A MIDWIFE who has been helping mothers give birth in Speldhurst for two decades has won a prestigious award for another kind of deliveries.
Anu Aron, owner of Speldhurst Post Office Store, is celebrating after her shop was named Kent’s Best All Round Rural Retailer.
She has been delivering babies in the village since 1991 – and has been employing the same boys and girls since she opened up in August 2012.
“I’ve delivered most of the children in the village,” she said. “Some of them help out in the shop, do the paper round or come after school to work here from 4-6pm. And I give them jobs for Saturdays and Sundays.”
Ms Aron is steeped in the idea of community spirit and has become even more involved with her parishioners since she took over the ‘run-down’ premises, helping the older people as well as the newest ones.
“I like to help the elderly as well,” she explains. “I will go and pick them up or I also do deliveries for the old people if the families give us a list.
“If they come into the shop and they look uncomfortable or they are struggling to walk home with their shopping, I will send one of the youngsters to accompany them or I’ll suggest they leave the shopping and I’ll send it later with one of the boys.”
Ms Aron is particularly keen to support local suppliers as well. “My main thing is local produce: we stock local bread, milk, honey, wine, pies, curries.
“Our curries are delicious, they come from Chai Stop in Kent. The wine comes from Biddenden vineyard and the pies come from Kentish Mayde, which is also in Biddenden.”
But she admits that for all her spirit and hard graft, running a village shop is a challenging task – a labour of love, perhaps.
“The shop is very important in the life of a community like this. But it’s so hard, I don’t make any money out of this business. We buy stuff that is much more expensive than it is for supermarkets.”
“I just want to have a bit of enjoyment after all the hard work. I haven’t had a single day off in four and a half years. My father was a doctor and he never had a day off, he worked Saturdays and Sundays.”
Despite the unforgiving hours required to run such a local resource, she also has the dedication and determination to pursue her other career at the same time.
“I want to keep being a midwife because I love it,” says Ms Aron. “I work in Crowborough Birth Centre one day a week, doing 11 or 12-hour shifts.
Ms Aron was born in Delhi, and came to England in 1979. She was head of department in clothing and textiles at Maharaja University in Baroda, and was visiting her sister here before and going to the United States to do her PhD.
But she never made it across the Atlantic. “I came from a medical family, every generation there were doctors. So when I came here I trained to be a nurse in Eastbourne.
“Then I became a midwife at the old Pembury Hospital.” She adds proudly: “I performed the first water birth in Tunbridge Wells back in 1991.”
As well as all her other commitments, she is keen to set up an anti-natal clinic after the NHS officially stopped providing the free service earlier this year.
“Socially a lot of young mothers don’t receive any support now, which is a shame because you can make long-term friends at classes and that can be a really valuable resource,” she says.
“I tried to run one or two private classes in Tunbridge Wells but people just don’t have the money – and I don’t have enough hours in the day.”
Yet there’s no stopping Ms Aron, who concedes: “I do still offer anti- and post-natal advice and support for my customers.”
For this heroine of the local countryside, it’s a wonder that people don’t come from miles around to visit her ‘superstore’.