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!

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2016 – Blyton Park (Round 6)

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We checked in at the Wortley House Hotel. They took a swipe of my card, just incase I tried to steal a tele. Getting to the room, Adam realised he’d forgotten to pack my special driving shoes (clapped-out old Converse). ‘It’s okay,’ I said, ‘We’ll go and find a Tesco’. I’ve never had supermarket shoes before, but I know that they are cheap, and I also know that they are probably made by children.

We got in the car, and, almost immediately, we got out again. The battery was flat. After a few minutes of flapping, I phoned Mark. ‘Any chance you could pick us up a battery charger?’ I asked, half joking, half desperately hopeful. His response was quick, of course he would, he was near Grantham and would take a detour. ‘No Problems. Anything else you need?’ he asked politely. ‘Yeah, could you get me some shit shoes?!’

An hour later Mark and Phoebe arrived bearing gifts – a battery charger, and £10 plimsolls from Sainsbury’s, gratefully received.

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We had dinner, we had drinks, we chatted with other LCUK Speed friends, and then we headed off to bed. On our way up Phoebe noticed flyers on the windscreens of the cars, she suggested we go and remove them so our windows weren’t slurred with papery wet stodge by the morning. I handed them to the guy on reception, they were from a rival hotel. He seemed unfazed. ‘But they’ve spelt corner wrong!’ I prodded at the capital K. ‘No, that’s how they spell it,’ he said, matter-of-factly. ‘This isn’t the nineties!’  I said, as I stomped off to bed.

We slept to the hum of the battery charger and woke to the thought of breakfast.

I couldn’t get the room door to lock as we left, so I told reception that it was still open, and that if anyone had done a dump on the bed, it wasn’t me. I mean, they already had the idea that I was illiterate and might do a runner with the tele, so I was just forestalling any other judgements they might have made of me.

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We arrived at Blyton Park. The grey sky hung over us, still and unmoving. As the first practice got underway, the rain started to fall. Lightly at first, but as we queued, it got heavier. My optimism turned into disappointment. 87.21, slow coach.

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The rain stopped play, and we all gathered under the gazebo for shelter. I shuffled round, trying to avoid conversations about Brexit. The rain began to slow, Xav brought out the chocolate brownies (props to his lovely daughter for sending them along with him) and we were told we could take our second practice, if we wanted to.

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It was wet. I eased my way round the track, splashing through puddles and taking in the view. 100.41, surprisingly not the slowest car out there.

After lunch the sun came out. I actually shouted ‘Sun! Sun!’ and might have come across a little bit deranged. Again.

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The track was still slippy, and my shit shoes were giving me gyp, sliding around on the grass and mud covered pedals (thanks Adam!) and feeling like I was wearing heavy cardboard shoe boxes, not shoes. I got an 83.09 and Adam got a DNF as he wasn’t fully on the track as he crossed the finish line. We cleaned the footwell with an old towel and vowed to be better organised with shoes and useful things in future. (Who are we kidding?!)

The track was dry for the second timed run, but I just didn’t feel that confident, until I’d gone all the way round and was back in the paddock wishing we could have another go. 78.47 for me, and another DNF for Adam. He was going so well, I mean soooo well, but then, just a second from the finish line, he spun off, firing a cone in the air like some kind of disappointing £3.50 fireworks finale.

I was 9th out of 13. Adam was 13th. Unlucky.

And now, over to the winners enclosure…

Production: 1st Nigel Hannam, 2nd Xavier Brooke, 3rd Richard Hardwicke

Production Modified: 1st Stephen Morrison, 2nd Andrew Pidgeon (Coincidentally, both the fastest and the slowest drivers of the day – unless you count Adam of course, who didn’t even get a time!)

Supersport: 1st Andy Hughes, 2nd Martin Roberts, 3rd Russell Whitworth

Supersport Modified: 1st Duncan Fraser, 2nd Paul Neale

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We drove home, weaving along the country roads across the fields of Lincolnshire, and, as the lights faded we knew what was to come. Bloody alternator!

The rest of the journey involved poor Adam pushing the car uphill, the most massive disappointment in the AA, a recovery driver who couldn’t recover the car the 8 miles we had left to travel because his tacho had nearly run out, a taxi ride, picking up the Mercedes, and limping the Elise home.

You know how some days you realise that you should have just stayed at home?!

These Recent Things (Peonies & Power Cuts)

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These recent things don’t feel so recent, time is getting away with itself. I do remember the beginning of June, but everything was so different then. (This is not meant to be a pre Brexit reference, but seriously, Brexit?! I’ve only just stopped having nightmares).

