Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

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 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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Review: Cotton & Grey Candles

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The Cotton & Grey Just To Say … Thinking Of You candles were supplied by Cotton & Grey for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

© Cotton & Grey

THE BRAND

Cotton & Grey are a new brand based in Bath, UK that sell a range of beeswax candle gift sets to aid relaxation and well being. The brand started with a small pack of 20 minute beeswax candles that they put together in a small box alongside a handwritten affirmation card which they gave to a close friend who was struggling during lockdown, to help her relax and restore her well being. Their friend appreciated the sentiment, loved the idea and the gift worked! Six months later, Cotton & Grey were finalists in Gift Of The Year 2022, awarded the accolade ”Highly Commended”. The collection of candle gift sets has expanded to a collection of over 50 products as well as offering personalisation, gift wrapping, bespoke and trade services. The website shows the complete range available – https://cottonandgrey.com

PACKAGING AND DELIVERY

The candles come in a dinky box with a small ceramic candle holder. It is a beautiful yet practical gift box. Cotton & Grey use Royal Mail 1st class UK post and they do endeavour to dispatch all orders received before noon on the same day. Postage is free in the UK too. If you want next day delivery there is a small charge though.

THE PRODUCT

I was sent the ”Just To Say …Thinking About You” candle gift set which has been marketed to combine the sentiment of a greeting card with a thoughtful affordable gift. The box contains 10 small, but perfectly formed, non drip 100% beeswax candles. Each candle burns cleanly for about 20 minutes and the gentle honey aroma is certainly relaxing. You are able to order extra candles, add personalisation to the card/packaging and you can even get the candle set gift wrapped.

For Pinning Later.

MY CONCLUSION

This is a really cute gift idea and one that would be well received by candle fans. I was initially shocked by how thin and small the candles were – they are incredibly dinky – but that is probably because the candles I generally see marketed are either in glass bottles/ jars or are pretty chunky. But don’t be fooled by their size – these candles last at least 20 minutes and are pretty robust. The gentle honey aroma is just right too… not overpowering. My daughter commented that the candles with their lovely white ceramic holder could be placed anywhere – she used them in her bathroom where space is at a premium and found them very relaxing. My only concern is not to leave the candles unattended – especially if you have pets or young children – my cats are pretty inquisitive so lighting the candles in the lounge, for example, was nigh on impossible. They are ideal bathroom candles though.

My thanks to Cotton & Grey for the beautiful candle gift box .

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden, apart from where marked.

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Son Of The Secret Gardener

As a child, one of my favourite books I loved to read was the great children’s classic, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The novel was published in 1911 and the story was based on her own beautiful and extensive garden at Maytham Hall in Rolvenden, Kent. The knowledgeable gardener in the novel was based on her Head Gardener, George Owen Millum, and he and his son, George Charles Millum, worked in various gardens in south England. Years later, Trevor Millum, grandson of George Owen and son of George Charles, discovered the gardening diaries from 1935 and 1949 of his father, detailing their day to day jobs and lives as gardeners in some of the grandest gardens in England. After doing some research, Trevor has now published a book based on the diaries with original snippets from the diaries, photographs, and charming illustrations by Twink Addison. ”Son Of The Secret Gardener” is just a fascinating account of life as a gardener in the 1900s and I caught up with Trevor to find out more – Hi Trevor!

Hello 😊 Trevor Millum here – writer and gardener, currently reading and weeding in North Lincolnshire.

What inspired you to tell the story of your father and grandfather? 

I’d always been interested in the family tales of Maytham Hall (Frances Burnett Hodgson’s home) and the gardens of the ‘big houses’ but I never had time – or perhaps the nudge I needed – to take my interest any further until I retired. I started sorting through my father’s papers from the loft and discovered so many intriguing things not just about my dad but also about his father that I had to something more than just put them back in store. There was a story that had to be told!

I found your father’s gardening diaries absolutely fascinating, even though I am not much of a gardener! I was amazed at just how much work went into keeping the estate gardens immaculate and how they kept going even in inclement weather.  Were there any aspects of the stories/work mentioned in the diaries that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Yes, the amount of hard work was astonishing – and the repetition too. Days of pricking out plants, planting bulbs, sowing seeds…  I was also struck by the amount of time and effort given to cut flowers for the house. Another thing was the deadly pesticides and fungicides that were used; some of the things we still use today are bad but many of these were deadly!

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel “The Secret Garden” was my favourite book as a child growing up, so I was thrilled to discover that your grandfather was Head Gardener of Burnett’s estate at Maytham Hall in Rolvenden, Kent and that her book was based around her beautiful garden and your grandfather was the inspiration behind the gardener in the novel.  So, I am assuming you read the novel as a child, what characteristics did Frances give to the gardener that immediately made you think of your grandfather?  What other aspects of The Secret Garden novel resonated with you?

I didn’t make any connections when I first read the novel!  It only struck me later that my grandfather must have been the gardener at Maytham Hall while Frances was there. I then thought, well, he was a bit of a gruff fellow and so is Ben Weatherstaff (the gardener in Burnett’s book) …  But he must have been well liked by the staff because when he left they all signed a card with a fulsome dedication and ‘a purse’.  A walled garden has always had a fascination for me and here was the most famous one in literature! 

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an author or a gardener like your father & grandfather or did you have other career aspirations in mind?

