Category Archives: Everyday Life

Delete Your Facebook Account and Run Free


At the beginning of the year, nothing to do with resolutions but more to do with the holiday downtime and opportunity to think, I decided to leave Facebook.

I deleted the app from my phone at first. For a day it felt like something was missing. For a week l left it and realised, there were only a handful of people who I was in touch with on Facebook and nowhere else. I messaged them, exchanged details, exchanged lovely conversations via iMessage, and, was nearly tricked into thinking I should stay on Facebook. But no, this was me taking the time to reach out personally, and this is the way it should continue.

People told me things like ‘Wow bold move!’ and ‘I really wish I could’! as if I had announced I was moving to the other side of the world or signing up for a marathon.

I’d noticed the pattern: pick up phone – check email – check Instagram – check Twitter – check Facebook – lose hours looking for something of genuine interest.

I’d thought that I was staying on Facebook  as a means of keeping in touch with friends, but I realised, I wasn’t communicating, just scrolling endlessly for something worthwhile, and, when I found it, brain too exhausted from reading rubbish to have the energy to write anything of value… tap… I communicated my response through a picture of an approving ‘thumbs up’, or even a ‘heart’, if you were lucky. How is that social?

It wasn’t easy to leave. Not for any sentimental or social reason, but because Facebook make it pretty difficult to do so. It’s designed to keep you there, to keep you scrolling. To keep you looking for something uplifting that will give you that endorphin boost.

Post something and keep fingers crossed for multiple likes and a dopamine hit.

Not anymore.

In an ideal world I’d just socialise, in the real world. But there’s not time for all of that, and it’s hard to get together with everyone. I like sharing stories and images, and always have since before the internet, when I was a child that wrote letters, and postcards, and made telephone calls whilst sat on the bottom stair.

Telephone calls. Why not? What an advancement the telephone was, yet we’ve gone back to one line (if you’re lucky) ‘telegrams’ through Facebook.

Facebook is training us to care less, scroll more, and forget how to properly communicate with our friends.

Remember those coverall emails or photocopied round-robin letters that people used to circulate at Christmas? We thought they were impersonal and almost an insult to receive, but now you’re happy with a digital thumbs up? There’s some psychological conditioning there!

The alternative to keeping in touch or performing to a large audience, (which is essentially what you’re doing on Facebook, don’t kid yourself that it’s personal), is obviously to use other social platforms like Instagram (or MeWe?) but if you want to share a lot, like me, what’s wrong with a newsletter?

When we were all desperately unsubscribing from mailing lists to get towards the Mecca of inbox zero and free up our time, we didn’t stop to think what we’d do with that time – scroll social media searching for interesting content that speaks to us.

Why not sign up for that newsletter instead? Everything in one place, a quick skim for the bits you’re interested in, just delete it if it feels too much, or save it to a folder and read it on a quiet evening, instead of clutching at your phone every five seconds to see if someone’s posted something of value, shared a new meme, or liked your cat picture (they used to love my cat pictures!)

For me, this is the way forward. Although I have every intention of starting the ‘anti-email party’ I also would rather be free of Facebook and receive a compact digest of news. Bring back the round robin! (Ah, cute!)

Would you like to join my mailing list? I’ll send you good things every now and then.

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!

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.

A Cold Night Under the Stars (CEO Sleepout Fundraiser in London)

I parked my £150 car in the £5.70 carpark and got the £73 train to London.

Anna text me, ‘Are you all set?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I’ve got a scarf, an umbrella, a tarpaulin and a coat from the nineties!’

The day hadn’t started well. After dropping Adam at the airport and driving home, I realised I was locked out. Then I lost my train ticket. Then M&S wouldn’t sell me a sandwich because their card payment system was down.

I was having a bad day. But bad things come in threes, I thought – at least I wouldn’t die in my sleep.

All the time I was thinking; it could be worse.

I walked along the road, towards Lord’s Cricket Ground, my rather fancy rough-sleeping address for the night. This night had been planned for months (read about it here) and I’d been fundraising for several weeks, but I wasn’t really prepared. I thought I’d just go with the flow.

I started paying attention to the things around me. I’d be sleeping outside for the night, just one night, with the thought of a home to go to. What if that wasn’t the case? I lugged my tarpaulin and sleeping bag passed the couples, laughing with their Halloween fancy dress on, I looked in the window of the Indian restaurant, saw a family eating dinner together, warm spiced food, smiles, steam on the glass. All the windows with their yellow lights on, homely, net curtains and soft furnishings.

Further up the road, buildings with electric gates and eighty-grand cars parked outside. The light of the road island bollard strobed on and off intermittently. A pigeon lay dead in the gutter. Everything seemed poignant.

I arrived at Lord’s to a warm welcome and a cup of tea. I saw the Ashes, a glove that I thought was a bunch of sausages, and a blue cricket ball from the early days of women’s cricket (where they thought that girls would be scared of a red ball coming at them, so they made it almost invisible instead).

