Book Review – Appointment with Death

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie {Poirot no. 17}

Among the towering red cliffs of Petra, like some monstrous swollen Buddha, sat the corpse of Mrs Boynton. A tiny puncture mark on her wrist was the only sign of the fatal injection that had killed her.

With only 24 hours available to solve the mystery, Hercule Poirot recalled a chance remark he’d overheard back in Jerusalem: ‘You see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?’ Mrs Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he’d ever met.

I am writing this post from my phone on a dog walk. The wind is blowing over Minchinhampton Common with an icy ferocity and I’m hoping my fingers will last for the entire post.

I will admit, ashamedly, that Appointment with Death is the first Agatha Christie I have ever read. For years I have wanted to start working my way through the legacy of the most famous crime author, and now that I have started I am addicted. It can be nerve-wracking when introducing yourself to a new author. Will you like their writing style, their story telling? Will you be able to relate to the characters, and will the story captivate you page after page?

Agatha Christie has a way of drawing the reader into the world of her characters. There is no over-the-top action, gratuitous violence or fantastical events that make you want to read on, but you become involved in the crime, and guessing the assailant becomes a game. One that Christie inevitably wins. Christie clearly lays out the crime in each novel, cleverly directing the reader to assuming the guilt of this character, and then maybe that one, before at the end a reveal is made; bringing together the evidence dotted throughout the novel in a surprising, genius, twist. The writing is intelligent and well thought-out, but easy to follow. Knowing that there will be a surprise does not spoil the reading of Christie’s books. In fact, it makes you all the more convinced to read every word carefully, desperately trying to see what Monsieur Hercule Poirot sees that gives him such confidence in the innocence or guilt of a character. Christie expertly guides you to one character, then another. In Appointment with Death there are a myriad of obvious suspects, the worn down family, the would-be heroin, or someone we never suspected?

The most brilliant aspect of Christie’s detective stories are that all the evidence is there, as Poirot says, “It is a profound belief of mine that if you can induce a person to talk to you for long enough, on any subject whatever! Sooner or later they will give themselves away.” It is the great frustration of the reader that, once all is revealed, you can see all the pieces of the jigsaw come together and they were right in front of your eyes the whole time.

Appointment with Death is an interesting read because it focuses very much on the morality of murder. The victim is one Mrs Boynton, a despicable old bat who revels in the emotional torture of her family. We spend a few chapters viewing the effect Mrs Boynton’s controlling and narcissistic personality has on those around her. Her family, worn down, all adults who are emotionally bound to serve the great shadowy mass that hangs over them, begin to taste freedom. Outsiders, who are both inclined to help the family find a life beyond the tyrannical rule of Mrs Boynton, and intrigued by the unusual family dynamic, play a key role throughout the events of the book. It is safe to say by the time the old lady meets her fate everyone, reader included, is relieved that the world became that bit nicer.

Poirot, however, is driven by his morality to investigate the death, especially after it appears that old Boynton’s demise was not natural. Through meticulous psychological analysis of all parties present, Poirot accomplishes his task and unmasks the murderer. I will allow you to discover the murderer for yourself, but I will say, prepare to be surprised.

Happy reading!

Book Review – 365 Days of Happiness

365 Days of Happiness

If, in this strangest of years, you are finding yourself fighting against the tsunami of negativity, suffering, and bleakness, that Covid has unleashed upon the world, then it’s time to prescribe yourself a healthy dose of positivity.

Jacqueline Pirtle’s ‘365 Days of Happiness’ is a wonderful collection of positive anecdotes, written by someone who wants to bring the joy she has found to her readers. Jacqueline, aka FreakyHealer, is the perfect representation of positive energy, a free spirit who uses her gifts of understanding and empathy to enrich the lives of her clients and readers. Born in Switzerland and now living in the Unites States, Jacqueline has spent her life travelling, experiencing, and learning, and those lessons she now passes onto us through her workshops and writings. ‘365 Days Of Happiness’ can be read in two ways; you can delve into a tidal wave of positivity and consume the entire book in a sitting or two, or you can take a page a day and spread the positivity out over a year. As someone with the attention span of a fruit fly I find the latter technique harder to stick to. I prefer to settle down and consume a book with the same vigour I would a cup of tea, or a doughnut. 

