Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

Spotlight On The Lumberjills

I recently received a copy of a new wartime saga called “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” by Joanna Foat to review. It is a well written, enjoyable novel about a group of girls from different backgrounds who joined the Women’s Timber Corps. What impressed me more is that this book is Joanna’s first work of fiction – and what a fabulous non stop page turning debut – but Joanna has written a non fiction book about The Lumberjills, has spoken to more than 60 former Lumberjills and has spent 10 years researching her subject. That’s amazing! So, I’m really pleased to welcome Joanna onto the blog….Hi Joanna!

Hi, my name is Joanna Foat. I am an author, speaker, environmental communications consultant and love adventures in the great outdoors.

The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” is your debut novel – a historical novel based on the Women’s Timber Corps, a mostly forgotten division of the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War. What inspired you to write a novel? 

I remember the day I first heard about the Lumberjills when I was working for the Forestry Commission. I was sitting at my desk in a wooden hut at Alice Holt Forest looking out the window at the birds and passing deer, while researching stories about women in forestry. When the woman at the other end of the phone said there were thousands of women working in the forests felling trees with an axe and saw during wartime and they were called Lumberjills, a shiver ran through me. 

I thought, how come I’d never heard of them? I have to find out more about these women. I knew that only a few, if any, could still be alive. At that moment, I realisedI had to meet these women. Once I had tracked them down and heard their extraordinary stories, I just knew I wanted to write a book about them. I felt it was such an important story to tell about strong women. And if I didn’t, it would be forgotten forever. 

Were there any aspects of writing your novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected (considering you have written a non-fiction book about the Lumberjills also)? 

First, I absolutely loved doing all the research, travelling the country to meet those inspiring Lumberjills, visiting museums and trawling through archives. Discovering these wonderful pieces of history was just like a hugely rewarding treasure hunt. 

There was a big difference between writing the non-fiction and a novel. Non-fiction is like a collage of newspaper cuttings, old photos, letters and words from interviews. You find the best stories and curate them to create a big picture. 

Whereas fiction is like a broiling witches cauldron swirling with emotion, people and places. You have to make the fire first and then start adding all the ingredients, keep stirring, tasting, smelling and simmering for a long time and hope the magic spell works. It feels like a much more dynamic process and so I found writing a novel much harder.

I was terrified of writing dialogue to begin with. But that was because I hadn’t done enough character development. After spending a lot of time of getting to know my characters, I could tune into them quickly and now I can hear their voices speaking to me as I write.

I love the different characters in the story – feisty bohemian Keeva, the cockney East Ender Rosie and wealthy Beatrice were my personal favourites… do you have a favourite character? Which characters or storyline were the hardest to portray?

I had a lot of fun writing Beatrice, putting words into her mouth that made me wince or squeal with laughter. You can have a lot of fun making your characters misbehave. I want to have more mischief in my next novel.

I found Keeva the hardest to portray because she was such a moody teenager and I couldn’t get a lot back from her. She frustrated me. I even asked her once what she might do in a particular situation and she gave me a withering look and shouted at me, stop trying to put me in a box. She is so fiercely independent. I suppose I had my answer in one way. But I still felt none the wiser. I understand her more now.

Hypothetically speaking, if “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Keeva, Rosie and Beatrice? 

If ever there was a great comparable to what The Lumberjills film would be like. It is A League of Their Own. I love the great mix of female characters, backgrounds, shapes and sizes. Real women. Grubby, muddy and misbehaved. There’s plenty of unknown actresses out there who need a break – this could be for them. The Lumberjills acted out by rising stars. I love that idea.

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

No. I didn’t really have aspirations as a child because I was so shy. Maybe I would have been a dancer. But I certainly wouldn’t have said that I wanted to sit still and write. Although I did write my first book age 10, which was 33 pages long and about a hard done by pigeon. I thought if I could get people to care about a pigeon, that would be really cool. I loved writing it but my older sister said it was rubbish.

Movement and sport are forms of self-expression and give me a sense of freedom and confidence. I discovered I wanted to write about that. I want to write how the Lumberjills muscles ached, what it felt like to cycle 20 miles before work and how strong they had to be felling trees all day long in the forest. My Dad bought me an axe for Christmas one year. So, I am sure, if I’d been alive in the 1940s, I would have jumped at the chance of joining the Women’s Timber Corps.

