2018 | Typecast

Can Leaders Work From Home?

Can Leaders Work From Home?
Image Credit

There is no denying that remote work has become exceptionally popular over the past few years. The benefits associated with this are obvious. It presents people with greater flexibility when it comes to their working life and more comfort too. However, there is no denying that some job roles simply cannot be conducted from within the comfort of your own property. After all, it’s not like you could ask your construction boss to work from your house, is it? But what about leadership roles? Can leaders work from home?

Yes, leadership roles can be performed remotely

As a leader, you are going to be working closely with a lot of people at the business you work for. This leads a lot of people to assume that you cannot work remotely. However, this is not the case. Yes, you do need to be face-to-face with people at times, so your job cannot be 100 per cent remote. Nevertheless, there are going to be plenty of times whereby using tech to communicate will be more than sufficient. You don’t need to be face-to-face with your team every hour of the day. It is all about communicating a clear purpose and then creating an environment of trust. Attaining a strategic leadership degree can assist you with this. If you have done this, and you have effective methods for all forms of communication in place, there is no reason why you can't work remotely at times.

Technology means you don’t have to have meetings in person today

Technology has progressed rapidly over the past few years, which is one of the main reasons why remote work has become so popular. Technology means that we no longer have to be in meetings, as we once used to. We can make the most of video conference calls instead. This is especially beneficial when communicating with clients that are based overseas, so why can’t it work when engaging remote workers?

Do you think you will have a socially disconnected workforce if you work from home?

This is what a lot of people think. This can happen but only if you let it. However, you will quickly learn that there are ways to ensure that this does not happen. It is all about generating processes and structures that support a team that is socially connected. This begins with the culture you create, and then it will flow into your communication constructs and methods, for example, using instant messenger applications or having daily meetings via Google Hangout.

So there you have it: leaders can most certainly work from home.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that you will need to go about this in the correct manner if you want to make working from home a success. You need to ensure that you have a good mixture of communicating remotely and meeting up whenever important matters are discussed. You should also make sure the right structures are in place for effective communication and collaboration. If you do this, there is no reason why leaders cannot make working from home work for them.

Things I Learnt In July

...and maybe some things I learnt in April, May and June too because it's been a hella long time since I wrote one of these blog posts.  But what I do is collect little articles I find and thoughts that have and when I get ten minutes to myself I try and pull them together into a half decent blog post.  So here's a few things that interested me and I hope they interest you too!

Things I Learnt In July - ...and maybe some things I learnt in April, May and June too because it's been a hella long time since I wrote one of these blog posts.  But what I do is collect little articles I find and thoughts that have and when I get ten minutes to myself I try and pull them together into a half decent blog post.  So here's a few things that interested me and I hope they interest you too!


If I lived on Mars I'd only be 24 years old but if I lived on Venus I would be 79 years old. This cute little sub-website from Go Compare gives you a number of facts and figures about planet Earth since you were born.  Give it a try!

I fell in love with Lady Gaga's version of Your Song from the album, Revamp, which reimagines the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.  But when I shared it on Twitter, my friend Toni sent me this article about why we tend to sing in an American accent because she thought Gaga sounded as though she was putting on a British accent (she's pretty qualified to comment as she lived in America for 20-odd years before moving back to the UK recently).

The Breakfast Club was - and always will be - one of my favourite films.  John Hughes will always be one of my favourite directors but this article, written by Molly Ringwald, gives a different slant on him in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt and, though the audience doesn’t see, it is implied that he touches her inappropriately.
But I kept thinking about that scene. I thought about it again this past fall, after a number of women came forward with sexual-assault accusations against the producer Harvey Weinstein, and the #MeToo movement gathered steam. If attitudes toward female subjugation are systemic, and I believe that they are, it stands to reason that the art we consume and sanction plays some part in reinforcing those same attitudes.

If you're of a certain age *cough* like me *cough* you'll remember saving foil milk bottle tops and rubbing them smooth with your thumbnail to make a mirror for your Sindy house, yes?  Well, in Japan they are taking it one step further by turning 16 metre rolls of aluminium foil into beautifully polished balls.  LOOK!!

Tracey Thorn (from Everything But The Girl) wrote a bloody awesome article for The New Statesman
I am sure you all saw the Twitter challenge that took off the other day – a request to women to “describe yourself like a male author would”, started by the writer Whitney Reynolds. There were thousands of hilarious replies, with women imagining how a bad male author would describe them. I thought about posting an example, but then realised, I didn’t have to imagine this. I’ve been being described by male journalists for more than 35 years.
It continues with a summary of how male journalists have described her over the years but it's become par for the course as there is a lack of female (music) journalists out there.  She also notes that whilst there isn't a lack of amazing female musical talent out there, the imbalance of representation at music events suggests there is. [h/t to James Whatley for this article - it appeared in his "Five Things On Friday" newsletter which you MUST subscribe to even though it's on hiatus for the summer!]

Whilst I was on holiday earlier this year I was GLUED to the book "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline.  Seriously, it's an awesome read, set slightly in the future, with a realistic feel because of the way we are already embedded into virtual reality gaming. I've since watched the trailer for the film (I'm always YEARS behind with these things) and, for once, I don't think the film is going to do the book an injustice.  I'm going to have to set aside some time to watch it.

