I’m lucky to have the salt marshes & mudflats virtually on my doorstep – it is just the place to blow away the cobwebs after days of overeating and drinking during the Christmas/New Year period. In fact, it is a great place to walk whatever season – the marshes change so much and the salty air is so embracing. On New Year’s Eve 2018 the weather was cloudy but mild – unlike previous years where the air was crisp and the skies were cloudless and blue. The ground was a bit muddy underfoot too … very muddy… but nothing that a good pair of wellies or walking boots can handle. So where are these salt marshes?
The Saltmarsh Coast is the 75 miles of coastline and creeks that stretch from the estuary of the River Crouch to the south to the estuary of the River Blackwater in the north, of the Maldon district of Essex in South East England. The Blackwater Estuary is internationally recognised as being an area of outstanding importance for wildlife and conservation – the marshes are habitat for migrant wildfowl and waders; and a magnet for thousands upon thousands of wild duck, geese and wading birds. On Old Hall Marshes it is estimated that around 4000 Brent geese feed here in winter. The site also supports 24 species of butterfly, dragon and damselflies.
Historically the Romans were interested in this highly salty area – the Roman town of Colchester (Britain’s oldest town) is only around 10 miles away and the famous Maldon Salt is still produced in the town of Maldon. However, in the 19th century the major industry here was oyster dredging. Small oysters were dredged at Tollesbury and sent along to the Kent coast to mature. There are still small oysters to be found. As the Tollesbury mudflats are a very important area for native oysters, it is a good place to spot oystercatchers, so my birdwatcher friends tell me.
One feature I always photograph whenever I walk the seawall and that is the Tollesbury Tree …. it looked quite lonely this week!
There were still grasses and berries abound but under the cloud the mud reigned supreme.
I can’t wait to show you the seawall in Spring and in the sunshine….here’s a sneak peak from a previous summer ….
All photographs are by Linda Hobden; map downloaded from Maldon District Council’s Saltmarsh tourist site.
As it is the last post of 2018 I thought I’d reflect on the “S” words that summarise this SEASON.
In the UK, and in most other countries I can imagine, this coming weekend will be mad in the SHOPS and SUPERMARKETS as people try to STUFF their trolleys with last minute gifts, extra wrapping paper and tags and enough food to probably last months but we will all consume in the week to follow. And then there is the booze….
SNOWBALL (egg nog), SPUMANTE, SHERRY, SCOTCH WHISKY, SAUVIGNON BLANC, SPANISH RED WINE …. SHARE the corner of the cabinet alongside Baileys Irish Cream, prosecco, brandy, beer, gin, vodka,Guinness….. I actually discovered in my fridge an unopened bottle of Baileys Irish Cream from last Christmas as I was putting this year’s bottle away. It had a best before date of end November 2018 … it smelt alright and tasted ok… I had to test it! Irish Cream is one of those drinks that I tend to buy each year… and I do like it … but after Christmas it tends to be redundant. I’m sure I’m not the only one with spirit bottles that have been stored away & only retrieved on the odd occasion that someone might want a dry martini and lemonade instead of a glass of pinot grigio! This year I fancied trying these liqueur chocolates…
SANTA CLAUS …. who can forget ST NICK? Even though my children are teenagers and adults, they still get a little SOMETHING from “Father Christmas” that resembles a SATSUMA but isn’t as healthy! The SMILES from children when they SEE their STOCKINGS or SACKS filled with gifts on Christmas morning makes being STIRRED awake at some unearthly hour worth it.
Christmas Day breakfast – SAUSAGES, SCRAMBLED EGG, SMOKED SALMON, SAUTEED MUSHROOMS, SAUCY BAKED BEANS, SMOKED BACON RASHERS, SQUASHED TOMATOES, SELECTION OF FRUIT JUICES ….. OR are you like me – I reach for my usual cereal as I just can’t face eating a full breakfast knowing that in a few hours time I will be indulging in the Christmas Dinner? My husband and sons disagree with me though!
SPROUTS, STUFFING, STUFFED TURKEY CROWN, SPUDS (crispy roast potatoes), SEASONAL VEGETABLES, SAUCES, SAUSAGES wrapped in bacon and SPECIAL TURKEY GRAVY made by Gran! Followed by STEAMED CHRISTMAS PUDDING (SIXPENCE no longer inside) with a SELECTION of creams, SUMPTIOUS brandy butter, STEAMING hot custard or SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM. SPROUTS. I don’t actually like SPROUTS. And yet every year I have to dish up one on my dinner plate, just because. My mother in law discovered a new recipe recently that mixed sprouts with bacon …. mmm… maybe, however, with “pigs in blankets” already on the menu, perhaps plain, steamed would be better. It is strange that a vegetable that is good for you – SPROUTS count for one of your “five a day” and contain antioxidants which are thought to prevent cancer – can lead, through overindulgence, to bloating with gas which can be uncomfortable for you and could be unpleasant for others…
STOMACH ACHES! SUDDEN change in diet can lead to uncomfortable consequences – the rich, creamy foods as well as overindulgence of sprouts, peppers, broccoli, eggs, baked beans…. The traditional post Christmas dinner STROLL could help – good for relieving STRESS & that STUFFED feeling, STRENGTHENING family bonds, STRETCHING those legs, and STAVING off that overwhelming SLEEPINESS feeling that will hit you once you SIT down on your SOFA to watch on the TV SCREEN those SOAPS and Christmas SPECIALS…
3pm. STANDING up as our National Anthem is played heralding the START of our Queen delivering her annual SPEECH on our TV SCREENS from her STATELY abode of SANDRINGHAM. I quite like this traditional of listening to the Queen’s SPEECH – it’s a bit like receiving a royal “Round Robin” updating the nation on her family events! SHE has quite a bit of news this year what with the Royal weddings and births!
