Category Archives: Interview

The Maids Of Biddenden

My holiday book this year was the fascinating novel “The Maids Of Biddenden” by G D Harper. It is really an ”imagined biography” – a novel based on the legendary story of Mary and Eliza Chaulkhurst, the 12th century conjoined twins who hailed from Biddenden, Kent. A really heart warming and inspirational story of two women, with two distinctly different personalities and two different careers but sharing the one body. Although it is an imagined biography, the storyline isn’t far fetched and I was drawn into the world of the twins from the start. I loved the fact that although they were one body they were definitely two distinct people in their own right. I could easily imagine how frightened people were when they first encountered the twins, and how innocent the twins were, thinking that everybody starts life conjoined. This novel piqued my interest in finding out more about the twins, I cried at the cruelty, I laughed at the antics and petty quarrels between the girls and my heart melted when they encountered people who treated them with kindness. This book is the first in a new historical fiction trilogy highlighting little known stories from Kent and Sussex, by author GD Harper ( although , he has written 3 brilliant psychological thrillers – Love’s Long Road, A Friend In Deed and Silent Money). I couldn’t wait to chat to Glyn to find out more about the Maids of Biddenden … Hi Glyn! Please introduce yourself 😊

Hello! I went to Glasgow University in 1975 and lived in the city’s West End, the time and place for the setting of the majority of my first two novels, Love’s Long Road and Silent Money.

I also worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me ideas for the plot and setting that I used in my third novel, “A Friend in Deed”. Although somewhat overtaken by recent events, I think it still remains an entertaining read.

I now live in East Sussex, not far from Biddenden in Kent, which is the setting for my latest novel, The Maids of Biddenden, the imagined biography of Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, conjoined twins born in 1100 into a wealthy family from the small Kent village of Biddenden. When they died they left their money to charity, which almost 900 years later still gives donations to the elderly of the village every Easter Monday, making it one of oldest continuous charity doles in England. Visitors to the village when the dole is handed out can buy Biddenden cakes, shaped in the image of the Maids. They are rock-hard and inedible, but store well and are kept as souvenirs.

I became a full-time author in 2016. My writing was placed third in the Lightship Prize for first-time authors and has won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, longlisted for the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition, the Wishing Shelf 2018 awards, the 2020 Page Turner Writer Award, the 2021 Flash 500 Award, the 2021 Impress Prize and the 2021 Exeter Novel Prize. The Maids of Biddenden was number one in Medieval History on amazon.com in the month it was launched.

Who or what inspired you to research and write about The Maids of Biddenden? 

When you arrive in Biddenden, you are greeted by a village sign of the two women side-by-side and the same image is seen throughout the village. It is an astonishing story, and one that I always tell when I’m showing visitors around this beautiful part of Kent. But when I am asked specific questions about them, I realise how little factual information is known about Eliza and Mary. For a novelist, this is actually good news as I realised I had a largely blank canvas to describe a possible life for them. 

That was the inspiration for me writing, The Maids of Biddenden. I used the real-life historical events and characters of the time to give a factual backcloth to the story and carefully researched what was known about rural life in Kent at that time and the places where the book is set; Malling, Maidstone, Tenterden, Ashford, Canterbury and, of course, Biddenden itself. 

Property of Wellcome Institute in London, used with permission.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Maids of Biddenden”.  Although the novel is based on legendary story of the 12th century conjoined twins Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst and is essentially an imagined biography, I loved the portrayal of the twins and could imagine the reactions from people that met them. I loved that the twins had distinctly different personalities and I did giggle a bit when Eliza had a love interest! My heart melted when they were given a looking glass and I was so upset when Mary became ill.  They were definitely my favourite characters in the novel but I also had a soft spot for Sister Agnes, Gerbert and Gaston. Which characters were challenging to write about? 

I think Gudrun, the Maids’ stepmother was the most challenging. The twins spend their early years hidden away and being cared for by nuns, so she doesn’t meet them until they are six years old and is horrified both by the sight of them and the fact that she believes the family will be shunned if they return with them to Biddenden and so plots to stop that from happening. But over the course of the book she begins to accept and then admire them, and by the end she holds them in even higher esteem than the villagers do themselves. It was important to me to make this significant character as credible and believable as I think it has a message about how attitudes to disability are changing in today’s society as well. 

 Did you have any favourite characters?

Eliza and Mary are of course my favourites, but I enjoyed the challenge of bringing some of the minor characters to life – the outspoken alewife, Ada; the warring nobles William de Ashford and Robert de Crevecoeur, Deorwin the wise and compassionate village reeve, etc

© Paul Webster

Having already written 3 very popular psychological thrillers – Love’s Long Road; A Friend In Deed  &  Silent Money – “ The Maids Of Biddenden” is obviously a different genre (although written just as well!)  Were there any aspects of writing “The Maids Of Biddenden “ that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise, compared with writing psychological thrillers?

I was worried about how to give my author voice a historical feel without resorting to pastiche. And you can’t write in the actual language of the time as it would be incomprehensible, but you also need to make sure you don’t sound overly contemporary and avoid anachronisms. Hopefully, I’ve got the balance right, and if anything, I always veered more towards making the story easy to read rather than overly flowery and obtuse.

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

I had a first career in marketing, but I always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t start writing until I was in my fifties, as I think it took me until then to feel I had enough of an informed view of life to write words people would want to read.

 “The Maids Of Biddenden” is the first book of a planned trilogy of historical fiction highlighting little known stories from Kent and Sussex. Can you tell us a bit about the other books?  

It is the first part of a trilogy bringing to life obscure historical events and characters from Kent and Sussex. The outline of the second book is already defined and I’m currently working on a first draft.

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

Not as much as I’d like to be. I like reading authors who are easy to read, but have a great quality of prose that is both lyrical and evocative. I’m reading Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist at the moment, Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing before that. I also love the imagery in Ian McEwan’s books. 

And being a bit of a technophobe, I always read paperbacks.

Biddenden Cakes. Photo by Paul Webster

 Is “The Maids Of Biddenden” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes it is, in both paperback and e-book. I was number 16 in overall sales on Amazon in Australia at the beginning of September, number two in historical fiction behind the new Maggie O’Farrell novel. Having said I’m a technophobe, I’m amazed at how easy it is these days to market and sell books all over the world.

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

I’m working with facsimiles and transcriptions of 16th-century documents at the moment, the sourcematerial for my next novel. I’d love to visit the British Library and the Bodleian Library and see the actual documents for myself and see what additional insights they reveal.

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

When you get to a certain age, you have to up your game when it comes to clothes if you want to look smart, you can’t get away with cheap stuff anymore. Tailored suit with t shirt and leather sneakers if I’m going out, something non-slobby if I’m nipping down to the shops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like to buy my clothes in the independent shops in Brighton’s Lanes and go down and do a blitz shopthere once a year. Ted Baker and Paul Smith are the chains I like and so I pop into their shops in Covent Garden when I’m in London. I never buy clothes online.

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

A new Arc’teryx waterproof jacket for wearing in the Scottish mountains. My current one is coming to the end of its useful life.

Boots or Shoes? 

I’ll say boots, as I love climbing and trekking. But if you mean for casualwear, I’ll have to choose shoes. I like boots, but they don’t like me. Always giving me blisters.

For Pinning Later

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

Website:​​www.gdharper.com

Instagram: ​​@gdharperauthor

Thank you Glyn for agreeing to be interviewed; and thank you to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing (and Glyn) for sending me a copy of ”The Maids Of Biddenden” for reviewing. My thoughts about the book are 100% mine! 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of G D Harper and copyright information on certain photos has been added.

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Living The Dream

Have you ever been on holiday overseas in some idyllic place and just wondered what it would be like to live there on a permanent basis? Have you casually looked in an estate agents window or looked online for properties overseas? I know I have when I visited Madeira a few years back and since then, every time I’ve visited the island, I do get the ”urge”. I enjoy watching the TV programme ”Down Under” – when people from the UK get the chance to experience Australia or New Zealand for a week – they check out the housing market, job market, the food bills, the downtime opportunities, schooling (if necessary), opinions from ex pats and lastly they watch, usually weepy, a video from loved ones and friends giving their opinions on the ”move”. The couple then make up their minds whether they still want to move or not. The follow up programme a year or so later discovers whether they took the plunge or not! So, it was with great interest to receive ”Living The Dream” to review – this book really is the true life, warts-n-all accounts of settling overseas from women who wanted to live the dream including an eye opening account on how it feels to be a foreigner in England. This book is really essential reading for those aspiring to live abroad as well as for current expats. My guest this week is Carrie Frais, a British Broadcast journalist & PR consultant who has been living in Barcelona since 2006. She edited Living The Dream as well as contributed her story. Hi Carrie and welcome 😊

Hi! I am a British born TV and Radio journalist living in Cabrils, a pretty village about 20 minutes north of Barcelona. I am the founder of MumAbroad.com, an online resource for international families living in or relocating to Europe, FiG, a communications and creative agency and 4Voices, a platform to encourage public speaking among teenagers. I also host the podcasts ‘The Soundtrack to My Life’, ‘Notes OnLeadership’ and ‘Turo Talks’. I am married to Tom and have two teenage children Poppy & Bertie, Reggie the dog and cats Maggie and Wally.