When first scanning through the pages my eyes were caught by the words ‘energy’ and ‘imagine’, and more exclamation marks than I have used in my life to date. I’ll admit I was skeptical, I have never been one to countenance energy, spirit, and soul, that isn’t to say I don’t believe in it, but I am someone driven more by rationale. Perhaps, deep down inside me, there is a curiosity, though that is another post for another time. Despite the difference in the spiritual beliefs between myself and the author, I am able to appreciate the book for what it is, positive. I have come to realise that, whether you believe in life-energy, souls, a capacious worldly power beyond our understanding, or whether you are a fact-driven realist, there is no reason not to read this book. I found the pages that contradicted my own world-view encouraged me to debate with myself. They challenged my beliefs, my cynicism, and encouraged me to look beyond what I perceive as positivity. 

How do you pour your coffee or tea?

I am going to take a real safe guess here, and say that you pour it very determinedly into a cup, instead of kind-of-sort-of point the stream of coffee or tea at the cup and loosely hit or miss the cup. Some of you might even go all out and choose a cup you really like, or have a ritual for pouring your tea into a very nice cup. Either way, your focus is on pouring into the cup without spilling or wasting it. 

I invite you to do the same with your energy, love, compassion, and your light. 

Focus yourself to pour your energy without spilling or wasting!

The cup can be yourself, someone, or something else, or even better, choose many someones and somethings you really love, are passionate about, and feel good to you. Then – very precisely – start to pour your energy, love, compassion, and light into it. Enjoy the goodness you co-create with that someone or something. 

Fill it and don’t spill it!

Jacqueline Pirtle, Day 230

This passage was my favourite, and not just because I love tea, but because of what Jacqueline has expressed, do not waste your energy. Now, Jacqueline may be talking more about spiritual energy, but I think the fundamental lesson is one we could all do with adopting, focus on what makes you happy. My mind is drawn to Marie Kondo’s philosophy of de-cluttering, keep what brings you joy and discard the rest. Sarah Knight then applied this philosophy in her book, The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k, to the worries and jargon that litter our minds, and how we can apply Marie’s techniques to clearing out our brain-boxes. Although these three woman may seem to be on different journeys, I guarantee that we can draw it back to that fundamental lesson; don’t waste time and space on anything, or anyone, that does not bring you joy. Be picky, be precise, it is your life.

If you want to try Jacqueline’s ‘365 Days of Happiness’ then it is available through Amazon. If you want to read more about Jacqueline, and her fascinating journey, then visit her website.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Happy Living,


Wild Garlic Pesto with Parmesan and Lemon

If you go walking in the woods and notice a familiar, slightly garlicy smell, then it is likely you are near a patch of allium ursinum, more commonly known as Wild Garlic. This distant relative to the onion grows between late March and July in moist woodland throughout Europe and Asia, and is perfect if you are looking for something to forage. Note: please ensure that when you forage in the wild you are doing so within the confines of the law and always bearing in mind the responsible foraging guidelines set out by The Woodland Trust.

Ever since I was a young girl I have wanted to try a recipe using wild garlic, and so when I found a section of our local woodland blanketed in the smooth green leaves, I grabbed a bag and went foraging. When foraging wild garlic it is important to take leaves from different patches, don’t leave one patch bare. Do NOT pull up the bulbs of the plant, this is illegal, instead just break the leaves off at the base of their stem.

Once you have foraged a good amount of wild garlic, the picture on the right came to about 300g, it is important you wash it thoroughly, particularly if your garlic grows along a popular dog walking path! I ran the leaves under the cold tap until all traces of dirt were gone. Then I piled the leaves on a kitchen towel, placed another towel on top and let the leaves sit to dry. You may need to change the towels and dab the leaves with some kitchen roll as they can hold quite a bit of water.


  • 300g wild garlic
  • 75-100g parmesan
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g toasted pine nuts
  • 300ml rapeseed oil
  • Salt to taste


  1. Once the leaves are dry, don’t worry if they are ever so slightly damp, place them in a large food processor with a squeeze of lemon juice and whizz until they look finely chopped.
  2. Add in the rapeseed oil and blend until combined.
  3. Squeeze in the rest of the lemon juice, the parmesan, the garlic and the pine nuts. Blend the mixture together, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every now and then, until the desired consistency is reached.
  4. Taste your pesto and add salt, lemon juice or oil as needed.
  5. Once you are happy with your pesto spoon it into glass jars and drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
  6. It can then be frozen straight away or kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.


