Category Archives: Interview

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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An Interview With Janelle Soong

What do pharmacists really do? Some people view them as people who just dish out pills; but there is a lot more to the pharmacy world than that. Pharmacy graduate Janelle Soong has just written a book that explains what working in a pharmacy is really about as well as true anecdotes from pharmacy school. It really is a well written eye opener of a book and reading the book, I discovered the amount of work that the pharmacist does, their expertise is second to none, and I cringed at some of the stories too! I invited Janelle to join us on my blog to chat about her life as a pharmacy graduate, her likes & loves, and whether she has taken the title of author in her stride! Hi Janelle!

Hello readers, I’m Janelle and it’s such a pleasure to be featured on Linda’s blog. I’m a Pharmacy (MPharm) graduate from King’s College London and the author of “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie”. Frankly, I’m still trying to get over the bit where I get to call myself an author – I don’t think it’ll ever lose its novelty! “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie” is my first book and I am so excited to share it with you. The short author bio on the back cover of the paperback will tell youthat I am an aspiring puppy parent and cake fiend. Both of those things are absolutely true.

Who or what inspired you to write your collection of funny yet true anecdotes from your Pharmacy School and from working in the healthcare sector itself? 

Sometimes, pharmacy can be a field where public perceptions don’t always do the profession justice. This is something that became more and more apparent to me as I progressed through my degree and gained a better understanding of the industry. Personally, I think this is simply a case of misinformation and a lack of awareness that has festered over the years – both easily curable. This book is me doing my bit to help elevate the profile of pharmacists in the media. I believe the world needs to know what pharmacists are truly capable of before we can get anywhere near changing these misconceptions.

The World of Pharmacy has always had its misconceptions – unfortunately a lot of people do think pharmacists are just there to “count the pills”.  Your book highlighted the diversity of pharmacy as a career too, especially when you described your degree course programme.  I found the book interesting as well as entertaining.  Do you have a “favourite” misconception?

Oh, I have so many personal favourites – the chapter titled “How to Annoy Your Pharmacist” probably sums them all up in one little package. Generally speaking, I think there tends to be an opinion that pharmacists (and many other healthcare disciplines) take their instructions from doctors without offering any clinical input of their own. This could not be further from the truth in the context of modern healthcare. Doctors and pharmacists are trained very differently to one another, as I came to realise at university. Sure, there may have been some overlap when covering the fundamentals like basic physiology and chemistry – but otherwise, my course material was worlds apart from what the medics were studying. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this is something that is very much reflected in the nature of the jobs where different skillsets are paramount to performing them well. 

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Writing (and publishing) my first book opened a whole new world of learning to me, specifically around the process of self-publishing. This was all very new to me, as self-publication was not something I had explored on any level prior to this. If anything, it made me realise how much the publishing industry has progressed in barely any time at all. On the writing front, I discovered that I can be a bit neurotic when it comes to editing. Naturally, I owe this to my perfectionist nature, so this hardly came as a surprise. I’m sure you know the feeling well, being a blogger yourself – “Maybe I’ll just tweak it once more!” Of course, “once more” is never really once. Make it about three or five more times if I’m feeling extra paranoid that day.

I had also heard from the Twitter writing community that it is dangerously easy to become blind to your own material. Having spent so much time on it, creating and polishing it within an inch of its life, I definitely found my eyes glazing over when I went through it for what must have been the hundredth time. Putting it aside (and on a dusty shelf in the back of my mind)  for a week did me a world of good – coming back to it with fresh eyes helped me instantly spot errors that I had simply failed to see before. The Twitter folk were right on that one.

What did you enjoy most about Pharmacy School, your degree course and working a pharmacy dealing with customers? What were the downsides? 

I was always a bit of a chemistry nerd at school, so I loved that it was very much a core element of Pharmacy. We had modules around drug design, formulation and drug delivery – I fell in love with this unique blend of physics and chemistry that make all sorts of clinical breakthroughs possible. It was these pharmaceutical science modules that made me curious about the pharmaceutical industry, and more importantly, the way it influences clinical prescribing. I think that this is one of the highlights of being a pharmacist – having the expertise to understand the situation from both the patient and the drug development/supply angles, whether it’s a clinical problem or a manufacturing problem. I enjoyed my course very much indeed, and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the profession. I only wish there could have been more clinical placement opportunities for pharmacy students. In comparison to other healthcare degrees, these were far and few between but they were valuable learning opportunities – some of my favourite memories from my Pharmacy degree are from my time spent on clinical placements.

Have you always wanted to have a career in pharmacy or did you have other aspirations? 

Quite honestly, Pharmacy was something I fell into. I had aspirations to attend conservatoire and become a professional classical violinist, as I had grown up attending a music specialist school. The kind of school where no questions were asked if students had to skip academic lessons to attend music rehearsals, and the level of music training required made academics look like a very optional hobby. I had always had it in mind that I would go on to pursue a musical career full-time, but ultimately decided against it due to a combination of reasons.  I was a fairly academic student and I knew I enjoyed science, particularly chemistry. I was also curious about the applications of science in drug development, so pharmacy seemed like a very natural choice at the time. It’s funny how you wind up on certain paths in life that were never in the cards not too long ago.

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

Absolutely, though I am one of those people who partake in the whole “I wish I had more time to read!” I have always loved to read, but I have spent more time reading textbooks than any other kind of publication in the past few years – I guess I have university to thank for that. If I had to pick a genre, I’d say that non-fiction psychology fascinates me the most. I thoroughly enjoyed “Quiet” by Susan Cain, and recently read “The Cinderella Complex” by Colette Dowling, which I found extremely eye-opening. I enjoy a bit of humour from time to time too – I’m currently reading “This is Going to Hurt” by Adam Kay and I think he has a wonderful writing voice. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Is “Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie” available to purchase worldwide?

Yup, it is available on Amazon marketplaces worldwide as a Kindle ebook or as a paperback – if you’re like me and prefer to curl up with a physical book whose pages I can fiddle with as I read.

You have a blog called TheNellyBean – what is the origins of the title? What do you enjoy most about blogging? 

My blog has turned into a bit of a hot mess – in the sense that I now write about anything that takes my fancy; I like to think of it as an online diary where I get to be unabashedly myself. I wanted the title to reflect this, so I brainstormed words that came to mind when I thought of the things I enjoy in life. I’m a big fan of sweets and desserts, so I decided to combine “jellybean” and “Nelly” (a mildly embarrassing childhood nickname). “Thenellybean” was born. Thankfully, the domain name was available. 

I love that blogging allows me to reach all sorts of people who find themselves able to relate to my content in one way or another. The community can be so kind and supportive too, so that’s a big plus in my eyes.

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

I’m a big fan of skinny jeans and ankle boots. I’ve found that as I prioritise comfort so much more now, so a good pair of trainers are always a winner in my books. On the other hand, I do enjoy a preppy look (blame the private school upbringing), so I’ll pair a floaty button down with my favourite tan leather loafers or some brogues from time to time.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I adore Primark. I love that it’s a one-stop shop for all my wardrobe needs and I’ve never had trouble with the quality or fit of their clothes. Though I think investing in some decent trainers is a must, as I run fairly regularly. Skechers have never failed me.

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

I’m keeping an eye out for a nice pair of sleek black riding boots. I just think there’s something so elegant about them.

Boots or Shoes?

This is like asking me to choose between chocolate and fruit-based desserts. I’m indecisive and love my boots as well as shoes, so I’ll have to say both!

