Category Archives: Books

An Interview With Author Robert Trautman

Meet Bob – author, accomplished gymnast, competitive figure skater, licensed helicopter pilot, professional photographer, electronics engineer, parent, identical twin AND this week’s guest on my blog!  Bob’s philosophy is that “the meaning of life is to live a life with meaning” and that is truly apparent as you read his memoir-infused self-help book, “Life’s Essential Primer: Adventures, Choices, and The Success They Can Bring”.  I caught up with Bob recently to find out more as well as finding out what lurks in his closet….

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Hi! I’m Bob Trautman. Sure, the book says “Robert”, and that is my formal name, but not only is that what my mother used to call me when I’d get into trouble, it’s also so very formal, and I’m far from a formal person.

Congratulations on publishing your book, “Life’s Essential Primer: Adventures, Choices And The Success They Can Bring” – a memoir-infused self-help book outlining the principles and life philosophies you have derived from  your own amusing, real life adventures. What inspired you to put pen to paper and write your self-help memoir?

Thank you very much! I’ve enjoyed writing short stories throughout much of my life, but it was really my friends and coworkers who finally provided the impetus needed to pen this book. Everybody shares their little adventures when conversing with friends, or when engaging in idle chitchat with coworkers at the office. My very best friend Michelle, who is also the editor of this book, has gone so far as to tell acquaintances, “Bob is the REAL ‘most interesting man in the world’”. This is a reference to the popular character in the Dos Equis beer ads. Ironically, I don’t like beer at all. People I knew eventually started telling me that I should write down the various stories that I’d frequently relate…so I did.

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Your book shares your life experiences – apart from being an author, you are also an accomplished gymnast, competitive figure skater, licensed helicopter pilot, professional photographer, electronics engineer and a parent – and hopes to provide children and young adults a framework to efficiently prepare their educational paths to become successful adults.  What do you feel are the main “roadblocks” stopping a person from having a successful life?

There are a number of roadblocks or detours keeping, or delaying many young people from achieving success.
a. They haven’t established practical goals. This could be because their parents haven’t exposed them to a wide variety of activities, or they’ve been over-protective, thereby not allowing them to engage their natural curiosity that would normally happen with free play.
b. They either engage in activities that adversely affect their focus, such as watching television or playing  addictive video games , or becoming addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, or they don’t engage in activities that help keep them focused on their goals.
c. They lack discipline to reach their ultimate goals. Young people today appear to want everything NOW, but they don’t want to put any effort into getting it.
If they can set practical goals, stay focused on those goals, establish a plan to achieve the goals, and have the discipline to work towards them, then they can succeed in reaching them. It won’t be NOW, but, with this technique, it’ll be MUCH sooner than any of their peers who don’t use it.

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Your book contains many valuable lessons that others can learn from, for example, your mantra that the “Meaning of Life is to live a Life with Meaning”.  What, in your own mind, was the most valuable lesson you learnt from your life experiences so far?

Aside from the “setting goals, remaining focused, and having the discipline to finish” technique I’ve described above, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is this: Be kind to others, and be an optimist.

Although you live in the USA, is your book available to purchase overseas?

My book is available all around the world via online book stores.

Are you looking at writing other books in the future?  What topics would you like to cover?

I am currently working on a fiction series. They’ll be action-adventure centered around the small town in which I currently reside. The main character is a young woman whose capabilities and talents substantially reflect my own.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

My favorite genre of books to read is action-adventure. My most favorite author is Clive Cussler (Raise the Titanic, Sahara, etc.). I enjoy all of his books. Next, would be Dan Brown’s writings (DaVinci Code, Angels & Demons, etc.). Following those, it would be murder mysteries by authors such as Margaret Truman (Murder at the Pentagon, Murder in the Smithsonian, etc.)

You have travelled widely, including spending time in Hawaii and California, among other places. Where was your favourite place to visit and why?  What place is at the top of your “Must See” travel bucket list?

Although I may have traveled more than many, I wouldn’t say that I’ve “traveled widely”. Of those places to which I have traveled, I’m particularly enamored by the Hawaiian island of Kauai – the “Garden Island”. For peoples’ bucket-lists, I highly recommend that they hike the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapiai Beach – what I call “the perfect beach”, at least once.

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Being a professional photographer, what genre of photography excites you the most?  Any photography genre you would like to try that you have little or no experience of, as yet?

My favorite genres of photography would be landscape/scenic photography, and model photography with emphasis on pinup and boudoir. These offer incredible levels of creativity, and often produce some of the most stunning images. There is no type of photography that I want to do that I haven’t already done.

When you’re not writing, what hobbies/ past times do you enjoy nowadays?

I especially enjoy reading to relax, but for a creative outlet I love doing photography on personal projects, and tinkering with fun electronic circuits of my own design.

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

 I’m not exactly what you’d call a “fashionista”. At my studio, you’ll most often find me in jeans, a polo shirt, and sneakers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

 As my wardrobe is pretty basic, I’ll just get my clothes wherever they’re the cheapest. Also, I have never purchased clothing for myself online, so, no; I don’t have any favorite online sites for that.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wishlist?

At this time, clothing and shoes are purely utilitarian to me. As such, until it becomes permanently stained, torn, or otherwise unwearable, I have no list from which to wish.

Boots or Shoes?

Except for a brief period in my early teens when I’d worn Wellington boots because their heels gave me added height that I didn’t otherwise have, the only boots I’ll wear these days are for snow in the winter. Therefore, boots or shoes? I’ll go with shoes.

Links you would like to share:

I’ve listed several links of interest related to my book, below:

Book Website: http://www.essentialprimerbook.com
Book Trailer Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_93J86AcEfc
Book Author Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auYOjEf7kYA
Book Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/EssentialFanPage

Thanks Bob for joining me on the blog today – you’ve given us much food for thought. I’m a great believer in free play – as a youngster growing up in the 1970s, it was what we did even though I was brought up in East London.  Today, living in a rural area, it gives me great delight to see my sons outdoors playing whatever the weather and they do balance their love of the outdoors with a love for computers too – as 21st century kids seem to do effortlessly!  Biking, den building and being an intrepid explorer were my favourite games (Sindy dolls went it rained!) as a young girl –  Dear readers, what activities did you enjoy as a youngster?  Did you enjoy free play? Do tell!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Bob Trautman.

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Notes From A Very Small Island

Have you ever visited and fallen in love with a place whilst on holiday so far removed from your life at home? Would you upsticks and move to that idyllic place on a permanent basis?  Well, my guest and his wife did just that over 20 years ago! Please welcome onto the blog my guest, author Anthony Stancomb – Anthony & his wife discovered the beautiful Croatian island of Vis over 20 years ago, and decided to move there from the UK.  Following his best seller novel “Under A Croatian Sun”, Anthony has written a sequel “Notes From A Very Small Island”.  These novels mirror his own life on Vis …. And  after  reading the hilarious yet thought provoking stories, I couldn’t wait to catch up with Anthony to find out more ….

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Hi! I’m Anthony Stancomb.   I’m a retired art dealer who now writes books about life on the Croatian island I live on.

