Paul Noble and Collins Books

If I need a dictionary or phase book then I always turn to Collins books. They have now joined forces with Paul Noble, the highly acclaimed English linguist with a language school in London.

Collins has been publishing educational and informative books for 200 years. Throughout this rich heritage they have held an impressive record in creating market-leading products across various sectors. With a database of over 4.5 billion words, they constantly monitor text from publications, websites and transcripts around the world to ensure their dictionaries are up-to-date. There is a free online dictionary at which provides a snapshot of world languages. Collins is the home to bilingual dictionaries and language learning products and now the Paul Noble audio courses.

Paul Noble acts as the instructor on his products, which are published through Collins. the languages are: Spanish, French, German and Italian- Chinese has now been introduced to the range.

My friend has tried the Paul Noble method to learn French and has found this a great way to learn quickly, the reviews are also very good. I saw Paul Noble on TV a while ago, where he was showing people how to learn languages and I was impressed by how easy and fun he made it look. I learnt French at school and have attended a couple of classes as an adult, which were a bit disappointing to be honest. I have also listened to various discs including linguaphone. I am not quite a beginner, but I am certainly no linguist and I would love to be better at these. Learning a language is also supposed to be good for your brain power, which is an added bonus.

Now is it possible to learn a language in just one day? The Express newspaper sent a reporter along to meet Paul Noble to see if this was possible.

This is a short summary of the interview:

Paul shows himself to be as friendly, approachable and entertaining a genius as you could ever want to meet. The Collins people might say he’s a genius but no, he chuckles, it’s actually just not teaching language in a ridiculous way. That is all it is, just doing it in a sensible way. Why wouldn’t you do things so people understand it? Why wouldn’t you teach them the more useful stuff, rather than the less useful stuff?

So, what is he referring to exactly? I always had the feeling that it would be incredibly cool to be able to speak a foreign language, he admits. When we did have any language classes in school, I was never any good. I did history at university but I actually spent most of my time studying languages at home by myself. Paul confesses that he became obsessed with the idea of being able to speak a language and consumed as many different courses as he possibly could. In doing so, he discovered that traditional ways of learning a language just didn’t suit him. Most language courses are terrible, he says. So how does he do it? Well, rather than spending an age learning the nuts and bolts of a foreign language, such as the grammatical terms that we all remember with a groan, Paul’s argument is that if you want to speak a language then you need to do just that. If you want a course that makes you better at speaking the language then the course should be making you speak the language, he argues and after just five minutes, I have to say that he’s right.

I would agree with this myself; it sounds a lot like the courses I tried, I much prefer the sound of his classes!

When asked why he started his training school, Paul says that the most commonly used phrase, uttered in foreign language classrooms across the entire English- speaking world is: I’m no good at languages also frequently expressed as I’m not gifted at languages. Curiously, this is a phrase which is especially common, to the experience of language learning. I don’t think, for instance, that I have personally ever heard it used by anyone learning to drive a car. Whenever I’ve met people who are having trouble learning to drive, very often their response is: I suppose it’ll just take time. Rarely do they suggest that they are simply not gifted at driving.

Having said this, I have never considered myself to be especially gifted at languages. As a teenager, although I was successful academically, I was totally lost with languages, bemused and frustrated by them. I found them so difficult in fact that I probably would never have given them another thought, except for the chance coinciding of my initial failures at language learning and my passing of the MENSA entry test. When I gained entry into MENSA, I did ask myself why it was that I could have a high IQ and yet be appallingly bad at languages. Was there a connection? Or was it just a question of not being gifted as one might or might not be in music, for example?

I did try to learn a language again later but I always met with failure and utter frustration. The explanations given to me by teachers and grammar books bamboozled me and progress seemed impossible. One day, I was wandering through a second-hand book shop, when I came across a very old and extremely tatty French textbook. Glancing inside, I came across a quote, which struck me at the time and which was to change the whole direction of my life. It was by the eighteenth-century French writer, Antoine de Rivarol

Grammar is the art of lifting the difficulties out of a language; the lever must not be heavier than the burden

 I was very much affected and inspired by this idea, that grammar should actually remove the difficulties from a language, rather than being a troublesome subject in itself. I thought long and hard about what de Rivarol had said and with this basic idea in mind I set about self-instructing myself, both in French and German, all the time being guided by this basic notion. I deliberated a great deal about how the difficulties from typical textbook and grammar book explanations could be removed. So as to give myself and others a more usable understanding of foreign languages. During my initial period of self-instruction, I also began to seek out any course or book that was easier for me to understand and to learn the language from, I found very few. Most courses offered much the same as that which I had experienced at school. So were of little help.

A small minority of authors and teachers did exist, however, who had produced books, audio-tapes and CDs that at least hinted at better ways to teach like: Alphonse Chérel, Jacques Roston, Lewis Robins, Charles Duff, Margarita Madrigal and Michel Thomas. Looking back, I can honestly say that each of them changed my life and helped me drag myself those initial steps along the path towards being able to speak a foreign language properly. In spite of this, I was nevertheless acutely aware that they each still suffered from serious weaknesses. Nonetheless, they did each help me to take some of those first steps. On top of this, however, these courses were perhaps most valuable in that they acted as an aid in prompting me to try out some aspects of the instructional viewpoints employed by them, with the hope that they would make instruction easier and more effective. These provoked me into asking the most important question: why it was that, if courses could be fleetingly insightful and useful, they couldn’t be insightful, useful and use real language from beginning to end. This in turn led me into thinking long and hard about what it was that allowed each of their methodologies to work but then, ultimately, to fail at certain points.

Considerable time passed as I considered this during which I came across the works of various authors, each of whom exerted a significant influence on the way I thought about languages or about learning in general. Spurred in part by this realisation ,I decided to try writing a course of my own, one which would be guided by the belief that there was nothing so complicated in foreign languages that it could not be made simple and with the intention that this principle would be sustained throughout the entirety of the course. It would be a course where students got everything they were taught and where everything they were taught was useful, real language, which would allow them to hold a normal conversation with another human being. Finally, it would also be a course where, by its end, each student would actually be able to remember what they had been taught. Eventually, I did write several courses based on this principle. They took a long time to develop and each had to be trial tested for many months just to make certain that they were heading in the right direction.

I found that I was able to get the results I desired and they were quite remarkable. Whereas students might normally spend several years studying languages at school and come out unable to communicate in that language, students were leaving my classes after the first few hours, able to construct complex sentences and to begin communicating in the language they had been taught. Based on the great success of these courses, I eventually founded a private language college. The Paul Noble Language Institute, as it came to be known. The French, Spanish and Italian courses I developed at the Institute were subsequently published by Collins. Since their publication, I have gone on to work exclusively with East Asian languages.

Paul gives 5 tips on learning a new language;

  1. Study at least a little every day. Learning a language is like building a fire, if you don’t tend to it, it will go out. It doesn’t have to be for a long time though. Just 5 or 10 minutes each day will be enough.
  • Stop while you’re still enjoying it. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that the key to his body building success was that he stopped his work- out each day just before it started to get boring.
  • Use your hidden moments. The famous American linguist, Barry Farber, learnt a great part of the languages he spoke during the hidden moments he found in everyday life. Such hidden moments might include the time he would spend waiting for a train to arrive or for the traffic to get moving in the morning. These hidden moments could include lunch breaks.
  • Forget what you were taught at school. Many of us were told at school that we did not have an aptitude for languages, that we didn’t have a knack or a gift for them.
  • Choose the right language. If you’re going to learn a foreign language, make sure you choose a language that you’re going to have a chance to use. Like going on holiday. Could a particular foreign language be useful at work?

