susannahMeet Susannah. She thinks she’s the definition of ordinary. Like most women, she believes she is nothing special. She can’t imagine why anyone would be interested in her story.

But we are.

Susannah had always wanted to be a librarian. Right from childhood, it was what she dreamed of being.

And then, of course, as we start talking, she starts apologising. As most women would. Because most women are embarrassed to talk about what really matters to them, unfortunately.

Sad, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. It’s not sad at all. It’s great to know what you want to do and to have something to aim for.

So when I was about seven or eight, I made my own library in my bedroom. I ordered all my books just like I’d seen at my local library that I visited every Saturday morning. I had loads. I loved buying books. And then I made a ticket for each book and had a system and friends from the street would come and borrow books from my library.

Susannah then went on to be a librarian in her Primary School and Secondary School Library. When she left school, she moved up to Newcastle to study Librarianship and Information Studies. When she graduated, she worked as a librarian in Manchester and Birmingham and then settled in Gateshead in 1988.

Sorted. Job done. She was living her dream and loving every minute of it. She had such a strong sense of vocation. That this was what she was born to do. That she couldn’t imagine ever doing anything else. The satisfaction she got from sorting stock out and getting everything into just the right order and finding the right book for a customer was immeasurable.

Until everything changed. Across the UK, there were major cuts in the Library Service. The Schools Library Service in Gateshead was to be axed. Everyone in the team was to be redeployed or made redundant. Susannah was devastated. She’d been doing this job that she loved for over twenty years and now she didn’t love the new role that she was put into at all.

My heart wasn’t in it any more. For the first time in my life, I was dreading going to work. But I couldn’t leave. This was my life. What else could I do?

She did have something else she could do. She could set up her own business and become self-employed. She could offer her skills to local schools – and get paid for it. But could she really?

I’d never seen myself as that kind of person. I wasn’t confident enough. I couldn’t sell myself. I knew I’d do a good job, but how could I ever convince other people of that?

And then a close friend of Susannah’s died of cancer. She was only 48 years old. This was a defining moment for Susannah.

At that point, I had an overwhelming sense of ‘Now or never’. I’d seen my friend’s life end far too soon. Life seemed fragile. I had to make the most of it. This was the right time. I had the right skills. My husband wanted me to go for it. It felt scary, but I took the leap and did it!

So she started to develop a website – Whittock Library Solutions – and got business cards and sent out targeted emails to Head teachers across the region. She had to force herself to believe in herself. Her strong determination to make a go of this carried her through.

The first few jobs were terrifying. I still couldn’t believe anyone was going to pay me to do this. But the feedback was really positive and as I gathered a few testimonials, it became easier to believe in myself and approach new schools. And actually, most of my work then came in through recommendations and word of mouth.

Susannah couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t wait to get up every morning and start work. This was truly a dream come true – getting paid to do something that she absolutely loved. She was happier than she’d ever been. This was the best thing she’d ever done.

And now she’s using her experience and expertise to help a local charity. Borderline Books collects books that are no longer needed by publishers, shops, libraries and individuals and redistributes them free of charge to organisations working with survivors of domestic abuse, homeless people, ex-service men and women, former prisoners, young offenders, children’s homes, hostels for young people, refugees and those applying for asylum and vulnerable adults and children. Susannah is giving up her time to sort through all the children’s books and make the children’s library there a useful and attractive resource.

It’s great to use the skills I have to volunteer in such a practical way. It’s so fulfilling to see the Children’s Library there taking shape.

So that’s Susannah’s story. It could have been very different. Every story can take many different turns. She can’t believe how well it has turned out for her and how happy she is.

I’m naturally cautious. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to rush into anything. But then there comes a point when you know. You know it’s the right time. You know it’s ‘now or never’. And that’s when you have to silence your fears and go for it.




There’s something magical about a railway station. Do you feel it? This epic structure housing centuries of arrivals and departures. This all-pervading sense of coming and going. The to and fro of train travel, past, present and future.

