Make your own bespoke perfume with Uncommon Scents!


When it comes to bespoke fragrances, it doesn’t need to be just the likes of Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé who have all the fun.

While it can cost literally thousands of pounds to create a personalised bottle of perfume, Berkshire-based beauty therapistJanette Hammond from Uncommon Scents can help those who would like to create something special on a more modest budget. She is launching regular flagship scent events in association with the Perfume Studio, which will be held at Malmaison Hotel in Reading, starting on Saturday, 6th October.

Janette will guide you through the world of bespoke perfume and the 21 fragrance blends designed by the Perfume Studio’s Master Perfumier.  Guests will learn about the different ingredients, top notes, middle notes and base notes and how to structure a lasting fragrance.  Not only do you get the chance to make your own perfume – which you can take home in a presentation bottle or atomiser – but you’ll also have the fun of naming it too!

Since setting up her own business, Janette has helped hundreds of people to make their own scent, whether it’s a bride creating a signature scent for their wedding day, a bride-to-be wanting a fun and unusual hen party activity, or a mother and daughter making something special for a birthday. When her sons presented her with a birthday voucher for a perfume-making workshop back in 2008, she realised very quickly that this was her vocation. She trained with the Perfume Studio almost immediately after her workshop and now is one of only a handful of perfume stylists covering the south east.

Janette said: “Our workshops are fun, interactive and informative. You’ll learn a little about the fascinating history of perfume, our sense of smell and how important it was to our survival, how perfume became the massive business it is today and also hear some of the stories behind some of the current perfumes we know and love.

“You’ll find out about the way smells are extracted from fruits, roots, petals, plants and bark, but also why synthetics have an important part to play.”

The workshop takes place at 10.30 on Saturday 6th October at Malmaison Hotel, Reading and costs from £39 per person. For 2019, workshops start at 11am and take place on Saturday 19th January and 27th April.

Cheers! Buttermilk and Pinkster Gin launch Pink Gin Fudge!

Buttermilk and Pinkster pink gin launchFudge fans will be in the pink to hear about the launch of an exciting new flavour from Cornish confectioner Buttermilk.

The family-run firm has joined forces with Pinkster Gin to create a sharing box of crumbly fudge, flavoured with gin-soaked raspberries.

Pinkster founder Stephen Marsh has long been a Buttermilk fan having visited the well-known Padstow shop as a child in the 1970s while on holiday. Years later, by happy coincidence, Buttermilk approached the Cambridge-based gin connoisseur, suggesting that their inebriated British raspberries, known as Boozy Berries, would be a fabulous addition to the range.

Tracy McDonnell Goad, director of Buttermilk, said: “Fudge and gin is a match made in heaven, making it two treats in one, so we are delighted to collaborate with another craft producer to create this scrumptious indulgence.

“The famous Pinkster raspberries have given the fudge a beautiful fruity flavour and everyone who has tasted the fudge so far, agrees with Stephen that it evokes lazy summer days on holiday on the Cornish coast!”

The 150g sharing box retails at £3.99 and is exclusively available at Waitrose.

Reading, watching, listening to – August

Does this school drop off thing get easier?  Two years ago, I dropped the little (and he was little then) one off at school, got into the car and cried. Yesterday, I pretty much did the same.

But anyway, what I’m trying to say in a “back-to-school” shorthand type way is that August is over. Hopefully the rain-free days aren’t finished though, as it seemed to mean that it was acceptable to laze about reading and listening to live music.

In August I read “Have his Carcase” by Dorothy L Sayers. I’m not sure why, but her Lord Peter Wimsey books seem to languish in the LARGE PRINT section of the library. His infamous monocle aside, these books (written in the 1930s), are in some ways, very modern.  This book reads like a modern police procedural with incredible detail of every aspect of the case and a seemingly impossible murder to solve; finding out who dunnit meant quickly learning about how quickly blood clots in a dead body and about the Russian royal family. Just got to venture into the large print section now for the next one.



We came across MrB the Gentleman Rhymer at the bandstand stage at a festival and were almost immediately rolling around the field in stitches listening to him playing Outer Space by the Prodigy on a ukelele in a plummy Surrey accent. His version of “No Dignity” (read: ‘Yo Diggity’ by Dr Dre) is worth checking out too!



Well, like the rest of the population, we are watching Bodyguard!  We are big fans of Jed Mercurio in our house and I even went to a Royal Television Society event to hear him speak on how they conceived, wrote and filmed Line of Duty. Bodyguard is true to form and has meant three sleepless Sunday nights in a row trying to make sense of what we’ve just watched, which I wouldn’t recommend – you can’t second guess Mr Mercurio!


Other stuff:

Newbury Lido is closing on 16th September, so I’ll be basically moving there to get as much swimming in before the end of the season and don’t forget a new weekly Twitter chat for West Berkshire businesses starting TOMORROW from 7-8pm using #wberkshour


A day in the life – Jo Cooke from Hoarding Disorders UK and Tapioca Tidy

One of the many joys of my job is that I get to speak to interesting people all the time and they answer my questions about their working life.  I’ve been working with Jo Cooke for a while  – she is based near Newbury and is a professional declutterer. This work has also led her to co-found a charity for hoarders and their families who need her help and she is the author of a comprehensive book on the subject.

She is great to work with, always has interesting stories and makes such a difference to the lives of her clients. I thought it would be interesting to see what one of her typical days looks like…..



“First thing in the morning after the gym or a swim, I check online for any articles on hoarding and clutter to share on social media. I also have a look to see how my new book “Understanding Hoarding” is doing in the rankings.

“I then check my emails whilst eating breakfast and I usually have a few emails from people who would like advice so they can help someone they know who shows signs of hoarding. On average I also receive a referral from social services or a housing association.

“Each day is completely different but my daily routine always requires bin bags, rubble bags, recycling bags, my tip pass, a permanent marker pen, labels, plastic wallets, luggage tags and post-it notes in my decluttering bag. I also have a reminder to take plenty of water. I am helping folk with their decision making and it can be thirsty work.
Part of the services I offer as part of my organising and decluttering business Tapioca Tidy is to offer a ‘PA at home’ service.

“Sometimes I help clients with admin such as assistance with ensuring their bills are paid or helping people to label sheets and duvets in their linen cupboard so they can see at a glance what size the sheets are; single, double, fitted or king-size.

“I work with many families whose houses are cluttered and can therefore be a fire hazard. Many have problems such as Parkinsons and so progress can be slow so we need to be very gentle and patient. A sense of humour helps too!

“I am Director of Hoarding Disorders UK – a social enterprise that I co-founded after finding hoarding issues are fairly commonplace and very different to clutter issues.
I make regular trips to the recycling unit to drop off glass, paper and plastic and also to the charity shops in Thatcham to take in the clothes that I have decluttered that day. Part of my job is to take items away for either recycling or to donate to charity. It is a part of the service that I know my clients really value as many still have their bags for charity loitering in their hallways and car boots and many people are happier to let things go if they know they’re going to a good home.

“My next job is to think of a speaker for our support groups. We run a hoarding support group – one in Bracknell and one in Newbury. The Newbury group is free to attend and is supported by Greenham Trust; it takes place once a month on a Thursday evening from 7pm to 9pm at Broadway House in Newbury. The group offers support and advice, as well as a relevant speaker. I am thinking perhaps of asking another mindfulness coach to come and talk to the group.

“Many people ask me if my home is tidy and minimalist – to be honest it is not but I do know where everything is. One thing I am proud of is the empty shelf in the kitchen. Now the children have left home I don’t need as much food so actually enjoy looking at the empty shelf.

“I’m not sure if other declutterers feel the same.”


Does your business mean that you have an interesting routine  – I’d love to hear about it!

Neve’s Bees buzzing after launching new lip balm and hand salve ranges

  • Neve’s Bees launches premium beeswax lip balms and hand salves using 100% natural and organic ingredients
  • Eynsham-based company wins contract to supply Blenheim Palace shops


An Oxfordshire beekeeper’s newly-launched skincare product range has received a welcome boost after winning a contract to supply Blenheim Palace’s retail shops.

Neve’s Bees was launched in April by ‘deputy Queen Bee’ Julie Macken, aged 48, who has created a range of high-quality lip balms and hand salves. The company is named after Julie’s daughter Neve who, at the age of nine, asked if the family could keep bees.


With a degree in chemistry and a 20-year career in pharmaceutical marketing, Julie had long been pondering a need for more products made from pure, natural ingredients. She began to make products for presents for her friends and family and they proved so popular that in April, she made the business her full-time job.

From her garden and kitchen table, Julie has created a lip balm range and a hand salve range with further products in the pipeline.

She said: “Neve’s Bees products are 100% natural with no paraffin, no parabens or other artificial preservatives or emulsifiers, just pure beeswax from our bees here in West Oxfordshire, natural plant and seed oils and precious essential oils which make our products smell great!”

