While the cats away…..


River Walmsley, a beautiful Bengal cat owned by the fantastic photographer, Hannah http://www.whitefeatherphotography.co.uk


The mice will play alright!  I have personal experience of this within my business and others I have come into contact with.



The author showing middleweight show hunter Below Zero at Royal Windsor Horse Show


I started a business from scratch back in the 1990s.  At the time IBM were the main IT providers to retail and the financial industry.  A market existed for second hand IBM refurbished equipment as for smaller users to buy new was cost prohibitive.

Of course, there was a market for other manufacturers equipment, in which I specialised.

I grew the company to a turnover in the region of £700k per annum, having worked my butt off over several years.

Personally, my interest was all things equine and I had a show hunter I showed at County level as well as a Doberman who was also a show dog. My problem was time, for example, if the horse went to Royal Windsor on the Thursday, invariably the dog would be back at Windsor on the Saturday or Sunday.  I travelled all over the country with these beasts!


I decided I ‘deserved’ some time out and recruited a manager.  I paid her well, £25k per annum (a lot of money at the time) plus 10% commission on any profits she made, so she was earning more than me, but hey ho.

Off I went in my huge gold lorry, nicknamed Goldfinger, all over the country, really believing I could take some serious time out.

To cut a long story short, I caught her stealing from me.  Not only had she set up her own company to rival mine, she was nicking deals from my company to give to hers, which was run by her boyfriend.  After I sacked her she then had the audacity to take me to an employment tribunal!

Karma came – the boyfriend was caught red handed trashing my loading bay on camera and got nicked, she lost the tribunal, he then had a heart attack and her business went bust – good riddance to bad eggs.


The next batch of mice came around the same time.  I used a hairdresser who ran a tight ship.  I used to go there at least once a week and spent fortunes in there, over a period of years.

The owner, like me, decided to take some time out.  Probably a couple of months after his initial ‘time out’ started, the service started to get sloppy.  One of the girls put a colour on my hair I did not like.  When, the following week I asked her to change it, she went mad – totally unprofessional – I haven’t been back there since.

Needless to say, the owner, realising the folly of his ways is now back at the helm, where he belongs.


The third case happened to me recently.  I found a local ‘gastro’ type pub/restaurant which was initially first class.  The place had a party like atmosphere, brilliant food and impeccable service.

I have been back there numerous times and over the last two years, particularly the service has declined.  There are still one or two good members of staff, but the newer recruits – well, what can I say?  We visited a couple of weeks ago, mid week, expecting to have supper after an early evening watching the Summer Solstice morris dancing.  Yes, we arrived a couple of minutes past 9.  We walked into the bar and the handful of people present all swivelled round and the girl behind the bar totally ignored us.  Unbelievable.  We asked if we could get some supper to be told “no”.  No sorry or explanation whatsoever.    Yes, it was mid week and guess what?  Senior Management were taking time out!


The fourth and last case concerns, again, my  current hairdressers.  I have been going there for four years and love going there, the resultant superb hair, the beauty treatments and the whole ‘joie de vivre’ atmosphere.

Until recently that is.  Yes, you guessed it, the owner is taking time out and has put in a young manager, who at Christmastime split with her long term partner.  Oh dear!  You now walk into an atmosphere like a wall of ice.  The girls are all obviously upset as she is taking her emotions out on them, when the owner is not around.

I have spoken to the owner, and I thought she had taken my concerns seriously, but she is hardly ever there and when she is, she locks herself away in her office and is oblivious to the atmosphere, which is, quelle surprise, quite different when she is there!

As an update to this blog, it appears ‘someone’ has cancelled all my appointments from September onwards – I’m booked until Christmas.  The girls spotted this and they have now been put back in.  A further update, it also appears that this moody, sulky, poor me atmosphere has transferred from her previous salon.

Why do we never learn and take up references, or indeed,  employ secret shoppers?





British Period Properties and their Listings explained

If you are thinking of purchasing a listed building or currently own one, there are implications dependent upon the actual type of listing. I detail below the types of listing that currently apply to period properties and properties of historic interest.

There are three types of listing, Grade 1, Grade 11* and Grade 11. Of approximately 500,000 listings, around 14,200 are in Essex.

GRADE 1 (Grade 1)
A Grade 1 listing applies to properties regarded as being of exceptional architectural and historic interest. Of the 500,000 listings in England, 2.5% are Grade 1 and whilst the majority of these are secular buildings, the Youth Hostel in Saffron Walden is a super example of this type of listing.


The Youth Hostel, Saffron Walden


Grade 11* (Grade two star)
Grade 11* means a building of importance, being of more than special interest.

The Sugar Hut, televised on The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE), is a Grade 11* building being of architectural and historic interest, dating back to 1480 when it was known as The White Hart and was a coaching inn with coaches going to London and a daily service to Bury St Edmunds.


The Sugar Hut, Brentwood taken on Friday, 14th July, 2017



Grade 11 (Grade two)


Great Lodge Farm in the snow, a fine example of a Grade 11 Listed Building.






Ladies riding aside wear what is called a habit, which is an outfit consisting of a tailored jacket with what, although looks like a skirt, is, in fact, an apron, being open at the back.

Traditional habits can be tweed, navy, grey or black. It is a moot point that at one time, single ladies wore a navy habit and married ladies wore black. However, it is also thought that single ladies would wear a bowler and veil out hunting, whilst married ladies wore a top hat and veil.

Things have become a bit more muddied these days, so it is pretty much what you prefer rather than what tradition dictates and also what you can find habit wise. Most are only available second-hand, but it is possible to buy new ones.

Most important is that the apron fits you. When you have your right leg in the right position, the seam of the apron should run along the top of your thigh and end at the top of your knee. No sagging or bagging!

The bottom of the apron should hide your right leg totally but expose your left leg just above the ankle and should fit flush. It is correct to wear a spur on the left heel, just above the actual heel, no lower. Remember the old saying “the lower the spurs, the lower the knickers”! It is also unsightly and incorrect to see an apron flapping about or be too big and not sit flush. Indeed, some ladies sew curtain weights into the bottom of their aprons so they sit correctly and do not flap around.

Aprons have a piece of elastic under the right hand side so you can anchor your
right foot and ‘tuck’ the front of the apron under your leg.

Photos to follow showing this.

The jacket is a tailored jacket with a cut away bottom, exposing your waistcoat bottoms. The jacket also has a lower cut ‘neckline’ than a traditional riding jacket. The back of the jacket should sit just on the back of the saddle (cantle) and not ruck up.

The sought for look is one of tailored elegance, not a sack of potatoes!

A silk stock should be worn with a plain stock pin holding the front in place and always pin down the ends of the stock, underneath the jacket, with safety pins.

A false bun can be introduced if one’s hair is short, but, ladies, always double net. Nothing is worse than seeing a lady aside with bits of hair sticking out, and double netting will prevent this and ensure any ‘extensions’ or additives stay in place.

Now, here’s the current day controversial bit: Head wear. Personally, I prefer to see a lady in a top hat, although some prefer a bowler for hunting. Top hats should be silk and higher and narrower than the ones seen worn for dressage. A veil should be worn under the chin and over the brim of the hat which is done up at the back, as would be worn with a bowler hat.

Some county shows now insist that all wear the current standard crash hats, which I personally think look terrible. However, ‘elf and safety and all that.


A lot has been written over the years about the ‘balanced seat’. It is so important to sit correctly whilst riding side saddle.

Even if you do not ride you can try this simple exercise just by sitting on an upright dining chair. Sit on the chair with your legs just outside each leg. Do not lean back into the back of the chair, simply sit up nice, tall and straight, looking straight ahead.

Think about your seat bones and the weight that should be evenly distributed across them both. Now, without moving any of that weight, move your right leg over to the left-hand side without twisting to the left, or shifting any weight off that right seat bone. Not easy is it?

It is imperative to keep the weight evenly distributed whilst riding the horse, otherwise this will have a detrimental affect on the horse and in turn it’s back and may cause long term, if not permanent problems, including disobedience and a reluctance to move forwards correctly. Your hips should be square and your spine in alignment at right angles to the horse’s.

This is what is called the ‘balanced seat’, no different to riding astride really, although you will feel a lot more secure aside, once you have perfected the issue of balance.

My next side saddle blog will be on attire, what to wear and when, along with some finer points and tips on correct turn out, for both the hunting field and show ring.

Subscribe and follow me so you don’t miss out.

Photograph courtesy of White Feather Photography. Www.whitefeatherphotography.co.uk

Manners Maketh Man 2: DRESS CODES

As a follow up to my first blog on manners, standards in dress codes have significantly dropped over the years.

I can remember when ladies were not allowed into the members enclosure at Newmarket races if they were wearing trousers and gentlemen were not allowed in without a jacket and tie, although obviously, trousers and shirt were mandatory!