I find the pesto made with only wild garlic quite intense. If I made this again I would probably add in 150g of basil leaves for every 150g of wild garlic. On the other hand my husband loved this recipe and doesn’t want it to change!

If you do find the taste too intense try mixing in a little crème fraîche or soured cream into the pesto before you add it to pasta.

The more parmesan you have the drier your pesto will be. I used 100g of parmesan in my recipe and it was drier than expected. Although delicious I would probably use 75-80g next time for a smoother consistency. Don’t forget you can always add but you can’t take away.

Honey Roast Parsnips

When you think of food associated with February it’s most likely heart shaped chocolates, perhaps an Easter Egg, however February is also a time for Parsnips, an adaptable root vegetable high in vitamins and minerals. I haven’t yet found a dish where parsnips star in the solo role, however I have found them the perfect side to almost any dish; fish, lamb, beef, chicken, they are a truly versatile vegetable.

  • 4 large parsnips, sliced in half and then into strips
  • 1 tsp honey per 3 parsnips
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Serves: 2 as a side

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35-45 minutes


Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F)

  1. Chop the ends of the parsnips and peel. Slice in half lengthways, then slice into strips based on preference. If you prefer a soft and gooey parsnip then cut into thick chunks. I, however, prefer thin and crispy pieces and so I cut the vegetables into thin strips.
  2. Place the parsnips in a shallow baking tray and drizzle over the olive oil and honey, mixing until they are combined. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the parsnips in the oven and cook for 35-45 minutes. It is important to keep an eye on them as they can burn easily, especially in fierce ovens.
  4. Once the parsnips are crispy and golden (or soft and golden if you prefer) remove from the oven and serve alongside a leg of roast lamb, a side of baked salmon or a shoulder of pork.

Book of the Month, January

The Cockcroach by Ian McEwan

Buy at Waterstones

The Cockroach, the latest work of the masterful Ian McEwan, is a dazzlingly satirical reflection of our current political climate.

“That morning, Jim Sams, clever but by no means profound, woke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic creature.”

We follow the journey of Jim Sams as he navigates the British political establishment to deliver the will of the people, Reversalism. Reversalism is a theory whereby the money flow in an economy is reversed. At the conclusion of the working week an employee hands over money to the company for the hours laboured. However, when the employee then goes shopping they are compensated for each item carried away. (If you think this sounds like a convoluted process, that would inevitably damage the economy beyond repair, then you have grasped the concept of McEwan’s work.) Sams is determined to deliver Reversalism at any cost; dissent within his ranks, fierce opposition, parliamentary democracy, none will get in his way. We observe Sams as he hijacks international incidents, charms the American President, and plots against those opposing Reversalism.

McEwan achieved in this novel what I thought impossible, unearthing a humorous tone about this country’s dire political affliction. The scabrous humour masks the very real dread and scepticism coursing through society as we are pulled along with this political farce. In ‘The Cockroach’ McEwan makes no effort to mask his feelings about “Reversalism”, a detrimental decision serving only to benefit the sinister Blattidaean plot. “Reversalism” is, of course, McEwan’s mirror for Brexit. For those of us who have been, shall I say, despondent following the result of the referendum, McEwan accurately channels our feelings in this satirical masterpiece. I have found the book a welcome break after three years of debates, uncertainty and broken promises, it breathes a breath of fresh air into the chagrined political division. I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those who are saddened by our departure from the European Union.

Adieu Europe!

My Mother’s Winter Warmer

My Mother’s Amazing Tomato Soup (Inspired by Gordon Ramsay)

  • 4 tblsp olive oil
  • 1kg plum tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 red onion (sliced)
  • 2 large garlic cloves (halved)
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

Serves: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes


Preheat the oven to 220°C (428°F)

  1. Pour the olive oil into a roasting tin and heat in the oven until almost smoking.
  2. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and thyme to the tray and coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are caramelised, turning occasionally. Add the basil to the tray 5 minutes before the end of cooking.
  3. Remove any woody thyme stalks from the tray and add the contents of the tray to a large saucepan. In a second saucepan bring the chicken, or vegetable, stock to a boil and then pour over the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil and then add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid from the pan, keeping both the liquid and the tomato mixture. Add the tomatoes to a blender and combine, slowly adding the stock, until the soup has reached the desired consistency.
  5. Gordon suggests at this stage to pass the soup through a sieve again for a smoother consistency, however my mother and I have always found the blended soup to be the perfect balance.
  6. Serve the soup with a crusty loaf of bread and enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Gordon Ramsay’s “My Tomato Soup” in “Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets“.

