I love history. I love reading historical novels, watching movies and TV shows like Vikings, The Tudors, The Last Kingdom and The Pianist, as well as fantasy history like Game of Thrones. I guess I just love being taken back in time and living another person's life for a while. As George R R Martin says:
When I read a historical book or watch a show, I am taken into a radically different life, and I love that.
Let me introduce you to a Welsh Princess called Nest (or Nesta). She pops up in a few of the novels I've read and she's rather awesome, so I just thought I'd share a little about her.
She lived from 1085-1136, during the time of intense fighting against the Normans who had come over, won in battle against our King Harold Godwinson, and taken over England. That was of course near Hastings and is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. Her father was a Welsh King and he resisted the Norman spread across England into Wales. He died fighting just outside Brecon against William the Conqueror's son, named, erm, William . Nest was still a teenager but was packed off to English court, as she was quite the beauty. That must have been such a tough time for her as she was separated from all her remaining family, but she struggled on. She settled in to London life, and even had Henry 1s illegitimate son (before he was King). According to written accounts, they were very close and things could have gone differently for her here, but she was ordered by Henry to marry a Norman Constable of Pembroke. This sounds rather harsh as he did love her, but he had become King and had to marry someone else for political reasons (he no doubt wasn't all that happy with it either).
This is a medieval manuscript in the British Library showing Nest in bed with Henry, crowns an' all!
Nest was shipped back to Wales with her new hubbie Gerald, so I'm sure she was happy to be going home; she even managed to make the forced marriage work. It's reported that she and her hubbie had a good relationship, despite her being a Welsh Princess and he a Norman Invader who had taken over Pembroke Castle. She was a well-balanced, strong, open and honest woman from what I've read, and she learnt to love Gerald for who he was. He learnt to respect her Welsh roots too, and was respectful of Pembroke and the Welsh people. I'm sure making the relationship work was not easy at the start, so hats off to them both.
They had 5 children together, and during her life with Gerald she was abducted and possibly raped by her cousin. She came through that ordeal with real strength, only to have Gerald die (not after he avenged her though) and her to be married off by her sons to someone else. It wasn't the best time to be a woman that's for sure. She had another child in this new marriage, and this son went on to be famous in his own right, Robert FitzStephen.
Despite all her trials and the constant battling between her family and the English (her brothers and nephews continued the fight), she still managed to walk the fine line in the middle with dignity. She maintained relations with both sides, and that must have been extremely tough with times of very high tensions. She was held in high esteem and Henry 1 reportedly remained very fond of her. He lost a great woman and I bet he knew it.
Women have made all sorts of marks over history, largely not documented or known, and Nest is one I feel a real fondness for. She spent her life being ordered around by men due to the time she lived and the little rights she had, but her legacy and the recording of her life shows she was held in very high regard. This is no mean feat for a woman back then and I think she helped pave the way for the end of the Welsh and Norman/English tensions. Go Nesta.
I've had some lovely messages about the chickens, wondering how they are getting on, so here's a quick update.
In short, they are doing GREAT!
They've got used to the sights and sounds of the outdoors, they've been indulging in dust baths in the sunshine, they've been hit by the rain and learnt it will make them very soggy if they don't go and shelter, they've been let out with the others, they've been chased around a bit, they've moved into Cluckingham Palace and they've even experienced hail (I don't think they liked it any more than I did...ouch!).
Frida proved to be the best at integrating, and I saw her socialising with the old girls very early on, but ironically, she was the only lady still trying to go to bed in the little house, all on her tod! The other 3, including little scared Hilda, got the idea and soon started to head up to my Cluckingham Palace Mansion to bed, electing to sleep in the nesting boxes away from the squawking old girls. I kept having to fling Frida in with them, but she's finally taking herself in there now. Go Frida. Chyna has grasped the morning mealworm breakfast routine very quickly, and waits up the top so she gets her own little pile to munch on. She's also been a pickle, trying to eat my earing, ring and bracelet when I've been cleaning out the chicken house.
So, the old girls have accepted the new girls, they are still sorting out the pecking order, but it's all really harmonious compared to the non-stop clucking and the "who the hell are these?!" looks I was getting at the start. Super-shy-bleeding-and-tiny Hilda is no longer hiding down the bottom, but is out wandering, and her feathers have really come back beautifully. I snapped some photos but she wasn't around, so I'll have to do her later. Here are Frida, Chyna (egg-laying extraordinaire) and Villanelle.
I must also add some of the old chickens as they wanted their piccie taken too, and posed so beautifully.
To start, I'll give you a little back story. My next door neighbours had 13 hens, and then few years ago decided that they would re-home them. We'd never had chickens before, but decided to give it a go with their help, and took 5 of them.
