Skip to content

Posts from the ‘The Editor’s View’ Category


A Fantastic Overnight Stay – Cumbrian Hospitality

thIt’s not often an overnight stay  in a hotel or bed and breakfast is anywhere near as comfortable or pleasant as being at home.

The offending sugar bowl

The offending sugar bowl at a five star hotel

All too often  beds are uncomfortable, or the bathroom has mould in the grouting, or the carpets need a real clean in the corners, or the windows rattle, or worse they don’t open. Or there are just not enough towels, or the heating won’t turn down, or the air conditioning needs attention – too noisy!  The breakfast is fine but the seats are uncomfortable, or the cutlery needs a polish, or there are fingermarks on the sugar bowl plus a ring of coffee on the base – that happened in a  five star hotel in Birmingham. I passed a photograph to the manager. He promised to post it on the staff noticeboard! Which all reflected badly on the establishment which was a shame because the eggs benedict was scrumptious.

As you probably gather I have stayed overnight a lot as a travel writer in mostly top quality hotels in many different countries and I am so pleased to say we were very impressed with our night’s stay at  Swanson House in Brough, Cumbria. Booked without recommendation or from a list of where to stay, just a search on the web for somewhere to stay in the nearest town to where we had a meeting.

We found the room welcoming, the beds comfortable, the decor pleasing, the en suite a good comfortable size and beautifully clean. In fact everything was clean and appealing, not in the least pretentious. The complimentary beverages were high quality. Fresh ground coffee in a well sealed container, crockery was clean and shiny as was the cutlery. There was a sitting room next door we could use with complimentary fresh baked cake to sample and for those who wanted to, there was a microwave to heat up anything required.

After a good night’s sleep – the  room was at the back of the building, away from traffic and street noise – we went down for our breakfast. We can’t face a full English first thing in the morning and we had requested a continental breakfast. It was just right. Not too much, not too little. Appetisingly presented,  great to taste, the table laid out with crisp white tablecloths, sparkling cutlery, glass and crockery, fresh coffee, beautiful curled butter pats, prepared fresh fruit in bite sized pieces. The effort Pat Jones, the owner, put into presentation made it a memorable breakfast and how many times have I ever written that? I think this is the first!


The picture was taken from Brough Castle, courtesy of The Westmorland Gazette.

Before becoming a consummate cook and most welcoming host, Pat was sub-Postmistress. She  ran Brough Post Office with her husband Philip for many years before it was closed in the Government programme of closure about 5  years ago despite tremendous resistance from the local community. A protest march was held, a local resident dressed as Queen Victoria, and told the crowd of her displeasure at the proposed closedown. Then around 130 local residents gathered to show the strength of feeling in the community by spelling  out their plea to save their village post office. All to no avail sadly.

Pat and Philip decided to renovate and convert the Post Office into a restaurant with bed and breakfast and continue living there.  Swanson House is now a popular restaurant for locals and tourists alike.

Rural business is having a hard time economically and Swanson House is an outstanding example of triumph over adversity, it was ‘Good Taste’ winner in the Upper Eden Business Awards 2012 and 2013 runner-up.

So the killer question: Would we go again?  The answer? A resounding yes, and yes again!

Swanson House restaurant

Swanson House restaurant

Next time we will be sure we allow enough time to sample the mouthwatering menu. And be sure to book in advance, giving details of our choice from the menu. This is Pat’s way of making quite sure your meal will be cooked to perfection using the highest quality local fresh produce, a hallmark of your visit to Swanson House.

The wine list was attractive too … Ooh, can’t wait to go again!

Val Reynolds Editor


Just who benefits most from Food Supplements?

Grow your own vegetables and use lots of compost

Grow your own vegetables and use lots of compost

The latest ‘warning’ that low levels of selenium in British soil* are having a damaging effect on our health as we are not getting enough of the mineral through the food we eat, is yet another spur to buy yet more supplements.

