaine x

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

How good is your Customer Service?

This week has been a good example of customer service - brilliant and not!

Mum and I spent some time in London last Tuesday, the day after we'd seen Shayne Ward in Rock of Ages. I was still feeling good for the first time properly since I lost Clive! I then left Mum to get the train to Mansfield where I was meeting my friend and colleague Ann Girling for us to deliver one of our workshops on postnatal depression the next day.

Ann is in the final stages of completing her own book, 'Journey to Chocolate', which is fab! Her launch event is in Chester on the 11th November. Places are going fast - book your ticket here.

My first train was delayed which meant I missed my next two connections! At 8.30 pm I was tired and hungry on the platform at Nottingham and text Ann to say I'd get some sandwiches and for her to eat at our favourite Il Rosso in Mansfield without me! However, she was adamant that we deserved better and that she would still go to the restaurant and ask if they would keep the kitchen open until I arrived! She charmed the young man at Il Rosso and outstanding service was given as I had no sooner taken off my jacket than I had my delicious meal and glass of wine in front of me! Thank you Ann for insisting 'we were worth it' and thank you to Il Rosso for outstanding customer service. We shall be back!

  • How often to do you give up a reward so quickly?
  • What is the worst that can happen if you ask for help?
  • Are you appreciative of that help?

The staff at Lakeside Point Travelodge were just as friendly as previous stays so next morning we emerged fresh to deliver our training.  We both thoroughly enjoyed the day and received many favourable comments. It is so rewarding to know that we can share our knowledge and experiences for others affected by postnatal illness. Please see our details for the workshop here and pass to anyone of relevance!

Ann drove us back to Cheshire and after a quick meal with my family, reluctantly, returned to an empty house. I was okay until I picked up the post to find my phone bill STILL in Clive's name. Why can they charge the bill to my bank account but despite months now of calls, emails, letters do they STILL get it wrong? The first couple of months can be excused but 7 months? I had even stopped my direct debit payment last month and informed them I would pay as soon as the bill was in my name. I don't think that is unreasonable, do you? Since then I had four more in Clive's name. That night it was the final straw. It was bad enough still to come back to our home where he would have been waiting with a big grin, a huge hug and a cup of tea for me. Instead I crumpled in a heap at the bottom of the stairs and howled, clutching the letter - in his name. To a huge corporate company it is 'just a name' - to me it is a reminder of a heart that stopped and another that got broken. 'Why can't they get it right?' I howled.

I picked myself up eventually (because I simply HAVE to) and just fell into bed.

Next morning I set to sorting out my presentation for that evening. I was speaking for a fundraising event for The Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation and the Alzheimers' Society, being organised by Huddersfield Pendragon Ladies Circle.  As my Grandma suffered from Alzheimer's I was able to add that in! I sorted my slides and still felt upset and drained. What would I advise others? Feel good factor! I rang Paula at Genesis who squeezed me in and did my hair for me. Perked me up no end!

One of my friends joined me and we drove to the venue. I was also thrilled as my parents and sister came to hear me. I was actually nervous for them to be in the audience! I will let Rachael, the Chair, describe the evening:-

It was really good to meet you finally on Thursday evening but it was even better hearing your talk!

Can I just say a massive thank you for coming to Kirkheaton Cricket Club and hosting a talk for us in aid of our chosen charities this year the Joe Bingley Memorial Foundation and the Alzheimer's Society.

I know most people would run a mile if you suggested listening for an hour and half on post natal depression Alzheimer's and bereavement but through out your talk you could have heard a pin drop - this is no mean feat when you have around 70 women in one room, not a single shush or tut had to be given!

There are lots of words I could use to describe your talk frank, brave, passionate, caring but I think what you leave every single person with is hope and that feeling of count your blessings no matter what you have gone through if you search your soul and look hard enough out of every single negative there will always be a positive. It may not be apparent right there and then but positive thinking will eventually conquer all.

I have had so much positive feed back and my hope for this talk was that if we could just help one person feel better we would have really achieved some thing, well I think we have helped more than one and so for that I thank you and look forward to hearing you talk again, Elaine you are a true inspiration.

With much appreciation

Rachael Smith
Huddersfield Pendragon Ladies Circle

That brought a big lump to my throat. Here is a link to a blog written by Kate who also attended. Such messages inspire me to continue so thank you ladies. It was also lovely to be reconnected with a lady who I had flown to Rio de Janeiro on a Virgin Vie holiday we had achieved a number of years ago! The flowers I received as a thank you from Sue Bradley were stunning.