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

For Pinning Later

Blog: https://thenellybean.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janelle_thenellybean/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thenellybean

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/j_thenellybean/

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

Book link on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08BZQVF4C

Thanks for chatting with me today Janelle. Your “Boots Or Shoes?” answer was spot on. It is difficult to pick, and if the choice had been chocolate or fruit based dessert, then I would also have said , “ A bit of both, please”. Dare I say, what about cake??? ! Thank you also Janelle for the copy of your book. I enjoyed it immensely.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Janelle Soong.

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An Interview With Aubrey Bay

I’m talking about candles this week with Amy, founder of the luxury soy candle company Aubrey Bay. Candles are so popular at the moment and I particularly like the modern elegant minimalistic packaging of Aubrey Bay. The fragrances are divine, too. Hi Amy…

Hi, my name’s Amy Crossland and I’m the founder of Aubrey Bay. We make and sell handmade soy candles in the UK.

What inspired you to start your company, Aubrey Bay?

The inspiration for launching Aubrey Bay came from my love of candles. I always have candles burning in my home. I’ve tried many high-end candles from high street brands. Some I found better than others. I was always on the search for a candle that really would perform on all fronts. This led me to try handmade candles by small independent artisans. I remember the first candle I ordered in my quest for the right candle for my home- it did not get delivered and I had to ask for a refund. The second had little, to no scent throw. The third came wrapped in single-use plastic and didn’t burn very well. I then had a light bulb moment. I thought that if I wanted a candle that smelled divine, burned perfectly and was eco-friendly, I should give it a go myself.  And after months of testing, experimenting, learning and many sleepless nights Aubrey Bay was born. It’s this passion for the perfect candle that I infuse in all of our candles.

I’m always interested to know the origins of brand names – so why “Aubrey Bay”?

The origin of the brand name, Aubrey Bay, comes from two distinct sources. Aubrey has roots on my side of the family and is a nod to strong females in my family. Bay, on the other hand, comes from one of our favourite family places in the world – the beautiful Druridge Bay in Northumberland, UK. It’s a place with gorgeous, sandy beaches and rolling dunes. It’s actually the inspiration behind one of our popular scents, Wood Sage & Sea Salt.

To date, what has been the most popular soy wax candle fragrance?

Our most popular candles currently are Lychee Peony and Coconut Lime. The former for the beautiful soft, floral notes of peony and the latter for the punchy, holiday vibes. We specifically designed our range so there’s a fragrance for everybody – no matter what your signature scents are.

What’s your most favourite candle fragrance in your collection?

My favourite candle in the collection changes with the mood I’m in. If I’m looking for a relaxing atmosphere while reading a book, I may go for Black Amber & Lavender because of the relaxing vanilla notes. If it’s a scent to fill a living room or kitchen, then any of our range will work beautifully. Each candle will appeal to different customers and, I guess, that’s an enchanting aspect to individual taste.

When deciding fragrances to add to your soy wax candle collections, do you select by what has proved popular with other candle makers , current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

Our choice of scents is in informed primarily by what we like. If we aren’t willing to burn that particular candle in our home, then it wouldn’t be successful in the selection process. When we conducted our product development, there were many fragrances, from many different suppliers, that didn’t make it through our quality assurance processes. In the end, we chose scents that had that extra bit of quality, excitement and if we have to pay a little more for it that’s fine – our customers tell us so.

What do you like most about using soy wax for your candles? Do you find candle making therapeutic?

We love working with soy wax. It can be a somewhat demanding wax and takes artistry to get the best performance from it. We also believe that the health benefits from melting soy wax over that of paraffin is really important for healthy homes. Paraffin candles are made from petroleum, which is a nonrenewable source that contains carcinogenic substances. These substances may be released into the air while burning. Organic waxes, such as soy wax, are an easy way to avoid risking exposure to such chemicals. This really fits our ethical company values. We don’t skimp on the important things.


As Aubrey Bay is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase worldwide?

Currently, our products are only available for UK buyers. We have a strong demand and we prefer to service our core market as best as we can. In the future, however, we may expand and our companies’ development is always at the forefront of our minds.

Are there any new candle fragrances in the pipeline for 2020/2021?

Yes! We are investigating new ranges of candles to expand our product suite. We are now in the testing stage and once we are satisfied that we have exactly the candles we want then we’ll introduce them into our store. We would also really like to grow into other areas such as organic soaps. We are starting small, but with the support of lovely customers, we have exciting plans. 

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

That’s a great question. Like all girls, I like to go glam, but most of the time you’ll catch me in comfy jeans and a pair of Converse trainers. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

As a huge fan of online shopping, I buy from several retailers both high-street and independent. If I like the piece, then I’m going to go for it.

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

There’s a fabulous online store called Silk Fred and I’ve got my eye on a beautiful willow high neck maxi dress with a frill helm and tie waist. It’s lovely!

Boots or Shoes?

I’ll go for boots. This is because I like the combination of cosiness and really beautiful styles that are available on the market. My boot collection is quite impressive, but there’s always room for improvement.

For Pinning Later

Discover Aubrey Bay here:

www.aubreybay.co.uk

Beautiful candles, beautiful fragrances. Organic soaps sound like a nice idea for the future too. And the fact you have a boot collection, Amy, has certainly made a good impression with me! Thanks for the interview 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Aubrey Bay (Amy Crossland)

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Spotlight On The Money Box Tree

You’ve most probably heard the saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees” …. well, my guest this week is out to prove that money DOES grow on trees, especially when it involves the Money Box Tree. The Money Box Tree is a cleverly designed flat “savings” tree that hangs on the wall … savers can see their money “grow” when they add their pound coins or dollars or euros. The creator, Jackie Swainston, is my guest today …. Hi Jackie!

I’m Jackie Swainston, a fun-loving older mum of two young teenagers. I’m an artist and graphic designer by trade, but I’m also interested in being money mindful, reducing waste and being as eco-friendly as I can.

 What inspired you to create the MoneyBox Tree?

When I had my children, I became aware of the amount we as parents spend on unnecessary rubbish – far too many plastic toys and gadgets – and how we inadvertently pass those values to our kids. I wanted to teach mine that they didn’t have to buy into the ‘I want it now’ culture. I wanted them to learn the true value of money, not only the importance of saving and to try to waste less… but also that it can be a fun and enjoyable pursuit. 

I got so fed up with uttering the phrase “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” when my kids pestered me for stuff in shops, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I could make money grow for them. An idea started to formulate and before I knew it, I’d sketched out a design for a flat moneybox with a clear front, so that money was visible. I made it tree-shaped so that the coins could drop into the ‘trunk’ and grow right to the top where the leaves and branches are. I created several designs on the back, punctuated by different amounts of money so kids could see when they’d reached £20, £40 and £60 and so on, one coin at a time. It’s so simple but very effective. Children love to see their money literally grow. 

What designs/colour choices are currently most popular?

I put so much care and thought into each and every design as that is what sparks young imaginations. Making saving fun like never before is what we want to build into the brand.We research current trends and try to incorporate those values into all that we do.

 WACKY TREE our best seller!