By the way... don't bother with the Netfix original "Ibiza".  It's shit. And the reason it's shit is because the producer didn't even bother to go to the White Isle at any point in his life.  So, if you make a film about Ibiza, you don't actually have to go to Ibiza - nor do you even have to shoot any of the footage in Ibiza.  IT'S TRUE - it's all here in this article on Mixmag!! 

It would seem quite shocking to a music fan or someone who’s been to Ibiza a lot that the film would be made without the director having not actually gone to the island. It’s a very spiritual place and it’s a place where people have founded a lot of great memories. Through watching the film it felt like a lot of that essence had been lost. I think you have to have seen the island and experienced it to really get it. With that being said, that means you haven’t been to any of the clubs in Ibiza as well right? 
*long silence* I haven’t been to Ibiza.

And staying with the theme of people really showing themselves up in interviews... just in case you missed it, here's Gemma Collins being a dick diva. I'm not even going to quote any of it as a spoiler because it's so jaw-droppingly awkward! 

Anyway, Netflix might just have redeemed themselves by making the most awesome series available to view.  The Kath and Kim boxset has been on my Amazon wishlist for as long as I can remember but, here it is now, in all it's glory, for me to binge-watch! 

Things I Learnt In July - Kath and Kim is now available on Netflix

I was reminded that it's probably about 16 years since I started talking to strangers on the internet.  This is just part of a conversation that popped up on a friend's Facebook Memories the other day and, as you can see, we were trying to work out exactly how long we'd all "known" each other.  Sixteen years is a bloody long time.  I do remember though that my husband though it a bit odd (and still does) that I talked to "strangers" on the internet but then I reminded him that he did (and still does) the same with his amateur radio hobby.

Things I Learnt In July - it's 16 years since I started talking to strangers on the internet

And speaking of strangers on the internet, you may have seen me talking about the recent loss of a very dear blogging friend - Kate. A few things have happened since the very shocking news... Firstly, the fund that was set up to pay for her funeral is now at over £13,000 in donations which will hopefully help her boys through the next few dark months as they come to terms with what has happened.  Secondly, many bloggers, old and new, have reconnected with each other to celebrate Kate's life by mirroring her take on life - you can follow the hashtag #BeMoreWitWitWoo mainly on Instagram and Twitter to see everyone's interpretation of this. Thirdly, and probably most randomly, is the piece of jewellery that I found myself "designing" which will also put money into the fund. It's a long story but... I ordered myself a leather bracelet from Hope House Press and owner Liz (a friend of mine) sent the order out really quickly.  I messaged her to thank her and she said that she loved the phrase that I'd chosen to have embossed on the bracelet - CHOOSE LIFE - CHOOSE LOVE - and that she had an idea. She thought the phrase really captured the whole "Kate" situation and wanted to make it available to raise money for the boys' fund.  So, within an hour of me receiving the bracelet, I became an arm model and "my bracelet" was available on the Hope House Press website for anyone to buy

Things I Learnt In July - #BeMoreWitWitWoo - becoming an arm model and designing jewellery


And I think that is the perfect place to finish this month's "What I Learnt In..." Don't forget to get in touch and let me know what you've learnt recently too.

Oh... the usual "hashtag not sponsored" section.  This bit is boring now but, just so you know, none of the above links are sponsored in any way - and if they were, I'd let you know. This is just my way of sharing the love around the internet and keeping myself, and maybe you, amused.  If you ARE interested in contacting me about how to work with me then you can click this link for more info.  

Interior Home Improvement Tips - Adding Rugs

Most home owners dread improving the look of the house because this project can be quite daunting and costly. There is so much that goes into your home improvement project to make it stand out from the rest.

When you hear about interior home improvement, the first thing that comes to your mind is repainting the walls and replacing the tiles. But the easiest and most convenient way to add style to your home is getting the right rug. 

This is an easy task and will not cost you much. You may need some tips and advice from an expert in order to choose the right rug for your home. This infographic from Land Of Rugs will give you tips to consider if you want a rug to make the difference in your living space.


Pros and cons of different accommodations on a holiday

A travel through Southeast Asia is sure going to be great and exciting. A major part of discussions and contemplations is where to stay and the costs involved. During your vacation, you are sure to come across guesthouses, budget hotels, and homestays besides luxury resorts and boutique hotels. The choice you make will, of course, depend on your location, your preferences and the kind of budget you have. The good news about Southeast Asia is that one can get a very nice accommodation at a fraction of the costs one is used to paying in other parts of the world.

Before you book an accommodation depending on your budget, your personal taste, and the location, it is essential to be well aware of the pros and cons of each type of accommodation available for holiday trips. 

Pros and cons of different accommodations on a holiday
Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

Pros and cons of Hotels

If you have a reasonable budget, a good hotel should be the top choice as one can be sure of the comfort and cleanliness when compared to hostels and backpackers accommodations. One can certainly enjoy more amenities and services, and the location of the hotels is usually near the city center and the market hub which is very useful and convenient. For example, the Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur is a deluxe resort-style hotel nestled amidst hectares of lush tropical gardens. Enjoy professional services from the warm and friendly staff. The cons of staying at a hotel are that it is a bit more expensive than other options and one has to pay extra for breakfast, transportation, etc.

Pros and cons of Hostels

Hostels can be very cheap and affordable. The costs can go down if you pick dorms with shared bathrooms. One can easily book organized tours and group excursions. It is a lot easier to rent scooters or bicycles and meet other fellow travelers and locals when staying in a hostel. However one may have to compromise on the safety, cleanliness, and privacy. It can get uncomfortable if one is stuck with strangers. Things can get noisy and busy at times.

