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.




It is believed that the early side saddles were a cross between an astride saddle and a chair, where the lady sat facing sideways and was very probably lead on foot by her groom.

The early 1800s saw the introduction of the leaping head which considerably improved safety and security in the saddle, enabling the lady to go faster and more securely, even jumping, utilising what is now known as the ‘forward’ seat.

The balance girth or strap was also introduced around this time which was attached to the rear of the right-hand side of the saddle, runs under the belly of the horse and thence attaches to the left-hand front of the saddle. This was to give more stability to the saddle.

Whilst there are various mixed reports on when ladies rode astride as opposed to aside, the general opinion appears to be that until the end of World War 1, ladies tended to ride sideways. This is thought to have changed because as they were involved in the war effort, they would have worn trousers during the course of their work. This would have freed them from the confines of wearing long skirts and with the independence this gave them, enabled them to ride astride.

The art of riding aside was thought to be dying out, but the past few years has seen a massive resurgence in ladies taking up this traditional and very elegant form of equestrianism.

Nowadays, whilst it is possible to purchase or have made a new side saddle, which can be very expensive but most new to this style of riding buy pre-1950 saddles. Makers typically were Champion & Wilton, Mayhew, and Owen. When seeking to buy a side saddle, it is important that you purchase the more modern saddle with a straight seat and quick release safety stirrup.

Safety stirrup 2 Mayhew

The older style dipped seat saddles must be avoided as it would be very difficult to keep your weight correctly balanced (more of this later).

The fact that the rider will be a passenger rather than a positive horsewoman.

The security of a ladies seat whilst riding aside is thought to be one of the main reasons side saddles had a bad reputation. As ladies felt so secure after just a couple of lessons, they thought they had nothing more to learn.
However, unless you are initially riding under an experienced practised eye, you could be riding totally unbalanced and could be causing your horse all sorts of problems.

Issues arose with the horses backs, blame the saddle or saddler. Issues with the horse not going correctly, blame the horse. Never themselves.

A good general fitting tree should fit most horses from a larger pony to say, 17hh.

The saddle will not fit all of these horses perfectly but if the rider sits in the correct place with a correctly balanced seat, she will be unlikely to hurt the horses back.

This is, of course, a general rule of thumb and is not cast in concrete.

The side saddle should also fit the rider, ensuring the shape and size and positioning of the pommels suits the rider. Ladies often took their saddles with them for this very reason, when travelling and indeed, still do to this day, particularly if using a hireling for hunting.

The photograph below shows a lady sitting correctly, showing the hand fitting underneath the leaping head, as it should be to give enough purchase, when necessary.

Side saddle seat

COMING SOON – THE SEAT, ATTIRE (I am looking forward to this bit) and ETIQUETTE – Subscribe and follow me to find out more.


Very much a case of be careful what you wish for.  I wasn’t afraid of the big cream beast that took pride of place in the middle of my kitchen within the fireplace.  After all, I had used many ovens over the years catering in private homes, what difficulties could the humble AGA produce?

This AGA dated from 1954 and originally was powered by solid fuel, subsequently converted to oil.  Blow all that sweeping out the burner every morning and lugging buckets of fuel about – something a friend of mine still does to this day with her AGA.  Life’s too short for all that malarkey.

Huh – if I knew then, what I know now.

My first attempt was to cook a roast chicken.  My Brother In Law had said not to cook for as long as normal, as the AGA would cook faster and that it would not brown as well as ‘normal’ ovens.

In went the chicken – just a medium size.  After an hour I checked it – it looked insipid and not cooked.  Okay, let’s give it another hour – I checked again, still not looking cooked, so it got another hour – needless to say it was dry as and inedible!  I am sure the AGA was smirking at me – they do look like a sort of primitive face, after all.

The cream beast became known as ‘Hissing Sid’.

AGA 1 – Me 0

Never one to give up, I found an AGA shop not too many miles away from my then office – off I went to procure some books.

All was revealed.  Once you understand how the thing works, it is really easy.

Simply put the top oven’s floor is akin to a hob, where you can sear or fry.  The top of the oven is similar to a grill and the bits in the middle are the roasting bits.

The bottom oven is a joy to own, in that you can sear some meat in the top oven, transfer it to the bottom oven and leave it there whilst you are at work and you come home to a ready prepared meal.

Christmas turkeys are a doddle with the bottom oven – whack it in Christmas Eve evening and forget about it.  Next day you will have a perfectly cooked turkey that is moist and lush.

Nowadays you can have your AGA converted to electricity which makes them extremely efficient to run and are cleaner too.

I miss you Sid – I will own another AGA and really cannot wait.  A nice dark blue one I think.


Parr Excellance Lifestyle

I have decided to start a blog which will cover all aspects of the British lifestyle, from living in period properties and all they entail, some first class food recipes (all tried and tested), sales and marketing tips, enjoying the countryside through to riding a horse side saddle – totally random, I know, but hey, that’s me.

My background is in sales and marketing selling capital equipment into blue chip retailers (point of sale systems) and now offer my services to small and medium sized businesses at affordable prices through my company Parr Excellance.  I know the spelling is incorrect – the excellence with the ‘e’ was taken!

Today I am writing about living in and owning a period property.  Whilst it is quite easy to fall in love with the thatched cottage with roses around the door, the romance of owning such a property should not blinker you to the expense and amount of time you will need to spend maintaining it.

For example, thatched cottages, whilst very appealing will require regular maintenance of the thatch.  Indeed, you tend to inherit the thatcher who will make regular checks and it is advisable to create a sinking fund for the thatcher as maintenance can be expensive.

Insurance companies can place restrictions on what you can and cannot do with regard to open fires, wood burners, etc.  They will also require current electrical safety certificates to be maintained, again, all expense.

If the building is Listed then you will need the permission of the local Listed Buildings Officers before you can make any changes to the property.

However, it is not all negative – imagine the joy at coming home from a hard day’s work to the sight of your very own piece of history.