All posts by karen

These Recent Things (Cats, Cars & Condiments)

Welcome to 2019. I’ve not left the country since last year, but I have left the house, so that’s a bonus. Here’s the lowdown on where my January went. Spoiler alert: there are no gym memberships, new years resolutions or diets here…

I have eaten a lot of condiments. I could pretend it’s in the interests of research, but really it’s because I just like sauce. You can read more about Remoulade and Black Garlic Ketchup in my latest Foodie Finds for Surf4.

I had my first ever Five Guys. Yeah, whatever. It’s interesting that they cook their fries in peanut oil though.

I made cauliflower porridge. I won’t be making cauliflower porridge again.


I deleted my Facebook account. I’d been thinking about it for ages, I kept it for so long, thinking that I didn’t want to lose touch with people, but in reality I wasn’t really keeping in touch with people, I was just scrolling and tapping a picture of a thumb every now and then. What an absurd use of time!

I joined the library. This has meant a flurry of reserving random books for 60p a go and hopefully waiting for an email to say they’ve arrived in Norfolk and can be collected. More waiting than books at the moment, but it’s early days.

My super hair friend Gen reinstated my protective fringe helmet and worked hard to make me look tidy and smart. Then I lost part of a pretzel in my hair whilst trying to scratch my head with it.


Tutti Biscotti started a plant stall, she’s not been able to push her cart over the door threshold yet, but give her time and I think she’ll have a thriving business, or turn it into a bar cart.

The Toiletries Amnesty was featured in both Health Triangle and Amber magazine, and Dominique from That New Dress did a fantastic ‘beauty clear-out’ vlog explaining the whole process of donating toiletries, on her YouTube channel.

I was quoted in El Pais, in an article about Gorjuss artist Suzanne Woolcott, who, many years ago I discovered through eBay and gave her her first solo exhibition. She’s created an amazing empire, self-taught, against adversity, and I think she’s all the aces!

Thomas Cook quoted me in this ‘Insiders View’ on Italy in September.

My article on Cheese Valley has been shortlisted in the ‘Best Online Article’ category in the Holland Press Awards. I’m really chuffed, it’s obviously fabulous to be recognised, but also, that article stemmed from such a bonkers and brilliant trip that I am just glad to be reminded of it as often as possible.

We went to IKEA and a display of toilet brushes collapsed on Adam.


Shutter Hub launched the Shutter Hub Membership Bursary Fund which will be made available to photographers who are on low income and would benefit from the opportunities Shutter Hub offers. Photographers will be able to apply or nominate other photographers to receive this bursary.

Two Shutter Hub exhibitions came to a close – Out of the Ordinary in Fleet Street, London, and OPEN 2018 in Amsterdam. The next exhibition, Everything I Ever Learnt, will launch in April at Cambridge University.

I was a judge for the British Photography Awards and therefore invited to the ceremony at The Savoy for an unusual pot-luck dinner  (I had noodles, rice, chilli chicken, rocket and mozzarella salad, ‘parisian’ potatoes and a lamb chop!) We’d been prewarned not to disturb the celebrities and high-profile guests. I wondered who they could be. My money was on David Dickenson, but it turned out to be Anthea Turner, a retired page 3 girl and the guy who played Nick Cotton in Eastenders.

I had a quick blast in a Jaguar F-Type R super-charged beauty at North Weald with Experience Megastore and a cup of tea in a double decker bus.

I did a Car Limits Driver Training Day at North Weald too. It was minus five when I left the house, dark and early in the morning. It was bitterly cold, the ice stayed around all day, and I expect everyone thought I was a Uniqlo HeatTech sales person the amount I banged on about thermal underwear. Proper story (on the driving, not the long johns) coming soon!

And, I finally finished putting some tyres to their test as part of a collaboration with Bridgestone. I wrote about it here, Tyre Trials: Bridgestone Weather Control A005.


Someone told me recently that they’d like to be reincarnated as a cat. I thought maybe a cat too, but then I thought, no, blackbird! They sing beautifully, dress well and they are still out exploring in the evening as the light fades.

There was a bald blackbird living round here before, and whilst I can’t 100% confirm its identity, I am pretty sure I saw him with hair the other day.

Please tell me what creature you’d be reincarnated as, and why – this could be the most beautiful comments stream ever!

Tyre Trials: Bridgestone Weather Control A005

This is a sponsored post. Scroll to the bottom of the page for full details.
I’d been waiting for it to snow. Wishing, waiting, watching, refreshing the BBC weather app. I didn’t want to go and do handbrake turns in Tesco carpark (I did) I just wanted to put my new tyres through their final trial.

