Lyn Alderson

Copywriter, Journalist, Blogger


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Share the love with Project Linus

A quarter of a million children are admitted to UK hospitals every year- that’s a lot of sick and frightened youngsters wondering what’s going to happen next as they face medical tests and procedures.

One UK charity has a special way of showing love to children in hospital- it sends them a big “hug” in the shape of a hand-made quilt.

carter-quilts.jpegThe quilts are sent out as “security blankets” for needy youngsters, including those who are nearing the end of their lives in hospitals or hospices, and those hiding in women’s refuges away from domestic violence.

Project Linus UK is now sending out an SOS for more volunteers to help make these Linus quilts.

Could you share the love?

Perhaps you would like to combine your needlework skills with love and compassion to create something unique for sick and hurting children?

The aim is to give each child in need a bright and colourful security blanket to hold on to during times of stress. Children and even adults find soft fabrics very comforting- that’s why the quilts are also donated to emergency vehicles, to comfort accident and trauma victims.

Project Linus UK describe their quilts as “a hug you can keep” – and they need help to produce and distribute these ‘hugs’ in every British city and region.

Earlier this month they handed out 18 quilts to youngsters from inner city Birmingham who were visiting Shropshire on an adventure holiday organised by the Church of England’s Pontesbury deanery.

Last year they handed out a staggering 27,000 quilts to UK children of all ages, from the smallest babies to the tallest teenagers- and it was still not enough to meet the need.

How to help

If you would like to join the Project Linus UK network of love, it’s easy to get involved.

You can find quilt patterns (including easy ones!) on the website http://www.projectlinusuk.org.uk where you can also contact your nearest group co-ordinator.

Project Linus is named after the Peanuts comic strip character Linus, a little boy who liked to carry a security blanket.

Project Linus came from the USA to the UK in 2000, and grew quickly through groups associated with the Quilters Guild of the British Isles, and through the Internet. So far it has donated 239,000 quilts.

President of Project Linus UK, Mrs Lyn Antill of Church Stretton, Shropshire, said: “Caring for children is a natural instinct that we all have, and it is very rewarding to use sewing skills to bring joy to a young child or teenager”.

For more information about Project Linus UK visit http://www.projectlinusuk.org.uk or email Lyn Antill at projectlinusuk@hotmail.co.uk

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Shropshire business club seeks expansion

A Shropshire business group, which launched a year ago, is looking for new blood.

Church Stretton Business Women’s Club is a networking club for women with small and micro businesses, including creative and freelance professionals.

Business club founder Christine Williams

CSWBC founder Christine Williams

Current membership is around 20 people who represent a range of business sectors, from tourism, accountancy and private tutoring, to retail, journalism and PR, hospitality and food, photography, and arts and crafts.

Friendly Forum

The club is a friendly forum where women learn from each other’s business experiences, share their triumphs and challenges, and support new entrepreneurs.

The club was founded by Christine Williams, a published author and experienced business counsellor. Meetings provide networking opportunities and discussions on a range of business issues.

Meetings are held at the Mayfair Centre in Easthope Road, Church Stretton, from 9am on the third Wednesday of every month.

Support and sharing

Christine said that there was a great spirit of co-operation between members.

“Ladies share their triumphs and challenges, and it is a joy to see how they support each other. The relationships formed between members of the club have already proved to be immensely beneficial”.

For more information visit http://www.csbwc.co.uk , contact Christine on 07801 482656 or email christinewilliams0@btinternet.com

 

 


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Get Well soon Fred the Ted

Shropshire copywriter loves snowscapes
My inner child loves snowy walks!

January is usually a quiet time on the farm, when Pete and I chill out in the evenings in front of endless log fires and fall asleep watching boring  repeats on the television.

But it didn’t happen this year as we were both caught up in big projects. Pete was working hard with contractors on a new cattle handling system, and I was glued to the chair in my office for hours on end collaborating with a new client on a ghost writing assignment.

Now sitting at my desk for too long doesn’t suit me anymore, and I need regular short breaks. So every day I take at least one short walk with Flossie the sheepdog, and it’s an opportunity to let my inner child go out to play.

Walking in a winter wonderland

This is the part of me that enjoys walking through deep frozen puddles crunching ice under my feet, taking macro photographs of snowdrops and throwing sticks for a very muddy Floss.

My inner child also loves to dance in the office to YouTube videos and do a bit of Karaoke, strictly for my own ears!!  Currently my favourite song is Dolly Parton’s Jolene after hearing my daughter sing it beautifully at the weekend in preparation for a solo performance. Yes, I am quietly becoming an English eccentric, and I don’t seem to care a jot.

