All posts by Linda

Review: Naturtint Shampoo & Conditioner Bar

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The Naturtint 2 in 1 shampoo & conditioner bar has been supplied by Nature’s Dream for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

I’m so excited to share this review with you all – I received the Naturtint 2 in 1 shampoo & conditioner bar from Nature’s Dream, supplier of health and beauty brands in the UK & Ireland.

THE BRAND

Naturtint is probably better known for its hair dyes – in fact, it is the leading brand of naturally better hair colour and care products in the UK and Ireland. For the last 20 years or so, they have been in the forefront when it comes to reducing the amount of chemicals in hair colourants. The products are manufactured under strict conditions by Laboratorios Phergal in Madrid, Spain and are exported to over 35 countries worldwide.

THE PRODUCT

The “Strengthening 2 in 1 Shampoo & Conditioner Bar” has a powerful base consisting of coconut, cocoa butter and meadow foam seed oil. It contains orange essential oil, rice bran oil, rich in phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Free from SLS, parabens, PEGs and silicones. It really is an environmentally friendly alternative to normal shampoo bottles. It has a very slight “clean” fragrance.

THE SHAMPOO TEST

OK … I admit it … when I first unwrapped the bar, I thought “soap” and having dry hair and a dry scalp I had preconceived ideas that the bar would make my hair greasy/lank looking/ dull. I read the box it came in – the bar had been especially formulated for weak and thinning hair, to strengthen, revitalise and restore. My hair is certainly thinning – age, probably! – and I was hoping for a miracle to restore my hair to its former thick glory!

Using the bar was pretty simple – you need to wet your hair thoroughly and then slide the shampoo bar through your hair several times from the roots to the end. Then gently massage your head and scalp. Then thoroughly rinse with water. Although it is a shampoo & conditioner combined, I decided to repeat the process before finishing. The bar isn’t slippery when wet and the shampooing part is a creamy consistency rather than bubbly. It doesn’t drip into your eyes… a bonus … but if it does, then rinsing with water should ease any stinging.

Mid wash!


CONCLUSION

I have used this shampoo bar for six weeks, twice a week … and I have been absolutely converted. Apart from the bar being environmentally friendly and ideal for travelling ( no liquid), I am absolutely thrilled to bits with how it has revitalised my hair and scalp. My dry scalp has completely cleared, my hair looks glossy and healthy and, dare I say it, fuller! My hair feels wonderful. There really isn’t a downside. 10/10

COST

The shampoo bar RRP cost is £12.99 – when you think that each bar lasts 75 – 90 washes or 3 large plastic bottles of shampoo. I have had my bar for 6 weeks and I have barely scratched its surface. Remember though, to store your bar in a dry place in between washes.

Available from:

https://naturtint.co.uk

Amazon and I have also spotted the bar in Holland & Barrett’s.

For Pinning Later

My grateful thanks to Nature’s Dream for my shampoo bar ❤️

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With LitNuts

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

But first, let me introduce LitNuts, the brand:

For Readers

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

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

For Authors

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

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

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

THE INTERVIEW

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

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

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

Linda: What inspired the launch of LitNuts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda: Is your subscription service available to worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vonnegut: Okay.

Me: What would you like to eat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda: Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

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

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

For Pinning Later


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

Website: LitNuts.com

Facebook: facebook.com/LitNuts

Twitter: twitter.com/Lit_Nuts

THE BOOK TOUR DATES:

Happy Reading!

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Author Caroline Young

This week I’m interviewing non-fiction author Caroline Young and reviewing her latest book ”Kitted Out” . Caroline’s previous books include “Style Tribes”, “Hitchcock’s Heroines”, “Living With Coco Chanel” and “Roman Holiday”.

MY REVIEW

This book, from the very beginning, had me spellbound. The book is all about style and youth culture in the Second World War – absolutely fascinating stories from those who were teenagers/ twenties and what their uniforms, clothing and general style meant to them. It was so interesting to find out how they adapted regulation uniform to try and make it slightly more stylish without angering those in higher authority, how they tweaked clothing in general for those “dances” … how despite there was a war going on, style and music icons were still revered and styles copied. I enjoyed reading about the different uniform styles for both men and women, in all the services too. I think the most fascinating part of this book are the stories – not just from those who served from the UK, but the American GIs, the Land Girls, the German swing kids.

THE INTERVIEW:

Hi Caroline, it is such a pleasure to welcome you onto the blog …

Hi! I’m Caroline. I’m a non-fiction author from Edinburgh, specialising in film, fashion and pop culture. My books include Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures, Hitchcock’s Heroines, Living with Coco Chanel, Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, and Kitted Out: Style and Youth Culture in the Second World War. 

Who or what inspired you to research and write about style and youth culture in the 2nd World War? 

The idea was sparked when I was researching my book Style Tribes, which explores fashion in subcultures over the last 100 years. I’d featured a number of youth movements around the time of the Second World War, including the zoot suits and the swing youth in Germany, and it made me think of how young people expressed themselves in wartime. Even though uniforms were rolled out in countries around the world, creating this sense of mass homogynisation, there was still a need to express oneself, and to proclaim individualism, even more so when being surrounded by tragedy and death. I then thought of the men of the RAF who were the heroes of the Battle of the Britain, who suffered enormous losses, and developed their own language and style codes to become a bit cliquey. I wanted to look at the different factions, the hierarchies and the subtle ways uniform could be adapted. There was a lot of scrounging for equipment in battle, taking pieces from the enemy as a souvenir or because it was a better piece of clothing, and I found all those stories so intruguing. 

I found your latest book, “Kitted Out”, absolutely fascinating. I was amazed at the stories of how both the men and women adjusted their uniforms slightly to add a bit of style to them and the style uniform envy that went on.  I must admit I quite like the khaki ladies uniforms  – the colour and style anyway – Which uniform would you have found most appealing? 

I really liked the land girls’ uniform – with the cord breeches, and shirts, and the turbans wrapped around the head. I think for many young women, going away from their homes for the first time and working outdoors, it was really a revelation. There were lots of accounts from these women who considered it one of the best times of their lives, of absolute freedom, even though they were often judged by the farmers for the unladylike clothes they were wearing, and for going to the pub with soldiers from the nearby bases. 

I liked how you included a section that included the German youth and their love of swing too. It seems such a shame that a war was going on because it just highlighted, to me at any rate, how youth the world over are just the same. Overall, were there any aspects of the stories told that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Swing music was definitely an equaliser in the war, and one of the stories from Germany that I found fascinating was of examples of Luftwaffe pilots tuning into the BBC as they flew closer to Britain, so they could listen to swing music, because foreign radio, and jazz, was banned in Nazi Germany. 

A lot of the stories I featured were surprising, in the way that these young people faced challenges head on, and had to ignore the pain in losing friends as best they could, because there wasn’t really a choice but to get on with it. One of my favourite people in the book is Diana Barnato, a female pilot in the ATA, and absolutely fearless. She lost her fiancé and then a husband in the space of a couple of years, and almost was killed a couple of times when flying planes – once when the undercarriage fell away while thousands of feet in the air. I also loved her descriptions of going to London nightspots until 4am, discussing flying techniques with fighter pilot friends, and then catching the train back to the base, changing from an evening dress back into her uniform, and going straight back to work. 

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations in mind?

I always wanted to be an author from a young age, absolutely. I can remember typing out notes on my grandfather’s typewriter when I was about five years old, and I always enjoyed writing little stories. I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted to do apart from write, and so I think it was destined. I’m also a history geek, and love the research aspect of writing non-fiction, and coming up with new ideas. So I’m always writing, and thinking about writing, and thinking of great subjects for future books. 

 
Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

I have another book on Chanel coming out next year; a fun little guide to the designer called What Coco Chanel Can Teach You About Fashion, and will be published by White Lion. I also have a couple of ideas that I’m developing, including a book on the Hag Horror genre of movies which I’ve called Crazy Old Ladies. On top of this I finally finished a novel in lockdown, one I’d been working on for the last eight years. So I’m hoping to find a publisher for that. 

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

I am definitely a bookworm! If I am in the midst of writing a book, a lot of what I’m reading is dedicated to that subject. Last year, when I was writing Kitted Out, I was reading endless books on the Second World War. So it’s great to have time to read novels. I really like David Nichols, Liane Moriarty and Lucy Foley, and I have been getting into the domestic thriller genre, as I’d love to write one myself. I have to confess I tend to read off my Kindle – I’ve just fallen into the habit and it’s useful for highlighting notes. But nothing beats the look and feel of an actual book. 

Is “Kitted Out” available to purchase worldwide?

I believe it is available worldwide – I’ve certainly seen it online in bookshops for different countries. 
 
If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I would love to go to Venice, as I can imagine being inspired to write a thriller set in the city, with all those alleyways, or the romance of a costume ball. And I’m fascinated with the twenties, so I’d also like to go the French Riviera so that I could trace the footsteps of the American bohemians like F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Gerald and Sara Murphy. 

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

As I’m sure lots of people can identify with, over the last six months I’ve been in leggings and cosy socks and jumpers, as I’ve been hunkering down at home, and I live in Scotland, where the weather is never that great, even over summer. But I love ankle boots with floral dresses and pleated skirts, or jumpsuits. I also have a faux-leather dress that I can’t wait to wear again – I just need an occasion to wear it for. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I’m a little bit addicted to Oliver Bonas at the moment, as it’s just full of colourful, fun pieces that are real mood-enhancers. I’m also a big fan of Whistles, so I keep an eye out for when they have a sale on. 

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

I need some new shoes for autumn, and a nice warm coat. I think I need to buy practical clothes at the moment, as I bought quite a few new summer dresses and a bikini, and then my holiday was cancelled due to increased travel restrictions. So I’m thinking comfortable clothing to wear around the house is the way forward.

Boots or Shoes?

I like boots, because I find them more versatile, but I’m also always walking everywhere so I tend to wear trainers a lot at the moment. 

For Pinning Later


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

www.carolinejyoung.com

Twitter @caroline79

Instagram – carolinejillyoung

Fabulous chatting to you Caroline! Thank you for joining us on the blog.

Linda x

My thanks to Caroline Young for the copy of Kitted Out to review.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Caroline Young.


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Cataract Crisis

Covid-19 has really put the cat amongst the pigeons! According to the charity Eye Health UK, some 5 million eye tests were missed due to the pandemic, raising concerns of undiagnosed optical issues. The growing backlog of untreated cataracts due to lockdown, for example, is set to result in a spike of falls amongst the elderly this winter. This eye condition affects balance as well as vision, putting those who are over 60 more at risk of falling, breaking hips and other injuries. Even a slightly reduced vision can have an impact on your mental health.

black and white camera lens on white table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com



So what are cataracts?

David Allamby, celebrity eye surgeon from the London Cataract Centre explained in a recent press release that the Covid-19 shutdown meant that routine appointments were missed. Unfortunately cataracts don’t go away – they tend to worsen over time. Cataracts are caused when an eye lens – the small transparent lens just behind the coloured iris – starts to develop cloudy patches. Generally it is the over 65 age group most at risk, although it can affect people of all ages. Unfortunately studies show that people with cataracts are more at risk of falling but having cataract surgery to both eyes does reduce the risk of falling by 73%. According to the North London Eye Study, half of all people will have cataracts by the age of 80, rising to 75% by the age of 85. Also, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cataracts are responsible for a third of cases of blindness, worldwide, affecting roughly 65 million people. Phew!

David Allamby of the London Cataract Centre


The word “Cataract” comes from the Latin “cataracta” meaning “waterfall or floodgate” and refers to the white pupil in advanced cataracts. The time for cataract surgery is when cataracts have advanced sufficiently to impair your eyesight and negatively affect your daily life. Surgery is usually a walk-in, walk out day case procedure using only a local anaesthetic. Cataract extraction surgery with intraocular lens implant for age-related cataracts is the most common surgery in the NHS. In 2019, surgeons performed approximately 400,000 cataract extractions across the U.K.

© London Cataract Centre


The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) suggests speedy diagnosis and treatment is the best defence in controlling eye disease and preventing sight loss. They recommend that everybody has an eye test every 2 years unless otherwise advised by their optometrists.

