back to work

Back to School | Learning How to Write Aged 49 and Three Quarters!

So today I went back to school!  I was surprisingly un-nervous about the whole thing considering I haven’t set foot in a classroom for something like 10 years – and that was for a Spanish evening class. Admittedly it’s only a two day course, but the prospect of returning to the ‘big smoke’ after a long absence and having to mingle with grown ups and hot young digital executives plying their trade on an IDM Digital Copywriting course, should have made me quiver in my dinosaur skin boots. The prospect of having the luxury of a total of three hours on the train to focus on my long ‘to do list’ soon evaporated any fear!

And sure enough I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t feel old at all, despite the fact that when I actually looked around the room, I had 20 years, if not 30 on most of the people in it.  That was with the notable exception of the course tutor,  who looked exactly how you would imagine a communications lecturer in the mid 80s to have looked! That at least hasn’t changed. The subject matter has of course changed dramatically. He introduced himself as somebody who had been writing since ‘before the internet’ was invented, and that gave me much comfort indeed.

He was of course exceedingly knowledgable, which also gave me hope that there is value in the digital world, and some inspiration in the creativity, flexibility and freedom that it allows you. He addressed his varied audience appropriately and enthusiastically, and I felt like I belonged in that room – a very pleasant surprise.

So why did I feel the need to ‘go back to school’? Well, I have been thinking about that. I have always loved to write. Apparently I was okay at it at school, but somebody forgot to tell me that, which was why an A in my English ‘O’ Level was a bit of a shock to me.  But in all honesty I assumed that it was because I hadn’t had to revise for it!  Ds in RE & Sociology seemed to bear that out!

As my life has gone on, people have said things like, ‘I love the way you write’, ‘you’re a good writer you know’ and ‘I love getting your letters’. And over time, I have slowly come to realise that writing is not only something that I love to do, but that sometimes people actually enjoy reading what I’ve produced.

Thanks to the extraordinary age of the internet, it has become gloriously easy to ‘publish’ yourself for the enjoyment of others, but mainly yourself, these days, with absolutely no experience or qualifications to justify it.  I finally took that plunge about three years’ ago creating not one but two blogs, and I’ve never looked back. To write is a joy – to have it read, an even greater one, to have web stats confirm that even strangers have read it, and have people say nice things..a dream come true.

But the truth is, despite having worked in marketing, and having written many many pieces of copy over the years, I have never actually been paid to ‘write’! Writing has been part of my job, but a very varied job indeed. I have never felt that I was getting paid to do that specific thing – partly also, I am sure, because I’d blagged my way into most of those jobs with other skills!

One day last year I got a phone call asking me if I was interested in a freelance copywriting role. I didn’t get it, but almost immediately I realised that that is what I wanted to do. At that point I didn’t have the confidence to even consider charging people money for my writing, and even though I write a lot of stuff for free for various organisations, that leap seemed too great. Writing for free is easy to do – nobody is judging you for something they don’t pay for, and they are often even grateful.

All of this prompted me to think that I needed some benchmark to make me feel like I actually knew what I was doing. Despite having spent almost 8 years doing some sort of social media, blogging and online marketing entirely self taught, I just didn’t feel like I did.  After some research I found a lovely little 2-day course run by the Institute of Direct & Digital Marketing specifically on Digital Copywriting – a perfect way to check in and make sure that what I’ve been bluffing my way through had some value.

And after day one I’m feeling pretty positive! Yes, I need to adopt some disciplines specific and important to digital copy and think things through in greater detail. But when the lecturer went round the room and asked what we would take away from the day, I said I would be thinking about who I was writing for in future.  Because in all honesty, I have always written for me, the act of splurging words a pleasure in itself. Which is probably why I often feel embarrassed about what I write – because it’s self indulgent.

To write for a living would be a dream come true – of that there is no doubt, but to do that I must learn to write for others. And that has to be my overriding lesson from my first day back at school!  That and that according to Ernest Hemingway, every first draft is shit!  Well that’s a relief!

PS. I think I’ve just broken just about every single rule that I have learned today, but practise makes perfect, and I’ve always been a bit of a rebel in the classroom!


For the Love of Books
A Resourceful Life

Happy World Book Day!

So I have two obsessions/passions in life – one is of course waste reduction and recycling – the other is a much more simple pleasure, and that is books!  World Book Day gets me particularly excited about life. I think some people would call me a bibliophile because the sight of a book shop or a library or even a pile of books gets my heart racing, and the likes of Waterstone’s, and even better, a dusty old independent book shop, is my idea of Shangri-La! My dream would be to have a coffee shop full of vintage upcycled furniture, and books, hundreds of them, where people could come to relax and read! One day…in the meantime, here is my Waste Not Want Not Guide to making the very most of every single tome, and every single page, and every single word of beauty!

Sadly, books cannot actually be recycled – the glue that binds them together prevents this at the moment! So here are a few ideas as to what you might want to do with your books to prolong their life!  A book, after all, should live forever!


One of the most beautiful things about a book is its ability to go on a journey!  From the moment it is bought and read, enjoyed, reflected on, to the moment the pages finally turn to dust, it will have passed from hand to hand, reader to reader – it is one product that was destined to be recycled over and over again!  So if you have a book that you have loved, pass it friends, family, on social media, wherever! Talk about it, engage people in the pleasure that you have experienced and pass it on!  That said, when I have read a book I REALLY love, I have to hide it in the depths of my bookshelf, and jealously keep it!  I did that yesterday with The Miniaturist! But for the most part, I pass my books on. I particularly love it when I find a book that people have written in saying who they are and when and where they read it! Some of those journeys can be quite remarkable!


There are several sites online where you can simply exchange your books! Great idea! A win/win for everybody! Check out Book Crossing which is lovely as it also enables you to track your book’s journey, or Book Mooch.


For whatever cause you fancy! I did it as part of a Jumble Sale for our school last year, and I got excited by every single donation.  People love book sales, it means that they can add  to their children’s libraries or pick up obscure titles, very very cheaply, and it is a fabulous way to raise money for a good cause. For more information on how I organised our Jumble Sale, here you go!


Obviously the book is a staple of the charity shop – I think the most common reason people pop into a charity shop is to have a browse of the books, so it is vital that they keep their stocks healthy, as that then leads people to spend more money while they are there.  Some charities, such as Oxfam, the Red Cross, even have specialist bookshops to make sure they make the most money they can – often people have no idea of the second hand value of their books, and this ensures that everything is sold at its appropriate value.  You will often see book banks at your local recycling facility so it is a simple job to donate them.


Now I wouldn’t normally suggest this because my first choice would always be to give your books to charity, but it is better than throwing them in the bin! If you Google recycle books, you will be met with a raft of options if you’ve got some books you would rather sell.


So the other option is to create something beautiful out of unwanted books! Here’s a great article with some lovely ideas, and of course Pinterest is awash with more!

I personally can think of about half a dozen other things I would like to do with books – supply them to schools in Africa, Asia and anywhere else they don’t have any, set up book exchanges in railway stations, hospitals, and even telephone boxes in villages, but at the moment, these are your options.

If you have any other ideas, then please do get in touch – we’d love to hear!

This article was originally written for my other blog, Waste Not Want Not, which focuses on living life resourcefully!  If you would like to find out more, check it out!


A Resourceful Life, Uncategorized

You Call it Cake, I Call it Kuchen | A Most Resourceful Fruity Traybake

So it’s my dad’s birthday this week (sadly no longer with) and it is at this time of year that my mind always turns to my childhood memories. My dad was 100% bonafide German, and he loved his food…German food, English food…his life was food! And I am pretty sure this stemmed from the exceptional introduction he had to it as a child. Because my grandmother lived the most resourceful life imaginable bringing up three small boys in a tiny village in wartime Germany.  