“Notes From A Very Small Island” is the sequel to your best seller, “Under A Croatian Sun”…. a continuation of the story of a British couple who are attempting to integrate into a rustic Croatian community, whilst the local population are attempting to handle its newfound EU membership. So what gave you the inspiration to write these novels?

I never thought of writing until after the first year when I realised that island life was so bizarre and so full of extraordinary goings on, that it was material for a book.

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The book is fun, humorous and yet it does provide a sobering food for thought for those looking at upping sticks and moving to a rustic community abroad that is vastly different from their homeland. The tale itself is full of the joys of living – the feasts, wine making & budding romances – but does feature sorrow, hardships, local politics & government red tape. What 3 main pieces of advice would you give to somebody looking at making such a move?

It’s important that : 

  1. You mix well with people.
  2. You don’t expect life to go on as it did at home.
  3. You need to find a place that inspires you.

As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I loved GA Henty and books of derring do! Now I read a lot of memoirs and travel writing such as William Dalrymple, but I still read many of the great new novels. It’s a wonder that we never seem to stop producing the most amazing pieces of literature that astound the world.

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You discovered the Croatian Island of Vis over 20 years ago and moved there permanently with your wife. What attracted you to Croatia, and specifically the island of Vis?

My wife, although born and brought up in South America, is Croatian by blood, but most of all, the island is one of the most unspoiled and beautiful places in the Mediterranean.

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As much as you like writing  travel books, is there any genre you would like to dabble in that you haven’t yet tried?

I am working on the bones of a novel that traces the life of an island family over four generations.

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You have worked in film & TV for many years as well as running your own business promoting British artists to galleries abroad and now you are a successful author – so, when you’re not writing what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I love DIY, boating, swimming, reading, and talking a lot!

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

All year round I wear shirts with collars and trousers that have pockets. My shoes are always lace-ups unless I’m wearing sandals on boats or beaches.

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon for books! I don’t really buy anything else except food and drink.

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

I will need one more pair of black shoes this coming year, as my one pair is disintegrating, and maybe in the following year I will have worn through my pair of blue corduroys and will have to replace them. (I will probably spill paint on my brown pair of chino’s at some point, so I’ll most likely be replacing those with another)!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots aren’t really me. I’m more like Alec Guinness playing the British Consul in crumpled linen and a panama hat.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your books.

www.anthonystancomb.com

Thank you so much for joining me on the blog, Anthony – your little Croatian Island looks breathtakingly stunning and I look forward to visiting Croatia in the future!  So dear readers,  have you visited anywhere that was your little piece of paradise?  Would you leave your homeland and start elsewhere anew?  Where would you go? Or have you done the same as Anthony?  Please do tell – I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Anthony Stancomb.

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The Life Negroni

Few cocktails have achieved cult status – but Negroni is one of them – probably due to its stylish Italian association, seductive taste and its fascinating history.  This week on the blog, I’m honoured to welcome Leigh and Nargess Banks, authors of the fabulous book “The Life Negroni”.  This book uniquely delves not only into the history of the Negroni, but also gives tips on composing the classic Negroni and the culture that surrounds the Negroni cocktail.  So grab yourself a Negroni and read on….

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Hi! We are Leigh and Nargess Banks and The Life Negroni is our first husband and wife team work! Leigh is a design and branding expert, working alongside companies around the world through Spinach (Spinachdesign.com) forming unique brand identities. He specialises in food & drink culture, luxury lifestyle and has worked with a wide range of companies from financiers, to boutique bars and restaurants, and fashion labels. I’m a writer of design, a cultural critic and founder of Design Talks (d-talks.com) making a living as a journalist, author and luxury brand specialist for publications including Wallpaper* and Esquire. I’m passionate about all things creative – be it art & design, cars & car culture, food and increasingly, cocktails!

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Your excellent book, The Life Negroni, published by Spinach Publishing offers an unique perspective on the cult cocktail Negroni. What inspired you to write your book on this iconic cocktail?

It all happened one hot summer’s night in Formentera. Intrigued by the sight of a deep red cocktail in a cool bar on this paradise Spanish island, we asked the bartender for the name. ‘The Negroni,’ he smiled as we watched him expertly combined sweet vermouth, bitters and gin over ice cubes, adding a juicy wedge of orange. The colour was intoxicating, as was that first taste. We immediately fell in love with the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, the challenging first note, the botanical aromas that followed… On our return to London, we began researching this drink, its history, its composition, the world that it inhabits. Each bar we visited and every aficionado we encountered – and there were many – unravelled further intrigue. We saw that the Negroni represents far more than a drink. The cocktail expresses a time in history… call it liquid history. It tells the story of architecture and design, of art and aesthetics, of fashion, of passion and free spirits.… And so The Life Negroni journey begun…

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Your book is very thorough and leaves no stone unturned – delving into the cocktail’s history, its ingredients, tips on how to compose the classic Negroni, interviews from aficionados and hotels/bars from around the world that champion the cocktail – accompanied by stunning photography. Was it hard to compile a book of this nature? Have you got a favourite part or chapter that you really enjoyed writing/researching?

Our mission from the start was for it to be completely unique to us, to be authentic, meaning we had to meet, visit and photograph, where possible, all the people and places mentioned in the book. We wanted to sample all the drinks, taste all the food we document. This was at the very heart of our project and something we are passionate about. So yes it did take just over a year to research, write and edit the book as we had to fit it into our other work commitments. It was, however, a hugely rewarding and enjoyable journey that took us to distilleries and bars around Italy, France, the US and in London where we met with some incredibly passionate and talented people. We hope the sense of adventure and discovery comes through the pages.

Do I have a favourite chapter? I love art and design and to be taken behind the scenes at the Campari headquarters in Milan to see the most incredible collection of Italian Futurist art work was behind thrilling… That said we are both crazy about road trips and our research for the ‘Negroni Grand Tour’ was pretty special especially behind the wheels of the stunning Bentley Continental GT convertible.

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How many cocktails did you have to sample as part of the research for the book?!

Ha! Too many to disclose 🙂

Spoilsport! 😛 OK then, so out of all the bars/hotels which was your favourite spot to enjoy a Negroni and why?

It is difficult to say as each and every bar we mention in the book offers a unique experience. For instance the bar at the St Regis Hotel in Florence, formally the Grand Hotel, is where, allegedly, the Negroni was first made popular in the 1920s so the experience is unique to the location. But then Bulgari Hotel Milano cocktails are perfection, Agostino Perrone makes a delicious Negroni at the Connaught in London, as does Aaron von Rock at the Lincoln Centre in New York (where our reporter got so excited she did a head stand!), and Frank Boxer creates fantastically simple ones at Frank’s Cafe & Campari Bar, the hip summer pop up in Peckham Rye car park. We suggest trying them all!

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Are you planning to write any more coffee table style books in the future?

Oh yes! We have a whole series planned…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love human interaction! And as we live centrally in London, in Notting Hill, there are so many unique boutiques to browse through it leaves little time to shop online. I do, however, check out fashion blogs for inspiration, and in terms of following design trends worldwide, I am always online.

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

Our book is on sale from Spinach at Thelifenegroni.com, and we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Thelifenegroni where we post daily updates. Please #Thelifenegroni.