Contact your optician immediately if:

  • painful or red eye
  • broken or lost glasses and you can’t function without them
  • been referred by NHS111, GP or other health care professionals
  • problem with contact lenses
  • foreign body in your eye
  • worried about your vision or eye health

For pinning later © Linda Hobden

Information sources:
https://londoncataractcentre.co.uk
Cataracts surgery can reduce risk of falling by 73 percent: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30197507/Five million routine eye tests have been missed due to lockdown: https://100percentoptical.caboodleai.net/en/article/96240?utm_source=ElasticEmail-sb-100percentoptical&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=100percentoptical-1851-s-en-250920

Keep Safe,

Linda x

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Homeward Bound

I was sent a copy of “Homeward Bound” by Richard Smith to review by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing. “You’ll like this book – it’s about age, ambition and rock ‘n’ roll” he said. Ben knows I like a good book and music is one of my passions too, so I was more than pleased to have a read and review. But, dear blog friends, you know that I can’t just read and review – I like to chat with the author afterwards … and the lovely Richard Smith gladly obliged! First, my review:

MY REVIEW

“Homeward Bound” made me smile from page 1 … it is a funny yet poignant novel centred around a grandfather who has a passion for music and his teenage granddaughter who moves in with him to keep an eye on him as he is getting frail, and also to give her some space from mum and dad. George (grandfather) has a massive record collection that has become his “comfort blanket” since his wife died – and as he plays his vinyls, he still tinkers along on his piano hoping to revive his musical ambitions. George’s son in law thinks he should be put in a home & sets out to find George a place. George’s daughter is the go between. George’s granddaughter wants space away from her parents and isn’t sure about her musical teenage boyfriend, who has his own idea of what music should sound like although he is fascinated by George’s collection. Then there are the homes George visits & the residents he meets, the notorious cousin, the impromptu musical recital, the seaside trip and the unexpected job offer. This novel has twists and turns, ups and downs, and plenty of musical innuendo. I loved it and it is a great light hearted read perfect for winter nights, holidays, lockdowns….

SO LET’S MEET THE AUTHOR, RICHARD SMITH…..

Hello, I’m Richard. I’m 71 years old and I have just written my first novel, “Homeward Bound”.  Before that, I was a film and video TV producer, director and writer, running my own production company. I gave it up to write, but I keep having to telling people I’ve not retired! Much of my work in the early years was in government commercials, encouraging people to do things like donate blood or to give up smoking. Some of them are on YouTube – “Blood from a Stone”with Rowan Atkinson and “Smoker of the Future” are the ones people find most often. I was a bit dismayed when I went to a major summer exhibition at the British Library – called ‘Propaganda’ – and there were two of my films! And we thought we were doing good! 

Later films were sponsored, public relations work. They took me all over the world; west Africa, South Africa, eastern Europe, south America, oil platforms, up the tower to Big Ben in London – at midday and I can tell you, it’s loud! – all places where you can only go if you’re invited. Highly privileged – and if it’s taught me anything it’s through the people I’ve met; that no matter who or where you are, we’re all human beings, experiencing the same happiness, pain, excitement, disappointments. Lifestyles may be different but human instinct and responses are essentially the same. Which has been a major influence on my writing.  

I have two children, both girls, both married, so therefore the name of Smith will cease to exist – at least in my family! And I’m also grandparent, though both born in the last year, so no relation to the late teenager in “Homeward Bound”!

What inspired you to start writing at 71?

I think I’ve always wanted to write a novel. When you’re working full time on a commercial or documentary, to a schedule and on a budget, there’s no time for creating your own characters and stories. Although I always tried to add character to my films, what I’d always hankered after doing was writing about everyday people and characters, to tell the stories that I wanted, not invented for a corporate message. 

Your book reminded me of when I was a young teenager in the late 1970s  when I used to play my “punk” music to my grandad – he used to sit and listen with a “put on” interested face!! He must have hated it! Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

I’m not sure I found any one character more difficult than another. I enjoyed bringing them all to life, though I suppose my favourite parts are where George, the grandfather, and Tara, the granddaughter, are together. The most difficult part of it, I guess, was trying to make sure that each character reacted the way they actually would do in real life, consistent with their own personality or with the situation they were facing. That meant constantly revisiting the dialogue – would he or she really react like that? – and that sometimes took the plot in a direction I wasn’t expecting. A bit like life, I guess!

Are any aspects of writing novels that surprised you?

I think what caught me out when I started was a significant difference between writing for a film to be watched and writing to be read. When you’re doing a film you can change the scene, you can change perspective, you can change time. Flashbacks, seeing what the lead characters don’t yet know, character reactions behind the lead’s back – all common in film – are confusing in a novel. Think “Breaking Bad“  from a couple of years ago. The pre-title scenes often didn’t relate to anything that followed, or at least for most of the episode. Novels can’t work that way. Or at least, for a first-time writer!

I was also surprised about how I became so involved in what I was writing. I’d become sad and emotional when my characters were sad and emotional; I’d become touchy and irritable when there was anger in what I’d just written! I’m sure actors face this all the time, but as a writer, it was a surprise to me how involved and emotional I could get at certain points. 

George’s massive record collection is apparently based on your own collection.  What’s your favourite songs/albums? What was the last music concert you attended? 

The idea of a large collection of records is ‘me’, but not necessarily the songs George likes. We both have eclectic tastes but I didn’t want to bog the book down with mine! I can like almost anyone. The favourite part of my shelves is around RE – yes I do have them alphabetically stored; how else would I find them? But cheek by jowl are Otis Redding, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Lou Reed, Jim Reeves, REM. Not normal bedfellows! I played an early Bread album yesterday. Most people would scoff (‘That’s easy listening? They’re rubbish!’ I hear) but in 1969 they were original and up with the best of West Coast American. My childhood heroes were from pop/rock of the early sixties – the Everly Bros and a rock’n’roller called Del Shannon. And of course, Jerry Lee Lewis – what a piano player! What links them all are melody and catchy tunes – add lyrics with emotion and the cake is iced. For me, it doesn’t all have to be ‘credible’ – music is full of guilty pleasures that are best enjoyed alone. But like George, I still enjoy new music. My frustration is I can’t go to my local shop and buy it when I hear it. I have to download and it’s just not the same. 

As for most recent gig – COVID’s knocked a hole in that. I saw Amy Studt in a tiny venue – she’s had three astonishingly good albums but has somehow slipped under most people’s radar. James Taylor Quartet, Jules Holland, Thea Gilmore, Nik Kershaw, Lulu. I told you I was eclectic! 

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes, I’m working on another novel now. I’ve set it back in 1989 – so the ‘history repeats’ theme I love so much can be echoed from thirty years back. It means I need a lot of research to make sure I get my details correct. That is actually a major drawback because it’s a way of stopping me from getting on. I stumble over a detail that I need to check and by the time that’s done, I’ve lost the flow. But people keep asking me if I’m writing more and I’m determined to get it done – then all I have to do is see if anyone likes it!

Are you a bookworm? Book or Kindle?

As child I was an absolute bookworm and I would be in the library exchanging books every couple of days. Then when I needed all my limited brain power for scripts, and producing films, my few non-working hours were wasted listening to music! When I do read, it’s probably similar to what I want to write, popular, real life fiction. I always quote Simon Van Booy’s “Father’s Day “ as the one that inspired me to get “Homeward Bound “ written.

I’m a hard copy man. (Vinyl discs, not downloads; paperback not Kindle – I recognise a pattern here!)  But Homeward Bound’s available via Kindle internationally. So I shouldn’t knock it!

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

Because, when I write, it’s about people and relationships, I’m not sure that the location is what inspires me. I think I’d prefer to go back in time. I’m writing about 1989 at the moment and although I was there, I don’t remember everything. To witness it first hand again would really help my characters and what they say and do. But if somebody offered me three weeks in the Bahamas to write and then I can still set my novel somewhere in England, I’d be very happy!

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

I’m not good at choosing clothes. A stereotypical 71-year-old man, I fear. Anything that’s to hand, convenient and clean. My wife only last week produced a photograph of me taken on holiday ten years ago because I was still wearing the same shirt!

 Favourite shops or online sites?

Most of my favourites are going to be either record shops or shops that sell records – often a charity shop. Online, I’m always browsing record guides and shop sites. If we go away somewhere, I will invariably find the record shop while my wife goes into places she prefers. Though in Reykjavik, there’s a huge record shop with, in the corner, a couch, magazines and coffee for the disinterested partner – usually wives – while the other – usually husbands – trawls through the vinyl racks!

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

Nothing. I hate trailing around any sort of shops andtrying on clothes. I know that doesn’t exactly fit withbootsshoesandfashion.com but I don’t wear any jewellery and if I lived alone, my house would be George’s – piles of books and records to be sorted.  Sorry!

 Boots or shoes?

Wherever I am, I dispense with both as quickly as possible. I embarrass my daughters when we leave a restaurant as I have to find my shoes and put them on again before we leave. I’d walk down the road in bare feet if I wasn’t a wimp and didn’t like the stony bits sticking into me!

Links you would like to share:

For Pinning Later

https://richardsmith writes.com

Twitter: @RichardWrites2

https://www.instagram.com/homeward_bound_the_novel/
https://facebook.com/richardsmithwrites/

https://facebook.com/WheresHomewardBound

Thanks for chatting with me on my blog Richard – I love your enthusiasm and I look forward to reading your next book also! I must say I’d love a trip to Reykjavik to track down that record shop ….

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Richard Smith. Thanks also to Ben Cameron.

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An Interview With Louise Palmer-Masterton

This week I’m interviewing the delightful Louise Palmer- Masterton, founder of the hip and trendy plant-based Stem & Glory Restaurants. The food always looks colourful and inviting – like miniature works of art in food form – almost too good to be eaten! This is gourmet vegan food at its finest. Hi Louise & welcome….

Hello, I am Louise. I am the founder of Stem & Glory, a UK originating vegan restaurant brand, which is also making inroads into the retail space with branded ready meals and products. Stem & Glory isn’t my first business, I’ve been self-employed my entire working life, and last year exited my previous business, a multi-site leisure business, selling it in its entirety. 

Being a long time vegan, what made you decide to embrace the vegan lifestyle?

I had a friend in my teens who was a Krishna devotee, he introduced me to the idea of compassionate eating for the first time. I gave up eating meat on the spot and never looked back. It was one of those ‘aha’ moments that changed the course of my life forever. Whilst there are many reasons I remain vegan, the main reason is, and always was, for the animals. I cannot reconcile how anyone can purport to love animals and yet still eat them. I have a strong connection to the other species on this planet. I find the sheer scale of animal abuse by humans in pursuit of taste and flavour deeply upsetting. We really do not need to eat animals at all.

As founder of the trendy plant-based restaurants, Stem & Glory; what inspired you to open restaurants serving gut friendly, plant based food? 

It’s a passion project, most definitely. I’ve followed the growth of the plant-based movement in this country for almost 40 years, and through that time have experimented with plant-based cuisine (I am not a trained chef but cooking is my passion). I’ve had the idea of a restaurant rolling around in my head for a very long time. Stem & Glory is the manifestation of all that research and passion. I am also very motivated by the idea of community, so Stem & Glory is also a space for like-minded people to come together. Good things happen in restaurants, and they play a huge part in our enjoyment of one another’s company.

S & G. Raw Desserts

Recently in my local supermarket there has been a promotional “push” towards plant-based meals. As you are an expert in the field of plant-based nutrition, what do you feel are the main benefits to follow a vegan/plant based diet?

I am not an expert in nutrition in that I am not trained in that discipline, however I do have something to say on the subject as I have followed this lifestyle for so many years, and also given birth twice during that period. The main benefit I believe is to the planet. So, whatever you might feel about animals, or health, it’s undeniable that adopting a plant-based diet is the single most important step an individual can make in lowering their carbon impact. When it comes to health, it’s an important step towards eating healthier BUT it’s important to eat a diet rich in vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds to ensure you are getting the right balance of nutrition. A lot of what is in the supermarkets currently is heavily processed plant-based fake meat products, and whilst I do believe these play a part in helping people to eat less animal produce, I don’t believe they necessarily represent healthy eating choices. Natural, unprocessed plant-based ingredients are always the best. At Stem & Glory we use natural ingredients and gut friendly probiotics such as ferments to give a flavoursome AND healthy experience.

The menus available at Stem & Glory feature some delicious colourful dishes – I adore the Buffalo Cauliflower Wings – and the Squash Goan Curry is on my list to try! What dishes seem to be most popular?

The Goan curry is very popular, but the most popular dishes at both sites are our lasagne (which is no ordinary lasagne by the way, it’s made with roasted celeriac sheets instead of pasta), our pulled mushroom bao burger, the sticky tempeh ‘ribs’ and the cauliflower buffalo wings. We try and balance fine, edgy new experiences, with more traditional ideas, with a twist, as people will always love familiar, comforting options.

S & G Buffalo Cauliflower Wings


I love that on your website there are recipes of some of the dishes on your menu.  Do you have a favourite dish?

My favourite dish on our current menu is probably the Kimchi pancakes which is a dish that has been with us since we started. It’s an absolute legend! My all-time favourite dish though is our Blue corn Tacos which will be reappearing on the menu again soon. They’re a perfect combination of flavours and textures. 

 How have your restaurants coped during lockdown?

Initially the closure was shocking to all hospitality businesses. But by the end of April, withsome funds in the bank, and the first furlough payments to our employees, things started to look up and we started to plan the future with renewed energy.

We had been planning our online marketplace and delivery portal for a while, but last year were too busy to dedicate much time to it. During May and June, we were able to fully focus on this. At the same time there was an absolute explosion of new technology for the food and beverage sector, so finally it was possible to integrate all our systems to create a seamless customer experience of online ordering, delivery, click and collect and also at table order and pay. 

We took on new partner, Afroditi Krassa, to do a complete branding and design overhaul, so that when we open again we could hit the ground running with all new tech, new look and feel, and completely notch up the brand to a whole new level.

We were very fortunate to have supportive landlords throughout the lockdown, so we were spared the pressure of rent. The hiatus also allowed us to go back to the landlords of our proposed third site and renegotiate a very favourable deal. And the landlords of a new location in Cambridge that we had been eyeing came to us with a really great package, which we snapped up. The new site in Cambridge will allow us to build our new brand model with our online platform capability built in. 

We were also fortunate to be awarded a post-Covid capital grant by Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority, so that combined with the landlord package meant we are able to move swiftly to occupation at the new site later this year.

The final piece in the jigsaw has been launching a fundraise on Seedrs. It hit its target in less than an hour, and we are now 217% funded. We would love to get to 500% funded, so watch this space!

https://www.seedrs.com/stemglory/

S & G Blue Taco

You have restaurants in Cambridge & London and you have a brand new Covid-safe site opening in Cambridge in October.  Have you any plans to open other restaurants in other locations? 

The other positive to come out of this crisis is the shift in relationship between landlord and tenant. We’ve now had approaches from some of the major landlords in the UK, with some very attractive offers on the table. Landlords and tenants have both become more appreciative of each other. A game change for us is that landlords are now willing to put in capital towards fit outs which means faster expansion is possible. We are seeking partnerships rather than one sided relationships, and landlords are very willing now to have these conversations. We’ve been viewing sites all over the country, so watch this space…

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

My guilty fashion secret is G-Star! I wear almost exclusively that label and it’s a running joke in my family. I do also favour baggy and harem pants, and stray from G-Star a little for those. I like things that dress up or down. I am definitely not someone that wears ‘normal’ clothes. My style is quite androgenous. Non-binary wasn’t a term in my youth, but it is a term I identify with and support my two daughters to do the same. Shoes, obviously vegan, I wear G-Star trainers, again, and also Converse. I am a big walker so footwear has to be good for walking. Occasionally I wear ridiculously high platforms when going out. But still with androgenous clothing. 

S & G pulled Mushroom”Duck” pancakes

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

G-Star!

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

What’s next on my list is not buying anything. I am moving rapidly towards a more sustainable lifestyle. I have everything I need for now. One of the reasons I like G-Star is they were amongst the first to use recycled materials, and clothing from ocean plastic. I am definitely making more sustainable, environmental buying choices these days, and will support other brands doing the same. My daughter is keen on fashion, and she remakes and upcycles old clothes which I am super supportive of too.

Boots or Shoes? 

Trainers – have to be able to take a brisk walk wherever I am.

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

For pinning later

All our social handles are the same on all platforms

@stemandglory

Order online at www.stemandglory .uk

Visit our Seedrs pitch 

https://www.seedrs.com/stemglory/

Social Media:

Web: www.stemandglory.uk  

Twitter: @stemandglory 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stemandglory/
Instagram: @stemandglory

Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton

Seedrs: https://www.seedrs.com/stemglory

Thank you for chatting to us Louise. The dishes look mouth watering – kudos to your chefs!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Louise Palmer-Masterton

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An Interview With Author Deirdra Eden

October is a great month for reading a bit of mythology, a traditional fairytale or a fantasy … and “The Watchers” fantasy series is aimed at readers aged 10 upwards. The books have been described as “Lord Of The Rings” meets the supernaturalI was lucky enough to receive a copy of the first book in the series to review…


MY REVIEW

The story is set in England in 1270AD. A young girl, Auriella, flees from her village after being accused of being a witch. She flees into the deep dark woods and like all good fairytales, she gets chased by wolves and just when she thinks she will be eaten by them, she is rescued by an old woman. But her rescuer is no ordinary old lady and, as the story unravels, Auriella discovers she is actually no ordinary young girl. Auriella finds friendship, she learns to fight, she discovers her dreams, she falls in love, and she tries to avoid being pursued by nightmare creatures. And she wants to be a knight. A proper knight. Then there are “The Watchers” …. supernatural beings in human form, charged with protecting mankind from the armies of darkness. They are looking for The Lady Of Neviah. This is a tale filled with fairies, pixies, dwarves, dragons, princes, dresses, queens, wolves, witches and knights. This is the sort of book I devoured eagerly as a young girl … and I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed reading the book as an adult. It was pure fantasy and a joy to read. Ideal bedtime reading whether you have a child to read to or not. Each book could be read as a stand-alone but once you are on a roll …. !

