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Age appropriate

I alisonwoke up the other morning and realised I could no longer be Elizabeth Bennett.

For those of you who aren’t Jane Austen fans, I should explain that Elizabeth Bennett is the heroine of Pride and Prejudice. An independent-minded, intelligent and accomplished young woman who ends up with the dashing Mr Darcy, the stand-offish millionaire who owns half of Derbyshire yet only has eyes for Lizzie – despite her being socially beneath him.

What was particularly galling about my realisation wasn’t that I would never marry a millionaire from up north but that actually, I now had more in common with her embarrassing, match-making and meddling mother, Mrs Bennett.

It hit me with the shock Boris Johnson must have felt at the Brexit result. I’m not a young woman any more. It felt a little like the time, a good few years ago, that a mum in a shop told her child to ‘mind that lady’; I looked around for the lady before it dawned on me that she meant me.

Most people agree they don’t feel their age (except for the aches and pains) and I stopped maturing somewhere in my very early 20s. I’ve spent years trying to convince my children that I’m not actually a grown-up who can be turned to in emergencies. The fact I can have a mortgage and a job and a car is some sort of mistake, surely. There’s a whole string of things I shouldn’t be left in charge of – small children, animals, a magazine…

And yet here I am, having just celebrated a milestone birthday. How the heck did that happen?

In our youth-obsessed society, getting old is about as welcome as Paul Hollywood at the Bake Off end-of-series wrap party. We don’t boast about our age and the Bible’s assertion that ‘grey hair is a crown of splendour’ is washed away in a L’Oreal home hair colour (because I’m worth it).

To soften the blow of beginning another decade age-wise, I decided to compile a list of things I’d always wanted to do, to make this a life-affirming experience. I wanted the same number of ‘adventures’ as years of my life, but got stumped for ideas – ironically, in the early 20s.

The plan wasn’t to do things that terrified me, like jumping out of a plane, but enjoyable treats that were also cheap – or better still, free. So my list includes watching the sun rise, having a water fight, stargazing and learning to arrange flowers rather than plonk them in a vase. I’ve been told that Champagne goes well with fish and chips, and I want a ‘proper’ picnic complete with wicker basket, wine in real glasses and napkins.

I’m not calling it a ‘bucket list’ because those are things you want to do before you kick the bucket. This is more of an ‘age distraction’ list.

People’s bucket lists tend to be a lot more extravagant than my desire to go to the pictures on a weekday afternoon when I should be at work. Among the top 10 most common ambitions are to go on safari, walk the Great Wall of China, go whale watching and see the Northern Lights.

The website has looked at the top items and worked out they would cost £18,519. Apparently people are willing to spend up to £10,000 on average, meaning there are going to be quite a few unfulfilled dreams.

The list also reflects the view that you have to travel to get a really great experience. Not true.

Being woken by the dawn chorus outside my bedroom window in summer never fails to delight me, despite the fact that I’m not usually a 4am kind of a girl.

Lying on my back in the grass at Severn Valley Country Park, so still that a caterpillar crawled around on my foot, is a memory that has stayed with me for 20-odd years.

This summer’s camping break with my children, who are too old now to holiday with us regularly, meant far more than standing with a crowd of strangers looking at the Grand Canyon could ever do.

As I celebrated my big birthday, my daughter tried to reassure me that there were advantages to getting greyer and wrinklier.

“Well, you’ll be wise,” she said, although I’m not sure that is valued much these days, when we seem to put very silly people on pedestals.

But if being wise means knowing what really matters in life, and letting go of everything else, I’ll take it.