There’s a poem I wrote about this which is in the preface of the book. My dad always said to me ‘Don’t be a gardener’ and that was because in his line of work the pay was so poor and he thought I could do better. So I never considered it as a career. I did, however, write stories and poems from an early age – but I always kept the day job!

The bricked up entrance to the walled garden which is presumed to be the old entrance to the Secret Garden at Maytham Hall.

 In your father’s diaries, he seems to have done a lot of weeding, mowing , pruning and potting, near enough on a daily basis?  Are you a keen gardener?Which gardening jobs do you find therapeutic and which do you find a chore? 

I don’t mind a bit of weeding and I enjoy pruning and general pottering. I’m not keen on mowing but we’ve gradually eaten into the lawn in order to have more room for interesting things, like plants so now it takes very little time.  We’re both pretty keen gardeners, my wife and I, so we share the work. It’s worth it, especially in spring when everything starts burgeoning.

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

Yes, I always have two or three books on the go – fiction and non-fiction. I don’t really have a favourite author – I tend to go for word of mouth recommendations or books my children buy me.  I have a Kindle for convenience. I like books with interesting illustrations like ‘The Lost Words’ and you have to have a real book for that. 

Example of 1935 diary

Is “Son Of The Secret Gardener” available to purchase worldwide?

It’s available on Amazon, and other internet booksellers, so yes!

 If you could visit any famous gardens in the world, where would you go and why?

I have visited some lovely gardens and I think I would like to return to some of them rather than go to new ones. I loved Monet’s garden but of course it gets very crowded. There are some gardens in France that we’ve visited more than once – Maizicourt and the Agapanthuis Garden, for instance.

Illustration by Twink Addison

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

If I’m in the garden, a pair of crocs, jeans, shirt and sleeveless body-warmer – is that a gilet? And a hat usually.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

The Hive for books and eBay for most everything else!

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

A new hat.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes unless I’m out for a proper walk. Boots take too long to fasten and unfasten. Espadrilles for holidays… 

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

For Pinning Later

www.mouseandmuse.co.uk     www.readingpictures.co.uk     
Facebook: trevor.millum

A perfect gift for all garden lovers, Son of the Secret Gardener by Trevor Millum(illustrated by Twink Addison) was published on 4th April 2022 by Quadrant Books (paperback, RRP £11.50) and is available through books shops and internet booksellers.

Thank you very much to Trevor for the preview copy of Son Of The Secret Gardener for reviewing and for agreeing to be interviewed! I did find your book very interesting!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Trevor Millum ; apart from the pinterest and header photo which are of my own garden 😊

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Author Interview: Geoffrey Paris

I recently read a memoir/true behind the scenes account of a hotel manager spanning over four decades. The book, “More Sauce Madam? The Adventures Of A Hotel Manager” by Geoffrey Paris was an interesting account of how a shy and awkward young man coped with working long hours and being faced with embarrassing incidents from naked guests to drunken porters; and his gradual climb through the hospitality sector to become hotel manager, enduring fraudulent proprietors, incompetent waiters, con artist customers, prima donna popstars, royalty and love interests along the way. The book was an entertaining read, and it gave me an insight into the working lives of my own daughter who is a food and beverage manager (previously in hotels) and both my son and son in law who are both Head Chefs previously in hotels but both now cook in restaurants. I thought the book also gave an honest account of what to expect when working in the hospitality industry, especially useful if that is your intended career path. There is some swearing in the book and there are some adult themes discussed but neither are distracting the book flow. I received a complimentary copy of ”More Sauce Madam? The Adventures Of A Hotel Manager” for review purposes and my views are 100% my own.

So, after reading the book I managed to get a chance to chat to Geoffrey
Paris about his memoirs. Hi Geoffrey and welcome…

Hello! I’m Geoff. Having enjoyed a 40 year career in hospitality, as a hotel manager, mainly in Devon & Cornwall, I have semi-retired from the rigours of the job to enjoy a bit of time for myself. Having attended weekly pottery classes, I was given the opportunity to teach pottery, which I still do once a week. I concentrate on modelling, mainly marine life and animals. After 6 months out of work, I began to miss the camaraderie of hotel life so went back full-time as a receptionist at a local hotel. Ironically I am therefore working 6 days per week. So much for semi-retirement!

What made you decide to write down your memoir & stories about life as a hotel manager?

I had always kept diaries as a teenager up to the age of about 30, which helped immensely once I started to write after a particularly bad experience as a Manager at a Torbay hotel. I felt the world needed to know what we went through.

Your book highlighted for me that there can be fun times, chaos, extreme hard work, stress, companionship and loneliness in following a hotel manager based career. What were your expectations about being a hotel manager before actually becoming a hotel manager? Was it better than you thought, or worse or just different?

I actually wanted to be a chef, perhaps aided by the fact that I was incredibly shy at the time, so would be kept out of the public eye. To my annoyance, my Dad, who was paying for my college education, forced me to study hotel management. Working as a member of staff in hotels was easy in the sense that responsibilities were minor. I looked at managers and how they operated (good and bad) but still thought it an impossible hill to climb. For instance how would I, a small shy person, tell a beefcake chef what to do? I have worked for some excellent managers, for whom you would do anything, as well as alcoholic and dishonest managers, who were impossible to respect..

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

Once in the mood, meaning no hangover, food and coffee easily available, no commitments that day, and several hours free, then I could go for it and the words just flowed. I enjoyed researching former work places on-line. Time was the main issue, what with the long hours worked in hotels, as well 6-day weeks on occasion. The editing and publishing process, with Mereo Books, being a totally new experience for me, was thrilling.

