Kindness is Hugely Underrated (and Free Book Offer)

Free Book Offer

From time to time I review books in these pages (I should probably add a caveat that if I don’t like something I tend not to write about it; there’s too much negative stuff swirling around the ether already without my adding to it), and very occasionally kind souls send me books I already have, as with Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine, above. I was so keen to read it that I got the hardback. It’s a very interesting read, and I quote it frequently in Speak Up, but I don’t need two copies so am happy to give it away and will even pay postage! If you’d like it all you need to do is reply to this (if you’re a subscriber), or email me your address and I’ll pick one at random and post the book off. You have until the end of July 2019. Here’s bit more information from the back of the book.


New RenewYou Course Date

My kitchen uncharacteristically tidy. The table extends.

I have now run two courses from my home near Bath and the responses were so positive. The participants seem to like the more informal approach and even pretend to like my cooking. I love it. No more impersonal hotels and endless debates about menus, times of refreshments, making sure we have a good room with natural light, etc. Plus, there is a huge bonus, it allows me to keep the cost lower than my normal rate, and to be really flexible about dates. I’m even investigating building a dedicated studio in the garden. (In my head I am currently calling it ‘The Shed’ but I need something more alluring. Any suggestions?) Flushed with these successes I am running another RenewYou in October, on Monday 14th when there may or not be a shed built. I choose Mondays because hotels and B&Bs usually offer a much cheaper rate. More information on RenewYou is here. Please get in touch for an informal chat and more information.

Your Wellbeing

Do you, like me, find it a tad odd that just when the world is waking up to the dangers of plastic and the importance of wild life, trees and nature, that fake plants have become fashionable? Excuse me while I rant but I bloomin’ hate pretend flowers, and they are usually plastic. Who wants a plant that needs dusting and never ever changes? I suppose a fake plant on your desk is better than nothing but actually a real one will definitely be good for you. Go mad and have 3! They will all talk to each other when you’re not there and be really happy (I cannot back this claim up with any scientific evidence but I am sure it’s true). According to my extensive Google search (here’s the link to top ten office plants) one of the best office plants is –

Devil’s Ivy

Image courtesy of Beards and Daisies, the plant folk.

Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum), also known as Pothos (although that is actually a different plant) and is a type of evergreen vine. The leaves are large and sometimes heart-shaped and come in a wide variety of light and dark colours for the leaves. This species adapts well to a variety of office conditions, from low light levels to brighter ones. Go on, grab a plant and improve your working environment. If you already have a mad collection of plants a picture would be lovely!

Celebrating Women

Photo of Carola Rakete courtesy of

In the midst of the gloom and doom we seem to be plunged into it’s easy to miss some of the good things that happen. To counter balance that I want to feature good news, inspirational news, and female role models. There is plenty to choose from. My woman of the moment is Carola Rakete. If she hasn’t crossed your radar yet Carola is a sea captain facing jail from the Italian authorities by rescuing drowning migrants in her ship.

On 12 June, Sea-Watch 3, (her ship) rescued a group of migrants from an inflatable raft drifting off the coast of Libya. Rackete declined to take them to Tripoli, where migrants, according to aid groups and witnesses, risk imprisonment and torture. She instead headed towards Lampedusa.

“A few days after that rescue, the Italian authorities informed us, in the middle of the night, that the government had introduced a new security decree that forbade NGO rescue boats from entering Italian territorial waters,”

The German captain was arrested on arrival, to applause from about 100 people who had arrived on the quay to support her, and insults and threats of rape and murder from others in the crowd.

She knowingly broke the law and faces 3 to 10 years in prison if convicted by the Italian authorities. And she says she would do it all again. I take my hat off to her courage and bravery. You can discover more, and make up your own mind, by reading the story as reported in The Guardian newspaper.

Edinburgh University and Sophia Jex-Blake, one of The Edinburgh Seven

It’s never too late to get recognition. Last week Edinburgh University honoured 7 women, Sophia Jex-Blake, Isabel Thorne, Edith Pechey, Matilda Chaplin, Helen Evans, Mary Anderson Marshall and Emily Bovell by giving them honorary degrees.

The “Edinburgh Seven” were the first women admitted to study medicine in Britain when they enrolled in 1869. But they faced prejudice and were ultimately prevented from qualifying as doctors. The long campaign by the seven eventually led to women being allowed to study medicine. They blazed a trail for the rights of women to study at university and practise medicine but they were banned from graduating after academics voted against it. Blake and her six fellow female students have finally been granted their degrees from Edinburgh University A full-scale riot broke out when the women turned up to sit an anatomy exam at the university and male students pelted them with mud. See more here.

I find this story particularly pleasing because I deliver both RenewYou and Speak Up to staff at Edinburgh University and I know the passion for gender equality that exists. We truly sit on the shoulders of giants.

Coco Gauff, courtesy of CBS Sports

Coco Gauff, courtesy of CBS Sports

I have to mention Coco Gauff, taking the tennis world by storm, whatever she ends up doing at Wimbledon. What a great young role model.