Well, that changed my life! I'd always been a little scared of them, simply as we don't get the chance to be around chickens often, so they were an unknown entity. I soon learned how entertaining they are, how they have such different personalities, how they love a good cuddle and a bath and how lovely their eggie presents are compared to the shops.
Fast forward a year or two, and some of our girls had gone to chicken heaven :( Since then, we've adopted 8 ex-free range hens from the BHWT. It has been interesting as the first 5 we got all came in pretty good condition, just a little pecked from squabbling. The second lot was in a terrible state for free-range, and certainly opened my eyes to the fact that not all farms are the same. I knew at this stage that giving a good retirement to hens would be a big feature of my life, so my next step last year was to build a bigger-than-I-meant-to build chicken house. It's built up high to make it easy for us to clean and give them shelter underneath from the rain and is fully insulated. I used old bits of wood I had, wood donated to me and even old laminate flooring on the inside. It was fun to make :)
I've had a few years on this planet now, and enough to know that I feel passionate that large-scale industrial animal farming is not the right way. Farming is a wonderful thing, and I'm not commenting as I'm a vegan or even a full vegetarian, but I think it's only sensible that we farm with care for the planet and compassion for the animals we are going to consume. Industrial farming has been shown again and again to be having a negative effect on the planet, and it certainly is not the life that the animals should be having. Our second lot of free-range re-homed hens showed me that we are moving in the right direction, but there is work to be done.
We've learnt that our rescue hens have a shorter life than our first ones and our two fancy Poland chickens with afros that we bought back in the day, and we've just been given the chance to house 4 ex-colony birds. This is the new name for battery/caged hens, but they are given a little more of a natural environment in their cages with perches etc.
I jumped at the chance as these are hens in real need of seeing that life can be lovely. We touched back up our old smaller chicken house with its own run, so that they could adjust slowly without having our girls up in their faces with a bit of turf warfare.
The next step, last Saturday, was to go to the collection day and get our new girls. It was, as I expected, the most difficult of the re-homing days. The staff were amazing of course, and it was run with impeccable efficiency. What was difficult, was that there were 4 poorly hens outside of the big pen that the staff had the re-homing girls in. All 4 were wrapped in coats and were in the sun, and it transpired after talking to the staff, that they were suffering from hyperthermia and trauma. These girls were not well, and it broke my heart. Once we got to the holding pen, I could see why. They were scrawny, with barely any feathers and had probably never been outside. They were wondering what the hell was going on and their bodies were in shock. The staff kept them all as calm as they could of course, and it was worth the move from the farm in order for them all to find new homes. They deserve to enjoy a free-range retirement after all their hard work commercially egg laying for their whole lives so far. It was just too much for those poor 4 girls. The staff were going to look after them as they had the experience, and hopefully most of them pulled through with all their TLC.
We packed our 4 girls in our lined crate, and brought them straight home. They were certainly unsure, and were pecking madly at me, but I managed to give them a little bath (they loved it and calmed straight away) and a good dose of vitamins before they moved into their temporary house within our big run. Welcome to the family ladies! We named them Hilda, Frida, China and Villanelle (big Killing Eve fans!).
They have spent the last week in their little house and run, and have settled in so well. Hilda is a little poorly, but she is further forward with her feathers coming back, and it looks incredibly sore. She loves her pet-friendly hot water bottle. Villanelle is living up to her name, and spends her time trying to escape the smaller run when I open the door. She's ready for her freeeeeeedom! She's been out a few times and with her extra confidence will really help the other 3 when they integrate.
I think I will integrate the two most confident this weekend, as Hilda is just not ready, but Villanelle is going stir crazy! Villanelle and probably China will be placed in the main chicken house at night, as this is the best way to have them accepted. The older girls will wake up and see them in their house in the morning, and realise there is very little they can do about it now! Hilda and Frida can then stay in the little house together until Hilda is ready.
If you've ever thought about getting chickens, I totally recommend it! Get a good guide-book and speak to others for advice (me included!). The BHWT has a wealth of information and supplies, and can advise if you are starting with rescue hens. It's a learning curve, but they are so much lovelier than I ever imagined, and will really make you smile.
It is an emotional and personal connection to ourselves. It's fragile but strong, fluid and yet rigid.
It is about how we feel about ourselves, but it's rooted in the word around us. Our confidence in ourselves is like fine threads coming out from us, weaving into other people, through the media and society, through our hopes and desires. These threads change, pull and slacken on us all the time. Sometimes we feel a pull that isnt even there, but it is there, as we feel it. These threads and perceived threads are super important.
The result is confusing. It's love and encouragement, kindness and appreciation, and it's a constant reminder that you that you’re not good enough, pretty/rich/stylish enough.
Self-confidence is not just a female thing either as some believe. It can be equally strong in kids, men and women, but there are a few things you can try to help strengthen your positive threads, whilst cutting off some of those negatively pulling ones. There are some great books and resources out there, but let's look at a few ideas:
1. Take a hard look at the environment around you.
Who do you spend time with? How do they make you feel? Do they bring out your positive side and boost you up or make negstive comments and pull you down? We can't avoid everyone that doesn't make us feel great, as it might be your colleague, your brother, your neighbour etc, but we can sit and think how to minimise the time we have to spend with them and how often we have to see them. That "friend" that makes you feel really low when you've seen them though - just go cut them loose. The people you spend your time with have a huge impact on how you feel about yourself and some people are not good for you, so dont keep them in your life.
2. Show yourself compassion.
When you notice that you are being unkind to yourself in your thoughts or comments, think about what you'd say to someone saying those things to someone you love. Would you think it was fair, would you think they were kind? What what you'd say if a friend was saying those things to themselves? Would you be reassuring and compassionate? Of course you would. You'd give them a cuddle, you'd remind them how lovely they are, you would tell them how wrong they've got it with the negative things they are saying about themselves. You'd remind them that they need to be compassionate to themselves, and that's what you need to remember to do for yourself.
Maybe write to yourself when you are feeling great. Just write down all the things you want to tell yourself when you are feeling too low to remember what you want to say. Find your self-kindess and nurture it.
3. Read positive stuff.
If seeing pictures of other people makes you feel bad about yourself, stop looking. Don't buy magazines, don't surf online, don't follow those people on Instagram. Find people who inspire you, remind you of the beauty in people and yourself, and make you feel more confident in the areas your confidence is lacking.
4. Make changes.
If you have areas of your life you don't feel too confident about, can you change it? Have a brainstorm to see if there is anything you can do. Do you lack confidence when driving? Get a driving instructor again to help sharpen up those skills. Do you feel self-conscious when dancing out with your friends? Get music on whenever you can at home and get those moves going. The more you do it, the more confident you will feel when out.
You can work out what you could change, usually the things that most frighten you. You can take little nibbles out of them, building up your confidence slowly, or just go for it.
Whatever you do, remember life is super short. Compared to the life of our beautiful Earth, our human lives are the equivalent of half a second. You can choose to spend that half a second bring kind to yourself and nuturing your self-love.
"Gender medicine is not feminist. It's about real science...later the patient will reap the benefit"Dr Alyson McGregor, Brown University.
As someone who relies on medication to keep my health conditions under control (Lupus) this is a topic that I'm very interested and it catches my eye if I see it in a magazine/paper. I also run a business that caters for women, as well as women with specific health needs such as having had a mastectomy, and issues around gender with women transitioning from a male body to a female one. Health, medication and gender are around me in my professional and personal life every day.
My Dad subscribes to the BBC magazine "Science Focus" (formally just BBC Focus) and an article in there recently about gender and medicine was fascinating. If you'd like to read it, I can scan and send you a copy, but to summarise the writer Simon Crompton wrote:
Only in the past decade has mainstream medicine started to realise that different drug doses may be needed for men and women
This was accelerated by the findings that a sleeping and jet lag treatment caused women to act bizarrely with no recollection of what they have done. After the US drug regulators investigated, it was found that women needed half the amount than men do, as women metabolise it slower than men meaning it stays in their system longer.
The old medical view of a woman with regard to medicine was that they are essential men with "boobs and tubes".
Since changing ideas, it has found that women experience heart attacks differently. For men, look out for a tight pain in the chest, shooting pains down the arm and dizziness. With women, look for shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea and pain in the lower jaw or back.
We have found that women have faster and stronger immune responses than men, as testosterone dampen's men's responses.
This results in men being more likely to die of infectious diseases
Women are more likely to have autoimmune diseases (like lupus, which is a "woman's disease"). The believe percentage of autoimmune diseases is 78% women.
Women and men have different metabolisms and different experiences of pain.
Biological sex and gender with characteristics and identity shapes by society and the environment and now both being studied on their influence over medicine.
Women and men tend to experience Alzheimer's differently. Look for behavioural changes and aggression in women, and physical impairment and aggression in men.
Gut function really seems to vary, with women taking twice as long to digest food and medication, being more likely to get gall stones have IBS.
The main reason behind the assumption, until now, that medicine works the same for men and women, is that all medical trials were carried out on men. It was believed that women of childbearing years etc should be protected from harmful testing. As a result, the differences in medication influence were not seen in a lab environment and when women are involved the results tend to be combined so the differences between them are never discovered in the same way as separate testings for men and women.
