Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

An Interview With Poet Kamand Kojouri

Poetry this evening, my friends. I love poetry. I love reading poetry out loud – doesn’t matter if nobody else is around, poetry just needs to be read out loud. Poetry just sums up emotions and situations. My guest this week is the gorgeous Iranian poet Kamand Kojouri. Her poetry is a breath of fresh air. Her poems have been read on the radio, in sermons in churches and synagogues, used as lyrics for a rock song, and even her poem about Aleppo, “Heaven And Hell” was placed next to James P Graham’s stunning artwork at his Desacration exhibition at Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome. Praise indeed. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Kamand’s 2nd collection, “God, Does Humanity Exist?” Having devoured the book word for word, I had some questions for the poet herself …. so hi Kamand!

Hi! I’m Kamand, an Iranian poet and writer living in the UK. I’ve written two poetry books and I’m currently writing a historical novel for my creative writing PhD programme.

I write to raise awareness about the injustices in the world, to remind us that we are all responsible for one another, and to instil hope and love into our lives.

What inspired you to write poetry?

It’s quite simple, really: I fell in love…

My brothers, Hafez and Khayyam, are also named after the great Persian poets. When we were little, my brother,Khayyam, would receive at least one collection of Omar Khayyam’s poems as a birthday gift. My mother often recites lines from poems mid-conversation as well, so poetry had always been an intrinsic, albeit dormant, part of my life. Funnily enough, the literal translation of my name (Kamand) is a lasso. But Kamand is actually an ornamental word used in Persian poetry to describe long beautiful hair.

“God, Does Humanity Exist?” was published on 2 March 2020 — your 2nd collection of poems focusing on suffering, resistance, and hope. I personally enjoyed reading the poems out loud. Actually, I don’t know if I can read poetry any other way. I truly believe poetry is also better understood by reading out loud. Interesting title to your book though, Kamand. So, was it hard to think up a title for your poetry collection that seemed to encapsulate the verses contained within? Why did you pick the title?

My collection is divided into four sections: Cries of Common Pain, Call to Action, Songs of Hope, and Echoes of Hope. It includes urgent poems about the devastation of war, the refugee crisis, the dangers of silence, mass shootings, the atrocities being committed across the pond and even the ones on our doorstep… And although the poems are rooted in dark realities, ultimately the message is one of love and togetherness.

I remember brainstorming ideas for the title and discussing it with my twin sister and my father. I decided to go with God, Does Humanity Exist?  and my father said that it was very interesting but perhaps sounded a bit pessimistic, and that was far from my intention. In order to eliminate any ambiguities about the title, I added an author’s note at the beginning of the book that explained my reasoning. The idea is that for thousands of years people have been asking “Does God Exist?” I wanted to turn this age-old question on its head and ask God, whether humanity exists. Of course, I don’t doubt humanity’s existence, but I want us to think, speak, and act more humanely—with more compassion, empathy, and understanding. So the title is meant to make us think, and it’s also meant to make us act.

It was hard for me to pick a favourite poem from this collection — it was a tie between “We Don’t Find God” & “ Writers Aren’t Alchemists”. Do you have a particular favourite? 

My favourite poem is “We Are, Each of Us, Refugees”. Whenever I’m reading it out loud by the time I get to this last stanza I get quite emotional:  

When home turns into hell,

you, too, will run

with tears in your eyes screaming rescue me!

and then you’ll know for certain:

you’ve always been a refugee.

Have you always hoped for a career in poetry/ creative writing or did your career aspirations as a child lie elsewhere? 

I always wanted to become a doctor to help people. As I became older, I chose neurosurgery as a speciality. I studied sciences in my undergraduate years and volunteered at a big hospital in downtown Toronto. One day one of my patients asked me to read to her. From that day on, I started renting out books from the library to read during my lunch breaks, and that’s when I fell in love with reading. It was a bit daunting because I had envisioned my entire life as a neurosurgeon but then all of a sudden I had found this ardent passion for reading and writing. I remember trying to intellectualise my decision—making a list of pros and cons for each career. I showed my friends and family the list and discussed it with them. It was a big risk but I decided I could still help people with my writing and I thought that I’d be doing something that truly complemented my soul. The greatest thing about pursuing a career in writing is that you become a life-long philomath. You develop this hunger to learn, and the more you read and the more you write, you realise how very little it is you know.  

Born in Tehran, raised in Dubai & Toronto, currently residing in Wales; you have been to places that must have influenced your writing somewhere along the line. Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new collection of poems, where would you go and why?

That’s such an interesting question! My mother’s greatest passion is travelling. Every summer, she’d try to take my siblings and me to a new country. I have visited around forty countries and I think I don’t necessarily need to visit a place to get inspiration from there. For instance, the novel I’m currently writing takes place in three different cities that I have yet to visit.

I think it ultimately depends on what you have in your heart and your mind at the time of travelling. A few years ago, there was a revival of a very popular musical (based on Victor Hugo’s novel) in Paris called Notre-Dame de Paris. At the time I was doing my Master’s programme in London, so I hopped on the Eurostar to see it on opening night. I’d been to Paris a few times prior, so I planned to revisit my favourite places (the cathedral, Place du Tertre in Montmartre etc.) and a couple of new museums. I had taken a collection of Hafez’s poems with me and I remember being so inspired by the beauty (the music, architecture, paintings and sculptures) that I filled a small journal with Sufi poems. It’s uncanny to think that I wrote my most spiritual poems whilst on a trip to Paris to see a musical… Anywhere in the world that has beautiful artwork, a little bit of nature, a place of worship (like a temple or a church—perhaps it has something to do with the higher vibrational frequencies), inspires me. And if I go to a classical concert when I’m there, then I’m in heaven.

Are you a Bookworm?

I’m definitely a bookworm, but because of my OCD I’m quite a neurotic reader. That’s why I used to dislike reading as a child. What it means now is that I’m not a fast reader, because I like to highlight beautiful lines and often rewrite them into a journal. My favourite genre is poetry and I also love philosophical novels. I have too many favourite authors!My favourite poets include Nizar Qabbani, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, and E.E. Cummings. Favourite writers: Javier Marias, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Sarah Waters, and Anton Chekhov.

It’s funny because I bought my dad a Kindle (he reads many books concurrently like I do) but he regifted it back to me. I haven’t used it in years as I prefer actual books.

Is “God, Does Humanity Exist?” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it’s available on all the Amazon websites in paperback and eBook. It’s also available on Barnes & Noble and third-party booksellers online. For every copy sold, a tree is planted in Sub-Saharan Africa to help provide families with food, income, and a sustainable way of life. All of the royalties will also go to children’s charities in Iran.

Which other forms of writing, other than poetry, would you love to try your hand at? Songwriting, thriller, children’s books? 

I would love to write a children’s book one day! 

A brilliant American composer used my poem “War on Silence” to compose a piece for a choir recently, and a band used my poem “They Want Us to Be Afraid” as lyrics for one of their songs. Music is one of my greatest passions as well so I’d love to try my hand at songwriting—best of both worlds.

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

I’m always in business casual and a pair of black suede ankle boots, unless I’m going to a nice dinner or jazz night then I’m in stilettos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I lived in Canada for about eight years so my favourite shop is Aritzia, a Canadian boutique.

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

I don’t have a wish list right now, but I’d be very happy to purchase a bright-coloured top in-store because that’d mean that the pandemic is over and we can celebrate summer.

Boots or Shoes?

Heeled ankle boots all the way! I’m average height but my twin sister is much taller than me and my brothers tower over me so I like the extra bit of heel.

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

Instagram: www.instagram.com/KamandKojouri

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KamandKojouri

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KamandKojouri

Linked-In: www.linkedin.com/in/KamandKojouri

Website: www.KamandKojouri.com

Thank you very much Kamand for chatting to us today. Thanks also for the copy of your fabulous poetry book and thanks also to Ben Cameron. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kamand Kojouri.

Linda x

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10 Essential Oils To Help You Sleep

Have you noticed that cats have the ability to sleep anywhere at any time? Sleep is critical to our physical health and the effective function of our immune system. COVID-19 has made a severe impact – a lot of people are finding it hard to sleep let alone getting the quality sleep that they need. According to a recent national sleep survey by The Sleep Council, 75% of people surveyed said that the current situation is affecting their sleep patterns; 77% said that the lack of sleep is interfering with their daytime functionality – they are experiencing daytime fatigue, poor concentration and low mood. The survey also found that women find it harder to fall asleep than men.

I must admit, I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep – even if I wake up in the night to use the toilet, I can fall back to sleep again relatively quickly. My husband is the complete opposite, though. So, what can you do to try and help get to sleep – a cool bedroom, a hot milky bedtime drink, reading a book, listening to an audiobook, listening to an app of calming sounds, listening to the radio, soft chilled music, darkened room, blackout curtains, hot bath before bed, sleeping tablets ….. there are various ideas you can try.