What main advice would you give a young person hoping to go into a hospitality career – aiming to become a hotel manager? What attributes do you think they should possess?

An HND or degree is one direction to start off, but chain hotels in-house training schemes are a good option, not afforded to me due to epilepsy, which in my younger days was regarded as a disability due to ignorance. You may have the opportunity to work overseas and meet some fascinating people. You may work long anti-social hours, but the rewards of seeing people enjoy themselves thanks to your hard work is satisfying. If you work your way up the ladder, which might at times be a challenge, you can end up at some marvellous hotels, have a good salary, and mix with the stars. Attributes – definitely a people person, positive, outgoing, eager to help others, and a can-do attitude. Patience, quick thinking, multi-tasking, and an eye for figures. Communication at all levels is a major factor. Understanding the needs of customers and staff.

So, we know you became a hotel manager, but as a child had you always wanted to have a career in the hotel trade or did you have other aspirations?

Yes I wanted to be a fighter pilot or work in submarines, but due to my epilepsy drugs, which as a teenager knocked me for six, could not pursue a career involving high academic standards. I couldn’t even become a chemist, which has always interested me. Chain hotels would not touch me, which nowadays would be classed as discrimination, so I was restricted to privately owned hotels. But I didn’t give up!

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

I don’t always have time to read, but since publishing my memoirs, all I read now are other memoirs/autobiographies. My favourite author is probably Thomas Hardy. ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ is a favourite. On holiday I might buy a thriller at the airport.

Is “More Sauce Madam? The Adventures of a Hotel Manager” available to purchase worldwide?

Most definitely. Through Amazon, WH Smith, Waterstones, Blackwells, etc, as well as from my publisher Mereo Books.

When you are booking a holiday for yourself at a hotel – what criteria do you look for when choosing where to go?

I always read the Trip Advisor reviews, both good and bad, and form a general opinion. I prefer leisure facilities, a good food recommendation, and a hotel with character. I also check the booking.com prices (if listed) to compare the tariff. Location is fairly important.

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

At home jeans and polo shirt. Slippers inside. At work, suit trousers, white shirt, tie, black shoes and socks.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Marks & Spencers where I buy all my clothes. Shoes from Clarks. Groceries/weekly shop stuff from Sainsbury’s.

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

Trainers, so I can go back in the gym…., but not in a hurry 😊 I need some more swimming shorts, different colours – from M&S.

Boots or Shoes?

Always shoes. I did have some boots once as a teenager, but it was too much of an effort putting them on/off. I can’t wear Wellington boots because I have smallish feet and large calves, so can’t get into a Wellington. If anyone knows where I can buy wider ones, please let me know!

For Pinning Later

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

Website: www.geoffparis.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/geoff.paris.5
Twitter: http://Twitter.com/ParisGeoff

And for my ceramics: www.geoffparispottery.com

Instagram: www.parisgeoffpottery

Geoffrey Paris is the author of More Sauce Madam? The Adventures of a Hotel Manager – a candid, eye-popping memoir of more than four decades working in hotels, restaurants and pubs. Geoff’s book is published by Mereo Books (paperback, £12.99) and available through the publisher, book shops and internet booksellers.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Geoffrey Paris – apart the foodie photo which is by Linda Hobden showing food made by my eldest son Chef Dan!

My thanks to Geoffrey Paris for the review copy of ”More Sauce Madam? The Adventures Of A Hotel Manager”.

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Interview: True Business School

Head or Heart? When it comes to business, things tend to orientate around the head and gut with decisions made from the heart often dismissed as being over-emotional. However, founder of True Business School Kat Byles disagrees – she feels that following your heart within your business can transform your success. I caught up with Kat recently to find out more …. Hi Kat and welcome…

Hello I’m Kat, founder of the True Business School for creative leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, healers, artists who want to do business differently – business aligned with Source, your purpose and creativity, because this creates a happier, healthier, wealthier life, business and world. A few years ago, I followed my heart to the Caribbean Island of Antigua from Bath in the UK, and it has now become a home, in a village on the beach, with the sea as divine inspiration. 

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of the True Business School?

As a global communications director working with the biggest names in Sport I burnt out. I left with a desire to fulfil my purpose, make a contribution AND enjoy wellness, and time with my family and friends. 

My intuition guided me to Antigua, for a holiday or so I thought and, on the last day, I heard the words loud and clear: ‘You are not done. You need to come back for a month and float in this sea every day.’ I listened and went back 5 weeks later, walked barefoot on the sand, ate mangoes from the tree and floated in the sea every day. Nature restored my wellness and then began to feed me with inspiration. 

While swimming I clearly saw the True Business model in my mind’s eye – blending Source energy with the practical business structure – to create a business that is a full expression of who you are and what you came here for. The Caribbean Sea was the divine inspiration. 

What are the main differences between your approach to business and traditional business ideas? 

True Business leads with your creative spirit and orientates around the heart to fulfil your purpose and creative expression. 

Traditional business leads with profit and orientates around the head and gut, fulfilling shareholder returns. The heart is typically dismissed as airy-fairy, woo-woo, over-emotional, misguided, dangerous, weak. It is none of these things. 

The heart transcends the egoic mind, power struggles and agendas bringing connection, inspiration, vitality and wellness. The heart opens us to our higher nature of wisdom, compassion, understanding; into deep listening, intuition, receptivity and appreciation, which creates different outcomes. The heart liberates our true self, purpose, creativity, contribution and legacy. The heart is also a gateway to Source, universal energy and a world of possibility. 