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Thank you Leigh & Nargess for the interesting chat.  I think this has to be the ultimate Valentines Day gift for your stylish sweetheart and a must have coffee table book for Negroni fans.  Who knew that a cocktail could be so interesting?! So dear readers, now that I’ve got your tastebuds going, tell me … What’s your all-time favourite cocktail? Have you got any cocktail based stories to tell? Where is your favourite cocktail bar? I’d love to know, so comment below!

Until next time, ciao! 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Leigh & Nargress Banks.

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An Interview With Shaman John Norseman

According to the Washington Post, in a recent survey, more than 60% of people in over 40 countries are unhappy and unengaged with their current occupations.  The start of a New Year is a good time to reevaluate your life, learning valuable lessons such as walking away from all negativity.  So it is with great pleasure that I welcome onto the blog today my guest, John Norseman, who after 20 years in the business world, including being CEO of 4 major companies, decided in 2009 to leave the corporate high rises for the spiritual life of a shaman. Hi John, and welcome….

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Hi! ​My name is John Norseman, author of “Journey of a Shaman.” I was CEO of four major companies and lived in many countries. During that time I developed strong leadership and communication skills among people of many different cultures including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Spain, France, Italy, the Azores, as well, of course, my native UK.

Congratulations on publishing your book, “Journey of a Shaman” – a motivational autobiography detailing your life journey as a former businessman to becoming spiritually attuned to the Earth and life as a Shaman. What was the turning point or inspiration that made you put pen to paper and write your biographical journey?

I was guided by Spirit five years ago to write the book, which is the totally true story of my journey through life with all its ups and downs as a practical, inspirational, motivational and self-help guide to help people change their lives to be what they want them to be. During the extended writing period Spirit put in my path various people of all ages and backgrounds who convinced me that this book should be written as the content I shared with them immediately helped them in a practical way. It inspired me to finish the book knowing that it would help a very large number of people.

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Your book shares life experiences with civil rights, friendship, love, death and finding your place within the world. Having been CEO in 4 major companies, what made you decide to leave the corporate world for the spiritual life of a Shaman?

The process of making a life changing decision generally occurs over a period of time and my decision was no exception. A key driving force in my corporate career had been to re-establish my self-confidence by earning the esteem of others. Throughout my career I had been aware that I was a practical intuitive but had never acknowledged those abilities. It coincided with two things which were achieving professionally and financially all I had wanted to achieve in my corporate life and deciding to find fulfilment in my personal life by ending an unhappy marriage and starting a new happy marriage. We started a small business and it was from that point at the age of 51 in 1992 that I started to expand my spiritual awareness that eventually led to my becoming a full time practicing Shaman in 2007 when we retired after selling our business. After that I was free to operate as a full-time Shaman providing Spiritual Healing, Spiritual Guidance and Spiritual Teaching.

Your book contains many valuable lessons that others can learn from, for example, “walk away from all negativity” and that “dreams and determination can help you achieve the impossible”. What in your own mind, was the most valuable lesson you learnt from your life experiences so far?

Unconditional true love at all levels is the most powerful force for good in the Universe. Few would dispute that it would indeed be a happier, more content, better world if people put more love into the world than exists today.

Although you live in the UK, is your book available to purchase overseas?

Yes, it has been available to purchase in the USA, Canada and the UK since July 1, 2015. It is available from Amazon, Google, Balboa Press, and other suppliers. In due course it will be available in all English speaking countries. Since June 18, I have been in the USA and Canada on a 6-month book tour and returned to the UK in December.

Are you looking at writing other books in the future? What topics would you like to cover?

Spirit guided me to write “Journey of a Shaman” in order to inspire, motivate and offer self-help to as many people as possible to help them find themselves, achieve fulfilment and peace of mind. I am now guided to focus upon spreading the messages contained in that book while still being a practicing Shaman. Therefore, at the present time I have no plans to write another book. It may well be that at some point in the future Spirit will guide me to write other books and if so, the topics would be revealed to me at that time.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I enjoy reading books that expand my spiritual awareness. One of my favourite books is “Power vs Force” by Dr Hawkins and is a book I refer to continuously in my work as a Shaman. I also read a book by Shakuntala Modi called “Remarkable Healings” which greatly impressed me with its content.

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During your lifetime you have lived and travelled throughout the world. Where in the world have you visited that most surpassed your expectations? Where have you visited that left you feeling slightly disappointed or not up to what you imagined?

New Zealand most surpassed my expectations, partly because of the stunning scenery and partly because meeting Maoris whom expanded my spiritual awareness. The place that left me feeling slightly disappointed were the Cape Verde Islands which I visited as a refuelling stopover while crossing the Atlantic in my own boat. In the past the Cape Verde Islands were owned by Portugal but are now fending for themselves. There is great poverty and the Islands show adverse effects of climate change. Verde means green and the islands are now brown and very dusty.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you some book or spiritual inspiration, which place would you love to venture to and why?

I do not have any preconception. One of the important lessons I had to learn on my journey through life, was to follow my heart instead of my head. I learned to hear the guidance of Spirit, to go with the flow and to recognise that if a door was closed I was not meant to go through it. Therefore I know that when it is perfect time to visit a place in the world that will give me inspiration that I need, my heart will tell me. Because I have travelled the world on business, I am most content at home in Cornwall, England.

When you are not writing, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

Boating has always been my favourite hobby, particularly on the open sea. I also enjoy walking on long sandy beaches and cliff tops overlooking the ocean. I find tranquillity and beauty in untamed environments and a real need to be close to water.

Personal Now – What outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Having experienced a long and active life, I need to begin by describing what I wore during my teenage and early twenties years. The “swinging sixties,” rock-and-roll and fun clothing. I was very much a “dedicated follower of fashion” and my favourite pastime was rock and roll dancing. My favourite shoes were silver crocodile skin winkle-pickers with Cuban heels. The latter being somewhat unnecessary as I stand 6’ 2” tall in my bare feet! However the shoes went well with my flared trousers, wide belt with large buckle, ruffled shirt and stylish jacket with high collar, square shoulders and wide lapels. In those days I weighed only 133 lbs and so carried off my peacock attire quite well! In my business years I wore Saville Row suits, a Burberry raincoat and Church’s shoes which were all exceptional quality and in keeping with being a CEO! In my leisure time in those years, I wore chinos and casual shirts. Once retired from 2007, I generally wear Lacoste polo shirts in a wide range of colours, Paul & Shark shirts and sweaters with German cotton trousers and deck shoes. I also now have long hair which I wear in a plait. It was a great relief at retiring at age 66 to declare that I would not have my hair cut again especially when crossing the Atlantic Ocean in my own boat!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

No but my wife does! I am very driven by the products I like and buy them from retail shops where I can try them on. The shop I like best in Cornwall is Trevails in Truro, the capital of Cornwall. Trevails has a men’s department which has good clothing.

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

My love of walking in rugged conditions means that I need sturdy shoes that fit my wide feet and last more than a couple of months! I have found that Hotter shoes, which are handmade, serve that purpose and I shall soon stock up for the winter!

Boots or shoes?

When I was younger I enjoyed wearing ankle boots and Chelsea boots. My current lifestyle has led me towards sturdy shoes for comfort, walking and several smart pairs of shoes for formal occasions.

