Evidence shows that over 1/3 of all food produced globally goes to waste and that in most developed countries, over half of all food waste takes place in the home. This costs the average UK household an estimated £700 per year ($2,275 in the USA).

The annual cost of food wasted globally is $1 trillion and25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten. Nearly all the world’s one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe!

So what can we do at home to reduce #FoodWaste?

Please add YOUR suggestions by commenting on the forthcoming Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, or by contacting us here with the tag #FoodWaste.

assorted nuts

Living with Peanut Allergy – a Personal Story

interview with a local mum by Dr Kate Little

My daughter was three years old when she was diagnosed with a peanut allergy.

It all started when we were on a family holiday in Ireland. I had eaten a bag of nuts when we stopped for a break on a family walk. I stroked her back and within minutes she was screaming in pain and had severe hives all over her skin. Skin prick tests and blood tests at the hospital confirmed peanut allergy and we were advised to avoid all nuts until she was older.

Every year since then, her allergy levels to peanut have been rising. She is now eight years old and they are now grade 6 (the highest level) so there is a real risk of a serious anaphylactic reaction if the allergen comes into contact with her mucus membranes (eyes, nose and mouth). Thankfully, when I ate nuts and touched her she only got a really nasty localised skin rash, which made her feel unwell and uncomfortable. Anaphylactic reactions are much more dangerous.

How has this affected her life?

Having such a severe allergy affects the whole family and we have to take numerous precautions in our day to day lives.

As well as avoiding all nuts, she now has to avoid any product that says, “may contain nuts”. This warning represents a real risk that there is a trace of nuts in the factory. For example, a factory that makes fruit and nut chocolate may clean its system and then make chocolate buttons. A trace of nuts may be present in the first few batches, but the consumer cannot know which batch they will get.

My daughter knows that she needs to wash her hands properly with soap before she eats anything and not to put things in her mouth (or up her nose!) if she doesn’t know what they are.

We carry the anaphylaxis kit everywhere we go and constantly check and double-check everything that we as a family consume.

When we fly, we have early boarding so that we can wipe surfaces down beforehand. You can never be sure that you will eradicate every potentially harmful thing, but you can only do your best.

She can’t eat anything in cafes and restaurants. A small thing like using the same tongs to pick up almond croissants and plain croissants, would be enough of a cross contamination to potentially cause a serious reaction.

At home it is easy to avoid nuts as we cook from scratch. On the plus side, it means that she eats less junk! It is trickier though, when she goes to other people’s houses. She just has to be really vigilant and we rely on people to decontaminate their home environments.

We always ask people whose homes she is visiting, to wipe all surfaces with antibacterial spray and make sure that everyone washes their hands properly with soap. This is enough to denature the protein.

It is also important to make sure that any dishes she is eating off, come straight out of the dishwasher, as otherwise dust from products containing nuts like muesli, may come into contact with something that she might put in her mouth. For example, my parents eat muesli that has hazelnuts & almonds in it. When the packet is closed, a dust is released, which can land on a glass or mug that she might later put in her mouth.

How has the nut allergy affected you?

I live my life on a knife-edge trying to manage the fear of something serious happening, whilst being aware that we can only do our best. I also find it hard to manage the social element and how easily parents or schools or my family might perceive me as being neurotic.

I try to make sure that when I talk to people about the precautions we need to take, I get my point across without spreading fear or panic that might make people stop listening, or stop trying, or exclude her. One of my biggest worries is that she doesn’t get invited to social events or on play dates, because it is too much responsibility.

Is your daughter aware of your concerns?

No I don’t think so. I think that we are lucky with her personality. At the moment it doesn’t seem to bother her that she is a bit different.

The allergy itself does frighten her though and this is getting more apparent the older she gets. The hospital have said that they will put more support in place for her as she gets older and have recommended some great on-line resources too.

We have learnt from some near misses that we all have to check what we are eating the whole time. For example, I once bought what I thought was some Kinnerton chocolate (which is always nut free) as a treat. My son (who was two years old at the time) had a meltdown when I didn’t check the ingredients because this is so ingrained in our routine. To pacify him I checked the packet and to my horror, it clearly said “Not suitable for nut allergy sufferers”. It turned out that it wasn’t Kinnerton chocolate at all, but another company that used similar packaging.

So this has wide reaching consequences for you all. That carries it’s own weightiness…

Yes, and I am the sort of person that cares far too much what other people think. I have to wrestle with knowing that this is the right thing to do for my daughter and the feeling that I don’t want to always ask the routine questions that are necessary for her safety, for fear of upsetting anyone. It is bizarre really that such trivial concerns go through my head when I am dealing with something as serious as this, although of course, when it comes to it, I will always put her health first.

It sounds uncomfortable

Yes, and I don’t want it to be uncomfortable for other people or to make them feel embarrassed. The more we do it though, the less that is apparent.

How has it been at school?

School has been more of a challenge than I thought, but I guess that the staff are learning at the same pace as everybody else.

Take for example the junk modelling they do in the classroom, which involves old packaging that people bring in from home. When she first started school, people were sending in packets from Bakewell tarts and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, where there is a very high chance that dust from the nuts may be present and then transfer onto the kids’ hands.

School trips are also a challenge, so I usually go on the trips which the teachers seem to prefer. I can then make sure that surfaces are wiped down especially around where she is eating her lunch and that someone is sitting with her to remind her to wash her hands before she eats things.

My biggest fear about school is bullying. I know that’s a bit of a strong word, but that element really worries me, particularly when she goes to secondary school where everyone brings in his or her own lunches. For example, a boy at school recently said to her “I want to give you a nut to see what happens.” It took all my strength to stop myself from going to speak to that child and their parent. I had to reflect and remind myself that it is just kids. So the worry is real and that is scary.

I reassure myself that because she is so feisty that might keep any bullying at bay but then again, it might also attract it. We are lucky though that the year group that my daughter is in is generally a really caring bunch and they all look out for her.

If you are constantly on this knife-edge, managing 2 children and working full-time, how do you look after yourself?!

I don’t know. Sometimes I feel that this is what a nervous breakdown feels like. I’m holding it all together all the time. I can only describe it as being like a teddy bear holding in its stuffing while one little seam is going. If I let that seam go, then the whole lot is going to fall out. So I am constantly patching up, and patching up, and making sure that we are all fine.

If she was having anaphylactic reactions all the time, then my anxiety levels would be through the roof, but thankfully she isn’t, so we seem to have managed it well this far. The allergy specialist said to us the last time we were at hospital that we are the only family that she knows whose child has a Grade 6 allergy and hasn’t been in casualty or ICU with anaphylaxis regularly. So it makes us feel that whatever we are doing, we are doing it right and that is really empowering.

It sounds so hard and most people just won’t be aware of just how difficult this is for you. Thank you for sharing your story.


For more information on severe allergies, see the following resources:

  • Anaphyslaxis uk
  • Allergy uk – this is a telephone line for advice and safe airline travel
  • Facebook –it can be useful to join relevant groups, to post queries and seek recommendations.
  • provides really helpful information on epipens and how to use them. There is a kids area with games that normalises it for the children.
Paul Spooner Richard Billington Steve Harvey Matt Furniss e1524666708231

Guildford Borough Local Plan Meeting

On Wednesday evening 9 May, Guildford Borough Councillor executives will be out in force at East Horsley Village Hall to give the latest news on progress towards finalisation of the new Local Plan for the Borough.

Following a request from GBC Leader
Paul Spooner, the village will be delighted to welcome him to our Annual Parish Meeting along with Deputy GBC Leader, Matt Furniss and Richard Billington, Lead GBC Councillor for the Rural Economy, Countryside, Parks and Leisure.

They will be in the hot seat opposite our resident interviewer, Steve Harvey, and questions will also be taken from the floor.

It all kicks off at 7.30 with your Parish Council’s annual report, followed by the GBC Local Plan Update shortly after 8.00.

Please email your questions for the GBC Leaders to

Space will be limited and it will be first come, first served, so don’t be late!

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Re-charging at home

Our lives are often frenetic both at home and at work. The last person that we look after is usually our self. If we step back and consider what we might suggest to a friend or colleague, then our advice might be that in order to help others effectively, we first need to look after ourselves. We need to continually replenish our energy stores so that we have more to give for the next day and the next. The analogy of the oxygen mask on a plane.

So what strategies do YOU have to re-charge and re-energise outside work?

Please comment in the box below or share with me at

Your ideas will be put together in a post for a future newsletter.

Image from UNSPLASH

Vehicle Crime Prevention

Most vehicle crime is preventable. It can take as little as 10 seconds for a thief to steal something from your car. The best way to protect your belongings is to lock your car whenever you leave it.
Other things you can do include:
  • Removing everything from the car; don’t even leave a jacket where it can be seen
  • Closing the sunroof along with the windows when you leave
  • Not storing things in the boot; take them with you
  • Storing car ownership information in your home, not your car such as V5 or the logboook
  • Having a routine to ensure you always take the keys out of the ignition
  • Taking removable stereos and sat nav equipment with you
  • In addition, using secure (theft resistant) number plates can make your plates less attractive to thieves. Cloning of plates is very common sadly.
  • Never mark ‘Home’ in your day nav. In case your car and keys are ever taken they know where you live. Call your home something non-descript and bland….rare but it has been known to happen especially if your vehicle is taken whilst your out and about.

Where you park can make a big difference to the safety of your car and your belongings. Look out for car parks approved by the police Safer Parking scheme. You can find them by looking for their distinctive ‘Park Mark’ signs.

How to keep your car safe at home

Thieves sometimes break into houses looking for car keys. They can also use wires and hooks ‘to try and drag’ your keys through the letterbox.

Keep your keys away from doors and windows, and tucked away out of sight.

Have your vehicle’s windows etched with its registration number or the last seven digits of the vehicle identification number (VIN). This can put criminals off, as it makes your car more difficult to sell. It also makes it easier for police to get your car back to you if it is stolen.

I would also.advise if you have a gate, close it. If you can install sensor lighting and CCTV if you can. 

One last piece of advice, having any driveway work done…….use gravel it makes noise and harder to sneak around in believe it or not!

Stay safe!


Four Great Reasons to be Active


We all know that doing exercise is good for us. Despite this, the Health Survey for England in 2016 tells us that 34% of men and 42% of women aren’t doing enough activity for good health. Why is it that exercise is so often seen as a chore and something that ends up on the bottom of our to do list?

Here are four great reasons to be active:

1. Better health. This might sound obvious but the power that exercise has to improve health is often hugely underestimated. Did you know that if you are regularly active throughout your life, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 35 to 40%, your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 20 to 30% and your risk of bowel cancer by as much as 50%? This means that we have the power to shape our own future health. When we’re young we tend not to think about these things but as we age, health issues do become more of a concern and it’s never too late to start becoming active and reaping some of these benefits.

2. Feel good factor. If you speak to someone who was previously inactive and became active, then you’ll find that one of the reasons they would never go back to a more sedentary lifestyle is simply because they feel so much better. You might think that you would feel more tired but your energy levels actually increase when you lead an active life. You sleep better, your concentration improves and you feel calmer. Stress and low mood are a common problem today and we know that exercise is a powerful tool for maintaining and improving mental health. You can expect a 20 to 30% reduction in your risk of depression if you keep active. Exercise helps both our physical and mental health.

3. Opens your world. Exercise can open up a whole new range of experiences and opportunities. From meeting new people and making new friends to exploring new areas and perhaps even travelling far and wide. You just never know where it will take you. Discovering a new path in your neighbourhood or feeling more a part of your local community can change how you feel about where you live. Learning what your body is capable of can change how you feel about yourself. Exercise can improve your self-esteem and self-confidence which then has a knock on effect to other areas of your life such as making you feel more empowered to take on challenges at work or within your family.

4. It’s fun. You might have grown up associating exercise with competitive sport at school and if you didn’t enjoy it then it can put you off for life. But there’s way more to exercise than feeling exhausted on a cross country run! Find something you like. If you want a new habit for life then it has to be enjoyable. Think back to when you were younger, what did you used to love doing? Chances are that if you can find a way to do it now, then you’ll love it all over again. Was it dance? Find an adult dance class or just crank up the stereo and dance around the kitchen. Was it football? There might be a local team, a walking football league or the opportunity to get active by coaching youngsters. Try new things and feel the boost that learning a new skill gives you. Above all, have fun with exercise.

Picture courtesy of PHE

These are four great reasons to be active and have you noticed they don’t include losing weight? We now understand that whilst some of the benefits of exercise are about any weight loss that it may cause in those who are overweight, lots of the benefits are entirely separate to what the scales tell you. You might not see your weight fall as you become more active but this doesn’t matter; it doesn’t mean it isn’t making you healthier. Exercise works by making you healthier from the inside out. It helps to reduce your visceral fat, this is the harmful fat around your internal organs. Visceral fat causes a slow inflammation in the body which we now know is one of the causes of the major diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression. Exercise will work on this fat before it works on our spare tyres round our middle!

The other thing to bear in mind is that although each week we are aiming for 150 minutes of exercise that makes us feel out of breath, what we do the rest of the time is important too. Reducing how long we spend sitting is hugely important. We were designed to move and by breaking up our sitting time and moving around for a couple of minutes every half an hour, we can help to prevent the cells of our body being damaged by unspent energy.

So, keep moving, improve your health, feel better, open your world and above all, have FUN!


Dr Juliet McGrattan is a GP , mother and author of Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health. She works as a Clinical Champion for Physical Activity with PHE in the north-west of England and with 261 Fearless, a global women’s running network. 