By following the wisdom of our heart, we direct our energy and resources towards business structures that are expansive and yet regenerate and support flourishing and wellness. We create deep, authentic relationships. My experience is that the heart is deeply transformative and we build businesses more in harmony with our true nature, in harmony with the earth. 

You do run a business retreat in Antigua.  I know Antigua is a beautiful island, but why did you decide to base your school retreat in Antigua? 

My intuition guided me here. It’s the perfect place to immerse in nature, relax and receive pure source inspiration. It’s also relatively easy to reach with a relaxed, go-with-the-flow vibe. 

So, as we are talking Antigua, what would budding business entrepreneurs expect from your retreat if they attended ?

The space and time to relax, let go, and reconnect with Source, universal energy that delights in creating and dive deeply into your heart to explore what you are called to create now in your business – when we let the creative lead it is full of vitality, expansion and growth, personally and professionally. The retreat is guided by the needs of the people there but can include morning meditations, swimming in secluded bays, creative immersion sessions on shady beaches, walks to hilltops and sea horizons, yoga, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, massages, supporting local businesses and immersing in the natural local environment. 

Apart from your retreat in Antigua, can you give us some details about the courses offered online?

PR with Heart is an online course to grow your audience, visibility and impact for a thriving business and world.

Your True Business is an online course to align with Source, your purpose and creativity for a happier, healthier, wealthier business and world.

The Creative Leader is a year-long program for established business leaders to amplify their impact and visibility, leading transformation from the heart.

I also work one-to-one with a few clients each year via Zoom and in person in Antigua. 

As you have had vast experience working with entrepreneurs, pioneers and global brand, what projects gave you a real buzz? 

So many!

I love seeing creative and spiritual entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers, healers, artists, writers and coaches arrive at PR with Heart, daunted by visibility, frozen by overwhelm, repelled by marketing and then, after just 6 weeks, opening up to inspiration, flow and a simple structure that allows them to fulfil their purpose, make a contribution and an income with joy and ease. Witnessing this transformation, the creativityand inspiration will never get old. 

A shout out to the Homeless World Cup because of the transformation it created in the lives of people who were homeless coming off drugs and alcohol, reuniting with families, finding homes, setting up businesses, becoming leaders in their community. And for the magic we created, the people it attracted, the countries we visited, the magnitude of it. I got to work with high calibre creatives at Nike, UEFA, international film makers, media, designers and event producers. 

Commissioning a documentary narrated by Colin Farrell that made it to Sundance Film Festival and commissioning a feature film that, 14 years later, has just been made for Netflix, creating magical events with the likes of Desmond Tutu, Eric Cantona, Lewis Hamilton were highlights. But I’m always left with the memory of a man in Chile who had spent 8 years living in a doorway taking drugs, now standing in the doorway of his home next to his pregnant wife, telling his story to national TV, as a leader of the football program inspiring other homeless people off the streets. Powerful. This was also the burn out project! But it inspired me to a new experience of being in business and life in Antigua.

 In general, what reasons do your “students” give for wanting to learn or improve their business strategy and find their calling by following their heart when it comes to business?

They have a sense of, or are already connected, to a higher calling, a desire to express their creative potential, and make a contribution. They are not primarily motivated by the sport of profit-making, are repelled by greed, corruption, destruction of the environment excused as ‘just business’ and may have experienced burn out. They are also repelled and overwhelmed by pushy, sales, formulaic traditional marketing as a betrayal of their integrity and authenticity. 
So, they are looking for a different way to be in business, a new pathway. They want a business that fulfils their purpose, makes a contribution, provides them with a great income, plenty of time and space to be with their family and to be creative, and enjoy a life they love. True Business does that – by listening to your heart, you create a business that builds a structure that meets all your needs for a prosperous life. 

 As a child, what was your dream career?

I always felt I’d make a contribution to business but never had an idea of a particular career. Guidance at school was unimaginative nonsense with options of being an accountant, doctor, accountant, lawyer or a teacher. I still remember a careers test that recommended a career as a car park attendant or prison officer.

I grew up on a cul-de-sac where all the kids played on the street together. We organised dance performances and fetes that brought all the kids, parents, grandparents together. We loved organising it all, making up different stalls, drawing up the signage and promotional leaflets. My 10-year-old niece is doing it now – last year it was a cake business, this year it’s a jewellery business. And I love this creativity and life experience as a kid that blends into a business as an adult.

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

Bikinis, shorts, the odd shirt to throw over, maxi dresses with beautiful prints and flip flops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love independent shops and online sites set up by people who are passionate about sourcing beautiful pieces and pay attention to sustainability like Tribe + Fable, established by Julia Watson. My Boutique in my Mum and Dad’s UK village in the UK, a family business is a wonderful part of the village community. And Portobello Boutique in English Harbour in Antigua run by Choy are my regulars

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

Bikinis – can’t get enough, mix and match.

Boots or Shoes?

Barefoot or flip flops!

Boots after a year of barefoot for the funny heavy clodhopping sensation!

For Pinning Later

Links you wish to share:

http://Katbyles.com

True-business-school.com

https://www.instagram.com/katbyles

What a picturesque place! Thank you for the chat Kat and long may the heart rule the Head!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kat Byles.

