I started in February 1995 and took the job as Administrator in Adult’s services because it was term-time only. It was not long however; before it was not just a job that fitted with family life. Conductive Education and the people we work with makes it so so much more than that.

My first office was in a converted toilet at Harborne Hill School, so salubrious. Better things were to come however. Adults moved to Cannon Hill in October 1995 and my desk was outside the toilet! A vast improvement. Some years later we moved into Cannon Hill House – nowhere near the toilet.

However it is not the building, but what happens within it. I have been in the privileged position of seeing people come into the building for the first time, some knowing little or nothing about Conductive Education. Even just attending the initial consultation can change people’s lives, with advice given and with the positive way their individual problems are addressed. They are not a number, they are all individuals with individual and personal difficulties for which they are seeking help and hope. Carers too are just as important as the participant, they too are living with the condition from a different, but just as challenging perspective. So often a family leaves after a consultation saying ‘Why has no one explained the condition in this way or given us this advice before?’

I have been privileged to meet so many wonderful participants and got to know their families. I hope that I have supported you along the way to share a laugh, been there for advice, a hug or just a shoulder to cry on.

I have been involved with celebrity visits, even meeting and shaking hands with Princess Diana, I also attended her funeral as a representative of NICE. I have been known to dress up for events, not always willingly I might add. I have sung carols in New Street Station (not to be recommended); I did 2 sponsored long-distance walks and even took part in a dragon boat race; and much more, all to raise money and awareness. Less glamorous I have cleaned toilets, done the garden, shovelled snow – you name it I think I have done it.  You just role your sleeves up and get on with it when you work for a charity that is always on the bread line.

I witnessed the birth of the ground-breaking degree course and have along the way helped a lot of students in some small way; some of them became my colleagues and friends.

Over the 26 years there has been laughter and tears, triumphs and failures, and I have learned so much about neurological conditions but also human nature. The sheer determination and energy on a daily basis that our wonderful participants and carers need to get through a day.

However I now know it is time for me to move over for a younger model and for me to skip off down the drive to the next stage of my life. Mel and I have worked together all these years and we always joked we would skip off down the drive together. However NICE is very lucky that she isn’t going anywhere just yet.

NICE has been such a huge part of my life and I am grateful and lucky to have been a part of this amazing team for so long.  I hope you all miss me just a little.

Keep doing what you do.

Nicola Sandford
Administrator for Adult Services