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

I wouldn’t call myself a bookworm, more of bookbird. I fly from book to book and sometimes don’t finish them. I love physical books with beautiful covers. A kindle doesn’t do it for me. I love the beauty of the myths and legends in Madeleine Miller and how nature thrums through every word in Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdad Sings.

Is “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, The Lumberjills is available worldwide and selling well in UK, US, Canada, Australia, and France.

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

I used to find myself on a muddy walk or doing the gardening in a heeled pair of boots and dress. So now I prefer wearing jeans, a green top and Converse. In fact,most of my clothes are Lumberjill green.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have been brought up on charity shops and loved hand me downs from my friends and family. I have a fascination with Anthropologie. But I’m more likely to buy from Depop.

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

A pair of beautiful leather hiking boots and some running leggings. I am tempted to buy myself some dungarees too, Lumberjills style. Oh, and can I add in a vintage axe accessory here too? ;0)

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. Shoes seem too small and flimsy and most of mine are high heels. As a teenager I wore Doc Martins and some German Army boots I bought from an old Army Supplies store. I still have the latter over 30 years later. 

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

www.thelumberjills.uk

fb. @thelumberjills.uk

insta and twitter @jofoat

It was brilliant to chat to you Joanna! I love trees too and I spent a happy childhood climbing up trees and making dens in the patch of Epping Forest close to my home in East London. I live in a rural village now surrounded by woods. I loved your novel – it was just pure escapism . Thank you Ben for the review copy of Joanna’s novel.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Joanna Foat. (Pinterest photo by Linda Hobden).

Linda x

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Rebirth Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the Rebirth book tour! Rebirth, by author Kate Brenton, is an interesting book full of inspiring stories from people who dared to follow their dreams and born from the original Rebirth podcast.

BOOK SUMMARY

When life is calling, often we need only the space and the support to remember our way. Sometimes we lean into our expansion, and sometimes we bolt from our greatness. The biggest shock is that big change happens in small choices. In Rebirth you will find real-life stories of people who made courageous leaps, inspiring you to make your own. It’s time to step out of line and back into the spiral of life—that’s where the alchemy is. This book fits right into the side pocket of your bag + your life to inspire you as you read others’ stories of how they listened and learned to make embodied changes in their own lives.

Publisher: Inspirebytes Omni Media

ISBN-10: 1953445261

ISBN-13: 978-1953445261

ASIN: B0B3V3JQT7

Print length: 278 pages

MY INTERVIEW

Hello Kate and welcome onto the blog….

Hello, I’m Kate. I am (now) an author, a teacher, a mama and holistic mentor.

What inspired the launch of the “Rebirth” – the  podcast and book?

The podcast started as a postpartum creativity project. I quickly fell in love with talking to amazing women about how they leaned in to their intuition at a difficult time and succeeded on their own terms. The podcast was tagged, “women saving lives by living their own.” During this time, not-so-coincidentally a colleague reached out to tell me she was starting a publishing company and wanted to sign me as a writer. I signed a contract and six months into deep writers block (which I mentioned to no one), I had my publisher on the podcast. She called the next day suggesting the podcast be the basis for the book and everything fell into place. 


Your book follows the inspirational journeys of people who were not afraid to follow a dream. Is there any famous person, alive or dead, you would love to interview for your podcast/book, if you had had the chance?  

Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer. I know it might not be what you expected, but I am not much into celebrities, but I am enamored with dogs. I remember ten years ago watching him dog train on TV and seeing that he was really reading energy and teaching people how to manage their energy through changing their behavior for their dog. I was so inspired by him, perhaps because of a cross-point of interests—consciousness and dogs. I later came across an interview with him, where he said a quote that has served me. I hadn’t followed him personally, so I didn’t know he had fallen on hard times (divorce and his show collapsed a bit, which led him to consider some difficult solutions). Anyway he said: It’s easy when you are succeeding, you really learn through your failures. I think talking with him would be fascinating.

What or who inspired you to become a writer and holistic mentor? 

I was born in love with books. I always had a book with me,  and I was scribbling since my first Peanuts journal, with Lucy on the front cover, with a lock. So writing has been an innate gift I have held and developed personally and professionally.  I also taught English for over 15 years in public and private sectors. 