Most people I talk to about this find the whole subject confusing. Many friends say they take a multi vitamin tablet every day just to be on the safe side. And yet we hear from scientists that our diet is quite adequate and multi vitamin tablets are unnecessary and natural sources are far easier for our bodies to digest.

So this latest selenium information is I feel just adding to the confusion and for  manufacturers to benefit from our anxiety.

A nutritionist has pointed out that natural sources of selenium include sardines, sunflower seeds, prawns, eggs, wholemeal flour and lean meat. Brazil nuts are an especially concentrated source of selenium.

So as brazil nuts, sardines and prawns don’t grow in British soil I’ll be eating some of each every week.

PS Brazils are high in fat – 10g = 6.8g fat, 68kCal and even higher if surrounded by chocolate!

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

*With so much fruit and veg imported from abroad I wonder just how valid this ‘warning’ is.


Callous Broadcaster: Clarkson on BBC One Show

train wheelsWas I the only one disgusted by Jeremy Clarkson’s throwaway remarks on the One Show on Wednesday?

Clarkson said

Trains should not stop for people who have committed suicide by throwing themselves onto the rails. It won’t make them better.

on the One Show on  20 November.

There is more indignation about his saying strikers should be shot in front of their families which was clearly a jokey thing, albeit in very bad taste, but something that would never happen. Whereas people jumping in front of trains does happen with terrible consequences for bystanders, the train driver and the families involved.

I think Clarkson should be banned from broadcasting, he clearly isn’t in touch with normal sensitivities. And I don’t accept the argument that he doesn’t seriously mean what he says – it’s all for effect at other people’s expense.

Val Reynolds, Editor


Busy – The In Word

Rush, rush, rush © Pintail

Rush, rush, rush © Pintail

What does it mean, to be busy? We’ve always been busy, children, garden, job, house cleaning, it helps when your partner sorts the bills, the car and all it involves, and anything that we don’t want to get into. And why not? They don’t want to get into nappies, dog poo, washing the laundry, cleaning the windows, cleaning the loo, generally.

So division of chores is good … And getting the kids involved, meaningfully, is good too. So why are we still so busy, even though there is some sharing out? Why do we have less time for being close to people? Because we like being busy. We like achieving things, gettings things done. That’s the easy bit. What is not so easy is getting along with people. They can be awkward, not agree with you, point out uncomfortable facets of your personality, ignore you, forget you, and those who are completely themselves tend to be selfish and go their own way, after all you can be awkward, disagree with them, point out the facets of their character you don’t like.

Another aspect of ‘busy’ is there is more to choose from. There are more people doing those things and you want to be part of that group. Part of the gang. When we were newly married in the 1960‘s it was comforting to be part of our group, everyone was roughly in the same boat, mortgage, demanding job, impending parenthood, trying out recipes, making our own beer – what a competition that was! Competitiveness was everything actually, I remember when the men made scones to prove they were as good as the girls, they weren’t really. I remember too a custard making competition that was fearfully skewed in favour of what we were used to rather than taking on a new texture and real vanilla! However Bird’s Eye did lose a few fans that day.

I can remember races in Austin Sprites and MG Midgets round country lanes, the girls screaming with laughter and the boys putting their foot hard down to get round the bends. The roads were quieter then, the cars were less powerful. We were lucky, nobody got hurt.

We took risks, we didn’t take drugs. We drank, we didn’t carry knives. We were young. We were happy. We were high spirited. We were normal.

Most of us had had a sound education. We had jobs. We could pick and choose jobs too – there were more jobs than people to fill them. Immigrants were encouraged to come to do the work we didn’t want to do. We donated to charities especially those in Africa.

Oxford Street, London © Pintail

Oxford Street, London © Pintail

So what’s changed? In 2011 we are more. The population has increased. The roads are busier. The popular message until recently was shop ‘til you drop. The throwaway society. We are consumers. We like spending money. We resent it when we have less to spend.

Apple Store Regents' St, a palace of consumerism © Pintail

Apple Store Regents' St, a palace of consumerism © Pintail

So how do we differ from the hardcore rioters? I don’t count those silly enough to get caught up in the excitement of damaging property and policemen. I’m talking about those who are disaffected, resentful, envious, without those values we care about, who didn’t get caught.

What percentage of society are they? Very small percentage actually. But they have always been there. It’s just that the number, not the percentge, has escalated with the increase in population. And our attitude has a lot to do with it. Ignoring those who could do with a bit of support.  Not encouraging a tolerance of difference, sharing our good fortune – not just money, but experience.

And, we could be less casual and tolerant of our influential leaders who are so lacking in empathy. In the past they have publically displayed all the characteristics of the rioters, yet they were described as high spirited – just as well they had cash to cover their trashing.

Duplicity cannot be tolerated. We must make that clear to our politicians. We need leaders who can be recognised as good examples, no matter what.


Is anybody there? Yes, there is!

Anyone there?

Anyone there?

It sometimes seems to us that writing blogs, tweets, LinkedIn messages, Facebook entries, is a one way process – info out, nothing back! That no one is out there reading our stuff. However, this week we have had positive proof our blogs are read, our tweets are read, our features are read. Here’s the feedback that renewed our enthusiasm:

  • A solution to our reader’s broad bean problem received a reassuring response from a Suffolk gardener
  • A response to the feature on living with Living with Alcoholism was received from a reader with a similar experience and how she coped with her polarised emotions
  • And someone sent in an email about how our front garden informed/inspired his own gardening

All in all these supportive, positive responses make our efforts worthwhile …

If you would like to add your comments on any of our features, at any time, please do … make our day! We find feedback a real stimulus and inspiration.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


The Weakest Link – An Invitation to Appear

Anne Robinson publicity picture

When I was asked to appear on The Weakest Link my instant response was Thanks, but no thanks. Later I thought about that kneejerk reaction and tried to analyse my reasons.

I think it was all about not wanting to be humiliated. In public. With no way of retaliating because the reality of the programme is that anything that doesn’t fit into the humiliation scenario is edited out before the programme is aired. So there is no opportunity for clever irony or spontaneous wit in response to Anne Robinson the dominatrix persona.

It is a cruel programme. One that makes me cringe at its naked enjoyment of the humiliation. Embarrassment, indignation and toecurling makes me turn off, feeling ashamed for watching it.

Other cruelty on television can be seen when Alan Sugar brutally says You’re fired. When MasterChef contestants are told their food is inedible, or worse. When any contestant is laughed off the stage in some low level talent show. All this public brutality rubs off and trickles down through our society that sees it as OK to be a bully. We become inured to it. A bit like the brutality of boxing, after a while what we were at first disgusted by we see as the norm and gradually becomes acceptable.

So who will take over from Anne, a slightly built woman whose dysfunctional personality has brought her fame and fortune.  The answer is no one. The BBC programme will cease in Spring 2012. Not a minute too soon.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Evolution is what we need in politics – Change to the Alternative Vote

What is it that creates such anger and scaremongering in the press about the Alternative Vote?

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to pass judgment on our current voting system and consider whether it might not be improved by allowing us to cast our votes more honestly.

It’s not a vote for a revolution; only for a small, evolutionary change. We hardly ever get consulted about these things, and it’s only thanks to producing a hung Parliament that we have the opportunity next week.

Alternative Voting means all MPs would have the support of a majority of their voters. Compare that with the 2010 election when two thirds of MPs lacked majority support, the highest figure in British political history. How can that be acceptable?

Alternative Voting System Explained:

  • There is no need to redraw constituency boundaries
  • It penalises extremist parties who are unlikely to gain many second-preference votes
  • It eliminates the need for tactical voting, so you can vote without fear of wasting your vote.
  • It encourages candidates to chase second- and third-preferences, which lessens the need for negative campaigning – don’t we all get fed up with that – as a candidate doesn’t want to alienate the supporters of another candidate whose second preferences they want.

