Category Archives: Interview

Interview With Relationship Expert Mig Bennett

Happy New Year!

2020 ended up as being an extremely stressful year, to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic really didn’t help as apart from the physical aspects of the virus taking its toll, it has left us grieving those who succumbed to the disease; it has heightened fears; it has laid people low with a range of mental health issues; it has brought together family units and broken others down. Problems have always existed prior to the pandemic but the awareness has been more pronounced. There is hope on the horizon and help is on hand to help guide those who need it, non judgemental advice. I interviewed relationship & sex addiction counsellor Mig Bennett about her career as a counsellor specialising in relationship problems…. Hi Mig & welcome…

Hello. I’m Mig Bennett. I’m a counsellor with a specialised focus on relationships and, in more recent years, in sexual compulsivity. This is more commonly known as sex addiction, and, contrary to common misconception, it’s not about having a high sex drive! 

What made you decide to launch your career as a relationship and sex addiction counsellor?

I became involved in counselling completely unexpectedly about 30 years ago. I suffered postnatal depression, set up a support group as I recovered and, as it took off I realised I needed more skills. So I took a basic counsellingskills evening class and the tutor was a Relate counsellor.  He persuaded me to apply to train with Relate for whom I still work some hours.  Now I also have a Private Practice specifically for relationship work and sexual addiction. 

The sex addiction interest came from a colleague who trained in the area and to whom I went for help when I worked with a couple where a long history of visiting sex workers emerged. That learning, and my colleague’s encouragement led me to take a diploma in that specific area.  It is very prevalent in our society but hasn’t really been acknowledged or addressed until the recent 20 or so years whereas gambling, drug, alcohol, eating compulsive behaviours have. 

I guess your job isn’t an easy one as some people’s problems are not that easy to solve! What sort of reasons do people come to you for help? 

Strangely, over the years, and I think other counsellors will agree, the problems presenting at my door come in swathes. I may have a period of seeing many affairs, for example.  But, aside from sexually compulsive issues, the common relationship themes are:

loss of connection or relationship neglect (“we’re like flat mates”), 

split agendas, often stemming from the above (one says it’s over, one is desperate to save it)

arguments and poor communication patterns (“we love each other but we end up having these same destructive rows”), 

sex, (although this really comes into all scenarios it can be brought as the primary reason for seeking help)

differing attitudes to parenting children and step children

affairs, including emotional infidelity 

When it comes to relationship/marriage/couples counselling, what approach do you tend to use?

I use mainly three therapeutic models in my work.• psycho-dynamic (looking at how significant figures from the past can influence us today)• systemic (focusing on how changing one partner’s behaviour will change the other’s)• transactional analysis (enabling us to look at our ineffective communication patterns and create better ones).

My clients don’t know that, of course.  What I think my clients would say they SEE is that I listen and really try to understand each of them, by playing back and asking questions, and that I gradually encourage the other to do the same using these skills. I help them use different words and tones, and it can be quite lighthearted learning!  

I look at why their pasts will be at play in their relationship today, which enables them to understand their reactions to situations and to each other. When we understand why we feel something we can spot our automatic reactions and change them. 

I use a lot of visual diagrams, mnemonics and little tricks, like post-it notes which I find, as with school children, all help understanding and memory. 

But maybe the most important thing I offer is the presence of a calm, warm, experienced third party in what can be a very heated, or very emotional, or very cold, or very tense meeting. I’m like a sort of stable scaffolding they can use to negotiate the difficulties.

As you have had over 25 years experience in this field, running your own private practice as well as with Relate, what is it about your job do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

It’s a great privilege to be trusted and have intimate elements of lives shared with one.  That sense of privilege never leaves me.  When people ask, “ how can you do that job?” that’s what I say. 

The downside? Yes a couple of thoughts on that.

It’s such a concentrated hour, working online. I am exhausted and have to take care to create gaps in my day and know when I cannot take on more clients. Face to face work is less concentrated and I can be quite energisedafter a session. I use tennis as a mental and physical counterbalance to my work. 

I also wonder, and in fact it’s been said, that friends think I’m silently seeing things in their relationships and wonder if I’m ‘analysing’ them! 

Do you offer face-to-face counselling or do you operate online?

Both. With Covid my work has all been online. It was difficult for some to see how it would work, as a couple, but no one has bailed out! Sometimes a couple use one screen and sit together, sometimes they are in different locations, even different parts of the country.

Growing up, did you always want a  “People related” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

I always wanted to be a teacher and I was for some years, teaching children in the middle years, 8-12. Perhaps that’s why I love my flip chart, it’s my blackboard.

What are the common “problems” that new parents ask advice on and what do you suggest they should try instead?

Counselling isn’t about giving advice. The health visitor will give advice on sleep or feeding. When clients ask what to do, I suggest we try to work that out, together.

A lot of couple’s problems, especially sexually or with regard to feeling the relationship has shifted to ‘flat mates or siblings,” trace back to the arrival of children. It’s a life stage for couples.  I get  them to identify what they miss, what they would like to change and help them work out how that can be achieved.  It’s usually about not having expressed their needs, not having understood that his, her or their angry comments are coming from a vulnerable feeling of sadness, loneliness or powerlessness. But the big one is often about finding TIME to be us.  

As you are based in East Sussex, England, are your services available just locally or UK/ worldwide too?

Online I can be anywhere.  Worldwide depends on that country’s counsellingstandards and I have to check I am qualified and covered to work with foreign clients. I have done so though.

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

I’m very casual. My clothes wardrobe is always half empty. I wear a small range and cull what isn’t worn. Jeans and a simple top of varying degrees of warmth. 

I dress outfits up with earrings, necklaces and a statement handbag. My current favourite is a bright red bag with diamanté studs from Steinmart in America. I’ve another Steinmart bag for winter, of an unusual geometric black and beige design; I have a mini version in red for evenings.  

Shoes? Slip on coloured pumps in summer or fit flops. Boots in winter. I spend most on shoes and boots, bags and accessories. Aside from those, my attire may have cost under £20.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

All charity shops. Marks and Spencer. Sainsbury’s. I spend a few weeks in Autumn in Palm Springs, California, and love Steinmart stores for accessories.  When shopping, I head straight for footwear, handbags and accessories, then lingerie, then coats, then clothes. 

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

Flat, simple, knee high boots.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots and have many pairs. All inexpensive (under £70), kitten heels, flat heels, over the knee, ankle.   I have many red pairs, some fabric, flowery ones, animal print ones, silver lurex ones! When I LOVE a pair I buy two.  Why boots? Maybe because I can look down and see and touch them and they are a bit ‘out there’ and sexy. 

For Pinning Later


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

http://www.migbennettrelationshipcounselling.co.uk/

Thank you Mig for an interesting insight into your life as a relationship expert. As you probably noticed, most of the photos in this post are of two delightful cats, my beloved pets Leo & Bounty, who have a love-hate relationship! Bounty the kitten is very playful and adores Leo, who doesn’t always reciprocate those feelings – but they do have their moments! All the photographs are by Linda Hobden apart from the one of Mig, which I have published with kind permission of Mig Bennett.

Linda x


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In At The Deep End

With the seasonal holidays approaching and, depending where you live, lockdowns might be the case for January/February, then you might need a good book to read and I have a great book for you that I read during the previous lockdown! It is called “In At The Deep End” by Alexander Gunz. The story, in a nutshell, is about 6 very different men whose lives intersect one morning at a London public swimming pool. I love how each chapter concentrates on each man and their journey to the pool one particular morning. As you read each individual story, their story builds until the chapter when they are all in the pool’s changing room. It is at that point when you suddenly realise how their lives have been joined together. It is a book all about relationships – how people interact, how loneliness can be felt even if you are surrounded by others, how fathers & children react to each other, dementia, how swimming was the release they had in common, how quick we are to judge others…. so much can be taken away from this novel yet it is still a delightful read! Cleverly written, easy to read yet thoughtful. Give the book a whirl!

It is with great pleasure to welcome onto the blog Alexander Gunz…..hi, Alexander…

Hi! I’m Alex. I am London-born and bred, having lived in the Edgware Road area all my adult life. I have two degrees (Philosophy, Politics & Economics, and English Literature). I work in finance by day, where I write all the external content for my firm. I am an avid reader and freelance restaurant reviewer in my spare time. I am married with two children.

Who or what inspired you to write “In At The Deep End”? 