Alison Ashmore

Jobs for the boys and girls

Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, and you might start hearing some strange answers.
Apparently the fresh-faced four-year-olds who started school this term will have a whole new world of jobs available to them when it’s their turn to earn a living. A group of people at Microsoft, who clearly had no real work to be getting on with, have devised a list of careers which don’t exist now but, they say, will in a decade or so.
So forget dentist and plumber. Our youngsters will be taking their pick from careers as varied as space junk archaeologist, memory storage specialist (apparently we’ll all be able to store our memories through software-brain interfaces) and rewilding strategist, who will reintroduce plants and animals to regions where they have become extinct.
Then there will be battery innovators, human parts designers and virtual habitat designers.
Don’t fancy those? How about being an ethical technology advocate, to cope with the dawn of the age of the robot; or freelance biohacker, which isn’t as suspicious as it sounds but will involve working on everything from new vaccines to genetic modification (OK, that does sound suspicious).
If tomorrow’s careers leave you bewildered, there are opportunities out there now which have me scratching my head. I mean, what on earth is an horizon scanning officer? I imagine myself like Demelza in Poldark, standing gazing out to sea for hours on end. I don’t know what I’m looking for, but it sounds like an intriguing and romantic job.
The one I particularly wanted, however, was Head of Knowledge. I can’t remember who was advertising for one of those, but I’d love to sit in my private office, Head of Knowledge sign on the door, with people asking me who sang Windmills of Your Mind and what the flag of Bolivia looks like.
Aside from the obvious ones such as chocolate taster, another job I’d really love is coming up with names for paint colours. I’m a sucker for a paint name. Call it Cappuccino or Melted Mocha, and I want it on my walls. Beige just won’t do it any more. It’s marketing genius.
It’s the job of marketing people to put a glossy spin on things and that goes for their own titles, too. A marketing director’s job was genuinely advertised as Wizard of alisonLight Bulb Moments while a Head of Creative was a Dream Alchemist.
These days, companies wanting to appear cool and edgy describe receptionists as Directors of First Impressions; project managers are Scrum Masters; even temps are getting in on the act – meet the On-Demand Executive.
It’s all a load of baloney, designed to make the drudgery of office life seem sexy and exciting, but I suppose coming up with these names keeps someone (a Moniker Guru?) in a job.
The list of future potential careers, however, does highlight how much technology is changing modern life. It seems our bodies are also going to need to adapt to keep up.
There’s a widely recognised phenomenon now called ‘Text Neck’. This is the ache you feel from constantly looking down at a device; as the neck bends forwards and down, the weight of the head on the cervical spine increases. Apparently it can be the same as carrying an eight-year-old around on your neck for several hours each day. Evolution took millions of years getting us to stand up straight; iPhones are reversing the trend in a single generation.
Also on the rise is Text Thumb, a type of repetitive strain injury caused by too much time on games consoles as well as smartphones. Scientists will tell you how important having opposable thumbs has been to the development of our species. I don’t think we are showing them the respect they deserve, wearing them out playing Lego Star Wars on the PS4.
Still, it seems those are the types of skills our youngsters are going to need if they are to thrive in the Brave New World of work. Rather them than me.
Now, how do I save this document?

Alison Ashmore


Weather or not, it’s summer

How’s your summer going?

Summer, for me, means those six weeks when the schools are closed and the rest of us can get up later and still be at work on time (seriously, if they want to cut traffic congestion, educate children via Skype). I don’t care that meteorological summer is 1 June to 31 August, or that astronomical summer is 20 June to 22 September; it’s only summer when school governors say it is.

With my children past school age I’ve no reason to restrict summer to those six weeks, but it’s a mental link I can’t break.

And the years should have taught me that realistically, August is likely to be pretty average weather-wise; June and September are often better bets. Yet I always feel cheated if it’s not a glorious month.

The Met Office defines summer as June to August by simply breaking the year down into four equal seasons. According to its records, our warmest summer was in 2006 with an average temperature of – wait for it – 15.80c. Now that sounds a bit disappointing, but it includes night times and Scotland will have dragged that down a fair bit (I’ve been to Scotland in the summer so I know). The coldest was 12.30c in 1922. Thankfully I missed that one.

Anyone around my age will reminisce dewy-eyed about ‘the summer of 1976’, a mythological golden age spent grubby-kneed and gulping down dandelion and burdock pop for weeks on end as if we all lived in an Enid Blyton story; the year all others are compared to. While that was our sunniest summer – 669 hours of ‘bright sunshine’ – it wasn’t our driest, which was 1995 when only 103mm of rain fell. And although we may feel that many of our recent summers have been a wash-out, you have to go back to 1912 for our wettest, with 384mm of outdoor-event-spoiling precipitation.