My holistic mentorship came to be when I was living in Hawaii and apprenticed with an Hawaiian elder, Kumu Alva James Andrews. Through him, I learned holistic healing work,  and that the essence of all change is seeded in one’s mindset. So I work with clients and groups sharing the legacy of his wisdom to empower and uplift. 

“Rebirth” also has infused in it your personal experiences – did you find recollecting your experiences harder or easier to write down than to express them “on air” on a podcast?

So much harder. In fact, it wasn’t until the first draft of the manuscript was written that my publisher and beta readers all said I was missing from the book. It was much easier for me to put the spotlight on the strength of others. It wasn’t until I was structurally pushed to insert myself into the book, that I sat and a good deal of unraveling of story and perspective arose. I was surprised personally, and yet, that is what writing does. It asks us to broaden and alchemize our perspective. Thanks for asking; this was definitely my growth edge of the book.

Making courageous changes to one’s life path is not easy to do – what do you feel prevents a lot of people from being brave and making that leap?  

Believing in themselves. It sounds cliche, but if we are taught to identify and trust our inner voice it would not be so hard. But in this world we easily fall out of ourselves and into others—because we need community, or I really don’t have that all worked out, why do we all fall out of alignment—but what I DO know is that when we come back into alignment with ourselves (and our soul or Spirit will call us back, again and again, from whispers to yells) it gets easier to hear what is calling us forward. Now, that doesn’t make it easy to do all the time, but I think having a purpose grants us courage and clarity. Often we don’t know or believe we are worthy of what is calling, so it is hard to listen and leap. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your holistic work and the changes you made to follow your new path?

This is a much longer story which I will tell one day, but I’ll give you the highlights. I was (happily) an English teacher in Pennsylvania when I went to Hawaii the first time on a friend’s retreat half as an attendee, and half to help. So I saw a lot.  I was astounded. I had never seen life lived the way I did in Maui. Four months later, I arranged to be in Kauai for the whole summer. I taught and summered that way for two more years, until the pull to move got really strong. I quit my job and moved to Kauai. I thought I had work lined up (accepted an offer), a whole calamity of things dissolved, and after 9 months of living there, I surrendered and thought to move and get my teaching job back. I had given it my best, and nothing worked. I gave myself 3 months to do whatever I wanted to close this chapter. Within a month of that decision I was called into a training for Hawaiian lomilomi massage and began my apprenticeship with my Kumu (teacher) Alva Andrews, and I was offered a part time position at the community college. My whole life changed. I lived there for seven years, teaching and being taught. I left Hawaii when my teacher passed, to travel and teach for one year, intending to go back…but life had other plans. I have stayed connected and supportive of my Hawaiian o’hana (family) and those that I still work with. I continue sharing my holistic mentorship and healing work, while also working with mission-led authors to get their work out in the world in a cohort called Sit & Write. It is all the same really. I work with people’s stories.

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Growing up, what were your initial career aspirations?  

Books, being outside and dogs. That was the younger years. Then I almost caved to being a business major in college, but my mother, bless her, told me only go study what I loved, and   I picked English  as my major, then later my masters in education. At my core, my whole life, throughout numerous industries, I am a teacher. I didn’t have a career aspiration, but I have always had the intention of being curious, and wanting to unpack what the world is doing.

Is your book, Rebirth, available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It is! Let me know how you enjoy it. 

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

Absolute bookworm. Obsessed with actual books and bookstores. I normally have 1 – 3 going at a time. In my stack right now is: The Alphabet versus the Goddess, by Leonard Shlain;  Prayers of Honoring, by Pixie LIghthorse, and Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. I like to have a well written fiction and a philosophical text going at the same time.

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

Winter me is jeans and wool cowl necks with brown leather boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Madwell.com for clothes, thriftbooks.com for books and I love everything ever made here: https://www.aromabliss.com

Boots or Shoes?

I love this question. My first choice is alway Chaco flip flops. If I could wear flip flops all year long I would, I love to be as close to the Earth as possible.  But oddly enough, I go from flip flops to boots. I love good boots and have all kinds of styles.