Gender medicine has been slow to grow due to cost. Trials on women are more expensive. Hormone fluctuations mean as woman needs checking more often, depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle.
Despite the costs, Dr Alyson McGregor states that it is important for the evolution in excellence in health care. Afterall, currently mixed trials are potentially making the results inaccurate for men too.
Clearly we are experiencing a change in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, but this change will take time. I await with interest the day that I see the first change on a medication packaging, detailing the dose for men and the dose for women.
Keeping my store environmentally friendly has always been something that I am passionate about.
I will always struggle with that the silicone breast enhancers themselves are not recyclable, but I hope this will change in the future, and it is why I work on making top-quality products. I don't like to go along the lines of other stores, with cheaper products, even if those cheaper prices do mean it attracts more customers. Instead, I would rather spend more in manufacturing the products, so I can not only make the manufacturing process as environmentally friendly as possible, but also make products that are designed to perform well and last as long as possible.
I do my best with small changes as often as I can make them:
I have always recycled all the business waste possible.
I moved to fully recyclable Jo Thornton labels in 2011
Not long after I introduced recyclable tissue paper packaging as the packaging that most of my products go out in. I knew that most customers would not doubt that they could recycle tissue paper and paper recycling is on of the things we are best at out of all recycling types.
I added natural cotton organza bags and fully recyclable cardboard boxes as other product options, later that year, rather than plastic based bags.
In 2013 I made my fashion tape rolls have recyclable backing and a recyclable inner roll.
I took active steps in 2014 to audit all my storage and I now only use cardboard and wooden storage in all my storage areas.
My mailing bags have always been recyclable for the bigger sizes and biodegradable for the smaller sizes. Technology has moved on in this area, so I am working with a factory to make bags just for me that will dissolve to Co2, water and eco-friendly biomass. They will use vegetable inks and there will be no residue left of the bag but those compounds, and this is the most eco-friendly option that is available. These are nearly finalised and will be packaging your goodies very soon.
My next steps:
My next step is to look at the bags that all my tapes come in. The problem that I have is that the tape is adhesive, so I am unable to use a paper or cotton based back as the tape will remove some of that packaging and be hard for you to remove. I am going to try other biodegradable plastic types to see if I can get one that ticks all the boxes.
I will also continue to check for biodegradable jiffy bags. At the moment the only ones available are the padded bags with shredded paper in and these are often not recyclable as the fibres clog the machines when they break open. I will keep checking to find a bag where the bubble wrap lining is made of biodegradable plastic, or see if some other options appear as an option. For now, I will try to use cardboard boxes whenever possible, but as these are around 6 times the price, it can be very difficult whilst keeping my prices low for my customers.
I am glad to see the sway in thinking towards protecting the environment and I will always do all I can to do the best I can.
I just thought I'd let you know about my recent exchange with The Dating Show live, so you can learn more about my values and goals as a company,
I received this email from them:
I am trying to reach out to see if our upcoming event is of interest to you?
Exclusively featuring First Dates who will be running a Cafe over the two days, 24th/25th November 2018, we are the largest and first of this size in the world when it comes to dating events, at an expected footfall of 10'000 singles hoping to meet and mingle over the two days at the Birmingham NEC.
We have the fantastic Hilton Hotels,Hasbro Games, Capital Radio, Love Hearts, Mr Tinder (the most right swiped guy in the UK!),Melinda Messenger, and a lot of unique businesses from a hemp company, to up and coming makeup brands etc on board, we are keen to ensure there is also not numerous stands exhibiting similar products or services to each other.
We also have a couple of big dating/relationship/fashion/lifestyle bloggers, authors also are involved, which is fantastic in terms of promotion through social media!
Please do get back to me if you wished to have a chat about the event and it possibly being of a good fit for you and Jo Thornton?
It sounds like fun doesn't it, and great for people who want to get out there and meet new people. I'm certainly very intrigued by Mr Tinder. Does he just go on non-stop dates?!
Still, it's not the right fit for me and what I am trying to achieve for my little shop. This was my reply:
Thank you very much for your email and your interest in my little store.
I don't think that it's the best move for me and the women at your event, even though commercially it is I'm sure! I just don't like to place my products somewhere that implies that women need them to achieve dates/be attractive. I prefer to market them for women's own confidence in themselves independently, balancing uneven breasts, filling out clothes that no longer fit, for use with post breastfeeding and mastectomy needs etc. Of course many women want to wear them for first dates, to improve their confidence, but I don't personally feel comfortable marketing them somewhere that implies that I feel all women should wear them for a first date.
