Despite my grumbles about the Hobbit being made into three films instead of one, we did go to see the first of the new trilogy today and enjoyed most of it. I'm assuming that readers of this blog will have read the book so can go on to say that the way they handled the troll scene really irritated me. The whole point of the scene in the book (about the use of wit instead of weapons) was sacrificed in favour of an all-out action sequence, seemingly created by nervous film executives for the attention-span-of-a-gnat generation.
My favourite scene? When Bilbo's hobbit hole was being slowly taken over by strangers and he was trying to make his fury known by repeatedly saying "I'm sorry". That clip should be shown as an instructional video to people emigrating to the United Kingdom.
In other news, Lucy Mangan's columns in the Guardian Weekend magazine are always good but today she really excelled herself with a well observed, poignant column about the luck of the draw:
I consider myself lucky. But, despite all their wealth and security, I suspect our political and business leaders never think that of themselves.Do they never have moments when the weight of their astonishing luck makes them buckle at the knees and fall to the ground in gratitude? I suppose not. It can only be by thinking yourself entirely responsible for your own fortune that you can think of all those who are poorer, less successful or less independent of the state as personally responsible for theirs. Thus they deserve punitive policies and sanctions designed to remedy their immorality and sloth. A moment's honest thought, that's all it takes. I wager that you'll agree, because I wager you have them yourself. It would take an inhuman, almost sociopathic degree of arrogance and lack of imagination not to.
I have often wondered whether most people born into exceptionally lucky circumstances or those who have had the fortune of an unusually lucky break ever stop to think about the ratio of luck versus their own efforts; whether they have narrated their situation internally so that they deserved it, were entitled to it and therefore feel arrogant and protective about it. Many people in positions of power, especially in politics and leadership roles tend to hold "lesser beings" in thinly veiled contempt. Things like the workfare scheme in the UK have, quite frankly, been a disgrace.
A book shop in Toronto has set up a vintage book vending machine, the Biblio-Mat, in a hope to attract new customers and become a destination store. I hope it will work. I am booking my flights to Canada as we speak.*
The books cost just $2 (although the owner has apparently been struggling to re-fill the machine with inexpensive books now that it has become popular).
Imagine having book vending machines at train stations and in hospital waiting rooms! It should happen. Perhaps it's just too retro in the age of the e-reader but I can't help but love the concept.
Meanwhile, the Momentum Project is staging another event in Newham next weekend, in association with Food For All. The last inspiration evening in the community focused on the project we could physically build in the two days allocated to the Oasis game. However, during that week, the local council also agreed to re-purpose a disused area of the community as a skate park. So this coming Saturday, the local kids and adults get to join forces, eat food donated by FFA and design their next dream. I'll be attending and baking some chocolate chip cookies to take along, too.
*I am not actually going to Canada, although I wish I could.
I've been writing for Blogcritics since 2005 and although I haven't had the time to be particularly prolific, it's gratifying to be able to write about the topics I enjoy and review books that look interesting. My latest review, "Creative Illustration" by Andrew Loomis was published today and I'm delighted that it's been selected as an Editor's Pick, too. That's the fourth overall and second one in a row. No pressure, then.
This August, the Oasis game came to the UK for the first time and was played in Silvertown, a corner of Newham in East London. I attended the training program and project weekend, along with several other Lush employees and a handful of other participants. This is my personal diary from the experience.
Donating to charities is a comfortable way to tell yourself that you’re “doing your bit”. Being somewhere in person – now that’s a different story. How much easier it is to allow a certain sum of money disappear from your bank account every month to “good causes” than to actually get your hands dirty.
I don’t see myself as an activist. The thought of chaining myself to a fence does not fill me with excitement (I merely wonder “how do they go to the toilet?”). Volunteering for any kind of direct action seems like an alien, unknown experience. And to finish off the excuses my internal dialogue has been dishing up, I have no useful skills for volunteering work. I’m not a social worker, builder, campaigner or green hero. By the standards of the Bigger Picture, my work is airheaded – I’m a perfumer. I’ve spent my whole life selling, marketing, creating or applying potions and lotions. It brings joy to individuals, yes. Does it make money for the people I work for? Absolutely. Does it make the world a better place? Well, yes, in many ways - but not in the grand way I have always imagined the Heroes of Activism go about things. They travel to disaster areas and build bridges or climb on top of coal power stations. They throw rancid butter onto the decks of whaling boats. I’m not cut out for that. I’ll just peer at them admiringly from afar.