To find out more information, the website is below and the Collins books and audio courses are available through the Collins website or Amazon. I hope you have chance to give it a try!

Global Trending in Beauty

So, I have talked about de-cluttering and I think we are all in agreement less is more. The beauty industry has always been centred on multi-selling and buying the full range of products. The industry average sale per transaction is three, so they hope to sell at least 3 items per customer. We have all thought that to get great results, we had to buy every product. (Many of which we never use) Major changes are now occurring, people are becoming overwhelmed by having so much stuff. Now it’s the age of low-effort beauty. As awareness grows of the impact that the sheer amount of our purchases have on the planet, it is clear that conscious consumerism is here to stay. Trends such as slow beauty and minimalist beauty point the same way, shoppers are not only drawn to buying less, they can see the beauty benefits of using fewer products. Whilst buying less for themselves consumers are still expecting products to deliver all of the results they want. There is a shift towards purposeful beauty that will only become more pronounced in the future.

In the year 2020 and the decade ahead, beauty brands must go beyond product, and contribute positively to the world– Cosmetic Business Report 2019.

What are the global trends and how will these affect the environmentally – minded consumer? As young consumers gain more spending power, they have different expectations of the beauty world. They fully expect brands to prove that there is a reason for their existence, one that contributes in some way positively to the environment, to society and to supporting individual expression.

According to Mintel, over the next 10 years, two distinct forces of change will disrupt the beauty consumer landscape. The brand to consumer relationship will shift in a more seismic manner, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds) goes mainstream. At the same time, consumer behaviour will become increasingly polarising and fluctuate across a spectrum driven by information and emotion. Consumers will explore the push-pull between nature and science; each must support the other to expand beauty consumption.

The three main trends are below:

Water– The new luxury Water is set to become a precious commodity as consumption outstrips supply. The more consumers become aware of this, the more beauty brands will need to change how they manufacture and formulate products to limit their dependence on water.

Power Play- Consumers are facing an energy crisis as the pace of modern life catches up with them. Aware of consumers’ need to make long-term lifestyle changes to address falling energy levels, beauty brands are delivering products that put energy claims at the forefront of their message.

Gastronomia – ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The interest in natural ingredients is on the rise as more people dare to push up their sleeves and get involved in the process of creating beauty products.

In layman terms what does this all mean? Consumers will increasingly seek out brands whose values align with their own, 90% of consumers believe that companies and brands have a responsibility to take care of the planet and its people. Ethical and sustainable beauty will continue to dominate the industry. Brands will be required to display greater honesty and transparency about their products, which will include the ingredients, some of which have been guarded secrets.

 “Looking ahead to the new decade, brands will begin their shift away from misleading buzzwords and hyped ingredients towards a more sustainable industry that considers tomorrow’s ecosystem,” says Jessica Smith, Senior Creative Researcher at The Future Laboratory.

I have worked with a few, independent beauty companies, packaging is always a huge problem to resolve, striking the balance between using less, but packing safety and causing less harm environmentally. Smaller companies who want to do The Right Thing may be limited financially in adapting to the changing market. However, as the industry continues to be spotlighted for its environmental impact and waste, all brands, large or small, need to look at reducing waste by removing unnecessary packaging. During Zero Waste Week, it was reported that the cosmetics industry produces 120 billion units of packaging per year. Which means that 18 million acres of forest is annually lost in part due to the cardboard used for beauty products. I met a small artisan company who had come up with some ingenious ways of packing sustainably on a tight budget.

The bring-back loyalty-based recycling schemes for bottles and jars, are a further way for brands to help consumers tread more lightly on the planet. Started by the Body shop. Anita Roddick, the founder of ethical beauty consumerism, I am sure would have had some great ideas!

We were all shocked at the plastic pollution in the scenes shown in the 2018’s Blue Planet TV show. Most businesses are actively trying to replace plastic with glass and aluminium which can be fully recycled and where possible using recycled packaging. Refillable and reusable packaging initiatives have been adopted, the larger refills, cut down on packaging and are cost- effective to the customer, these are appearing more and more in the mainstream market. Fully recyclable products will become a baseline and compostable packaging will be introduced more widely according to plastics provider Eastman, which recently announced three recycling technology loops using landfill-bound waste, bio-content, and consumer take-back materials to produce plastic packaging. The future could see plastic waste used as feed-stock and transformed into uncompromising luxury packaging that is indistinguishable from packaging made from fossil-based raw materials.

The luxury skin- care brand Haeckel’s, bio-contributing mycelium and seed paper packaging can be planted in the garden to add nutrients as it biodegrades and brings new plant live when the seeds germinate. Haeckel’s founder Dom Bridges says: “If shopping as a concept is to continue it must on all levels create at least no waste, but in order to create true sustainability, every product we make needs to contribute back to the ecosystem.

But beyond packaging, consumers are starting to question the sustainability of natural ingredients used in their beauty products and just how natural ‘natural’ products really are. Brands will need to have the confidence to explain exactly why they are using naturals or synthetics, particularly if the latter is more sustainable or long lasting. Over the past year, dozens of brands across the board have gained certification according to ethical standards, with cruelty-free and 100% vegan claims becoming increasingly common within the industry. While the beauty industry has traditionally been viewed as a culture of vanity and luxury, now characteristics such as health, ethics and positively impacting the environment, are the new status symbol. The bar has been raised for everything from efficacy to ethics, and in the years ahead, the consumer demands for ethical purchasing will evolve even further. The challenge will be how brands can innovate sustainably, develop alternative ‘greener’ packaging and adapt to the consumer-led changes.

The beauty industry has seen an influx of multi-task products hitting the market recently and there seems to be a fresh new buzz surrounding the reasons why these products are becoming such an integral part of our daily regimes. Men’s products, particularly those geared around sports, have often been multi-purpose, by that I mean a hair and body wash or a 2 in 1, shampoo and conditioner. In the 1980’s high volume, mass- produced products were made this way and promoted as a way of saving money, today the companies prompting these 2 in 1 products are more about saving the planet. The US brand, Illuum, with its you deserve less philosophy has fewer products, fewer ingredients and less skin stress. This skin care brand offers only six products, many of which contain just two or three ingredients each, which are designed to equip skin with the tools it needs to perform the job it was designed to do. Beauty experts have admitted that using too many products is worse for your skin that using too little, and have openly encouraged a pared-back beauty routine.

 If we buy into using multi-benefit products and the movement of less is more, by having 5 products in our bathroom instead of 15, is a positive step we can all take towards softening our environmental footprint.

I am going to try it, after I have de-cluttered my over-flowing bathroom cabinet. Will you too?

The Teenage Global Climate Protest.

Things are really changing now, even from only a few years ago, we couldn’t have predicted both the changes in our beliefs and the teenage global climate protests with Greta Thunberg at the helm. In the city where I live teenagers took to the streets to join the worldwide protests. I feel proud of them for standing up and speaking their minds. Now teenagers in general get a bad rapt, but on this, they are correct, we all know this is a major problem but right now they are the ones who are making a difference.

