After 18 months of holding weekly meetings on Zoom, Novus Rotary met back at our former base, Elizabeth Park Sports Centre, off Checkland Road, Thurmaston. But it was not quite as ‘normal’ — six members parked in the car park and two joined via Zoom for a wonderful talk by Gay Redstone.
Not only was it our first ‘hybrid’ meeting, but it was Gay’s very first public-speaking engagement. The title of the Anstey grandmother’s talk was Fangs For The Memory — 39 Jobs in 55 Years. That’s the title of her first book.
One Novus member joked: “You’ll have to re-write it now you have added author and public speaker to your jobs”
In a revealing and frank talk, Gay told us that she had been born in Sleaford and was adopted before she moved to Leicester. In fact, it was at Thurmaston that she attended Roundhill Secondary Modern School, leaving in 1954 at the age of 15 with no qualifications. It was not until many years later that she was diagnosed as dyslexic.
By that time, she had worked as an office clerk for footwear makers Stead and Simpson, The Managing Director at the time was Harry Gee who always tipped his hat to ladies in the street… even to the 15-year-old office junior! Her second job was in the ladies’ outerwear department at a department store on the corner of Charles Street and Humberstone Gate. It did not take her long to realise she wanted her old job back. That had gone, but her old boss, Mr Jackman, gave her another job at a higher wage.
Gay’s book and her talk was more about people than the many jobs she had had. And so, its countless anecdotes were as different as the people whose lives touched Gay’s.
In those years, Gay worked as an Avon lady, a Party Plan arranger for a jewellery firm and for Tupperware, The need to supplement their income became even more acute after, in 1968, Gay and her husband Ken adopted Matthew. As an adopted child herself, she says, she wanted to give something back. Gay worked as an auxiliary nurse and took on cleaning jobs — not always for the nicest clients!
It was not until 1969 that Gay got the first job she was properly trained for — as a Directory Enquiries operator for the GPO in Wharf Street, Leicester. Gay and her colleagues realised how few calls they would get when the most popular TV serials like The Forsythe Saga were broadcast.
Having moved to Anstey, Gay delivered cars for a major garage in the village, once being involved in a three-car accident which left the car she had been driving being written off. She was reassured by her boss who admitted he had written off a car the previous week. Later, Gay decided to move to work at County Hall for a boss who became a lifelong friend, having helped her out when Gay realised that she would be paid monthly and not weekly!
Again, it is the people who shine through this book which will strike a chord with so many people who have lived in Leicestershire over the last few decades.
If ever Rotarians needed reminding why face-to-face meetings are so vital to an organisation devoted to helping people, this meeting was it. Gay’s life story was fascinating and her book is a very comforting read. Several members bought a copy delighted that for each £5.99 paid, Gay will give £1 to the Rainbows Children’s Hospice.
Gay’s life story has been touched by tragedy and comedy. It was life-affirming to read her book, to hear her talk, and to drop off this 81-year-old at a club where she met the members of Newton Linford Choral Society, whose meeting she had missed in order to speak to Novus.
Thank you — or should that be Fang You! — Gay.
Last edited: 11:30 on Thursday, September 16, 2021