Category Archives: Everyday Life

These Recent Things (Eggs, Noodles & London Fashion Week)

It’s spring isn’t it? I saw three daffodils this afternoon and Adam brought me a bag of Mini Eggs. The chickens have started laying again (kind of) and I’ve been out exploring in the sunshine.

I’m looking forward to the lighter evenings. The lighter mornings are already making me realise we need thicker curtain lining.

Up at my brother’s house the snowdrops were trying to break their way through the dark earth, watched over by the big heavy boughs of trees. I wanted to show you this cashmere dune robe that I was given, so I hung it in the woods. Blair witch style.

I also wanted to show you this beautiful cup that my sister-in-law made, and I am glad I took the time to photograph it, because Adam snapped the handle off about two hours later!


We had a great time with my niece and nephew. Sam asked me if anything had grabbed my foot under the dinner table, and told me that where the light casts a shadow and hits the wall it can come out and touch you. Later Jocey told me ‘they will all die, and in the morning you will be the only one left’. I love them.

Sometimes I think it might be more useful to tell you more about what’s coming up, rather than just what has passed, so…

I’ll be speaking at the University of Northampton this month, reviewing portfolios at The Photographers Gallery with the lovely Shutter Hub team for Accumul8, and I’ll be at FORMAT International Photography Festival giving portfolio reviews and presenting an award, on a stage, with an audience, and a microphone.

Heaven help them all!

I judged the South Holland Open Exhibition again this year, the standard was really high, so high that there were no paintings of wonky tigers. I don’t think I will go back next year if they can’t fulfil my wonky tiger quota.

The same day (well, night) I managed to make it down to Roast in Borough Market for an event with UKBA. Shutter Hub is shortlisted for Best Photography Blog, so I joined the judges and fellow contestants for canapés and drinks and stuff.

I also had a great (should I put that in capitals? It was VERY good!) lunch at Yuu Kitchen with Monica Martins, the director of WomenBeing, an international organisation celebrating and showcasing work done by women in the creative industries, entrepreneurship and research.

The plan was to talk about collaborations and the talk I’ll be giving at their conference in Glasgow later this year, and we did, but it was hard not to be distracted by all the tasty food… that calamari, those ribs, that bubble tea, ahhh! I loved it so much I wrote about it over on Surf 4 – you can have a read here, if you’d like.

We’ve been testing out lots of Foodie Finds for a new series over on Surf 4. If you want to read about chocolate pills that will supposedly make you beautiful, or cordials that taste like sophisticated cherry Tunes or lime Fruit Pastilles, then pop over for a look. But, if you want to read about noodles that come in a pot, from a vending machine, and are also healthy and gluten free, then stay here. I couldn’t believe it either. Sadly I don’t have a noodle dispensing device in my own home, so after making Mr Lee’s Noodles in the cup I transferred them to a bowl and ate them with chopsticks. What a mess! Tasty mess though, I’m impressed.

When I wasn’t dropping noodles down my shirt and spraying tai chi chicken sauce in my eyes, I was trotting around at London Fashion Week shutting models in lift doors and lusting after fur slide-ons with chicken drumstick decals. You have to read about it! Well, you don’t have to, but I think you might enjoy it.

It still seems a bit surreal to me, chubby little Harvey Hotdog, running around at London Fashion Week, having an opinion, writing about it on Huffington Post, being a grown up… well, kind of!

London Fashion Week with Park and James

I’d never been to London Fashion Week before, I had no idea what to expect (and if I’d gone on what I’d seen on so many blogs I would have thought it just meant getting the train into London and standing around looking hopeful in massive shoes) so I was pleased to be able to join Park and James for their LFW debut, and get some backstage and front row action.

In my research (late night blog surfing from under the duvet) I’d seen many posts on ‘What I Wore to London Fashion Week’ and, although tempted to bore you with the details of my vintage Nike’s and my big pocketed coat, I know this is not the time to talk about me and my bag-lady finesse – so we’ll save the ‘What I Wore’ post for British Pie Week.

Backstage I was assistant dresser, cape holder, and champagne hustler. I also accidentally closed the lift door on a model, and once two men had prised him free, I, for some reason of honesty or stupidity, turned to him and said, straight faced and stern, ‘I did that to you.’

I didn’t get to walk the runway, I didn’t get a goody bag, I did have a model ask me if I had a bandaid though. I must look like a mum, or like I’m packing a load of utility belts under my dress.