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

www.katebrenton.com

https://katebrenton.substack.com/p/making-versus-having

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rebirth-real-life-stories-of-letting-go-and-letting/id1451833998?i=1000589257607

https://www.instagram.com/katembrenton/?hl=en

Twitter: @katebrenton

BOOK TOUR DATES

Lovely to chat with you Kate and I enjoyed reading the variety of stories featured in your book -all are definitely inspiring. I’m glad I share your love of bookstores!!! Thank you so much for the copy of Rebirth for reviewing purposes too.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Kate Brenton

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Chasing Tarzan Book Tour

Aaah Tarzan …. can you remember the strong handsome man who ruled the jungle and swung on vines? The one who made you feel safe – in your mind at any rate – in the wild and hostile environment of the jungle, fighting poachers and ferocious animals alike? I loved watching the Tarzan films as a young girl … like my blog guest, Catherine Forster, whose memoir “Chasing Tarzan” describes how the role of imagination and her fantasy Tarzan helped her to cope with the trials and tribulations growing up.

CHASING TARZAN – BOOK SUMMARY

In the 1960s, a relentless school bully makes Catherine’s life a living hell. She retreats inward, relying on a rich fantasy life––swinging through the jungle wrapped in Tarzan’s protective arms––and fervent prayers to a God she does not trust. She fasts until she feels faint, she ties a rough rope around her waist as penance, hoping God will see her worthy of His help.

As the second of eight children, Catherine is Mommy’s little helper, and like Mommy, Catherine is overwhelmed. The bullying and the adult responsibilities together foment her anger. She starts smacking her siblings, and becomes her younger sister’s nemesis. Spooked by who she is becoming, Catherine vows to escape for real, before she hurts someone—or herself.

Catherine finds salvation in a high school exchange program: new town, new school, new family, new persona. A passport celebrity. In New Zealand, nobody knows her history or her fears. Except for her Kiwi “mum,” who sees through Catherine’s façade and pulls her out from her inner safe-house. Exposed, her sense of self implodes. Catherine must finally rethink who she is.

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 2022)

ISBN-10: 1947966618

ISBN-13: 978-1947966611

ASIN: ‎B0B6GFLXWC

Print length: 278 pages

Purchase a copy of Chasing Tarzan on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to chat about Chasing Tarzan. I’m Catherine. I am an artist and filmmaker as well as a writer. I have three grown children and recently celebrated my twenty-seventh marriage anniversary. As the oldest daughter and second child of eight children, I was second-mom by the age of six. I have lived in several countries and many different towns in the United States. Today, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we are building a house on the South Sound––my biggest art installation yet!.

Chasing Tarzan” began life as a series of drawings and evolved into the written word;  what made you decide to write down your story? 

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather, an unfolding process. Initially, I created a picture journal with captions. I am dyslexic, not severely, but enough that words were not my friend. The idea of writing a book seemed pure folly, but words came to me, invading my thoughts and drawings. As my daughter was also the target of bullies, I elected to write private passages for her. These early writings became a series of short stories; the beginnings of a book.

Your book highlighted for me how quickly bullying can escalate, and about the role the imagination can play. What was it about Tarzan that helped you through your toughest moments? 

I had a crush on Tarzan. He was so handsome, so brave, so kind to Jane and the animals. Growing up, I never wanted to be the princess. So boring. Hanging on a vine, flying through the trees, riding a top and elephant, now that’s exciting. When the bullying started and no one intervened, I looked to Tarzan; he would help me when no one else would. Immersed in the jungle with Tarzan’s strong arms around me, I could handle anything.

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

I could fill a deep well with all the surprises. It took seven drafts to produce the book. The first four revisions were all about story; what exactly did I want to say, and how deep did I need to go (deeper than I ever thought possible). The last drafts were all about honing my writing, making the story cogent and accessible to readers.

Like many people, I’d buried much of my childhood, locked it in a box deep in my head. Unlocking that box was not easy. It was punishing to expose my powerlessness and my shame, especially considering how hard I’d fought to hide the impact of my tormentor’s cruelty. But the book would have been vapid had I not been unflinchingly honest. 

I loved your writing style and the honesty that shone through.  I went through a range of emotions – I wanted to reach out and comfort you during the bullying episodes,  I was angry at your bullies, I sympathised when you realised you were carrying out your frustrations on your younger siblings, I was annoyed at your parents for not realising what was going wrong, I was elated when you secured a place on the exchange programme to New Zealand … phew!  Did you find writing your story and sketching therapeutic? 

