Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

An Interview With Elaine Robertson North

I’m an avid bookworm. I make no apologies for that. I read all sorts of genres – I do have my favourites such as thrillers, mysteries, travel based – I like the occasional romcom, autobiography, historical drama, English literature classics, classics from non English writers, fantasy. I like to read out of my comfort zone at times and when an author comes along whose debut novel just hooks me in on the first page, spins me along on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, makes me feel the characters inside out and upside down, each page a revelation that it is hard to put the book down and turn off the light to sleep – that’s when you know you have to spread the news far and wide to fellow bookworms that this is a book and author you need to check out. I was sent a complimentary copy of “I Can’t Tell You Why” by Elaine Robertson North to read and review. Apart from reviewing the book and leaving my 5 star review on Amazon, I couldn’t resist being cheeky and asking for a chance to interview Elaine herself….. Hi Elaine!

Hi, I’m Elaine. I’m originally from Scotland but spent most of my childhood in Berkshire. After three years in Bournemouth studying for a degree in Media and Communications, I couldn’t get to London quick enough to get my career underway and have basically been here ever since. I enjoyed an exciting career spanning all corners of the media but always wanted to write. There were sporadic attempts along the way but it wasn’t until I drew a line under my career and my youngest son started school, that I was able to make it my focus. Today, I’m happily married with two beautiful boys. I’m proud to call myself a wife, a mother, and finally, an author!

After working for 25 years in the marketing & communications field in the media & entertainment industries, including several years in a variety of senior executive roles in TV, radio & film; who or what inspired you to write a novel?

The need to write has always been there. It was just something I always felt I would do so I don’t think there was ever one person or event that inspired me. I think I’ve just been subconsciously soaking up the many characters, situations and events I’ve experienced over the years, waiting for the moment when I could put it all to good use!

“I Can’t Tell You Why” is your debut novel – and what a debut novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely a page turner, I got sucked into the novel straightaway.  My feelings towards the characters changed with each chapter – like a rollercoaster! Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Thank you! That really is lovely to hear. I’d have to go with the main character, Dani, as the one I most enjoyed writing about. I love the fact that she is strong and gutsy and able to handle tough work situations with a cool head. But personally, she’s massively flawed and getting that balance right was a real challenge, which also made her the hardest character to write. She’s a good person who makes some very bad decisions. It was tough, therefore, to make sure she was always believable and was someone who readers would still root for.

Were there any aspects of writing a novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

I’m constantly surprised at how long it all takes! In many respects, writing the book is the easy part. It’s the endless rounds of editing that are obviously essential, but hideously time-consuming for someone annoying like me who likes everything done yesterday! I do love, however, when after days of struggling with an element of the plot, everything suddenly falls into place. That is very satisfying!

“Most people believe that affairs are wrong. That they lead to heartbreak and suffering for everyone involved and never end well. Most people think they know better. Yet they do it anyway….” Your book is about a powerful subject – love affairs – and the characters are all totally believable. Why did you pick this topic for your first novel and did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

I’m one of those people who has pretty black and white views about things so I love a moral dilemma when I’m forced into the grey! I was hooked on the idea that a perfectly reasonable and likeable person, can cheat and lie, even when objectively speaking, they know it makes no sense. Once I had that as a starting point, a compelling love triangle seemed like the most effective way to explore this. As for my opinions and thoughts, my starting point would always be that affairs are wrong. Simple! The reality is that of course, they rarely are, so it was great to explore why people have affairs, whether it’s ever possible to say that good can come from an affair, and also how our childhood experiences can have a massive impact on our own approach to relationships. 

Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

I’m about two thirds of the way through book number two. The central theme is about taking control of your own destiny and having the confidence to just be yourself, whatever life throws in the way. The tension comes from a ruthless desire for revenge and the backdrop this time is a newspaper. 

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

Yes to the bookworm! I’m probably a contemporary women’s fiction fan first and foremost, but I also like the odd thriller thrown in for good measure. As for authors, I recently discovered Sally Hepworth and immediately read every book she’s written, and also Kathryn Hughes. Read all of her books back to back too! I’m a big fan of Liane Moriarty and Lisa Jewell, and also Clare Mackintosh and Fiona Barton. The key thing for me is a book that has me hooked from the very beginning. I love actual books but have to confess I do most of my reading on a Kindle or my phone. I spend lots of time hanging around while my sons enjoy various activities, so being able to read while I wait is a massive plus for me!

Is “I Can’t Tell You Why” available to purchase worldwide?

The paperback and ebook are on Amazon in all key territories, so wherever Amazon is available, you should be able to buy it! 

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

I’m tempted to say anywhere hot and quiet! Just having uninterrupted time to think would be a joy! That said, I’m a people-watcher and love bustle and noise, and as it’s likely I’ll be sticking with the worlds of media and entertainment for the time being at least, I’d probably go for somewhere like New York or Los Angeles.

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

At this time of year, it’s all about coats and boots for me! I walk my boys to and from school so am normally in jeans, a jumper and then it’s the coat that makes the outfit. I have a long padded coat, a slightly lighter-weight quilted coat, a parka, a raincoat that I love, a fur-lined bomber jacket – basically, a coat for every mood or weather condition imaginable! Ankle boots or trainers and that’s me sorted! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I tend to do most of my clothes shopping online. I’m a big fan of ME+EM and Finery when I fancy something different that I know I’ll feel really great wearing. I love an oversized jumper and have a couple from Baukjen that I would hate to be without. If I’m looking for a really great pair of boots, Penelope Chilvers would be the first place I look, but I’ll also happily browse M&S for everyday stuff.