The lip balms are in slider tins and cost £4.50 (including postage from ) with flavours including the best-selling Sweet Grapefruit plus Honey Vanilla, Rosey, Chocolate Orange, Lemon & Lime, Buttermint and Original. Each flavour is made with natural ingredients including organic shea butter; organic jojoba oil, organic coconut oil and organic essential oil of vanilla. Each one, of course, includes 100% natural beeswax which helps to naturally seal moisture into the skin. All have a natural SPF of 15.

The hand salves cost £8.50 (including postage) and flavours include Grapefruit & Bergamot, Lemon & Lavender, May Chang, Ylang Ylang & Patchouli, Vanilla Musk and Rosey and are available in 30ml screw-top tins

Julie adds: “The oils we eventually selected for our hand salve are not only very effective skin moisturisers but they absorb quickly – this is why your skin feels nourished and soft but not greasy. Many beeswax hand salves contain mostly olive oil which, whilst a good moisturiser, stays greasy on your skin for a much longer time. We also use organic Jojoba oil, almost identical molecularly to skin’s natural sebum, and Natural Vitamin E, all of which combine to create a super soft, rich hand balm that absorbs quickly to leave your skin feeling supple and nourished but not greasy.”
Neve’s Bees beat more than 100 other local firms to be selected as the winner of Blenheim’s ‘dragons-den’ style competition and the process has proved to be the catalyst to make Neve’s Bees a favourite among consumers who really want something a bit different.

“We pride ourselves on being just a bit different to the norm – using cute (but not plastic!) packaging, bright cheerful designs and amazing natural fragrances,” continued Julie. “We’re now working on building relationships with more retailers to stock our skincare range.”

All products are made under EU licence and are available at a selection of shops across Oxfordshire as well as online at and



July- reading, watching, listening to…

Just loving this beautiful weather, which seems to lend itself to the ‘listening to’ in particular! So this month, I’ve mainly been:

Reading; Leap In

leap in

After writing a successful call-to-arms on the subject of running, author Alexandra Heminsley turns her attention to the water in this beautifully-written book which will inspire you to…well.. to leap in.

From a description of her first encounter with a wetsuit to google problems, it’s hugely relatable and her guidance on simply exhaling served me well on a couple of occasions when a stressed me took to the swimming pool. I liked her descriptions of swimming events with simple advice about the strangest of things which can be quite confusing on the day and also the way she cuts through the bravado and the competitiveness (something which has put me off entering competitions).


Watching – Keeping Faith


While everyone else was bingeing on Quality Street around Christmas, I shamefully took to the sofa and watched this eight-episode Welsh language series in ONE go. Embarrassing, but worth it. This was a great drama with the most incredible landscapes, set against stunning scenery, and is now in English. While some of it was a bit head scratching, Eve Myles, who plays Faith, is just mesmorising  – playing a lawyer, mother and wife while taking the time to be one of the girls.  This all leads to problems when her husband suddenly goes missing one morning and she tries to find out why and where.

Listening to: The Slow Readers Club

What else!

Don’t forget the Twitter meet up starting in September and also to check out Buttermilk’s new caramel sea salt snack bar WHICH IS WRAPPED IN COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING! Available now in BP!


What’s on at West Berkshire Athena in September



After an August break, The Athena Network has a full agenda of business topics for its September meetings.

The Newbury West group is set to meet on Thursday, 12th September at the Red House in Marsh Benham where Julie Fowler Marketing will be explaining the benefits of a strategic marketing plan.

The Hungerford group meets on Friday, 13th September at Audley Inglewood Kintbury where Charlotte Riley of Being Truly Me will be discussing the benefits of blogging to your business.

The Thatcham group meets on Tuesday, 17th September at the Regency Park Hotel where Rachel Maunder will be offering advice on how to plan, structure and write a presentation, with key tips on delivery including ‘nerves management’.

Finally, the Newbury Central group meets on Wednesday, 18th September at Arigato in Newbury where Simone Bonnett of the Social Managers discussing Linked In and how to develop content for this social media platform.

The Athena Network regional director Debbie Miles said: “We’d love to meet any local business women who appreciate the support of other women and are passionate about their business products and services.

“Our brand of informative and collaborative networking can help new entrepreneurs who wish to kickstart their fledgling business, as well as established businesses that would like to move to the next level. It can be tough running a small business and apart from the business development many of our members talk about the friendships they have developed.”

