I was born in Waltham Abbey in Essex, the middle child of three girls.  Our father was a hackney carriage licensed driver ( one of the famous London black cab drivers! ) and our mum was intially a "stay at home mum",  then later a nursery school  teacher.

My parents inspired me to work hard, to be kind and to enjoy life. My father would say “nothing should stop you from achieving what you want from life, so long as you’re prepared to work for it “.

He had been in the Merchant Navy and encouaged me to travel to gain life eperience.  After high school I took a two year "gap year".   I backpacked around Europe, lived on a Kibbutz in Israel, hitchhiked into the Sinai desert - stopping briefly to spend time with a Bedouin family - before trekking across Zimbabwe and Namibia.

In Zimbabwe I volunteered with an organisation - then called Operation Raleigh - now Raleigh International. It proved to be a formative period.  I lived among tribespeople, helped to build schools, lavatories, and lived life in the bush.  I got stung by a scorpion, was charged by elephants (and generally had a ball!)  It was also on this expedition that I met the friends who remain closest to me today.

In 1990 I went to Durham University where I studied Psychology - with a particular focus in child developmental psychology.  I also studied Arabic and Middle Eastern history, which would come into use later in my career.