Well, to be honest she's not a real person, or if she is, she's more a state of mind. When I first set this website up back in 2003, Diva was a professional statement and does still in part describe my enduring fascination with the creative process, particularly with words and the imagery that they inspire.
My name is Jan and Diva is my alter ego if you like...
So vital 'stats'
There were other people in our lives of course, grandmothers and especially aunties. For all of the time I lived at home we always had relatives literally living next door to us and there was always somebody there to look after us when we needed it. For me one aunt in particular was important in that she shared a love of books and Aunt Hazel, more popularly known as Aunt Jan (or Jam actually for she loved jammy things) was one of the mainstays of our childhood. She was my father's younger sister and used to take an interest in what I was reading, even though she didn't necessarily like the books that I liked. In a way she changed my life for one day, in 1969, she gave me a book called The Lord of the Rings that she had tried to read and couldn't 'get along' with, so she passed it over to her 10 year old geeky little mythology and fantasy nut of a niece and.... well it blew me away, and I fell in love big time with Middle Earth and all things Tolkien. We'll come back to that later on.
Senior school was a shock in that we had homework for the first time and I struggled with some subjects, especially the Sciences. Physics and Chemistry were a real chore for me and part of that may have been the way it was taught, because I was quite keen on things like Astronomy, but my brain seemed to seize up when it came to those lessons and so I ended up in the language and art 'streams'. Miss Watts was a great teacher and she especially encouraged my drawing and got me mildly interested in photography, which gradually caught my imagination as I reached adulthood. Somewhere along the line I lost interest in learning if I'm honest. Partly because it was an all girls school and I discovered boys around the time I was supposed to be studying hard, revising for GCE 'O' levels. I got a fair number of them ~ an A for Art, but the rest were pretty average or even lousy and I think I failed Biology and German Oral. A pity really because Mrs. Rickard was a brilliant teacher and I loved her German classes, but my vocab was appalling...
Boys, Men & Me
Several more conquests followed of no particular importance, although I did manage to 'pull' the most popular teenage bloke in Plymouth very briefly and I lasted about 5 days with him ~ which was some kind of record I think. I can't even remember his name now! Whilst all this dallying with callow youths was happening, I was working in a small insurance office little realising that the man of my dreams was right under my nose. My Chief Clerk, Peter Hawke.
I should say some more about my time in the courts as, not surprisingly, it was a deeply influential experience and although I only worked in the 'civil' courts I did learn an awful lot about human nature, good and bad. At first I worked in the county courts, and mainly did divorce and 'family' work, although bad debts and bailiffs featured and public and private sector house re-possessions too. I met interesting people and sometimes I even felt like I was actually doing some good - talking desperately unhappy spouses through the form-filling for a badly needed divorce. Explaining to someone how they could avoid eviction and work out payment plans. I ended up working in the High Court, in the Family Division and saw a higher profile class of divorce and injunctions, some 'celebrities' but also heartbreaking or totally vile cases involving various types of abuse against children, even babes in arms. When I found myself feeling sorry for a pathetic wretch of a paedophile in court I knew it was time to get out.
I didn't escape exactly, but I did start to follow a path that eventually led me to work that I took some pride in and whilst I was working part-time in the Probate Registry I was also taking art night classes, then a foundation course in Art and Design the other half of the week and finally a part-time degree course in Graphic Design. Probate work was simple enough and I wasn't really stretched on the 'people-facing' side of it as the people were for the most part very pleased to be helped through dealing with their dear departed's final affairs and, again I met a lot of interesting people. Some of these interesting people were my colleagues, which was also amusing for the most part and in the other part - well, this was also the time I supposedly 'swore off' people-managerial jobs.
Anyway my degree course, although I got a lousy 'pass', got me a job that for a time was truly wonderful, working for the Court Service Forms Unit which was in a state of flux as this was when websites were starting to become vital to central government. I was hired as a forms/print designer but soon got involved with the online side of things and I was like a pig in clover for a while, having found my 'element'. I was very happy there for a few years and got promoted and found a lot of fulfillment in my work, which was still broadly helping the public with 'people-friendly' forms and leaflets, and additionally online with how the department worked and what it did. But a promotion was my undoing and in retrospect where things went badly wrong, because I thought I would be managing a team of four, but which very soon doubled and then I found I was just talking about work rather than doing it - which is what I enjoyed most of course. I postponed the inevitable for a while by trying to improve project management skills, but the whole thing was alien to me. I could 'manage' projects perfectly well, just not in the way prescribed for the Civil Service. The staff management side of it was even worse and slowly I slid further and further back into depression until I finally cracked big-time in early 2005. I resigned in late 2006, unable to go on after being on sick leave since the breakdown. The salary was good though...