SNOW. Let it snow! Despite what many people think, the UK rarely experiences snow at Christmas – The Met Office says snow has fallen somewhere in the UK on Christmas Day 38 times in the last 54 years. However, of all the winter months, December is when Britain is least likely to see snow. The last time it snowed in the UK on Christmas Day was on 25 December 2010! Will it snow on Christmas Day in 2018? Personally, I doubt it…. we shall see. If it does, I suppose we could dig out the SLEDS from our SHEDS, build SNOWMEN and make SNOWANGELS , throw SNOWBALLS, SCRAPE our car windscreens, SHOVEL our drives, and SKID our way to SING SONGS in the local church SERVICE ….
SONGS! Carols or Pop songs – nothing puts you in a good mood when the SEASONAL SOUNDS are heard over the airwaves! There was a game on one of the SOCIAL MEDIA SITES – I can’t remember which one – which from the 1st December, you had to try and last the month without hearing “Last Christmas” by Wham as you go about your daily life. Easy you might say ….but SUPERMARKETS seem to always have it on their playlists and if you hear it whilst SHOPPING, you’re out! As I’m a retail merchandiser working in SHOPS & SUPERMARKETS with their radio stations playing all day, I think I lasted a few SECONDS…
SMELLS…. SPICES around this time of year are delightful ….cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger….
SIX O’Clock. Time for SNACKS, SWEETS, and other SUGARY delights before SUPPER at 9pm…. cold meats, SALMON, French bread lavishly SPREAD with SALTED butter, pickles, STUFFED dates, STUFFED olives, SALT & VINEGAR crisps, SALTED peanuts, SAUSAGE rolls, cheese STRAWS….
In the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE it is SUMMER where the temperatures are SIZZLING and I can imagine that it is too hot to contemplate eating as much. I expect the order of the day is a barbecue on the SAND, grilled SALMON STEAKS, SHRIMP cocktail, SALADS, various SKEWERS of meat/veg …. followed by a frolic in SURF, under a glorious SUN and an ice cold SOMETHING to quench your thirst.
SHOW you care this SEASON and think of those whose home is on the STREETS, those who need SHELTER, those who need SOMEBODY to talk to, those who are STARVING, those who are SUICIDAL, those who are SAD, those who are SUFFERING….try and SPREAD a little SEASONAL SPIRIT where you can…
According to a recent Carphone Warehouse Survey of over 2000 adults in the UK, 83% turn to the internet for help – whether it’s to solve a personal problem, self diagnose an ailment, read up on facts, getting a DIY tip or recipe, get career guidance, find love and friendship. I know in my household, that for awkward homework questions and project work in general, “Google” is our friend rather than the set of Encyclopedia Britannica and World Atlas that used to occupy my bedroom shelves in the 1970s. I do still have an updated World Atlas in book form and I do enjoy poring over the maps in a geeky kind of way – however, there is no denying that for fast information, the internet is kingpin.
In order to highlight some of the changes in problem solving in the 21st century, Carphone Warehouse also commissioned a set of 5 fun illustrations, reimagining the storyline of 5 iconic pre-21st century movies for the digital age:
According to the results in the survey it seems that the internet gives us social courage and, in some cases, a silver tongue. 25% of Londoners look for help finding friends online. 16% of men are more likely to look for help regarding their love life than women (9%).
Before going to any hotel, motel or inn, do you check out the place nowadays online before booking? Do you read the reviews? I know I do!
PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS…
How many of us shop online or use auction sites such as eBay? To sell & buy used items locally it used to be an advert placed in our local village shop window … and hastily try and find a pen & paper in your coat pocket to note down a number or address of the item you wanted.
SCHOOL OF ROCK…
With sites such as Link’dIn and Facebook, how many of us check somebody out online before meeting them? You can be sure that nowadays employers check out potential employees before interviewing them …. their appearance, credentials and lots more besides! I read some wise words in a meme recently that said “Never post anything onto your Facebook/Social Media profile that you wouldn’t want your granny reading!” …
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT…
Got to go to a new destination? Finding locations and addresses and directions is so much easier with Google maps, SatNav devices and smartphone apps that can locate your position easily if you get lost.
Isn’t it just amazing how quickly society has absorbed the internet and how much we rely on the internet! Other interesting data findings from the survey found that 45% go online for meal inspirations; 56% of women are most likely to be looking for health and wellbeing advice; 49% of men are most likely to turn to the internet for help with their personal finances; and 73% of respondents find it easier to approach their crushes online.
Interesting stuff! What problem solving help do you use the internet for?
I am privileged this week to talk on my blog with renowned composer, musician & conductor, Vartan Melkonian, who also happens to be UN Ambassador for Street Children. Vartan’s life story is one of courage – he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon, orphaned soon after, became a street child in Beirut, fled to the UK in the 1970s – but even on the streets of Beirut his musical abilities began to emerge… Hi Vartan!
Hello. I am Vartan Melkonian. I am a composer and musician and I work as the UN Ambassador to Street Children.
You are an UN Ambassador for Street Children. What does being an ambassador entail?
My work involves certain countries – developing countries – who ask the UN to give them advice on street children. The UN takes a team of experts to those countries. As I am a key-note speaker – I open and close the conference about life on the streets. I encourage the developing countries to adopt the programmes the UN suggests.
You were born in a refugee camp in Lebanon – your parents died when you were very young- you then lived in the Birds Nest Orphanage until you were 8 years old. You must have felt very lonely & anxious being an orphan in a strange country. When you were 8 years old, did you flee the orphanage or was care only provided until you were 8?
I was 8 years old when I left the orphanage, to live on the streets. I was there till I was eight because boys had to go to the army compound to make room for new children. I chose not to work for the Lebanese army and took a cattle-train to Beirut. That’s where I started my life.
After leaving the orphanage, you then lived rough in the slums of Beirut. What was the worst thing about living on the streets?
People take moments of pleasure by looking at the sunset. For us, for me, it was the worst time of the day, there was nowhere to go. I had to find any alcove to sleep in. We, the children of the streets, were often chased away with sticks and stones (even by the police) so we were not seen on the streets, as if we were some sort of living plague.