The next evening I was invited to attend the 10th birthday celebration for Countersales Ltd, held at the Kings Chinese restaurant.  David and his team knew Clive and it is through my links with him that we have set up the successful support group for postnatally depressed mothers in Morley, Leeds. It is a bit unnerving to attend events on your own after losing a loved one but great thought had gone into the seating plan and I was surrounded by warm, friendly people and had a wonderful evening with delicious food! Thank you for asking me and I look forward to the next 10 years! The waiter showed outstanding customer service as by the end of the evening he knew and used all of our names! There were 30 of us - wow!

On Saturday morning I had a huge backlog of emails to attend to and logged on to discover I had been disconnected from broadband and my phone for not paying the bill! Aaargh! Several hours later, more tears and upset I was finally reconnected late in the afternoon. I explained time and time again why they had not been paid. In the end they put it back on and generously said they would not charge me for the reconnection! Meanwhile I had not only lost the day for working but was upset yet again! My mood plummeted.

My whirlwind of a week continued that night as I had been invited by a friend of Clive's, Juli, who has now become one of mine, to a ball! The venue was the wonderful Midland hotel in Bradford and it was for the Emmaus charity, which provides support for homeless people. The speaker was the incredible Terry Waite CBE. I was at the same school as Gary, the manager at The Midland, and we had also reconnected last year at the hotel where Clive spoke at an event for Bradfordnowhere.  Juli and I stayed the night. What great rooms (and no, I am not saying that just because I know Gary!). They have been refurbished to a high standard and every touch was thought of. The staff here also have excellent customer service and standards.

I had decided to wear the red dress I wore as bridesmaid for my sister a few years ago and had never worn it since. The staircases at the Midland are designed for a swishy dress so it had to be worn! At lunchtime, amid my Broadband crisis, I took it out of its cover to discover it had stains down it! Oh no! The first dry cleaners shook their head - they could have it ready by a week on Tuesday! Would Cinderella get to the ball?

Next was Johnson's the cleaners in Wetherby. I explained my dilemma and by 3 p.m. they phoned me (on my mobile!) to say it was ready for collection! Wow! I was very impressed and grateful. Meanwhile I had text Paula and one of her girls fluffed my hair up for me! I drove to The Midland feeling a bit anxious as it is a place I associate with Clive. A place we had said we'd go to a ball. A place where 'he was'.

Once settled in my room Juli and I had a drink and I got ready! The poor experiences of customer services had been overcome by others at the opposite end of the scale. This was the result!

I was so pleased that most of the people at the table were ladies so I didn't feel the odd one out. The company was excellent and so was the service and meal. You have a team to be proud of Gary. Terry gave a very powerful talk about his experiences and I began to realise even more that I have suffered in order to help others. Terry's captivity was dreadful but he has inspired and helped so many others. Of course a girl can't resist a photo ..

The band were called Vinyl Act and along with some of my fellow diners we had a great boogie! I felt so good just to move to the music. I felt close to Clive in that stunning ballroom because the first time I had been there was to hear him speak there. I knew he loved to watch me dance and I felt he was doing that. I also had a 'vision' because I too will be speaking in that room at an event just for me to speak on Monday 7th November - details to follow. So please put the date in your diaries for a 4 pm start.

More photos are here

Clive always wore a black suit and white shirt when he spoke. I also loved him in his DJ.

Everywhere I looked there were men in black and white. Yet I didn't feel sad. In fact I felt so alive. So grateful that for a few years Clive Gott and I had shared an amazing life. He taught me so much. I won't let it go to waste.

Some songs just were made to make you smile - as my red dress swished around my ankles, in a stunning setting surrounded by kind people, perhaps Hope is beginning to creep back into my life.

Thank you to all those who contributed to that 'high'.

What can you do to improve your actions on others? And who knows, it may just make a big difference to them.

Elaine x

Sunday, 25 September 2011

'Get a grip'!

