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Lyn Wesemael

A Self-Portrait

My surname originates from Belgium – my husband’s father came over at the age of 7 as a refugee from Brussels in 1939.

I was christened Fiona Carolyn Hair; the day after there was a disagreement between by parents and a compromise of Lyn was made from that day on. Hair wasn’t the easiest of surnames to keep. I gained the nickname of Pube for two years at A-Level college! Terrible as it might sound I actually used to sign my Christmas cards with that name and those school friends still call me that now! Wesemael, although more difficult to spell, is deliciously unusual and a demands a different kind of attention!

My parents moved from the borders of Scotland in 1963 to look for a job. It is a pity I have no accent. I feel honoured to have originated from Scotland. I love the northern attitude – pragmatism, sense of family, responsibility, unpretentiousness, simplicity. We finally settled in Gloucestershire – Stonehouse Near Stroud…Wonderful to grow up like that – lots of ponies and animals but a little isolated. Still, I was a content child with two younger brothers that forced a cricket bat into my hand and bowled wickedly hard at my head until I managed to connect the bat earlier. We had a privileged and wonderful time with a Dad who made a lot of money very quickly – at the age of 27 who was the most talented, kind, funny, and generous man but whom emotionally had a tough time, and died in a car accident in 1992. He was an enormous influence on my life. The most enormous capacity to entertain, to bring joy, charisma and sometimes he gave so much that the family came second. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he loved my mother and his three children. No life insurance and everything owned by the bank meant complete clear out of property and possessions. We learnt very quickly how to prioritise our lives!

A-Levels were a time for me to grow up. I had been successful at a girls’ school and was moved to my brother’s school. My results fell; I developed a healthy social life and fell in love with the head boy. Writing this takes me back to an amazing time in my life. I still have friends from that school year that I see every year and keep in touch with. We were The Incredibles! At the end of the first year we lost one of our truest mates in an accident. I think it brought us together. We experienced loss aged 17 together.

I have had so many jobs since I left A-Level college, never in one area – always a “can do” personality I worked in the financial sectors in Lloyds of London as an assistant underwriter for 2 years; in the Albery theatre working for the most wonderful man putting shows on in seven of the West End haunts. I ended up suffocating in London so decided to disappear for a while…

Travel helped me to grow. I travelled by myself which I knew meant that I would have to speak to more people which would extend me. I travelled to Newport, Rhode Island, Boston, rode horses in Virginia, strolled in museums in Washington D.C., and stayed with an 86-year-old grandmother (who still holidayed in the Himalayas) in Los Angeles. I taught her grandson to ski. I then went to Australia and farmed cotton in Warren, NSW, cooked for sheep shearers, rode quarter horses on a station south of Sydney, I slept in a log cabin, sold encyclopaedias. It was the most amazing year of my life. If I was still there, how would my life have changed? Sydney was one of the most amazing cities in the world for me. I worked in the financial district there as a bookkeeper and swam in the sea every evening. When I came back I spent 6 months as a chalet girl in Verbier, I lived and worked in a pub outside Cirencester and ran one my father’s hotels in Scotland.

I finally ended up moving back to Gloucestershire buying a tiny cottage in Tetbury and living there by myself. In my late teens and early twenties I had bad relationships with the wrong people. So I stopped having or looking for a relationship. I was 5 years on my own in there. Loving the people around me, enjoying a social life but not diluting myself. Amazing way of explaining I just wanted to be me and find what I needed. Settle my life. Friends told me to be careful that I didn’t end up an old spinster! There was that fear – but worse was the one that I end up in the wrong relationship. My parents’ life together was never an easy one, perhaps that was the reason why.

I was sometimes lonely but not often – I enjoy my own company. A sense of unimportance and insignificance makes me feel lonely. Whether I am in a group of people or on my own. Our own thoughts can make us feel lonely just as effectively as if someone decided to criticise destructively. What makes us feel important? I always need to write things down – Dad always told me to see myself from 10,000 feet. That objectivity has always helped me.

I have faults – lots – I am impatient and get frustrated. I tend to think out loud. I am becoming a better listener. I think in the present using the past to form the future. I am a generalist – my curiosity has taken me to different countries, to different places, meeting different people, and my expectations have always, always been met. I believe that if your expectation is that you will be on your own for the rest of your life then that will happen. I believe that if your expectation is that you are going to be someone great or achieve something great then that will happen – to the extent that you honestly truly believe that. It is possible for me to make any choice that I want to. Within the constraints of the family!

My father died in August 1992 – in 1993 I met my husband and was engaged 3 months later. It wasn’t love at first sight; it was a sweet, stable, funny, comfortable courtship. Still is!

I find all relationships tend to go in waves. Even my relationship with my husband, which has matured and nestled into its own little corner of delight, impatience, frustration, faithfulness and laughter, begs me to ask the question whether humans are meant to be monogamous.

What is it about human nature that I find so absorbing? That is what motivates me. I love meeting people from different walks of life, colour, and class – boy I hate that distinction, mental capacities. I love to make individuals feel important, capable, move them forward, able to achieve what they want free, bring joy. I am an activist and I have hugely diverse, open opinions but I don’t understand politicians. My fears have definitely diminished with age. I was incredibly sensitive – hugely fearful, and that was seen as a very weak quality by my mother. I needed acknowledgement – that I was worth something to her. Maybe that is why I have such a distracted relationship with her.

A parent’s love is different to love for your partner, I think. I love excitement, frivolity with my partner and seek stability for my children. I tell them they are loved every day. I was and still am a sensitive person but I spent too much time trying too hard to think my way out of a situation instead of just doing.