Undercover Florence Nightingale

 

Farmhouse blog: Fred the Ted

Fred the Ted has a secret nurse

I realised yesterday that another inner child had also been let loose in the farmhouse when I discovered Fred the Ted (a beautiful teddy bear from the shop at Ironbridge) had been tucked up on the sofa with a tea towel for a blanket and a giant packet of Beechams All -in-Ones in his paw.

When I challenged Pete about nursing cuddly toys back to health and the harm it might do to his manly image he just laughed and said he was free to connect with his feminine side.

So you can send the Get Well cards here to Fred the Ted and we’ll pass them on with your best wishes for a speedy recovery!

 


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Owning up to Aga addiction and going cold turkey

Did you miss my blog post in December? You were probably too busy flying by the seat of your pants in a bid to beat Santa’s sleigh to notice I’d gone AWOL.

Actually I was the one on the bike with ET flying across the sky, trying to get to the M & S food store before the doors closed. Sorry I didn’t stop to wave.

So here’s a brief update on our quiet, non-eventful festive season……

The Alderson household had to go cold turkey all over Christmas and the New Year- and I don’t mean what we ate for our Christmas dinner!

No, our beloved Aga was the problem.Aga.jpeg

Now, despite the fact that she needs a facelift and dates back to the 1930s, we’re very fond of the old girl, and so are all of our visitors. The first thing they do is park their bottoms in front of it, and then they luxuriate in its warmth, loathe to give up their prime position in front of the oven door.

The Aga is the heart of our home, so when it suddenly went cold on us, a shiver crept down our collective spine. We were forced to admit our long-standing addiction to opening the oven door to toast our derrières (I thought I’d use a polite French term as it’s a cheeky topic).

The festivities didn’t seem quite the same without the baking warmth of the Aga, though luckily we have an electric oven to use as a back-up and still had a nice turkey dinner. It’s not very good for derrière- warming though!

I won’t say anything else about Christmas, except to pass on a tip to anyone who lives in a big old house. Don’t use last year’s Christmas crackers unless you want to pull them and find a dead spider inside! My son-in-law’s face was a picture when a mummified arachnid popped out instead of a paper hat!

And on a lighter note…. when Floss the Sheepdog took me for my daily walkies this week I noticed how the days were lengthening again. Another few weeks will see an easing of my SAD symptoms and I might come out of hibernation for more than just another snack.

Happy New Year dear Follower. Thanks for reading my blog and I wish you all the best for 2015!Jan2015 view.jpeg

 

 

 

 


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My defective season….

A winter scene on our Shropshire farm

A winter scene at our Shropshire farm

The weather may still be relatively mild, but the light is fading fast, and I find myself dogged by that familiar grey spectre, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

While I am managing to rise at a semi-respectable hour of 7.30am, it’s a little bit late for a farmer’s wife and self-employed professional, and directly reflects my sluggish winter metabolism.

The SAD syndrome kicks in every year when the clocks go back, and my heart takes a nosedive into my boots, much like Tom Daly making an Olympic gold medal attempt. This unwelcome seasonal change has now become 100 per cent predictable.

Cravings of a couch potato

As winter sets in, I develop a craving for lots of carbs and feel sorely tempted to live as a couch potato. Apparently this is a biological condition related to falling levels of light which affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, reducing the feel good chemicals.

Floss the Sheepdog has a new vocation

Floss the Sheepdog has a new vocation

My SAD is not as bad as some people’s SAD and I am glad! I can fight it by getting outside for a daily walk when the light is at its brightest. I am accompanied by my trusty personal trainer, Floss the Sheepdog. Floss has been given this new title since her semi-retirement from farm life when Pete sold the sheep a couple of years ago. Getting outside on the farm is the best antidote to SAD I know.

State of the art gymnasium

Years ago I was forced to exercise indoors, in a state-of-the-art gym across the road from my office at the Stourbridge News. Three times a week, ultra-fit, lycra-clad ladies kept me working flat out on the treadmill and cross training equipment, in an effort to avoid middle aged spread and dinner lady arms. (Apologies to any dinner ladies reading this; I am sure your arms look just fine and you ought to sue the Oxford Dictionary for unfair discrimination!) Anyway, enough of this empty talk. My personal trainer is here, and she wants to give me a woof time! She will round me up and put me through my paces, and she won’t let me paws for breath…..


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Goodbye sweet summer….

 I'm enjoying autumn's rich palette and getting my bed socks out ready for winter

I’m enjoying autumn’s rich palette and getting my bed socks out ready for winter!

Today I am remembering a former life….

A warm house was as simple as flicking a switch.

Gas-fired central heating warmed up my little box of a home at express speed. Bed socks were for old grannies and scarves were for outside use only. My house got so warm it was like Bermuda as we stripped off to T-shirts in the middle of January.

I admit, it was a bit of a shock every morning to face the hostile environment of my driveway. I had to arm myself with a scraper and attack the ice on my windscreen before I went to work, but unless it snowed and the roads were blocked, winter was a relatively mild inconvenience.

In modern urban life, we are always one step removed from the primitive cycle of the changing seasons. My life here on the farm couldn’t be more different.

Retro kitchen and open fires

We have an original Aga from the 1930s which keeps the kitchen nice and warm, but the rest of the house depends on a labour-intensive wood-burning boiler. We use wood from fallen branches on the farm and pile the logs on by hand every hour or two. Remembering to do it before the boiler goes out is an art in itself! And sub-zero weather is more than a mild blip, it means major headaches for Pete when water supplies to the animals freeze up.

lanternsRESIZED.jpegBut still, there nothing like a night cuddling up together in front of an open fire watching a good film. When the boiler is going and we light the log burner in the living room as well, it can match any central heating system in the world. And the fact that it’s hard earned makes it even more luxurious!

Embracing change

Yes my life has changed. Some of the things I used to take for granted are appreciated far more, and I have so much beauty in my life. I love the stunning landscape here on the farm; beautiful open vistas for mile upon mile, with Shropshire’s famous hills on the horizon.

Goodbye Indian summer 2014; hello windy and wet mornings, glorious autumnal landscapes and wear-your-bedsocks nights!


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Reflections of a combine widow….

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I decided to do a couple of Google searches the other day. First I typed in “what is a cricket widow?” and Google immediately responded with “a woman who sees her husband so infrequently during cricket season (because he is always at a match) that she is effectively a widow”.

I tried my next question: “What is a combine widow?” but Google was completely baffled.

I think I will have to write a Wikipedia page to set the record straight. After all, this is a phenomenon that afflicts many farmer’s wives and it’s surprising that there’s no reference to it in cyberspace. Although it’s also strangely comforting that there is some human activity which remains beyond the reach of the behemoth search engines.

So for the benefit of Google, Yahoo and Bing, here are some tips for your little web crawlers to digest…..

You wake up and go to bed alone

You suspect you’re a combine widow when you wake up and go to sleep alone in a king sized bed, and listen all day to the distant drone of harvesting machinery. Your suspicions are confirmed when you occasionally see a bristly face which has considerably overstepped the mark from designer stubble and now needs a government health warning as it strongly resembles a porcupine’s backside.

You leave plates of food for the mystery man who might occasionally materialise to consume them, but you usually blink and miss his rare visits to the house. You can see he’s been in the bathroom late at night by the dusty ring he leaves behind in the bathtub and is too tired to clean up. His clothes are covered in dust almost as thick as the aftermath of a volcanic eruption or an African sandstorm.

Elusive figure

For the combine widow, Hubby becomes an elusive and mystical figure for a few weeks, rather like Father Christmas as he is only around in the dead of night.

But let’s look at it from the farmer’s point of view for a moment. Unlike Father Christmas, who flies through the sky and is universally welcomed by the public, Shropshire Farmer sometimes has to tackle the A49 on his combine harvester, where motorists display varying reactions to his presence.

Some give him the thumbs up, appreciative of his efforts to feed the great British nation, while others gesticulate rudely, with an impatient one or two fingered “salute”. Poor Shropshire Farmer. He is only doing what farmers have to do…..


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Call the shrink- it’s farming-related OCD!

How many times can one man watch the weather forecast, Townie Wife mumbled under her breath, as Shropshire Farmer’s glazed eyes focused once again on the flat screen, mesmerised by talk of high and low pressure, the jet stream and ex-hurricane Cristobal.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband was as happy as a lark, enthroned on his combine harvester. He returned home in the evenings itching all over from barley awns, but was content to soak in a nice bath glowing with the virtue of a day well spent bringing in the harvest.

Field of barley

Beautiful barley, just waiting to be harvested

Then the weather broke and with it Shropshire Farmer’s sunny disposition.

Psychological disorder

The amiable man I know and love was replaced with an edgy, morbid, grumpy old chap. He became a victim of that peculiar farming-related Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which now keeps him glued to weather forecasts during the day and tossing and turning in bed at night. The symptoms of OCD are quite plain.

