Category Archives: Interview

An Interview With Jungle Culture

On the blog this week is Jungle Culture whose philosophy is to inspire people to see the beauty and purpose in nature. Having spent a few years living in Vietnam, Jamie, co founder of Jungle Culture, is determined to show people the beauty of Vietnam and its beautiful craftsmanship when it comes to making products from bamboo and bowls made from upcycled reclaimed coconuts. I caught up with Jamie to find out more. Hi Jamie!

Jamie (on the left) & co-founder Chris at a bamboo farm in Vietnam


Hi, my name is Jamie and I am a co-founder of Jungle Culture! We work with small farms, craft workshops and ethical factories to produce a range of handicrafts and plastic alternatives that encourage a healthy, waste-free lifestyle.

What inspired the setting up of your company, Jungle Culture?

We were inspired after watching the David Attenborough documentary which highlighted the effects that single-use plastics were having on our oceans. At the time, my business partner Chris was based in Vietnam and saw that local restaurants used bamboo straws. We decided to do our bit and bamboo straws became our first product!

You have a great variety of eco products – bamboo straws, safety razors, coconut bowls, bamboo cutlery.  What are your most popular sellers?

Thanks! All of our products sell really well and people are generally so enthusiastic about swapping to a plastic-free alternative. We started our company life as a straw company and this remains our best-selling product! We currently sell more than a million straws a year and it’s nice to think that each one prevented multiple pieces of plastic from entering the ocean.


Have you got a favourite item from your collection?

I have lots of favourites and I use most of our products on a daily basis, but safety razors are definitely one product that I would recommend to absolutely everyone, with no exceptions. I always hated using disposable razors because of the environmental impact and the cost is quite frankly outrageous…. Prior to starting Jungle Culture I actually learned to use a cut throat razor and it was okay, but occasionally I would cut myself fairly badly. Safety razors don’t really have this problem. They are insanely easy for anyone to use, they last a lifetime and there’s little to no environmental impact. On top of that, at £0.30 a blade (lasts 16 shaves) everyone could be saving a ton of money!

Your bamboo straws and cutlery hail from Northern Vietnam.  What are the benefits of using bamboo?

 In Northern Vietnam bamboo is seen as a weed. It grows so quickly and so plentifully that supply of bamboo in Vietnam far outstrips the demand. Using bamboo to make something useful and waste-free allows farmers in impoverished regions to earn an income and start a business, whilst at the same time it gives consumers a viable alternative to single-use plastics in their homes and while they’re out and about. Just to clarify, there are no pandas in Vietnam, their habitats are unaffected! (We get asked a lot).


As your HQ is  based in the UK, are your products available to purchase internationally?

Yes, absolutely. You can buy from our website and Etsy store from anywhere in the world or if you send us a message, we’ll send you the location of our nearest stockist. 

Your coconut bowls are very user friendly and have been upcycled from reclaimed coconuts.  What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to caring for your bowls?

Do use them as motivation to eat healthier and improve your diet. Do nourish them from time to time with an oil… coconut oil, linseed oil etc. Do keep sending us wonderful pics of your creations on instagram. We’ll throw you a shoutout! Definitely do treat them with love and care. Natural products are a bit more fragile than man-made products and try as we might, we cannot always prevent faults. But if anything happens to any products that you buy from us, send us a message and we’ll replace them free of charge. Don’t microwave, dishwash or refrigerate/freeze. Treat your bowl like the piece of wood that it is…. when wood is exposed to high temperatures, low temperatures or dramatic shifts in temperature it can expand. 

Your coconut bowls have created a stir on social media with your customers posting recipe/foodie ideas using your bowls?  What has been the most unusual recipes/uses that you have come across?

I am always impressed with recipes that are more art than food. It’s incredible how people are able to create a beach scene, jungle or mountain range using blended fruit and seeds.

As a brand, Jungle Culture, is a member of the 1% for the Planet Foundation. What does that membership entail?

It means that for everything that is purchased from our business we give 1% to a charity that aims to replenish the Earth. We are nearing the end of our first year as 1% members and we’re just getting ready to pick our charity for the year, so stay tuned for updates on who we choose!

Although you are based in the UK,  you have spent a couple of years in Vietnam. What 5 must see places would you recommend a tourist visit whilst in Vietnam? Any advice for first time visitors?

Vietnam has become like a second home to us. Over the course of 2 years, we were lucky enough to visit pretty much every region, visit small farms, taste local delicacies and sleep in bamboo houses under the stars! It was awesome! 5 places to visit = The North (by motorbike if possible), Hanoi (for big city life, street food and madness), Ninh Binh (for stunning scenery), Hue (for incredible Vietnamese food), Hoi An (for the only preserved ancient town in Vietnam and our home for 2 years). Advice = Rent a motorbike…. it’s terrifying, but it’s the best way to travel in Vietnam. Go slow and be prepared for people driving the wrong way on highways, cows crossing the roads unattended, people carrying fridges on the backs of bikes and everything in between. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

When I am in a cold country like the UK, I normally wear some red/purpley Doc Martens, black Levi’s jeans and my Jungle Culture black hoodie! In hot countries like Vietnam, I have a few good long-lasting pairs of jean shorts and linen shirts with a comfy pair of flip flops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I try to buy from small businesses for every day items because I know what a big impact it has in the owner’s lives. For everyday items I typically buy from a local shop and for fashion items I buy from a select few brands that I know represent quality, long-lasting products. I hate fast fashion and don’t buy anything that lasts less than a few years.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I have always wanted to own one of those old style Barbour jackets. They sell second hand ones all the time at the vintage markets in Brick Lane, London. They are quite iconic in the UK and nowadays they are pretty expensive too. I’ll pick one up next winter maybe!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots 100%. I haven’t owned a pair of shoes for 5+ years. I am all about the boot life. I don’t know why though… it’s just me!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Jungle Culture

 www.jungleculture.eco – Our website. Check it out if you want to learn more about how we source ethically, how we give back and how you can join the fight against waste.https://www.instagram.com/jungleculture.eco/ – Connect with us and if our products have helped you, let us know. We read every message and they really do make our day!

Fabulous chatting to you Jamie – your bowls are gorgeous and I am totally bemused by the bamboo razor!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jungle Culture

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An Interview With Author Chad T Douglas

If you like fantasy with a touch of unlikely romance, along with a dose of adventure fiction featuring pirates, vampires, werewolves, mystical sea creatures and magic; then you’ll love this trilogy. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the 1st book in the Lore Trilogy, “A Pirate’s Charm” by author Chad T Douglas and found it was the perfect light escapism during the recent lockdown. Let’s face it, we all need some escapism at times! I caught up with Chad virtually to find out what gave him his ideas … but before I welcome Chad onto the blog, here’s a quick summary of the Lore Series…

A Pirate’s Charm (Book 1)

When she flees Barbados in the late 1780s, the last thing Molly Bishop expects is to begin life anew with a criminal—much less the infamous Captain Thomas Crowe. On the high seas, far from her old life and even farther from England and her Uncle Samuel’s farm, Molly learns more than just the way of outcasts. Captain Crowe keeps secrets—many secrets—and possesses an extraordinary ring crafted by Molly’s father—a man she thought to be long gone.

East and Eight (Book 2)

Thomas Crowe and Molly Bishop walk into trouble’s open arms once again when an Atlantean sorceress, the mermaid Oi’alli, comes to Tom looking for a stolen talisman. When Tom refuses to return it, the consequences are dire. Plagued by two new foes, a demon and a mysterious octet of immortal-hunters known simply as “The Eight”, the future is looking dark for Tom. Molly Bishop is his only hope. Armed with new strength and magical powers, Molly lights the way as she and Tom make a treacherous journey east, to the heart of Romania.

The Old World (book 3)

Thomas Crowe is gone. The maniacal Captain Jack Darcy and the Order of the Blood Moon have taken the crew of the Roatán Butterfly prisoner; The Eight, a secretive band of immortal-killers, are quickly seizing control of the British Empire, and Molly Bishop is sailing against her will into faraway waters. Molly must now overcome tragedy and despair to keep a promise she made to Tom. Driven only by hope and a prophecy, she will fight to reclaim her life and her freedom.

Hi Chad & welcome!

Hi! My name is Chad T. Douglas (just “Chad” everywhere except my book covers lol) and I’m the author of both the Lore trilogy and the in-development Earthshine series. I started writing works of fiction when I was about 17 and still in high school. I’ve always loved stories—especially legends, mythologies, and folklore from all across the world—and all manner of imaginative media. That, in combination for a natural attraction to writing, visual arts, and music, as well as some traveling in my early 20s, set me on the path to authorship. I’m a two-time graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville and currently work as a content developer and general creative in the field of digital marketing.