Oh how things have changed. Blokes (I can’t and won’t call them gentlemen, because they are not) walking around the members enclosure wearing polo shirts and shorts and the girls (no, not ladies) are just as bad, wearing short, strappy evening dresses, even to the earlier race meetings, when it is freezing. Trust me girlies, high heels sinking into the grass and goose bump covered, exposed flesh is not a good look.

More suitable for the races would be either a skirt suit or a day dress with a nice, smart jacket over. A pashmina is also handy for when it gets really nippy.

Whilst we all like to wear heels, a pair of lower heels with a more chunky type heel is best for the races, so whilst looking elegant the heels will be more resistant to sinking into the grass, which you will inevitably will have walk on, at some point.


I have noticed increasingly of late, just how generally bad, peoples manners are.

Even well educated people, who DO know better are speaking with their mouths full – absolutely disgusting, waving cutlery about and that’s if they are using any, of course, eating whilst using the phone, yawning whilst talking to somebody, cutting across conversations and a whole lot more.

This blog will hopefully put them right – please like and share far and wide.

Forks and spoons are the only items of cutlery to put in the mouth. Never put the knife into your mouth or indeed, lick it.

Elbows should be kept into your side, not unlike whilst riding a horse, and should never, ever be placed on the table.

Whilst eating, bring the fork or spoon to your mouth, do not stoop to the food, this is considered bad manners and is not elegant.

Never, ever speak with your mouth full, or even half full for that matter. Not only is this considered the height of bad manners, it is also very unpleasant for the person you are conversing with.

Whilst eating ensure you are not making any noises and you keep your mouth shut whilst chewing.

Do not gesticulate with cutlery, it is for eating off, not for making a statement.

Long pasta dishes are eaten with a fork and spoon, whereby you ‘collect’ the pasta and sauce with the fork and use the spoon to twist it into an edible form. Slurping up pasta is a definite no-no, as is any form of noise whilst eating, i.e. clattering cutlery on to your plate, or clunking cutlery against teeth.

Americans tend to cut up their food and then just use a fork, which I consider to be bad manners, albeit a more relaxed way of eating.

Bread should be broken, not cut. If you are given a side plate with a bread roll on simply ‘tear’ the roll in half. Never use a knife to cut the roll as this is considered bad manners.

Do not reach or stretch across another person to reach something, ask politely foe them to pass whatever it is you want. This, however, was considered impolite, but is more acceptable nowadays.

Try your food before adding condiments. As a cook I find it extremely bad manners for someone to add anything to your food before trying it first.

When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork at the 6.30 position on your plate. See photograph above, over heading.

This signals to the waiting staff you have finished, who will wait for everyone at that table to finish before commencing clearing the table.

If you are at a party where there are communal dips, it is forbidden to ‘double dip’. This is an extremely foul habit and one I have surprisingly seen at a variety of upper class soirees.

The best table manners are ones that go unnoticed.



WARNING!  This is an old, tried and tested recipe that has been used for many, many years.  It is, however, against current ‘elf and safety guidelines which insist you boil the bollocks and therefore the flavour out of the fish.  I personally have used this loads of times and all I have received are great compliments.  Farmers wives, who have been poaching (cooking, not nicking them) salmon all their lives have complimented me on the flavour and moistness of my salmon.   Indeed, following a Summer Luncheon I voluntarily catered for the local hunt, several of the paying guests telephoned to thank me and said they would gladly have paid double the ticket price as the food was so good.

Firstly you will need the best salmon you can find.  I use Turners the fish man from Ipswich, who comes to a village near me and I order the size I need, usually 14-15lbs (no kilos here).  Mr Turner’s fish is fantastic and he is really knowledgeable and helpful too.

You will need a fish kettle, which can either be a long, stretched oval or if you can find one of the older style squareish kettles, which will ensure your salmon comes out curled around and once dressed, really does look impressive.

Then I use a jus de nage, which although originally unashamedly burgled from Marco Pierre White’s brilliant book, White Heat, I have also tweaked it a bit (sorry Marco).

You will need:

Half a bottle of dry white wine – get a decent one, you can have  slurp of the rest – cooks perks

A couple of decent flavoured brown onions

1 Leek

A couple of celery stalks, I like to use the smaller inner ones with flowery bits

A few carrots

2 Star anise

Herbs – parsley, tarragon, thyme, chervil and coriander, bay leaf – I grow my own herbs which I find gives great flavour.  If you can’t get tarragon, put in another star anise

Approximately 30 white and pink peppercorns – or use a mixed grinder

A couple of lemons cut into slices or quarters

2 whole heads of garlic cut across the head


Bung this (apart from the herbs and wine) into a pan (I use the fish kettle for this, saves washing up), rough chopped, cover with water (about 3 pints), bring to the boil and simmer for around 10 minutes.  Add the herbs and simmer for a couple more minutes.

Remove from the heat and put in the wine you have left.   Leave to cool, then put into the fridge to allow the flavours to fully infuse and develop.

This is your poaching liquid for the wonderful salmon you are going to make.  Strain the poaching liquid through a sieve.

Wash your salmon thoroughly under cold running water.  Place the fish into the kettle and cover it with the poaching liquid and the kettle lid.  Ensure the lid is a tight fit.  If it is loose, foil over the kettle then put the lid on.  It is IMPERATIVE you keep any steam in the kettle as this will form part of the cooking process.

Put the kettle across the two hotter hobs and turn them onto full power.  Bring the fish to a rolling boil and boil for around 1 minute.  Yes 1 minute.  Ensure you do this, as this will kill any bacteria.  It is further IMPERATIVE you boil the salmon for at least 1 minute – certainly no less.  Once this has been done, turn the heat off and leave the kettle in situ to cool down.  Once it is cool enough put the whole thing into the fridge.  I usually leave mine for a few hours.  Most importantly, do not lift the lid to have a peak – this is really so important as you will destroy the cooking process and you could end up poisoning someone.

Once the kettle is cool enough, put it into the fridge to chill.

Subscribe to my blog to find out how to dress the perfect salmon with two alternatives, and some further recipes.






For many, many, years Alfred Dunhill has been my best friend. His lovely flat packs of Dunhill International fags have fitted into my handbags, neither distorting or disfiguring the shape of my bags.

Two years ago I thought enough is enough, I’m giving up smoking before it gives me up and so I undertook a hypnotism session with my very good friend, Ruthy Baker. It worked – I never thought in a million years I would ‘go under’. Smoking around twenty fags a day, after the session I did not smoke for three whole days. I didn’t want one and never had any withdrawal symptoms until the Thursday, day four.

I experienced wicked acid reflux to such a point of it being so painful, I tried a fag to see if it would get rid of the acid. I really honestly did not want it and it was foul. Smoking it was disgusting and it did not get rid of the acid.

On the Friday I was demonic and needed and craved that devil nicotine, which is the addiction bit. I needed it, had to have it and resorted to using nicotine patches, which helped the craving.

Knowing now what I did not know then, was that one fag had fed the nicotine devil and intensified the craving that was not there following my hypnotherapy.

Moving on, I got the habit down to two a day, which was when I consulted my Doctor for help in really kicking the habit. She prescribed a course of Champix, warning that the side effects can include depression and suicidal thoughts, disturbed sleep, wickedly realistic dreams and sickness. I did not experience any of these side effects whatsoever and stopped smoking completely within couple of weeks.

On this drug, the Doctor’s surgery monitors you every two weeks, and after two weeks at my check up, I was smoke free, had lost weight and had experienced no side effects. Result!

Two weeks further along, I was sneaking the odd puff, but it tasted foul but I think it was the rebel in me that kept me having the odd one.

Six weeks in, and yes, the odd one had grown to the odd two or three, not good, I know.

Then, although I was eating healthily. watching my weight and exercising regularly, my boobs started to grow. They were like triffids, every time you looked down they were bigger – they got so big I had to go to Rigby & Pellar in London for a bra fitting. ‘F’ cup from a ‘C’ They were ginormous. Girls, forget a boob job, get on the Champix.

Eight weeks on, I went on holiday to my friend’s villa in Cyprus. By this time, not only had the boobs grown, the backside was following. We were walking along one evening, the only things I could wear were what we called tents – very loose fitting dresses, but I became aware of something following me – I exclaimed, “Ahh what’s that? It was my arse!!”.

My friend, also on Champix, revealed over a few gins that she also had grown enormous boobies – bigger than when she was pregnant.

Some research revealed that Champix was some type of steroid, although you have to dig deep to find the references. I would never have taken it had I known this. Further research further revealed that the vivid dreams people experienced were very raunchy.

I stopped taking it immediately, as I would rather smoke than get fat.

When I went back to the surgery to let them know my findings, the nurse laughed about the big boobies, I told her to prescribe Champix and save the NHS fortunes giving people boob jobs, then I told her that as I was very disappointed I had not had any raunchy dreams and didn’t even get a sniff of a visit from George Clooney, I wanted my money back!

Yes, I am still puffing the odd one here and there – One day, I will beat you Alfred.

This is my story for which I have tried to make the reading of, fun, but seriously, this is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried to do, good luck if you are trying.