all about Jan the Diva

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 career aspirations may have fallen by the wayside, but the passion goes on stronger and more focussed than ever and my Diva side survives and evolves as a storyteller, an artist and a poet...

 





 

My name is Jan and Diva is my alter ego if you like...

... or maybe she's one aspect of my story ~ anyway she feels like a part of me some of the time and the website was once in her name so she gets to stick around for now. Like everyone I've had different phases in my life and most of that has centred on work ~ too long and too much in the end, but experience counts of course, so few regrets as I met some great people along the way and learned a good deal about human nature. So best start at the beginning I suppose...

This was the bit where you'd have had a look at my curriculum vitae / resumé but as I'm not going to be selling my services anymore we'll skip that and treat this more like a generalised bio shall we?

 

So vital 'stats'
I was born in 1958 in Plymouth, Devon to the best parents in the world who are still thankfully with us, in spirit in my father's case, and who went on to present me with three more sisters. We weren't too well off to start with, but my father was a talented signwriter and maker and ended up with his own successful business.We grew up surrounded by paint and paper and so we all loved to draw and make things and all of us were pretty good at it. I used to draw for my younger sisters ~ characters from games we used to play ~ cowboys and horses were popular themes (we inherited Dad's Wild West fixation). Childhood was therefore pretty stable and though we all got into the usual childhood scrapes, the error of our ways were gently pointed out and we were taught that treating others as you would like to be treated yourself was the sensible way to be happy in life. It still works too Mum and Dad, so thank you more than I can express.

my wedding day April 1976 - full roll call of Goves from left, Tina, Dad, Cathy, Helen & Mum

 

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.

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Schools
Well I went to them! I did pretty well in junior school and was one of the brighter kids, always in the top five of the class. Being a pretty little blonde in those days, I got picked for nativity plays and was vice-captain of one of the Houses ~ Thomas More House in fact. Another seminal influence as he was a remarkable man of principle and intellect and also a fantasy writer of course. I was good at art and writing and rattled my way through the school library, my favourites always being books on Greek or Norse mythology, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson; books like the Water Babies, Gulliver's Travels or The Borrowers and also the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis ~ I'm sure you're recognising a pattern beginning to emerge here!

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...
Anyway, I was 'expected' to stay on for 'A' levels but I really didn't want to stay in school. I was frighteningly unambitious ~ I had wanted to be a teacher ~ but I'd had enough and as it was obvious I had no interest in a 'proper vocation' (e.g. doctor/nurse, teacher or a nun ~ we were catholics) my parents were fine with me leaving and getting a job. So I left school without a single tear and happily embarked on the journey to become a 'grown up'.

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Boys, Men & Me
I fell in love for the first time at 14 and got dumped twice ~ he broke my heart but I think he probably did me a favour. Another 'landmark' relationship was with 'Brake Parts' as he was known to my eventual husband. The poor lad was my first 'adult' boyfriend and with him I discovered the fascination and power women hold over men ~ how I emerged still relatively unsullied from my time with him I'll never know, but he was also very possessive and so he became the first person I dumped. He threatened to kill himself, but soon got over me and the next girl was more obliging and so he had to get married pretty soon after that. Another lucky escape then.

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.

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Marriage
Well apart from my parents, Pete looms large in my life and if I hadn't grudgingly decided to go on to a club with him after a retirement 'do' after 18 months of working together ~ well I'd never have got to travel as much as I have done for a start. Starting out as work friends was good as I'm sure many people will agree, since so many relationships begin there. So we always 'got on' and he had a good sense of humour and he was very extrovert. He was also 7 years older than me, so the more experienced man card was played quite well too. I was 16 when we started and nearly 18 when we married in April 1976. And I left home for the first time. We were happy, but had no kids and so were able to travel a lot by way of compensation. On the way we learned to ski, fell in love with sub-Saharan Africa and went on lots of holidays to Disneyland in Orlando, California and, when it was opened, to Paris. He still does that - I don't, mainly because theme parks have long since lost their allure for me, especially in the US as I don't do flying anymore except for something really wonderfull....

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Work
We moved away from the south-west as the employment market was lousy back then and lived in the home counties for 27 years. Abandoning the insurance biz Pete worked for a plumbers merchant until the '90s and latterly took up his true calling as a travel agent, working 5 mins drive from home. I worked for the one employer, The Lord Chancellor's Dept which became The Court Service and then, after I 'left', Her Majesty's Court Service when the magistrates courts were swallowed up in the rationalisation of LCD as it morphed into the Ministry of Justice and zzzzzz.... I had mixed success in my career and it ended badly with my having several breakdowns, the later ones becoming irrevocable and which led to our relocating back to the westcountry, where life wasn't so oppressive and we were nearer family and friends.

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...

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Travel / Holidays
In the south-east Pete's career in travel was far more successful and he enjoyed the work, the people and especially the perks! These took the form of educationals or familiarisation 'fam' trips which he went on alone and also competitions and other great 'bargain' holidays that took us both all over Europe, Africa and the US.
With no family we had a great time travelling and this also prompted another hobby that became a passion - photography.

Favourite countries include:~ Greece, Austria, Norway, Kenya, Zimbabwe (in the '80s) and Namibia.

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Healthy Wealthy and Wise?
Hmmmm... not exactly. Wisdom makes appearances occasionally so my online friends tell me. 'Wealthy' enough thanks to PAYE and National Insurance, via early retirement, and also health or lack of it which has thus far kept me state-supported. And health for it's own sake - well it's OK but mentally I veer a LOT! The depression is clinical and chronic. I take medication and that keeps me mostly stable and most days I'm functional provided I don't have people to deal with, face to face anyway. Online is a different case ~ somehow I can more than function and in some ways I am more 'real' on the web than I am in Cornwall.

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...

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Passions and Pursuits
By then I had found and joined an online forum for Lord of the Rings fans and all things Tolkien and somehow it turned things around for me and I started to feel more like my old self. It was strange at first, but I was intrigued with the site and its focus and then I began to be drawn to the people as well. By the end of April 2005 I was hooked although I was still petrified about roleplaying and my IC - my character - went through a series of transitions from human, to half-elf, to fully elven as I gradually found my feet and my place in 'Middle Earth'. I made a lot of friends and my confidence grew as I started to draw again and to write fan fiction and finally to writing poetry, something I had hated at school and had never really 'done' since I left.

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.

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Writing

And here I am at a major landmark point in my life - a published author at last! My first novel, Milele Safari went on sale at the end of December 2013 and an eReader version went out on Amazon Kindle in mid February 2014. Because I've self-published I've also set up DreamWorlds Publishing, an online writers' support community in harness with DreamWorlds. We're now engaged in compiling an anthology project with a loose fantasy theme which we hope to complete by the year end 2014.
As for personal projects - I'm currently writing the early chapters of a new sci-fantasy fusion series which will encompass ecological and genetic themes along with a dose of shapeshifting and dragons (of a sort). Tune into
DreamWorlds Publishing for more news as the project gets underway...

So welcome to my world. Discover it on these pages for yourself in the art and poetry galleries.

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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?

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Contact

email ~ jan@janhawke.me.uk

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Live your dream at dream-worlds.net

A textual roleplay and leisure/pastime chat forum
founded by myself and some good friends

or ~ if you're an author or illustrator
then you're welcome to come and see us at

© Jan the Diva 2003 - 2015