Freedom, flow and focus. Those three words jump out from the Homepage of Mallory Smith’s website. Mallory Smith: Life and Career Coaching, Reiki and Emotional Freedom Technique. She also works in partnership with Jan Etoile, offering creative group coaching workshops under the name You Can 2. Have a look at her websites if you’re interested in finding out more. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to find out more about Mallory herself.

Helen H suggested that I pay Mallory a visit. She knows her from choir, knows her from a distance, but knows her well enough to appreciate that there’s something very special about her.

What I love about Mallory is that she never looks on and thinks ‘That could be fun.’ She jumps right in. She just gets on and does it. Whatever it is. Nothing stops her from having a go.

She’s right. As I sit in Mallory’s living room listening to her, I’m fascinated by the freedom, flow and focus in her narrative. Let me tell you some of her story and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Mallory travelled a lot as a child because her father was in the Armed Forces. By the time she was 14, she was living with her grandparents in the North East and travelling out to Libya on Forces transport for holidays with her parents. She’d always had an interest in dance and so when she got the opportunity to go backstage at a performance of the London Festival Ballet, later to become the English National Ballet, she jumped at the chance. The company were looking for help in the wardrobe department for the tour and Mallory’s aunt was the only one in the group old enough to apply for the job. Later, when Mallory was at university in London, she would help her aunt out in the maintenance wardrobe. She loved the atmosphere and being part of that world and soon was working there full time herself. She became a touring wardrobe assistant and later shoe supervisor and travelled all over the world with the Company. She loved it. The Wardrobe was the hub of the whole place: where the dancers would come with any problems with costumes and any problems of their own to chat about over a cup of tea. Mallory was good at listening, but after about seven years, she recognised how self-focused and transitory the dance world was and felt that she needed to put down some roots. It had been great while it lasted and she’d made lasting friendships but it was time for a change.

So she came north and visited a Careers Advisor. And while she was chatting with the Careers Advisor, she looked across the table and thought ‘Actually, I quite fancy doing your job.’ And so she did. She trained to become a Careers Advisor and worked in the service across the North East for 25 years.

In 2003, Mallory underwent surgery for a prolapsed disc in her neck: a discectomy with fusion. Soon after that operation, the next section in her neck gave way. She’d also been suffering with cartilage issues in her right knee. Other colleagues were covering her work while she was waiting for her second operation and there was a restructuring going on in the service and jobs were being lost. In 2008, Mallory offered to take redundancy. She was 55. She was never worried about how she would fill her time or what she would do. She’d been interested in life coaching and counselling all her life in a very informal way. She was a good listener. She’d been on holistic holidays and developed an interest in Reiki.

At a time that I was stressed at work, I decided to search ‘holistic holiday’ on my computer and the very first one that came up looked great. So I booked up and went! I was married at the time, but signed up to go alone. I flew off to the island of Skyros with no idea what to expect, but hoping for some massage. When I got there, there was no massage on offer, nothing I’d really heard of, so I tried Reiki and loved it. So I started training in Reiki and now I’m a Reiki master.

Back home, Mallory was involved behind the scenes and in productions at the Tyne Theatre. She’d missed being involved with the theatre and so had been invited along to the Tyne Theatre by a friend for what she thought was a tour, but when she arrived, she was given a seat and some music and just decided to join in. When the Tyne Theatre changed hands, Mallory missed singing. She saw an advert for SingLive! and just went along to give it a go. Later on, she was involved as The Sage Gateshead’s community choir emerged with Gary Griffiths as conductor and artistic director. She was involved right at the start and as a new name was chosen. And now, she’s involved as rehearsal manager. She loves how Gary choreographs the choir. Because no one uses books for the performance, everyone’s eyes are glued on Gary and he can do whatever he wants and they will follow.

Inspiration is hugely important for so many people. Singing is good for you, we all know that, and you can actually only actively worry about one thing at any one time, so when you’re focusing on singing, you can’t think about anything else. It’s great escapism.

Mallory doesn’t see anything remarkable in how she has lived her life. But there is a pattern emerging, isn’t there? Mallory doesn’t really seek anything out. She has no fixed plan. In fact, she admits she’s not a fan of fixed plans. But when something comes up that she likes the look of, she dives right in. When she fancies having a go, she does just that. She has a go.

Like swimming, for example. Cold water swimming. Freezing cold water swimming at times. Mallory lives at the coast, you see. As her sixtieth birthday approached, she began to wonder what she should do to mark the occasion. And swimming in the sea came to mind. So she went for it. Alone. Having never swum in the North Sea in living memory! She got up early on her birthday and made her way down onto the sand at 7:30am. The beach was deserted. It was mid September and the sea looked gorgeous. It had been a lovely summer. Mallory got undressed and dipped her toe in the water. It was freezing! She looked around. No one was watching. She told herself ‘You really don’t have to do this.’ And put her tracksuit back on again. Just at that moment, a man ran down onto the beach in bright orange shorts. He ran past her towards the water like someone out of Baywatch and plunged straight into the water. It was enough. Inspired, she took her tracksuit off again and followed him into the waves. She managed ten minutes on that first day. But since then, she swims in the sea every day in the summer and now that she has discovered flesh-coloured neoprene gloves, it’s pretty regularly in the winter too.

I love it. Nothing beats it. Being in the water as the sun rises is like a meditation for me. It reminds me of my place in the universe. It’s a constant and yet it’s never the same. I go down onto the sand and know that no one has ever stood on that sand before me. It’s all washed clean every single day. It boosts the immune system too and there’s a group of us who meet up down there sometimes.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that everything has come easy to Mallory. She still struggles with lack of mobility in her neck and arthritis in her knee. There are things like yoga and tango that she would have loved to have done and has had to let go of. And at the moment, Mallory is struggling to make sense of world affairs. She knows that fear doesn’t help but she looks around the world and sees how the planet is stressed and how people are stressed and that distresses her. And so she’s working out her place in the world, her particular role. She’s trying to stay in the light and be a light worker. She’s trying to find peace in her own contribution, trusting that there are other people out there that can do all the things that are needed that she can’t do.

Freedom, flow and focus. Think about those three words again. These are the words that sum up Mallory’s life for me. She’s lived with a sense of freedom to do what is right for her, free from the expectations of others or the fear of what others may think. She’s gone with the flow and seized all the opportunities that have crossed her path. And she’s developed a focus that helps her to know what she wants and go for it without distraction.

And so Mallory Smith, you may not think you’re inspiring, but we do. I’d like to say we’ll join you for an early morning swim one day, but I’m not sure we’re anywhere near as brave as you!

The word ‘vintage’ seems to mean different things to different people and certainly causes plenty of confusion.

So here’s a dictionary definition –

of high quality and lasting value, or showing the best and most typical characteristics of a particular type of thing, especially from the past

Helpful? Maybe. Interesting? Definitely.

I for one had never considered the quality aspect of vintage. To me, vintage just meant ‘old’. Anything from a time before now. But think of the fast fashion we’re buying these days. How long will any of these pieces last? They’re created with a built-in obsolescence. Nothing is made to last. If we slavishly follow fashion trends, why would we want anything to last longer than one season anyway?

But there was a time when clothing was made to last. Timeless classics. Quality fabrics. That’s why they’re still here. That’s why we can still pick them up in vintage shops and wear them all these years later.

I love the idea that the clothes I’m wearing have a history. I know some people are put off by that, but I take pleasure in that sense of a back story. A story that I’ll never know anything about but it’s there interwoven into the threads. I love that musty smell as you walk into a vintage shop. It’s there in charity shops too. For me, vintage shops are essentially charity shops that someone else has sorted through and picked the best out for me so that I don’t have to. Charity shops take a lot of hard work and perseverance to find that one treasure. In a vintage shop, the treasures are easier to locate.

I don’t believe that vintage has to be any one particular era. Some women pick one era and try to recreate that one look. My sense of vintage is far more eclectic than that. I think I can safely say that will never include 70s fashion, but there’s something about the 20s flapper scene that appeals to me and 80s frills and the ankle grazers of the Mods in the 50s and the swishy skirts of 50s dresses and the 40s long fur coats…

So what is the definition of vintage?

Some would say old-fashioned. I say retro.

Some would say secondhand. I say pre-loved.

Some would say out of date. I say timeless.

Some would say eccentric. I say quirky.

Some would say imperfect. I say it has a story.

And then there’s repro retro, new clothes with a retro feel, like my burgundy velvet ankle grazers from Top Shop – see, I do buy brand new clothes occasionally!

I find it hard to define what it is that attracts me to vintage clothing. It takes my breath away. I love that there is just one of each piece in the shop (like in this cool vintage shop in Manchester I visited a few weeks ago), not rows and rows of the same design in different sizes and different colours. I love that sense of dressing up as I try on a flapper dress that I have absolutely no use for. I just need to try it on. I love the whole sensory experience – the colour, the fit, the feel, the smell (yes, I do smell every item I pick up).

I don’t do it to look different. I tried conforming for a long while. I just wasn’t very good at it. I don’t dress to impress. I wear what I love, it’s as simple as that. What I can’t resist buying.

I had a wonderful day in the charity shops of Whitley Bay last week. But my favourite shop of all was Miss Persnickety, a clothing and accessories shop that describes itself on Facebook as ‘choosy, selective, slightly snobby’. It’s like a living museum of fashion where you can touch and smell and try on your favourite designs. I can’t wait to go back again. I bought an Anna Sui black cardigan with the most fabulous cream lace frills at the neck and sleeves – and I’m totally in love with it.