My Father has always inspired a love of reading in me (and the novel is dedicated to him). I have always wanted to write a novel, it was much more a matter of arriving at the right topic or theme. Walking around the Edgware Road area and visiting regularly the local pool gave me the idea.   

I really enjoyed reading your book, “In At The Deep End”.  I loved reading about the individual lives of the 6 very different men who used swimming as their release from their every day existence, and how their lives entwined one morning! I related to the man with the start of dementia- he reminded me of my father who had dementia for 12 years and how he was at the beginning as he tried to cling onto normality and stick to a routine. Was there any character that you particularly endeared yourself to?

The dementia inclusion was very deliberate and while I fortunately do not know anyone who has experienced dementia, I worked as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society in 2006-7 and was very moved by my experiences there. In terms of the characters in the novel, the cliché about all fiction is autobiography and all autobiography is fiction springs somewhat to mind. There is a little bit of me in each of the characters. It would be unfair to say that I have a favourite.

As you are an avid reader, averaging at least 50 novels a year over the last 20 years, were any aspects of writing of novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

It was a wonderful experience to write a novel and to put myself metaphorically in the shoes of what it must be like to be an author. The idea-generation and the writing were relatively easy; the redrafting, editing and finessing was much more of a challenge.

What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Contemporary literary fiction and high modernism would be my favourite periods. Authors whom I rate highly would include Joseph Conrad and JG Ballard. Among more contemporary authors, Margaret Atwood would be a clear favourite. Always actual books; I love their tangibility.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations? 

My earliest childhood desire was to be an astronaut and go to the moon! More seriously, I have always loved writing and to have the opportunity to write fiction as well as the work I do in finance (for my main job) has been massively satisfying.

Have you got other novels or plans in the pipeline for 2021 that you can tell us about?

I have written a number of short stories and may look to compile these in a volume.

Is “In At The Deep End” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, via Amazon 

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

Two countries I have visited in the past and whose cultures continue to fascinate me – in a very different ways – are Japan and Mexico. There are multiple stories and myths from both countries which could provide useful material.

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

Jeans and T-shirt if at home/ tailored suit and plain shirt if at work.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Apologies, no.

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

Would prefer to spend my money on books!

Boots or Shoes?

Am most likely to be found in a pair of old-school Adidas trainers; best for walking the streets around the Edgware Road and beyond

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

 My restaurant Blog is as follows: www.gourmandgunno.com

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Thank you Alex for chatting to us today ! Thank you (and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing) for the copy of your book In At The Deep End to review.

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the header picture © LindaHobden) have been published with kind permission of Alexander Gunz.

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Spotlight On Tweezerfile

I hold my hands up and admit that I never realised that the humble tweezer could be sharpened – that is until I recently come across Tweezerfile recently. I have my old faithful tweezer – I have had others but they fell by the wayside. Such a simple idea, and a logical one too – and I caught up with the founder of Tweezerfile, Lucy, to find out more. Welcome Lucy!


Hello! I am Lucy, a mother of two young kids under 5, living in London. I founded the business together with my husband, Wolfgang, over a year ago. We both work full time. I originally trained as a lawyer before moving into finance/business and Wolfgang runs his own design consultancy.  

Together, we juggle the competing demands of two full time jobs, two kids and Tweezerfile, which we started over a year ago. I have also recently started a part time course in Climate Transformation at Edinburgh University.

What inspired the founding of Tweezerfile?

Wolfgang and I met over a decade ago.  He is a product designer and so design and observing how people use products and how that experience could be improved is very much part of his DNA. 

At some point during that time, I found myself before a night out obsessing over a short hair which I couldn’t remove/grip with a pair of fairly old tweezers.  It was late at night and there were no chemists open. I would have given up, binned them and bought a new pair the next day but Wolfgang was watching me throughout wondering what I was doing. The idea that I might throw something out which was made of steel was an alien concept to him.  His initial thought was… well if you can sharpen knives…. and to be honest, when someone puts it to you like that, there is an obvious light bulb moment. 

We googled how to sharpen tweezers and found several million hits and countless magazine articles dedicated to sharpening old/blunt tweezers. We searched and searched for something we could use day-to-day and there was nothing. Every time we spoke to a beautician, they told us the same thing “there used to be this guy who would come and sharpen them… but now, we throw them out and replace them every month”.  

This seemed so crazy to us.  Such a small thing, but it’s part of a wider narrative of a throw-away culture that is all contributing to the the climate crisis.

The more we researched, the more we realised that any one of the big brands could have come up with this idea and could sell this product but it’s counter-productive to their business models. At one of our first industry events, someone asked us what the point was and how we could make money.  The implication being that selling something that people only buy once is a flawed business. Whilst I understand the logic, that is not who we are. We launched Tweezerfile to solve a problem, because no one else had and people were looking for a solution. And as part of that we hoped we could challenge the narrative and help people find better and more sustainable solutions.

To be honest, I never really thought about sharpening my tweezers before – how does it work? 

It’s really simple. You hold the Tweezerfile in one hand and then use the other hand to grip the tweezer so that the blades are in contact with either side of the file and then slide up and down slowly. After a couple of strokes, your Tweezer will be good as new. There are lots of “how to” videos on our Instagram page and website if you are stuck. 

Probably, a good time to make the point that is also doubles as a pretty amazing nail file. It works incredibly well on gel nails.  A close friend swears by it.

I love the colours that the Tweezerfile is available in – the coral and the petrol blue are very “on trend”.  Will other colours be introduced in the future? 

Absolutely, we plan to launch a whole new colour palette next year as part of next year’s release to coincide with moving all our production to Europe and the launch of new and better materials. 

Are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

Yes, you can buy them on Amazon or on our website www.tweezerfile.com

Have you always wanted a career in the beauty industry or did you have ambitions elsewhere?

Not at all.  We came to beauty from law and design and didn’t have any past experience in beauty.  We came to it because we saw a problem that hadn’t been solved and thought we could fill that gap and try to challenge the narrative. Looking back, we were pretty naïve. Ultimately, beauty is a multi-billion-pound business dominated by some very large brands.  The business model is predicated on rapid and repeat consumption and it is really hard to break through the noise that this generates (and marketing budgets) to support more mindful purchases.

We are one of a number of small independent brands trying to break through, challenging the narrative around what it means to be successful. According to EuroMonitor, every year, the beauty industry produces 120 billion units of packaging.  

In 2020, we all know how damaging these materials are for the environment and so reducing waste, helping people make choices which reduce the need to keep buying is the success story.

Eyebrows – over the years different trends have dominated – from being over plucked in the 50s/60s; to being left natural; to being “manicured” and well defined. Mine are natural but my tweezers are in constant use to keep those stray hairs in check. What eyebrow trend do you follow?

I inherited thick natural eyebrows from both sides of my family which is fortunate as I have been pulling them out with my hands since doing my A-levels twenty years ago. At peak stress, I might end up with a Boyzone break on one side and my husband will find me in bed asleep, with one hand gripping an eyebrow. As a result, I spend most of my time working with my beauty therapists to try and grow them out to look more natural and to keep some sort of shape. As a result, I naturally prefer and aspire to a fuller brow, as modelled by Cara Delevigne.  https://www.tweezerfile.com/blogs/news/whats-your-brow-personality

Do you have any “tweezers” tips you can share?

Sometimes and not always tweezers come with little plastic nibs to protect the tips. If you get those, keep them, they are like gold dust. Store your tweezers in them between uses, as it protects them from dirt and any other residues they might pick up in your make up bag. 

If your tweezers are dirty, just use your Tweezerfile and then blow on the tips, this will remove all the residue and ensures they are as good as new.    

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

Pre-lockdown, I lived in dresses and heels.  But for the last 6 months, my wardrobe has mostly featured variations of ripped boyfriend jeans, trainers (Nike, Veja) and plain t-shirts as we have juggled school and nursery runs. I never leave home without a Sonya Kashmiri handbag. I own 5 in different styles and colours to carry me through the seasons. It’s a small independent brand, promoting the use of vegetable tanned leather which is organic and sustainable.   

As we approach winter, I have slightly modified my wardrobe to incorporate a Zara pink fluro beanie and a series of woolly jumpers from Margaret Howell and Another Label.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

For every day, I live in Cos but often find myself in Jigsaw for coats.  For unique pieces, I love Gather & See. Setting up our own business has made me really appreciate smaller independent brands who are thinking more holistically about supply chains and communities and so I try to shop as consciously as possible, buying things that will last.  