Who or what inspired the compilation “Living TheDream” collection of true life accounts of settling overseas from women who wanted to “Live The Dream”?

#LivingTheDream was written during the pandemic, when time stopped and some of us (like me) suffered from existential angst. I realised that I hadn’t come to terms with losing both my parents a few years earlier as I had been so caught up with work and family. I also hadn’t come to terms with the loss of my childhood home and what that meant to my sense of belonging and identity. I wanted to share these thoughts and emotions with others as well as the challenges of living abroad with (in my case) losing a parent very suddenly and losing another parent after a long, drawn-out illness. I started talking to other women living abroad about these issues and I soon realised that many of them had undergone their own challenges as expats – from issues with alcohol to rootlessness. It was then that I came up with the idea of creating an anthology depicting different stories from different women but all with the underlying issues of loneliness, loss and identity. 

Being an expat has always had its misconceptions – unfortunately a lot of people do think expats are always living the high life – alcohol, parties, sunshine, beaches … Your book highlighted the diversity of expat experiences of nine women in their 40s, 50s & 60s… and great tips from those expats as well as analysis and advice from psychologist Leigh Matthews (also an expat). After moving to Barcelona in 2006, what did you realise was your biggest misconception about life in Spain compared with the UK?

Prior to 2006, my (then boyfriend, now husband) and I had divided our time between London and Barcelona for work. When I fell pregnant in 2006 we made the decision that we would move permanently to Barcelona, but we were well aware of the challenges that lay ahead. Both of us had to give up our careers (I was working at the BBC and ITN as a presenter and my husband was working in sports marketing). We had to re-invent ourselves. That was a huge challenge, but not a misconception as such as we had come across others who had been through that process and we were well aware of the difficulties. I think for me, the biggest misconception was around motherhood. I imagined a Mediterranean country full of services offering help with the many challenges of being a new mother. As time went by, I realised that new mothers in Catalonia and the rest of Spain would normally pass the childcare onto their own mothers and fathers and there were very few public or private centres that could offer new mothers like me, with no extended family nearby, a helping hand. It was then that I came up with the idea of MumAbroad – with the idea of creating a resource that would help other mothers and working women in a European country that was not their own. 

Were there any aspects of moving to Spain that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

I’d already lived in Madrid during University and in Barcelona post University so that really was the underlying reason I wanted to move back to Spain in the first place – for its vibrancy, its outdoor lifestyle, its entrepreneurial spirit (in Barcelona at least) and its generally relaxed mode, especially towards work. The British used to laugh at the Spanish for their ‘mañana’ attitude. It’s not really like that – they just have a fantastic balance between work and leisure here, which I think if the British analysed further, they might be a little envious of. 

You are a founding member of “Bremain in Spain”, which campaigns to protect the rights of British Citizens living in Spain & Europe.  How has BREXIT influenced or changed expat life in Europe?  

It’s definitely made me feel less British and more European. When I first moved to Barcelona I felt that being British was almost a badge of honour. People respected the British, its strongeconomy and its progressive attitudes. Brexit was a huge shock to the Spanish. They could not understand why the British would not want other Europeans to come to live and work in the UK. I felt embarrassed by the result of the referendum. It didn`t reflect my values and I felt we all got tarnished by the same brush. Luckily I was able to get Irish citizenship and I now have an Irish (EU) passport as well as my British one!

Let’s be positive – what is your favourite thing about living in Barcelona?  

Having the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, exquisite architecture and incredible gastronomy all within touching distance. 

One question I really want to know is, as you are already living in a tourist destination, when planning a holiday do you go back to the country of your birth, do you explore another area in your new “adopted” country; or do you book a holiday in a country or place vastly different from where you live?

I used to go regularly back to the UK when my parents were around and then Covid hit and this year was the first year in three years I went back for an extended length of time. We went to Cornwall and it was fabulous! Normally we go on a tour between family and friends houses in and around London but this year we decided to give ourselves a break and indulge in a typical British family holiday. We were there during the heatwave (or one of them!) which was a little surreal on a British holiday but it was hugely enjoyable. If we are not going to the UK or somewhere in the north of Spain we usually head to Languedoc in France we have a cute little townhouse. 

Is “#LivingTheDream” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes it is – it’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones as well as other well-known online stores.

You founded a fabulous website in 2008 called MumAbroad.com What inspired you to start this website?  In your opinion, what has been the most valuable resource the website has provided for expats and expats to be in Europe?

As I mentioned earlier, MumAbroad was initially started for selfish reasons – to help me with my journey navigating motherhood in a foreign country and then the site began to grow organically and we extended it to France, Italy and Germany. Initially the website was more a resource for new parents living abroad but as my own children and my business partner’s children have grown up, so has the website in that we now focus more on education, educational specialisms, child and adult therapy, relocation and on women and business. We aim to give a platform to mothers who want to get back into the workplace or have set up their own business after having taken time out of work when having a young family.

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

I made a promise to myself a year or so ago that I would only buy vintage, second hand or locally made clothes draw the line at underwear and sports gear though!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love the ‘Vide Greniers’ markets across the border in France which often have fabulous vintage clothes, there’s a local fashion market nearby called ‘Emocions’ which is held twice a year showcasing local designers and I love my nearest vintage shop ‘Carousel’ located in a vibrant coastal town called Vilassar de Mar. 

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

To find a couple of every day well fitted vintage jeans. I run a coworking space nearby and whereas before I could get away with just having a decent top for zoom calls, I now need to think about the whole outfit! 

Boots or Shoes?

Always boots. I love the clunkiness and comfiness of boots.

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

For pinning later

Websites: www.carriefrais.co.uk

www.mumabroad.com and www.FiGBcn.com

https://www.4-voices.com  and www.mixcloud.com/carrie-frais

Facebook: @carrie.frais        Twitter: @carriechantall1

Instagram: @carrie_frais      LinkedIn: carrie-frais

#Living The Dream: Expat Life Stripped Bare 

edited by Carrie Frais is published by Springtime Books (paperback, RRP £10) and available through bookshops & internet booksellers.

Thank you Carrie for the chat, thank you for the chance to review “Living The Dream” – it was definitely an interesting read and highly recommended.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Carrie Frais apart from the Pinterest and header picture which are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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An Interview With Author David Laws

During holiday season what can be better than finding a good book to read? One book I took on holiday with me to review, was ”Her Private War” by David Laws…

© LindaHobden

My Review

Based around the time of World War One, this novel tells the story of Charlotte Dovedale , a woman whose ambition was to be a pilot and fly for her country. But England at that time was on the verge of war, the suffragette movement was gaining momentum and Charlotte had to put up with prejudices and setbacks – from her own mother, her brother, the powers that be…. she had Scott though, who taught her to fly, had faith in her ability and, although Charlotte hated to admit it, he was rather handsome. Determined to fly, she takes on a photographer role in a frontline air base close to the French/Belgian border. Close enough to get to the planes and show her ability but will she get a chance?????????? You’ll just have to read the book to find out! I enjoyed the story, the era it was based in, the story twists were unbelievably subtle and you can tell a lot of research went into presenting a novel that truly reflected the mood of that time.

The Interview

So, it is with great joy to welcome onto the blog this week the author, David Laws.

Hello! I’m a journalist turned thriller writer with five published novels, launching in 2018 with Munich The Man Who Said No! (Chamberlain controversy), went on to Exit Day (Brexitconspiracy) 2019 and then in 2020 The Fuhrer’s Orphans (rescuing children from the Nazis). The latest is Her Private War (exploits of a woman pilot in the First World War)

Who or what inspired you to research and write “Her Private War”?