Essential oils, like any other medicine, can have a powerful effect and can chemically alter the body. There are many oils to help aid relaxation, help induce sleep naturally and safely without the side-effects of medication. Aromatherapy specialists, Base Formula, have compiled a list of their top 10 recommended essential oils that are known to help aid sleep and to ease stress:

  • VALERIAN ROOT ☑️ Top choice for a restful night’s sleep because it has calming, tranquilising properties. ✖️It has a distinct, pungent aroma which might put you off!
  • CLARY SAGE ☑️ Powerful relaxant. ☑️ Particularly good for stress related problems ✖️ Do not use if you have consumed alcohol ✖️ Do not use if you are pregnant.
Clary Sage & Lavender Essential Oil. © Studio Forty Seven
  • ROMAN CHAMOMILE. ☑️ Soothing and calming both physically and mentally. ☑️ Anti-depressant. ☑️ Particularly good if you are nervous or stressed.
  • SANDALWOOD ☑️ Meditative qualities that help to quieten and sedate the mind.
  • VETIVERT ☑️ Deeply relaxing. ☑️ Known as the oil of tranquility ☑️ Is an immuno-stimulant so it helps in combatting stress without becoming ill.
Lavender Lovelliness © Border In A Box. www.borderinabox.com
  • LAVENDER ☑️ Calming, anti- depressant – commonly used to aid sleep.
  • PATCHOULI ☑️ Soothing ☑️ Slightly hypnotic effect ☑️ Calms an over active mind.
  • FRANKINCENSE ☑️ Deeply calming & uplifting ☑️ Traditionally used as an incense
Gumleaf Essentials Frankincense Essential Oil © Buckley And Phillips
  • GERANIUM ☑️ Has anti-depressant, uplifting qualities ✖️Avoid use during pregnancy
  • YLANG YLANG ☑️ Soothing & uplifting ☑️ Particularly good for anger, shock, fear and anxiety. ☑️ Can help to slow over-rapid breathing and easing heart palpitations.

HOW TO USE THE ESSENTIAL OILS

  • In the bath
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy Diffuser
  • Candles
  • Pillow spritz
  • Steam Inhalation
  • Cotton pad or tissue with a couple of drops of lavender & frankincense, placed inside your pillowcase.
For Pinning Later

FOR ESSENTIAL OILS & FURTHER INFORMATION

http://www.baseformula.com

http://www.buckleyandphillips.com

http://www.studiofortyseven.co.uk

Linda x

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AN Interview With Marlene Watson-Tara

Continuing on my healthy living theme this month, this week I’m chatting to Marlene Watson-Tara – author of “Go Vegan”, co-founder of the “Human Ecology Project”, Health councillor, teacher and expert in the field of plant-based nutrition. It was Marlene’s book “Go Vegan” that was the inspiration for my potato dish blogpost recently (view HERE). So, it is with great excitement that I welcome Marlene onto my blog….hi Marlene!

Hi! I’m Marlene, a long-time vegan, activist, lover of animals, nature and life and passionate about human ecology. As an eternal optimist, increasing the number of people worldwide to switch to a wholefood plant-based diet and vegan life is my mission. Together with my husband Bill Tara, we have created The Human Ecology Project. 

As a high profiled and dedicated health counsellor and teacher with over 40 years’ experience in the health industry, my dietary advice draws from the fields of Macrobiotic Nutrition, my studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine and my certification in Plant- Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

My clients range from the movies and arts to members of royal families. In the last 10 years I have been teaching chefs the art and skill of wholefood plant-based cooking and nutrition. As a regular columnist for many health magazines and websites I share my knowledge on living healthily. My vast experience informs a body of knowledge that I eagerly share with the world.

As the international author of Macrobiotics for all Seasons and my latest book Go Vegan  I share information that is simple, direct and effective, along with delicious recipes and medicinal teas. I teach alongside my husband Bill Tara. We have graduates from our “Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach Programme” in 27 countries. I’m a driving force for health and fitness to all who cross her path. Our “Ultimate Health Experience” workshops have been offered in Europe, America, and Australia

My favourite saying – “If you don’t look after your body, then where are you going to live?”

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

On school holidays my family would go to the countryside and it always seemed such a sad time when all the lambs were taken from the fields and loaded onto trucks.  As I grew into my teens, I had health issues with skin, digestion and menstrual pain. As I wouldn’t eat meat, I ate mostly dairy.  When I changed my diet to completely plant-based all these health issues disappeared.  When you connect the dots with diet and the development of disease, there is no turning back. When you look behind the curtain to the scale of what happens globally to our animal kingdom you cannot pretend to not know what is there. 


As you are an author of “Macrobiotic For All Seasons” and “Go Vegan”, surely you must have a favourite tried and tested recipe?  Do you prefer cooking “main meals”, desserts or are you a baker?

I find it exciting to create new recipes and train chefs and home cooks utilizing my seasonal menus and cooking skills, using the five tastes. My favourite creations are soups, I live and love them daily. From my delicious creamy decadence soups to the bean comforting cozy stews, soup is a daily staple in our home.

Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a pot to create a nutritious, filling, simple to make meal was inevitable. Healthy and healing soups are part of the cooking traditions in every country.

I always try and prepare my soup from fresh, organic, in season, and ideally local ingredients. Whether your ingredients are coming freshly grown from your own garden or you’ve bought them directly from the farmers’ market, making the connection between the food you eat, and your local environment is important. The food we eat is part of our cultural identity. Eating local foods helps produce a more resilient and sustainable future, both for yourself and for future generations.

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

Thankfully, the popularity of plant-based diets has grown, which makes this an easier era than ever to start. Can I Get Enough Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet? This is always the number one question that I am asked. Yes, and it’s easier than you’d think to consume these essential nutrients. You just need to know where to get them. For example, Omega-3 fatty acids often come from animal-based sources like fish. However, you can also get an ample supply from hemp seeds, flax, chia, and walnuts. It’s merely about understanding the alternative ways to get the nutrition you need.

Plant-based/vegan diets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes and cognitive decline. Plus, transitioning to a more plant-based diet is an excellent choice for the planet and will end the death and suffering of our animal kingdom. Two billion animals are slaughtered daily for food. There is no need, we receive all the nutrients we require from plants. At the end of the day, the largest and strongest animals in the world are vegan, giraffes, elephants etc., they get their nutrients from the same source we as vegans do… from the plants.

Having received a copy of “Go Vegan”, I was impressed by the range of recipes – the ingredients were not too daunting or difficult to obtain; the cooking instructions were easy to follow; and the glossary was a godsend especially when I came across an ingredient I had never heard of. Was it difficult to put together suitable recipes that lived up to your ethos?  

Eating from my ethos is simple and doable for everyone. 95% of what constitutes my approach is obtainable from most supermarkets. Grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Foods like miso, tofu, and even some dried sea vegetables are now available in supermarkets. This makes my heart sing to see this growth year on year. One or two of the condiments I use are available from natural food stores or online. My teaching of plant-based/vegan nutrition is based on my teachings of Macrobiotics, a wonderful philosophy that teaches us that everything is connected, animal, plant, human, environment.  When I create and cook all of these considerations are always there. 


As you are currently based in the UK, is “Go Vegan” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, Go Vegan is available world-wide on amazon. U.K. and US 

You currently teach alongside your husband, Bill Tara, your MACROVegan Health Coach Programme.  Sounds intriguing. In a nutshell, what does that involve? 

We now have students who have travelled from 27 countries to study and graduate as a MACROVegan Health Coach. We see this as switching on lighthouses around the world. We now have students studying with us online which is fantastic. Our students leave as proficient and amazing cooks as well as wonderful health coaches. It makes our heart sing as more and more graduate and teach this work.

MACROVegan Health Coach Course

The dramatic rise in degenerative disease attributed to diet and lifestyle has created a demand for solutions to disease prevention and personal health maintenance. What is called for is a new generation of men and women who are capable of offering practical advice on how to live a healthy life in modern society. 

During the two weeks of study you will have the opportunity to learn the techniques of effective Health Coaching and experience the power of healthy living. You will leave prepared to be a more effective promoter of natural health care and set up practice as a Professional Macrobiotic Health Coach.    

The Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach curriculum has been designed by Bill Tara, co-founder of the Kushi Institute, creator of the International Macrobiotic Institute (Kiental, Switzerland) curriculum and designer of the American and European Kushi Institute Teacher Certification Programmes along with his wife Marlene Watson-Tara who is certified in Plant Based Nutrition. 

This is a rare opportunity to study with teachers who are expert consultants and draw on decades of practical experience. Macrobiotic philosophy serves as the foundation of these studies and provides the link between the disciplines and life skills we will explore together.  This course also offers additional tools to enhance professional or Para-professional skills in both the orthodox or complimentary health and healing arts.

The Modules

Health, Healing and Human Ecology

Health and Emotion / East and West

Traditions of Nutrition

Wholefoods Plant Based Cooking & Home Remedies

Health Assessment

Principles and Practice of Health Coaching

When you are not working, what activities do you enjoy, to relax and unwind? 