You will be entered into a prize draw for a free copy of her book, Sorted, if you like this post. 

Find out more about Juliet and follow her blog here.

Featured image supplied by Gratisography
stressed father

#HouseholdHacks – Top Tips on Making Life Easier at Home


Take a look at some of these fantastic tips from our Horsley Hubbers on what works for them to make life easier at home. Please do add to the conversation in the comments box below and lets help each other de-stress!

When we looked at this in a mums’ group last year, we broke things down into 6 main areas:

  • General planning
  • Children
  • Food
  • Household
  • Relationships
  • Self

Not surprisingly, and perhaps representative of how we often prioritise, we ran out of time to discuss the latter two. I wonder if these are perhaps better placed in Re-energising at home so I will add them there.

Given the plethora of ideas you have offered, I have compiled your suggestions in a list format, using the first four categories mentioned above. And given that one of your top tips was lists, lists and more lists, this seems very apt!



Take the time to plan & look at the week ahead each week. Identify what needs to be done and share this with others involved in care giving.

Lists and more lists. Getting everything down on paper or on your device means it is out of your head, freeing your concentration up for the task in hand. For this to work effectively, you need a reliable system that you trust.

Writing a list each evening with home and work tasks on that you need to get done the next day.

Be realistic about what you can get done and consider prioritising tasks into essential and nice to get done so that you focus your time effectively. Re-evaluate this regularly.

Anything that you can get done in less then 2 minutes, do straight away.

“Chore snacking”. Set a 10 minute rule: only do what you can get done in 10 minutes. You are less likely to procrastinate.

Divide chores into micro-tasks. Small things can be done whilst something is cooking in the oven, or you are waiting for the kettle to boil, so do them now!

Set up good communication systems with others who share your caring responsibilities whether this be for children or ageing relatives.

Create good habits

  • For work. Stick to a set finish time whether this be at the office or working home late in the evening. Don’t soldier on until all the tasks are done or you are too tired (unless this is absolutely essential).
  • Prioritise sleep (more on the importance of this in another post).
  • Ensure screen free time at least 1 hour before bed. This is important for kids too.
  • Make your bed and encourage kids to do the same. It starts a good routine for the day and makes for a tidy and calm environment before going to sleep.



You can’t live with them but you can’t live without them. This was the most fertile topic for debate and you have shared some fantastic tips for how to get through each week with minimal mishap.

Set up shared calendars

Some of you recommended separate weekly family calendars, which have only kids and family activities on, and many of you use a digital one for work, which are shared with partners. Others have one single system that works for all. Whatever your method, make sure you can manage your family’s diverse commitments in a user friendly way.

Getting stuff ready the night before so you are prepared for the next day

This includes tasks such as sorting out the kitchen and getting the breakfast things out for next day, hanging kids clothes out, preparing packed lunches and getting school bags ready.

Kit and school bags

You recommend:

  • Separate kit bags for each activity. Clothes go straight from the wash to the bag to save time.
  • Duplicating kit so no delay with washing and drying.
  • Encouraging older kids to take more responsibility for their kit and organizing their school bags.

Tidy as you go

Encourage kids to:

  • Tidy up what they are doing before moving on.
  • Leave the room they have been in as they would wish to find it.

One parent has a “stuff” box, into which goes everything that is left lying around . At the weekend, she issues an ultimatum: put it where it belongs, or else it gets binned.

Get up before the kids

Another couple get up an hour before the kids wake up so that they get some personal time and space and quality time to chat when they are well rested and not tired and grumpy.


You recommend:

  • On-line. Amazon prime is a worthwhile investment for busy people on the go.
  • Bulk buying presents and cards for parties so that there is no last minute scramble for the shops.

Reward systems

Top tip: laminate reward sheets so that they are re-useable

What constitutes a good reward system that actually works? Some parents reward positively and negatively using the same system for set behaviour & tasks – such as a 10 star system in order to get pocket money, or using on-line apps that track money. Some reward positive behaviour with treats or money, and then use a different system for negative behaviour. Others rate tasks to earn different amounts of money.

Whatever your thoughts and whatever system you choose, make sure you can stick to it yourself. Think about what motivates your child and how old they are. Keep moving the goal posts, once a positive behaviour or task has become habit.


Wherever possible, use positive language rather than starting with negative words such as “Don’t”. This is often easier said than done, but it encourages children to listen more effectively and has a positive impact on how they deal with others. Non-violent Communication comes highly recommended, which really takes this on board. You also recommend Languages of Love by Gary Chapman, which works for relationships as well as communicating with kids. Other books recommended for pre-school kids are here,  for school-age children here and teenagers here.


You suggest:

  • Starting early to avoid Sunday night panic.
  • Doing it in bite-sized chunks to promote concentration. One family in the Horsleys does a quick dance to some loud music as a break between tasks.
  • Keeping one day homework free.
  • Timetabling it with other activities, but remember to include some contingency space.
  • Letting your kids decide if their work is “good enough”.

One mum comments that homework should not make family life miserable, so if your children are struggling with it, consider telling the school and your child that you are going to set a timer for the time the school say the homework should take. After that time allow your child to stop doing their homework and write down the time they have taken attempting the task. However if your child is enjoying the work, let them continue with it if they want to.

Clubs & activities

Top tip: Lift sharing and childcare swaps are both great ways to save time and energy, with the added benefit of being fun for the kids.

Many of us recognise that our children are doing many more activities than we did at their age. This impacts on our own sanity, as well as theirs, as we ferry them from one thing to the next.

So think about whether they are really enjoying the activity or are you insisting they do it because you feel they ought to? Consider allowing your kids space to get bored and be creative with their time. We all need time to just be.

Reducing screen time

This is hugely important for all of us, for our health and our sleep patterns.You recommend “Ourpact” app, which is downloadable on all devices and can switch off other devices in the house remotely to enforce the pact.

Some families have a screen bin that all devices go into at mealtimes and at least an hour before bed so there are no devices upstairs at bedtime.

Establishing a support network and do not be afraid to ask for help.

This is key for everyone. Friends and family will help if they can and it means that they will be more likely to ask you in a time of need. It’s a win win.



Catering for a busy household is a job in and of itself. Here is how you do it….

On-line shopping using a supermarket app. Some of you do this when you’re on the train into work, either weekly or twice weekly so that there is a second supply for the weekend. You tell us that the Ocado app is very good for separating out lists

Menu planning. Some of you do formal rotas for 4 or even 8 weeks. Some of you do the same type of food each week but vary the ingredients – stir fry one night, pasta another. However the meal planning is done, it doesn’t matter as long as it fits with your lifestyle. One thing is clear: all those who do menu plan, comment on how it reduces stress, saves time, improves diet and minimises food waste (another topic!).

Cooking meals

You recommend:

  • Using a slow cooker. Prepare your food the night before and then pop it in to the cooker in the morning so that you have a nice easy meal ready for the evening.
  • Bulk cooking for the week.
  • Batch cooking meals. Double or treble quantities when you cook a bolognaise or stew and freeze the rest in single portion sizes for another week. Voila, it’s a homemade microwave meal!
  • Using frozen foods. You recommend popping frozen mango and edamame beans straight into packed lunches (no need to defrost). Frozen onion is also a real time-saver and Waitrose do a frozen soffrito with onions, celery and carrots to use as a base for risottos, stews and pasta sauces.
  • Investing in a Thermomix. This gadget comes highly recommended by one mum who says that it has transformed her life – at a cost! It apparently makes everything, replacing all other kitchen appliances whilst being small enough to be left out on the kitchen surface. It is dishwasher friendly to boot!
  • Investing in good quality knives.
  • Muffin tray dinners. These are a great for using up leftovers, or a good option if you don’t have a plan for dinner. One mum gives her children some things that she knows they like plus a few new things to try. Because its only a small portion, it doesn’t matter if they are not eaten.
  • ‘Pick and mix’ dinners. Everything is put out in dishes on the table and children get to choose and serve themselves with no adult interference. It makes for a happier mealtime, with no stress.
  • Give yourself a break. If you can afford to, it’s OK to buy ready-made food in occasionally.


Make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks on offer in the house, such as fruit and veg, and ditch the unhealthy ones. If the kids are hungry, they will eat the healthier options and gradually develop a taste for them. The same applies to us as well!

Shop seasonally

Not only is this cheaper, but it is better for the environment and your gut health (more in another post!) The BBC food site has a great seasonal food planner and our local Grace & Flavour community garden sells locally grown fruit and vegetables on Saturday lunchtimes. What’s not to like!



With jobs, kids and elderly relatives to care for, it is difficult to find the time to keep the house ticking over as well. These are your practical tips for keeping on top of the household chores.


Top tip: Invest in a tumble-dryer!

You also recommend:

  • Having separate lights and darks laundry bins – every little bit helps! One woman revealed that her mother even has a dirty washing chute from her bathroom down to the utility room!
  • Label your linen cupboards with what goes where so that you save time opening up the sheets and duvet covers to check what size they are – something I do countless times!
  • Put duvets and pillow case sets together so that you know that you have a set ready.


Top tip: Abandon it! Ironing belongs in the iron age.

You also recommend:

  • Outsourcing – get your partner / others involved.
  • Hanging clothes carefully when damp – they need less or no ironing that way.
  • Hanging or folding straight from the tumble-dryer before the creases set in.


It’s difficult for many of us to find the time to keep our houses tidy.

You recommend:

  • Getting a cleaner if you can afford it. One family has prioritised paid domestic help over expensive holidays, deciding to employ various people to help with gardening and cleaning instead.
  • Getting older kids involved in some of the chores. It helps you and sets them up for the future.
  • Using safer non-bleach products, including Ozklean and GNLD
  • Investing in a cordless Black & decker mini hoover, or if you can afford it, a Dyson that does the same job.
  • Investing in a steam mop. The Sharp one comes highly recommended – it uses no detergent, cleans floors, grout on tiles and upholstery (including curtains).
  • Doing it in bite sized chunks. Leave what you can’t do in 10 minutes.
  • Having cleaning products in every room to save time looking.


You recommend

  • Doing it as you go – it is less overwhelming that way.
  • Giving everything a place.
  • Keeping surfaces clear where possible.
  • Being realistic. It is impossible to keep every room tidy all the time, so focus on the areas that matter such as the lounge and kitchen. If rooms are messy, shut the door! 

Decluttering – “Less is most definitely more”

One mum writes:

“Since reading 168 hours by Laura Vanderkam, I am more mindful of how I actually spend my time versus how I want to spend my time. I don’t want to spend two hours every day cleaning up toys and tidying the house but I do like the house to be tidy, so I de-cluttered, got rid of lots of toys the boys didn’t play with and now I don’t have to clear up half as many toys!  

The same goes for clothes – the more you have, the more you wash, need to hang up to dry, fold and put away and that all takes time.”

Some other de-cluttering techniques you recommend include:

  • A family weekend challenge (everyone has to collect 25 things they don’t need anymore).
  • Having easily accessible boxes for taking to the charity shop / recycling / tip etc. so that as you find things you can put them in the appropriate box and empty it when its full.
  • De-cluttering for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Set a timer and focus for those 30 minutes on one room, or one area.

Learning to accept imperfection

Another mum writes:

“ I’ve realised that most of the demands on my time at home actually originate from me. So if going for a run/meeting a friend is important to me, I need to work out what else I can drop or de-prioritise. I’ve since discovered no-one else notices how regularly I wash the kitchen floor or how well clothes are ironed (or not)…”


Having written this, the one thing I am going to start straight away is de-cluttering.

What will YOU do differently?

Dog James Croft 1 1

The Year of the Dog


2018 is now well and truly underway and while we Brits are sodden in the mires of February, our Chinese counterparts are gearing up for the biggest festivity of their calendar: Chinese New Year. Carnivals, colourful dragons, fireworks, a celebration of the new: a far cry from February in the Horsleys, I hear you say. Yet there is a reason for us all to pop the corks, because 2018 is the Year of the Dog.

In Chinese culture, the dog is a symbol of good luck and 2018 is being duly heralded as a lucky year. And why not? After all, a dog is a man’s best friend. This well-known adage has established roots in our famous and much loved dogs of fiction: Lassie, who (they would have us believe) saved more human lives than the UK emergency services combined; Toto, who managed to survive a tornado that ripped his home from the earth and then loyally followed his mistress down the infamous yellow brick road into another world; and Nana, the St Bernard who finds gainful employment as a nanny to three small children and (perhaps unsurprisingly) manages to lose them all through an open window.

The truth behind all of this is that dogs are incredibly loyal creatures with astounding capabilities. There are over 7,000 people in the UK who rely on assistance dogs to help with daily practical tasks. Without their dogs, many of these people would be unable to live independent lives. There is also a growing demand for therapy dogs in hospitals, schools and other institutions, where their role is to provide affection, comfort and love to people who are mentally or physically unwell, lonely or traumatised.

It is not only the vulnerable in our community who benefit from what dogs can offer. Numerous studies have been done into the health and social benefits that dogs bestow on their owners. Research tells us that dog owners live longer, are less stressed and are better at social interaction. It’s unsurprising really, given the simple fact that dogs need exercise and dog-owners inevitably end up finding common ground taking their daily walks on common ground with their canine companions.

The Horsleys are a haven for dog-walkers. We are lucky enough to be surrounded by countless local beauty spots where we can soak up the Surrey countryside with our families and dogs by our sides. Even in our small village, it is obvious that dog-walking draws people together and makes them healthier. Perhaps it’s not just superstition then, to say that dogs bring us humans luck.