It was restorative and at times, meditative, but always a struggle. When stuck, the story evading me, I turned to nature. I’d go for a walk in the woods, or kayak. Alone, with the hum of nature enfolding, was when some of the most troubling memories surfaced. It was safe––not unlike the jungle with Tarzan, but real––and I let go. A heightened awareness of nature and my surroundings has been one of the biggest benefits of writing the book.

One thing I did feel was how strange it must have been for you to go from your own family where you had a lot of responsibility heaped onto you and travelled to New Zealand where the “kiwi” family functioned in a different way.  How difficult was it to adjust to living in a different country with a different family dynamic? Coming back home, what habits from New Zealand did you retain?

I still have residue of the accent. I have a keen ear for accents and they don’t wear off easily. I have traveled extensively, including living for ten years in London. As a result, I occasionally utilize words and phrases not normally used in the US, or pronounce common words differently. My children find this quite humorous. And it all started in New Zealand.

New Zealand was shock to me. I was completely disoriented. Now I was the popular girl, but didn’t know how to be one and feared being exposed as a fake. My host parents were so different––and in my eyes, too prying. Why did they keep asking me questions, want to know what I was thinking, feeling, doing? No one had enquired about my day before, had asked, “Penny for your thoughts?” It was terrifying and aggravating. I had to learn how to have a conversation about me. I also had to learn how to be a different kind of sibling. In my real home, teasing was our way of showing affection; in NZ it was deemed abuse. In time, I would learn how to be present, how to enjoy simple things like sitting around a fire in the evening, everyone with a book in hand. 

What advice would you give to a young girl  in a similar position?

That is a good question. I wish I had a magic solution to eradicate bullying, but I don’t. Despite anti-bullying programs, bullying has only increased. What progress is made on the playground is quashed online, where everyone can now be the target. 

Studies show that if a bullied child knows they are not deserving of abuse, they are less likely to suffer the long-term effects of bullying (substance abuse, depression, poor relationships, suicide). I hope the book provides evidence to those suffering, that they do not deserve this treatment. They are survivors, victims of cruelty that has nothing to do with them. I believed my tormentors: there had to be something wrong with me (fat, ugly, stupid) or otherwise I would not have been targeted. I hope Chasing Tarzan demonstrates that the bullying is an untruth, devised to hurt. They do not warrant attention.

I advise young girls to seek comfort in positive voices; a teacher, a parent, a friend, a kind stranger. We tend to clench on the negative, the cruel words and events, repeating them over and over in our heads. Hold on to the positive comments––not likes on social media––but real words and moments. Seek out allies and be one, too. Know that there are actions you can take, other than self-medication, or becoming a bully too. It is tough, it is horrendous, it is exhausting, but you have power too. The power you possess will surprise you, just as it did me.

Since your foray to New Zealand, you have travelled quite extensively across 6 continents – Any favourite destinations?  What’s top of your bucket list?

Italy. I love the food, the countryside, the people, the language. I lived in Milano for six months. It wasn’t always easy. My language skills weren’t great, communicating at work and on the street was a challenge. I was lonely at first, but Italy embraced me. Peru is also up there as a favorite. A four-day unrelenting struggle up the Machu Picchu Trail taught me I possessed a resilience I never knew I had. Plus, the Andes Mountains are breathtaking. On the top of my bucket list: Bhutan

 Is “Chasing Tarzan” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. So far, I’ve received enthusiastic responses from readers in Iceland, Croatia, England, and New Zealand.

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

Ha! Right now, I am wearing boot-cut jeans and a navy sweater with stars embroidered on it. When I go outside, I’ll exchange my slippers for black suede boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t buy clothes, textiles, or shoes online. I like to touch and feel what I’m wearing. Same goes for items like furniture, though I will browse in person and then buy online. Currently, my husband and I are building a house, so house items are big on my mind. Favorite online shop at the moment: ETSY

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

New pair of running shoes. Jeans, if I can find a pair that doesn’t have those ridiculously high cut waistlines. So uncomfortable, yet I wore them ages ago. 

Boots or Shoes?