I adore growing my own vegetables, and love being in nature. I am an avid and longtime yogi, (my daily practice keeps me in check) and miss teaching yoga, one day, I will have my own studio again. I adore cycling with Bill and of course, reading and writing, and I am currently working on my next book.

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

I live in yoga gear… always cycling, doing yoga, or working at my desk here so casual and comfort works for me. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

Yes, I love https://bambooclothing.co.uk

I always purchase clothing using cotton, hemp, linen, etc., More and more companies offer these wonderful alternatives for vegan and ethical clothing. I love Matt & Nat for more dress shoes and bags and Wills London for my backpack and casual shoes and have boots from both of them. 

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

A new Ciao Bella – I adore feminine frilly dresses on the search. My next pair of yoga toe sandals from Supplefeet are on the list. They are fantastic, I have worn them for years and they keep your fee in great shape. 

Boots or Shoes? 

I love my chunky rubber sole sneakers, they look great with jeans, yoga gear, shorts and casual dresses. They are my first choice daily for comfort.

My Chelsea boots are my second choice…they are so versatile and can be worn in all seasons.

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

Website, Instagram, facebook, you tube, linked In, twitter, 

www.macrovegan.org

https://www.instagram.com/macroveganinternational/

https://facebook.com/marlenewatsontaragovegan/

https://www.youtube.com/user/Molly19571/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid&disable_polymer=true

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

Thanks Marlene for an interesting chat and you have given me and my readers “food for thought”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Marlene Watson-Tara

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An Interview With Dean Hodgkin

Keeping your body fit and healthy during lockdown … and for life beyond, is paramount. It’s difficult though and many of us need help to practice social distancing from the fridge, from the wine bottles and from the biscuit barrel. For tips and advice on keeping our bodies fit and healthy and to help us develop an understanding on how to maintain that fitness, I was lucky enough to chat to Dean Hodgkin – Head of Programming on TV Fit, fitness expert, karate champion, writer and speaker. Hi Dean!

Hi! I’m Dean Hodgkin, a veteran of the fitness industry with over 30 years on the clock and with varied experience that includes working in spas, premium health clubs, budget gyms, leisure centres and more recently boutique studios. I’ve co-authoured 2 fitness books written a large number of magazine and newspaper articles and I’ve also appeared in a number of broadcast formats as a health and fitness expert.

You’ve appeared at fitness events in 36 countries and collected the Best International Fitness Presenter at The One Body One World in New York, the ECA International Career Achievement Recognition Award, also in the US, in addition to the Lifetime Achievement award at Europe’s largest group fitness event, the International Fitness Showcase. On top of this you were also 3 times World and 2 times European karate champion so what triggered your love of sport and keeping fit? 

That’s a great question as I’m not sure I’ve ever really analysed my odyssey before! My Father was a semi-pro footballer so when I was very young I would spend every Saturday standing on the touchline, come rain or shine. My elder brother was also a particularly good player so naturally, I followed suit, becoming captain of my school team. There was a brief heartbreak when my Mother forced me to attend the best grammar school in our area – where they didn’t play soccer! However, I threw myself into rugby, again becoming team captain and realised the specific discipline was irrelevant…….I just loved participating in any sport. Like many kids in the 70s, when the Bruce Lee movies hit the cinemas, I was desperate to try martial arts. At first I was too young to join the local karate club so started my journey with judo but transferred as soon as I was allowed. I became absolutely immersed, training in every spare moment and perhaps as a result of such, I became quite proficient. When it became clear that I could actually achieve something through fighting, I began to get involved in fitness training, realising it would help me to perform better, although in those days it was simply running, basic calisthenics and stretching.


Have you always wanted a career in fitness or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

When I graduated from university in the mid-80’s, the fitness industry in the UK was in a nascent state, concepts and experiences were only just drifting over from the US, so I didn’t view it as a career choice, particularly as fitness training was just something I did for fun. Additionally, having studied mathematics and management studies, my intention was to go into investment banking in the City of London. However, at the time I had already been selected for the British under-21 karate team but realised that to progress to senior level, I’d need to put in some serious graft so I negotiated a ‘gap year’ with my parents, allowing me to put finding a job on hold and instead to train full-time. This 1 year actually turned into 3, during which I spent so much of my time in sports centres and gyms that it occurred to me it would be great if I could combine my choice of vocation with my love of physical activity and so I enrolled on a fitness trainer course and progressed from there.



In your capacity as  Head of Programming on TV Fit ….What would you say are the most popular genre/programmes/classes?

This is a great question as the answer is actually 2 dimensional. In terms of the market, resistance training and high intensity interval training are leading the pack, hence our results-guaranteed STRONGER and LIMITLESS programmes an incredible numb of views. As an individual, however, the most popular workouts are the one’s you’ll actually do so pick what you enjoy, rather than those everyone else seems to be doing, as then you’re much more likely to adhere to it and see the results you desire. Working out shouldn’t feel like a chore, so try many different classes to find your flavour. Remember, exercise isn’t something you do TO your body – it’s something you do FOR your body, so enjoy it.

Which genre/programme/classes is your personal favourite?

Whilst, for obvious reasons, I love STRIKE, I honestly have no favourite so you’re just as likely to find me dancing or lifting weights as shadow-boxing or trying to fold myself into a downward dog. I truly love the freedom of movement exercise brings and enjoy exploring my body through the different physical challenges involved.

Must admit, when exercising, I hate doing “burpees” … even more than push ups!! Which exercise do you dislike the most?

I’m totally with you on that one – I’m pretty sure that a straw poll would result in near unanimous agreement!

Being in lockdown, keeping your body and mind fit and healthy is a must. Any top tips?

Due to the reduced amount of walking within our daily routines, the inability to play sport or go to the gym, the potential stress related to being cooped up with others or perhaps anxiety about future job prospects, I’d argue that exercise has never been more valuable. In addition to burning calories (helping to balance out the extra trips we might be making to the fridge!) the positive impact on mental health has been proven in an abundance of scientific research studies.What’s more, there are huge mood-uplifting benefits of exercising outdoors, something the Government recognised in the lockdown guidance by allowing us to venture outside once each day, so it’s vital to optimise this modicum of temporary freedom. If you’re a runner, fine but if you’re just beginning your fitness journey our SWEATCOIN WALK was created specifically for you, providing a personal trainer in your ear for motivation and visual tips to perfect your technique.Just in case you need further convincing, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, is quoted as declaring, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine’……..and he knew a thing or two about how to stay healthy in both mind and body!

What has been the most unusual Fitness class/ genre you’ve come across?

To be honest, there are way too many to mention! Dog Yoga and Naked Yoga have to be right up there and I still need to be convinced of the value of Napercise. Others include Voga (yep, that’s yoga with a few Madonna shapes thrown in) Kangoofit (bouncing around on boots with springs) Mermaid Fitness (wearing 1 huge flipper) Crowd Surf Ready (for lifters and liftees) High Intensity Interval Painting (sweat then paint then sweat then paint….) etc, etc, etc!


Being a world champion at karate, I can take it that that must be one of, if not your favourite sport. Are there any other sports you take part in or enjoy watching?

I’m a complete sportaholic and regularly achieve nothing of any significance at weekends due to camping out in front of the TV, so the lockdown live sport ban has left me totally disorientated on Saturdays and Sundays. Favourites are rugby, soccer, basketball, MMA, american football, tennis and athletics.

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Hypothetically speaking, if you were to take part, which dance style would you love to try?

I’m also a Strictly addict, primarily as I appreciate the amount of training they put in and the incredible improvement in their performance level through the course of the series. I also watch in wonder at the pros who are so athletic and appear to be excellent at every discipline. I’d love to learn the more technical dances but fear I’d only have a chance of mastering the jive due to it clearly being a fast and very physical challenge for which I hope my years of fitness training have prepared me.

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear?

Over the years I have been very fortunate to have been, at different times, sponsored by Nike, Reebok and Puma but now I’m a total brand whore – I’ll purchase and wear whatever takes my fancy.

Boots Or Shoes?

For fitness – high tops for lifting and basketball, lows for dancing and HIIT, barefoot for combat and yoga. Out of the gym, boots in winter and flip-flops for as long as the weather allows.

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

www.deanhodgkin.com
https://www.facebook.com/dean.hodgkin.7
https://www.instagram.com/deanhodgkin/

Hmm.. Voga sounds fun but Naked Yoga sounds pretty embarrassing , unless you’re doing it on your own! Ha ha! Thanks for chatting with me Dean – I particularly liked your advice regarding picking a workout that you enjoy rather than one that is trendy and you are doing it “just because”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Dean Hodgkin

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An Interview With Author Alexandra Franzen

My guest this week is Alexandra Franzen – author, entrepreneur and proud “checklist” freak. Yes, you read that right . Alexandra is a proud “checklist” freak . So much so that she has written a book about checklists and I’m pleased to be part of her latest book tour! So, armed with her latest book “The Checklist Book”, (thank you Alexandra for my copy), I set out to follow Alexandra’s advice ….