Pros and cons of Homestays

Homestays are other popular options for accommodation that can be fairly cheap. You feel as if staying in a home rather than a hotel room. It is a good way to socialize with the locals and understand their culture. However, Homestays are not the right option if you want to meet fellow travelers. One has to get familiar with the home rules and adjust according to their lifestyle. It may feel strange to sleep in the house of an unknown and one should not expect any fancy services or amenities.

Pros and cons of Guesthouses

Guesthouses are great as the prices often include breakfast. Besides decent pricing, the staff helps you with transportation and excursions. The cons are lack of privacy and amenities. Sometimes, these guesthouses are far away from the city center.

Pros and cons of luxury hotels

No one minds luxury, but it comes with a price. You enjoy great balcony views with nicely appointed rooms. There are complete privacy and top-notch services along with excellent dining experiences. Enjoy several types of sandwiches, petit fours, and different cuisines. The downsides are the very high costs of course as well as all those extra charges for Health area and Internet. These hotels are not the right choice for those travelers on a budget. However, Saujana hotels make for an excellent choice as they offer the same level of luxury but at much lower costs. No one minds the luxury and pampering at much lower costs. Enjoy full-service spa, outdoor pool, free area shuttle and fitness center besides childcare and Free WiFi and free parking!

Soundtrack To My Life : Now That's What I Call Music

Soundtrack To My Life - Now That's What I Call Music : If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog post

If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog post. 

The album compilation series, Now That's What I Call Music, has reached it's 100th release - a concept that started back in 1983 and one that I can honestly say "I was there at the beginning" because the first album was one of my Christmas presents that year.

It's interesting to hear how the Now! series was created (it was an idea from Virgin Records to showcase the best songs of the year. It turned into a collaboration with EMI - the first time two record labels had joined forces in this way). The series took it's name from a 1920's poster that advertised Danish bacon and the pig in the same advertisement became the iconic image of the album series for the first five issues, although it's probably only us old heads that remember it properly!

Soundtrack To My Life - Now That's What I Call Music : If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog post

I loved receiving the latest Now! album for my birthday or Christmas, or even saving up my pocket money if there was a new release on the horizon. I had a mixture of vinyl and cassette and each double album was played over and over, with the song order learned off by heart so you knew exactly which song was coming next. This was a great way to access the top selling singles of the year in one place with a special mix on occasion - Now Christmas and Now Dance, for example.

Soundtrack To My Life - Now That's What I Call Music : If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog postI heard a conversation on Radio 2 on the way home the other night - Simon Mayo mentioned that you could probably guess a person's age by the first Now! album that they bought - that's definitely true of me and also of all the comments on Kara's Facebook post earlier today. If you want to read how the Now! 100 album was pulled together then you should read this BBC article and you might also want to have a listen to Gary Davies' "Now That's What I Call Compilatons" radio show from a couple of weeks - at the time this blog post went live, it had two weeks left to run on the iPlayer. [side note : how can it be that Gary Davies has got better looking with age?]. But, if I'm being perfectly honest, I'm not sure what value the Now! albums have today because of the different ways in which we access music. You can easily make your own compilation album by creating playlists from downloaded individual songs on your iPod, the music app on your phone or Spotify (check out this one made by the guys at Popjustice which picks the best song from each of the 100 Now! albums).

A few years ago I wrote a blog post - Can I Get A Rewind? - which talked about the two carrier bags full of cassette tapes I found on the top of the kitchen cupboard. There was almost every Now That's What I Call Music album up to number 21 plus a whole load more such as the Hits! series and other compilation series' - I think I had so many because they always seemed to be the best value for money! I think what I'm trying to say is that whilst any Now! album was the soundtrack for that particular time, the early Now! albums were always a representation of my own Soundtrack To My Life, and looking back over those early editions brings back many memories. I just need a cassette player to play them all on!


Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series where I talk about music that has influenced my life in some way. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board.


8 Completely Selfish Reasons for Using Reusable Cotton Printed Bags

The indiscriminate dumping of plastic is a major environmental issue. We are just producing way too much plastic waste that we can possibly recycle or dispose of properly. Thankfully, the solution to the grocery-bag problem is already in place. Reusable cotton printed bags can be easily carried around and can be unfurled for sudden shopping sprees.

However, we humans are reluctant to change our habits. There is also no denying the convenience of a simple grocery bag. They are cheap, they are waterproof, and they are readily available everywhere. To help you break your plastic bag dependency, the following are 8 completely selfish reasons why you should use cotton tote bags.

8 Completely Selfish Reasons for Using Reusable Cotton Printed Bags8 Completely Selfish Reasons for Using Reusable Cotton Printed Bags

They Save You the Cost of Buying Single-Use Grocery Bags: 

Almost all stores charge extra for plastic grocery bags. While it not may seem much, the cost of these bags adds up. While printed cotton bags are significantly more expensive than a single grocery bag, they last way longer than a single shopping run. This saves you the cost of buying years’ worth of grocery bags.

You Can Carry Them Around in Your Pocket: 

One of the many advantages of cotton bags is that they can be folded and carried around. Taking up slightly more space than a large handkerchief, these bags can be unfolded and commissioned to handle any sudden shopping situation. 

They Are Supremely Comfortable to Carry Around: 

Cotton tote bags come with soft cotton handles. These can be hung over the shoulder, which makes carrying heavier loads a whole lot easier.

You Can Comfortably Carry More Things: 

 One of the major cons of plastic bags is that they can only carry a few items. Beyond a certain weight, which is not much, these bags tend to snap. The higher tensile strength of cotton bags allows you to carry more things. Tote bag handles can also be strung over shoulders to keep those hands free.

They Are Machine Washable: 

Cotton printed bags can be washed, dried, and reused just like regular cotton clothes. The fact that they can be cleaned so easily makes reusing them a breeze.

You Can Pretty Much Get Them for Free: 

If you don’t want to buy biodegradable cotton printed bags, then just head over to a store that gives them away for free. Many boutique retail outlets give away cotton carrier bags if you make a purchase at the store.

Some Shops Give You Extra Discount for Bringing Along Your Own Bag: 

Some retailers incentivize customers who bringing along their own reusable carrier bags with extra discounts. This means you not only save the money that would otherwise go into buying plastic carrier bags from the store, but you also get an additional discount. That’s double savings for simple choosing to carry cotton bags.

Cotton Tote Bags Make You Look Good: 

In case you didn’t notice, plastic grocery bags aren’t necessarily fashion accessories. However, cotton tote bags are very much in style. They go really well with a jeans-and-t-shirt look. People also notice you making an effort to reduce plastic waste. That makes you look good in a whole different way.

Kate... My Mate

Kate... My Mate : Kate Sutton

I shut down my work computer, picked up my phone to check for messages and a Facebook post appeared in my news feed.  One that I never ever thought I would read...

I walked out of work and drove home  in silence, trying to process the information.

Me and Kate go WAY back.  She's one of the 2010 OG's... or OB's as I like to call us - the "Original (Mummy) Bloggers".  We started our blogging journey at a similar time, wrote about the same family trials and tribulations, met at conferences and blogging events and she's one of the first people I message when there's something bugging me blogging-related so I can have a bitch or a moan or just see if she's got the lowdown on something.  In fact, I messaged her TODAY to see why she'd not responded to a YouTube link I'd sent her at the weekend related to our shared hatred of vlogger schmaltz.  We were also always musing about how we could encourage brands to properly tap into the +40 female influencer market. 

But I can't do that any more.

Kate had a way of writing that hit the truth bomb but with added funny.  She wrote about her family, her travels, food and her dating journey which she was making moves to turn into a book. She had her personal ups and downs but always managed to put a humorous spin on it to make it into a worthwhile read.

So, if you've ever read one of Kate's posts, watched her Instagram stories, begged for another disastrous dating update or just knew and loved her like I did then please try and donate a couple of quid to the GoFundMe collection to help her sons pay for her funeral and any other costs that will be incurred over the coming weeks, months or however long. 

And if you're wondering why I have had to write this blog post so soon, it's so I can give her one final link back to her blog [inappropriate blogger joke moment]. But this is what the OB's used to do... something happened during the day and you'd write about it at night so you could process the information and get feedback from your blogging peers. She'd also hate me for sharing the next few photos but they are my little memories of her and taken in the days before I had a decent camera or whilst giggling uncontrollably.

Rest in peace, Kate.

Kate... My Mate
Kate... My Mate

Kate... My Mate
The one where Kate looked like she was in labour (but she wasn't)
Taken at the Guinness World Records HQ in London

Kate... My Mate
The one where we realised that Kate's tits were about the same size as Monika's 8 month baby bump.
Taken at Cybher in 2012

Kate... My Mate
The only three bloggers in the whole of the UK who have any right to discuss hair woes!
L-R Kate, Amanda, Chris - taken at Cybher in 2012


Do you know your Hippogriffs from your Basilisks?

Do you know your Hippogriffs from your Basilisks?
Image Credit

If your immediate answer is yes, then you’re clearly a Potterhead that would relish the opportunity to get up close and personal with your favourite Harry Potter creatures. If the answer is no, however, consider Warner Bros Studio Tours as a day out to the zoo, but with a difference!

Why are magical creatures so much fun?

Why aren’t they? While the antics of Harry Potter and his friends are exciting, they wouldn’t have defeated Voldemort and his Death Eaters without the help of some furry and winged friends along the way. Of course, not all of the creatures featured in the books and films are good at heart, but that’s all part of the fun!

Which are the good creatures?

With the exception of Ron Weasley’s rat, Scabbers, who turned out to be the nasty Peter Pettigrew in disguise, the animals owned by Hogwarts students, as their familiars, are all loyal and good-natured. Harry’s owl, Hedwig, is chief among them, but sadly dies when protecting him in an airborne battle with Voldemort’s cronies.

As well as students’ pets, there are a host of other amazing creatures that deserve high praise. The best include:


Half horse and half eagle, these magnificent creatures are beautiful to behold, but hard to tame. Suckers for proper etiquette, Hippogriffs like to be approached slowly and bowed to, with eye contact maintained throughout. If they bow back, humans may mount them and soar into the air on their backs. Buckbeak is the most famous Hippogriff in Harry’s world and there is a full-scale animatronic model of him in the Forbidden Forest exhibit. Will he bow to you?


Incredibly regal large birds with tears that can heal all maladies, the most well known is Fawkes, Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix that lives in his office. He can be found, still in place, close to the headmaster’s desk.


Mystical creatures that should be protected at all cost, they live in the Forbidden Forest and are often hunted by those wanting their blood to make an elixir for long life.


Not as evil as you might think, despite their fire-breathing abilities! Many of the older characters in Harry Potter go on to work with dragons, most notably, Charles Weasley. Dragons featured in the Triwizard Tournament and are often depicted as being abused by unethical characters. Poor dragons!

So, which are the baddies?

Given that ruthless witches and wizards can train animals to do their bidding, there are a plethora of nasty creatures to be aware of.


Not technically one of the evil guys, these giant spiders live in the Forbidden Forest and view humans as easy prey. Aragog is the exception to the rule, having been raised by Hagrid, who encourages him to leave Harry alone, but in Hagrid’s absence, there is little to stop him giving in to his carnal tendencies. Don’t get a shock if Aragog pops out at you in the Forbidden Forest!

The Basilisk 

A terrifying snake-like creature that is up to 50 feet long, Harry comes up against a monstrous variety that has been hidden in the Chamber of Secrets. Take a look at the model featured on the tour and you’ll get a real feel for how scary it must have been for Harry to defeat it, fangs and all!


Seemingly harmless creatures, Boggarts take the form of an individual’s greatest fear, rendering them paralysed and unable to fight back. The only defence is to humiliate them! Who can forget the image of Professor Snape wearing Neville Longbottom’s grandmother’s clothes?


Heralded as soulless, foul beings, these flying spectres suck the joy right out of people, through their mouths. Charged with guarding Azkaban, the wizard prison, they shirk their duties to wreak havoc in many places, including the Hogwarts Express, so wands at the ready when you jump onboard during your tour!

What about taking a magical creature home?

While you can’t buy a real Hedwig, as much as you might like to, a plush soft-toy version will be easy to come by in the studio shop at the end of the tour. There are a host of other cuddly creatures to choose from too, so don’t forget your purse!

Without The NHS...

Today - 5th July 2018 - the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is 70 years old.  There have been plenty of celebrations to mark this milestone of one of the nations most loved institutions, the role it plays in our everyday lives and to be thankful for the extraordinary staff that guide, support and care for us, day in, day out.  But tonight, whilst reading some of the media reports about how the NHS was started, and how far it's come, I realised that I most definitely have had my money's worth out of the Service...

Without The NHS... Whilst reading some of the media reports about how the NHS was started, and how far it's come, I realised that I most definitely have had my money's worth out of the Service...
Photo Credit : NHS England

Without The NHS...

  • I couldn't have had any of my babies, surrounded by the best medical team, top-of-the-range equipment and a back-up system if any urgent attention was needed during the birth
  • My daughter wouldn't have had her cancer diagnosis, the initial early treatment, life-saving operations and 15 years of after-care leading up to her final discharge at age 16
  • My youngest son wouldn't have been diagnosed with ADHD early enough to have received the appropriate support at school, been put back together at least four times after breaking bones, had two false front teeth provided after another accident or avoided a high-risk situation that involved an emergency removal of his appendix at 12.30am
  • I would still be suffering with a variety of gynaecological issues which was fixed after six operations, the final one being a full hysterectomy at age 31
  • My mum wouldn't have had the best palliative care from her "second family" on the ward which she spent most of her final years suffering with bronchiecstasis
  • My husband wouldn't receive the much needed medication and support to help him cope with a variety of mental health issues that have crippled his life for over twenty years. 

... and many more situation that are easily forgotten about and dismissed such as contraception, pregnancy testing and sexual health services, quick visits to the GP for reassurance, immunisations, x-rays for suspected broken body parts, fast response emergency services, eye tests and eye care for my children, audiology and hearing aids for one of my grandchildren, pathology results, and everything else that I haven't mentioned.

In fact, I asked this very same question on my Facebook feed.  The responses are eye opening. 

One reply, sent to me privately, was this:
Last year I had emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in a tube removal as well as the pregnancy loss. Traumatic at the time but I am so so grateful to then not receive a bill for the procedure. Can you imagine? ''Sorry you lost your baby, here's a massive bill for the pleasure".

Also, there is an overwhelming amount of my friends that I would never have met if their lives hadn't been saved in various circumstances, whether that be a stroke, a cancer diagnosis, complications during single and multiple births, the knowledge that many procedures would still not be covered by insurance as they aren't in America, mental health services, medication and prescriptions in general, oxygen to actually keep breathing in and out, treatment for severe burns, and finally a few people who are grateful and proud to be a part of the NHS team who hold various job roles within the organisation.

In fact, I encourage you to read the responses on the thread I've linked below. It truly makes me more thankful than I ever thought I could be.  I hope it does the same for you.  

Here's to the next 70 years, and many more!  Happy Anniversary NHS! 


I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier?

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018 - Celebrating finish times, not finish lines

I can look back at my first half marathon with hindsight and see where I went wrong.  I chose one of the toughest local races and rushed into a decision after training for a different distance. Post-race, it took me a while to get back on my feet properly but aced a course personal best at a local parkrun, took the trainers to Tenerife for a bit of a holiday jog and managed to score a 10k personal best time at a mid-week race. I also started mixing in a bit of off-road trail running just to liven things up a bit - nothing too extreme but short, sharp shocks to the system, and huge hills to work the thighs! 

Running was fun again so I was ready for another challenge.  Enter, stage left, the Southport Half Marathon.

Now, I wasn't going to make the same mistake again, and I'd already started to put in some long(er) runs with Claire even though we didn't know what we were training for yet so it was just a case of upping the mileage each week and taking it from there.  And whilst it was tough, it was enjoyable - I used to drive home from work on a Friday, pull on my running gear, order a takeaway for when I got home and drive to meet the gang at a random point on the outskirts of Blackburn to take our weekly long run in different surroundings.  Over the five weeks I got stronger and faster (OK... we're not talking Paula Radcliffe territory here but knocking a good minute per mile off my average speed) and I knew that I felt more than ready for the half marathon rather than just winging it on the day.

The plans were made and I was ready for the 1st of July. Enter, stage right, the 2018 British Heatwave.

Now, when the media report on a "heatwave" it usually means that the mercury has risen to around 20  and we're all fanning ourselves for around twelve hours.  But this time temperatures were averaging 25 ℃ (77 ℉) and they were here to stay!  Luckily, the rise in temperature started on taper week so I only had to do a 6 mile run and a 3 mile run but even they didn't get me acclimatised effectively and the nights were too stuffy to be able to sleep properly.  I prayed for rain, or at least a cool morning for Sunday.

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018 - Blackburn Road Runners

On the day, I double-dosed on my antihistamines and piled on the factor 30 sun cream, then drove to Southport.  Our crew had set up camp near the finish line but there were promises of familiar faces to be dotted around the course.  The start line was heaving because the 10k runners and the half marathon runners were all starting at the same time with a split in the course at around the two mile mark.  I set off, found a good plodding pace and decided to keep going for as long as I could. 

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

My long-time internet friend, Annie, lives in Southport and she promised to be outside Costa with a brew cheer for me so that was a lovely boost just after the start of the race.  I leapt onto the pavement to give her a sweaty hug and she promised to see me on the coast road later in the race. I made my way around the course trying to run in the shade where possible and taking on water at the first feed station.  

I was OK until the five mile marker when the temperature rose again - but suddenly, just like when the plane door opens after you've landed in a hot country. We were now on the first three mile (completely unshaded) section of the coast road and, unusually for Southport, there was no breeze AT ALL. I made my way to the feed station at mile 7 and refreshed my water bottle, taking another bottle of water to dribble on my head, neck and wrist band.  The next mile or so was a double-back section so I passed some of my fellow running club crew who were ahead of me and we shouted encouraging words to each other - but everyone was absolutely melting in the heat.

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

The next few miles were a run/walk effort and there was a group of us all doing the same thing but not really in sync with each other so we kept over-taking each other, giving positive encouragement, passing out Fruit Pastilles, secretly trying to work out who had the best technique so we could follow it to power on through to the end. One of the girls was "Jeffing" (a run/walk method created by Jeff Galloway) to the start/stop beeps on her watch and it was fascinating to watch. 

More feed stations meant more water and, gratefully, more dousing.  I saw Annie again at around 11 miles and treated her to another sticky, water-soaked hug.  She took a photo of me and I now realise that all the water had provided an unintentional wet t-shirt competition which I definitely wasn't winning any time soon! I was also met by Annika and Joanne a bit further up the coast road who were providing more support during the longest final three miles ever!

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

It got down to the last mile and I decided to try and break from the pack - it was every woman for herself now! I could hear the commentary at the finish line (a familiar voice wafted across - the dulcet tones of my friend, and fellow podcast host, Rowena) and the merriment of the supporters and I knew that I just had to run as much as I could for that last stage.  Ellen met me at the gates of the park and gave me about 100 meters of side-by-side running encouragement which helped me to regain focus and hold my head up and shoulders back.  I weaved my way through the park and headed for the recognisable sound of the Blackburn Road Runners cheer squad lining the path to the red carpet finish.  

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

It was hot... SO SO HOT... the local weather reports suggested a high of 28 ℃ (82 ℉) and it's really hard to explain how difficult it was to run in that heat. Absolutely every credit to the race organisers - Epic Events - the volunteers, race angels and marshals who were full of positivity and encouraging us to take more than one bottle of water and a gel if we needed it.  Thanks to the Factor 30, I'm not sunburnt anywhere other than my eyelids and my nose due to the profuse sweating although my tan lines suggest I should only wear vest tops for the foreseeable future.  

Chip Time : 2h 53m 49s

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

At the end of the day, this race was still another personal best time for me - around five minutes faster than my half marathon in March.  During training I really did think I was strong enough to complete a half marathon in around 2h 45m and, under better conditions, I still think I could - maybe even a little bit faster. Plus, I didn't have my traditional mid-run wobble because there was so much to distract me, no-one to moan at and no hills to climb.  It has been mentioned that both half marathon attempts have been extreme in their own ways so I looked at signing up for another local half marathon that's a couple of weekends away but the hot weather is forecast to continue and I don't think I want to put myself through that again *opens up laptop to check prices*

Photo credits : Epic Events, Tracy Slater, Annie Bushell

How to Actually Relax on Summer Vacation

Americans seem somewhat programmed to like the idea of vacation more than the actual practice of taking a vacation. Americans work long hours, and often don’t even take the vacation time that’s available to them. It seems to be a pervasive part of the culture in this country, and it’s not necessarily a positive thing.

Vacations are important for a lot more than having fun. Science says they’re good for your health. A study from the American Psychological Association showed that vacations help relieve stress. A separate study from the University of Vienna showed that when people took time off, they had fewer physical elements related to stress including headaches and backaches. Those benefits extended to weeks after their actual vacation.