Travel / Holidays
Favourite countries include:~ Greece, Austria, Norway, Kenya, Zimbabwe (in the '80s) and Namibia.
Healthy Wealthy and Wise?
Back in 2005 I was lost somehow. Really lost, in that it almost seemed like I no longer existed. It was not a good time. At the end of January I fell very ill, more than I knew. By Easter Pete was in hospital having almost died due a faulty machine that was supposed to regulate his breathing at night, but instead fed him exhaled gases; in the same week my father had a mini-stroke and my mother had broken her wrist and, being quite elderly, were both incapacitated for a while. My lovely Springer Spaniel Rowley looked after me through all this, giving me a reason to get up, and luckily Pete and my parents all began to recover. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy followed which again helped me with getting functional, but it wasn't a solution for me as such, as my basic 'problem' was still there in that workwise, I was the round peg in a square hole. A misfit.
I could not go back to my old employers and a managerial position or any office type job only held horror for me now. Self employment as a freelance graphic designer beckoned but I no longer had the confidence to sustain that. The south west was and is not a great place to find design work either and I began to slip back into despair and would have done so if it were not for the bolthole I had found, almost by accident, on the internet...
Passions and Pursuits
One friend in particular encouraged me in all of this and although our friendship went through some rocky patches and has since lapsed altogether, he will always have my gratitude for being my guide and encouraging me to be progressively creative in how I used the forum. Something released in me and it was as though the flood gates had opened and I was finally drawing and writing fiction for the first time in many years. It was as though I'd suddenly begun to feel again after years of being completely numb or unconscious. My character - Janowyn (I could not even give my fantasy character too different a name because I was so unsure of who I was anymore) grew and flourished and I fell in love with her in a way. She was me but different of course. Not afraid of her emotions, brave and kind and loyal.
Jano finally became a 'proper' elf, but one raised by mortals and so although she was an elf on the outside, inside she had the emotions and instincts of a human. So - devastatingly good looking and a personality that was open and spontaneous and, to some Elves, completely captivating because Janowyn was no cool and collected Woodland Queen, but a charming and passionate creature, indeliably scarred by the inevitable loss of her beloved human family and the ultimate rejection of her by the second generation as they reached old age, whilst she still looked as though she was in her late teens. Immortality sucks, especially if you are frozen in youth whilst all your loved ones grow old and then fade out of your life forever. She's now living happily ever after with a wonderful and very loving Woodelf on another fan forum site where her special talents are much appreciated.
Where my real life talents are appreciated too. I now the senior moderator and owner/adminstrator on the DreamWorlds forum. This is still very much an experimental community (conceived by and built up with three friends), in that it has the potential to cover any kind of pastime, hobby and lifestyle or leisure pursuit in an easy-going and non-prescriptive environment (so minimal, common sense regulations and moderation) that includes roleplay activities for every kind of fandom under the sun. The friends I have found online have become my second family and I have strong bonds with several people all over the world. Sometimes I fear that this is too much escapism and I am failing to address my true problems, but my online life is real too. The friends I made playing at being elves or hobbits or orcs or dwarves or doughty men of Gondor or Rohan are also people I am friends with as 'real' people. Soldiers and project managers, mums and college students, librarians and para-legals all drawn together by a love of fantasy, Tolkien and writing and art. My 'work' is online and I live there in a very real sense, because this all helped me find my way back to myself and to decide that I did indeed exist and wanted to as well.
So welcome to my world. Discover it on these pages for yourself in the art and poetry galleries.Diva the Designer
For me, design is something that I tap into constantly, at work or play. When something has gone well, most people will have experienced a feeling of euphoria, whether they work with their hands or their head - or both of course.Combined with mental and emotional satisfaction on completing a task, the entire process of design is extremely rewarding, especially when everything starts to gel. The buzz generated by this gets ploughed back into the work, which is good for you as well as me! So - the mental music I make whilst I'm working is the most wonderful thing in the world to me.
It's the place in my heart where design sings ~ NOT for it's supper ~ but for joy in the creation of something special. We all deserve something special don't we?
email ~ firstname.lastname@example.org