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

I have a favourite pair of wedge heel ankle boots that are definitely past their best, so top of my list at the moment is finding a replacement. 

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots! Unless I’m going somewhere that requires a posh frock and heels (which is very rare!), I’ll always opt for boots. Whether I’m wearing jeans, a skirt or a dress, the appropriate ankle boot always works for me!

For Pinning Later

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

Facebook: @elainerobertsonnorth
Instagram: @elaine_robertson_north
Twitter: @RobbieNorth

Thank you very much Elaine for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m so looking forward to reading your 2nd book! My thanks also goes to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for sending me a preview copy of Elaine’s book in the first place.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Elaine Robertson North (apart from the Pinterest picture which is by Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With The Vegan Society

Living the Vegan Lifestyle has been in the news a lot recently – January was “veganuary” and the spotlight was on all things Vegan. The reactions from various people have been mixed when the word “vegan” has been mentioned – most people I’ve spoken to hadn’t really got a clue what the Vegan lifestyle entailed; some guessed that it was a more extreme form of being a vegetarian; some have embraced the ethics of being a Vegan wholeheartedly; some were interested and some were not. Personally I am not a Vegan – I do eat meat but I do embrace vegetarian and vegan dishes too. There are a few Vegan restaurants springing up and with thousands of products being granted the coveted Vegan trademark on a daily basis, embracing a Vegan lifestyle is not as daunting as you may think. I caught up with the lovely Dominika of The Vegan Society to find out more about The Vegan Society and living the Vegan lifestyle. Hi Dominika….

Hello! My name is Dominika and I work as media and PR officer at The Vegan Society. We are the world’s oldest vegan society whose co-founder, Donald Watson, came up with the word ‘vegan’ back in 1944. Everything we do is to help people go vegan and remain vegan! 

The Vegan Society has produced an app – Veguide App – that covers the basics of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle with 30 short daily videos. What inspired the creation of the app? 

We wanted to bring vegan pledges into the 21st century – we know that most new vegans are young people, and this demographic is also the one most likely to use mobile apps and social media. VeGuide features two mentors in the similar age group to our target audience which we thought would help its users to relate to them.

VeGuide is free to download on Android and iOS devices. Its users receive a combination of daily informational videos, motivational quotes, quizzes, recipes and discounts, all of which aim to help them ease into vegan living.


The Vegan Trademark – sunflower symbol – guarantees that products are free from animal ingredients and animal testing.  There are now over 30,000 products and services registered with the Vegan Trademark.  How does a brand go about registering their products? 

Brands can contact our Vegan Trademark team at trademark@vegansociety.com, which will be followed up by some questions that include the number of products a company wants to register, their turnover and size, so that my colleagues can provide them with a quote. After this, the Trademark team carefully checks all the ingredients in the products about to be Trademarked to make sure they’re animal-free. We can also help brands veganise products and suggest alternatives to any animal products their items contain. 

From curries to cakes, virtually any recipe could be made suitable for a vegan lifestyle, as long as they are made from plant-based ingredients. Have you got a personal favourite vegan dish or recipe?

I’m all for quick and easy recipes that don’t require tens of ingredients! I’m personally very much into Korean and East Asian cuisine, so I love dishes like kimchi jjigae, ddeokbokki, jjajangmyeon, Japanese curry, mapo tofu, bibimbap, and various side dishes, called muchim in Korean cuisine. For those with a less oriental preferences, I find that making vegan versions of easy classics like lasagne, chilli con carne, shepherd’s pie, enchiladas or roast dinner is best! 

I read on your website that honey was the product probably most frequently mistaken as vegan -friendly.  I must admit I thought it was! Why is honey excluded? What other foodstuffs are also mistaken as being vegan friendly?

Honey is a product made by animals, so for the sake of consistency is excluded from a vegan diet. Veganism opposes the use and killing of all animals. Other foods that sometimes may not be vegan are alcohol (beer and wine mainly).

What are the nutritional  and other benefits of becoming vegan?

You can get everything your body needs on a vegan diet – vegans actually tend to eat much more fruit and vegetables than the rest of the population which has amazing health benefits. The British Dietetic Association, an independent UK authority on nutrition, states that a vegan diet is suitable at any age or life stage, including infancy, childhood and pregnancy

Eating a balanced vegan diet helps to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Research shows vegans have lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. This is partly because animal products, unlike vegan food, contain a significant amount of cholesterol.


In the UK all medicines are required to be tested on animals before being deemed as safe for human use.  Obviously, if you are a vegan how are you able to get the medication needed without compromising your beliefs? What are The Vegan Society’s recommendations?

Vegans avoid using animals as far as is practicable and possible. When choosing cosmetics, vegans can pick products that have not been tested on animals but unfortunately we don’t currently have such a choice with medicines or vaccinations. The Vegan Society never advises anyone to stop taking prescribed medicines but we do encourage patients to speak to their doctors to see if a vegan-friendly alternative is available.

What is the hardest part, or the hardest thing to forgo, did you find, of transitioning to follow a vegan lifestyle?  

Many people find it difficult to avoid cheese. However, the human tastebuds have a wonderful ability to adapt, so if you resign from cheese for a month or two and then try vegan cheese, you’re very like to enjoy the flavour. Most vegans say the hardest part of going vegan was simply making the decision to do it.P

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

I shop online a lot, on websites like Asos, EMP and Yesstyle which features East Asian fashion. When I go to a shopping mall, I often wander around all the different stores in search of a thing I’m looking for at that moment. It’s amazing how easy it is to find vegan clothes and footwear on the high street!

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

I’ve been looking at Luxe Derbys from Will’s Vegan Shoes for a while now. They’re beautiful but pricier because they’re made of eco-friendly, durable vegan leather. I’m just waiting for the right moment to get them!  

Boots Or Shoes? 

Boots – I get cold very easily so I like footwear that covers my ankles! However, I’m 6ft tall which is a lot for a girl, so I’m not at all interested in adding any more inches which makes it tricky with boots!

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

Website: www.vegansociety.com

FB: www.facebook.com/TheVeganSociety

Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheVeganSociety

Instagram: www.instagram.com/theoriginalvegansociety 

For Pinning Later

Thank you for the chat Dominika – those Japanese and Asian dishes really do sound interesting (and no doubt delicious!) I really hope, dear readers, that Dominika has helped to dispel any myths and if you do want to follow the Vegan route, then Dominika has given you some inspiration to go ahead and take that leap!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Pinned Photo by Linda Hobden. The other photos in the article have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society & Dominika Piasecka

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7 Vegan Valentines Gifts

Valentines Day is almost upon us and shelves in the supermarkets and shops are full of red heart shaped delights from chocolates to prosecco to perfumes. If you or your partner are vegan, there are a range of products that might just tickle your fancy as well as your tastebuds!

The Vegan Society is the world’s oldest vegan society and registered educational charity. In fact, in 1944, co-founder Donald Watson actually came up with the term “vegan”. There are now over 30,000 goods and services that bear the famous Vegan Trademark symbol.

There are many ways to embrace vegan living, but one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, insects, dairy, eggs, honey – as well as products leather and anything tested on animals. So, when it comes to choosing a Valentines gift – or a gift or treat for anytime – here are 7 ideas that might just fit the bill….

  1. Chocolate & Love’s Dark Chocolate Tin

A beautiful, colourful tin full of vegan dark chocolate Neapolitans. The vegan chocolate is a mix of Panama 80% single origin, Rich Dark 71% and 70% Madagascan single. A must for fans of dark chocolate! www.chocolateandlove.com

2. Broadland Wineries’ Proudly Vegan Wines

Before my friend became a vegan, her main worry was not being able to enjoy a glass of wine. That isn’t an issue nowadays as Proudly Vegan wines have a selection of palatable rose, merlot and Sauvignon Blanc to choose from. Even the ink and glue on the labels are 100% vegan! The wines are available from Ocado.

3. Eden Perfumes’ Gift Set

Eden Perfumes match your favourite designer or popular fragrances, perfume and aftershave, using vegan ingredients such as jasmine (my favourite), vanilla, passionfruit, musk, saffron, sandalwood amongst others. www.edenperfumes.co.uk

4. Honest Brew’s 12 Beer Mixed Case

Prefer beer to wine? This mixed case of vegan-friendly beers might be more up your street. www.honestbrew.co.uk

5. The Gin Guild’s Organic London Dry Gin

Gin is all the rage at the moment and this London Dry Gin is 100% organic and GM-free. All their grain is grown organically without the use of toxic pesticides, insecticides and industrial fertilisers. They also hand harvest and dry their botanicals on site. They have a FairWild Certificate which means that those harvesting are properly paid for their junipers. Introduced in 1999, The Juniper Green gin has so far won 25 international medals against all the world’s gins, including golds in both the UK and USA. Available from Ocado, Amazon and online www.theginguild.com

6. Booja Booja’s ChocolateTruffles

Handmade luxurious Chocolate truffles inebriated with organic fine de champagne. Just stylish & sophisticated. Find these in Waitrose.

7. LUSH’s All Yours Gift Set

Available at all LUSH stores, the All Yours Gift Set was designed by artist Kim Sielbeck. She was inspired by the colours of the sunset and verdant mountains that fill her with magical energy. Certainly vibrant – inside this box you’ll find a Peachy bath bomb, Avocado wash shower gel, American Pie body conditioner and a Bubblegum lip scrub. Just the job for a pampering session…..

With Love, Linda x

For pinning later. Photo by Linda Hobden

Apart from the last photo, all other photos have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society (and the featured brands)

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An Interview With Mom Transparenting

There are many “Mommy/Mummy” blogs out in the World Wide Web – some I read as they are teenage based (my children are now in their teens and twenties) so I can relate; and a few I read as I find them interesting on many levels even though I have no real affiliation with them, but occasionally I can comment with a few words of my own experience in bringing up a family. I find it interesting to read about family life in other countries other than your own too. One such favourite “Mommy” blog I read falls squarely into my latter category… Nicole of Mom Transparenting has a gem of a blog and I was over the moon when she agreed to be interviewed! Come and meet Nicole… Hi Nicole!

Hi! My name is Nicole. I’m a divorced/single mom of three and a realtor in a suburb of Chicago. I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling although I have never worked  in the field. I’m very intrigued by psychology and passionate about mental health. 

What made you decide to set up your blog, Mom Transparenting?  

I started my blog about 6 months after my (then) 4 year old son came out to me as transgender. For years I have been posting on my personal FB page about various parts of life in short story form and had been told I should start a blog. It took me a long time to figure out what that even meant! (LOL!) After divorcing, custody battles, and then my son coming out I decided it was time to curate a space to share my personal experiences and stop bombarding my friends and family with it all. It’s much more socially acceptable to put it in an “article” and call it writing than it is to vent on social media about a screaming toddler 😉

As with many parent bloggers I know, blogging about family is often very difficult.  However, I do feel that reading parenting blogs helps the parent realise that they are not alone, especially when a blog tackles a particular subject. What has been the general reaction about your blog from family/friends and from readers?  How have your children reacted?

If I am being completely honest, the staggering majority of my readers and  followers are NOT my family. Most of my family doesn’t even know this blog even exists. I have some very conservative family members and I just don’t want to deal with the backlash of their opinion about how I raise my child. If I didn’t have a transgender child, that wouldn’t be the case. But this is the reality of the world we live in. When you share something like that with people that think they “know” you, they feel like they have the right to tell you how to raise and handle issues that arise with your children. Even if you aren’t asking for advice. Personally, I prefer my followers and readers be those that sought me out because they were looking for someone to relate to. I know many of my experiences seem mind-blowing to me as they happen, but I also know I am very much NOT alone and many women (and men) have similar struggles. My goal in all of this was to some how connect with other parents like me, speak from the parent perspective and not of that of a trans person, because I’m not trans. I don’t know what it is like to be trans. But I do know what it is like to have a trans child and what it’s like to be the parent under the microscope. That was reason number one I decided to share our journey in an open and raw way. 

I personally know of two people who are “transparenting” and their children, like your son, were determined at a young age to follow the gender they feel they are. How did your son approach the subject with you & what was your initial reaction?    

I have an article that was recently published on Motherly that answers this exact question: https://www.mother.ly/life/raising-4-year-old-   transgender-child

What advice do you give other parents – both in the same position as yourself as well as those who are not?

Whenever I post an article about my trans son, struggles with divorce, or custody I get numerous messages from various people telling me their similar experiences. Many ask me about their own children or want to vent about their own divorce/ex. When it comes to divorce single-motherhood I am empathetic to their situation and urge them to find someone they can connect with to help them get through this tough time. It’s an all around shit show having to juggle kids, homes, pets, work, splitting up, and financials of divorce. I wish that on NO ONE. When someone messages me regarding questions about their children’s comments about their own gender I tell them what everyone told me in the beginning. Let them lead the way, if they want to change their clothes, let them. If they ask to make a name change, do it. Give them the chance to live the way they are asking to and let them decide if this is truly them “coming out” or if it’s a phase. Because at a young age you can’t know for sure. The key (according to professionals) is consistence, insistence, and persistence. And that’s over a period of time. Considering my son has been living this way and insistent on his feelings that HE. IS. A. BOY. for at least 9 months now tells me that we are likely past any chance that this could be a phase that will pass. But, even if that were the case, my reaction and how I continue to let him lead the way would not change. 

I have found that, generally, children are often matter-of-fact and accepting.  How did your son’s siblings react? 

My youngest was only 3 and she was very quick to make the language changes my son requested and made a conscious effort to call him her brother. She has probably been the one with the least questions and the most acceptance and I find her innocence and pure view of the world so truly beautiful. If only everyone could be like that. My oldest was 7 and he was confused and sad at first. He flat out didn’t like it. But I explained to him that as family, we support each other. Even if we sometimes don’t like it. And that was enough for him to get on board and make the changes he needed to. We have conversations about it from time to time (more at first, they’ve become less and less over time) and I usually just frame it around “this is just the way it is.” You can’t change who someone is fundamentally adamant so why try? Just be loving, supportive, and accepting and be the good people I know I raised. As far as friends go, it’s interesting. My son is “stealth” at school, but I use that term loosely because he really isn’t quiet about it we just don’t go around screaming it from the rooftops. There are plenty of classmates and families that know he is trans, and just as many that only know him as a little boy. I urge my son to share when/if he’s ready and don’t ever want him to feel like he has a secret to hide or something to be ashamed of because of this. But when he does share with friends, their typical response is either “huh?” and that’s it. Like they think he’s joking. Or my favorite has been, “Oh, I used to be a girl” and his friend said, “oh, yea? Me too!” LOL

 Let’s talk about your blog & blogging in general!  What do you enjoy most about blogging?  What is your least favourite “blogging job”?

I love having an outlet to share our journey. I love being able to connect with other writer and content creators that I idolize and look up to. The inspire me to do better and be better in every interaction I have with them. I’ve met so many wonderful people that I am so grateful to know. I appreciate the feedback I get and I find that (for the most part) between my followers and the community of fellow bloggers I’ve met everyone has welcomed me with open arms and has become a great resource in times of need. My least favorite part is rejection. I submit a lot of guest posts and even though I know not everything I write is amazing and not every post I submit will be accepted, it still stings. 

Where do you find inspiration for posts? 

In my kids, my family, my work, basically my every day life. If my kid does something funny, I can usually find a story to write around it. When something bad/sad happens it is therapeutic for me to write about it, even if I may not share that post on my blog, it gets my feelings out and moves me forward to a place where I can be a better writer in general. 

What is your favourite social media for (a) blog networking and (b) personal browsing? 

I tend to shine on Instagram. I write memes and the majority of my followers are there. I use Facebook, twitter, and pinterest as well, but IG is really my baby. 

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

Oh, GAWD! Black leggings, a t-shirt or sweater (I LOVE big, comfy sweaters!) and this time of year Sorel boots. During the summer it’s flip flops, all day, every day. I wish I were more fashion forward, but as a busy mom I’m more of a function and comfort addict than I am for brands and style. Personally, I have a fun/trendy style when I can afford it! But when you’re a single mom sometimes your closet and shoe fetish takes a back seat to your kids sports and after school activities. Gotta make those hard choices, and us moms tend to make sacrifices for our kids from our own wants/needs. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

I’m not a trendsetter. I shop at Target and on Amazon to keep me from leaving the house at all costs.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. All day. I loved when skinny jeans came back in style so I could show off my boots again ALL THE TIME! 