Taking a vacation can have cardiovascular benefits, it can improve productivity, and it can also help improve sleep quality.

So, with all those physical and mental health benefits, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to de-stress.

Even when we take vacation time, however, we might not necessarily be relaxing the way we should. So how can you truly relax and unplug this summer if you’re taking a vacation?

How to Actually Relax on Summer Vacation - If you truly want to relax and reap the health-related benefits of a vacation, think outside the box. One idea is renting an RV and visiting somewhere quieter. You have the peace of the open road, and it’s less expensive.  Photo by Eugene Quek on Unsplash
Photo by Eugene Quek on Unsplash

Plan a Different Kind of Trip

Sometimes traveling and taking a vacation can in and of itself become stressful. Between the long security lines at the airport, the hustle and bustle of travel hubs, and the high costs of traveling, you may feel more stressed than when you started.

If you truly want to relax and reap the health-related benefits of a vacation, think outside the box. One idea is renting an RV and visiting somewhere quieter. You have the peace of the open road, and it’s less expensive. For example, RV rental site Outdoorsy cites the average RV rental price even in a high-priced city like San Francisco as only $189.95 a night.

In general, even if you’re not renting an RV, a good way to start out a relaxing vacation is to know you haven’t overextended yourself to make it happen. It’s tough to relax if you’re thinking about how you can’t afford your trip the whole time you’re on it.

Choose a Destination Where You Can Relax

When you’re choosing your destination, whether you’re taking a road trip or getting there in a different way, try to think about how easily you’re going to be able to relax once you arrive.

For example, if you’re going to Disney World, you may not feel very relaxed. It’s loud, crowded and there’s a tendency to want to rush around and get in all the experiences you can while you’re there.

Does that mean Disney World isn’t a great travel destination? Of course not, but if your goal is to truly relax, it may not be the ideal option.

Don’t Overschedule

When we plan a vacation, there’s this desire to feel like we’re getting the full experience. You want to schedule your days to make sure you’re seeing it all and doing it all, but this can negate any benefits of relaxation you get. You’re still putting pressure on yourself, and putting yourself on a schedule.

Try not to do that. You can make plans for one activity a day while you’re away, but don’t try to cram everything in.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the importance of being flexible in your travel plans. We tend to get so stuck on one way of doing things that we then stress ourselves out to the point of not being able to enjoy our vacation.

Avoid the Email Trap

It’s hard to avoid your email while you’re on vacation these days. It’s on your phone, your computer and your tablet. Try to cut off your access to email while you travel. If you’re constantly even just seeing emails from back home and from your boss or coworkers, it changes the feel of your trip.

It can be tough to cut yourself off from access, but it can be valuable for your mental state.

Finally, avoid the temptation to make your entire travel experience about social media. When we put the pressure on ourselves to show our picture perfect vacations on Instagram of Facebook, we’re taking away from being present or in the moment. Don’t worry about taking pictures unless they’re photos you want to remember your trip. If you’re spending your entire trip trying to get that great photo that can show all your Instagram followers how much fun you’re having, you’ve really missed the point of the vacation.


My Four Year Running Anniversary

A reminder appeared in today's Facebook memories.  It's four years since I did my very first session of the Couch To 5k plan with GroupRun Blackburn. At the time, I had no idea how much it would change my life. Apart from a three month break for a knee injury (the L O N G E S T three months of my life) and the occasional holiday, I've been running three times a week for all that time. I've become a Group Leader (by mistake - long story), I've coached hundreds of people through the plan and beyond, I've made life-long friends and I've found a hobby that keeps me sane(ish).

My Four Year Running Anniversary

But things have moved on from then too. I've joined a running club, I've completed my first half marathon (with a second coming up very soon - EEK!) and my whole attitude to running has shifted from it being a place for me to be Bossy Nickie to a place for me to challenge myself and push myself further than I ever imagined.

The other day I shared a 'side by side' photo on Instagram and a Facebook group as a six month update for running and weight loss.  During that time I've swung between doubting my ability as a runner but also enjoying upping my distance to tackle the half marathon distance - something that I never thought would even be achievable at the beginning of the year.

My Four Year Running Anniversary - photos from East Lancs Hospice 10k and Wesham Summer 10k - both in 2018
Neither are flattering photos and I have to stop doing that thing with my thumbs!

The picture on the left was taken in January at the end of the East Lancs Hospice 10k. I'd run with a friend on her debut 10k and we'd both found the run tough but enjoyable - we were very glad to see the finish line though! The picture on the right was taken in May about 2/3 of the way round the Wesham Summer 10k. In between those races I've completed the Darwen Half Marathon, changed my training schedule to include one off-road run a week and one long run a week and I've lost almost two stone in weight. The times I clocked for each 10k race were 1.21.54 (January) and 1.11.07 (May) - a full 10 minutes difference!! Now, it's obvious from those times that I'm a slow plodder but this one comparison gave me a much needed boost just when I was starting to feel a bit meh about all the training I was doing.

I always get amazing support from my fellow club members and the gang that I run with regularly but something my boss said to me this week also put everything into perspective. I was explaining about the long run training required for a half marathon and mentioned the 10-mile run last week and the 11-mile run planned for this week. She looked at me and said, "Ten miles? Ten actual miles? That's like from here to..." and she couldn't even think of anywhere 10 miles away to compare it to. So I explained about our community running group sessions keep me going and how much my runner friends inspire me but she turned back and said, "Ten miles... on a Friday... after work? You underestimate yourself."