Book Review – The Illiad

Book Review ~ March 2019

~ The Illiad by Homer

The Illiad is an epic poem by Ancient Greek bard, Homer. Comprising of some 15,693 lines, it is often dubbed the first great work of Western literature, succeeded by its sequel, The Odyssey. Nowadays the Illiad is dated to c. 7th Century BC, to the archaic period of Classical Antiquity. The backdrop to the poem is during the Late Bronze Age Collapse in early 12th Century BC, separating Homer from his subject matter by around 400 years. The dating of both Homer and the Illiad is something still disputed by historians and Literary Scholars today. Herodotus, an Ancient Greek Historian born c. 484 BC, maintained throughout his life that Hesiod[1] and Homer existed no more than 4 centuries before his own time, placing them c. 850 BC. Establishing an authentic date for the life of Homer is extremely difficult, even more so as the only documented records of his life that are known to have existed are his writings of the Odyssey and the Illiad.

Map of Ancient Greece
Map of Ancient Greece

The Illiad is set during the final year of a long war between the Greeks and the Trojans.

The events that prelude the Illiad are not essential reading, but serve a wider purpose in understanding the story and themes at work. The war originated from a quarrel between three goddesses, Hera[2], Athena [3] and Aphrodite [4] over a golden apple given to them by Eris[5]. Zeus sent the goddesses to Trojan Prince, Paris, who presented the apple to Aphrodite, as she was the fairest of the three. In response Aphrodite made Helen, the most beautiful woman, fall in love with Paris. When Paris seduces and kidnaps Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, Menelaus and his brother, Agamemnon, raise an army to retrieve her from Troy. The Trojans refuse to return Helen, providing a casus belli[6] for the Trojan war.

The Illiad introduces us to the Trojan War a decade after the events described above. Achilles, son of goddess Thetis[7], was gifted captured Briseis as a war prize following the sack of Lyrnessus. Achilles also brought back from Lyrnessus another girl, Chryseis, who was gifted to King Agamemnon. Chryseis’ father offered a great ransom in exchange for his daughter and Agamemnon was eventually compelled to return his prize, or else he would face the wrath of the gods. After the loss of Chryseis Agamemnon demanded that Briseis, Achilles’ concubine, be handed over to him as compensation. Insulted and angry Achilles stormed out of battle, taking his forces of Myrmidons, Hellenes and Achaeans with him. Devoid now of their best fighter, the Greek army is pushed back to their ships by an inspired Trojan force. It is only after a great tragedy that Achilles rejoins the battle, turning the tables on the Trojan army once and for all.

Whilst reading the Illiad it is important to remember that the Homeric style in which it was written would traditionally have been performed orally. Trained poets would perform the epic without the aid of writing, but with flexible sentences and scenes for on-the-spot development of epic poems. This explains why, throughout the Illiad, there are numerous repetitions of single phrases or actions. One device Homer seems partial to is ‘ring-composition’, where a poet will repeat an idea or phrase in order to return to his original point. In the example below we can see how Homer begins the action with Agamemnon spurring on the Greeks and, after a lengthy metaphor, brings the audience back to where he started, with Agamemnon.

And all the while lord Agamemnon, shouting to the Greeks followed up and killed. As a raging fire attacks a thickly wooded forest; a billowing wind throws the flames back and forth, and uprooted bushes fall headlong before the fire’s onslaught – so the routed Trojans were mown down by Agamemnon’s onslaught.

Book 11 ~ lines 153 – 158

What struck me most while reading the Illiad is Homer’s ability to separate his own judgment from his subject matter. Many authors succumb to the temptation of describing in detail the personalities of their characters, leaving very little to the reader’s own imagination. Homer, however, is a third person narrator, simply canvassing the scene without ever offering a judgment or evaluation. This narrative stance fascinates me because it is so unlike anything we typically stumble upon in poetry or fiction. His objectivity allows the reader the flexibility to come to their own conclusions about the motives and personalities that drive the characters.

