Escape to The Chateau- A Home in France……

I have talked about guilty pleasures and the importance of escaping once in a while and the TV series that’s combines both of these is Escape to The Chateau. For DIY fans, budding interior designers and Francophiles it makes for perfect viewing. The ever-practical Dick Strawbridge, with the best moustache on TV and fabulously creative Angel Strawbridge are a wonderful team. This capable couple swapped their two-bed home in East London after searching for the chateau for four years and then spent a further five years turning Chateau de la Motte Husson into a family home. It was also to become a business, when Channel 4 commissioned a TV series. The programme became surprisingly popular and the husband-and-wife duo recently explained why they wanted to get involved with the series, they said We saw it as an adventure. TV presenter Dick and author Angel now employ a PR to market their thriving business empire which includes not just weddings, functions and housing B&B guests in their lovely home, but several books, homeware, gifts, soft furnishings, calendars, diaries and cards. The pair have also been seen on spin-off DIY series which shows them helping others to share the dream of restoring an old castle or house in France, to run as a business.

They have had quite a journey and we have been able to share this with them, they almost feel like old friends! They found the Chateau in 2014 and the purchase was completed 2015. Priced at £350,000, Chateau de la Motte Husson was an incredible bargain and their dream home except for the fact it had no sewerage, no electricity and no heating. Bringing a forty- five room, five storey house and its gardens, back to life after years of neglect takes hard work and dedication. Dick and Angel have proven to have these in abundance and the final result is well-worth their efforts. The couple have no plans to sell the chateau but could make a profit of around £1.5 million if they put it on the market. Dick has estimated that they have spent around £280,000 renovating the chateau. Their skills in re-making and re-designing must have saved them a small fortune, as well as showing us all how to give a new life to old furniture, attic and second-hand finds, which is so important for us all to start doing again.

I’ve dreamt for years about living a simple life with good food and wine, fresh air and two-hour lunches every day. So, when my partner Angela and I decided to start our French adventure, I could almost smell the roses 

Dick Strawbridge

The History of the Chateau de la Motte Husson is a long and interesting one, so I’ll give you, a short version: It all dates back to English kings having possessions on the European mainland, as far back as 1066.  When William the Conqueror, then Duke of Normandy, became the King of England. From the 12th to the 14th centuries the site of the chateau was in the parish of La Motte and was a fortified stronghold. It was not until 1406 that the Husson family, the Seigneurs of Montgiroux, named the castle Chateau de la Motte Husson, which remains its name today. In 1600, the estate was acquired by the de Baglion family. The castle was rebuilt in the enclosure of the old square moat during the period of 1868-1874. This was the time of great wealth in the aristocracy.  The Countess Dorothée told her husband that she wanted a grand chateau on the site of the fort. Her main residence was near Nantes and the family decided to spend winters in the milder climate and summers in the country at Chateau de la Motte Husson. They were privileged, didn’t work and were occupied with living life to the full, staying in their grand houses and in those of their friends. It was important at the time to receive visitors in grandeur and to display their great wealth. Passed down through the generations of the de Baglion family.  The last member of the family was Guy de Baglion de la Dufferie who owned the chateau until his death in 1999, when it passed to his wife and children. The château had remained unoccupied for nearly 40 years when it was put up for sale in 2015. By which time it had fallen into a very poor state of repair.

Dick was born in Burma, but raised and educated in Northern Ireland. He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and in 1979 was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Signals. After serving in Germany, England, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Northern Ireland, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2001. Then having a successful career as a Programme Manager for a large multinational company, before becoming a full-time television presenter and author. Dick is a man of many interests and talents. And first hit our television screens with Scrapheap Challenge.

Angela- known as Angel, is the founder of The Vintage Patisserie, a glamorous hospitality company and the author of the best-selling Vintage Tea Party books. Humble beginnings and hard work have secured Angel coverage in nearly every glossy and national newspaper. In 2011 she opened her first Vintage Patisserie in Hackney, East London. With eleven staff and ten events a week, business blossomed. A book deal followed and Angel’s books have sold copies all over the world.

This year as been a very different one for everyone and whilst Chateau de la Motte Husson was closed to guests, a new series called Make-do and Mend was filmed during lockdown. The 7th series of Escape to The Chateau is currently been filmed and is to be aired at the end of this year. I would love to restore an old property, a chateau is possibly to ambitious for me, but like Dick and Angel you can always have the dream, and you never know it might happen one day, like a true-life fairy-tale come true!