Who or what inspired you to write the Lore trilogy?

This is a question I’m asked frequently and one of my favorites to answer because it’s also the story of how I began writing in general…

The Lore series was really a product of two things—a lifelong love for fantasy fiction, myths, and legends and a specificfrustration with what pop culture was producing when I was about 17 years old (around 2007-2008). I grew up reading everything from Harry Potter to Dracula, watching everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to An American Werewolf in London, and playing video games that delved every aspect of sci-fi and fantasy within those realms and in between. I also had a “thing” for writing. I just hadn’t really embraced it yet.

I was a sophomore or junior in high school when I co-founded an afternoon club for creatives—students who wanted or needed an extra block of time in the day to write their stories, sketch their comics and graphic novels, or just have a space to talk about their fandoms with others who loved stories and storytelling. One afternoon, as things were wrapping up and we were all waiting on our rides home, I overheard a few of the other club members talking about Twilight (this was before it had become a huge sensation), and I wondered, “When is someone going to realize we need a story that brings things like magic, werewolves and vampires, pirates, folk legends, and every other cool fantasy-fiction trope together in one faithful, imaginative, and memorable super-story?” No kidding—it was moments later that I decided that I wasn’t going to wait for that story to come along on its own time. I decided that I might as well write that story myself. I knew what I wanted and I was confident that I could write it, so why not, right?

I spent every free afternoon and evening for the rest of high school writing what would eventually comprise A Pirate’s Charm and East and Eight (Lore “1” and “2,” respectively). I’d finish The Old World as a college student, having ditched my first degree in Architecture for one in English Language and Literature (no regrets).

© LindaHobden


I really enjoyed reading your book, the first in the Lore trilogy, “A Pirate’s Charm”. It was the ideal escapism book featuring a mash up of pirates, romance, magic, vampires, werewolves and mythical sea creatures. Was there any character that you particularly endeared yourself to? Which character was the hardest to develop?

It won’t come as a shock that most of my attention and personal interest was split equally between the series’s two protagonists, Molly and Thomas. Especially while revising the series, I went back over everything to make sure, more than anything, that readers would know that the books had not one but two true “main” characters. I hadn’t set out to write a story that gave only one character the spotlight because, personally, I love stories that emphasize how characters with compelling tales can influence one another so heavily and because I really wanted to highlight the protagonists’ unique and powerful bond. Allowing them to grow together and inspire one another and have one another’s backs felt more natural and relatable, the way a great partnership or romance should be. Consequently, this made Thomas and Molly the most difficult characters to write. They share many long scenes and dialogues, but each has a particular disposition, particular desires, specific quirks, and so on, making it exhausting to switch back and forth between them while keeping them true to their character.

One of my two favorite characters, conceptually, however, is Oi’alli. She first appears in the second installment of the trilogy and is extremely important to me. I had to get her just right. Not only is she a key influencer in the plot from her entrance in the series to its ultimate conclusion, she was also the character whom I needed to be the “quintessential mermaid” in the Lore universe. Merfolk are among the primary mythological players in the series, alongside werewolves and vampires, and I made it a very personal mission to “make mermaids cooler” than anyone else ever had. Pirates, werewolves, vampires—those have been done well, and many times over. I felt it was time for the merfolk to shine, so that became a key goal in Lore 2 and 3. Despite not getting the “pagetime” Molly and Tom get, I spent much, much more time on Oi’alli—her look, her origins, her significance in regard to the series’s mythological foundations and history, and more.

My other personal favorite character is Corvessa. Without giving too much away, she’s a key villain, and the things she does to warp and manipulate other characters (and the plot itself) was just too much fun to write. I loved designing her look, her demeanor, and the scenes she hijacks. What made her most interesting to me, though, was the fact that she actually won the affection of some of my audience. The first time I met a reader who was sincerely rooting for Corvessa was the most unexpected delight. 

Apart from Lore, you have published other novels and are currently writing another science fiction/trilogy.  Do you prefer writing trilogies rather than stand alone novels?

There are things I love about writing both kinds of stories, but I have to say that writing series is what I prefer. Every time I finish a standalone novel, all I want to do is extend the story with another installment lol. I just can’t resist continuously developing another character, another arc, another chapter that builds on everything that’s already happened.

Your books are mostly science fiction or fantasy based, but  when you read a book, what is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Here’s where I’m a bit weird. Because I’m a writer, you may expect that I’d prefer reading over any other medium (most of my readers assume I’m as big a reader as they are), but that’s never been the case. My love for sci-fi and fantasy stems from being a big consumer of TV, movies, and video games. Additionally, rather than reading to get inspired, I spend a lot of time listening to music. I tend to build playlists when I’m outlining stories, because I match key scenes to certain moods I find in songs or genres that I like. When I do read, I tend to read about history, about concepts, or about people whom I find interesting (biographies/autobiographies).

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

I didn’t commit to being a writer until about 19 or 20 years old. Even after having written 2 of the 3 novels that would become the Lore trilogy, I was entering college with the intention of becoming an architect. Before then, I’d considered some kind of a career in psychology, which never materialized. The more work experience I got, the more it became clear that I needed to do creative things. I loved writing, I loved visual design and photomanipulation, and I loved “building” in a broad sense, and those things led me to digital marketing.

Have you got other novels or plans in the pipeline for 2021 that you can tell us about? 

I do! I’ve spent the last few years outlining a series that will continue a story where Big Blue 10,022 left off (2018). I have big plans for it, so it’s hard to say whether the writing starts in early or late 2021, but my mind is set on it and I would like to be able to bring the first installment to the next book festival I attend.

Is the Lore trilogy available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, you can find both digital and hard copy editions in essentially all the online marketplaces, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

I know for sure that I would want to see the town of Jiufen (Taiwan), parts of Nepal, and some coastal parts of Scandinavia. There are locations in the upcoming series that were inspired by those locations’ characteristics. Being able to see them in person would help to capture the local mood in addition to the look. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love colder weather and the clothes that pair with it, so my favorite outfit right now is a pair of dark jeans (the kind that flex; I won’t go back to traditional), my Dan Post western boots (or white Nike sneakers), my black denim Levi trucker jacket, a TruWood Hawk wooden watch, and various other wooden jewelry (ring, bracelet, etc).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m pretty choosy when it comes to clothing, so I normally buy things I didn’t expect right on the spot. Consequently, I don’t have any real loyalties to certain shops or brands at the moment. I’ll have an idea of what I’m looking for and then do some marathon Googling until a particular shop woos me with something.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve been eyeing a new scally cap (flat cap) recently. I own one that I never wear because it’s too big. I can’t quite pin down the color I want at the moment.

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. There’s just something timeless about them. I also think the right pair can do more for an outfit’s character than an otherwise equally good pair of shoes.

For Pinning Later


Thanks very much for chatting with us today and I wish you great success with your book plans later in the year. Thanks also to Chad and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of the book “A Pirate’s Charm”. The views expressed by myself are 100% my own and thanks to Ben Cameron for the round up review of the trilogy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chad T Douglas; apart from the header photo , Pinterest photo and one marked ©LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Foxes & Angels

At this time of year we are all looking for cards …. Valentines, Easter, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day, Congratulations, Happy Birthday or just a note to say, “I’m thinking about you”. It is even lovelier when you come across cards that have been thoughtfully illustrated and Besheer, who runs card company Foxes & Angels alongside Clare, is a very talented illustrator indeed. I caught up with Besheer and Clare to celebrate their first year as “Foxes & Angels” … Hi & welcome!

Hi! We’re Besheer and Clare. We run a fledgling greeting card and gift wrap company called Foxes & Angels that we started back in January 2020. We’re almost at our first anniversary!

What inspired you to set up “Foxes & Angels”?

Besheer: I’ve worked as an illustrator for over 15 years for magazines, national newspapers and book covers before turning to teaching and illustrating for greeting card companies. I realised that if I started a company for myself I could really design my dream cards and work to my own schedule.

I am always curious to know the origins of brand names, so why did you choose “Foxes & Angels”? Did you consider other names?

B: Hmmm… yes  we considered loads of names! Words using orange (one of my favourite colours, paper mill and card foundry, Hullabaloo. My first card collection had a strong theme of Foxes and Angels and so the name was born.

You have a lovely variety of card and gift wrap designs. What card designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We recently held our first ‘virtual’ Christmas Fair and our ‘Christmas Outdoors’ premium card back sold out out in a matter of hours. The cards were inspired by people striving to get outdoors and appreciation for our London parks, more than ever, during this very unusual year we’ve had.

You use a variety of methods to illustrate and create your cards – Lino prints, drawing and painting.  Have you got a favourite medium though to use? Favourite card? 

B:I love the process of linocut printing. Cutting the soft lino blocks, rolling the ink and the magic of pulling off your first print after hours of planning and cutting is an absolute pleasure. 