  • BOOK SUMMARY. ☑️

Simplicity at its best: The checklist is one of the world’s oldest―and most effective―productivity systems. If anything, author and entrepreneur Alexandra Franzen shares, it is just as valuable now as it was during the days of the Roman Empire. Writing out a simple checklist allows us to tangibly plan our day and set in stone what we want to accomplish.

Cut out unnecessary noise: There are countless apps and organizational systems out there to help us straighten out our lives, but often they only add to the madness. Trying to keep up leaves us feeling drained and overwhelmed. Learn how to choose your highest priorities, set realistic goals, celebrate tiny wins, and feel calmer every day with the magic of checklists.

Be realistic about the time in a day: By physically writing down our tasks on a single piece of paper, we force ourselves to limit how much we can do in a day. Too often, we cram our day with tasks and chores and leave almost no space for self-care or time with loved ones. We end up disappointed in our inability to complete our never-ending to-do list. Checklists help you plan your day in a more gentle, realistic way. You accomplish what needs to be done―and enjoy things you want to be doing, too.

In the life-changing Checklist Book, learn:

The history of the checklist and why it remains to be relevant and effective today

The science behind the success of checklists, such as the instant satisfaction we feel when we put a check next to a finished task

How to create a basic daily checklist―and checklists for specific situations, like moving to a new city or navigating a divorce

Print Length: 160 Pages

Genre: Self-Help

Publisher: Mango 

ASIN: B07V6GWGW5 

ISBN-10: 1642501182

ISBN-13: 978-1642501186

  • THE AUTHOR INTERVIEW ☑️

I was interested in finding out what it was about checklists that fascinated Alexandra …. Hi Alexandra!

Hi there! My name is Alexandra. I’m a writer, consultant, and entrepreneur based in Hawaii. I live in a small, sleepy coastal town on the eastern side of the Big Island. 

My sixth book is The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every DayI’ve also written articles for Time, Forbes, Newsweek, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker.

Hmm, what else? I have a dog named Zuki. I love coffee, maybe too much. I don’t have any social media accounts. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here doing this interview with you today. Thanks for having me!

Your book, “The Checklist Book” is truly eye opening  – I didn’t realize how much you can apply checklists to almost every situation of your life. So why did you decide to write this checklist guide?

I have a lifelong obsession with checklists! 

I love how the act of making a list immediately makes you feel calmer, more organized, and more capable. At least, that’s what happens for my brain. Once things are written down and organized in a list, I feel like, Okay. This is doable.

You write about a range of topics, and you are best known for your short essays. Being the founder of The Tiny Press, a publishing imprint specializing in short books that are around 100 pages long; what is the appeal for you towards short essays? 

Like most people, I lead a full—and sometimes, very busy—life. 

Between running my business, serving my clients, writing books, practicing yoga, treating my dog like the prince that he is, plus trying to be a loving sister, daughter, and friend to the people in my life…it’s a full load! 

That’s why I always appreciate quick, short bursts of inspiration. Like a short essay that sparks a new idea, or a short podcast that shifts my perspective. Big ideas in small packages.

I definitely love curling up with a big, long book as often as I can. I’ve been known to devour epic 900-page science fiction and fantasy novels, for sure! But there’s value in quick reads, too. Just because something is “brief” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s shallow or superficial. A very short phrase (like, “I love you”) can carry so much power in just three little words. And a short essay can change your day, or even your life.

Following instructions….using checklists Photo © Linda Hobden

I was intrigued to discover that you co host a pop culture and comedy podcast with your best friend called “So Obsessed”.  Who came up with the title? And what obsessions/topics have you discussed on your podcasts? Checklists? 

Haha, yes! My best friend is Melissa Cassera, and she’s a brilliant woman who does marketing and PR work, and she’s also a TV screenwriter based out in Los Angeles. 

We love getting together to drink coffee and discuss all of our latest obsessions. 

One day, we realized, “We should record these conversations and start a podcast, and we’ll call it…So Obsessed!” 

Our show is purely a passion project. We rarely talk about work-related matters. We don’t have any sponsors or advertisements on the show. We don’t really “promote” anything. The whole project is totally just for fun.

We’ve discussed so many obsessions on the show—our favorite movies, books, snacks, workouts, self-care ideas, and, oh my gosh, what else…pasta recipes, Jennifer Lopez music videos, and checklists, for sure! The list is endless. We also do games like “Who would you rather?” and hypothetical questions, and more.

Our world can feel so chaotic and stressful. We hope our podcast feels like a mini vacation from your troubles—a little bubble of silliness and friendship. Something to brighten your day, help you smile, and maybe help you remember some things you’re obsessed with, too.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genre of books do you enjoy reading? 

I’m pretty eclectic with my reading. 

Lately I’ve been loving the Wild Irish Heart: Mystic Cove series of novels by Tricia O’Malley. So much fun. 

I recently purchased Why Bother? by Jennifer Louden, which I’m excited to dive into soon. 

In terms of books about personal growth and transformation, one of my all-time favorites is Die Empty by Todd Henry. Definitely a book that made me see my life (and work) in a new light.

Is “The Checklist Book” available to purchase worldwide?

It sure is! It’s available on AmazonTargetBarnes & NobleIndieBound, and lots of other places, too. 

If your local public library or local bookstore doesn’t stock it, just request it, and they can probably order it for you.

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

Living in Hawaii, the climate is warm year-round…so I rarely wear pants! Honestly, you’ll usually find me in a swimsuit, tank top, yoga shorts, or cut-off jean shorts, pretty much every day of the week. 

I often work out (or walk the dog) first in the morning. And then sometimes, right after that, I get immersed in my work and…I kinda forget to shower until much later. So I’m often pretty sticky and salty all day long. As I type this, I’m realizing that maybe my routine needs to change. Haha! Maybe I should put “take a shower” up a little higher on my daily checklist. 🙂

For pinning later
  • THE LINKS ☑️

Website: http://alexandrafranzen.com/

Newsletter: http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/newsletter/

Books: http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/shop/

Free stuff, including downloadable worksheets and checklist templates: http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/free-stuff/

  • THE BOOK TOUR ☑️

ALL PHOTOS PUBLISHED WITH KIND PERMISSION OF ALEXANDRA FRANZEN (except where stated) ☑️
MY THANKS TO ALEXANDRA FRANZEN FOR THE REVIEW COPY OF “THE CHECKLIST BOOK” & FOR INVITING ME TO TAKE PART ON THIS BOOK TOUR ☑️

Linda x

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An Interview With Desert Bells

Dream weddings overseas have been popular over recent years with UK couples and the destination of Dubai is a particular favourite. Dubai offers perfect weather, numerous beach venues, plenty of catering options for all budgets, the chance to go OTT with the bling, good flight links – reasons are endless. Desert Bells are Dubai destination wedding planners founded by Emirati sisters Chandan and Dimple. Dimple is based in Dubai, whereas Chandan is based in London. I caught up with Chandan to find out more about the delights of Dubai … Hi, Chandan!

Hello, I’m Chandan, I’m an Indian Emirati who grew up in the beautiful city of Dubai, I’ve spent 30 years there and have been in Marketing and Events for over 11 years. I’ve planned and organised not only weddings but press days, fashion shows, corporate conferences and several themed parties. I’ve now moved to London and encourage newly engaged couples and their families to choose Dubai as a destination for their nuptials, moreover choose us to plan their special days for them 🙂

What triggered the eureka moment to begin your company, Desert Bells?

I did my own wedding independently. I did not have a planner, it was all done by both families and we did a great job which was appreciated by everyone who attended. Our wedding even graced 4 pages of a well known glossy in the UAE, that’s how much everyone loved and enjoyed it. So one day during a casual conversation, knowing my forte and experience, my father-in-law suggested that I do wedding planning as a business for UK based clients like themselves, interested in destination Dubai. It definitely sounded like a great idea and never left my mind, but at the time I had just moved to England and knew very little about the people, their preferences and the overall market. I then continued to do a job in London and pursued my forte i.e. marketing, PR & events. This helped me to understand my prospective audience a lot better, their mindsets, the budgets they allocate for weddings, their perception of destination weddings in general, their perception of Dubai and so on and that’s how Desert Bells Wedding Planners came into existence. 

Have you always wanted a career in weddings/event planning or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

My ultimate dream is to be a celebrity – I’m still working on it..haha !


What would you say are the most popular reasons that Dubai (& UAE in general) is a favourite wedding destination?

Dubai is a small city that packs a lot of punch. It is the city’s versatility that makes it extremely popular. With 7-8 hours travel time from most parts of UK & Europe, several direct flights and guaranteed good weather are, what I believe, make UAE very attractive. Moreover what lures couples is that they can visualise their wedding dreams coming to life given the luxurious venues, beaches, F&B options and the overall charisma the city exudes. It places a great deal of confidence in parties that both them and their guests will have a much greater time than anticipated. 