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DEIRDRA EDEN


Hi Deirdra. Welcome to the blog…

Hello, I’m Deirdra. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest in a temperate rainforest. This place is magical and I am inspired by the beauty around me every day. I love adventures, education, animals, exploring, being with my family, and creating beautiful things. 


Your fantasy series of books “The Watchers” – is an engaging traditional fairytale story based in England during 1270AD that features witches, wolves, dwarves, knights, pixies, princes, supernatural beings and just a little bit of fairy dust! The series has been described as “Lord of the Rings” &. “Braveheart” meets the supernatural world. What inspired you to write books of this nature?

History tends to repeat itself, which is why so many ancient books have stories that are relatable to us today. Just like many other fantasy writers, this is a fun way to tell a story with an inspiring message of always having hope and fighting for your dreams.

I really enjoyed reading the book – I liked the mix of characters. I adored Auriella. What character did you enjoy writing about the most? Who was the hardest? 

I really enjoyed writing about all of the characters. They all came to life on their own. The hardest characters were the ones that were actual historical figures. They required a lot of research before I could develop and implement them into the story. 

The stories start in England in 1270AD, when Auriella flees from her village after being accused of witchcraft. Why did you pick medieval England specifically? Were there any other places you considered?

This time and place was chosen after searching through some geological records. I discovered an ancestor of mine who was a “dame”, basically a female knight. I was so inspired by this and it came at the perfect moment in my life when I needed to know that this kind of blood ran through my veins too. 

You have also recently published “Time Management For Creative People” – which is a bit different from your fairytales – can you please give us a summary? 

People and the way our minds work fascinate me which is one of the reasons why I got my degree in Social and Behavioral Studies. After years of observing creative people, as well as self observation, I realized that right-brained people work, think, and organize differently. The traditional corporate linear time management planners and spreadsheets rarely work for a creative person. In fact, it often leads to frustration. Time Management For Creative People teaches creators how to balance, organize, and prioritize all they need to get done. This is done completely organically in ways that are natural to them by living life in creative cycles and seasons and maximizing high and low energy times.

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

For me I have a pretty long ‘AND’ factor. I’m a writer, and I am also an activist. I’m a artist, and I also like construction projects. However, writing for me is more of a calling than a career. 

When it comes to your personal reading delights – what genre/authors do you read? Kindle or book? 

I love reading history, self improvement, geography, and anything travel. 

Are there any other book ideas in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond?

Yes, I have a top secret book that will be ready soon, but I’m thinking it will be published under a pseudonym. There is also The Watchers, Night of Light Book #7. But it is going to be a while before that one is ready.

Are your books available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, they are. The best place to get them is on Amazon.

What hobbies or past times do you pursue when you are not writing? 

Exploring nature, hiking, taking pictures, rescuing animals, gardening, recording soundscapes, and hanging out with my family. 

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

Something comfortable that I can move in. I love things that are fun and flowing while being strong yet feminine. 


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon. I can get all I need without leaving the house. Etsy is way fun too. 

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

I already have everything I need and I am grateful for that. 

Boots or Shoes?

Both! Since I am from the Pacific Northwest I also do flip-flops and occasionally no shoes. =)

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

For Pinning Later

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/2Ap8ZqI

Blog:

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

Website:

http://www.knightess.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DeirdraEdenWatchers/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBjuCqt2HoyUYVXZcTZY8A?view_as=subscriber

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/deirdraeden/

Pinterest:

Twitter:

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8126382.Deirdra_Eden

Booklikes:

http://knightess.booklikes.com/

Thank you very much for chatting with me today Deirdra and thanks also for the copy of your book.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Deirdra Eden

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An Interview With Photographer Nina Kraft

My guest today on the blog  is Los Angeles based photographer, Nina Kraft, who began her career in Hollywood as a highly regarded make-up artist.  The images and storytelling of cinema were the inspiration that sparked her career transformation into a sought-after photographer. Nina worked on major studio motion pictures, as well as on magazine covers and commercials, working with international icons such as Herb Ritts, Annie Leibovitz and countless others. Nina is now known for her collaborative working style in creating contemporary and unique looks in fashion, advertising and portraiture. Her style is influenced by her love of indigenous people and animals and her activism. Nina’s work in fashion, commercial, portraits and lifestyle photography is raw, earthy, elegant, real and unique to every client. I’ve followed Nina’s career for a few years, so it was great to catch up with Nina recently …hi Nina!

Hi, I’m Nina Kraft, photographer.

After beginning your career in Hollywood as a highly regarded make up artist, what inspired you to change your career to become a highly regarded photographer instead?

I worked in films, for a long time, travelled the world and enjoyed my career. After having 2 boys, locations for 6 months at a time was not an option. I always loved photography/cinematography and the art of lighting. It was the natural choice for me to move into photography after my kids. I had worked very closely with the cinematographer as a makeup artist and learned a lot from those wonderful collaborations.

I am, and have been for a few years, a big fan of your photography – I particularly love your black & white and street life observations – although your fashion work is just as  stunning too. What is your favourite style of photography? 

I shoot fashion, advertising and portraits, which I enjoy very much.


Have you got a favourite place where you enjoy taking photos? What makes this place so special?

My long term dream is to go to Africa and spend a good year there telling the story of the all female anti poaching rangers like the Akashinga and other groups that have put their lives on the line to save animals from poachers. Many of these brave women were help captive in wars and sexually assaulted. I write as well as shoot, I want to tell their stories and looking forward to making my dream project.

Growing up, what were your career aspirations?

Growing up all I wanted to do was save animals but I ended up in Hollywood were I met many wonderful creative people, had a great career and travelled the world.

If I visited you in Los Angeles & we go on a “photo tour”, what places would you recommend us photographing?

If you are touring Los Angeles, I would recommend photographing the coast north of Malibu. There, you will find beautiful coast lines combined with majestic cliffs. Also Joshua tree in the desert.

Boots Or Shoes?

Currently my life style is about comfort. I love wearing uggs when possible and also my favorite boots are still Rag and Bone.