I might have gone on to believe that I was unsuitable for any kind of volunteer project, but something happened. Ruth Andrade, our environmental guru at Lush showed us a video made in Brazil, her home country. Ruth is a powerhouse of a character; a true inspirational leader. Spending any amount of time with her simply leaves you a changed person. It is impossible not to be influenced by her in some way.
In the video, Edgard Gouveia Júnior from ELOS institute explained a new concept: what if we could change the world by playing a game? What if we could approach a difficult situation with a different attitude? What if everyone could find a way to contribute, regardless of what kind of skills they have? What if we didn’t treat people in disaster zones or poverty as victims? What if we found a way to connect to them and work with them and leave behind a lasting legacy?
This was the Oasis game concept, first born in the favelas of Brazil. Architecture students ditched their indoor classrooms and took their desks outside – amongst the people whose lives their work would be influencing. They involved the community directly and the results were breathtaking. This seemingly small step led to a whole movement that has been around the world in the last 12 years and spawned several side projects.
After intense preparation, the Oasis participants are each given roles best suited to their skills. The names for these roles sounded more like classes in a role playing game: Oracle, Time Keeper, Lighthouse, Guardian Angel, Gnome, Hunter, Messenger...
I had goosebumps by the end of the presentation. Maybe there was a way for someone like me to contribute after all.
A few months later, Ruth brought us exciting news: the Oasis game would be coming to UK for the first time. It would be played in Newham, an area in the shadow of the London City Airport and 2012 Olympic Games frenzy. Expensive private property developments aimed at rich commuters are muscling in on previously council-house territory. The local residents are like a dirty secret, airbrushed from the gleaming façade of the city. A group of determined activists, calling themselves the Momentum Project, has already started to change things little by little, by hosting community events and trying to convince locals that “you don’t have to move out of your community to live in a better one”. Partnering with the Oasis game meant a much larger group would be there to create a short burst of intense activity and hopefully, a lasting legacy.
I asked Ruth if she would let me participate. Apologising for my lack of volunteering experience, not really knowing exactly what the training and the project would involve, but convinced that if I didn’t throw myself in it now I would never have the guts to. To my astonishment, Ruth not only said yes, she seemed delighted that I had asked.
We were told to pack for six days and be ready for hard work. The Dutch branch of the ELOS institute was organising this game and we received a comprehensive welcome pack and instructions on what to bring in advance. It certainly dealt with the logistical side of things but nothing could have prepared us for the actual experience itself.
On the first night, arriving at the Ibis budget hotel (accommodation which turned out to feel not unlike sleeping in a large bathroom), I did feel a sudden flash of doubt that I had made a mistake. The lobby was populated by people who looked every inch the eco warrior, world-traveller, activist and hippie hero. Just in case you haven’t worked it out by now, I really don’t. At 40 years of age I was also the oldest person in the room. When waiting for our training to start at the Asta community centre next morning, I tweeted: “The Oasis training is about to start. A room full of young volunteers… and me.”
The facilitators were Rodrigo from Brazil, Niels from Netherlands and Conchi from Spain. Unlike any other training course I’ve been on, they took control of the room in a very calm and subtly manipulative way, coaxing things out of us and getting us to agree to seemingly bizarre activities. Instead of long-winded explanations and theory, we were coached to find our own answers. Instead of asking us who we were, they asked us how we were feeling.
We spent a long time that first day finding ways in which to connect to each other and to ourselves. As New Age as that sounds, this methodology was the foundation without which the Oasis game simply wouldn’t have worked. I had decided to accept whatever would be asked of us and to be very open to new ways of doing things. This attitude paid off. Over the next six days I learned a great deal about teamwork and about myself.
Our modern work environments often teach us to fall back on old routines. We often focus on the “how” instead of the “why”, and we often completely ignore the people involved in the process; the real human experience that we all share, but try our best to push out of the way when there’s work to be done. We also tend to focus on what there is to fix, rather than what we can create.
By asking us to throw ourselves in and embrace whatever happened; by not giving us the answers and asking us to get rid of the superficial layer that we are all so focused on in our normal daily lives, we learned ways in which to find the right thing to do. Going out to knock on the doors and striking up conversations with strangers in an unfamiliar area wasn’t quite as daunting. We had to be ready to spend the next few days making these connections and fuel a small local miracle.
It was a little frightening at first. Usually, one would set off to work on a project like this with far more theory and planning. We obviously trusted that our facilitators knew what was going on under the surface, and that they knew what they were doing. But still the first couple of days felt a bit like going to a new place blindfolded, and having to work out where you are and what to do without any further instruction.
The most bizarre thing about this methodology was that although the pace we were learning and moving at during instruction seemed slow and serene, the amount of work we accomplished in six days would have taken most people a month. By skilfully reading us and tapping into us, we were coached to skip many of the steps that one would normally assume this type of project had to include. I was left wondering how many days, weeks, even months of my life I have wasted in meetings and presentations that ultimately just served to add extra padding to otherwise simple concepts. It occurred to me that perhaps we are frightened of simplicity.
There are seven steps to making the Oasis game happen:
- The Appreciative Gaze: Appreciative way to observe the local community. A way to focus on what’s there and what about it is beautiful. Getting rid of your prejudices.
- Affection: Encouraging the creation of genuine connections between people based on common values and trust.
- The Dream: To create a space where people can express their most true and ambitious dreams for their community. Not focusing on the negative or problem solving, but focusing on something real that can be achieved now.
- Care: The careful planning of projects and strategies so that they include the community’s collective dreams in all of their diversity. The right ones are good for yourself, good for your neighbour and good for the planet.
- The Miracle: The actual project, where members of the community and Oasis participants make one of the dreams into a reality together. This part used to be called “Action” but at the end of every game, the locals used to say “it was a miracle”.
- Celebration: Coming together at the end of the journey to share the joy of working together. A party!
- Re-evolution: The legacy of the game; a new cycle of expanding dreams and to discover the potential within.
During days 1-to-4 we focused on the first four steps. Every day started with a vegan breakfast and a song and a dance. We were taught different dances and different songs and always with the minimum instruction. “Just watch what I do”, said Rodrigo. We did, and we danced. The first time many of us seemed a little clumsy or nervous but over the week dancing became an important part of our daily routine. It was a metaphor for working together; it made us closer and raised our heartbeat, ready to go out full of energy. Sharing the laughter from failed steps or silly moves was all part of the plan. We weren’t meant to become professional dancers, we were meant to enjoy the process and gain something from it.
On the first day, we practiced the Appreciative Gaze by walking around the community blindfolded, gently guiding each other and trying to get an impression of our surroundings without the prejudice that using your eyes as the primary source of information often brings. We learned that sometimes you see better with your eyes closed. We learned to trust each other fast. We learned not to worry about looking very silly.
The local kids responded to us first. Some of them followed us on the first day when we were out with blindfolds.
We went out again, this time with our eyes open and found beautiful things. We tried to find the people behind the beauty. By the end of the week, we had a small but devoted crew of local children who helped us literally drum up attention when we turned our volume up a notch and went to shout on the streets to broadcast the time and location for the community meeting we were organising.
The last time I went out to shout on the streets was an anti-nukes demonstration back home in Finland in the 80s. Yet by the time we were ready to get the megaphone out and march through the streets of Newham to draw attention, I was first in line to join the crew. Shouting shoulder to shoulder with seasoned activists seemed perfectly natural. We wore fluorescent vests and chanted: “Asta centre, six thirty; share your dreams, six thirty!”
Curtains were parted. Doors were opened. Dreams were gathered. People who had said they wouldn’t come sneaked in to see what the fuss was about. Once the spark caught, the community woke up and took ownership and they were the ones that made it all happen.
We realised that we were all facilitators and that we were merely nudging things that were already there to wake up and spring into action. Cautious but curious people from all walks of life filled the community meeting room, and started building models of what they would like to create during the coming weekend. Suddenly the whole thing was theirs. Suddenly it was the most natural thing in the world. Suddenly they believed it could happen. There was a palpable shift that night from our hands to theirs. Some of us cried a little. Possibly out of relief.
Just like sometimes it takes a child to point out the obvious, or a new employee to question long-held beliefs in an organisation, we, total strangers to Newham, were able to gently coax out a small transformation. It felt so simple yet profound. If more people around the world could find a way to energise each other this way, what could be possible?
In many of the locations where the Oasis game has been played, there is a real lack of infrastructure so the projects often focus on creating that, and there usually aren’t many objections from local councils and town planners. But even in England, where people assume that they can’t change their environment because of bureaucracy, those assumptions should be challenged. Once the community is mobilised, it’s surprising what can be done.
The Silvertown community chose to transform a derelict outdoor terrace on the side of the Asta centre. They turned it into a usable, shared area with a dance floor for street dance practice; tables, chairs, a garden and a pizza oven.