I signed a disclaimer form that said I might die or get maimed by other people in the night.

After introductions from some of the charities that CEO Sleepout supports we did the Haka. That’s not a typo, it’s fact of life.

Then it was time to find somewhere to sleep. I hadn’t realised we’d be sleeping in the stalls. I watched and waited for everyone else to find their spots. I found a space between two rows of seats, away from other people, down close to the pitch, and set up my bed nest.

Tarpaulin first, on the ground and then up the back of the seats in front of me, so as to stop any drafts (and then later, to stop the rain). My umbrella I propped on the ground, kind of over my head, wedged between seats, it helped keep the light off, and made me feel a bit more protected.

I put on my massive 1990’s Swedish army coat. I looked around at the North Face and Patagonia badges, patted my old £15 antiques shop bargain with fingers crossed.

I’d had to buy a sleeping bag (I’d given the one I had to Winter Comfort for the Homeless a couple of years ago). As I shuffled into it and tried to settled down I realised that I’d been tricked. Mountain Warehouse had let me down with their paper-thin waste of time sleeping bag. It did no good at all for keeping me warm. I wore a knitted jumper on my legs instead and wrapped the tarpaulin around me.

I was not prepared, and to be honest, I think that was actually pretty authentic.

It was too cold for my body to relax enough into sleeping. I am rubbish at sleeping in public places too. Can’t fall asleep on a train, can’t sleep on an overnight flight. At one point I scrunched myself up, face down, and managed 20 minutes of sleep. I was pleased, I hoped there was more to come. (There wasn’t).

It rained. Not hard, but enough. That misty rain that you don’t know about until it’s too late and it’s soaked you. I was glad for my umbrella and tarpaulin. It was cold. Some people left during the night. 3am Ubers.

In the morning we were lucky to be met at 6am with tea and bacon buns. An eight-hour night and I was feeling it – feeling the wear on my brain and body, feeling more compassion for those who have to endure this night after night.

I was aching, not just cold, chilled to the bones. I couldn’t grip my cup properly, I couldn’t hold a pen until gone 10am. I felt low, tired and drained. From just one night.

When you hear people saying that homeless people could do something to help themselves, know that it’s hard enough to survive, to just exist, let alone do anything else.

I got on the tube at rush hour. Tarpaulin and sleeping bag in hand. Tired eyes. I felt more pushed and shoved than ever. I felt tired and intolerant. The man behind me pushed himself hard against me, body invading my space. It took all my senses not to just throw my head back and head-butt him. Seriously. More people got on. My bag got pushed into the woman next to me. ‘You’ll be paying for my hernia operation!’she said to me, and I fake laughed, but I’m not sure it was a joke.

The London Lord’s CEO Sleepout raised a whopping £80,000. For some reason my JustGiving total got stuck at £666, but I’d prefer to focus on the amount with Gift Aid, £825. Thank you, to everyone who sponsored and supported.

It was an enlightening and difficult experience. I’ve already signed up for next year. I’ve got to do something, we all have.

These Recent Things: I’ve Been Away But Now I’m Back

The sun is shining, I’ve been up since the early hours, and I’m waiting for my friend Maddie to arrive so we can go and swim in the sea. It’s good to have the occasional day without too much responsibility. It’s good for the brain and for the soul. I do most of my best thinking when I’m in the bath, or on a long drive, so I’m expecting a double whammy of inspiration today!

We’ve had such a lot of hot weather, and aside from rendering me dozy and useless, it’s had a big impact on the little animals. I’ve been putting bowls of water and food in the hedge, but it’s not enough. When the rain came it was joyous. Thunder storms that lasted six hours, power cuts, flash floods, trees down, and in the morning, the smell of damp earth, and pigeons stood waist deep in puddles.

I don’t know where to start with these recent things, because it’s been three months, a quarter of the year, and that’s really not that recent, is it?

Perhaps I should tell you the saddest thing first.

April the chicken (the one with the hearts on her feathers and a penchant for a shoulder ride) has gone. She was taken by a hawk. I couldn’t believe it either. Four years she’s lived with us, watched me through the window while I worked, pinched fruit from my puddings, stayed out at night in storms, ran around the garden in circles like Basil Fawlty, and needed to be lifted down from the tree each night and put to bed. She was a very sweet little creature, and all I can hope for her is that it was quick.

I didn’t know what to do with her last eggs, they suddenly seemed so precious, so I did what we used to do and entered them into the village show. She won first prize, of course, she always did.

Now there are just two. Sasha and Margaret. What will we do?


I took a trip to Haarlem with Polly. We wandered the streets, saw blossom and cats and beautiful window displays. We ate croquettes and tapas and things we probably shouldn’t have eaten. We bought souvenirs from the second-hand market and postcards from everywhere we went, and a very kind man gave me a tea towel. What a dream. Haarlem is a beautiful city, with a selection of amazing museums – Het Dolhuys, Frans Hals Museum, the Corrie ten Boom House, and Teyler’s Museum (with it’s incredible collection of rocks and shells, fossils and bones).

