Helen Carby BSc AICB – The Dentdale Bookkeeping Company


If anybody had told me 15, 10 or even 5 years ago that one day I would be a Certified Bookkeeper, member of the ICB, hold my own Practice Licence and run my own business then I am not sure what I would have said! I think I would probably have laughed, scratched my head in disbelief and then wandered off on a long walk to wonder where on earth they had got such a preposterous idea from.

If they had added that I would be teetering on the brink of my ICB Level 4 qualification and within a whisker of completing my diploma in Self-Assessment Tax Returns then I would really have thought they had lost the plot.

I do not come from a financial or mathematical background…far from it.

At school I was told that I would never make O-Level maths and I had to settle for CSE, (yes, it was in the old days before GCSE’s – just) and if I was lucky I would get a grade 1. At the same time my French teacher told me that I would never make O-Level French.

Not being one to take things lying down I kicked up a fuss. My French teacher believed in me, worked with me and let me carry on. The maths teacher didn’t and bluntly refused to listen.

To this day I still have the letter the maths teacher sent to my parents explaining that I was just not bright enough to do O-Level maths. I might just frame it now and put it next to my ICB Practice Licence and all my various certificates with distinctions and merits printed all over them – sorry to boast, but I am pretty proud of myself.

I walked away with CSE Grade 1 maths and a feeling of resentment, but thanks to my French teacher’s patience and encouragement and my own pig headedness and determination not only an O-Level Grade B in French but a Grade C at A-Level with a merit on my French Oral.

Thanks go to Mrs Hills for sticking by me, even when I was a real ragbag!

Yes, pig-headedness and a strong belief in one’s self while others are quick to shoot you down have roots from a long way back.

I would love now to go back to my maths teacher and show him what I have achieved and what I hope to achieve in the future but alas he passed away a couple of years ago.

I was due to go to university to study German, French and Russian, (yes, you read that right, I did say French), but changed my mind at the last minute, packed my bag and took myself and my tent off to Australia instead with a working visa and a sense of adventure. At this point I ought to say that my Mum was not impressed by the idea, whereas my Dad told me to pack my rucksack and get on with it. If I really needed help he was on the end of the phone, but otherwise crack on; go see the world.

I came back, (just about after a few late teenage scrapes with the law and other types of mischief), with a firm belief that actually the usual route of university, jobs, marriage, mortgages, children and a dog was not the only way. While that is utopia for some, I wanted to stretch the boundaries and follow my own route – be a bit of a rebel.

By this time I had developed a firm interest in Physiotherapy and after having worked as a helper at the local hospitals physio department I somehow managed to get myself a place at physio school – with A-level languages. I still do not know how I achieved that, but I did.

Three years later I graduated with a BSc and started work as a physio at a large general hospital.

By this time I had met my husband and we settled down to married life. That being said, it was certainly not the usual route I described. Married to an RAF Officer meant a constant stream of relocations and long periods of separation, but on the flip side we travelled loads, revelled in the social life, partied hard and generally had a ball.

After several years as a physio, my restless nature came to the fore and I found myself having questions about my career.

By this time I had developed a love of scuba-diving and had slowly worked my way up though the various qualifications when I found myself with my instructor qualifications – not that I had planned it, it just sort of happened.

I was then given the opportunity to go and live in the Caribbean for 6 months to work as a PADI Divemaster, (another qualification I had got). I jumped at it, much to the shock of my mother who decided that as I was going out there and my husband was not then the marriage must be over and divorce imminent.

Needless to say it wasn’t and my husband managed to get an extended period of leave and came and joined me for the middle part of my trip.

I came back and started my own scuba-diving travel business, (hence my first experience of Sage), and everything went swimmingly – pardon the pun. I was the sole UK agent for a couple of niche diving operators across the world and offered pretty high class diving holidays across other locations.

All was well until the twin towers happened.

Suddenly nobody wanted to travel and suddenly I found myself twiddling my thumbs.

I was lucky, I had very few overheads and could have survived, but I needed to be occupied and over the next year or so I wound up the business.

The next opportunity came up shortly after yet another posting for my husband back down to the south of England. I was thumbing through the local paper and saw a job advertised to work for the local council as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award coordinator.

Having spent a lot of time volunteering with several youth organisations not only with diving but other activities I gave it a go and got the job.

Eighteen fabulous months followed where I found myself doing all sorts of fantastic and even crazy activities with young people from every background. I had a ball.

At this point a position came up with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Charity itself as the Operations Officer for the South West of England. Not for one second did I think I would get it, but I did.

