Reading, watching, listening to – April

It’s going to be May this week! Not that you’d know by looking out of the window.  You, like me, may be fed up to the back teeth of hearing about GDPR, so I’ve decided to just delete my database and Mailchimp account and won’t be sending out marketing emails anymore! My work blog will still talk about current projects and will offer PR advice, and my inane witterings and updates will stay here.  At the bottom of my marketing emails (long after everyone had stopped reading), I used to talk about what I was reading, watching and listening to. And here it is!


The husband has just bought me a copy of “Coal Black Mornings” by Suede frontman Brett Anderson as he knows how much I love this band. I haven’t told him (my husband, not Brett Anderson), that I read this earlier this month. In one sitting.

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It is a beautifully-written autobiography about Anderson’s pre-fame days, before Suede won any Mercury Prizes and before the release of Dog Man Star, one of my favourite albums of all time. Far from being the posh boy I thought he was, he grew up in dreadful poverty on a council estate with eccentric parents.

Anderson calls it a “book about failure” but it is far from it. It explains everything about their music and their raw, blistering lyrics. There’s no romance or luxury here and when you read about Anderson’s upbringing it explains Suede’s gritty, real lyrics and the classical undertones to their music. It is this incredible musicality that drew me to them in the first place – I remember hearing So Young when I was in sixth form and feeling blown away. As a huge misfit myself, this was a band that I could identify with. Their first two albums are a major part of the soundtrack to my life and they were the first band I ever saw live. He is a phenomenal frontman – so energetic and passionate. And so beautiful….


I came across The Good Place on Netflix by accident and stayed as it has the always-brilliant Ted Danson as the architect of the afterlife and Kirsten Bell, she of the voice of Anna in Frozen in a brightly-coloured afterlife.   Eleanor Shellstrop dies and owing to a mix-up (they think she was a human rights lawyer), turns up in the Good Place in error. What I didn’t realise until a few episodes in is that this ‘Son of a Bench’ was getting a ‘forking’philosophy lesson. (You can’t swear in the Good Place).


There’s a twist at the end of series one that you’ll see coming, but The Good Place is the first time I’ve ever seen a comedy that has moral philosophy at its heart.  Eleanor is a self-centred, terrible person, but you’ll love her and admire her for trying to get better. Moving into series two, Eleanor has become inspiring. Though she isn’t perfect, she’s fascinating and has inadvertently inspired me to be a better person too.

Listening to:

Emily Barker

Let me know what you’re reading, watching, listening to! @newburymummy

Athena – what’s on May -June



Making a good impression is integral to networking and is one of the subjects of the next month’s Athena Network meetings gs for West Berkshire businesswomen.

Speakers for May and June include Rachel Maunder, the ‘Mindshift Mentor’ who will be discussing the ‘power of speaking as part of your business promotion’ and will be offering tips on writing and delivering a presentation at the Hungerford meeting that takes place on Friday May 11th at Audley Inglewood.

The Thatcham meeting takes place on Tuesday May 15th at The Regency Park Hotel, Thatcham where Victoria Lochhead of Frankie & Ruby will be offering tips about personal style.

The Newbury Central meeting takes place on Wednesday May 16th at Arigato, Newbury; Jodie Green, tax accountant at Wilkins Kennedy will be offering expert advice on tax.

The Newbury West meeting takes place on Thursday ​June 14th at T​he Red House Marsh Benham where Lara Lauder, Presence, Impact and Image Consultant will be discuss how to ensure you and your business create a positive first impression.

Debbie Miles runs the four West Berkshire groups and said: “At the Athena Network we pride ourselves on the quality of our speakers and the relevance of the topics to supporting our members’ business and personal development.”

All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm and visitors are always welcome but must book in advance.



Cornish Chocolate maker Chocolarder launches its crowdfunding campaign!

Artisan chocolate maker Chocolarder is launching a crowdfunding campaign for a factory expansion including a unique community hub in Porthleven which will be the only location in Cornwall where confectionery lovers can see world-class chocolate being made from scratch.

Chocolarder, based in Ponsanooth, near Falmouth, is a bean-to-bar producer making chocolate from start to finish. Currently, Chocolarder is just one man in a cold concrete production space in a Cornish valley but it’s hoped the crowdfunding campaign will raise the £30,000 required to equip a new factory to keep pace with growing markets. The money raised will also help founder Mike Longman to refurbish an antique Victorian cacao roaster to accommodate the increasing demand for fine quality, ethically-produced chocolate.