The WACKY TREE Money Box Tree is designed to appeal to those who love crazy colours. It will help build confidence and understanding, whatever the pocket money saving goals. In addition to being educational, the WACKY TREE Money Box Tree features lovable characters hiding among the branches. Each cute character will help everyone climb the top to success. Bright, bold, weird and wonderful, don’t ask us what kind of creatures they are … it’s a mystery!
Busy Town – Visit the Busy Town community, it’s where we all help one another. Make your way up that winding road and amazing things will happen. Save your precious coins for a sunny day and get to the top of the hill, then look down on all the lovable characters you met along the way. Remember change is good!
Magic Unicorn  – Magic Unicorns and fairies are what little people dream about. With their help you will magically resist the temptation to waste your shiny pounds and stop them disappearing down a rabbit hole. These sweet faces will watch over you as you save and reach the rainbow at the top of the waterfall. Good luck on your magic mission. 
The Bank of Mum and Dad – Bank of Mum and Dad says it’s a big world out there, so be street-savvy and stash your dosh away for a rainy day. Ratty will guard your booty, but have you got what it takes to count up a cool 100 pound or euro coins?

How much coinage can each MoneyBox Tree hold? 

Each tree holds 100 pound or euro coins. As soon as you get to the top, you can visit your bank, deposit the money and start over again. You don’t have to smash it like you do some money boxes. It’s totally reusable. 

From what age do you recommend teaching children about saving money?

With credit cards, online and contactless payments, money has become a virtual concept. Kids can pay with plastic as young as six! Parents and professionals are concerned that this is building bad habits. Children can get the hang of money earlier than you think. From three or four years old, let them handle coins. They can stack them into piles for fun and see how high they can make them. Then have fun  knocking them down. Hide coins in a room and get them to find them. Play shops and introduce the idea of how much money things cost in a simplistic way. As they get older, they’ll quickly get the hang of saving for things they really want.

Any ideas to make saving money fun?

It’s always good to have a goal. Kids love to have a sense of achievement. Make chores and tasks a  game (who can make their bed the quickest?) and then reward them with a coin they can pop into a  moneybox or savings account. Make it as visible as possible, with a MoneyBox Tree or even a simple chart on the wall so they can see how much ‘treasure’ they’ve collected.

When thinking of the designs to add to your MoneyBox Tree collection, do you select by what  has proved popular in the past, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of  those things?

I look at trends in fashion and design for inspiration. I’m guided a bit by what has been popular previously, but I like to innovate as well, so the company is always pushing forward with new ideas and is never boring.

Is your career background mainly design or financial field or neither?  

I come from a design background, drawing was and is my first love. But I wanted to have my own business from a young age and a sense of control over my own destiny. This was borne out of an insecurity of not doing well at school. I’m passionate about people building savings and creating a secure future for themselves. I feel strongly that money skills should be taught in schools and that we should all have a strong understanding interest rates, and how mortgages and credit cards work. I think there would be far less debt in society if everyone understood how to manage money properly.

Can you remember the first thing you saved up to buy?

Worthy as it sounds, I did save most of my money to get my first mortgage, even in my teens! However, I do love clothes and spent some of my hard-earned cash on a gorgeous suede jacket that I wore until it fell apart, and a few singles (remember those?) of the Vamps, Chrissie Hynde, the Sex Pistols and Nick Cave.

Looking towards the future – have you got other savings items or themes in the pipeline to add in addition to the MoneyBox Tree themes you already sell? 

I’m constantly innovating and yes there are new products in the pipeline, both digital and physical, but they’re top secret at the moment, all I can say is that it will be character based!  I’ll come back and share those with you when I can.

 As you are based in England, is the MoneyBox Tree available overseas? 

I am UK based, but I’ll ship to anywhere in the world, at the moment we produce only to fit one pound or euro coins … but can adapt to any market . 

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

I’m a classics girl with simple tastes. I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, which is a rural spa town, so I wear clothes suitable for being in town and the countryside – usually boots and jeans with a silky shirts and chunky jumpers…. I do love a chunky jumper! I love unusual fabrics and gorgeous scarves though. When I can afford it I go to Stella McCartney, I tend to go for investment pieces that last forever, rather than fast fashion.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

If I could afford it I’d just shop all the time at Stella McCartney. I love her simple aesthetic. Even  though it goes against my ‘slow fashion’ ethic a bit, I also really love Mango and Zara. The clothes are stylish, fun and reasonably priced. It’s all about HOW you wear something… I like to think I look good for my age so can afford to go a bit edgy with my looks.

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

I’d love an investment Stella Jacket!

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots. It’s mostly boot weather in Harrogate, you can wear a decent pair boots with anything,  even shorts. I have a spaniel, Jess who loves a muddy walk through the woods. Only boots will do really. You are always ready for anything if you are wearing your boots!

For Pinning Later


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about CoinIt-In and the MoneyBox Trees.

To find out more about the best gift you can give a child go to https://www.coinit-in.com/ 

Sign up for when new stock arrives and you will get 15% OFF!
https://www.instagram.com/coinitin/
https://www.facebook.com/CoinItIn/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/37486075/admin/

I think the Money Tree is a fab idea – thank you Jackie for showing us your trees and giving us ideas of how to save money as a family.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of CoinIt-In.Com

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An Interview With Doormate

I’m talking about “ Doors “ this week – not the musical group although there is a musical connection – but the home furniture variety. Sliding barn doors are all the rage at the moment – I came across a report by Zillow when I was in the process of moving house, that homes that listed “sliding barn doors “ in their description sold for 13.4% more on average than their expected value. Alas my house didn’t have barn doors. Even so, barn doors are a delight and who better to talk to about them is Terry from Doormate ….he can also explain the music connection! Hi Terry!

Hi, I’m Terry also known as The Dude or Spike to friends depending how you know me from music or just everyday life. I’m a well old punk rocker and a bit of an eco warrior. I played drums in a Punk band for over 30 years trying to spread the word on how to put the world right. A lot of the messages in our songs would include looking after the planet and each other. I’ve worked in the industrial door industry for over 20 years and had a great boss that would give me anytime I needed off with the band including a 5 week tour of the east coast of the States that actually inspired the name for our products. All our product names are places we played.on that tour. Through the years I’m often finding myself skip diving seeing value in other people’s so called rubbish. After leaving the band ( i just couldn’t play 100mph anymore lol) I had a couple more years with my former employer, Action Doors. I must give Gareth a “Shout Out “ here as well as being a really cool boss he became a close friend. I wanted to branch out on my own but I didn’t want to compete with Gareth, who specialised in roller shutter doors. So I set up a sliding door company – an area not covered by Action Doors.

What inspired the founding of Door Mate?

Being a punk and playing in a band most of my adult life, I’d never built up any financial stability. A lot of the gigs we never got paid for doing – a lot of charity & fundraiser gigs for great causes for humanity & the environment . I thought I’ve  got nothing to leave my children (Stefan & Tegan) when I pass on, so I started DoorMate. At least they would have jobs – they both help out and I hope to pass the business onto them, if we make any money of course, lol. Also when I was at Action Doors we used to rip out tonnes of all timber doors and frames for new doors or shutters that would be skipped. I just thought what a waste and they were going to landfill back in those days, soooo sad. So, I thought, let’s try and make doors from used timber (later to be known as reclaimed timber). Finally the world seemed to wake up to the senseless waste and reclaimed timber become recognised not only for the reusability but the sheer beauty it offers over force grown modern equivalents. Some councils / building control now insist a certain amount of materials removed from a property during renovation on a refurb now have to be reused in the property. Yeah!!



Your own sliding barn door hardware started being manufactured in 2015 & has become the most popular product from your range. What do you think has made them a top seller?

As well as offering the barn door hardware & barn doors, we also sell garage doors & steel doors, but for every 40 barn doors / hardware enquiries, we get 1 garage or steel door enquiry. I think it is part of the recycle, reuse, reduce attitude people have now adopted too, and we love it that way! Some of the reviews we get really warms my heart. We are so proud of what we create and when other people see it, it’s just inspiring. In my search for reclaimed timber, I reunited with an old friend a couple of years ago, who now owns a demolition company and he keeps me supplied with beautiful old beams & timber from old churches, factories & pubs, schools etc. I wish I could keep it all but unfortunately we haven’t got the room as our workshop is quite small.

