Category Archives: Interview

An Interview With Author Miles Montague

I was kindly gifted a book by Cameron Publishing, a thriller called “Carbon Game” by Miles Montague, to review. Published on 16 February 2020, this thriller looked, well, thrilling, when I read the blurb on the back of the book. I am a great fan of thrillers and this one was set within the explosive political battles of the 1980s between South Africa and England; and the diamond trade. It was refreshing to read a thriller based on a topic that has rarely been explored, and as Miles is a former diamond valuer who operated from London in the 1980s, the thriller was made more credible due to the attention to details. Miles was born in Kenya and came to England in the 1960s and as I was reading the book, it occurred to me that there were similarities in style and pace of writing between Miles, and fellow African writer, Wilbur Smith – who happens to be one of my top favourite authors. Miles book jogged my memories of London in the 1980s although I did not know the ins and outs of the diamond trade nor the extent of the politics of the time. I found the thriller fast paced and exciting to read, the characters were believable and obviously the locations I could relate too. For a first thriller, this was more than excellent and I, for one, look forward to reading his second thriller! I was honoured therefore, to get a chance to chat to Miles who also shared his photos with me of the London locations used in “Carbon Game”. Hi Miles and welcome…

Hello, I’m Miles Montague, I’m British, married and currently living in Belgium. I’ve also lived in Germany, Switzerland and Africa.

I worked in London as a valuer in the diamond industry in the 1980’s. My first thriller, Carbon Game, is set during this period of great social upheaval, both in South Africa and Britain. My work taught me a great deal about the international diamond business. I have a deep interest in international politics and economics, and love the challenge of complex plot and deep character creation required of thriller writing.  

I was born in Kenya and lived there until my family, like many other colonials, returned to England in the mid 1960s.  I can still remember, as a young boy, watching the severe storm at sea when we rounded the South African coast on our way home and the swimming pool almost emptying of water as the liner lurched to the battering of waves. This gave me a love of nature and drama. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that today, I am turning a rundown, hilltop Italian wine-producing property into a sanctuary for nature where I can watch the storms rolling in whilst I write my second thriller, which is also partially set in Africa.

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?​

I cannot be specific on this, but my early interest was radio plays.  The reason for this is primarily that I like character creation.  The plot also needs to unfold quickly in a realistic manner that you can follow.  These are quite difficult challenges which I like.  

“Carbon Game” – your 1st thriller – published on 16 February 2020 – and what a thriller – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish.  Being set between South Africa & England during the political turmoil of the 1980s and the plot being based on the diamond trade; it was certainly fast paced.  As you were a former diamond valuer in London during the 1980s, a lot of the characters must have been based on people you knew and situations experienced.  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Actually only three minor characters were based on people I knew of or had met in the diamond industry.  I used my imagination to create the rest.  The way my writing brain works is that I first create an outline plot and then sub plots which give rise to situations wherepeople find themselves in.  I then think of what kind of people might get themselves in those positions.  I have met a lot of people in my life and I also like watching TV and films.

I enjoyed writing about all the characters even the minor ones.

Janet Bromsgrove was a challenge as I was creating a female character who in some ways is not what you would expect.  She is tough, self-assured, confident and had a background that offered her opportunities, and yet she chose to  turn her back on those opportunities and follow a radical direction.  An interesting character to write.

The locations were based primarily on my experiences.  The bomb threat on the DTC building was something I went through and the streets and buildings were often places I had been to or ones I had researched. I was born in Kenya and lived there as a child and so have some knowledge of Africa.  I have relatives who live in South Africa, although most of these have now gone to Australia.


Were there any aspects of writing the thriller that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

A huge amount of effort went into the plot. Even so, along the way I was pleasantly surprised by ideas that came along that made it more interesting. For instance, I changed the ending of the finished book despite the fact that it created a lot of additional work.  I was lying in bed in that grey zone between being awake and asleep, and at 4am a new ending came to me.  I remember thinking, ‘stay in bed, you will remember it’, but I forced myself to get up and change it.  I often get ideas during my sleep.  

What made you decide to write a thriller about the diamond trade?  Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the thriller developed?

My inspiration for Carbon Game came from when I was working for an international diamond company in London as a valuer, I was told a story by a diamond buyer which really got my imagination going.  

He told me that in Western Africa there was a great deal of diamond smuggling from the alluvial deposits, primarily because of the civil war in Angola.  This theme is partially shown in the film Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo di Caprio.  The buyer went on to say that there were agents or buyers from all over the world located there and their task was to buy the best stones they could. He went on to describe how the smugglers would buy brand new 4×4 vehicles, often Land Rovers.  They would bag up their diamonds and hide them in the engine oil sump.  However, often some diamonds would escape and get into the engine mechanism which would wreak havoc.  One way the buyers would know that the smugglers were coming was the loud rattling noises coming from those broken engines.  After the smugglers had got the diamonds out from the engine sump they would often just leave the vehicle in the middle of nowhere and go buy another one.

These highly valuable alluvial diamonds are the best in the world.  They are quite literally beautiful as they are eroded so they have a smooth skin and when they trickle through your fingers they give a sensation that you will never forget.

Are there any new thriller ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?​

I am currently writing my next book, and this will be a suspense / psychological  thriller with  some criminal subplots. It starts in Uganda where certain significant events lead to tragic consequences about twenty five years later in Britain driven by personal ambition and lies.  I have already written the first 30,000 words.

I actually have plot ideas for my next four thrillers. The world is in such a state of flux at the moment that opportunities for ideas have probably never been better.

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

I would not classify myself as a bookworm, but I am a bit of a news, economics and politics follower.  My favourite authors are Alistair MacLean and Frederick Forsyth.  I like real paperbooks, but appreciate that Kindle is really popular. 

 Is “Carbon Game” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, via Amazon and you can get to it via the links on my website: www.milesmontaguebooks.com

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

Places in Africa, probably the coffee region in Uganda.

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

Smart casual.  Jeans and sweatshirts. In the Summer I wear more linen shirts and trousers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Definitely an Armani man but I also like Weston for shoes. 

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

Some decent jeans.

Boots or Shoes? 

I like both. I have some old ostrich leather boots which I love made by Lanvin which need some renovation.

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

www.milesmontaguebooks.com

Twitter and Facebook accessible from the website

Thank you Miles for agreeing to be interviewed. I really enjoyed reading your book and I can highly recommend it. My thanks also go to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for my review copy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Miles Montague (apart from the top photo which is by Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Author Linda Rosen

I’m so excited this week to be part of Linda Rosen’s official book tour promoting her fabulous latest book “The Disharmony Of Silence”. I was lucky enough to be gifted an advanced copy of the book – which I thoroughly enjoyed- and even more thrilled to be able to ask Linda Rosen some questions…. but first, here’s the official resume of “The Disharmony Of Silence “….

BOOK SUMMARY

In 1915, jealous, bitter Rebecca Roth cuts all ties with her life-long friends, the Pearls. Eight years later, Rebecca’s son and young Lena Pearl begin keeping company in secret. Rebecca agrees to a truce when the couple marries. But the truce is fragile. Rebecca’s resentments run deep.

In 2010, Carolyn Lee, fitness instructor and amateur photographer, must come to grips with the fact that her mother’s imminent death will leave her alone in the world. While preparing her childhood home for sale, she realizes for the first time that her mother’s antique brooch is identical to the one pinned to the lady’s dress in the painting hanging above the fireplace. Coincidence or connection? Carolyn is determined to find out. What she discovers has the potential to tear lives apart or to bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles her newfound knowledge.

Genre: Women’s Upmarket Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684334306

ISBN-13: 9781684334308
The Disharmony of Silence is now available to purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. 

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Linda! Welcome to my blog!

Thank you, Linda, for reading my novel, The Disharmony of Silence, and inviting me to your blog. I am immediately drawn to you since we share the same first name as well as having a passion for writing and reading. To tell you a bit about myself, I live with my husband of almost 48 years splitting our time between New Jersey and Southeast Florida. I am not a fan of snow and ice and love swimming, playing tennis and pickleball outdoors all winter long in warm sunshine and reading with my feet in the sand, though I do miss my two grandsons who live less than a mile from me in New Jersey. 

After a successful career as a fitness professional, who or what inspired you to take the plunge and become a professional writer?

When I was approaching my sixtieth birthday, although I loved leading my exercise classes and working with private clients, which I still do when in New Jersey, I felt I needed something more. My creative side was calling to me. I was actually perusing an adult school catalogue for a photography class and noticed a writers workshop being offered. I signed up for it and the teacher was fabulous. After the first class, I was hooked. Since then, my fingers haven’t stopped flying across the keyboard.