Newspapers love weather stories and share my belief that we have a God-given right to hot, sunny days. ‘Scorcher’ and ‘killer heat’ are terms easily banded about; quickly followed by temperatures ‘plummeting’ or ‘plunging’ as headline writers lament the demise of summer after just three days of ‘heatwave’. Three days is about all we can take, though, with most of us moaning that it’s ‘just too hot’ and checking the regulations about working in sticky offices (there aren’t any, I’ve looked. Every time the sun shines).

Long-range weather forecasting is something of a dark art, about as reliable as a Russian drugs test, but that doesn’t stop the tabloids each year predicting a ‘barbecue summer’ or warning us to ‘brace’ for an ‘Arctic blast’ ‘invading’. A month ago I looked at the Met Office’s long-range forecast for late August and it usefully told me I might possibly, maybe, see some warmer and cooler days. Thanks for that.

Anyway, having established that the school holidays are unlikely to see us taking lots of day trips to the seaside, what can we do with those pesky kids stuck at home?

I used to enter the six-week break full of great plans for how I was going to enrich my children’s lives with jolly japes and memorable fun with Mummy. Reader, I failed.alison

It seemed my children preferred to watch TV than take part in treasure hunts or search for bugs in the garden. They still mock me for the day I got us all painting stones (and yet they sell those things in shops, I knew it was a good idea…).

They don’t remember the snail racing or making Roman shields at the museum. They actually had more fun on the days when I was at work. Armed with a camcorder, Duplo figures and toy dragons, they spent many happy hours making movies, which we still have on DVD. They also devastated the living room with dens made of every tablecloth, tea towel and clothes peg we possessed. Perhaps my idea of holiday fun was just too tidy and regimented.

Still, the mumsy need to have lots of plans in place to fill the holidays has never left me. My son at university gets an 11-week summer break and even now I’m driven by the feeling that I should be entertaining him until the new term starts.

Any ideas for holiday crafts you can do with a 19-year-old?


Alison Ashmore

Sport for all

We aren’t a family noted for our sporting prowess.
Back in her secondary school days, my daughter was told off for sitting down on the netball court. “Get up!” thundered the PE teacher. “You can’t do sport sitting down!” “Wheelchair basketball?” she countered.
There are of course plenty of sports you can do sitting down, and as the Aussies peevishly pointed out at the last Olympics (when we whopped them in the medals table), we Brits tend to excel at them. Cycling, rowing, motor racing, horse riding… all let you take the weight off your feet.
This is, as the TV companies say, A Summer of Sport. There’s all the usual stuff that fills the schedules at this time of year, such as cricket and tennis, plus the four-yearly European Championships (football) and Olympics (everything else). If you don’t like sport you may be wishing there had been a referendum for leaving the planet.
But I contend that you don’t have to actually enjoy sport to be able to watch it. Take football. You may not appreciate the Beautiful Game – and there was nothing beautiful about England in the Euros – but that needn’t have stopped you joining in with the national despair and derision. You’ll get another chance at the World Cup in two years, so here’s what to look out for.
Analysing footballers’ hairstyles is a great way to spend 90 minutes of your life. It’s a fact that much of the pre-match build-up for players involves doing their hair, and the team hairdresser is now just as important as the physio and more influential than the manager. Actually I’ve made that up, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
And other nations’ chants are always entertaining. Some have recognisable tunes, clearly nicked from the English, while others are as alien as whatever crash-landed at Roswell – the now famous Viking-esque Icelandic roar being a prime example.
Commentators, too, are worthy of respect. Why not play cliche bingo? Simply come up with a list of sporting banalities and cross them off as you hear them. My favourite was the local radio commentator who once described a Wolves player as being “literally on fire” which is literally not the correct use of the word literally.
Amongst the hardest-working pundits must surely be those on ITV4’s live daytime coverage of the Tour de France. I’ve never ridden a bike in my life but I love watching this. Yes, the cyclists get my admiration for pedalling hundreds of kilometres day after day but think of the poor commentary team, a couple of guys who have to find something interesting to say for up to five hours at a stretch. And they aren’t even doping to improve their performances.
August, of course, sees the Olympics. While I have absolutely no interest in athletics, swimming or fencing at any other time, I can happily while away several weeks of my life watching them once every four years.
It all kicks off with the Opening Ceremony, a chance for the host nation to show off to the world. It’s nice to be reminded that there are countries in the world other than those perpetually in the news. The Federated States of Micronesia, for instance – who knew?
Sport sees us humans at our most tribal and while I’m not a fan of nationalism, it is a useful distraction for a divided nation right now. We may all have different ideas about what being English means, but we are united in our belief that we should have been able to beat Iceland and that we want to be higher up the medals table than countries many times our size.