Along with Liesel the cow as her provider of dairy items, she grew everything she could herself.  She had an exceptional vegetable patch providing exotic delights such as white asparagus, lambs lettuce, krauts and brassicas of every variety, and gorgeous waxy potatoes which tasted like gold!  Her two cherry trees gave forth juicy fruits in almost vulgar abundance, her little garden also providing plums, apples, and apricots too – her Sauerkirschen (cherries in syrup) were the stuff of legends and an unforgettable treat when we visited. She had a cellar full of preserved treasures that Aladdin would be proud of – I can still smell the musty dankness that always meant something yummy was about to emerge!

And as for her baking – well, that was just other worldly! Upon the hour of Kaffee und Kuchen traditionally enjoyed in the afternoon in Germany, she would offer up her legendary Erdbeerkuchen (strawberry flan), Kaesekuchen (cheesecake) and on rare and joyous occasions, my absolute favourite, Zwetchkenkuchen (damson cake). How she created such things in a Kueche the size of most people’s downstairs loo I shall never know!

This probably explains why for me the perfect ‘cake’ consists of some sort of orchard fruit, a plain vanillary or even spicy base and a nice helping of crunchy Streusel or crumble on top.  This combination of sharp, sweet moist fruit and stodgy base is just the perfect accompaniment to the obligatory cup of strong hot coffee! (They don’t drink tea! And if they do, it’s got lemon in it!)

These days I seldom get back to the ‘Fatherland’, but my love of German baked goods has never diminished. Sadly my talents in the baking department were not inherited from my Oma. My attempts to recreate these favourites have usually ended with disappointment, especially as the traditional recipes are often made with a yeast base – one too many processes for me!

So it was with utter delight that I discovered this particular recipe which I am sharing with you today – my super flexible fruity traybake – far from traditional, but creating the closest experience I can manage to my idea of cake heaven.

Best of all it is super simple recipe, involving just one pan, and can be adapted to use up just about any combination of left over or luscious soft or orchard fruits! Obviously I favour a plum or a damson, but it’s wonderful with peaches, raspberries, apples, apricots and even rhubarb! And throw in some blueberries if you want a modern twist!  My secret is to always keep a whole 250g pack of butter in the fridge, because that’s where this starts! Here’s how you can do it too!


  • 250g pack of butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • approx 200g of any soft fruit
  • a pinch of salt
  • crunchy topping – either flaked almonds, a dusting of icing sugar or ‘traditional Streusel’ or crumble!

For the Streusel:

  • 25g flour
  • 85g demerara sugar, plus 1 tbsp
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g cold butter
  • 3 tbsp toasted, chopped hazelnuts


  • Line and grease a tray bake tin approx 20 x 30 cm.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  • Melt the butter in a pan. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add the sugar and eggs stirring constantly.
  • Add the vanilla essence.
  • Add the flour and almonds, stirring constantly.
  • Throw in a pinch of salt.
  • Pour into the tin.
  • Chop your fruit into 1cm size pieces or larger if you prefer and scatter over the top.
  • Make the Streusel by rubbing together all of the ingredients either by hand or in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Scatter over the fruit.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, and then cover with foil. Bake for a further 30 minutes, checking along the way.

Dust with icing sugar, cut into squares and serve!


motherhood, Running

Running Like a Child and Weeing Down Hill – Discovering My Love of the Trails!

Like many women of a certain age with responsibilities at home, running has become an essential part of my life – some much needed ‘me time’ and fresh air coupled with a sense of accomplishment, as well as a way to connect with others doing the same, having a laugh and generally keeping sane!

And that is really what I had been doing for the last three years reconnecting with the me that ran the London Marathon for a dare in 2005 and found that contrary to her previous belief that she had literally no sporting ability….yes she could! Not to any notable standard of course but to cross a line that she never thought she’d cross and find that running was something that she really loved, well that was the best thing she’d ever done. One foot in front of the other, as far as your mind and your body would go, breathing, thinking, dancing in the streets – true freedom!

