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.

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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..

Double Celebrations as National Fudge Day Takes Place on Father’s Day (Sunday, 16th June)

Dads have double cause to celebrate this year as National Fudge Day this year lands on the same dayas Father’s Day (Sunday, 16th June).


It makes sense then to reward the special father figure in your life with a lovely gift of Buttermilk’s Cornish Fudge.

For anyone looking for a delicious gift on a pocket money budget, supermarkets across the UK stock Buttermilk sharing boxes in the confectionery aisle in a range of flavours and all under a fiver:

·         Caramel Sea Salt £3.99 (Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Amazon)

Infused with tiny flakes of sea salt, our buttery Caramel Sea Salt fudge crumbles and melts in the mouth, for delicious little bursts of salt and intense caramel sweetness. This award-winning fudge is Buttermilk’s bestseller.

·         Vanilla Fudge £3.99 (Sainsbury’s, Amazon)

Wonderfully moreish and generously flavoured with natural vanilla, our award-winning, all-butter Vanillafudge is the ultimate sweet treat.

·         Pink Gin £3.99 (Waitrose)

Buttermilk has partnered with Pinkster to create a sumptuous crumbly fudge infused with British grown, gin-soaked raspberries.  The founder of Pinkster, Stephen Marsh has fond memories of choosing his favourite fudge at Buttermilk’s Padstow shop as a child in the seventies!

Tracy of Buttermilk, said: “We all want to show our appreciation for our dads but they can be so hard to buy for!  Forget the ties and socks this time around though as it makes even more sense this year to buy fudge for the man in your life as by a happy coincidence, National Fudge Day lands on Father’sDay.

“Not only does everyone love a little sweet treat now again, but we often hear that people love receiving Buttermilk sharing boxes as it reminds them of visiting one of our shops on holiday in Cornwall from the 1960s onwards.

“We’ll also be celebrating with a social media competition celebrating special dads and the adventures we share with them. Tweet your best dad-themed photos using the hashtag #Buttermilkadventures and you could be in with a chance of winning a lovely prize”.

As an artisan producer based in Cornwall, Buttermilk celebrates fudge every day, but as the company uses locally-sourced ingredients where possible and makes fudge by hand using a traditional recipe and methods – it is proud to mark National Fudge Day on 16th June every year.

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Talks at Athena June/July – finance, first aid and more!


The Athena Network prepares for the summer season with a series of speakers who will give expert advice on finances, time management and first aid.

The Thatcham meeting takes place at the Regency Park Hotel on Tuesday, 18th June where Fiona Jones of Numberwork Services will be answering on the new requirements for online reporting to HMRC. 

The Newbury Central meeting takes place at Arigato in Northbrook Street on Wednesday, 19th June where Rosie Darbyshire of ISN will be offering advice on time management.

The Newbury West meeting takes place at The Red House, Marsh Benham on Thursday, 11th July where Louise Worsley of Worsley Training who will be teaching basic skills for first aid in the workplace. 

The Hungerford group meeting takes place at Audley Inglewood in Kintbury on Friday, 12th July where the speaker is Virginia Parkes of Hungerford Accounts who will be talking about helping the group make sense of money and tax to ensure maximum profitability.    

Debbie Miles, regional director of the West Berkshire Athena Network said: “Joining an established network of businesses in diverse industries, offers you the opportunity not only to source skills and expertise from a community of familiar, trusted and recommended  professionals, it also enables you to garner support from people who have had similar challenges and experiences.”

All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm and must be booked in advance.

For more information, click onto




Hungerford Summer Festival (28th June to 14th July!)




Back for its 28th year, this year’s programme includes a wide range of live music, rip-roaring comedies, exciting drama, music, art, film and a wide variety of walks, talks and workshops for all ages.

Music includes The Red Stripe Band, The Appel Trio, The Adam Winslet Band, Kennet Opera, Opus2 Choir, Guy Masterson, Uncovered, The Derek Paravicini Quartet, Phoenix Brass, the Kennet Accordion Orchestra and the Hungerford Town Band.

Audiences are invited to make a whole night of it with delicious meals served before performances at The Croft Hall.

There is a fascinating and unique talk by specialist Nigel West about security and intelligence, not to be missed.

There is a variety of workshops which are already booking quickly; art, Qi Gong, tea light making, eco craft, cookery and drumming. There’s a farm visit to Farncombe Farm and a practical guide to honeybees; throughout all the festivities our traditional Summer Festival Art Exhibition will be at Hungerford Hub.