Teaching your fellow street children how to hum in harmony so as you could all make some money by busking… how did you discover you had a musical talent? What other jobs did you do in order to survive?
At the orphanage, I was chosen to be a member of the choir. I had a severe speech impediment but when I sang there was no problem. My musical skills must have been in-born – the gift of music.
I did many jobs to survive from shoe shining, selling chewing gum and shovelling sand onto lorries to illegal fishing and being a mechanic.
When civil war came to Lebanon in 1972 you fled to the UK and began to work as a singer, at the beginning on the Northern Clubs circuit – eventually at West End nightspots. What sort of music genre did you sing? What influenced your song choices?
I used to impersonate Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones!
You wrote a symphony that was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – and later you came to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, and many other world-class orchestras in London’s most famous halls and around the world. When you started to busk as a young lad on the streets of Beirut, did you harbour musical ambitions?
When I was in Lebanon I used to play the guitar, and I thought I was really good. Arriving in the UK in the early 70s, I went to Kings Cross Station and I saw a busker playing the guitar and my eyes widened. I thought ‘I know nothing!’ It was like being born again at the age of 26.
Looking back over your incredible life story so far, what do you think helped you to survive the conditions you faced?
When you don’t have things, your imagination flourishes and when you achieve something, you’ve already lived it. If you want to, you will finish a race, not necessarily first, but you will get there if you aim for it.
Being a refugee is hard, I know. What are the toughest things you face being a refugee?
I was happy to leave Lebanon because it was the 1970s and the conflict was starting. I went from sunny Beirut to Skegness. The UK is a wonderful place. I am a guest in the UK. And I feel very welcome.
When you give speeches worldwide about street children, what are the main messages that street children would like to convey to the public in general?
The children of the street are not the problem, they are the assets of the country. Invest in them and they grow up to become someone like me who provides good things for the community.
Embarrassingly, I had always associated cheerleading competitions with America – along with baseball and American Football – until recently, that is, when I discovered that cheerleading competitions are alive and kicking in the UK too! I’m delighted to introduce onto my blog this week, Kimberley Mason, founder of ICE (Incredibly Cool Events) who gave me an insight into the cheerleading scene in the UK. Hi Kimberley!
Hi! I am Kimberley Mason I was born in the West Midlands and was raised on dance classes and competitions.
What inspired you to start up ICE (Incredibly Cool Events)?
After running my community interest company and working in sport for disadvantaged communities I felt there was a big need for affordable accessible cheerleading and dance competitions.
ICE organises cheerleading and dance competitions, workshops & Coaching. What would a cheerleading team expect if entering an ICE event?
They would get a help from a friendly team during the lead up to the event, affordable prices and all the support needed to get their teams feeling confident so they could give their best performance on the floor. There are big trophies, a medal for each competitor and a beautiful back drop to perform in front of. We have a highly trained judging team that offers constructive feedback at each of our events.
When did you start “cheerleading” & what was it about cheerleading that attracted you ?
I started Irish dance at the age of 7 and although I loved it the heavy shoes were not for me. I then tried freestyle dance and loved it. Dance became my passion from then onwards and I took part in competitions on a weekly basis. I found cheerleading at the age of 18 and the more I learnt the more I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was a team sport and the way the competitions were organised. The cheer spirit and the team ethos were definitely the main attraction.
What are the benefits of cheerleading?
Cheerleading has many benefits; it improves fitness, helps with life skills such asworking as team work and co-operation, it helps build confidence and there is a fantastic social side.
Is cheerleading suitable for everybody?
Yes all ages and abilities, cheerleading is done on a level basis so there is a level suitable for everyone. There are different elements to a cheer routine, dance, tumble, stunt and jumps.
Do you enjoy any other genre of dance?
Yes I enjoy all styles of dance, we offer pom dance, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and next season we will be offering Acro.
Although you are based in the UK, are teams outside of the UK allowed to enter your events?
Yes of course we welcome everyone.
What ICE events are planned for the rest of 2018/2019?
We have lots of dance and cheer events lined up for the next season and they take place all over the country :
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
At the moment I’m pregnant with my second baby so a big maternity dress with expandable sandals for my swollen feet. When not pregnant you will find me in leggings and jeans and flats, usually covered in George’s (my toddler) latest meal.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I love ASOS because there is so much to choose from and outfits and shoes for every occasion.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I would love some fashionable day wear but I have a feeling with baby boy number 2 on the way it will be a while until I make any major investments into my wardrobe, although I will be investing in some winter boots at the start of the winter season.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots, they look lovely and are very comfortable plus there are lots of different styles, long, mid length, ankle, flat etc so there is something for most occasions.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc
Prostate Cancer. Did you know that in the UK, about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives? It is the most common form of cancer in men in the UK. Prostate Cancer is killing more men than breast cancer in the UK, according to latest 2018 figures published in February. Women have screening for breast cancer and this is one reason why mortality rates for prostate cancer are now higher than breast cancer – there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer and research into prostate cancer lags about 20 years behind that for breast cancer.
What is the prostate? Basically it is a gland about the size and shape of a walnut, sitting underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It’s main job is to help make semen.
Unfortunately it is often symptomless at first – in later stages it can cause pain, difficulty in urination, sexual intercourse problems & erectile dysfunction. The cancer cells can spread from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes.
The average age for men to be diagnosed is between 65 & 69. Men under 50 can get it, but it isn’t that common. Risk factors include: being male; aged over 50; having a father/brother who has had prostate cancer; having a mother/sister who has had breast cancer; if you are black – 1 in 4 black men are at risk, although the reasons why has not been discovered as yet but it may be connected to genes.
Prostate Cancer UK is the UK national charity looking to spread awareness about this cancer and this year my husband Adam is doing bike rides on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, trying to raise money and awareness. I interviewed Adam to find out more…
Adam, on June 23rd 2018 you are taking part in cycling the first stage of the Tour De France , on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK. What made you decide to take part?
I’m a man of a certain age and Prostate Cancer worries me. If I can do something to help those who are suffering or will be suffering in the future by pursuing a hobby I enjoy, then I’m more than willing to take part. I’m an avid Tour de France fan and having the opportunity to ride a stage of the Tour de France which my cycling heroes will be racing a week later, is a worthwhile challenge and a chance to make a bit of a difference.
Also on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, you are riding in the Prudential London Ride 100, at the end of July, which you have ridden before. What are the toughest parts of the course?
Leith Hill. Absolutely Leith Hill. It is a very narrow and steep section of the road and it gets congested with people walking and pushing their bikes instead of riding, so it does become a challenge to maintain enough momentum to stay upright.
How are you preparing for the rides?
By riding lots. It’s all about hours in the saddle and the miles. Training up to 75% of both distances up to the events and lowering the mileage a week before.
Have you got other rides on your bucket list for the future?
If I tell you that you won’t let me go! LOL! I quite fancy the Granfondo Campagnolo Roma ….darling! 😉 Maybe one day a mountain stage of the Tour de France rather than a flat stage, but I would need to lose a few pounds first!
What do you enjoy most about cycling?
I enjoy the exercise, my cycling companions, the noticeable fitness improvements, sense of achievement after finishing long rides, being outside & enjoying the environment. I don’t enjoy busy roads and close passes.
Personal now – what clothes and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Besides tight figure hugging Lycra …. cargo shorts, t shirts and trainers. However, I do wear a 3 piece suit and Jeffrey West boots on occasions!
Favourite Shops/Online Sites:
Wiggle (online); Cycle Evolution, a local bike shop in Colchester.
Boots or Shoes?
Trainers generally; flip flops in the summer; boots when I’m poshing up!
I’m pleased to welcome onto my blog, the lovely Lina Usma, who runs the largest newspaper in London for the Spanish speaking Latin American community. Originally from Colombia, Lina has lived in London for over 20 years and has been active in the local community. I wanted to ask Lina some questions about her newspaper and her career as a journalist … as well as her fashion tastes! Hi Lina and welcome!
Hi! I am LinaUsma (short version of Lina Maria OspinaUsma) I was born in Colombia, in the beautiful city of Manizales, I am wife ( not much a housewife!) a mother and a professional working woman.
What was it like growing up in Colombia?
I grew up in a matriarchal family with 3 mothers: My mum, my auntie and my cousin all full of love, passion, hardworking and warm hearts. Although there was no paternal figure in my house I have an uncle, but my mum was the dominant role in the household. She passed away in 2012 and even in the last days of her illness, she was so strong and wise. I married quite young, to a great guy, who is very passionate about life. We have a beautiful daughter who is my proudest achievement – maybe all mothers say that, but for me personally she represents all that my mothers taught me about being a woman: strong, professional, independent with a good heart and determination to do something good with her life.
We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what took you by surprise in England and what was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?
In 1996 we travelled to the UK, looking for a better opportunities for our family. We were a young couple with a baby. At the beginning it was quite difficult, adapting to the new city especially the weather and the society, as we come from a place where you can talk with someone in the street without any prejudice, but here even approaching someone to ask for directions was so difficult (remember 20 years ago there was not google maps). But as time passed and we worked our way through life, like many other people doing different jobs that we have never done in our lives: like a waitress, cleaners, shop assistants etc.
What made you decide to launch Extra International?
I studied business management in Colombia, but here in London my profession focuses around media; together with my husband William we started a magazine as a business investment, since then we have run other publications and other related projects such as Extra International newspaper which is now the most popular publication in the Spanish speaking communities in London. I am an editor and journalist, and as my mother always said “never stop learning”, and as a way of respect with the profession and colleagues, I studied Media and Journalism in East London University, to learn and be able to do my job in a more efficient way.
What do you enjoy most about running a newspaper?
One of the most interesting things about working in media is the opportunity to meet interesting people and talk to them on a level of closeness, where they can feel confident to talk and open up for more questions. I had the opportunity to interview figures like Shakira, Celia Cruz, Michael Schumacher ex F1 driver, Boris Johnson former Mayor of London, some presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos from Colombia. I met Hugo Chavez; writers like Isabel Allende and Vargas Llosa; Cressida Dick,head of Scotland Yard Police; also so many other important and relevant personalities, which is a privilege in this profession. Running a newspaper is challenging, especially in the world we are living now with the multimedia. I was very much into writing and editing writing articles – not so much visually; but today journalists need to have a digital presence so I am still learning how to deal with the cameras and lights, but it is interesting and you learn every day something new, especially when working with new technologies and devices.
Another string to your bow is your radio station. How did that come about?
To be able to reach other audiences and create an online presence, I started a radio show called “Mujeres al Dia“ (Women Today) which also has its own blog/website. The aim of the show is to give voice to all fantastic women doing great things out there. I believe everyone has something to tell and that is why I am so happy to host this radio-show.
You are involved in many projects, apart from your job. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Besidesmy job, I have been involved in many projects related to our Latin communities, migrants and women. I am a trustee member for Su Mano Amigo ONG providing support for victims of domestic violence in the UK, also I am a trustee in FUNDAV an ONG giving support for people suffering rare diseases in Colombia.
And in the last local elections in London, I was a candidate with the Green Party. We came second in our ward, which was a great experience for me and put a frame to ideas and projects I have supported all my life.
Talking about myself is not easy, as usually I am the one asking questions but this interview has to help me a lot to review what I have done in life!
Personal now- what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I wear a lot red and black. My daughter is trying to sort my clothes with different colours!
Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?
London is a city where you can find lots of different trends and the most importantly, is that you can wear whatever you like! I am not a fan yet of buying online – I prefer to go to shops wandering around, trying before I buy.
Boots or Shoes?
Forever shoes! I am always in high heels and for me, it is just a basic in my wardrobe. I can’t get used to walking in trainers, and I leave boots just for very cold winter days.