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An Interview With The Mindful Baker

Do you find baking or cooking in general therapeutic? Did you find solace in baking during the covid lockdown periods? Then you will be interested in my guest this week – Tim Leach is The Mindful Baker and his company teaches mindfulness through the art of baking! Yes, that’s what I said – he teaches meditation techniques as well as how to bake artisan sourdough bread and pizza. Hi Tim and welcome!

Hi! I’m Tim Leach and I am a mindful baker. I teach people life skills through the art of baking by utilising the process of baking sourdough with mindfulness.

What made you decide to launch “The Mindful Baker”?

I  had decided to get into mindfulness and consequently qualified as a teacher in order to spread the word of it but I found that people, in general, unless they specifically want to learn about it,  don’t have much interest in just learning about mindfulness because they assume it’s very wishy washy and don’t want to get bogged down by meditating and breathing in sweet nothings, so don’t really want to get know much about it. It’s not at all like that but that’s certainly what I used to think so I don’t blame anyone else for thinking the same way. Anyway, a few years ago I had a Christmas party and my cousin brought along a loaf of sourdough. I was delighted to not be given a bottle of cheap wine and said that I would love to learn how to bake it. I eventually learned and then saw a correlation between baking sourdough and mindfulness. It wasn’t an instant thing but over time I developed it into a class and then started giving free classes to neighbours when I lived in London. It grew from there. 

Talk me through a typical workshop – what would I expect?

There are a set number of stages that need to be carried out to create a loaf of sourdough, and in between each one, which I call ‘down time’ I explain the correlations between what is happening to the bread and how by following a similar method within your own life, you can start to see it making a difference. I also use these times to explain the concept of mindfulness, give techniques to help people integrate it into their lives; along with my life story and case studies, all the while making it easier for them to understand through the tangible process of baking. 

What level of cookery skill would you need to attend a workshop?

None at all, I teach total beginners to pros who want to learn about mindfulness.

What is it about your job as the Mindful Baker do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

I love seeing people’s joy when they create bread. I love seeing the ‘aha’ moments in people’s eyes when I explain how something so simple could revolutionise their lives. I love hearing their life stories and I love explaining how I got into it and the shit I went through before being where I am now. The downside is the process of finding new clients which will hopefully get easier over time.

You also hold pizza parties for children. What are the most popular toppings? Do you have a favourite topping?

Kids love pineapple which I do not agree with because pineapple is a sweet fruit which doesn’t belong on a pizza. Once they get over their weird topping ideas they generally love simple margaritas. Kids are easy to please with pizza. My favourite toppings would be chorizo and silly hot chilli, which my wife does not agree with but I love it.

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

Yes, completely different. I studied Law at university and was going to become a city lawyer. After university I did a ski season before hitting the city and becoming, my then idea, rich and happy. Half way through the season, though, I skied off a cliff and tore my cruciate ligament, broke my back and my neck, shattered my ankle and hit my head so hard I was induced into a coma for 3 weeks. The recovery was very long and arduous which culminated in me hitting my lowest ever point where I was left with the decision to either let it cripple me or to rise above it. I obviously chose to rise above it and after many years of trial and error, I am finally where I want to be. I have since written a book about my life and how I managed to get myself back on track, up until I became the Mindful Baker, which is called ‘Timinology’. 

I know you are passionate about your baking – what is your favourite creation to make?

I actually made my first ever wedding cake the other day after someone messaged me to ask whether I, being a mindful baker, make them. I told her that I didn’t but I’d happily give it a go. She agreed and her wedding is today. Her reaction when she saw the cake was amazement – as was mine. I probably won’t continue with wedding cakes but my cooking love is for bbqing. I love sourcing the best meats and the best vegetables and then creating magic. Not forgetting my trusted sourdough bread to go with it.

Sometimes a recipe doesn’t go to plan – I made a cardamom cake that took me about 3 goes from scratch before it turned out perfect ! Have you tried to bake or cook anything that just didn’t go your way or that you avoid cooking?

The only issue I’ve ever had was with the wedding cake. I had to bake 6 different cakes of different sizes in order to make the tiers – the first one was fine and then the second one just completely deflated and then split apart leaking a load of uncooked cake mixture everywhere. It was very demoralizing but it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it made me vigilantly keep checking the cooking times of every cake after that and making sure they were perfect before allowing them to rest. A technique that I would have garnered from my mindful baking classes which otherwise would have seen me throwing it away and quitting; lucky I didn’t do that.  

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

Before I set up the mindful baker I launched another company designing (telling someone what I wanted ) and manufacturing shirts. They were for men and women and were city/casual shirts – something you can wear to the office or just in the countryside. Anyway, I have a lot of shirts now so you will very rarely not see me wearing one of my own shirts. I then normally wear them with jeans, a jumper, a gilet (when it’s cold) and my trusted RM Williams riding boots. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I hate shopping – my wife knows what I wear so when she thinks I need something new she orders it for me online. I hate any sort of label so if it’s labelled I won’t wear it. Nobody knows what RM WIlliams is (unless you’re in Australia) and it’s also of incredible quality so my last pair lasted me 15 years.

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

No more shoes for 10 years or so (unless they’re running shoes as I am an avid runner of which I only buy a brand (again noone has ever heard of) called HOKA, which I only wear because I wasn’t able to run for 10 years after the accident until I found these shoes which transformed my life)

Boots or Shoes?

Boots because that is what my RM Williams are and they will last a long time.