Which venue is the most popular place to hold a wedding?  Which is your personal favourite?

This is a tough one! There are so many amazing options available even with non 5 star properties, the venues are endless and that is without compromising a great deal. With clients who allocate huge budgets and desire the quintessential Dubai luxury it would have to be – The Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, The Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons Hotel and of course the Burj Al Arab. Obviously not everyone wants to allocate budgets like these to their wedding. Also in the interest of dispelling some common myths, one can get huge value for their money (specially when converting from pounds, euros or dollars to AED) with other 5* properties: there are numerous gorgeous venues on Jumeirah Beach, The Palm Jumeirah and exquisite ballrooms and garden venues too. My personal favourite would be any Marriott property – their hospitality and efforts are truly A-grade and I have never been disappointed by any Marriott in the world. Having said that, “JW MARRIOTT MARQUIS in Dubai is pretty much my second home and my other favourite is Ritz Carlton JBR. I had my own wedding functions at both these venues too 🙂 

What legal requirements need to be fulfilled before a wedding can take place in Dubai?

These would usually be carried out by the planning company or, if you are organising it yourself, then the hotel would guide you through signing contracts and procuring certain permissions for entertainers, fireworks, etc. Some of these are chargeable, whereas others are just about applying for the permission. One needs to own an alcohol licence in UAE as well (this is charged) – again the planning company would organise this for you or the hotel would present you with the options available to them for you to take a call. 

What clothing guidelines do you recommend for the bridal party & guests? 

If you’re hosting your wedding in Dubai, I take it that you’ve come here to experience and show your guests the absolute luxe. Dubai is one destination where you can, without any fear, throw practical thoughts of out of the window and bring your Pinterest board to life. I’d say go with the theme, bring on the bling! Don’t wear dresses or footwear you think are comfortable to run around in, or worry about the weather. Your venue is not countryside and no, you don’t have to walk anywhere. Weather in Dubai is 99% guaranteed, it almost never rains and as most venues are within hotels you have the most convenient access to taxis, Ubers, the bridal suite, your rooms, butlers on service, tailoring teams at hotels and locker service too if you wish to put your expensive jewellery away safely before starting to dance all night long. It is really hassle free, so by all means go ahead and put on your sexiest heels and leave the pair of wedges in the hotel room for later. Do invest in a great pair of sunnies as you’d wear them most days. Anything you think is ‘EXTRA’ is perfectly acceptable in a city like this 🙂

Entertainment at a wedding is just as important as the ceremony itself. What activities are most popular?Most unusual or extravagant?

It varies quite a lot. DJ music is the most popular and a safe option guaranteeing everyone a good time; but things like Belly Dancing performances are very popular with the English, Europeans and Americans as it is a big part of the local culture which is entertaining and yet unusual for guests from abroad to experience. Other than that most Indian Weddings are very extravagant with singers, bands, performers – even Bollywood & Hollywood celebrities flown in for entertainment to wow the guests. 

Apart from Dubai, what other locations in the UAE do you think are worth considering as a wedding venue?

I’d say Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. There are lots of beautiful hotels in Abu Dhabi, from Emirates Palace which is a gorgeous 5* property to beach properties like Waldorf Astoria in RAK is a destination that would give you the getaway vibes. Known for its stunning beach resorts, it is a getaway from the city with lots of fun.


If I was to visit Dubai, what are the top places/activities I should add to my itinerary?

  • Dubai Mall + Aquarium ( largest mall in the world with all the brands under one roof and plenty of food and drinks options too). It’s so huge it’s like a neighbourhood.
  • Go up the Burj Khalifa for that mandatory tick in the box.
  • Do a brunch – plenty of fun ones, some night brunches too with an after party but my fav and an absolute must go is the ZERO GRAVITY BRUNCH. It’s the best combination of unlimited food,drinks, pool access, beach access, people and music – you can experience that too for less than £100.
  • Dubai nightlife is very popular too and is very safe for women. Head to Club White for the ultimate fancy night out – very popular with fancy hen parties.
  • Some very popular restaurants to try are: Fish in Westin, Carnival by Tresind, Ramusake and plenty others you’d find on Time Out Dubai.
  • Go see the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi if time permits  – It’s truly a piece of art. 
  • Another must do is a Desert Safari if it is your first

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear? 

You mean when in Dubai? I’ll be honest, I’m a summer girl. Before I moved to England, I did not own a single pair of denims, trainers or a coat #notjoking. My Dubai wardrobe is pretty summery, all dresses – I love maxi dresses, skirts, flattering jumpsuits, off shoulders outfits and LOTSSSS of Stilettoes !   

Boots Or Shoes?

Stilettoes 🙂  because they are the sexiest and can uplift any outfit and/or look. I miss not being able to wear enough of them in England 🙁 

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about Desert Bells.

www.instagram.com/desertbellsweddingplanners/
I’d also encourage readers to take a peak into my personality and check out my blog Fcube Dubai – www.instagram.com/fcube_dubai/

Thank you for chatting with me, Chandan … It was great to see the photographs and I love your enthusiasm for Dubai too. I hope that life soon recommences outside of lockdown and that travelling, socialising and dream weddings can once again take place. In the meantime, thank you for providing us with some glamorous escapism.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chandan/DesertBells Wedding Planners

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An Interview With The Image Tree

As the colour of the year has just been announced – Classic Blue – it has left me mourning the loss of the Coral palette that I have adored. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the bold blue, it’s just that the coral hue, I felt, suited my colouring more. I doubt if I will be totally rejecting my coral faves this Spring/Summer and no doubt a few classic blue pieces will be creeping into my wardrobe too. Sometimes it is hard to know what style of outfit would flatter – neckline, hemline, slim fitting or full skirt – as well as deciding on colour. I bought an evening dress, in classic blue actually, with a Bardot style neckline. It looked gorgeous online model. On me, the neckline wouldn’t sit right and gaped – it made my breasts look distorted. I swapped the dress for a v neck one in a red colour. The new dress neckline fitted like a dream and the colour was perfect. Sometimes we need some guidance when it comes to our wardrobes…. boost of confidence, change of image, decluttering our wardrobes, steering us in the right direction to avoid making expensive mistakes …. sometimes we need someone like my guest this week, Sara from The Image Tree! Welcome Sara!


Hi, my name is Sara Marsden-Shreeve, I’m currently 43 years young writing this but as a Chrimbo baby I’ll be 44 when this goes out. I’m married with two children Francesca 14, Jake 10 currently based just south of Derby but a Yorkshire bird through and through. Moved to Derby with my family when I was 11 years old.  Love to laugh, likes cheese and have too many coats and probably never enough boots.  I’m passionate about changing women’s mindsets around a better body image, promoting self care and a healthier relationship around clothes. You have to learn to rock what you’ve already got . So, Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy are my mottos which probably people get sick of hearing but I don’t care. I’m from a civil engineering background, have a BA Hons in Applied Social Sciences (which is basically psychology with a bit of sociology) Coventry University 1993-95, NLP accredited , various FIPI recognised Image Consulting qualifications acquired from First Impressions Ltd in Warwick. I’ve written articles for “Henpicked.net”, guest blogged, won various awards such as Theo Paphitis #SBS, Jacqueline Gold #WOW and worked with corporate clients at Canary Wharf. I love collaborations and have worked with brands such as Dandi Patch as well as other brands and small businesses with similar ethos around well being and self confidence.  I currently also co-run a Wellbeing Inspiration Network in Derby for women who have an interest in increasing their work life balance with well being and other holistic practices relevant to healthier mindsets and supportive business concepts.

Having worked in the civil engineering/corporate insurance sector, what made you decide to branch out and form the The Image Tree? 

I have to say this was genuinely some sort of Eureka moment after having the realisation that I’d suffered stuff in the past (failed pregnancies, bullying at school – Sticks & Stones built my business blog post – ) but had many skills and passions that potentially could help others in some way. After having happily worked for around 10 years in Civil Engineering sector I initially left (2005) to have my first child and didn’t really have any initial thoughts about going solopreneur. Prior to having Francesca we’d had gone through miscarriages and a harrowing termination on the advice of specialists. Needless to say my body image and self confidence was rock bottom. I hated my body for letting me down and had unhealthy feelings of being unfit to produce children at the time. I blamed myself and drowned in feelings of harrowing guilt. I later had counselling for this. So you can imagine when we had Franc I was determined to stay at home with her as much as possible.
I did return a few times over a few years on temporary contracts in alignment with child care and finances, which was super helpful but then after the birth of my second child Jake (2009), whilst I was still there, I decided that I wanted to concentrate on getting back to my dormant psychology roots and love of people.  
It’s no joke that I literally woke up one morning with the thoughts of mixing my love of colour and fashion with psychology. Whether I’d been whispered to in the night by an angel or had a Eureka moment in my dreams after months of soul searching to find my calling,  I’ll never know…  I was scared but I decide to do it anyway (2011)..   
Fast forward a year later and I was completing my training to be an Image Consultant when my son had turned two and freed up some time whilst he was at preschool. I started to research the arena and built my very own website in 6 months. I worked loosely, around kids, for the next 2 years under my name and then decided to brand up and create The Image Tree in 2014. Time to get serious!
From then on I have organically made Image Consulting more niche and merged it further with the advocacy of promoting Body Positivity and self care throughout all of my work. Largely through listening to what my clients were saying about themselves whilst looking in the mirror, hearing them share their negative image experiences and generally beating themselves with the ugly stick. Not on my watch…. Been there done that got the tshirt!
Hence my investment in NLP training, using effective coaching techniques and surrounding myself with Holistic practitioners and Wellbeing specialists I’ve met and collaborated with on the way. Image starts from the inside and isn’t just about one’s outside appearance.  Clothes, colour, fabrics and accessories are a powerful tool that help women relate to their assets and gorgeousness no matter their size and shape. We are not, after all, living in a society that is receiving of the naked form in public so clothes are an essential part of our everyday….and so too is a healthy mindset around self image- especially in a world that throws so many stones. Hence the merge of style and psychology!