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Mom Transparenting 🙂

Blog: http://momtransparenting.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/momtransparenting

Facebook: https://facebook.com/momtransparenting

Twitter: https://twitter.com/momtransparenting

Thank you very much for chatting to me today Nicole! I wish your blog continued success as you make your way through the jungle that is parenting 🙂

Linda x

Photographs of Nicole & her son have been published with kind permission of Nicole (Mom Transparenting) 

Pinned Photo is by Linda Hobden.


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Walking In The Saltmarshes

Happy New Year!

I’m lucky to have the salt marshes & mudflats virtually on my doorstep – it is just the place to blow away the cobwebs after days of overeating and drinking during the Christmas/New Year period. In fact, it is a great place to walk whatever season – the marshes change so much and the salty air is so embracing. On New Year’s Eve 2018 the weather was cloudy but mild – unlike previous years where the air was crisp and the skies were cloudless and blue. The ground was a bit muddy underfoot too … very muddy… but nothing that a good pair of wellies or walking boots can handle. So where are these salt marshes?

The green coastal areas are the salt marshes – my walks are at the north of the River Blackwater around the creeks of Tollesbury & Salcot

The Saltmarsh Coast is the 75 miles of coastline and creeks that stretch from the estuary of the River Crouch to the south to the estuary of the River Blackwater in the north, of the Maldon district of Essex in South East England. The Blackwater Estuary is internationally recognised as being an area of outstanding importance for wildlife and conservation – the marshes are habitat for migrant wildfowl and waders; and a magnet for thousands upon thousands of wild duck, geese and wading birds. On Old Hall Marshes it is estimated that around 4000 Brent geese feed here in winter. The site also supports 24 species of butterfly, dragon and damselflies.

No wildlife or birds to be seen today though! When the tide comes in the grasses are under water. Walking along the seawall at Tollesbury.

Historically the Romans were interested in this highly salty area – the Roman town of Colchester (Britain’s oldest town) is only around 10 miles away and the famous Maldon Salt is still produced in the town of Maldon. However, in the 19th century the major industry here was oyster dredging. Small oysters were dredged at Tollesbury and sent along to the Kent coast to mature. There are still small oysters to be found. As the Tollesbury mudflats are a very important area for native oysters, it is a good place to spot oystercatchers, so my birdwatcher friends tell me.

Oyster beds, River Blackwater… I took this photo in the summer from Tollesbury Wick Marshes.

One feature I always photograph whenever I walk the seawall and that is the Tollesbury Tree …. it looked quite lonely this week!

Tollesbury Tree

There were still grasses and berries abound but under the cloud the mud reigned supreme.

I can’t wait to show you the seawall in Spring and in the sunshine….here’s a sneak peak from a previous summer ….

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden; map downloaded from Maldon District Council’s Saltmarsh tourist site.

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SPROUTS, STUFFING & SEASONAL SOMETHINGS

SEASONS GREETINGS to you all!

As it is the last post of 2018 I thought I’d reflect on the “S” words that summarise this SEASON.

In the UK, and in most other countries I can imagine, this coming weekend will be mad in the SHOPS and SUPERMARKETS as people try to STUFF their trolleys with last minute gifts, extra wrapping paper and tags and enough food to probably last months but we will all consume in the week to follow. And then there is the booze….

SNOWBALL (egg nog), SPUMANTE, SHERRY, SCOTCH WHISKY, SAUVIGNON BLANC, SPANISH RED WINE …. SHARE the corner of the cabinet alongside Baileys Irish Cream, prosecco, brandy, beer, gin, vodka,Guinness….. I actually discovered in my fridge an unopened bottle of Baileys Irish Cream from last Christmas as I was putting this year’s bottle away. It had a best before date of end November 2018 … it smelt alright and tasted ok… I had to test it! Irish Cream is one of those drinks that I tend to buy each year… and I do like it … but after Christmas it tends to be redundant. I’m sure I’m not the only one with spirit bottles that have been stored away & only retrieved on the odd occasion that someone might want a dry martini and lemonade instead of a glass of pinot grigio! This year I fancied trying these liqueur chocolates…

SANTA CLAUS …. who can forget ST NICK? Even though my children are teenagers and adults, they still get a little SOMETHING from “Father Christmas” that resembles a SATSUMA but isn’t as healthy! The SMILES from children when they SEE their STOCKINGS or SACKS filled with gifts on Christmas morning makes being STIRRED awake at some unearthly hour worth it.

Christmas Day breakfast – SAUSAGES, SCRAMBLED EGG, SMOKED SALMON, SAUTEED MUSHROOMS, SAUCY BAKED BEANS, SMOKED BACON RASHERS, SQUASHED TOMATOES, SELECTION OF FRUIT JUICES ….. OR are you like me – I reach for my usual cereal as I just can’t face eating a full breakfast knowing that in a few hours time I will be indulging in the Christmas Dinner? My husband and sons disagree with me though!

