Browse through some of our recent and published articles.
Wiltshire by an ex-pat ~ by AnnMarie Wyncoll
My son lives in a different world ~ by AnnMarie Wyncoll
When 'geek' meets human ~ content by Chris Lewry, curated by AnnMarie Wyncoll
When 'geek' meets human ~ content by Chris Lewry, curated by AnnMarie Wyncoll
My first impression of Chris is of a smart, competent businesswoman who has all her ducks in a row. In fact,
she is someone I believe I will aspire to and am keen to find out more. In her own words she translates
‘geek to human’ for those of us more technologically challenged and I am immediately drawn to her warmth.
This, I know, is going to be a lovely interview with no surprises.
At first Chris talks about being a woman in a principally male dominated industry. This did not phase her, she reveals, in fact it simply added to her determination. One office she worked in was staffed entirely by men but Chris is quick to point out that was never an issue in fact, her boss fondly referred to Chris as the Princess. He was though, she says, objective enough to note she was not the only Drama Queen.
Chris laughs as she recalls some of their antics and I find myself wondering how she got into computers in the first place. So, I ask.
Her career, she tells me, began in the Travel industry before she sidestepped into Business Tourism and Hospitality Software working for a small UK start-up. In 2011 after six years, the company, Velvet Software Limited, were acquired by USA’s Passkey and Chris found herself with a new boss. This though, was something she embraced. So much so that she oversaw the successful migration of 85% of Velvet’s existing customers to Passkey.
We pause for a moment as Chris begins to talk about travel and how much of a part that has played in her life. She has been fortunate, she says, to work in places such as New Jersey, Phoenix, Zurich, Nice and Paris to name a few. In fact, the last conference she attended before becoming self-employed in 2014 was in South Beach, Miami. I try not to be jealous.
I reveal I am a little less-well travelled and she smiles, telling me that was not always the case. Her humble beginnings were as an entertainer and lead vocalist for Haven Holidays.
Wait. Back up.
I cannot picture the woman I am meeting today bouncing around on a stage in a holiday park. Again she laughs, and it is at this point I see a spark of mischief. Chris, I realise, has many hidden depths.
I ask her about her career as an entertainer and she tells me of her acting and vocal work which remains incredibly important to her. ‘And’, she adds almost as an afterthought, ‘I‘m also a professional Barry Manilow fan.’
What was that about an interview with no surprises?
I tell her that as a child I remember Barry Manilow being played by Terry Wogan on Radio Two when he called Mr Manilow ‘Mangy Bendy Toy’ or something along those lines and I have to be honest, I had no idea there was such a thing as a Barry Manilow super-fan. There is. In fact there are hundreds if not thousands of them.
‘It’s about the lyrics’, Chris states, ‘as much as the music itself. The arrangement of his songs is incredibly powerful.’
I agree. Having listened to ‘I Made It Through The Rain’ on repeat during a particularly difficult time, I can see how his words reach out and connect with us deeply.
Chris has seen Barry Manilow in concert many times, has met with him personally and follows his life with interest. She jokes that work is how she funds her ‘Barry habit’, and with most of his tours in the USA, I can see why. One of her favourite songs, she tells me, is It’s a Long Way Up, which contains lyrics that really resonate with her journey.
‘Once you find what matters in your life
Keep on pushing through the darkness
Til you see the light’
Though Chris loved her job to the point where, after working her way up, she achieved the role of her dreams, it was not set to be plain sailing. In 2014 whilst she was overseeing expansion into the Hotel industry – an industry Chris loved – and running the European conference, news came. Of a takeover.
‘You can make the change
You need to make to carry on
Now and forever’
Her job was safe though she lost several of her valued friends and colleagues, but things changed. Nothing, she tells me, was ever the same. In her domestic life Chris was juggling the needs of her teenage daughter and family with the increased competition in her industry and it soon became apparent, particularly when the takeover became hostile, that something had to give.
‘You gotta fight a little harder
You gotta push a little more
You gotta gamble everything you got’
Which is exactly what she did. It was time for Chris to go it alone.