My favourite card at the moment is our Meadow Fox card that came out this summer and did very well. I’ve been obsessed with warm dusty pink colours juxtaposed with greys and whites.

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Our products will be available overseas in 2021 and we have been approached by an American distributor which is very exciting. 

What inspires your illustrations? Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

B: I’m inspired by going for walks in nature and I absolutely love mid century art and design, particularly the Grosvenor School of printmakers. I also get inspiration by looking at old children’s illustrated books.

Besheer, being an illustrator, some things must be easier to draw and create than others. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of illustration you’ve created so far?  

B:I was asked to do a book cover illustration a few years ago for a collection of 18th Century Irish poems. It was a large panoramic beach scene. After doing lots of research and drawings I completed the illustration which featured a woman carrying an umbrella on a rainy beach. It was quite a detailed piece. Greeting cards are both easier and harder as you are working with such a small space.

I was asked to digitally erase the umbrella as it turns out that only the very wealthy people in society carried umbrellas until the 19th Century!

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

B: I was always going to be an artist or musician. My parents and grandparents were all one or the other so it’s in the blood! Going to art school just felt like a natural progression from school.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

B: As it’s mid winter I’m usually wearing old denim jeans and my dad’s old cream Arran double knit collar neck. The jumper is older than me and in better condition than some clothes I bought in the last year!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

B: I love  Adolfo Dominguez for clothes (when I can afford them) and stationery shops like ‘Choosing Keeping’, it’s one of those shops that just looks enticing in the early evening. Clare loves White Stuff, Fatface and charity shops.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

B: I’m trying to find the perfect hat.

Boots or Shoes?

B: Do Desert boots counts as boots? Definitely boots for me. They’re more cosy.  

Clare: Boots for me too. Besheer bought me a lovely pair last year from Josef Seibel in Covent Garden.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Foxes & Angels

www.foxesandangels.com

@foxesandangels

Thanks so much Besheer & Clare for chatting to me! Congratulations on reaching your 1st Foxes & Angels Birthday and although 2020 was the strangest of years, well done in sticking with your dream and I wish you all the best in the future.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Besheer & Clare.

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An Interview With Factory Floor Jewels

An unusual obsession with factories led my guest, Kate Stewart (founder, designer & maker of Factory Floor Jewels) to establish her funky jewellery brand using many repurposed objects that can be found on the floors of trade suppliers, manufacturers, instrument technicians! I chat to Kate to find out more…. Hi Kate!

Hi I’m Kate and I’m the designer maker behind the Factory Floor Jewels brand.  I’m 54 and I live in Liverpool with my husband Steve and we look after my 90 year old mum and her friend.  I have a grown up son who is a musician, sound engineer and carpenter.  Just before Christmas we adopted Ella an 8 year old greyhound, after losing our beloved Ruby in November.

My part-time day job is as CEO of a social enterprise in Liverpool and as I have an autoimmune disease which needs regular treatment I’m classed as clinically vulnerable so I’ve been working from home since March 2020.  Thankfully I had already set up my jewellery studio in a spare room at home, although I do also have a shared space in town and I have been sneaking in very early on Saturday mornings recently whilst no one else is in.


What inspired the setting up of “Factory Floor Jewels”?

Friends and family would probably tell you I have always been creative, although I haven’talways found it a comfortable label to accept.   I guess I’ve always been quite a distinctive dresser, I was a rockabilly in the 80’s and lots of people would now describe me as having a punk aesthetic.  If I had the money I’d wear Vivienne Westward all the time, so I guess I have always had an interest in putting looks together and accessories are part of that. 

I have always been fascinated with metal and industrial shapes and buildings.  I went to a girls grammar school and I wanted to do technical drawing, but they didn’t offer it.  I suggested they let me go next door to the boys grammar to do tech drawing but they didn’t like that idea!  So I just used to take in parts of cars to draw in art. 

I often say if I’d had a different education I would probably have been an architect. I actually went to work in the theatre straight from school and then in 1998 I formed an interior design practice with my husband.  

My Dad was a packaging engineer and was very proud of his tools – many he had made himself.  As a child I often went into the factory with him on a Saturday morning and his drawing office was above the factory floor with huge windows looking out on it.  I was fascinated!  

Running an interiors company, we would often go and visit manufacturers and whilst colleagues were fawning over the latest chair or desk design in the 1st floor showrooms I was looking out of those windows onto the factory floor, watching the machines, and looking at the materials used. 

When I set up Factory Floor Jewels in 2014 as a small craft business it was my way of experimenting with the materials and waste that is used in the worlds of engineering and the port in my home city of Liverpool. 

Now that I’ve established the brand and I sell to a number of retailers and galleries I am making less one-off pieces and some of the ranges still have reclaimed materials but others were inspired by found items to begin with are now made with new industrial components.

I love the mix of materials I work with such as copper, silver, steel and aluminium.

I’m really passionate about independent retail and I get such a buzz from working with my stockists to help promote both our businesses.

Specialising in jewellery crafted from objects found on the floors of factories – I have since found myself looking more closely at the warehouse floors I visit on a daily basis when I am wearing my retail merchandiser hat! I do love the tactile feel of your jewellery -especially the Brass & Steel Necklace and the Art Deco Statement Neckcuff. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Well you have excellent taste!  The Brass & Steel ‘Nuts’ Necklace is one of my most popular items when people are buying a gift.  I always comment how it works with everyone’s skin and hair tones and is a really easy one to wear. 

The Art Deco one is more my kind of piece – I love to wear bigger pieces. 

One of my most consistent best sellers is the Swarf range which uses brass scraps that are discarded by the milling machines in many metal workshops.  I personally have never wornanything with gold tones, but even I love this mix of the silver and brass and how big and sparkly the adjustable ring is.   This range was stocked by Tate Modern and Tate Britain last year and was one of their fastest selling ranges. 

It inspired me to develop a similar range recently when I discovered a new material to work with – bronze filings which are actually scrap from a foundry that makes huge piece of public art for cities all over the world.   I’m using sterling silver for this collection as I feel some customers prefer this.  

I recognise that some people are more price driven and others are less so, so I’m trying to offer items for both markets, although I am moving more towards sterling silver for earrings in my new collections and trying to keep the prices competitive.  I have a new range using aluminium pieces and the hoop earrings are sterling silver and the pendant is steel. 

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites?

I guess there’s two questions there – I love making the Swarf range, but I am really enjoying wearing the new pieces with Aluminium tube.  


As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

I don’t currently have any overseas retailers but it’s possible to buy from my website from most countries. 

I’d love to find some retailers in other countries though.

When designing jewellery to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional pieces, what you have salvaged  orbits of all those?

Oh, it’s definitely a mix of all of those yes, but the first thing is the materials and components.  I always consider what is emerging from my bench in the context of my customers, the price point I need to reach for them, the season and also sometimes what I have seen on the catwalk.  I guess it must also be influenced by my own taste, however this is more likely around the materials and sometimes the challenge of new processes; I have made really popular pieces that I wouldn’t wear because they don’t suit my style.   I also consider how it sits with other items in my collection

I’m not interested in fast fashion and I think my pieces are quite timeless, but I do tend to look at a couple of brands that I feel my customers shop at for their clothing.

Your collections encompass ready to wear pieces, couture pieces, limited editions and one-offs; what was the hardest to make or most unusual request you have had? 

I think the hardest to make pieces come from my head…… I have a collection called ‘swept’ which has been ‘on the bench’ for a while now.  I was given some skeins of bristles from a brush factory that closed.  I knew instantly what I wanted to make, but I wasn’t sure how to.  I set myself quite a challenge there!  I’ve made some prototypes and love them, but currently they are too complex to replicate in any volume.  They will need some refining to get there…… maybe 2021 is the year of Swept!

I’ve recently worked on a commission for two sisters who’s father is an engineer – they’d seen my Swarf range in a local shop and it made them reminisce about their Dad always treading swarf into the house.  He’s 90 and still working as an engineer in his home workshop, using a variety of different metals.  Swarf comes in all sorts of colours and shapes, depending on the metal and the process it has been part of.  Heat changes the colours of the original metal, it’s all about chemistry.  I’m making a couple of pieces for each of them and we are playing with the textures and materials, it’s great fun!

As I’ve focused on producing collections that appeal to the retail market in the last few years, I have recently begun to miss creating one off pieces.  I’ve come up with a plan which I’m going to launch in February – I’ll be releasing a number of one offs or limited editions and won’t be selling them wholesale.  So to buy you will need to join the Factory Floor Jewels VIP Club (www.factoryfloorjewels.com/subscribe) to get 48 hours exclusive access each month . Follow me on Instagram (www.instagram.com/factoryfloorjewels) for more info.  I’m really excited to see people’s reactions.

