Getting through April!

Happy 1st April – although this is a prank-free zone!

Someone asked me for tips on how to stay away from the fridge while you work from home. If I ever work this out, I will let you know, but it did make me realise that I have been self-isolating for a few years now! This is how we’ve been combining school-work with working from home and setting out our days:

  1. Exercise –  Joe Wicks is just the kind of person you need to be spending time with at the moment. Relentlessly cheerful and seemingly successful at getting adults and children alike to bunny hop around the living room, he is an inspiration and vital to ensuring people who can’t get outside, are still getting exercise.

Don’t forget that guidelines allow us to go outside once a day for a walk, run or cycle, so if you can, make the most of this.  Dr William Bird, founder of Intelligent Health which runs the Beat the Street game is asking people to walk for 30 minutes to strengthen their immune system and to #BeatTheBug.  Exercise is one crucial component of ensuring your immune system is ready to create ‘natural killer cells’ to fight against the virus.

If this is too much and you’re not meant to be leaving the house at present, remember that you can do chair exercises with leg and arm raises, or lift tins of baked beans. Anything is better than nothing.

We also love the Lotte Berk workouts where the brilliant teacher is raising money for Refuge. These exercises might not be suitable for children though!

2. Music-  we have a daily kitchen disco to lift the spirits, plus we’ve been to more gigs via live stream in the last week than in the whole of 2020 to date! With events, festivals and gigs cancelled all over the place (even Glastonbury!!), lots of musicians are struggling. Why not check out a local musician and put the ticket price in the virtual tip jar?  In the last couple of weeks, we’ve watched Ferocious Dog, Gaz Brookfield, Dubioza Kolektiv, Edgelarks, Holy Moly and the Crackers, 3 Daft Monkeys, and Nick Parker with a cup of tea in hand (although I’ve noticed there’s no queue for the bar!) and without people nattering in the row behind. There’s a timetable of live streamed gigs so you can see what’s coming up here

3. TV – there’s classic films on BBC 2 next week so what better time to introduce your kids (or yourself!) to classics like The Man in the White Suit or School for Scoundrels

4. Books – libraries are closed, so try your local independent bookshop where they might recommend specifically omething for you. Audible has some free books – we are currently listening to Kid Normal which we somehow missed when it came out in 2017.

We’re also introducing the small one to books we enjoyed as children; Malory Towers (there’s a new adaptation on BBC iPlayer which is not at all bad!) and the Jennings books for some nice old fashioned comfort. You can also check out authors like David Walliams reading his work.

5. Comedy – it’s so important to find things to laugh at and to step away from the weirdness of real life right now. We’re watching Le Navet Bete’s Dick Tracy show and also looking forward to a live tweet along on Friday evenings at 7pm  with Mischief Theatre, the mad cap team behind the Goes Wrong Show that was on BBC one earlier this year.  Looks like they’re going to start with the incredibly ambitious “90 degrees”. My son knows this word for word and frequently acts out his favourite line which is performed by a dog: “I’m executing a three-point turn”.

6. Netflix – recently added: Community (we’ll soon find out if it stayed joyously funny beyond series 3); Brooklyn 99 series 6 (prompting the question when is series 7 going to appear) and for kids, the Studio Ghibli collection  – our favourites, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away, plus added today: Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle; Pom Poko; Whisper of the Heart; From Up on Poppy Hill; The Wind Rises and When Marnie Was There.

7. Treats

Nostalgia is a great comfort at difficult times like this. We try to set aside time for chatting to friends and also important little treats like Buttermilk who are sending out a little taste of Cornwall. There’s all your favourite fudge flavours from Vanilla to Clotted Cream to Rum and Cappuccino.

Screenshot (57)

If you’re looking to cheer a friend up, Buttermilk also have two Easter egg ranges – a ‘traditional’ range including a Caramelised Hazelnut Easter egg  ; a Caramelised Sea Salt Easter egg and a Dark Cacao Nib Easter egg plus two ‘free from’ eggs; a delicious Choc Orange free from egg and a Choc Honeycomb Easter Egg

Have a lovely April!  Stay safe – in the words (almost) of Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “let’s come together by staying apart”. Wash those hands and stay well. We will get through this  xx


Mushroom ketchup!