If you want more details, there is a website and a Facebook group which also shows the progress of the other Chateau owners. You can catch up on the TV series with Channel 4 or Netflix.


Remembering Woman War Artists

Although women had by the time of WW1 started to be seen more in the workplace, in war art they were often excluded. The job of portraying battle has, traditionally, been seen as a male preserve. Women have, since the turn of the 20th century, been interpreting and illustrating war, casting a fascinating light on the forgotten social, industrial and personal histories born from conflict which are invaluable in fleshing out a fuller picture of the human cost of war. The fact that women war artists did play a crucial role has been air-brushed from history. Few would be able to name a female counterpart to a well-known artist like Paul Nash. There are many reasons for this, for the better part, women artists were working unofficially, so their work was not censored in the same way as the male artists who worked in an official capacity. It was also regarded as indecent for women to be witnessing war from the brutality of the front, even though many worked in hospital wards and drove ambulance vans.

Women with some artistic training were sneaking sketchpads into factories, without permission, depicting the civilian population contributing to the war effort, while others drew street scenes that captured air raids, shelters; sometimes these were comical or bittersweet images, at other times, shocking and violent. This work would have been considered dangerous and illicit had the authorities known about it, as imagery around war was tightly controlled for fear that it would used as negative propaganda.

In an effort to bring these extraordinary, yet forgotten, female artists to public attention, in 2011 the Imperial War Museum in London staged a comprehensive exhibition on the subject of women as eye-witnesses, participants, and officially commissioned recorders of war, entitled Women War Artists.

It’s often misunderstood what the role of the war artist is it encompasses far more than battle scenes or life at the frontline. The artists’ creative responses to all aspects of war as seen and experienced by ordinary people, civilians as well as servicemen and women was shown much more deeply by female war artists. Women who found themselves in the war zones were producing images unofficially, without the permission of the government in the First and Second World Wars and they also entered male workplaces in order to draw them, which was a very radical and brave thing to do during those times. But these strong women were determined, that even without government aegis they would record what they saw. Olive Mudie-Cooke, a trained artist who was driving ambulances for the British Red Cross in France from 1916, was one such woman. The images she produced departed from the official art as they featured hospital and auxiliary staff.

However, the Women’s Work Sub-Committee, which had been set up to record the varied contributions of women to the war effort did commission ten female artists. The Women’s Work Collection was a unique resource for anyone interested in the experiences and role of women during the First World War. It was accrued largely between 1917 and 1920 and originally included art, models, documents, uniforms, badges, books, photographs and memorabilia of every variety. The Imperial War Museum opened officially in 1917 and this collection formed its main body of work. Plans were put in place to ensure that the role of women would be recognised and recorded from its very beginnings. Which may seem surprisingly forward- thinking but perhaps is indicative of how the role of women in society was one of the dominant social issues of the day. In the years preceding the First World War, the campaign for women’s suffrage had intensified. As well as campaigning for the vote, many women wanted recognition and acceptance that they could and should have a greater role to play in public life. The outbreak of war in 1914 provided women with an outlet to demonstrate their capabilities in public office or in the workplace.

In December 1918, Millicent Garrett Fawcett declared ‘we cannot forget what our men have done during the war, but we must not forget either what the women have done, and we must be as ready to give them their chance as we are to help the men who come back.’

At the start of the Second World War, women artists were given more leeway after the WAAC, the government’s War Artists Advisory Committee was set up in 1939, but there were still grave imbalances. More than 400 artists were involved and only 52 of whom were women, the latter receiving fewer and shorter commissions, lower pay and far less publicity. Only two women were given overseas commissions but only one, Evelyn Dunbar, was entrusted with a salaried position, and both were allowed to travel abroad only after the fighting had ended.

A female artist given an overseas commission in the 1940s was Dame Laura Knight. At the time she was painting, women auxiliaries had become more common, although female involvement in combat was strictly prohibited. Corporal Daphne Pearson, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force WAAF, sat for a portrait by Knight and revealed in a letter to her mother that the artist originally painted her with a rifle. But the final painting features her brandishing a respirator instead of the weapon.

