Reasons to Stay in Bed

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The world is finally waking up and realising the importance of sleep (and then they’re all going back to bed again, hooray!)

Lately it seems that I’ve been getting busier and busier, my days are so full that they encroach into the night – be it getting home in the early hours, or rising before the sun to crack on with work, or both. I’ve noticed myself eyeing up dark spaces under tables and soft gaps in hedgerows, and wondering if I could make a cosy nap nest there. I know when I am tired.

It’s not always easy to get enough sleep, sometimes we have other responsibilities, and sometimes we just don’t put enough emphasis on self care, so to aide us all, I thought it’d be nice to put together a list of reasons to stay in bed…

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You’ll get more done when you’re not overtired. When you’ve had enough rest you’ll find yourself far more productive and you’ll literally be able to get up and at ‘em! You can push on at a slow and miserable pace, or you can catch up on some sleep and then speed more happily through the tasks when you are rested and ready.

Your cat will appreciate it.
As long as he’s been fed, he’ll be happy to weigh your chest down and lower your oxygen intake. If you don’t have a cat, try leaving a door open and a trail of cooked chicken to your bedroom, you might be able to lure in a neighbours cat, or possibly a fox. If that fails, try a hot water bottle.

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It feels like a treat, and it’s free. (Unless you’re self employed and you miss work, of course!) You could go to a spa and relax, yes, but you could also stay in bed for free. Get a cup of tea and settle back down. Don’t get any biscuits, the crumbs will only hinder your sleep the following night.

You’re safe there.
 As long as you don’t put a foot over the edge then the under-bed monster can’t get you. And, if you have to get up and go to the loo, you know the rules – as long as you’re back in bed before the flush finishes you’ll be fine.

You will keep warm. Save on heating bills. Save on clothing bills. Reduce your carbon footprint. Bloody genius.

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You’ll give your brain and your body a chance to repair and restore. When you dream you stitch memories together and file things away in the right place. While you sleep your body repairs muscles and focuses on tissue growth. You get a lot done when you’re asleep, just remember that. The average adult needs roughly 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If you don’t get enough on a regular basis your body will force you to get rest some other way (like a virus).

You can daydream.
Can’t sleep? Don’t worry, just breathe. Meditate. Push the stress out – not literally, just metaphorically (please – see point 4 about going to the loo) and allow the calm in. It might help to listen to some relaxing, slow paced music, or the white noise of a fan. Let your imagination take over. Imagine yourself on a boat, or at the beach, riding a speeding horse with the wind in your hair. Dream big. I’m a unicorn! (No really, I am.)

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You can read. Sometimes my friend Aoife tells me about her weekend bed nest and I feel proud of her. Keep a stash of awesome books at your bedside. I like picture books and that’s okay.

You’ll be kinder and happier. If you’re over tired things can seem so much more stressful, and you might be snappier than normal. You’ll be doing the world a huge favour by getting a few hours extra kip. Now, I’m not sure how you’re going to package that for your boss, but probably with a smile and enthusiasm, because you will be so well rested.

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You’ll loose weight!
Total true fact. All that sweating and breathing whilst you sleep and then peeing when you wake up – sounds gross, but it’s true, and no worse than drinking cayenne pepper and maple syrup for breakfast (also, you could stay in bed until lunch time and never have to think about breakfast again.)

Move over Rosemary Conley, put your Davina work-out DVD’s in the bin, because I’ve just come up with THE weight loss fad diet of 2017. Where’s my book deal, bitches?

Sometimes you just need to cut yourself some slack!
Simple, but true. We’re trained to be busy. We compete our busyness against each other like some kind of weird match of one-upmanship. We’re told that if you’re not busy, you’re not making the most of your life, and… you’re lazy!

Why should you feel guilty when you need a rest, or when you want to take a day off if you’re not feeling too well? Remember that Bonjovi lyric, ‘Live while I’m alive and sleep when I’m dead!’ ? What a load of tosh. You’ll probably die a lot sooner if you don’t get a bit of kip! And, if you’re too exhausted to enjoy your busy life, then what’s the point?

Because you can! You’re in charge – do what you like. Power to you!

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My top 10 things to help you sleep:

Rohypnol. (I’m joking. Or am I? Of course I am. Or am I?)