For those in the know, Geo Watkins’ Mushroom Ketchup conjures up that popular, rich umami flavour bringing to British cooking a flavour inspired by the 19th century Far East. Mushroom Ketchup is made with real mushrooms to give it that taste with a hint of Worcestershire Sauce and soy sauce – it’s a far cry from the thick, sugary tomato sauce we now call ketchup. Geo Watkins was established in 1830 and still makes its signature Mushroom Ketchup and Anchovy Sauce in the spirit of the original recipes.

Laurence Henry, award-winning chef, said: “Mushroom Ketchup is something I’ve used in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. It’s got an incredible umami flavour and goes with so many different dishes, from vegan ramen to a marinated steak. I’ve always got a bottle or two in the cupboard.

“There are some great traditional foodie secrets out there and I want to help people both find out about them and appreciate how they’re relevant today. We all love a good tomato sauce, but Mushroom Ketchup is the real ketchup as far as I’m concerned.”

Food historian, cook, lecturer and broadcaster Dr Annie Gray added: “There’s a 19th century author who states simply that ‘mushroom catsup is by far the most useful of all sauces: indeed, it is the base of nearly every kind of sauce which is made’. I agree, and I add it to a lot of things, whether historic or modern. It’s my go-to for pepping up gravies, bechamel, veloutés and hollandaise, and I also add it when I’m basting roasts and often to my salad dressings.

“I love it for its heritage, and I discovered it through historic recipes, but like anything amazing from the past, it’s totally relevant now. Mushroom ketchup always wins for sheer versatility – and in a modern context, it helps that it is vegan as well.”

Beat the Street Swindon enters final few weeks


Swindon’s six-week long Beat the Street challenge has reached a grand total of 192,000 miles as the game enters its ‘Go Active’ week.

Beat the Street is a free walking and cycling game taking place across the town and some villages until 6 November with prizes of sports, fitness and book vouchers for the teams that travel the furthest.

Currently, the teams at the top of the Total Points leaderboard are Haydonleigh Primary School, Orchid Vale and Ruskin Junior School, while the Average Points leaderboard is led by WHSmith; Centurion Wolf Explorer Scout Unit, and Swindon Striders.

Having encouraged more than 25,000 people across the town to get more active, organisers now want to build upon that momentum and encourage people to try different sports and fitness activities across Swindon during ‘Go Active’ week.

This includes a selection of free classes including trampolining with BETTER at Haydon Centre & Gym on Monday 29 October from 11.30am – 1.30pm. Details of how to book these can be found on Beat the Street Swindon’s Facebook page.

Last year’s Beat the Street game shows that the initiative has significant long-term benefits for inactive adults helping families and whole communities to get moving and keep active.

In Swindon, six months after the game took place in 2018, physical inactivity had decreased by 8% in adults and 44% in children.

Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: “With half term taking place and the end of the game in sight, we’d ask anyone who hasn’t yet registered to pick up a card and get involved – you’ll find the game and its benefits addictive! We’re delighted that the evaluation shows that participants are likely to continue doing regular activity even once the game has ended.

“Don’t forget that as well as doing great things for your health, you’ll also be in with a chance of winning prizes for your team or for one of the two charities, selected by the mayor Kevin Parry –  CALM (Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Movement) and the North Wiltshire Deaf Children’s Society.”

Beat the Street is delivered by Intelligent Health and is funded by the National Lottery on behalf of Sport England, and Swindon Borough Council.

More information, as well as rules, maps and a list of card distribution points, is available on the new Beat the Street website at as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Nine points for business success

If you’re a journalist who’d like to speak to my PR client about how to redress gender balance in the boardroom or would like to try out her nine point audit to help with promotion and confidence in the workplace, please email me magatha28 at hotmail dot com

Hungerford Food Festival – Sunday 6th October

The annual Hungerford Food Festival is back for 2019 and the date to put in your diaries is Sunday, 6th October.

Lizzy Cheese close.JPG

The event is gaining a reputation across the south east as a must-visit day of foodie fun which takes place from 10.30am to 4pm at the Hungerford Town Hall where there will be live music, exhibitors, stalls, talks and live cooking demonstrations – entry is just £1.