“The Disharmony Of Silence” – your novel published on 5th March 2020 – and what a novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely different.  At first, I wasn’t sure of Carolyn and her quest to discover the mystery of the brooch, but as the story unraveled, I found myself engrossed – I gasped in horror at Rebecca’s attitude and mannerisms … I found myself questioning Carolyn’s methods of unravelling her family history …. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Rebecca was definitely the most fun to write yet it is a tie between Rebecca and Kate for who I enjoyed writing the most. They are complete opposites. Kate embodies characteristics I admire in some of the older women who have taken my exercise classes and Rebecca is someone I hope I’ll never be, yet I do understand her and hope readers will try to justify her motives, not only judge.

As to the hardest character to write, Ben gets that award. I had to keep him vulnerable yet believable and since I haven’t been twenty years old for a long time, and I’m not male, he was a challenge. 


Were there any aspects of writing the novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

Yes, actually revising surprised me. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. When I wrote the first version of The Disharmony of Silence, which had a different title at the time, I thought that was great. I enjoyed sitting at my computer creating characters and story. Though the more I learned along the way and the more I dug into my characters when not actually writing, just lying in bed, swimming laps or driving my car, the more I realized what I hadn’t written. That’s when the real fun began. I love playing with words and phrases and making them come alive on the page and that can only be done once I get the initial raw wording down. 

Unravelling family secrets – sometimes the results can have a pleasing ending and sometimes the results do not turn out for the best.  Delving into family history is, nonetheless, curiously addictive.  What inspired the novel topic? Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

The inspiration for this novel had nothing to do with a real family secret. It came from a story my sister-in-law had told me when she was getting her mother’s house ready for sale. It centered around a painting that had hung in the living room her whole life. Since no one in the family wanted the painting and my sister-in-law didn’t want to throw it away she decided to search for the artist and, if alive, return it to her. I thought that was a great premise for a story. And, since I’ve always been fascinated by family secrets I’ve heard about, I created one. It wasn’t until I was on one of my later drafts that I realized that the definition of family was a major theme. I had been focused on secrets and lies, which are also themes in the novel and I have questions for book clubs concerning these themes at the end of the book. My personal feelings of what makes a family did influence me as I have an extended family and not all from blood. It also took quite a while for me to know how the book would end and my feelings on secrets did play a huge part in that – as well as Carolyn, my protagonist, telling me what she was going to do with her discovery. 

Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

I am presently re-writing a novel I started years ago set on a hillside vineyard in the Hudson River Valley in the 1960s and ‘70s. It’s a sisterhood novel about grit and determination, raising women’s consciousness, and wine. 

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

I am a voracious reader and am drawn to upmarket women’s fiction and historical fiction. Some favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Kristin Harmel, Susan Meissner, Kristin Hannah and not to leave out men, John Boyne and Pat Conroy. I love holding a real book in my hands though I do read on my Kindle and have also enjoyed listening to audio books

Is “The Disharmony of Silence” available to purchase worldwide?

It should be available on most sites. If there is an issue, readers can contact my publisher, Black Rose Writing. 

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

That’s a fun question. I suppose it would be the Outback in Australia. Ever since I read a book many years ago, whose title I cannot remember, about a female pilot who flew doctors in and out of the Outback, I’ve been fascinated with the place. 

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

I’m a jeans girl – skinny jeans with any kind of top, depending on occasion and weather though I do like summer skirts. As far as shoes, sandals win.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Several years ago Chicos was a favorite, though I’m tired of their styles now. Actually, I much prefer to shop in person for clothes and shoes rather than on-line, and any smaller store that displays outfits rather than going through racks stuffed with all kinds of styles is for me. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

As my mother used to say, I can shop in my own closet. I have clothes I barely wear so, honestly;I don’t have any wish lists at this time.


Boots or Shoes?

These questions are so much fun to answer. I’d have to say, given the choice, boots. Since I seriously do not like winter, I have trouble moving from flip flops to wearing shoes with socks and boots are a better look.

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

Thanks for asking. My website is linda-rosen.com where you can contact me if you’re interested in having me either come to or Skype with your book club. You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram @lindarosenauthor and on Twitter @lrosenauthor.  

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BOOK BLOG TOUR DATES

March 2nd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us as we celebrate the launch of Linda’s blog tour The Disharmony of Silence. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book too!

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

March 4th @ A Writer’s Life

How much does setting matter in a novel? Author Linda Rosen talks about this very subject over at Caroline’s blog today. You can also enter to win a copy of her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

March 6th @ 12 Books

Make sure you visit Louise’s blog and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 7th @ Lori Duff Writes

Be sure to stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.loriduffwrites.com/blog/

March 8th @ Bring on Lemons

Visit Crystal’s blog today and you can read a review written by her daughter Carmen about Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

March 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Make sure you visit Anthony’s blog today where you can read his interview with author Linda Rosen.

March 11th @ A Storybook World

Blogger Deirdra Eden spotlights Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

March 13th @ Lori’s Reading Corner

Stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read a fitness inspiring post by author Linda Rosen! She shares some tips about strength training while reading audiobooks. You can also enter to win a copy of Linda’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/

March 14th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion

Stop by Linda’s blog today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen. Don’t miss it!

http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

March 15th @ Choices

Make sure you stop by Madeline Sharples’ blog today and read Linda Rosen’s blog post about inspiring your creative self by getting outdoors. Don’t miss it!

http://madelinesharples.com/

March 16th @ Reviews and Interviews

Visit Lisa’s blog where she interviews author Linda Rosen about her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

March 17th @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and join Lacey over at her blog today. She reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

March 18th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog again today and read his review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

March 19th @ AJ Sefton’s Blog

Make sure you visit author AJ Sefton’s blog today and read a review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.ajsefton.com/book-reviews

March 20th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Looking for a new book to add to your reading list? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and read her review of “The Disharmony of Silence.” You’ll want to add it to your list!

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 21st @ Bookworm Blog

Visit Anjanette’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 22nd @ 12 Books

Are you part of a book club? Author Linda Rosen shares fun activities you can do for your book club. Don’t miss this fun, inspiring post!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 23rd @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Make sure you visit Cassandra’s blog today and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

March 25th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

What do you do if you are writing about a made-up setting? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and you can read Linda Rosen’s guest post where she shares her advice.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 26th @ Lady in Read Writes

Stop by Vidya’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://ladyinreadwrites.com/

March 27th @ Jessica Belmont’s Blog

Over at Jessica’s blog today, you won’t want to miss her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

March 28th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s blog again today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 30th @ It’s Alanna Jean

What does your writing space look like? Author Linda Rosen shares her tips for setting up your writing space over at Alanna Jean’s blog. 

http://itsalannajean.com/

April 3rd @ Joyful Antidotes

Make sure you stop by Joy’s blog today where she reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://joyfulantidotes.com/


April 5th @ Teatime and Books

How much do you love revising? Does it spark joy? Linda Rosen shares her thoughts on the joy of revising over at the blog Tea Time and Books. 

http://teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com/

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Linda Rosen.

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An Interview With GuanAnAn London

Going oriental this week as far as textiles go, at any rate. GuanAnAn London was established in London at the end of 2018 by founder Ju Guan, and they have a fabulous range of cushions, wallpapers, lampshades and fashion accessories in unique prints based on Ju’s drawings of characters from ancient oriental mythologies. Ju has a passion for sharing stories through her drawings as I found out when I interviewed her. Hi Ju!

Hi! My name is Ju Guan, I come from China. I lived and studied in Glasgow from 2012 to 2018, then I moved to London and set up my brand here. I graduated from the Glasgow School of Art, and my major was Painting & Printmaking.

What inspired you to set up “GuanAnAn London”? 

While I studied at GSA, I found out a fact that I always have had a passion for sharing stories through my drawings and connecting with people on an emotional level through my artworks. So, I started this brand with a strong belief in the power of storytelling. When people buy a product, they do not just get a daily-use item, they will gain joy from the stories. This is the thing I always wanted to do. To bring something interesting into people’s daily life.

Your brand creates unique prints for luxury home decor and fashion accessories based upon inspirations from ancient oriental mythologies. What do you like most about drawing the oriental mythologies? 

Let me take the first collection “The Fish” as an example.  It’s based on classic Chinese mythology called the Classic of the Mountains and Seas……. Actually, I don’t know if I should call it mythology because the characters in the literature are described as real existed creatures over 4500 years ago, rather than characters of a story. It’s more like a dictionary of ancient Chinese mythological creatures.