Anxious about their future on a hotter planet and angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis, masses of young people poured into the streets on every continent for a day of global climate protests. Organisers estimated the turnout to be around four million in thousands of cities and towns worldwide. Whether this global action solved the problem that the protesters have identified: arresting greenhouse gas emissions to stave off a climate catastrophe, who knows at this point? It depends on how effectively climate advocates can turn the momentum of the protest marches into sustained political pressure on governments and companies that produce those emissions. But surly, one of the biggest environmental protests the world has ever seen cannot be ignored by those in positions of power.

There is growing scientific concern. A slew of recent reports has warned that oceans are heating and the poles melting faster than expected. In the USA and Europe, politicians are considering green deals and policies that would ramp up the transition to renewable energy but with increasing emissions it could be said that more focus is needed and quickly.

Young people have a distinctive and valuable perspective. They deserve to be heard. Teenagers can already join British political parties, most of which grant full membership rights to mid-teens. In Scotland, 16-year-olds can vote in some elections and this should be extended to all elections across the UK. The damage that is occurring now will affect them more than us, so they should have a say. There are sensible questions to be asked about the influence exerted by parents and other adults on children professing strong opinions. But we should respect and welcome efforts by children and teenagers to make their voices heard and influence decision-making. After all, they will be living with the consequences for far longer than the rest of us. The accelerating climate crisis, with figures from the UK Met Office suggesting that 1.5C of warming could be reached in as little as five years, shows it is the time to demand tougher action to avert disaster.

There have been suggestions that someone older had put them up to it. The Flemish environment minister, Joke Schauvliege, took the stance that the recent school strikes across Belgium were a “set-up and that security services knew who was really “behind this movement”. However, the Belgian security services issued a rare denial and Ms Schauvliege resigned her position.

Greta Thunberg was a lonely figure, a painfully introverted, slightly built teenage girl, when she started a school strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm in 2018. Her parents tried to dissuade her and her classmates declined to join her. Pity and bemusement were expressed by passers-by at the sight of a 15-year-old sitting on the cobblestones with a hand-painted banner. Now the picture could not be more different. The pig-tailed teenager is feted across the world as a model of determination, inspiration, and positive action. As a climate activist, her one-person strikes in Stockholm helped ignite a global movement and she is known as a figurehead for this vast and growing movement. A handful of fossil fuel lobbyists, politicians, and journalists have argued Thunberg is not what she seems, that she was propelled into prominence by environmental groups and sustainable-business interests. The entrepreneur who first tweeted about the climate strike, Ingmar Rentzhog, used Thunberg’s name to raise investment for his company but this was done without her permission. She has now cut all links with the company and has since vowed never to be associated with commercial interests. She has also been withering about leaders in the USA, UK, and Australia who either ignore the strikers or admonish them for skipping classes.

Greta says “They are desperately trying to change the subject whenever the school strikes come up. They know they can’t win this fight because they haven’t done anything”

Such blunt talk has found a broad audience among people jaded by empty promises and eager to find a climate leader willing to ramp up ambition. Greta Thunberg is brutally honest and for this some people consider this a threat.

She has told demonstrators “If no one else will take action, then we will

 I personally think we should listen to our children on this one. There is an old Yorkshire saying “Out of the mouths of Babes”, which roughly means sometimes children have some clever ideas and know and see more clearly than adults. So, I will leave you with this thought!

The Soul of the Rose

I came across a TV documentary on BBC i-player called the Soul of The Rose which aired several years ago and found it a very moving story. One of my favourite scents is Rose Damask in its essential oil form, the high cost means this is a rare treat for me. Roses have been favoured for hundreds of years particularly in India. Rosewater showers are used in weddings and religious ceremonies.

For 400 hundred years in the Indian city of Kannauj, rose flowers have been distilled to make perfume. However due to the popularity of synthetic perfumes many distilleries have closed or are near to closing due to the decline in this industry. Twenty years ago, there were 700 perfume distilleries reducing to less than 100 in 2017. These distilleries produce oil-based perfumes from rose petals through steam-distillation, a traditional way of extracting fragrance in the perfume industry.

A visitor to Kannauj could easily miss the signs of what was once the city’s main industry. But among the cars, lorries and street vendors, occasionally a cart passes by laden with flower baskets and turns through a large gate into the stone-paved alleyways of the old city. Damask roses have to be picked by hand before sunrise and distilled on the same day. This intense but subtle scent requires 4 tonnes of hand-picked roses to make 1kg of rose alter. The rose petals are tipped into large copper pots called dhegs with a small amount of cold water. Under the pot, a fire is made with wood or dung and the water boiled for four to six hours. The hot steam releases the essential oils of the flower, which condenses and flows down bamboo pipes to a receiver pot. The perfumer’s job is a complex one. If the dheg overheats, the resulting scent will be too smoky. Judging how long to heat the dheg is also critical. The skills of a perfumer are many and have often been passed down through generations from father to son.

However, it has become no longer cost-effective as the skill and intensive labour involved has meant that the cost of the finished article is too expensive. Most people don’t understand this or appreciate the value. One reason for the high price is the increasing scarcity of sandalwood. Sandalwood oil can be used as a perfume by itself, but it is traditionally mixed with the rose oil that emerges from the dheg’s bamboo pipe. The deforestation of the sandalwood trees means the wood has become “practically unaffordable. However, this has prompted the Indian government to ban the felling of sandalwood trees. Many companies now use a cheaper paraffin-based product as the base for its attars, but it alters the scent which is less appealing to customers who knew and loved the authentic sandalwood version.

The purest and most expensive rose oil is called Ruh al Gulab, which is an exclusive product for a limited market like the very wealthy. This is made by distilling the rose oil a number of times, increasing the concentration making a very potent oil. Making this requires double the amount of rose petals. Emperor Jahangr, 1569-1627, said of Ruh al Gulab, there is no other scent of equal excellence, it lifts the soul.

Outside India, one of the biggest markets is in the Middle East, where dheg-produced attars have long been highly valued and there are still plenty of customers who can afford to buy them. In 2014, fragrance sales in Saudi Arabia were valued at $1.4bn; an average Saudi consumer was estimated to spend $700 per month on attars alone. Hussah al-Tamimi, a Kuwaiti woman, describes Ruh al Gulab as smelling like you have walked into a garden of roses or that fresh smell you get when you’ve walked past a bouquet of fresh flowers.  In the Gulf region rose attars increase in value the older they are. As a result, they have historically been offered as presents to brides at their wedding, along with incense and gold. In fact, rose oil has traditionally been considered a masculine scent and has only recently begun to be worn by women too. Today, perfume shops have flooded the Souq. Rose attars from Bulgaria and Turkey are highly esteemed, but the Ruh al Gulab from Kannauj is still recognised as something unique. The more difficult it is to obtain it, the more valuable the perfume is seen to be.

One reason rose attars are valued by Muslims, both in India and the Middle East, is that they are made entirely from natural substances that can be applied directly to the body, without the addition of alcohol. In this respect they differ from modern scents that are mixed with solvents and sprayed through an atomiser.

How long Kannauj will be able to continue supplying traditional attars and ruh al gulab, is unclear. Pushpraj Jain, owner of the Pragmati Aroma Distillery says, demand for dheg-based perfumes is next to nothing, today’s generation is only interested in modern perfumes

Ousman a perfumer at Muna Lal and Sons distillery, has no doubt about the superiority of the product he makes he says, the difference between a synthetic perfume and a natural one is like the difference between food cooked in a microwave and food cooked in a wood-fired oven.  And yet he fears the industry is slowly dying. He persuaded his children to take up a different trade.

