IWD — Inspirational Women

Next weekend is International Women’s Day and to celebrate that we came up with the idea of an “Inspirational Women” blog linky over on the Team Honk Blog.   Asking people to blog about the women who inspires them.   On Team Honk it is Davina McCall.   The woman is a phenomenon.

On my blog though, and personal to me is my mum, Olivia.   I am the only person who gets to call her mum and I chatted to her about deciding to be a stay at home when I was growing up, going back to university at 40 to do a degree, and then taking on the French in the wine business.   Turning around a virtually derelict Chateau, with wine being sold to the Co-op to a stunning home with award winning wines stocked in Waitrose and shipped all over the world.

You made a conscious decision when I was growing up not to work.   How important was it for you to be at home for me?

Very important.  Having picked you up from the childminder with bruises on the side of your face with a flaky explication of how you got them  I decided that the priority was to stay ay home and look after you until you were old enough for me to work.   That is why I did Citizens Advice, Open University and ran keep fit classes,  because I could organise them around school.

Also I had strong memories of my childhood when my Mum worked and could not be there to see me in School drama productions or be there for GSE award presentations etc.   Pushing my bike home from the launderette or with cans of paraffin balanced on it  are part of my childhood memories.   We didn’t want that for you.   So financially there were sacrifices but it was the right thing to,  being a stay at home mum and I have no regrets at all.

Some might say that you gave up a lot by not working, having me when you were quite young and not working.   What made you decide at 40 to go to university?

I had enjoyed my OU studies and always liked learning.  My friend Gail had started at University and I thought why not have a go.   Maybe  a different life starts a 40 but it was worth every minute

Was it hard being a mature student or did you enjoy the challenge?

 It was hard because I was 41 and they were 18 so it was like studying with their Mum.   We had absolutely nothing in common!  I was living at Chelsea  Harbour and commuting at the  weekends to Strasbourg and then to Brussels, where your dad was working.   It was hard trying to hold it all together.   They never did the reading so tutorials were a bit one sided!  I can’t lie, it was a very lonely experience but maybe being an only child got me through that.   I felt it was was a privilege to have a place at Uni – they could have given my place to an18 year old, I felt I really had to show that they had made the right decision.   Another plus point was that the professors liked mature students because they worked and were there  because they wanted to be and not because their parents had pushed for it.

Fifteen odd years ago you bought a vineyard in France.   What on earth made you do that?

17 years ago!   Dad and I were looking for a retirement project and whenever we talked about what to do,  wine seemed to feature in our ideas (see where I get my Martini obsession from 🙂 ) . Having done a degree in French I felt that a vineyard could be the right idea.   The learning curve at university would be replaced by a learning curve to do with wine – just another vocabulary to learn.   The life style element also appealed as there was no boss.   Often a romantic dream for so many people that  we would actually be living.   Part of my “Well let’s have a go”  philosophy.  (Now you see where I get that from, too!)

Also we loved France and had a chalet  which we could escape to.

What was the biggest hurdle you had to face with being a woman, and an English woman, in the very “male dominated” wine world?

The challenge of three French guys working for me.  An English woman who knew nothing about wine making but wanted to make the Petrus of Bergerac.     I was totally responsible for making  it work as we had invested all our money in it.    We HAD to succeed because we had three guys who were relying on us to make a living and Eric had turned down working at Mouton Rothschild to work for me.

 It meant though that actually I rose to the challenge that  ‘’The English woman” was not mad and would still be there after a year and in fact was  there for 11.   At meetings when I was probably the only  woman there I enjoyed the idea that my French was better then their English and because I was a woman I had a higher profile  in the Bergerac wine circle.    I have always been on the outside since childhood because of I had divorced parents (unheard of really in the early sixties) so I am used to being an outsider full stop

 What was the best thing about running your own business?

FREEDOM!!!!! I could make the decisions with advice from Eric but I had ultimate power.   A wonderful opportunity to use my instincts, my languages, my interior design ideas, my selling skills , people skills and live the dream without being afraid of hard work.   It meant working 7 days a week sometimes for 12 hours a day.   But what a success it became.

 Reputation , press articles, gold medals , travelling all over Europe and to the USA and Canada.   Giving so much pleasure to people with our wines.

 If you could turn back the clock, would you do anything differently?

 Maybe I would have been stricter with Eric and what he was making with the wine in some vintages.   But I am a proud of what I have achieved and had  a chance to realise my potential.   I have left behind a Chateau looking the best it ever has.   I have always tried to do the best I can for everyone in my life .    Life is a learning curve and I am still learning.   Turning the clock back is great with hindsight !!!!  But if  I chose to do things   differently would I be sitting in Barbados now ????

Thanks mum!

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  • Wow! What an awesome woman! My Mum did similar, returning to work, as a trainee, at 40- when my brother and I no longer needed her in the same way. My Mum retired on a magnificent wage at the top of her profession- and feels like she got the balance right- being home for us when we needed her, then following with a very successful and satisfying career when we were no longer so dependent. If I can emulate that in any way I will be a happy woman!

  • I feel very proud of both you and Olivia reading this. Pushing through tears to say “Bravo Olivia, Bravo T, Well done.” Congratulations on yet another brilliant post, fairy

  • Wow, your mum sounds amazing! What an incredible attitude, and she makes something that was obviously very skillful and strategic sound easy. I would be very happy if I could look back on my life half as fulfilled as that!

    I am loving reading all these stories of inspiring women.

  • your mum is amazing Tanya and i can see where you get your determination and sezt for life from. i so admire her for making the decison to stay at home and raise you and then busy herself with an open university degree, among the other things! lovely to have met you Tanya’s mum x

  • I’m not shocked to read that your mum is as epic as you T… You have to get it from somewhere.

  • You had me from her photo, what a gorgeous smile, she looks like the lady I could sit and listen to forever, such a fascinating life so far. The Petrus of Bergerac! LOVED that bit 🙂

  • How lovely to meet your Mum like this. I can see so many traits that you share, love of challenge, love of learning, strong protective motherly instinct, love of adventure and new places!

  • a great idea ladies and i salute you! 8th of march is mothers day too in romania so it is always a special day…i should interview or write a post about my mum although i already done that last year x
    i love how happy your mum looks in the picture!

  • What a wonderful example to follow, can see where your spirit and business brains come from, lovely mummy you have there Mummy xxx