Heaven & Hell: Ann Osborn

PUBLISHED: 15:43 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:43 07 May 2020

Ann Osborn with her dogs  Picture: Supplied by the Osborn family

Ann Osborn with her dogs Picture: Supplied by the Osborn family


Gina talks to the face behind many community and charitable endeavours, from the Rural Coffee Caravan, to Meet Up Mondays

Ann Osborn  Picture: Sarah Lucy BrownAnn Osborn Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

What’s the impact of COVID-19 on your business and how are you adapting?

Obviously we can’t take the Coffee Caravans out to rural Suffolk for the foreseeable and that’s hard. We know how much our visits mean to people and so we are having to find other ways of helping. We have organised some of our villages with phone trees and WhatsApp groups and we are keeping in touch with them all by phone ourselves and by email newsletters. We have created a fabulous page on our website that is devoted to sharing inspirational ideas for keeping connected and occupied during these strange times. We are not the health experts so we are concentrating on finding ways to connect.

Some of our Meet Up Monday groups have set up their sessions via Zoom which is brilliant. We know of many instances where those that can are talking through setting this up with people for whom this has been alien. It wonderful to see previously internet-shy people connected using these apps.

Ann Osborn  Picture: Steve TannerAnn Osborn Picture: Steve Tanner

What advice can you give to our readers who are self-isolating to maintain their health and wellbeing?

Don’t feel the pressure to ‘achieve’. There are lots of ‘gung ho’ messages out there telling us to learn a new language or write a book etc because we have the time now. If you want to do that then fine, but actually just do what you have to, to get through this, that is an achievement in itself. Eat as well as you can, exercise as well as you can and find ways to connect with others. Take a panel out of your garden fence and socialise at a distance with your neighbours. Take part in Driveway Drinks at a mutually agreed time. Phone friends, let them phone you. Listen to local radio, read local papers. Stay connected in whatever way you can and if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it. We are all taking care of each other right now.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I grew up in Hertfordshire but we regularly holidayed here when I was a child. We stayed in a caravan park in Waldringfield called The Moon and Sixpence. Then my parents retired to Knodishall. When my mother died my husband and I decide to move here to somewhere that had a granny flat for my dad. In the event, we had two granny flats as my mother-in-law came too!

What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

Its gentleness, the big skies, the way the scenery changes from east to west, the people, the pace and the fabulous local produce.

What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?

Not sure I actually HATE anything, but we do avoid the coastal crowds in the summer.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

The lighthouse in Southwold and Snape Maltings, Oh and Ipswich Waterfront.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

Oh, lots! Suffolk Show, Suffolk Dog Day, Rural Pastimes, The Big Lunches we have helped our villages get involved in, and more recently the development of Suffolk Day on June 21, when we can celebrate all things Suffolk – all will be much missed this year.

What your specialist Mastermind subject?

Hmm, not sure I’m expert enough on anything, but with enough warning I could probably manage West End musicals.

What is always in your fridge?

Masses of green veg and chocolate. Keeping it real!

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Be present and be kind

What’s your favourite film?

I hear my kids say, The Sound of Music... It’s true and I’m always worried they won’t get away when Rolf blows that whistle!

What was your first job?

A nanny. I wasn’t very good. I didn’t quite get the hang of the discipline side of things but the children loved me…

What is your most treasured possession?

My teddy. He’s as old as me and looks it but I love him. No one is allowed to touch him for fear of him falling apart!

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Who do you admire most?

Oh, so many people. My boss Sally Fogden is an incredible role model. Our newest and youngest trustee Iona Lawrence who helped set up the Jo Cox Foundation and whose sheer energy inspires me onwards when I feel a bit like giving up. And I want to be like Judi Dench when I grow up. An amazing actor and she is ageing so beautifully and with such grace.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Good chocolate from our local chocolatier and organic cruelty free cosmetics.

What do you like about yourself most?

I try to be kind and thoughtful and I like that my kids say I’m a good mum.

What’s your worst character trait?

Laziness – I do love a lie-in -and eating too much chocolate.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Currently Croatia but I’m seriously thinking of a voyage of discovery right here in the UK when we come through this. I have never been to the Lake District for example and I would love to go there.

Best day of your life?

Well obviously the days my children were born and my wedding day but also the day I was one of six winners of The High Sherriff’s Inspiring Leaders Award in 2018. I was so discombobulated at even being nominated so to win and to win alongside five amazing women was and still feels, incredible.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

At the moment it’s porridge with coconut milk and berries.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Rhubarb gin and ginger ale or an extremely dry Bacchus white wine from Flint Vineyard.

What’s your hidden talent?

I can knit Icelandic jumpers on round needles, you know, the ones with reindeer dancing round the yoke.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being given a roll of ticket paper by a bus conductor as Mum and I got off the bus, and feeling it was treasure. I was about four I think.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I was once the youngest licensee in London. I managed one of the very first Pizza Huts when they were a private franchise. There were only five then. I perfected my Irish coffee making skills there!

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

‘You’ll never find another boyfriend as good as him’ but oh I did. And reader, I married him.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

Because it feels far from the madding crowd and after 33 years, it’s home.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

Please do look at our special web page for some terrific ideas for ways of getting through these strange times. Also our Facebook page Cascade of Kindness where people can share their stories of kindnesses given and received. Please think about being #backyardbuddies and taking that fence panel down and then share your photos with us to inspire others. Building new friendships with neighbours and strengthening old ones as these are what will sustain our communities when we are through this. And of course we will be back on the road as soon as it is safe and sensible for us to do so.

Are you or your business doing something special during Covid-19 times? If you are living in Suffolk or Norfolk and are adapting your business to give support during Covid-19, please do email me at or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: ginalongmbe

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