Visible evidence of a struggling industry is not hard to find in Kannauj. The distilleries still operating often look starved of investment, one still uses a boiler taken from a Victorian-era paddle steamer. The soul of the rose lingers in these places, but how much longer will you be able to smell it? As the market for synthetic perfumes pushes the distilleries towards closure will these exquisite scents may soon be lost forever. I do hope not.

De-Cluttering in The Home.

I have found myself with extra time on my hands and I thought I would use this time to have a bit of a sort out at home. I don’t have a great deal of storage space, most of my previous homes also lacked storage. Whilst I am by nature tidy, I do need to be quite organized, as I often work from home and despite my best effects do still have too much stuff. I set up The Holding Company in London, with Dawna Walters of The Life Laundry, where we sold useful storage and items to help you get organized, I still use many of these today. When clutter starts to gather in my home, I begin to feel stressed. When I have dealt with said clutter, I feel much calmer. The way we feel about our living space has a big impact on our state of mind, so I guess it’s no surprise that when our home feels cluttered and chaotic, we feel the same.

A place for everything and everything in its place, what a wonderful idea! More and more studies are showing that a clean, organized living space is an important factor in our wellbeing. Clearing clutter from our homes is an important step towards creating that clean, organized space. Now many of us don’t have huge amounts of spare time for decluttering and organising our family homes. But there some great books and websites, like Pinterest, with helpful tips that can really help you to make a start.

 If you’ve been putting off decluttering your home and your life, chances are there’s a lot of work to be done. Don’t let that pile of junk overwhelm you, start small and tackle it one bit at a time. Set yourself a daily task of one box or bag per day and if that still seems overwhelming, try setting a timer for 30 minutes and do whatever you can in that amount of time.

Clutter is anything that is no longer useful in your life, if you have any of the following it needs to go: broken items, worn out items, things that don’t fit, aren’t used, are no longer loved, aren’t played with or don’t suit your lifestyle anymore. The Four-Box Method is a great technique to use to declutter any space. Get four boxes: rubbish, give away, keep or relocate. Consider each item and place into one of the four boxes. Carefully storing the items you are keeping is vital so that clutter does not built up again. Lots of high street shops like Ikea have afforable storage systems.

Donate things that can be used, and feel good about sharing your items with others who might truly benefit. Sell items that have value and make some extra pocket-money, eBay or Vinted are low cost and easy to use. De-cluttering is different from tidying. When you tidy, things are put away, that are out of place. When de-cluttering you are removing things from your house and life. It’s a positive step that can be taken towards improving our well-being.

Before you begin the de-cluttering process, think about why this task is important to you? What is the end vision for your life and your home? What goals would you pursue if your clutter wasn’t blocking your way. The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many, myself included. The benefits of owning fewer possessions are: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for things you are passionate about.

Remember, clutter isn’t just about stuff. It can be the outward symptom of an internal struggle, stemming from grief, loss, fear, self-image or even depression. Many people who suffer from compulsive hoarding have built literal walls around themselves. They are comforted by being confined by all their stuff. We can have a lot of things that don’t make us feel happy, by holding onto clutter because of the guilt of letting it go. Stuff guilt is a big obstacle to living clutter- free. We feel guilty about getting rid of stuff; because of the cost, we don’t want to be wasteful or because someone gave it to us and we don’t want to be ungrateful. Sometimes it represents all the things we said we were going to do, then didn’t like starting a new hobby. As an artist and crafter, I often have unfinished projects, these can really weigh me down. Now I finish the project or get rid of it, why torture yourself with lots of things that are half-finished.

Growing up we might have been faced with times of hardship when we struggled. One of the reasons we become so attached to items is because of the idea of scarcity. My Grand-parents lived through the war-time period and they saved all kinds of items: paper, packaging, out- of- date foods, newspapers etc. All because they knew what it was like to have nothing. Similarly, if you’ve gone through a traumatic experience, you might hold on to an item that identifies with a happier time. Or we may believe that holding on to items will somehow shield us from the pain of loss or grieving. But memories and stuff are not the same. This can be one of the most difficult things to work through when it comes to letting go of stuff. When we’re holding on to emotional baggage, it can literally become physical baggage we carry around with us. The reality is that at some point, it is no longer practical or healthy to hold on to things we don’t need simply because you’re trying to hold on to a memory. Don’t forget that you can take a picture of something you want to remember. How about a digital memory book? What about a creative way to deal with sentimental clutter and find a new use for an old thing? Upcycle or recycle your treasures into something you’ll use. (I will write a blog post about upcycling)

Whatever the reason for keeping it, hanging on to stuff causes a kind of guilt, the guilt that comes from feeling like our lives are cluttered and out of control. It causes you to feel totally overwhelmed physically and mentally, you can waste a lot of time looking for things, you can be too embarrassed to let visitors into your home, cleaning can take so much longer, so it doesn’t get done as well and important items get lost. It’s so much easier to function when you have a house that is well- ordered and free of clutter. It’s a happy, healthy space where you and your family can thrive.

There’s no doubt about it, once you deal with your clutter, you’ll feel more relaxed and in control. De-cluttering will also help relieve negative emotions such as guilt and embarrassment. Feelings that prevent you from living the life you want to live. De-cluttering will help relieve the stress and anxiety around those negative emotions, and help you move intentionally toward the life you want.  Any progress, big or small, is a great mood booster. The feeling of lightness you’ll get from removing the things in your life that are no longer serving you is wonderful. ( This can apply to people and habits)

Over-buying, is addictive, when we buy, we feel great at first then feel guilty, often hiding things in cupboards with the tags attached, it’s very tempting when spotting a bargain even when money’s really tight, many of us can’t stop shopping. Believe me, most of the stuff we buy is making us miserable. Try and get into the mindset of buying and having fewer things, but make them the best quality that you can afford. Who wants to fight through a wardrobe overflowing with clothes, that don’t fit, don’t flatter you and you don’t even like that much. Only buy what you love and wear it, don’t save it for best, enjoy it now, life is too short!

Books and media can be problematic. It feels lovely to have a book collection, but be honest, there is no reason to keep all those books we have read, unless they are first editions or heirlooms. Do you keep piles of old magazines? Instead just keep the recipes or articles you want and get rid of the magazines. These pages can be put in a file or scrapbook. Get rid of old planners and notebooks just take out the pages with the stuff you want to keep. If you have stacks of CDs you can trade these in and go digital. The same with photographs, store on your computer and back up to cloud.

If you work from home, once you’ve de-cluttered, and everything is in its place, you’ll be able to find what you are looking for so much more quickly and easily. And you’ll be less likely to lose things, how frustrating is it when you just can’t lay your hands on something. Distraction is one of the biggest obstacles to being productive, clutter is a visual form of distraction. It draws your attention away from what you really should be focusing on, impacting on your ability to make decisions and process information. Check through your supplies and see what you have unnecessary duplicates of, what is broken and what you don’t need. Been creative it’s hard for me to not look at everything as something I can use later. In my studio space, I try to only keep things that I have a specific use in mind. Donate to a craft centre instead where old supplies can be put to good use.

If you are temporarily working from home, putting everything you require in a box and get it out when you are working. This is far better than leaving your work stuff laying around as well as more productive.

Its always hard to let go of stuff that may have been important once, but why not let someone else benefit from what no longer serves your need. I am not a hoarder but I am also a long way off living a minimalism lifestyle. I think having things around you that you love and use is just fine as long as you can find everything when you need it. So if you put things away after using and have a home for everything all is good.

