Category Archives: These Recent Things

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.

These Recent Things (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.

These Recent Things (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.

These Recent Things (Winter, Snow, Travel & Time)

This geranium brings me much joy. Flowering away in the conservatory, whatever the weather. A candyfloss bloom, come rain or shine. I used to hate geraniums, I thought they were old fashioned and smelt funny, but now I love geraniums… they are old fashioned and smell funny.

I’ve totally gone off carrots though.

I think this the bit where I am supposed to tell you my goals for 2018? I do love a good list, and I have many ambitions, but I’m not suddenly going to achieve them all when the clock strikes midnight. I know that. You know that. We all know that ‘eat more healthily’ just means ‘be more secretive about eating snacks’. I do have one big goal for 2018, and I’m probably going to need your help with it, but I’ll come back to that when I have something more organised to share. Ooo, the suspense. Cliff-hanger. (Wanker). Whatever.

So, again, it’s been a while and I can’t remember everything.


Things that I know have happened since I last wrote…

Our chicken April appeared on the front cover of Practical Poultry magazine.  I got to write some words about my love for her: ‘Her favourite food is red grapes, she likes to sleep in trees and she runs like Basil Fawlty’.

I wrote Foodie Finds things for Surf4, I wrote a short travel piece for Thomas Cook. I wrote a review of Cig Harvey’s beautiful book, You An Orchestra, You A Bomb for Shutter Hub. (And she loved it. And I loved that she loved it.)

I washed a house plant called Mary in vodka and it survived, in fact, it flourished.

I gave portfolio reviews with Renaissance Photography Prize at Getty Images Gallery in London.

I did my first ever ‘Facebook Live’, where I talked to Charly Lester from A League of Her Own about the Shutter Hub blog.

I went on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s afternoon Drivetime show and talked with presenter Thordis Fridriksson. Beforehand, I asked friends on Facebook for bets on what embarrassing off-topic things I might come out with– the consensus was chickens or toilets!

I worked with Bose and PSR Automotive, and drove a bunch of super cars including an Audi R8, a Porshe 911, a Lotus Evora and, my favourite, a Lamborghini Gallardo. Heart eyes!

Both Adam and I did our last sprint of the year, with Lotus Cup UK Speed,  at Rockingham. The day went like this, for me – I stalled on the startline because I got distracted singing the Black Beauty theme tune. I spun the car on second practice because I got cramp in my foot. I finished 6th in class.

On the fantastical food front I can tell you, I went to Yuu Kitchen’s first birthday dinner and it was amazing. I made pistachio and chai spiced fudge and nobody died. And Olivia took me for afternoon tea at a shed in the middle of a Suffolk field.

‘I was born cross eyed and stopped breathing when I was two,’ said the waitress, before inviting me to feel her over-extended intestinal bulge, which she revealed from beneath her pink floral apron.

We had snow. Everyone had snow. Some people even had snow twice! Snow on a Sunday. It’s a modern-day miracle.

I spoke at a symposium at Cambridge University. I even got asked for an autograph afterwards. Never had that before. Death threats, yes, but not autograph requests.


I travelled to Holland and Belgium, Eindhoven and Antwerp. It was wonderful. The architecture, the food, the culture, the company. Wonderful. Then I came home and was forced into submission by food poisoning. It was bad. Bad. So bad I thought it must be Malaria! After several weeks of pain, weakness, and dependency on close ties with the toilet, I rose from my sofa nest and ventured out into the world. Then I retreated for Christmas.

We embraced the Midwinter Movement and decorated the house for winter. Stayed home for Christmas. Enjoyed the quiet.

And that’s that, really. I hope 2018 is good for you, and the year after, and the year after that.

I’ll leave you with what is perhaps my favourite photograph of 2017, it’s blurry and badly composed, but it’s bloody hilarious and I love it!

These Recent Things (Cats, Cruise Ships & Cars)


I should have written sooner. All those days blurring busily into weeks, months. Today I’ve found, in between baking an apple cake and prepping for the Renaissance Photography Prize portfolio reviews, a pocket of time that would have otherwise been filled.

Right now I should have been in Tel Aviv launching an exhibition, giving portfolio reviews, hunting down cakes of excellence. But, flights cancelled, exhibition postponed, I’ve found myself at home with time, and sunshine, and an abundance of autumn fruit.


I’ve been busy, I’ve been away, I’ve been to Scotland, and Amsterdam, I’ve driven half way across Rwanda and back. I’ve seen giraffes, and baboons, and cats (no big cats) and funny little birds that roll over as they fly, offering glitzy glimpses of their colourfully feathered undercarriages. I even found myself accidently on a cruise ship (never again).