Ethel Gabain was one of the first artists commissioned by the WAAC in early 1940 and she worked across the country, mainly focusing on detailed portraits of people. Her work also included women employed in many of the auxiliary services. The WAAC commissioned a series of paintings of women who had taken over the jobs of the men who had been called up to the services, ironically using mainly male artists.

Louisa Puller was an artist who worked for the project funded by the Pilgrim Trust to Record the Changing Face of Britain, which was to record the rapidly changing countryside and urban landscapes of Britain in the 1940s. Social realities on the home front were being presented more robustly the 1940s and this was due in a large part to the women artists.

The British Red Cross had commissioned Doris Zinkeisen to reflect their work in Europe in the 1940s, and she produced Human Laundry, a stark, searing image of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp’s starving survivors.

In 1945 an artist called Mary Kessell was sent to Germany. By the time she arrived, the war was over but she created memorably intense charcoal drawings of homeless women and children in Berlin, as well as the destruction of Hamburg.

The question of how female war-artists chose to represent ordinary working women during these decades is an interesting one. Images of women on the home front were not always “feminist” in the modern sense; some adopted the style of their older male counterparts while others painted women in stereotypically glamorised incarnations, even in factory scenes which, in reality, would have been sweaty places of industry. So even female artists were to play a role in the war time propaganda.

In recent times we have discovered much of the contribution of woman during the wars, that had been unknown previously, like Bletchley Park. These forward- thinking, talented women give us a larger picture, not more emotional but more human of the history of the time and they deserve our gratitude for doing this.

War Artists -WW1 and WW2

I wrote my design degree thesis on the second world, and spent a great deal of time at the Imperial War Museum and the Colindale Newspaper Library. Its always been a time of history that has interested me greatly, my grandparents talked a great deal about the WW2 period, though this was only six years it affected generations for their entire life-times. Armistice Day, having just taken place on the 11th of November becomes more poignant as fewer veterans remain from this era each year.

Artists have depicted battle scenes from earliest civilisation onwards and in more recent wars such as the Boer and Crimea war, they were deployed by newspapers to illustrate the ongoing warfare to their readers. In Britain, official government-sponsored schemes were established for artists to record both the First and Second World Wars. The Imperial War Museum has also continued to commission artists to record the events of war in more recent conflicts.

It was with the outbreak of World War I that war art was first officially commissioned by the government. The British Commission was introduced in September 1914 to commission and purchase art to create a record of the war.  Officially appointed artists such as: Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash, Christopher Richard Nevinson, John Singer Sargent and Sir Stanley Spencer were required to work in a more traditional style despite being some of the most avant-garde, British artists of the day, so that the public could easily understand the artwork. Although it was initially started for propaganda purposes, it evolved into a memorialising scheme where artists explored every aspect of the conflict.  Some artists were seconded from active service while others were either commissioned into uniform as War Correspondents or attached to the Intelligence Department or the Department of Information. The average stay at the Front for an artist was one month and all work was censored, although artists were free to exhibit their work. (Usually only after approval)

Most of the work acquired by the Commission was eventually housed in the Imperial War Museum, established by an Act of Parliament in 1917.  Who were given the task of collecting all kinds of material documenting the war. As well as providing a documentation of all wartime activities much of the work produced by war artists remains important as art in its own right.

During the Second World War, a more structured approach to official picture collecting was taken when the War Artists Advisory Committee, chaired by Sir Kenneth Clark, was established. The WAAC included representatives from all three of the Armed Services and the wartime Ministries. Officially, the purpose of the Committee was propaganda. Art exhibitions were organised in Britain and America both to raise morale and promote Britain’s image abroad. As part of the Ministry of Information, art was not commissioned which would show a negative view of the population’s reaction to the war. Therefore, there were no artistic records of looting or riots. Sir Clark’s generation had been marked by the deaths of many artists and writers in the First World War, and it was also hoped that by keeping artists usefully employed the scheme might prevent a new generation of British artists from being killed as soldiers, although they had to still face much danger.

Over 300 artists were commissioned and 5,570 works of art produced. The pictures collected were exhibited in London and in shows both nationally and internationally. When the committee was dissolved in December 1946, after the war had ended, one third of the collection was allocated to the Imperial War Museum and the rest was distributed to museums and galleries across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

NB: Although several female artists were approached either by the British War Memorials Committee or the Ministry of Information, none of them actually completed commissions for the official schemes. So, I will write a separate blog on Women artists during WW2, as they were still active.