To quote -William Morris- Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

The Start of Seaside Resorts in Britain

I love visiting the sea, it has to said that the British seaside is unlike any other beach resort in Europe. The weather does play a large part in this, but I feel also that the early origins of the British seaside can still be felt today. Some of the architecture has perhaps lost its grandeur, but its still standing and plays a part in the social history of Britain. I loved going to Scarborough as a child and always remembered the spa with its distinctive black and white tiles. The heyday of the British seaside resort was in the 50s and 60s, I first visited in the late 60s and it seemed wonderful to me. Scarborough claimed to being England’s first true seaside resort and enjoyed considerable growth in the 18th century. (In the early 1700s a spa house had been built to sell the waters to eager visitors to the town, who were determined to improve their health)

I am convinced the sea air always does good, declares Henrietta Musgrove in Jane Austen’s book, Persuasion. Now, Jane Austen often poked fun at the Georgian notion of the sea as a source of bountiful health and healing and in many respects, it was the eighteenth century’s answer to today’s wellness fad. I always feel better too after a trip to the coast, so perhaps it’s time to take some Georgian health advice and rediscover the restorative qualities of the great British coastal break.

While spa towns like Bath still held their appeal during Queen Victoria’s reign, doctors were increasingly recommending trips to seaside resorts. This was mainly because they believed that the bracing sea air contained what they termed as ‘ozone’ or ‘activated oxygen’, something that was very essential but also a preventative of disease and a great aid for the treatment of ailments of all character. We now know that the Victorians were quite wrong about the seaside offering so-called activated oxygen. But in an era of rapidly industrialised towns and cities, a trip to a coastal town did offer a welcome break from the increasing pollution. At the beginning of the Victorian era, for the upper classes a visit to the seaside also gave the opportunity to promenade which grew in popularity during this era. A stroll along the seafront was considered good for the constitution, but a long, level ‘prom’ or esplanade was also like a public catwalk where you could be seen by society and enjoy admiring glances as you strolled serenely by, decked out in your best attire. In much the same way as a visit to a spa town had been the place to be seen, now it was fashionable to be seen in seaside towns.

Many of the things best associated with a trip to the British seaside have their roots in the Victorian summer holiday. However, while we now take these seaside attractions for granted, for many they were considered quite revolutionary at the time, and even an affront to common decency. This led to some puritanical restrictions (which I will mention later) but not even Victorian morality could hold back the tide of change. With the introduction of railways, this new mode of transport could whisk you across the country in a matter of hours, opening up a whole new world of opportunity. Although expensive, the burgeoning Victorian middle class could afford the rail fares and were keen to follow en- masse where the aristocrats led. The railways transformed small communities into bustling resorts to which people flocked in growing numbers.

By the middle of the 19th century, towns such as Brighton, Blackpool and Llandudno had already expanded. With the development of the resorts came the expansion of the wealth of the towns. The local piers offered an impressive variety of entertainment with the creation of much more indoor entertainment to combat the unpredictable British weather. Aquariums, amusement arcades, ballrooms and even circuses were constructed as permanent fixtures to keep the public entertained and keep them spending their hard-earned money. By the end of the 19th century things were starting to look somewhat different. As the era progressed, so did the resorts. People from all walks of life now shared the experience. Attitudes and standards slowly started to change. From rather sedate, genteel beginnings at the start of the Victorian age the upper classes increasingly had to mix with the hoi polloi and began to abandon their traditional resorts. Instead they spent their time and money on foreign holidays where the masses could not follow.( In the 1970s cheap flights encouraged the working classes to fly to europe, which lead to the decline of some seaside resorts)

 As access to the seaside increased, many organised trips through churches, charities and societies such as the Temperance Movement gave opportunities to even the lowest in society. The Bank Holidays Act in 1871 saw the introduction of four days set aside through the year as official holidays for all, for the first time ever. It was the working man and his family who had taken ownership of the seaside holiday. With ever-improving conditions for workers, the popularity of what the Victorians created continued to rise, leaving a legacy that still rings true today. More recently, the British seaside conquers up images of ice creams, donkey rides, fish and chips, Bingo, coloured Rock, buckets and spades and the amusements. The rather lively Hen and Stag do’s, particularly the lack of clothing would have horrified the prudish Victorians. But however tacky and in bad taste it can be at times it is still very much our culture and we all still do love to be beside the seaside, beside the sea!


Promoted as a healthy pastime, sea bathing was as popular with Victorian women as men, if not more so as it represented a small yet significant change in attitudes towards what women should and should not do. Paddling and dipping were thought to invigorate health, but how could men and women benefit from such pleasurable pursuits while maintaining the essential decorum? Victorian values and correctness dictated that the proper etiquette was followed. On the beach, this became something of a nightmare for Victorian decency, especially when it came to the tricky subject of bathing in the sea. The first solution was quite straightforward, men and women would bathe in separate parts of the beach. In 1847, Parliament gave local councils new powers to set how far apart the sexes had to be when bathing. Regulation also required that women wore a suitable gown or other sufficient dress or covering to prevent indecent exposure of the body. This swimwear could be extremely heavy, sometimes weights were even sewn into it, so that dresses did not float to the surface. In choppy waters, these heavy outfits could drown a wearer. But these coveralls did serve another purpose, they stopped the ladies getting a suntan. Until the 1920s, having a tan was considered vulgar and only for workers in the fields. However, as modest as Victorian swimwear was ( to their prudish minds) a woman having to walk the length of the beach to the sea was the equivalent of a modern ‘walk of shame’. Instead, they used a bathing machine, which dated back to around the 1750s, these resembled a beach hut with four wheels, it would be rolled out to, sea, usually pulled by horses. Once deep enough in the surf, the bather would then exit the cart using the door facing away from prying eyes on the beach.

Men did not have to employ any similar device and they just strolled into the water wearing a considerably tighter swimsuit. (They often swam naked, but this changed when Women and Children started going to the beaches) However, bathing machines did play a small part in giving a modicum of freedom to Victorian women, allowing them the privacy to experience sea bathing first-hand rather than been excluded as they had been from so many other leisure activities and sports. So, this was the start of more freedom in their life’s.

So, the introduction of the British seaside resort, gave the change to escape the pollution of the larger industrial cities, a chance for the working classes to have a day out with their families and some emancipation for the heavily- restricted Victorian women.

Recent events have placed some restrictions on our travels, so perhaps we should value the British coastal resorts like our ancestors and try a British seaside resort instead of a European beach. Just don’t forget an anorak in case of rain!

The Growth of Spa Towns

I used to live in Harrogate, where you could often smell the sulphur, which is not, I have to say, the most pleasant of scents. When my brother lived in Bristol, I regularly visited nearby Bath. (My favourite UK city) Famous for the history of its spa, playing a large part of its popularity as a tourist centre. There is something very quaint and English about spa-towns.

Britain has a rich, long history of spas. With many legendary past followers: Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, spas are as much a part of our culture as saunas are to the Scandinavians. Many towns owe their growth and prosperity to the fact they became spa- towns. (This is a resort town based on a mineral hot spring with supposed health benefits) Bath, the most famous of Britain’s spa towns, was used for health purposes as far back as Roman times. However, Elizabeth I, was instrumental in reviving spas after visiting Bath in 1574, she declared that the public must always have access to the springs. Her royal seal of approval set the trend amongst the respectable classes. The heyday of spa- towns was during the Georgian and Regency periods. Spa resorts of the 18th Century needed to meet the eccentricities and glamour of their visitors. The Georgian love of sumptuous living and bawdy houses, did make the boundaries between a health resort and a place of assignations a little blurred.