SPROUTS, STUFFING, STUFFED TURKEY CROWN, SPUDS (crispy roast potatoes), SEASONAL VEGETABLES, SAUCES, SAUSAGES wrapped in bacon and SPECIAL TURKEY GRAVY made by Gran! Followed by STEAMED CHRISTMAS PUDDING (SIXPENCE no longer inside) with a SELECTION of creams, SUMPTIOUS brandy butter, STEAMING hot custard or SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM. SPROUTS. I don’t actually like SPROUTS. And yet every year I have to dish up one on my dinner plate, just because. My mother in law discovered a new recipe recently that mixed sprouts with bacon …. mmm… maybe, however, with “pigs in blankets” already on the menu, perhaps plain, steamed would be better. It is strange that a vegetable that is good for you – SPROUTS count for one of your “five a day” and contain antioxidants which are thought to prevent cancer – can lead, through overindulgence, to bloating with gas which can be uncomfortable for you and could be unpleasant for others…

STOMACH ACHES! SUDDEN change in diet can lead to uncomfortable consequences – the rich, creamy foods as well as overindulgence of sprouts, peppers, broccoli, eggs, baked beans…. The traditional post Christmas dinner STROLL could help – good for relieving STRESS & that STUFFED feeling, STRENGTHENING family bonds, STRETCHING those legs, and STAVING off that overwhelming SLEEPINESS feeling that will hit you once you SIT down on your SOFA to watch on the TV SCREEN those SOAPS and Christmas SPECIALS…

3pm. STANDING up as our National Anthem is played heralding the START of our Queen delivering her annual SPEECH on our TV SCREENS from her STATELY abode of SANDRINGHAM. I quite like this traditional of listening to the Queen’s SPEECH – it’s a bit like receiving a royal “Round Robin” updating the nation on her family events! SHE has quite a bit of news this year what with the Royal weddings and births!

SNOW. Let it snow! Despite what many people think, the UK rarely experiences snow at Christmas – The Met Office says snow has fallen somewhere in the UK on Christmas Day 38 times in the last 54 years. However, of all the winter months, December is when Britain is least likely to see snow. The last time it snowed in the UK on Christmas Day was on 25 December 2010! Will it snow on Christmas Day in 2018? Personally, I doubt it…. we shall see. If it does, I suppose we could dig out the SLEDS from our SHEDS, build SNOWMEN and make SNOWANGELS , throw SNOWBALLS, SCRAPE our car windscreens, SHOVEL our drives, and SKID our way to SING SONGS in the local church SERVICE ….

SONGS! Carols or Pop songs – nothing puts you in a good mood when the SEASONAL SOUNDS are heard over the airwaves! There was a game on one of the SOCIAL MEDIA SITES – I can’t remember which one – which from the 1st December, you had to try and last the month without hearing “Last Christmas” by Wham as you go about your daily life. Easy you might say ….but SUPERMARKETS seem to always have it on their playlists and if you hear it whilst SHOPPING, you’re out! As I’m a retail merchandiser working in SHOPS & SUPERMARKETS with their radio stations playing all day, I think I lasted a few SECONDS…

SMELLS…. SPICES around this time of year are delightful ….cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger….

SIX O’Clock. Time for SNACKS, SWEETS, and other SUGARY delights before SUPPER at 9pm…. cold meats, SALMON, French bread lavishly SPREAD with SALTED butter, pickles, STUFFED dates, STUFFED olives, SALT & VINEGAR crisps, SALTED peanuts, SAUSAGE rolls, cheese STRAWS….

In the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE it is SUMMER where the temperatures are SIZZLING and I can imagine that it is too hot to contemplate eating as much. I expect the order of the day is a barbecue on the SAND, grilled SALMON STEAKS, SHRIMP cocktail, SALADS, various SKEWERS of meat/veg …. followed by a frolic in SURF, under a glorious SUN and an ice cold SOMETHING to quench your thirst.

SHOW you care this SEASON and think of those whose home is on the STREETS, those who need SHELTER, those who need SOMEBODY to talk to, those who are STARVING, those who are SUICIDAL, those who are SAD, those who are SUFFERING….try and SPREAD a little SEASONAL SPIRIT where you can…

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SEE you all in 2019!

LINDA x

All photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.

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Problem Solving In The 21st Century

According to a recent Carphone Warehouse Survey of over 2000 adults in the UK, 83% turn to the internet for help – whether it’s to solve a personal problem, self diagnose an ailment, read up on facts, getting a DIY tip or recipe, get career guidance, find love and friendship.  I know in my household, that for awkward homework questions and project work in general, “Google” is our friend rather than the set of Encyclopedia Britannica and World Atlas that used to occupy my bedroom shelves in the 1970s.  I do still have an updated World Atlas in book form and I do enjoy poring over the maps in a geeky kind of way – however, there is no denying that for fast information, the internet is kingpin.

In order to highlight some of the changes in problem solving in the 21st century, Carphone Warehouse also commissioned a set of 5 fun illustrations, reimagining the storyline of 5 iconic pre-21st century movies for the digital age:

BRIEF ENCOUNTER….

According to the results in the survey it seems that the internet gives us social courage and, in some cases, a silver tongue.  25% of Londoners look for help finding friends online.  16% of men are more likely to look for help regarding their love life than women (9%).

PSYCHO…

Before going to any hotel, motel or inn, do you check out the place nowadays online before booking? Do you read the reviews?  I know I do! 

PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS…

How many of us shop online or use auction sites such as eBay? To sell & buy used items locally it used to be an advert placed in our local village shop window … and hastily try and find a pen & paper in your coat pocket to note down a number or address of the item you wanted.