Want to know more?
If you would like to know more about me and my work you can follow us
When I was younger, I used to collect pamphlets, tickets, postcards and all other paraphernalia, along with photographs, to stick in a photo album/scrapbook – memories of a holiday. Nowadays, the urge to collect memories is still there … but the time to lovingly make up a photo album is not. That is why I’m thrilled to welcome onto my blog, Frederic… he makes innovative storage memory boxes to keep your travel trip memorabilia in one place and they look more stylish than a row of photo albums taking up space in the loft! Hi Frederic!…
Hi, I’m Frederic, I’m 29 and originally from the beautiful Black Forest in southwest Germany, where I am also producing the Questlogs.Some days of the week however, I live, study and work in Munich where I also got my business degree.
What exactly is a Questlog?
Functionally speaking, Questlogs are storage boxes for keepsakes collected while travelling. All those tickets, bottlecaps, leaflets, seashells and other souvenirscan find a place in a Questlog. However, on another level, Questlogs are instruments for preserving, enriching and sharing intercultural travel experience. They direct attention on the connection of geography, culture, experience as well as their anchors and manifestationsin the physical world.
What inspired you to start your company, Questlog?
Before I went to Taiwan for an exchange semester in 2013, I was looking for a good gift to bring that had some connection to Germany. Unfortunately, most stuff I could find were products that represented shallow stereotypes or were plain ugly souvenirs. Speaking of, many times when I came back from a trip and wanted to bring some gifts for friends, family and myself, I was staggered by the amounts of plasticky-miniature-landmark-keychain-scrap on display in tourist locations and airports. At the same time, I realized that “the best” souvenirs by definition were all those small items like tickets, bottlecaps etc. and that there was a lack of some attractive way to present them. Combine those thoughts with the observation that people (me included) seemed to like collecting Starbucks cups, Hard-Rock Café shirts and similar universally designed object with local variations and voilà the basic idea for Questlog was born.
What is the Questlog made of?
Questlogs are laser cut from FSC certified Finnish birch plywood. Sanding, gluing, treatment with linseed oil and final touches are all done by hand.
When you buy a Questlog what do you get in the package?
Each Questlog comes with a small notebook that features some background texts on traveling, collecting souvenirs and reflecting on travel experience. Also included is a nail for hanging the Questlog on a wall and some information about the campaign we are doing in cooperation with Experiment e.V. to foster intercultural exchange of students.
What sort of “keepsakes” can you keep in a Questlog? Have you heard of any unusual items collected?
Questlogs are big enough for common formats of city maps and flyers. You can put printouts of pictures, handwritten notes, postcards, leftover cash or basically anything that would go in a photo album into your Questlog. On top of that, they provide that extra bit of space, which allows you to put more three-dimensional objects inside. The most unusual collection I have heard of so far was from an old man at a market I went to. With gleaming eyes, he held a Questlog of Bavaria and said this would be the perfect box for collecting live beetles because they would get enough air in it.
I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?
I definitively spent many hours looking at maps and spinning globes, amazed about the size of it all compared to the tininess of the area that I had set foot on and seen with my own eyes. I remember virtually “flying” from city to city on google maps when it was first released. My dad travelled a lot for business and would always bring back seemingly mundane things like chewing gum and I was fascinated by the differences even in those everyday objects.
What was the first country you visited?
Growing up just ten minutes from the border to France and Switzerland, one of those was probably the first country I went to. The first long distance trip I have somewhat of memories of was to the US in 1995 when I was 7. My parents made amazing photo albums from our trips, which are some of the most precious items to me.
Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?
Taiwan is for sure one of my favorite places, maybe because I was able to spend almost a year in Taipei as an exchange student. The country has a unique mix of bustling cities, beautiful nature and an extraordinary mix of Chinese, Japanese and indigenous culture. People are extremely friendly, and the food is beyond description. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t been there to go and bring plenty of appetite.
What place is your least favourite and why?
In every place there are some areas and aspects I find more likeable than others, but so far, I haven’t been anywhere that I wouldn’t love to return to and spend more time at. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time to do the exploration in every place that it deserves.
We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?
The biggest surprise was probably also Taiwan. Biased by the “Made in Taiwan” image of cheaply produced electronics, I had put it in a bucket with China, Vietnam and the like. When I arrived at the airport, I expected busy street merchants and taxi drivers trying to rip off tourists. I was instantly blown away by the friendliness, discipline and modernity of the country and people.
What place are you looking forward to visiting the most & cross it off your bucket list?
The UK is definitively in my top five. I have been to London twice and next time I really want to see and explore the countryside and other cities that are laced with monuments of the country’s rich history and epic myths that were some of the first stories I heard as a kid.
As Questlog is based in Germany, are your products available to order worldwide?
Questlogs are shipped to all European countries and also worldwide although the shipping gets quite expensive. However, I am planning to set up manufacturing in other big markets in order to reduce shipping distances.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I wish I had some fancy answer to this question, but truth is that I have never been the most fashionable person and usually resort to jeans, sneakers and whatever the weather dictates to keep my torso at working temperature.
What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?
A comfy pair of shoes is the obvious essential but beyond that I have learned to love the benefits of light fabric shorts. And by shorts I mean shorts of a length I would probably not wear in Germany. Especially in humid climates I now feel miserable without them. An accessory I have learned to appreciate is a small foldable extra backpack for short overnight trips out of a major city, so I don’t need to carry my entire gear with me.
Boots or Shoes?
I vouch for shoes because they are just the lighter option but maybe that’s just my practicality and lack of sense for fashion.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog find out more about Questlog.
Fabulous Frederic – thank you for joining me on my blog! I am honoured that the British countryside is on your travel bucket list. I think it is beautiful – but then, I am biased! I was enthralled by the Black Forest & Lake Titisee when I visited a few years ago – the stories by the Brothers Grimm really came to life 🙂 Travel memories are so precious – and I think your Questlogs really help preserve them.
