I think Stoke Ferry is a lovely village. The people are warm and friendly and always have time for a chat and a laugh when they come into the shop.
There is a great sense of community. When the shop got broken into last year, Daren and I were touched by all the customers’ concern. Even though the thieves were only in the shop for three minutes, for us it was months of work in the aftermath.
To make matters worse, we had to spend weeks talking to the police and the Insurance Company. Added to that, the Post Office in Downham Market lost our money by paying it into the wrong account. We almost closed the shop for good! But the kindness and support of our customers helped us to battle through. So – we couldn’t let the thieves win and rob the village of its shop. Its my wish that the shop can be there for our customers for many more years, as they were there for us when we needed it.
As you’ve guessed by now, I’m Zoe Ager, born at Orsett Hospital on the 11th March, 1974. I’ve one brother, Arron, four years older than me. He lives in Essex with his girlfriend, Abbi, and their daughter, Lucy.
My Mum, Janet, works for Essex County Council in the Planning Section and my step-Dad, Tony, is self-employed. He has a sandwich shop called ‘Fresh Fills’ in Grays. He supplies buffets to local businesses.
My Dad, Peter, was a photographer at Fords before he retired. He’s now married to Rachel and lives in Portsmouth.
Herringham in Chadwell St. Mary was my first primary school. Then for two years I went to Torrels Senior School, and for my final 3 years to Winterton Comprehensive School. After finishing school, I went into hair dressing, working 5 days a week in the shop and going to College one day a week to study the science behind it. After 3 years there I was fully qualified, but didn’t stay. I wanted more fashion work than was coming in through the door – the shop where I was working didn’t enter competitions – so I lost my enthusiasm for the job.
My next job was a complete contrast. I worked with a team of 6 women at Linpac Plastics making the air vent, ashtrays, etc. for the Toyota Carina E model. It was great fun, and I stayed there until I was 21, and I still smile about those times.
By then, I had been in a long-distance relationship with Daren, who was living in Greenwich. So after a year I got a transfer so that I’d be closer. Unfortunately, the transfer didn’t work out, but luckily I had an understanding family who let me stay with them. I didn’t want to go back to Scunthorpe.
After this, I did a variety of other jobs, starting with a Xmas job at Argos. After the season finished, I got a job at Costco at Lakeside and stayed for two years. By then I was getting less tolerant of people’s bad manners and bad attitudes. Even my assistant manager used to grind on me until one day I exploded at him! Oops! I was given a three day disciplinary, so I looked for another job.
A short while later I saw an ad looking for personnel to work in a new Toni&Guy salon that would be opening in Basildon. I applied to be the receptionist, but was offered a colour technician position since I already had experience of this work. I’d have to go to London to be trained in the way that Toni&Guy required the work to be done. I felt pressured to apply for this job though I would have preferred the receptionist job. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I knew this wasn’t for me. So I quit.
I also wanted to have children. I was at the right age. So, I decided to focus on that, and Cameron came along on 08.08.2000 at Basildon Hospital when I was 26 and Daren was 30. Life had just become complete. Even so, over time we felt that we wanted a change. Essex had altered so much it wasn’t what we wanted any more. Daren was working from 7.0 am until 7.0 pm, only seeing Cameron for a short time at night and weekends. So we started talking about moving to a new area
We’d been to the Norfolk Broads and fallen in love with its peaceful, slower pace of life, so we spoke about moving here. Looking on Ebay for businesses, Daren found this shop, so we arranged to come to view and to look around the area. I remember sitting in the car outside the shop to see how many people went in and out. We were worried because the other shop in the village had closed down and we even drove away to go home. At Methwold we decided to go back. We had made an appointment to meet Martin, the former owner, and thought it rude not to turn up.
After meeting Martin, we thought we could make a go of it. Four months later we were living in Norfolk. Our Essex house was not yet sold, but Martin wanted us to take over the shop asap, so we rented a house in Methwold until it was sold. In October, we got the keys to our new home and began a new chapter in our lives in Stoke Ferry.
It took the first few years to get to know the business, then the recession came along. Luckily, we survived. At that time I was not working in the shop, as I was doing paper rounds. So we never really did much with the windows. One day, a little girl in the village gave me the idea by talking about the house next door doing brilliant Halloween and Xmas displays. She said I should do one, and it progressed from there. Now I’m working in the shop I have time to design and make themed or seasonal displays. Customers have been really great and supportive, some even giving/lending me pieces to put in the window. A big thank-you to you all!
We’ve settled in here, and I really enjoy living in Norfolk, although I don’t always make the most of it, being too busy most of the time. My favourite part is the Broads. I love chugging along in the boat, all the little pubs and the laid back lifestyle. And the fact you can see so much wildlife, from deer to buzzards, rabbits and pheasants. I feel lucky to see this most days.
I’m not one for holidays, but a favourite was to Meliha Bay in Malta. On the first day we came across a dog on the beach. It was overcast, raining, and we played with him for an hour or so. A couple of days later, while I was in the sea, I found a sea-horse that was being pushed ashore by the waves. So I gave him my finger to hook onto and took him further out to sea where he swam away.
As it happens, my great-grandfather is buried somewhere in Malta. I’d like to go back some day to see if I can find his grave.
Here at home, I’m a Netflix fan and love to block watch. I’ve just finished Bates Motel 10/10. And my favourite food is Daren’s chilli and a cold beer. Last summer we spent a lot of time at the King’s Arms in Shouldham, a lovely pub with good food, and I nice outdoor area.
My favourite mode of transport is the car. I don’t like flying and if the sea is too choppy, I don’t like sailing.
Being brought up around cats, I always wanted a dog and wondered what the difference would be. Must say I’ve found a dog’s love wonderful. A four-legged friend is always there no matter your mood – always there to love, play or cuddle and they always remind me to let go, to live life in the moment as they do.
My special talents are creativity. I enjoy making something from nothing, and I learned to read music and play the violin a couple of years ago. My teacher in King’s Lynn said I was a natural and should take exams, but I haven’t had much time to play it lately. I’m hoping to get back to it in the future
My favourite day out includes a nice meal with the family at the pub, or taking the dogs out for a long walk. I’m not a big retail shopper but love a charity shop or boot sale with good bargains. Although I’m not really into possessions, I love to wear vintage clothing when I’m going out, so I’m most likely to find it in these places. I’m not one for going to big shopping centers because I don’t like crowds or trying to find a place to park the car, and I can never find what I am after anyway.
My pet hates are thieves, dishonest and cruel people, and I cannot tolerate people with no manners. I’m very much a home person, even though I do like to get out every so often. I love being a Mum and to be with my family and pets. My son Cameron brings laughter into our lives, he’s such a grounded young lad and always gives good advice when I’m in need of help.
Finally, I would very much like to say a big thank-you to one of my ‘special’ customers. Jim – I don’t know his surname – cheerfully helps me every morning by moving the heavy papers from the back store to the shop, a real bonus, for which I’m very grateful.
And I’d also like to thank our loyal, regular customers. Our reason for being here is to supply your needs; and the friendly chats and laughs we share brighten my day.