The past month has been hectic, more so than usual, and strangely I find that I’ve been taking the most serene and calm photos – perhaps in an attempt to balance things out?

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I know I’m not the only one who gets ill at the mention of holidays, not because we hate them, but because our bodies go ‘Hey! Time to relax!’ and then they let their defences down, welcoming virus’s and injuries like VIP guests to a 24 hour party boat.

Usually it’s when I’m going on holiday that I get sick, but this time it was my colleague who took the trip. There I was lying on the clinic bed on an ECG machine whilst concurrently he was lying on a golden beach in the south of France sun. Damn it! (He did bring me back a lavender bag though!) It was some kind of virus, I was told to rest.

There was no time for rest, onwards!

Have you even seen Leepu visualising a car? That was me, in some kind of art induced trance, conjuring up three coherent exhibitions from several hundred entries. Bloody hell I’m good!

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We launched three exhibitions across three venues in the beautiful city of Cambridge. The first, at Hot Numbers, was rammed – a relief as even though I’ve done loads of these events, I still get nervous that no one will turn up to the opening. The second night was at Novi and… no one turned up! Ha! Well, that’s not true, but I was really worried for about 20 minutes as the sky opened up and threw torrential rain and hail at the earth, crashing thunder down and bringing the brightest lightening.  Then the clouds broke, and the crowds came. Then there was the power cut. Guests used their phones as torches to view the work as they stumbled around in candlelight. It was quite romantic, I suppose. Finally we opened at Stir, with another good turn out and an enjoyable evening. Phew!

There are loads of great events for creative people happening in Cambridge throughout July, most of them are free, and also amazing. Come along if you can, and please spread the word!

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Baby Ruth Sultana has left home. Some might say ‘flown the nest’ but that might sound too cliched. It seems she’s just decided to go it alone, Adam says she’s a free spirit. She’s been gone for five nights now. At first I felt bothered, and Ginger Margaret (Ruth’s ‘mum’) was beside herself, I had to hide biscuit crumbs under peony petals to keep her occupied (and it looked nice). One afternoon she came back, appeared at the front gate, and I let her in. She rushed from food bowl to water bowl and back. Margaret ran to her, bounding across the grass with joyous vigour. Then a couple of hours later, she’d gone again.

We went out at night and searched the neighbourhood for her, but… nothing. No sign, no clues. I’m testing out the new CAT S60 phone, it has thermal imaging. Thermal imaging! So, of course, I took it along to aide my investigation and help me look like even more of a weirdo to my neighbours (they’ve already laughed at my ‘missing brown hen, not dangerous’ notes.)

There was no sign of Ruth, but look at this! You can see the other four are tucked up in bed all nice and cosy, with their hot brains!

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In other big and exciting news, my brother and his family moved back to the UK… hooray! They’ve bought the most beautiful home up in Cheshire, and even though all their things were still travelling across the oceans on a container ship when we visited, it still felt like home. Lovely, lovely home. I’m looking forward to seeing them more, to visiting and spending time with my niece and nephew, and to being opinionated about home decor!

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We sprinted with LoTRDC at Silverstone and it was brilliant, joyful, challenging and nerve-wracking (full story here). I had no idea until it was announced, but, I won a trophy – MG Car Club Best Lady Driver. Go me!

I attended an event at Burberry in London, not because I am a fashionista (you know me!) but because I was invited along to find out more about a mentoring scheme for women in business. I already mentor through Inspiring the Future, and of course, Shutter Hub, but this is something different… that I can’t tell you about yet!

As I was sauntering down Regent Street I spotted a comb on the pavement, ‘Excellent!’ I thought, as I squatted down to get my photograph, creating a human island in a sea of Penhaligon’s and Liberty bags. No shame. #combtheory

I came home with my own little bag. “What have you got in there Karen?”  My reply, “jam and biscuits!” and, most impressively, I was telling the truth!

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We celebrated Midsummer’s Eve with a bonfire. No party. Just Adam and I, bats circling, bonfire blazing, ice cream in hand, under the massive full moon.

It sounds a little bit more magical than it was. Adam kept finding random things to put on the fire, and I had poked this dead little bird in there to give it a ceremonial send off. Fen life.

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I think, I hope, I will always  keep looking for the beauty in everything around me. This old shopping trolley lay dead in the river, whilst the reed warbler sang it’s way back and forth through the long grasses. It’s all there to be found. In the fallen flowers, in the light, and the empty train station. In the ugliest or most boring moments, you just have to look for the joy!

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Please can I go back to bed now?

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