Blog, Staple Stories

An Amazing Woman

When I was growing up in West London we had a wonderful next door neighbour, Mrs. Cooper, who was more like a grandmother to me. She was such a gentle yet great character, frail but immensely strong, wise and patient.  As a trainee nurse she slipped while pushing a trolley and lost all her teeth when she was just 18. She drove ambulances throughout London during the Second World War. She had a budgie called Joey and deep brown eyes. If I were to describe her in one word it would be: kind.

I used to regularly run away from/leave home, pack my toy cars in my small case, climb over the wall and go and tell her how unjust and unfair things were. She’d listen and an hour or so later mum would pop around. Somehow I always seemed to have forgotten why I had been upset, she just seemed to be able to soak things up.

She was of Polish descent and her actual first name was Netelka but she hated that. She much preferred the then fashionable Doris – funny how times may change yet, as I learnt from her, our ability to learn remains a constant.

Often when I present workshops or give talks I tell a story about her. She had the most beautiful “copper plate” handwriting. She grew up in Victorian times and learned to write with her left hand. One teacher stated this was deviant behaviour and insisted that she use her right hand. However, when she was about 11 she broke her right wrist so she was allowed to write with her left hand for about a year. To my amazement, in her 80’s I’d sit and watch her effortlessly produce this beautiful handwriting with either hand – I wish I’d kept a sample.

Apparently, Toyota train their factory staff to be ambidextrous and work with both hands – excellent uncommon sense! I often ask my audiences to write their names down with their non-dominant hands. I then tell them about Mrs. Cooper and Toyota and how with practice we can all learn to do things we find challenging.

PS: Great Video on Practice: