Community Matters!

I moved in the Spring of 2022 to a small town with 14,000 or so residents. Coincidently, it had just been named the best place to live in the UK. In truth, I tend to take these things with a pinch of salt, however in this case I would agree. I found a strong sense of local community, often missing in cities and larger towns, friendly and welcoming with the feeling of everyone being connected. Great for someone who had relocated to a new area like me, without knowing a soul. Just a warm greeting and a short chat in the morning on the way to work can make a huge difference to anyone’s day.

In the past few years, during Covid some real bonds had formed between neighbours looking out for each other and family members finding ways to keep in touch, however difficult. As we move through 2023 many people are still thinking of ways to help others. We have seen a lot of changes, from rising inflation to the ongoing costs of living, for many times are getting harder, so it’s natural that more of us want to try to help those who live close by and the places they live in better. Small things can have a big impact.

We hear the word Community a lot right now: from small locally run charities and groups to larger social business enterprises such as Community Clothing. (Founded by designer Patrick Grant,to provide affordable clothing made in British factories which has been a huge support to the local communities) But, all ventures, large, small, ambitious or modest can be of benefit.

But, what does it actually mean? I had to do some research as I wasn’t fully sure.

The most general translation appears to be: a group of people who share a common way of life which is expressed in shared beliefs, goals, values, purpose, responsibilities and communication.

You can define a community by the shared attributes of the people in it and/or by the strength of the connections among them. A culture of taking care of each other while accepting people’s differences. I think that been accepted is important. The sense of being part of something larger than we are is well- known as a source of good feeling. A bit like joining a team. Much more can be achieved in a group than by a solo pursuit.

Why are communities so important? They are often an important source of social connection and a sense of belonging. Our communities shape our understanding of others. Participating in a community bonded by attitudes, values, and goals can be an essential ingredient to enjoying a fulfilling life.

6 benefits of community and connection in challenging times:

  • Vital social connection and engagement.
  • Community belonging boosts physical and mental health.
  • Resilient communities come together and adapt.
  • Never being alone.
  • Easy access to well-balanced, nutritious meals.
  • Assuring safety and well-being.

Charities, groups and volunteers are going that extra mile in supporting each other and those in need. Community Foundations across the UK tackle the issue of elderly isolation by funding small, local charities and community groups who do wonderful work to help older people to cope with numerous challenges that life throws their way and to help them maintain social contact in their local community.

What can we do. Volunteering can be both rewarding and significant. Should you want to help people who are local to you, take a look at some of the organisations in your area. I have been surprised how many organisations there are local to me. There are many different ways to offer your services in a volunteering capacity.

Showing your support for local enterprises is a great way to help your local area by giving back to the local economy. One a simple level, just taking the time to acknowledge others, kindness and a smile go a long way!

Marie Kondo -Re-Boot

Last week I saw an article in my feed about the Japanese decluttering extraordinaire Marie Kondo. Since the birth of her third child, she says she has “kind of given up” on tidying. Admitting that with three children to look after, her family home is “messy” and tidying up less of a priority and is now spending her time in the right way for this stage of her life. The tidying guru comments that her life has changed significantly since the arrival of her son in 2021.

I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times,” she said “Now I realise what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”

KonMari, Kondo’s tidying method, was outlined in the 2011 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This method encouraged categorising items like clothes, books and sentimental items to figure out whether they “spark joy” in the owner. During lockdown I did read this book, writing a blog at the time about it, whilst re-organising my own stuff. Once back in the real world and with less spare time on my hands, I have regressed slightly, to some minor disorganisation. I have continued to accumulate stuff, that possibly I don’t need. I feel I may not be the only one!

We had embraced radical de-cluttering as a way to improve our life’s, but possibly had taken this a step too far. Having read the original book again, I feel that there was a degree of misinterpretation. I gained two lovely China mugs from a friend (that she loved herself) because they no longer fitted her newly re-organised kitchen. Pinterest is a flood with homes that have been re-arranged to the point of obsessive-compulsive disorder. As a natural tidy and organized person, I find it far too much neatness. A home should feel lived in, which suggests a little bit of non-tidiness. Tidying our homes didn’t change our life’s much in most cases, although it helped to find things quicker. After re-reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I did throw away some reading glasses I have been meaning to repair for at least a year and took some clothes that I will never wear again to my local charity shop. So, that’s not such a bad result!

Over a decade on from the launch of her bestselling book, in 2022, Marie Kondo returned with her new wisdom on how to transform your life and home into spaces of calm with Marie Kondo at Home. This introduces the concept of Kurashi– which means a way of life, encouraging you to spend every day in the pursuit of joy. Marie moves her focus from the physical act of tidying alone towards a more holistic and personal approach to curating your environment. To help guide everything that we do expanding well beyond the home. She says that her way of life has changed and her focus has shifted from organisation to finding simple ways to bring everyday happiness.

“The true purpose of tidying is not to cut down on your possessions or declutter your space, the ultimate goal is to spark joy every day and lead a joyful life. I believe that when we consciously cherish something precious, we deepen our relationship with it. This, in turn, deepens our bonds with other things in our lives, bringing out the best in them and in ourselves.”     Marie Kondo

In her new book, she writes: “Tidying up means dealing with all the ‘things’ in your life.” For Kondo, this means evaluating how you order your life and creating your own rhythm based on what fills you with joy.

So, I guess she came to the same conclusion that we all came to by ourselves. Having said that I may read the new book!

For more details view


In some seasons we flourish yet in others, life does seem so much harder. Winters can be long, cold, and dark. The inherent nature of winter can make it difficult for us humans to endure happily. I prefer warmer climes so the cold, grey starkness of Winter it is not the easiest time of the year for me. Like many I always look forward to the end of this season. From around October to March, as the longest season ( it actually can be half of the year) it certainly feels like an eternity!

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, caused in the main due to the reduced daylight, which lowers the Serotonin levels. (The key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness) Its prevalent in the UK and Northern countries. Showing the importance of light on mood and health. There is nothing more uplifting than a blue sky or depressing than a grey one. When days are dark its emotionally tough on many people. The people we come in contact with might be struggling in ways that we cannot comprehend.

When we talk about the winter of your life, it’s the last (dark) section of your life, when perhaps fewer exciting things happen, the slowing down of your life, before dying. Whilst we look forward to the renewal that Spring brings, the joy of spending more time outside in Summer and Holidays, even the rich beauty of Autumn. It’s harder to look forward to Winter with the same enthusiasm. Yet of all the seasons, Wintertime can be the most insightful and the best time to put our houses in order, so to speak. As a time of reflection and a slower time to recuperate from our busy life’s. We often fly to warmer climes during the Winter months, but is this actually the best way to combat the season, to push it away rather than embracing it?

The world of nature doesn’t try to fight Winter in the same way we do. Animals adapt by withdrawing and hibernating. Now whilst we don’t have the luxury of staying in bed for several months, as great as that would sound at 7am on a cold, dark morning, we can at least try to see the pleasures of this season rather than only the negative points.

Many colder climate countries plan for the winter months. In Finland, in the regions of Lapland, generations have spent Summer and Autumn, hunting, freezing and collecting and foraging for berries and mushrooms, as the growing season is short. The entire cultivation process has to be completed two months faster than in the warmer south, before Winter sets in. Food, is preserved in advance and stored away for times when there is less abundance of fresh food. This is how our ancestors would have lived before the times of polytunnels and imported foods. Eating only seasonal foods. Some well-known chefs like Tommy Banks, are returning to this with a farm to table approach using preserved foods for the Winter menu.

Hot drinks and foods have a way of soothing our souls and warming our bodies on cold, dark nights. Keeping it healthy most of the time, with thick homemade soups and stews but allowing for occasional indulgences too like hot chocolate with warming spices like cinnamon, can be such a treat.

Hygge, became a lifestyle trend in the UK in 2016 and whilst you can be forgiven for thinking that this is just a marketing term to sell us more stuff, like blankets and candles. Hygge is as Danish as æbleskiver and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence it means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. Its very much a way of life for the Danes and we could learn from it too.

Our bodies need more sleep in winter, and allowing the body and brain to relax is looking after our health. Our ancestors survived without electric lights and modern conveniences, so had to adapt to the seasons. They slept more in the Winter and less in Summer.

 Rather than complaining about the cold weather, how about finding pleasurable activities, we would not normally have time for like craft projects, reading or staring a new hobby. For many of our ancestors, Winter was the time spent on making clothing or rugs or items that could help them earn money. What was made in the winter was taken to town in the spring for selling or traded with their neighbours.

So, snuggle up under your blanket, with a cup of something warm, light some candles and get lost in the pages of a book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or if you’re feeling more social, cook and invite your friends over for a board game night.

Perhaps wintertime is not so bad after all, and we should give gratitude for the down time!

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.


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.

The New Normal- Working from Home

Working from home was seen as a temporary fix for an unusual situation. However, this has become a longer necessity than was originally thought. Many people had hoped to return to their offices and initially this was been encouraged by our government, but there appears to have been several U-turns on this policy. Most of the people I know who have been working from home, started doing so in March and in October are still working from home. (And they all really enjoy doing so) Localized lock-downs and Track and Trace, are keeping many of us in our homes.

The majority of office workers believe they will still be working from home until at least 2021 even with the government’s best efforts to get people back into the workplace. More than four out of 10 office workers are still working from their homes. This is despite around half of the respondents, 49 % stating their employer had requested that they return to the office. It shows businesses and the Government still have their work cut out to convince employees that it is safe to return to the workplace. A major obstacle for people going back to work is public transport, with the survey revealing that 57% believing it is unsafe to take the bus or train to work.

Many major companies continue working remotely and plenty have no immediate plans to return to the office. Indeed, and Google have extended their work-from-home policies by an entire year. Employees don’t have to return to their offices until summer 2021, and both companies plan to accommodate remote-working indefinitely in some capacity. Uber, American Express and Airbnb have also extended their remote- working policies.

The Understanding Society Covid-19 Study has stated that nine out of 10 those who had worked from home during lockdown would like to continue in some form. The increasing costs of public transport and overcrowded roads and trains have made getting to work, expensive and stressful. If you spend your working life at a computer or using a telephone, in therapy, could you do this anywhere? Are people much happier and engaged without the stress of commuting? We had even started to see a dramatic reduction in traffic, congestion, and pollution. The benefits to the environmental impacts us all.

Industry insiders estimate that we will see 25-30% of the workforce working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021, in both the UK and USA. In the last few decades, the demand for flexibility in where and how people work has been building. Before the crisis, surveys repeated showed 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time. Over a third would take a pay cut in exchange for the option.

Its not just workers who can see the benefits of remote- working.  Businesses desperate to shed costs could save money, occupancy studies have shown just how inefficiently office space was being used. Employees around the globe are not at their desk 50% to 60% of the time!

Covid-19 will also likely cause executives to rethink the need for travelling to meetings. Whilst virtual meetings may not have all the same benefits of being face-to-face, the savings may outweigh the costs much of the time. Zoom meetings are now very much part of so everyday life.

In Wales, their Governments polices differ from the English Government. Nearly a third of people should still be working from homes, even when coronavirus restrictions have eased, says the Welsh Ministers. Who aim to see about 30% of the workforce in Wales staying at or near to their homes in the long term, adopting a culture that supports remote-working. This move is seen as a way of reducing congestion and pollution and improving the work-life balance of the Welsh population.

I can see the good points and bad points of this move, and it will be interesting to see what happens in Scotland, as the UK is divided in its thinking of the best way forward. I think many things will not go back to the old way of doing things, the work-life balance has been lacking for many of us and having had the time to reflect on this people don’t want, in many cases, to return to the old ways. Not going out and seeing other people could potentially cause mental problems for workers isolated from their colleagues. There are social aspects to working with other people. Seeing and talking to others is vital to our well-being.

Other businesses in the high street, in particular coffee shops, are been badly affected by people not going out to work and not consuming as much. So, I guess this has to be addressed too. Its very sad that many businesses are having to close. In a changing culture, there will always be winners and losers.

Working from home permanently, would also require some re-organisation and adjustments in having an actual work space and not allowing your kitchen, living room or bedroom to become an office 24/7. A work environment which is over-cluttered can drain your energy and one which is well- planned can boost energy levels. An environment is the invisible hand which shapes human behaviour, according to author James Clear. Our homes are now our offices, meeting rooms, school rooms even our gyms. (Vital to our fitness, if we are moving less) As we live, eat, sleep and work from one place and life becomes more virtual. I hope that as our life’s change this is with positively moving onwards to better times.


Kindness For One Day or Everyday

I have been meaning to write a blog on Kindness for some time. I think this is the most essential personality trait that anyone can have. Also, if ever there was a time for Kindness it’s Now. I have in my life been given random acts of kindness, often from surprizing sources and these were very important to me at the time. Acts of Kindness, don’t need to be huge gestures, sometimes its small things that matter most and mean a lot. Research shows that helping others can be beneficial to our own mental health. It can reduce stress, improve our emotional wellbeing and even benefit our physical health. Almost everybody feels good when someone is kind to them. This is especially true for those who are vulnerable, like people who are recovering from depression or who are learning to live with  dementia. Acts of kindness and compassion can increase wellbeing and aid recovery.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Leo Buscaglia, 1924 – 1998

In the business world, Kindness is not widely regarded as a matter for serious businesspeople. Corporate language is rife with going into battle and winning at all costs, the survival of the strongest, and kind, caring people are regarded as a bit soft and even weak. Think of Margret Thatcher and The Apprentice. The times they may be a changing. According to a recent Guardian article, a poll carried out revealed that just one person in eight wants life in the UK to return to exactly as it was before when the coronavirus pandemic is over. The article asserts that there is a widespread appetite for a kinder society that allows workers more time off with family and friends, cares about the environment, and ensures high levels of employment. So, I think even the business world is waking up to treating people with more Kindness.