Of course, not all of us are dog lovers. Some people can’t stand them and others are indifferent. It might be lucky when a bird poops on your shoulder, but there are few of us who feel fortunate when we tread in a dratted dog’s doo along the many footpaths that loop through the village. Still, quite a few of us (me included) aspire to becoming poop-scoopers but shy away from the massive commitment that owning a dog brings. While we like the idea of a dog (because it would make our family unit complete and promote fresh air and exercise in our daily routines) we can’t quite fathom how to fit it in to the hectic schedule of full-time work, school and the numerous extra-curricular activities that we shoe-horn into our every spare waking minute. We live in a time where our lives are so busy that we need to be reminded of the importance of doing nothing: slowing down; enjoying nature; being “mindful”. Perhaps taking the leap and adding another element of potential bedlam to our already chaotic lives will, in fact, achieve the simplicity that so many of us crave.

But what does 2018 hold for those of us who remain doggedly dog-less? Is it just dog-owners who will reap the benefits or will we all be blessed with good fortune in 2018? In a year that promises continued economic decline and international volatility following the Brexit vote and the Trump election, can 2018 really be a lucky year? Perhaps we will have to pin our hopes on Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin all investing in a furry friend this year, and then world peace will follow.

Photo: Kindly donated by James Croft

poppies funeral IS

Mind full or Mindful?

All too often we are swept up in our busy lives, rushing from one activity to the next. We operate on autopilot; our thoughts taking control whilst we clean our teeth, brush our hair, take a shower; not really being aware of what we have just been doing.

In one of his talks, John Kabat-Zinn asks the audience an interesting question:

“How many people do you have with you in your shower?!”

I don’t know about you, but I for one, am rarely alone. My virtual notepad is always with me plotting and rehearsing my tasks for the day. Friends, family and colleagues frequently pop by as I think of all the conversations and messages they require. Or I revisit and agonise over an interaction with someone, which hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked. I am mind full. 

Most of us spend much of our day absorbed in the personal narrative of our lives. We may worry about the future or obsess about the past. We rarely spend time actually enjoying and appreciating the now.

Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment. Feeling the drops of water on our heads as we take our shower. Noticing the tingle in our skin as we massage shampoo into our scalp.

It takes us outside our thoughts, outside that narrative that it is all too easy to get trapped in. And importantly, it allows us to gain some headspace to free up our thinking and perhaps think about some of our problems more creatively, or with a more positive mindset so that they feel less overwhelming.

What can mindfulness help us with?

There is a good evidence base for its use in depression and, more recently, anxiety. It is not a panacea for all problems – it is not appropriate for severe depression, alcohol and drug problems and psychosis. Some studies report it as being as effective as medication, with less side-effects.

Evidence also suggests that mindfulness might help us manage stress better at work.

In addition, research is being conducted into the benefits of mindfulness in schools, after reports from short-term studies of improved psychological wellbeing and attention.

How can I practise mindfulness?

Some people are put off by the thought that you have to sit still and meditate, but this is not necessarily the case.

In the many definitions of mindfulness, some highlight the importance of focussing internally, on our thoughts and body, and some on paying attention externally to what is going on around us, and some on both.

Focussing externally, by being curious, taking notice and appreciating the beauty of the things that surround us can really help us be in the moment. The vibrant colours and unexpected warmth of a sunny autumn day for example.

Or simple objects in everyday life that we normally would pay little attention to, that we sometimes see in a different light, marvelling at them in wonder as if noticing them for the first time.

The Book of Life’s chapter on Appreciation talks about a French writer from the 18th century, Xavier de Maistre, who was wounded in a duel and confined to his bedroom. He recorded a mock-serious journal “A voyage around my bedroom” in which he looked at familiar objects in his room such as a chair and the window as if they were “remarkable novelties”, and this brought him great joy. He came to realise that:

“The key to existence is not to seek out what is actually new. It is to bring a fresh mindset to what we already know but have – long ago – forgotten to notice.”

This focus externally to me represents a kind of mindfulness in action. It does not necessarily involve sitting on a mat or chair. You can be very much be awake and moving, but rather than doing on autopilot, you are fully aware and in the moment.

Focussing internally is about becoming aware of what is going on inside: the sensations in our body and our thoughts. Watching our thoughts as one might observe clouds passing – there’s planning, there’s worry, there’s the critic – helping us to see our thoughts as weather patterns that come and go. Accepting them, rather than fighting them. They, like our moods, will pass.

