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!

These Recent Things (Donuts, Chickens & Cars)

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I’m writing this from my sofa, propped up on cushions. Don’t I often seem to start like this? Maybe it’s the only time I get to sit down and share.

Yesterday I made a quick dash to the doctors to show him my double-sized left ankle, as I felt the sickness and shakes of cellulitis kicking in. I’d like to think I’m pretty hardcore, but I wanted antibiotics and quick-smart.

“If you don’t take your tablets and rest it well, you could end up in hospital,” he said with a warning tone. I know, I know. (Years ago I spent several nights in hospital because of cellulitis. They said I could have lost my leg, and they tried to feed me a curried egg sandwich. I don’t know which was more shocking). I was willing to be a good patient and follow his instructions.

“Just remember,” he said, as I stood to leave the room, “you’ll not be able to go out in the sun, and you’ll have diarrhoea!”

Welcome to my bank holiday weekend!

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Let’s think about the good times, hey?! Earlier in the month I filled my birthday present flask with ginger cordial, and headed off to the Norfolk coast.

There’s not much better than the sound of the sea. The sun shone and it was wonderful, I searched for beach treasure and meandered. My birthday party snacks got a bit warm – the teacake was a melted mess, but my drink, in it’s special shiny Hydroflask, stayed perfectly chilled. (I guess that’s why they give it a 100 year guarantee!)

I really wanted to show you this lovely black recycled sari silk necklace that Harjit gave me for my birthday, I wore it with glee, but I just couldn’t do it justice in a self portrait. (If you want to, you can look at her whole collection here: Jewelled Buddha).

A week or so later I had another lovely seaside day out, this time with Aoife. I ate that doughnut with whippy ice-cream (top) at Hunstanton, had a sausage roll and saw the most magnificent memorial at Houghton Hall,  and watched Aoife swim in the sea at Wells… whilst I held her stuff and didn’t let her pants blow away. I’m a good friend.

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I’ve mentioned it before, and I will mention it again (and again), because I’ve been really pleased to have the chance to play around with the new CAT S60 phone. It’s super strong, the battery lasts for ages, and it’s waterproof to five metres. It’s also got a built in thermal imaging camera, which I’m a little bit obsessed with. It’s been labelled the ‘ultimate construction phone’ and used by extreme sportspeople. It’s supposed to be a ‘rugged’ phone for those working in more hazardous situations. I was most definitely the first person to use it for a nighttime chicken hunt.

It’s like a cross between Predator vision and a Global Hypercolor sensation, and I’ll never get bored of that!

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We launched the Shutter Hub BRIGHT exhibition at St James’s Institute of Oncology in Leeds. I had this idea that the exhibition could bring colour and light to what might not be such a bright day for it’s viewers, and was hopeful that it could have some kind of impact, however small. It’s already surpassed my expectations, and I couldn’t be more pleased. You can read some of the special stories that have come to light, here – please do. If you are in Leeds and can pop by for a look, it’s really worth it, there’s some fantastic work on show, and 25% from all sales will be donated to the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal.

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You know that Adam accidentally put the Elise in the wall at Hethel earlier this month? (He’s since become a fibreglassing expert).
Well, luckily that didn’t stop Jaguar lending us a new XE R-Sport to have a play with.

I really liked the R-Sport styling. It wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, but it was very refined. The car handled incredibly well, and coped with the bumpy fen roads beautifully – which was a huge relief for me as I spend most of my time being thrown off the drivers seat in a lowered  old Golf GTI Turbo… got to mention the turbo! Good job I didn’t take the XE to get fuel though – what felt like a petrol engine was actually the 2.0 180bhp turbocharged diesel!

I’d normally go for a much more subtle interior but I did really like the contrasting black and oyster, especially with the perforated leather. I would have liked to accessorise the passenger seat with a punnet of strawberries, or a perhaps a chicken, though.

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Sandra was very ill. She has since become very well, so don’t worry, but she was in a very bad way. One morning Adam went to let the hens out, they came bustling through the door with their usual gusto, but Sandra took one step and just fell to the floor. She couldn’t get up, she couldn’t do anything. Adam brought her into the house, and I hoped that a couple of hours in a blanket might perk her up. It didn’t. Her body was all twisted, her head tilted as if she was trying to turn it upside down. I thought she was bound to die. I kept her with me most of the day, and made her a cosy nest in the back hall that night.