A couple of hypothetical questions now!  Firstly, if you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

I’m so blessed to have travelled a lot in the last 6 years with my day job and I’m constantly taking inspiration from the places and the industry I see.   I guess one place still on the list is Detroit, and New York is always such a rich place of inspiration. 

Secondly, which famous lady would you pick to be the “Face” Of Factory Floor Jewels and why?

I think that Judi Dench looks astonishing and has such a sense of style.  I’d love to see her wearing my pieces. 

Growing up, did you always want to be a designer/creative field or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

I realised in hindsight that I would have loved to have been an architect!  As a kid I wanted to be a vet (same length of training for both of those) but in reality I ran away and joined the theatre at 17

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Black leggings about 90% of the year – black cycling shorts in the summer 

And although I do wear a lot of black, I have started to wear grey more in recent years and I’ve often got an accent of something bright, like a turquoise cardi 

I’ve become more confident in my clothes in recent years.  I think that’s probably quite common for women.  I was very ‘out there’ in my clothing in my teens and twenty’s then motherhood affect my body and my self image.  I would say in the last 10 years or so I’vebecome more comfortable with understanding what works and what doesn’t for me. 

Everyone is constantly astonished at my age and I think that’s significantly down to how I dress – and my quite distinctive haircut. (I have shaved the sides of my head and have a flat-top, which pre lockdown used to change colour from scarlet to bleached blonde to turquoise.  Now it’s just dark brown and grey.  I can’t wait to be all grey tbh).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Well clothing wise, I’ve got very good at Ebay for brands I know work for me, like Vivienne Westward, Bench, Cos, All Saints and Lurdes Bergada.

I’m a big shop local or shop handmade girl and I’d much rather pay for something unique and quality than mass produced. As an example I bought a purse off Camille at Dasprez and loved the material and workmanship so much I asked her to make a pencil case and since then have commissioned a bag from her too.  I had a bag I loved the shape and colour of but it was high street and so badly made.  I knew that someone with skill could make it so much better and it will last forever. 

I’m also a little obsessed with clothes for Greyhounds!  They don’t really have much fur or fat and so they really feel the cold.  Our last girl Ruby couldn’t sleep through the night October to May without PJs on.  And she did wear clothes really well!  Again, these tended to be from artisan makers rather than pet shops.   We adopted our current greyhound Ella just before Christmas and  I’ve already bought her a new waterproof and even though we were told she didn’t really need indoor clothes, she did keep waking up in the middle of the night so we put a jumper on her for bedtime.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve got my eye on a pair of Lurdes Bergada trousers, I think their shapes are very flattering and I  have an ebay alert on for my next Vivienne Westwood piece!

Boots or Shoes? 

Easy one for me – I’m a boot wearer for LOTS of the year!  Although I adore shoes.  I really love Clarks and at the complete opposite end of the spectrum I have a slight addiction to United Nude.

For Pinning Later



Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Factory Floor Jewels 

www.factoryfloorjewels.com

www.instagram.com/factoryfloorjewels

Subscribe to my newsletter to join the VIP Club and get discounts and early bird shopping on new pieces at www.factoryfloorjewels.com/subscribe

Fabulous chatting to you Kate and I think your designs are fabulous!

Linda x


All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kate Stewart.

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Interview With Relationship Expert Mig Bennett

Happy New Year!

2020 ended up as being an extremely stressful year, to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic really didn’t help as apart from the physical aspects of the virus taking its toll, it has left us grieving those who succumbed to the disease; it has heightened fears; it has laid people low with a range of mental health issues; it has brought together family units and broken others down. Problems have always existed prior to the pandemic but the awareness has been more pronounced. There is hope on the horizon and help is on hand to help guide those who need it, non judgemental advice. I interviewed relationship & sex addiction counsellor Mig Bennett about her career as a counsellor specialising in relationship problems…. Hi Mig & welcome…

Hello. I’m Mig Bennett. I’m a counsellor with a specialised focus on relationships and, in more recent years, in sexual compulsivity. This is more commonly known as sex addiction, and, contrary to common misconception, it’s not about having a high sex drive! 

What made you decide to launch your career as a relationship and sex addiction counsellor?

I became involved in counselling completely unexpectedly about 30 years ago. I suffered postnatal depression, set up a support group as I recovered and, as it took off I realised I needed more skills. So I took a basic counsellingskills evening class and the tutor was a Relate counsellor.  He persuaded me to apply to train with Relate for whom I still work some hours.  Now I also have a Private Practice specifically for relationship work and sexual addiction. 

The sex addiction interest came from a colleague who trained in the area and to whom I went for help when I worked with a couple where a long history of visiting sex workers emerged. That learning, and my colleague’s encouragement led me to take a diploma in that specific area.  It is very prevalent in our society but hasn’t really been acknowledged or addressed until the recent 20 or so years whereas gambling, drug, alcohol, eating compulsive behaviours have. 

I guess your job isn’t an easy one as some people’s problems are not that easy to solve! What sort of reasons do people come to you for help? 

Strangely, over the years, and I think other counsellors will agree, the problems presenting at my door come in swathes. I may have a period of seeing many affairs, for example.  But, aside from sexually compulsive issues, the common relationship themes are:

loss of connection or relationship neglect (“we’re like flat mates”), 

split agendas, often stemming from the above (one says it’s over, one is desperate to save it)

arguments and poor communication patterns (“we love each other but we end up having these same destructive rows”), 

sex, (although this really comes into all scenarios it can be brought as the primary reason for seeking help)

differing attitudes to parenting children and step children

affairs, including emotional infidelity 

When it comes to relationship/marriage/couples counselling, what approach do you tend to use?

I use mainly three therapeutic models in my work.• psycho-dynamic (looking at how significant figures from the past can influence us today)• systemic (focusing on how changing one partner’s behaviour will change the other’s)• transactional analysis (enabling us to look at our ineffective communication patterns and create better ones).

My clients don’t know that, of course.  What I think my clients would say they SEE is that I listen and really try to understand each of them, by playing back and asking questions, and that I gradually encourage the other to do the same using these skills. I help them use different words and tones, and it can be quite lighthearted learning!  

I look at why their pasts will be at play in their relationship today, which enables them to understand their reactions to situations and to each other. When we understand why we feel something we can spot our automatic reactions and change them. 

I use a lot of visual diagrams, mnemonics and little tricks, like post-it notes which I find, as with school children, all help understanding and memory. 

But maybe the most important thing I offer is the presence of a calm, warm, experienced third party in what can be a very heated, or very emotional, or very cold, or very tense meeting. I’m like a sort of stable scaffolding they can use to negotiate the difficulties.

As you have had over 25 years experience in this field, running your own private practice as well as with Relate, what is it about your job do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

It’s a great privilege to be trusted and have intimate elements of lives shared with one.  That sense of privilege never leaves me.  When people ask, “ how can you do that job?” that’s what I say. 

The downside? Yes a couple of thoughts on that.

It’s such a concentrated hour, working online. I am exhausted and have to take care to create gaps in my day and know when I cannot take on more clients. Face to face work is less concentrated and I can be quite energisedafter a session. I use tennis as a mental and physical counterbalance to my work. 

I also wonder, and in fact it’s been said, that friends think I’m silently seeing things in their relationships and wonder if I’m ‘analysing’ them! 

Do you offer face-to-face counselling or do you operate online?

Both. With Covid my work has all been online. It was difficult for some to see how it would work, as a couple, but no one has bailed out! Sometimes a couple use one screen and sit together, sometimes they are in different locations, even different parts of the country.

Growing up, did you always want a  “People related” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

I always wanted to be a teacher and I was for some years, teaching children in the middle years, 8-12. Perhaps that’s why I love my flip chart, it’s my blackboard.

What are the common “problems” that new parents ask advice on and what do you suggest they should try instead?

Counselling isn’t about giving advice. The health visitor will give advice on sleep or feeding. When clients ask what to do, I suggest we try to work that out, together.

A lot of couple’s problems, especially sexually or with regard to feeling the relationship has shifted to ‘flat mates or siblings,” trace back to the arrival of children. It’s a life stage for couples.  I get  them to identify what they miss, what they would like to change and help them work out how that can be achieved.  It’s usually about not having expressed their needs, not having understood that his, her or their angry comments are coming from a vulnerable feeling of sadness, loneliness or powerlessness. But the big one is often about finding TIME to be us.  

As you are based in East Sussex, England, are your services available just locally or UK/ worldwide too?

Online I can be anywhere.  Worldwide depends on that country’s counsellingstandards and I have to check I am qualified and covered to work with foreign clients. I have done so though.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I’m very casual. My clothes wardrobe is always half empty. I wear a small range and cull what isn’t worn. Jeans and a simple top of varying degrees of warmth. 