Sandals and comfy flats in summer, boots in winter––one for hiking, and one for ambling around town. In terms of boots or shoes around town: boots! They just seem more put together. With boots, a casual outfit magically becomes fashionable.  

For Pinning Later

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

Website: https://catforster.com/

Website Tarzan page: https://catforster.com/chasing-tarzan/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.forster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catforster/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DizzCatk

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you for chatting to me Catherine – I loved reading your book and thank you for allowing me to be part of your book tour!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Catherine Forster.

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Breaking Free

The words of the iconic Queen song – “I want to break free !” – must be the mantra of people around the world who suffer from chronic fatigue, long covid, anxiety, agoraphobia and other similar conditions. Orthodox medical approach to treating chronic fatigue CFS (which used to be called ME) has tended to be regarded as ”something you just need to learn to live with“. But, my guest this week, Jan Rothney, is on a mission to demonstrate that recovery is certainly possible and not to resign yourself to thinking nothing can be done. And Jan should know – she has lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for many years but went on a journey of learning and discovery, and has managed to achieve recovery status. She has just published her book, ”Breaking Free” to help fellow sufferers get on the road back to recovery. Let’s welcome Jan onto the blog …. Hi Jan!

Hello! I am Jan Rothney, author of the book “Breaking Free: A Guide to Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Long Covid” and creator of the online training programme “Reset to Thrive”, which complements the book and is a great visual aid to recovery, as well as showing people how to live life more healthily, whether or not they had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Long Covid fatigue symptoms. My background was working as a behaviour therapist, lecturing in health and social care and, after recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome myself and losing my job, I ran a clinic for recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome and related illnesses.

What made you decide to launch your book, “Breaking Free”?

I decided to launch the book because I was retiring from working as a practitioner and wanted to pass on all my information and expertise; being able to offer my expertise in an modestly-priced book meant recovery could be affordable for anyone. Also, during the pandemic I realised that so many symptoms of Long Covid are similar to those of chronic fatigue syndrome. I believe my approach could also help those suffering from Long Covid too. Indeed, it is estimated that 25% of Long Covid patients will be diagnosed with CFS. 

Reading your book “Breaking Free”, I thought to myself that the guide to recovery after Long Covid and Chronic Fatigue could also be applied to a certain extent to deal with anxiety/panic attacks/agoraphobia too. What are your top tips to help sufferers get back on the road to recovery?

All the tools in the book are useful for other conditions but my own experience is that people with mental health issues also need support from a practitioner or therapist. However, the book is really useful for people who feel they are burning out – are “Tired All the Time”, struggling to keep going – and for those with fibromyalgia. 

My top tips would be to know it is a recoverable condition, to learn how to override the primitive survival system, to focus on where the body is working rather than when it isn’t, to relearn how to approach triggers or events that you used to take for granted (neutral events) and which now feel hard or threatening, and to massively celebrate successes, no matter how small. Crucially, the malfunctioning system needs to know you are safe, not by avoiding life but by approaching everything the right way and making the environment safe. Then it will rebalance itself and revert to the healthy functioning system, that lets your body heal, repair and thrive again.

After suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for many years, and being faced with the orthodox medical approach “to learn to live with the condition” – how and when did you realise that full recovery was indeed possible?

When I first had CFS I recovered on my own. I always assumed I would recover because I realised that my protective system had taken over to shut down my body. Fortunately I knew how to change that because of my background working with clients to rebalance this system. My GP was instrumental in my recovery because he always told me I would recover, no matter how many times I crashed and ended up back in bed for days or weeks. His faith gave me a lifeline when I was at my lowest points. 

This is why I was so shocked when I relapsed a few years later, and was referred to the new specialist CFS clinic, wherethe official line is “there is no cure or treatment, and you have to learn to manage the condition”. In fact, they wouldn’t put me forward for group support until I said, “I accept I will never recover”. 

In the book I explain how professionals’ beliefs about the condition and practise, have powerful influence on outcome and recovery, so I wrote the book as much for professionals as sufferers. Thankfully, I found a complementary practitioner who reminded me I can recover and got me back on track. Heading for a further relapse a few years later, I realised I had to change how I do life, in order to stop relapses forever and to stay healthy. Part Two of the book is about how to be completely healthy and symptom free. I do not manage the condition – I got rid of it many years ago. 