Your image consultancy is very holistic in its approach with a heavy focus on body positivity.  Apart from your services & packages, you hold workshops encouraging body positivity too. What would I expect from attending a workshop? Would the workshops benefit trainee image consultants or the client?

My Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy workshops were a direct result of a partnership with a good friend and Metawellbeing coach (Susan Gardner) who gave me a kick up the arse to share my message of clothes and body love and introduce our combined passions of positive mindset and tools to a larger audience. They were small groups though to encourage a safe and judgement free environment.   They were aimed at women who wanted to get on to the path of liking their bodies a bit more and finding out how to use clothes to adorn their natural form and personality but didn’t know how or where to start?  So we gave them 6 useful steps to work through and identify on the day so that they could go away and make a few easy and simple tweaks to their mind, body (embracing it not changing it) and wardrobe.  The workshops are not available at the moment because we are currently converting the workshop to an online platform so we can release it as a course to the world in the Spring. Making it more accessible to women who want to achieve the same results from the comfort of their own home. 

You have many delightful services and packages including colour confidence, body confidence, wardrobe confidence, shopping confidence, style review… What service/package seems to be the most popular amongst your clients?

I would say that the main two roots of The Image Tree services, so the Colour and Body Confidence services are probably the most popular ones jointly because they are great starting points and get happier results quickly. Who doesn’t love learning about wearing flattering colours or dressing your shape in one session?

Which service/package do you really enjoy the most (or gives you most satisfaction) when helping a client?

 Ooh that’s a tricky one, I love them all.  If I had to pinpoint one… then it would have to be the New Beginnings package as it takes the client on a Style journey working through colour, body and your wardrobe in 3 flexible sessions with bespoke positive coaching support throughout the duration. I love afterwards too when the realisation sinks in and the magic happens

Nottingham family photographer

I love the sound of the service you offer called “The Secret Stylist” … what does that entail? 

So the Secret Stylist is a quicker, more affordable version of what I do in bite size chunks for women who need specific foibles sorting.  I’m currently changing it to make it solely virtual, so speaking to clients via zoom, skype or whatsapp video for ease and convenience for clients when they need me most.  So from the changing room, outfit advice via their phone or photos they send, 30 mins of coaching before an interview or date, or maybe they need me to find them a pair of jeans that they know will fit? Every client gets their very own Pinterest board for all clothing inspirations anyway so I can just pin stuff and they buy it.  It was based on a subscription before and I used a points system for clients to choose what they needed but it was a bit hard for me to keep track of let alone my clients. So streamlining it now to be neat and marketed clearly. 

I’m currently drawn to burgundy/black/coral/red colours for this winter season; is it    difficult when shopping with a client not to be attracted to your favourite colours rather than theirs?

I totally love colour and I know what works for me but that doesn’t mean it would work for them. As I’m trained in Colour analysis and have 7 years experience I can easily separate myself.  I’m not the colour police though and totally respect that some ladies can’t let go of colours they love even though they might not be as flattering as others on them…(black being the main culprit) You should always wear your happy and it’s just a case of mixing them into your outfits effectively.  

Working magic on flattering body parts and hiding less amenable parts is a job and a half!  What are the common “mistakes” that ladies make and what do you suggest they should try instead?

I would say the most common mistake that women make is to focus on the parts they don’t like and forget about everything else, due to years of staring at them and berating themselves with negative self talk.  So my advice would be to ask yourself “What do I like about my body”? It’s a toughy because we don’t do it naturally!!  Be honest or ask someone you love and trust for their input.  It’s not vain nor is it egotistical, it’s merely giving yourself some love and validation, we ALL have the good stuff and we ALL have assets!!!!  Once you’ve identified at least one good aspect, think about what you could wear to make the most of it..  Good legs, wear a skirt, nice tights or fab shoes. Like your bum, find a good pair of jeans or trousers to hug those buns. The parts that give you the most sighs can be lovingly cared for with the right cut, shape fabric, hem or waistband. Distraction is a stylists main tool, so by wearing embellishment or interesting details or fabrics elsewhere can shift your gaze and show off your best bits whilst matt fabrics, darker colours and simple clever tailoring can totally make a difference.  Anything too tight or too big is never a good look. Skimming is the key word.
Another mistake I see is that women often presume that their bra size remains the same for every brand, style and shop out there since they got measured 12 years ago. I always recommend to my clients that they get measured more often (if they can) and get measured for the right bra style dependant on their breast tissue and shape, some work better than others for support and shape.  They are your under armour after all and provide the basis of your silhouette and can make a massive difference when trying on clothes and getting a better fit. So wear your best fitting one. 

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

Have car will travel… hahaha.  I have had clients all over England and only ask they cover my fuel on top of their service. Once the course goes online we’ll be able to reach further. 

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

I’m very eclectic and always dress mindfully to suit my mood or schedule, but mostly I will usually wear one quirky piece teamed with a classic separate. So think  skinny jeans, bold jewellery, tshirt and bright blazer or maybe a snake print pussy bow blouse with a leather pencil skirt. Shoes blimey.. I love em all but currently sporting a white flat-form trainer, metallic heels or a rock chick boot. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Hmm favourite shops, if I can go small I will and I love a charity shop or local boutique.  But online, I like Joanie for funky tops, SilkFred for dresses and for jeans it has to be NYDJ because fit is key, so investment and cost per wear in staples is savvy on the purse strings.   Despite this my secret crush is probably TKMaxx though because I love a rummage for designer discounted gems. 

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

Next on my clothes wish list is a sequin or sparkly blazer come tuxedo for christmas parties. Currently looking for one that has a bit of a semi fit rather than drapey. If this goes out next year then I’m after a new trench coat probably in Navy or a Dark Grey.

Boots or Shoes?

Nooo … that’s like choosing wine or cheese?  Hmm, going with boots if I have to then, though I do own a pair of shoe boots which would tick both boxes. hahaha/ Why boots… because I love Autumn and Winter and being snuggly and smug when its cold. Paired with a gorgeous wool coat and funky scarf you just can’t beat the polished look an ankle boot or knee high gives with jeans. 

For Pinning Later

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

www.facebook.com/WinDerby (ladies group)

www.the-imagetree.co.uk
Why not become a Special Subscriber and receive monthly exclusive updates, tips and offers? Or come follow me now on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or Pinterest… 

Great chatting to you, Sara – such great downtown earth advice! And, I definitely think “Shoe-Boots” are worthy competitors when it comes to my boots or shoes question! I love that style too!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sara from The Image Tree ( apart from the Pinterest photo which is of me!)

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5 Ways To Be A Sustainable Fashion Consumer

I know it isn’t New Year, the traditional time to make resolutions, but sometimes resolutions need to be made straightaway and now is as good a time as any! I’m talking about a resolution to help make fashion sustainable. When you go shopping, do you enjoy seeing an array of clothing collections and do you like it when the range for sale changes regularly? I admit, I have done in the past – especially when I was a teenager in the 1980s, shopping for new, cheap outfits every weekend and rarely wearing the same outfit twice. It came as no surprise to me that the concept of “Fast Fashion” was conceived in the 1980s – regular new collections at often cheap prices and not so great workmanship to meet the demands of the consumer. The concept sounded fantastic at the time, but nowadays the latest data has shown that an estimated £140 million pounds worth of wearable but discarded clothing goes into landfill each year! That is mind -boggling! Making fashion sustainable is crucial – to save the planet and to save the clothing industry too. As a consumer, buying habits and clothing attitudes need to change also. Not as daunting as it sounds though – here’s my 5 easy ways to become a sustainable fashion consumer:

BUY CLOTHES MADE OF NATURAL MATERIALS

Become a material snob! I was shocked to discover that 63% of clothing is now made from plastic derived manmade materials, such as polyester and acrylic. Every time you wash an item made from plastic, invisible microplastic fibres are released, it has been estimated that over 700,000 microplastic fibres are released in a typical 6kg wash – water that will eventually make its way into the oceans. Choosing natural materials – such as wool, sheepskin, cotton and linen – is the way to go because the materials last longer and they do not pollute the environment due to the fact that natural materials decompose safely. Further reading on sustainable fashion choices: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-made-with-respect/

A dress made from natural cork spotted in a boutique in Funchal, Madeira. Photo credit: Linda Hobden

BUY GARMENTS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO LAST

It is a sure thing that if you pay peanuts for an item, then possibly it will be poorly made and doesn’t last long. Price doesn’t always mean that an item is shoddy, but you can feel how well an item has been made and often it is worth paying slightly more for an item that has been well made and has been designed to last more than one wearing. Buying brand new isn’t the only way – well designed and well made garments are in abundance at “preloved” boutiques too – timeless classic designs that can bring joy to more than one owner – and are an affordable way to add some variety into your wardrobe. Further reading on garments designed to last: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-coral-turner-couture/

Me, wearing my favourite Jasmine Guinness designer dress that I bought a few years back and still is a wardrobe staple of mine!