Did you think I had disappeared?! I haven't - merely been busy. I also feel that although my blog will continue I no longer need to write as much as I did in the early days after Clive's death. However, I am thrilled so many of you continue to message me and enquire how I am doing. I REALLY appreciate it. So here is an update:-

From Lanzarote I flew to Southampton to stay with my friend Sue and her business partner James, from Hampshire Hypnotherapy Centre.  We had a few days of enjoyable outings, meals, meeting others and I confess to falling in love with tiny Bilko - Sue's dog! What an adorable little chap! I was almost beginning to feel shocked at my lack of tears. After the holiday and 'the letter' I feel so much more at peace. However, as Sue and I were stuck in traffic going into Southampton I spotted the car park sign for cruise parking - exactly where I had booked Clive and I to park the previous Saturday and when we'd be returning to the next week! My bottom lip quivered as I exclaimed to Sue the significance. In true caring, sympathetic mode she responded with 'Get a grip'!!!! It made me laugh! I now have a new anchor to think of if I feel the tears! Thanks Sue!

Next was back 'up North' to see my family and Dom who has begun Year 11 GCSE year.

I briefly called home to repack from 'hot' clothes to 'cool' as I was then flying up to the magical Aldourie estate, near Inverness. Wow! I had been invited to attend a Leadership retreat there run by I spent three days in the breathtaking castle and grounds with some incredible people. We learnt and shared much about leadership. The castle was exclusively for our group. You didn't need to lock your bedroom as you were literally house guests. Lavinia, the manager, lead her team brilliantly and every need was attended to impeccably. The food, prepared by her husband, was as superb as the whole environment.

The drawing room!
On our second evening we had to give a 9 minute presentation on an aspect of leadership. I chose legacy. Of course people probably expected me to speak (again!) about Clive. I didn't. I felt it was time for 'me' and did one of my favourite things which I did way before I met him.

I began by saying that legacy is something we leave behind when we are gone. My message was that I believe we should aim for living legacies - why not enjoy the gifts with others whilst you are still alive? In the same way that I had just enjoyed a week with my parents in Lanzarote it was much better to go with them rather than be left a cheque when they are gone. Make memories now!

I borrowed the green, plastic first aid kit from the butler's pantry (where else?!) and passed it around the delegates, saying it was to be my living legacy to them! How? I continued to say how by creating our own mental health first aid kit we can reduce our stress, be more effective in all our roles and really learn to appreciate others and situations. I gave some examples of how we can create a sensory tool kit either by making a list or actually collecting the items to be used in our various environments, e.g. office, car.

With that I invited them outside into the darkness, with a drink in hand. With their backs to the castle I asked them to focus on what they could hear - the brook, the slight breeze through the trees, the crunch of the gravel. What could they feel - the breeze, their heart beating. What could they smell - the smoke from the log fires, the 'fresh' air, pine.

I then asked them to turn around but keep their eyes closed. On a count of three I asked them to take a sip of their drink and to then open their eyes to see ...

Yes, it was a wow!

After all the hurt, tears, devastation of the last seven months I felt myself begin to emerge. Although I still knew Clive and I would have still been on our cruise during these days, it felt as if he was telling me 'here is the start of your future - I will always love you but now it's your turn to shine'.

Standing in front of this magnificent building with some wonderful people with whom I'd been able to give them a moment and technique to remember, I grew in strength, optimism, hope and yes, excitement for the future. Thank you to all who made Aldourie such a special time and place.

On Saturday 17th September Clive and I would have returned home from our cruise. That's it now. No more dates in the diary that were 'ours'. Guess it's a new chapter now?

I spent the day with a friend and we dined at the wonderfully quirky Millfarm Tea Rooms. 

The following day I met Dom in Leeds and we went to watch Leeds Rhinos in the play-offs win against Hull FC 42 -10. I was so thrilled at how much Dom now knows of the game and beamed with love and pride at sharing the experience together. A Clive Gott legacy!

Next was going down to London with my Mum for her birthday treat to see Shayne Ward in the new musical Rock of Ages. I hadn't had chance to learn much about the show prior to our trip but the board outside looked promising:-

That sounded fun! And it was! The buzz as soon as you entered the theatre was amazing and the pace and energy didn't stop from the second you sat down. We were only a few rows from the front.

All of the cast were great - so much talent and energy. Shayne was brilliant of course! Towards the end he appears in the aisle - and it just happened to be me that he grabbed by the wrist and stared me straight in the face!! I got 'lost' in the show - true escapism and I could not believe where the time had gone! Go see it! For the first time since Clive died I felt truly happy and so alive. I could chose to feel guilty - but what is the point? It doesn't mean I love him any less. I did sing my heart out and laugh my head off, just as the billboard proclaimed!

After the show we decided to say hello to Shayne. Mum and I have shared this thrill of meeting stars for many years now. It is part of our routine and makes for special memories together. We met other members of the cast and finally ....