I tried to send my pal Zoe a message to say I’d been a total fashion show gangster, but auto-correct changed it to hamster. It was probably right.

Park and James’ slogan is ‘The Flat Shoe Revolution’ and I’m all for that (especially since that hip-hop dance injury of mine). They showcased six pairs of shoes from their new collection, all handmade in Italy from a mixture of unusual, luxury leathers.

Backstage I spoke to Dusica, the designer behind PRiK, the unusually named but beautifully presented label. Beautiful, beautiful tailoring, and really elegant lines, so chic and timeless, I loved everything. In contrast I also came across a pair of fantastic Schmiley Mo slide-ons with knitted chicken drumstick detail which I will now covet and talk about regularly. (Later I discovered the concept was based around a chicken called Henry… sold!)

Earlier in the day I’d popped along to meet some of the designers at the London Designers Collective Pop Up. Jac from Park and James was there showcasing their full range, and I was introduced to several new brands.

I attended the Rein presentation – not really my thing, the situation was just a bit weird for me and I was more intrigued by the building outside, the dilapidated paintwork and quirks.

If you ever invite me along to see your handmade Italian shoes on display, don’t look away for a moment, I will sneak off with your shoe and balance it precariously over an inaccessible drop whilst delighting at the aesthetic of it all.

I bombarded the designers with questions, I swooned over Tramp in Disguise’s quilted culottes and had in-depth conversations with Veronica from Petriiski who was wearing a coat from her own collection. I stroked all the sleeves of les 100 ciels cashmere jumpers, and gasped with delight as Valentina from Storytailors showed me their wonderful collection, their multi-way items, their structured jackets made from cork. But, my absolute favourite of all was Conflict of Ego. I adored the mixture of thoughtful and fun, luxury fabrics and contemporary prints, and the coolest blouse I have ever seen, really. The print, kind of reminiscent of a Gustav Klimt life sketch (if you’ve seen them, you’ll know what I mean!) layered on sophisticated cream silk – perfection in distinction.

I’ve not suddenly become uber chic or fashionable, but I am looking forward to bringing you more stories of my work with Park and James. They even got a mention on Vogue, so I’m thinking this might not be the last you hear of them!

These Recent Things (Frost, Flowers & Thoughts)

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It’s been a month full of ups and downs. (Yes, I fell over again, this time into my own car, punching the doorframe as I went.)

I turned down a trip to Italy. I said yes to an exciting exhibition opportunity with the University of Cambridge. I held back a car, that had been left without it’s handbrake on, while a boy-man got a wheelie bin to use as a stopper. (I left a note on the windscreen incase they moved the bin and got run over by their own car, like that chap from East 17 who ate too many jacket potatoes.)

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I ate lunch at a pub called the Dabbling Duck with Rachel. The location was lovely, but I wasn’t best pleased with the plum crumble. Who deconstructs a crumble?! After complaining that it had nuts hidden in it, I exclaimed ‘Feel the wrath of Karen!’ and weakly attempted to tip the table over and steal the books off their shelves.

The chickens came to live in the conservatory, inside their new house from Omlet. It’s wheely, we can wheel it around, it reminds me of a gypsy caravan and they love it. (Well, Patty Slipper isn’t sure about it, but the others think it’s fab.)

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Last month I ate a weird pudding made of sea buckthorn berry and carrots, and this month my friend Andrea from Liv gave me this lovely sea buckthorn and orange soap, which was much better because I didn’t have to eat it out of politeness.

After our trip to Amsterdam I wrote  ‘How Making the Most of Work Trips can be Good for Your Health and Career’ for the Huffington Post, and then also for Surf 4 – it reached 600,000 people in less than 10 days! You say what?! I know, I don’t think that everything I have ever done in my entire life has reached that many people!

I took some photographs of my friend Jac for her to use in her London Fashion Week promotion. She’s the designer behind Park and James and the ‘flat shoe revolution’. We ate cake and got thrown out of a hotel.

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We had to say goodbye to our dear old furry man cat friend MoJo. We miss him. There’s an echo in the house. Where sound used to be absorbed into his soft food filled body, it now bounces lonelily from wall to wall. This is not the time or the place for this sadness, I’m not good with sympathy or loss.

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I kept my head down, got on with some serious business, and then I wrote this: 6 Valentine’s Gifts You Can Give For Free. I’m not a fan of Valentine’s day, but I used it as an excuse to drink tea from under the duvet.