Cool air. I love a breeze in the morning, and I much prefer my face to be cool when I’m in bed. Turn the radiator in your bedroom down a couple of notches.

White noise. Try having a fan on in your room. It blocks out other noises and creates a gentle dull repetitive sound.

Tidy bedroom. Keep your bedroom as clear as possible, you don’t need any distractions or reminders of things that ‘need’ to be done.

Clean and comfy bed. Getting into a crisp clean bed is a simple pleasure. You spend so much time in bed, so it’s really worth investing in good bedding, plump pillows and the best mattress you can afford.

Darkness. Turn the lights down a few hours before you plan to go to sleep, and make your bedroom as dark as possible to help your body know it’s sleepy time. I wear a sleep mask in the summer months to keep the light out. (Just remember you’ve got it on if you get up in the night and wonder what’s wrong with the light switch!)

No screens. I know, this one is tough! At least put your phone onto night mode and turn the brightness right down. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom, but that doesn’t stop me from watching crappy youtube videos on my phone. Don’t be like me. Leave the screens out of the bedroom.

Fresh air and exercise. I always sleep best when I’ve had a busy outdoors day. Even if you just get out for a 10 minute walk, it’s all worth it.

No caffeine. Be an old girl like me and have a Horlicks or some hot milk. Nice.

The A-Z game. It’s better than counting sheep. When your brain is whizzing away, and you need a distraction from all your busy thoughts, try the A-Z game. Work your way through an A-Z of car models, or girls names, or types of cake. You’ll soon get bored and drift off.

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The sleep-makers:*

Simba. I didn’t know a mattress could be so good, and I never thought that I would feel the urge to publicly announce that… I LOVE MY BED! It’s true, so true. At first I thought it might be soft, but now I just can’t wait to get up to my bed nest every night, I’m sleeping better and for longer, and I miss it when I stay away. Simba offer a 100 night trial, I’m on day 87 and I would cry if they came to take it away now! (If you’ve been considering a new mattress then I can really recommend Simba, and you can get £50 off here. Nice.)

Orose. Super soft mulberry silk bedding. So soft it’s hard to stay on the bed unless you sleep perfectly in the middle. I’ve only slid off the bed twice. Power to me! Silk pillow cases are supposed to be really good at preventing wrinkles. I’ve got a silk sleep mask too. Two pronged attack on ageing there! (The extra sleep I’ve been getting should help too, right?)

Luks Linen. See that beautiful herringbone patterned blanket? It’s the softest cotton, it’s ethically handmade, and it comes at a really reasonable price from my friend Rachel’s shop. It’s warm enough to snuggle, and light enough to be practical, and it comes with me wherever I go.

CoBALTUM. It’s true, I love tea so much that I’d probably drink it out of a bucket, but it tastes best out of a beautiful cup. I have several pieces of CoBALTUM’s china in my cupboards, and I take absolute delight in using it. This cup and saucer is just the right size and thickness, and it looks spot on. (Does anyone else test cups and glasses out in shops? The empty cup fake-sip test? No?)

Etta French. Beautifully scented plant-wax candles, in simple recycled glass jars, with a shiny jewellery gift inside. It’s like a Kinder Surprise for grown ups (without the edible bit, of course.)

Soley Organics. These little pots of GRAEDIR (healing balm) and eyGLO (moisturising cream) are gentle, subtle and bursting with icelandic herbs. They smell nice and they haven’t made my face fall off. This is a great positive. If you have a moment, go and read their ‘about’ page, it’s utterly fabulous and sounds like something out of Heidi.

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My bedside reading list:

The Hamptons, Michael Clinton.
Along the Hackney Canal, by Freya Najade. (Shutter Hub review here).
Basic Forms, Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Shadow Catchers, by Martin Barnes.
FARMED, Paul Hart. (Shutter Hub review here).
Full Moon, Darren Almond.
Honeysuckle Cottage,  PG Wodehouse.

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Further reading/listening/watching:

Fascinating and brilliant TED Talk by Russell Foster – Why do we sleep?

Podcast – Arianna Huffington and Tiku discuss the hard realities of sleep.

In her book, The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives.

The Science of Sleep: A Brief Guide on How to Sleep Better Every Night.

A list of good sleep habits.

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With huge thanks and appreciation to my sleep-making partners:

*Those who’ve given me inspiration and support, and helped make this article possible.

