I was born at home in May 1971, back then, my mum wore her hair long and her skirts short and my dad looked like he was one of the Dubliners.
Mum thought that as she was having a May baby she would be able to put me in my pram in the garden but it rained heavily throughout the month of May, so Toni had to stay indoors.
I have lived in Chester for all but eight months of my life but was born 160 miles away in Luton.
Many people ask me about my name; I am not Antonia or Antoinette, my parents liked the name Toni and said that Antonia or Antoinette would just get shortened anyway, so they christened me Toni. It wasn’t easy going through school with a ‘boys name’ and even now people insist on spelling it with a ‘y’, rather than an ‘i’. To this day I look for personalised items with my name on and never find them, however, overtime I think I have kind of grown into it and now like it for its quirkiness which I think suits me just fine.
‘Family legend’ says that I am related to Lieutenant John Shortland, who discovered the first coal in Australia whilst taking prisoners to Botany Bay and also discovered and named the Hunter River but for most part I am descended from agricultural labourers and domestic servants.
Things I am proud of: founding the Information Point and The Big Sunflower Project for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy, also having a photo published by the RHS on the cover of one of their diaries
I love music and during my 20’s could regularly be found at concerts, where possible, up at the stage next to the loud speakers, watching Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and more.
I have never watched The Sound of Music.
I like nothing better than to curl up with a good book. Sometimes, I give my books away when I have finished reading them. Bookcrossing allows me to register my books with a unique id number, then I ‘release the book into the wild’ for someone else to find and enjoy. If I am lucky, the person who finds the book will register that they have found it, read it, then pass it on to someone else. The id number means that everyone who finds the book is able to keep up with where the book travels.
I am at my happiest in my garden – I enjoy planting things, nurturing them and watching them grow.
I believe I am perceived as a quiet, shy and unconfident person and whilst this is not untrue, I can also be stubborn, determined and a bit feisty. It is an interesting combination of character traits to have rattling around in one body.
I need a lot of sleep and get very grumpy without it.
I left school at 16 years of age – when I told my English teacher that I was going out to work, she told me I could do better for myself than that. It was as I recall, a short exchange of words but it was the first time anyone had indicated they thought I could achieve anything – the words stayed with me, niggling way, until eventually I embarked on an Open University degree course, causing me to believe that you should never underestimate the impact of what you say to others.
It took six years of part time study but in 2009 I graduated with a BSc. During my final year I studied design and worked on a project to design an all terrain wheelchair, which I titled The Everyday People Project.
People take my breathe away, for both good and bad reasons.
My greatest fear is loosing the use of my legs and not being able to take care of myself. The thought of not being able to do so and having to rely on on others to do things for me scares me immensely.
I am not difficult, I just know what I like.
I wish I could walk in high heels, cope with late nights and let go more – somewhere inside there is a wild child waiting to get out but I think she lost her way.
I believe in the idea that lots of tiny actions can make a big difference. As Desmond Tutu once said ‘Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world’.