Lady Hens on Lockdown / Bird Flu – What To Do

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I love my chickens, you might already know that. I want them to be well and happy, and safe. Normally they run free and forage in the garden (and when Sandra was around she would run free down the road, tapping on doors and visiting neighbours for snacks) but since the beginning of December, after an outbreak of bird flu in the UK and the DEFRA instruction to keep all poultry housed and separate from wild birds, the girls have been on high security lockdown in their back garden prison, Cell Block H style. They didn’t seem too bothered at first, patrolling their wire fenced yard, occasionally fighting over a scrap of gruel, but as the winter weather took it’s toll their conditions got less and less ideal.

Enter the New Eglu Cube from Omlet. Ta da! Wooooooo, and thank you very much you dear, kind, clever people. This is the house of the Beverley Hills chicken, the chicken who has everything, the Gucci girl chicken. I mean, it’s not swarovski crystal encrusted, but it could be if they wanted. Fully insulated walls, a special nesting box area, brilliant easy-clean sleeping quarters, safely attached mesh run, and you can pick it up and wheel it around – so we did… straight into the conservatory!

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The other day there was a knock at the back door, it was a parcel delivery, Gemma the courier is terrified of birds, I normally have to meet her at the gate or throw some food in the grass to keep the hens busy while she rushes in and out. They’d never hurt her, but she doesn’t know that, they think the package in her hand is a big tasty sandwich and they just want to share it with her.

Gemma seemed quite pleased to see them all penned up behind glass and bars, ‘This looks nice!’ she said, nodding towards them. It was only then that I realised it might look a bit weird to be keeping chickens in the house, so I was quick to try and explain. Gemma was cool with it, her friend used to bring a Shetland pony called Peanut round for sleepovers, they’d give it a bath and then blow dry it’s hair in front of the tele.

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I’ve heard all sorts of theories on why, or why not, we should be keeping our hens in – there seems to have been a lot of uncertainty about what to do, and I thought I might be able to help a little, with a few ideas, from my perspective.

Avian Flu is not airborne (I’m sure there’s a bad joke in there somewhere) but aside from being carried by wild birds it can be carried on people, other animals and on things that have come into contact with the virus. The disease spreads from direct contact between birds, and from contamination through bodily fluids and faeces. Nice.

Currently (at the date of publication) there’s a legal requirement in the UK to keep all poultry housed, or as far away from wild birds as possible.

I’ve heard of chickens seeking respite in sheds and greenhouses, lean-tos, caravans and even an indoor bathroom, and while none of the solutions might seem ideal it’s got to be better than not doing anything at all.

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If you can’t bring your chickens indoors then keep them covered, you need to keep wild birds away from your chickens water, food, and living space.

Cover their house and run so that no water or anything else can fall in, you don’t want wild birds hanging around or dropping a dropping in on their way by. Cover any sides or gaps that are open to stop small wild birds getting through, and do what you can to control vermin.

Do you remember when it was lucky to be poo’ed on by a bird? Those were the days. I remember walking down the road one sunny afternoon having just collected my GCSE certificates from school. I reached inside the brown paper envelope and pulled out the glorious documents, as soon as they saw daylight they got a huge seal of approval from a passing bird. Magical.

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Keep your chickens water clean and fresh, and keep the food tidy (with extra grit if they’re not able to scrap about for their own).

Keep chickens busy with toys and distractions. Our hens will spend hours working away on a slice of watermelon or pecking at anything shiny or reflective. I’m going to get them a swing for their pen next!

Don’t move your birds around – in the garden, or further afield. It’s also important to reduce the movement of people to and from your chicken run, and disinfect shoes at the point of entry if you go inside your hens home.

It’s serious, and you could be prosecuted for not keeping your birds in.

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I often turn to my friend Ruth for advice on all things chicken, she breeds, and keeps, rare native breeds (our Marsh Daisy came from her, we named it Baby Ruth Sultana in her honour) and she’ll always tell me if I am being daft, overthinking things, or not doing enough. When I asked Ruth (the human) for her thoughts she told me,

“It is up to each and every poultry keeper, no matter how large or small their flocks, to play their part in protecting everyones’ birds. Personally, I would be devastated to lose any of my birds, most of them being rare breed status and representing many years of careful breeding. We also have to consider the potential impact on the commercial poultry industry which could be extremely costly.”

Ruth keeps a close eye on DEFRA and APHA and uses her common sense and imagination when it comes to looking after her birds. We could all take a leaf out of her book and be just a little bit more vigilant.

If you don’t keep birds but know someone who does, please take the opportunity to share this with them. There are bird keepers out there who might have missed the news, or might not know where to look for support, and between us we might be able to make a bit of a difference.

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Need to know more?

Latest update from DEFRA on Winter 2016/2017 Avian Flu.

Read this DEFRA factsheet on how to keep your birds safe.

Sign up to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Alerts Service to keep up to date with the latest news on exotic notifiable animal disease outbreaks in Great Britain.

For advice and guidance on what to do if you keep poultry, or to report suspicion of disease in animals, call the DEFRA Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301

Members of the public are encouraged to report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), or other dead wild birds such as gulls or birds of prey, to the DEFRA helpline on 03459 33 55 77

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Thank you to the awesome chaps at Omlet for helping me and my lady hens out in their time of need by providing them with a safe new home. As always,  my opinions are my own, I say what I think, share what I like, and I do all my own chicken chasing. Hooray! This is not a sponsored post. This post may contain PR samples and affiliate links.

These Recent Things (Tea, Travels & The Midwinter Movement)

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I entered 2017 smelling of bonfire, with a fractured rib and liquid nitrogen burns. None of these things are related.

December was full on. I can’t even remember it. 2016 who? Where did all those mince pies go?

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Early in the month I was invited to  speak at Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam and spent three wonderful nights in the city. We stayed at the stunning Conservatorium hotel, and then moved on to the quietly luxurious Waldorf Astoria.

To balance out my incredible luck I ate an overdressed purple potato with bits of prune and some clay.

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Amsterdam is a beautiful city; the people are friendly, the architecture is stunning, and the stroopwaffles are one of the best inventions known to man (them and the internal combustion engine). I definitely plan to go back soon, probably with a small army of pancake loving pals.

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Returning from Amsterdam I travelled up to Cheshire and spent a couple of nights with my friends at Willington Hall. I will keep saying it, but it’s one of my favourite places in the UK, a real home from home. Natalie had helped organise a flower arranging event for over 100 ladies (and two men) to raise money for the premature baby unit at the local hospital, so instead of catching up on my emails (like I said I would when I justified the trip to myself) I hung about and took pictures of ornamental cabbages, which was nice.

The house was dressed for Christmas, all cosy and calm. We took afternoon tea in the study and watched the sun set across the fields.

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Back home the chickens have been on high security lockdown. They don’t really seem to mind, we’ve been giving them extra snacks. It’s a small sacrifice to make in comparison to the possibility of contributing to the spread of avian flu and causing thousands of birds to have to be killed. Also, I’ve not stood in chicken poo for a whole month now.

We celebrated 11 years of MoJo living with us, making him about 18 in human years now, and over 90 in the cat equivalent. Rocky came to stay and pulled his tooth out. That wasn’t part of his birthday surprise!

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We had a lovely Danish Christmas dinner with Martin, Gitte and Oliver; we walked in Greenwich Park and saw a big man fox and a bunch of deer. Then we had a pleasant and peaceful Christmas at home. Adam was in charge of the dinner, he’s the King of the roast.

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I mentioned before that we planned to embrace the Midwinter Movement, and we did just that.

Sara shared the hashtag in her monthly Me & Orla newsletter and (I’ve just checked) almost 3000 images have been tagged #themidwintermovement over on instagram, have a look. It’s been quite interesting to see how other people respond to an idea that I hold so strong. It’s personal to me, but they’ve made it their own. I’ve initiated them into my cult and they don’t even know!

For me the Midwinter Movement is about finding ways to add light and joy to the season, embracing the darkness and filling it with light, decorating for the winter, making wreaths and bringing greenery into the house, lighting fires and candles, good dinners, sharing the simple things, backing off from the consumerist Christmas crap – it’s not British hygge or a fad, its just how I think life should be.

And, it means you can keep your sparkly lights up for as long as you like. No twelfth night misery for us, no decoration withdrawal symptoms, we’re keeping our fairy lights up until the evenings draw out and we no longer need their warm glow.

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Over on Shutter Hub we shared our Year in Review. Cor blimey, it’s been a corker! I’d really love you to pop over and have a read of our 2016 highlights, I’m proud to be able to share them with you.

Also, thank you. Thank you for all your voting in the UK Blog Awards. Obviously the three of you could only do so much, so the this old Peas blog didn’t make it, but Shutter Hub is through to the finals  in the Best Photography Blog category. Thank you.

And, the grand finale of 2016… I fell over on the ice and my bobble hat flew off into a dog poo!