For more information and to purchase a copy of “Journey of a Shaman,” please visit www.JohnNorseman.com. 

The other website/social media sites are:
http://www.johnnorseman.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Journey-of-a-Shaman-459677624224944/timeline/
https://twitter.com/JohnNorseman

Thank you John for a fascinating interview – a brilliant start to kick off the New Year.  I never tire of hearing travel stories – it’s sad what is happening on Cape Verde Islands but hopefully tourism would help to ease the poverty and bring awareness of climatic change in real terms.  A friend of mine who visited the islands was similarly disappointed.  Dear readers, tell me your travel stories – what places pleasantly surprised you and what places didn’t quite meet up to what you had expected/anticipated! Do share!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of John Norseman.

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Let’s Chat Whiskey!

I’m pleased to welcome back onto the blog, wine connoisseur Richard Betts, who wowed me back in April with his fabulous “scratch ‘n’ sniff” guide to wine ( read that interview HERE). Richard has had a busy summer and has got together another fab guide but this time we’re chatting whiskey! Hi Richard … I know you, but for any new blog readers, could you please reintroduce yourself?

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Hi! I’m Richard Betts, I’m a winemaker, author, master sommelier and mezcalero. I make wine in Australia under the banner of “An Approach to Relaxation” and in France where it’s called “My Essential”.  The mezcal we make in Oaxaca, Mexico is called “Sombra” and it will make you smile. I spend about 300 days a year on the road making and selling and am the luckiest kid around.

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Following on from your excellent Scratch & Sniff Wine Book, you have just released your whiskey version, The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide To Becoming A Whiskey Know-it-All. So, what inspired you to turn your attention to whiskey?

Well first of all, I really like drinking the stuff! I also really like making people happy and while there is a ton of enthusiasm around whiskey there is also a lot of room to make it easier to understand and enjoy. Plus, our methodology of dissecting a topic, making it clear and then allowing the reader to reassemble the pieces they like to arrive at the drink that will make them happy works really well here. That’s the magic, everyone’s taste is unique and giving people the road map to their individual tastes is such a fun thing to share.

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Helping would-be whiskey connoisseurs to learn their personal preferences by using a mixture of facts, humorous illustrations and scratch & sniff scents – this book has already received rave reviews … I spotted Sir Richard Branson amongst them. Was it harder to compile this book than the wine version or about the same?

It was definitely different because I wanted, in fact needed, to relearn everything. There was a point in time many years ago when I passed the Master Sommelier exam and all of that knowledge was really fresh. Of course you begin forgetting all of those facts the very next day :). So, I started from scratch and relearned it all which was very fun but it also puts you in the frame of mind of the novice which is very useful when your ambition is to explain something in an accessible way.

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How many whiskeys did you have to sample as part of the research for the book?

We tasted nearly 500 of them – all blind (as in, we didn’t know what they were when we tasted them so we would be candid!) This was actually physically really hard but also really interesting and it took up all of last summer.

Do you have a favourite whiskey? Any whiskey that didn’t tickle your fancy?

I love Japanese Whisky as a category and Scotch from the Islands takes a close second place. Favorites in there include Hakushu 12yr and Laphroaig 18yr.

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Your books cover whiskeys from around the world – what place surprised you most by having actually a decent whiskey?

I was really impressed with Irish Whiskey actually. It is dominated by a few big brands but if we dig just a little there are actually a whole bunch of small, interesting drinks such as Red Breast and Connemara.

Are you planning any more scratch & sniff style guides in the future?

Indeed! We’ve got a couple ideas – including a potentially somewhat scandalous one – that we’re considering.

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

The best place to start is yobetts.com and you can go everywhere from there. I’m also yobetts at everything – twitter, instagram, fb

It’s been brill to have you back on the blog, Richard – wine is more my drink but I am not adverse to whiskey!  So, dear readers, what drinks do you think would make a good “scratch & sniff” guide? Gins,? Vodkas? Tea? Coffee? Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Richard Betts.

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An Interview With Author Suresh Purushothaman

I’m brimming over with positivity this week – I’ve come across a lovely motivational book that contains short yet uplifting phrases that the author hopes would inspire readers to live a happier and more meaningful life.  I caught up with the author, Suresh Purushothaman, recently to discover what motivates and inspires him….

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Hello everyone, my name is Suresh Purushothaman, author of the new book, “Being In Oneness”. I live in London with my wife and son. I was born in Pondicherry, which was previously a French colony in South India.

Congratulations on publishing your book, “Being In Oneness” – a motivational book containing uplifting short phrases to inspire readers to live a happier and more meaningful life. Where did you get inspiration from to write this little book of positive affirmations &
quotes?

I always venture deep into the consciousness to get my inspiration. I can also say why I wrote this book. I wrote to share my deep thoughts on life and happiness with everyone. I want to keep it short and simple, so people can read quickly and ponder over the thoughts to find their own meaning of life and true happiness. I decided to write and finish my little book when I was facing a possible medical scare. I know that things like that can happen to anyone anytime, so I can also say my medical scare pushed me to complete this book.

Your book focuses on themes such as success, achievement, life, happiness, fear, etc. The book, however, has no chapters – so you can just dip in; and is not meant to be a formula for life; simply signposts you can use in your journey of life. Being born and brought up in
Pondicherry, India and having lived the last 16 years in London; which short phrases or inspirational thoughts helped you when you relocated to London, which must have been daunting for you?

London is a great place to live, but I have had to start from scratch. I lost financially before I started a new life in London. So I can say this thought is my famous one: “ Never wish to have anything in your past back, even if you lost a fortune. The beautiful connections of life will reveal numerous opportunities as you step into the future: Be guided by your oneness, your soul. And help it to open up new beginnings”.

“Love and life are so interlinked that one cannot live without the other. Start loving yourself and others; and life will start loving you” – that is just one of my favourite phrases that I read from your book. Have you got a favourite saying/phrase?

I also like the phrase you chose because it sums up everything for you about life and love. If you are asking my favourite phrase, it’s
“Live a life of happiness within you first; it will then radiate to cover the universe.”

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Your powerful words are enhanced on Kindle versions by beautiful photography which helps to assist the reader to reflect on their thoughts – which is a glorious bonus. The pocket sized book can be carried easily & provide an opportunity to dip into it on a regular basis.
Although you are based in London, is your book available to purchase overseas?

Yes, I decided to have pictures in the Kindle version, so readers can take time out to think on the thoughts and see how they can apply in their everyday life. You can buy my book on Amazon – it should cover the world.

If you had to write a book in a different genre from “Being In Oneness”, what genre would you pick?

I would have picked  “Leadership skills through the application of oneness”.

Are you looking at writing other books in the future? What topics would you like to cover?

The next book I am planning is the application of oneness in leadership, which can create great leaders who can inspire and motivate others for a bigger and better cause naturally as opposed to the coercive nature of modern management skills.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I like books on happiness, life and leadership. My favourite authors are Dale Carnegie and Dalai Lama.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you some book inspiration, which place would you love to venture to & why?

I would like to visit places where people are happy in the midst of poverty and war and want to see what makes them happy and content.