Alison Ashmore

After the London Games there was much talk of an Olympic Legacy, as if watching people who clearly excelled at what they did would encourage us all to huff and puff in ill-fitting Lycra. And sometimes sport on TV does make us want to get involve – witness the number of people with a tennis racket around Wimbledon time – but it lasts about as long as the bubbles in the winner’s Champagne.
I was chatting recently to a leading geneticist who told me that there is an identifiable gene which gives some people a definite advantage when it comes to sport.
So that’s my excuse for watching rather than participating. Why fight nature? It’s just not in my genes.


Give me a break

Shakespeare, in As You Like It, identified the ‘seven ages of man’. In a similar but more seasonable note, I would like to suggest that there are ‘five ages of holidays’.

I’m not including our childhood holidays because, let’s face it, all childhood is a holiday really. No, I’m talking about the types of holidays we have as an adult.

The first is that break we go on as a teenager or young adult – getaways with mates or our first love, free from the shackles of parents. Some of us might have gone on Club 18-30 type holidays so we probably don’t remember much, beyond a vague recollection of waiting to board a flight to Ibiza. After that it’s lost in a haze of sangria – or worse.

I always thought 11pm was time to turn in for the night rather than get my dancing shoes on, so my holidays at this point were in cheap and cheerful apartments on a quiet Greek island. Days were spent lying on a beach, cooling off with a float on a lilo. Then it was back to the apartment for a much-needed rest and liberal helpings of After Sun before heading to a taverna for souvlaki and luke-warm chips.

Those carefree days stopped when the first child came along, bringing me to our second stage of holidays – with children.

I always smile to myself when I see couples on what is obviously a first holiday with a tiny baby. The tot will invariably be strapped to dad’s front in a papoose and they will be sitting in a National Trust tea room, mum enjoying a salad in peace while dad is on duty. You can almost hear them thinking how easy this holidaying-with-children lark is.

Alas no. As is always the case with children, once they can walk and talk you are on the losing side in a war of attrition. Suncream, ice cream, fairground rides, bedtime; everything is a battle.

A whole new aspect of holidays is opened up, though. Welcome to the world of soft play, small animal farms and caterpillar ‘roller coasters’. Now you’ve an excuse to visit a Disney theme park or build a speed boat in the sand.

But nothing lasts forever, and sooner than you think you find yourself holidaying with teenagers.

These third-stage holidays take less filling because you won’t be doing anything in a morning. Unless, that is, you count trying to get them out of bed (“but I’m having a lie-in… this is supposed to be a holiday…”).

Your break will consist of dragging a bored teen around the local sights each afternoon, desperately trying to get them to respond with anything other than an unimpressed grunt (“Shall we go on a boat trip?” “Let’s go up the Eiffel Tower!” “Is there anything on this menu you like?”). To spot a family at this stage of life, simply look for frazzled parents and, several paces behind them, sulky teens gazing at a smartphone while wearing headphones.

Stage four is the one I’ve just had; back to being a couple with no kids in tow. What a delight this has turned out to be.

These holidays consist of eating in nice restaurants; enjoying afternoon tea; sitting with a book and a good view. I thought I would miss my children, but no. It seems I’m not the Mum I thought I was.

This could be quite a short stage of holidaying though, depending on when grandchildren appear on the scene. Now there are two ways this fifth holiday stage could play out. Either you will end up being taken along as the unpaid babysitter, the sucker who will pay for all the ice creams and gift shop tat; or, if you are careful, it’s all the fun of the second stage without the 24/7 responsibility. In other words you get to feed the goats at the petting farm, but having stuffed your grandchild full of candy floss and Haribos all day, you can sit back and watch while their parents try to get them to eat tea and go nicely off to bed. Meanwhile you head out for a more civilised evening at a local pub.

