Category Archives: Everyday Life

Everyday Life: 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.

Everyday Life: 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.

Everyday Life: Hotdogs, Castles & Car Parks

Last weekend we visited friends in Denmark, stayed in a castle, ate the best hotdogs of our lives, and saw the most brilliant futuristic carpark. I also drank tea out of a cup with a goat on the bottom of it. These are the things that make life.

This weekend we stayed at home, Adam’s been doing DIY and making burgers, I’ve been ironing, writing, and preparing for the week ahead, and Tutti’s been throwing herself at the back door in an attempt to get out and chew the grass.

So, what’ve I got to tell you? Everything, of course!

Remember a few years ago I founded a charity in my airing cupboard? The Toiletries Amnesty has been  announced as the winner of the X Foundation Grant. We’ve got the funding to produce  a dedicated website, and the motivation to create a global movement.

I went to the IMM travel event at the QEII Centre in London, met lots of interesting people and caught up with some of my favourite travel-writing friends. The highlight though, was when I noticed everyone pressed up against the window to watch the royal family going into Westminster cathedral for the Commonwealth Service. There were cries of ‘Look, there’s Megan!’ and, ‘Who’s that weird looking child in the red beret?’ Turns out it was Theresa May.

Eleanor and I attended the Holland Press Awards at the Hoxton, Holborn. An article I wrote for the Huffington Post was nominated for an award. I didn’t win, but I did get to eat a lot of cheese, so, still a winner.

That was such a lovely night. Probably the best awards event I’ve been to. We left with huge bunches of peachy tulips and talked well into the night, in our Ibis Budget hotel cell. Last time we were together was a press trip where we ended up sharing a suite because the hotel rooms were so big I was scared to stay on my own!

The next day we headed off to IPPUDO for good food – delicious ramen and a fancy cucumber. We popped in to Melissa to see Juno Calypso’s exhibition. Eleanor bought shoes and I spoke to a man about data and web cams in the red basement salon the Juno had created. The neon light on the wall flashed from Radience to Die, and for a short moment I wondered if it was a trap.

Whilst we trotted around the city, me lugging a bag full of all sorts, including cured meats and a chopping board, and Eleanor, surrounded by dozens of glorious tulips, Adam Whatsapp’d me updates from home – the cat had slept on the bed, April had laid her first egg of spring. Oh yeah, my real life!

The problem with having a three day work jolly is coming home to no heating and more snow,  a head cold and an email mountain.  I’m not sure when I am going to launch the Karen Harvey Anti Email Party, but it’s coming, and there will be a buffet. And crowns.

I watched a fair bit of We Bare Bears.

The dishwasher broke and all the pans were inside, so I had to go to the pub for lunch.

I went to an event with Green Flag at Devils Pit 4×4 in Bedfordshire. A man came up to me and asked, Are you here to interview Chris?’ ‘No,’ I said, I’m here for the cars’. He patted me gently on the arm and moved on. He was talking about a man from the TV show Love Island. I was talking about a 400 quid Saab 95 and a clapped out white van. Apparently I was the fastest driver of the day. Unfortunately, the competition wasn’t about speed.

I also had a brilliant day up at Donington testing tyres with Bridgestone.

I went to Paris – I didn’t get mugged, I didn’t stand in dog poo, I didn’t eat a macaron, I didn’t eat a snail. Did I even go to Paris?

I got a new accountant. Hooray!

I sat next to a man on the tube who seemed to be quite warm, he had a puffer jacket on, in that really shiny material, and he kept wiping his head on his sleeve. His sleeve was very wet and inside I was like, ‘Eww, wet sleeve, eww wet sleeve next to me!’

When I got off the tube I realised that he had sweated so much that it had gone through his jacket sleeve, through my coat sleeve and then through my jumper sleeve. My left arm was soaking wet with random man sweat!

Adam says I can burn my coat, now that spring’s here.

I was coatless, but then my amazing designer friend Dusica sent me a coat that her studio had made just for me. That’s right. Joy and gratitude overload!

I judged the photography prize at the South Holland exhibition, sponsored by Shutter Hub again this year.