SCHOOL OF ROCK…

With sites such as Link’dIn and Facebook, how many of us check somebody out online before meeting them?  You can be sure that nowadays employers check out potential employees before interviewing them …. their appearance, credentials and lots more besides! I read some wise words in a meme recently that said “Never post anything onto your Facebook/Social Media profile that you wouldn’t want your granny reading!” …

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT…

Got to go to a new destination? Finding locations and addresses and directions is so much easier with Google maps, SatNav devices and smartphone apps that can locate your position easily if you get lost.  

Isn’t it just amazing how quickly society has absorbed the internet and how much we rely on the internet! Other interesting data findings from the survey found that 45% go online for meal inspirations; 56% of women are most likely to be looking for health and wellbeing advice; 49% of men are most likely to turn to the internet for help with their personal finances; and 73% of respondents find it easier to approach their crushes online. 

Interesting stuff! What  problem solving help do you use the internet for?

LINDA x

My thanks goes to the Problem Solving CarPhone Warehouse Campaign & Study for giving me permission to publish both the data findings and the commissioned illustrations. https://www.carphonewarehouse.com/broadband/internet-problem-solving.html

Header/Pin photograph by Linda Hobden.

 

 

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An Interview With Vartan Melkonian

I am privileged this week to talk on my blog with renowned composer, musician & conductor, Vartan Melkonian, who also happens to be UN Ambassador for Street Children.  Vartan’s life story is one of courage – he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon, orphaned soon after, became a street child in Beirut, fled to the UK in the 1970s – but even on the streets of Beirut his musical abilities began to emerge… Hi Vartan!

Hello. I am Vartan Melkonian. I am a composer and musician and I work as the UN Ambassador to Street Children.

You are an UN Ambassador for Street Children. What does being an ambassador entail?

My work involves certain countries – developing countries – who ask the UN to give them advice on street children. The UN takes a team of experts to those countries. As I am a key-note speaker – I open and close the conference about life on the streets. I encourage the developing countries to adopt the programmes the UN suggests.

You were born in a refugee camp in Lebanon – your parents died when you were very young- you then lived in the Birds Nest Orphanage until you were 8 years old. You must have felt very lonely & anxious being an orphan in a strange country.  When you were 8 years old, did you flee the orphanage or was care only provided until you were 8?

I was 8 years old when I left the orphanage, to live on the streets. I was there till I was eight because boys had to go to the army compound to make room for new children. I chose not to work for the Lebanese army and took a cattle-train to Beirut. That’s where I started my life.

After leaving the orphanage, you then lived rough in the slums of Beirut. What was the worst thing about living on the streets?

People take moments of pleasure by looking at the sunset. For us, for me, it was the worst time of the day, there was nowhere to go. I had to find any alcove to sleep in. We, the children of the streets, were often chased away with sticks and stones (even by the police) so we were not seen on the streets, as if we were some sort of living plague.

 

Teaching your fellow street children how to hum in harmony so as you could all make some money by busking… how did you discover you had a musical talent? What other jobs did you do in order to survive? 

At the orphanage, I was chosen to be a member of the choir. I had a severe speech impediment but when I sang there was no problem. My musical skills must have been in-born – the gift of music.

I did many jobs to survive from shoe shining, selling chewing gum and shovelling sand onto lorries to illegal fishing and being a mechanic.

When civil war came to Lebanon in 1972 you fled to the UK and began to work as a singer, at the beginning on the Northern Clubs circuit – eventually at West End nightspots.  What sort of music genre did you sing?  What influenced your song choices?

I used to impersonate Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones!

You wrote a symphony that was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – and later you came to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, and many other world-class orchestras in London’s most famous halls and around the world. When you started to busk as a young lad on the streets of Beirut, did you harbour musical ambitions? 

When I was in Lebanon I used to play the guitar, and I thought I was really good. Arriving in the UK in the early 70s, I went to Kings Cross Station and I saw a busker playing the guitar and my eyes widened. I thought ‘I know nothing!’ It was like being born again at the age of 26.

Looking back over your incredible life story so far, what do you think helped you to survive the conditions you faced? 

When you don’t have things, your imagination flourishes and when you achieve something, you’ve already lived it. If you want to, you will finish a race, not necessarily first, but you will get there if you aim for it.

Being a refugee is hard, I know.  What are the toughest things you face being a refugee? 

I was happy to leave Lebanon because it was the 1970s and the conflict was starting. I went from sunny Beirut to Skegness. The UK is a wonderful place. I am a guest in the UK. And I feel very welcome.

When you give speeches worldwide about street children, what are the main messages that street children would like to convey to the public in general?

The children of the street are not the problem, they are the assets of the country. Invest in them and they grow up to become someone like me who provides good things for the community.

Links you would like to share:

http://vartan-melkonian.com

Untold Stories – Animation of life of Vartan Melkonian

Thank you so much Vartan for taking the time to talk to me today about your life and your mission as ambassador. 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Vartan Melkonian.

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An Interview With Incredibly Cool Events

Embarrassingly, I had always associated cheerleading competitions with America – along with baseball and American Football – until recently, that is, when I discovered that cheerleading competitions are alive and kicking in the UK too!  I’m delighted to introduce onto my blog this week, Kimberley Mason, founder of ICE (Incredibly Cool Events) who gave me an insight into the cheerleading scene in the UK. Hi Kimberley!
Hi! I am Kimberley Mason I was born in the West Midlands and was raised on dance classes and competitions.

What inspired you to start up ICE (Incredibly Cool Events)?

After running my community interest company and working in sport for disadvantaged communities I felt there was a big need for affordable accessible cheerleading and dance competitions.

ICE organises cheerleading and dance competitions, workshops & Coaching. What would a cheerleading team expect if entering an ICE event?