When you’re not writing, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I love watching news and debates. I love going with my wife for weekly shopping and doing a little house work for my wife.

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

Normally you can find me in tee shirts, cotton trousers and sneakers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I normally shop on Amazon. I like their price, delivery and customer service.
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What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I am planning to buy a pair of shoes.

Boots or Shoes?

I always prefer shoes; they are more fitting to my style.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

www.beinginoneness.com
https://www.facebook.com/beinginoneness
https://twitter.com/beinginoneness

http://www.amazon.com/BeingInOneness/dp/0993313701

Thank you so much for speaking to us Suresh and sharing with us your positive and inspiring thoughts.   So, dear readers, what makes you happy? Have you any tips or phrases to share? Do tell, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Suresh Purushothaman.

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Working From Home – Sewing

I’m heading Down Under this week to speak to the lovely Joy who has written a brilliant e-book aimed at stay at home mums who want to start their own sewing business from home.  Surrounded by business since she was a small child, Joy offers a wealth of information and  practical advice.  I was also taken with her “folded book art” business, so I had plenty of questions to ask!  Welcome Joy….

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Hi! My name is Joy, I live in Australia, I am a mum, wife, writer and freelancer, thanks for having me.​

Congratulations on publishing your e-book about starting your own sewing business from home. Where did you get inspiration from to write this e-book? Who do you hope to inspire?

I wrote the book to help stay at home mums that are feeling deflated from “just being a mum” – I know the feeling all too well and I think the only thing that kept me sane was having something on the side to make me feel valued. This isn’t your million dollar income, though it could be, it’s more about providing a little more income without added stress.​

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You’ve been surrounded by business ventures in one way or another since you were young. Growing up, was your career aspirations business orientated or art orientated or did your dreams follow a different path?

Growing up my Dad worked for himself at markets and fairs so I was exposed to that life from about 3-4 years of age.  I enjoyed it.  I have always been entrepreneurial. My mum always said I could be anything I wanted when I grew up and I believed it. This led to me being 28 and having no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I decided not to grow up, and keep with my folded book art but share more of my knowledge.​

As I’m somebody who cannot knit or crochet and can barely sew despite 3 years of needlework lessons at school, I really am in awe of you! Do you find sewing/ craftwork therapeutic?

I personally am like you, I can do little more than basic alterations, I was working with a client to set up her sewing business when the inspiration for the book came to me, that you don’t need to be an expert to make money sewing.​

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I was mesmerised by the fantastic folded book art featured on your website & shop. Did it take long to learn? Is it a craft talent handed down by generations?

I would like to say it was easy, but when I started about 7 years ago there wasn’t a lot of information available. I purchased a tutorial for a basic folding pattern and with trial and error learnt how to create my own patterns. It is still one of my biggest forms of income. I decided to start selling tutorials myself because I was getting a lot of interest from the US but $40 for shipping was a killer.​

Apart from the folded book art, you have also launched themed book jewellery. Sounds very fiddly to me! What pieces of jewellery or folded book art in general are your most popular sellers? Is there a difference in preference in Australia compared with, say the UK & USA?

The book jewellery is a bit fiddly, and it’s the only item I make in batches -the process of all the gluing is just too hard for single pendants. I have found that popular books make popular pendants. I am working with the Twilight series at the moment, and they are proving popular. Another of my best sellers is wedding confetti cones – in fact, this last weekend, I coiled and posted 250 of them to celebrate various weddings!

Are you looking at writing other e-books in the future? What topics would you like to cover?

I will be writing more books. I am following a business start up trend – things you need to know, getting started with wordpress – internet marketing is the umbrella genre.​

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

At the moment I am following author Dave Koziel, who is also an entrepreneur. I do like reading success stories and advice. I implement them and then write about how to model them for smaller businesses.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you art & craft or business inspiration, which place would you love to venture to & why?

Ooooh, such a tough question! I imagine doing a folded book art lesson in the castles of the UK or Europe would be amazing.​

When you’re not sewing, blogging or running your art & craft business, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

My internet business/entrepreneurial pursuits are my hobbies.  I love getting out there, learning the latest changes and helping others achieve their success. It’s a bit of a running joke in my household. I truly am earning doing what I love.​

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

Normally in jeans and a shirt, something comfortable. We have up to 5 children home at any one time and much more than this is just too impractical for me.​

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love vintage and used clothing so mostly I will purchase awesome finds on ebay or etsy.​

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

For the last 3 seasons I have not been able to find knee high boots I like  – they are still on the list and I guess since it is nearly Summer here they will need to wait until next season.​

Boots or Shoes?

I can’t make such a choice, it’s all about the heel! I am addicted to heels but I have no where to wear them.​

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you, your crafts & e-books.

Book art can be found at http://tintiara.com
​Small business advice and a link to Amazon for my book can be found at http://joyouscreature.com
Twitter @joyouscreature​

It’s been a total joy to speak to you and I wish you all the best in your business ventures.  I must say, your dream of holding folded book art lessons in a castle sounds good …. Thornbury Castle in South West England is now a hotel but it still has original features and lounges lined with bookshelves galore – I can imagine that being a good venue!  Any readers got any good ideas of the perfect location?  Do share, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Joy Ireland.

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Nightmares Are Made Of This

Adults should never underestimate the power of a child’s imagination – from clowns to parental lies about bogeymen or monsters who live under the bed in an effort to get your child to behave – these figments of imagination run riot in tiny minds!  Exploring the topic of parental lying, Singaporean author/illustrator Trivia Goh, has got together and published a collection of local lies commonly heard in Singapore and presented them in a book of gorgeous illustrations and light hearted rhymes.  Nightmares are never far from anybody’s mind during spooky Halloween week, so I caught up with the delightful Trivia to find out more …… 

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Hi! I’m Trivia Goh, a 24-year-old artist, illustrator and designer based in Singapore. I studied at the School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, majoring in Visual  Communications. Currently, I’m working towards my dream of living off my art.

Congratulations on publishing your book, “Nightmares Are Made Of This” – a children’s book for adults, touching upon the topic of parental lying; the lies parents tell their children to get them to behave as desired! Where did you get inspiration from to write this passionate book?

Thank you very much! The inspiration stemmed from the culture here in Singapore, where, every so often you’ll catch wind of a parent telling scary lies to their kids to get them to stop crying, to stop running, to stop talking…it is all very instrumental and the stories they come up with are incredible. (I have to give them that!). Some stories are passed down for generations while others are just made up on the spot to instill that momentary fear. I like my works to be meaningful so I decided to illustrate these dark stories for parents to better see what kind of imagery they are putting into their childrens’ head and henceforth be more mindful of their words.

 

 

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As well as being published author, you are also an accomplished illustrator too. Growing up, were your career aspirations writing or art based or did your dreams follow a different path?

When I was growing up I thought I’d be an artist. But somewhere along the way I got caught up with all the expectations to get a “real” job. So I allowed myself to go down a more commercial path of a designer. But I think I’m back on track now!

Your book contains a collection of local lies that are commonly heard in Singapore, presented with illustrations and light hearted rhymes. What was the lie most used on you as a youngster growing up in Singapore? What’s the funniest, oddest or your favourite “lie” in the book?