The Shutter Hub BORDERS exhibition finished at St Bride Foundation and we confirmed the OPEN this year will be at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.

I wrote an article for Shutter Hub on Why the Photography Industry is Saying No to Instagram Pods.

I wrote Foodie Finds for Surf4 (including an amazing lunch at IPPUDO and an evening of cheese, meat and vodka with Woodalls Charcuterie).

And I thought I had sprained my ankle. Turns out it’s Achilles tendinopathy (what athlete’s get, innit). Then I sprained something else, my tooth, on an olive pit. Seriously, did you know that was a thing?

Some photography work I did several years ago with Louise Katerega and Foot in Hand has been included in a publication called Invisible Visibility: Diverse Voices within Inclusive Dance. It was so lovely to be reminded of the project – an absolutely marvellous family of dancers, ignoring adversity, and just being their beautiful, brilliant selves.

Tutti Biscotti turned 11 years old. That’s one whole year she’s lived with us, and in that times she’s only gained a few nicknames; Tuttinda Hotspot, the grey slug and Babooman (because she looks half baboon, half human). 


I went to the UK Blog Awards. The invite said the dress code was ‘As Glam as you Can’. I wore trainers and ate two squares of deep fried belly pork in a hotel basement.

And then we went to Denmark, stayed in that castle, learnt some Danish (fart means speed), ate that hotdog,  went to the sea, and had a lovely, lovely time.

I’m loving the brighter evenings, the signs of spring, and this fruit salad of primroses in my mum’s garden.

Everyday Life: Go, Go, Snow, Stop

I was about to leave the house for the train station, but then a snowflake fluttered by. That busy day of meetings turned into a tea and email fest at home. Snow day. The chickens wouldn’t come out of their house for fear that the sky was falling. I had to take porridge and sweetcorn to their door. I didn’t have to wear socks and sandals, (like a total dude) but I did anyway, and I learnt my lesson.

I’m finding it hard to believe we’re already two months into the year, but I imagine we’re all feeling the same. I think that’s why I like to write this to you, to share stories, to document memories to reaffirm that I’ve been using my time for good things.

So, here are my recent oddments of joy and wonder.

The Artificial Things exhibition closed at Cambridge University, our BORDERS exhibition opened at St Bride Foundation in Fleet Street with an amazing response, and then we travelled to Tel Aviv Israel to launch our Girl Town exhibition.

I wrote about our trip to Tel Aviv – staying in a hovel box, meeting a cross eyed cat, sharing our exhibition, being featured in a national Israeli newspaper, eating weird snacks that made my lip swell up all pouty, hanging out with friends and seeing the sights and the sea.

When we got home I was interviewed by i24NEWS. Want to see me say ‘boobies’ in front of an international audience of millions? Of course you do!


Our dear Sandra chicken (RIP) was featured on the front cover of Practical Poultry, and some of my photographs of Kettles Yard were used in an educational publication based around nature in the house.

A Huff Post article that I wrote has been nominated for a Holland Press Award.

This blog has been shortlisted for the UK Blog Awards Best Travel Blog 2018.

And I got invited to visit a dog food factory and sample their food. Weird that they thought the offer might tempt me. I don’t even have a dog. (Or want to drive to Wales and eat dog food).


I ate a great meal at TOZI. I wrote about my great meal at TOZI.

I gave blood, Adam gave blood. I ate an orange Club biscuit and tried to sing Dub Be Good to Me to an old man. I wrote about it all here.

I went to the Embassy of the Netherlands and ate breakfast.

I ripped the front bumper off my car. 75% accident, 25% intent. (Two men came to tell me my bumper was hanging off, I was already out of the car and loading it into the back seat).


I went to Leigh on Sea. I saw the sea. I went to the Francesca Maffeo Gallery, recorded an interview, gave some portfolio reviews and saw some books with pigeons in.

And, in Southend, I saw a woman at the pedestrian crossing, standing in the middle of the road. She dropped something from under her arm, it bounced and rolled back into the road. It was a small dog in a little blue coat!


The end… for now.