As I step onto the train, I’m stepping into the unknown. I’m trusting myself – my belongings, my journey, my plans, my life – to this uncertain system that is the rail network. Trusting the network to get me there. I’m embarking on an adventure. An adventure crowded with unknown travel companions and potential delays. Brimming with nervous anticipation, I search for my reserved seat. I squeeze in next to a nameless stranger – two separate lives thrown together in this moment of companionable anonymity.

train3As the train pulls out of the station, I leave the ordinary behind. I wave goodbye to normal. I’m pulling away from all that is known, all that is safe, all that is predictable. The outside world whizzes by. Towns come and go in a flash. I am moving. I am no place. I’m looking out of my life out onto the world. I’m observing everyday people leading everyday lives. This blur of normal – one man walking a dog, another hanging out the washing…This is steady. And I am in between. In between worlds. In between a field of spring lambs and a sewage treatment works. In between delight and dereliction.

As the train pauses at a station, I reflect on the travellers getting on and off. The hellos and the goodbyes. The beginning and endings of journeys. The constant sense of flux. This natural flow. I relax into the rhythm. I surrender control. My mind has entered a different realm. It’s been released. Set free to travel, to drift, to wander, to explore.

I am heading for my destination. I have left my home to travel there. My journey has a purpose. I have left the comfort of my everyday routine, my everyday identity. This journey holds immense potential. I could go anywhere, do anything, be anyone. But I know where I have to go. What I have to do. Who I have to be. I know the reason for my journey. This time on this train is preparing me. I am on an internal journey. I have time to reflect. Time to travel this internal path.

As the train pulls in to the station, I’m ready. This is my stop. This is where my journey ends.


Here I am on the train again. This time, I’m going home. I’m going home. I’m leaving the adventure behind.

I’m weary. But happy weary. Everything went according to plan. There’s a sweet relief in that. I did OK. More than OK. I made good memories. And I’m changed. This experience has changed me. I’m going back home different. I’m ready to go back to my life. I appreciate my life all the more. I see all that I have, all that I treasure, all the love that is waiting for me. Waiting to embrace me and hold me and welcome me home. I can relax into this journey. There’s a pull, yes, an invisible thread drawing me home. But there’s no rush. No sense of urgency. I relax into the transition. This movement from there to here, from away to home. Moving my body and mind from there to here, from away to home.

I’m going home.


I am a massive granola fan. So when I went away to Centerparcs for my annual weekend with friends, of course I reached for the granola at breakfast. And there I was, transported to granola heaven.

Me: Rosie, this granola is amazing! Where’s it from?

Rosie: I made it.

Me: You’re kidding me. Who makes their own granola?

Rosie: I do.

Me: I need this recipe!

So here it is. Rosie’s granola recipe. Everyone else agreed with me. It was the best granola we had ever tasted. Now you can make your own and see for yourself.

The recipe, Rosie admits, is very loosely based on a Nigella Lawson recipe and all the quantities are pretty approximate. Everything can be substituted for something else…..and so your own personal granola can be gluten free, nut free, whatever you need it to be!

The ingredients are measured in cups. This amount makes enough granola to fill one of those large cereal containers.

So throw it all in together into a large mixing bowl and mix up with a wooden spoon.

  • 41/2 cups oats
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup white sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup apple compote
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

So instead of the sunflower and sesame seeds, I used a pack of mixed seeds. I used acacia honey. And for apple compote, I bought a tin of 100% apple slices and blitzed them!

granolaWhen it’s all well mixed up, spread out the mixture onto two baking trays lined with baking parchment. Bake on a low heat in a pre-heated oven at 150C for approx 30-40 minutes, turning once. I actually left it in for nearer 50 minutes as I like my granola well crunchy – and it was.

Add a cup of raisins after baking…..I didn’t even notice this instruction! Still, I can add raisins at any point – or dried apricots or cranberries or whatever….

There’s something very exciting about making your own. Making your own anything really. You can be sure of what’s gone in it. You can put exactly what you want in it. You can make it a bit different every single time you make it.

Yes, it’s expensive and yes, it’s full of calories…but full of natural goodness too and you really only need a small amount. I use 0% Greek style yoghurt and fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, with a sprinkling of heavenly granola on top. That’s my perfect breakfast right there.

Give it a go. It’s pretty simple. And pretty wonderful. Thanks, Rosie!


Oh how I love my new skirt……It’s completely over the top and completely impractical, but oh my, it’s beautiful!

I have a big party coming up this year, well big(ish) birthday.  As a rule, I don’t do parties or the big celebrations, but this year, I’ve decided to push the boat out.  And because of this, I require the most special and perfect party outfit!…..Because after all…….It’s all about ME ….Haha.

I knew straight away what it was I was looking for. I knew exactly the style I wanted to go for.  But actually finding it was really difficult.  There seemed to be lots of choice in the US but hardly any over here.  Or, my other option was to make it myself…..Now I like a bit of craft but this was way out of my league.  Anyway, after hours of looking I found it, the exact thing I’d been searching for. It was stunning…..and available in loads of different colours! How on earth was I going to choose?  I wanted them all, they were all so pretty and so girly.  I’m not really a girly girl, I do try every now and again but generally I end up feeling ridiculous.  So end up sticking to jeans and Converse or Dr Martens……But not this time, this time I’m going full on girly and I’m super excited.

7-3Now, I normally like to open my parcels in private (don’t ask) but I just couldn’t contain myself when it arrived.  I was like a small child at Christmas. I just couldn’t stop smiling, hoping that it would be exactly as I’d imagined it would be.

And it was, the right length, the right fit, the colour was perfect (I went for grey in the end).  Within minutes, I was wearing my new Charcoal Grey Tulle Skirt over the top of my jeans and Dr Martens, prancing around the living room…..twirling and laughing and grinning.  I felt like a hardcore princess.

It’s so easy to slip into the same old clothes, the ones that we are comfy in, the ones that are reliable and practical.  But I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to be a little different and wear the things that I love or that make me feel special.

Maybe we should try it….go shopping and buy something special or different….or look in our drawers and wear something we had maybe forgotten about.  I love the way clothes can make me feel and shopping is one of my favourite hobbies!

We’ve recently decorated our hall. It’s been completely replastered. With new tiles in the hall. New carpet on the stairs and landing. And now it is a blank canvas. The walls are cosy mocha – almost the same colour as the drying plaster had been – that warm pinky beige.

So now to decide what to hang on the walls. Mr R would be happy with nothing. No nails destroying his precious beautifully smooth plaster. But that won’t do. What a wonderful opportunity to express something of ourselves in this entrance to our home.

7-3a-3Take my wall of stars. I love it because each piece tells a story. It all started with the large decorative wooden star. When I was working at Asda Living Gateshead before Christmas as an active seller, this was my favourite item in our Christmas range. One Saturday, I put some batteries in it, switched it on and let the star work its magic. Which it did. We sold so many that day. When I was making announcements on the microphone, I was genuinely enthusiastic about it, because I wanted one and imagined that everyone else would too. People came up to me having seen one in someone else’s basket, wanting to know where they could get their hands on one. Other colleagues couldn’t wait to finish their shift to make sure that they got hold of one before they were all sold out.

So we had it up on the wall in the living room all through Christmas. We bought the string of matching white distressed wooden stars to match. We left them up through January. I couldn’t bring myself to take them down. And then I wondered if I really had to. We have hearts at Christmas and we have hearts all year round. What’s to stop us having stars up all year round too?

pallet treeThe chunky wooden star has a story too. I was involved in a Community Christmas Fair at a local project – GWK Woodshed – that works with the long term unemployed, young people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, sourcing and collecting a range of waste and surplus timber products and turning them into functional saleable products. Beautiful functional saleable products. One item that caught my eye on the day was the pallet Christmas tree. I don’t know why. I just fell in love with it. So the pallet tree stood in the corner of my living room over Christmas, until it was chopped up for firewood and the star from the top was all that remained.

The frame was a present. I’d asked for vintage frames for my birthday. This was exactly what I had in mind. My daughter-in-law is amazing at upcycling and picked up this frame which had an image on that she wasn’t so keen on. Not to be deterred, she bought it and cleaned the image off with nail varnish remover. As simple as that. I would never think of that, would you? I found a picture I loved – well, less the picture, more the message…..’Shine Like Stars’. Because that’s an incredible motto for life, isn’t it? – that we should all be encouraged to shine like stars in the darkness and the darker the night, the brighter the stars.

And finally the little hanging sign – bought in one of those lovely little gift shop/tea shop combos that are springing up all over the place. ‘Reach for the stars’. I couldn’t resist. Not because I’m an S Club 7 fan, but because I had sent off a short story that day for a competition and title of that story was ‘Reach for the stars’. It felt like a sign.

So that’s the story behind my wall of stars. I’m not worried if you think it’s odd that I have stars up on my wall all year round. I love that my wall has a story. I love that my home expresses something of me. Something of my family. Something of my life. Everything that we choose to wear or have in our homes should remind us of something or someone. Every wall should tell a story.