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

I have a couple of shopping carts on the go at the moment. I am desperately hunting for a puffer coat to get through this winter and struggling to find one that is sustainable and that doesn’t drown me – I am 5ft 1. It turns out that I am late to the party as I focused on sorting the kids out and now everything seems to be sold out. 

I am also looking for some winter boots and have been eyeing up a pair of Chloe biker boots for ever.  Whilst the philosophy is “buy once, buy well”, they are still really expensive, so I’ve never quite checked them out. 

Boots or Shoes?

They both bring different associations, it’s like a great haircut. 

When I met my husband, we were both living in Paris and I would think nothing of walking the city in stilettos. It seems crazy to me now, a decade and two kids later but I love the memories that heels bring back and so on a night out with my friends, you will often find me in a ridiculous pair of Lucy Choi’s, walking arm and arm and laughing. 

For me, boots are all about winter and I love winter.  Slouchy boots and woollen dresses and fires and dark nights.  This may be my favourite season of the year.

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

For Pinning Later


www.tweezerfile.com

insta: @tweezerfile

FB: @tweezerfile 

Thank you for chatting to us, Lucy. The simplest ideas are always the best ones! 😊

Linda x


All photographs have been published with kind permission of Tweezerfile; apart from the last two photographs which are by Linda Hobden.

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The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives

During the recent lockdowns of 2020, I have found solace in reading – like a lot of people. It has been really enlightening to try books outside my normal genres, however, I do like a good thriller/adventure story or, failing that, an historical fiction. Having done “Tudors and Stuarts” History ‘0’ level way back in 1980, I have always had a soft spot for that era. So when Ben Cameron asked me to review “The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives” by Tim Darcy Ellis, a book reminiscent of Hilary Mantel’s superb “Wolf Hall”, I gladly accepted. The novel is based on the remarkably true story of Juan Luis Vives – a Spanish academic, humanist and a secret Jew (parading as a New Christian) – who, having fled Spain to avoid the Inquisition, was brought to England by his friend Thomas More to tutor Princess Mary. He was caught in the turmoil that was the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon …. and his own love life was just as turbulent. Juan Luis Vives, who was later dubbed “the godfather of psychoanalysis “ was an interesting character indeed. It was a fast paced, interesting novel that I really enjoyed and I highly recommend the book. This novel is a debut book for author Tim Darcy Ellis, an archaeologist and history buff turned author – he should be proud as it is an excellent novel and as this is book one of a planned trilogy, I will definitely be reading the next instalments. With my interest piqued, I caught up with Tim to talk about all things Tudor and fashion too, of course! Hi Tim….

Hi Linda, and many thanks for the interview! I’m Tim. You could describe me as a ‘Jack-of-all-Trades,’ writing historical fiction being one of the most enjoyable pursuits in a very full life. I was born in Sussex, brought up in Surrey and now live in Sydney, Australia. I was formerly an archaeologist – and worked at the Museum of London in the late 80s/early 90s, I was also a tour guide at the British Museum. 
I retrained as a physiotherapist in London, (94-98) and I worked as a chef for four years at the Covent Garden Brasserie, which is now the Apple store! I moved to Australia in 2000, the year of the Sydney Olympics; thinking that it would be a temporary move. I have been here ever since. Currently, I have my own holistic Physiotherapy and Wellness centre (Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness) in Sydney. 
I love working with a dynamic young team, I enjoy teaching and researching, and being of service to the community, but what really drives my passion is reading about history, archaeology and philosophy – it is my relaxation and my escape. Finding fascinating characters, forgotten by the mainstream – like Juan Luis Vives – who really did make the world a better place, and then bringing them back into the light is just the best escape.

Who or what inspired you to research and write about Juan Luis Vives? 

I’ve always written creatively – be it poetry, short stories or travel. I had been researching my family history, and found out about the Elisha family of Houndsditch: the heart of the eighteenth century Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community of London. I then gave a Spanish friend living here a book about exiles from Spain, but before I gave it to him, I read about the Spanish Jews who had been exiled and discovered the incredible story of Juan Luis Vives. I literally spent a month searching for the novel of his life, or the film, but I found to my amazement that there was none, so I got to work. I really felt that bringing his story into the light was my life’s work.