The next morning she still seemed disoriented, she couldn’t stand or eat, so I bundled her into the car (the Golf, I hasten to add!) and off to the vets. She was a very good passenger. A man in the waiting room made a ‘joke’ that his dog would eat my chicken if it saw her. If Sandra was on good form she would have kicked that dogs arse.

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Any way, I suppose I felt better for visiting the vet, but Sandra seemed indifferent. We think she’d had a stroke, or some kind of nervous issue. She took bed and breakfast in our house, and every day she improved a little bit. She drank loads of water, ate a diet of bananas and meal worms, and managed to take a few steps. 

One day I was working at my desk and got the feeling that someone was watching me – it was Sandra – stood, peering round the doorframe, just looking, for ages! For a couple of days she seemed weirdly intrigued by me, she just wanted to look at me, with her wonky sideways head. I think she knew I’d helped her, but it was a bit freaky!

After seven nights in the house, she was well enough to go outside into a small run on her own, and now, now she’s back out with the gang. The hierarchy has changed, Sasha thought she was in charge whilst Sandra was away, she got annoyed and formed a breakaway gang – just her and Margaret. The other four hang out together – yes, Patty Slipper now has a gang of friends! She also doesn’t smell so bad anymore (but she is still sleeping in our house every night!)

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I’m thinking Australia must have a different fathers day to us? I got asked by an Australian magazine to contribute to finishing their sentence, in honour of dads, and I did, but I’m really not sure it was what they were after.

The best thing my dad taught me was… if you pick up a bad passenger you can always drive them into a lamp post.

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I’d never visited Ickworth House before, but I met up with photographer Jayne Lloyd there, wandered the gardens (they have a Stumpery – sounds better than it is, but still, Stumpery!) and had lunch at the Ickworth Hotel. There was this amazing plant growing in the conservatory, and I am now on a mission to hunt one down for myself.

Someone (it was Sandra) laid a giant whopper of an egg on the lawn. I’ve not dared crack it yet, but I am hoping for a triple yolker. The one on the right is a normal large egg.

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I’ve been working hard, and enjoying it. Getting all my ducks in a row, so to speak, and getting ready for a busy couple of months coming up.

You know how nothing happens all year, but then you get asked to all the things at the same time?

Renaissance Photography Awards champagne reception, leaving drinks for Jack from Metro, a trip to Birmingham with my friend Ryazan from Two Monkeys Travel, reviewing portfolios for photographers in London, the launch of a new ethical food store, Cambridge School of Art’s MA private view, the Good Funeral Awards, and a fun instagram walk in Cambridge with Claireabelle Makes… I think that’s all!

But I’ve got other plans. I’m off to see the wizard (wizard/surgeon, whatever) for a minor operation (it’s okay, I’m actually looking forward to it!) to remove a couple of lumps from my head. One of them might be my brain, or a pea, the other one is definitely the remains of my unicorn horn.

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2016 – Hethel (Round 7)

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Last time we were sprinting at Hethel I had a bit of a bad experience with a small but angry man. I was put off. I did think about not doing this round, but I really do love the track, and I didn’t want to miss out. I’m also now prepared with my windscreen washer jets ready and aimed, just below waistline for the embarrassment factor.

Back into Norfolk we headed, through villages with funny names, passed fields of free-range piglets. We arrived in good spirits and drank milky tea, stood in the warm wind.

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One of the organisers asked if we had our club trophies with us, I wasn’t sure, but, remaining positive, I said we could always make some. I reckoned I could find some old half eaten sandwiches later on, and they’d do the trick. I once got stuck on the M6 for four hours and fashioned a birthday card for Adam from rubbish I found in the footwell. Crafty.

We were soon underway with the first practice. Adam did an incredible 140.46, the fastest practice in class, and I did an embarrassing 150.10. Not really a terrible time, but seriously, almost 10 seconds behind Adam… come on!

Returning to the paddock we heard the scream of tyres and a loud thud. Clouds of gravel dust filled the air, and as it settled we saw that Simon Foley had hit the barrier. It felt like ages before we knew that he was okay, he seemed to be in the car forever. At first we thought he was in there, then we thought he must have got out, then we wondered if he’d got bored and jogged off.

They pulled his car out of the barrier and back into the paddock. Simon was fine, his car was a mess. Adam, Duncan and Mark took the under tray off, and other things, and everyone chipped in somehow. I stuck extra large googley eyes on the back of the car, and Martin Scarfe stamped on a wasp.