Inspiration for my main character in Her Private War, Charlotte Dovedale, arose from a visit to the only remaining operational First World War aerodrome in this country – at a tiny Essex village called Stow Maries. They had female workers on site (in a hut separated from the rest!) and women are well represented on information displays. Stow is a wonderful resource for how things worked back then with lots of inspirational personal stories. Add in their own aircraft and hangars and other early aircraft that drop in on flying days.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Her Private Book”.  I haven’t read many books based during World War I Britain and nowadays it is easy to forget the struggles women had to be thought about seriously, especially when it came to jobs and their roles in wartime.  I loved the character of Charlotte Dovedale! She was my absolute favourite! What character was the hardest to write? Who was the easiest?  Did you base the mannerisms of the characters on people that you have come across in your research? 

I enjoyed researching the character of Charlotte, her trials and tribulations, and when I’d got her, she appeared easily on the page. Of course, you have to remember women were actually banned from the air at that time, so my challenge was to find ways for her to break the embargo. The hardest person to write was the father of her best friend whom she idolised as a kind of substitute father. He let her down and I had to give him legitimate reasons to do so. Mannerisms… they came from watching people in buses and trains!

When you were researching in preparation for this novel, were there any aspects of life around that time in general, that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

The more you get into the 1910-14 age the more surprises! Poverty at that time was such that the war was actually a boon to those who were not in immediate danger. If you hailed from the horror of the slums being called up to the forces meant three meals a day, proper beds, a nice uniform and respect for who you were. Many pleaded: please don’t stop the war! I was also able to add a little texture from the family lexicon.

Hypothetically speaking, if “Her Private War” was made into a film, who would you think would be most suited to the characters of Charlotte and Scott?

My film choices for Charlotte and Scott; Kate Winslet and Tom Holland.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a journalist/author or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

I always wanted to be a reporter from my teens, started writing a magazine at school and couldn’t wait to get started. Probably wrote about a hundred letters of application before I landed a job. Asking questions of other people, that’s the key… but now I ask questions of myself instead, delving into the imagination with ‘What if….?’

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

Unsurprisingly, my favourite genre is the thriller, with Robert Harris probably the master of the art. Add in Philip Kerr, Ken Follett, Jack Higgins, Henry Porter, Peter Robinson, Robert Goddard, Gerald Seymour and Charles Cumming. I’m happy with either Kindle or paperback.

 Is “Her Private War” available to purchase worldwide?

Her Private War is available to all English speaking readers(62 reviews in the UK, 38 in the US and 35 in Canada) and there are eight European translation versions of the book, the most recent in Spain, which I visited a few weeks back to help with the launch.

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

I’ve always fancied Amsterdam as a starter for another story… all that water, all those crimes, the paintings, the artists and the forgers. Dirty work at the crossroads, as my Mum used to say.

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

As a keen walker I’m usually in outdoor gear, mostly The North Face, with Craghoppers and Karrimor boots (like slippers); on other occasions I attempt smart casual with jeans, favouring Gardeur or Meyer bought at a great little tailor’s in my local town.

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

Some comfortable Oxford shoes.

Boots Or Shoes?

Oxford Shoes

Links you would like to share:

For Pinning Later © LindaHobden

David Laws books on Amazon; 

website: https://davidlaws.co.uk

twitter@davidlawsauthor; 

Facebook; Thriller Writers@davidlawsbooks.Book

Thank you very much David for chatting to me about your book and also thank you for sending me a copy of Her Private War for reviewing. I really enjoyed the read 😊 Thanks also to Ben Cameron

All photographs have been published with kind permission of David Laws, apart from where marked.

Linda x

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Spotlight On Feet

Do you know the importance of correct posture? Do you know the impact that slippers can make on our joints and muscles? Have you been wearing the right kind of footwear when working from home? Are your feet causing you pain? My guest, Christophe Champs, knows everything there is to know about feet and footwear. He is a consultant in podiatry & biomechanics as well as founder of the PODO clinic in London. His expertise has taken him around the world from Paris to Toronto, Dubai to The Maldives, Monaco to London. Hi Christophe and welcome…

My name is Christophe Champs and my ‘thing’ is to make people’s bodies work better. I shaped my professional career following a poor medical experience that made me dream about a clinic / workshop like PODO. Since the opening of the place in central London in April 2021, I have been living the dream!

You work with clients to help correct their postural & bio mechanical issues that are causing them pain or putting them at risk of injury. So what is the importance of correcting your posture?

Posture is everything and, I believe, today back and neck pain are everywhere. Having a strong foundation with an upright posture is an easy way to improve our quality of life. 

At PODO we discuss your three postures; standing, sitting and even your sleeping one, as we consider orthotics to be only one piece of the puzzle. Patients are often surprised to discover how beneficial custom orthotics can be for back and neck pain.

Some people walk around the house barefooted, others prefer wearing slippers. What is best for your feet? 

The answer will depend on 2 factors:

• Your physical attributes, such as your flexibility, fat pad atrophy…

• What you do barefoot or in slippers and how much time you spend in those.

Health is about balance. Balance well the time when you need shoes and support with the time you need to be barefoot to let your foot muscles work and your skin and nails breath.

Slippers are practical but have no positive effect for your health and well-being. 

If you spend 10 hours a day with shoes on at work and don’t have any body-pain when you are barefoot, then spend your evening barefoot. 

I do it myself every evening and wear orthotics all day long.

Your clinic, PODO, provides customised orthotics – what is the procedure and what materials do you use?

At PODO I use a step-by-step procedure. The clinic has been designed to take the patient ona journey and spend 90 minutes on his or her body.

We start with an interview to identify the goal of the visit. Then we move onto the Podobaroscop, where I look at the entire body through some static tests, then the examination table for multiple, hands-on checks on the patient. Finally comes the gait analysis to look at the dynamics – or how the body moves and compensates.

Following the consultation, the patient journey continues in the workshop area. As every body is asymmetrical, both feet are treated independently. 

We use two footprints on our Podograph for me to prepare all the material needed. Then we create two different foot moulds thanks to our Podolab.

Each layer of the orthotics is warmed up to become mouldable and placed on each foot mould with the patient foot on top… Because the best template of your foot really is yourfoot! I do not to use any foot casts or send anything away to factories for anyone else to make my patients orthotics. The moulding stage is actually the patient’s favourite part. Which makes sense. After all, who doesn’t like to have warm feet? 

Following the moulding of every layer, I glue them all together and trim the orthotics in front of the patient. I find having the patient involved in the process very beneficial to the treatment plan. On one hand it allows me to craft orthotics which are very snug and accurate and, on the other, it gives more time for the patients to share and learn more about their condition.

Who are the typical candidates that you would recommend for PODO orthotics?

I’d say that if you have pain which increases when you stand for long periods or when you increase your level of activity (exercise), then you must have someone looking at how your body works and what is causing the pain or discomfort. I am ensuring that PODO doesn’t become too specialised, in order to keep a diversity in patients’ stories. All patients are interesting and challenging when it comes to Biomechanics and I am delighted to see every age, discipline and level throughout the course of each week. 

You offer 2 types of orthotics length – short & long.  What are differences between the two?

The size! Just kidding of course. 

A short set of orthotics allows the patient to wear them in dressy shoes with not much volume available. Actually, it often happens with a short set of orthotics that patients go down a shoe size when adding the orthotics into their shoes! This is simply because the forefoot stops spreading and patients realise that they have been wearing shoes that are too big because of their foot type, rather than the actual size of their foot.

Full length orthotics will replace the existing insole of the shoes. It’s straightforward when you can replace them in all your shoes. They are also covered with a soft padding, which the patients appreciate.

There is not one set better than the other. When going for a spare set I would alwaysrecommend having one of each. You do not need it for the treatment to work but it is practical and always a pleasure to have the choice.

 You have been a consultant in podiatry & biomechanics for many years and your experience & expertise has taken you around the world from Paris to Toronto, Dubai, The Maldives, Monaco and since 2016, London – have you always wanted to be in the podiatry industry or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

Orthotics changed my life at the age of 14. I literally planned every career move and work experience abroad around my purpose. I could have keep playing rugby, but I quickly understood that having a purpose at such a young age was a blessing. No time wasted, more time to travel and learn, getting better and better without ever settling into any comfort zone. Working with different cultures is really something I’d recommend to any young professional, as it makes our future choice wiser.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when buying footwear? What are your recommendations?

Not trying both shoes on – and buying online. 

A number doesn’t fit your foot and you won’t always be the same shoe size. There are so many reasons to require a different shoe size from one purchase to another. Take your time to try your shoes with the socks you intend to wear and towards the end of the day. 