You can use barn doors virtually anywhere in your house – what has been the strangest or most innovative use for barn doors that you’ve come across?

The idea behind the barn doors were to use in the home as a bit of a trendy reclaimed product. So it may sound funny, but probably the strangest was to make an actual barn door 4m x 5m!!The customer also had a more standard size barn door inside the house. I would like to point out the large door was made from new timber, as we do use new timber too. It is a great reference for customers asking how much weight our hardware will take, I just send the picture lol.

As DoorMate is based in Wales, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

We do offer worldwide delivery and have sent doors all over Europe but some of the shipping on the doors further afield can be quite expensive.

Have you always wanted a career in door manufacturing, or did you have ambitions elsewhere?

Well, I did want to be a rock star but having achieved this lol, manufacturing was next on my list. On a serious note, I love what I do now and I think it still allows the creative part in me to still be alive.


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

Sorry it’s a bit boring but jeans & tshirt, and a short sleeve shirt when I’m trying to look smart but that never works!  I’ve been told I would look like crap with a £4000 Armani suit on. Labels are defo not my thing.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Not really not much of a shopper to be honest. I use Asda’s George or Matalan for clothes.

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

Defo time for a couple of new short sleeve shirts – I always seem to have the same one on in pics lol.

Boots or Shoes?

Trainers: Gola the only branded item I wear and they are known as the poor man’s Adidas. Perfect!

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

For Pinning Later

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Door-Mate-1173024366050268/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/mate_door
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/terry-burnett-a74474116/
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiVCUZ4T_FR4SLo81Ecuzpw
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/doormate2015/
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/burnett7776/boards/
DoorMate Newsletter Sign Up – https://doormate.us12.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=2601c576f4003a70ee25994fa&id=262612ee59

Absolutely fabulous chatting to you Terry … and I think t shirt and jeans are just fine!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Doormate.

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An Interview With Author Carlos Luxul

Regular readers know that I adore books, especially thrillers, and so I was more than pleased to receive a copy of “Ocean Dove” by Carlos Luxul to review. “Ocean Dove” was published on 28th April 2020 and written by Carlos Luxul , who knows his stuff having worked over 30 years in the shipping and global logistics industry. This is a very fast-paced terrorist attack thriller that is made even more terrifying because the scenarios are extremely plausible. I’m not sure if “liked” or “enjoyed” are the right words but it is a great read that kept me riveted – although if this book was a film, I would have been hiding behind the cushion for most of the time! Security services man Dan Brooks came across as being pretty stubborn, yet thorough and again, an entirely believable character. An interview with Carlos himself had to be on the cards….. hi Carlos!

Hi, I’m Carlos! I’m presently a single guy – and ever hopeful … I travel a lot, for work, often spending long periods abroad, sometimes running into years.  It can be rootless and has its downsides but as a career it’s been fascinating. And you do get to see the world and get to know its peoples.

Who or what inspired you to put pen to paper after working over 30 years in the shipping and global logistics industry?

Whenever I have free time I try to get my head in a book – with the exception of the period I was actually writing The Ocean Dove. And like so many other keen readers, I had always promised myself that I would have a go one day, and then a lull between work contracts gave me the opportunity to sit down without distraction and actually start. 

“Ocean Dove” was published on 28 April 2020 – and what a thriller – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish.  Actually, I don’t know if “liked” is the right word but it was a great read that kept me riveted. All the characters were very believable.. From security services man Dan Brooks, his wife, his colleagues, the terrorists. So, which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

The character I most enjoyed writing was Dan Brooks, the story’s protagonist. He’s the leading player, so I had to work the hardest on him, to make him real and relatable. So I guess the most satisfaction and enjoyment came from putting flesh to Dan. 

The hardest were definitely the terrorists. They also had to be real, and we have to face up to the fact that terrorists are real people. Sure, we don’t like them and we don’t understand them. Firstly, we don’t understand them as people. Secondly, we don’t understand why they’ve chosen that life-path, or is it death-path? But somehow I felt compelled that readers should be able to understand them on important levels, to see them as both human and terrorists. I also felt I had to show what drove them, what was underlying, what societal experiences had shaped their transformation from one of us to one of them. I also thought it important to show their fundamentals, as wholly flawed people, particularly the leaders, and bring their sociopathic and narcissistic cores to the fore. And then to take it further by splitting the various characters into their related groups – the cold loner sociopath, the superficially charming narcissist, and the simply lost and misguided souls. Psychological studies of terrorists usually break them down into these principal types, with the addition of underlying insecurity and anger issues.

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

The aspect that surprised me most was being able to conjure up in my own mind the shocking things that some of the characters do. A secondary surprise was counteracting that with what I hope will be seen as humanity in other aspects of the book and in other characters.

What made you decide to write “The Ocean Dove”?   Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the thriller developed?

The inspiration for the plot had been in the back of my mind for a while. It came from time spent in ports around the world, and realising how vulnerable they were – if someone had malign intentions. Historically, cities started with a port, and a city grew around it. Over time, some of these ports outgrew their host city and moved ten or twenty miles along the coast. But many major ports are still operating cheek by jowl with urban centres. They are a back door to a city, and too often a poorly guarded back door. This was the kernel of the idea  and it developed from there. So I had a pretty clear idea of the who, what and how, and I don’t think I had to adjust my opinion or focus too much when it came to the plot. But from the character side of it, the motivation and so on, that certainly evolved the deeper I got into it. 

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

Yes, I definitely want to write more. The Ocean Dove is a complete story in itself with a proper conclusion. But it does lend itself to a sequel, so … And I think there’s mileage in Dan Brooks as a character as well, so I would like to see him again. 

copyright © Linda Hobden

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

I read both fiction and non-fiction. For personal pleasure I enjoy travel and travellers’ accounts and memoirs, with a dash of history. These are non-fiction. For fiction, I like thrillers, espionage and mystery, and this ranges from the masters like Conrad, Christie, Hammett and Chandler, through Le Carre to Cornwell, Clancy and Leonard, and beyond to Brown and Child. I’ve a soft spot for Charles McCarry, who’s sadly overlooked, and I don’t know why. How do I read? Well, I can see the attraction and practicality of a kindle, but for me it’s got to be a physical book in my hands. 

Is “The Ocean Dove” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, The Ocean Dove is available worldwide, direct from the publishers (troubador.co.uk), from all the Amazon sites as a kindle or as a book, and from the main mail-order sites. When the book shops are open again, it will also be available in the High Street.

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

It would have to be the Sahel – across Chad, Niger and Mali. It’s been off limits for too long now, too dangerous. One day I hope to go back there. It’s a region where anything is possible, and I can’t imagine anyone (a writer) could go there and not come back inspired!

Copyright © Linda Hobden

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

Now you’re talking. I love clothes!  And sorry, this interview could go on a bit … My daily wear would be jeans, unadulterated Levi 501s please. And I like dressing up. People shine when they’ve made the effort.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Favourites? Not really any more, sadly. The High Street’s so samey now. I pick and choose carefully, perhaps in a vintage shop down a side street, a charity shop, or even a TK Maxx where some oddball but well made things pop up from time to time. I also like to pick up eclectic stuff when I’m overseas.   

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

What’s next? I’ve a hankering for a really good black cashmere cardigan. Yeah, yeah, cardie, I hear you … But I’ll have to save up, though it will last and still look perfect in ten or twenty years. Buying cheap is a false economy anyway.