This can be done in a formal meditation sitting still, alert and aware, allowing the mind to focus internally, but can also be done moving in activities such as mindful walking, Qigong and yoga where the focus is on the breath and/or the body. 

Integrating mindfulness into everyday life

This is my challenge. Mindfulness requires practice, like most things that we do. We know that to keep fit, it’s best to work out regularly, and this is the same for mindfulness. We need to practice regularly to train our mind like we would our muscles.

Ways we can do this are to:


Stop briefly for a few seconds throughout your day. Take a few breaths and notice what is present in your body and your mind.  Small coloured stickers placed on objects around your house/place of work act as cues to pause.

Take a three-step breathing space (3 minutes)

This is a quick meditation that can be done sitting or standing. I use it to unwind or if I am feeling overwhelmed by everything I need to get done, to re-energise and de-clutter.

Do formal practice (10 minutes)

Using an app such as those mentioned below, or some guided meditations such as those here. Some of these are seated. Some are moving.

Simply take notice.

Pay attention – what is here, now? Be curious. Like our French writer, we may start to appreciate those small things in life by seeing them differently. Practising #3 Good Things can help with this.

Mindful listening

Concentrate on listening and engaging rather than letting our minds wander or think ahead to what we are going to say next.


There are many ways to become more mindful and less mind full. Writing this has inspired me to re-engage with my regular practice. I know that it makes a difference!

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

William James (American philosopher & psychologist)

Gill Johnson of Mindful Elephant is running an 8 week mindfulness course at East Horsley village hall starting Tuesday 24 April 7-9pm. Cost £225 reduced to £200 to HH subscribers. Contact Gill or on 07785 921950 now to book or if you would like more information. 



There are many books about mindfulness. Two that I have found useful are:

Finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams & Danny Penman. This has an 8 week course that you can do using a CD and the book. I have completed it and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Sitting still like a frog by Eline Snel (mindfulness for kids). I have tried this when teaching in schools and on my own children. They really love it, finding it very calming and relaxing. It starts to give children an awareness of their bodies and the changes that can happen depending how they feel. They learn to use the breath as a means of grounding themselves.


Neighbourhoof angels picture

A ‘day in the life of’ a Horsley volunteer Neighbourhood Connector

I am a volunteer for Horsley Neighbourhood Connections once a month for two hours. This is a community project that aims to help people live well in the Horsley’s by offering a listening ear and providing information and guidance on support services, statutory and voluntary, as well as local activity and interest groups. It is based in the Horsley Medical Practice.

Although my co-volunteers are retired, I work full time, but have agreed with my employer to have one Wednesday afternoon off a month to do this role and I make up the time another day. There is a small group of us who each volunteer in this way and manage to cover every Wednesday afternoon from 2 to 4pm.

The receptionists book appointments for us and my afternoon starts by saying hello and collecting the folders with all the forms and information that I need for my shift. We are allocated one of the doctors’ rooms to see people in and I notice that my first lady is waiting for me already.

During the afternoon I see three people and its surprising how the time flies by.

The first lady needs a food bank voucher and we are a designated centre to write them out and explain where to go in Cobham to pick up food. Whilst we are talking I ask if there is any other support that we can offer her and we talk about her recent move to the area. She is struggling as she does not have a hoover or washing machine and I explain about a local charity that may be able to help. We agree that she comes back next week to talk to my colleague as I will find out the contact details of the charity and how best to contact them to see if they are able to help with these one off purchases.

My next appointment is with a couple, both of whom look amazing in their 90’s and who have lived in Horsley for 55 years. They want help to renew their blue badge form. Filling in forms is so complex, but they have brought along their passports, bank details and we try to complete as much as we can. They will come back in two weeks with photos so that we can finish the forms off.

Finally I have been asked to ring a lady who has told the doctors that she is very lonely after her husband died last year. I introduce myself and explain about our service and what we can offer. She asks me about help with gardening as her husband used to mow their lawn each week, and I suggest some services which can help. She also said that she loves local history and I mentioned the U3A group that runs in Horsley. We agree that she will think about if she would like to come and see us over the coming weeks to discuss this and other activities in Horsley that may suit her.

After each appointment I write a summary in the persons notes that we complete and also in our ‘day book’ – so that the person volunteering next week can see what has been happening and will know what I have discussed with each person.

I drop the folders off with the practice manager and say goodbye to the receptionists. It has been a rewarding afternoon, not only personally as I feel that we are providing a much needed service, but also these people may have had no alternative but to see the doctors or receptionists for help and advice and this increases their already demanding workload.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please contact:   Kim Tolley on 07540 704857 or e mail The first step would be for you to shadow us to see if the role is for you before you commit to volunteering.