Some people, I know, don’t like holidays and hardly ever go away. My husband grew up in a caravanning family so he believes any time off work has to be spent away from home. Either that, or he is (rightly) worried that a staycation would involve me presenting him with a list of jobs around the house that need doing.

But if, like us, you are avid travellers, can I wish you a lovely break this summer – whichever stage you are at.

Alison Ashmore

Happy Birthday, Ma’am

Job in customer services. Must be able to deal with all types of people; must like animals, children and the elderly. Tact and diplomacy essential. Unsociable hours and lots of travel, all clothing and accommodation provided. Salary above National Living Wage. Suit active pensioner.
This summer the nation is honouring the Queen, who at the ripe old age of 90 is laughing in the face of retirement and forcing those interested in the position to be patient. The Queen, of course, has two birthdays – her real one in April and an official one this month. It’s an oddity which dates back to 1748, when George II decided that the weather on his November birthday would be too miserable for a parade. He opted to celebrate earlier in the year instead – or perhaps, like a child in the run-up to Christmas, he just couldn’t wait. He was German, so couldn’t be expected to have known that the weather in an English summer is likely to feel like November anyway. But since then sovereigns have been given the choice of this second birthday.

Elizabeth chose the two birthdays option but many of us, as we get older, find one birthday a year one too many. And my first thought at the start of a year is not ‘what will the weather be like on my birthday?’ but to reach for a diary and check whether it falls on a work day. An official birthday in which I have to inspect the troops under the critical gaze of the media sounds too much like work to me. Whether you are a fan of the monarchy or not, few could argue that Her Majesty has fulfilled her part of the deal with dignity, composure and dedication. In contrast, how tempted I would have been to lock some of those 12 Prime Ministers who have served during her reign in the Tower (which may have crossed her mind when the ‘rude’ Chinese delegation visited).

Forget constitutional monarchy, I would have been a much more Medieval ruler; more akin to Queenie in Blackadder; with all the petulance of Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts demanding that the roses be painted red. All ways are my ways, as she says in the book. (Alarmingly, I have just Googled that quote to check I have it correct, only to find the Queen of Hearts described as a ‘psychotic character’. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit to identifying with her).  Thankfully, the real Queen has no such despotic tendencies. We may have had a loyalty wobble when Diana died, but all that has been forgotten and as a nation we are proud of her.
However it hasn’t all been good news for Her Maj this year. The recently-published Sunday Times Rich List puts her outside the top 300 for the second year in a row, with a mere £250 million to her name. Perhaps she should have put ‘money’ on her birthday present suggestions list – or a Tesco voucher? Rising up the Rich List is Adele. The songstress reportedly saw her fortune increase by £35m in the last year to a whopping £85m. Like the Queen, she seems to have become a bit of a national institution – although for the life of me I can’t see why.
Now I don’t suppose she’ll pause from counting her millions to care what I think, but in my long list of things-that-are-vastly-overrated-except-by-me, Adele comes perilously near the top. I’m sure she is a lovely lady and not without some talent, but as with Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Attenborough, I just don’t share the nation’s fawning passion. I like to think that I would be the little boy in the fairytale who pointed out that the king was naked. Of course I could just be a contrary curmudgeon who stubbornly refuses to like things that I am told I should like. I had much the same attitude to Centre Parcs when my children were young; the more my friends raved about it, the more determined I was that Family Ashmore would not be checking in.
It’s another reason I would not have been very good in the role of Queen. Sitting with my arms crossed and pursed lips in the royal box, refusing to clap Adele at the Royal Variety Show, is not the act of a gracious Mother of the Nation.
I’m much more suited to the role of cynical, sniping journalist. With a healthy touch of the despot thrown in for good measure.

By Alison Ashmore

Auf Wiedersehen?

So the mudslinging and mistruths that pass for debate in this country are well underway, as we prepare to decide whether or not to remain in the European Union.

With unbiased reporting of facts hard to come by, I’ve taken it on myself to shine the light of truth into the murky waters of the Euro puddle. There are a few key issues which I fear are getting lost amid the sideshows of the economy, security and immigration.