Boots or Shoes? 

I’m particular about shoes and boots. Firstly, they must be strong and practical, but stylish. Secondly, they have to be well made, that’s traditionally made, so a proper cobbler can maintain them over many years. I’ve got shoes and boots that have been with me for twenty or so years. I can’t abide flimsy footwear. It must be stout, a firm foundation to stand in, to run in, to get out of trouble in, should it arise. And here I hasten to add the best way out of trouble is tact, diplomacy and a smile. But wafer thin slip-ons are just not for me … I have boots for just mooching around in, boots for walking, a good old pair of DMs, and boots for motor biking – ex German army paratroop boots that are maybe thirty years old and still good for another thirty. Shoes are much the same; classic, sometimes with a twist, Oxfords, a bit of brogue, even monks, but always traditionally and heavily constructed.

LINKS 

For pinning later.

www.carlosluxul.com
https://twitter.com/CarlosLuxul  or @CarlosLuxul

https://facebook.com/CarlosLuxul/

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/crime-and-thrillers/the-ocean-dove/

Thanks Carlos ! I didn’t have you down as a shoe connoisseur – have you discovered the shoes by Jeffrey West? Check them out when you’re next in London. You won’t be disappointed.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission by Carlos Luxul & Linda Hobden (where marked)
Thank you also to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for the copy of Ocean Dove.

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An Interview With Kate Guy

What do you get if you mix your love of food with your love of graphic design & printing? You get a range of exquisite printed tea towels & tote bags illustrated with the most scrumptious regional recipes, courtesy of print maker Kate Guy. Kate’s work is mostly inspired by her love of food and cooking. Without further ado, let’s meet Kate – Hi Kate!

Hello! My name is Kate Guy, I’m a printmaker who loves to cook. I live and work in London, but I am also very lucky to have one foot in the South of France, spending part of every year there. Both countries, cuisines, arts and cultures have influenced me in my work.

My background is graphic design but over the years I have also worked in animation, film, illustration and for 12 years I was head of Art and Design in a large secondary school in North London. These days I seem to have become a product designer, but my real love is printmaking.

What inspired you to create your range of illustrated tea towels and other homewares based on regional recipes?

My very first design came from a piece I made back in 1994 of fish etched into blue glass. This was my first foray into product design when I had it printed on a tea towel in 2012 (There is a story behind this which is on my 3 Fish Tea Towel). 

My second design and still one of my most popular was a print I made of a friend’s kitchen in the South of France ‘Rebecca’s Cupboard’. What I wanted to do then was somehow combine the two – fish and kitchens… this led me to thinking about illustrating recipes and I had my ‘eureka moment’. I came up with the idea that I could create a whole store cupboard of individual ingredients prints which could be combined into different recipes. I was in France at the time and so this led to my French themed ‘Simple Soups’ range: Soupe de Poisson (Fish Soup), Roasted Tomato Soup and French Onion Soup.

On return to the UK this naturally led into thinking about illustrating some of the classic British dishes such as Lancashire Hot Pot and Yorkshire Steak and Ale Pie.

How do you pick what recipes to feature? Are the recipes personal favourites, customer suggestions, easy to make & draw or a combination of all 3?

Really a combination of all three but a big issue is the ingredients. There must enough of a range to make an interesting design. I have been asked many times why I don’t do, for example, Yorkshire Pudding, but it is only eggs, flour and milk which would not make a very interesting design. I did run a bit short on ingredients for the Bakewell Tart design, but I love it too much not to include so I added a nice cup of tea at the bottom – as you can’t really enjoy one without the other I think!

I am tempted to try the Yorkshire steak & ale pie recipe that you feature …. and the Fish Soup 😊 What do you like to cook? Have you tried a recipe to feature that did not turn out as successful as you hoped? 

I love cooking (and eating!) and have had my fair share of failures and successes. The pie is a favourite and the fish soup was my first illustrated recipe and is the best seller by quite a margin. I think this is maybe to do with the colour rather than the recipe though – it’s a little more complicated than the other soups and really relies on a quality fish stock. The absolute easiest to cook is the roasted tomato soup – as easy as 1,2,3 – chop, roast and blend – yummy and so healthy.

Which tea towel has attracted the most attention so far?

Without a doubt it’s the fish soup, probably for its beautiful deep blue colour, which on the unbleached organic cotton really creates a very vibrant and bold design. I know that quite often people say my tea towels are too good to use and have even had them framed – there is a chateau somewhere in France with my full range of British Recipes framed in the kitchen!

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

Yes, I can ship anywhere in the world 😊 My tea towels have gone as far as Australia, New Zealand, Japan – I used to run a gallery on my old website called ‘Tea Towels on Tour’ where people would send me pictures of my tea towels in exotic locations around the world. I had one of my ‘3 fish’ meeting a panda in Peru, Tomato Soup on the Bolivian Salt Flats, Fish Soup in Greece and a Lancashire Hot Pot in Thailand! (I can send photos if you like)

Having a father who was a graphic designer and a mother, an artist; it is not surprising that you would grow up with such an artistic talent.  Lino cutting at the young age of 6; a degree in graphic design and you have worked as a designer, illustrator, in an animation studio, as an architectural glass designer and as an Art Teacher. Taking all that into account, which “art form” is your favourite? Which type of art do you find the hardest?  Is there any genre of art that you haven’t attempted before but would love to have a go at? 

I think printmaking is my favourite, there is a mystical moment when you’re not sure how the print will turn out and while you try to control it there is always an element of serendipity (happy accident) to the process. 

My father left me a whole load of old wooden type (lettering) blocks which I have added to over the years. I have played around with printing these from time to time but I would love to do more of this – Letterpress printing.

Hardest – ummm, I think it has to be drawing people. I did a lot of life drawing at Art School and even for my A Level art we did 3 hours a week which was unusual and fantastic for improving drawing skills but I still find trying to capture the personality of a person difficult – much easier with carrots and onions!

As well as your illustrated homewares, you also create some stunning house portraits. What inspired you to explore this art avenue?

Two years ago I was lucky enough to have a pop up shop in the gorgeous Primrose Hill area of London. While there I started to make monotype prints of the surrounding streets. One day a lady came in and she looked at a print I had made of a local view and said she loved it but I had missed her house – she lived a couple of doors further down. So I offered to do a print especially for her of her house… I have now done more than 20 of these, mostly for people around the Primrose Hill, Camden area but I work from photos and so could do one of anywhere in the world!

You also run printmaking workshops at your studio. What would I expect if I enrolled on one of your workshops? Do you cater for all abilities?

I mostly teach traditional printmaking techniques – lino cut, monotype, drypoint etching, to small groups of all ages, although I usually say from 8 years up as we use some sharp tools. And all abilities – no experience or drawing skills needed. Often people come with an idea, maybe a photo or design they want to do and I help them translate it into a print. In a 3-hour workshop you will design, draw, cut and print your artwork and come away with 3 or 4 copies of your print, framed if you want! People sometimes will do wedding invitations or Christmas cards as once you have created your printing block you can print as many as you like.

Alternatively, I run weekly sessions during term times – over a 10-week term you can produce a range of prints, explore different techniques or develop one project in depth.

I also run larger group workshops for parties or events, I have a small portable Victorian book press which I can bring to print with. The largest I have done was 24 at the Country Living Fair, Alexandra Palace – everyone made a print in less than an hour, great fun but exhausting!

I also do 1 – 2 -1 sessions for anyone to explore their artistic side.

