Today Susannah talks to fellow Brit, Occupational Therapist, former valet parking assistant to the stars, business woman, teacher, flower arranger, charity volunteer and intrepid sailor, golfer and mountain biker, Jo Ball who has illuminated INC members’ lives with her radiant awe-inspiring attitude since 2021.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from a scenic rural town nestled firmly within the county of Northumberland, an hour’s drive from the Scottish borders.
My love of everything outdoors stems from living this bucolic life with the added bonus of having the most beautiful beaches within a 10-mile drive.
When I was younger I loved to ride …..is there anything more exhilarating than a flat out gallop on the beach?
Talk us through your varied career
After school I followed my hippy heart to LA to study nursing but realized it wasn´t for me. Like many students I had a few jobs and in LA I worked as a carparking valet at a prestigious nightclub which meant I had the opportunity of parking several Lamborghinis and other luxury cars belonging to the likes of Eddy Murphy, Janet Jackson and Metallica to name a few….having just passed my driving test.
On my return to the UK I trained to become an Occupational Therapist and as my career progressed I turned to teaching and taught hospital staff how to manage patients in the community.
How did you meet your husband?
I met my partner when he was 18 and I was 21 in a night club…we are still in love today as we were all those years ago……31 years this year we have been together. He is the very best part of me. When I feel homesick I only have to look at him and I know that I am home.
You also have an entrepreneurial streak and a strong creative flair
Whilst working for the National Health System I had a long- standing love affair with flowers and undertook many courses before setting up my own business specialising in wedding flowers and then it wasn´t long before Italy beckoned.
What were your impressions of living in Emilia Romagna for three years?
Italy stole my heart and I must return one day to get it back. In Italy we scoured the countryside, travelled every weekend or I went alone midweek discovering more and more about who I was or what I really wanted out of life. We tried each and every vineyard en route, delighted in the local food, took up sailing and chartered our own boat around Elba Island with our old dog and learned some hair-raising lessons and a great respect for the sea. We were fearless.
It was in Italy that I fell in love with mountain biking but alas I did not have the stamina to attack the hills at my age nor the inclination so we bought electric mountain bikes and my love of cycling has and does remain quite obsessive. It has replaced my love of horse riding once my magnificent mount died and I still now cycle everyday with gusto.
What other sports are you interested in?
In 2019 I took up Golf, a sport I have fallen in love with and brought my love of it here to Madrid where I try to play every week. A walk on the golf course is like meditation to me and can quieten the noisiest of minds.
Since early retirement from your hospital career, what charity work have you been involved in?
After Italy we returned to the UK for 2 years where I had decided that, as I was now retired, it was time to pay it forward to my community and help where I could. In 2018 I became a Trustee for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We constantly have to raise money to support our local centres that house thousands of neglected animals.
I also worked as a volunteer fundraiser for a hospice that provides invaluable palliative care at home in my local rural community. The RSPCA and Hospice Northumberland are two wonderful charities close to my heart and a privilege to work for.
What does INC mean to you?
I walked into an INC coffee morning on my own one day in 2021 and met some forever friends and kindred spirits.
INC has brought me great happiness when sometimes the days could appear a little dark after a double cancer diagnosis in 5 months after moving here. It gave me an opportunity to discover a sisterhood of wonderful, strong, beautiful women. It forced me out of the house when I wanted to dive back under the duvet and it established a normality I greatly needed.
There are two ladies in particular (you know who you are) who have shown me such kindness and support during days when the sun refused to shine. Thank you …….you are now part of my story forever.