In the 18th and 19th centuries spa -towns were expanding rapidly. Thatched cottages disappeared to be replaced by elegant, classical styled, sash-windowed residences. During this time many places went from been tiny villages to the very forefront of high fashion. The chic places to be seen in the season, a place where visitors could bathe, drink the famous waters, gamble, eat, drink, dance, do business and broker marriages. Assembly Rooms were for political intrigue and hearing the latest gossip as much as dancing. Spas were part of the conspicuous leisure consumption that coincided with the rising bourgeois classes having a life of leisure because of their new-found wealth. The social mix encompassed all sorts of characters: aristocrats, merchants, bluestockings, respectable matrons, servants and chancers.

In Mansford’s specialised guide for invalids. He warns that standing around in the cold, wearing inadequately fashionable clothing, is not good for the ‘languid circulation of the semi-animate valetudinarian‘. Spas rose in perceived value the more articles that had been writing by leading Physicists.

The well- known spa towns include: Buxton, Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham, Harrogate, Bath and Leamington Spa. Many of these still retain echoes of their past grandeur.


The Fifth Duke of Devonshire wanted to establish a fashionable Georgian spa- town in Buxton, so he enlisted John Carr, a leading architect, to build Buxton Crescent. Built in 1780, it rivalled the Royal Crescent in Bath. The forerunner of today’s hotels, comprising not just of rooms but shops, restaurants and Assembly Rooms. Buxton spring water is still bottled locally and today is as ever popular.

Malvern- Worcestershire

Many Victorian physicians strongly believed that through rich mineral spring water, Mother Nature had created a cure for any disease. The town of Malvern seized upon the trend, and in 1842 two hydropathic doctors created the Malvern Water Cure, a dedicated hydrotherapy treatment to stimulate lymphatic drainage. The cure was a huge success. Queen Victoria demanded bottled Malvern Water during her royal tours.

The scientist and naturalist Charles Darwin visited the Malvern’s springs in in 1849 when feeling under the weather. After four months of cold scrubbing and other treatments, the scientist concluded, “I consider the sickness as absolutely cured. The Water Cure is assuredly a grand discovery.”

The local waters, filtered through the pre-Cambrian granite of the ‘Alps of England’ became famed for their low mineral content and great purity. Today they are bottled at Holywell, though many a walker is delighted to find the waters flow freely in springs around the hillsides.

Leamington Spa

Before the 1800’s the town of Leamington Spa was just a rural village, but the rediscovery of its saline springs in 1784 led to the building of the Royal Pump Rooms, baths and assembly rooms. The spring waters were claimed to cure and relieve stiffness of tendons and rigidity of the joints.

(Royal) Tunbridge Wells

The spring at Tunbridge Wells was discovered by accident by a young nobleman, Dudley Lord North in 1606. After travelling back to London with a raging hangover, he tasted the water at the nearby Abergavenny Estate and felt miraculously recovered. By the 18th century the fame of the water had spread and the town rivalled Bath as the place to see and be seen. The Stuart English Court often made the 50-mile trip from London to Tunbridge Wells, fondly known as the courtier’s spa. In the pursuit of health, one could now find both a commoner and a lord bathing in the same hot springs together. Its Charlybeate Spring (derived from the Latin word for steel) contains a particularly high iron content. The town still retains much of its original charm and elegance. You can visit the well in a building called The Pantiles, a Georgian colonnade, and sample the iron-rich waters of the Charlybeate Spring for yourself.

Cheltenham- Gloucestershire

 In 1833, King George III famously shunned the spa capital of Bath in favour of the little-known Cheltenham. This royal endorsement changed the town’s fortunes forever and soon, people of great fortune and nobility were rushing to sip at the new spa. Business in Cheltenham boomed. Rival wells and spas, accommodation and leisure facilities were opened. The town’s spas often held gala fetes and firework displays and its tree-lined walks were perfect for well-to-do visitors to promenade. Assembly rooms, theatres and racecourses were also on hand to keep the respectable classes entertained. Notable celebrities continued to sample the waters well into the 19th century.

Harrogate- North Yorkshire

Harrogate’s Turkish Baths are an illustration of the Victorian love of the Oriental; Moorish arches, elaborately patterned glazed tiles and a series of exotic steam rooms and plunge pools. The iron, sulphur and salt-rich waters in Harrogate were discovered in 1571, and in the 1700s the town became increasingly famous. A theatre and a pump room were built to provide entertainment for the well-heeled visitors, who numbered in their rank’s royalty from across Europe. Although the original building is still standing, it houses a pub and restaurant as well an award-winning spa, that you can still visit today.


Although it was the Romans who initially discovered Bath’s natural springs, naming it Aquae Sulis and developing it as a sanctuary of rest and relaxation, it was during the Georgian era that it reached its prominence. Princess (later Queen) Anne visited Bath in 1688-1703 to take the waters and soon it was marketed as the premier resort of frivolity and fashion. Jane Austen featured the spa town of Bath in two of her novels. Although taking the waters for your health was popular during the Georgian period It was often an excuse for high society to mingle and show off the latest fashions and attend the theatre and parties. The famous Georgian dandy Beau Nash became Master of Ceremonies in Bath. It is pre-eminent in historical heritage as a Unesco world heritage site which is still open to the public.

In the 20th Century from being the centre of social and fashionable society, the spa industry stagnated. With competition from overseas resorts and the impact of the economic depression in the 1930s, spa visitors dramatically declined. The medicinal benefits of spas were questioned and spa therapies became excluded from the National Health Service. By the 1950s, leading spas like: Buxton, Cheltenham, Tunbridge Wells and Malvern closed their doors to the public.

Today, we can see the popularity of wellness having a huge influence on the way we now view spas. They are not just an indulgence, but an essential element of holistic wellbeing, soothing the mind, body and spirit.

I couldn’t agree more!

Epsom Salts- A Grandma’s Cure

Epsom Salts also known as Magnesium sulfate, are gaining a new generation of fans looking for a safe, inexpensive alternative to high- priced over-the-counter remedies. For hundreds of years, this salt has been used to treat ailments such as: constipation, healing wounds, insomnia and fibromyalgia. Although its effects on these conditions are not well researched or proven scientifically, many people swear by this folk remedy. Its potential uses are numerous as a natural remedy with plenty of health benefits, for beauty purposes to improve the quality of hair and skin, for household related uses and as a garden fertilizer.

Becoming a sought-after cure for constipation, for hundreds of years, following a happenstance discovery. During a drought in 1618, a local cow herder called Henry Wicker bent down to drink from a pool of water on Epsom Common. He found the water tasted acidic and bitter. As the water evaporated, Wicker noticed white residue left behind and realized after drinking the water that it had a laxative effect. The term Epsom salt and its medicinal properties were established by a chemist Nehemiah Grew in 1695. He called the mineral found in the spring water after the nearest town, Epsom. Nehemiah acquired a royal patent for the exclusive manufacturing of Epsom salt, which soon became cheaply available over the counter. He called it Bitter Purging Salts and this was the first recorded laxative.

