40 OVER 40 Sue Kent

October 21, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

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#10

Sue Kent

TV Presenter, Gardener and Public Speaker

 

Sue Kent by Jenny SmithSue Kentby Jenny Smith

 

Introducing the formidable, joyous and all round amazing human, Sue Kent.  Sue is a recent addition to the Gardeners World line up having made her debut during the pandemic when viewers were asked to send in footage of their garden. She was an instant hit and has been a regular ever since.  

 

Sue has an upper limb disability due to the Thalidomide scandal in the 1950s and 60s where hundreds of babies were born with limb defects after their mothers were prescribed the drug to help with morning sickness.  However, her disability has not prevented Sue from absolutely thriving both in her career and personal life.  She worked as a massage therapist for many years after devising a  unique treatment using her feet, is a passionate gardener and is now enjoying a brand new career on the telly.  She's happily married and has four beautiful grandchildren. I hope I look this good when I'm a grandma!

 

She was recently asked to design a garden for Hampton Court Palace where she won a silver-gilt medal for her beautiful and accessible design, using planting that could be touched and tended to with her feet and one that didn't require any heavy gardening tools.  She is passionate about making gardening accessible to all and is a firm believer in the health benefits of the great outdoors.  You'll find her most days swimming in the sea near her home in South Wales. 

 

I'm so pleased that Sue agreed to being part of my 40 OVER 40 project.  Her zest for life is contagious and her can-do attitude is a lesson to us all.  

 

Sue Kent by Jenny SmithSue Kent by Jenny Smith

 

How does it feel now that your career has taken off in an unexpected direction with Gardeners World? How did that job come about?

I’ve got my job at BBC Gardeners World when, during the lockdown, the program asked for viewers to send in a film of their own garden. I sent in a short video about my vegetable garden and it went from there.

I am hugely enjoying learning new skills, meeting new people and broadening my gardening knowledge.  

 

You were kind enough to share a poem that you’ve written about your mother and your disability - can you tell me more about the background to that poem? What is your relationship like now with your disability compared to growing up?

The tragedy of Thalidomide affected well over 500 children in the UK. I was born with 8 inch arms and seven fingers.  Our physical differences were a shock to society and people shied away from us. Going out in public, our parents often had to deal with negative personal comments about the children they loved.. The general attitude among those trying to guide and support at that time was to try and hide the disability and make us look as normal as possible to fit in. My mother loved shopping for clothes with me and always encouraged me to wear sleeves as my arms were unattractive. She wanted me to make the best impression and thereby increase my opportunities.

I still feel my arms are the least attractive part of me but when it gets hot,  practicality wins out, and I now will wear a sleeveless dress.

 

Sue's Poem:

New Dress

My mum would always tell me

to hide my arms

their ugly charms

they would offend

the world would end

She is dead now

I bought a new dress

completely sleeveless

No one's confessed

they are under impressed

I don't care if they are

it's cooler by far

 

Sue Kent by Jenny SmithSue Kent by Jenny Smith

 

What do you know now that you wish you could tell your younger self?

The good people in the world have open minds and true hearts.

 

Has being a grandma changed you or your outlook on life in any way?

Becoming a grandma has been quite difficult. I am able to give very little practical help when my grandchildren are at the baby stage. I feel inadequate, something I hate. It’s the same feeling when I could not nurse my parents at the end of their lives. It’s the one thing that makes me feel a victim; it’s the one thing that makes me feel sorry for myself.   The men who made and marketed Thalidomide, when they knew it was dangerous, are dead and were not held to account. The recent Sackler opioid scandal illustrates again the true cost of medical corruption. 

 

How have public perceptions changed in your lifetime towards people with disabilities?  

It’s a slow process. The Disability Discrimination Act had to force people to change. Finally the media is starting to reflect the diverse society we live in. This does help to educate and promote understanding and change attitudes.  

 

What more can be done to help in this area?

More needs to be done in education, planning and design to enable the fostering and promotion of talent and ability for people with disabilities. Being allowed to make a contribution to public life may further alter public perceptions. There is still a long way to go.

 

Sue Kent by Jenny SmithSue Kentby Jenny Smith

 

How do you feel about the ageing process?  

I do hate looking in the mirror and seeing my skin falling off my face and gathering at the bottom around my jawline. Apart from that visual, the lack of energy sometimes, and the insomnia,  I like the changes that age brings.  At around 50 I watched a film called Advanced Style, it made me realise I have a choice as to how I live,  there is a lot of potential in life after 50 and  I am open to the possibilities that it has to offer, it’s all very exciting.

 

What’s the best thing about being older?  

Nowadays the news presents everything as a crisis, it's a very blame culture. This is not for me and I realise I can disengage and life still goes on.

 

My podcast allows women to share stories about things they may have said or done when their hormones have been in play, such as the menopause. How did you find this time in your life? Any stories you can share?

None. Menopause is another phase of life. I’m not interested in putting it off with drugs. I changed my diet and my exercise routine and worked my way through it. Not having to deal with periods was such a plus everything else was comparatively a walk in the park, as long as I can remember where I put my glasses...

  Sue Kent by Jenny SmithSue Kentby Jenny Smith

 

Tell us about the therapy you devised using your feet.

I wanted to work practically and 15 years ago I developed a technique massaging with feet, I became the first person in the country if not the world to get a sports massage diploma using feet and I really enjoyed my 15 year career being able to help people. One of the highlights was working as a volunteer at the medical centre in the Paralympics village in 2012.

 

Anything else you’d like to share?

Helping people to reach their potential is the way forward.

A great friend of mine with similar disabilities once told me, as I was moaning that I couldn’t surf with my son, “concentrate on what you can do not on what you can’t”.  The best advice.

 

Sue Kent by Jenny SmithSue Kentby Jenny Smith

 

Thank you Sue for being part of this project, you're an inspiration!

 

I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 


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