The one about the watermelon seeds! My mum used to tell me not to eat watermelon seeds otherwise they’d grow a watermelon in my tummy. I always thought to myself that the seeds are germinating in the tummies of those who ate the seeds. The oddest lie in the book has got to be the one where parents tell their children not to pick their nose because there’s a fanged worm in there and it will bite their finger if they do. It took a while to figure out how the illustration would be like if they do and the whole time I was thinking that is such an odd thing to say!

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Your book though is meant to be educational for adults – to make parents aware and be mindful of their interactions with the young ones and not to under estimate the power of a child’s imagination. Although you are based in Singapore, is your book available to purchase overseas? Do you offer a digital format (eg Kindle) as well as the giant sized book and smaller sized version?

Yes the small sized graphic novel ( 20mmx 80mm) is currently available online on my website, at My Imagination Kingdom (an independent bookstore) and soon it will be up on the shelves of Kinokuniya. I felt the need to get this out there to the world and not just in Singapore. The giant book is making an appearance again at My Imagination Kingdom at a meet the author session and I’m looking to make it available for sale in future.

If you had to write a book in a different genre from “Nightmares Are Made Of This”, what genre would you pick?

I’d pick children fiction and fantasy. Those books are precious precious gems. I once read a children’s picture book about picking stars and I learnt a whole lot more on how to grow as a human being from that book than any adult self-help book I’ve ever read. When we create the impossible things, we inspire people to do the impossible.

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Are you looking at writing other books in the future? What topics would you like to cover?

I’m looking at a part 2 for Nightmares Are Made of This, and this time with contribution of parental lies from people all over the world. (I’ll make an announcement on my Facebook page  when this will be in time). For now, I’m focusing on illustrating and I will be compiling my works into little books on a regular basis. I’d like to cover topics that seem very trivial but matter a lot. It is how it is with little things.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I like reading fantasy and fiction. My current favourite is The North Star by Peter H Reynolds. My usual reads include JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you some book/illustration inspiration, which place would you love to venture to & why?

Gruyères, Switzerland! To visit the Giger Museum! H.R Giger, Tim Burton and Edward Gorey are great inspirations I live by.

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When you’re not writing and illustrating, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I like to watch movies. The romantic comedies, fantasy films and animations provide a very good form of momentary escapism and that really brings fresh perspective to things.

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

Denim shorts and baggy shirt with plain black flats – they go with everything! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Yep! I frequent postsecret.com & iwrotethisforyou.me – to feel human.

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

A blue grey bridesmaid dress. A friend of mine is getting married in November!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. Adds a little edginess!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

My Website : www.trivialities.com.sg

My fb page : https://www.facebook.com/trivialities.sg

Meet the author session event pg:
https://www.facebook.com/events/ 82549393434355 /

My instagram : @trivialities

Thank you Trivia for taking time out to chat to us about your wonderful book and illustrations. A lot of people I know find clowns scary, but for me it’s the humble cow … no particular reason why… so what gives you goosebumps dear readers? Do share your secrets!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Trivia Goh.

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An Interview With Author Anita Dennis

I do like a true life love story that beats all the odds and features a prince! Well, my guest this week, US author Anita Dennis, has a story worth telling for she fell in love and married the professor of her college anthropology class who just happened to be the chief of the Mende tribe in Liberia, West Africa. Apart from coping with racism, Anita had to adapt to experiencing a different culture too. When her husband died, Anita penned a memoir of their time together – “Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl & The African Chief” – travelling around Africa, meeting presidents, sleeping in mud huts…. and I’m so pleased to welcome Anita onto the blog to find out more about her transcontinental life and marriage…image

Hi! I’m Anita. I’m a Christian white woman who grew up on an Ohio farm. In my childhood, I wanted to be a writer, but felt I had nothing to write about. Little did I dream that I’d one day I’d have adventures most people can only imagine. Marrying my anthropology professor took me to remote villages upcountry in Liberia, West Africa, where I was the “chief’s wife.” The year I lived in my husband’s father’s village was the most challenging. I ate elephant meat, faced strange insects, participated in my son’s secret Poro society graduation, and served God as a lay missionary.

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I was lucky enough to read a preview copy, thank you, of your latest book, “Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and The African Chief” – a memoir penned by yourself after your husband died, about your extraordinary life together. It is a memoir full of love, life, hardship and adventure. So when you first met your husband, Dr Ben Dennis, professor of your college Anthropology class what were your first thoughts when you found out he also happened to be chief of the Mende tribe in Liberia?

I first noticed the tribal marks on his cheeks, which gave him a distinctive look. The minute he spoke, I knew he was a foreigner because of his strong accent. I was curious when he told me he was an African. It wasn’t a problem until I fell in love with him, since I couldn’t imagine living in Africa! He reassured me that his life and work were in America. And at that time, he wasn’t thinking of going back. I was crazy in love and believed him.

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Was it easy being accepted into the Mende tribe? How difficult was it to adapt to the African ways as opposed to what you was used to in the USA?

I experienced culture shock during my first trip to Vahun, my husband’s father’s village. In fact, upon our return to Michigan, I wanted to divorce him. I had seen the other side of his life and I couldn’t imagine living in a mud hut. The Mende and Gbandi tribes, on the other hand, were very welcoming. The Mende people told me, “We don’t look at a person’s skin; we look at their heart.” On my first trip to Vahun, I was accepted into the Mende tribe and renamed “Baindu” during a 3-day ceremony. I slept on a traditional mud bed in a conical hut only briefly. We stayed at the commissioner’s mud-block house, which had concrete-plastered walls and a galvanized zinc roof. There we slept in a wooden bed with a Western-style mattress. The relationship among Mende brothers rattled me the most, because I was considered their wife as well! When my brother-in-law said he was going to sleep with me that night, I was shocked. Later, I was extremely relieved and thankful it was a Mende joke!

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As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I loved adventure books as a child because I wanted more than anything to escape the farm and see the big world out there. I now enjoy Christian books that give me encouragement. I love reading the Bible because it keeps me connected to Jesus, my Saviour.

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You also served as a lay missionary whilst in Liberia in the 80s. What changes to the country, if any, did you witness from when you was in the country in the 70s. Do you still visit Liberia?

Liberia experienced tremendous social change from the 70s to the 80s. With the new road over the Kamboi mountain range, the village of Vahun grew as more farm land was cleared and Mendes from Sierra Leone returned. The greatest change came in the military coup of 1980, when the indigenous tribes of Liberia rebelled against Americo-Liberian domination. Ironically, the Free Negroes and freed slaves who returned to Liberia before the Civil War, treated the sixteen tribes living there as they themselves had been treated in America. Because of my husband’s health and his death, I haven’t returned to Liberia since 1984. My sons intend to spread their father’s ashes in his Mende and Gbandi villages.

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Out of all the things you’ve experienced as a wife of a Liberian chief – what experience did you enjoy the most and what was nightmare experience?

I enjoyed the love and hospitality of the people. From the beginning, they welcomed me with open arms. When I suffered with hives, they were extremely concerned about me and worried about what they would tell my parents if anything happened to me.

