Claire Hennighan

I’m a wife, and mum to two children and one cockapoo. I teach English and drama at a small Independent 0-16 school in Lancashire. I’ve decided that I might just like to be an author when I grow up – at 40 years old, I should probably stop procrastinating and get on with giving it a go.

A brief biography

I grew up in Lancashire and met my now-husband whilst studying towards A-levels at Blackburn College when I was 17. I studied English Language and Literature at The University of Liverpool. Hubby was at Sheffield University, so we were lucky in being to spend time in both cities. We moved in together after uni, renting a basement flat in Leeds, whilst I studied towards my PGCE at The University of Leeds. We got married in 2002, when I was 23, and moved to Howden, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, to be close to his job, and I taught English at an 11-18 school. Soon, after getting married, I was diagnosed with a weird form of ovarian cancer, at a time when my mum was also in remission from breast cancer. The emergency nature of the surgery meant that we were told that I’d probably not be able to have children. After making a recovery myself, Mum got ill again and we moved back to Lancashire, to Preston, to be nearer to her. I got a job at second in department at another 11-18 high school. As Mum’s health began to deteriorate, we decided to move right back to Great Harwood, and have been settled here ever since. I got a job as Head of English at a 11-16 high school. In 2007, Mum lost her battle with cancer.

In 2009, our son was born – our first little miracle – and then we were blessed with another little miracle when our daughter was born in 2011. Life took on new meaning and I had a whole new perspective. I’d already gone part-time at work, and stepped down as Head of Department. I took up role as the English teacher at a lovely local private school shortly after my second maternity leave. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made – my children attended the nursery and primary school there, and I’ve managed to spend as much time with them each week as I would if I were a stay-at-home mum. My husband remains my rock.

What I’ve done in the past

I’m a bit of a sucker for a new project, and have always enjoyed anything creative. I’m better at starting projects than finishing them off, having a million and one ideas and sometimes little to show for it. I used to play classical guitar at school, but then didn’t play for 25 years – I bought a second-hand guitar a few years ago, and it now looks nice, gathering dust on my office wall. I went through a stage of making greetings cards for a few years when my children were young (as a newborn, my son would sleep for about 20 hours a day, and I needed a quiet hobby!) – I’ve still got all the materials and tools but haven’t played around with them for ages. I’ve spent a couple of years digging up the roots of my family tree, and have got one branch back to 1066. I’m a serial yo-yo dieter, and have been very dilligent about following Weight Watchers, Slimming World, 5:2 and Keto diets, for several months at a time, then losing interest, for most of my adult life. Couple this with my love of baking and cooking, and you get the idea. I was fortunate in having the opportunity to learn Spanish through the Erasmus programme for teachers, which included two week-long residential in Santander. I started thinking having a go at writing last year, and completed an online course in Starting Writing Fiction.

Me and my husband both love to travel, and we’ve been fortunate to have some fabulous adventures in the past. In fairness, other than the children, it’s the main thing that we choose to spend our money on, always favouring buying an experience over buying ‘stuff’. We prefer to explore cities and the follow local recommendations rather than doing a package deal. Some of my favourite trips have been a train journey through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, a three-week whistle-stop drive down the west coast of America, a camper-van trip around New Zealand, and short breaks to Tokyo, New Orleans and a couple of visits to Berlin, which is the city that I feel most ‘at home’ in . We also discovered festivals in our 30s and try to attend one or two each summer. In fairness, it’s more about the food and hanging out with friends for me – I’m not a music connoisseur like my husband – if the sun’s still shining by Sunday afternoon, I’m a happy bunny!

What I’m up to now

If you ask my friends what I ‘do’, they’d probably say that I read and bake. Yup! In the last year or so, with the pandemic lockdown, I’ve read an awful lot – mainly as a way of keeping my anxieties at bay – and got into reviewing and blogging. In turn, that’s made me think that maybe I might like to have a go at writing, and I’m currently about 10,000 words into my fledgling novel, which is a murder mystery for 8-12 year olds. My daughter has been heavily involved in helping me plan this and she’s now my chief critic – if the only thing that I get out writing is a stronger bond with her, then that’s fine. A few years ago, I set myself a challenge to bake everything in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, and I’m about half-way through at the moment (hence my yo-yo dieting, I really don’t help myself at all!). I’ve entered a shed load of competitions over the last few years, more because I’m incapable of just sitting and watching television for its own sake, and have been lucky in winning some fairly decent prizes. One of our first nights away this year is hopefully going to be a stay at a dog-friendly hotel for me, the hubby and our cockapoo. As we’re (hopefully) approaching the end of the pandemic lockdowns, we’re currently trying to get the garden into shape so that we can spend lots of time having family and friends round this summer.

The last year has taught me that I really don’t need much – family, friends, good food, wine and some good books, and I’m happy. I’ve realised that I don’t particularly like going anywhere anyway – bit of a guilty secret that one! – that I am ridiculously lucky to have a husband, children, over-enthusiastic dog, and a house that I like, and the technology to be able to carry on working for pay and keep in touch with people. This last year has made me realise that I’ve got everything I ever wanted, and that I should just really sit back and enjoy it all. I’m not very good at sitting back and doing nothing though, so cue future stresses about things that I don’t even need/want. One of the best things about this last year, was being able to form a support bubble with my sister. As a result, we’ve got so much closer, and it’s been lovely to see so much of her. This is the silver lining on the cloud that has been Covid-19.

What’s next?

Well, let’s face it, if the last year has taught us anything it’s that some things just happen out of your control. For now, I’m just really, really looking forward to being able to hug people again – anyone really! I haven’t missed handshakes, polite pecks on the cheek, or meetings, but hugs…. yes please!

The long-term dream/bucket-list item would be to get a novel published, but with two children and a full-time job, that may take some patience.

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