Even better was that he remembered us from earlier in the year when my sister had managed to get us to meet him back stage. Mum was most worried when he walked off into the dark London night alone! What a lovely guy and he certainly has a future in musicals as well as his soloist career.

Mum has always loved the success stories of those like Shayne, who started from humble beginnings, to go on to achieve their goals. It was also a message of Clive's to inspire and he too had built himself up to achieve and encourage others of which I still receive messages about.

At the end of our London trip Mum commented that it was the first time in seven months she had been out with me where there had been no tears, only smiles, sharing, fun and laughter.

Perhaps that is my new goal? And one that I have no doubt that my Clive would want me to have and be, with the help around me.

What is your goal and who have you got to support you?

Elaine x

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Would you like to hear me speak this Thursday?

Just to remind you all that there are still a few tickets left for Elaine Hanzak-Gott's inspirational talk for the Huddersfield Pendragon Ladies Circle.  Elaine is a trustee for the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation and has been invited by the Ladies to speak for them on the 22nd September at the Cricket Club, Bankfield Lane, Kirkheaton, Huddersfield HD5 0JW. She will speak about her experience of the most severe form of Postnatal Depression as well as other mental health issues, including Alzheimer’s and bereavement.

Elaine is an experienced and widely sought after public speaker and also presents workshops on Postnatal Depression with her friend and trustee Ann Girling. For more information about Elaine, or to order a copy of her book, Eyes Without Sparkle, please go to her website:  Or to book a workshop with both Ann and Elaine go to our website:

Tickets for this event are £3.50,  please book your ticket in advance, to be paid for at the door on the evening: contact Philippa on 07967 004213 or Rachel on 0773 4490011.  Do come and join us for a truly inspirational evening!
Mary Newsome
Press Officer
Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation
Registered charity no 1141638
Tel 07526459181

Facebook: The Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation

Friday, 16 September 2011

'We're not here for a long time - but we're here for a good time'!

When I was a little girl I vividly remember cold, wet days at school but for a reason to smile! My Mum was a full-time one (a role I always aspired to) so it meant my brother and I went home for lunch. On the days I described Mum would sit me on the central heating boiler in the kitchen (before they were on the wall), along with my scarf and gloves. For a few minutes we'd chat about what I might be doing that afternoon and with a warm bottom we'd make our way back to school. It was her way of ensuring I was at my best - warm, well fed and thoroughly loved - to face whatever the world threw at me the rest of the day. If Dad was also at home, depending on his shifts, there might be the added treat of him taking me back to school on the crossbar of his bike.

At 48 years of age I feel I have had similar treatment! The warmth has come from the hot sun in Lanzarote; food from numerous restaurants and the constant ingredient of unconditional love. As I waited in the departure lounge of Arrecife airport I almost felt as I did those cold, wet afternoons - bring it on!

However, if Plan A had happened I would now be somewhere in the Western Mediterranean on a blissful cruise with Clive until 17th of this month. We had been due to sail from Southampton on the 3rd of September. Initially I wanted to go and take Lynn, his sister, but as the weeks passed we realised that would not be a good idea. I knew I wanted to be somewhere memorable on the 3rd because after Clive died I found a letter from him to me with instructions for it not to be opened until we were comfortable in our cabin that day.

A few weeks ago Mum and Dad said they'd booked a week in Lanzarote 1 - 8th September and wanted to treat me by joining them. Why would I say no? The condition was no blogging and limited use of my Blackberry! They felt I needed a proper rest and 'just to be'. I agreed. In a way as I have gone through life these last few months I have always had 'the blog' at the back of my mind. This could also be the turning point to ease my addiction to it!

And that is what I have done. In summary we spent 6 days with the same routine. Breakfast on the balcony of our apartment; pool side time; lunch on the balcony; pool side time; Happy Hour cocktail as the sun set; dressed and out for a meal.

In between I have listened to music; read trash mags; lost myself in some light weight novels; and often just lay soaking up the sun.

Yes I have a tan to show for it but internally a new strength to begin the next chapter of my life.

The letter? I waited until late afternoon on Saturday to around the time I would have opened it. After waiting so long I was reluctant to do so because this would be the last thing Clive had for me (as far as I know). That made me feel sad. Finally I poured myself a glass of wine and sat on the balcony to open and read it.

Several years ago I went on a personal development course with The Well-heeled Divas, thanks to my friend Angela. As part of that we visualised where we wanted to be in six months time and wrote ourselves a letter to describe it. That came through the post to us six months later. I have since learnt that it is motivating technique used by some on their courses. Clive used to do something similar.