The Links…
http://www.ninakraftphotography.com

https://www.facebook.com/NinaKraftPhotography
https://www.instagram.com/ninakraftphotography/

For Pinning Later

Thanks Nina for sharing your gorgeous photos with us …dear readers, pop along to Nina’s website and prepare to be wowed!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Nina Kraft

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The Cafe With Five Faces

Imagine a cafe with 5 different rooms, each room representing an iconic city and featuring food, chat and most notably coffee (some wine & mint tea too) …. that is the basis of a most excellent book by Chaelli Cattlin that I had the pleasure to review over the summer. Due to COVID-19 putting a dampener on my summer travels this year, having this book to read in my garden chair during lockdown was a real boost. Like always, I read the book and then got the urge to chat more with the author! But first, my review:

MY REVIEW
I used to work in a village cafe that used to be full of regulars and I often thought a book on overheard conversations would be very interesting reading.  The regulars in my cafe talked about similar issues, often with the same amount of intensity and repetition; that a newcomer would bring a breath of fresh air and a welcome change of topic.  So, The Cafe With Five Rooms, was the sort of book I was subconsciously searching for.  I absolutely adored the travel stories, the characters themselves were believable, loved the themed room idea, love the food and drink descriptions, love the details about coffee making – although I’m not a coffee drinker Chaelli so my drink of choice would be an Algerian mint tea! Or a glass or two of the Lebanese red wine 😊Maybe with a slice or two of Hungarian cake…..

LET’S MEET CHAELLI ….


Hello, I am Chaelli Cattlin, an author and a trainer working in the field of English language teaching, a job which has allowed me to travel all over the world for the past 25 years.

Your book, “The Cafe With Five Faces: What The Walls Heard 2018-2019   – is an engaging collection of short stories, presented as snippets within a fictional cafe with five rooms. Each room is themed and named after a location – Beirut, Budapest, Cape Town, Granada, Hebden Bridge. The stories feature everything including travel, gossip, politics, food , romance, and coffee. What made you decide to write a book of this nature?

While visiting Granada several years ago, I was sitting outside a cafe in the Albaicin district and surveying an empty property opposite, thinking what a nice cafe it would make. It had a few rooms / spaces and it occurred to me that it would save me from choosing between a Hungarian-style cake shop, a Spanish tapas bar, a Lebanese manouche shop and a CapeTown breakfast bar. So I decided to call my provisional cafe The Cafe with Four Faces. When I chose to make a book out of it, rather than a real cafe, I added my local village (Hebden Bridge) to the rooms as it fitted some of the characters I wanted to include. The five rooms of the book / cafe also allowed me to focus on different topics, each of which I wanted to discuss but wouldn’t necessarily fit comfortably in one setting.

I enjoyed reading the book  – I liked the mix of characters. I adored the travel anecdotes. My favourite characters were Zoe, Misha and “The Presence”. What character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Who was the hardest?

Misha was one of my favourites as he was so like me when I first moved to Poland 25 years ago and I quite enjoyed describing myself in self-deprecating but hopefully humorous terms. Mike rants in the way I like to rant myself, but rarely have the nerve to do so in real life, so he was a favourite too. And possibly Jimez, as I think he is such a lovable failure! The hardest ones were the minor characters who made infrequent appearances, like Anna and, I suppose, The Presence, because I would like to have made more of them, but seemed to let them down a bit.

The Five places featured as the rooms obviously hold a place in your heart – why did you pick Beirut, Budapest, Cape Town, Granada and Hebden Bridge?  Were there any other places you considered having as a “room”?

Beirut and Cape Town just picked themselves – they are unique cities and I just feel at home the second I arrive in them. Hebden Bridge was local – I could have chosen Haworth, but that is already very well-known for its Bronte connection. Budapest represents Eastern Europe (in its 1990s definition) – I could have chosen several others, principally Katowice, MInsk and Ljubljana, but I lived in Budapest for 7 years (just a little longer than in Katowice) and it has the old-style cafe society with its literary connections which I love so much. Granada represents the good life / place in the sun – it could have been anywhere in Andalucia, Sicily or Provence, all of which have very fond memories, but Granada is the city of most recent and lengthy acquaintance.


So, as we are talking travelling, where has been your favourite place you’ve visited or lived in so far?

In terms of full-time living, outside of the north of England (Lancashire and Yorkshire), I have lived in Opole and Katowice in Poland, and Budapest in Hungary. However, I have spent periods of 2-3 months in countless places and enjoyed so many of them for very different reasons, it’s rather hard to choose! As I mentioned above, Beirut and Cape Town are really special and I have lived in each for a total of around 3 years and 1 year respectively, and they really feel like home.

You are a coffee fanatic – that goes without saying – and I liked how you incorporated your coffee knowledge into your book.  What is it about coffee that really caught your attention?

This has been a slow burner for me, having grown up on Nescafe with milk and two sugars, and then Nescafe with milk without the sugar. I finally bought a percolator and started having one cup of ‘real’ coffee a day with fresh cream, Then I discovered speciality (third-wave) coffee shops and filter coffee where the addition of milk was frowned upon. It became a real interest to visit such cafes in every city I visited, and since 2016, there has been a dramatic growth in such establishments, which led to me wanting to own my own, In the meantime, I started buying a range of alternative brewing equipment for home use and then started taking training courses.


If we were in your cafe, about to indulge in a drink and nibbles – which room would you feel most comfortable in? What would you recommend we ordered?

Every room suits one of my moods. I am the political ranter (Cape Town), the failed musician (Budapest), the ardent traveller (Granada), the bohemian floor-sitter (Beirut) and the aging reminiscer (Hebden Bridge), so it depends how the mood takes me. In terms of order, however, it would have to be a Chemex and a slice of Eszterhazy (cake), Jen’s favourite in the Budapest room.

When it comes to your personal reading delights – what genre/authors do you read? Kindle or book?

My tastes are rather random. I have a real liking for the humour of PG Wodehouse, while loving the gritty Italian crime of Michele Giutarri. I have also whiled away hours in cafes reading the Brontes, Jane Austen and, particularly, Thomas Hardy. I also read the entire Harry Potter series more than once! Ironically, I prefer paper copies! 

Are there any other book ideas in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond?

Yes, but they’re still in formulation! 