Homer’s Illiad has many admirable qualities; brave heroes, bloody battles, interfering immortals, solid friendships and deadly destiny. The emotional depth of the characters raises the epic above a simple war story. It is a tale of love, loss, wrath and revenge. All in all the Illiad is a fantastic piece of literature, although the complexity of the writing can make it a little tough to get through, it is most definitely worth it.


[1] Hesiod is a Greek poet thought by scholars to have been active from c. 750 BC, around the same time as Homer

[2] Hera is the goddess of marriage, life and love, and the wife of Zeus.

[3] Athena (sometimes known as Athene) is the goddess of many things; wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilisation, justice, warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, arts & crafts and skill.

[4] Aphrodite is the goddess associated with love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation.

[5] Eris is the goddess of strife and discord.

[6] Casus belli is a Latin expression that translates to “an act or event that provokes or is used to justify war”.

[7] Thetis appears most often in Greek Mythology as a sea nymph, a goddess of water.

A Safe House

A Safe House


Welcome to my Safe House. This small piece of utter tranquillity is where I can escape when I am overwhelmed by the world. Here, in this small corner of my mind, I have complete control, it is somewhere I can go that is truly safe. I developed my Safe House from a technique taught to me by my former therapist. This was to have in my mind somewhere I could go, when the anxiety and depression were suffocating, that would give me a sense of peace. It was about picturing vividly in your mind the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and feel of the world around you, building on every detail. It is a technique that has become invaluable to me when trying to navigate the many aspects of this world that I struggle with. It hasn’t just given me a place to go when I need a sense of calm, it has become a library for my thoughts, my fears and my desires.

I gazed up at the deep blue sky, noticing a hint of dusk on the east horizon. Wisps of cloud scurried across the sky, racing the birds that flew alongside them. I ran my hands over the silky grass, the gentle tickle of the blades against my palm sending a shiver up my arm. Nature’s peaceful symphony filled the warm summer air. The distant song of a blackbird rang through the air. The wind whistled through the leaves of swaying trees. In the distance you could just make out the soft babbling of a brook as it raced through the forest floor. A woodpecker’s distinct knocking reverberated through the air, disturbing a flock of starlings who rose in unison. In a magnificent show they danced through the air with instinctive synchronisation, coming to rest only when the performance was done. Their movement had disturbed the trees, whose leaves shuffled from the shifting of a million feathers. At the edge of the forest a young doe grazed. Her ears stood to attention when she heard the commotion, but she remained unperturbed by the events unfolding above her. She moved with a silent grace, searching for the most delectable patch of foliage to nibble on.

All around me sat plump bushes of English lavender, lined up in the fashion of well-behaved school children. The lavender’s sweet perfume invaded my every inhale, reaching each part of my body in a relaxing embrace. A neat grass path, inlaid with square paving slabs, led to a pair of magnificent arched French doors in a large house of aged Cotswold stone. Behind these French doors fell curtains of soft velvet, dyed an exquisite teal. Beyond these curtains lay a stone flag floor, worn with the memory of a million footsteps. On my left was a small open kitchen, decorated with duck egg tiles and blue speckled marble. I flicked on the copper kettle and listened to the gentle roar as the water started to warm. After a couple of minutes steam had coated the duck egg tiles and beads of condensation raced each other towards the marble counter. An earthy aroma filled my senses as the water tumbled into the mug and became consumed in the essence of the tea leaves. I wrapped my hands around the mug and made my way towards a plush blue sofa. Beneath my bare feet the bitter cold stone floor pinched at my toes, who rejoiced when I came to a thick sheepskin rug that lay in front of the sofa. I sunk into the thick cushions, sighing contently as I did so. I brought the mug to my lips, carefully testing whether the tea was at a drinkable temperature. Establishing that the tea needed a few minutes to cool, I placed the mug on a tarnished brass coffee table, inlaid with two thick slabs of glass, and buried myself further into the sofa. At the opposite end of the sofa sat a large pile of soft blankets, into which I submerged by frozen toes.

