Officer training – not all stiff upper lip!

Three months’ “shake-and-bake” officer training at the Britannia Royal Naval College back in 1978 produced a great batch of new Women’s Royal Naval Officers.

You can see that parades featured large – and it could be perhaps an hour standing around with those winter winds blowing up skirts.  We all had full sets of cold weather gear: thermal vests and short “long johns”.  The problem was when the weather was so bad that they cancelled the outdoor parade so we had to strip off the thermals in no time flat – which also meant grappling with complicated collar studs.  Where did they get the idea that still dressing up for the last century was a mark of leadership potential?

The great and the good, the Admirals and Director WRNS, came to inspect the turn-out and precision footwork.

Behind the scenes there was a bit more fun: taking our feet off the ground for a flight in the College’s helo.  I just wish I had an image of the ballroom dancing classes we took in preparation for all the future wardroom Balls– there was so much laughter at the dreadful footwork that some were thrown out for being too disruptive.

And the rehearsal for the end-of-term Passing Out Parade was another traditional time for different dressing up – its difficult to see which were the real women and which were just for the morning.

On parade 2 On parade Passing out parade rehearsal Butter wouldn't melt Close inspection Dressed for Helo flight

Navy women.

Here’s the fourth batch of young women transforming in to naval officers at Dartmouth in early 1978.  We had just three months although many of the men took years.2 rows of women officer cadets plus their Divisional officers on the steps in front of the naval college

I remember the feet of the Special Duties Division (St George’s?) pounding in the cold dark hours of their early morning platoon runs – and their chorused shout of “Good morning, Talbot Division” under our windows to banish the last hopes of desperate sleep.  There must have been some confusion as to whether we were training as maids or officers: every minute seemed to be spent polishing (brass and shoes), ironing anything that could be worn and practising how to drink coffee without the regulation chocolate biscuit melting down the side of the cup.

There was lots of rushing about – but only in a very lady-like way – not much sleep and a wild fantasy that being able to “drive” the platoon around the parade ground was going to be career enhancing.

I found the very best refuge: warm, barely lit and with soft mats for a snooze.   It was the firing range so I became an enthusiastic rifle and pistol shot to the extent that, in desperation, they included me in the College team.  But, in those days, despite the Women’s Royal Naval Service having been trained at the College for over a year, the powers-that-be still hadn’t quite grasped that we wear different clothes.  The vaunted Dartmouth “Colours” came in the form of a natty green tie replete with the Britannia logo – just what I needed!

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

 

Calling cooks and chefs around the world: your help please.

I have this wonderful opportunity: to cook around the world and show that just being blind doesn’t hold me (or others) back.Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.com

As one of the 50 worldwide blind semi-finalists for the Holman prize, I now have about four weeks to flesh out my original pitch with a detailed plan and budget if I’m to reach the Final.   The prize commemorates James Holman who, like me, was blinded when serving in the Royal Navy.

probationery third officer melville brown WRNSI’m looking for people in different countries (whether chef or home-cook, sighted or not) willing to spend about half a day cooking with me – in cafes, restaurants, homes or anywhere else within reason!   These are the people who will make this whole adventure come alive: helping me bust myths about what blind people can do.    Together, we can capture some favourite and local recipes and share them across the globe through the Baking Blind YouTube channel, podcast, blogs and social media: there’s an example of me cooking with John and our sillier Comic relief fundraising episode.

My only concern is that the budget will probably be too tight for much travel away from main airports.  But I’m already trying to raise more funds and help-in-kind so that I can go further, meet more cooks and reach more people.

If you or someone you know could help, take part or would like to know more, just drop me an e-mail to penny@laylands.co.uk

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Can’t see but can cook and dream…

I am competing alongside around 100 other international blind people for the inaugural Holman prize being awarded by the San Francisco ‘Lighthouse’ organisation to allow the winner to fulfill their dream.
Each of us has created a short video clip – there are many excellent ideas from amazing people. My own goal is to take the ‘Baking Blind” channel and website around the world: cooking with other people and showing that life with a disability can still be fun, fabulous and fulfilling. I’ve spent nearly 20 years helping other people with health conditions and impairments to get back to work so I know there’s lots of talent out there if others can look beyond our disabilities and see the people we are.
The prize commemorates James Holman who became blind while serving in the Royal Navy in the early 19th century –his adventures travelling solo around the world are celebrated in his biography “A Sense of the World”. Coincidentally, I am also a blind veteran having left the Royal Navy as a Commander in 1999.
You can support me with a ‘Thumbs Up’ for my YouTube clip at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26G_kenQFQ4
And see other dreams for the Holman prize at https://www.holmanprize.org/candidates . First round ‘voting’ closes on 7 March 2017.

Penny sitting in the garden

If you think that disability is no bar to being a great cook, please Like my 90 second Baking Blind clip

You Tube 

probationery third officer melville brown WRNSI’m thrilled to have been invited to join the competition for the Holman prize being run by the San Francisco Lighthouse organisation for blind and visually impaired people (https://www.holmanprize.org/): $25,000 to enable a blind person to fulfil their ambition.

Spookily enough, it commemorates another blind Royal Navy officer: James Holman travelled around the world solo in the early 19th century.  And, of course, in this centenary year for the Women’s Royal Naval Service, its good to have a female perspective too!

Cooking around the world would be my own adventure to show  that , while being blind still doesn’t limit our ambition and abilities , 21st century life makes our aspirations even more achievable.  And our modern communications (like my Baking Blind YouTube channel, blogs, website and more) can shine a different light on life with a disability for a truly international audience.

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

I’d be hugely grateful if you could support my bid for the prize.

Please Share and encourage your friends and contacts (at home and overseas) to do the same.

While the prize would be a great boost, I’m still committed to Baking Blind as a way to show that living with a disability can be fun and fulfilling.    I’m always adding new videos to the channel and the recipes are available from www.bakingblind.com (and can be downloaded as accessible word documents).  I’d very much welcome your contribution: ideas, any practical support, recipes, links to your material and more.

You might also be interested in why I joined the navy.

The finished article

The finished article

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

penny@bakingblind.com