Fast forward 10 years – London’s golden pavements have been replaced with the pot-holed roads of West Sussex, but the feeling’s still the same! Freedom, joy and sometimes just sheer elation to feel the rhythm of the road beneath my feet. But after three years of running 5ks, 10ks and even half marathons, becoming slightly obsessed with pace, times and other things that weren’t even possible to track when I had first started running, I was looking for something new. Apart from anything else, I wanted the confidence to explore the stunning countryside I had grown up in. Still feeling like a towny, I just hadn’t quite got the guts to break off down a footpath or bridleway and see where the mood took me.

And then I was lucky enough to stumble across Rachel – the local running superwoman who literally inspires awe in most of the Sunday plodders in these here parts. She told me about the Club KARIBU runs – guided trail runs in West Sussex, easy to access and all inclusive, and invited me to come along!

Needless to say I was terrified. Trail running is for super athletes – geared up to the hilt – not mere mortals like me! But I thought what the hell, she who dares probably falls on her bum, but I signed up anyway! Nonetheless it was with a great deal of trepidation that I turned up at a spot somewhere near East Dean in the same pair of shorts I’d been wearing for 13 years in a pair of comparatively low tech road shoes, to a car park full of confident, rugged, geared up, fit looking people! I had that moment of thinking, what the hell am I doing here! How wrong I was.

Firstly, the moment everyone shot off up a frighteningly steep hill, it was apparent that everyone was chatting and friendly – it was also apparent that it was perfectly acceptable to walk up the hill if you couldn’t manage it, and encourage others along the way.

There were frequent stops for the slower runners to catch up with the quicker ones – no pressure to push yourself, but a sense that everyone was part of the same challenge and group. 6k later and I had had the time of my life! I’m not saying parts of it didn’t hurt – it did, and I got to push myself, otherwise what would be the point! But the countryside we covered was amazing – like nowhere I’d ever run before! Through forests and fields and on terrain I would never have considered running on my own.

Before I knew it I had signed up to one of the KARIBU Trail Running Workshops. And that was the icing on the cake. An amazing day of being taught how to run like a child again – with freedom, and confidence and no fear at all, because that is what trail running is all about!

And who doesn’t love a good whoop through the trees – I just can’t help myself, nor can I get enough of ‘weeing’ down a hill without fear of falling flat on my face. Of course, it is entirely possible that I will do just that, but thanks to Sam’s amazing tips on technique, it is far less likely to happen, and a truly magical feeling!

Is it harder than road running? Yes, in a way it is. The terrain can be tougher, muddier and uneven – tree roots are not your friend. But the rewards are so worth it – and most importantly it really is do-able. For every grinding up hill, there’s an amazing view, a truly adrenalin pumping downhill, a feeling of being away from civilisation and amongst the fields and forests. That is a feeling money can’t buy and I want to keep it forever.

Now I try and run at least once a week with KARIBU – it means that I can see new parts of this amazing county and neighbouring counties, feel encouraged, feel like I am achieving, without worrying about times, and without worrying about anything but enjoying the moment.

They say people are either road runners or trail runners, but I can honestly say that I am bi – I still love the road, but I find I am a much stronger road runner now as a result of my trail running, and the trails give me something else. I can’t recommend hitting the trails or KARIBU highly enough!

Club KARIBU offers guided trail runs and other benefits across Sussex and Surrey.


How to Fake Heinz Tomato Soup and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Have To Do!

About a year ago I returned to life as a full time mum for reasons which are largely irrelevant to the point of this story, but which involved a health crisis in the family. At the time I was completely consumed with the situation at hand, and I didn’t miss my ‘part time job’ one bit! Of course, my ‘part time job’ had become ‘full time on part time hours and pay’ and unmanageable with the Shangri La of the ‘best of the both worlds’ rapidly descending into a living nightmare.

In my mind, most things happen for a reason, which is slightly unfortunate for my mother who ended up having a truly horrific experience and an extended stay in hospital following a routine operation. But, on the plus side, she ended up in a lovely little apartment in Central Chichester, and I ended up being able to walk away from a job that was no longer working for me, with my head held high, knowing that I had done my best, and now had other priorities!