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Frederic (Questlog)
If you enjoyed “Sex In The City” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary”, then you’ll definitely will enjoy “Dating Daisy” by author-doctor-blogger-book reviewer- agony aunt columnist Daisy Mae. I caught up with the bubbly Daisy to find out more about her chick-lit novel, her writing, her doctoring, and her love of dancing! Hiya Daisy!
Boo! – now that I have your attention! – I’m Daisy Mae, doctor, author and writer. In fact Daisy Mae is my pen name. I have kept my real doctor’s name a secret to help maintain patient confidentiality etc… I’ve been a Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare specialist for far too many years! – prior to this I was a GP. My special interest is Menopause (take a look at my Dr Daisy Blog at www.menopausematters.co.uk).
What was the inspiration behind your novel “Dating Daisy”?
I started writing my first novel “Dating Daisy” in 2014, and it took 3 years to finish. Although it’s a fiction book, it’s based on my own internet dating experiences. Most people say they read and laugh at the internet dating scenarios, and then laugh again at my tales of working as a doctor in a sexual health clinic. That’s so good – as I love to laugh – don’t you? I didchange all the details in my book – names, times, places etc… and embroidered the story of course – so the only person who knows the real truth– is me! So it’s a humorous fiction book, but with a difference!There are emails, jokes, limericks, poems and even a recipe for love! Don’t miss dating Daisys’ Kissing Tips and Anti-snoring Tips! One of my reviewers wrote “YOU COULD DIE LAUGHING READING THIS BOOK!” yes – in capital letters! Thank you Mahiraj! https://www.datingdaisy.net/mahirajjajedareviewofdatingdaisy
Congratulations on being self-published – how does it feel to get control over your book sales, etc? What was your main highlight and what proved most frustrating?
In 2014, aged 52, I found myself divorced after a 27 year marriage. Both my parents also died quite suddenly around the same time. It was a very low point in my life. We had been a close, and I thought happy family. Suddenly all my hopes, dreams and memories were shattered. I was completely devastated. However … being me, I managed somehow to pick up the pieces. Life is very much for the living. There are no dress rehearsals. I was already 52. I decided to turn my life around –took the plunge and started internet dating. I hadn’t had to think about dating for nearly three decades. I wasn’t confident even about how to use the computer! Things like writing a profile and uploading a photo seemed monumentally difficult. I had to get over the embarrassment of people seeing me on a dating site! Grim! – But the things that then happened to me wereso unique and so funny, I felt I had to write them down! So “Dating Daisy” was created – a diary of my life events at the time.
I chose to pay for a publishing deal. This is because aged 52, I did not have time to sit around and wait for the inevitable rejections which all authors have. I wanted to be a writer, and I needed to see my work in print, and fast. I also knew nothing about the publishing industry. This seemed the quickest and most straight forward way to seeing my book for sale in a book shop. I never sent my book to any traditional publishers so I have no idea whether it would have been published or not. I do dislike the snobbery about authors and publishing and I wish other writers would realise that “vanity” publishing is not always a last resort – it may be a very positive choice. I am now however publishing by myself on Amazon KDP and I have parted from my original publishers. I had been pleased, especially with the publicity they organised for me. However eventually, I wanted to be in control of my book sales, advertising, book promotions etc... Publishing by myself gives me so much more choice and flexibility.
“Dating Daisy” has been described as a cross between “Sex In The City” & “Bridget Jones’s Diary” – about a middle age woman who starts online dating who also happens to be a doctor in a sexual health clinic. Being a regular blogger yourself on Huffington Post & on your own blog, writing articles about internet dating & sexual healthcare interspersed with book reviews – did you find writing your novel harder or easier than you expected compared to your serious factual articles?
“Dating Daisy” flew out of my head and onto the paper! It was easy and in fact I became addicted to writing and couldn’t stop! I made myself laugh all the time. And when something happened I couldn’t wait to get home and write it down! I used to tell my dates I was writing a book about internet dating and wait for the reaction! It was all quite hilarious at the time.
Writing as a blogger is more difficult than writing a novel, because you do still need a “voice,” but a different kind of voice. Even though you are imparting information, it’s not the same as a text book piece. It’s more of an opinion piece, but also it needs to be engaging and factually correct. I don’t feel I always get this right.
I also write web content for a medical online agency, and this is different again – I have to stand in the shoes of the person who has just clicked online, andwho may be worried or frightened. This means explaining medical conditions in everyday language. I try very hard to write empathetically. (Do contact me if I can help you as I am always looking for more web writing options.)
For each role, I have to wear a very different hat!
You are a NHS doctor working in the field of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, specialising in Women’s Health & the Menopause. Do you feel that writing factually about a condition or symptom in a novel helps spread awareness, eg sexual diseases & associated consequences?
I am passionate about sexual health, contraception and menopause. In “Dating Daisy,” as this has been my major interest for nearly 30 years!, I just couldn’t help myself write one whole chapter on contraception, and one whole chapter on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s). In a way, this may seem strange as this is a fiction book, but in it, there are two text book-ish chapters. However, as it’s my book, I decided that I could put in whatever I liked! This may be the first novel/text book cross breed! I rather hoped that anyone reading it, might decide to go and see their GP and make some good womens’ health choices. If they do, then I will have achieved something really worthwhile – through publishing a novel.
Growing up, did you always hope to have a career connected with writing or the medical field or were your dreams directed elsewhere?
My parents were huge believers in a good education, and they sent me toboarding school for seven years, just because they honestly thought this was best for me. I wasn’t so sure. However, I did well at school and got into medical school. As a young person, I always thought that I wanted to be a doctor. However, languages were naturally my strongest subjects and I was sorely tempted by English, French and possibly journalism. I do have regrets as medicine is not the sort of career most people might imagine it to be. Now, I am lucky to be able to combine both medicine and writing.