And GCSE and A Level tutoring in Art and Design, Textiles and Graphic Design.

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

I am not really a fastidious dresser – I like to be comfortable and as I spend most of my time in the studio my outfit is usually pretty casual. I love dresses and long cardigans with pockets. Footwear is always comfort first for me – I love boots, I had a fantastic pair of Camper Boots which I wore into the ground and have been unable to find again. In the studio it is often espadrilles (sent by my French cousins this year as I could not go and get them myself) or slippers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love DeSigual clothing for the colours and patterns. I also have a favourite SeaSalt long dress – so comfy

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

If I could find a replacement for my beloved but worn out Camper boots, and a new Desigual dress to go with them I would be happy.

Two years ago we went to Vietnam and I had some shirts made in Hoi An, I’d love to go back and get some more – I’ve practically worn them out

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots – For comfort, I like the way they make legs look and they go with everything!

For Pinning Later

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

Website  https://www.kateguy.co.uk/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kate_guy_/

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

Beautiful tea towels, Kate – I love the blue/yellow colourway of the Yorkshire & Ale Steak pie tea towel and the recipe sounds just as good too! Thank you for visiting Boots Shoes & Fashion!

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Author Pamela Taylor

When somebody asks what book genre I enjoy, I usually say “ Thrillers” but after a while I crave a different genre – sometimes I indulge in a bit of armchair travelling; sometimes I like a classic such as novels by Daphne du Maurier, Charles Dickens or Tolstoy; sometimes a novel by Paolo Coelho; and sometimes I want to curl up and read some historical fiction …. such as Pestilence by Pamela Taylor. I have a love of British history – I did an O Level exam in “Tudors And Stuarts” – and that era along with the medieval centuries, hold my attention and let my imagination run riot. Pamela’s book, Pestilence, held my attention and although it was the 3rd book in a series it was still great to read as a stand alone book. I am honoured to be part of Pamela Taylor’s “Pestilence “ book tour and I am so glad to be able to ask Pamela those questions

Book Summary

At the dawn of the Renaissance, Alfred – the eponymous second son – must discover the special destiny foreseen for him by his grandfather. Now, the unthinkable has happened: Alfred’s brother is king. And it isn’t long before everyone’s worst fears are realized. Traditional allegiances are shattered under a style of rule unknown since the grand bargain that formed the kingdom was struck over two hundred years ago. These will be the most dangerous years of Alfred’s life, forcing him to re-examine his duty to personal honor and to the kingdom, while the threats posed by his brother constantly remind him of his father’s final words of advice. What choices will he have to make to try to protect the things he holds most dear?

Print Length: 234 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ASIN: B08563V87C

ISBN-10: 1684334810

ISBN-13: 9781684334810

THE INTERVIEW

Hello, everyone.  I’m Pamela and I’m thrilled to have the chance to share a little bit about myself and my book.  Well, books, actually, because “Pestilence” is part of a series – the Second Son Chronicles. Three volumes are out in the world now with three more to come. I love to travel – it’s a big part of how I immerse myself into the place and time of my stories – but like you, I’m sticking close to home right now. Thankfully, I have two wonderful companions – Pembroke Welsh Corgis named Maggi and Marlo – who keep me company but who also never hesitate to remind me that a dog walk might be just the thing to get me inspired for that next scene or next chapter. 

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?

Quite frankly, I sort of fell into it. When I was in the corporate world, I wrote all kinds of things from really dry technical stuff to web pages; and one day I just said to myself, “I wonder if I can write fiction.” My first attempt wasn’t great – OK, full disclosure, it was pretty bad. But when Alfred, the protagonist in the Chronicles, started speaking to me, telling me his story, I began to get the hang of it. The first draft of “Second Son” (volume 1) wasn’t quite right – I wound up taking it apart and putting it back together again – but when that book was published and I held it in my hand, I gave myself permission to think of myself as a novelist. I’ve read so much historical fiction and non-fiction through the  years that I feel like I’ve had lots of mentors for my work (even if they don’t know it 🙂 )

Although “Pestilence” is the 3rd book in the series, it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone book.  I love historical fiction and it was great to immerse myself into the story.  I liked the main character, Alfred, very much indeed – although I found myself disapproving of his very brief “liaison” with Amelia!  His brother, the pompous King John, made me giggle.  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

I’m so glad you like Alfred! I have to admit to being a bit in love with him myself. As for his dalliance, it’s useful to remember that the morés of the fourteenth century were a bit different from ours today and extra-marital liaisons were quite usual for a man of Alfred’s station. But since Alfred’s marriage is as much a love match as a political alliance, he has some inner conflict over the situation – and I hope that makes him more human, more real.

Writing Alfred is a pleasure. And I thoroughly enjoy Gwen and Samuel – the two people who are closest to Alfred. One character who surprised me has been Alfred’s mother. She was important but definitely secondary in the first two volumes; however, when her feisty side came out in “Pestilence,” I had a great time with her. You’ll see more of her in volume 4. The character who’s been the most troublesome doesn’t show up until a later volume, but watch for Hugo.

I am curious – what is your preference – to write a complete stand alone book or to write a complete series of books?

Truth be told, I don’t know 🙂  When I started writing “Second Son,” it was going to be a stand-alone book. But as Alfred kept revealing his story, it soon became clear I was going to end up with well over a thousand pages – hardly something you can offer up as a debut novel – so the series was born. That said, even within the arc of a series, each book has to have its own, fully complete narrative arc – I’m actually enjoying both dimensions.

 I enjoy reading historical novels – many years ago at school, I studied “Tudors and Stuarts” history O level, because I enjoyed reading about and delving into that era of British history.  It runs in the family – my mum is a “Mary, Queen of Scots” fan and my daughter is a “Queen Victoria” fan. I assume you must have a love of history too, what era particularly fascinates you and why?

What a joy to meet other history aficianados! I’m mostly into western European history – particularly France, Great Britain, and Ireland – and I think I must have been British in a former life, because that world just resonates with me in a visceral way that’s hard to describe. (In point of fact, ancestors on both sides of my family are British with a little Danish mixed in on one side – but then, after all, there were quite a few Danes in Britain at one time 🙂 ) I’m actually quite hard-pressed to say I have a favorite era – I’m as fascinated by Alfred the Great as I am by World War II and as interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine as Victoria. What I love best is to go to a historical location, even if it’s in ruins, and immerse myself in the feel of the place to go with the facts. 

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

I’ve always loved to read. Some favourite genres besides historical are espionage, mystery, suspense, some thrillers. But I can’t do horror at all. And I’m not a big fan of paranormal. I do like dragons, though – give me a good story with a dragon in it any day. Some favourite authors: Ken Follett, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, P.D. James, Daniel Silva, John LeCarré, Tom Clancy when he was alive and writing alone, Dick Francis, Dame Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, and, yes, Jane Austen. Actual book, please – there’s just something about holding the book and turning the pages. But I’m not a complete luddite – I do use Kindle for some things.

Is “Pestilence ” available to purchase worldwide?

Absolutely! As are all three volumes of the series.  Online and in book stores – ebook and paperback. Volumes 1 and 2 are also available as audiobooks. Volume 1 (“Second Son”) will soon be available in hardback as well.

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

 I had a trip to France planned for early March. It was to include a visit to Avignon to immerse myself in the old city and the papal palace. I was really bummed when Covid-19 forced me to cancel those plans. So that’s next up as soon as we can safely travel again. I have a project currently in the research stages that involves the possibility of a royal visitor to Pope John XXII.

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

Tailored slacks and a top of some sort. A light jacket for anything ‘formal.’ Shoes to fit the season and my mood. I like to vary the height of the heel and the style – just makes me feel good – but stopping short of the four-inch heels these days unless it’s a super-formal occasion.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I tend to be a bit opportunistic in clothes shopping. It’s not a good idea, though, for me to sign on to online shoe shops – I can always find something cute.

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

No idea. Sort of waiting until it’s truly safe to be in the shops again.

Boots or Shoes?

Yes! And Sandals!  Why not?  One of my biggest challenges when packing for a trip is deciding what shoes to take – don’t want to get caught away from home without some variety and the right thing for whatever comes up during the trip.

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

The website for my series:   https://www.SecondSonChronicles.com     Find excerpts from the books, links to historical info, a gallery of images related to the stories, all kinds of good stuff about Alfred’s world.

My author website:  https://pamela-taylor.com   Lots more about me.  And you can link to the Chronicles site from there aRs well.

Facebook:   Second Son Chronicles

Twitter:  @PJTAuthor, #SecondSonChronicles

Instagram:  PJTAuthor

THE TOUR

My thanks to Pamela for the advanced copy of Pestilence. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Pamela Taylor , apart from the Pinterest photo which was taken by myself – it is the backdrop in another medieval house, Lynford House in Norfolk.

Linda x

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An Interview With Enchanted England

Inspired by the glorious English countryside – and who can blame her – my guest this week is illustrator/writer/painter Sarah Keen. All her designs are firmly rooted in the natural world and her prints/artwork are delightful. Being a lover of the English countryside myself, it was a pleasure to welcome Sarah onto the blog…. Hi Sarah!

Hello great to be here. My name is Sarah Keen. I am in my fifties and following a career change, I design prints, fabrics and gifts based on the natural history and folklore of the English countryside.

The Enchanted England range of products is aimed for people like myself who don’t really enjoy shopping in endless malls that all sell essentially the same product. All my designs are rooted firmly in the natural world and beliefs that are associated with them. 

I am inspired by the English countryside. As a child, I grew up in Buckinghamshire and spent much of my childhood roaming the chalk based hills and fields that surrounded my family’s home.

After living in Southampton for many years, in 2004 I moved to a nearby village set in Hampshire’s beautiful countryside and nearby shimmering seascapes. I never really saw things the same way again. 

Hampshire’s chalky, flinty fields and gentle countryside unlocked memories of my childhood growing up in the Chilterns where I had been surrounded by books and artists. The change of scene persuaded me into signing up for an M.A in Creative & Critical Writing with the University of Winchester and this gave me the confidence to write and illustrate.

On completing my M.A I was asked to illustrate a most magical book about the Hampshire Countryside. It was written by a herbalist who walked each day to collect herbs for her treatments. Her charming accounts of her walks became a seasonal diary that contained seasonal recipes and remedies.  Originally published as a blog, it had such encouraging feedback, I developed a range of cards and gifts based on the paintings for her book. The Enchanted England range has grown organically from this project.


What inspired you to set up Enchanted England website?

I needed a website to showcase the range of goods and services available from Enchanted England. In my past life I was an I.T contractor and web contents editor so I was fortunate to be able to draw on that skill set to design the site.

Sarah wearing the Enchanted England Bluebell Dress and holding an Enchanted England porcelain mug.

You have a lovely variety of gifts and your prints are very beautiful indeed. I like the “Garden of Love” satin tie – the print on it is exquisite. What gifts/prints are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Thank you, Linda, that’s really lovely to hear. Immediately following the lockdown the shop had surge of interest in bird illustrations and cards.  I am not sure if that was connected with the glorious sounds of birdsong that surrounded us at the time, but it was a noticeable spike in demand.  So, my bird cards flew away.

Now, the new range ‘The Garden of Love’ is sparking a lot of interest – particularly for bridal and marriage services. I plan to offer a comprehensive wedding stationary and fabric package for 2021 The Garden of Love design was for my engagement and wedding this summer so it’s very close to my heart. Our wedding was postponed but we hope the new date in September will go ahead!

You use a variety of methods to illustrate and create your prints – silk, paper, pen, ink, natural textures & watercolours.  Have you got a favourite medium though to use? Favourite print? 

I am a huge fan of watercolour and waterproof pens on textured paper. I love the way watercolour allows you layer translucent washes. It is also a dangerous medium. If you make a mistake there is very little chance of rescuing your design. You can’t overpaint with watercolour as you can with oil or acrylic.

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

Yes, they are. The website offers shipping to most of the world and I would be happy to quote to send any item overseas.

Sarah, wearing an Enchanted England face mask

Living in rural Hampshire, you must have come across some interesting finds whilst beachcombing and countryside walking that have inspired your illustrations. Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

It’s been inspiring to live in this part of Hampshire, as there are so many walks and beaches to explore. Recently I visited a holy well on a local estate in a near village. This would have been passed by St Wilfred as he walked through the Meon Valley hoping to convert the pagans. This was one of the last areas to convert to Christianity. I find landscapes linked to religion and practice inspiring and spark my imagination.  I take photos and notes while walking. Then I use them for a starting point in my studio. 

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

I could always draw animals and I love to use them in my illustrations. Recently I completed a set of illustrations based on the writing of Alice Gillington. She wrote about the lives of the Gypsies who lived and worked in the New Forest in the early 20 century.  I created some sunsets and technically these were very difficult but made spectacular backdrops for the gypsy caravans.

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

I have always painted and drawn animals but I never thought to become an illustrator. In the 1980s when I graduated I would have chosen to go into publishing. It was a time of high graduate unemployment however, so in the end I found work as an IT contractor, setting up networks, getting involved in the fledgling internet and website content and design. It gave me the technical skills to publish books and understand how to format photos and illustrations with software such as Adobe and Gimp, so I don’t regret my years with the INTEL chip but wouldn’t want to return to it.

Apart from illustrating, you have had some books published. Can you tell us about them? 

I have worked on three books and always looking to work with authors. The first book that was the inspiration to Enchanted England was ‘Blessed Be – an illustrated walk through a year in the English Countryside’ This is a beautiful and gentle book. It is packed full of recipes and remedies for each month of the year. I also designed the front cover for the ‘Hare and the Sword,’ an amazing autobiography of a white witch who lives in the New Forest. Finally, I illustrated the biography of Alice Gillington who wrote about the wildlife and people of the New Forest.  I am currently working on two new book projects.

When you are not illustrating or writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

I enjoy walking, cycling and gardening and spending time with my friends and family.

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

I love vintage clothing and am always on the lookout for dresses in various second hand shops near me. I enjoy wearing dresses and not often found in leggings or jeans unless decorating or working in the garden.  I love quirky, colourful shoes that make me smile.

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

Yes! I have two vintage high street shops – one is Labels in Bishops Waltham and the other is The Clothes Line in Winchester. They are not currently open alas – so I also keep an eye on the Vestiaireapp that sells ‘preloved fashion items’ and the online shop, Wolf and Badger who support independent and ethical brands across the world. For amazing shoes as art, I enjoy looking at Freya Rose designs in Southsea,

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

Well as my summer wedding was postponed I need a warmer wrap or bolero jacket for September and change from shoes to boots. So looking for a pair of slightly 18th Century style pair of boots, festooned with ribbons!

Boots or Shoes?

I love boots and often can be found in London Fly footwear as they make me feel confident, stylish and that I can walk miles in them.

For pinning later. © Linda Hobden

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

Please visit facebook.com/enchantedengland or email Enchanted England and sign up for a newsletter. It would be great to see you in Enchanted England.