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

I am not a shoe collector but then I don’t wear dressy shoes. I like my Nike Zoom Vomeroand lots of blue navy casual trainers with white soles and no logo. Many brands make thatkind of shoe and I change brand regularly so as not to get bored and to check them out too.But never change the colour. I like blue, it’s my feel-good colour and I always have some blue on me. Quite ridiculous to be honest!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I wish I had but I struggle as much as my patients in front of those good-looking new trends that don’t tick my boxes – and with the absence of consistency in shoe making with most big brands. There are still some stores I recommend a lot such as ECCO, TODS and RM WILLIAMS, depending on your budget and the type of shoes you want.

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

A pair of customised RM Williams – navy blue of course!

Boots or Shoes?

Don’t choose, take both! 

Laced up boots are good for your ankle when you wear them. However, over time as the muscles surrounding your ankle will work less, their reactivity on uneven terrain is reduced and they become less protective against ankle sprain. Fashion-wise, I find boots great to look casual and feel relaxed!

For Pinning Later

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

Web: www.podo.london

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/podo.london/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/podo.london/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PodoLondon

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCss43g6-7mcNBwrRnf1zKlw

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christophe-champs-podo/

Thank you for joining me on the blog Christoph – I really love the fact that you have a ”feel good” colour! I love navy blue too but red is my colour I think 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Christophe Champs (PODO Clinic) apart from the Header & Pinterest pic which are by Linda Hobden.

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Reckless Grace Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be on another book tour – this time it is to highlight “Reckless Grace” by Carolyn DiPasquale – a moving memoir or as Carolyn puts it, a mother’s crash course in mental illness.

BOOK SUMMARY

Fourteen-year-old Rachel guards a collection of secrets for ten years, journaling to vent her terror and loneliness.

Following Rachel’s fatal overdose years later, her mother, Carolyn DiPasquale, stumbles upon her daughter’s diaries. Shattered, she searches for answers, retracing her steps to figure out how parents and doctors missed three major mental illnesses.

What the single, working mother recalls is a far cry from what happens, as dramatically revealed in tandem chapters gleaned from Rachel’s journals. While the mother sprints from task to task, the daughter details the baffling emergence and frightening progression of bulimia, diabulimia, and borderline personality disorder; her eventual substance abuse; and heart-wrenching reasons for not seeking help.

Despite her loss, DiPasquale hopes her story lights a path for victims of mental illness while awakening all readers.

Publisher: E.L. Marker

ISBN-10: 1947966550

ISBN-13: 978-1947966550

ASIN: ‎B09W69TT11

Print length: 440 pages
Purchase a copy of Reckless Grace on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list

MY INTERVIEW

This book is brutally honest – and although it is a sad tale, it is also one that hopefully helps other parents to spot the signs of mental illness in adolescents that can easily be missed. There is a lot of love in this book too. And a lot of heartache. I am so honoured to have Carolyn join us on the blog …. welcome Carolyn…

Hi I’m Carolyn. I’m a follower of God, a wife, mother, grandmother, and new author.

What made you decide to write down your memoir about your beautiful daughter Rachel and her struggles with mental illness, diabetes, diabulimia, bulimia and substance abuse? 

My daughter’s extraordinary journals—twenty volumes penned over ten years. When I discovered them, I felt like I’d struck gold. Rachel was guarded, and her death was abrupt. These diaries would finally let me in. They would answer my gnawing questions. However, once her secrets started to surface, I knew they had to be shared. Other people, especially parents of teenage girls, would want to know how Rachel had fallen through the medical cracks and why she’d kept quiet for fourteen years.

Your book highlighted for me how quickly your daughter’s struggles with accepting her diabetes and trying to deal with puberty and wanting to be slim quickly escalated to eating disorders and substance abuse. I have heard of anorexia and bulimia and diabetes but never heard of “diabulimia”. Before your daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, had you heard of “diabulimia”? Do you think the diabetes diagnosis and subsequent treatments were to the catalyst for her succumbing to her eating disorders and substance abuse disorder?

I had never heard of diabulimia, nor have most of my readers; indeed, this term has been unfamiliar even to RNs who have been practicing for decades.

Though other factors were involved, Rachel’s diabetes diagnosis was the catalyst. Up until then she was a happy, slender fourteen-year-old. With insulin therapy, she gained 15 pounds, her new shape clashing with the waif-like female body type pop culture was pushing in 1998. Adolescence, as you guessed, also played a part. At a time when Rachel’s autonomy should have been taking flight, diabetes, with its strict food and insulin regime, clipped her wings. Tragically, she rebelled by turning against herself.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected? 

Nothing about writing this book was easy, except knowing in my bones that it had to be done. I expected it to be emotionally taxing, but I never dreamed it would be so intellectually taxing or time-consuming. I had to pore through hundreds of pages of Rachel’s journals, not just to plumb the meaning of her poetry and prose, but also to choose from among the sea of riveting entries. Next, I had to research diabulimia and Borderline and their link to substance abuse, reading and rereading highly technical studies that I labored to convey in simple language. Then I had to figure out how to work all this information into the story in a way that was logical and compelling. Another challenge was trying to reach both Christian and secular readers.I did not want to minimize my or Rachel’s faith. Nor did I want to proselytise . I ended up cutting quite a bit of spiritual content to find that sweet spot. 

I loved your writing style and the honesty that shone through. I was also impressed and moved by Rachel’s journals – her thoughts so eloquent yet heartbreaking too. Do you feel that journal writing was a therapeutic way for Rachel to cope with what was going on in her life? Was reading Rachel’s journals and writing this memoir therapeutic for you too?

Rachel journaled for a few reasons. First to unburden her tortured soul. But she also loved writing. She constantly read good books, mostly by contemporary writers—Alice Sebold, Toni Morrison, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg. She liked to learn new words; and often defined these in the margins of her journals, applying them in that day’s entry. Mostly, Rachel wanted to be known. While guarding her deepest secrets from her family, she meticulously recorded her struggles, hoping, I can only guess, that after she died, we, and possibly a larger audience, might finally understand her.  

This project was therapeutic for me. Healing came not just from venting my emotions but also from understanding what had happened. Learning about Rachel’s disorders helped me grasp some of her baffling thought patterns and risky behaviors. Even her grip on substances and downward spiral started to make sense. My comprehension even of this tragic path somehow brought me peace. 

One thing I did feel was how easily signs of eating disorders and substance abuse can be missed by parents and by specialists and how easily addicts can “hide” the signs too. What is the main piece of advice you would give to a parent in a similar situation?

I didn’t talk to my kids enough about substances. I would caution parents to discuss this subject early and often. By early, I mean third or fourth grade, well before kids are exposed or enticed and when they still think Mom and Dad know a few things. By often, I mean monthly or at least several times a year. Parents shouldn’t lecture. These talks should be short and light—simple statements, suggestions, and questions that plant seeds about the insidious nature of alcohol and drugs so their kids make wise decisions when they grow up.

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

Writing has always been my first love. Being a novelist would have been my ideal career, but it wasn’t feasible as a single mother. I settled for teaching writing; it seemed like the next best thing.

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

I chain read good literature. After word processing all day, I wouldn’t think of reading on a Kindle. I reach for the book on my nightstand. There’s something soothing about smelling and turning real pages. Though I enjoyed reading the classics in college, now, like Rachel, I prefer contemporary literature,memoirs and fiction about family dynamics and relationships. I’m currently reading Ann Tyler’s Saint Maybe. Before that I read a new memoir by Cathryn Vogeley, I Need to Tell You and A Yellow Raft on Blue Water by Michael Dorris.

 Is “Reckless Grace” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes.

 What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like to walk and hike in any season, especially in fall when the trees are breathtaking and the cool air is perfumed with the musk of fallen leaves. I love to shop at thrift and consignment stores.It’s such a rush to find treasures for nearly nothing. I enjoy talking with female friends over coffee or wine. I LOVE reading to my granddaughters. Four-year-old Lelia and two-year-old Essie sit on either side, crunched against me on the couch, like soft,sweet-smelling bookends. Church outreach—visiting people in nursing homes and hospitals or doing Bible studies with homeless women—also gives me joy.

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

I love quality clothes in flattering colors with good lines. Comfort is also key. In summer, when I’m home writing, I dress down: sleeveless linen top or cotton tee, Levi’s Bermudas, flipflops or bare feet. When I go out, I wear a linen or cotton maxi dress.

For Pinning Later

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like TJ Maxx and Marshalls because they carry quality yet affordable shoes and clothes.