Until early 17th century, Epsom was only a small rural community. After the discovery of the springs rich in Magnesium sulfate, it expanded and developed into a spa town, one of the earliest in Britain. The water was said to have purgative powers and was drunk on empty stomach from stoneware mugs. People came from all around Europe to drink the healing waters. Though originally known as a spa town, little remains today apart from a water pump. Epsom was unable to compete with other developing Spa towns like, Bath and Harrogate, because of the low supply of spring water.

 In 1755, a British chemist and physicist named Joseph Black conducted experiments on the chemical properties of Magnesium sulfate. He proposed that Magnesium be classified as an element.

Due to the specific composition, the benefits and actions of Epsom salt are different from those of sea salt or common bath salts. While bath salts usually contain various ingredients as part of their proprietary blend, Epsom salt is a pure mineral compound of Magnesium and sulfate. There are major differences in how Epsom salt and sea salt are obtained. While Epsom salt is usually refined in a chemical process or boiled down, sea salt is obtained by evaporating sea water. Sea salt is edible and widely used in cooking. Where as Epsom salt can be unpalatable because of the bitterness it is edible in very small amounts. It’s often referred to as bitter salt.

Magnesium is essential in the human body for muscle and nerve function and maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s also needed to maintain a regular heartbeat, sufficient blood glucose and strong bones. Most of the reported benefits of Epsom salts are attributed to its Magnesium content, a mineral that most people lack. When Epsom salt is dissolved in water it releases Magnesium and sulfate ions. It is involved in more than 325 biochemical reactions that benefit your heart and nervous system.

As a medication administered intravenously, it can stave off premature birth and alleviate seizures caused by several conditions, including magnesium deficiency, pre-eclampsia, and eclampsia.

The benefits of a soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts are many; easing of muscle soreness and stress, relieving cramps, skin irritation and inflammation, soothing sunburn and treating sprains. When used as a footbath it soothes sore feet. (Apply a paste from 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt mixed with water) To take an Epsom salt bath; add 2 cups of Epsom salt to the water and soak your body for at least 15 minutes. While Magnesium sulfate can be taken as a supplement it is claimed that Magnesium may be better absorbed via an Epsom salt bath than when taken orally.

NB. It should not be added to a bath for anyone with an open wound, severe burns, severe skin inflammation or a skin infection.

Integrative medical specialists (a healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person including lifestyle) often recommend Epsom salts for both physical and mental health benefits. Adequate magnesium levels are essential for sleep and stress management. Magnesium may also help your body produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

It serves important bodily functions too, taken by mouth as a laxative as Magnesium is often used to treat constipation. It appears to be helpful because it draws water into your colon, which promotes bowel movements. If you use it as a laxative, make sure to drink plenty of water.

I do hope I have shown you some of the benefits of adding this affordable product to your life, I’ve used this myself for many years. I would advise that you only buy the salt from a reputable source such as a leading health store or chemist and make sure to buy 100% Epsom Salts (Magnesium sulfate) and not a blended version as this does not contain the same health benefits.

Traveling Lighter

On reaching the age of 50, I realized I had spent most of my adult life constantly busy and stressed. Always 10 minutes behind schedule, I was dancing to someone else’s tune: work, family, friends etc. There never seemed to be enough time for me in my own life, perhaps it was time to change the song!  At 50 it was also time to face facts, that I was now a GROWN – UP.  My life was sensible, responsible and comfortable, I worked hard and tried to give as much time as I could to loved ones, but was life exciting or fun? To celebrate my milestone, I wanted to do something memorable and quite possibly life-changing. I was going to go on holiday not just for two weeks but for a whole year. My mid-life teenager was demanding a grown-up gap year.

What was the worse that would happen? Had I gone a little mad? More than likely, but I could always blame in on my advancing age.

Well, everything turned out just fine and dandy. My first Airbnb was not great, however, my second Airbnb was wonderful, I even made a return visit to the same apartment. So, apart from a few little hiccups along the way my solo traveling had been very positive and I would encourage others to give it a go.

 In a quiet, gentle way it was a life-changing experience. My life did not change beyond all recognition. I still have a similar job role, still work too hard and still have many responsibilities to others. That’s just life, there are always going to be bills to pay, even if I won the lottery. What I did learn was the importance of having a family I loved, work I am good at and enjoy doing and the opportunity to be given responsibilities, and at the risk of sounding like a quote from a self- help book, I realized there was a great deal in my life to be grateful for. Sometimes we just don’t appreciate the good fortune we have in our everyday life’s. A couple of years on and I still feel the same, certainly the current Lockdown would have been a great deal harder to cope with without gaining this knowledge.

 Through travel it’s almost as if our eyes open again for the first time in a while. Nothing changes the way you view your own life experiences than by seeing the way other people have to live.

Since I decided to start my journey in August 2015; I have made 7 trips, lasting up to 3 months in length, spending around 15 months in Spain, I have stayed in 32 Airbnb properties and volunteered 3 times. I stayed in; Mallorca, Ibiza, Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, Granada, Valencia and the Canary isles. During my trips I met many wonderful, interesting people, making some very special friends who I have continued to stay in touch with, I tried lots of new things and immersed myself in a different culture.

What did I discover along the way? Well oddly, enough I found myself, my younger, braver self that is. I remembered my long-forgotten childhood dreams and goals. Traveling teaches us to explore and discover new and old parts of ourselves. To think about what’s really important. Investing in this rather than what no longer serves you well, not dwelling in the past. Been happy now.

Did I have any regrets? Not at all, there were some laughs and tears along the way, sometimes things didn’t go to plan. Learning how to be calmer and not get frustrated or upset when things went wrong was a hard challenge but learning to roll with whatever came my way was one of the most valuable skills acquired. Been totally independent means that you also spend large amounts of time alone. I missed my home very badly, on occasions, I had to accept living standards well below what I am used too. But knowing that this was only a temporary situation helped me realize, that we can get through any situations by just changing our mindset and trying to stay positive. We can learn and grow from everything we encounter, good or bad.

Where next?  I’ll continue to travel, that I know. My love affair with Spain is the real deal and not just a holiday crush, so who knows where I will go in the future! At the moment, I am unable to leave my house until the end of July, so, I’m writing a blog of my journey, finding new destinations on Pinterest and watching A Place in the Sun. Life is pretty good. So, whilst I prepare for my next adventure, for now I can indulge in some Arm Chair Travel until I can travel for real.

My travel blog is 

Japanese Bathing Rituals

It would be difficult to research and write about bathing rituals without looking at Japanese bathing, this is a phenomenon remarkably different from most traditions in the modern Western world. I’ve not been fortunate to visit Japan yet, I would really love to visit such a diverse and fascinating country. I have been reading about at the customs of Sento, Furo and Onsen and the significance of the bathing culture to Japan. This is not just about washing the body but ritual purifications embedded in the Japanese culture for centuries. There is no better example of literally immersing yourself in another culture than the bathing rituals that have endured for many lifetimes.