As always,  my opinions are my own, I say what I think, share what I like, and I do all my own sleeping. Hooray!

This is not a sponsored post. This post does contain PR samples and affiliate links.

These Recent Things (Cemeteries, Cakes & Cars)

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I can’t possibly begin to tell you all the things that have gone on in the past month. It’s been a bit crazy, and at some points I’ve found myself looking at soft gaps in hedgerows, or dark spaces under tables, and wondering if I could make a cosy nap nest there.

We launched the GIRL TOWN exhibition at St Margaret’s House in London. It was the most awesome night, the room was full of brilliant people and so much energy. Kate gave a speech, and then I grabbed the mic to thank everyone and announce that just that morning I’d been to Tate Modern to meet with Doron Polak, the curator of Water Institute Gallery in Givatayim, Tel Aviv, and… he wants us to take GIRL TOWN to Israel. People cheered! It was wonderful. Then I went on to make a few bad jokes (one about the call for entries not being up someone’s street, and that maybe he lived in a cul-de-sac, called Bell End), before offering to sing us out.

In other good news I met a man who was so beautifully tall that a squirrel once used his head as a stepping stone between two high hedges.

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I popped down to Brighton for the Photo Fringe, I did some portfolio reviews with Metro Imaging in London and selected the recipient of the Shutter Hub PHOTOMASTERS Award at the Old Truman Brewery. The award was given to Giulia Berto for her really quite beautiful, gentle, and sentimental series, and I am really looking forward to working with her.

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I visited 3rd year BA photography students at Staffordshire University to help them put together their first portfolios. One guy said I had a good aura, which was nice. (The first time I visited Staffordshire Uni I actually put out a small fire!) and I travelled up to Leeds University to speak to a full house of 120 people at Media Futures (you can read some of the lovely feedback here, go on, indulge me!)

Then I was back in London, in the charming little chapel of St Margaret’s House for the Jane Bown talk and panel discussion with Luke Dodd of the Guardian and Observer. We had a Meet Up event the following morning, but I had to travel home and back, I was so tired I wished I’d taken my duvet and camped out under the alter.

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Somehow I managed to fit in a super lunch (and a lot of laughs) with Jo at The George at Maulden in Bedfordshire. It’s a lovely village pub with great decor and a church in it’s back garden. There are plenty of local walks, but I prefer to drive the winding roads – the only downside of that is not being able to fully justify choosing the Black Pudding, Ham Hock & Sweet Potato Hash (with a fried egg on top… errr, yum!) over the salad. Still, I reckon laughing uses a lot of energy.

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The clocks went back and we eased ourselves into the day with cheese on toast, special style, a treat from Woodall’s.  Black Combe ham with Caledonian Cheddar on white bloomer bread. Yum, double yum. I’ve mentioned Woodall’s before, their smoked pancetta is delicious. I really like their black pepper and garlic salami too.

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I did a shoot down in Guildford, with the wonderful charity Family Fund. I drove down the night before and stayed at the Aspirion Hillside hotel. I was shown to my room by the duty manager who told me about dinner, breakfast, the honesty bar, the room, the front door, pretty much everything, and then he asked if I had any questions. Yes, yes I did. ‘How good is your local cemetery?’ I asked.

I’d passed by Brookwood Cemetery just before I reached the hotel, the name rang a bell, and as I drove alongside it’s mile long wall and huge trees, I realised, this is the place that fellow cemetery enthusiast Becky had told me about. The largest cemetery in Western Europe!

I went down for dinner, sat alone, lured a lady called Amanda to sit with me, and then told her about the cemetery as well.

I slept badly. The people in the room above me were really noisy, they left at 5.30am, but I couldn’t get back to sleep for fear of missing my early morning cemetery visit alarm call. At breakfast I met Amanda again, by chance, and we both announced simultaneously, ‘I had a terrible nightmare last night!’ and then looked at each other strangely. I wondered if we’d had the same dream (because I am odd like that!) but neither of us dared tell the other what we’d dreamt, so it went unsaid.

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I was there as the cemetery opened. The mist hung heavily between the trees, my breath caught the air and turned it to steam. I met a man – at first I thought he was the ‘Get off my train!’ man from the film Ghost, but then I thought he must work there (but now I’m not actually sure). He told me that the cemetery covered over 500 acres, it was the only cemetery to have had it’s own train station, the line came out of Waterloo, and that’s where people reached the end of the line. He said he’d been there for years, 10, maybe 13, he wasn’t sure. He said he came and went.