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It was soon time for the second practice, and I stood waiting with Jill at the driver changeover point on the pit lane, watching the cars go by. Adam was going well, he really was. ‘Wow!’ I thought, ‘Adam’s really going for it!’ as he whizzed past and spun into the pit wall, hitting the large painted Lotus emblem with the hind quarters of the car, like a big-butted target practice. He dragged the car off, finished his lap and came back in. We took the car back to the paddock, pulled off the loose bits, and asked the scrutineer over to check he’d be happy with us going out again. The consensus was gaffer tape, and a lot of it.

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There was too much taping to be done, and not enough time, so I had to forfeit my second practice and get the cake out instead. A nice old-school sponge, with raspberry jam and buttercream. (Later on Xav said the cake was the highlight of his day. I had to agree, and I didn’t even have a slice!)

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Mark and Phoebe headed off to Waitrose and returned with a haul of ice creams for everyone. I had a Fruit Pastilles lolly and it was rather nice, but very difficult to eat in the hot sun.

Back to the sprinting, Adam’s first timed run was over 3 seconds slower than his first practice… I wonder why that was?! Mine was 148.98. Parp.

Swiftly, or not so, onto the second timed run, and Adam managed 141.75, which was damn good. Putting him just 0.43 seconds behind Xavier Brookes who ended up taking first. Eventually!

I did 146.74, which is not my fastest time at Hethel, but it was still not bad, and enough to gain me 4th place, which I do believe is the highest position I have achieved in sprinting (unless you count ladies trophies, of course).

Some drivers got called back to have another go because there had been a fault with the timing gear. They rushed their race suits back on, and rolled their cars off the trailers, heading back to the start line.

Somehow something went wrong with the timing gear again. We waited patiently. And then we went home. The guys from Borough 19 must have had some serious number ninja-ing to do, because it wasn’t until four nights later, that the result arrived.

What’s this? Oh yeah! It’s the results from Hethel…

Production:
1st Xavier Brooke, 2nd Adam Ruck, 3rd Phil Stratton-Lake

Production Modified:
1st Martin Scarfe

Supersport:
1st Stuart Cheshire, 2nd Andy Hughes, 3rd Jill Cheshire

Supersport Modified:
1st Duncan Fraser, 2nd Nick Emery, Jason Weatherall

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I was sad about the car, Adam was sad about the car. But, let’s look at the positives – it’s all about the experiences, and about learning news things.

So, here’s two top things I learnt from the experience: however good my mum is at knitting, she still can’t be persuaded to knit a new rear clam for the Elise, and, however much suncream you use, sunburn can still have a debilitating effect. I couldn’t lift my left arm for three days.

These Recent Things (Thoughts, Fir Cones & The Sea)

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Amidst the busy busyness of recent times, I still managed to find time to go to the sea. Houghton, because Aoife had reminded me how good it is. With Jackie, because she likes the air too. We saw cows that looked like Oreos, sea lavender and fir cones.

It was a welcome escape. We all need to make more time for the sea. Jackie made a little mention of me here and I felt very pleased. (Hey, that’s my kitchen Jackie!)

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Last night Ruth Sultana came home! After almost five weeks of living away, and only visiting on a rare occasion, she has returned and spent the night. Patty Slipper is elated.

April took the spoils, again, at the local village show, with her eggs of glory. I’ll pick the trophy up next week. I really wanted to enter the ‘hedgerow harvest’ category too, but I threw the bouquet from the car window on the way there because it smelt too bad.

I got cocky about April’s excellence and entered her eggs in another show. We ended up with third place disappointment. They didn’t even crack the eggs to see if they were good. The judging was based on the appearance of the eggs and the photograph of the hen. They didn’t like the look of her, or her goods. I won’t tell her. 

Sandra’s been helping me with some admin. She doesn’t get much done, but to be honest, she’s pretty efficient in comparison to some people I’ve worked with!

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MoJo has been being his usual beautiful self. To see his face I sometimes forget how old he is, he’s got to be nearing 18 now. I had to give a urine sample at the hospital the other day (interesting!), and for some reason I felt compelled to tell them exactly how I test my cat’s urine at home! I guess it’s just as bad that I am telling you now, really, but you’re used to me, you expect it!

A few years ago MoJo was really ill. He had a blockage in his urinary tract and he couldn’t pee, not only was he distressed and absolutely full to bursting, the bacteria had gone back into his system and given him blood poisoning. The only option was an emergency operation, but they thought his heart was too weak to survive it. Of course he made it, thank the cat Gods, but it has made me super observant of his movements. Being a house cat he has to use a litter tray, so for me that’s handy, I can keep a check on if he is going to the loo regularly and if I am concerned about anything I can easily take samples (he is ever so good!) And I make sure there’s plenty of fresh water for him to drink, in different places around the house. He prefers to drink from a wide brimmed floral patterned mug. He’s a gentle beast.