World Kindness Day is an international observance that falls every year on the 13th of November. First launched in 1998 by The World Kindness Movement, is an organisation formed at a 1997 Tokyo conference of like-minded kindness organisations from around the world. There are currently over 28 nations involved in The World Kindness Movement which is not affiliated with any religion or political movement. The mission of the World Kindness Movement and World Kindness Day is to create a kinder world by inspiring individuals and nations towards greater kindness.

In the UK, Kindness Day UK is organised by Kindness UK, a not for profit organisation. Kindness Day UK was launched on 13th November 2010. On this day, participants attempt to make the world a better place by celebrating and promoting good deeds and pledging acts of kindness, either as individuals or as organisations. The event has continued to grow in popularity every year with increasing numbers of individuals, schools, charities, institutions and businesses taking part.

For more details visit Kindness UK website

These little gestures are sometimes also known by the acronym RAOK (Random Acts of Kindness) and whilst you don’t really need an international day to do any of them. ( Do you?) It does get the message out there, which has to be a good thing. Random acts of kindness could be: paying it forward, volunteering, sending notes of gratitude or cards and smiling at strangers. It could help both individuals and communities to flourish. Is there anything you can do for someone that needs help? We can all benefit from giving or receiving an act of Kindness. Research is showing that people who are kind and compassionate are more satisfied with their lives, have better mental health and have stronger relationships.

So being kind and compassionate can help other people and make you feel good too. The more you give, the more positive you feel.  So, do be kind please……


Style at Any Age

Now this article came up in my feed a new days ago, it was from 2015, yet its as relevant now as it was five years ago. I do follow That’s Not My Age by former fashion editor, Alyson Walsh on social media, and I fully agree with what she is saying. As I’m the same age and grew up in Generation X, I was a Peacock Punk in the early 80’s which was more like early Spandau Ballet and less like the Sex Pistols. (Ask your parents, if you don’t know the difference) It was about dressing up in your own way rather than following fashion trends.

When Alyson talks about the fashion industry not recognizing woman over 50, I can hear myself, in my head of course, going Here, Here! Alyson’s motto is refusing to be invisible; I suddenly became invisible for the first time in my life in my late 40’s, I had always thought this was an urban myth until I found out it was actually fact. People talk about “Women of a certain age” which generally goes hand-in- hand with past it? Well, we all have an age number, don’t we? But does it really matter?

That’s Not My Age began in 2008, when Alyson noticed a space online to celebrate women of all ages. Over a decade later she still provides expert advice, style tips, interviews and podcasts, That’s Not My Age has been at the forefront of a movement empowering women and calling out ageism and sexism. The website was until recently free and there is now a small fee. Alyson has also produced a great book called How to Look Fabulous Every Age and is on Instagram and Facebook.

The most stylish and fashionable women that I know are in their mid -sixties and seventies and there are some wonderful examples of famous older women who look amazing, in fact far better than many famous twenty-year olds. Yet the fashion industry still caters for the young. My seventy-six-year-old mother wears skinny jeans and looks great in them, but the fashion industry thinks she should be wearing polyester trousers with an elasticated waistband. It does not make very good business sense to ignore one of the most cash- rich age groups in society.

Over the years I have worked for many well- known fashion companies. I remember one company that decided to pursue a younger, trendier market and dumped its loyal customers of over twenty years. Now trends come and go, and been totally on-trend is very fickle. So, it found, its new customers ditched them for the new latest company after a short time leaving them in serious trouble!

“Fifty isn’t that old. But the fashion industry sort of ignores you” Alyson Watson

I have worked in fashion since I was a teenager, but oddly enough I have never aspired to be fashionable, on occasion, despite this, I have been on-trend sometimes by accident. But I love clothes, more than fashion and hope I have my own style, which suits me. Because, lets face it not every fashion trend looks good on everyone, and some trends don’t look great on anyone. But it would be lovely to be able to find more clothes I actually liked on the high street. In my teens and early twenties, I bought a lot of second-hand clothes and I have started to do this again. I think pre-loved clothing is important for many reasons, but it also gives you the chance to have your own unique style rather than just wearing the same as everyone else, that season.