I dress outfits up with earrings, necklaces and a statement handbag. My current favourite is a bright red bag with diamanté studs from Steinmart in America. I’ve another Steinmart bag for winter, of an unusual geometric black and beige design; I have a mini version in red for evenings.  

Shoes? Slip on coloured pumps in summer or fit flops. Boots in winter. I spend most on shoes and boots, bags and accessories. Aside from those, my attire may have cost under £20.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

All charity shops. Marks and Spencer. Sainsbury’s. I spend a few weeks in Autumn in Palm Springs, California, and love Steinmart stores for accessories.  When shopping, I head straight for footwear, handbags and accessories, then lingerie, then coats, then clothes. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Flat, simple, knee high boots.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots and have many pairs. All inexpensive (under £70), kitten heels, flat heels, over the knee, ankle.   I have many red pairs, some fabric, flowery ones, animal print ones, silver lurex ones! When I LOVE a pair I buy two.  Why boots? Maybe because I can look down and see and touch them and they are a bit ‘out there’ and sexy. 

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

http://www.migbennettrelationshipcounselling.co.uk/

Thank you Mig for an interesting insight into your life as a relationship expert. As you probably noticed, most of the photos in this post are of two delightful cats, my beloved pets Leo & Bounty, who have a love-hate relationship! Bounty the kitten is very playful and adores Leo, who doesn’t always reciprocate those feelings – but they do have their moments! All the photographs are by Linda Hobden apart from the one of Mig, which I have published with kind permission of Mig Bennett.

Linda x


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In At The Deep End

With the seasonal holidays approaching and, depending where you live, lockdowns might be the case for January/February, then you might need a good book to read and I have a great book for you that I read during the previous lockdown! It is called “In At The Deep End” by Alexander Gunz. The story, in a nutshell, is about 6 very different men whose lives intersect one morning at a London public swimming pool. I love how each chapter concentrates on each man and their journey to the pool one particular morning. As you read each individual story, their story builds until the chapter when they are all in the pool’s changing room. It is at that point when you suddenly realise how their lives have been joined together. It is a book all about relationships – how people interact, how loneliness can be felt even if you are surrounded by others, how fathers & children react to each other, dementia, how swimming was the release they had in common, how quick we are to judge others…. so much can be taken away from this novel yet it is still a delightful read! Cleverly written, easy to read yet thoughtful. Give the book a whirl!

It is with great pleasure to welcome onto the blog Alexander Gunz…..hi, Alexander…

Hi! I’m Alex. I am London-born and bred, having lived in the Edgware Road area all my adult life. I have two degrees (Philosophy, Politics & Economics, and English Literature). I work in finance by day, where I write all the external content for my firm. I am an avid reader and freelance restaurant reviewer in my spare time. I am married with two children.

Who or what inspired you to write “In At The Deep End”? 

My Father has always inspired a love of reading in me (and the novel is dedicated to him). I have always wanted to write a novel, it was much more a matter of arriving at the right topic or theme. Walking around the Edgware Road area and visiting regularly the local pool gave me the idea.   

I really enjoyed reading your book, “In At The Deep End”.  I loved reading about the individual lives of the 6 very different men who used swimming as their release from their every day existence, and how their lives entwined one morning! I related to the man with the start of dementia- he reminded me of my father who had dementia for 12 years and how he was at the beginning as he tried to cling onto normality and stick to a routine. Was there any character that you particularly endeared yourself to?

The dementia inclusion was very deliberate and while I fortunately do not know anyone who has experienced dementia, I worked as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society in 2006-7 and was very moved by my experiences there. In terms of the characters in the novel, the cliché about all fiction is autobiography and all autobiography is fiction springs somewhat to mind. There is a little bit of me in each of the characters. It would be unfair to say that I have a favourite.

As you are an avid reader, averaging at least 50 novels a year over the last 20 years, were any aspects of writing of novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

It was a wonderful experience to write a novel and to put myself metaphorically in the shoes of what it must be like to be an author. The idea-generation and the writing were relatively easy; the redrafting, editing and finessing was much more of a challenge.

What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Contemporary literary fiction and high modernism would be my favourite periods. Authors whom I rate highly would include Joseph Conrad and JG Ballard. Among more contemporary authors, Margaret Atwood would be a clear favourite. Always actual books; I love their tangibility.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations? 

My earliest childhood desire was to be an astronaut and go to the moon! More seriously, I have always loved writing and to have the opportunity to write fiction as well as the work I do in finance (for my main job) has been massively satisfying.

Have you got other novels or plans in the pipeline for 2021 that you can tell us about?

I have written a number of short stories and may look to compile these in a volume.

Is “In At The Deep End” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, via Amazon 

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

Two countries I have visited in the past and whose cultures continue to fascinate me – in a very different ways – are Japan and Mexico. There are multiple stories and myths from both countries which could provide useful material.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Jeans and T-shirt if at home/ tailored suit and plain shirt if at work.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Apologies, no.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Would prefer to spend my money on books!

Boots or Shoes?

Am most likely to be found in a pair of old-school Adidas trainers; best for walking the streets around the Edgware Road and beyond

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc.

 My restaurant Blog is as follows: www.gourmandgunno.com

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Thank you Alex for chatting to us today ! Thank you (and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing) for the copy of your book In At The Deep End to review.

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the header picture © LindaHobden) have been published with kind permission of Alexander Gunz.

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Spotlight On Tweezerfile

I hold my hands up and admit that I never realised that the humble tweezer could be sharpened – that is until I recently come across Tweezerfile recently. I have my old faithful tweezer – I have had others but they fell by the wayside. Such a simple idea, and a logical one too – and I caught up with the founder of Tweezerfile, Lucy, to find out more. Welcome Lucy!


Hello! I am Lucy, a mother of two young kids under 5, living in London. I founded the business together with my husband, Wolfgang, over a year ago. We both work full time. I originally trained as a lawyer before moving into finance/business and Wolfgang runs his own design consultancy.  

Together, we juggle the competing demands of two full time jobs, two kids and Tweezerfile, which we started over a year ago. I have also recently started a part time course in Climate Transformation at Edinburgh University.

What inspired the founding of Tweezerfile?

Wolfgang and I met over a decade ago.  He is a product designer and so design and observing how people use products and how that experience could be improved is very much part of his DNA. 

At some point during that time, I found myself before a night out obsessing over a short hair which I couldn’t remove/grip with a pair of fairly old tweezers.  It was late at night and there were no chemists open. I would have given up, binned them and bought a new pair the next day but Wolfgang was watching me throughout wondering what I was doing. The idea that I might throw something out which was made of steel was an alien concept to him.  His initial thought was… well if you can sharpen knives…. and to be honest, when someone puts it to you like that, there is an obvious light bulb moment. 

We googled how to sharpen tweezers and found several million hits and countless magazine articles dedicated to sharpening old/blunt tweezers. We searched and searched for something we could use day-to-day and there was nothing. Every time we spoke to a beautician, they told us the same thing “there used to be this guy who would come and sharpen them… but now, we throw them out and replace them every month”.  

This seemed so crazy to us.  Such a small thing, but it’s part of a wider narrative of a throw-away culture that is all contributing to the the climate crisis.

The more we researched, the more we realised that any one of the big brands could have come up with this idea and could sell this product but it’s counter-productive to their business models. At one of our first industry events, someone asked us what the point was and how we could make money.  The implication being that selling something that people only buy once is a flawed business. Whilst I understand the logic, that is not who we are. We launched Tweezerfile to solve a problem, because no one else had and people were looking for a solution. And as part of that we hoped we could challenge the narrative and help people find better and more sustainable solutions.

To be honest, I never really thought about sharpening my tweezers before – how does it work? 

It’s really simple. You hold the Tweezerfile in one hand and then use the other hand to grip the tweezer so that the blades are in contact with either side of the file and then slide up and down slowly. After a couple of strokes, your Tweezer will be good as new. There are lots of “how to” videos on our Instagram page and website if you are stuck. 

Probably, a good time to make the point that is also doubles as a pretty amazing nail file. It works incredibly well on gel nails.  A close friend swears by it.

I love the colours that the Tweezerfile is available in – the coral and the petrol blue are very “on trend”.  Will other colours be introduced in the future? 

Absolutely, we plan to launch a whole new colour palette next year as part of next year’s release to coincide with moving all our production to Europe and the launch of new and better materials. 

Are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

Yes, you can buy them on Amazon or on our website www.tweezerfile.com

Have you always wanted a career in the beauty industry or did you have ambitions elsewhere?

