In 1960 I was born in Aberdare to parents who had recently been made homeless to my alcoholic father losing his job.
As my parents were homeless, I spent the first two years of my life in a children's home. My mother was allowed to take me home when she had found herself somewhere to live. She had left my father and had taken up with a paedophile and they had rented a flat in Cardiff - I don't remember much about those early days apart from feeling uncomfortable in his presence, I never liked him, he was creepy.
Then they moved to Swansea, South Wales, firstly in a flat in Brynmill, then a run-down static caravan in Limeslade, then a shack in Newton, a further shack in Murton and finally a shack in Hareslade, Bishopston (similar to the one below), this is where I spent the rest of my childhood. There was no electricity, no running water and heating was supplied by a portable gas fire, which nearly killed us all one night when it malfunctioned.
I was a very unhappy child, my mother constantly reminded me that she tried to abort me, that I was a nuisance, never once told me that she loved me and constantly calling me ugly and stupid. She even caught the paedophile red-handed engaging in activity with me but blamed me! She hated me even more than ever after that.
I spent most of my childhood on my own wandering around the South Gower coast: Brandy Cove Beach (my favourite because not many people knew about it), Caswell Bay (where I taught myself to swim in the Winter of 1971) and Pwlldu which had amazing views and animals along the way who I could talk to. I loved that part of my life but hated being with my mother in the 'family home' and spent very little time there.
My clothes were always bought from jumble sales or scrounging through council rubbish tips and I use to steal food and drink from the local shops, how ashamed I am of that now, but it was survival.
I dreamt that one day I would be successful and own a 'proper house' and have a nice job, then I could help people who were in dire situations, show them that there is hope. I hate to do the pity-party here, but no-one was interested in the 60s, the grown-ups (including teachers) hated the way I looked and smelt, and the kids ran around me calling me smelly and a gyspy.
The day finally arrived in June 1976, a couple of months before my sixteenth birthday - I secured a live-in job at the Dragon Hotel, Swansea as a waitress, I was so excited and happy; I finally had lots of friends, running water, electricity and money to buy nice clothes. Quickly I showed potential and by the age of 17 I was being left to manage the silver-service restaurant.
In 1978 I meet my first husband, a qualified and talented Chef. I realised then that I should get myself some qualifications so that I could be a good role-model for a future family.
We got married in 1983, our first son came along in 1984 - this was another golden moment in my life - having children changed my whole outlook on life. I wanted to be the best mother I could to my children, always be there for them, introduce them to the best experiences I could, travelling, learning, life-skills - my three sons are the core of my world. They are now all grown up professionals and successful in their own right - I am so proud of them.
Moving onto 2017, my final dream in life came true - I opened my own Coffee Shop in Strood; my vision wasn't to become an overnight millionaire (or a millionaire at all) but create a wonderful environment for people to visit and work - the many comments I have received from staff and customers are testament to this goal.
But it doesn't stop there, I wanted to help people who haven't had the success and happiness that I have had in my life. We support local charities the best we can, we supply tea and toast to the local homeless people, and I am a Trustee for the local charity - I really do want to make a difference to people's lives.
In June of this year, this community that I have created in Strood is now in threat of coming tumbling down around us down due to a bookkeeper I employed for a few hours a week embezzling £23,925.62 of my rent and electricity payments. I believed everything was fine, the payments were being deducted from my account and the electricity company and my landlord have not been in touch with me for the past year.
I now have a couple of months to find these monies or the business will be closed - the community will lose a fantastic and supportive network and I will lose all grace and my position at the Strood Community Charity.
I have worked so hard to get this far and I have made such a difference to many lives in the community, I am hoping that I will be able to raise money through this project to save and continue to enhance many more lives in my local community.
I have taken-on a second job to try and clear the debt, however the clock is ticking to do this and I'm not sure I can do it in the timeframe. Any monies that I lucky to have raised through the crowdfunding that are not required for Tolgate Coffee will be donated to a local charity.