All meetings start at midday. For more  information or to visit as a guest, please contact Debbie.Miles at

Buttermilk Fudge backs innovative Tidal Revival beach clean up app

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Buttermilk is sponsoring the new Tidal Revival app, making it the latest Cornish business to get behind the initiative which encourages people to clear plastic waste from the coast.

The free app was launched worldwide this week, to incentivise people to spend time picking up litter by rewarding them with discount vouchers and treats from local businesses.

Every beach in the UK has been added to the app, with work on-going to add beaches all around the world. Users score points based on the amount of plastic they collect, meaning that they can cash in their points for treats while also helping the environment.

As well as being one of the earliest sponsors of the app, Buttermilk’s Padstow store has a treat for app users. Here, Tidal Revival app users will be able to exchange 100 points for Buttermilk’s newly-launched caramel sea salt fudge snack bar.

The snack bars are wrapped in plant-based wrappers instead of plastic. Once the fudge has been enjoyed, the cellulose packaging can be placed into a home compost bin and will decompose within 26 weeks at ambient temperature.

Buttermilk director, Tracy McDonnell Goad said: “Sustainability is an important part of Buttermilk’s ethos and we are making a start on finding a plastic-free solution for our packaging. We want customers can enjoy a guilt-free treat, knowing that the packaging will not end up in the oceans. Being based in Cornwall means we’re surrounded by beaches so we see first-hand the importance of incorporating environmentally-sustainable packaging materials.

“Buttermilk is a proudly Cornish business and all of our team live and spend a great deal of time near the coast. We see day-to-day the impact of plastic on the ocean and were delighted to be approached by the Tidal Revival founder Rob Martindale.”

 Please email me for more info or to speak to the founder!

Dear Mrs Bird

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Author AJ Pearce might have inadvertently invited the audience of her talk at Hungerford Town Hall to be extras when the time comes for her novel to be made into a television series.

And that wasn’t the only bit of good news for the mostly female audience that gathered for her chat with Hungerford Bookshop owner Emma Milne-White about her first novel Dear Mrs Bird. Fans of the book will be delighted to hear that a sequel is on its way.

The original book was inspired when AJ Pearce started collecting wartime magazines and found herself compelled by the advice columns. Letters from the era give an incredible insight into the worries faced by the women on the home front, ranging from queries on rations to terrible wartime losses of loved ones.

Not only that, but they reflect the remarkable Blitz spirit of the times – there’s no moaning or self-pity, but a determination to Get On With It.

Dear Mrs Bird embodies this with a story about a young would-be war journalist Emmeline Lake who accidentally lands a job on an ailing women’s magazine. Rather than writing about political intrigue or the war cabinet, she finds herself weeding out any ‘Unpleasantness’ among the letters to the magazine’s resident agony aunt Mrs Bird. Unable to turn her back on the pleas for help, she decides to secretly write back.

The book is so upbeat and positive that it was interesting to hear how true-to-life it was thanks to the author’s research. Thanks to interviewer Emma’s enthusiasm for the subject, the audience heard about the writing and research process which included conversations with real women who had served in the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and the collection of wartime photo albums that the author found in eBay and junk shops. Unloved photos were brought back to life as the inspiration for the characters, including Mrs Bird who was a particular source of interest from the audience.

This prompted Pearce to read out a real letter from an advice column from 1903 –  a beautiful, earnest letter written by a 10-year-old which was met with a strange and heartless response from an Edwardian agony aunt.

This was a lovely talk on the power of positivity and the reality of living through a world war, but most importantly, to the power of friendship.

(appeared first in the NWN)

West Berks Athena in July

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July’s Athena Network meetings include a talk on how to work with different people and also how to make an impact with your image.

The Thatcham meeting takes place on Tuesday 17th July at the Regency Park Hotel where Tamsin Regnes a MBTI® Certified Practitioner will be demonstrating how differences in people’s preferences for information and decision making can present challenges when working with others. Attendees will have a better appreciation of the behavioural cues of others, enabling them to adapt and reduce frustration.

The Newbury Central meeting takes place on Wednesday, 18th July at Arigato where Lara Lauder, Image and Impact Consultant, will be giving her top tips on “How to be Remembered for the Right Reasons”. Visitors will learn how to ensure they can create that all important first impression and achieve more in business as a result.

Debbie Miles, Regional Director for The Athena Network in West Berkshire, said “We pride ourselves on the quality and relevance of the training that we offer in each of our meetings.  Not only do our members share their professional expertise, but each meeting we allocate some time to honing our networking skills. “

All meetings take place between 12pm and 2pm and visitors are always welcome.