I’m not sure that, however I try, I can really remember what I’ve been up to, let alone tell you in any detail, but that’s what photographs are for, right? Right.


I’ve done some good eating out – Crown & Punchbowl, Kimchee, Dishoom, Bills in Victoria (because of the great company and velvet corner nest), and eating in – when I had the pleasure of welcoming chef Anita Kerai into my kitchen. She arrived with boxes full of food and spices, and a big grin on her face. Within minutes she’d begun, cooking up a Gujarati feast in my Fenland kitchen, completely relaxed in this stranger’s home. After a day of cooking and learning it was time to eat. We sat down, friends over a feast of delicious food, and Anita shared with me the story of how she became a chef (and I shared that story over here on Surf4).

Adam and I sprinted at Brands Hatch at the Lotus Festival alongside Lotus Cup Europe and all sorts of other wondrous racing. I love Brands Hatch. I was 8th out of 11, which isn’t particularly exciting, but I did knock just over 3 seconds off my time from the previous year, so that was good.

Then we went to Rockingham for a two hour track evening with Alan and that was great fun.


Shutter Hub continued to fundraise for the GIRL TOWN exhibition, dozens of people came forward to share their messages of support (read them here), and Laura’s brilliant article  ‘Celebrating the Culture of the Female in the 21st Century’ got featured on the World Photography Organisation blog, and in Amber Magazine.

We made the selection of work for our forthcoming ‘Artificial Things’ exhibition with Cambridge University which opens on the 3rd November, and we’ve begun work on the accompanying events – come and join us for drinks and talks on 30th November if you can. We’ve also started work on plans for an exhibition in Fleet Street, London early next year, so I’ll let you know about that sometime soon too.

I was very happy to be asked by the FORMAT team to join them at Unseen Amsterdam and give portfolio reviews last month. Unseen is heralded as one of the best photography festivals in the world, I’d never been before and I was excited to have a doubly good reason to go. And I love the Netherlands.

I left my car at the station and got the train to Stansted, plane to Schiphol, train to Amsterdam, and arrived in time to meet my friend Dagmar for Vlaamse Frieten and good chats.

I’d picked a central spot to stay, although Unseen was over at Westergasfabriek (near where I once ate a gold and silver clay covered purple potato), I wanted to be able to enjoy more of the city for my few days. The Nova Hotel (with a bit of a  Hoxton-Shoreditch vibe to the rooms, but more space) was just minutes away from Dam Square and gave me good reason to walk – apart from when I overslept, of course.

Rushing to the reviews in the morning my driver couldn’t see the map, or where he was going. He fumbled and swerved, searching for his glasses. ‘On your head,’ I told him, wishing I’d been up in time to walk.

De Bakkerswinkel was the most lovely venue for the portfolio reviews. Perhaps we could have done with brighter lighting, but the calming atmosphere and fascinating space made for a really relaxed and engaging day. I gave eight reviews in all. I felt inspired, alert and tired, all in one big bundle. I walked back across the city, stopped off to buy orange juice, grapes, salad and a big bar of Tonys Chocolonely, and then headed back to my hotel room where I sat at the table and enjoyed my picnic. It was great!

In the morning I went back over to Unseen – I saw friends and photography, I saw a pig being spit roasted in the street, and a pigeon smiled at me from a bush. Walking back to the station in the sun I met the most magnificent cat sitting outside a bakery sniffing the breeze.

That’s what I call a successful trip.

No sooner was I home than I was rushing off to Rwanda, but that’s another story, a long story, with baboons and hippos, tree tomatoes and passionfruit juice, and a crappy death trap of a hire vehicle. (Thanks Europcar!)

In stark contrast to driving freely across a African National Park, I found myself, last week, accidentally aboard a cruise ship with no hot drinks, shrieking waiters, and a Swarovski crystal staircase worth a couple of hundred-thousand Euros. Nuts. (Literally – in a cake, that the waiter said was nut free. And that’s another story, a boring one about antihistamines, swelling and excuses. Yawn.)


The MSC Preziosa was a frenzy of bloggers rushing everywhere from the restaurants to the pools, taking pictures of half-naked old men (it was an accident, I deleted it) and photographing things they couldn’t have, like cups of tea, apparently only reserved for passengers, not guests.

I’d stayed the night before in a pretty awful hotel. Always wanting to look on the bright side I made a list of good things about the place. 1. It was called The Dolphin  and 2. It looked like a prison.


What next, hey?