Last year Bridgestone invited me to test tyres with them at Donnington Park race circuit. They were working with their Turanza T005 and developing the new Weather Control A005. I got to join a bunch of other drivers and throw a brand new, Bridgestone clad, VW Golf around a wet track. I also got a sausage sandwich.

The tyres were amazing, grippy and predictable. But, what would they be like on an older car, one without a super shiny clever computer, one that was almost 20 years old?

I absolutely love this car. Some might call it a banger, but I call it a design classic (I also call it Richie, but that’s another story). £150 of joy and the longest 3rd gear you’ll ever find.

In 2001 the Golf Mk4 was the best-selling car in Europe and I can see why:

Turbo p-p-power.
Cassette deck (and CD player).
Walnut trimmed dashboard for added style and class.
Twin cup holder for garden centre pot plants and chai lattes.

I’d been tolerating terrible tyres for too long. I must admit I found it pretty funny how much they would squeal round corners on a hot day, but adding time onto my journeys if the weather wasn’t perfectly dry, and slip-sliding all the way to my destination in the wet, wasn’t ideal (or safe), even if I do like a challenge.

I was given the opportunity to put the Bridgestone Weather Control A005s on my old Golf and I was totally up for it. I was interested to see how they’d perform, especially in comparison to the new Golf I’d driven at Donnington.

So, here’s my five-line, key-point, review of Bridgestone’s all-season touring tyre:

Loads less road noise.
Incredibly improved braking.
Superb grip in all weather (even wintery conditions).
Much better cornering, less understeer.
The car  generally drove much more smoothly.


Today was the last test. After a couple of weeks of driving in sub-zero temperatures, on black ice and muddy Fen roads, the snow finally arrived. It was a winter wonderland out there!

The roads were wet, snow covered and icy in patches, and in all honesty, I couldn’t tell. I do spend a lot of time driving, on the road and the track, so it’s not that I’m totally oblivious, it’s just that these tyres are amazing, like, truly amazing. No one paid me to say that. I take your safety seriously.

I’m not an expert at technical details and scientific explanations, I could try to explain, but I won’t – Bridgestone say it better:

‘The tread design features a V-shape layout, innovative ‘Z’ side shape and high-volume slots in the shoulder of the pattern. It works with the optimised body construction and contact pressure distribution to ensure the tyre performs to the expectations of end-users in terms of grip, fuel efficiency and wear. The use of Bridgestone’s proprietary Nano Pro-TechTM technology and a high silica content further support the performance of the tyre. The longevity of tyre is also extended to make sure the tyre lasts for longer, no matter the road conditions, driving style or frequency of driving.’

I’ve been driving on these tyres for a couple of months now, and I’ve not got complacent, they are still impressing me every time I get in the car and head off across the Fens – along mud covered roads and beside long deep ditches, with that feeling of nostalgic freedom that only an old car and a cassette player can provide. I absolutely love this car!


This is a sponsored post. I was a guest of Bridgestone at Donnington Park last year and they gave me a set of Bridgestone Weather Control A005 tyres so that I could try them out and write about them, if I chose to.  As always, my opinions are my own. I take this super seriously and would never compromise your safety for my gain. 

These Recent Things: Research Trips, Exhibitions & Cats in Baskets

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I realise – I’d make a rubbish pen pal. I’m always running out of time to write to you. I start and I stop, and I start again. It’s been months since I’ve written to you properly, and sometimes I wonder if the world has just moved on, and if I’m just writing to myself.

I mean, I’ve got google analytics, I know I’m not writing to myself, but you know, am I still writing with a quill when everyone’s moved on to biros?

These past few months have been incredibly busy – living, thinking, working, eating, lots of behind the scenes project organisation and sitting in front of a computer screen. (When are we starting ‘Karen Harvey’s anti-email party’?)

So, in an attempt to catch up, I made an orderly list of things that might interest you, possibly…


I saw a totally black bumble bee at the garden centre. (You can see this too if you check out my ‘things’ highlights on Instagram).

I made friends on the train with a blind man who had just taken up archery.

I competed in the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship at Hethel. I rescued the rescue lady from a locked toilet.

I had the longest phone call of my life. Five hours.

Adam and I gave blood. He has rare special blood. I’ve got the standard stuff.

I had an excellent lunch at Caxton Grill with Lynsey, and wrote Foodie Finds #14 for Surf4.

I went to bed at 7.30pm on a Saturday night and slept for 14 hours straight.