Apart from your medical articles , you also write a lot of book reviews. Where do you prefer to read – in bed, in a comfy chair, in a library surrounded by books or elsewhere? Do you prefer hardback, paperback or kindle? Favourite genre?
Reading is a fantastic pastime. I marvel at other writer’s creativity and powers of expression. I love to read, and my favourite novels are always the humorous ones! I have just read “A Man called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman, and it was hilarious. https://www.datingdaisy.net/bookreviewamancalledove
One of my other most favourite genres are psychological thrillers – for example by author Barbara Vine. I have read all her books and adore them. It’s the chilling feeling in the spine that I love as something happens in the plot that’s often quite macabre. You will hear me say time and time again, that I just love a good story well told, and some of all time favourites are “The Book Thief,” by Marcus Zusak, “A Thousand Splendid Sons,” by Khaled Husseini, and “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett. If you don’t read these books, you will be hugely missing out. They are incredible. I enjoy doing Daisys’ Book Reviews on my website. I run “The Fabuloous Book Club” with 7 girl friends, and then post reviews on my site. Its super fun. I do review other books as well.
Have you seen one of my latest book reviews – it’s about the new best seller – “Little Miss Shy Goes Internet Dating,” by Roger Hargreaves!! Do read it, both the book and my review! Hilarious!
Hmm … I do prefer to hold a real book in my hands, however, I am so busy now reading and reviewing, I use the kindle on my phone. This means I can read while I am queuing in the supermarket or on the train for example – I don’t need to waste a minute! I usually read before bed time. I also listen to audiobooks while out walking. I love this! Audiobooks are such a great invention for busy people. I can’t recommend this highly enough. I do save books up to take on holiday and adore my holiday reading. I have a stash by my bed, one of which is the new Ken Follett, “A Column of Fire.” I will be reading this on my cruise to St Petersburg!
Where can people purchase “Dating Daisy”? Is there worldwide availability?
My novel “Dating Daisy,” is now only for sale on Amazon, as an ebook, paperback and an audiobook. It is on Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com. The iBook is in process.
When you are not reading, writing or working, I hear you are a bit of a dance fan! I love watching the Argentine Tango on Strictly Come Dancing. What types of dancing do you enjoy?
Dancing is absolutely my most favourite pastime in the world! I used to dance with Voldemort – my ex-husband– but when we split up, I lost my dance partner and didn’t dance for a few years. When I met Edward, we started together again from the beginning – as he had never danced a step! It has given us such incredible fun and joy to dance together. We have done all our medals: social dance, bronze, silver and gold and now we are doing gold bar one –in Ballroom and Latin. Our favourite dances are Foxtrot and Quickstep, although Edward is mad on Argentine Tango. I also love sequence dancing. I have written about dancing in Dating Daisy and in my new book, “Daisys’ Love Secrets” – due for publication any day soon. My poem “Learning to Dance,” has caused a lot of laughs at the dance school. – Yes, it’s in my new book!
We dance regularly, being part of a dance school (DM Dance Centre).We have made fabulous friends through dancing, and not only have group nights and private lessons, but we go to dinner dances, on dance holidays and to watch dance competitions. It’s given us so much to do together. Our highlight was doing the Viennese Waltz at The Johann Strauss Viennese Ball in Vienna in 2016! Next on the agenda is an Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires! … watch this space. I always do what I set out to do!… and I’m looking!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Fashion is an issue for all women. You can’t get away from it. I suppose I have my own style?! – On an average day working from home I will be in jeans or leggings and a T shirt/round necked top – usually I like bright colours like fuschia pink or red. Over the top I wear a variety of comfy sloppy jumpers. In the winter I usually wear slouchy boots – black or grey suede. I prefer plain colours to floral prints. I often stick my hair up to get it our of the way. I like to think I have vaguely Goldie Hawn sort of look – but probably not! However, I love getting dressed up for a black tie event or a Ball. I have some beautiful long dance dresses and a fabulous array of sparkly dance shoes. Edward and I always try to be colour coordinated! I love the fact that I am now 56, and have a lovely lifestyle with lots of champagne type events – at a time when I might have been having cocoa and slippers!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I am quite a traditional shopper. With clothes I do always prefer to try them on and rarely buy clothes on line. I tend to go to John Lewis if I’m looking for something special. It’s hard to find nice dance dresses and I have a tailoress who I go to who will adjust the length for me in my dance shoes. My favourite dress is a full length, evening dress in bright red, satin from Damsel in a Dress. I have a favourite Cha Cha Cha dress that actually I bought having hired it first, in a fancy dress shop! I have a beautiful Hobbs, long black dress, with nude, embroidered back panel, and it’s gorgeous. There is a taffeta underskirt so the skirt swirls out when you are walking or dancing. I adore it.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe/accessory wish list?
We are off on a cruise for our summer holiday to St Petersburg – Yikes! – so I will be getting busy soon compiling a cruise wardrobe. This is exciting as there several black tie formal nights at sea, and it a great excuse for a few, new long dresses! I love putting together the colours and the bling! On a cruise ship – the more bling the better! Of course it’s also important to have nice day wear and sightseeing clothes etc… so I will be looking for thin, light weight summer tops and shorts/dresses. I always love bright colours. You can usually see me coming! Then in September we are going on our dance school holiday to Portugal – so another week of dance clothes will be required …. so much shopping … so little time! Accessories are more difficult. I love earrings and bracelets, but for some reason I find necklaces difficult. I like my neck bare. Rubies are my favourite jewels, and Edward bought me a beautiful ruby ring last year. I don’t know if nails and hair are accessories but I regard them as such! I always have my nails done – acrylics and shellac. For women, beautiful hands are essential. I have had hair extensions for the past two years, and loved them, but I recently had to have them out for a while to give my scalp a rest. Actually they were really good for my own hair and helped the condition of my hair enormously. Instead I have a clip in pony tail which is great fun. My friends and I have started a habit of giving scarves to each other for birthdays, so I now have quite a collection, all bright colours of course! I love snoods, for the winter. And fake-fur wraps for my ball dresses.
