Recently I travelled to have a coffee  with a woman who reached out to us to find out more and possibly join Inside Outside.   We exchanged many emails and texts and finally arranged to meet.

As ever, I was nervous on the journey, full of questions and doubts but also a mix of excitement and pleasure.  I had no expectations that she would want to be part of our project and adventure but was just keen to link with her and of course have a great cuppa in a nice café.  I made notes of key points I wanted to cover with her and to keep me on track in case we got caught up in conversation.  And also because my memory seems shot these days and didn’t want the return journey to have those “oh no, why DIDNT I say that” moments.

We had arranged to meet at her local station and joked about how we would recognise each other.  It felt like a blind date. We swopped detailed descriptions of hair styles, outfits and accessories to make sure we could connect but I still found myself smiling at any woman, even those who blatantly didn’t fit the template I had in my  mind.

We knew each other right away.  Her smile lit up the car park as she strode across.  It could only be her.  Lets call her “Janine” at this stage.

Immediately Janine and I started to chat as we walked to a café.  No stilted conversation and pauses as we relaxed into each others company and found connections and common threads.

I wont say I tried to put Janine off joining the project – that would be too strong a description but I had to be honest.  I really wanted to highlight what other women had experienced and felt throughout the work and how it had impacted on them.  I talked through what supports she had in her live and what safety nets she had around her in case anything was triggered.

I also wanted Janine to know the real values behind what we were trying to do and showed her my notes for the meting with “CHOICE, CONTROL, CONSENT” written in large words across the bottom of my page and “BEAUTY and TRUTH” across the top.    Despite my efforts – she wanted to be involved.

I left her at one stage with a copy of the book with the other women’s stories and photos.  Walking back to the table, I could see she was engrossed with her head down reading and as I sat down, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes.   She was moved by their images and words and even with a skim read, she was making connections with the other women, their lives and experiences.

Janine gave me a hug and another of her huge smiles.We parted after nearly 2 hours.  The control was left with Janine and she would get in touch when she was ready.

She texted yesterday.  She has been thinking about her story and already working out ideas for her photos.  A date is set for us to meet.

Janine – it’s lovely to have you join us at whatever level and for however long.  Already I have learnt so much from you.