Thank you Sarah – I wish you all the best with your forthcoming wedding ❤️ I think Victorian style gothic boots would look gorgeous!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sarah Keen of Enchanted England; apart from the Pinterest photo and the header photo of trees which was taken by myself. Header pic was taken in Thetford Forest, Norfolk & Pinterest photo was taken in Holland-on-Sea, Essex.

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An Interview With Author Kiran Bhat

“Author Kiran Bhat is a man that is unafraid to take literary risks – would you be interested in reading his book, “We Of The Forsaken World?“ was my introduction by Ben Cameron, who kindly sent me a copy of the book, published by Iguana Books. I am unafraid to jump in and read books which are not “run of the mill” and certainly this is a book that made me think. “We Of The Forsaken World” is about a mix of global issues (pre COVID-19) condensed into one book – 4 main stories set around the world, locations unspecified, as seen from 16 individual points of view:

  • a man who journeys to the birthplace of his mother which is in a tourist town that has been spoiled by an industrial spill.
  • a nameless remote tribe – striving for succession when a 2nd son is born, and the fight to stop the jungle being destroyed by loggers.
  • in a city, a homeless one-armed woman sets out to seek revenge upon the men who trafficked her.
  • in a small village of shanty shacks, a milkmaid naively watches her reputation being systematically destroyed by girls she called friends.

My favourite story was the milkmaid one, but all 4 made you think and each character of each story presented their viewpoint on the same scenario. Very clever way of presenting a story. If you are looking for a quick read, then this book is not for you. I found the book enjoyable once I had understood that different viewpoints were being represented and I found myself adding my point of view to the situations too!

The book may have been interesting, but the author Kiran also peaked my interest antennae! According to his author blurb, he has devoted his life to writing fiction about global experiences. Having travelled to over 130 countries, he has lived in 18 different places and speaks 12 languages. Definitely a person I had to interview…. so, hi Kiran!

Hello. I’m Kiran. I am an Indian-American traveler, polyglot, and writer. I was formed in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, my family is from Southern Karnataka in India, and I’ve lived all over the world. I try to use these different pieces of me to create globalising art. I’m interested in challenging the bounds of the Me vs You, the My Country vs Your Country in art. I think I do this in various different projects, but “ we of the forsaken world…”  is the one getting the most attention thus far. 

Your book, “We of the forsaken world” is truly intriguing and thought provoking  – a collection of 16 mini stories of 4 situations, each situation from 4 points of view – covering a range of current global and human issues including grief, jealousy, abuse, violence, sexuality, industrial spills, logging in jungle areas, trafficking, mobile phones, parent-child relationships, greed. I was fascinated by the milkmaid character – her need to fit in and be liked, her naivety, her sudden realisation that the girls she called friends were destroying her reputation. But what really made you decide to write a novel like this? 

“we, of the forsaken world…” came to me in 2011, when I was on a bus between Dubrovnik and Zagreb. A tall, brunette woman with a lingering stare sat down next to me on one of the stops. We began to talk about a host of things I can’t remember now, but the one thing that she told me which did remain in my head was the following: Croatia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Something about that sentence inspired my imagination. After we reached the bus station, I had to sit on one of the metal benches for a few hours, and write. I was starting to imagine different countries, completely imagined in my head. One was a half-rich half poor megalopolis, the sort found in most third-world countries. Then, there was a town that wasn’t so different looking from my grandmother’s place, the southern Indian city of Mysore. There was a tribe in the middle of nowhere, not to mention a town of great touristic importance, destroyed by an industrial spill. I also imagined hundreds of voices. Though, over the course of time, those two hundred-so voices became around sixteen; the most distinct and boisterous of the lot.

I enjoyed reading the book  – I grew to like how you wrote the book as the stories unfolded –  the mix of perspectives, the mix of characters. What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about?

Trying to make all of the sixteen characters and four regional voices feel realistic. Also trying to make it so that the structure would work. I kept trying different things, but finally settled on the poetic interludes. It’s now a lot of readers’ favourite thing about the book.

As you have travelled to over 130 countries, lived in at least 18 different places and can speak 12 languages – did you base your mini stories on any places or experiences in particular?

I think my regions are a mix of different places which really inspired me. I would say the city of Mysore, the global cities of Sao Paulo, Guayaquil, and Nairobi, the landscapes of Manu Jungle and the Masai Mara, the stories of Bhopal and Chernobyl, parts of Lake Van, Lake Victoria, and coastal Java. But, I would say that most of the things about this book were imagined, and created from my desire to spark new worlds. So, I don’t think you would see a lot of these places directly in my writing. They manifest in my sub-conscious, and help me to imagine clearer, or better. 

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

Well, I consider myself a Mumbaikher. I think Mumbai is the city of India which faces the world, which is why it makes most sense for an Indian origin person of globalising intents to write from. That being said, Istanbul, being the crossroads of the world, is also one of my favourite cities, and I think New York, which has all of the world inside of it, is also up there. 

Which place have you visited that you have felt didn’t actually live up to your expectations?

I don’t think I travel that way. I think I like certain things of certain places, but if a place doesn’t ‘live up to my expectations,’ it isn’t the place’s fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. I don’t think there any countries or cities that I dislike or hate. It’s more that they just weren’t my taste.

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

I tend to be a classics person. If it comes from the Vedic period of Indian literature, the Golden Age of Russian writing, European realism, or American modernism, I’m most likely going to adore it. To give names, I love Vyasa, Valmiki, Bana, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Melville, Faulkner, etc. I tend to read on both book and Kindle, but since I travel, I tend to use my Kindle more. It’s just more convenient when you change countries every few months, and I don’t feel like it changes much for me.

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

I have a giant book that I am going to write over the course of a decade, which will take place in 365 different locations on the planet, in the minds of two archetypes that take different regional form over the course of various story structures. It’s a complex book of its own. I’d love to talk about it more in detail, once I start putting it out formally next year. 🙂 

Is “We Of The Forsaken World” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, largely on the typical digital platforms, like Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, etc. I have gotten the book into some indie bookstores in India and the USA. Will let you know if I get it stocked in the UK. 

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

I wear a lot of graphic-Ts, with jeans. I’m trying to look more alternative, like the global-nomad-meets-guru type, but I need a lot of help styling myself. Maybe I can hire you as a fashion consultant sometime. 🙂

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon? It’s where you can buy pretty much anything you want.

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

Oh, god. I’m the last person to think about clothing, and anyone who has seen how I dress can attest to that. I suppose I need to buy some new shoes though, mostly because the ones I bought some months back are getting worn. I even tripped a few days back on my run, which I attest to partly Melbourne not being as well-paved as people would like to believe, and my shoes having lost some grip

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, as per what I have said above. I also don’t live in muggy places, so I rarely wear boots. In fact, I think I have only worn boots twice in my life.

For pinning later

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

Yes! 

my website: https://kiranbhatweldgeist.com/

my author fan page:https://www.facebook.com/Kiran-Bhat-105125697596856

my instagram handle: originalsin_0421

my twitter: Weldgeist Kiran

Ah, great to chat to you Kiran and I don’t think there is anything wrong with graphic tees and denim jeans! Boots though… really you should give them a try!! 😊 Having been to Nairobi, I could envisage a lot of what you were saying in your book … and Mysore, the city that I read about as a young child whilst reading such stories as Mowgli, and I have had the city on my “bucket list” for decades!!

My thanks to Ben Cameron & Kiran Bhat for sending me a copy of “ we of the forsaken world…” to review; all photographs have been published with kind permission of Kiran Bhat.

Linda x

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