“There is a fish called He Luo, it lives in a river in the North. It has one head and ten bodies, and it yells like a dog. People love it not only because it is one of the best-tasting fish, but also it can cure illnesses.”

I read the words and imagined what if they existed in a world just like horses and snakes around us today. Then I designed every single character by hand drawing on paper with watercolour and ink. When the characters had been completed, I used a drawing tablet to create the final illustration on the computer. 

This is a very enjoyable designing process for me. 

I personally love your He Luo cushions – in all the colourways! What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Yeah, people are asking about He Luo cushions all the time. The octopus body is very eye-catching. And there are a lot of people like the twilly scarves for the fine details and rich colours. 

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

I currently just finished the design of my second collection “The Blue Bird”. It’s a much bigger project than “The Fish”. I spent quite a lot of time on the feathers and I will say it worth of time. I love both the outcome of the design and the story.

The Blue Bird is much more popular in the oriental culture. The Chinese saying is: “There are three bluebirds. They have the most beautiful feathers, redhead, and black eyes. They are servants of the most powerful goddess. Two of them accompany the goddess all the time, and the third one is the messenger who represents the goddess.” You will see magpies(symbolises joy and good luck) are flying around the bluebird. So, that means the bluebird is bringing good news from the goddess.

You offer a bespoke service & are able to print your designs on any kind of fabric developing it into soft furnishings. What has been your favourite bespoke request so far?

I reupholstered two vintage chairs for my family. The reason why they are my favourite pieces is because of a special bespoke man-made suede. That fabric is the softest fabric I have ever seen, and it’s heavy. I have a velvet Calathea at home, the fabric feels to touch just like the plant.  That gives me an idea that I can make the whole interior a match, not only the patterns and colours but also the touch. 

You currently offer a wide range of products including silk scarves, silk kimonos, silk nightgowns, cushions, wash bags, lampshades, wallpapers.  Have you got any new products in the pipeline? 

I am planning to develop my designs into ceramics. I made a sculpture of He Luo with clay and talked to some ceramic professionals trying to build up a reliable production relationship. It will cost a lot to develop a new product, and I insist on high-end production that makes it harder for the plan to become a reality. 

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

Yeah, of course. We can ship to overseas customers and we will be very happy to know there are more people in other countries that like our brand. 

When choosing items to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional charm, colour or bits of all those?

As an independent brand, I would say the designs are very much based on a personal taste. I believe that if I can create interesting things and pass some joy through them to the customers, they will buy it. And I think the most important thing is not following the current fashion trends, it’s to lead a new trend. But, of course, customers’ requirement is important for me, that’s the reason I welcome bespoke orders.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in art/textiles? 

When I was a kid, every time people asked me what do I want to be when I grow up, I say artist. The answer never changed. I started drawing before I can remember, and I was training painting skills for many years, since 7 years old. Then I learnt how to be more creative and finished my study at GSA. Developing a career in the art area is always my dream.

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

Casual. Comfortable is the most important thing, followed by style.

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

I love the concept stores supporting independent designers like me. I can always find cool things in Notting Hill. 

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

Haha, a lot.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/Facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about GuanAnAn London

Website: http://guananan.co.uk

Instagram: @guanananofficial

BTW, I just released discount codes on my Website for Mother’s Day gift. 20% off on everything and an extra 20% for the silk scarves.

Thank you Ju for explaining the background to the weird and wonderful mythological creatures … I wonder if they really did exist or whether somebody had a vivid imagination?!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Ju Guan

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An Interview With Salt And Steel

As I am currently renovating my home, I am beginning to enjoy looking at furniture and other home accessories in shops, on TV programmes and on websites. In fact, it has become almost an obsession! There is such a wide choice that it can be mind boggling – which colours and styles to go for, should you follow or buck the trend. One website that caught my eye is “ Salt And Steel” – it is the home of everything monochrome and textural. It is a site that made me go “all touchy and feely“ – I love textures and metal and most of the pieces on this website I hadn’t seen elsewhere. I caught up with the founder of Salt And Steel, Sarah, to find out more about her brand and her passion of all things monochrome and textural. Hi Sarah!

Hi, I’m Sarah, Founder and owner of Salt and Steel. I live in Oxfordshire with my two children and mad chocolate labrador. In my spare time I can be found at the gym, walking the dog or in the many coffee shops and beautiful restaurants around the county.

What inspired the founding of the brand, Salt And Steel? Why did you decide to specialise in all things monochrome & textural?

I’ve always loved interiors and having worked most of my working life as a business consultant I finally wanted to find something that I’m passionate about. I took the plunge in 2019 to start Salt and Steel and haven’t looked back. I LOVE anything with texture that is a little different and monochrome hues just fit perfectly.

I am particularly fond of the Hammered Metal Side Table – and the unusual  Metal Hand Hook. To date, what has been the most popular product from your range?

Oh yes I love them too. Now that’s a very difficult question to answer as I don’t tend to re-stock smaller items as I want to keep the brand fresh and forever moving.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

I definitely can’t answer that! I love everything. That’s how I’m building my brand…if I don’t love it then I won’t buy it.

As Salt And Steel is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

As it’s a new business my focus is on the UK but of course I’m happy ship overseas on request.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new design collection, where would you go and why?

Probably India. I just love the detail and the craftsmanship that goes into their homeware. I try to source products that are handmade where possible.


As you have an affection for monochrome, do you personally like to accessorise with a shot of bright colour or keep it pale? Which colours?

Interestingly, I can wear colour but I just don’t like to have it in my house. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with me! I love wearing coral and electric blue.

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

I do love a heel…either a kitten or stiletto. Heels always make me feel better. I don’t tend to wear skirts or dresses. I’m usually found in skinny trousers or a jumpsuit.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Boringly no and for that reason I subscribe to Stitch Fix.

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

Summer dresses, I’m going to push myself out of my comfort zone. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. I love a boot. Boots always seem to be easier for some reason.

For pinning later

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

www.saltandsteel.co.uk 

Facebook: @saltandsteeluk

Insta: salt_and_steel_uk    

Thank you Sarah for chatting to me about your brand. The love of kitten heels is another passion we share – don’t you think the curviness of a kitten heel mimics some of the metal textural furniture and shapes?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Salt & Steel.

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An Interview With Pepper Sq

I do so love watching those house makeover/interior design type TV programmes – the ones where whole houses have been renovated room by room. I love seeing how the clever use of colour, design, and furniture can transform a room. Even shifting furniture around a room could make a big difference in helping to accentuate the size of a room. I’ve come across a “one -stop online interior designer and furniture shopping destination” that really impressed me – Pepper Sq. Pepper Sq offer “Ready to Buy” Room sets – you can discover the best furniture for your space, estimate the total cost, assess the dimensions and visualise the room design. I caught up with Oxana, co-founder of Pepper Sq, to find out more about her brand, and her personal design loves. Hi Oxana!

Hello, my name is Oxana Yanushkovskaya, I am a CEO and Co-Founder of Pepper Sq.(www.peppersq.com) – which is an online resource for room-by-room makeovers, setting out interior ideas and offering carefully curated furniture.

What inspired the founding of Pepper Sq?

Pepper Sq. was launched in autumn 2018 with a mission to make ‘spacemaking’ simple and efficient. Following our own experiences of online furniture shopping, we noticed a gap in the market for a new entrant – one which provides vast yet considered furniture selection, digital ‘interior design’ tools and smart curation to foster better customer experiences. Our aim is to revolutionise the furniture retail, by creating unique customer experience and simplifying the purchasing decision making process. While a lot of people want to design their perfect homes, they find it extremely time consuming to shop in-store or search through thousands of portals on the Internet. Needless to say, many people don’t feel overly confident choosing furniture, as it involves dealing with sizing, colour and style matching issues and thus, money and time are wasted on sorting returns. This is where Pepper Sq changes everything, reduces noise that’s out there and lets customers hone in on precisely what they are after.

Simple 1.0 room set

I absolutely love the idea of the “Ready-To-Buy-Room” sets and the way your website offers the solution to visualise your room space, discovering the best furniture options for that space, and the cost of an entire room. How can customers utilise this facility? 

The platform features a new concept of complete room designs, which can be tailored by customers to suit their spaces and budget. The room ‘spacemaking’ function offer also comes with price reductions compared to buying individual items. All of the items featured within the room designs are also available separately. 