Is “The Cafe With Five Faces” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, through Amazon, Apple and Google Play, with Barnes & Noble and Kobo on the way.

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

I can hardly remember pre-lockdown! There were some comments in the book about Matthew (Granada room) and his love of Armani jeans, and I have 5 pairs, accumulated over many years, which I wear till they fall apart (and beyond) because they are so comfortable. I have a substantial collection of headgear, including a Colombian hat just like that of The Presence (picture attached) and a larger choice of bandanas than Jimmy. At the moment, T-shirts are it (with the names of assorted cafes if I can manage it), because I’m not working in public, and I have a range of shoes which would terrify many women by their quantity, my favourites being Doc Martens and trainers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Armani Jeans in Milan! For certain items of clothing, I like the street markets in Hanoi, while for shoes, I always check out the windows of Vagabond in Budapest and those of a shop in Palermo the name of which I simply can’t bring to mind. Otherwise, I only seem interested in cafes and online coffee retailers!

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

I daren’t buy any more shoes for a while as I bought some pre-lockdown I haven’t worn since I left the shop. I love the shirts on the Konrit website, but unfortunately don’t like buying clothes online – I prefer to try them on and see before buying, so it may well remain on my wishlist rather than become reality

Boots or Shoes?

Doc Martens are a nice blend! Otherwise, comfortable trainers; nothing which comes up too high as I find them really uncomfortable.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc.
https://thecafewith5faces.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thecafewith5faces/?modal=admin_todo_tour

@thecafewithfa1 (Twitter)

For Pinning Later

Fabulous to catch up with you “virtually” Chaelli and I really look forward to reading more adventures of the Cafe in the future. Thank you also to Ben Cameron for the copy of The Cafe With Five Faces to review. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chaelli Cattlin.

Linda x

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FSO Safer – An Environmental Time Bomb

My heart goes out to the country of Yemen. Yemen has many challenges at the moment: civil war, starvation, disease, poverty, then the introduction of the coronavirus ….and now, it has an environmental time bomb in the shape of FSO Safer. FSO Safer is a floating oil storage and offloading vessel that is moored in the Red Sea, just north of the Yemeni city of Hodeidah. It is owned by the Yemen Oil and Gas Corporation ….and it is getting old and started to spring a leak. The author of my guest post this week, Carlos Luxul, can fill you in….

Bouncing Bomb, Dorset .. © Linda Hobden

An environmental time bomb is ticking away in the Red sea, where over a million barrels of crude oil may very soon leak into its waters, and the world is looking on, seemingly powerless. Perhaps powerless is not the right word. The world certainly possesses the power. What it lacks is the will.

The Ras Isa oil terminal sits forty miles north of Hodeidah, a city controlled by Houthi rebels in Yemen’s protracted civil war. Central to the terminal’s operations is the FSO Safer, a Floating Storage & Offloading vessel.  362 metres in length, it was originally built as a supertanker in 1976, before conversion to its present role in 1987.

Since 1988 it has been stationed in Yemen – that’s thirty three years of sitting in seawater with a particularly high salinity rating and, for the last five or six years, since the onset of the civil war, it has received little or no maintenance. Its physical condition is deteriorating rapidly and there have already been breaches to its engine compartment, though not yet to its tanks, which currently hold 1.148 million barrels of crude oil, or approximately 157,000 tonnes. For comparison, the Exxon Valdez was merely carrying around 35,000 tonnes when it met with disaster.

FSO Safer … © Maasmondmaritime Flickr


Years of neglect have taken their toll. There are no reliable estimates of the present thickness of the Safer’s hull, but it is not unreasonable to assume that it is down to its last few millimetres in certain places, masked by the presence of a generous coating of marine encrustation. And those who recognise black humour will not be shocked by the irony in its name. 

All interested parties, including Yemen’s warring factions and the proxy belligerents of Saudi Arabia and Iran, understand the imminent threat of a catastrophic oil spill, but years of UN dialogue and negotiation shows no sign of resolution. Iran, naturally, will not rein in its Houthi partners, but Iran is nothing if not pragmatic, so a deal must be doable. 

As ever, money is central to the impasse. 1.148 million barrels of oil are worth just shy of fifty million dollars at current market prices – a sizeable chunk of money the Houthis are laying sole claim to. And while they are receiving no financial guarantees, they are not permitting UN access to the vessel. They are also dropping strong hints that they have mined the waters around it and rigged it internally with IEDs. 

Red Sea © Veronica Reverse

Needless to say, the Red sea is an ecological wonderland containing one of the world’s largest and most important coral reefs. Its currents and winds alternate in summer and winter, switching between northbound and southbound. An oil spill will either spread north along the shores of the Red sea’s littoral countries, or south to the coastlines of Djibouti and Somalia, and then out into the wider Indian ocean, where prevailing currents may sweep it down the coast of east Africa. 

The world’s interests in the Safer are being led by the UN, which perversely presents it with an opportunity to demonstrate a purpose beyond being a mere talking-shop. We must not entirely blame the UN though, which is rendered toothless without the committed backing of its member nations, whose political classes use it as a convenient scapegoat for their own inaction and a buffer to hide behind.

The world possesses everything it needs to prevent an unmitigated disaster. It has the military power to secure the location and the technical expertise to secure the ship and its cargo.  

Red Sea Coastline © Fahd Ahmed via Unsplash


Now is surely the perfect opportunity for the world’s political leaders to show their mettle and the UN to demonstrate its raison d’être. Our rulers face a stark choice. Either they can choose to take action and firmly back the UN, or once again they can look away and wring their hands before tapping out the usual platitudes on twitter …

www.carlosluxul.com

The climactic disaster scenario of my novel, The Ocean Dove, is rooted in plausibility and could so easily happen, though I sincerely hope it doesn’t. Meanwhile, back in real life, the Safer disaster is just waiting to happen if the world fails to act.  

For pinning later. Original photo by Francesco Ungaro – Unsplash

Thank you Carlos for an interesting article and bringing the plight of FSO Safer to our attention. And readers, don’t forget to read Carlos Luxul’s book , Ocean Dove , and my interview with Carlos too:

An Interview With Author Carlos Luxul

Linda x

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