The most difficult aspect of living in Vahun in 1983-84, was not being in control in a familiar environment. The house in the village we moved into had no kitchen or bathroom at first. We had no electricity or running water. The mosquitoes swarming around our heads as we slept there the first night panicked me. Later on, I could never seem to keep the kerosene refrigerator working. Every time things seemed calm, another challenge arose.

Hypothetically speaking, if Beyond Myself was made into a film, what actors would you pick to be the main characters of yourself and your husband?

That’s a fun question! A number of people have said my story would make a great movie. I think Eddie Murphy would be great for my husband and Julia Roberts with red hair for me – although I’m not as beautiful!

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

I live in Florida, the casual place! I wear capris and cute blouses, sandals. I love bright colors and follow “Color Me Beautiful” (from the 1980s) for those colors that look best with my skin and hair. I love earrings that match my blouses. Purses that match my shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have to admit I’m a shopaholic and mall temptations abound! I’m always looking for a blouse that’s one of my favorite colors, or a style or print that’s unique. I usually find something at Macy’s, Penny’s, or New York & Co. I’m 70, but I like a youthful look.

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

Anything that flatters me. I love to see the new fashions – what’s out there.

Boots or Shoes?

Living in Florida has made me a fashionable sandal woman. I only wear shoes when I go up North.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book

Website:
http://www.anitakdennis.com/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/anitakdennis

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/anitakdennis

Ah, Anita, thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of your memories and I wish you all the best with your book. Your book has kept me spellbound this summer and I highly recommend that readers should put it on their “must read” list! For me, having no electricity would be a nightmare – although no doubt I would’ve adapted, a case of having too!  What, dear readers, would you find hard to be without? I’d love to know! So, do tell!

Linda x

Photographs have been published with kind permission of Anita Dennis.

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Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe

This week I’m so excited to be talking to Canadian journalist & foreign correspondent, Heidi Kingstone… about her work, life, shoe passion and her fab book about her encounters when based in Kabul in 2007/2008 – “Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe”.  Hi Heidi…image

Hi!  My name is Heidi, and I’ve been a journalist all my life.  I have finally written my first book, Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, which is about expat life in Kabul, a place known as the ‘Kabubble’. I like to think of it as the Afghan version of the TV series Indian Summers. I spent 18-months living and working there and discovered an amazing world. The country is fantastically beautiful, and life is complex and difficult, a place where so many people have felt drawn in order to help, and Dispatches is about the adrenalin-fuelled excitement of living on the edge of someone else’s war. You don’t have to like politics, be interested in war or even Afghanistan. Dispatches is a series of stories, based fairly accurately on real-life, on things that happened to me or my friends, where you can find answers to questions like: Where can you buy 913 Kalashnikovs? How do you tell a friend her expat love is never coming back?What’s it like to date a mercenary?

Your book, Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe, published by Advance Editions, was launched in May 2015. It is based on your encounters and interviews with idealists, gunrunners, warlords, generals, power-brokers, fashionistas and ordinary women over a period of 4 years from 2007 when you lived and worked in Afghanistan. Described by many to be a travel book written in the style of traditional 19th/20th travel writers like Fielding, Sterne, Morris, Thesiger and Kinglake – and I agree, it is an armchair traveller’s literature delight! What or who inspired you to write your experiences in this way?

As usual, it was a series of events, triggered by my father, a psychiatrist, who suggested I write about daily life in Afghanistan. By this point, the world was suffering from information overload on the military and political front and on the tragedy of women’s lives, but there were still other aspects that I felt hadn’t been covered. Daily life in the ‘Kabubble’ fascinated me and rounded out the picture. As a result, the book grew organically into what it is, which is a series of vignettes based fairly accurately on real life. I wanted to write something atmospheric that gave the reader a sense of what it was like to be in this adrenalin-fuelled world where truth is stranger than fiction. Even though my book is nothing like his, I loved Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, which was about Vietnam during the French Indochina War in the 50s. It was a turbulent and historic period, and the louche expat scene of foreign correspondents, women, drugs and diplomacy was my inspiration. In The Karen Woo Story, you get some sense of that.

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During those years, you have witnessed women as heroines, as victims, as freeloaders, as rivals. The cast of characters in the book include Hasina, the revolutionary in Gucci sunglasses; and Ariana, who was desperate to leave Kabul and had high hopes that Brian could help her! I loved meeting these people via your book and didn’t envy your role at times (especially in Ariana’s case). Which person or incident proved most challenging or disturbed you the most?

It’s a tough call, but on balance I would say, Hasina, the girl with Gucci glasses. I liked her from the moment I met her, and she never ceased to impress me. I loved her unbound spirit and her intelligence, her openness, fearlessness, passion and honesty, her love of life and her commitment to making her country a better place, particularly for women. Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan, and women lead tough lives and challenging the system is a Herculean task. But she confounded all the stereotypes we have of Afghan women or certainly the view I had that all women were meek and mild and victimised. I loved the stories Hasina would share with me about her family and experiences, she opened a window onto another Afghanistan. She is part of that exciting new generation of Afghans who are educated, modern and worldly, who are impressive people, and would be wherever they were. I was sorry to lose touch with her, and I think of her often, especially the times we would sit at Flower Street Cafe together drinking coffee, which we both loved. We also talked under the pomegranate tree in the garden of the house I rented about life and love and curtains, and, of course, her Gucci glasses.

One reviewer said “only Heidi would wander around Kabul in stilettos and lip-gloss”. I like your style but I’m sure it was a case of head covering and baggy clothes for most of the time. Despite the hardships, rules and nature of Afghanistan – what are your fondest memories of the place?

That was a quote from my brilliant friend Kate Fox, who wrote Watching the English, and she’s right. I did wear baggy clothes and cover my head, wear lip-gloss and stilettos. Another friend nicknamed me Heidi High Heels because of my steely determination to wear nice shoes despite the mud and potholes and the virtually impossible task of walking in anything but flat, sturdy shoes. I have so many fantastic memories, and it was one of the reasons I wrote the book, to preserve and share them. Like most women, I covered my head, but the scarf was almost always loosely wrapped, and luckily there were beautiful scarves made by Afghan women, which I still have and cherish. I went to the north of the country and saw women, who were involved in a silk project, do everything from nurturing the worms to spinning the silk.

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I was blown away by how beautiful Afghanistan is, it is incredible, and one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen was Lake Band-e-Amir, the blue colour of the water, the jagged landscape, and walking through the ice-cold water which froze my bare feet. Particularly in the spring and summer, I would love to hear the sound of the ice cream man as he rang the bell and pushed his cart through the streets. And just like everywhere else, little kids would run out to buy ice lollies. I also loved to see the balloon sellers walking the streets. On one of the many times I went to Chicken Street, the main shopping drag in the capital, I sat with a carpet seller, who brought out a jar of raisins and nuts that had been marinated in a jar. He dug a spoon into the mixture and fed me a mouthful, it was delicious, unexpected, and I have to say, a little unnerving.

You have written for Britain’s leading publications covering assignments to do with disease & poverty from Mali to Sierra Leone; life in Darfur; and water wars between Palestine and Israel. You have written extensively about your travels in Iraq & Kurdistan, and you were commissioned by Canada’s National Post to write a 4 post series on the “Worst Places In The World”. Out of all the places you’ve visited, where was the worst place? And what place really surprised you and was better/ nicer than you had previously thought?