You can follow three simple steps: 

Discover – Browse our impressive collection of room designs, compare styles and find your favourite.

Design – Customise your favourite room designs, check dimensions, match colours, choose patterns or find alternatives.

Enjoy – Turn that space into a thriving reality. Click and buy – you’ll soon enjoy your new room design.

Every look comes with a visual reference so you can imagine how it might look in your own home, and you can see the actual budget.  Last but not least, you can find recommendations on finishes and décor, or get in touch with an interior designer who created the room you like in case you are looking for something bespoke and different.

Which room do you find is the hardest to makeover? 

There are three areas that give an emotional ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the house.  In my experience, these are often dining area, living space and master bedroom. It’s the heart of the home and really transforms the rest of the interiors, so it should capture your lifestyle, taste and vision. And it’s most critical to have it done right.

What room set is the most popular?

Oh! It’s a good question… Depends on a season. New rooms are always getting more attention. Last year there were a few rooms that were probably most ‘wanted’ by consumers and journalists (appeared in press): Simple 1.0, Sakura Dreams, Stone Island, Pastel Explosion, Eggnog Throff…  (our Christmas edition) .

I love the Hoxton Corner Sofa and the Yeux Rug. What’s your most favourite item(s)in your furniture/rugs collection?

The cane bentwood combo takes our heart this season. Rounded shapes and sinuous lines are known for giving a softer and more welcoming feel. We have a vast collection of bentwood and cane furniture, that’s extremely popular among our customers. Madrid and Lucien are my favourites. 

Janson is a statement sofa and is utterly elegant, you will be surprised with the level of comfort it provides. When I say you can sink into your sofa, I mean it. It can be complimented by an oversized Janson Armchair, that is designed to switch off from the outside world with a book or a movie, stunning and spacious.

Our transforming multipurpose furniture collection, that is perfect for a smaller space, includes Barbican and Levante coffee-turn-dining tables, Origami Folding Table or Flap Console-turn-Dining Table. My current favourite is Schasta that was recently added to our catalogue.

Malibu Console/Dressing table – beautiful in its minimal design, it functions as a hallway table, dressing table or a desk. 

The Vaquero Cowhide parquet rug that combines modern style and elegance, with it’stextured tones of calf hair that add subtle untamed luxury to any living space.

Flap Convertible Table

When picking items to add to your collections, do you select by what has proved popular in the past, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

We love to be a trend setter, and every product added is hand-picked by our team members. The beauty is that we have very different life styles and cultural backgrounds, thus the tastes that make up our collections are broad, and (hopefully) attractive for many people.

There are two criterias we never compromise – quality and design. Our team hand-picks European furniture that is confident on its own, as well as part of our bespoke room design concepts.

Are you a big fan of the “feature wall” or do you think all walls should be papered or painted? 

I do not have personal preference, a space will dictate the rules…

Colour accent walls can add depth and dimension to a room, and make a room seem bigger, warmer, or brighter. If a room is small, a light colour accent wall can make the room seem more spacious. If room is too long, a dark colour accent wall can make the room appear more welcoming, and optically change proportions. 

On the other hand, you can use walls as a foundation … with single colour paint or same pattern paper, and go wild with wall décor. The benefits – you can change décor elements more often to create a new look .    

Have you got a favourite paint colour? 

I love Green colour, all shades of green really. My favourite paint is from Farrow & Ball collection – Mizzle 266. 

As Pepper Sq is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

The UK market is our primary focus for the next two years. It’s important to get it right. We are aiming to launch our service in a few other countries in 2022.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new design collection, where would you go and why?

I have been lucky enough to explore the world. I was born and raised in Russia, lived in Far East for a few years, and worked across many countries and continents. 

Two countries stand out the most for me … 

Peru, with the myth and mist shrouded Inca citadel and it’s breath-taking landmarks, is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It’s the place to re-connect with the Universe, absorb wild colours of nature, and Inca’s most colourful civilisation too.    

China, with it’s calm balanced environment (natural and cultural)  – order and creation of harmony.

Caleido Cream

Have you always wanted a career in interior design, or did you have ambitions elsewhere?

I studied arts for 8 years, and had a few personal exhibitions in the meantime.  By irony of faith, being a creative soul throughout, I didn’t apply my skills and passion in full until starting this company. I chose to pursue the career in the commercial world (though within the creative industries) and never regretted it and all the opportunities that came with it. 

Prior to founding Pepper Sq, I worked for 10 years with Discovery Communications Inc., where I led commercial strategy and business development teams across several networks and continents.  Before Discovery I was in homeware & DIY wholesale businesses, working closely with the largest European retail groups, in addition to European and Far East manufacturers.

So, getting back to design space, it’s almost getting back to my roots. 

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

I almost have dual personality now!

I love designer clothes, and even more, shoes! My favourite shoe brands are Jacquemus and Nikolaos Kirkwood. 

However, nowadays, you can find me in quirky t-shirts, jeans and sneakers more often than not. There is no better outfit to run a start up!

Madrid Lifestyle


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I have been converted into ‘digital shopper’ many years ago, just never had time to visit physical shops. I still love to wonder through little boutiques shops when I travel, though. I am also a big fun of flea markets. My favourites are Place du Jeu Balle in Brussels, Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt in Paris, Grande Foire à la Brocante de Pézenas.

My favourite online shop is Pepper Sq. (of course)! 

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

More shoes from Jacquemus!

Boots or Shoes? 

Always stylish shoes ! Do I mention sneakers again? (Easier to style)

For pinning later

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

Site: https://www.peppersq.com/

Instagram: @peppersqcom

Facebook: @peppersqcom

Pinterest: @peppersq.com

Definitely food for thought – thank you Oxana. I do share your love of the colour green – all shades of green – my previous homes have been green colour based. Currently though, I’m attracted to pale colours for my interior walls (lemon, lilac, cream, white, baby blue); then I can go to town with bright colours such as yellow and orange accessories in the kitchen and bathroom. I absolutely adore Pepper Sq’s room set idea – it is great to be able to virtually visualise a makeover and have access to the ideal furniture all on one site. I hope you agree, dear readers!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Pepper Sq.

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An Interview With Lucy Jade Sylvester Botanical Jewellery

If you are a big fan of nature then you are going to adore the botanical jewellery by Lucy Jade Sylvester. Inspired by her love of the British countryside and coastline, Lucy makes each piece by hand – beachcombing for shells, scouring the countryside for plants and grasses and insects such as flies and moths. Her wedding jewellery is simply stunning too. I caught up with the lovely Lucy to find out more… hi, Lucy!

Hi! I’m Lucy. I’m a countryside living jeweller, mum of two cheeky boys Archie and Alfie. Vegetarian for 32 years, lover of discovering new places, Chilli, log fires and strong cups of tea (I don’t take the tea bag out.) I have bee, butterfly, beetle and forget-me-not tattoos on my feet and around my ankle bone. I’ve always been a nature lover, on walks as a child my pockets would be filled with snail shells and leaves.

What’s your jewellery design background?

After a college Foundation Art course, I studied jewellery at Birmingham’s School of Jewellery, on completion I worked on my own pieces alongside teaching jewellery at a local college. A few years later I went back to University to take an MA in jewellery and metal work, this is where I focused and developed using nature in my work.

I started working on a website while I was teaching, so doing both on a part time basis. The college changed dramatically and asked staff who wanted to take voluntary redundancy, which I did, it gave me the push to leave my safety net and work for myself full time. This was the first time I applied and got accepted to have a stand at London’s Chelsea Flower Show.

What inspired you to specialise in botanical jewellery?

Nature has the most beautiful lines and textures, so I use it as directly as possible.

I take moulds from delicate woodland finds, dead insects, twigs, fallen leaves, and cast into the cavity they leave, this process allows me to create exact replicas of life in solid silver and gold that retain the finest details.

My insect based jewellery designs are all made from naturally deceased specimens, found by me or sent to me by people who know my work.

I give the specimens a new life in solid silver or gold, modern day fossils of the wildlife we have today.

These natural forms with beautiful textures would decay into the ground and be gone forever, with direct casting from them I’ve created something that will now be here forever, to be worn for a lifetime.

I love the Netted Dog Whelk Shell Pendant and the botanical wedding rings – very beautiful indeed. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

The most recent collection is the coastal collection, the shells and sea urchin shells have the most incredible textures, I can’t wait to add more to the collection in 2020.

Living in Oxfordshire means we have to plan trips to the coast, the coastal pieces have evolved after family trips to stunning beaches on the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Cornwall and Wales.