He told me that some of the trees are so soft you can punch them, and he’s punched them before. And then he showed me his vigorous punching motion in the direction of my un-tree-like face and I demonstrated that I was most impressed by this, but also had had somewhere to be very soon.

So, I spent a couple of hours wandering the cemetery, alone, in the mist, on the crunchy path and through the wet grass. It was peaceful and still. Every now and then the wind would whip up and scatter tiny leaves from the trees. I said hello to a squirrel and I saw the most beautiful mosaic covered grave of Guilio Salviati, 1898, from his wife Henriette. Then I punched a tree and it was soft.

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Too soon I had to rush off and collect Harriet from the station so we could fulfil our days work – which basically entailed me getting punched, licked and strangled, before going for pizza. We also eyed up a Ford Consul and went to Croydon.

October ended with the last Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship sprint of the season, on the epic Brands Hatch Indy circuit. It was an amazing place to drive. We ate lemon drizzle cake and had a marvellous time. I wrote about it here, it’s quite a fun read, I think.

The competition was much tougher this year. If I’d been getting these times in my first season I would have been getting podium places. Still, I am chuffed with how both Adam and I have done. Overall for the year I came 14th out of 38, and 6th in the class I was competing in – Production. (7th in Production and Production Modified combined). Adam came 4th… overall, in the combined championship results, 4th out of 38. Pretty decent!

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I don’t know, but maybe you’d like to hang out some time? If you’re interested in meeting up with photographers and other creative people, and you’re in the Cambridge area, we’re holding the last Shutter Hub Meet Up of 2016 at the Green Man at Granchester on the 1st December. You’d be more than welcome to join us.

I’ll also be reviewing portfolios with Photomonth (and an AMAZING photography industry line-up, seriously, check it out) in London on the 26th November, if you fancy that.

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2016 – Brands Hatch (Round 9)

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The last sprint of the season, and where better to be than Brands Hatch? Brands Hatch! I felt lucky and nervous. We’ve been there a few times (like that time we went to the truck racing and Mark delighted in finding a ketchup covered umbrella in the bin), but we’d never driven there.

It felt like ages since we’d been in the car, we’d missed round 8 of the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship at Curborough because Adam drove into a wall and I had an operation to remove my unicorn horn.

We arrived the night before, stayed at the Mecure Brands Hatch hotel, hung out in the bar with our racing driver pals. We talked about cars and puzzled at the thinness of Nigel’s peppercorn sauce.

The bedroom was nice. The wallpaper above the bed depicted a speedo display (not the swim trunks, thankfully) and everything was all grey, red and white, like a boys bedroom from the eighties.

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We woke early in the morning, stumbled across the chequered flag patterned carpet and checked out. Actually, Adam checked out, I took pictures of the carpet.

We met everyone in the paddock, went to get scrutineered, and picked up copy of the programme. That’s me on the front cover! I’d like to say it’s because I am their star driver, but it’s possible that I was the only person going slow enough for them to get a clear shot.

I wore my (un)lucky shoes. You know, the ones that got covered in concrete last month. They had to be broken from their cast and forced into the washing machine before un-crisping with wear.

In a change from our normal order, I was first driver and Adam second. We took the car up to the holding area and waited for the VW qualifying to finish so we could go out for our practice – two runs, back to back.

The air was damp, and a light drizzle began to fall. I headed off the start line, slowly, trying to remember my way round, telling myself, as I swooped down Paddock Hill, ‘Don’t let off, don’t let off, don’t let off!’ Completing my one and a half laps I headed back across to the pit lane to swap over with Adam. Except, I didn’t turn into the pits, I turned back onto the track… whoops! I didn’t know which way to go, so I just went, and, well, as I drove round and saw the angry faces of marshals mouthing who knows what at me, I realised it was clearly wrong. Double thumbs up, and with a forced grin on my face, I drove the half lap back round to the finish again, where luckily there was now a marshal to direct me (with very vigorous arm movements) back to safety.

Practice number two got underway and as the drizzle let off the track felt a lot drier. I was over 13 seconds faster than my first practice, which was a relief.

