Lesley Pyke - the personal journey. · 01/18/2011

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Glass is a most alluring and baffling medium! I was introduced to this medium in 1983, was instantly entranced and have been passionately involved with it ever since. Living in Africa, I joined the Guild of Glass Engravers, London, in 1983, as an overseas member so I could find out more. I bought books and videos to teach myself and began to fulfil the dream that had me spellbound from the first naive scratch I made on an old wine glass, with my first basic engraving tool which I practically stumbled on ...but that is another long story.... Engraving glass has been one incredible journey in itself for me but here is a little about the person.

I was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), in 1962, a beautiful paradise. Most of my schooling was at the Dominican Convent in various parts of the country (my father was in the BSAP and was often transferred) I had a very strict upbringing. During my school days I did ballet and highland dancing, competing in the various Highland gatherings we had and bringing home numerous medal...which were inevitably stolen. I played badminton from the age of 10 and in my teens I represented Mashonaland Province (like a UK County) and was involved in the Zimbabwe Badminton Committee, receiving colours for both. A highlight in my Badminton career was to travel to Zambia with the Mashonaland "A" section team to play in a triangular tournament against Zambia Copper belt and Malawi, playing at 40 DecC heat in an old aircraft hanger in Lusaka. My ladies doubles partner, Sue and I played my most memorable game ever coming up from well behind and taking the game right at the end.

My mother and father had both represented the country for Badminton and so had members of my mothers family many years before.

Later, when I was 21, I gave up badminton for 3 reasons that I can mention: It was too dangerous to travel on your own at night, I could not represent my country as I would not give up my British Passport to use only my Zimbabwean one (wise move)and I had taken up golf! Golf became a huge part of my life and still is to this day. I got down to a 13 handicap but was not able to represent the country in my division for the same reasons as I have mentioned earlier. It was a great honour to be asked of course. However I did play in the Presidents select side against Botswana and Namibia, what a tremendous experience that was!

For many years I was involved in the committee at my golf club, Warren Hills, mainly with the roll of handicap secretary (no computer program for the job in those days!)We had a wonderful life in golf, representing the club for many years and competing in all provincial and national events. I came very close to taking on Lady Vice Captain, but it was at the time my marriage was in meltdown and circumstances prevented me. That was a turning point.

I lived and worked in Harare until November 2001. I had built (with a lot of restrictions)my glass engraving business over the years, offering not only exclusive hand engraved glass and crystal, but also sandblasted bulk orders. I employed staff back then, they all stole from me though, one cut cheques out of the back of a new cheque book and forged my signature and helped himself to hundreds of dollars! The local cops were his mates and he was freed within days "all records lost".

Being involved in the world of golf was very important for the growth of my business too (especially Wednesday afternoons!) Those were the days!! I was commissioned to engrave many prizes over the years, several regular national tournaments. Even before the days for computers and my sandblasting, I used to hand draw then hand engrave everything, often dozens and dozens of glasses.

I divorced in 1998 and my 2 precious sons (Shane and Gavin, only 15 and 13 at the time) were taken to live in New Zealand by my ex husband and his new wife,(another story I will write one day) a situation I was completely powerless to prevent, unlike the UK, there is no support and I had no money, certainly none outside the country, what I had was losing value at a terrifying rate. The situation in the country deteriorated fast and having had my life threatened by members of a local organisation in 2001, I was forced to leave my homeland and everything I had, to begin from scratch, here in the UK, where my father was born, and where my roots would be.

After my divorce in 1998, I had to move from my home where we had lived since my second son was a toddler and from where I had run my business. I rented a small garden flat for 2 years, my sons were in a weekly boarding school an hour from town. I had them every second weekend. Those were the 2 happiest years of my life!

I found some premises in an industrial park in Harare. Cheap and cheerful but adequate for my needs at that stage. Loads of space and fresh air. I bought a scooter and a mountain bike so that I did not have to queue at the petrol stations in Harare, motorbikes were allowed straight to the front of the queue at that stage......which often stretched literally for miles!

Having a scooter had another function, it was something I had never tried before and I needed to occupy my mind with bizarre and different things as I was about to lose my 2 precious sons, to the other side of the earth.

I had an interesting time learning to ride my little scooter, learning to fix it, even starting it was a challenge, but indeed great fun...I drove round and round the industrial park, even in fits of giggles, I also spent many hours decorating it and my helmet with designs I cut from the vinyl I used for my sandblasting. I do miss my scooter.