I’m telling you all this because, although MoJo is lucky to have a cat-specialist-vet-nurse on speed-dial 24/7 (hello ‘aunty’ Rocky!), not everyone is. It was only the other week that Lucy, Queen of the guinea pigs, was messaging me at midnight about a friend’s cat and it’s limpy leg. I gave good cat help. We all need help sometimes. There’s a really good guide to all things ‘Cat’ over on the RSPCA website, here, it’s worth a look.

Rocky is going to build a Cat Museum and I am going to be a patron. Oh yes.

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It seems like a total age ago that we were in Mumbai, but Glorious! published a few posts last month about our trip, and I wanted to go back immediately.

They opened with, “Karen Harvey, creator and writer of top UK blog ‘I Don’t Like Peas’, is an award winning photographer, writer, creative director and self proclaimed cat whisperer! She has great influence within the online food community, and picked up the UK Food Blogger of the Year Award in 2015!”  Which sounds pretty fancy and you’d think that I’d at least try and do it some justice, wouldn’t you? No. “What’s your favourite cuisine?” they asked, ‘Buffet!” I replied.

There’s a kind-of write up of our meal at Masala Kraft here, but my favourite bit is the little video they put together from some of Adam’s footage. I’d like to go back now.

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Aside from all the other excitement of the month, the biggest thing I worked on was the Shutter Hub OPEN. I’m still exhausted, but I’m also pretty much overjoyed. The whole thing went amazingly – the exhibitions, private views, meet up, talks, workshop, portfolio reviews… all of it, amazing!

I wrote a mega round-up of the OPEN over here, on the Shutter Hub blog, and if you have just a moment to skim over it, I’d really love to share it with you.

I don’t know who this lady is (above), but she was just too beautiful to ignore. After Sara’s wonderful workshop we went with Ali Dover to have dinner at The Old Bicycle Shop. I think their fabulous energy rubbed off on me, because instead of just looking on tiredly, I was compelled to take a photo.

Have you read my interview with Sara (Me & Orla) on the Shutter Hub blog? I keep calling her a tiny powerhouse, because she is, and also I kind of hope that if I say it three-times-quickly she might appear.

I’ve not really shared many food things lately, and I should really. I have been very much enjoying gingery drinks still. This Belvoir Ginger Cordial in particular. (You say ‘Bell vwah’ I say ‘Beaver’).

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We did a sprint at Blyton and it bloody rained. Gutted, because I was going to be a total track demon. Then I did a track day at Hethel and broke the car. Jordan bought me a pink bun though, so it wasn’t all bad. Fingers crossed for this weekend!

Are you using the new instagram video thingy? I don’t like it yet. I like stills. I like preserved memories with intent, finished and thought out photographs. I never got into Snapchat, so I am not sure what the insta version is for, but so far I have used it to announce that I stopped off at the motorway services to use the toilet and the door fell off it’s hinges. I’d stay tuned for future updates if I was you, it can only get more exciting!

Midsummer Pimms & The Impossible Garden Picnic

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Every year, since we moved to this house, we’ve had a party in our garden to celebrate Midsummer. There was one year when we changed the date, so that Susie, the inventor of the Sugar Wolf (possibly the most dangerous cocktail known to mankind) could still join us for the fun and fire jumping, but other than that, always Midsummer.

We make all our favourite foods, including some Harvey family classics – the secret recipe chocolate cake, camel dropping biscuits, and the most recent edition, the (kind of) Portuguese custard tarts. Adam brings back loads of continental beers, we pick up a few kegs from our local brewery and bring out the Polish vodka collection.

Susie normally strolls in with a crate of champagne and cider, because she’s a classy chick and she like to mix it up a bit. Last year Aoife made a special Midsummer potion for us all (whilst wearing the most fabulous ‘Margot from the Good Life’ dress) and there’s always a massive jug of Pimms, usually attached the the end of Lisa’s arm!

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Friends pitch their tents in the garden, or bagsie beds in the house, we light a bonfire and sit round on some old pieces of oak sculpture we have in a circle round the fire pit – Wood Henge! Sometimes there’s music, sometimes there’s singing, sometimes Adam plays Guns N’ Roses on the sitar.

