Hi there. Thanks for your visit! Here’s a little bit about me… actually it is quite a lot, so do bail if you get bored and read my new book instead! My 1001 Nights, Tales and Adventures from Morocco.
I was born in 1963 in the Edinburgh Infirmary. Six weeks later, just after my mum had successfully taken her law exams, my parents Jim and Fredi boarded a ship and sailed to Africa. For the first 8 years of my life, I got to run free in the African Bush, roaming around the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda, hunting tadpoles and running away from snakes.
At the age of 11, by now the family was living in Ghana, it was back to Scotland to St Denis and Cranley Academy for Young Ladies, where I had to wear two sets of knickers – under and over – and a velour hat to church. NO idea why the two sets of knickers but they did help keep the nethers warm in the freezing winters of an unheated school in Edinburgh!
At Edinburgh University, I studied Arabic and Turkish and discovered the joys of the Poetry Society and the Socialist Worker’s club – both joined because I fancied the guy that ran them. Six memorable months were spent living in Damascus with my lifelong (now!) friend and fellow Arabist Martin, where we faced down the secret police and survived on a diet of bread, condensed milk and jam because I was a terrible cook.
After university I spent two years teaching English in Cairo and exploring the country. Hitchhiking on military trucks across the Western Desert and spending afternoons sleeping with the stray dogs in the shade of the Pharaonic temples of the Luxor.
Moving to London, I pursued a career in journalism which had started in Dubai at “What’s On in Dubai”. My first job was with Technical Review Middle East (there is nothing she doesn’t know about concrete decay). From there to Middle East Broadcasting, the original Arabic Satellite News Station, with my first assignment being to produce coverage in the USA for the Clinton Election. My next step was to BBC News with jobs on BBC World TV and then BBC Arabic TV. I rose quickly (ish) through the ranks in BBC News and was recruited to help launch the BBC News Channel where I went on to become co-Editor of the daytime hours which meant I was in charge of all the BBC News Channel output between 10 am and 8 pm. I was one of only three female news editors in the corporation at the time. My speciality was managing the complexities of live, breaking stories in the news gallery, and one of my abiding memories is causing higher ups to almost have cardiac arrests when I threw live to the George Michael arrest press conference in the USA when the details of his cottaging were revealed – apparently that was not what the British news-watching public wanted to watch at teatime with the kids.
For the new millennium I moved North to Manchester and onto the internet www.supanet.com where we built the ISP’s content from six pages to one million pages in two years; oversaw content deals with all the major players and attracted six million users. Happy days! I also started to break out into mini adventures squeezed into the holidays: the Snowdon Challenge, crossing Costa Rica coast to coast, Kilimanjaro, ice climbing in the Andes, climbing the Ruwenzoris….
In 2002, I plunged into public service when I was appointed as CEO of Vision+Media, a quango dedicated to growing the creative industries in the Northwest and remained there for nine years. I am proud that I managed – with my Board and my Team – to build the company from a modest start of £830k funding annually to £10 million, move it into brand new premises in Salford’s media city, work closely with the BBC Move North team and delivered 10x value to funders. However, following Tory government cuts in 2011 we were no longer viable, so I merged the company into Creative England and cast off my pinstripes for lycra.
I left the rat race for a bike race. The Adventure started here.
It was my turning point really, my definitive moment, as I decided to turn the negative experience of my company closing into a positive liberation and to follow my dream of cycling across Africa. I entered the Tour D’Afrique and raced my bike from Cairo to Cape Town: 12,500km through ten countries in 100 days with 20 days rest. Surviving close encounters with charging wild elephants and very nasty toilets. My first book came out of the experience, Dodging Elephants
Bitten with the adventure bug, I entered the Marathon Des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth, 6 marathons across the Sahara in 6 days carrying all your own food and equipment. To up the challenge, the middle marathon is a double at 80+ kilometres. As a terrible runner who had never even run a marathon, I decided to give herself the best possible chance by moving to Morocco in January 2014 to train in the sand and sun.
I loved Morocco so much I stayed and committed to my heart’s desire of becoming a full time Adventurer.
In 2015 I did my first “world first” with the Atlas to Atlantic Trek, sponsored by Epic Morocco. My expedition guide, Rachid Aitelmahjoub, and I became the first people ever to hike from the highest point in North Africa, Mount Toubkal (4167m) to the Atlantic Ocean (Agadir) straight across the Atlas Mountains. We lived off the land as we went, and relied on Amazigh, Berber hospitality in villages so remote that they had never seen a European before.
In 2016/17 I filmed the BBC2 documentary series, “From Morocco to Timbuktu: An Arabian Adventure” It was a dream come true for me. My quest for the “furtherest place on earth” was an epic journey along the ancient salt roads, over the snow-covered Atlas mountains and across the Saharan sands. I mined for gold, risked death in a donkey cart and spent hours up to her thighs in pigeon shit. All in a day’s work. I also wrote a book about the series.
In November 2018, I took on another big challenge – one that was a bit beyond me in many ways. I ran the Everest Trail Race ultra marathon – 150km around Everest in 6 days and to make sure I was ready, I moved to Imlil and the Atlas Mountains to train. I successfully completed the race and consider it one of the major achievements of my life. It was so difficult for me that I felt overwhelming relief at the finish line.
In March 2019, I became the first woman to walk the Draa River in Morocco. 1500km across desert and mountain with my three Amazigh guides and five camels. It was “Indiana Jones for Girls!”. It was an exploration and I had time to discover the environmental, social and cultural effects of climate and social change. This is one of the oldest settled areas on planet earth, but now much of it is a barren wasteland. Please check out my little YouTube videos and blog for more on this. Where has all the water gone?
My third book with Simon&Schuster, My 1001 Nights was published in April 2019 and is the story of my life here in Morocco so far which is sometimes hard, sometimes hilarious and always interesting.
I LOVE talking to people and do a lot of public speaking and also leadership training and mentoring, so if that is your interest please email me: email@example.com
If you got this far, thanks for your perseverance and I hope to see you on the mountains one day.