For Pinning Later

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

www.themindfulbaker.com  

facebook.com/timthemindfulbaker.

youtube tim – the mindful baker.

Instagram @tim_themindfulbaker

Here is a link for people to buy my book if they want to…. https://www.themindfulbaker.com/shop  

Thank you very much for chatting with us today Tim! What a fun business!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Tim (The Mindful Baker) apart from the Pinterest photo which is by Linda Hobden.


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An Interview With Adio

Adio is a new health and wellness portal that is the brainchild of my guests this week – Jess Braid and Xandra Middleton. These lovely ladies are sisters and both are doctors – Xandra is a doctor of chiropractic and Jess is a trained NHS doctor who specialises in treating patients using alternative health approaches including nutrition, Chinese medicine, etc. I caught up with the busy sisters to find out more about their venture! Hi ladies ….

[Jess} Hi, we’re Drs Jess Braid and Xandra Middleton. We’re sisters, best friends and the founders of Adio! Xandra is a doctor of chiropractic and I’m a former NHS doctor, now IFM (Institute of Functional Medicine) practitioner, qualified Chinese and Western herbalist, acupuncturist, kinesiologist and homeopath.

What inspired you to set up your new health & wellness portal “Adio”?

[Xandra] We own a busy chiropractic and natural health clinic in Cheshire and have treated thousands of patients for well over a decade. But there are only two of us and so many people who we would love to be able to benefit from our approach to wellness. So we set up Adio to empower everyone to take control of their health and to create a community where our members can connect, grow, share and learn together.

What are the benefits of becoming a member of Adio?

[Jess] Through an affordable monthly subscription, our members have unlimited access to a vast resource library of content tailored to 8 zones of health. Whether you’re browsing the Gut Health & Digestion zone for ways to improve your IBS, the Family & Pet Health zone for tips on how to get your kids to eat more vegetables or heading to the Immune System & Infection zone for ways to boost your immunity, you’ll find a wealth of articles, courses, quizzes and webinars. You can participate in yoga or mindfulness classes, learn how to get better sleep or look after your gut heath. You can even enrol for free in Adio’s ground-breaking programmes – Refresh, my revolutionary 30 day “food as medicine” reset and Xandra’s posture transformation programme, Realign.
As a valued member of our community, you can post status updates, ask for recommendations, offer advice and join specific forums where members can support each other. Our members also benefit from exclusive discounts on Adio’s own powerful multivitamin and Plant+ adaptogen supplements that are pure, eco-friendly and perfectly balanced.
[Xandra} A big part of Adio is about giving back. As we grow, we will give more and more of our profits to good causes and establish Adio as a not-for-profit trust. In the shorter term, we are donating 10% of membership profits to ten charities that are close to our hearts and we encourage our members to get involved too – their participation in our community earns them coins, which generate donations. We also partner with Ecologi so member interactions also convert to more trees being planted!

Monte, Madeira © Linda Hobden

Jess, as you are a trained NHS doctor who specialises in treating people using alternative health approaches including nutrition, Chinese medicine etc what common health conditions have had new approaches which incorporate alternative medicine?

[Jess] We appreciate many different approaches to health, from ancient traditional Chinese medicine practised for several thousand years to the latest scientific research and credible thinking. All our articles are backed by citations, references and other sources. We also share our own remedies, taken from home life and our clinical experience. Published research on the gut microbiome exploded in 2012 and turned our understanding of health on its head. Now thousands of clinical studies all point to the same conclusion, that nearly all long-term health problems will have a root cause in gut health – a truly mind-blowing fact.

Xandra, as a doctor of chiropractic, what ways can Adio membership be of benefit to your patients?

 [Xandra] Looking after our joints, muscles and spine is as crucial to our physical and mental health as diet and exercise. My Structure & Movement toolkit in Adio highlights the importance of good posture, mobility and balance and teaches our members how to use movement, fitness and nutrition to heal themselves. My Realign programme shows you how to take control of joint or muscle problems and how, from dedicating just a few minutes a day, you can transform your posture and eliminate those aches and pains for good.

© Linda Hobden

How is Adio funded?

[Jess] Adio is funded entirely by the affordable monthly subscription fee. We do not take payments, sponsorships or incentives for promotion. Anything we recommend is because we have genuinely used it and loved it, not because we were paid to say so!

Adio members are encouraged to take part in conversations and courses on Adio – what health areas seem to be most discussed at the moment?

[Jess] Immunity is definitely a hot topic at the moment and due to the pandemic, more and more people are looking for answers on how to stay well and how to look after their physical and mental wellbeing. So our Immune System & Infection zone is a fantastic starting place for members to dive in and learn more. Plus our popular yoga and mindfulness classes provide the perfect environment for people to feel safe, calm and grounded. 

As you are based in UK, is Adio available to subscribers overseas?

[Xandra] Yes absolutely, Adio is a global brand! The desire for optimal health is universal and the vast number of ways we can all take control of our own wellbeing translate to every corner of the world.

© Linda Hobden

Growing up, did you have career aspirations in the medical field or something entirely different?

[Jess] We grew up surrounded by alternative medicines and therapies. Grandad taught us about plants and herbs, Grandma taught us homeopathy, Mum showed us all about massage and essential oils and Dad was a chiropractor. So it was inevitable really!Our careers have seen us venture off to explore different healthcare paths and travel different routes in our personal lives, but we have always stayed close. These days, we work together virtually every day, live nearby and we both share a vision for what we hope Adio can become. Our shared values and beliefs about what make effective healthcare and the things that can make for a better planet have become central to what we do.