Sadly we didn’t have a Midsummer gathering this year, but we did light a bonfire under the full strawberry moon at the start of the shortest night, and ate ice creams as bats circled above our heads. None of them attacked us though, which was good!

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Have I told you about time I got bitten by a bat?!

It was a normal afternoon, late July, a few years ago. Adam saw something moving in the dining room. ‘A bird!’ he said, putting on his sunglasses for protection and pulling the door to.

A tiny, speeding dot of black was circling the room, occasionally it stopped to hang off the chandelier for a short moment, before swooping off again. A bat.

We both stood in the room, Adam bracing himself, me laughing at his protective eyewear. ‘Bats have got built in sonar, he’s not going to go for your eyes!’ I said, as it dive bombed me in the head, circled a few more times, and then flew up my dress screaming it’s tiny furry face off. Out it flew, continuing to circle, occasionally brushing my head. Eventually it stopped, and climbed under the stereo.

As I scooped it out, and held it’s tiny body in my hands, exclaiming ‘Take my picture! Take my picture!’ it bit me on one hand, and then the other. Eeeee! It hurt. Tiny fierce pins for teeth. We got it outside, and set it free.

I thought it was funny, amusing, but a couple of people kind of worried me with, ‘Ew, what if it was diseased?’  So I thought I’d set my mind at rest with a quick call to NHS Direct. Ha!

I explained what had happened, and was put on hold. Coming back on the line the woman said, ‘Erm, I’ve spoken to my colleague, and, we think you’ve got rabies. Can you go to A and E please?’

At the hospital they ran through some questions with me, ‘Where did you get bitten?’ – ‘In the dining room!’ ‘Where are your injuries?’ – I held up both my middle fingers. Apart from the threat of a deadly disease, the whole thing was pure comedy.

I was rushed through to see the doctor immediately and assured that whilst Rabies doesn’t exist in the UK, I should take these special antibiotics to fight off any other dangerous nasties that the furry bullet may have been carrying.

Coming home, in the dark, I stood outside the back door as Adam unlocked it and, Whack! a bat (THE bat) hit me in the head! Revenge.

(I did get very sick about a week later, and for roughly four hours thought I was going to die a slow and intensely painful death, but after that I was fine! The lesson here – leave the wild animals alone, Karen!)

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Anyway, having felt deprived of our full Midsummer experience I thought a garden picnic on a warm summers day would be a simple delight to enjoy – just roll out of the back door and no need to worry if it started to rain.

I hadn’t considered what the chickens would think. To be honest, it was April who was the worst. Once she’d got a taste for patisserie, there was no stopping her. Whilst the other distracted me, and my back was turned, she lunged in for a pomegranate seed. The others were encouraged by her efforts. I tried waving my Birkenstock at them, but they just thought I was beckoning them over for more!

At one point, lying on the ground, appreciating the little bee that had come to inspect the flowers that I’d proudly cut from amongst the weeds, I felt an unusual rubbing sensation on my left leg. Turning slowly to see, it was April, gleefully wiping her custardy face on my clean clothes.

Once they’d had their fill of sweet treats, they retreated to the flower beds, occasionally patrolling past to make sure there was nothing left for them.

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I’ve been enjoying some wonderful books lately, but Shadow Catchers is just bursting with the most beautiful and inspiring camera-less photography, and I fully appreciated being able to sit and just stare into it’s pages without worrying about the time.

I’m not much of a cocktail drinker, but when the guys at thebar.com asked me what my favourite summer cocktail was, it had to be the good old-fashioned classic, Pimms and lemonade.

I didn’t even realise Pimms was alcoholic for a while! (But yes, this is coming from the same person who got bitten by a bat in her own dining room, so, you know!) It’s a proper summer drink when it’s full of fruity bits.

We usually make big jugs of it, but I thought the carafe would be fun and stop the flies from popping in for a swim or a loll on an orange-slice lilo.

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The Pimms recipe from thebar.com recommends mixing it per glass, but as we generally only have drinks with friends, I just like to sling it all together in one go – 1 part Pimms to 3 parts lemonade, a handful of ice, some slithers of cucumber, sliced orange, strawberries and mint. Some nice tall glasses are also handy (these beauties belonged to Adam’s great aunt), as are straws, so that you can use them as a tool to get all the fruity bits without getting your hand stuck in the glass. (I’m full of life lessons me!)

Sometime you only have to go a few steps outside your door to find something lovely, and even very persistent chickens can’t fully sabotage that!

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This post is sponsored by thebar.com All words, thoughts and chickens are my own. Lucky me!

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