Six years of tearing around not only the South West of England but the country as a whole and even overseas saw some incredible opportunities and experiences. One day I would be in a royal palace, the next in a Young Offenders Institute – no two days were ever the same.

I ought to add that within this time two children finally appeared in our lives, a girl and then two and a half years later a boy. Yes, life had changed and it was time to be a grown up.

Towards the end of 6 years with the Charity it was decision time for my husband – his time in the RAF was up. He had already extended his service once and despite loving the service he decided it was time to get out and see what was out there, (could it be my influence?, who knows). So, he put his papers in and wondered what next.

He had always wanted to work overseas away from the RAF and so when the opportunity came to take his flying instructional skills to Saudi Arabia he jumped at the chance and off he went.

A few months later the children and I duly followed and another 6 years of fun and excitement followed.

We saw the world, had fun and the children saw first hand from an early age that it is a big wide world out there that is just waiting to be explored.


I was anxious not to let my brain stagnate, (not that I am suggesting other ex-pat wives do), and not being one to join the coffee and luncheon clubs, I looked for something to do.

I had become a serious Spinning (indoor cycling, not handy-crafts and wool) fan while in the UK and, (yes you have guessed it), had worked my way up to instructor level. It was obvious. I bought five bikes and some sound equipment and set up spinning classes. Before I knew it I was inundated. I ended up owning 18 bikes and having 9 instructors. The bikes had more than paid for themselves within 18 months.

We ran regular charity events and raised a lot of money for various charities.

The ultimate was a three month long charity event involving swimming, spinning and running, culminating in one of the team running The Brighton Marathon, and my husband and I running the 2015 London Marathon.

But all good things had to come to an end and it was becoming clear that school in Saudi was not for our daughter and she asked to head back to the UK to boarding school.

I knew that my life of air miles and ferrying backwards and forwards between Riyadh and the UK was about to get even more frantic.

The spinning suffered and slowly I wound it down. I sold the bikes slowly and my periods back in the UK grew more frequent.

About this time our son decided that the prospect of life at school in the UK was too attractive and he headed home as well.

So yes, my life of air miles got even more manic – dividing my time between Saudi Arabia with my husband and the UK with the children.

This gave me a dilemma – what was I going to do to keep myself out of mischief?

I applied for several jobs but 6 years out of the loop in Saudi Arabia with no relevant CPD does not do much for your CV.

Yes, we were, and still are, renovating a house and while I am more than happy to roll my sleeves up and get on with what we can do, I needed more.

I did consider returning to physiotherapy and explored the possibilities. In reality I had been out of it for so long that retraining would be a marathon and I left the profession in the first place because I was unsettled and did I really want to go back.

I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote down what, in an ideal world, I would like to do.

The list was:

  • Work for myself
  • Work mainly from home – so I can have my much wanted dog and not be out at work all day
  • Do something that was flexible enough that I can go and support at school rugby/hockey matches and go to school events with a clear conscience and if necessary work at other times to catch up
  • Something that allows flexibility to head off to Saudi Arabia at times to see my husband
  • Learn a new skill

In a random conversation with my husband he asked if I had considered bookkeeping, but in all honesty I knew nothing about it.

Because of my ignorance I put it to the back of my mind. But it festered and I started to do some research.

In August 2017 the children and I were in Saudi and I was twiddling my thumbs – never a good situation.

I started some more research and looking at training providers on the ICB website.

I found that the nearest bookkeepers to where we live where about 15 miles away and experience of the local, highly talented tradesman who were helping renovate the house suggested beyond doubt that actually they do what they do from a love of it and paperwork and finance was well down their list of priorities.

Training Link jumped out at me from the ICB site and I browsed through their website.

I am a big believer in not missing an opportunity. Have a go at everything and the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you and move on, (pretty much how we got to Saudi in the first place). So I phoned Training Link. I was anxious to get going but had questions.

I was greeted by the knowledgeable, calming voice of Gill who could quite frankly bring calm to any situation. At that point I had two bickering children in the background but that faded away as Gill patiently answered my questions.

Before I knew it the decision was made and my course package was ordered. But I was in Saudi Arabia and there was no way that my first training manual would arrive anytime in the foreseeable future.

No problem, my first training materials were available online. So, off I went.

When I am in Saudi I have masses of time on my hands and to be honest trips to Saudi have become my most productive periods of study.

I immediately enjoyed my studying and started to get a lot from it.

Yes, it was a baptism of fire and the first manual tested my resolve (and faith in myself) but I got there.

The following months were a roller coaster of learning, achievement and some frustration thrown in for good measure. The training is not easy and some concepts take some work to get right.