From underneath a blanket emerged the white head and liver brown ears of a Dalmatian. Florence, named after my father’s love of Italy, was a ten-year-old liver Dalmatian, whose age you could see in her grey flecked whiskers. She had been born the runt of the litter and, as such, she was much sleeker than others belonging to the stocky breed. She gazed sleepily around the room before readjusting herself, laying her head on my lap, and letting out a rather melodramatic sigh. I stroked the space between her eyes, tracing with my finger the contour of her head, before letting my hand rest lightly on her shoulder. From behind the sofa I heard the light patter of small paws on the stone floor and in a moment a large cat had landed, quite gracefully, on the back of the sofa. This majestic Bengal was Simba, a three-year-old with the heart of a dog and the stomach of a blue whale. He stepped delicately down from the sofa onto the dog, who sighed in annoyance and, after a curious sniff at the source of the sigh, he curled up into my lap and settled his head next to Florence’s. The two of them lay there, resting in perfect peace. I smiled. In the whole world I have yet to find something more wholesome, more life-affirming than lying next to a creature who is unquestionably loyal to you.

The light in the room had now changed and my eyes travelled to a large arched window, framed in a dark wood, through which I could see the sun setting over the rows of lavender. I watched the light of the day slowly fade away, and the occasional silhouette of a bird racing across the amber sky. I rose from the sofa and took my tea in my hand as I walked around the room to switch on a collection of lamps dotted about the furniture. The room became flooded with a soft artificial light that highlighted the objects in the room in a much gentler way than the piercing bright light of the sun. On the wall opposite the sofa, adjacent to the tiny kitchen, was a huge bookcase that stretched across the entire length of the wall. The bookcase, carved out of a light oak, showed its age in the faded sections of wood and chipped corners. My eyes travelled along the many rows of books. Among them were titles that inspired reminiscence or sadness, some that took me back to my childhood and others that brought to mind people or places long since forgotten. I ran my finger down the spine of a book that was heavily faded and worn with time. Pulling the book from the shelf I felt that same sense of joy I had always felt when holding a book I love. I turned the book over in my hands and gazed into the wide eyes of the rabbit on the front cover. Hazel had always been my favourite character in Watership Down. I placed the book back into the empty space on the shelf and continued scanning the rows of books, running my finger along the old wood as I did so. My eyes came to rest on a collective edition of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. The story of young Lyra had touched a chord in me when I was younger, as an honest coming of age series it is a tale we can all relate to, (I mean besides the magic dust). Due to Pullman’s raw and honest genius, I will forever class His Dark Materials as one of my all-time favourite novels.

At the end of the bookcase I came to a small table holding a speaker. I pressed a button on the top and let the heavy beats reverberate throughout the room. Simba and Florence looked up for a moment, but soon realised it wasn’t a disturbance they were remotely interested in and turned back to the sofa. My feet beat against the floor in time with the music and a smile crept into the corners of my mouth. Music was a refuge for me, I could let the notes drown out the worries on my mind and focus solely on the beat of the bass, the emotion in the lyrics and the freedom of allowing the music to enter your limbs. Tears swelled to the corner of my eye and I blinked back a tear. I am most certainly a crier, it is pretty much how I deal with everything in life, from tiredness, to happiness, to sadness, to anger. Music reaches deep into my soul and uncovers emotions I had forced myself to forget, that I had locked away deep in my mind. When I connect with a song I find myself engrossed by the lyrics and the emotion of the artist, how each note is carefully placed to achieve perfection. My feet had truly been captured by the music and they spun across the floor, coming to rest before a pair of tall wooden doors. With a great heave I used both my arms to push the doors open. The room before me was magnificently dressed in chandeliers of teardrop sculpted crystal and aged oak bookshelves. Twenty-six bookcases lined the walls of the library. Down the aisle ran a plush red carpet. A brass letter adorned each of the oak bookcases, each one a further step down the alphabet as you ventured further into the room. The air was filled with the scent of paper and ink. At the end of the room a writing desk, carved from a dark Cherry, was perched on a raised platform. In the daytime this room would be filled with sunlight from the stately arched window that was mounted in the far wall. Now, at dusk, the only light in the room came from the high chandeliers, whose chiselled crystal ornaments threw the artificial light across the room. I made my way towards the desk and sat down on a sturdy chair, made of the same dark Cherry wood. The surface of the desk was dressed in a deep red leather and had brass buttons placed neatly around the border. On this leather lay a gold fountain pen and a closed book that had written on the cover, ‘Grandma’. I picked up the book and walked back towards the bookshelves, placing the book where it belonged in the ‘G’ run. I meandered through the shelves of memories, some good, some bad, and some I would never revisit.