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

I’m always looking for that elusive linen jacket in oatmeal white with silver buttons. I had one once, but I literally wore it out.I’m also on the lookout for stylish (never Uggs) fleece-lined winter boots for those frigid winter walks.

Boots or Shoes? 

Please don’t make me choose between boots and shoes! I love them both! I recall the foreign but wonderful smell of Italian leather filling my bedroom when my mom bought my first pair of burgundy buckle shoes. I displayed them on my dresser. From then on, I was hooked. My love of boots followed. To my chagrin, we couldn’t afford the stylish “shoe boots” other girls wore. Now, I indulge myself. My favorites are a gorgeous pair of knee-length, black leather Coach boots with flat heels and silver buckles that the kids bought me one year for Christmas.

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

www.recklessgracestory.com

https://www.instagram.com/dipasqualecarolyn/

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you so much Carolyn for letting me be part of your Reckless Grace Book Tour – I really thought the book was interesting, thought provoking and I highly recommend it. Thank you for the review copy of Reckless Grace.

Linda x

All photographs has been published with the kind permission of Carolyn DiPasquale.

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An Interview With Rosie Wilby

From music journalist to musician performing at Glastonbury; from singer-songwriter to author; my blog guest, comedian and podcaster Rosie Wilby has been wowing audiences with her podcast ”The BreakUp Monologues” and the accompanying book and has toured some major world cities with her solo shows investigating love and relationships. She recently performed at the 2022 Margate Bookie Festival to promote her Break Up Monologues book. I’m so excited to welcome Rosie onto the blog …. hi Rosie!

I’m Rosie Wilby, a comedian and author who has been obsessively investigating the psychology of love for a decade for a trilogy of live shows, two books and a podcast. I’ve conducted surveys asking ‘what counts as cheating?’, participated in a sex lab experiment and even performed comedy at a sex party – all in the name of ‘research’. 

People know you as a comedian &  the podcaster on your podcast The Break Up Monologues; so what inspired the launch of the “The Break Up Monologues” and the accompanying book that has recently been published?

My fascination with breakups all started when I was dumped by email years ago. I did joke at the time that I felt better after correcting my ex-partner’s spelling. Ha! But in reality, of course, being dumped is such a bewildering experience. You lose yourself. So I really wanted to learn more about how heartbreak actually works – and ask other comedians and friends about how they recovered from it. 

You introduced the “The Break Up Monologues” at the recent Margate Bookie Festival; and you have performed solo shows investigating love & relationships with The Science of Sex and The Unconscious Uncoupling around various venues in the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and Berlin. What do you enjoy most about doing live shows?  Any notable incidents or highlights?

There’s something magical about communicating an idea or joke to a live audience. Although performers were glad of online events during the pandemic, it’s really not quite the same. The Breakup Monologues will be continuing to tour to lots of festivals this Summer. So look out for me and say hi! 

In the late 1990s you were a music journalist for Time Out London, NME and you had your own column “Rosie’s Pop Diary” in the now defunct Making Music Magazine. Interviewing stars such as Beth Orton, Suzanne Vega, Stereophonics (well jel😀) and the band, Muse;  did you interview anyone that made you a bit starstruck? Is there any musician,  alive or dead, you would have loved to interview if you had had the chance?

That all feels like a lifetime ago now. I was so young and naive! I once interviewed kd Lang and that was quite scary. She really is such a legend. 

Music also plays a big part in your life. What or who inspired you to become a singer-songwriter?   

I wrote songs from a very early age and formed my own band when I arrived in London in the 1990s. I think it just seemed like a great way to express myself. Especially for a shy young woman. It was only later in life, I was able to emerge from behind the guitar and do comedy. 

You performed at the Left Field Stage at Glastonbury in 2005. What was it like performing at such a prestigious music festival? What moments have personally stood out for you in your musical career?

Performing at Ronnie Scott’s was probably a bit of a highlight. They had us headline the Sunday night there back in 2000 when my album Precious Hours came out. 

Having performed on stage musically how easy or hard was it to step on stage to do stand up comedy?  What made you take the leap from music into stand up? 

My band broke up around the time my album came out. But I didn’t really enjoy performing solo. What I had noticed, however, was people laughing at my self-deprecating comments between the songs. So I entered a few comedy competitions, including Funny Women in 2006, and found myself getting through to the finals. 

Growing up Rosie, what were your initial career aspirations?  

Initially I wanted to be a cartoonist. I was obsessed with Snoopy and would spend time creating my own characters. 

Are your books, “Is Monogamy Dead?” and “The Break Up Monologues” available to purchase worldwide?

They certainly are. You can find them on most book sites or order from most book shops. I also narrated both of the audio books which you can download worldwide on Audible. 

Are you a bookworm?  If so, do you prefer “actual” books or kindle?  What genre(s) do you enjoy reading? 

I love actual book.

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

I love to be comfortable in jeans and a shirt. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like getting clothes from All Saints. 

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

A really warm long winter coat. Although it’s the wrong time of year to be thinking about that I suppose. Ha. 

Boots or Shoes?

Trainers, particularly Vans. Do they count as shoes?? 

For Pinning Later

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

Check out The Breakup Monologues book at https://linktr.ee/breakupmonologues

Check out the podcast at www.podfollow.com/breakupmonologues 

Check out my news and gig list at http://rosiewilbynews.blogspot.com/

I’m on Twitter @rosiewilby and on Instagram @breakupmonologues and I’d love to hear from people there.

Thanks for the chat Rosie !

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Rosie Wilby.

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An Interview With Kevin Gaskell

Adventure with a capital A this week as I chat to my guest this week, business entrepreneur and adventurer Kevin Gaskell. Kevin has led 15 companies; has been CEO for BMW, Porsche and Lamborghini (GB); written a book; was a member of the crew that set a world record for rowing across the Atlantic; has played international cricket; climbed Mount Everest; has walked both the North and South Pole; played in a rock band; is a keen skier, scuba diver and enjoys clay pigeon shooting. In 2024, he will be attempting the world record for crossing the Pacific ….. Hi Kevin & welcome….

Hello! I’m Kevin and I would say that I am a businessman who enjoys adventure! An engineer and accountant by qualification, I have led 15 companies of which 7 have been turnarounds or in need of significant re energising. I enjoy the challenge of building extraordinary companies and building world class teams. Outside the office, I maintain my enjoyment of adventure by my pursuit of extreme physical challenges. 

Being an entrepreneur and adventurer, what was the inspiration behind your book “Catching Giants” ?

The book is written with 3 elements – firstly the adventure story of how 5 novice rowers took on the world’s toughest row, won the race and set a new world record for the fastest crossing despite being hammered by storms and capsizing the boat in the middle of the ocean. Secondly, how did we use planning and preparation to defeat stronger and more experienced rowers including Olympic oarsmen. Thirdly, the lessons that we learned from the experience and how those lessons of becoming world class can be applied by anyone to their lives or their business.   

“Catching Giants” provides 80 step by step lessons/advice for business world leaders & having built 15 companies and have been CEO of BMW, Porsche & Lamborghini, what was the best business  advice you received from someone that you’ve passed on? 

The best advice that I was ever given was to focus on getting better at whatever you are setting out to do. If you do that, then bigger will follow. Do not chase numbers, rather build a great business.

It’s an understatement to say that you’re a serial adventurer – you are always on the go!  From being part of the crew that set a new world record for rowing across the Atlantic (in 2020), climbing Everest ( I haven’t climbed Everest – yet) , playing International cricket, walking both Poles and in 2024 you will be attempting the world record for crossing the Pacific.  Who or what first inspired your love of adventure? 

I grew up in North Wales and have been climbing mountains since I was about 12 years old. My love of outdoor adventure has just grown from there… Each adventure gets a bit bigger and a bit more extreme but it feels like a natural progression.

So, as we are talking adventure, I guess you don’t do tame hobbies!  What do you enjoy doing in your spare time or to relax? 

I enjoy clay pigeon shooting, playing guitar in a rock band and reading business books.

Back to business, as  you have had vast experience working with entrepreneurs, pioneers and global brands, what projects gave you a real buzz? 

The biggest buzz ever was leading the turnaround of Porsche. The business was in a very difficult position and, to my complete surprise, I was appointed MD of the UK operation. We had lost 90% of our sales and were in last place on the UK customer satisfaction survey. We had a mountain to climb but with every single member of a fantastic team pulling together for 4 years we led the business to the top of the table for customer satisfaction and thereby, profitability. It really was an incredible result. I have also enjoyed building technology businesses where we have turned good ideas into successful and valuable companies.   