The first, and to me possibly the most important, is: what on earth would happen to the TV show A Place In the Sun, Home or Away if we left the EU? For those of you who perhaps have more of a life than I do and have not seen it, this involves a couple who pretend to be split over whether to buy a property in the grey and overcrowded UK, or get much more for their money in some stunning destination on the continent (guess which way I would jump?). They are shown three properties in each of their chosen locations then asked to decide.
It’s shout-at-the-telly viewing; yes, your grandchildren may be in England but why on earth buy in Margate when you could be sipping a Chianti outside your villa in the sunbaked hills of Tuscany? Each episode, the couple think they have fallen for a place at home before travelling on the ‘away leg’ to be wooed by sunlight dappling the waters of the Dordogne or the golden beaches of a Costa (as in Spain, not the coffee shop).

If we left the EU, would we have to negotiate a new treaty allowing us to make these shows? Would we be free to go and snap up the best foreign properties? Or would programme planners be left with gaping holes in their schedules? Answer that one, Messrs Galloway and Farage.

Brexiters like Boris and Gove are ducking another crucial argument too. With their Oxbridge backgrounds, these two are surely well versed in Latin. This dead language from what is now Italy would presumably have to go, causing headaches for the legal service and school mottos everywhere.

Many areas of life would be badly hit by the insistence on Anglo Saxon words only (although both the Angles and the Saxons were foreign too). There would be no more pas de deux-ing in ballet. Music would have to scrap adagios and allegro. Alfresco dining would be out, as would deja vu experiences (have I already mentioned that?). I could carry on ad infinitum – except I wouldn’t be allowed to. Of course we’ve given the Europeans more than a few words of our own, so perhaps we would come to a quid pro quo arrangement with them. Then they could continue enjoying le picnic and using wifi on a computer.

I’m also worried about going hungry. Pizza and pasta would be taken off the shelves, along with coq au vin and paella. Thankfully my three go-to tipples – wine, whisky and a nice cup of tea – would be safe, albeit with a more limited choice of the former. And it would be good riddance to their olives and suspicious cheeses.

Few things get our national pride going like an international football match. Many people believe we have struggled of late because of the lack of English players and patriotic home-grown managers in the Premiership. An ‘out’ vote should change that, with people from the EU no longer able to waltz (sorry, German word) in here and take our jobs. Arsenal fans eager to ditch Arsene Wenger after 12 years without a Premiership title may see leaving Europe as their best bet.

David Cameron has been accused of not negotiating a good enough deal for us; here, here, say I. Surely this was the ideal opportunity to insist that countries stop dissing us in the Eurovision Song Contest. Do they not realise that had we been made to feel a little more loved over the years, we might not be in this whole Brexit dilemma now? I blame this referendum on Europe’s refusal to acknowledge the brilliance of such musical maestros as Jemini and Electro Velvet.

I hope this look at the key points will help you decide where to put your cross on 23 June, as we collectively make one of the most important decisions to face this country for many, many years. Please make sure you get the facts, and celebrate the democracy we live in by casting your vote.

 by Alison Ashmore

Debut novel up for award

Shropshire-based author Emma Davies is among the contenders for The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers for her debut novel, Letting in Light, published by Amazon Media.

The shortlist is made up of authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme. Each year 250 places are offered to unpublished writers writing in the romance genre.

As part of the scheme, they can submit a complete manuscript for critique by one of the Associations published authors as well as attend RNA events throughout the year which offer opportunities to meet and network with publishers and agents as well as other published authors.

After a varied career which included bookselling, residential social work, braille transcription, estate agency and school business management, Emma now writes full time. She lives with her family of six and two guinea-pigs in rural Shropshire and writes in the gaps in between real life.

She originally self-published Letting in Light and its best-selling success on Amazon brought it to the attention of the company’s publishing arm, Amazon Media, who will re-release the novel in June this year.

Set in the Stipperstones and Church Stretton area, Letting in Light is the story of Ellie Hesketh, for whom the beautiful Rowan Hill estate means a fresh start, but she’s not the only person seeking a refuge. The novel develops to explore the lies we tell to hide dark secrets – and what can happen when we dare to let in a little light.

Emma, who once worked in a design agency, was asked to write an amusing caption to go beside her profile on their website. Back then, when the dream of writing a book was just that, she wrote, ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a 30-something mother of three.’ Now, the dream has become a reality, she’s a 40-something mother of three, and working on the rest!