One of the talented young men, Hilton, had expressed a very specific wish: to have a piano there. Lotte from our group had popped in her piano-shaped pencil sharpener to decorate one of the models. Since we would have to source all the materials locally and obtain as much as possible through donations and abandoned scrap, a piano seemed a touch too ambitious, but we were all secretly hoping that one would magically appear.
On the morning of the project itself, we were all energised, but also somewhat nervous. How many people would come? What if we couldn’t deliver the dream?
Our roles were assigned. Throughout the week, I’d been broadcasting our activities using the Momentum Project’s social media channels, preparing the presentation to the community and keeping our chaotic notes and flipcharts in some kind of order. When the little cards with descriptions of the roles were taken out on the morning of our first project day, none of us knew which ones we’d adopt yet.
The descriptions were read out and willing, suitable candidates selected. Gnomes looked after greenery and recycling, the Messenger would register and document things and tell others about what was happening… wait, that was me! I volunteered to be the Messenger. I had already been one and didn’t know it.
One of the biggest jobs for the actual project itself was to source a myriad of materials, preferably from the local community, and for free. We had several task forces out to carry in abandoned tyres, do a bit of guerrilla gardening, knock on doors and ask to borrow tools and approach local businesses for small donations. I had brought my car and ferried people to pick up paint brushes from a local hardware store, went to B&Q to pick up the play-sand they had kindly donated, and drove to a skip and dug out damaged bricks from it. Once the community members themselves were mobilised, materials and donations started pouring in and we soon had enough to get started.
I used Freecycle to find some missing elements and we had a small budget for electrical necessities such as plug sockets. It was my task to find an electrician and after scouring the Yellow Pages for one that lived locally but being unable to get hold of anyone, I took a break to clear my head in the kitchen. Yvonne, a local community member who’d attended some of our meetings was there, helping Agatha, our cook who’d been feeding 30 people for a week, always smiling.
I had a chat with them and when I mentioned that I had been unable to find an electrician, it turned out that one of Yvonne’s neighbours was one and he could be persuaded to help us for the steep price of a chicken chow mein. I grabbed Yvonne and we headed to the local Chinese take-away.
Amina from our group came to me with spectacular news: after we’d spread the word that we were looking for a piano, she had actually found a lady called Karen via Gumtree who just happened to have a piano languishing in her shed and was willing to donate it!
When the piano arrived, Hilton, whose wish it had been to get one, immediately put it to the test. Even out of tune, hearing this young man suddenly turn out a perfect piece of moving classical music in the middle of the chaos that was the project weekend was inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that I had an idea: what if we could wheel the piano outdoors and film him playing on it, on the streets of Newham?
Amina had an even better idea. Unbeknownst to me, she had worked as a children’s music coach. She wanted to get a group of the local kids together and do something with them. Amina’s choir practice and the kids’ songwriting formed a memorable thread throughout the weekend, and culminated in a one-off live performance that was captured on video at the start of our sixth stage of the Oasis game: the Celebration.
Pizza oven, dance floor, giant mirror, bathtub full of play-sand, a whole new garden area, tables and chairs, lots of colour: the Oasis gamers and the community worked hard for two days and transformed a previously derelict space.
Every hour new people drifted in, curious about what was happening. Parts of the community that would never have imagined working together, now did. We had a spread of ages and ethnic backgrounds, and everyone pitched in. Like our feeble attempts at learning a new dance, but really bonding through stumbling along together, the community formed new bonds and connections by pushing to get this project done within the time allocated.
There was love and laughter and it was clear that something other than painting fences was happening beneath the surface. The journey was always the point. It mattered that we listened to the community’s dreams and that they all felt personally involved and committed. It didn’t really matter what we would build together just that we would build it together.
The final stage had begun.
A Lush video of the Oasis Newham week, including Hilton, Amina and the song!
Photo credits: Mara Verduin, Alessandro Stellari and Pia Long
A shorter version of this diary was first published at Blogcritics.org
The winter selection of limited edition products at Lush has been revealed. Now I can also tell you a little bit more about what I've been up to!