One technique I have developed is, when I am being pursued by a particular fear or anxiety, I write it down in a book, I picture the book closing and I put the book back on the shelf. The fear or anxiety hasn’t disappeared, I am aware it is still there, but I now have control. I can choose when I go to the shelf, open the book and deal with whatever demon is there.

I happened upon the run of ‘M’ bookshelves and glanced around the shelves until one book caught my eye, ‘Marmite’. Marmite was our first cat, a stocky Burmese with a coat of dark brown. The next book on the shelf was labelled ‘Maisie’. That fierce little Westie was our first dog. I had wanted to name her snowy, but I was overruled by my parents who thought it was too generic for a white dog. Further down the shelf was a book labelled ‘Simba’. This book was one of the hardest in my library to look at, causing a painful stab in my gut whenever I laid eyes on the cover. As if he knew Simba suddenly appeared at my side, mewing loudly and stretching his front paws towards my leg as an indication he wanted to be picked up. I crouched down and gathered him in my arms. He set his paws on my shoulder and nuzzled his head against my neck, purring loudly as he did so. I picked up the book from the shelf and stared, in agony, at the front cover. Simba looked up at me and I looked back into the vastness of his green eyes. He rubbed his head against my face and I buried myself in his fur, finding comfort in the deep purring that reverberated throughout his body. It breaks my heart that I can no longer hold him, hear his low purring and enjoy the love that he showed by kneading my stomach with his paws or rubbing his face against mine. I placed the book back on the shelf. I may not have him here with me, but he will always be in my Safe House.

I had spent enough time mulling over the past in my library and so, without glancing back, I made my way towards the heavy oak doors. As I left I flicked off the light switch and the room was instantly plunged into darkness. I closed the doors and left my library behind. I planted Simba next to Florence and stepped over to the arched windows that sat opposite the sofa. I drew closed the pair of curtains at each window, running my hand down the soft velvet as I did so.

I opened my eyes to the bare white of the ceiling, my mind palace now locked away deep in my thoughts. It is time I come back to the real world, until such a time when my eyes close and the doors to my palace of tranquillity open once again.

Cinnamon French Toast


Sweet and soft eggy toast coated with crunchy cinnamon sugar. Drizzle over maple syrup and serve with tangy raspberries for a delectable brunch.


Prep 5 minutes

Cooking time 10-15 minutes



serves 2

4 slices thick white sandwich bread or sourdough bread

3 large eggs or 4 small eggs

2 tbsp milk


Salt and Pepper (optional)

50g white sugar

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Raspberries, strawberries, jam, maple syrup



  1. If you want to your French Toast to all be ready at the same time then preheat the oven to 50ºC before you start cooking and place a plate in there to warm.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, milk and salt and pepper if using.
  3. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add a small knob of butter to the pan.
  4. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon on a large plate and set aside.
  5. Take a piece of the bread and dip it into the egg mixture, letting the bread soak up the mixture for a few moments. Hold the bread above the bowl and let the excess mixture drip off.
  6. Place the piece of bread in the pan and cook until lightly brown on both sides.
  7. Once the toast is nicely browned remove from the pan and place on the plate of cinnamon sugar. Turn the toast over in the sugar until it is evenly coated and then serve or place in the oven to keep warm.
  8. Repeat until all the bread has been used.
  9. Serve your French Toast on warm place with fresh fruit and a drizzle of sweet maple syrup, for a brunch that is truly délicieux!


Happy Eating,




Managing Stress

Stress is a funny old thing. In small doses it can often be a good motivator to get the job done right. Whether it’s slamming on the breaks before an inevitable accident or giving you the strength to defend yourself, stress is our body’s way of protecting us from harm. However, chronic stress, when you start to find yourself overwhelmed and anxious more often than not, can have devastating affects on your immune system, digestive system and reproductive system. Our nervous systems aren’t able to distinguish between physical and emotional stress. Thus if you are worrying about pressures at work, deadlines at school, bills, or the latest family argument, your body will react as if it is in real physical danger. The more frequently this emergency system is activated, the easier it becomes to stimulate, and it becomes much harder for us to switch off our fight or flight response.

Continue reading Managing Stress