The High Street too will be filled with the aroma of more than 50 stalls providing everything from pizza to curry to gourmet burgers to vegetarian specialities.

The festival is a real family event and there is a lemon eating competition for kids, plus a chilli eating competition for adults, and children are invited to make their own healthy food creation with staff from Hungerford Nursery. Plus, there’s also a kids’ cook off event where children will be invited to cook with Wiltshire chef and author Lucinda Miller.

Sustainability is also very much a theme of this year’s event and visitors will be able to buy food in bulk in their own containers from the Lonely Lentil zero waste stall and a new company inspired by last year’s Hungerford Food Festival, called Beer, there and everywhere will be selling refillable three-pint beer bottles.

There will be information on how to use less plastic and how to make your own compost to the benefits to health, the countryside and the climate from eating venison. Attendees can learn how to avoid cling film and other plastic disposables by making beeswax eco wraps with Little B, a local maker of beeswax food wraps, an eco-friendly, plastic-free way to keep food fresh.

As well as having a range of her wax wraps for sale, Little B Founder Claire Black will be offering hands-on demonstrations where participants can choose from a selection of fabric prints and sizes and make a wax wrap to take home.

Visitors can bring along their own apples to make into juice, and also watch rapeseeds get pressed into oil.

Hungerford Food Festival is a family-friendly community event that has been celebrating local food producers and artisans since 2009. The event supports  Hungerford Environmental Action Team (HEAT) and is sponsored by Doves Farm, Blandy’s at Inglewood and the Media Marketing Co.

Committee chairwoman Penny Locke said: “This is the ninth year of the Hungerford Food Festival and we’re still finalising all of the entertainment to ensure that it is the biggest event so far, so please keep checking the festival website to see what’s been added.

“We’ll have something for everyone from serious foodies to people who just want to get a flavour of the local produce that’s available from smaller producers. Add in some entertainment, demonstrations and live music, and you have the ingredients for an exciting day out.”



Hungerford Food Festival is a family friendly community event that has been celebrating local food producers and artisans since 2009. The event supports Hungerford Environmental Action Team.


Get Christmas wrapped up with a new eco alternative to paper waste

Dove & Lily DS.JPG

Christmas can be a time of huge wastefulness with wrapping paper alone causing an environmental nightmare.

A OnePoll survey from 2017 found that the equivalent of 108m rolls of wrapping paper are sent to landfill in the UK every Christmas. More than 75m trees are cut down to be made into wrapping paper every year and most cannot be recycled due to the use of dyes and plastic laminations.

Determined to do something about this, designer Hema Kumar has recently set up FabRap, a sustainable and stylish fabric alternative. Inspired by the Japanese art of gift wrapping called Furoshiki, FabRap makes even the simplest of gifts something distinctive. There is a range of beautiful designs including two Christmas motifs that come in either single or double-sided.

The reusable 100% Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton gift wraps make any gift complete whether it’s for a birthday, an anniversary or Christmas and both the giver and recipient can enjoy the knowledge that each wrap is produced in sustainable and fair methods.

As a young child, owner and designer Hema Kumar wrapped her gift in fabric before even understanding that this was an ancient Japanese tradition called Furoshiki. The mother-of-two has always nurtured a love for natural fabrics and reusable gift wrapping and is passionate about reducing waste.

She set up FabRap in November 2018 and drew on her Indian heritage for inspiration with the gorgeous designs and vibrant colours. She also works with a company in India that manufacturers the wraps to her specifications.

Hema said: “I was always fascinated by wrapping gifts and took immense pride in the task. So much so, that I became the designated family ‘wrapper’. Being of Indian origin, I was surrounded by luscious textiles of silk and embroidered cotton with beautifully illustrated patterns. This filled me with a passion to design and create anything and everything using this wonderful medium.”

She adds: “FabRapping is easy and does not even require sticky tape or scissors. You do not need to know anything about gift wrapping to make your gifts stand out from the crowd. Our deluxe double-sided and our elegant single-sided fabrics are timeless and reusable. You don’t need to get it right the first time, as with paper and sticky tape. You can wrap anything in these amazing FabRaps and be certain that the result will always bring a smile to the recipient’s face.”