Not at all.  We came to beauty from law and design and didn’t have any past experience in beauty.  We came to it because we saw a problem that hadn’t been solved and thought we could fill that gap and try to challenge the narrative. Looking back, we were pretty naïve. Ultimately, beauty is a multi-billion-pound business dominated by some very large brands.  The business model is predicated on rapid and repeat consumption and it is really hard to break through the noise that this generates (and marketing budgets) to support more mindful purchases.

We are one of a number of small independent brands trying to break through, challenging the narrative around what it means to be successful. According to EuroMonitor, every year, the beauty industry produces 120 billion units of packaging.  

In 2020, we all know how damaging these materials are for the environment and so reducing waste, helping people make choices which reduce the need to keep buying is the success story.

Eyebrows – over the years different trends have dominated – from being over plucked in the 50s/60s; to being left natural; to being “manicured” and well defined. Mine are natural but my tweezers are in constant use to keep those stray hairs in check. What eyebrow trend do you follow?

I inherited thick natural eyebrows from both sides of my family which is fortunate as I have been pulling them out with my hands since doing my A-levels twenty years ago. At peak stress, I might end up with a Boyzone break on one side and my husband will find me in bed asleep, with one hand gripping an eyebrow. As a result, I spend most of my time working with my beauty therapists to try and grow them out to look more natural and to keep some sort of shape. As a result, I naturally prefer and aspire to a fuller brow, as modelled by Cara Delevigne.  https://www.tweezerfile.com/blogs/news/whats-your-brow-personality

Do you have any “tweezers” tips you can share?

Sometimes and not always tweezers come with little plastic nibs to protect the tips. If you get those, keep them, they are like gold dust. Store your tweezers in them between uses, as it protects them from dirt and any other residues they might pick up in your make up bag. 

If your tweezers are dirty, just use your Tweezerfile and then blow on the tips, this will remove all the residue and ensures they are as good as new.    

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Pre-lockdown, I lived in dresses and heels.  But for the last 6 months, my wardrobe has mostly featured variations of ripped boyfriend jeans, trainers (Nike, Veja) and plain t-shirts as we have juggled school and nursery runs. I never leave home without a Sonya Kashmiri handbag. I own 5 in different styles and colours to carry me through the seasons. It’s a small independent brand, promoting the use of vegetable tanned leather which is organic and sustainable.   

As we approach winter, I have slightly modified my wardrobe to incorporate a Zara pink fluro beanie and a series of woolly jumpers from Margaret Howell and Another Label.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

For every day, I live in Cos but often find myself in Jigsaw for coats.  For unique pieces, I love Gather & See. Setting up our own business has made me really appreciate smaller independent brands who are thinking more holistically about supply chains and communities and so I try to shop as consciously as possible, buying things that will last.  

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I have a couple of shopping carts on the go at the moment. I am desperately hunting for a puffer coat to get through this winter and struggling to find one that is sustainable and that doesn’t drown me – I am 5ft 1. It turns out that I am late to the party as I focused on sorting the kids out and now everything seems to be sold out. 

I am also looking for some winter boots and have been eyeing up a pair of Chloe biker boots for ever.  Whilst the philosophy is “buy once, buy well”, they are still really expensive, so I’ve never quite checked them out. 

Boots or Shoes?

They both bring different associations, it’s like a great haircut. 

When I met my husband, we were both living in Paris and I would think nothing of walking the city in stilettos. It seems crazy to me now, a decade and two kids later but I love the memories that heels bring back and so on a night out with my friends, you will often find me in a ridiculous pair of Lucy Choi’s, walking arm and arm and laughing. 

For me, boots are all about winter and I love winter.  Slouchy boots and woollen dresses and fires and dark nights.  This may be my favourite season of the year.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Tweezerfile.

For Pinning Later


www.tweezerfile.com

insta: @tweezerfile

FB: @tweezerfile 

Thank you for chatting to us, Lucy. The simplest ideas are always the best ones! 😊

Linda x


All photographs have been published with kind permission of Tweezerfile; apart from the last two photographs which are by Linda Hobden.

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The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives

During the recent lockdowns of 2020, I have found solace in reading – like a lot of people. It has been really enlightening to try books outside my normal genres, however, I do like a good thriller/adventure story or, failing that, an historical fiction. Having done “Tudors and Stuarts” History ‘0’ level way back in 1980, I have always had a soft spot for that era. So when Ben Cameron asked me to review “The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives” by Tim Darcy Ellis, a book reminiscent of Hilary Mantel’s superb “Wolf Hall”, I gladly accepted. The novel is based on the remarkably true story of Juan Luis Vives – a Spanish academic, humanist and a secret Jew (parading as a New Christian) – who, having fled Spain to avoid the Inquisition, was brought to England by his friend Thomas More to tutor Princess Mary. He was caught in the turmoil that was the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon …. and his own love life was just as turbulent. Juan Luis Vives, who was later dubbed “the godfather of psychoanalysis “ was an interesting character indeed. It was a fast paced, interesting novel that I really enjoyed and I highly recommend the book. This novel is a debut book for author Tim Darcy Ellis, an archaeologist and history buff turned author – he should be proud as it is an excellent novel and as this is book one of a planned trilogy, I will definitely be reading the next instalments. With my interest piqued, I caught up with Tim to talk about all things Tudor and fashion too, of course! Hi Tim….

Hi Linda, and many thanks for the interview! I’m Tim. You could describe me as a ‘Jack-of-all-Trades,’ writing historical fiction being one of the most enjoyable pursuits in a very full life. I was born in Sussex, brought up in Surrey and now live in Sydney, Australia. I was formerly an archaeologist – and worked at the Museum of London in the late 80s/early 90s, I was also a tour guide at the British Museum. 
I retrained as a physiotherapist in London, (94-98) and I worked as a chef for four years at the Covent Garden Brasserie, which is now the Apple store! I moved to Australia in 2000, the year of the Sydney Olympics; thinking that it would be a temporary move. I have been here ever since. Currently, I have my own holistic Physiotherapy and Wellness centre (Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness) in Sydney. 
I love working with a dynamic young team, I enjoy teaching and researching, and being of service to the community, but what really drives my passion is reading about history, archaeology and philosophy – it is my relaxation and my escape. Finding fascinating characters, forgotten by the mainstream – like Juan Luis Vives – who really did make the world a better place, and then bringing them back into the light is just the best escape.

Who or what inspired you to research and write about Juan Luis Vives? 

I’ve always written creatively – be it poetry, short stories or travel. I had been researching my family history, and found out about the Elisha family of Houndsditch: the heart of the eighteenth century Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community of London. I then gave a Spanish friend living here a book about exiles from Spain, but before I gave it to him, I read about the Spanish Jews who had been exiled and discovered the incredible story of Juan Luis Vives. I literally spent a month searching for the novel of his life, or the film, but I found to my amazement that there was none, so I got to work. I really felt that bringing his story into the light was my life’s work.


I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives”. I love reading about the Tudor era – I did Tudors & Stuarts history O level – and yet I hadn’t heard of Juan Luis Vives before. His life seemed like a balancing act – having to hide his Jewish roots/publicly claiming he was a New Christian; having to decide who to side with when both King Henry VIII & Catherine of Aragon wanted his support for their opposing demands; his love life…. I admire his ability to navigate his way through some dangerous times knowing a wrong move could cost him & his family dearly. What did you admire most about Juan Luis Vives?

Thanks Linda! I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading all about Vives. It is so fascinating that we haven’t heard more about him in the English history narrative. I guess he skillfully navigated many worlds – Spanish, Jewish, English – and remained just one step ahead of the Inquisition while going about his important work. That lead to a certain degree of anonymity. There is so much about Vives to admire. He truly was a man ahead of his time. He showed immense concern for the care of the poor and sick. He also wrote about the proper care of animals and the importance of observing nature. He insisted that the education of a woman was as important as the education of a man, and above all, he was a pacifist: eschewing persecution and discrimination.
What I admire the most is his courage to address the significant power players of his day – Kings, Popes, Emperors, and to honestly tell them what he thought of them: while not offending them too much as to have him executed. It is even more remarkable when you consider that he lost almost his entire family to the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition for being ‘Juadaisers.’
Vives took on Henry VIII warning him against arrogance, he criticised the church and told the Pope that he required him to silence the rush to arms amongst the princes and the rush to sedition amongst the people. He told the Archbishop of Seville that he couldn’t consider himself a true Christian, and he said to queen Catherine of Aragon, whose family had seen his chained the stake, that ‘his conscience was greater than that of kings.’ Amazingly, he survived it all. 