There was some opposition to the scheme from the armed forces who saw the War Artists Advisory Committee as removing responsibility for war art from the control of the War Office and the Admiralty. However, a compromise was reached, with four artists being allocated to the War Office and one for the Admiralty, who would also pay their salaries. The War Artists Advisory Committee had a say in the selection of the work and maintained full control of any work produced.

Many artists took part in the scheme and some of the most notable were: Roland Vivian Pitchforth, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Paul Nash, Harold Sandys Williamson, Eric Ravilious, Frederick T.W. Cook and Anthony Grossad, who spent almost 20 years as an artist in France.

Before, during and after the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, artists were in the thick of the activity, observing and recording the campaign. A war artist creates a visual account of the impact of war by showing how men and women are waiting, preparing, fighting, suffering and often destroyed. Although the camera has replaced the artist more and more as a recording medium. The artists bring a level of emotion and connection with the scenes that you just don’t really get from a photograph however good.

Eric Kennington was employed as a British official war artist in both world wars. His vivid style of portraiture, very much suited what the Air Ministry aimed to achieve. An admiration for the actions of his subjects was reflected in his work often giving them an air of Hollywood glamour with youthful handsomeness or a steely gaze, resplendent and dashing in a blue RAF uniform. This helped to reinforce the image of British fighter pilots, as self-sacrificing heroes, one that the Air Ministry was keen to promote. Over a hundred RAF portraits were produced before resigning his commission in September 1942.

Artists like Edward Ardizzone, were perceptive observers of people in their environments. His gentle drawing style, humanised the events of the war, instead of creating epic war pictures, he concentrated on everyday heroics. His focus on ordinary people coping in adversity meant mass audiences could relate to his work. His war drawings were therefore highly effective propaganda in terms of raising public morale.

War art Commissions did not cease with the ending of World War II. Artists have still been employed to record scenes of all the conflicts involving British Forces subsequent to 1946 and up to the present time. The Imperial War Museum, holds the largest collection, if you are interested in finding out more, see their website.

I think often the importance of art in history is under-estimated and the role it still plays in our modern life’s. Particularly, as artists are currently badly affected on many levels. Art has the ability to change the emotions of the viewer in a way that very few things can, even the written word.

National Writing Month in November

I was watching the local news yesterday and they featured the National Novel Writing Month, which takes part in November of every year. It’s the first time I have heard of this competition, but what a great idea, its too late this year but perhaps next time! Like most people I have always said I would like to write a book or a novel but have never really got round to making a start or known how to actually begin and writing courses can be costly.

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now, each year on the 1st of November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand-new novel. As far as I can see its open to everyone and free to take part. It’s for anyone thinking about writing a novel. To take part all you need to do is commit to writing 50,000 words of your novel in the 30 days of November. Which means writing 1,667 words per day. Which doesn’t sound that bad as a daily total.

I feel sure that writing a novel alone must be be difficult, even for seasoned writers. The website- NaNoWriMo helps you to track your progress, set milestones and connect with other writers in a huge community and even participate in events that are designed to make sure you finish your novel. There is a website where you set up a profile, which has incentives in the form of badges and a supportive social media community to cheer you on as you strive to meet your daily word targets.

NaNoWriMo officially became a non-profit organization in 2006 and their programs support writing fluency and education. Their website hosts more than a million writers, serving as a social network with author profiles, personal project libraries and even writing buddies. Hundreds of NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published which includes: Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Hugh Howey’s Wool. Started by Chris Baty, the author of No Plot, No Problem, in the first year 21 writers took part in the challenge, which has grown every year. In 2017, over 400,000 people participated and this continues to grow.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to get that story out of your brain and onto a page, this could be a wonderful chance to do just that.  NaNoWriMo helps to provide all kinds of support and tools to help you accomplish your writing goal. The competition allows you to do some basic groundwork, but the novel has to written in the November period only.

So, for writers and want-to-be-writers visit for additional information.

Best of luck!

Paris- A City for Lovers

This post was originally for my travel blog, travelling lighter, but I thought you might like it. I have been binge-watching and loving Emily in Paris. Known as the City for Lovers, for me, it’s a city for; fashion lovers, food lovers, art lovers, architecture lovers, history lovers and simply lovers of life….