I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives”. I love reading about the Tudor era – I did Tudors & Stuarts history O level – and yet I hadn’t heard of Juan Luis Vives before. His life seemed like a balancing act – having to hide his Jewish roots/publicly claiming he was a New Christian; having to decide who to side with when both King Henry VIII & Catherine of Aragon wanted his support for their opposing demands; his love life…. I admire his ability to navigate his way through some dangerous times knowing a wrong move could cost him & his family dearly. What did you admire most about Juan Luis Vives?

Thanks Linda! I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading all about Vives. It is so fascinating that we haven’t heard more about him in the English history narrative. I guess he skillfully navigated many worlds – Spanish, Jewish, English – and remained just one step ahead of the Inquisition while going about his important work. That lead to a certain degree of anonymity. There is so much about Vives to admire. He truly was a man ahead of his time. He showed immense concern for the care of the poor and sick. He also wrote about the proper care of animals and the importance of observing nature. He insisted that the education of a woman was as important as the education of a man, and above all, he was a pacifist: eschewing persecution and discrimination.
What I admire the most is his courage to address the significant power players of his day – Kings, Popes, Emperors, and to honestly tell them what he thought of them: while not offending them too much as to have him executed. It is even more remarkable when you consider that he lost almost his entire family to the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition for being ‘Juadaisers.’
Vives took on Henry VIII warning him against arrogance, he criticised the church and told the Pope that he required him to silence the rush to arms amongst the princes and the rush to sedition amongst the people. He told the Archbishop of Seville that he couldn’t consider himself a true Christian, and he said to queen Catherine of Aragon, whose family had seen his chained the stake, that ‘his conscience was greater than that of kings.’ Amazingly, he survived it all. 


I was surprised that in Tudor & Stuart England there were small but established Spanish & Portuguese Jewish communities in London – their path to England to flee from the Spanish Inquisition must have been arduous. Were there any aspects of Juan Luis Vives life or indeed life around that time in general, that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

I guess he navigated both the internal conflicts of his life – living outwardly as a Christian – but inwardly being very attached to the Judaism of his parents – with the external fear of being ‘outed’ or ‘persecuted,’ all with the utmost courage and grace. He never once baulked from his overarching aim of honouring the Jewish idea of ‘Tikkun Olam,’ or ‘repair of the world’. 
Studying the Spanish Inquisition in-depth, and the fate of the thousands of Jews who left Spain after the Decree of Alhambra in 1492 was quite shocking to me. It is very sobering to think that people were persecuted so horrifically – and not so long ago – for their sincerely held religious practice. These were people who had contributed to the economy, the arts and science. Astonishingly, many of them survived to tell the tale: I admire their courage and tenacity.

Having studied archaeology at university, you became an archaeologist and you have also worked in both the British Museum & the Museum of London. What did you enjoy most about working as an archaeologist and working in a museum?

I loved the excitement and fascination of just not knowing what you were going to find next. I remember working at the Guildhall in London in 1997. There were three of us working in a small space, and we had got to the bottom of the Medieval layers and found masonry. There was a moment when we all looked at each other and said, ‘it’s Roman.’ Soon after we discovered that we had found the site of the Roman amphitheatre of London.  
I loved the openings of the exhibitions and new galleries at the museums and the after-hours drinks and chats. There were great characters at the Muesum, we were young, and we had a lot of fun: times that I’ll never forget.

 

“The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives” is the first book of a planned trilogy. Can you tell us a bit about the other books? 

Absolutely – I’m fascinated with the stories of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who paved the way for the eventual official readmission of the Jews into England in 1656. That was huge because it meant that, in time, the lands that the English settled in – notably America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand could become safe places for Jews to live in. America has the second-largest Jewish community in the world. So I’m exploring the possibility of writing about tow other great characters – both Portuguese Jews who helped to make this tumultuous event really happen.  


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

Yes, I love books, I can lose hours stuck in them. I usually have a pile of six or seven books on the go at the same time. I am researching the seventeenth century at the moment: so there is a considerable pile of non-fiction works at the moment. I love philosophy, and I migrate to fiction books that combine history and philosophy. I also like the escapism of easy-going crime writing – I’m currently reading Donna Leon’s series set in Venice, around her fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti. I’m very old fashioned in that I like printed books, although kindle is excellent when you’re travelling – not that there is much of that at the moment!