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

[Xandra] We’re always keen to support sustainable and ethical brands like Sezane and Giesswein. Jess and I have just got two gorgeous black labrador puppies so at the moment, it’s hoodies and wellies for us a lot of the time! I love Emblazed, a local screen-printing company that embroider all our clinic and Adio sweatshirts that are 100% organic. 

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

We love Naturisimo’s range of natural, organic beauty products and skincare

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

[Jess] Xandra has actually just bought me some Muck boots for Christmas after years of telling me how good hers were…..and she wasn’t wrong! They’ve got a memory foam sole so they’re super comfortable and warm and the neoprene means they’re really easy to get on and off. Now I’ve got my eye on a colourful spring shirt from Baukjen.

Boots or Shoes?

[Xandra] You’ll find us both in Veja trainers in the summer for the comfort and support. And at the clinic, Jess lives in her Rothys pumps, made from recycled materials. In the winter, my go-to boots are Timberland and Jess loves her Danish Duckfeet!

For Pinning Later

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

www.adio.orgwww.instagram.com/adio_health

https://www.facebook.com/Adiofamily/

Great to talk to you both about your exciting plans for this informative health portal!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Adio , apart from the photographs marked in the article which are by Linda Hobden.

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Being Lean

”Lean” is a well known and scientifically proven idea that has transformed businesses for decades – a methodology for focusing on what is really important. According to my guest this week – Lean business expert Michelle Leong – Being Lean means living efficiently and not wasting time, energy and money on the unimportant. I caught up with Michelle recently to find out more about Being Lean. Hi Michelle!

Hello! I’m Michelle. I’m a self-confessed Lean fanatic & dedicated Lean practitioner with almost 20 years’ experience in changing people’s lives and businesses for the better. I am a very health-conscious keen traveller, a monumental food & drinks fan and it may be a midlife crisis thing but I make every effort to look good for myself all the time.  My quest for perfection in living life to the fullest makes my staunch advocacy and adoption of Lean in everyday life inevitable & necessary. 

Your book, “Being Lean”, is truly inspirational. What made you decide to write your book in the first place?

Actually, Being Lean is the result of my laziness and impatience about doing things twice or taking the long way around. It is basically all about how I increase productivity of my fun time. I hate housework, I hate exercising, I like, but don’t love work. This book is 20 years of how I managed to do lesser of what I don’t enjoy AND still get the same if not better results. 

I was already naturally organised, I’m a keen planner, I’m a fantastic time manager but it was only when I started using Lean as a methodology & a structured approach, that I realised that all this time, I’ve been so effective in wasting my time & effort. I was basically just tidying up clutter, when clutter is clutter no matter how neat they are.

I’m a terrible person. I remember secretly judging my colleagues & peers, all those years, for not being truly Lean. I felt they only do it at work, like switching the lights on & off. Outside of work, I remember thinking “what process slobs” they are 😜! I’ve been collecting scribbles & thoughts along the way, knowing I had to put it on paper in a structured manner…to boast about my processes if anything! I only actually sat down to write this book at lockdown.

Lean  is a well known and scientifically proven idea  – a methodology for focusing on what is really important, and being lean means living efficiently, using time and energy and money effectively … when did you first realise this empowerment that being lean can have over businesses and life in general? 

Lean has been around & popularised here in the West by the car manufacturing industry since the very early 90s. Thanks to discovering Lean 10 years later for my work in construction that I’ve been living Lean for almost 20 years. I started consciously applying the methodology “Doing Lean” for work mainly but once I got my Lean glasses on, it felt applicable to all processes including outside of work. Gradually, I evolved to doing Lean outside of work and since then evolved again to “Being Lean” i.e. naturally rather than contrived.

Your book is jammed pack with hints and situations which will help to apply the lean approach in all aspects of life – workplace, wardrobe, home life, travel food and health- even down to sorting your laundry! I was quite pleased to see that my method of sorting out washing  being endorsed!  Were there any aspects of writing “Being Lean” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

I realised that applying Lean to work is SO much easier. There are many relevant examples and much expertise out there for us to learn from and even duplicate. At the same time, we are held accountable for our productivity and quality of work so we do it more consistently as it is necessary for our livelihood. We push ourselves more and we try harder. Whereas, privately, we only have to account to ourselves. There are no immediate consequences, or if there are, we deem them to be of less magnitude as time loss is less apparent than the loss of cold hard cash from a paycheque. Hence, application of Lean outside of work is so much less consistent. I am actually surprised after-the-fact that I have enough to structure this book in a coherent and hopefully, easy to follow way. When I finished it, I felt incredibly lucky that I had been doing Lean for such a long time and so consistently that I was able to follow through, fill out that many chapters and achieve the flow. 

You have been advising businesses on lean practices for 20 years and you were part of the team that introduced lean to the construction industry in a government funded Construction  Lean Improvement Programme (CLIP).  What sort of lean recommendations were introduced?

We started from scratch with Construction. Everyone was strongly sceptical. CLIP offered the industry free consultancy & lean projects hoping to get wide uptake of the thinking & practice. We went out touting companies to apply Lean to their construction projects. Construction teams are dynamic & they change with each project so you can imagine how difficult it is to achieve sustainable organisational results. You keep starting from scratch with each new project, teaching them the theory & methodology then applying it practically on site – learning by doing. We persevered & slowly noticed the difference when project percentages slowly evolved from 90% on building sites & 10% in boardrooms to 50%-50%. This meant the industry was starting to adopt the Lean approach of looking at the bigger picture, doing a diagnostic i.e., identifying waste in the process & doing the business case of prioritising where best to invest in improvement efforts. It’s always leaner eliminating waste further upfront the process when they aren’t as big, before they snowball & become more expensive problems down the line i.e., manifests when you are actually constructing the building. 