The Netflix series has come in for some criticism for using cliques of Parisians and their life’s, whilst I do see this a little bit, it does also portray the Paris that I have seen with my own eyes. And after all it’s a light- hearted, series which offers escapism, (which we all need right now) not a gritty, realistic drama. I am sure when we can travel for freely, myself included we will be flocking to spent time in the beautiful city of Paris.

I have been to Paris, many times but not for several years, and I think that it has undergone some upheavals and changes, but like a fading beauty queen, she will never totally lose her true glamour. There is an under-side, as in all major cities and caution is required, particularly where muggings and pickpockets are concerned. But by using some common-sense, essential for all travellers it is still relatively safe. Leave your valuables in a safe place and pay attention when you are out and about if you a female solo traveller.

Parisians, it has to be said are a law to themselves, a bit like native New Yorkers, however their attitude is to envy, confident, arrogant and so very French, as a self-enfacing, English person it’s quite refreshing to see, well in small amounts.

Anyway, less of the people and more of the city, I love walking around Paris, as a poor student, I didn’t have any choice, but by exploring this way, you always find a wonderful little street or bistro and I discover something new everything. Walking is very Parisian thing. People- watching is one of by favourite things to do, and siting with un café et une croissant and watching the world go by is a Parisian tradition, I can easily adopt.

A break in Paris, offers something for everyone, from wonderful shops, restaurants, galleries and museums, there is so much to see and do. I always think its best to see less and savour the experience, rather than trying to fit everything into a few days, as you totally lose the vibe of the city by doing this and its great to have a good excuse to return.

Guide books and maps are helpful particularly if it’s your first visit but by going off the beaten track you discover things yourself, so I make loose plans which I can then change easily. I prefer to eat in smaller local places, as sometimes the well-know destinations can be full of tourists and a bit disappointing. An open mind when traveling can give you a better experience. I learnt French at school and have been re-learning French in the lockdown, I always aim to speak French in Paris, sometimes you will not be understood, (often on purpose)you may even be corrected but it’s just the Parisian way.

The blog the Every Day Parisian is very interesting with some great tips, as an American photographer writes about her time living in Paris, the photos are lovely too. Paris is perfect for any time of year, as the seasons are quite different, just dress correctly. It can be cold and wet in Winter and very hot in Summer, pretty sun- dresses are great, in Paris, summer fashion is not too revealing and don’t forgot comfortable shoes for all the walking, the cobbled streets are not great for heels. An umbrella is often necessary as it can rain a lot.

I might just watch Emily in Paris again, why not!

Sleep- A Super Power

Why is sleep important? A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of great health. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without the super power of sleeping well. And like nutrition and exercise, there is no one-size-fits-all number for the hours of sleep each of us needs. The ideal number varies according to age, gender and lifestyle. But we do all feel so much better after a good night’s sleep. After nine hours of sleeping like a log, you can wake up feeling bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take on anything the day might throw at you. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can interfere with natural sleep patterns. As busy as we are, it isn’t a surprise that sleep is usually the first pillar of the health foundation to be overlooked.

Sleep is important for various aspects of our health. In fact, sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risks factors; brain function, mental health issues, immune system, the appearance of your skin, protecting against heart disease, your ability to interact socially, a loss of sleep can even increase one’s risk for obesity and weight gain.

How to sleep better is obviously upper most in our minds, with 76% of us feeling we don’t get enough sleep. People with medical conditions are more likely to suffer from poor sleep, according to The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report. It’s been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Getting a good night’s sleep can help to keep your immune system fighting fit and keep germs at bay. Sleep gives your body the time it needs to rest and repair, which is one of the reasons you feel tired and want to sleep more when you’re unwell. Sleep supports the proteins and cells of your immune system to detect and destroy any foreign invaders your body might come into contact with, like the common cold. it’s essential to allow yourself time to rest and recover when you’re not feeling well. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.

A consistent loss of sleep can increase one’s risk for obesity and weight gain. That’s because lack of sleep influences the body’s hormonal responses, some of which are decreased insulin sensitivity. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. So poor sleeping can affect your weight. So bad news for dieters.