Once complete, the new facility will be a real destination for chocolate lovers, hosting a café and space for chocolate workshops and events.

Mike founded Chocolarder in 2012 and since then has won acclaim and a loyal fanbase for his exquisite premium chocolate range with unique ingredients ranging from sea buckthorn to wild gorse plus gold, frankincense and myrrh! Chocolarder currently supplies selected farm shops and delicatessens across the West Country as well as high-end retailers Harrods and Selfridges.

The larger production facility will enable Mike to keep up with the growing demand for his products. Additionally, Mike will be able to share his passion and knowledge of the growers, the entire chocolate-making process and its health benefits when produced correctly.

The crowdfunding campaign will get underway at midday on 14th March at

where donors can enjoy exclusive gifts and experiences such as tours, corporate events and products ranging from just £10 to £5,000.

Prior to launch, the campaign has already drawn the attention of judges in a competition supported by Crowdfunder, Go Daddy, Exporting is Great and Capital IFX, and has won £1,000.

Donors can get exclusive access to Mike’s ever-expanding range of experimental products and other rewards include:

  • An invitation to the launch party which is scheduled for July and will include a hog roast and of course, Chocolarder chocolates, for £40 a head
  • A hot chocolate and a personal thank you from Mike at the new café for £10
  • A feast night with three-course meal with Mike and also Chris Eden, the first Cornishman to be awarded a Michelin star for £100 per head
  • An exclusive Chocolarder subscription giving you three bars through the post every month for a year for £150
  • An exclusive surfboard with other Chocolarder merchandise for £1800


You can also buy the opportunity to name the new roaster for just £1,000 and you’ll also be the person who uses the machine for the very first cacao bean roasting!

Mike said: “This next chapter is a giant step for Chocolarder.  My intention was to create a product based on the principles that have always been at the heart of great food – unadulterated enjoyment without compromise. We are genuinely thrilled to be able to open up the workshop so that people can see and feel a part of the amazing work we are doing, by bringing chocolate-making back to an artisan level and bringing about a revolution in its production!”

Chocolarder is proud of its strong ethical principles and all aspects of the business are run as sustainably and ethically as possible.  Mike is committed to buying raw ingredients at above-market prices and shipping both the raw and finished product with minimal impact on the environment. Packaging is 100% plastic free and is completely recyclable.

Mike added: “We are so grateful for all the support that we’ve had from our incredible community of luxury chocolate lovers. We often say that our customers feel like friends more than strangers and we’d love to involve even more people to share in our next adventure!  By crowdfunding this way, we hope to remain true to the qualities of our business that make it so special. Come and join us!”


Launch of Ridgeway Nutrition!

You could be forgiven for being confused by the massive array of diet options available at the moment – there’s keto, paleo, GI and the juice diet to name just a handful.

It can be hard to know where to start and which nutrition plan is best for you. To guide people through the maze, Flick Lucas, a West Ilsley-based mother-of-two, has set up a new specialist nutrition consultancy called Ridgeway Nutrition for anyone wanting to get help and guidance on being healthier.

Passionate about good food and healthy eating, Flick is a Diet and Nutrition Adviser registered with the International Association of Holistic Therapists and the Complementary Medicine Association. She knows all about being too busy to find the time to cook, let alone to prepare healthy meals. With a career in IT that meant an early commute to London, returning late at night, she realised that her health was suffering.

When her two children were born, she decided not to return to her demanding job and looked to her passion for food as a career option.

Flick is able to provide a range of services for anyone who wants to overhaul their eating habits, whether that’s embracing veganism, giving up refined sugar or even avoiding Palm Oil. Her specialist plans include a nutrition ‘reboot’ programme, dietary guidance for toddlers and young children; three-month weight management programmes and nutrition tune-up packages and cookery classes.

She also can help new mothers and mothers-to-be who she says can be ‘bombarded’ with conflicting information about what to eat.

She said “I realised that healthy eating doesn’t have to mean denying yourself and I can show you how to reach your goals in a balanced, healthy way. Whether this is losing weight, adjusting to a new diet due to medical reasons or allergies, or just being more mindful about the food you eat. Eating healthily doesn’t mean your food has to be bland!”

Flick, who wants to spread the message of healthy eating, has already approached her local school and offers healthy cooking as part of an after-school club.