What aspects of Being Lean did you personally find hardest to adopt and adapt into your own lifestyle?  What aspects did you find easiest to incorporate?

As human beings, we rotate towards the easiest to do. For me, with Lean, it was a gradual process. It started out with huge concerted effort to learn & then to do. But with each effort, like everything one does, it got easier & the interest grew because the benefits prevailed & I wanted to know more. It became a challenge to be better at it & a lifestyle and quest to make as much of my processes leaner. Suddenly, I’ve become anal retentive, which I take as a compliment. I have to say it is a creep process & still creeping! Unlike weight creeping up with age, this is a positive creep from flexing & using the Lean muscle. I just transitioned from consciously Doing Lean to Being Lean. I ended up getting flow in my processes without thinking about it. I see waste & combat them bit by bit, it’s no effort for me but might be a crazy effortful to a beginner. Whatever my processes are now, it’s taken 20 years of Being Lean. I’ve even process mapped my relationship, doing risk analysis to look for issues & their impacts. I use root cause analysis to manage my “flare-ups” to maintain that precious relationship. I’ve just celebrated my 31st year anniversary with my husband 🥰😎.

Growing up, what career aspirations did you have?

I was born in Singapore & became a “Singapore Girl” (flight stewardess) very young at 18 so never “had time” to aspire to be anything else. I regretted not going into higher education then as there was no such thing as mature student in Singapore in those days. Once the opportunity passed you by, it’s gone! Thankfully I met my husband & got a second chance when I moved to Sweden in the very early 90s. I learnt the language & took the university entrance exam & never looked back. It is thanks to this, that life led me to Lean. 

Is “Being Lean”  available to purchase worldwide?

The book is available for sale on Amazon & many bookshops like Waterstones online. On the Being Lean website, the hardcopy is available worldwide, IF one is willing to pay postage at cost. The e-book is available on the website for download wherever you are in the world & the audiobook is underway and will be available on the website soon.

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

When applying Lean Thinking to our Health. Lean states that ill-health & bad lifestyle are defects in a System, our System. Whether it is self-inflicted or due to circumstances or environment, the point here is not to blame but to find out why. What are the wastes & what are the root causes? If we apply the methodology & use the Waste Glasses, we will get a diagnostic of the causes of these defects so we can work on preventing or managing them. I’ve worked really hard on my health & fitness. As an outcome of Being Lean, I’ve been fasting & lifting heavy weights for the past 10 years. I am at my tippest-toppest condition having just turned 50 this year and planning to keep it that way.

I adopt the Lean visual management tool to maintain status. My wardrobe has been designed to induce my correct behaviour. I no longer have baggy clothes that allow me to hide the consequences of long-term unhealthy living or bad choices, whether this is food, fitness or the mental confidence to rock an outfit. I only wear snug clothes to restrict the amount I can indulge in. Snug clothing visually displays quickly and obviously when I over indulge in one meal but also when I have been lax over a longer period. This triggers me to rein things back. My reward for the consistency is looking & feeling strong & powerful.

I have been wearing a LBD (little black dress), benchmarking (a Lean tool) for my 40th, 45th & 50th birthday. We’ll see if it fits on my 55th!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I used to shop quantity above quality & have loads of unused clothes that I’m still going through. Nowadays, I only shop online and for specific style/design that I know flatters me and I never follow trends. I’ve taken on board the Lean concept of modular dressing i.e., having a few different basic accessories & layers of clothing, mixing/matching & getting triple the look from them to suit all occasion & seasons. I’ve got a few websites bookmarked including The Outnet, Joli Closet, TK Maxx, Selfridges (when on sale), occasionally ASOS etc. and charities like Sea Shepherd, which don’t have much of what I want to wear but I buy for presents periodically to give them support. 

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

I’ve got more clothes & shoes enough to wear a different outfit every day of the week! But I’m also a huge accessories person so I’ve got a couple of items on my wish list currently including a Gucci Lionhead gold-toned brass and bead ring & Maje’s Precious Day of the Week ring.

Boots or Shoes?

I’m a wedge (ankle & knee) boots for autumn/winter & wedge sandals for summer, kind of gal. Wedge being key because it started with me having plantar fasciitis from training too much and not being able to wear flat shoes. Now I can’t be without them because they are very Being Lean! It allows me to not compromise on “quality” as they are comfortable, looks good (feminine the way I like it) & gives me the height to make me look tall & slender. I can walk on wedges for hours on a glorious fun London shopping day out! I’ve got 3 colours of the same Hush Puppies wedge sandals that are very comfortable.

For Pinning Later

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

Personal Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011056549136

Being Lean Website: https://beinglean.net

Being Lean Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/beinglean.net

LeanPac Website: https://www.leanpac.co.uk

LeanPac Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LeanPaccouk-1614091645336481

LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-leong-94837918/

My thanks to Michelle for agreeing to be interviewed and to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity for a copy of Michelle’s book “Being Lean”. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Michelle Leong (apart from the Pinterest & header pics which are by Linda Hobden)

Linda x

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