I was surprised that in Tudor & Stuart England there were small but established Spanish & Portuguese Jewish communities in London – their path to England to flee from the Spanish Inquisition must have been arduous. Were there any aspects of Juan Luis Vives life or indeed life around that time in general, that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

I guess he navigated both the internal conflicts of his life – living outwardly as a Christian – but inwardly being very attached to the Judaism of his parents – with the external fear of being ‘outed’ or ‘persecuted,’ all with the utmost courage and grace. He never once baulked from his overarching aim of honouring the Jewish idea of ‘Tikkun Olam,’ or ‘repair of the world’. 
Studying the Spanish Inquisition in-depth, and the fate of the thousands of Jews who left Spain after the Decree of Alhambra in 1492 was quite shocking to me. It is very sobering to think that people were persecuted so horrifically – and not so long ago – for their sincerely held religious practice. These were people who had contributed to the economy, the arts and science. Astonishingly, many of them survived to tell the tale: I admire their courage and tenacity.

Having studied archaeology at university, you became an archaeologist and you have also worked in both the British Museum & the Museum of London. What did you enjoy most about working as an archaeologist and working in a museum?

I loved the excitement and fascination of just not knowing what you were going to find next. I remember working at the Guildhall in London in 1997. There were three of us working in a small space, and we had got to the bottom of the Medieval layers and found masonry. There was a moment when we all looked at each other and said, ‘it’s Roman.’ Soon after we discovered that we had found the site of the Roman amphitheatre of London.  
I loved the openings of the exhibitions and new galleries at the museums and the after-hours drinks and chats. There were great characters at the Muesum, we were young, and we had a lot of fun: times that I’ll never forget.

 

“The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives” is the first book of a planned trilogy. Can you tell us a bit about the other books? 

Absolutely – I’m fascinated with the stories of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who paved the way for the eventual official readmission of the Jews into England in 1656. That was huge because it meant that, in time, the lands that the English settled in – notably America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand could become safe places for Jews to live in. America has the second-largest Jewish community in the world. So I’m exploring the possibility of writing about tow other great characters – both Portuguese Jews who helped to make this tumultuous event really happen.  


Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Yes, I love books, I can lose hours stuck in them. I usually have a pile of six or seven books on the go at the same time. I am researching the seventeenth century at the moment: so there is a considerable pile of non-fiction works at the moment. I love philosophy, and I migrate to fiction books that combine history and philosophy. I also like the escapism of easy-going crime writing – I’m currently reading Donna Leon’s series set in Venice, around her fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti. I’m very old fashioned in that I like printed books, although kindle is excellent when you’re travelling – not that there is much of that at the moment!

Is “The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, absolutely, through the major retailers.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

I’d like to visit the hills of northern Portugal, the Jewish ghetto of Venice, the Jewish quarter of Seville and the true east end of London. That is where the heroes of my books lived, and that’s where I get my inspiration.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love my Australian RM Williams boots – one pair can easily last ten years – they’re so comfortable that you can sleep in them! They’re very masculine and go with smart trousers, jeans and even shorts. It can get chilly here in Sydney between May and October, and I wear Icelandic sweaters – they’re so comfortable and warm, but not heavy and I end up being the envy of just about everyone. For evenings, I feel most comfortable in plain white or plain black business shirts. Summertime is for tees, shorts and ‘thongs’ (flip-flops). Having said that, there’s no greater investment than having really comfy socks and undies!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

 Apart from RM Williams I swear by Matt and Bow for jeans and tees and Lulu Lemon for casual and sportswear. For gym shoes and runners I prefer Asics to any other brand.I get my plain business shirts from CJ Tyrwhitt.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list? 

I’m looking at some funky waistcoats and another pair of RM Williams.

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots, they give you that lift and confidence. 

For Pinning Later

 Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Web: timdarcyellisauthor.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timdarcyellis
 twitter: @darcy_author

Thank you so much Tim for chatting to us about Vives – a vivid character indeed. My thanks also to Ben Cameron, of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of Tim’s book to review. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Tim Darcy Ellis.
Linda x

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Create Your Own Calm

2020 has been quite a year, to say the least! All the more reason why my guest’s latest book, “Create Your Own Calm” is creating quite a stir. Author Becky Goddard-Hill has written this book that is simply bursting at the seams with simple, practical ideas and fun activities to stave off boredom and, more importantly, to manage feelings of stress, anger and anxiety. Although it is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, adults would still benefit from Becky’s words of wisdom. I caught up with Becky to find out more… Hi Becky!

Hi! I am Becky Goddard-Hill,  a children’s therapist and a wellbeing author. I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes. I have 2 teenage kids and I live in Nottingham. My background is in  Social Work. My latest book, Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and came out in September 2020.

As a former social worker & child development trainer, what inspired you to write “Create Your Own Calm”  and the other books you have written?  

I strongly believe emotional health and wellbeing to be as important to life as physical health and intellectual pursuits. If not more important. But how often do we actually focus on teaching them the kinds of skills they need to manage their mental health? Rarely. I wanted to give kids a tool kit of coping skills to help them be robust and resilient and I wanted to introduce these in fun and light hearted ways  and that’s the focus and purpose of my books. They each contain loads of activities that teach kids great emotional health skills whilst having fun. 

I admire the fact that you run 6 blogs, all highly ranked within the UK, predominantly focused on family life, emotional well-being & being active/creative. How do you find writing books compared to writing blogposts?

Because my books are activity books I find each activity a big like a blog post to write. I love, love, love that my books are illustrated though and interactive.

What do you like most about blogging?

My blogging community is awesome and my various blogs are diverse and interesting. I  have to do quite a lot of social media to promote my blog – I don’t love that quite so much.

copyright © Linda Hobden

“Create Your Own Calm” is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, and yet looking through the book, I think the tips and activities to create calmness in these stressful times could also help adults. Learning the science behind emotions was especially good. Do you have a “favourite” tip to help when you are particularly stressed?

Yes. My favourite tip is to do something mindful, eg colour a mandala, bake bread, gardening. When you are focused you cannot worry about the past or the future and your brain clears making problems much easier to solve. 

The activities suggested in the book are really fun & quite innovative – such as growing a pizza garden & cloud watching (my favourite). What inspired the thoughtful activities? Any favourites? Any activities that you tried that didn’t quite work out?

Oh, I tried to make a lava lamp to show how people  are like oil and water – that they could coexist even though they could be very different. I ended up with about 20 lava lamp attempts all sitting round my house, none of which had worked!  My favourite activity in my teen book, Be Happy Be You, is that they have to befriend an apple for the day, name it, really get to know it and spend time with it. It’s to show them that whilst you might just think all apples are the same they aren’t at all, they are all individuals and deserving of your time in getting to know them. Appreciating diversity and inclusion are so important to instil.

copyright © LindaHobden

I noticed a lot of reviews for the book (and I am in agreement) commented that the language you used got the point across to young people without talking down to them or being patronising. That is a great skill to have. Is it a lot harder to write a book/ article aimed at a young person?

I don’t think so. My language is never formal when I write and I have teens myself. The publisher has a reader to check the language is just right too.

Your career background has been in the field of social work/child development; was that the career you aspired to have as a youngster or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I want to save the world! I don’t know how to, but that was my grand plan. I’ve since realised that might be a tad ambitious but I do still desperately want to help people and make a difference. 

Being an author of 7 books already, are you a bookworm yourself?  If so, what genre(s) do you usually read?

 I am a huge sucker for a gorgeous romance and I love David Nicholls.

copyright © Adam Hobden


Looking towards the future – have you got other books in the pipeline?

Yes,  Create Your Own Kindness will be published in Feb 2021. It teaches kids to be kind to themselves, other people and, in fact, to the whole world! 

As you are based in England, is “Create Your Own Calm” available overseas?

Yes, on Amazon – pretty much everywhere.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Ah, I’m a very comfy dresser. At the moment, it’s oversized cosy jumpers and jeans/joggers with my trusty silver Superga. I also love a pair of dunagrees.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like FatFace and Hush.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I am desperate for a cosy coat and some new tall boots as mine are battered!

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. I have about 15 pairs of converse and rather a lot of other lace up pumps too. They are my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about You & “Create Your Own Calm”

 I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes.

Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and is available on Amazon and in all good book shops 

I have also co-written a  happiness boosting book for teens Be Happy Be You which was published earlier this year 

You can find me on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/beckygoddardhill

Thank you so much for the chat, Becky. I love the idea of befriending an apple! Highly original!

Linda x

The author & book photographs were published with kind permission of Becky Goddard-Hill. Other photographs are by Linda Hobden & Adam Hobden.

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An Interview With LitNuts

A book tour with a difference this week! Daughter and father team, Kathleen Meyer and Mike O’Mary, the duo behind LitNuts – are holding this tour to promote their website and newsletter. LitNuts aim to bring the best exciting new books from independent authors & publishers, universities, small & micro presses. I am excited to be part of the tour and I was so pleased to chat all things books with Kathleen and Mike.

But first, let me introduce LitNuts, the brand:

For Readers

So, LitNuts brings you books of short stories, essays, or poetry that many other newsletters refuse to include (because collections don’t sell as well as novels). LitNuts also features new releases and award-winning books that other newsletters exclude because of price. (Many newsletters feature ONLY ebooks priced at $2.99 or less, which is fine – but not all great books are $2.99 or less!).

For authors, you’ll be happy to hear that LitNuts founders Mike O’Mary and Kathleen Meyer handled publishing and marketing for an indie press for more than 10 years. This is important because that means they understand the challenge of getting your books in front of readers. 

For Authors

LitNuts is an affordable vehicle that focuses on indie books and has engaged subscribers. Their goal is to help authors increase their book’s sales rank with online retailers, generate more reader reviews, and create positive word-of-mouth. 

Toward that end, they are building a subscriber base of booklovers who want to hear from indie presses. And we are focused on keeping things simple and flexible for authors. They offer a flat price of $25, so it’s simple. No tiered pricing or convoluted advertising offers to analyze.

At the same time, they give authors the flexibility to advertise short story, essay and poetry collections, to link to your website so book lovers can purchase directly from you, and to set the price of your e-book according to your needs.

THE INTERVIEW

Linda: Hi Mike and Kathleen, a big warm welcome to my blog. Please introduce yourselves

Mike: Thanks, Linda, and thanks for having us as guests. My love of books started with The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and continues to this day. I studied economics, English literature and creative writing in college and graduate school. I’ve always done my own creative writing, but I worked in corporate communications for 30+ years to pay the bills before retiring earlier this year. Today, I’m a writer, book publisher and business partner with my daughter on LitNuts.

Kathleen: I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. From Little House on the Prairie to Goosebumps to the Diary of Anne Frank – seems like I was always the one getting in trouble in school for reading during class. I studied studio art and art history in college, and then went into marketing – including marketing for my father’s book publishing business. Today, I do marketing for a global company in the 3D printing industry , enjoy time at home with my husband and our two dogs, and read a lot of books!

Linda: What inspired the launch of LitNuts?

Kathleen: It was based mainly on the experience of trying to market books as an independent book publisher. A key part of our marketing strategy was using e-newsletters that promote books. There are a lot of them – and we tried them all!

Mike: We learned which ones got results, and which ones didn’t. We also saw that from the perspective of the author and the publisher, the book newsletter industry was not easy to navigate. There are convoluted promotion packages and tiered pricing structures, which can be confusing. More important, most other newsletters are focused on “bargain” e-books. Everybody likes a bargain, but the reality is that not all great books are $2.99 or less! And nobody was focused on indie books. 

Kathleen: Our goal with LitNuts is to do it better: bring a wide selection of indie books to readers—books you might not find elsewhere—and make it simple and inexpensive for authors and publishers. 

Linda: The subscriber newsletter – what are the benefits of subscribing as a book lover? What are the benefits for the author?

Kathleen: The nice thing for booklovers is that many e-newsletters about books (including LitNuts!) are free to subscribers. So you can try them out at no risk. 

Mike: The downside is that if you subscribe to too many, they can flood your inbox. We tried to simplify things on that front, too. We send LitNuts three days a week (vs daily for some newsletters), and the contents of each newsletter are customized based on your genre preferences. 

Kathleen: Of course, the other thing that makes LitNuts different is our focus on indie books. We think that’s a benefit for readers—because indie books often get lost in the shuffle when trying to compete with big publishers for a reader’s attention—and it’s a benefit for authors, too. I think the biggest challenge for any author is marketing. Newsletters are an economical way for authors to get information about their books in front of readers, and a newsletter focused on indie books is a way to get in front of the reader without having to compete with big publishers.

Linda: How do you choose which books get featured? What’s the criteria?

Mike: We’re currently featuring books from one of the largest and one of the fastest growing indie publishers, and we’re inviting many more to feature their books in LitNutsin the months ahead. Indie publishers and authors can also schedule promotions via LitNuts.com. 

Kathleen: We also include our own selections of indie books that we think readers will like. 

Linda: Obviously you are both nuts about books & literature! Kathleen, what is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Kathleen: My go-tos are usually literary fiction and memoirs, but recently I’ve been more interested in nonfiction. This past year has shown me I have a lot to learn about the United States and our history, so I’ve been reading a variety of books to help educate myself and be a better ally to communities I support. When it comes to ebook or actual book—I do both. Our house is full of hardcovers and paperbacks, but sometimes the convenience of my Kindle is tough to beat.

Linda: Mike, a little while ago it was banned book week & it was amazing how many great classics were on the list… and amazing how many banned books on the list I had read! So let’s talk classics – English or American Or whatever – my favourites are The Great Gatsby, Rebecca, Les Miserables  & The Alchemist –  what are your favourites?

Mike: Funny you should mention Gatsby and Les Miserables. I just finished writing a piece about literary pilgrimages that included information about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jay Gatsby’s connections to my old neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. And on a trip to Paris, one of the highlights for Kathleen and me was a tour of Victor Hugo’s home. SoI’m a big fan of Fitzgerald and Hugo…and Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Joyce, D.H. Lawrence,Mark Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway and Nabokov, not to mention Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut. It I were to pick one book to read simply for the beauty of the writing, it would be Madame Bovary or Lolita. I’m sure Lolita is on many lists of banned books today, and Madame Bovary was banned when it was first published in 1857. If I had to pick one book to read for the sheer joy of reading it, that would be The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Linda: Is your subscription service available to worldwide?

Kathleen: Yes. With our newsletter, we provide localized links for Amazon and Apple, so readers can download the e-book or audio editions of the books we feature from almost anywhere in the world. And, of course, if you prefer print, you can order that as well – usually direct from the publisher or author, if you like. 

Linda: If you could have dinner with some famous writers, past & present, whowould you want have dinner with and what question would you love to ask them?

Kathleen: I think it’d be fun to have dinner with Mary Roach. I love how she deep dives into various topics, but delivers the information in a funny, approachable way. It’d be exciting to meet her, learn what topics she plans to tackle next, and hear some stories that didn’t make it into her books. He wasn’t a perfect man, but I am a big fan of Roald Dahl’s writing. Maybe we could have a quick cup of tea and he could share a little on how he came up with such twisted stories for both children and adults. 

Mike: I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Kurt Vonnegut a few years before he passed away. He was in full Mark Twain mode, telling stories and sharing folksy wisdom: “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” I think Vonnegut would have been a great person to have dinner with. And in true Vonnegut fashion, I envision it going something like this:

Vonnegut: As stupid and vicious as men are, this is a lovely day.

Me: I agree. They told me I could ask you a question.

Vonnegut: Okay.

Me: What would you like to eat?

Linda: Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Kathleen: Pre-COVID: business casual for being in the office. Blouses, sweaters, slacks, flats. But this year it’s been primarily sweatshirts, more casual tops, and yoga pants. I admit, it is nice to dress up every now and then, but I don’t miss jeans very much! My favorite shoes are a pair of Birkenstocks that I’ve had for probably 15 years. I think my husband hates them, but I love them and will keep wearing them until their last days!

Mike: You know, I have a closet full of suits from my corporate days. But now, I’m pretty casual most of the time. I prefer slacks to jeans unless I’m doing yard work. And as for shoes, I have a lot of great shoes that I don’t get to wear often enough – but when the pandemic ends and people can have parties again, I’ll be ready. For now, my favorites are Clarks. 

Linda: Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Kathleen: I’ve been using Stitch Fix for over a year now. Last year it was great to help stock my work wardrobe. This year, it’s been more about comfortable clothes that are still appropriate for work, but also for running errands and taking the dogs for walks. I also like finding shops that are dual-purpose: I get a cool shirt but my purchase also means a donation to a charity. I’ve found a few online here and there and on Etsy. 

Linda: What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Kathleen: It’s getting cold here in the Chicago area, so I’ve been looking at some warm fleece pullovers and a new pair of Uggs (husband also hates these – but so warm!) to help stay cozy this winter. Chicago winter = everything warm and cozy for me!

Mike: I might be due for a new pair of boots—some heavy duty ones. I’ve had the same pair of insulated leather work boots since college. That’s four decades! On the other hand, they’re still holding up amazingly well, and I could put the money toward spending winters someplace warmer instead! 

Linda: Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Kathleen: I like boots for work – booties with tights and a dress, or knee-high boots with leggings and a blouse. Probably shoes for more casual times – like my trusty Birkenstocks!

Mike: Other than my work boots, definitely shoes. Something stylish and comfortable, please, just like me!

For Pinning Later


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Website: LitNuts.com

Facebook: facebook.com/LitNuts

Twitter: twitter.com/Lit_Nuts

THE BOOK TOUR DATES:

Happy Reading!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mike O’Mary & Kathleen Meyer.

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