AV is alive and active in many areas of our lives already:

  • Leadership elections for Labour and Liberal Democrats
  • Elections for UK parliamentary officials including Select Committee Chairs
  • Elections for the Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Australian House of Representatives
  • Millions of people in membership organisations, businesses and trade unions internal elections
  • Most Student Union elections
  • Irish Presidential election
  • Numerous American City, Mayoral and district elections

AV is the best system when you’re out to elect a single winner.

If you don’t bother to vote next week you should never again complain about the political system.  If you are swayed by the scaremongering of the No vote camp, we don’t deserve to think of ourselves as intelligent citizens.

So please, turn out and vote. Make your vote count. Decide on the facts, not the frenzy. Go for fairness, transparency and greater democracy.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

Mary Ann Sieghart, The i 25 April 2011
The Electoral Reform Society


Grotesque Mac

Appalling Apple Mac imageI have to say this is the funniest piece I have ever read about Apple Mac products – so many people were appalled, fascinated, revolted, and entertained by it … Have a sort of laugh!


Editor’s View

Editor, Val Reynolds

Editor, Val Reynolds

With a remit of Women’s Health and Lifestyle we have a huge area of interest to write about.

Sometimes I just like to write short pieces reflecting on some subject or another, other times it might be a bit of a rant.

At other times I invite readers, colleagues and friends to send something they would like to appear on the website or to add information to one of the features on the Forward Feature list which is available on request. If you would like to get in touch with suggestions or any other matter use this contact form 

Val Reynolds Brown Editor


Just how hard should learning a computer program be?

Well, here is our new design for the website. I can hardly believe it’s the fourth design to appear, but then in ten years I guess that’s not too surprising. What is surprising is how much anxiety learning a new design program can be. I really must write something about how interpretation of words used in one language can differ when written by those in another English speaking country. I’m talking here about American English.

I’m sure the root of many of my problems is a resistance to use different meanings for words I have used for so many years and an astonishment at how my language is being changed by non-native speakers. Perhaps the answer is to compile and keep up to date a glossary.

I’m also wondering whether there is an easier way of working through the huge amount of information the beginner faces when learning a new program. I think an algorithm is vital here. There are videos to watch – rather long winded some of them, others lack vital and consecutive elements. One video took 60 minutes to show the difference between using a post and a page when creating a website. The lecturing style was so amateurish if I had watched it to the end I really would have lost the will to live. The two are not difficult concepts to understand, you just need a clear and succinct explanation.

Talking to other website creators I hear similar stories, so it’s not just me being slow and ‘stupid’. I am also relieved to hear other people have lost vast amounts of data, like me. So many images, databases, info have I lost, forever, due to computer crashes. Again over a period of more than 20+ years I guess it’s not surprising. What is surprising is that no one expects it to happen to them. I certainly didn’t.

Even now, with enough backup storage devices, as well as backed up on ‘clouds’, I’m still not confident I won’t lose something precious.

Another thing that frequently happens is the inability to completely recall how to do something with a program I did times without number, maybe months, or years ago. The time it takes to almost relearn is so frustrating. I couldn’t remember how to open the disk drive doors on my standalone computer this morning. Something I did for years when creating cds and dvds of the hard copy for the magazine.

I was reassured by a colleague confirming the same thing had happened to him and how stupid he felt.

Luckily there are forums to use for most things, but sometimes that can be frustrating – I like fast feedback, but it doesn’t always happen. So, for me, the best back up is really a personal service.

I use Apricotvs. I need fast response, 7 days a week and they are reliable. If necessary they will come out to the computer but the best bit for me is the Remote Desktop Support. Their technicians connect with my computer over the web and take control. It’s a bit odd seeing the cursor whizzing around the screen, but I got used to it quickly. It means there is no need for a visit, or a long winded, sometimes convoluted, conversation. It’s all done over the internet with the loudspeaker turned up. I love it! I’m signed up for the Gold Service which for £25 a pc a month is a bargain for peace of mind.

Val Reynolds Brown Editor

%d bloggers like this: