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Born to be Free
My Autobiography By Katey Jane Andrews
I Was born in the town of Wisbech in the Cambridgeshire Fens in mid-November 1971 and was one of the Bowthorpe hospital babies. We lived in a static caravan on the outskirts of Wisbech and near to the village of Leverington. The van was freezing cold, and mum had little money to pay for the heating. She was a single parent and struggled to bring me up and to make matters worse, I was often an ill child. She would work like most people in the fens doing land work, it was back-breaking work and for hardly any money. My illness, mostly chest infections became so bad, my doctor intervened and went to the local council and shortly after we got one of the new council houses just across the field from the van site in Leverington in 1974.
The new house had a large garden, and I soon became interested in the common frogs that lived in the garden. For a five-year-old, this was exciting times, I had found nature. I soon became obsessed with it and would spend hours trying to learn how plants and animals lived.
Mother met my stepdad when I was about 5 I think, and he liked gardening, I would try and help and often we found all kinds of fun items from money and clay pipes in fact bags of old coins that someone had left. I gather that's where my interest in archaeology came about in later life.
My interest in art started at the same time as nature. I used to draw in black and white pencil, I have had a fascination with drawing steam trains, and I can only gather why I did, dad used to take us to the North Norfolk steam railway, I would sit and watch these massive trains with such interest, and my dad's brother had a large triang train set which he later passed on to us.
School out forever
Life was about to change in ways that still upsets me today 40 odd years on. One day mum said I'm starting school. My first school was Peckover Primary School in Wisbech. Well, my early days were hell, forced to drink milk and made to do things I didn't particularly appreciate doing. Even at the age of 5, I felt something was so wrong with the school. Soon after mum pulled me out of that school because it was upsetting me so severely. A few weeks past and mum managed to get me into our local school in Leverington.
My life at Leverington school started off ok but soon went downhill. I became disinterested and would isolate myself from the other kids. I would often struggle with lessons, unable to take things in, paying attention was near impossible unless it involved art and nature. Words would become a jumbled mess, but I could see and do something no other kids could with hands-on and making things. I was a highly driven child and an individual one too. I knew what I wanted in life, I could solve issues yet would be unable to explain it out in writing, and it has not changed one bit for me throughout my life. If only they had noticed, I suffered from severe dyslexia and not tried to push me into doing what I was about to do.
Still, I struggled at school. Yet, the teachers pushed me into doing things hated doing. Away from school, my mum and dad would take me out on adventures, often to Sandringham, Hunstanton and Thetford forest. Also mum bought me my first camera, a small pocket camera for my 7th birthday to take out on our adventures. I didn't know it would play such a large roll in my life. As my interest in nature, art and photography grow my school life was falling to bits and things were about to take a big turn for the worse that changed my life forever.
After spending hours drawing a steam train, I decided to take it to art class thinking the teacher would like it. However, what he said still makes me sick to this day, he stated I was a cheat and traced the drawing as no child could draw that well! Well, that was it for me with school, and the troubles began and it was also the very last time I ever did any more drawing.
I started to play truant from school but would be either arrested and took back to school or chased to the truancy officer. It's funny when I look back in my life as it was a child V the police, schools, courts and family, and none of them were going ever to win that war. The courts thought a 7-year-old would be a walkover, yes they sent me to school, but no one could force me to do a thing, the more they pushed, the more I rebelled. By now I was at secondary school (well sort of), I had lost count on the number of times I was in the youth courts. They sent me to school via the police and was given a truancy officer and was sent to see a shrink. I now find it very funny when I think about those days with the shrinks, trying to find out why I was not too fond of school, I would not tell them which upset them as they could not break me. I guess I can say they made me the way I was and each time they pushed me, they made the rod bigger for their backs!
An old fasioned life
I sent much of my childhood working on the land, apple, strawberry and pear picking, and I was a top professional strawberry picked aged just nine. it was backbreaking work but could earn over £100 a week, and back then it was a lot of money it was what our family has done throughout its history, and it made us into robust people in the bleak and isolated fens countryside.
As a child and into my teens, I spent some of my time with mums dad, and he was a man who lived day to day to survive, would go fishing to eat and lived a nomadic lifestyle, some would say eccentric and firmly stuck in the past type of man. He was a true Fensman through and through. I never met his wife as she died aged just 33; they had nine kids together. Still, these kids weren't born to be the family type; they were born as slaves to work for their crawl and often brutal father. It would be school and off to work all day every day seven days a week, when they weren't doing that it would be church three times a week, lucky for mum and her eight brothers and sisters lived right next to the church in the small village of Tydd St Marys Lincolnshire.
I found mums dad a strange yet interesting man; he would be fishing one minute and off on his bike to the Lincolnshire marsh wash nature reserve to collect shellfish and samphire when it was ready to pick the next. I would often join him on my pushbike and go to dumps to collect firewood or go digging horseradish, which would be sold to a local man by the potatoes sized sack full for £14 per bag. This simple way of life was such a draw to me, a slow yet vintage way, where massive open wood fires would rage up the chimney catching the chimney on fire "that's alright gall he would say! it will burn itself out, and he was right every time." sparks would fly over my head, landing on the carpet burning large holes, it was exhilarating for a child, I guess it was the start of my nomadic lifestyle where I had to be out in nature as much as possible.
I found fishing most interesting, and it played a massive role in my families lives when food was hard to find in the war. Still, it was one of the most popular pastimes for kids in the fens, in the 1980s, (a far cry from the Xboxes of today’s kids!). We would go fishing a few times a week at a place called Foul Anchor Cambridgeshire; it is an old bridge that crosses over one of the Fenland drain outlets that flows into the river nene. We would climb down the steep bank and had to jump 6 feet onto a mud bank and was in the reeds, and we would set up deadlines (string around a stick, a lead weight, a worn and flow it out, using a thinner stick, wrapping the line around that and using I like a quiver tip when a fish grabbed the bait the smaller stick would move. We fished for eels, and flatfish called a Dad or butt to us.
Mum's dad then started to teach me the ways of the marshes, how to stay alive like looking out for ankle breakers (small creeks covered by vegetation), how to judge the tides by the speed of the water. And of course for me being a kid creek jumping, a game where you ran as fast as you could and leaping over the most significant one I could find, often landing halfway up and sliding in the mud and oddly I still play the same game nowadays but can't fly as far as I once did, haha. All these games and experiences in my childhood are used often in my daily life nowadays, yet back then had no idea how important those games would become
Broken by the system
In my mid-twenties, my life was very different, into motorbikes for 18 years, and became obsessed with being competitive. I took up mountain bike racing, golf, nine-ball pool and running, but never felt right unless I was on my own and walking along a beach or in the woods with nature, the peacefulness and being with nature made me feel just right. In the late 1990s and after such terrible injuries and being told by my GP to stop racing, I decided to get into photography a bit more.
The 2000s started, and life was about to take a terrible turn for the worse, mum had new neighbours move in next door, they were neighbours from hell itself, evil alcoholics and trouble makes from day one, within six months our lives were a living hell. On new years night 2001, they came round our house in a large group trying to beat my mother up, threatening my father and damaging his car, the police were called and did what the police do, absolutely nothing. Well something had to be done, and it was me who was about to do it, with our lives over something had to give, and 19 days into the new year it all kicked off, and I got three years for standing up to this hell. Being a victim of the British law it changed me, it made me a stronger person, and it turned me dead against the British law system which in my eyes corrupted and matched the worst criminals in the world.
After doing my time and going back home, I never knew that something had changed within me until I noticed I would jump when hearing a loud bang or music from a neighbours house. Still, I never gave it a thought until I met my partner, the next-door neighbours started to make change to their home, the noises they made would make me jump and then begin to panic, as the week went on the flashbacks became so strong that I became ill be depression and in 2008 had a mental breakdown. Not a single doctor could see I was suffering from traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was sectioned under the mental health act under section 37/41 by a crown court. I would get my life back with their help, but I was so wrong, it turned out to be one of the most challenging times of my life. The shrink and the care team literal ruined my life to a point it almost killed me. Even with solicitors and advocates behind me, they could not stop this sick and twisted so-called shrink from destroying my life. It took a letter from an advocate stating kate no longer trusts the doctors make the changes; My battles with the Norvic clinic in Norwich took from 2009 to 2011, but by that time my life was destroyed forever.
When you have been to hell, and back you fear nothing, it makes a person step back from people and gage them no matter who they are and it makes a person stand up for themself where no one can bring you down or knock you and can no longer be hurt, it's been there and done it. I started to find escaping from people into nature more and more appealing. Nature lives in such a way no human can force it; it does what it wants at its own pace. And I found that to my liking even more and taking the camera out on my adventures made sense. The more I escaped, the better I felt so this is when my photography adventure lifestyle began, I would go walking and let the art happen, not knowing what's around the next corner is frilling, and it is the best antidepressant going.
In 2013 I managed to escape the boredom of the Fens and moved to Bedfordshire with my partner who I asked to marry me on the beach at Thornham North Norfolk. Still, luckily for me, he walked out after becoming obsessed with work and found me hard to get on with due to my active lifestyle. So I was on my own with time on my hands and living in a new place offered a hell of a lot more to do than the bleak, lifeless Fens. My walking and photography took off, with lots of nature to see and stunning churches that stood out on the hillsides sparked my interest in architecture. In 2013 I gave being a full-time adventurer and pro photographer ago. In 2014 I won a local contest and was offered work with local farmers photographer the harvest.
I lived in the small village of Thurleigh Bedfordshire and rented a little flat on a farm where the only neighbours being my landlords so at last some peace from the world but how wrong I was and how can the same shit happen to the same person three times in a row. Well, my landlord turned out to be drug party animals and alcoholics, this sent me downhill fast again the flashback but this time I got up and walked out but sadly had to go back to mums in the crappy Fens. Since coming back in 2016 I haven't enjoyed life whatsoever, Wisbech is a dirty run down and deprived town that offers only drink and drugs, the people are depressed and no outlook on life with many hardly leaving their homes, it's a far cry from Bedfordshire that's for sure.
That's why I bought the motorhome to make my escape and to be free where I feel right and live for myself only and often visit my good friend Anne who drags me all over Norfolk with her two fuzz ball poodle dogs. She lives a life just like me, carefree and to live as much as possible.
My life has been different to many, brought up hard and the old fashioned way, it's made me stand up and am scared of no one. I'm fully dyslexic where writing can be challenging but have found that I can write about days out with strong emotions but am unable to make up stories and need to be in the right time and place to write. Words will jumble together and spelt backwards, and I will not notice typos for months on end. But should this stop a person in life and like writing about their lives, no way never! My dyslexia has given me a rare gift to see the world in ways others would never see, to tell the truth in both pictures and words. I have owned and run two other businesses. I suffer from illness often and have a possible MS diagnosis in a few weeks, but you know I still laugh and live my life, I will keep going until I die to go back to nature.