News & Events

Life in the fast lane at Rushall Park

April 8, 2020

When Jo Portlock ‘retired’ four years ago to Rushall Park, she thought she could at last begin to slow down.

Far from it. As the current chair of the village’s residents’ committee, Jo and the committee has been in the thick of working out ways that residents could support each other during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The implication of the virus on our everyday lives is extraordinary. From staying at home through trying to work out what is possible –  or not – has been difficult for all of us, and what we can do within the guidelines to help each other out has been taxing my brain,” Jo said.

Working on solutions and brainstorming ideas is something which Jo has done all her life.

Before retiring, she worked as a project manager on a multi-million IT project putting right a system that had been fouled up over the years.

“I was known as the fix-it woman. Give me a problem and I do try and solve it. I have always enjoyed having people around me and working with me,” Jo said.

Jo Portlock has had an eventful life. She was born in England during World War Two. She and her elder sister were evacuated from London during the Blitz in 1940. She remained with her ‘evacuating’ family until she married in 1957.

“We were a poor family but we got by using good old fashioned common sense and budgeting know-how,” Jo said.

She did well in school in her early years, receiving a scholarship from a local reputable in 1951. When she became a teenager, she started losing interest in school. Her mother pulled her out of school, leaving Jo to work in her local co-op butcher as a cashier and bookkeeper.

At 15, she met her future husband who was later conscripted into the Royal Air Force. Two years later, they married and thus began a travelling life. The family, with 4 young children moved to Australia in 1965, living first in migrant hostels in Adelaide then in Brisbane. She moved around Australia because of her husband’s work in the RAAF.  After 26 years of marriage, the moving played havoc with the marriage resulting in a separation.

In 2016, Jo moved into Rushall Park and has never looked back. She knew about the village as she lived round the corner in Kneen St.

“I loved it from the first time I came to visit. It was such an English village with beautiful gardens,” Jo said.

“It is a safe and happy place to be, and that is incredibly important at the moment as we live in uncertain and difficult times,” Jo said.

Four years in, and she still enjoys the ‘magimix’ of people who make up the community although she still misses her garden and of course, her dogs, who thankfully moved to doggie heaven before she moved in. . Before the start of COVID-19 Jo, like many of the villagers, was involved in the many activities on offer.

“Although we have had to close the activities down for now, many of us are finding new ways to keep busy,” Jo said.

For her, that means more cooking her famed vanilla slices, more time texting on the phone to her neighbours and friends in the village.

“Life is still in the fast lane for me but I am loving every minute of it.”

"I love the fact that Rushall Park residents and volunteers are so active – contributing to life in the village. The sense of the community is strong which is why I put my name on the waiting list" - Maggie Birkett.

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