I had been convinced by their father it was necessary that he takes them as they emigrated to Auckland, knowing full well I could not possibly afford to visit. In order for them to be properly in his care over there I was also instructed to sign them over completely for their sakes. A signature on a piece of paper can never take them from my heart. I remember thinking of the Bible story about the 2 women fighting over a baby. The king decided to cut the baby in half to solve the problem. The real mother backed away. My babies are to this day the most important people in my life, any real mother would have done what I did. They are my flesh and blood and we remain as close today as the day they were born. They have New Zealand passports, one a policeman and one has just left the army to take a new and exciting job in Australia.

Anyway, back to THAT BLACK DAY when they left with their father and his new wife as a bright new family, in February 2001, annus horribilis, I was powerless to fight this, financially or emotionally, my only positive thought was that they would be away from the evil destroying the country and would have a safe and secure future. Nothing in my life will ever ever ever match that utterly heart breaking, cruel day as long as I live and breathe on this planet. I will be forever grateful to my close friends who took care of me that day, Cheryl and Lynn, and all my dear friends who have been a shoulder ever since. I will never forget. I rest assured that those due to be punished will be one day, it is the law of the universe, karma. I have no feelings of vengeance nor do I waste any energy thinking about it, this story is about as much time as I will waste on the subject, it is out of my hands.

God Bless my precious children, my special heroes. I love you so much.

So, for anyone who has terrible traumas to deal with in their lives, I recommend you buy a scooter!!!

Then, later that year, good ol' 2001, my one and only member of staff made false reports about me which prompted a local "organisation" to threaten my life , local militia were going on some sort of spree at the time targeting small businesses for money for made up reasons. Threats of violence were real and frightening for many businesses and so you just pay. As a single white woman business owner in Zimbabwe you are an easy target for intimidation in a country rife with corruption. They demanded large sums of cash and I paid it, after which, what I can only describe as the ugliest looking human I had ever seen, turned to me and growled "I am not finished with you yet"... "you are just what I fancy, I will play with you now..."(whilst chilling for me, already traumatised by everything else that had happened, this was simply reassuring me that letting my sons be taken away was the best thing for them, their safety and their future, far away from such a miserable and dangerous country, at least I only had myself to look after now)

At a time when a great deal of my customers were leaving the country and my no longer being able to import my diamond burs or have my engraving drills serviced, the dollar crashing dramatically so that any money that I had left was soon worthless, (by 2009 16 zeros had been removed from the currency...if you can possibly imagine that!) leaving me not enough money to go and visit my sons and see where they live, ....I sold the entire sandblasting side of my business to buy a return ticket to London, the life direction dictated by my British Passport which I was lucky to have from my dad being born here, but which my sons were not entitled to have. Yes I said "return"....after living in my flat for 2 years the rent had doubled with everything crashing and work diminishing I had moved in with my new partner, the worst move ever and another story completely....no I am not even going to go there.

Distraught and unable to deal with life and what it was continually chucking at me.......November 2001....to the fridge I came, UK, for a 3 month break to see my mother, father and brother, one small drill, laptop and camera....I planned to makes some money engraving so I could visit my kids and be able to get out of Zimbabwe again if necessary ....I would go back and try again feeling more secure.....I never got on the plane home. Everything I owned I had left behind except for the few things I was carrying. Over many years, my wonderful wonderful friends and my very very special youngest sister have somehow managed to send / bring a number of suitcases of my belongings to me, oh my goodness that is yet another story. So much in missing and unaccounted for. Many valuable pieces of equipment, many items of sentimental value that are irreplaceable, from my children's Christening presents to a large teddy "Edward" I had had since I was a baby, even my beloved scooter, gone. I have been determined to replace slowly but surely everything I need to with bigger and better. Edward, wherever you are, you were a special teddy. I hope that some little African child is playing with you, that would be ok.

I took a job waitressing in a tea room in Walberswick, a popular seaside village in Suffolk. Scary start, but was soon a whiz at serving , making awesome cappuccinos and many other manner of beverages, and cleaning and scrubbing....and cleaning and scrubbing, ...did I mention cleaning and scrubbing? My colleagues and on some days my "stand in Bosses" were the age of my sons, but it was great fun, a good laugh and most importantly it enabled me to buy a new PC and begin my business in glass once again. There were times when customers would visit and I could hear they had African accents, I would break down completely, unable to serve them. I had a very understanding (although very strict) boss, who would let me go for a short walk on the beach to get a grip again.