If you want to see something a bit wackier, a book called Advanced Style features some unbelievable woman with very distinctive styles like ninety-six-year-old fashion icon, Iris Apfel. Photographer and author, Ari Seth Cohen the creator of Advanced Style has devoted a project “to capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set.” He says, “I feature people who live full creative lives. They live life to the fullest, age gracefully and continue to grow and challenge themselves. I noticed a lack of older people in fashion campaigns and street style sites. I wanted to show that you can be stylish, creative and vital at any age.” His first book published in 2012 has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. In 2015, The New York Times fashion director, Vanessa Friedman, credited Cohen with helping to create the recent movement towards the fashion industry embracing older models.

I think true style is ageless and totally personal. One of the most original style icons is Iris Apfel, she has always espoused the virtues of not just dressing for yourself, but for being true to who you are and doing it unapologetically. Her colourful, bold style is not for everyone but then that’s the point and this makes her wonderfully true to herself. One of my personal style icons is Lauren Hutton, she has understated elegance, is ageless and totally comfortable in her skin and yet is over Fifty years young……

Style Forever: How to Look Fabulous Every Age by Alyson Watson

Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

Both are available at Waterstones or Amazon

The Effects of Coronavirus- Good and Bad

Six months on, whilst I truly hope the worse effects of coronavirus are over and that some sense of normal life can return. It has to be said that life may never be quite the same as before. Now, I’m asking about the effects of the virus on our life’s both, good and bad. Now I realise that for many people it does seem all bad. With job cuts, worries about future loss of work and businesses closing, there is much too worry about. But I always feel that from bad situations some good must come too.

This was such a huge wake-up call for us all. Having to stay in our homes with our partners and families for months was a challenge, as was not shopping or going out. But how many of us, have become closer to our loved ones, having spent more time with them. Parents tried home-schooling and many of us had a go at new and old hobbies. Rather than just watching The Great British Bake-off we actually started baking ourselves. And to help us keep active Mr Motivator came out of retirement and back on TV to keep us moving. Joe Wicks kept your children active and let’s face it, cheered up a few mothers too. Gardening, decorating and all those unfinished tasks were finally done. We all got to meet up with family and friends via Zoom or Messager. My family has been having weekly quizzes on Zoom, which has been fun as well as educational. Puzzles, jigsaws and reading became cool again.

Oddly enough despite the restrictions many of us ate a healthier diet and got more exercise. Families cooked and ate together. Younger generations were forced to stay in and actually interact with their families. We found ourselves time rich rather than time poor. Socializing outside the home ceased. We have been forced to spend less, travel was impossible and we mostly could only spend on food. Its been a time to reconsider what is essential, to reappraise life and decide if we needed to spend as much as we did? Are we living to work or working to life?

Some industries were able to adapt to home-working and this may become a more flexible way for people to work in the future which may benefit working mothers and reduce long commutes to work. We have seen how different ways to work can succeed. Even our Queen has been using Zoom. Unable to source goods from China, British factories produced what was needed. Will we continue to manufacture our own goods instead of importing?

Communities have come together to help those less fortunate than themselves. Many have volunteered, or shopped for those that couldn’t leave their homes or have helped to make extra uniforms and masks for our hospitals. Businesses, both local and national have donated to the health service and to those that needed the help most. Despite the restrictions incredible individuals still continued to raise valuable funds for charities. Our wonderful National Health service has been honoured every week when whole streets around the country came out of their homes to clap for them together.

I do hope that the renewed sense of community can continue as this will surely aid our recovery.

Now for the bad, the stock piling of food and essential cleaning products was shocking, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic. I had to go to eight different supermarkets to find cleaning products to clean my shop, whist it was open for business and as the shelves were all empty I had to take my own cleaning products to work. Essential workers like nurses and doctors were unable to get food for themselves and their families, the older members of the population also had to go without because of stockpiling which was a downright disgrace. Particularly as this only happened in the UK and not in other countries.

Over-eating, drinking too much, over sleeping and spending too much time gaming or watching TV and not getting exercise at all was the new normal for some. My heart does go out to anyone having to go into isolation on their own or to anyone who found the situation caused great anxiety, fear and depression. I do hope than this has now improved a little for you.

Moving on, slowly things are returning if not to normality then to the new normal. Perhaps our values have changed, we can see what is more important to us. Many lost loved ones. The most precious thing of all is to spend time with the ones we love.

The virus lockdown has suspended life and in the return to our everyday life’s have we been through too much to return to our old habits?