I was so behind with life in general at the point where things started to return to ‘normality’, that I feel like I’ve spent the last 8 or 9 months doing ‘nothing’ – just keeping on top of laundry, doing jobs that have long needed doing – and that doesn’t include the filing which is still sitting there staring at me, lopsided and about to topple!

Okay, so I will confess that this period of doing ‘ nothing’ has also included organising a school jumble sale, summer festival and bonfire event – not single handedly but nonetheless, and managing a garden re-landscape which is still on-going! Just making coffee for the workers takes out a chunk of your time. Oh and looking after two dogs, one very elderly and recently departed, 7 chickens, two guinea pigs, a husband and an eight year old…not necessarily in that order!

But for me, quite a lot of the time that feels like ‘nothing’, mainly because it all feels very mundane, and at times goes completely unnoticed.  My ‘me time’ tends to consist of running and writing, both of which give me massive mental and physical boosts, but ultimately I feel guilty about doing either of them because they feel self indulgent!  And even though I now have more time than ever to do all the things I’ve never had time to do, I still like I’m failing at everything..not doing anything properly!

With that in mind, I decided I needed to up my game in the kitchen…at least until I’ve decided what to do with the rest of my life! I decided that I needed to at least feel like I’d achieved the ultimate ‘perfect mother dream’ of providing nutritious meals for my family!   I have NEVER been a fan of ready meals – not for any moral or philosophical reasons – I just don’t like them. And even through my less encumbered years, the most I would succumb to was a jar of ‘Chicken Tonight’ jalfrezi sauce for a dinner party, living on toast, Marmite and Sauvignon Blanc the rest of the time – but never a microwave meal!

I blame my mother for this of course! Despite being a full time working single mother, she always delivered a home cooked hot meal for us in the evenings – or at least until I got so fussy I lived on chicken noodle packet soup and Bird’s Whisk and Serve custard! In my most formative years, we always had roast on Sunday, cold meat and chips on a Monday, and a combination of spag bol, home made soup, and other family favourites the rest of the week! I dare say there were probably more chips on the menu than might be politically acceptable these days, but at least they were home made, real potato and cooked in a deep fat fryer! In fact I learned to cut chips before I could ride a bike!

So for me menu planning has become a regular part of my weekend activity – always in consultation with the end consumers of course, and around their busy play and work schedules.  I even re-signed up to the veg box subscription malarky to push myself to use new ingredients – having failed on three previous occasions to make it work, I have this week cooked with fennel and venison and I’m about to knock up a spicy red pepper and lentil soup! So already, I feel like progress is being made! Masterchef here I come – or even a modicum of self satisfaction is good enough for me!

Or not…because blow me, if I haven’t spent this week on two of the most ridiculous culinary missions of my parenting journey! On Saturday I found myself trying to persuade my daughter that my home-made spaghetti carbonara is better than the Marks and Spencer’s microwave version which she absolutely loves!  I suggested a blind taste challenge to prove my point, and set to work creating identical looking carbonaras without so much as a stray dot of oregano out of place!  But un-fooled she was, immediately identifying the imposter and refusing to eat it! Happily, my husband preferred mine, but that felt like a hollow victory!

And last night we came home from gymnastics, and I had that sinking feeling that I really didn’t have anything in! The loss of the dog has sent me off kilter a bit this week, and my menu planning has gone to pot! But she was keen on some Heinz Tomato soup with bread rolls and vegetables, which all sounded very do-able/acceptable!  Until I got home to check the tinned soup stash – no Heinz Tomato!!!! Ultimate parenting fail!

All was not lost, however, as I did have a punnet of cherry tomatoes and a good deal of determination to create a healthy replica of Britain’s best loved branded tomato soup! And it honestly didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to do it! It would have taken longer to open the tin!  I did go through the extra process of ‘passing’ the soup through a sieve to eliminate the risk of a stray tomato seed betraying me, and I even did something which I loathe, adding a bit of flour to the soup to thicken it up – but ultimately all it had it in was good and fresh!