I spoke to Stylist  about the Toiletries Amnesty, Eluxe magazine ran a feature on us, and we had our 50th location sign up, our first overseas one, Tanzania.

Tutti Biscotti had an allergic reaction to Method cleaner and had to go to the emergency vets in the middle of the night. I tried to let Method customer services know, but the woman was too set on telling me how she likes to clean her toilet!

I fractured a bone in my foot. I was over vigorous with my physio therapy exercises for my shredded Achilles tendon.

We took the Shutter Hub OPEN 2018 exhibition to London. It was epic. I can say that, because it was epic. 150 photographers, 220 images, over 500 people at the opening night. Democratising photography, apparently.

Dorsett City sponsored the exhibition, so I stayed with them in London for the week. Ate salt beef and gherkin beigels from Beigel Bake. Taught myself a trombone solo on a noisy wardrobe door (Achy Breaky Heart, if you’re asking).

A week later we opened Out of the Ordinary at St Brides, just off Fleet Street.

I sprinted at the Rockingham Grand Finale Sprint in October. I am really going to miss Rockingham.

I went on a research trip to Rotterdam. Ate flowers at Op het Dak, drank homemade cherry cola at Kaapse Maria and hung out at the studio of artist Daan Roosegaarde. (Read all about it, here). I can’t wait to go back.


I spent a night in London with CEO Sleepout, under the stars, badly prepared with a wafer-thin sleeping bag, a coat from the 90s, and an umbrella. To say it was an experience is an understatement really.  (Read all about it, here). My kind sponsors raised £666, but I’d prefer to focus on the amount with Gift Aid, £825.

Adam and I went to Mallorca. What an absolute joy! The weather was warm, the mountain roads were steep and windy, and we stayed in the most splendid places. (Read all about it, here and here).


I reviewed portfolios, beautiful portfolios, at Photomonth London International Photography Festival.

I gave a talk at London Metropolitan University at The Cass’ Festival of Employability and Entrepreneurship.

I made art from emotional blackmail and exhibited it in RCA Secret, to help raise money for student bursaries. I went to their artists’ party, ate ice cream and tried not to dance to Dirty Cash.

I was a guest on the symposium panel at FIX Photo Festival in London. I also helped clingfilm some cheese.

I was invited to host a conversation with photographer and filmmaker Mal Woolford, about his work, Still Still Far Wide, at the Magic Gallery in Charing Cross.

And then I went to Amsterdam for a week to install, promote and launch the Shutter Hub OPEN 2018, because it was so epic when we showed it in London that we were invited to take it to 5&33 Gallery in Amsterdam too. (And that was epic, even if I was totally shattered by the end of it!)

Then it was Christmas.

And now, here we are.

It’s over 2018, it’s been good, but it has to end.

Mallorca: Mirabo de Valldemossa – A Hillside Finca


We turned off the main road. Up the drive. Nine hairpins to the top.

Mirabo de Valldemossaan old farmhouse, high on the hillside. Lived in for five generations, and now a small family hotel.

We’d had no idea what to expect. It was the most idyllic spot. Every window framed the perfect view of Autumn in Mallorca. Had we not been booked  for dinner at Fera in Palma, we would have just stayed by the window and looked out in awe.

After the peace and quiet of the countryside, and driving the mountain roads for just two days, being in the city seemed a shock. So many cars, so many lights.

At Fera we ate rustic bread with apricot and kimchi aioli, followed by course after course of unusual dishes – Nori rolls with Aberdeen Angus beef tartare and truffle emulsion, corn mousse with pumpkin and crisped corn pieces, re-constituted olive with orange, suckling pig dumplings with Shimeji mushrooms, duck with carrot and yuzu, chocolate pudding with smooth olivey ganache.

Full to the brim. Back to the Finca.


In the morning, at breakfast, we sat across the room from a couple who’d caught the ferry from Germany so that their dog could travel with them. When no one was looking she, a velvety soft Weimaraner, sidled up to Adam and leant heavily against his leg. I think he was secretly pleased.

Everything inside the house was lovely. Furniture, paintings, glass and ceramics, dream Bang & Olufsen speaker. Just lovely.

We wandered outside, yellow leaves falling in the Autumn sun. Palm trees standing tall. Swimming pool bright blue and falsely alluring (I’ll never be fooled again) and the most beautiful and open view across the hills, olive trees and Holme oaks.

And all too soon it was time to get back in the blackcurrant berry of a Fiat 500 hire car, and drive down what must be Mallorca’s only motorway. Back to the airport, back to the other Autumn we’d temporarily retreated from.

Mallorca: Son Brull – A Rural Sanctuary

I brushed the crumbs from the seat, clues of previous passenger’s snack trolley delights. The best thing about the Ryanair flight was the oversized house fly that had hitched a lift and was bombing up and down the aisles, racing between the headrests.

After picking up the blackcurrant berry of a Fiat 500 hire car, and driving down what must be Mallorca’s only motorway, we arrived at Son Brull. A beautiful rural sanctuary on the north of the island.

I’ve been to Mallorca before, accidentally. I told my friend we could do anything she liked for her birthday, she suggested a comedy club, I suggested Eurostar to Paris, she suggested 3 nights in a hotel near Magaluf which was powered by a petrol generator on the roof and had yellowed plastic sheets on the bed. To be fair, those weren’t her search requirements, they were just by-products.

We were shown to our room, a light and airy junior suite. Champagne, oranges and fresh flowers greeted us. Tall shuttered windows with long white linen drapes, high above my head. Washed oak beams and dark concrete floors. A Jacuzzi bath in the corner, and sun hats at the end of the bed. What an absolute dream.

We found our way to the bar and bistro, through the cobbled courtyard of the old monastery, passed the pelargoniums and ferns.

Two enormous olive presses lined the walls either side of the room, and above the large copper bath that would have boiled the olives for their second pressing, a wispy wire sculpture representing steam.

Millstones and big white sofas, like heavy clouds. Good dinner. Nice atmosphere.


The shutters kept the sun out, room pitch black and cool. Outside the window, sunshine and strawberry bushes, palms, and bottlebrush trees with neon fronds.

We took our breakfast on the terrace. Blueberry juice. Eggs benedict. Swimming pool lapping, sparrows darting in for crumbs.

Later, I wandered around, looking at fruit, taking pictures. A woman (from Jersey) stopped to talk to me. Whilst I looked away, she discreetly held up her mobile phone and took a photo of me. Except, it wasn’t discreet, the loud ‘kercher’of the iPhone camera alerted me to it. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything.

Adam and I sat in the shade, listened to goats and to the wind in the leaves. Looked at the mountains.

We drove into the mountains. Zipping around in the little Fiat 500, looking for somewhere to pull in, to take in the views. Adam said, ‘We can stop here if you like?’ and I read the sign, ‘prohibited military zone’. We drove on.

At the top of Es Colomer we stopped, walked up to the viewing point, blown by the warm wind, ate Patatas Fritas at the café Mirador.

In the evening we ate at Son Brull. 365 Restaurant, understated and comfortable. Cobbled floors, white linen, subtle lighting, and on the tables, little wound-wire lamps that looked like they were modelled on potatoes.

Often before a meal I begin to feel a little nervous. I have a strange array of allergies and sometimes it’s hard to get that across. I was once told (in a rather unusual restaurant) that, although allergic, I had to eat the ‘gift of almond’ because it was what the chef wanted.

At 365 I didn’t even need to ask. Every member of staff knew who I was and told me what I could or couldn’t have. It was the most attentive and kind response to allergies that I’ve ever experienced.


Sweet, soft, Cannelloni with duck and dark chanterelle mushroom.
Suckling pig with apricots and sweet Tokaji wine.
Prickly pear and fennel sorbet.

All delicious, but then, dessert.

On my list of things which I wish I could eat again (including rice pudding at Neemrana Fort and Sunday dinner at Nanny and Grandad’s), this incredible dessert.

Pine nuts. Soft pine nut brownies. Tiny, beautiful, dark pine cones soaked in honey, rich with the sweet taste of the Mediterranean forest, like fresh cut wood. Creamy pine nut parfait. Pine infused cream.

This may be the most beautiful dessert I have ever tasted. If woodland fairies exist, then this is what they feed on.

In the morning, after a breakfast of eggs, and fresh fruit, and a lot of wishing it wasn’t time to leave, we packed up our bags and headed west.

More mountain driving. Slender curved roads, hairpins, steep drops. Holme oak trees. Goats crossing. We stopped at lakes, listened to lapping water and bird song. Chased velvety chocolate-brown donkeys.


Around every corner was a view to behold. Warm air and the sense of freedom. We turned off the main road, to our next stop. Up the drive. Nine hairpins to the top.

With the greatest thanks to the team at Son Brull for making this trip possible, for hosting us for two nights, and for the power of Chef Rafael Perelló and his puddings.  As always, my opinions are my own.