I don’t think my tastes have changed that much over the years. I would be hard put to write down what my tastes are because of the fluidity of my attitude to life. I like a flexible life. Change doesn’t really bother me but I am always keen to have a stable roof over my head nowadays. Perhaps that is why I get so exasperated when our beloved old house leaks! I like to have a clean house but it is my husband that is fastidiously tidy. I say I bring a little chaos into his life. He agrees! I love learning about everything, about people, colour, food, anything that brings your senses alive. As far as opinions I think I am intuitive enough to go with what feels right, accept what I want to and leave the rest behind – whether that is spiritually, in friendships, relationships, or to help and heal people.

I would like to be more knowledgeable on history and politics. I feel lonely when people are having a conversation that I cannot take part in – they are obviously delighting in the detail. Me? I might read the odd historical novel, beautifully written about a silk merchant’s daughter who was engaged to Napoleon and was ceremoniously dumped for Josephine. Biographies fascinate me but why do I enjoy the life of the eccentric actress Tallulah Bankhead rather than George Elliot? I would like to be more knowledgeable about how the world operates, human nature, animals, and the planet as a whole, I think. Where are we from? I love learning about art, stories. I don’t like having enemies – if I have any strong discussions then I become deliberately direct, keep open communication and listen.

My mother would be the person I would truly love to have an open conversation and find a deep bond with. I can do that with my husband, my children and our extended families and my spaniel Stanley! Trust and loyalty are so important to me that when that is lost I steer well clear. I manage to free myself usually by letting go, forgiving. I know that is hard to achieve. I visualise any adversaries as little children – they cannot help what they do. I have faith in my choice and way of being. That is my way of breaking resentment. Is that the right way? I am compassionate and passionate but if I feel I have been taken for granted, or anyone else, then my thoughts turn inside out.

I do enjoy my own company. Moments of quiet meditation are usually only found on first waking nowadays. I feel at home wherever or whenever I can completely understand the person I am with. Talking or not. More languages would enable more communication. Though, I have a Christian friend who goes to a silent retreat and says she understands everyone there totally by the end of a week without exchanging a word. I am becoming more tolerant of difference as I get older. I have mellowed, and look curiously rather than petulantly. I have spent more time with people with mental disabilities, mild and extreme, as well as helping at my children’s primary school. I am so lucky to have so much.

I have been lucky enough to have had some amazing conversations in my life from people from all walks of life. One of the most amazing was with a couple from the east of London whose only son was very bright. They had put no pressure on him – they both worked in an ice cream factory – but accepted that he should be put forward for a scholarship to a school that would extend him. He at the age of 9 won the full fees King’s scholarship to Eton College. It was fascinating talking to these wonderful cockney parents whose love had supported and let go of their most precious being. They told me he might speak differently and lives and works in Belgium but he’s a fantastic son and during all those years at Eton they were treated with the utmost courtesy and respect.

Also, how startling was it for my then 6-year-old daughter to be told by a six-foot tall, broad, 37-year-old man with learning difficulties that the reason he sucked his thumb was that “everyone needs comfort – some show it, some don’t – I do!” She agreed readily and wouldn’t leave his side for the rest of the day.

The most difficult conversations I can ever have are with people who have experienced loss. I seem to feel how emotionally tied up they are and it paralyses me. I think about people, human nature and the way we sense, feel, and think. I have no real interest in studying jargon but maybe a psychology degree would help me understand more. Talk of politicians, fighting, argument makes me melt and drains me of all energy. I can’t sleep if I watch the news at night. I know life interests and animates me; also reading and absorbing knowledge; but nothing makes me more fanatical than stories of people being taken advantage of or being taken for granted. I know we all choose our own way. Blame and guilt are the biggest waste of time. Why judge? If you have a problem with me, tell me…gently. I would hate for you to hear me say anything to someone else that I couldn’t say to your face.

Money – an endlessly absorbing topic of conversation for most people. I have a healthy relationship with it. If I have money I spend it. If I don’t, I stay in. It cannot bring things like trust or forgiveness. Could money buy it?

My interest in life and people is endless…I am comfortable with my own company but also have some very special friends. My past has taught me many things, my present is wonderful. I have never felt freer at any time in my life than now within my marriage. Hugo was the first man who told me to cry if I wanted to, to feel and be me without a jealous bone in his body. He allows me to be me within an extremely faithful marriage though it is good to go out dancing with the girls! My future? Who knows! My friends bring mutual enjoyment, trust and laughter. Humour is important to me. It can dissolve tension. The uncertainties of the future I am rational about as I think it is all laid quietly out for us by a Higher Power, God, or whoever we may choose to name as our creator. We can make our own luck. Trusting my own intuition – maybe that is what I mean. In my late teens, I felt suffocated, I didn’t know which way to go and panicked over that. I remained stuck. Whereas I should have just remained fluid. I wasted more time lost in self analyses rather than moving towards where I’d like to be then than at any time in my life. Now, 20 years plus on I value every hour. When my children awake and spontaneously tell me that they love me – that brings me pure joy. If there was anything missing in my family life it would be the presence of my father. I can just visualise him leading my young son astray but the amount of love he had to give was limitless. There is no doubt I still miss him.

To complete for now – I would love to feel secure about my children’s education and future. Their choice or ours – I truly hope it is the right one. I have been extraordinarily lucky as far as health is concerned. I aim to stay bright and aware and inquisitive. I aim still to love, be passionate about sport of all kinds; reading, riding horses, and think of others. I have given up on little – apart from winking with my left eye! Now what is that meant to mean? Sometimes I’d like to hold time. My children are growing up so quickly.

April 2005