LOOK AFTER THE CLOTHES YOU ALREADY HAVE

Basically, follow the instructions on the label on how to wash, dry and store your clothes! I learnt the hard way after shrinking t shirts in a tumble dryer (label said to line dry); misshaped a cardigan after putting it in a hot wash instead of the 30° wash as directed; hung up a wool jumper in my wardrobe and ended up with two permanent lumps on the shoulders (always fold knitwear); and I’ve used a hot iron on a dress with light voile sleeves … and yes, the sleeves came away from the dress and stuck to the iron, which ruined both the iron and dress and upset me no end as the dress was one of my favourites! I do try to stick to machine washable items, but my Jasmine Guinness dress, shown above, is dry clean only and I do adhere to that guideline and the dress has lasted for years. Lastly, if your wool jumper starts to go bobbly (pilling), it is not due to inferior quality as popular belief often states, but quite simply the natural reaction to material rubbing together, which is why the pilling often occurs under the arms. Regular de-pilling using a comb or an electric de-will help keep the bobbling under control. Further reading on clothing storage solutions: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-vault-couture/

RENT CLOTHING FOR SPECIAL EVENTS

Years ago, I was invited to a really posh evening function at the Dorchester Hotel in London, and I went into a mini-flap! Despite having a pretty substantial wardrobe, I really didn’t have anything suitable to wear nor did I have the financial means to buy a dress that I had envisaged wearing, nor could I really justify spending £1000 on a dress that I would realistically ever only wear for a few hours. I discovered a local dress agency where I could hire a luxurious designer dress for the weekend – it was the perfect solution – the rental charge was the amount I would have realistically spent on a dress normally, it gave me a chance to feel like a million dollars in my dream dress, and I didn’t have to worry about it languishing at the back of my wardrobe after the event. Renting outfits for special events – weddings, proms, social events, weekend parties – is such a great idea. Further reading about a dress agency: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-dress-code-nine/

A dress from Dress Code Nine. Photo credit: Dress Code Nine

SHOP YOUR WARDROBE

When I was preparing to move house, one of my most dreaded “jobs” to do beforehand was to declutter and downsize my wardrobe. The job wasn’t as daunting as I had thought – in fact it was very therapeutic and eye-opening! There were some outfits that I had literally forgot that I had and some outfits I was able to bring up-to-date with some well chosen accessories. Your wardrobe can be a revelation – have another look! If you are good at needlework, you could revamp your jeans, skirts, tops, shorts and dresses with beading, lacing … I found a stall at my local Steampunk fair that had made skirts out of jeans, shorts out of jeans and handbags out of jeans! Also, a company like Wingz sells “sleeves” so you could easily adapt those vest tops and sleeveless dresses. Further reading about Wingz: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/an-interview-with-wingz/

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I hope that the 5 tips have helped in your aim of being a more sustainable fashion consumer. For more details on Fast Fashion and its cost to our planet, check out the excellent article by Celtic & Co. The facts and figures are mind blowing… https://www.celticandco.com/celtic/fast-fashion/

Linda x

Post copyright © LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Jay Mullings

Gracing my blog this week is award winning writer/director Jay Mullings. This man is certainly a busy bee – he is the author of The Thought Book series; founder & owner of Written Mirror Ltd – a bespoke content creation business; a fellow blogger; he writes poetry & music; and he has launched his debut feature film, The Jam. Is there simply no end to his awesome talent? Let’s find out… Hi Jay & welcome!

Hi! I’m Jay Mullings, London born Jamaican bred multiple international award winning Writer/Director. On top of that I am an author namely: The Thought Book & The Thought Book 2 and I also founded Written Mirror Ltd which is a content creation company + media publisher.

What was the inspiration behind launching Written Mirror Ltd?

Having something to call my own. A space where no one could tell me what to do and I would be allowed to fully realise my creative potential. In short it was to be a space where I could practice what I preach: Truthful Fearless Creativity…

Have you always enjoyed writing/ being a storyteller as a child? When did you discover you have a talent for writing?

I knew I had a way with words, language and logic from an early age. I could hold my own with adults in a debate, trip up teachers if they were trying to hide that they didn’t know something and I could even prove my innocence if wrongfully accused of things at home/school etc. I knew I was made to tell stories from early. My teachers would often share some of my stories which were either rib tickling comedy or pushing the envelope in terms of what a youngster should be writing about in school. I read a lot as a child and even then I fancied myself to be able to do the same if given half a chance.

Your “The Thought Book” series is a unique self help title. The series encourages the reader to adopt the mindset necessary for realising their goals. Why did you choose to write a self-help series? Was it an easy road to write and publish your books or was it harder than you thought?

Yes… The Thought Book Series, have you read the books? What did you think? I like to think of the books as unhindered self development books. I took out my ego, my bravado or whatever which way you’d like to sum it up and allowed the reader to place themselves in the book. I don’t think too many improvement books allow that to happen. I chose this style to help people in the most uncomplicated manner possible. Anyone who follows my doings knows that the message in both books is exactly what I use to armour myself against doubt, small mindedness and fear… 
It wasn’t hard at all. The books were a piece of cake; it was all the red tape and pirates looking to feast on your flesh that got draining. People have tried to steal my book from under me, overcharge me only to deliver inferior results and worst of all they have tried to pass the buck whenever they could not manipulate me. The books were the best part of it but the processes of working with greedy and unscrupulous people was not rewarding at all…

What genre of books do you tend to read?

I read when I have time to. Sometimes there is a lot of reading taking place and others little to none. That is the life of a content creator unfortunately. When I do read I like books that are very well written; by that I mean I don’t like wasted pages, filler or having to feel anger at just how large the holes in terms of logic are. The main reason for that is whatever, I start reading no matter how bad I have to finish it. I only try to read books that reward my work rate. Any genre any style would interest me so long as it is written well…

Have you always wanted to be a writer/director or did you have any other career in mind?

Centre forward for the mighty Arsenal! I wanted to replace Ian Wright…

Oh Jay, things were going so well !! I’m a Spurs supporter, your rival football fan! 😂… Let’s talk music instead! What were your musical influences growing up?

I was lucky to be born in the sweet spot for music. I had the best of the old and newer school growing up. My music knowledge often surprises people as it is very eclectic. We’re talking Fleetwood Mac to Bob Marley, Bowie to Gladys Knight and so on and so forth. You name it if it sounds good or has complexity to it I’m involved!

Writing poetry or writing songs? Do you have a preference?

Poetry can feed into songs so poetry! 

What genre of music do you personally listen to? What was the last concert you attended?

Dancehall/Reggae/Hip Hop/RnB/Classical and Soundtracks. The last concert I went to was in Brixton I saw Common’s band.

Imagine you are driving – what song would be top of your list to croon to whilst playing car karaoke?

Some Bob Marley or Missy Elliott to be honest!

Let’s talk about your debut feature film, The JAM (2019), that has already received 9 official selections since hitting the film festival circuit in April. How exciting! Can you give my readers a little summary of what The JAM is all about? 

The JAM is a feature length documentary that is centred on my life, my creative process, my family and friends’ reaction to my career choice as well as their hopes for my future. It’s the story that my community needs but not the one it has necessarily known it wanted. I wrote, edited and shot it myself. Oh yeah I wrote and recorded the Soundtrack too as Wicked Penman…

Congratulations on your latest award from the East Europe International Film Festival. Does that indicate that in 2020 you have other film plans or will you be concentrating on writing books or your music or will you be juggling all avenues? 😜

I can’t say too much but yes of course more content, more energy and more life.

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

I’m a practical dresser. I like being able to move and feel free. So I normally dress tactical. Joggers/Shorts Tees/Hoodies. Usually Written Mirror specials.

Do you have any favourite websites? (Apart from your own!)