The Coastal collection is currently silver, but we will be creating it in gold too, with many barnacle covered mussels and limpets set with diamonds, sapphires and rubies.

The coastal work is perfect for the summer, so now compliments the leaves and seed heads that can feel autumnal or wintery.

Acorn pendants are very popular, bought to mark a birthday, new job, new adventure or to remember a loved one, I can make them to enclose ashes.

Simple twig rings are bought as wedding bands, they also work well as stacking rings.

The designs for the botanical bridal and woodland wedding collections are growing, engagement rings from twisted twigs and leaves are created from grass, leaves and twigs that wrap around to form rings, the fragile veins and stems clearly visible with a scattering of diamonds.

Set with brilliant cut, rose cut or uncut diamonds these engagement rings can be paired with woven grass, leaf vein or lichen textured bands providing a timeless alternative for countryside lovers.

And moths are popular, too.

What are your favourite pieces?

My wardrobe essential is the Stag beetle necklace, I wear him or a long or short chain depending on what I’m wearing.

He is a lovely weight, his smooth wing casing makes him extremely tactile. He always creates a reaction from people, most love him, some aren’t sure, but I love that.

The stag beetle necklace is versatile, I wear him with jeans in the day or out for the evening.

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

All our jewellery is inspired by, and made in the UK, but we ship all around the world.

We use a tracked and insured postal service.

I’m very jealous of some of the destinations we’ve posted jewellery to!

You must have come across some interesting finds whilst beachcombing and countryside walking. Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific or do you fill your pockets at will every time you venture out?

My studio is filled with skip salvaged science jars filled with woodland and beach finds.

I love just coming across new inspiration, it could be a leaf on a path while on the school run.

Some finds I save to use at a later date, some finds I keep just to marvel at the magic of nature.

Wasp nests with the coloured stripes from different woods, bird nests blown from trees entwined with feathers, twine, grass and sheep wool, such incredible feats from these small creatures.

My mouse nibbled hazel nut pendant came from my garden when we moved house.

I’d seen a mouse occasionally run along a wall in our garden, under some tiles I discovered a stash of nut and seed husks, including the hazel nut shell, now in solid silver.

This necklace was created after buying a collection of Australian boulder opals, I set them with silver and 18ct gold twigs, hawthorn leaves, snails, bees and a stag beetle set with a round brilliant cut diamond. 

What was the hardest or most unusual piece you’ve created so far?

Technically the flies were the one of the most challenging to make, getting the wings and legs to stay intact took some time.

I occasionally create larger one off necklaces, usually after buying stones.

Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

I originally wanted to print fabrics, I loved using screens and squeegees.

It was during a college course that I discovered saws and blow torches and changed what path I would take at University.

I recently discovered cyanotypes, very different to metalwork, but I loved it.

Your Hawk moth and poppy seed head ring was chosen by costume designer Michele Clapton to be worn by Sansa Stark in the hit medieval TV series Game of Thrones. Did it feel strange seeing your jewellery being worn on TV?

Michele’s love of craftsmanship can be seen in all her costume designs, the detailing is amazing, a huge honour to be involved with such an iconic programme.

The Hawk moth ring and the matching necklaces are very popular, many have flown across the sea around the world, especially to America.

My jewellery is owned by some incredibly inspiring people, I have a letter from David Attenborough and wonderful card from Dame Judi Dench. I’m not sure my work could be in better hands, both have such a love for the amazing world we live in

What recommendations would you give to help look after and maintain your botanical jewellery?

Our jewellery just needs a occasional rub over with a jewellery polishing cloth, we recommend taking it off before bricklaying or anything to rough!

For pinning later

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

I love flip flops, I’ll wear them for as long as possible but in the studio I have a pair of Timberland  Nellie pull on boots.

I also love converse, I have 2 pairs red, and leopard print.

I tend to wear jeans, with a simple black or khaki top. I accessorize with my short Hawk Moth or  Stag beetle necklaces

My latest buy was a gold leather bag from Clarkes shoes. 

I tend to use Ebay for much of my shopping or re buy things from the marketplace on Facebook, you can pick up vintage or new, and it comes straight to your door through the post.

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

I’ve just discovered a hole in my Joules Bumble bee wellies, I guess these need to be my next buy!

Find out more about Lucy Jade Sylvester Botanical Jewellery:

https://www.lucysylvester.co.uk/

https://lovefromengland.tumblr.com/

https://www.instagram.com/lovefromengland/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sylvester-aa192416/

https://facebook.com/LucyJadeSylvesterJewellery

https://pinterest.co.uk/lovefromengland/

https://twitter.com/lucy_sylvester

Fabulous talking to you Lucy – it’s amazing what you can find when beachcombing or countryside rambling and I find it even more amazing at your talent to be able to make stunning jewellery out of the moths, shells, leaves…. I once found a fish head on Chesil Beach, Dorset camouflaged against the shingle and shells!

My gruesome beachcombing discovery!! © Linda Hobden

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Lucy Jade Sylvester (apart from my fish head pic!)


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An Interview With The Image Tree

As the colour of the year has just been announced – Classic Blue – it has left me mourning the loss of the Coral palette that I have adored. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the bold blue, it’s just that the coral hue, I felt, suited my colouring more. I doubt if I will be totally rejecting my coral faves this Spring/Summer and no doubt a few classic blue pieces will be creeping into my wardrobe too. Sometimes it is hard to know what style of outfit would flatter – neckline, hemline, slim fitting or full skirt – as well as deciding on colour. I bought an evening dress, in classic blue actually, with a Bardot style neckline. It looked gorgeous online model. On me, the neckline wouldn’t sit right and gaped – it made my breasts look distorted. I swapped the dress for a v neck one in a red colour. The new dress neckline fitted like a dream and the colour was perfect. Sometimes we need some guidance when it comes to our wardrobes…. boost of confidence, change of image, decluttering our wardrobes, steering us in the right direction to avoid making expensive mistakes …. sometimes we need someone like my guest this week, Sara from The Image Tree! Welcome Sara!


Hi, my name is Sara Marsden-Shreeve, I’m currently 43 years young writing this but as a Chrimbo baby I’ll be 44 when this goes out. I’m married with two children Francesca 14, Jake 10 currently based just south of Derby but a Yorkshire bird through and through. Moved to Derby with my family when I was 11 years old.  Love to laugh, likes cheese and have too many coats and probably never enough boots.  I’m passionate about changing women’s mindsets around a better body image, promoting self care and a healthier relationship around clothes. You have to learn to rock what you’ve already got . So, Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy are my mottos which probably people get sick of hearing but I don’t care. I’m from a civil engineering background, have a BA Hons in Applied Social Sciences (which is basically psychology with a bit of sociology) Coventry University 1993-95, NLP accredited , various FIPI recognised Image Consulting qualifications acquired from First Impressions Ltd in Warwick. I’ve written articles for “Henpicked.net”, guest blogged, won various awards such as Theo Paphitis #SBS, Jacqueline Gold #WOW and worked with corporate clients at Canary Wharf. I love collaborations and have worked with brands such as Dandi Patch as well as other brands and small businesses with similar ethos around well being and self confidence.  I currently also co-run a Wellbeing Inspiration Network in Derby for women who have an interest in increasing their work life balance with well being and other holistic practices relevant to healthier mindsets and supportive business concepts.

Having worked in the civil engineering/corporate insurance sector, what made you decide to branch out and form the The Image Tree? 