Clients’ she had worked with from as early as 2005 followed her on this journey. They knew her by reputation, that she cared about their needs rather than her own and that she was more than competent in delivering on her promises, so they contacted her, asked her to work on various projects and before she knew it her company, Pincus Solutions Ltd, was taking off (Pincus is Barry’s birth surname). She was, Chris says, achieving things she never thought possible.
‘You’ve been down before but that’s okay
You can rest assured
That every dog will have his day’
Like so many, Covid has hit Chris hard. She has had to pivot her business, re-think her strategy and cope with a divorce. The last 18 months have seen huge changes in her life and Chris doesn’t deny it’s been a tough road, but she is a fighter. She is determined to bounce back, and I know that her belief, expertise and unflappable nature will ensure the tide turns.
Today, Pincus Solutions Ltd focuses on providing technology solutions for their clients which incorporates research, implementation and training, whatever their size or set up. Chris is also a highly experienced and efficient project manager who knows exactly how to speak geek and human which is a rare combination in this high-tech world. Basically, what she says makes sense.
There is so much more to Chris’ story, but I believe that is enough for now. I have nothing but admiration and respect for a woman who has worked her way up in a man’s world, achieved things she never thought possible, helped and supported so many people, performed on stage for the pleasure of those fortunate enough to have seen her and followed Barry Manilow round the world.
It is only fitting therefore, that we leave the last words to the great man.
‘It's a long way up
When you're coming from nowhere
You gotta fight a little harder
You gotta push a little more
You gotta gamble everything you got
To get you through the door
Cause it's a long way up
Don't give up the dream’
(All lyrics from It’s a Long Way Up by Barry Manilow)
Chris also supports the Blue Cross Animal Charity and can often be found helping out at events with her beloved dog, Alfie.
I remember leafing through the pregnancy handbook and happily glossing over anything remotely negative.
As this was my second baby and the pregnancy had been problem free, I saw no need for concern.
Instead, I devoured every page as we looked forward to adding to our family.
On the 26th April 2005, Lochlann arrived weighing a very healthy 8lbs 5oz. Excited to have another son,
a brother for our eldest child, Byron, we couldn’t wait to be given the all clear to take him home.
After the first couple of weeks, we had settled into our new routine and Lochlann was a happy, if sleepy baby. On the few occasions when he was awake he seemed disinterested in the world however as this was the polar opposite of how his brother had been, we simply congratulated ourselves on having a much more contented baby second time around. Little did we know how much our lives were going to change just a few short weeks later.
At 7 weeks old I got up early to feed Lochlann as usual, however when I changed his nappy, I noticed that he momentarily stiffened. I paid little attention to it at the time, thinking that perhaps I had startled him and so I settled him back in his cot and returned to bed myself. Later that morning I was giving him his next feed when he did exactly the same thing again, only this time he threw his arms up in the air and became completely rigid. A few seconds later, he relaxed but began to cry and this time I knew that there was something not quite right.
Initially I called the midwife for advice who told me that I should take him straight down to see the doctor. I called my parents to look after Byron and once they had arrived, I put Lochlann in the car and drove to the surgery. On arrival, I was immediately ushered into a consulting room and at that point, I began to feel concerned. My Mum had elected to come with me and, during the drive to the surgery, Lochlann suffered several more of these episodes. That, coupled with the reaction of the medical staff, set alarm bells ringing.
After asking me some questions, the GP said that he thought that Lochlann could be suffering from epileptic seizures, which could potentially be from a bleed in his brain. My heart stopped, I went hot and cold from head to toe and I remember looking at the doctor and trying to work out who he was talking about because I was certain he couldn’t be talking about my newborn son. Could he?
With that information ringing in my head, we took him straight to the hospital. I drove in a daze, aware of my tiny son in the backseat suffering yet more of these episodes. The GP had called ahead and within a matter of minutes, we were in a private side room on the children’s ward. It had been less than an hour since we had left home.
Initially the doctors thought that the episodes were related to feeding as that seemed to be when the seizures peaked but after three days during which he fitted around 40-50 times, they decided to do further investigations. An emergency EEG showed abnormal electrical activity on the left side of his brain and the initial diagnosis of epilepsy was confirmed. During the three days prior to this diagnosis, we had watched helplessly as Lochlann’s condition deteriorated. We had stood by as our tiny, 7 week old baby, fought. My husband all but moved into the hospital and I spent my time going backwards and forwards to my parents’ house to try to preserve some kind of normality for Byron. Eventually, the doctors inserted a cannula into his tiny arm to administer the epilepsy medication and finally, for the first time in days, he relaxed.