Youtube! No doubt! So much helpful and funny content.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! They’re made for walking! Seriously though I like Chelsea Boots they’re formidable and functional but very stylish simultaneously.

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

www.writtenmirror.com/blog

www.youtube.com/writtenmirror

www.twitter.com/writtenmirror

www.instagram.com/writtenmirror

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4dacYcT36TnsY1CbcPkmTY?si=_E2b2b5fQb6u-YjAY-HcZg

It has been great chatting to you,

Jay – I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to read a book, once started until the very end, regardless of how bad it is! Well, I did break that rule once when I read a book about the solo travels of a guy who trekked the Himalayas …. Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing The Jam and I wish you every success in all your ventures.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Jay Mullings.

Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Agnes In Bloom

“Agnes In Bloom – A Memoir” is a very touching memoir of a gutsy lady, Agnes, and her life in Birmingham at the latter end of the Second World War and beyond. Lovingly written by her daughter, Karen, this memoir is extremely frank, and has rollercoaster moments where you could almost feel yourself in Agnes’s shoes….BUT not quite, as Agnes and her mother Rose, both had guts, inner strength and are both totally inspirational.

MY REVIEW

The story begins when Agnes is evacuated to the countryside and discovers her love of being on a farm and being embraced into the family of Mr & Mrs Johnson and their daughter Lily. Unfortunately, her sister Margie was evacuated elsewhere and her experience was the complete opposite -an experience which only came to light years later. Returning back home from the farm, as a young teenager, finding her feet in life with her more worldly wise friend as company, Agnes goes to a party where things didn’t go so well. Finding herself pregnant, Agnes gets her dream job as an usherette … until her pregnancy started to show. Agnes harboured a dream of meeting her own Mr Right … her own Mr Johnson…. and that’s when her dream man materialised in the form of Bob. Agnes and Bob were happy together, despite working hours to make ends meet, and each babe born was loved and welcomed. Agnes became closer, I feel, to her mother, Rose, who was supportive as the family grew. Tragedy strikes though … Agnes strives to help her sister Margie after her marriage collapse and breakdown; Agnes finds out love secrets between her mother and her real father; husband Bob takes on extra work to carry on providing for his large family but alas becomes ill and is taken to hospital for a routine operation; her mother Rose is discovered to have cancer and is in hospital at the same time as Bob; being pregnant with her 7th child, Agnes has to face life as a young single mum as Bob unexpectedly dies before being operated on; Agnes, in her grief, becomes anorexic …. but this is an inspirational story, about overcoming adversity and death. The story does have a happier ending…. the main thing is that 7th baby was Karen , the author. Delightfully written memoir, well recommended.

So, after reading the memoir, I couldn’t wait to chat to Karen, daughter of Agnes and author of Agnes In Bloom. Hi Karen!

Hi ! I’m Karen. I was born into the inner-city slums of Birmingham. The seventh child of a humble and loving family. I’m a mother of two amazing young women. Both work in the fashion industry. I have been an entrepreneur since the age of twenty-three when I established my own company. I’ve since lived and worked in Dubai, San Diego, Bali, Koh Samui and currently I reside in Marbella. I love to travel and live in sunny climates. I have travelled and sailed the world, writing my memoirs.

Your mother’s story is truly inspirational – an amazing woman indeed – but what made you decide to write “Agnes In Bloom” in the first place?

After years of listening to my mother’s life and how she triumphed over adversity. I decided to write it, initially as a family legacy,  but I soon discovered that it’s an amazing inspirational story and others would enjoy it too. I asked 65 ladies from random groups to read my draft manuscript and offer their feedback. They all loved it and agreed with me that I should offer it to the world. 

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – I smiled at the part where Agnes was evacuated to a farm, and how much she loved the countryside; I was angry inside at the different experience her sister Margie had had; I cried when Agnes was raped at 17 , but was full of love and admiration for your father who accepted your mum and your eldest brother, and his overall love for all his family; my heart ached when Rose was ill, when Margie was unwell and when your father died whilst your mother was pregnant with you; I admired your mother’s coping mechanism and ability to learn to focus again when life dealt her a cruel blow;  I was in awe that despite everything, your steadfastness Karen, in hanging on and being born; I smiled when she was able to find happiness again.  Oh, and what fab siblings you have! The book is packed with plenty of antidotes that must have accumulated over the years – how long did the book take you to write? 

It took me 12 years to write it. I was running my recruiting business and travelling and sailing the world writing it. Writing for me is very therapeutic. A great relief from business. The main reason is that it’s a very emotional story for my mother. She sat with me to go over each event. It often made her tearful, which in turn made me cry too. 
 Once I had the story structure in place. I began to learn how to set scenes and write in omniscient and add dialogue. I wanted my mother’s story to be a perfect enjoyable, easy read. So that women of this era and their struggles are never forgotten. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in the memoir? 

As I’m writing this I’m in tears again. Just remembering those difficult parts. The chapter where my father dies is unbearable for me to think about and more so to write it in exact detail. The struggle that my auntie had was almost not added in the story, as my sisters didn’t want it in there. They were embarrassed by it. However, I think it’s extremely important that the abuse that Margie suffered, should be told. Especially because this horror, eventually gave her a nervous breakdown. We are all more aware of child abuse in society today. It should not be pushed under the carpet. It added so much more tragedy to my mother and grandmother. It’s part of their lives and I wanted my Auntie Margie to be remembered for her triumph over adversity too. My grandmother Rose had a hard life herself. How she coped with her own child abuse was incredible. It was as if no one cared about abuse back then and many children just got on with life, not realising that they are very effected by it. 
My grandmother was like a rock for my mother and her daughter Margie, through all their life’s tragedies. She also triumphed over adversity. 

Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

Yes I absolutely love writing stories. I’ve learned so much more by self publishing this first book. I have previously attended a creative writing course and joined various authors groups to keep learning updates on the benefits of self publishing. I would like to write more about female heroism. More current to our times. Before this book, I have written and published travel articles and training manuals for my recruiting business. I always received top marks at school in Literature. My teacher was very inspiring and told me to pursue a writing career, but back then it wasn’t possible for me to experiment with my career. I needed to earn a lot of money to buy my mom a house and pay her bills for the rest of her life and bring her out of poverty for good. I’m proud that I have accomplished this goal. 
I guess I wasn’t very confident as a teenager to become an author.

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Definitely, I am currently writing my own memoir to highlight the extreme differences between one generation of working class women. It’s a comedy. 

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

I am a book worm yes. I have a kindle because I travel a lot and can’t take my books everywhere with me. I do like the feel of a good book though. I’ve been reading biographies of famous people for years. Now I like to read stories about ordinary women who triumphed over adversity. I love true crime related stories too. I’m a glutton for a memoir and biographies as I like that they’re real stories. Gets me hooked. 

Is “Agnes In Bloom” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes my debut memoir is available to purchase globally from Amazon. I have entered their story teller UK 2019 competition. This means I cannot go wide on all platforms until the competition ends in October. I plan to go open on all of them afterwards. 


Having 7 siblings, what do you or did you like most about being part of a large family? 

Being part of a large family is priceless. As I’m the 7th child I have been given access to various musical genres and books. Not to mention the continuous support, love, affection and inspiration from my singings. I can’t imagine not having my large wonderful family. Now at 79 and more to be born. 

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

As I have lived in the sun for the last 12 years. I like to wear vests and shorts. Summer dresses and loose clothes. I wear a lot of bikinis. I love Autumn fashion but only buy a few outfits for when I go home to England.I love to wear heels 👠 when I have business meetings and always wear smart suits. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?

I have worn a lot of designer clothes in the past and still have some designer items. Prada and Gucci. Some French fashion that no longer exists. But now I only buy clothes from high street stores like Zara and Mango and Top shop. I have purchased clothes online from ASOS UK. Bikinis from Bravisimo and a clothing line in Dubai. 

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

I don’t have a wish list as I buy when I need new. I have become aware of throw away fashion and the awful foot print that clothing leaves on our planet. I find that I can make do with clothes for longer now. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes and sandals I have to wear in the heat, but I love boots for winter back home. I’ve always loved wearing boots. They are extremely attractive and comfortable. 

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

My Amazon link 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07SZ3K9BM
My Facebook page 
https://www.facebook.com/karenbradyauthor/

Thank you so much for chatting with me about your book, Karen. My own father was the youngest of 10 and as a young child he wasn’t evacuated – he stayed in the Leyton area of East London (born in West Ham/Stratford area as my grandparents, myself and my sister (in Leyton)). My mother on the otherhand, was born just outside Cirencester in Gloucestershire in a farmhouse, because my grandmother was pregnant with my mum and she was evacuated along with my mum’s older brothers. They stayed together and returned to London when my mum was a toddler. It is great that these memoirs exist – I wish I had asked my dad’s mum a lot more questions about life at the beginning of the 20th century but she was very Victorian in her ways (she was born in 1895) and as a young girl I was slightly scared of her! She died just before my 16th birthday.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Karen Brady

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