In a similar vein, what type of adventures give you a real buzz?  

The Atlantic row was very special. Physically it was extreme exertion at a whole new level. We were rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off for 24 hours every day for 36 days. With very limited opportunity to sleep, by day 12 or so we were hallucinating and each rowing shift was a trial. But we were an amazing team – we started as friends and we finished as friends despite the enormous physical hardship.

 As a child, what was your dream career? 

I always wanted to be a civil engineer and build exciting structures. So that’s what I did. My first degree was in Civil and Structural Engineering and I enjoyed every minute of it. After 4 years on construction sites though I realised that my ambition to build inspiring structures was, in reality, more likely to be digging drainage alongside a new motorway construction. At that point I decided that I needed to broaden my skillset and I went back to university to study for an MBA before moving into accountancy for 5 years.  

If you could visit any place in the world – either to pursue an adventure or to just holiday – where would you go and why?

I would love to trek through the Andes.

Is your book “Catching Giants” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, via Amazon.

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

Jeans, open neck shirt, sneaker type shoes – unless I’m going to a formal meeting in which case it would likely be a jacket and trousers and Chelsea boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ? 

I like SportPursuit for sports and semi-expedition gear, otherwise I tend to buy Gant shirts and Levi jeans.  

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

I have just been measured up for my first ever bespoke business suit. This was with Alexandra Wood and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. the accessories will follow in a few months when I have the suit.

Boots or Shoes?

Chelsea boots generally. I think they are more comfortable and interesting.

For pinning later photo by Linda Hobden ©

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

Website: kevingaskell.comlinkedin.com/in/kevin-gaskell, Instagram: kevin_gaskell, Twitter: @kevindgaskell

Wishing you all the best Kevin with your 2024 Pacific crossing attempt!!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kevin Gaskell (apart from the Pinterest & header photo which are by Linda Hobden)

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Spotlight On Seasonal Eating

Ever wondered why eating local produce when in season is better for you healthwise, better experience for your tastebuds, better for your wallet and better for the environment? Holly and Toby, founders & chefs at the Kindling Restaurant in Brighton, whose menus and dishes are inspired by nature and the changing seasons, were kind enough to explain everything you need to know about seasonal eating …. and we talked about footwear too, of course! Welcome Holly & Toby…

Hello. We are Holly Taylor and Toby Geneen, best friends, business partners and co-head chefs at Kindling restaurant in Brighton. We met working in London and have worked together on and off for nearly nine years now. 

As founders & Head Chefs of the Kindling Restaurant in Brighton, how important is it to you that your menu is dictated by nature and that the seasons inspire the dishes that you create?

It’s the absolute heart of our concept. We are in a constant dialogue with our suppliers to find out when things are going in or out of season so we can adapt our dishes to showcase the very best of local produce 

What is meant by seasonality?

For us it means creating dishes around produce that is growing naturally in our locality at any given time of year. We complement this with ingredients we have preserved from other seasons so that we always have a variety of tastes, colour and textures. 

Photo Credit: Jo Hunt, Restaurants Brighton

What do you feel are the main benefits to follow a seasonal based diet?

Produce that’s grown locally and picked when ripe tastes better, is usually less expensive and higher in micronutrients. For example, British asparagus will hands-down beat imported asparagus for flavour and texture every time. 

I love that the seasons inspire your dishes – what are the popular dishes for each season? 

Our smoked tomato dish is always a winner on the summer menu. Cuttlefish stew which is only in season for 6-8 weeks is very popular in May. In the winter, the locally shot venison is a favourite. Dishes always change a bit from one year to the next because we are constantly innovating and improving things. 

Photo Credit: Jo Hunt, Restaurants Brighton

What is your favourite season, especially where food is concerned? What dishes do you personally enjoy making/ and or eating? 

We love them all for different reasons but we definitely get most excited about spring. We’re big fans of wild garlic, asparagus and elderflower. 

So … let’s play the name game … why did you  choose the name “Kindling” for your restaurant and the distinctive logo? Were there any other contenders? 

We cook the majority of our food over a fire which is the heart of our open kitchen, so it seemed natural to have a name that was connected to this. We had plenty of terrible ideas early on but eventually Kindling seemed like the right fit. The logo is a design based on combining the alchemical symbols for land, sea and fire. We wanted to embrace the three elements that are core to our cooking and Brighton location – food from the local land and sea, cooked over fire. 

Have you always wanted a career in the food industry or growing up, did you have other ambitions?

Holly – I wanted to be a chef when I was a kid but I was also pretty academic so I ended up doing university and some other things before eventually taking the plunge. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else!

Toby – As a kid I wanted to be a Professional Snowboarder / Rockstar / Sculptor / Astronaut / Barrister. I studied Design at University. I’m a Chef. I think my kid self would be at least somewhat proud. 

Personal now – outside of cheffing, what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Toby – Adidas Superstars or Gazelles, or Nike Airmaxtrainers. Howies organic jeans and an extra large white t-shirt. 

Holly – also Adidas trainers, bootcut jeans and an oversize hoodie.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Brocery store, they make the best massive hoodies 

Carhartt 

Adidas 

Volcom

Paul Smith

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

Toby – new pair of superstars 

Holly – new pair of tall knee-high boots 

Boots or Shoes?

Holly – boots for comfort, I’m already tall so heels aren’t really my thing. Or just good trainers. 

Toby – shoes, they’re more comfortable. 

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

For pinning later

www.kindlingrestaurant.com 

IG @kindlingrestaurant 

FB @kindlingbrighton 

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Holly & Toby (Kindling Restaurant, Brighton)

Photo Credits: Kindling Restaurant; Jo Hunt, Restaurants Brighton @JoHuntPhotography

Linda x

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An Interview With Hayaty Natural Skincare

This week my guest is Randa Zaid, founder of Hayaty Natural Skincare. Hayaty is a natural, genderless skincare brand inspired by the wellness recipes of the ancient Egyptians. What really impressed me is that each bottle comes with a handmade piece of Egyptian papyrus to inspire us to love ourselves and the environment. Isn’t that cool? ! Without further ado, let us welcome Randa onto the blog… hello Randa!

Hello! My name is Randa Zaid, I am 29 years old and I am an experienced serial entrepreneur in the fields of hospitality, tourism and recently cosmetics as the current founder and CEO of Hayaty Natural, a clean, genderless, vegan, all natural, organic, cruelty-free skincare startup inspired by Ancient Egyptians’ self-care rituals. I hold a degree in cultural heritage from the Catholic University of Milan and I am currently based in the UK, although I was born in Egypt and raised in Italy.

I love remaining true to my roots when developing brands and concepts that can benefit and strengthen the community and I am an advocate for increasing awareness for diversity and inclusion in the work-space and I talk openly about body positivity after personally going through and healing from an eating disorder.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of your natural genderless skincare brand, Hayat Natural?

When COVID-19 hit the world, I became mindful of the importance of safe and beneficial ingredients, pursuing a healthier lifestyle and ending years of my own personal struggle with eating disorders, and self-image.

Being very passionate about history and inspired by my ancestors, the pharaohs; and with the aim to go back to basics, and adopting a more natural, minimalistic approach to self-care; I started researching the approach Ancient Egyptians had to beauty, ingredients and the secret ancient formulas they used in their daily lives.

What really surprised me was that, for them, beauty was more than only an aesthetic aspect. It was about taking care of their souls and bodies.

Selfcare, back then, was genderless, as it was considered a sign of holiness more than just a beauty thing.

Men and women alike were known to adopt a holistic approach where the physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing were taken into consideration, so that their bodies could function as a whole.

They had strong beliefs on the body’s natural self-healing process, and how important it was to add natural ingredients to support this process, instead of being aggressive or looking for quick fixes to any concern. 

Considering that they lived in a very challenging climate, where one of their biggest concerns was how to take care of and protect their biggest organ, the skin, they used some of the first recorded “cosmetics” made from rich formulas using medicinal botanicals such as Black Seed, Lupin oil, Fenugreek oil among others to protect and help the skin recover, and allow it to remain healthy.

After adopting and using these ingredients and seeing how much of a difference they made in my life and how much they helped me in my healing journey, I decided to bring them to life and share them with a larger audience, with the aim of creating a community that believes real beauty is more than just fitting into society’s standards; one that believes in adopting a holistic approach, that uses self-care not only to look good from the outside, but also to feel good from within.

I love finding out the origins of brand names – what does “Hayaty” mean and why did you choose that name? Were there any other contenders?