They would get a help from a friendly team during the lead up to the event, affordable prices and all the support needed to get their teams feeling confident so they could give their best performance on the floor. There are big trophies, a medal for each competitor and a beautiful back drop to perform in front of. We have a highly trained judging team that offers constructive feedback at each of our events.

When did you start “cheerleading” & what was it about cheerleading that attracted you ?

I started Irish dance at the age of 7 and although I loved it the heavy shoes were not for me. I then tried freestyle dance and loved it. Dance became my passion from then onwards and I took part in competitions on a weekly basis. I found cheerleading at the age of 18 and the more I learnt the more I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was a team sport and the way the competitions were organised. The cheer spirit and the team ethos were definitely the main attraction.

What are the benefits of cheerleading?

Cheerleading has many benefits; it improves fitness, helps with life skills such asworking as team work and co-operation, it helps build confidence and there is a fantastic social side.

Is cheerleading suitable for everybody?

Yes all ages and abilities, cheerleading is done on a level basis so there is a level suitable for everyone. There are different elements to a cheer routine, dance, tumble, stunt and jumps.

Do you enjoy any other genre of dance?

Yes I enjoy all styles of dance, we offer pom dance, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and next season we will be offering Acro.

Although you are based in the UK, are teams outside of the UK allowed to enter your events?

Yes of course we welcome everyone.

What ICE events are planned for the rest of 2018/2019?

We have lots of dance and cheer events lined up for the next season and they take place all over the country :

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

At the moment I’m pregnant with my second baby so a big maternity dress with expandable sandals for my swollen feet. When not pregnant you will find me in leggings and jeans and flats, usually covered in George’s (my toddler) latest  meal.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love ASOS because there is so much to choose from and outfits and shoes for every occasion.

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

I would love some fashionable day wear but I have a feeling with baby boy number 2 on the way it will be a while until I make any major investments into my wardrobe, although I will be investing in some winter boots at the start of the winter season.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, they look lovely and are very comfortable plus there are lots of different styles, long, mid length, ankle, flat etc so there is something for most occasions.

For Pinning Later

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncrediblyCoolEvents/
Website: www.incrediblycoolevents.co.uk
Twitter: @ICE_Events1
Intsagram: incrediblycoolevents

I wish you the very best for both your impending nappy event and your programme of events, Kimberley. I think the name of your company is incredibly cool too….

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Kimberley Mason (Incredibly Cool Events).

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One In Eight Men

Prostate Cancer.  Did you know that in the UK, about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives? It is the most common form of cancer in men in the UK.  Prostate Cancer is killing more men than breast cancer in the UK, according to latest 2018 figures published in February. Women have screening for breast cancer and this is one reason why mortality rates for prostate cancer are now higher than breast cancer – there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer and research into prostate cancer lags about 20 years behind that for breast cancer.

What is the prostate?  Basically it is a gland about the size and shape of a walnut, sitting underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It’s main job is to help make semen.

Unfortunately it is often symptomless at first – in later stages it can cause pain, difficulty in urination, sexual intercourse problems & erectile dysfunction.  The cancer cells can spread from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes.

The average age for men to be diagnosed is between 65 & 69. Men under 50 can get it, but it isn’t that common.  Risk factors include: being male; aged over 50; having a father/brother who has had prostate cancer; having a mother/sister who has had breast cancer; if you are black – 1 in 4 black men are at risk, although the reasons why has not been discovered as yet but it may be connected to genes.

Prostate Cancer UK is the UK national charity looking to spread awareness about this cancer and this year my husband Adam is doing bike rides on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, trying to raise money and awareness.  I interviewed Adam to find out more…

Adam, on June 23rd 2018 you are taking part in cycling the first stage of the Tour De France , on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK. What made you decide to take part?

I’m a man of a certain age and Prostate Cancer worries me. If I can do something to help those who are suffering or will be suffering in the future by pursuing a hobby I enjoy, then I’m more than willing to take part. I’m an avid Tour de France fan and having the opportunity to ride a stage of the Tour de France which my cycling heroes will be racing a week later, is a worthwhile challenge and a chance to make a bit of a difference.

Also on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, you are riding in the Prudential London Ride 100, at the end of July, which you have ridden before. What are the toughest parts of the course?

Leith Hill. Absolutely Leith Hill. It is a very narrow and steep section of the road and it gets congested with people walking and pushing their bikes instead of riding, so it does become a challenge to maintain enough momentum to stay upright.

How are you preparing for the rides?

By riding lots. It’s all about hours in the saddle and the miles. Training up to 75% of both distances up to the events and lowering the mileage a week before.

Have you got other rides on your bucket list for the future?

If I tell you that  you won’t let me go! LOL! I quite fancy the Granfondo Campagnolo Roma ….darling! 😉 Maybe one day a mountain stage of the Tour de France rather than a flat stage, but I would need to lose a few pounds first!

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

I enjoy the exercise, my cycling companions, the noticeable fitness improvements, sense of achievement after finishing long rides, being outside & enjoying the environment.  I don’t enjoy busy roads and close passes.

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

Besides tight figure hugging Lycra …. cargo shorts, t shirts and trainers.  However, I do wear a 3 piece suit and Jeffrey West boots on occasions!

Favourite Shops/Online Sites:

Wiggle (online);  Cycle Evolution, a local bike shop in Colchester.

Boots or Shoes?

Trainers generally; flip flops in the summer; boots when I’m poshing up!

Links you wish to share:

http://adamhobden.com

 

Linda x

Photos: Linda & Adam Hobden

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