Again, thank you for the email and I wish the show all the best :)
I'm not sure if they will understand, but hopefully they will. I'm sure they have plenty of other stores that are very excited to be invited and many others they can approach. It's lovely as a very small store to be contacted about these things, but until it's a show that is exclusively about the various elements of women's confidence and life experiences, it will always be a "thank you so much but no thank you" from me.
If you are single and ready to mingle though, head to Birmingham in November!
Well now Brexit is a word that has been EVERYWHERE hasn't it?!
Don't worry I am not going to get policial. I just want to say that I love you all. I have seen the media full of so many appalling hate crimes, You Tube videos of abuse, stories of leaflet passing out telling people to go home etc. It's hard to know what to say other than it is so wrong. It seems it has become a time that people feel their prejudices can be aired loudly, and with the comments coming from Donald Trump, it's not a good time for love, acceptance and unity.
I want you all to know that I love helping you all.
I am happy to help you if you are from the EU, from another country out of the EU, are white/black/brown/blue/green or pink (or any other colour for that matter), if English isn't your first language and we need to use a bit of Google translate, if you are from the north of the UK right down to me here on the south coast. I'd love to help you if you are a teenager in need of confidence and support, a young clubber looking to dazzle, someone who is feeling they need a confidence boost for work, if you have asymmetrical breasts and would like to be evened out, if you have breastfeeding boobs that are in need of some love, if you are someone wanting to restore some fullness to the breast and I would especially love to help more Grannies feel fabulous at their Grandson's wedding (true story!). If you are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, identify as a woman or a man, a transvestite, transexual or unsure - I am here for you. If you are shy, uncertain, confused and in need of support and guidance - I am here for you.
I'm not a big reader and oh how I really wish I was. It's something I've tried to change and I'm never giving up hope!
There are some series of books I can read so easily and be so surprised by. Like James Herriot. I wasn't expecting much when I picked one of his up at my Grandmother's house, but there was just something about it. I used to watch the show on the TV, but the books were different. Set in the 1930s, they were real stories with atmosphere and characters from his journey as a new vet, rattling around in the cars of the time in the Yorkshire Dales. I laughed and cried and whizzed through every chapter in the entire series in no time. So I know I can read when I find the right books, it's just that they don't come along too often.
I've read the odd book on and off through my 36 years on this planet, but it did get to the stage when I had 9 part read books on the go. Yes nine, that's not so good is it. The last couple of years have had an extra challenge to my reading. Lupus has entered my life and it's most challenging symptom is extreme fatigue. I get so tired, even when I've only been up an hour in the morning on some days, so sitting down with a book can mean sleep time in around 30 seconds after starting. Needless to say falling asleep is a real challenge to reading and means I don't get too far through books these days!
I realised something I love though that could help though. I always love wearing headphones and I love music, so I thought that I'd give audiobooks a go and woah ...they are great! I can listen to them when I am driving, when I am cooking, doing simple tasks on the PC and other times in life when I would have popped some music on. I can go through books as I've always wanted to, just in a different way and a way that suits my needs better. I can completely focus on the words at times when I am not fighting to keep my eyes open. I am fighting a losing battle with books in printed form all the while I have this extra battle with fatigue going on but I now have another avenue in to reading and that makes me very happy.
So, the point of all this is that I've been reading, well listening to, a great book.
It's called Mastery and it's by Robert Greene.
I seem to have gravitated towards biographies and non-fiction since finding my way to audiobooks, and I saw some great reviews that lead me to this one in particular. It's a beast, as in really long, but I seem to have got that lovely whizzing through feeling like I did with my James Herriots. The book is so interesting as it looks at the reasons that some people master the field that they are in. Rather than just being a huge book of theory, Robert talks us through the lives of Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Mozart and some amazing contemporary masters. It's a bit black and white at points, but I think it needs to be in order to really drive home his ideas and keep us on track with the theory and fibre of his argument at the time. He shows us that we don't need to be born with a gift or be some special human being, we just need to find what makes us unique. We need to keep a wide view of our calling and let life guide us through, even noticing the things we feel are our flaws, and help them guide us. It takes practice to become a master of anything, which is something that we are not so good at during this digital and age of instant gratification. We also need a mentor who can help guide us and impart knowledge to us during our apprenticeship phase, before we break away and find our own path as we follow the last part of our journey to mastery. It's a fascinating book and I've loved it so much it's made me write a little blog post about it. I've even got it as a printed book now too so I can highlight bits and jot my thoughts down in. Who knows, one day I might even be able to kick this fatigue and sit down with a cuppa and read it as well :)