Thanks to The Parish Lantern for my starting job in the UK and to all my fellow waitresses and waiters, you were the best!

I found cheap premises to start my engraving business again, in Halesworth Industrial Centre, no water (except from a tap outside) no loo anywhere near my part of the building, sometimes I would ride my bike there,...otherwise Tupperware-type cereal containers are more useful than once thought!!! However I had a special caring, supportive and loving gentleman at my side, Brian, oh boy is that another story!!!. God Bless him, he is my proverbial ROCK, without whom I could not have coped.

Oh and I still play my golf and it is still a source of business, relaxation and where I have wonderful friends. These days I play off 16, this is NOT what I call nice golfing weather and long gone are the days of caddies. It is a tough challenge but still a wonderful one. I have managed to claim the title of Lady Club Champion twice (or is it 3) times and runner up about 4...I will come back to you on that one. Last year I was runner up again but winner of the net. Representative golf is occasional these days as most has to be played during the week and now my business is very demanding of my time. I generally play club competitions and the odd mixed match on a weekend.

I had never seen snow before I came here, wow, and driving in it....like driving into a computer screen saver. I still don't fancy the weather here at all.

I do want to thank my pioneer engraving customers and my bank manager at this point, they believed in me without much more to go on than a few photographs. This market requires years of work building a name and a reputation for yourself, not much use being well known in Zimbabwe!! it is an art/craft unknown to many. Have YOU ever commissioned an engraved glass??

I also want to thank the caretakers and Business centre owner who really have helped me out and my various neighbours in the other units, what stars they have all been. ...and my precious Brian, my knight in shining armour who has cared so much for me and continues to do so.

Progress continues, forwards and upwards...............I moved premises again in Dec 2003 (same industrial Park) slightly smaller ....but with loo!!..and a little less out of the way.

....incidentally, the first item I bought for my business in the UK was a stapler, significant or what?....to the present day most of the profit is ploughed straight back into building the business and repaying the loan. There is light at the end of the tunnel!!

"Believe in yourself, NEVER let ANYONE put you down they do it only in a pathetic attempt to push themselves up!" ...and..."KEEP SMILING, KEEP BUSY and STAY POSITIVE". Work out too!

I had arrived in the UK 8 and a half stone in weight, size 10. I have been attending gym classes since I left school in 1979, I still have a rigorous gym routine and eat a macrobiotic type diet. I don't attend gym classes here , I do my own routine with the equipment. Doing gym is vital for mental stability when in a crisis, no in fact it is vital for anytime. However, working in a tearoom here and being very very depressed and very cold, I piled on a quick 3 stone, then after a couple of years I fought back and now remain within the healthy BMI range still going to the gym before work (6am) 2-3 times a week. I attack my gym workout as aggressively as an inmate in a prison (like you see on American movies anyway) it is urgent and very vital, there is that word again.

January 2007 I bought my new sandblaster and Hydro vane compressor, another rung on my ladder climbed. This magnificent machinery will ensure that I can produce excellent and efficient sandblasting and will see me through many years. It also takes flat glass, eg windows and other glass panels.

THE BUSINESS EXPANDS YET AGAIN>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 1ST MAY 2008..... my eldest son and his girlfriend helped me redecorate my new showroom whilst they visited from New Zealand, what a dream time!!! I managed to convince my landlord, who has been another star, to let me rent the next door office, moving his 2 caretakers into another one down the passage. Then I asked if I could bash a door through the front wall!

My Brian and his business partner built in a new front door for me into my new showroom, so now I have 3 rooms, and I have still filled them to overflowing! "Thank you my Brian, you are too precious by far."

......On the 5th August 2010 Lesley Pyke was incorporated.

I had been "Lesley Pyke (Pvt) Ltd" in Zimbabwe for many years so I feel like I have finally "arrived" here in UK

LESLEY PYKE LIMITED registered in England number 7337000

December 2011 we finally visited New Zealand, I had not seen my youngest, Gavin, for 6 years and my eldest for 2,(my ex had sent over my eldest once and my youngest twice to see me for which I am very grateful) Brian and I also met my brand new grandson, Mason, son of my eldest Shane and Sian. A whole month we spent there !!! What amazing quality time we all had together. A dream trip that finally happened. My business closed for a month and therefore no income...but finally back in my workshop and slowly getting on my financial feet again, it will take a wee while. Wow what a blast I have had!!! I believe in never giving up on a dream that is worthwhile and logical.

website : http://www.lesleypyke.com/
blog: http://glassengravingandlife.blogspot.com/


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