Books By My Bed


There is always a massive pile of books by my side of the bed. Some are on my ‘I really ought to read’ pile and blithely gather dust (I always think if you’ve dusted an unread book more than once it’s telling you something. I have a copy of The Milkman by Anna Burns which has been dusted twice. Oh dear) and some have been avidly read and are waiting to be shared. I am the lucky recipient of a book a month from MrB’s bookshop in Bath. (A gift from my lovely partner). I can’t tell you what joy it is to get a book wrapped in brown paper and string every month. My brief to them was send me books only by women writers. Through them I’ve discovered writers like Virginia Bailey, and Early One Morning about someone who impulsively rescues a Jewish child from the concentration camps. I kept expecting it to turn into something that made me want to cover my eyes and scream in horror but it didn’t and is, in essence, a love story.

I also told them I love crime stories, (think Val McDermid, Ruth Rendall) and stories like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so up they came with Anne Holt. Yet another author new to me who wrote 1222, a whodunnit, beginning on a snowy train and ending in a snowed- in hotel in Norway. A real page turner and lives up to its cover description of Like a mash-up of Stieg Larsson and Agatha Christie. Not too demanding but a perfect holiday read.

Being ill (see below) rather scuppered our Women Writers Book Club but we will be meeting again soon. One of the books we read was Sarah Hayward’s The Cactus which has had huge success probably since we talked about it; even Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book club! Seriously, it is a lovely book and I have been speaking with Sarah about it and how she got into writing. Interview to follow. My only worry now is that she has become so celebrated she won’t have time to fit me in.

And finally on books, I watched a programme on Edna O’Brien the other night which had me scurrying to my bookshelf to find any of hers. I came up with Casualties of Peace which is so old it’s nearly falling apart in my hands. What a fascinating woman she was, so ahead of her time.

Blog Posts and You

The more observant among you may have noticed that I haven’t posted on the blog for a while. To be honest not as many you missed me as I would have liked…but never mind. In truth, I have been ill. Somehow I managed to get pneumonia, quite badly, necessitating an emergency admission to hospital. It’s been surprisingly debilitating, well, surprising to me anyway. But I am on the mend, and one plus is it has give me lots of time to reflect and cogitate. A result of that is I have decided to only send out a newsletter to those of you who subscribe once a month, not weekly as in the past. I first started ‘blogging’ in 2008 with this interview with Jo Bertinet. It began as a monthly newsletter and over the years it increased to weekly. However, there are now so many bloggers, company emails, promotions, etc, that if you’re anything like me, your in box gets crammed. My instinctive reaction is to just delete them or unsubscribe as I feel overwhelmed. Fortunately very few of you unsubscribe, for which my ego thanks you. I will still add to the blog regularly so if you drop by I hope you will find something new and interesting to read, but you will only get something delivered to your in box once a month. I’m refining it, too, so that it will include a few lines on each topic and you can simply click through to read more the things that interest you most.

Kindness is Underrated

Being ill has had other compensations, too. My consultant suggested that one of the reasons I got ill was because my immune system was compromised by stress. I don’t always practice what I preach… ahem. If you have attended any of my courses you will know that I have a partner who suffers from severe anxiety and depression. He has been very ill for quite some time. I’m really pleased that finally some attention is being paid to mental health issues and more research and funding is happening. However, one area I’ve yet to hear discussed is the impact on those who care for partners with mental health issues. It is very difficult and at times, very lonely. I am lucky: I have a hugely supportive family and many wonderful friends, plus I have worked in the psychiatric field and have a better understanding than most. I know there is a huge army of unseen and largely uncounted carers out there and it is hard. If you are one of them, I send you my love. I may write about this again so if you have a story to share I’d like to hear it.

When my friends discovered I was in hospital I was enveloped in a huge, comforting, soft blanket of kindness which included care and consideration for my partner, too. Much of that kindness was present in the NHS staff who cared for me. Obviously I am grateful for the life saving drugs, but almost as valuable was the comforting touch on my arm, the night nurse who spent ages trying to find me a fan (I think she stole it ninja style from another ward), the nurse who made me tea when I couldn’t sleep, the doctor who just held my hand and said you must be kind to yourself as well. Pure kindness.

Friends offered to drive from all areas of the country, just to be with me, or ferry me back to their homes to look after me. They asked how they could help my partner, they sent books, flowers, beautiful soaps (I got a thing about sweet smelling, old fashioned soap for some reason). They texted when they knew I didn’t have energy for  call saying don’t bother replying. They sat with me when all I did was cough, and they travelled for hours to simply spend just a few hours with me because they didn’t want to cause any extra work or stress for my partner. It was overwhelming and perfectly lovely. I am so grateful to them.

If you have good friends you haven’t been in touch with for a while, give them a call, maybe even write a real letter (I love doing that occasionally – it feels subversive!) Care and nurture your friends, for they are priceless. Care for and nurture yourself, for you are priceless, too. Spread kindness.


Do connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s great to hear from you.

Changing People licences experienced trainers, coaches and organisations to deliver its International RenewYou programme for women. Read more about it here


Posted on July 8th, 2019 by

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