And it did indeed go down well! She knew it wasn’t Heinz but she ate it, and so did the equally fussy Heinz Tomato loving husband who actually didn’t believe it wasn’t the real thing!  Yes, that does deserve a mini air punch! Although he does suspect me of some sort of subterfuge.

So that’s ‘one all’ to Ella and I on my mission to provide more wholesome grub to my daughter! Although I duly recognise that the greatest challenge of all is to even get close to re-creating the ‘school child’ Ambrosia which appears to be school macaroni cheese! What they put in it I don’t know, but it’s the crack cocaine of school meals! I have yet to meet a parent who has found a reasonable alternative for their child, despite many many attempts and methods, including ‘just add water’ packets, frozen, microwavable, take away portions from the pub, even Pot Noodle’s own attempt, you name it – I fear it is impossible!

But above all it seems ironic to me that things have come to this – faking tinned soup! What a way to get your fulfilment in life…apart from folding pants, and unloading the dishwasher of course, all of which just fill me with joy! Never mind, I hear there’s an aubergine on the way in my veg box this week, and I’m not afraid to use it!



The Miracle of Person Making

It suddenly hit me this evening, as I watched my beautiful daughter meander her way into the bathroom and make a massive deal out of cleaning her teeth, that I had made a person..a whole living, breathing person.  One capable of so much, and of occupying so much of my life, that I can barely imagine life before she existed.

Of course traditionally people believe that person making just takes two people – a boy and a girl, and a bit of biological luck. Although in my case it wasn’t quite as simple as that – it took a whole lot of medical science, some amazing doctors and medical staff, and a few pharmaceutical items to boot! I’ve always been immensely grateful to those people for her very existence of course.

Today my person finished Key Stay 2 at school and it occurred to me as I reflected at how quickly she had gone through the first three years of her school life, that it takes quite a few more people along the way to make a person! Between Reception and Year 2 our children change almost beyond belief. From babies to proper functioning and almost independent people in the blink of an eye! From barely walking and talking, to chit chatting, cartwheeling forces of nature, who make us laugh every single day.

Ella’s teacher left today. He’s been at the school for 6 years, and it was a sad occasion. He is officially ‘the funniest teacher in the world!’ She’s very lucky with her school, and she’s been incredibly lucky with her teachers, all of whom have been very different, but all of whom have undoubtedly left their mark on the little person they have been charged with helping to make. Because that is actually what teachers do. They spend so much time with our children, that they are as important in many ways as we as parents are, and I can see the mark that each one has left on Ella on her journey so far. I never expected any child of mine to be demanding to practise fractions on the way to school for a start. Sometimes I wonder if there’s been some mistake!

So as school closes for summer, I just want to say that I am total awe of teachers and always will be. How you handle that many children, particularly small ones and actually teach them anything is beyond me. And most of you do it for every other reason than the fact that it is a ‘job’!

So thank you to Mrs T, Miss H and Mr L for the last three years, for helping my little person to grow and flourish, and to all the other staff, especially our lovely head teacher, and other teachers,  who work so hard to make sure she becomes the best she can be! Person making is anything but easy, is a team job, and we all need all the help we can get!

Happy holidays everyone!



Today I smiled as Ella did her pony tail for the fourteenth time to get it ‘just right’ when she should have been cleaning her teeth. Today we walked to school extra slowly not caring if we were late. Today I missed her every second she was at school. Today I let her have an extra 10 minutes in the playground, took her to an extra Sainsbury’s to find a Lego sticker book, and let her have an extra biscuit with her tea. Today I looked extra hard at that beautiful face that I adore. Today I watched her swinging with utter joy , abandon and innocence on her swing in the evening sunshine when she should have been in bed and I could truly think of no more beautiful sight. Today I realised that today is what is important. Because who knows what tomorrow brings. Sending love to Manchester. x