Hayaty means “My Life” in Arabic. I couldn’t find a better word to express my journey and how starting Hayaty allowed me to get my life back. So, it was the only name I considered since day one. I love to hear it from other people too. It is a name that represents each one of us as it helps us regain control of our lives. An affirmation of life and to empowering others.

You have currently launched your two key products: Egyptian Recovery Night Cream and the Egyptian Blessed Night Seed Oil. What benefits does each product give to us? 

We call them THE PHARAONIC DUO.  The Pharaonic Duo offers a synergistic, holistic approach to the skin’s natural circadian rhythm and works alongside the skin’s regeneration process while you sleep. Also known as your 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, your circadian rhythm can influence body temperature, cell regeneration, water loss, hormone release, and the skin’s natural healing process. 

Egyptian Recovery Face Cream is a well-studied synergistic formula made of nature’s most potent medicinal botanicals backed up by science, including our hero ingredient Black Seed, combined with Plant Stem Cells, Frankincense, Mullein, Vitamin C, Algae extract and Probiotic for extra around-the-clock antioxidant protection and collagen stimulation.

Complemented by our signature antioxidant blend of Aloe vera, Lupin seed oil, Grapeseed oil, Shea butter, Sesame seed oil, Sunflower seed oil and Onion oil.

The aromatherapeutic herbs of Mandarin, Rose, Ylang-Ylang, and Geranium help de-stress and rebalance anxiety levels while easing the circadian rhythm of the skin.

The main benefits of the formula are that it is Restoring, Protecting  and Illuminating 

MeanwhileEgyptian Blessed Night Seed Oil harnesses many unique bio-dynamic oils, including Black Seed and Lupin oils, active antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Thymoquinone, carotenoids, polyphenols and endemic desert botanical extracts to help stimulate skin cells, increase ceramide and lipid levels, support optimal skin barrier function.

The main benefits of this formula are that it is nourishing, soothing and balancing.

Why did you decide to launch your brand with night cream and oil? 

Regeneration and healing have always been related to the night. Nighttime is truly the moment when we heal and get ready to wake up to a better, fresher version of ourselves each morning. Considering how overly stressed and exposed we are in our daily lives to blue light, digital devices and external aggressors such as free radicals, UV radiation and pollutants, I decided to focus on developing products for the nighttime in order to nurture the skin and strengthen it to fight back and remain resilient to what life may throw to us. Creating a routine that could repair the skin from aggressive beauty routines that compromise our skin’s natural barrier was also one of the core objectives when developing the formulas. The nighttime is the opportunity that our skin has to recover, so it is very important to use effective and rich formulas to support this process.  Each night is a night of intense repair and renewal to the damage that happens to your skin barrier throughout the day. Our skin already does so much for us that it is time that we give back to it.

What other products are in the pipeline can we look forward to? 

We are developing a cleanser, a face mask and an intake vitamin to boost the skin’s immunity system from the inside out. 

I love the fact that each bottle is packaged in recyclable glass & card and comes with a hand made Egyptian papyrus! Also I love that the organic ingredients you use are sourced from local communities in Egypt and Italy.  What ingredients are especially found in Egypt and Italy that you use?

We source our Black Seed from the Ancient Cities of Egypt, which is the hero ingredient in our formulas. Other main active ingredients we source from organic farming in Egypt are Lupin extract, onion extracts, frankincense extract, Aloe Vera and fenugreek extract;all of which have been cultivated in Egypt since the Pharaohs’ time.

Other main active ingredients sourced from Italy are plant stem cells derived  from apple, sea buckthorn and oak bar, probiotic, Mullein flower extract and algae extract. In addition to those we have other 30 natural ingredients sourced as well from Egypt and Italy divided between both products, all well-studied to work in synergy and to deliver an effective product. We are huge believers in the fact that skincare should be minimalistic.

Personally, I believe that a rich, non-aggressive formulation can deliver more benefits, and can simplify a routine instead of using different products to get the same benefits. 

For me this minimalistic approach remains very sustainable for us and our planet. 

Are your products available to purchase & ship worldwide? 

At the moment, we are available only in the UK and Italy as we have our warehouses in both countries. One of our strategies to reduce our footprint is to have a warehouse or partner with third parties in each country we sell in, in order to avoid shipping long distances to the final customer. 

However, we are working very hard to be able to ship worldwide soon in a sustainable way.

Growing up, have you always wanted a career in the skincare business or did you have sights on a different career path?

It was always in the back of my mind, as growing up and visiting my grandma in Egypt during summer break, I remember she was always doing her own special  mix of natural ingredients to look after her skin, hair and body . I used to be fascinated by how they were so effective and natural and thought that maybe one day I could bring these magical recipes and ingredients to Europe. However, my path took me to get a degree in cultural heritage, then to work in the hospitality field, until destiny helped me to bring my little girl dreams to life. 

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Working out is my thing. I like to read a lot and I enjoy listening to interviews or podcasts about inspirational stories as well. 

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

Growing up in Milan and working for Armani for a while helped me understand that it is not what you wear that is important but how you feel wearing it. So, I really pick my outfits based on how I feel that day – of course, keeping my schedule in mind – so sometimes it is casual, corporate or if it is only home office day, can be a tracksuit. 

I am a huge, huge fan of shoes. I used to love high heels but lately I am getting into cool trainers and flat boots. 

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

Usually, I like to shop in Italy, so when I am visiting any city, I like to go around and discover those hidden local shops. They always have cool stuff and for me is a way to support the local economy as well. 

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

It is a gold dress from the 2020 collection of designer Zuhair Murad inspired by Egypt’s ancient queens. I am so in love with it, I love the details and the cut. 

I have promised myself to get it next year to celebrate one year of Hayaty in 2023. 

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes. They always go with everything and make a huge difference to an outfit. 

For Pinning Later

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

https://hayatynatural.uk

https://www.facebook.com/hayatynatural/

https://www.instagram.com/hayatynatural/

https://www.tiktok.com/@hayatynatural

Thank you for chatting to us Randa – the gold dress for next year sounds like a plan! Gorgeous skincare, great philosophy, interesting ingredients!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Randa Zaid.

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Author Interview: Asya Semenovich

Summertime and the weather is balmy, lay on a sunbed and while away the hours with a good book …. so say me! 😊 And I have another great book to recommend and add on to your reading list – ”Fire Of The Dark Triad” by Asya Semenovich – a psychological sci-fi page turner. It is a futuristic tale of power, lust, betrayal and obsession. I loved it! Thanks to Ben Cameron for forwarding me a copy for reviewing.

BOOK SUMMARY

The ”Dark Triads” are a group of humans born with a DNA that makes them dangerous and for centuries they have wreaked havoc on Earth. Dark Triads are a rare breed, however, and display elements of narcissism. The Earth’s rulers tried to purify the human race by removing this particular gene from future generations…. but civilisation on Earth has become…. ”boring”?! Anyway, people on Earth now lacked creative spirit, so Earth’s leaders recruited an elite group of Head Hunters to recruit Dark Triads from other planets to come back to Earth. Meet Nick, the best of the Head Hunters, whose routine mission didn’t go exactly to plan….


AUTHOR INTERVIEW

I am so pleased to welcome onto the blog author Asya Semenovich ….hello Asya!

Thank you, Linda! Hello, I am Asya. I was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, lived there until the time when the iron curtain started lifting, and in 1992 I left for graduate studies in the US. I got my PhD in Mathematics in 1997 from the Penn State University. After graduation I joined a tech start up, and later I worked in financial technology on Wall Street . I started writing my novel Fire of the Dark Triad while working full time as an Executive Director in Morgan Stanley. I really liked my job, but the book was progressing too slowly, and eventually I decided to leave my full-time position to focus on writing.

I live in New York, the city I love, with my husband and a daughter.

“Fire Of The Dark Triad” is a futurist tale of power, lust, betrayal and obsession. Where did you draw the inspiration to write this futuristic novel? 

I always wanted to write about things I was passionate about – freedom, especially, freedom of creative expression, the soul crushing reality of totalitarian regimes, the dangers of genetic engineering, the nature of creativity in various areas of human activities, the power of love and the great lengths people are willing to go for it.

When I learned about the psychological concept of the Dark Triad, I found that it could serve would serve as a rich and exciting basis for a sci-fi futuristic novel, and at the same time help me weave together the themes that I wanted to explore with my readers.