I have to say this was genuinely some sort of Eureka moment after having the realisation that I’d suffered stuff in the past (failed pregnancies, bullying at school – Sticks & Stones built my business blog post – ) but had many skills and passions that potentially could help others in some way. After having happily worked for around 10 years in Civil Engineering sector I initially left (2005) to have my first child and didn’t really have any initial thoughts about going solopreneur. Prior to having Francesca we’d had gone through miscarriages and a harrowing termination on the advice of specialists. Needless to say my body image and self confidence was rock bottom. I hated my body for letting me down and had unhealthy feelings of being unfit to produce children at the time. I blamed myself and drowned in feelings of harrowing guilt. I later had counselling for this. So you can imagine when we had Franc I was determined to stay at home with her as much as possible.
I did return a few times over a few years on temporary contracts in alignment with child care and finances, which was super helpful but then after the birth of my second child Jake (2009), whilst I was still there, I decided that I wanted to concentrate on getting back to my dormant psychology roots and love of people.  
It’s no joke that I literally woke up one morning with the thoughts of mixing my love of colour and fashion with psychology. Whether I’d been whispered to in the night by an angel or had a Eureka moment in my dreams after months of soul searching to find my calling,  I’ll never know…  I was scared but I decide to do it anyway (2011)..   
Fast forward a year later and I was completing my training to be an Image Consultant when my son had turned two and freed up some time whilst he was at preschool. I started to research the arena and built my very own website in 6 months. I worked loosely, around kids, for the next 2 years under my name and then decided to brand up and create The Image Tree in 2014. Time to get serious!
From then on I have organically made Image Consulting more niche and merged it further with the advocacy of promoting Body Positivity and self care throughout all of my work. Largely through listening to what my clients were saying about themselves whilst looking in the mirror, hearing them share their negative image experiences and generally beating themselves with the ugly stick. Not on my watch…. Been there done that got the tshirt!
Hence my investment in NLP training, using effective coaching techniques and surrounding myself with Holistic practitioners and Wellbeing specialists I’ve met and collaborated with on the way. Image starts from the inside and isn’t just about one’s outside appearance.  Clothes, colour, fabrics and accessories are a powerful tool that help women relate to their assets and gorgeousness no matter their size and shape. We are not, after all, living in a society that is receiving of the naked form in public so clothes are an essential part of our everyday….and so too is a healthy mindset around self image- especially in a world that throws so many stones. Hence the merge of style and psychology!

Your image consultancy is very holistic in its approach with a heavy focus on body positivity.  Apart from your services & packages, you hold workshops encouraging body positivity too. What would I expect from attending a workshop? Would the workshops benefit trainee image consultants or the client?

My Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy workshops were a direct result of a partnership with a good friend and Metawellbeing coach (Susan Gardner) who gave me a kick up the arse to share my message of clothes and body love and introduce our combined passions of positive mindset and tools to a larger audience. They were small groups though to encourage a safe and judgement free environment.   They were aimed at women who wanted to get on to the path of liking their bodies a bit more and finding out how to use clothes to adorn their natural form and personality but didn’t know how or where to start?  So we gave them 6 useful steps to work through and identify on the day so that they could go away and make a few easy and simple tweaks to their mind, body (embracing it not changing it) and wardrobe.  The workshops are not available at the moment because we are currently converting the workshop to an online platform so we can release it as a course to the world in the Spring. Making it more accessible to women who want to achieve the same results from the comfort of their own home. 

You have many delightful services and packages including colour confidence, body confidence, wardrobe confidence, shopping confidence, style review… What service/package seems to be the most popular amongst your clients?

I would say that the main two roots of The Image Tree services, so the Colour and Body Confidence services are probably the most popular ones jointly because they are great starting points and get happier results quickly. Who doesn’t love learning about wearing flattering colours or dressing your shape in one session?

Which service/package do you really enjoy the most (or gives you most satisfaction) when helping a client?

 Ooh that’s a tricky one, I love them all.  If I had to pinpoint one… then it would have to be the New Beginnings package as it takes the client on a Style journey working through colour, body and your wardrobe in 3 flexible sessions with bespoke positive coaching support throughout the duration. I love afterwards too when the realisation sinks in and the magic happens

Nottingham family photographer

I love the sound of the service you offer called “The Secret Stylist” … what does that entail? 

So the Secret Stylist is a quicker, more affordable version of what I do in bite size chunks for women who need specific foibles sorting.  I’m currently changing it to make it solely virtual, so speaking to clients via zoom, skype or whatsapp video for ease and convenience for clients when they need me most.  So from the changing room, outfit advice via their phone or photos they send, 30 mins of coaching before an interview or date, or maybe they need me to find them a pair of jeans that they know will fit? Every client gets their very own Pinterest board for all clothing inspirations anyway so I can just pin stuff and they buy it.  It was based on a subscription before and I used a points system for clients to choose what they needed but it was a bit hard for me to keep track of let alone my clients. So streamlining it now to be neat and marketed clearly. 

I’m currently drawn to burgundy/black/coral/red colours for this winter season; is it    difficult when shopping with a client not to be attracted to your favourite colours rather than theirs?

I totally love colour and I know what works for me but that doesn’t mean it would work for them. As I’m trained in Colour analysis and have 7 years experience I can easily separate myself.  I’m not the colour police though and totally respect that some ladies can’t let go of colours they love even though they might not be as flattering as others on them…(black being the main culprit) You should always wear your happy and it’s just a case of mixing them into your outfits effectively.  

Working magic on flattering body parts and hiding less amenable parts is a job and a half!  What are the common “mistakes” that ladies make and what do you suggest they should try instead?

I would say the most common mistake that women make is to focus on the parts they don’t like and forget about everything else, due to years of staring at them and berating themselves with negative self talk.  So my advice would be to ask yourself “What do I like about my body”? It’s a toughy because we don’t do it naturally!!  Be honest or ask someone you love and trust for their input.  It’s not vain nor is it egotistical, it’s merely giving yourself some love and validation, we ALL have the good stuff and we ALL have assets!!!!  Once you’ve identified at least one good aspect, think about what you could wear to make the most of it..  Good legs, wear a skirt, nice tights or fab shoes. Like your bum, find a good pair of jeans or trousers to hug those buns. The parts that give you the most sighs can be lovingly cared for with the right cut, shape fabric, hem or waistband. Distraction is a stylists main tool, so by wearing embellishment or interesting details or fabrics elsewhere can shift your gaze and show off your best bits whilst matt fabrics, darker colours and simple clever tailoring can totally make a difference.  Anything too tight or too big is never a good look. Skimming is the key word.
Another mistake I see is that women often presume that their bra size remains the same for every brand, style and shop out there since they got measured 12 years ago. I always recommend to my clients that they get measured more often (if they can) and get measured for the right bra style dependant on their breast tissue and shape, some work better than others for support and shape.  They are your under armour after all and provide the basis of your silhouette and can make a massive difference when trying on clothes and getting a better fit. So wear your best fitting one. 

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

Have car will travel… hahaha.  I have had clients all over England and only ask they cover my fuel on top of their service. Once the course goes online we’ll be able to reach further. 

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

I’m very eclectic and always dress mindfully to suit my mood or schedule, but mostly I will usually wear one quirky piece teamed with a classic separate. So think  skinny jeans, bold jewellery, tshirt and bright blazer or maybe a snake print pussy bow blouse with a leather pencil skirt. Shoes blimey.. I love em all but currently sporting a white flat-form trainer, metallic heels or a rock chick boot. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Hmm favourite shops, if I can go small I will and I love a charity shop or local boutique.  But online, I like Joanie for funky tops, SilkFred for dresses and for jeans it has to be NYDJ because fit is key, so investment and cost per wear in staples is savvy on the purse strings.   Despite this my secret crush is probably TKMaxx though because I love a rummage for designer discounted gems. 

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

Next on my clothes wish list is a sequin or sparkly blazer come tuxedo for christmas parties. Currently looking for one that has a bit of a semi fit rather than drapey. If this goes out next year then I’m after a new trench coat probably in Navy or a Dark Grey.

Boots or Shoes?

Nooo … that’s like choosing wine or cheese?  Hmm, going with boots if I have to then, though I do own a pair of shoe boots which would tick both boxes. hahaha/ Why boots… because I love Autumn and Winter and being snuggly and smug when its cold. Paired with a gorgeous wool coat and funky scarf you just can’t beat the polished look an ankle boot or knee high gives with jeans. 

For Pinning Later

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

www.facebook.com/WinDerby (ladies group)

www.the-imagetree.co.uk
Why not become a Special Subscriber and receive monthly exclusive updates, tips and offers? Or come follow me now on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or Pinterest… 

Great chatting to you, Sara – such great downtown earth advice! And, I definitely think “Shoe-Boots” are worthy competitors when it comes to my boots or shoes question! I love that style too!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sara from The Image Tree ( apart from the Pinterest photo which is of me!)

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An Interview With Mosaico Jewellery

Brightening up the dullest day, the colourful & fun designs of gemstone jewellery designed by Mosaico Jewellery have been inspired by the combined Brazilian/South African/British heritages of the two lovely ladies whose designs and expertise are behind the brand. I caught up with the bubbly ladies, Paula and Jenny, to find out more about their designs and what lurks in their wardrobes… Hi ladies, please introduce yourselves 🙂

P: Hi! I’m Paula. I’m a married mum of two boys, and live in Maidenhead, Berkshire. My best friend Jenny and I co-founded Mosaico Jewellery. We met while working in a jewellery boutique about 15 years ago and we clicked right away, Jenny was even bridesmaid at my wedding. Needless to say, we absolutely love natural stones and jewellery!