Is “The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, absolutely, through the major retailers.

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

I’d like to visit the hills of northern Portugal, the Jewish ghetto of Venice, the Jewish quarter of Seville and the true east end of London. That is where the heroes of my books lived, and that’s where I get my inspiration.

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

I love my Australian RM Williams boots – one pair can easily last ten years – they’re so comfortable that you can sleep in them! They’re very masculine and go with smart trousers, jeans and even shorts. It can get chilly here in Sydney between May and October, and I wear Icelandic sweaters – they’re so comfortable and warm, but not heavy and I end up being the envy of just about everyone. For evenings, I feel most comfortable in plain white or plain black business shirts. Summertime is for tees, shorts and ‘thongs’ (flip-flops). Having said that, there’s no greater investment than having really comfy socks and undies!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

 Apart from RM Williams I swear by Matt and Bow for jeans and tees and Lulu Lemon for casual and sportswear. For gym shoes and runners I prefer Asics to any other brand.I get my plain business shirts from CJ Tyrwhitt.

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

I’m looking at some funky waistcoats and another pair of RM Williams.

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots, they give you that lift and confidence. 

For Pinning Later

 Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Web: timdarcyellisauthor.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timdarcyellis
 twitter: @darcy_author

Thank you so much Tim for chatting to us about Vives – a vivid character indeed. My thanks also to Ben Cameron, of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of Tim’s book to review. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Tim Darcy Ellis.
Linda x

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Create Your Own Calm

2020 has been quite a year, to say the least! All the more reason why my guest’s latest book, “Create Your Own Calm” is creating quite a stir. Author Becky Goddard-Hill has written this book that is simply bursting at the seams with simple, practical ideas and fun activities to stave off boredom and, more importantly, to manage feelings of stress, anger and anxiety. Although it is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, adults would still benefit from Becky’s words of wisdom. I caught up with Becky to find out more… Hi Becky!

Hi! I am Becky Goddard-Hill,  a children’s therapist and a wellbeing author. I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes. I have 2 teenage kids and I live in Nottingham. My background is in  Social Work. My latest book, Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and came out in September 2020.

As a former social worker & child development trainer, what inspired you to write “Create Your Own Calm”  and the other books you have written?  

I strongly believe emotional health and wellbeing to be as important to life as physical health and intellectual pursuits. If not more important. But how often do we actually focus on teaching them the kinds of skills they need to manage their mental health? Rarely. I wanted to give kids a tool kit of coping skills to help them be robust and resilient and I wanted to introduce these in fun and light hearted ways  and that’s the focus and purpose of my books. They each contain loads of activities that teach kids great emotional health skills whilst having fun. 

I admire the fact that you run 6 blogs, all highly ranked within the UK, predominantly focused on family life, emotional well-being & being active/creative. How do you find writing books compared to writing blogposts?

Because my books are activity books I find each activity a big like a blog post to write. I love, love, love that my books are illustrated though and interactive.

What do you like most about blogging?

My blogging community is awesome and my various blogs are diverse and interesting. I  have to do quite a lot of social media to promote my blog – I don’t love that quite so much.

copyright © Linda Hobden

“Create Your Own Calm” is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, and yet looking through the book, I think the tips and activities to create calmness in these stressful times could also help adults. Learning the science behind emotions was especially good. Do you have a “favourite” tip to help when you are particularly stressed?

Yes. My favourite tip is to do something mindful, eg colour a mandala, bake bread, gardening. When you are focused you cannot worry about the past or the future and your brain clears making problems much easier to solve. 

The activities suggested in the book are really fun & quite innovative – such as growing a pizza garden & cloud watching (my favourite). What inspired the thoughtful activities? Any favourites? Any activities that you tried that didn’t quite work out?

Oh, I tried to make a lava lamp to show how people  are like oil and water – that they could coexist even though they could be very different. I ended up with about 20 lava lamp attempts all sitting round my house, none of which had worked!  My favourite activity in my teen book, Be Happy Be You, is that they have to befriend an apple for the day, name it, really get to know it and spend time with it. It’s to show them that whilst you might just think all apples are the same they aren’t at all, they are all individuals and deserving of your time in getting to know them. Appreciating diversity and inclusion are so important to instil.

copyright © LindaHobden

I noticed a lot of reviews for the book (and I am in agreement) commented that the language you used got the point across to young people without talking down to them or being patronising. That is a great skill to have. Is it a lot harder to write a book/ article aimed at a young person?