After a week in hospital, Lochlann came home. The medication had worked to control the seizures and as he was now medically stable, all we could do was wait. He was far too young for anyone to know if there were going to be any lasting health issues. Monitoring his milestones, we waited. We didn’t have long to wait.
At six months old he was already a couple of months behind and the older he got, so the distance increased. By ten months old, he was still unable to sit and at twelve months, he was nowhere near crawling. Watching him slip further and further behind, I had immense feelings of guilt. I
blamed myself. I somehow believed that I had caused his difficulties and despite reassurances from the professionals to the contrary, this was a belief that I was to hold for a long time to come.
I was also going through a huge grieving process, grieving for the child that I felt that I had lost, and I began to close down. I stopped seeing friends. I rarely took the boys out and life became a daily challenge as we all struggled to understand what Lochlann’s illness meant for us.
Those first couple of years we were in and out of hospital and we had every test known to man. Nothing though showed any abnormality. His brain structure was fine, his MRI scans were clear, his blood tests were normal, yet he was just not progressing.
Finally, at the age of three, he began to crawl and we were so overwhelmed that we held a family party to celebrate. It was almost ridiculous. We played games on our hands and knees and spent the entire afternoon crawling everywhere but it was just such a magical moment. Lochlann had fought so hard to get there and the emotions as he finally got himself mobile were completely overwhelming.
As time went on we began to access specialist services and I felt myself start the process of healing. I began to learn to adapt to this new life and as a family, we celebrated each milestone as a truly wonderful gift. He was almost five when he began to walk but by that time, it didn’t matter. There was a point when we never thought that he would achieve that and so to see him taking those first, tentative steps was more than we could ever have imagined.
Hospital visits continued and for a while, he was epilepsy free. The doctors gave us other labels for his condition – severe autism, severe learning disabilities, ataxia (a condition that affects balance and mobility) and global delay. Sadly, the epilepsy returned three years ago and it is now nocturnal, which means that even when he is asleep, we cannot relax.
I remember, to this day, that moment in the hospital room when my Mum and I first took him
in. I knew then, with an almost eerie certainty, that my life was about to change forever and it
was almost as if life stood still, stopped, and then re-started again, only in a parallel universe that I had no hope of understanding. To a point, I still don’t.
Lochlann is now a sturdy ten year old with a wonderful, happy personality. He has yet to speak - it is unlikely that he ever will - and his comprehension is severely restricted. He is registered as disabled, requires 24/7 care and has absolutely no understanding of danger. He attends a specialist school where he will remain until he is 19 years old and after that, no one really knows what will happen. We, however, cannot think about that. We cannot plan for a future because there is no way that we can even know what the next day will bring, let alone several years hence. We get through by living one day at a time.
Sometimes people say they don’t know how I do it but I just shrug. Because I don’t know how I do it either. I don’t know how any of the families that we have met during this journey do it.
The fact is that we none of us chose this life. We none of us knew what was going to happen the moment that our ‘special’ children were born, yet we have all adapted and coped. Because we have had to. They are our children and we do not love them any less for the challenges that they face. For me though, it is about so much more than that.
It is about this amazing child, who continues to fight day after day; a child who brings us more joy than we could ever have imagined. It is about the family unit that we are and the two equally precious children that we have.
It is about the people that we have met along the way. The community that we have become a part of and the professionals that we are privileged enough to have supporting us.
Would I change it? In a heartbeat. Yet I would never change this experience.
Our lives are enriched for having Lochlann in them, and that is something for which I know I am truly, truly blessed.
My son lives in a different world ~ by AnnMarie Wyncoll
The fact that Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen at Bowood House in 1774 was not even on my radar.
Nor the fact that native Wiltshire dwellers have the nickname ‘Moonrakers’. The irony, however, of Ian Fleming
spending his final year living in Swindon, has since not been lost.