Boots Or Shoes?
Shoes can make or break an outfit and are actually very important. I am tall – 5ft9, but so is Edward, so when we are together I can still wear heels, and often do, as I’m often wearing wearing dance shoes. Putting on a beautiful shoe does something to your insides doesn’t it? It’s a Cinderella feeling! However, I am sensible! If we have a day out for example in London, I will be in my flatties! I like to wear close fitting straight trousers, sometimes with a stirrup and little flat suede shoes in a contrasting colour. I have two pairs of suede boots that are old friends! I only wear them however with trousers, never with skirts or dresses. I’m very fussy about shoes – they have to be comfortable, fashionable enough not to be square, but not outlandish – I don’t like wedges, trainers or anything clumpy. I like shoes in plain colours – my favourite pair for going in at present, are bright red! Yes – I do try to match the handbag don’t worry!
So what has dance and pharmacy got in common? Well, my interview guest this week, Professor Arun Nadarasa, has an aim to close the gap between the health and well being component of patient care enhancing the use of social prescriptions. The Professor has written a book “Pharmacy Movement”, with the message that medication is not always the answer to every disease. Where does the “Krumping” come into it? Well, this professor also happens to be a Krump Performance coach too…. Hi Arun!
Hi! My name is Arun and I am a pharmacist by trade where I started working since February 2013. I did my degree at the University of Bath from 2006 till 2011. My passion is Krump dance which I started in April 2008. I was born in France and I moved to UK in 2002 with my parents and my two younger sisters. My ethnicity is Srilankan Tamil.
What inspired you to write your book “Pharmacy Movement”?
The inspiration started when I came across the NHS Five Year Forward View at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Annual Conference in September 2016. The speaker talked about bridging the gap between health and wellbeing. This then made me reflect on Pharmacy being Health and Dance being Wellbeing. I was then trying to come up with a cool name for the combination of both like Dance Pharmacist, Creative Pharmacist but Movement Pharmacist stuck with me since movement is the basis of dance.
What is Social and Digital Prescribing?
Social Prescribing involve recommending non-medicinal activities (like dance, music & singing) to patients to improve their social connectedness since social isolation is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Even a Minister of Loneliness was appointed in UK to tackle this national problem. In contrast, digital prescribing involve recommending mobile apps to patients leveraging their daily usage for empowerment of their habits and mindset. For instance, Headspace is great to learn meditation and others include the number of calories consumed daily as well as quality of sleep.
Although you studied Pharmacy at the University of Bath & you are a community pharmacist; dance features quite heavily in your life, especially Krump dance. Now, I must admit I had to google “Krumping” … can you explain what Krump dance is?
Krump is a street dance which combing both ballet and boxing. It was created in 2001 by Tight Eyez and Big Mijo in Los Angeles as an outlet to express their frustrations and escape gang culture. It stands for Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise as it was commonly used as a praise dance in churches. It is now present in 95 countries and European Buck Session (EBS) is the World Championship of Krump Dance held in Germany annually since 2008.
What attracted you to “krumping”?
The energy it gave off. I started Judo at the age of 7 and I gained my black belt at the age of 18 under the mentoring of Basil Dawkins from Moberly Judo Club in London. Since I have loose ligaments, I kept getting knee injuries whilst at University as I was training with the judo team there. It was the same of Breaking (also referred as Breakdancing) which I started in 2006, since it focus heavily on legs, I was getting injured frequently whereas Krump is predominantly upper body based so I made the complete switch in December 2009.
What are the benefits of “krumping”? Could the same results be applied to other forms of dance?
It is very therapeutic since it requires lots of stamina and grit, your body become toned very quickly and improve your stamina considerably. It is also useful in releasing not useful emotions through dance which lead me to set up a charity called “Krump Save Lives”. Yes, dance is recognised to have rejuvenating properties and increase longevity for practitioners along with music and smiling.
You spent 16 months, invested over £10,000 and interviewed 24 world experts on getting your unique book out there – are you pleased with how the book, Pharmacy Movement” turned out? Was being an author harder than you expected? Would you consider writing more books?
Yes definitely, the UK Prime Minister has a signed copy of my book and the Queen of England acknowledged my book. It also lead me to give a speech in Paris about the benefits of Social Prescribing within the medical sector. It was definitely a learning curve, the beginning was the hardest for sure but thanks to my family and friends’ encouragement, I kept going. Yes, I have 6 more books planned within the Krump industry.
Is Krump Dance therapy suitable for everybody?
Yes, Krump dance is universal, as long the dancer don’t have a medical contra-indication like osteoporosis or a heart condition, then it’s fine. I did my first Krump dance class with Parkinson patients back in June 2017 which was an amazing experience. Children as young as 2 years old can start Krumping. The oldest Krumper in the world is Old Skool in USA who is over 70 years old.
Although you are based in the UK, is your book available to purchase overseas?
Yes, it is available on Amazon as a hard copy as well as a Kindle edition.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
When it comes to Krump, I like wearing Jordans which is common within the Krump culture. Krumpers tends to wear black t-shirts which can have Krump designs and normally I wear black jeans. For professional networking events, I normally wear either my blue, red or black suits to maintain my brand.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I normally buy directly from the Krump Clothes designers when I travel to support the Krump economy. I am a massive fan of Starbucks as it boosts my creativity on what I can do for the Krump and pharmacy sector. Amazon is another website I normally use to buy personal development books.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I would love to wear smart clothes, those which can measure your heart rate and related health metrics. For shoe, I envision that there will be a dedicated Krump brand for shoes which will elevate the Krump economy by fellow entrepreneurs.
Boots or Shoes?
Shoes since it is easier to dance with them especially when it comes to Krump footwork which can be very fast so weight plays an important part. The sole needs to be thick enough to absorb the impact of the stomp. It needs a fine balance between the two.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Pharmacy Movement & Krumping 🙂