The weather forecast has improved over the past couple of days. Townie Wife is hopeful of a spontaneous cure for this psychological disorder which besets farmers during the harvest. However, the anxiety hasn’t lifted yet. Not until Pete sees that heavenly ball radiating in a cloudless sky will the smile return to his normally jovial face. The only hat I saw today was not on the sun, but on Pete’s head as the weather remained fairly dull. Not great conditions for drying the corn and so no combining-yet again. Maybe I should play ‘I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester’ to cheer Pete up? If it works I could patent Wurzel Therapy and make a fortune.

Staying positive

Although the sky has been grey, the air has turned blue several times over the past week. But I have high hopes for a return to normality next week. And besides, I refuse to let the weather get me down. I am delighted with my own achievements during the past few weeks. I’ve written an e-book, formatted it myself, and uploaded it to the Amazon Kindle Store. It’s the first of several- or that’s the plan. And I hope for my own little ‘harvest’ in due course, humble though it may be.

(Look out for my next blog which explains all about my e-book, coming shortly).

 

 


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The Shropshire way of life

Have you got a nickname? I’ve noticed a lot of people in Shropshire seem to have them.

I know a Mr Marsh who’s fondly known as Swampo, and a young lady who is very slim, but known as Heifer because she loves beef. And then there’s a lad who was deemed to be clever by his mates and nicknamed Knowledge. When I lived in the town nicknames were used much less, but the language is much more descriptive in colourful Shropshire. When my husband wants a drink he complains he is as thirsty as a fish, and when he’s poorly he’s “as weak as a robin”.

Townie driver

Cultural differences abound when you move from a town into the wilds of the countryside. For example, everyone watches everyone else driving by. In urban areas you don’t bother to clock who’s driving past- the chances are that everyone you pass is a complete stranger. But here in the wilds of Shropshire, you’ve got a 50 per cent chance of knowing the person passing you by, so you have to look. And if you’re on a single track road, you are almost obliged to pull over and have a chat. This must seem blatantly obvious to rural dwellers, but I really didn’t grasp it when I first became adopted as a Shropshire lass.

Banana spotted

To start with, I didn’t pay attention to who was shooting past, but people started complaining that I hadn’t acknowledged them. And they also started telling me “I saw you with a banana in your mouth, waiting to pull out on to the A49”. Oops, I thought I could get up to monkey tricks but apparently I can’t. My every move is on the rural radar screen. And while that can be a bit disconcerting, community spirit is very strong here. And in my humble opinion, that makes for a better quality of life.

Townies like myself do get converted to the country lifestyle though. Our neighbour Cherry is a great example. She comes from London but loves living in the country, and she helps to feed our young calves. We realised Cherry had become a genuine farmer when she looked at a young bull one day and exclaimed: “Look at the backside on that!”. We laughed until we cried.

Londoner Cherry is every inch the farmer

Londoner Cherry is every inch a farmer – she even wears the sexy trousers!


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Introducing my farmhouse blog…

I knew I was in trouble back in 2007 when I found myself getting up close and personal with the new man in my life, while up to my knees in thick mud (I’d been invited to visit his farm).

I clearly like this man a lot, I thought, to negotiate a quagmire in the middle of an unseasonably wet winter.

That moment was the beginning of a steep learning curve and a transition period of several years as I morphed from a sheltered townie journalist to a somewhat atypical farmer’s wife.

Three months after meeting Pete, I was having my first lessons in lambing- but unlike Lambing Live presenter Kate Humble, I managed to slip a disc in my back.

Not an ideal start for a relationship – but I did make a comeback, and I even learned how to deliver a lamb the following year! I followed that by helping with lambing for the next five years, often on the late shift, and sometimes after a hard day in a news room when I was working as a reporter.

You would probably be quite impressed if I told you I am now a red-hot stockwoman, but the truth is, huge black Limousin cows still scare me, though I do stand my ground, armed with a big stick, when Pete needs help moving them around.

It makes more sense for me to do what I’m good at- copywriting, journalism and blogging-while Pete runs his farm. I could no more change into a farmer than he would want to sit in my cosy farmhouse office and work indoors for a large chunk of the day.

But life has certainly changed. I am based at home, and it works fine, as I’ve never yet missed a deadline. The flexibility is a bonus as I am occasionally needed to help round up rebellious heifers when they make a break for freedom!

And while I’m blogging like mad for my clients, I can keep a lookout for visitors to the farm, and take messages.

It’s a different kind of life, with its own challenges and plenty of perks-  an office with a lovely view is just one of them.

Cute little lambs by Lyn Alderson

It’s not all baaad working from home…

In my farmhouse blogs, I will share a few snippets about life in Shropshire- and I guarantee some of it will make you smile.