Mark Swarbrick managed to spin off 3 times in one run, bless him. Martin Roberts, Nick Emery, Rob Holt, Terry Baker, Stuart Cheshire – they all went spinning, and Martin Scarfe broke his car on track – something to do the the distributor cap, I think.

And then it was time to wait for the afternoon to come round. To sit around and talk, look at expensive watches, and to eat cake. Luckily Mark’s Exige came readily equipped with a built-on cake serving station, and the bright orange paintwork complimented the lemon drizzle cake perfectly.

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The track was dry, and it was time for the three timed runs. As I came down Paddock for the second time, I saw a red Cup 220 Elise in front of me, in the distance. The thought of, ‘Hey! I’m catching them up!’ then became a reality and turned into, ‘Uh oh!’ I’m catching them up!’

I let off the throttle for fear that I might put them off or make them jump by sneaking up on them. It may have slowed me down a second or so, but it didn’t matter, I still had two more runs to go and the car was getting warmed up. To be fair, it was probably karma for my accidental wrong-turn sighting lap earlier!

Run two 144.21, run three 142.65. In total I knocked just over 25 seconds off from my first practice, to my last run. Considering I’d never driven there before, and also that I didn’t need to carry a map, I feel pretty happy with that. It put me 11th out of 14, and to be honest, I thought I would probably be 14th. Adam, on the other hand wowed us with a time of 135.78 and 4th place. He didn’t need a map either.

The results…

Production:
1st Nigel Hannam, 2nd Xavier Brooke, 3rd Phil Stratton-Lake

Production Modified:
1st Stephen Morrison, 2nd Simon Foley, 3rd Andy Pidgeon

Supersport:
1st James Tubby, 2nd Stuart Cheshire, 3rd Russell Whitworth

Supersport Modified:
1st Nick Emery, 2nd Rob Clark, 3rd Paul Neale

Jez Braker was in a class all of his own, wafting round the track in the comfort of his Z3.

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It was a fun and successful day, but what had been on almost everyone’s minds throughout it’s entirety was the Championship.

Xavier Brooke was crowned the champion in Production, and Duncan Fraser in Supersport. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to parade them around on our shoulders, but their trophies would have been too heavy for us to carry.

Nigel Hannam missed winning the Production Championship by just 1 point. One. Duncan already had the Supersport Championship in the bag before Brands, which was lucky, because he didn’t have a car to drive.

Overall for the year I came 14th out of 38, and 6th in the class I was competing in – Production. (7th in Production and Production Modified combined). That sounds good. Well done Karen!

Adam came 4th… overall, in the combined championship results, 4th out of 38. Bloody brilliant. I taught him well.

Onwards!

These Recent Things (Bonfires, Books & The Woods)

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I don’t even know where to start, really. I guess I’ll start where I left off last time –  the reason I was (supposed to be) doing all the resting  this month.

I had a minor operation to remove a couple of small lumps from my massive head. They had to use local anaesthetic so they could talk to me as they did it. I was alright with that, I’ve never had a general anaesthetic and I am a wimp just at the thought of it. One nurse held my hand and monitored my reactions as they gave me the injections. ‘She’s still smiling,’ she said, as the surgeon made his first incision. ‘Let’s have a look what’s in there then,’ he said. It was a serious moment, I needed to be still, but then, with slightly nervous excitement I said, ‘I hope it’s gold and we can weigh it in!’

I had a nice time. Yes, I know that sounds odd, but, the surgeon and his team were so lovely to me, and I appreciated it.

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A couple of days before I was lucky enough to be given a hair cut by Gen, the salon director at RUSH, Cambridge. I liked her. There was none of that holiday gossip small talk. She told me about wasps that lay their eggs inside caterpillars, and that flying ants are actually called princesses. She was enthusiastic and friendly, and at no point did she cut my face or insult me. I’m definitely going back.

I was pleased with my hair, it looked good – even the nurse said so as she gelled it flat to my head. She said it was really soft, so soft that she couldn’t get the hair clips to stay still, so she had to use gel. When the clips were removed my hair unfurled into a proper nineties style quiff (apart from I don’t think dried blood was a thing then). I had to keep the quiff for five days. I got quite used to it, but was relieved when I was finally able to wash it away.