What are the benefits to your brain, learning and creative power? And so what happens when you sleep?  Well, sleep gives your brain a chance to sort things out. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what kinds of organizing your brain does while you sleep, but they think that this might be the time when the brain sorts and stores information and solves problems. Creativity can also be boosted overnight. How often do great ideas come to mind on waking up!

A study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology found that people who slept seven to nine hours a night had skin that was more moisturized and that could protect and heal itself better compared to those who slept five hours or less. Your body boosts blood flow to the skin while you snooze, which means you wake to a healthy glow.  When you skimp on your sleep your complexion can look drab, ashen and lifeless. So, you not only feel better after a good night’s sleep but look better too.

What else can impact sleep? Eating heavy meals late at night, alcohol and caffeine drinks like coffee can cause problems sleeping, so are best avoided, herbal teas can be help and most supermarkets and health stores carry a large selection of teas and natural remedies. Technology can affect sleep, like using phones and computers at night, so for an hour or so before bedtime, turn these off and never use these in bed.

Stress often causes poor sleep patterns. If you’ve got a lot on your mind and are struggling with your emotions, going over things in your head can often keep you awake at night. If you are up at night worrying, you might begin to see a change in your mood and a lack of sleep can leave you feeling low. This could then cause you to feel anxious and create more negative thoughts about not sleeping. This might keep you awake even longer and can turn into a vicious cycle of worry and poor sleep. Its hard to stop this happening so try talking about worries before bedtime or even get professional help.

Try to keep a consistent bedtime and wake up time as our body clocks thrive on routine. Having a set wake up time seven days a week is important, particularly when we are having problems sleeping.

We need bedtime to be positive and relaxing, so a warm bath, hot drink or reading a book is a simple and effective wind-down after a busy day. The website offers detailed advice for all sleep-related issues.

Remember sleep is a super power we all need to survive and strive and its free.

Coronavirus and Sleep Patterns

Are you feeling sleep-deprived this winter? Yes, then you have joined over half of the population, who are reporting getting as little as just four hours sleep a night on average. Which is totally shocking and falling very short of the recommended six to eight hours sleep every night. The state of the nation’s sleep has come under scrutiny as more people admit they are unhappy with the quality of their sleep and the effect it is having on their ability to function daily.

According to a major survey commissioned by three of the leading bodies championing sleep, Sleep Station, The Sleep Council and The Sleep Charity. More than 2,700 people took part in the National Sleep Survey to provide an overview of the nation’s sleep during the Covid-19 global pandemic, the biggest UK survey of its kind to date on this subject. And it found that the coronavirus was affecting all aspects of sleep. Nearly four in 10 people (39%) are now going to bed later but also believe that the amount of sleep they get is shorter than normal. Nearly a third (30%) are also waking earlier. Significantly, women find it harder to fall asleep (46%) with men more likely to report no change or slightly longer sleep duration. Nearly three in every 10 people (26%) said waking too early was worse now than before. More than a third (33%) are experiencing more vivid dreams.

Sleeping well is crucial to our physical and mental health and wellbeing. With people experiencing signs of depression and reporting that lack of sleep is impacting on their mood, concentration and how tired they feel in the day, we have been exposed to lots of government advice around diet, exercise and how to look after our mental health during these challenging times. However, we’ve not heard anything concrete around sleep and it has never been more important. Lisa Artis, head of The Sleep Council

Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert who works with The Sleep Council added that millions of Britain’s have been impacted by the coronavirus in some way. The survey findings come amid rising concern that these unprecedented times are causing a surge in sleep issues. A lack of support, or lack of awareness of the help available for those issues, could have a lasting impact on the people of Britain.

The first Lockdown hit us all hard and now we are all back for a re-run. It’s much harder to stick to the routines we have in our usual life’s. No one knows what day it is; bedtimes have become much later and it’s harder to get up in the morning, plus we’re all feeling a little more anxious than normal. We know we should be getting exercise but its not as easy in winter than in summer-time. I have a treadmill at home but it’s still difficult to make myself use this everyday in lieu of walking to work daily. And it’s not just adults, this is also impacting on children. In these extraordinary times, it is fully understandable that sleep patterns may have changed for the worst. Too many of us check emails, social media or browse the internet before bedtime, some of us even use our phones and computers in bed. Over-use of computers and mobile phones is most likely adding to the problems of us not sleeping well.