And, yes, I probably do. It's no secret that I find running really hard work every time I set foot out of the door. I'm not one of these people that can go out and 'lose myself for an hour' whilst running.  But I look at those two pictures, I see the weight loss, I count up the miles that I've run since the beginning of the year and I think I'm ready to accept that all the hard work is actually having a positive effect. If I can accomplish those small goals in just six months, where could I be by the end of the year?

I miss my Couch To 5k sessions like I miss smoking. It's something I had to give up to improve in other areas - but it's also something I crave. Even after four years, I'm still very much involved in GroupRun Blackburn as I'm part of the Management team and I run all the Facebook pages for the plan. It's wonderful to see people that I coached and/or ran with either continuing to be part of the running community in the may ways that we offer, progressing up to 10k and even taking the leap to join Blackburn Road Runners themselves.

So, aside from all the training, there hasn't really been anything else going on this month.  I've been micro-blogging each run on Instagram (you can follow me over there if you like) because it feels easier to analyse everything by breaking it down like that.  I'm convinced my non-runner friends are bored with all the running talk but I suppose they can scroll past or unfollow if they don't like it, can't they?

But one lovely thing that did happen on social media at the beginning of the month was being tagged in the tweet below.  I got a bit emosh about the fact that my own half marathon recap helped someone else calm themselves down before their own half marathon and I've found a new twitter buddy to my ever-growing list of "Sole Mates".  Bonus!

I've only got a couple more training sessions this month and then the Southport Half Marathon is on Sunday 1st July.  If you're in the area on the day and see me limping past, looking like I'm about to burst into tears, give me a shout or chuck me a jelly baby and tell me to get the fuck on with it!  I'm expecting to finish in around 2 hours 45 minutes - just in time for lunch!


Things My Husband Wants For His Birthday

Every year I have the same conversation with my husband about what he wants for his birthday.  I ask the question and he never knows so I've put together a list of the presents that he may or may not be receiving this year and then I've at least got something to go on. Feel free to add to the list because I'm all out of inspiration! 

Things My Husband Wants For His Birthday
Photo by Audrey Fretz on Unsplash

Camping Equipment

My husband goes away a couple of times a year to motorbike rallies - it's his "thing" and his favourite one is usually on the same weekend as his birthday. Now, he has literally everything for camping - the luxury blow up bed, the super warm sleeping bag, all the cooking equipment but he was short of a decent camping lamp. I found one from Varta - the Outdoor Sports Comfort Lantern - which uses amber light effectively (reducing bugs and insects by 60%)
camping lamp and is also waterproof, pretty robust and has hooks for hanging at the top and bottom.  Perfect! 

Power Bank

We have so many power banks in the house now but they are so useful - you can never have enough in my opinion. We're on our mobile phones so much more these days and the battery life of a phone (or tablet) isn't relative to the time spent on it so a quick charge with a portable powerbank does the trick. Varta offer a slimline powerbank (6000 mAh) which will charge a phone twice and doesn't take up too much room in a jacket pocket or a bag. 

Personalised Keyring

Ok, another recommendation from Hope House Press. I know I mention them in almost every gift guide but they keep coming up with brilliant ideas.  This personalised keyring (originally released for Father's Day) is fab!  It can be carried loose in a pocket but it can also be opened and attached to a belt loop too.  The personalisation can be plain embossing, gold, rose gold or silver and at £9.00 it's a steal! 

Subscription Box For Blokes

Every month I receive a Birchbox through the post. It's a little box of joy full of make-up and beauty samples.  I noticed the offered one for blokes too but it was a limited edition for Father's Day (shame) but it got me thinking about something similar as an ongoing gift.  I found a selection on All Subscription Boxes but socks and grooming kits seem to be the favourite d'jour! 

Magazine Subscription

Leading on from the above suggestions, I always think a magazine subscription is the gift that keeps on giving! I bought a Private Eye one for my dad one Christmas and he used to save the magazines up and send them to me once every few months too but he also resubscribed at the end of the 12-month run because he was enjoying it so much!  I've worked with magazine.co.uk in the past so really can recommend using their service and they have a fantastic selection to choose from. 


My husband won't admit it but I think he's secretly pleased that I have a fascination with stationery. He's not adverse to using a "nice" pen to write with and he's forever poking around looking for a new notebook to use for his scribblings.  We are both fans of the Filofax refillable notebook (I prefer the A5, he likes the pocket size) because of the adaptability of the dividers and because you can change the order of the pages if you need to but I wanted to get him something a bit more special.  I found out that I could order a leather notebook cover from Executive Pens Direct, have it personalised and then just change the notebook when needed.  


Hands up if your husband struggles to buy any type of swim shorts before he goes on holiday.  I know mine is an absolute nightmare. He hates clothes shopping at the best of times so online shopping is the only compromise.  I managed to find some great swim trunks at Simply Swim which will be a nice surprise for him!

Things My Husband Wants For His Birthday

I'm sure you're bored of reading my disclaimers these days but I like to be transparent. There are a few of these links that are collaborations with brands but I wouldn't dream of recommending them if I really didn't rate the products. I will also mention companies that I've worked with in the past that I've continued to use and/or buy from with my own hard earned cash. If you want to read more about this you can check out my disclosure policy


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