J: I’m Jenny and I live with my fiancé in East Molesey. Paula and I did absolutely click when we met! We were even told off a couple of times for chatting too much on the job 😊 Now, our brand offers semi-precious gemstone jewellery that is luxurious, yet affordable. Designed and handmade in-house which means they are very unique and exclusive.


What inspired the setting up of “Mosaico Jewellery”?

P: I had the idea for the company for many years, but had always been busy building my career and then starting a family. I got to a point that my job was causing a great strain on me emotionally and physically, and I was no longer enjoying the work, the long hours away from my son and flexible work was apparently not an option. So I quit my job and after I had my second son, I did a post-graduation in Digital Marketing. I felt that somehow gave me a bit of a boost in confidence. I think that sometimes you can find yourself in some sort of inertia and lacking maybe the confidence to go ahead to pursue your dreams. Any change is scary as it comes with a great share of uncertainty. I kind of knew that it would be challenging, but I just felt that it would be better to try than keeping myself wondering “what if?…”. I had also done my research, I knew it was a great idea that had a chance. I then invited my friend Jenny who is so creative and talented to join me on this idea, and without much hesitation, she said yes to it. We work really well together and that reflects on our brand.

Specialising in jewellery crafted from sustainable sourced top grade gemstones & metals, I do so love your range of colourful jewellery, obviously, but my personal favourite is the Lava -Carnelian, Jet Crystal & Agate Lariat  – very beautiful indeed. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

J: Oh the Lava Lariat is gorgeous. It is definitely one of our most popular ones too. Lariats are so great as you literally buy multiple necklaces in one purchase, and you style as you like, like you do with a scarf. It is all about you and how you like to wear it. Our gorgeous Esther necklace, ocean jasper beads threaded in an overlapping pattern is always eye catching at fairs we attend. Our Leaf earrings, Constellation and  Vivien necklaces are also some of our bestsellers, together with our Flor-de-lis necklace. I think often it’s the unusual that stops people in their tracks. The variety we are able to bring to the collections mean there is really something for everyone, which is great.

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

P: This is a hard question for us. One of my favourite pieces is the Aurora necklace. It is a long Amethyst necklace featuring one large stone at the end, with such particular markings! On top of that, Amethyst is my birthstone… so I just love that piece. I’m a big fan of earrings too, so I also love the Marigold, Alyssia, Caroline and Arabella earrings.

J:I love the Melissa necklace as you can see the work done in between the Tourmalines, it is so artistic! And I also love the Dahlia and Papillon earrings –  definitely personal favourites.

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

P: Yes they are. We ship worldwide. Although we have focused on the UK market so far in terms of advertising, we have already sent pieces as far as Hong Kong, Thailand and Canada. We have customers all around Europe too. We offer free global delivery and complimentary gift wrapping in our premium signature boxes to everyone.

When designing jewellery to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional charm or bits of all those?

J: We do have a bit of personal taste taken into account, and we both have a look at upcoming trends (such as upcoming shades for that year). We also take into consideration requests and popular stones from previous collections. However, this doesn’t dictate the collection to come. We look for stones that are unusual by shape, markings and/or colours, and then build the designs from there. We want people to express their individuality through colours and designs that are as unique as they are. So trends won’t help us with that. 

You do a bespoke jewellery service – what was the hardest or most unusual request you have had? 

P: We had a request for one bead. One nice interesting bead that would have great properties and energy attached to it. This was a gift to be given in a Blessingway ceremony. It was great to source that as the ceremony is historically a beautiful and unique way to honour a mother-to-be, to instil her with confidence and strength. We weren’t aware of these kind of ceremonies before but we loved sourcing the bead, which would be so full of meaning and part of such a heart-warming gift. That was super special.

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?

P: Jenny and I pick the stones together and exchange ideas, but ultimately, she puts the designs together and I make the business tick. If we had to go somewhere for inspiration, it would probably be from our heritages – Brazil and South Africa. For me in particular, it would be the beautiful island I was born on, called Florianopolis, just off the South-East coast of Brazil. Jenny is British but has family in multiple places in South Africa. They are stunning places with dozens of beaches and nature. People are outgoing, fun and colourful in every sense of the word in both of these places, so you can’t help but be inspired by how people live and the style they express.  

J: In one of our first magazine reviews, the editor described our jewellery as ‘not for shrinking violets’, and that made us smile, as it sums up how expressive both cultures are and the inspiration we want to reflect in our pieces.

Secondly, which famous lady would you pick to be the “Face” Of Mosaico Jewellery and why?

P: Sofia Vergara! We would love her to be the Face of Mosaico. She has the perfect mix of bold, elegant, fun and colourful which is with our brand stands for. We are all unique and we want our jewellery to reflect this uniqueness in you. Sofia Vergara does that beautifully.   

J: Oh yes, that would be great!

10.  What recommendations would you give to help look after and maintain your gemstone jewellery?

P: We believe you just need to use your common sense and if the jewellery is well made, that should be enough. To clean it, you can use a soft cloth after you have worn it, and place them in your jewellery box, maybe inside a jewellery pouch or in a place where it won’t get tangled. 

J: Also, don’t ever wash them, instead you can use an old toothbrush and some lukewarm water and scrub very gently behind the stone, where dust can collect. Each of our pieces come with care instructions, and a card that outlines the properties of the main stone of the design. We are also introducing jewellery pouches, so if you buy a necklace, you don’t need to keep the box, instead you will have a pouch to store your necklace securely.

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

P: You will find me wearing jeans and long, sometimes baggy tops. Another reason we like jewellery is that it can just take any outfit from simple to trendy. 

J: We do believe it is all about the way you accessorise. I vary my outfits a bit, but weekends you will most likely find me in jeans and a nice top too.

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

P: Most shopping I do nowadays is for kids! Jojo Mama Bebe is fantastic. I also love this brand for kids clothing called Bluezoo. I am a big fan of online. It is just so easy to browse in the evening, when the kids have gone to sleep. If I need anything for myself I tend to go to the House of Fraser website at the moment as some of my favourite brands are available there.

J: I do quite a bit of shopping online too nowadays, but when I go on a shopping spree you may find me in Zara, or in womenswear at Selfridges.

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

P: I need to buy a pair of jeans. I am that kind of person that goes shopping for (needed) trousers and end up buying more (not needed) tops 😊

J: Boots, I just need a new pair of boots at the moment.

Boots or Shoes?

P: Nowadays I say boots! A good pair of comfy Boots! I’ve lived in the UK for 15 years now, but my South American side still needs to be wrapped up warm, particularly between October and March! A good pair of boots and I’m good to go in all weathers.

J: I guess you know now what I will say….. Boots it is! For similar reason, just comfortable and they go with everything.

For Pinning Later

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

www.mosaicojewellery.co.uk

Instagram: @mosaicojewellery

Facebook: /mosaicojewellery

Sofia Vergara, if you’re reading this, you know where to contact the ladies!! Thank you Paula and Jenny it has been great chatting to you, and I wish you continued success in 2020.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mosaico Jewellery.

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An Interview With Radical Tea Towel Co

I’m being decidedly topical this week – the impending General Election in the UK next week, the current strikes in France, the ongoing criticism of Donald Trump in the USA…. what could be better than interviewing a homeware & giftware brand that has been inspired by radical thinkers throughout global history? Designing tea towels, aprons and other paraphernalia on topics such as democracy, the NHS, the Welfare State, Free Speech, Free Love, Votes for Women…. in fact, every topic done designed for those radical left and liberal minded people to proudly display their political and social beliefs. To find out more, I caught up with co-founder Bea of The Radical Tea Towel Company …..Hi Bea…

Hi! I’m Beatrice and I am a co-founder of The Radical Tea Towel Company.

Who or what inspired you to create the Radical Tea Towel Company?

It was May 2011 and I was looking for a birthday present for an elderly relative who was into left-wing and radical politics. His sight was poor so a book was not an option. I decided something practical like a tea towel with a political message on would be a great idea but, despite googling for over an hour, I simply couldn’t find one anywhere.

History & Politics abound in your range of Radical Tea Towels – how do you pick your design topics – do get ideas from customers, from what’s trending on social media?

It’s a combination of those things: customers do make suggestions all the time and we add the best ones to a list which we review each January. We also think about topics that are in the news, for example in 2015, when the refugee crisis was at its height, we produced our Refugee tea towel with the quotation by Emma Lazarus from the Statue of Liberty. 