The Sleep Council have offered the following advice:

  1. Keep regular hours. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you are most likely to feel sleepy.
  2. Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep and it should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible.
  3. Regular, moderate exercise such as walking can help relieve the day’s stresses and strains. But not too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake!
  4. Caffeine is a stimulant and its effect on sleep is well known – it interferes with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Try and avoid it 4-5 hours before bedtime; have a hot milky drink or an herbal tea instead
  5. While alcohol initially relaxes you and helps you to nod off, it decreases the amount of time you spend in REM sleep (deep, restorative sleep). Plus, you will find you wake in the night dehydrated and needing the loo
  6. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music, do some yoga – all help to relax both the mind and body. Your doctor may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation tape, too.
  7. Blue light inhibits the night-time secretion of melatonin and impacts on sleep latency so avoid screen time at least an hour before bed.

The website offers a range of helpful advice on improving sleep patterns. Self-care is so important right now, and a good night’s sleep can help so much with the upheavals we are all going through. Reading a book or listening to some relaxing music is going to be more helpful to sleeping that watching the latest news updates. Worrying about the future is natural but we can handle stressful times much better when we are getting enough sleep.

I have replaced my old bedding with a lovely new throw, which is cosy and attractive and this also stops me from siting on my bed to work, which I usually do. If you keep your bedroom for relaxing only particularly as so many people are working from home, this may improve your sleep.

 Look after yourself and Sleep well!

Escape For a Few Hours….

I had the idea about this blog a few weeks ago before we went back into a second lockdown. It has now become even more relevant. Sometimes we all need to escape; this is made ever harder by been confined to our homes once more. But you can escape without leaving your home or even your sofa for that matter! In my blog post on brainpower it mentioned than daydreaming is essential to maintaining a healthy brain, which is a big sigh of relief to the daydreamers (myself included) amongst us and payback for all those folks who always say that no good ever comes of day dreaming.

Many people use daydreaming as a way to escape their daily life or even the moment that they are in at the time. Daydreaming can provide a quick method to get away from reality, it can also be a healthy method for dealing with certain situations and ideas. Normally, this has a negative connotation but it can be useful when you need to induce creativity or a few minutes of relaxation. Depending on the way you use your free time, it can be either a positive or negative. Even though this is often a spontaneous action, you can still set a certain time when you sit in a quiet spot and begin daydreaming. Many people find this to be an ideal stress-relieving technique. Daydreaming allows your mind to wander and forget about reality for a short time. This attribute alone can help you keep your sanity when you are going through some rough times. By allowing yourself to escape from a stressful situation, you can return to the situation with a new attitude and possibly even a solution to the problem that may be causing the stress.

We all just need some time alone to heal and nurture ourselves. When we have this feeling, it might be that our minds and souls are sending us messages. We’re being reminded that it’s time to step away and indulge in some self-care. There are both healthy and unhealthy forms of escape. The healthy forms are a better choice as drinking and drugs whilst offering an escape can cause more harm than good.

As and aid to mentally escaping: reading, practising Yoga, music and film and TV can all help this process as well as just taking the time to relax on your own. I would offer the advice that computer games can be mindless but are not really offering the sort of mental release, I am suggesting. Excessive gaming can lead to dopamine exhaustion, emotional suppression, and lack of motivation, among other issues, so can be harmful to your health.

I love reading, and its totally possible to escape to a different country, time even world. Audio books and kindle books are free online through your local libraries though the Libby app. You could be attending a ball at the French court of Versailles, seeing the wonderful costumes, décor and dancing, perhaps you could be in a sunny, warm climate instead of a grey, dull one. You could be walking through a beautiful forest or climbing mountains to see wonderful vistas. The sheer number of places to escape is limitless.

Not everyone likes to read and apps like Netflix gives you a wide variety of films and TV series that offer a chance to escape of a short while. I am loving Rivera, I am on series 3 but you can catch up, if you haven’t seen this yet. Some critics have called this as a modern-day Dallas, and I don’t think it was meant in a complimentary way! But personally, I loved Dallas, the plots don’t always ring true, but the settings are fabulous as is the weather, designer clothes, fast cars, boats and amazing houses and hotels, so what is not to love? We will never live in this world so its great to see how the super wealthy live, be it fictionally.  I never totally get the popularity of the British soaps, set in markets and greasy joe cafes? Who wants to see real life, give me glamour every time to escape to once a week.