Is an age-old Japanese practice of public baths, to cleanse both the mind and body. Sento Bathing became popular amongst common people who relished baths at Buddhist temples. Empress Kōmyō began the practice of charity baths, where she would wash beggars at temple baths. Charity baths eventually became an act of reverence for ancestors and practitioners who would offer baths to any person, regardless of age, sex or social status. The evolution of temple bathing to include charity baths and public bathhouses demonstrates the connection between religion and bathing in Japan. The popularity of public baths continued to increase, particularly during the Edo period from 1603 to 1868. The first public bathhouse in Tokyo was founded in 1591. By the late Edo period, there were over 500 Sento in Tokyo. Both gender-divided and mixed baths were popular during this period, despite the Shogun’s concerns about the potential for immoral behaviour in mixed baths. The prudishness of 19th century Westerners led the government to ban mixed bathing to make Japan seem more civilized. In the early 17th century, amusement and recreation was frequently combined with bathing. Men could often have their backs washed by women called Yuna or bath prostitutes. (Until the government outlawed these). Large groups of people that would travel to their local Sento to eat, drink and sing. It introduced the concept of social mixing which not only aided in slowly deconstructing the existing social hierarchy but created a new cultural flow between the elite and commoners, this had a lasting effect on Japanese social status- quo.

Even after WWII, it was still relatively common for people to not have baths, due to the post-war construction boom in residential housing without bathing facilities or running water. So, the only way to bathe was to attend a Sento at the end of their day.  They continued to be built well into the mid-20th century, with the number of bathhouses reaching their national peak in 1968 at 18,325. Today, the number has dwindled to around 4,000.  Japanese people are now able to afford baths or showers in their own homes. For a class-conscious society, the Sento has become an embarrassing reminder of an impoverished past, and as the ranks of Japan’s nouveau riche have continued to swell, a stigma has fallen upon those who patronize the humble Sento. However, it remains a veritable oasis in many communities, especially in the suffocating hot summers and cold winters.

The two main kinds of traditional Sento are Furoya , steam baths, and Yuya a central large communal bath. Ancient cultures believed in the healing effect of water and today the Japanese believe the adoption of hot baths and its related procedures are the cure for many ailments such as: obesity, kidney disease, rheumatism and neurological disorders. The Sento is roughly divided into two sections: where you wash and where you relax. It is vital to wash thoroughly before entering the relaxation baths. Most baths are classed by temperature: tei-on (tepid) to chu-on (warm) which is bearable for 10 minutes or so. The waters of Sento differ from those of Onsen in that they are not naturally heated.

Some Sento have evolved into Super-Sento, which charges a higher price than the public sento and offers an all-day luxurious bathing experience more like an Onsen. It caters to the Japanese post-modern love of all things comfortable and affordable, usually boasting between fifteen to twenty different types of baths, ranging from jacuzzi tubs, whirlpool baths, steam baths, open-air baths to dry saunas. The Ja-Kuu-Ji, Japanese for jacuzzi bath, is popular, and many are spiked with scented bath oils to sooth and restore vitality. The Uutase Buro massages the head, shoulder, spine and back with a high-pressure stream of hot water pummelling down from a meter or so above. Some Sentos have tapped spring water, which enables them to recreate the Rotemburo: an outdoor hot spring that is a cheap alternative to the more expensive Onsen. The Denki Buro (Electric Bath) is a small bath equipped with steel plates that discharge pulsing currents of electricity into the submerged bather to relax the muscles.

While the future of the traditional Sento is bleak the Super-Sento is poised to solidify its position as a staple of Japanese culture. No longer mystical or godly, the modern-day Sento has reinvented itself as an affordable, chill-out, entertainment, yet still elevated beyond a mere bath. So, for total relaxation and the bliss of total cleanliness, the cultural experience of a Sento is a real must!

Furo– Home bathing version of Sento

Bathing in your own home in Japan is called Furo or the more common form of Ofuro. As part of the Japanese ritual of bathing, these are not meant for washing but rather for relaxing and warming oneself. To achieve cleanliness, the bather washes before entering the bath. Furos are seen as a total renewal on many levels including spiritually. In a Japanese-style bath the water is heated to 110° F or even hotter. In private Japanese homes the bathing facilities are always constructed separately from the washing and toilet facilities. The Furo started the popularity of hot-water soaking in other countries, especially the hot tub craze. Today several firms specialize in the construction of wooden Japanese-style bathtubs. The home version of the Ofuro includes a wooden box or a small pool of water with a couple of benches inside. These large baths were traditionally made of Hinoki, Japanese cypress, which is considered sacred. The modern Japanese bath is a high-tech affair that can automatically refill the bath or reheat the water. Within a home’s private ofuro, family members bathe together and discuss their day in a relaxing environment. These larger baths are fairly new, before that, the family used the bath in order of importance, with guests going first, men before women and the eldest family member before the youngest. The Shimai-Buro, the house wife, went last so she cleaned up after everyone else.

Onsen- Japanese hot springs

The Japanese archipelago is highly volcanic with over 100 active volcanoes and rich hot springs which have become recognised landmarks. Over 25,500 hot springs bubble in Japan year-round and are distributed according to the numerous volcanic chains running through the archipelago. The wealth of hot springs led to the development of Onsen. Which is an excellent way to enjoy Japan’s natural beauty, particularly during cold winters.

 The Japanese have been bathing in the natural hot springs for well over a thousand years, and there are many historical accounts of feudal lords having their own favourite Onsen spots, kakushiyu, where they may have let their samurai bathe after battle. Claims regarding the curative properties precede Buddhism’s introduction to Japan. The Onsen’s healing waters were frequently believed to be gifts from animals, gods or Buddhist deities. The Japanese longevity and long-standing dedication to Onsen are a testament to the positive effects of natural springs on health and well-being. The healing benefits of each Onsen depends on the minerals in its water; hydrogen carbon-rich springs smooth the skin, sulphurous springs help manage blood pressure and keep arteries supple, and iron-heavy springs soothe achy joints and muscles even easing arthritis. Taking to the waters of Onsen has historically carried spiritual and religious meanings in addition to their cleansing and healing properties. Devotional bathing and charity baths show how Buddhism and bathing are intertwined in Japanese history and culture.

Generations of Japanese women and men have practiced the ritual of bathing in mineral-rich Onsens for beautification and health. Despite the technological advances in skin care coming from Asia, Japanese women still consider Onsens a fundamental part of their beauty regimen. Dermatologists have long known that sulphur nourishes the skin, is anti-inflammatory, heals acne and relieves various skin conditions. But beyond the science lays a few centuries of nourishing the soul and a mythical history.

Within the Onsen, there may be one large bath or several big pools, these can be indoors or outdoors. The Rotenburo is an outdoor bath, allowing you to experience nature while enjoying the shelter of a roof of some sort and the heat of the bath. After showering, they slowly lower themselves into the water in the pools, exhaling a long, protracted achii, meaning hot, and then relax and practice mindfulness.

Many newer versions of onsens have been adapted to appeal to the changing needs and interests of Japanese consumers and tourists. The modern Onsen resort experience includes up-scale hotels and spas to replace Ryokans (inns)

Where to try Onsen Bathing in Japan:

Noboribetsuo: On the northern island of Hokkaido, a volcanic area known as Hell Valley supports the town’s thermal pools.

Takaragawa: Tokyoites flock to this Onsen for a dose of nature with their skin-reviving soak. The large outdoor baths are mixed-gender.

Naoshima: The public bathhouse here doubles as an art installation commissioned as one of many contemporary artworks and museums on this remote fishing island in the Seto Inland Sea.

Kinosaki: This old-fashioned village north of Kyoto, has bathing options which range from historic bathhouses to private tubs in ryokans.

it is certain that bathing culture in Japan is vibrant and still flourishing indicating a long-term economic stability and prosperity. By continuously reinventing themselves to remain entertaining and engaging, Onsen and Sento continue to about much more than a simple bath.