Full adventures in Haarlem, available to read here.


I went to Grenoble, rode the cable car to the Bastille, drank Chartreuse, saw the street art, ate the cheese, visited the Museum of Art, headed out to a vineyard.

I went to Vienne, rode the tram to the hill top, ate vichyssoise, saw the Roman temple, headed out to a pancake house, ate jam.

I also involuntarily mooned half of Grenoble airport. You should read about that here.

I went to Cheese Valley. It’s a real place, not a dream. I can’t even begin to explain what an incredible, enjoyable and fascinatingly bizarre time I had, and that’s okay, because I’ve already written about it in full detail for you, here. If you like cheese and cats, and more cheese, and stroop waffles and songs about cheese, and cheese warehouses, giant cheeses and ginger cheese, then you need to know about the cheese mecca that is Cheese Valley.

It was all so good that I wrote a Foodie Finds special on Cheese Valley for Surf4, and an article on grass cheese for Smallholding magazine.

On my way home I popped in to the gallery at 5&33 in Amsterdam to do a bit of research. I’ve been invited to curate an exhibition there, I’m excited about the possibilities.


We launched the new Shutter Hub website and services. It’s been a really positive experience, seeing how well it’s all been received. We’re a small team and we work hard, so every bit of feedback has been really valued.

We’ve been invited back to Cambridge University to partner with Art at the ARB on an exciting new exhibition project, and we’re working on exhibition projects in London and Amsterdam, too.

I sprinted the Elise at MIRA, Silverstone Stowe and Blyton Park. No trophies.

We went to my brother’s for his birthday, ate lunch in the garden, got annihilated by gnats in the woods.

We took part in our village yard sale. People asked for gun sights and Manchester United merchandise. I told a man that my dead grandmother would haunt the dinner service he haggled me on.

We went to Belgium, to Graspop festival, to see Killswitch Engage, and Iron Maiden. We visited the university city of Leuven and explored the beautiful streets during the longest day festival, we ate delicious food and toured the gothic town hall.

Before coming home we visited the Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis, the oldest botanical garden in Belgium. If I could live in a palm house, I would.


I went to Croatia, wow, Croatia, and I glamped, which is something I never thought I would say, or want to say, but I loved it. I think it was helped by the brilliant company, but staying in a fancy pants tent at the side of the Adriatic Sea, eating the best food and drinking honey grappa, walking the historic streets of Pula and taking a boat to the National Park island of Brijini, well, it was all pretty unexpectedly epic to me.


Jayne and I went to France, to St Gilles Croix de Vie, to Festival Pil’Ours, to launch the Shutter Hub Because We Can! Exhibition.

We hired the cheapest car,‘ Chevrolet Spark or similar’, it said on the Thrifty website. It turned out to be a cute convertible Fiat 500. Not an Abarth, but still, cute.

We drove 130km from La Rochelle airport, and arrived at our hotel, Ker Louis. It was closed. We phoned and were told ‘Come back tomorrow!’ Jayne persevered, struggled, held her own in French, and was eventually told, in English, that there was a code for the door and our keys would be in our rooms. We chucked our bags in and then headed out to see if we could find some food. We asked in the hotel restaurant, no, we were too late, we were told. Then it clicked. The man from the phone! From his seated view in the restaurant, he watched everything, just didn’t help. It was like Fawlty Towers, but without the comedy.

Our exhibition launch was very well received, people were lovely, the festival was great, and opportunities to do more in the future were presented. Later in the afternoon we headed over to Le Fenoullier to see another one of the exhibitions. The local mayor appeared to be very taken with Jayne, talking very closely to her for quite some time, in French, which I struggled to understand fully. When we went to leave, he reached out and shook Jayne’s hand. In politeness, I extended my hand too… he pulled my finger. It wasn’t a joke (but it has provided me with lots of laughs!)

In the evening we ate a supermarket (Super U) picnic by the sea, and watched thousands of tiny silver fish swarm in the dark blue water of the bay. Later, when we walked into the town, there was an accordion band playing, and dozens of people dancing. It was more than wonderful.

Jayne came home vowing to be more French (she’s been eating cheese and watching Amelie) and I decided it’s about time I cracked out one of my piano accordions and got playing!

There’s a full report, feedback and lots of photos of the Because We Can! exhibition over here, on the Shutter Hub blog.

Oh, and,the Toiletries Amnesty website is up and running (and awesome, yeah!) We’ve even been featured by the Big Issue!

We really do still need your help though – if you can spare a few minutes just to have a look at the website, have a think and see if you know any organisations who would benefit from free toiletries, have a look and see if you’ve got something you can donate, tell your friends and help spread the word, and, if you can help financially at all, either through a small donation, or some kind of fundraiser, we’d be eternally grateful.

I guess this all explains why I’ve not written for a while? I’ll try to tone it down for a bit. Promise.