None of those titbits were in my knowledge base though, when my husband told me that he was considering
taking a job in Devizes. My first reaction upon hearing this news was…Devizes? Where is that? He might not
have known where it was, but he somehow knew that it was the home of Wadworth… For my part, I feel I should be forgiven for this little indiscretion. I am a Buckinghamshire lass who was living in Berkshire at the time and Wiltshire was simply a county down there and to the left a bit.
Initial research revealed a rural county with a very competitive housing market and I am not ashamed to admit that this was a huge draw. Our average three bedroom terraced house in Sandhurst, bought us a fabulous four bedroom detached property in Calne, and so we figured that we were quids in. The stunning scenery was just an added bonus.
Once we settled in though, one of the first things that I noticed was the peaceful way of life. Such a contrast to the town that we had come from. Living within commuter distance of London, always meant that there was something going on and rush hour traffic could be a nightmare. In Calne however, driving through one morning at 9am, I remember thinking – rush hour? Where is everyone?
There is also no getting away from the beauty of this rural county. Driving from one town to another inevitably means a scenic route through countryside and as one who has always appreciated nature, I find that I am often driving with a smile on my face. From the white horses perfectly sculpted on the hills, to the mysteries of Avebury and Stonehenge via the unusual hill that is Silbury, there is always something to see.
One of my favourite routes is the leafy road running from Sandy Lane through to Lacock and if I have time, I will always pause awhile at the crest and just drink in the surroundings. The view from there is breathtaking and is home to what is undoubtedly one of the prettiest churches I have ever seen.
I cannot describe the contrast of Wiltshire to its neighbouring county of Berkshire. Although the latter has beauty in its own right, it is much more densely populated and a typical drive from one town to another can include many new and as yet unoccupied, office or retail spaces. I always have a certain sadness when I see these buildings. They seem unloved as they wait patiently for someone to give them a life. In Wiltshire, in the areas where I live and work, there are far fewer of these buildings. Even Swindon and the capital town of Trowbridge, still retain their rural roots. Recently I visited the outlet centre in Swindon for the first time and I was just like a tourist. The architecture and the way that the former railway station had been so lovingly developed was wondrous – the attention to detail incredible. The overall feel was that of a place that had served its purpose in the past but was now embracing its new life. I will definitely be going back.
We should also not ignore the rich history of Wiltshire and its many claims to fame. If I venture outside of my home town for a moment – even though Calne has some juicy history of its own – a visit to the aforementioned Devizes will reveal the longest flight of canal locks on Britain’s waterways. Alternatively, Lacock Abbey, at the end of my favourite drive, was the home of several scenes from the first two Harry Potter movies.
In fact, there is so much to this county that I cannot possibly cover it all in one article, and nor should I, for that is not the point of my writings. The point is to give a view from an ex-pat. From someone who was not born and bred here and cannot claim to be a ‘moonraker’. Someone who has found herself here by happy circumstance. Someone who considers themselves extremely lucky to have landed here.
People in Wiltshire are friendly. They will speak to you in the street, say hello and pass the time of day. It is more peaceful, it is more relaxed and it is certainly stunningly beautiful.
When we moved here, we were used to everything being on our doorstep. Unless you are in one of the major towns, that is not the case now, however this has made no difference. Rural life, life in Wiltshire is different, but we have adapted with ridiculous ease. We were welcomed into this amazing county with open arms and I know that neither my husband, nor I, have ever looked back.
It was eight years ago that we arrived and even though we are still ex-pats, we are more than proud to call this beautiful county, our home.
The ‘moonraker’ legend…
A Government Revenue officer came across some smugglers trying to retrieve an object from a village pond using rakes. When questioned, the smugglers told the officer that they were trying to rake a large cheese from the pond. At the time, the moon was reflecting on the pond and thus, the Revenue officer satisfied himself that there was nothing untoward. He figured that they were ignorant country folk who had mistaken the reflection of the moon, for a large cheese. He rode off and left them be.
The smugglers were in fact not ignorant. They were trying to retrieve contraband barrels of brandy, which were hidden in the pond. Since that day, those born in Wiltshire have been nicknamed ‘moonrakers’.