The support from Training Link was incredible – they were always there to answer my questions, no matter how ridiculous they were, (or even are!).

From August to December I ploughed on and made my way through the course materials.

Then disaster struck.

Firstly, my laptop. Yes, my trusty laptop that was seeing me through my studies and contained all my spreadsheets, notes and progress.

Yes, I know I should have backed it up and I know that I should have been more careful.

But, in my haste one morning to get on with my studying I picked up a pint pot of lemon juice, lifted it over my laptop and promptly dropped it.

I will leave the rest to your imagination.

Anyway, one trashed laptop, one household insurance claim and two weeks later a new laptop arrived.

About a week after that my heroes at our local computer company managed to drag the data off my old hard drive and away I went again.

Well, I would have had but by then it was Christmas.

The kids were at home and the husband was inbound, no chance of any purposeful studying for a bit longer. Christmas came and went and I was poised to pick up the books again, but the builders arrived.

Yes, we are renovating a very old house that has had nothing done to it for a very long time and it was time for ‘that’ wall to go. Except it was no normal wall, it was a two foot deep, three hundred year old wall that pretty much supported the whole house. Removing it was no small job.

The kitchen disappeared into a mass of dust and rubble, acro’s and scaffolding kept the house standing, the upstairs toilet and walls were ripped out to accommodate the girders that backed up the scaffolding and acro’s and I was relegated to spending the days in one room and retiring to bed incredibly early just to keep warm.

The ‘Beast from the East’ struck mid demolition, when there were holes in the external walls that let the snow in. I had to drive down to the village in our 4×4 to fetch the builders as their vans couldn’t make it up to us and they got quite adept at mixing concrete in blizzards. At one point they even commented that my woolly bobble hat had become attached to my head and would have to be surgically removed.

So, as you can imagine studying was impossible. Even if I could have found a dust and rubble free corner to get my new, lemon juice free laptop out, with hammering, clattering and builders singing any attempt at studying would have been pointless.

By the time that a vague sense of normality was restored it was spring and I was more than anxious to pick my books up again.

But that is the beauty of studying with Training Link, you can let life take over for a while and put the books on the back burner and when you come back, after a bit of revision you can take off again where you left off.

The remainder of my studying has been comparatively straight forward.

After my enforced period away from my books I have embraced and thoroughly enjoyed my studies.

Don’t get me wrong, it has not been plain sailing – far from it. There have been several leaks in the hull of my boat and several narrowly avoided capsize incidents, but the boat has stayed afloat and I am still here to tell the tale and more importantly The Dentdale Bookkeeping Company is now in existence.


The leap from being a student to actually out there in the real world has been pretty intimidating.

It is one thing to work with scenarios in a manual, but dealing with real people and their money is a completely different scenario.

But the training that Training Link gives is incredible and the fact that you have the backing of the ICB in the form of qualifications and the comprehensive information and guidance on the website is second to none.

I work wholly in the knowledge that when I need help it is there.

There are people out there who have been where I am now and who know the roller coaster of emotions that you go through.

I have purposely kept the launch of The Dentdale Bookkeeping Company low key. I have more studying I want to complete and I just want to build the business up slowly.

For publicity I am handing out business cards and pinning them to every notice board. The website, www.dentdalebookkeeping.co.uk, is up and running with linked social media streams and I have invested in a customised spare wheel cover for the 4×4 as well as a logo embroidered fleece and beanie hat – believe me you need them in deepest Cumbria at this time of the year. I have also been invited to a networking meeting organised by the bank for women in business and I have been warned not to forget my business cards

That level of promotion is attracting more than enough attention, enquiries and developing business.

At the moment I am very keen to finish my Level 4 and Self-Assessment Tax Diploma, so a low level launch is what I need.

The Dentdale Bookkeeping Company serves a very rural community that is dependent on tourism and local trades. Farming is at the centre of everything that happens locally – if you do not like sheep then Dentdale is not the place for you.

Further afield we have small towns which depend again on farming and tourism but are big enough to have accountancy companies.

So as you can see, a career in bookkeeping was never on my radar and a long way from my mind until last year.

  • Do I have any regrets?
  • Not one
  • Would I do it all again?
  • Yes, but would make sure that I do not drop a jug of lemon juice on my laptop next time.
  • Would I recommend training as a bookkeeper?
  • Absolutely, and I would whole heartedly recommend Training Link as a training provider

If you are considering training as a bookkeeper but have some doubts, take the bull by the horns and do it. What is the worst thing that can happen?

Just do it.