I only spent a few days in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it was magnificent. They say about the country that God gave it everything, diamonds, beauty, water, natural resources and more, but never peace.I fell in love with African masks in Rwanda and the DRC. DRC has a long and bloody history, yet it is such a beautiful country, with so much potential, which always seems to be the case – beauty and brutality. I remember wanting to photograph a woman who balanced a plastic container of odd shoes on her head. Her face had a hardness to it, and she turned away, making it clear she wanted me to stop. I understood her reaction, I would feel the same. Life is hard in places like Goma, and people are ingenious in finding ways to survive. I never forget how lucky I am to live in the UK and come from Canada. Certainly, our countries are far from perfect, but easier in terms of health care, education, standard of living, freedom, equality, tolerance – and peace and security.

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Growing up had you always had in mind to be a journalist/author/foreign correspondent or did you fantasise about being somebody completely different?

I started off wanting to be an archeologist as I have always been fascinated by different people and far off lands. Being a journalist combined my passion for telling stories about people and places, but it happened by pure serendipity. I went to see the editor of a magazine in Toronto about something totally unrelated and she asked me to write an article – on accessories – and I knew from the first word I wrote that I had found what I wanted to do. Over time, my career moved in the direction I had hoped it would.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

So many! Except for science fiction of which I am not a fan, I have fairly catholic tastes. I love novels because you can just get lost in them, but also read a lot of non-fiction. In both Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, I have finished the books wanting more and feeling as if I had made new friends. In a Suitable Boy I felt like I could just knock on the door of one of those houses and join in the with family. That was the effect I wanted with Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, that when you read it, you would feel as if you were living those experiences. I have been going through a long Indian writers phase, the books are incredibly powerful. It started with Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and subsequently Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. They are tragic, profound, and beautiful, and show how corrupt and evil people and governments can be.I also read a lot of books about Afghanistan – some of my favourites have been Frank Ledwidge’s Losing Small Wars, Rodric Braithwaite’s Afghansty and Sherard Cowper-Coles Cables from Kabul. I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein too. I can thank my mother who is excellent at recommending books for me to read.

Although you’ve been to quite a few places in the world – what place/country holds the top position on your bucket list now as the place you most would like to visit, either for work or pleasure? What has been your favourite destination visited so far?

I would hop on a plane to travel just about anywhere. I have always wanted to go to Antartica. I find its serene beauty compelling – and I love penguins. And the South Pacific, inspired by Paul Gaugin’s paintings. When I was growing up I always wanted to visit Burkino Faso, and attend the Ouagadougou film festival. Oscar Niemeyer is one of my favourite architects so Brasilia is on my list, too. Every time I go to a new country, I think I need to move there immediately. But Africa as a continent is where my heart is and southern Africa in particular. Out in the bush in Botswana, Namibia or South Africa would come top of my list. Being immersed in the landscape and watching the animals makes me happy and is possibly where I am most at peace. I’m not a very spiritual person but I feel something profound when I am there. My first trip was a remarkable five-day bush walk with my then boyfriend, who was South African, through the Umfolozi, led by Ian Player. He was a great conservationist who helped save the white rhino, and his trekker Mqubo. 

What are your 5 beauty, fashion or footwear essentials that you always pack with you from the UK when travelling to your assignments?

Flip flops are an essential, I never go anywhere without them. I am addicted to Havaianas. A pair of sunglasses because you never know when you are going to need to add that air of mystery or hide behind shades. They are always glamorous – and useful. I have learned to travel with jeans just in case the weather suddenly shifted. You can dress they up or down. I also bought a silk sleeping bag case in Vietnam that rolls up into a small ball. It’s light and came in very handy when I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Either a pashmina or large cotton scarf. 

One reviewer quoted that you had “an eye for beauty and fashion in the most unlikely places”. In your travels, what has surprised you most in beauty and fashion terms when compared to the UK/Canada?

In India, it is of course the colours, the jewellery and the architecture, which are extraordinary. The legendary editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, said ‘pink is the navy blue of India’, and when you are there your eyes drown in colour and you get lost in the vibrancy and the mixture of patterns that surround you….and there is no black. In southern Africa, it’s just the opposite. The earth tones calm me. I love the mud cloths and colours that blend into the landscape, and the geometric designs. 

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

I absolutely love the fashion this year, and amongst other things I am addicted to are jumpsuits – I have three – one in denim by Diesel, which I think is quite sexy as it’s fitted, a silk one by Joie that I bought in Dubai that is casual and elegant, and a more sophisticated one also by Joie, which is more grown up and good for day or evening. This winter I lived in Stuart Weiztman’s over the knee suede boots and McQueen’s high heeled ankle boots. My nude colour Louboutins see me through just about everything.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love mixing and matching from high-end to high street, which means that there are endless and enormous opportunities! I seem to go in phases and I love Joie, they seem to cut for my shape, which makes all the difference. There are a couple of shops locally that I go to, and then of course Selfridge’s as it’s sadly not too far from where I live. And so many more!

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

Every day I make the same vow: No more shopping. But it doesn’t last, and London is possibly the best place in the world to shop, good if you have discipline, not so good if you are a shopaholic. I bought a pair of mukluks a few years ago back in Toronto to wear in the winter and navigate the ice and snow. When I put them on I remember the sensation of such cosiness and luxury, I never realised shoes could be comfortable! There was a pair of black shoes that I saw a few times on celebrities in various magazines this season. They had an elegant high heel, a pointy toe, and three sexy straps that wrapped around the foot and ankle, and I absolutely loved them. As I was determined, with dubious success, to curtail my footwear intake I didn’t seek them out but I did make a mental pact with myself: If I ever saw them I would buy them. Like so many promises that we make to ourselves, it was hardly written In stone. So there I was in Vienna in June, taking in the sites between stops for Sacher Torte, Wiener Schnitzel and coffee with whipped cream, when I decided I needed some respite and I detoured into a side street near the famous Viennese landmark, St Stephen’s cathedral, where lo and behold there was a pretty unprepossessing shoe shop. With temperatures soaring above 30C degrees, and unable to resist temptation, I opened the shop door to a blast of cool air, and there, displayed on a plinth right in front of me, were the Gianvito Rossi shoes that I had lusted after. And, of course, not someone to break a promise, even if it was to myself, I tried them on. They were a perfect fit, possibly even comfortable, more fabulous in real life than on the pages of a glossy magazine, and in a moment Cinderella transformed into a princess.

Boots or Shoes? 

As I look in my cupboard and see all the boots and shoes that I love, it’s a tough choice. Boots can be incredibly sexy but if I had to choose I think it would have to be shoes. I’m a sucker for stilettos. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

www.HeidiKingstone.com

my Facebook page is Heidi Kingstone

Twitter @superlotuslane

instagram @superlotuslane

Thanks Heidi and I so love those new Gianvito Rossi shoes! Don’t know if I’d brave heels along pot holed streets but I certainly would rock the sunglasses and lipgloss look! Readers, where’s the strangest/unusual place you’ve worn heels? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  Heidi Kingstone; Mina Sharif 

 

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