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I was so tired, for days. I had no idea I would be so tired. I think my brain didn’t tell my body what was happening, so it thought it was some kind of attack and acted a bit surprised. It did feel like someone had been trying to sculpt my head with a chisel. I stayed on the sofa and watched We Bare Bears back to back. (I love Ice Bear!)

I ate popcorn, a lot of popcorn, a much welcomed care package from my friends, the Chase’s. The goat’s cheese flavour was like grown-up cheesy puffs. (I’m allergic to goats milk products and it gave me a rash. Obviously I’m not greedy and was just trying to test the ingredients out! Hmmm.) My favourite flavour has to be the Smoky Bloody Mary – spicy tomato, yum.

We had to miss the penultimate round of the Lotus Cup Speed Championship at Curborough because my head wasn’t ready to wear a helmet, but the car is all fixed and looking awesome – especially if you squint, and make wheel squealing noises at the same time.

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You know that post I wrote about doing good things for others last month? Well, not only did it get published via Keep Britain Tidy as part of their Waste Less, Live More campaign, but it also got published on the Huffington Post!

Oh yeah, sounds pretty good dunnit, but wait for it, innit… and then Arianna Huffington contacted me and personally asked me to contribute to her new project, Thrive Global. Yes, that’s right. (Takes a bow. Looks embarrassed. Takes another bow, does a curtsy.)

There’s a sleep related article in the pipelines, and I’m looking forward to trying to fit in as much research as I possibly can this month. (Zzzzzz).

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I’ve also started work on an exciting project with two other photographers, Laura Ward and Jayne Lloyd, and in September we began shooting at the headquarters of Facebook in London.

What a place to work! I had a salad with a Snapdragon on it. And, yes, they do have a help-yourself sweet bar, but I can’t show you any hard evidence. Mmmm, pink foam prawns. (Sounds totally rank! Oh, apparently they’re called Pink Shrimps, that’s nicer.)

I met, and photographed, some amazing women, and at the end of the day, instead or feeling tired and weary, I felt energised. I also rode the back of a sofa in a floor to ceiling window, I don’t know how many floors up, to get my shot, because I am totally dedicated to the cause (and also lacking self-control).

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The biggest thing this past month though, the consumer of my thoughts and the eater-upper of my time, has been GIRL TOWN. It’s been a lot of work, and planning, and late night/early morning Skyping, and it’s finally come together at Photomonth London in the form of the most excellent exhibition and residency. (Not sure I can be trusted, what with my over inflated ego?! Ignore me, and take Whitechapel Gallery’s word for it? They put it in their Top 5!) Fist pump, woo!

I’m not sure what chicken news there is this month. It’s feather moulting time, the garden is strewn with their discarded plumes. Sandra looks the healthiest she has ever done, Patty Slipper has just decided that it’s okay to sleep in the big house (result!) and April is still trying to sleep in the tree.

If you’ve seen my Instagram stories you’ll know I’ve had to use a ladder to get to her. It’s not easy, but she helps by stepping backwards off the branch and onto my head, so I can use both hands to climb back down again.

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We had the most lovely and calm weekend with my brother and his family at their new home. Blackberry picking and gathering pottery finds from the fields. Saving hedgehogs (from their normal daily routine) and discussing ideas for the inception of our (that’s me and 7 year old Jocey) latest idea, Wild Toiletting magazine. And I accidentally got a pocket full of earwigs.

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We ate our dinner outside in the woods – charred potatoes and soft buttery leeks cooked in the bonfire, and chicken cooked over pine, cherry and rhododendron wood. It was so good, we couldn’t even ruin it with our bad singing.

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Cambridge Independent published their Top 11 Foodies to Follow, and there I am (by fluke, not ranking) at the top of the list.

“If you’re easily distracted by stunning photography then be prepared to lose a few hours on Karen Harvey’s blog, I Don’t Like Peas. Even if you do like peas, it’s well worth a look as Karen is an award winning photographer and accomplished writer. In addition to Cambridge reviews you might also come away with a cocktail recipe, travel tip or even a book recommendation.”

That’s nice, isn’t it?! (They forgot to mention the chickens though. Best not tell Sandra!)