Hence two weeks before he died we had discussed our cruise and if we could afford to go. We made our plans and were on target for it to happen. The letter basically endorsed this, including other aims, such as Clive having two good knees so we could dance!

He also thanked me for many things including 'bringing pleasure, love and beauty' into his life. That made me cry.

It was what I had expected. It confirmed our joint belief of what an incredible future we had ahead of us, together. That he adored and idolised me as much as I did him. I knew that and that was enough. This letter simply sealed it for me.

I just sat for a while. My mind was like a cinema reel showing 'the greatest bits of Clive and Elaine's love story'. Beautiful.

Mum and Dad joined me and I showed them the letter. Incredibly a lone pigeon chose that moment to land on our balcony! It cheekily hopped onto the table and within inches of me! It cocked its head, blinked at me and flew off! We christened him Clive!

The letter and the week around it, has given me a sense of serenity. Is it acceptance? The reality that my darling Clive really is dead? That he is never coming back? That I still have my life to live as both he and I would want - bringing pleasure, love and beauty to those who seek it?

I let my mind drift often and thought of my purpose in life. Has my desire to help people through the hell of postnatal illness really had an impact? Should I be back at teaching in a school now?

'Balderdash', as Clive would say! Each day there were about 10 - 16 people around the pool, if that. Mum, Dad and I didn't chat to others on this trip. However, as I moved to a different sun lounger one day the lady next to me smile and we chatted.

Incredibly her daughter, Catherine Burrows, also had PND and has written a book on it! Jennifer, her Mum, text her daughter later that day and she told me that my book was her 'bible' and I was her 'heroine'!! Of all the pools in Lanzarote ...

Amazing! I was thrilled! On my return I will be in touch with her daughter and hopefully she can become involved with the charity.

We discovered a restaurant at the harbour area of Puerto Del Carmen called El Poril. It was our favourite of the week for both food and service. Front of house was charming Antonio who explained his family's link with everything! His grandfather's liquor; his grandmother's secret dip recipe! He entertained as well as encouraged people to dine. The first night we were in there I did become tearful as a romantic song played. The empty chair opposite me blocked out everything else as far as I was concerned. Mum realised and asked Antonio to move it, explaining why. He didn't like to see his customers crying!

Next time we went he instantly moved the fourth chair! THAT is what you call customer service!

One of his chirpy expressions to his customers was for them to relax and enjoy themselves.

'We're not here for a long time - but we're here for a good time'!

What a brilliant mantra. One I know Clive would enjoy. And one the rest of us should endeavour to do?

Dad, me and Mum at El Poril
So waiting for my flight back to the UK I was so grateful to my incredible parents for this week. 'Thank you' seems inadequate! I purposely did not look at the itinerary of the cruise because I would have tortured myself and Mum and Dad, with 'should haves'. Instead I had a brilliant, healing time with my parents and a week that I shall always remember with them.

This time last year ...
Both Clive and I had been anticipating more photos like this one of us in Egypt last September. It wasn't to be. I still cannot bear to read my journal from that holiday but in time I know I shall. I just want to wait until I smile when I do so, and it doesn't hurt as much. I shall never forget him and still feel him with me just as I did before he died.

This reminds me of an email he sent me on 13/11/2009 this and thought of you princess...

“Your relationship with another person does not exist in the real world, you can’t point at it and say “That’s our relationship right there.” It lives purely within our thoughts. Your belief makes the relationship real."

I believe baby that this is why I still love you and feel you even when you are 100’s of miles away. Our relationship is not tangible it is engrained in my soul. I don’t need to see you to love you, I simply need to know you to love you.

Now THAT makes me smile.

Oh yes - we also had a message from my brother a few days ago. His contract at the Natural History Musuem in Oxford ended last year. At 50 years of age it was a massive blow to be without a job. He has worried us all and has tried for a few new posts to no avail. Suddenly he has an extremely well-paid post as a senior geologist - in Perth - Australia!! He flew there as we went back to the UK!

We are thrilled for him and wish him every success! How quickly life can change.

So if you are currently seeking work please remember that your dream job could just be round the corner (although maybe not the other side of the world!).

And to quote Antonio, remember

'We're not here for a long time - but we're here for a good time'! 

Midnight paddle with Mum
 So what are you going to do today to make it 'good'?

Elaine x