I don’t think so. My language is never formal when I write and I have teens myself. The publisher has a reader to check the language is just right too.

Your career background has been in the field of social work/child development; was that the career you aspired to have as a youngster or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I want to save the world! I don’t know how to, but that was my grand plan. I’ve since realised that might be a tad ambitious but I do still desperately want to help people and make a difference. 

Being an author of 7 books already, are you a bookworm yourself?  If so, what genre(s) do you usually read?

 I am a huge sucker for a gorgeous romance and I love David Nicholls.

copyright © Adam Hobden


Looking towards the future – have you got other books in the pipeline?

Yes,  Create Your Own Kindness will be published in Feb 2021. It teaches kids to be kind to themselves, other people and, in fact, to the whole world! 

As you are based in England, is “Create Your Own Calm” available overseas?

Yes, on Amazon – pretty much everywhere.

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

Ah, I’m a very comfy dresser. At the moment, it’s oversized cosy jumpers and jeans/joggers with my trusty silver Superga. I also love a pair of dunagrees.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like FatFace and Hush.

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

I am desperate for a cosy coat and some new tall boots as mine are battered!

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. I have about 15 pairs of converse and rather a lot of other lace up pumps too. They are my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about You & “Create Your Own Calm”

 I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes.

Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and is available on Amazon and in all good book shops 

I have also co-written a  happiness boosting book for teens Be Happy Be You which was published earlier this year 

You can find me on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/beckygoddardhill

Thank you so much for the chat, Becky. I love the idea of befriending an apple! Highly original!

Linda x

The author & book photographs were published with kind permission of Becky Goddard-Hill. Other photographs are by Linda Hobden & Adam Hobden.

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An Interview With LitNuts

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

But first, let me introduce LitNuts, the brand:

For Readers

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

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

For Authors

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

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

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

THE INTERVIEW

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

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

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

Linda: What inspired the launch of LitNuts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda: Is your subscription service available to worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vonnegut: Okay.

Me: What would you like to eat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda: Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

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

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

For Pinning Later


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

Website: LitNuts.com

Facebook: facebook.com/LitNuts

Twitter: twitter.com/Lit_Nuts

THE BOOK TOUR DATES:

Happy Reading!

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Author Caroline Young

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

MY REVIEW

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

THE INTERVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

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

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

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

Is “Kitted Out” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

For Pinning Later


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

www.carolinejyoung.com

Twitter @caroline79

Instagram – carolinejillyoung

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

Linda x

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

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


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Homeward Bound

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

MY REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to start writing at 71?

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

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

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

Are any aspects of writing novels that surprised you?

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

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

Are you a bookworm? Book or Kindle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

 Boots or shoes?

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

Links you would like to share:

For Pinning Later

https://richardsmith writes.com

Twitter: @RichardWrites2

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

https://facebook.com/WheresHomewardBound

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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Louise Palmer-Masterton

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

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

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

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

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

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

S & G. Raw Desserts

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

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

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

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

S & G Buffalo Cauliflower Wings


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

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

 How have your restaurants coped during lockdown?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S & G Blue Taco

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

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

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

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

S & G pulled Mushroom”Duck” pancakes

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

G-Star!

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

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

Boots or Shoes? 

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

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

For pinning later

All our social handles are the same on all platforms

@stemandglory

Order online at www.stemandglory .uk

Visit our Seedrs pitch 

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

Social Media:

Web: www.stemandglory.uk  

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

Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton

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

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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Author Deirdra Eden

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


MY REVIEW

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

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DEIRDRA EDEN


Hi Deirdra. Welcome to the blog…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are your books available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

For Pinning Later

Amazon:

https://amzn.to/2Ap8ZqI

Blog:

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

Website:

http://www.knightess.com/

Facebook:

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

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

Instagram:

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

Pinterest:

Twitter:

Goodreads:

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

Booklikes:

http://knightess.booklikes.com/

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

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Deirdra Eden

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