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Speaking of book recommendations, over on the Shutter Hub blog we shared our latest favourite photo books. There are some beauties, really there are. There’s loads of great stuff over on the Shutter Hub blog, actually. You should have a look, if you like nice things. We’ve got quite a few events coming up in October –  a talk at Brighton Photo Fringe, Jane Bown talk and panel discussion, London meet up, Manchester meet up, peer portfolio reviews in London. Media Futures workshop in Leeds – all of them totally free. And of course, the GIRL TOWN Photomonth exhibition, and BRIGHT in Leeds.

Hmmm, it’s no surprise really that I’m hopeful of ‘researching’ sleep at any possible opportunity…. Zzzzzzzz!

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Oh, and I shovelled six tonnes of concrete in the rain (project ‘garage build’ is on), and now I’m about to launch myself into a month of madness. Send help… and shoes!

 

Cream Tea & Charity – Simple Ways to do Something Good for Others

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I was going to tell you about this sooner… National Cream Tea Day. This year it happened to fall on the 24th June, which would have been great, but the EU Referendum vote for Brexit made my heart sink, and tea and cake just seemed so frivolous.

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A little package arrived, put together by volunteers for the charity Action Medical Research. I grabbed it from the postman’s hands, he held on to it for too long, before releasing it into my clutches.

Inside the well packed cake box we found Yorkshire tea, two creamy soft Marks and Spencer’s scones, two sweet little jars of Tiptree’s strawberry jam, a whopping great pot of Roddas clotted cream, napkins, and a plastic knife – should you need to urgently consume your cream tea and retain at least some kind of civilised status of attempted decadence.

I felt rather lucky to be able to enjoy such a delightful cream tea, and I realised that now, more than ever, we need to do good things. We need to look after each other, not just ourselves.

So I had a little think about other things that we can all do, with ease, to help others, whilst helping ourselves. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat guilt-free cream teas, or clear out unwanted things without feeling that they’re going to waste?

Here’s what I came up with…

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Toiletries Amnesty. It started in my airing cupboard, and ended up across the UK and Ireland. It’s pretty simple really, if you have excess toiletries you can bet there’s someone nearby who’d be really grateful for them. Loads of people (friends and strangers) have got involved with the Toiletries Amnesty, and I get at least one enquiry every week. Check here for places near you that will take things (new and part used), and if you know an organisation that would benefit from being listed on the Toiletries Amnesty Directory please send them my way.

Stuff! Do a charity shop drop with spare clothes, shoes, books and bric-a-brac. I like stuff, but I don’t need all of it! Every couple of months I take a bag of bits to the charity shop, either EACH or Mind. I have a basket that I pop stuff in, and then I’ll pack it all up and drop it in on my way by. Some charity shops are set up to claim Gift Aid, so you can fill out a form and they can get an extra 25p for every £1 you give. If you are a higher rate tax payer you can get a tax break on this too – just saying!

Other Unwanted Household Goods. I take spare bedding, towels, crockery, cutlery and all sorts of kitchen items, to a young people’s homeless project. I’ve also taken clothes there, and they’ve gone down a storm. If you have unwanted clothes and shoes consider offering them to a hostel – people need warm clothes and good shoes in the winter, and smart clothes for interviews.

Not everywhere has room to store larger things, but if you are getting rid of a fridge, cooker, bed, or useful furniture, it’s worth giving your local Refuge or hostel a call and asking if they’ve got anyone who needs it. Mostly when people move into permanent accommodation they have little or no belongings. Curtains, bedding, anything.

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Sleeping Bags. I’m not very good at camping, so I probably don’t need a super special subzero sleeping bag, but you know there are a lot of people out there that do. Winter nights can be killers, and if it’s not hard enough having to sleep rough, imagine trying to keep warm too. We gave our sleeping bags to Winter Comfort in Cambridge, but I am sure homeless charities across the land would be happy to take yours and pass it on.

Really Old Towels and Bedding. Maybe towels that you’ve used for dying your hair, or sheets that are a bit worn out, and not something you want to give to another person. Animal sanctuaries and even veterinary surgeries are pleased to receive clean towels and bedding for their animals. I’ve taken old duvets and pillows to the RSPCA’s Block Fen Animal Centre, and they were happy to have them. I also made sure I didn’t come home with any new pets.

Pet Food. Again, animal sanctuaries are usually delighted to receive this. MoJo used to have special food for his kidneys, and when he no longer needed it, I took the unopened biscuits and soft food sachets to Block Fen. There are other reasons why you might have left over pet food, but they are sad ones, so we won’t talk about that today.

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Packaging Materials. Bubble wrap, tissue paper, jewellery boxes, nice packaging, carrier bags. A lot of smaller charity shops are pleased to receive these things, and it means you’re not contributing to landfill with all your waste packaging from those late night Amazon orders.

Spare Foreign Currency. Yeah, I know, there’s no such thing as spare money. But, if you’ve got small amounts of leftover random, or even obsolete, currencies you can donate them to a charity. I know you can send it in the post to the Alzheimers Society (they’ve had our spare rupees) but you can also drop it in to charity shops such as Age UK and Oxfam.

Cake. It’s okay, you don’t have to give it away! You could enjoy a delicious cream tea whilst supporting Action Medical Research, or why not rope some friends or colleagues into baking cakes for a Macmillan coffee morning?

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Glasses. Underwear. Mobile Phones. Sounds like my holiday packing list! Got some old prescription glasses that you don’t, or can’t, wear any more? Donate them to Vision Aid Overseas.

There are several charities who send undies overseas to areas where people need them, such as Smalls for All who will take new pants, and new or lightly worn bras, and the Oxfam-run organisation Frip-Ethique, a social enterprise in West Africa that repairs and sells bras, putting money back into regional development work.

Loads of charities will take mobile phones, but if you are interested it’s worth checking whether they are just selling them on to companies who only give them half of what they are worth, or if they are sending them overseas to be used and help people who need them. I’ll leave you to look into that one for yourself!

Food. Cleaning Products. Toiletries. Untouched and unopened items are pretty much always accepted by Foodbanks. Sadly this is a much needed service, and there are families who rely desperately on them. Sometimes it’s nice to put in some cakes or biscuits instead of the standard list items of pasta and tinned foods. I once heard someone say that if you can’t afford your own food then you don’t deserve treats. That’s total rubbish, everyone needs a little bit of cheer, and sometimes it’s biscuit shaped. Also, why should any child feel left out or different from their classmates? They shouldn’t. Send them some biscuits. I was disappointed to be told that Foodbanks won’t take alcohol. Whilst I accept that they don’t want to unwittingly enable alcoholics, I don’t think a single can of beer would be such a bad thing. Find your local foodbank here, or look out for drop-off points in your supermarket. You’ll just have to drink your own beer.

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Antiques and Collectables. If you’ve got something really special or interesting, and you’d like to send it somewhere special instead of selling it, it’s possible that it could belong in a museum. It might be of local interest, or national, or it might be something that could be used in a handling collection to support education and community projects. I’ve borrowed collections before for projects, the most rewarding one was a project on memory, with elderly people. My great aunt’s umbrella is in a museum, my vintage camera collection was donated to Wisbech & Fenland Museum, I’ve sent several packages to the Museum of Brands in London, and after visiting the Fifties Museum in Wales, I sent them a box of bits too (read my blog about this awesome place, here!) Of course you have to check first that they’d like the item/s, and you’ll need to help complete some acquisitions paperwork, but it’s quite nice to be able to contribute to archives for future generations.

Leaving a Legacy. I left my stuffed crow to my friend Rob, but I also left a legacy to Oxfam. Several charities have their own will schemes, so it’s worth asking your favoured charity. In our instance, a local solicitor compiled our wills for free and we left a sum of money to Oxfam. It’s like the best hire purchase deal you could ever get – pay nothing until you are dead, and then you won’t even know about it.

Go on a Road Trip. I thought I’d finish on this one – why not turn your holiday into a fundraiser? Admittedly this ones a bit costly, but seriously, you’ll have so much fun!

In 2013 we drove a Vauxhall Tigra named Lisa to Spain with the Barcelona Bangers crew and raise over £1700 for EACH, and then in 2014 we undertook the Czecheap Challenge in Liz the VW Polo. Liz died in Frankfurt, but we hitched a ride with friends, and still managed to raise almost £700 for the Stroke Association (you can read all about the trip here). In 2017 we are planning the return of team Glitter Mitten for Banger Italia to raise money for Save the Children. If you like crap cars, long drives, and crazy people, then this is the one for you!

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Well. That was a long one!

I’m sure you’ve got some other brilliant ideas, and I would love you to share them below!

Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!