Which topic/ tea towel has attracted the most attention so far? Have you got a personal favourite?

It’s probably the ‘Women’s March’ design.  It was based on a design by Margaret Morris for the song sheet of Ethel Smyth’s suffragette anthem “The March of the Women”. 

My personal favourite is the  ‘Rosa Parks’ design which shows her sitting on the bus in the run up to the Montgomery bus boycott just before refusing to give up her seat. What an inspirational woman! 

Although you are based in South Wales, are your tea towels available overseas?

Yes! We have websites in the US and Canada. but we get orders from all over the world! 

 Radical Tea Towel US

Obviously the tea towels can be used as tea towels, but some people have had them framed like works of art and even some have used them as ready made banners for activists at rallies. Where was the most unexpected place you’ve spotted your tea towels? 

I have 3 great examples!

A customer sent in a brilliant image of our ‘Women’s March apron’ hanging on a balcony in Galicia on International Women’s Day as part of a defiant protest for women’s rights. It’s a tradition in Spain to show you are on strike! 

Another one sent in an ‘LGBTQ tea towel’ from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The temperature was minus 40! 

And then Jeremy Corbyn brought out a ‘Tony Benn tea towel’ and read out the quote about hope on it at a speech he made to his supporters at the Sanctuary Pub following his September 2015 leadership victory!

Have you always had a career or a hobby in the homeware/giftware sector in the field of designing, marketing etc? 

No! I was a languages teacher for most of my working life! This business was a completely new departure for me! 

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

Jeans and stripy tops with a gilet and leather ankle boots.


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Yes, Boden for tops, M & S for footwear & jeans.

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

Some dark brown, calf length leather boots.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. I find them very comfortable and they keep my feet and legs warm and dry in wet Welsh weather!

For Pinning Later

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

www.radicalteatowel.co.uk

https://facebook.com/radicalteatowel

https://twitter.com/radicalteatowel

Thank you Bea! There you go readers, if you’re stuck for ideas for gifts, for whatever the occasion, for that radical person in your life …. or if you yourself are a loud and proud radical, why not get yourself a tea towel or two!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of The Radical Tea Towel Company

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Entanglement

A lot of people already know that I am a keen bookworm, and that I am willing to try out new genres so, Ben from Cameron Publishing sent me a real challenge recently. He recommended that I read and review a first published novel from author Andrew J Thomas called “Entanglement”. This is a sci-fi mystery book about parallel worlds … and it also includes cake recipes too! This book sounded intriguing – I admit, I’m not a big sci-fi fan but I was willing to give it a go. And I wanted to know… why the cake recipes?! I enjoyed the book – I found the book easy reading with a twist. I never really understood parallel worlds, but Andrew had explained it in such a way like scientist Brian Cox ( 😊). I loved the entanglement of the storylines – parallel worlds, moles (animal kind), relationships, journalism, secrecy and the significance of cake. I also liked the footnotes too. After reading the book, I wanted to find out more about the writer and his ideas…. so welcome Andrew…

Hi, I’m Andrew J Thomas, author of ‘Entanglement’ and I was born in Bristol, England. I started writing it in March 2018 and was published 18 months later, during which time though, my mother had a major stroke. My focus therefore expanded to include giving her a copy while there was still time, and happily, I succeeded. I’m unmarried, I live with my cats in a thatched cottage in the heart of England, and I’m currently writing the sequel to ‘Entanglement’, ‘Transference’.

After a successful career in IT, who or what inspired you to take the plunge and become a professional writer?

It’s a good question, as I’d written on and off all my life, but what tipped me over the edge was work. I wasn’t happy in my last job so I’d got a few interviews lined up and there was one which I thought was perfect, only I didn’t get it. Then the next day I woke up and simply thought “Enough’s enough”. I resigned a couple of days later, moved to the countryside, spent the next 18 months renovating a 17th century thatched cottage, and then started writing. When I left work, it was what I told everyone I was going to do, and I still remember the day I opened my laptop and started typing.

“Entanglement” is your debut novel – and what a debut novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely different.  I haven’t come across a sci-fi mystery book about parallel worlds that also included cake recipes and footnotes! I liked the characters of Jenny & Nigel – I know a couple in my own town that are best of friends, spookily in the same vein as these two – and I had a fondest for Liz, Erica & Gran too. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Jenny is my favourite character, and I loved writing her, as while she shares some traits with me (cats, tidy, impatient …) she also goes through things in her life, that I haven’t. Without giving anything away, she’s an old soul who moves from place to place a lot and undergoes some pretty life-changing events. It was therefore funny when friends read the first draft and commented on things about her, and Nigel for that matter, which they recognised from my own life. Amazing how these things creep in without you noticing. The hardest characters to write were those in the military and government, as I didn’t want them to stereotype them, so I reached out to people in those fields to get their take on behaviours, conversational styles etc..

Were there any aspects of writing a novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Oh yes. The part that amazed me was how some days, the story flowed out of me so quickly, it felt more like I was reading it than writing it. OK there were other days when I could agonise over a single paragraph for hours, but the others were astonishing.

To be honest, I’m baffled by sci -fit and the whole parallel worlds theories but I must admit, though this is a novel you explained the phenomena is “layman” terms and the footnotes were interesting too, without making the novel “heavy reading”. Why did you pick this topic for your first novel and did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

You know what, I didn’t pick it as such. The first pieces I wrote were some of the conversations between Jenny and Nigel. Then one of the sub plots, and it was only when I got the notion of a vanishing building that I started to ask myself how and why. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed all the research around the science piece and although I’ve clearly messed with it a bit for the sake of the story, I was keen to keep the baseline entirely real. I knew nothing of the facts of it before I started the book though, barring a few sci-fi programmes here and there, so the thing that struck me most as the novel developed, is the way parallel universes are not just the realm of science fiction, and there are lots of well-respectedscientists around the world who absolutely believe all the theories I reference in the book.

Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

Absolutely, I’m about a third of the way into writing the sequel to ‘Entanglement’, ‘Transference’. The book begins by filling in some gaps from the end of Entanglement so as to set up the new story, then picks up from the very instant that ‘Entanglement’ finishes. It features all the same main characters as before, with a new ‘supporting cast’ and whereas ‘Entanglement’ was very much about “What if?”, ‘Transference’ asks “What next?”

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

I’m not a daily reader, but when I find an author I love, I tend to devour their books for a few months and then take a break. I’ve traditionally been a book reader, although I bought a Kindle last year and find my reading has actually increased since, although the bulk of my consumption tends to be audiobooks in the car where it’s often PG Wodehouse or Agatha Christie. At home though, it tends to be Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, re-reading Douglas Adams and recently going through some old horror classics like Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stephenson

Is “Entanglement” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. The paperback, hardback and ebook are on Amazon worldwide. The ebook is also available on Apple Books, Nook and Kobo. Plus the print versions can also be ordered online or in store at places like Waterstones, Foyles 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’m lucky to have travelled the world a lot over the years and being an outdoorsy sort of person, some of my favourite places are Montana, Utah and Japan. For ‘Transference’ though, the new location in the story relative to ‘Entanglement’ (which was largely set in Scotland), is Snowdonia, so it would have to be there.

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

Jeans, casual shirt and something like desert boots or chukka boots. In fact if you read Nigel’s dress sense, that’s roughly me, although I like to think I’m slightly smarter!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon every time for shopping online. I also use a site called Canva for creating my daily posts on Instagram and Twitter. Apart from those, the Apple store gets a visit occasionally, but by far the bulk of my browsing is for research on my current novel. On the high street, it tends to be Waterstones, outdoor shops like Cotswold, and places like Lakeland, as I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets. Well, gadgets of all kinds really.

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

Probably some new chukka boots as my current ones have been worn to death, trekking back and forth between home and the village pub … or shop.

Boots or Shoes?

Both I guess, as I prefer shows for hiking and smart, but boots for casual. 

For Pinning Later

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

www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1916044018

http://www.instagram.com/andrewj.thomas/

https://www.twitter.com/AndrewThomas109

http://www.andrewjthomas.net

Thank you Andrew for chatting to us and I am looking forward to reading the follow up, “Transference”. Dear blog readers, if you’re looking to read a book that is slightly different or want a change from your usual genre, give “Entanglement” a read – it’s like a breath of fresh air!

Thanks to Ben of Cameron Publishing for sending me a copy of “Entanglement “.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Andrew J Thomas & Cameron Publishing; apart from the photo for Pinterest which is by myself, Linda Hobden

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