How to wrap a gift using FabRap:

  • Lay a FabRap cloth on a table or flat work surface. Place your gift in the centre.
  • Fold over diagonally one corner of the FabRap to the opposite side of the gift
  • Bring the opposite corner of the FabRap to fold over the other side of the gift
  • Fold in the sides of one of the loose corners to create a point
  • Do the same with the other loose corner
  • Bring both points of the FabRap and tie them across the top of the gift at the centre
  • The corners remain loose for a beautiful bow effect

Or check out this video for inspiration!

FabRap is available online at and prices range from €7 – €25 including UK delivery.

For journalist samples, more info or an interview, please tweet me @newburymummy



And that’s a wrap – Hungerford Summer Festival concludes for 2019

This year’s Hungerford Summer Festival has come to an end after a truly eclectic range of events packed into its two-week programme.

The Hungerford Summer Festival (formerly HADCAF) concluded on Sunday night with the Hungerford Town Band performing Movie Magic at the Corn Exchange.

The town has enjoyed a wide range of performances over the past two weeks, including singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine, Ada Campe, Vanessa Kisuule, The Red Stripe Band, Opus2 Choir, Guy Masterson, Uncovered, The Derek Paravicini Quartet, Adam Winslet and the Magnificent Seven, Phoenix Brass, the Kennet Accordion Orchestra and the Hungerford Town Band.

Nick Lumley at Hungerford SUmmer Festival launch.jpgConstable of the Town and Manor Nick Lumley introduces the festival

There have been much-acclaimed theatrical performances from the Community of Hungerford Theatre Company plus their Children’s Theatre and Youth Theatres, as well as free events, workshops, walks and the opportunity to view a showcase of local art at the Hungerford Summer Festival exhibition at the Hungerford Hub and Library.

Hungerford Summer Festival chairman Fiona Poole said: “What a busy couple of weeks it’s been! We’ve had a fantastic festival this year which is due to everyone who supports us from all of our sponsors, to performers to our wonderful volunteers, the superb venues around the town and of course the audiences who come out and participate.

“We’d love to hear your feedback on the events of 2019 as we’re already planning next year’s festival!”

Boo! Boo Hewerdine coming to the Hungerford Summer Festival Wed 3 July

Boo Hewerdine – Hungerford Summer Festival on Wednesday 3rd July

Boo Hewerdine.jpgThe Croft Hall Hungerford

Tickets £10

Pre-show supper option £9

Boo Hewerdine’s forthcoming album, set for release in September, does not contain a single guitar.

The Ivor Novello award-winning singer-songwriter has been collecting unusual instruments ranging from a Dulcitone to an Indian harmonium and a Vibraphone, and combined them with an old piano to create a sound that his record company considers to be the best thing he’s done in years.

Hewerdine is widely considered to be one of the best songwriters in the business and has written songs for kd lang, Mel C, Marti Pellow and perhaps most famously – Eddi Reader from Fairground Attraction.

However, Hewerdine’s gig at the Croft Hall, Hungerford, as part of the Hungerford Summer Festival, will see him perform solo with his guitar.

“I was going to struggle to get the harmonium on the train,” he jokes. “So it’s just me and my guitar on my own which is my favourite type of gig. The Hungerford audience can expect lots of chat and stories.

“I’ve got a new album out in September so there will be some songs from that and favourites from the past 30 years, but I can’t tell you what I’ll play as I like to react to the space and the people and let that influence what songs I play. Sometimes you look down at the set list and think that the next song isn’t quite right for the atmosphere so it’s good to respond to the room. While it can add a little bit of extra pressure, it feels really good when you pull it off.”

When Hewerdine arrives in Hungerford, it will be part of his fifth consecutive tour of 2019. His busy schedule has seen him in this week alone in Cornwall, Scotland, Yorkshire and London, combining a tour with Darden Smith with teaching the art of song-writing through his unique workshops.

The pair’s album Evidence was released 30 years ago and they’ve marked the occasion with an anniversary tour.

He said: “We didn’t know if anyone would remember this old album from 30 years ago, but we put on a couple of gigs and they kept selling out. It’s been mindblowing.”

Boo Hewerdine plays Hungerford Summer Festival on Wednesday, 3rd July at 8pm.