I do hope that you get a chance to escape just for a short while, taking time for yourself to clear your head, re-charge or relax is vital during stressful times. So, take care of yourself and don’t forget to keep day-dreaming…..

Millennials and Pre-loved Clothing

As a design student, I always shopped in second-hand clothing stores and charity shops, living close to Leeds and then in London, there was a huge amount of choice. As I could sew, I also customized my finds. Even as a schoolgirl, I never wanted to look the same as anyone else, I loved clothes but had a limited budget. The second-hand or thrifting market (I prefer the title pre-loved) was perfect for me, much to my mum’s dismay.

Shopping in charity shops and second-hand clothing stores used to be for students, low income shoppers and the more bohemian. But the expansion and diversification of the used clothing market is attracting a new clientele, many of them younger shoppers who don’t even remember when vintage was in fashion before. Millennials are turning to second-hand buying at a rate of 250% faster than any other age groups. Mercari noted in its research, that half of all millennial’s said they would rather own fewer, high-end designer brand items than more inexpensive, mass-produced clothing. A recent UK survey claims that more than half of the consumers in the key 25-34 age group are buying second-hand fashion. As well as that, 50% of them have repaired damaged or worn-out clothes and further down the age scale, 75% of 16-24-year-old Britons say they have swapped fashion items with others or would be interested in doing so in the future.

So, it’s worth considering why second-hand fashion is now so much more popular. Younger consumers have a few specific qualities that have driven the growth of the re-sale and second-hand market and that also has implications for our planet. In a world where social media is king, the need to repeatedly produce Insta-worthy or Pinterest-worthy posts is quickly driving young people to expand their wardrobe’s. If you don’t want to be seen wearing the same item twice, you’ll either need a huge budget, or you’ll need to look to more economical ways to subsidise your look. Vintage items and rare finds can be proudly shown off in Instagram posts to envious followers, in a way that buying on the high-street doesn’t.

Additionally, 50% of the same age group are turning their fashion into cash and selling unwanted clothes. (The number doing this for the wider age range is still only 35%) Websites like Vinted can be used through a phone App and are incredibly quick and easy to use. I have been buying and selling through Vinted for several years and I would highly recommend it. Buying and selling second-hand clothing is becoming easier and more fashionable. Consumers no longer have to go to charity stores and can buy on eBay or via higher-end resale sites. Charities are increasingly offering upscale items in their online stores and merchandising their high-street stores to a high standard. The fashion industry are starting to embrace resale, with some companies like Topshop and TK Maxx offering pre-loved items for sale. Fashion rental, which has been around for decades, mostly for evening wear, is also having a resurgence.

There is a really a clear trend towards adopting second-hand fashion, whether it’s for ethical reasons, money-saving purposes or style choices. Ethical fashion is becoming more important to us, but when trying to apply ethical principles to general fashion clothing, many UK consumers say they find it difficult to know which fashion retailers are truly ‘ethical’. Researchers at Mintel spoke to over 1,800 fashion shoppers of all ages and said that “savvy young Britons are buying, selling, mending, swapping and renting their clothes”.

Vogue magazine asked its younger readers about buying pre-loved fashion, many of the comments were similar, to the one below:

 Shopping vintage or second-hand has always allowed me to feel individual, and to find pieces which excite me. I have since become more conscious of the ethical and environmental impact.

The second-hand clothing market could not be growing at a better time. Producing and discarding clothing continues to have a huge impact on the environment, even more so in recent decades because of the shorter “life” of most fashion clothing.

As the world’s economy continues to suffer the monumental impacts of coronavirus and reduced consumer spending, the clothing re-sale market is likely to be an even bigger competitor to classic retail (i.e. buying new). Having less-expensive clothes delivered to your door via courier is also likely to compete with shopping in a physical store. I wonder how this will affect the ailing high street. Many well- know fashion retailers are struggling, some well-know brands have even disappeared from the high-street all together. The last few pieces of clothing, I purchased were from a charity shop and an online second- hand clothing website. I rarely find clothing I like in shops now. Fashion retailers seem to be out of touch with what consumers actually want to buy.

Thrifting, it seems to be the way forward, particularly among young (and even more mature) British fashion shoppers.