She said: “I can also help with animal welfare concerns and give advice and guidance on how to eat more sustainably or if you want to pick a more specialised diet such as pescatarian.

“On some diets, it’s often difficult to find a source of nutrients such as protein I can advise on making things that contain these nutrients, as sometimes people will hear from the doctor that they need to lower their cholesterol, that they’re actually intolerant to dairy or have an iron deficiency. It may be even as simple as someone wanting to reduce the cost of their weekly shop, yet stay healthy.

Potential clients can book an initial nutritional assessment costing £50 where Flick can assess BMI and basal metabolic rate. Clients complete a seven-day food diary to get the complete picture of what their intake of calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat, fibre, caffeine, alcohol, and all vitamins and mineral looks like so that Flick can personalise a three-month plan.

She added: “For a small extra charge I can come and guide you through preparing healthy meals in your kitchen and support you staying on track. I can work closely with clients to not only give them a personalised plan but show them how to cook the meals without breaking the bank or taking up loads of time.  What works for one person may not necessarily work for another.”


For more information, click onto


“I’ve been articulated!” – review of Some Mothers Do Ave Em at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

2. Joe Pasquale as Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Av 'Em, credit Scott Rylander.jpg

Frank Spencer impressions were all the rage across school playgrounds in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Even though you could hardly move for small children shouting “ooh Betty” and “the cat done a whoopsie” in homage to Some Mothers Do Ave Em, it’s still difficult to imagine anyone but Michael Crawford in one of comedy’s most iconic roles.

A brave decision then to bring it to the stage for a UK tour which started its run last week with a stint the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon.

Fortunately, unlike Frank himself, the production did not put a foot wrong. Joe Pasquale in the role of Spencer (FW) is an inspired choice thanks to his distinctive voice and underdog appeal. He did a brilliant job of recreating Frank’s mannerisms effectively and believably without being a bad tribute act, and in fact was cast without audition for the show after breaking a fan in true Spencer-style in front of the writer of the show, Guy Unsworth.

Obviously the scale of the show avoided the larger set pieces such as steering a car into the sea or flying through the church roof, but Pasquale did get “articulated” in a splendid recreation of one of the original stunts involving a staircase.

The story is very closely based on the TV series and feels very much like a whistle-stop tour of Frank’s adventures, originally written by Raymond Allen, packing plenty into the show including the iconic beret and trench coat.

There were DIY disasters aplenty, and an ingenious set design that captured the aesthetic of the sitcom while pleasingly falling apart and exploding at just the right moments.

The story centres on two original storylines – that of Betty trying to tell Frank that she is expecting and the BBC visit to film Frank’s DIY.  Although the small ‘twist’ didn’t quite make sense, the story managed to pack in lots of fan favourites and cleverly meshed together Frank’s famous mispronunciations, jokes and lines from the three original series.

The six-person cast captured the essence of the original series perfectly with Sarah Earnshaw as a fantastic Betty, ably capturing the horror of being married to someone so accident prone. I actually thought Susie Blake as Frank’s mother-in-law was better than the original TV cast member and there was tremendous support too from Moray Treadwell, David Shaw-Parker and Chris Kiely who combined very physical comedy with lines from the original show that have been enhanced and updated.

The show is touring the UK and whether you’re a fan of Some Mothers or new to the world of Frank Spencer, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

To see what’s coming up at the Wyvern Theatre, visit

Photos by Scott Rylander




Cornwall’s much-loved family confectioner Buttermilk has launched Strawberry Bellini fudge – the perfect treat for Mothers’ Day.

The new handmade sweet treat is inspired by everyone’s favourite cocktail. Its unique fizzy and crumbly texture combines a strawberry and prosecco fudge topped with white chocolate and popping candy.

Gorgeously creamy, these buttery, crumbly chunks of loveliness are studded with sweet-yet-sharp freeze-dried strawberries, flavoured with white chocolate and a little dash of Prosecco, and give your taste buds a surprising tingle.

All in all, it’s a sumptuous, fruity, fizzy treat that’s perfect as a gift or for nibbling alongside a glass of prosecco and a strawberry or two.

If you eat the packet before you’ve handed it over to the one you love, then don’t worry. Buttermilk is also launching a fabulous Strawberry Bellini Easter Egg alongside its two luxury Easter eggs; Caramel Sea Salt Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate and Honeycomb Easter Egg.  The Strawberry Bellini Easter Egg is infused with freeze-dried strawberry pieces and a little popping surprise. Inside, you’ll find a further helping of Buttermilk’s new Strawberry Bellini Fudge.