Commenting on her inclusion in the shortlist, Emma said, “It’s the most amazing feeling to discover that the thing which only happens to other people is suddenly happening to you!”

The Award will be presented at the RNA Summer Party on Thursday 19 May at the Royal Over-Seas League in London.

The Joan Hessayon Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr. David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.

Coping with grief

A Shropshire woman who helps people recover from loss has shared her knowledge with experts across the county – and looks set to start training people from all over the world.

Phyl Edmonds, a Grief Recovery Specialist from Wellington, received a rapturous ovation when she appeared as an inspirational speaker at the Good Mental Health Works conference in Telford last week.

She said: “I can’t believe the start I have had to 2016.

“The workload has grown more than I could have imagined and the interest in the Grief Recovery Method is incredible.

“I’m speaking at more and more events and each time we are getting a great reaction.

“People are really seeing the benefits and I’m excited to start sharing my knowledge with people from across the world this year.”

After losing her husband to suicide in 2010 Ms Edmonds completed the Grief Recovery Method® and found it so helpful she trained as a Grief Recovery Specialist to help others experiencing loss.

After taking people through the programme, she is now training to become only the second Grief Recovery Trainer in the UK.

Set to complete her training with Carole Henderson, Grief Recovery UK Director, in the coming months, she will then train others to become specialists.

As well as overseas visitors – including professionals from Tenerife and Thailand as well as 15 counsellors from Turkey attending this year – experts across Shropshire are interested in the help she offers.

After speaking at the Good Mental Health Works conference, held at the Park Inn, Phyl and Carole were inundated with requests for information and training.


Phyl at the Good Mental Health Works conference

There were around 200 attendees including representatives from commissioners of mental health services across Telford & Wrekin and beyond such as MIND, Citizens Advice Bureau, local employers and the South Staffordshire and Shropshire Mental Health Services.

Ms Edmonds said: “We are aware that emotional health and wellbeing services are being delivered, but as professionals we don’t know exactly what is out there.

“It was a great way to work together. Many professionals I met want to train as specialists in the Grief Recovery Method.

“I have held sessions with groups and individuals for over two years and it is great to see mental health professionals valuing the work we do.

“I didn’t envisage it when the year started but my training has come at just the right time for me to be able to meet the demand for our services.”

Ms Edmonds has now been asked to be a member of the Telford Mental Health Network.

David Gill, lead governor and deputy chair of South Staffs and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust, said the event was a huge success with emotive speakers.

He said: “It’s very much the beginning of an initiative to develop strong networks of support around service users and carers by forging a strong partnership between private, voluntary and public sector organisations.

“This includes effective communication and promotion of services with clear support options from which to select.

“The session Phyl delivered provided a powerful, personal tale of real lived experience that engaged the whole audience in rapt attention together with the clear, tangible benefits of the Grief Recovery Method.”

Ms Edmonds offers group or one to one sessions in therapy rooms at OJoy Wellness in Shrewsbury and at the Glebe Centre in Wellington, Telford.

For more information on the services she offers call (01952) 255952 or 07817 910 552, email or visit the website or

Hotel helping Headway Shropshire

In support of local brain injury charity, Headway Shropshire, Fishmore Hall’s head chef Andrew Birch has offered guests the opportunity to donate an optional cover charge onto their food bill at the boutique hotel’s 3AA rosette restaurant, Forelles.Fishmore-Hall-Exterior

Awarded Welsh Chef of the Year 2004, Andrew Birch has already helped Headway Shropshire kick-start their fundraising activities by cooking at a gala dinner at Shrewsbury College in 2015.

With Headway Shropshire’s target to raise approximately £7,000 by July, the team at Fishmore Hall are keen to continue to support the charity to help reach their goals.

Known for its outstanding food and unbeatable hospitality, Fishmore Hall is firmly on the map in the foodie market town, Ludlow. With breathtaking views towards the rolling Shropshire Hills from the hotel’s orangery style conservatory, this is the perfect place to escape to the country and indulge in high quality cuisine; whilst taking a small step to make a big change for those recovering from brain injury.

Established in 1979, Headway Shropshire is a charity that provides care, support and rehabilitation to people with acquired brain injuries within Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and the surrounding areas.