There is lots for children too, especially “Lego, Lego, Lego” for an afternoon of fun. Children aged 8-12 are invited to a ‘kids bake off’ event with Gert Pienaar, head chef at Blandy’s at Inglewood on Saturday, 13th July from 2-4pm at Hungerford Youth and Community Centre while teenagers are invited to a ‘teen cook-off’ with Ollie Hunter, from the Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat on Wednesday, 10th July from 5-8pm, also at the Hungerford Youth and Community Centre. Both cost £5 per head including ingredients and utensils and each will see a winning young chef invited to demonstrate at the Hungerford Food Festival on Sunday, 6th October.

Hungerford Summer Festival chairman Fiona Poole said: “In these uncertain times, we need to able to escape to a happy place. The Hungerford Summer Festival will enable you to do just that – whether a walk on the wild side with our very own Hugh and Lois Pihlens, or perusing the pop-up galleries to feast on amazing artworks or learning a new skill at one of our interactive workshops. We think there’s something for everyone – please come and join us!”

This year all our local organisations are involved; The Football Club, The Rugby Club, The Cricket Club, Hungerford Allotment Association, The Rose of Hungerford, The Brownies, The Bowls Club, The Tennis Club, The Camera Club, The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers(REME), The British Legion, St Lawrence’s Church, John O’Gaunt School, Rock Choir and many  more.

Many thanks for the support of our fabulous venues at The Hub, The Herongate Club, The Croft Hall, John O’Gaunt School, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Hungerford Youth and Community Centre, The Croft Field and Hungerford Corn Exchange.

Book on-line or get your tickets from Newbury Building Society in Hungerford High Street and programmes are available from most Hungerford shops and businesses.



National Hoarding Awareness Week activities in West Berkshire from 20th to 27th May 2019

A West Berkshire-based hoarding and decluttering specialist is striving to remove the stigma of a mental health condition during National Hoarding Awareness Week which takes place from 20th to 27th May.

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Jo Cooke, the founder of Tapioca Tidy and co-founder of Hoarding Disorders UK (a community interest company) is giving a series of talks to the NHS and local charities to help raise awareness of the disorder and to fight prejudice about the stigma of hoarding.

Jo will also be present at the National Hoarding Conference: New Approaches Roadshow in Birmingham which is the official launch of Hoarding Awareness Week. This year’s focus is to raise awareness of the disorder as a mental illness, and not as a lifestyle choice.

Jo estimates that there could be at least 10,000 households in the West Berkshire area who need help and she receives referrals most days. Most hoarders tend to collect newspapers, books, containers, clothes, plastic bags and animals.

Jo and her team lead a free support group meeting which takes place on Thursday, 30th May and on the fourth Thursday of each month from 7pm to 9pm at Broadway House in Newbury. Anyone who is a hoarder or whose life is affected by hoarding is welcome to attend.  Jo has also inspired other support groups around the country to be formed and is instrumental in setting up new groups this year to be launched in Reading, Oxford and Swindon.

Jo said: “We welcome anyone to our support group who would like to discuss hoarding without judgement. We offer a safe place to talk and to reduce the stigma of hoarding. Unfortunately, owing to some television programmes that show the very worst side of hoarding, there’s a perception that hoarders are dirty and smelly which is not the case. We want to treat people with compassion and patience, not punishment.”

One former hoarder who attends the Newbury group said: “I used to have a hoarded house, in which none of the rooms apart from the bathroom were suitable for their original use. It was obvious that something had to be done, and that really it was down to me.

“Having made a good start with support from my family, I joined Jo’s hoarding support group and this has proved very motivational, reassuring and supportive. The group provides a safe and secure place for people with hoarding behaviours, and those supporting them.

“Talks and techniques bring a new perspective to dealing with the items themselves and the feelings and behaviours involved. There are talks from Cruse on bereavement, and talks on mindfulness, fire, health and safety, and stress control. But the most useful parts of the meetings are those when people just talk to each other. Feedback from those who attend indicates that they no longer feel as if it is ‘just them’, that others are in a similar situation. They feel more able to discuss the issues involved, as the people attending really understand what is going on. Ideas and techniques are exchanged and these spark enthusiasm and determination.”

National Hoarding Awareness Week also marks the second anniversary of the launch of Jo’s book “Understanding Hoarding”, an expert guide to helping a hoarder.  She will be giving tips and advice from the book on social media throughout National Hoarding Awareness Week.


Six best business books as recommended by West Berkshire SMEs

If you’re on the lookout for some business books, then our recent West Berkshire hour Twitter chat threw up some interesting reading suggestions.

We had a teacher among our participants, so some slightly unusual recommendations:

  1. Drive by Daniel H Pink – “Particularly good if you manage staff…”


2. Linchpin by Seth Godin – “Why it’s so important to make yourself indispensable and put everything you can into your work.”