The 100g Strawberry Bellini Fudge box is available at selected outlets including Lakeland and at priced at £2.99. A 150g box priced at £3.99 is available at Waitrose.

Nightingale Fitness launches exclusive exercise kickstart weekends near Tadley

  • Hosted by award-winning personal trainer Joanna Nightingale and Miranda Walsh of the Island Heron Guest House.
  • Maximum of eight women at a countryside women-only retreat in Hampshire
  • Next dates are Friday, 16th March to Monday 19th March 2018 and Friday 20th April to Monday 23rd April 2018
 Dream Team Running 4
Joanna Nightingale, a Newbury personal trainer is marking the second anniversary of her fitness business by launching monthly wellness weekends for women.
The idea of organising retreats where clients can focus on their health and enjoy pampering and relaxation appealed as one of these transformed Joanna’s own life and inspired her to leave corporate life and start her own business, Nightingale Fitness.
Having spent her career at Rolls-Royce, it was a week at a bootcamp in 2015 that helped Joanna realise just how important exercise and time out is for wellbeing. Joanna left Newbury to go to university and then worked at Rolls-Royce HQ in the Midlands for 11 years before deciding the time was right to move back to the area to set up her business. She has since grown a loyal customer base through her 1:1 personal training and classes which resulted in being voted the Muddy Stilettoes ‘Best Fitness Instructor in Berkshire’ last year.
She said: “I wanted to do something that would help people make a lifestyle change and also something that I was passionate about.  Although I loved my job and learned so much, since setting up my business, I have never looked back. I now work with men and women of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels and feedback has been extremely positive.  However, many women have asked if I could develop a retreat so they can devote an entire weekend to improving their fitness, kickstarting a healthier lifestyle, getting advice and learning more about exercise or nutrition, or sometimes simply just to get away and challenge themselves.”
Working in collaboration with other local businesses including massage therapists and beauty specialists, the weekends will be hosted at the 10-acre Island Heron Guest House in Wolverton Common near Tadley. Island Heron proprietor Miranda Walsh is a cordon bleu chef and will be working with Joanna to ensure meals are nutritious and healthy.
The package includes three nights’ accommodation, all meals, drinks and snacks, 10 fitness sessions – ranging from yoga to walking and hula hooping –  a nine-day diet and exercise plan to take home; two months’ membership to the Nightingale Fitness online exercise programme and two seminars delivered by fully trained professionals on subjects such as nutrition, podiatry, stress and mindfulness. Massage and beauty treatments are also available at an additional cost.
Joanna added: “Your reasons for coming and your goals are really important and we will ensure you get what you want out of your time at the retreat. Whatever your fitness level or ability, you will see improvements and achieve results, even over just a weekend. There will be plenty of options, modifications and progressions to cater for all levels.
“We want you to enjoy time with each other in a supportive encouraging environment so you feel inspired, yet relaxed.”
Prices start from £399 per person based on two sharing.
For more information, click onto


Some mothers do ‘ave ’em LIVE

A few weeks ago, I took small son to what I thought was a birthday party.  When we saw a succession of princesses and Batmans heading in, I realised it was fancy dress.  I’m not sure how I missed it, but was delighted by this exchange I heard as we went in.

“What’s your costume?”

Without missing a beat. “I’m Frank Spencer!”

So how I could I not take him to see the live show starring Joe Pasquale? A national tour takes in the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon from the 21st to 24th February and we are so excited that we’ve put our top Frank moments here (as you know, Michael Crawford did all of his own stunts!)

    Betty’s awful mother is in the kitchen bemoaning Frank and his mother while he listens from the top of the stairs. The hoover attacks him and he doesn’t just fall down the stairs but wipes them out completely, while wrapping himself in carpet and stair-rods.     


2.  Frank and Betty’s second honeymoon gets off to a bad start when Frank nearly misses the train but gets worse when Frank trashes the room leaving them no option but to escape through a hole in the floor. 

3. Frank taking driving lessons. Say no more….

4. When Frank gets his foot stuck in a rope and gets propelled upside down to the top of a building 

5. Even after several hundred viewings I still can’t cope with the tension when Frank is dangling off the exhaust pipe of a car over a cliff. 

6.  As preparation for the school nativity last Christmas, small son and I watched the episode of Frank as the Angel Gabriel. I think he was a bit disappointed that he didn’t shoot through the roof at the end.  

7. It goes on for ages, but the whole Demon King scene, complete with the crashing through the window bit straight into the arms of the police is a masterclass in 70s comedy.  We just love the way he bikes into and out of the sea and the way he flies into the room and ends up with a giant map on his head. Whenever small son drops something he says: “Mr Hunt, I’ve wet my waterproofs”  

8. Last but not least, no list would be complete without the roller skating scene:

Wonder if any of these will be in the show – we’ll let you know how we get on, assuming we don’t accidentally cause an explosion in the theatre.


Gerald Seymour talks to Jon Stock about A Damned Serious Business at the Croft Hall, Hungerford



The audience that gathered at the Croft Hall, Hungerford, to hear Gerald Seymour speak on his latest book A Damned Serious Business, would have been greeted that same morning by one broadsheet newspaper’s front page claiming, “Russian cyber-attack could kill thousands.”

Such topicality is to be expected of Gerald Seymour, a former journalist who has written more than 30 successful thrillers.

His first, Harry’s Game – apparently written in just three weeks – was hailed as a modern classic. Since then he has published a novel almost every year – all with different main characters; strong, yet vulnerable lone wolves who are interesting, flawed and realistic.

His latest novel, published just weeks ago, A Damned Serious Business, is a contemporary thriller on the impact of Russian hackers and cyber-attacks, set in Narva on the border between Russia and Estonia.

“Learning about inner workings of cyber-attacks was an amazing learning curve” he laughed.

Prior to publishing Harry’s Game in 1975, Seymour was best known as an ITN reporter and the interview provided some fantastic anecdotes and a window onto Seymour’s disciplined writing routine; who knew that Yasser Arafat and an occasional sniff of Tippex had both had a hand in his prodigious output?

This fascinating interview flew by thanks to Seymour’s thoughtful and eloquent stories as well as Jon Stock’s skilful and well-researched questioning thanks to his own background in the genre.

This was a remarkable evening on serious topics yet presented with humour and modesty. A Damned Serious Business by Gerald Seymour and Find Me by Jon Stock, writing as JS Monroe, are both available at Hungerford Bookshop, who organised the event.


West Berkshire Mencap opens second supported living facility for adults with learning disabilities

1. West Mencap Stella Maris official opening.jpg

Learning disability charity West Berkshire Mencap has opened a new supported living facility in Newbury for young adults with learning disabilities.

The house has been named Stella Maris and is based in the former Northcroft Surgery. It houses five young people with learning disabilities – enabling them to live in the community and to enjoy an independence that was not previously possible.

As well as paying for the building, which cost £500,000 and is now leased to the charity, Greenham Trust funded the £300,000 refurbishment carried out by Calco Construction. The property has been specially designed to cater for the requirements of supported living – such as provision for special equipment and ceiling hoists.

This is the second West Berkshire Mencap housing project that has been supported financially by Greenham Trust. The first was Heffernan House on St John’s Road which houses seven people and has been a great success.

Stella Maris House is fully-staffed at all times and all current occupants are young adults who have grown up together, some of them meeting at West Berkshire Mencap’s Bubble Club for toddlers with learning disabilities.

The house was officially opened on Friday afternoon by Newbury MP Richard Benyon. He said: “It’s a great honour to have been asked to cut the ribbon and also to be a patron of this wonderful organisation.

“West Berkshire Mencap always does a great job right from the start and it’s a great thing for families to know that their loved ones are being looked after well and are living independently. I want to say a very big thank you, as always, to Greenham Trust who have purchased it and done it up and made it a fantastic facility for generations to come. This is a great location right in the middle of the town so close to all the action is a really asset for our town, the community and for West Berkshire.”

West Berkshire Mencap’s chief executive Leila Ferguson said: “We are truly grateful to Greenham Trust who have made this happen.  We are also immensely proud of the staff and are so delighted to see these young adults with extremely challenging behaviour living in the community enjoying life as independently as possible.

“The model at Heffernan House worked so well that we were keen to do the same again. When the surgery came onto the market, we thought a more modern building would work well.”

Chris Boulton, chief executive of Greenham Trust, added: “We are delighted to be able to provide this second facility of its kind for West Berkshire Mencap in Newbury. It will enable up to five people with learning difficulties to be able to live in the community in appropriately designed accommodation and with the benefit of their 24-hour care.”