As you now run a CFS clinic and are a health & social care lecturer, what is it about your job that you enjoy most or which gives you the most satisfaction? What is the downside?

I absolutely loved my job as a practitioner, and previously as a lecturer because it is so rewarding to see people recover and achieve. The downside was that I didn’t have enough time to spend with my family and to care for my grandchildren, so I retired.  The book has been wonderful, as I get lovely comments from people on how much it has helped them. One email today said “your new book is absolutely brilliant; I’ve been reading at every opportunity and is going to be a massive help on its own – it is going to be my bible to recovery for a long time! Thank you.”

Is ME & CFS the same condition?

Yes. The term M.E (which stands for myalgicencephalomyelitis), was replaced by the term chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) so, yes, they are the same condition but there is a lot of controversy in the M.E world about the new terminology and they still refer to it as M.E. However,myalgic encephalomyelitis literally means muscle pain and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, typically due to acute viral infection, but there is no evidence of this so I use the term CFS and clarify that fatigue is not tiredness but the body shutting down.

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

I have known since I was 4 or 5 years old that I wanted to work with people and have been really lucky to do the two things I love best, teaching and being a practitioner for health and social care.

What are the common problems/symptoms that new patients ask advice on and what do you suggest they should try instead?

Typical symptoms clients with chronic fatigue syndrome have are: flu like symptoms, unrefreshing sleep, aching muscles, sore throat, swollen glands, complete exhaustion, post exertion malaise, brain fog, difficulty with speech and social interaction, pumping heart, temperature fluctuations and hypersensitivity to touch, sound, light, taste or smell. Similar symptoms are exhibited with Long Covid as the body’s defence responses to an infection don’t turn off and people get stuck in the “sickness loop”. Clients with fibromyalgia typically have pain in specific joints and tender spots. People with Burnout or Tired All the Time often have complete exhaustion but not necessarily the sickness defence responses; however, they will often have signs that the body is struggling, such as IBS, skin rashes, susceptibility to infections, or sensitivity to foods and chemicals such as household products or make up. I teach clients how to break the survival system dominance and, instead, switch to the reset to thrive mode.

Is your book, “Breaking Free” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, the book is available worldwide from:

• The publisher, Arkbound: https://arkbound.com/product/breaking-free-by-jan-rothney/ – and they are offering a 20% discount for the next 6 months if you order through their website. To claim your 20% discount, use the code: BreakingFree2022.

• The Book Depository:https://www.bookdepository.com/Breaking-Free-Jan-Rothney/9781912092154

• Other internet booksellers, including Waterstones

• Bookshops – you can order the book at any good high street bookshop

• and as an ebook from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breaking-Chronic-Fatigue-Covid-Symptoms-ebook/dp/B09ZT6PJC9 ( please leave a review if downloading the ebook!).

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

I normally wear jeans, tops and cardigans or jumpers. When I run a clinic, I usually wear a smart dress. You can most often find me in walking boots or stilettos!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I am trying to be more environmentally conscious and buy ethically sourced materials, so I buy cashmere or linen and cotton clothes from www.purecollection.com, and tops from baukjen.com and www.bambooclothing.co.uk.  My latest jeans are Salsa Secret, although I need to check their fairtrade and environment rating.

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

Next on my list is sandals and a couple of thin strap linen tops from Pure Collection for summer.

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. I love my walking boots as they fit like a glove and are great for walking the South West Coast Path or the beach with my dog. I also love Dubarry ankle boots and wear them all the time, unless it is summer. 

Links you would like to share:

Websites: www.resettothrive.co.uk and janrothney.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Breaking-Free-102627489024150

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reset_to_thrive_/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FreefromCfs

Thank you Jan for chatting to us today and I’m sure you’ve inspired many sufferers to strive for recovery. Thanks also for the copy of your book for reviewing purposes – I found it most interesting – good advice and workable goals.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jan Rothney.

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Living The Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is “#LivingTheDream” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

For pinning later

Websites: www.carriefrais.co.uk

www.mumabroad.com and www.FiGBcn.com

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

Facebook: @carrie.frais        Twitter: @carriechantall1

Instagram: @carrie_frais      LinkedIn: carrie-frais

#Living The Dream: Expat Life Stripped Bare 

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

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

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

Linda x

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An Interview With 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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