We started working on Christmas products back in February and finished around May. There's a lot of development that goes on behind the scenes. About one third of the products that get made actually make the final cut. Here's what we ended up with:
Northern Lights soap. Back from last year. Wesley made a gorgeously bright neon soap and I got to make the scent for it. I used lots of cypress and pine and added lime and aldehydes to make it smell cold. There's a a floral hint in there, too, for the multicoloured effect. Overall I was going for "standing in a freezing Finnish forest, looking up at the nothern lights." I made sure to use some antibacterial and antifungal materials so the product should be good for problem skins and as a kitchen soap. The scent can be divisive because of associations with pine and citrus to cleaning products but I find this a really great one to use in the morning shower when feeling knackered in the depths of midwinter. Last year this became one of our best-sellers.
North Pole soap. This was created by Michelle in the creative team. I happened to have created two scents inspired by peppermint bark chocolates and one of the perfumes went into the white part and the other into the pink. One of them is like mint chocolate candy and the other is a woody mint fragrance. I think they came out just on the right side of sweet and the woody part makes the scent a little less edible and more like a soap. Will be interesting to see how this does.
Mr. Punch soap. One morning I chatted with Noriko about an idea I'd had for a Pimm's type scent; I really wanted to capture that cucumber/lemon/mint/orange/strawberry/gin thing in a perfume. Noriko said that she was just about to start working on a new soap but wasn't sure what to do yet. We plotted together that day and Noriko went into her lab and I went into mine and she made this beautiful punch soap with all those gorgeous fruity pieces and real juniperberries. I made a boozy punch fragrance. It was originally going to be a summer soap but Mark pinched it for the Christmas range (and I suppose it makes sense since a lot of Lush countries have Christmas during summer!). Simon altered the fragrance slightly by adding more fruit to it. The end result is very yummy indeed. I also experimented with the original scent as a cologne and tried it this summer. It's very green at first and dries down to the smell you end up on your fingers after you've been eating strawberries. I doubt it will ever actually become an actual cologne in the shops but it was a really nice little experiment.
Party Popper bath ballistic. Wesley made a popping, fizzing bath popper using his new soap paper streamers inside (made of melon!). His invention demanded some kind of sparkly scent so I used a dry, sparkling floral theme which to my mind evoked fancy Champagne or a "fizzing" sensation. It's probably likely to appeal to fans of Ginger perfume and anyone who likes non-sweet floral scents. I really enjoy working with ginger as a material and want to do more with it soon. The bath water goes a beautiful dark pink when in use and the water keeps popping for a good while...
Ponche shower gel. There was a sort of accidental booze theme going on... Hannah brought back some really inspiring things from Mexico and one of the things we looked at was a description and photos of Mexican spicy punch with tropical fruits. Wesley made a beautiful shower gel with fruit and spice infusions and I created a boozy citrus fragrance with a hint of spice and tropical fruits. One of the key ingredients in the fragrance is Davana oil which is actually a kind of weed that grows in India. It smells boozy and fruity and adds punch to the Ponche fragrance (terrible puns are Lush bread and butter. I'm so sorry. I'm also partly responsible. As I've said before, I've got an overactive pun gland). I've been using this for a few weeks and it's my favourite product from the whole new range.
Rocket re-usable bubble bar. When I saw the purple rocket ships that had been designed I immediately went into violet and blackberry kind of mode. The rocket became blue in the end though. The first version of this fragrance was quite fruity. Simon made the second version of this fragrance with extra oomph using spicy firetree oil as "rocket fuel". (I warned you about the puns). This should really appeal to people who liked Bathos, Blackberry Bathbomb and Gratuitous Violets. It's not an overly sweet smell but it does have a warm, sweet, fruity quality about it.
Santa's Sack bubble bar. Helen and I were talking about Wesley's concept for this bath product and we started discussing the way red and white Santa colours really came from Coca Cola. I've been telling people about this awesome Finnish Christmas film called "Rare Exports" which is a comedy horror film exploring the pagan roots of Santa. Anyway, when it came to doing the fragrance for this product, I wanted it to be spicy and warming but I also wanted to put in the "joke" about Coca Cola Santa. So the red santa's sack smells like a spicier version of cola. This one is nice and complex and not too candy-store. Hoping it will please fans of spicy scents.
Popcorn lip scrub and Let the Good Times Roll popcorn cleanser. These both have the same fragrance (which actually started as a flavour for the lip scrub!). It smells cookie-dough-ish or like caramel popcorn. Noriko and I ate through almost a whole pot of the lip scrub. For testing purposes. Don't eat the cleanser though. The popcorn theme was quite challenging when I first heard about it so I looked at a sheet of popcorn flavours and chose the one that seemed to go well with the products. I don't think cheese flavoured lip scrub would sell all that well.