So if vintage is your thing, then have the confidence to go with the flow. Take the time and follow your intuition. There’s no right or wrong way to do vintage.

Wear what you love. It’s that simple.


Linda has already treated us to a series called ‘Live, Laugh, Love with Linda’. I’m sure you will have found inspiration to get out there and enjoy life, as I did. To keep it fresh, we’re changing it up a bit and now concentrating on some of Linda’s other main loves. We’ll discover what those are as we go along!



Near the bottom of Whickham/Swalwell bank stands Pedalling Squares, a cycling cafe that is ideal for refuelling if cycling. I made a stop off there with my patient other half. Id been meaning to try this cafe for a while. The coffee was good, but the dime bar cake was divine. It was also a hefty slice – I hadn’t been cycling, you see, but I had achieved two hours of gardening and a visit to the tip. So whilst part of me wondered if it was a bit too much, I argued with myself that I must have a low blood sugar level! The decor was interesting with plenty of cycling memorabilia. I did feel a little guilty that I hadn’t cycled there, but I soon got over it. I knew when I returned home, I could take pride in viewing my gardening handiwork. My other half’s lemon drizzle cake was “moist and full of flavour.” Could this be a treat after further excursions? Hmmm.



My choice of book recently for the book club I attend was ‘Neon Rain’ by James Lee Burke. Set in Louisiana’s bayou, life is hard and full of crimes that the alcoholic detective has to solve in his unique violent/moral way. As this book is his first, it feels raw. So armed with a mixture of comments, I decided to reread all his books with the detective Dave Robicheaux. Oh what fun! I do love Burke’s style – shocking at times! Life is cruel and violent in the swamps. He contrasts his storyline with glorious descriptions of the weather and the luscious vegetation of the setting in New Iberia. I am five books in and book number two is shining so far. I don’t very often reread books but I am finding this great fun, as I rediscover gems.



Yesterday I watched the Lego Batman Movie. It was a good laugh. The obligatory child I took with me enjoyed it more than me. I was comparing it with the first Lego film which was brilliant. Did you see that? It was full of adult jokes. It became a child’s film that adults grew to love due to the humour. In fact, when I saw the first Lego Movie, over half the audience was adults and the atmosphere was electric. This movie had a lot to live up to. This audience was much younger. Batman, as a loner, had to learn to work with a newly acquired family to return the villains to captivity. From being a pompous ‘I am the greatest’ person, he had to learn to work with others. The special effects were great! An enjoyable 90 minutes were spent in pure escapism. I do love a good children’s film.

As I walked past Warehouse yesterday afternoon, I glimpsed in through the door, as you do (especially since the blouse I bought there before Christmas has attracted so many positive comments) and yes, I can testify that yellow is in!

Hurray! Because there is something about the colour yellow that lifts my spirits. We need more yellow in the our lives. Here are some of my random thoughts in praise of yellow.

Yellow symbolises Spring. I’ve always focused on green before and that sense of new life that it signifies, but look at all the yellow flowers in Spring. It’s like nature telling us to wake up, savour this awakening, live life to the full.

This zest for life is embodied in lemons. My fruit bowl is always predominantly yellow right now. As I sit here with my early morning lemon water, I reflect on the revitalising boost that lemons can give. Lemon water reminds me I’m alive. It sets out my intention to live fully and live well every single day.

Yellow makes everyone smile. At the yoga workshop I went to yesterday, everyone commented on the daffodils on the table and then on the bright yellow tops my friend and I were wearing. Yellow draws the eye. It brightens the mood. My vest top from Asquith is called Lemonade. I love that. Full of fizz and zest – just like me when I’m exercising!

Yellow is hard to wear, but when it’s done well, it’s stunning. Yellow is the colour of LaLaLand for me. Emma Stone in that stunning bright yellow dress. I’m not sure I could get away with it, but next time I see a bright yellow dress in a shop, I’m sure going to give it a try!

When I saw Martha Graham’s last work ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ in New York last week, I was blown away by the costumes. She was 96 when she created this work – 96! – and yet it is so full of humour and life and positivity. The costumes were designed by Calvin Klein – yes, the Calvin Klein. Each dancer in a different colour leotard and skirt and the female Principal in bright yellow. I couldn’t help but smile throughout (just as I had done in LaLaLand) – something in these works draws the sunshine out of my soul.

Yellow was my Dad’s favourite colour. He never explained why. But when we visited his graveside this week to remember him one year after his death, it felt so right that my sister brought an abundance of bright yellow flowers – daffodils, roses and the weirdest tulips I have ever seen! It reminded me of the day of his funeral – a bright sunny spring day with a sense of life in the air. A sense of resurrection – new life – my dad’s new life.


I now have a yellow item of clothing to wear. My friend knitted me a vintage style little scarf – in bright yellow. She even used one of her original vintage labels from back in the day when we first met. The scarf is that lovely warm bright yellow, like the middle of a creme egg. It’s my splash of yellow on any outfit.


My splash of pretty.

My splash of vintage.

My splash of life.

You have to be feeling bold to wear yellow. It draws attention. It gets you noticed. Maybe that’s why most of us avoid wearing it. My friend obviously thought I could carry it off. Well, if ever there was a time, this is that time! When I wear that scarf, it will set my intention for the day.

I am bold. I am alive. I am going to live life to the full today.

I’ve been wanting to write about my trip to New York, but couldn’t come up with an angle. Then yesterday, my daughter’s dance teacher sought me out to ask about my trip.

Did you really go to New York on your own? Wow, that’s so brave of you. How did you manage?

And that was it. My angle. That’s what made my trip different. I did it on my own.

So here are some of my thoughts about how I made it work.

  1. I bought a map.  Yes, a paper map. Actually. one of those waterproof paper maps that folds easily in all sorts of directions without tearing, so I could keep it in my pocket and not look like a tourist at every street corner with an unwieldy massive sheet blowing around in the wind (actually, those have become a thing of the past with maps on mobile phones – if you can afford the mobile data bills!). Anyway, my map was great. It gave me a real sense of where everything was in relation to the rest -which when you are spatially challenged like I am is always a bonus. And the walking tours on the back of the map were so good. I love a good treasure trail. There’s no way I would have seen what I saw without that trail to follow. I wouldn’t have known where to start.
  2. I listened to other people before I went. Like my friend Wendy who told me to just take hand luggage (and I know you all thought I was mad) which I did and that decision turned out to be an absolute godsend when my connections got screwed up in both directions. Wendy also told me to go up the Rockerfeller Centre at about 4:30 and to stay to watch the sun set. Great advice, Wendy. I did, and it was the most wonderful experience. And then my friend Katie told me to take the free Staten Island ferry which goes right past the Statue of Liberty. There was a great view back over Manhattan too. Another good call.
  3. I had a reason to be there. I’ve been saying to people that I didn’t act like a tourist and they just laugh and ask what a tourist acts like. But I had a sense of purpose in being there and that helped enormously. I had places to be. Appointments. Interviews. I had a role to play and that gave me an inner confidence. I had a reason to interact with real New Yorkers.
  4. I chose to feel safe. I had every reason not to. New York is quite a scary place. I heard more people speaking other languages than English. There’s a lot of visible poverty. It’s the most multicultural place I’ve ever been. I travelled on the subway alone. Even at night. I walked down quiet side streets. I ate alone in some pretty downmarket places. The place I was staying was pretty downmarket. I found the height of the buildings very claustrophobic and I never felt like I was breathing fresh air. I could have let my fears take over and not left my room for the week. But I played a part. I chose to put my brave face on. I wasn’t stupid. I didn’t take unnecessary risks. I kept my bag close and locked my door at night. But actually, I did feel safe. When you walk with confidence, you blend right in. No one was interested in me in the slightest. I was as invisible as the next person.
  5. I chose to be positive. There were some bad moments. Like the afternoon I sat waiting for someone for three hours. Like the moment I landed at Amsterdam on the way home and found that the Newcastle flight had been cancelled. But I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience and I wasn’t going to let anything spoil it. I chose to let all the bad stuff go and focus in on the good. Very little of the trip was as I anticipated it would be. Nowhere near as good on paper. But it was all the better for being real. Unforgettable in every way.
  6. I listened to my body. That’s one advantage of being alone. You really can listen to your body. You can eat when you want and what you want. You can sit down and rest when you want. You can take a shower when you want and go to bed when you want. I looked after myself because I knew there was no one else there who was looking out for me. It worked.
  7. I really tried to experience New York. I wasn’t on my phone all the time. I wasn’t constantly connected with home. I didn’t read a book or listen to music. I really tried to soak it all in. To listen. To watch. I allowed plenty of time to get places. I never rushed from one place to another. I walked slowly and took everything in. I didn’t go in any shops even. I didn’t want to be where the tourists were. I wanted to be out there. It was so great to take a yoga class at the Jivamukti Yoga Centre in Union Square for example. To be doing what regular people were doing. To feel part of something. To have a chat in the changing rooms.
  8. I sought out weird stuff. I didn’t feel the need to tick off all the top attractions. I did a few, but missed loads. I didn’t go to the Guggenheim or Ground Zero. I didn’t walk in Central Park. But I did go to a traditional Irish bar called Dead Rabbit which served vintage cocktails – even at 11:30am! I did some of my best thinking there.

Looking back on my time in New York, I loved that version of me. I was positive and bold. Nothing was going to hold me back. I was calm and content. I found pleasure in every little experience.

I want to find a way to be that person here too.

Thank you New York for all that you showed me and taught me.

I may never return, but I will never forget.