3. For entrepreneurs with big ideas: A travel guide from big idea to business case by John Jukes – “a witty and readable guide for youngsters wondering whether self employment is for them and how to go about it” 


4. Creative Schools: revolutionising education from the ground-up by Sir Ken Robinson  – “A  vision on how schools could be transformed to ensure that all children flourish”


5.  Purple cow – transform your business by being remarkable – Seth Godin

How to stand out from the crowd and make your business truly exceptional


7. The four hour work week – Tim Ferriss – “an absolute game changer – I realised that for years, I’d been working for years to make someone else rich”


So, please let us know of any that we missed that should be on the list and let us know what you think of the books here. Also, if you’re local to West Berkshire and want to network without leaving your house, then please come and join us! We chat on Twitter every Wednesday from 7pm to 8pm using the hashtag #wberkshour


Please note there may be affiliate links in the post.

Speaking line-up for Oxfordshire Business Expo

The speaker line-up for the new Oxford Business Expo has been confirmed with accountancy advice, selling skills and LinkedIn masterclasses on offer for local businesses.

The event takes place on Thursday, 11th April from 11am to 4pm at the Whately Hall Hotel, Horse Fair in Banbury.

The event is free for visitors and provides the opportunity to network and meet suppliers, and potential clients from all over Oxfordshire and beyond.

The speaking timetable includes accountancy advice from the event’s main sponsor Whitley Stimpson. Motivational speaker Gary Outrageous will be showing people how to boost their face-to-face selling skills with hypnosis plus there’s a Keto Fitness Club – Couch to Keto workshop and a LinkedIn masterclass from IMC Pro Solutions. The workshops programme will then be topped off with a speed networking session hosted by the Professional Introducer Network (PIN) network.

Organiser Sheila Smith said: “We look forward welcoming you whether you’re a veteran of the business world or relatively new to networking.

“There is a range of advice on offer from our keynote speakers and great variety from our exhibitors who will be showcasing the very best of what the local business community has to offer.”

For further information and to book please contact Sheila Smith via

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at The Base

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We made it to The Base, the new arts centre at Greenham Business Park!

I was keen to visit the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition which is on tour at Greenham until 28 April.

We made it at 3.59pm – last entry is at 4pm – but it was worth being windswept! The images were incredible, although the first ones were saw were fairly brutal – a monkey holding its dead baby and another featuring animals holding a baboon’s face werequite disturbing.

But nature is as cruel as it is beautiful and these 100 pictures certainly were beautiful. The competition attracted more than 45,000 entries and were shortlisted down to 100 – can’t imagine the magnitude of this job.

We were amazed by the amazing variety of the pictures and DS is already thinking very differently about the natural world and the impact us humans have on it.


Oxfordshire business expo coming to Banbury on 11th April

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  • Free to visit
  • Just £195 for exhibitors
  • Event takes place on 11th April 11-4pm at the Whately Hall Hotel in Banbury


Oxfordshire businesses are invited to a brand-new business expo taking place on Thursday, 11th April from 11am to 4pm at the Whately Hall Hotel, Horse Fair in Banbury.

The event is organised by Sheila Smith, who is the founder of the successful Northamptonshire Business Expo, which was launched in 2014 and regularly attracts thousands of visitors. Sheila aims to build on this success and to bring it to neighbouring counties.

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Oxfordshire’s expo is free for delegates and as well as networking, there are free workshops designed to help business owners to develop their skills and presentations on the latest insight. For exhibitors, a stand costs just £195, plus sponsorship opportunities are available.

Sheila said: “Exhibiting is a great opportunity to showcase what you do to the right people and generate more good-quality sales leads than other sales tools. Our events help to generate leads the old-fashioned way with face-to-face interaction and we are committed to delivering a lively, buzzing event for every type of business relationship, network, engage with suppliers and deepen their business education by attending our one-day events.”

She added: “We have had the privilege of working with many businesses over the years who have enjoyed great success at these expos. As a result, they have repeatedly booked with us and in a lot of cases, have followed the events out of their own county, expanding the area in which their business trades. If you invest in a stand, we recommend that you make the most of it and let all of followers know you will be there by promoting it on your website, social media and marketing channels.”

Sheila has had over 25 years’ experience in sales at every level and is well known for having a ‘can-do’ attitude to business. She has a proven track record in delivering events to a very high standard and her flexible, adaptable approach enables her to smoothly manage any occasion. Something which she has always promised and consistently maintained is her fresh approach to every occasion to which she tailors to fit your exact specification and budget.

For further information and to book please contact Sheila Smith via