Sandy Santa sugar scrub. So, apparently in Brazil, there are sand-Santa competitions on the beach. That inspired our team to create our own sand sculpture. I wanted to use Brazilian materials for the fragrance (Brazilian orange) and the sandalwood is a terrible pun (sand... alwood...). As it happens, I think that orange and sandalwood go really beautifully together. This is a citrus with a subtle, floral/woody backdrop. I am really tempted to dilute some of this scent in alcohol and bottle it.
I've also made the scents for the pink and yellow FUN! Pink has become an instant best-seller in UK (which has a lot to do with the colour - our UK customers do love their pink products!). I do think the scent is quite fun, too; very fruity, a little floral and has a sweet back-drop of benzoin and tonka. I've been using it as a shampoo just so I can sniff the scent in my hair all day (but I must admit that my over-processed bleached hair needs to alternate this with a moisturising shampoo in between). The yellow fun has a vanilla scent which was very tricky to do as vanilla discolours really badly. I fear we may still need to go back to the lab with that one just so we could increase the level of perfume in the product. It leaves a lovely scent on your skin after use.
I am really hoping that these products do well this season so that Mark and Si will let me back in the lab soon! I love making scents so much!
These have now been launched by Lush Online.
This new product invention from Lush is available today only at a pre-launch party before the official launch in UK in the next few days. I had the chance to work on the pink and the yellow varieties of this multi-use product.
You might think that since I've been working with the product creators I would have a house full of prototype products! Not the case. I only had a few slivers of each colour to test throughout the development process. It's quite time-consuming to make test batches of product so you end up trying things in minute amounts.
I was lucky enough to get a couple of the new Christmas products to try after they had been revealed to our international partners at Lushfest. But only a couple. I'm therefore busting at the seams with impatience before the Christmas product launch date of 28th of September. There are quite a few products (10!) with my perfumes in them and I shall have to buy a big stash of each.
I still colour code things in my diary. A red dot means "travel or out of office". In the last few months I've been in Poole, on Dorset fields, in Finland and in London more than I've been at home or in any kind of stable desk-based environment. My diary looks like it's suffering from a bad case of measles.
Pros: Not boring. As one might be able to work out from the title of this blog, the threat of boredom is my kryptonite. I've become really good at transporting all my "must-have" items to almost anywhere. People who know me always come to me for those plaster, painkiller, spare lipgloss, herbal tea and chocolate emergencies.
Cons: I always manage to take on just a little too much, so something has to give. This blog, for example. Or my attendance at Rushmoor Writers. I seem to be always either packing, unpacking or doing laundry. I have failed to get back into shape because I am either "too busy" or too knackered. Still haven't solved the living-in-my-head problem.
I've just spent the last six days at a wonderful community project, playing something called the Oasis Game. I'll be writing a diary about it this week and pop it over to Blogcritics and here when it's ready. I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the most inspiring, hard-working and loving people in the world, including Saci Lloyd, a local author, Tamsin Omond, a well-known campaigner, our Brazilian, Spanish and Dutch facilitators and many amazing colleagues from Lush.
This experience was definitely unusual for me; I'm not known for campaigning or direct action. Being fairly introverted and wishing to stay behind the scenes has meant that I've not even considered participating in anything like this before. Last week left me feeling more than a little bemused at my own attitude towards direct action. After all, I love doing stuff and doing stuff RIGHT NOW. Nothing frustrates me more than fussy bureaucracy and not being able to act fast once I get an idea. (I just need to learn to accurately assess the time I actually have available. Right now I feel that I haven't got a work-life balance. More of a work-work balance).
In the meantime, Jane Austen fans might be interested in reading about Martin Owton's writer friend's book "The Unexpected Miss Bennett." It took me a bit too long to get the book review out there, but hopefully it will still help unite fans of Austen's work with Patrice Sarath's fiction.
My list of writing committments is not too terrible, apart from the fact that as soon as I tick one item off it, something else appears. It's entirely my own fault for agreeing to or volunteering to do things because they interest me. Just don't expect fast results. I'm doing my best to fit everything in.
I'm back in Poole tomorrow and will get briefed on some new research projects. Next week I'm going to Finland for a few days. Timo and I will stay at his cousin's summer cottage at Nuuksio, then I'll be interviewed for Evita magazine and on Saturday I'll meet my 90-year old great aunt for the first time and finish the day off at my uncle's 75th birthday party. The day after we come back from Finland, I'll be off to Bournemouth for a big Lush meeting.
Look out for the Newham Oasis Game diary here soon.