Mr Shaha’s recipes of wonder: adventures in science around the kitchen table

We all know that we should read to our young children to help them with their literacy. But what about science? How can you help your child to gain an understanding of the world around them?


We went to a terrific talk thanks to Newbury Talks at the weekend – one of their regular free talks on interesting topics – by Alom Shaha who has written this Mr Shaha’s Recipes of Wonder to help parents get their children asking the right questions.

He is a physics teacher with a background in TV production, which was evident from his entertaining demonstrations. Small son and I have emulated his demo and worked out way through even more teabags than usual!

What was great about this talk (and this book), is that science isn’t all about white coats, beakers and chemical formulae.  And that is is OK not to know the answers; but to prompt your child to work out how they could do an experiment or know how to find the answer to their questions.

His great advice includes encouraging children to take an interest in the world and see things around you. Be positive, don’t say how much you hated science at school. Ask questions – what would happen if you changed things? What might happen if I make this shorter/add liquid/move it? 

Play around with the parameters and take activities and make them into science experiments.  If you’re doing something, related to something else, reinforce those ideas. 

Right, off to grab some wine glasses as a science experiment 😀


Le Navet Bete’s – Three Musketeers

“It’s like a giant Rubik’s Cube that we have to solve live in front of an audience.”

This is how Nick Bunt from Le Navet Bete describes The Three Musketeers: A Comedy Adventure which the madcap group (whose name translates to The Stupid Turnip) will be bringing to the Corn Exchange, Newbury, from 12th to 14th June.

Three Muskateers_Mark Dawson Photography_DSC0728.jpg

Le Navet Bete- pic by Mark Dawson


Fans of the hilarious West Country troupe will agree that a Rubik’s Cube is a fitting analogy for the colourful and multi-faceted performances that Le Navet Bete are well-known for. Combine all that with clever set design that the actors carry out themselves, along with physical comedy, deliberate errors plus multiple costume changes, and you’ll be excited to see what they’ll do with the Alexandré Dumas classic.

Le Navet Bete comprises four actors – Nick Bunt, Matt Freeman, Al Dunn and Dan Bianchi – plus Alex ‘Wheaty’ Best who is the production manager. The fivesome met at the University of Plymouth on a theatre and performance course ten years ago where they realised they had the same comedic taste and love of physical theatre and clowning. They started working together, took a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and have toured extensively, building up a loyal fanbase along the way.

Since then, they’ve tackled everything from The Jungle Book to Aladdin to Dick Tracy. Two years ago, they set their sights on Alexandre Dumas’ historical adventure story and their intensive writing process has culminated in this show which recently premiered at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter.

Nick Bunt, who plays Cardinal Richelieu, Aramis, and at least seven other parts is excited to be returning to West Berkshire.

He said: “We make shows for literally anyone to come and enjoy from ages 4 to 104. It’s pure escapism, it’s fun, it’s joyous, always a twinkle in our eyes and a strong connection with the audience. Audiences are why we do this job and we want to make them feel comfortable right from the start. It’s two hours of sheer madness and engaging storytelling.

“We have been coming to Newbury for about five years now with various shows, firstly at New Greenham Arts Centre and now at the Corn Exchange. Over this time, we’ve steadily built up a brilliant loyal fan base who keep coming back for more. The audiences in Newbury are always so up for a laugh and this is why we keep coming back!”

“We’ve taken Alexandre Dumas’ classic story – that’s 700 pages of epic adventure – and condensed it into just two hours of high energy, fun and hugely entertaining theatre for absolutely anyone and everyone to enjoy.”

True to form, swords seem to have been replaced with baguettes, horses with bikes and the four actors play a grand total of 41 characters between them. Not only are there 50 outfits and 112 costume changes, but the group has decided for the first time that it might be fun to carry out the costume changes on stage, in front of the audience.

“It’s a story that’s been told a thousand times but we’ve put a fun twist on it, remembering childhood days of playing dress-up in dens and treehouses. It’s a great way to let the story play out and audiences have been loving it,” he adds. “It’s absolutely the most ambitious piece of work we’ve ever made, and we cannot wait to share it!”

Interview first appeared in the Newbury Weekly News..