The Dark Triad recognizes the interplay between three character traits: Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy. Individuals described by this syndrome have little regard for others in their desire to get what they want. Many autocratic leaders such as Vladimir Putin  are perfect examples of this kind of person. In fact, in the sequel to The Fire of the Dark Triad, I’ve based the major antagonist on him. 

Can you tell us a bit about the interesting or exciting projects you are working on or wish to create?

Currently, I’m working on an audio version of the novel and the sequel which will follow many of the original characters on a new adventure.  

I have to thank my many readers for inspiring me to pursue the sequel. I thought that I said everything I wanted to say in my first novel.  But many of my readers said that they wanted to know what happened to Nick and the other characters in their world. I also realized that there were many more ideas, I could share in a new book. 

The main theme of the sequel is the nature of manipulation:  by governments, by the media, by other people. As I thought about it, I found that the scariest part of this issue is just how easily people tend to embrace being manipulated. Perhaps it is because they feel more comfortable abandoning their free will and following someone else’s agenda. I wanted to make people think about it and search for the reason why it happens. Since the principal goal of Dark Triads is to manipulate others to do their bidding, it seemed the perfect way to continue the story.  

I also continue to deepen our understanding of the relationship between creativity and the Dark Triad syndrome. I read an article  in Harvard Business Review regarding this very issue. It states in part that “… the very thinking patterns that define the creative process and help lead to original thinking can have a maladaptive side. For example, creativity requires the inability to suppress irrelevant thoughts and inappropriate ideas.” In the sequel, I portray this connection from many different angles and pose the complex ethical problems they can cause.

 I loved the variety of characters – Who were the hardest characters to portray? Who were the easiest?  

While I tried to make all the characters multilayered and complex, the most challenging to portray was Nick, the protagonist and headhunter of Dark Triads. I wanted to write a believable male character by telling the story from his POV. It wasn’t easy, especially portraying the romantic and sexual interactions between Nick and other characters, and I am very grateful to my early readers for the feedback. 

The easiest character was the artist, Reish because I could identify with her on a deep personal level. 

I loved the main character Nick – and also the fiery flirty Lita. Do you have favourite characters? 

My favorite character is Nick, which isn’t surprising – we spent so much time together, and he was always a good company to have around thanks to his sense of humor, intensity and charm.

Lita is my other favorite character. Not only is she fiercely independent, but she is no afraid to fight for she believes in against all odds. The real life event that inspired me create her character occurred in 1968,four days after hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops poured into Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms of the Prague Spring. Eight Soviet citizens went into Moscow’s Red Square and held up banners denouncing the invasion and apologizing to the people of Czechoslovakia. These eight people knew in advance that the KGB would arrest them, but they decided they would risk their own safety to underscore their shame at their country’s behavior. Some were sentenced to lengthy terms in forced-labor camps in Siberia, some sent to psychiatric prisons, notorious for their cruelty, and some were forced into prolonged exile in remote, barren regions of the country. I wrote Lita to celebrate these heroes of freedom.

Were there any aspects of writing “Fire of The Dark Triad” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

I was surprised that the complexities of the main story and the various subplots came as easily as they did.  When I came upon plot point that was a challenge, I focused on my characters and let them lead me to a resolution. For instance, if Nick were caught between a rock and hard place, I would ask myself “What would be his next step? How would he get out of the situation?” And, he led me to find a solution.

If “Fire Of The Dark Triad” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Nick, Lita, Hilgor, Reish, Elizabeth? 

I would love Nick to be played by Alexander Skarsgard. I had his picture (as Eric from the series True Blood) on my wall during the time when I was writing Fire of the Dark Triad. He was the inspiration for Nick – funny, sarcastic, intense and fantastically good looking just like genetically improved people I describe in the future Earth in the book.

I can imagine Jennifer Lawrence as a perfect Lita; Daniel Craig as Hilgor; Denée Benton as Reish, and Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth. 

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

Ernest Hemingway, who was a major influence on my writing, once said: “In order to write about life, first you must live it.” I think I happened to do exactly as he advised, albeit unintentionally. 

Writing has always been my passion, but I didn’t have a chance to dedicate myself to it for a while. There were so many interesting things to explore in my life. I love theoretical mathematics, so I trained as a mathematician. Once I got my degree, my curiosity pushed me out of the ivory tower in the financial world. I worked on emerging technologies on Wall Street. It was an intense but fascinating experience where I met a host of interesting personalities. I used many of these life experiences in my novel.

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

Yes, I love to read, always have. Naturally, speculative fiction is one of my favorite genres. Michael Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita was a huge inspiration on me. I even used a short quote from it as an epigraphic to Fire of the Dark Triad. Bulgakov’s antagonist Voland asks: “What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?” It encapsulates one of the major themes of my novel: the conflict presents by Dark Triad in society. Julio Cortázar’snovel The Pursuer has been my artist manifesto since I read it as a college student. Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris is another example of a book that influenced my writing. William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Jeff Vandermeer’s Veniss Underground are two current sci fi works which I admire as well.  

I vastly prefer reading printed books over ebooks. However, it presents only one inconvenience: a reliable way to locate a title in my library. No amount of arranging and rearranging my books by themes, periods, genres has ever helped me find a book when I want it. Sometimes I spend hours looking for a particular book on my bookshelves, and them I give up and buy a replacement just to find the original copy a week later. As you can imagine, I have many duplicates.  Otherwise paper over a screen, always. 

 Is “Fire Of The Dark Triad” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it is on every major bookselling platform online.

If you could travel to any place on Earth to get inspiration for your next novel, where would you go and why? 

I would love to visit North Korea. It is a country that is deeply affected by the manipulation of media. I would be very curious to know what everyday people in North Korean actually think, what they believe, how many know that the world outside of their country is completely different. Since the sequel is based on the premise of the power of political and psychological manipulation and the willingness of people to accept it without question, what has happened to North Korea over its many autocratic regimes is a living example of the theme.

You was born and brought up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and emigrated to the USA in 1992.  What have you found are the main differences between the two countries?  What things have you missed from Uzbekistan? What things do you enjoy about the USA? 

I enjoy the freedoms to say and write what I want in the US. It is much more restricted in my home country. I do miss the rich cultural history of Uzbekistan and its food (although you can get more of it in New York City than any other place in the US).

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

My style can be described as Cyberpunk. I fell in love with this style as a teenager before I knew what Cyberpunk was, and over the years my devotion to this style has only been growing. To understand the style and distinguish it from goth, steampunk, rave, and industrial looks, one needs to remember the formal definition of Cyberpunk: “a subgenre of science fiction in a dystopian futuristic setting that tends to focus on a “combination of lowlife and high tech.” The cyberpunk fashion “speaks” to an urban dystopian landscape affected by highly advanced developments in science and technology. New York is a perfect example of this environment and my personal style fits right in. I love wearing black, a cyberpunk staple, zippers over buttons, snaps, loads of pockets and of course boots. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

My absolutely number one place to check for new arrivals every season is Y-3 by Adidas – a Japanese Style Cyberpunk Clothing Store in the style of Yohji Yamamoto. I have more items from this brand than from any other by a wide margin: my favorite boots, shoes, jackets, sweaters, hats are from Y-3. I originally ran into this store walking my dog in Soho, several blocks from where I live. I looked into the store window, stepped in and that was it. In fact, I love this brand so much that I named one of the main planets in Fire of the Dark Triad Y-3.I imagined its inhabitants all wearing Y-3 brand outfits! I recently mentioned it in the store, and salespeople were greatly amused. 

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

While I am waiting for the new arrivals to Y-3 store, I fantasize about wearing the outfit Del from Fire of the Dark Triad wears on Y-3. The upper part of her dress is a tight bodysuit made of soft gray materialthat covers the arms, chest and waist. At the hips it explodes into a haystack skirt of fluorescent red and white ribbons. The accessories are high-wedged white leather boots and black wristband studded with large pink stones. 

This dress is number one on my theoretical wish list.

Boots or Shoes? 

The answer is obvious because of the cyberpunk theme – boots, boots and boots of course! Plus, they are perfect for New York City streets. 

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

For pinning later

My website darktriadbooks.com is dedicated to Fire of the Dark Triad, the soon to be published audio version, and its sequel. It has a page where I share reviews, updates on the progress of my projects, an option to subscribe to a newsletter to get news via email automatically.  

Thank you very much for chatting with us today Asya 😊. My thanks to you and Ben Cameron for the copy of the book for reviewing.

Photographs  of Asya only are by Michel Nafziger https://www.michelnafziger.com

Photographs featuring the book are by Linda Hobden.

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