Strong Soham Mums have joined forces to produce a charity calendar with a cheeky twist. They are getting naked but all in the most amazing cause. I don’t often ask people to share my posts in a begging type fashion but this time I am and I think you will see why when you read on.

Who are the Strong Soham Mums?

They are like you or me in that they are  mums who love their children. The difference with these mums is that  they have all lost a child and all live in Soham. We all know that losing a child is the biggest fear of any parent so I urge you to empathise with these amazing mums and lend your support to their collective efforts. They loved their children so much and they lost them which is gut-wrenching all the time but perhaps particularly challenging at this time of year.

Alison’s story

“My husband and I lost our son, Charlie in June 2017.  He and our younger son have a rare immune condition.  After a couple of very dangerous bleeds, and worried that the next bleed could be fatal, the doctors wanted Charlie to have a bone marrow transplant.  Unfortunately after 5 long months in hospital he lost his fight for life.  Our lives will never be the same and we will continue to love and miss him forever.”

Alison’s story is so sad and every mum in the calendar has her own tragic tale to tell. We cannot bring their children back but we can get behind their fundraising efforts by purchasing their calendar and spreading word of mouth far and wide.

Strong Soham Mums Calendar 2019

As I say the photos in the calendar are more boudoir than boardroom. They are tasteful and were taken professionally. At just £9.99 the calendar is great value for money and will raise a giggle at Christmas or the New year as well as giving you that feel good-factor of helping good causes.

Where is the money going?

100% of the proceeds will go to Addenbrookes Hospital, Children’s Wards and the Road Victims Trust.  The Strong Soham Mums have chosen Addenbrookes Hospital as it is local to them.   Road Victims Trust was also chosen as a few of the mums lost their children in road traffic accidents.

Two requests

Please spread the word about this calendar via your social media networks and in the real world too. It will make a great gift for Christmas and the New Year.

Please consider buying at least one of these calendars because it will make these women feel they did the right thing and help some amazingly good causes.

Strong Soham Mums


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Setting up a new fashion brand is something so many of us would love to do. Emma Stewart is different as she actually went ahead and made her dreams come true, setting up Allta, which launched in July. I am delighted to share an interview with her which shows the calibre of an amazing woman.

Please tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years

I have always been tall for my peer group. When I was three years old my family moved to Sweden for a couple of years and there is a picture of me with some friends from kindergarten and I am head and shoulders above the others. I was always self-conscious because of my height. I am fairly shy and always felt awkward and clumsy. Both my brother and I are tall (he is now 6’5” and I am 6’) and were often thought to be older than our years because of our stature. I had a pretty average childhood, growing up in Basingstoke in Hampshire, doing well at school and attaining a place at university. I decided to take a year off before heading to Hull (where I had a place to read American Studies), and went to Germany for a year as an au pair. I subsequently switched degree courses to study German, which was a good choice and helped me get some of my first jobs.

What was your first career?

I worked in publishing selling foreign rights to German, Dutch and Scandinavian publishers. Basically, as the publisher, we would put the concept of the book together (this was illustrated non-fiction of the ‘coffee table book’ variety) and would then sell this concept to US and European publishers who would publish the books in their countries while we published the books in the UK. I used my German and travelled to Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia on a fairly regular basis as well as visiting book fairs in the UK and in Frankfurt. After a few years of this, I decided I wanted a change and went to West Herts College in Watford to study for a post-graduate diploma in copywriting, journalism and radio and from there got a job at Bloomberg in London as a journalist on their radio team.

What led to you setting up your business? 

I had been working in an organisation providing facilitation to production companies wanting to make film and TV productions in the English regions (i.e.: we would help them find locations, crew and studios and liaise with the relevant local authorities to enable roads to be closed, etc.), but some people in my organisation were being made redundant – including my line manager, with whom I got on particularly well – and morale was at a very low ebb. I had been toying with the idea of a tall clothing brand for many years, but it was only when I met a bunch of my husband’s friends, who were all self-employed (as is my husband), that I really started to look into it in any detail. Running your own business sounded challenging but enjoyable and I liked the idea of being my own boss. I then sold a property that I co-owned and so had some cash behind me and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Who gave you information and advice to help you set up your business?

My husband had been running his own business for around 10 years when I decided to set up Allta, so he was very experienced in all aspects of being an entrepreneur. He became my business partner and took on all the boring but important aspects such as insurance, the bank account, accounting and anything involving a spreadsheet, leaving me free to focus on the more creative elements of design and marketing. The London College of Fashion was also an invaluable source of help and information. I have now completed four of their short courses: Essential Guide to the Fashion Industry, Starting Your Own Fashion Label, Introduction to Fashion Design, Adobe Illustrator for Fashion. The information and contacts made through these courses have been extremely helpful and I have found out about all the various trade bodies and trade shows to attend.

What is your biggest life challenge to date?

Shortly after deciding to pursue this new business venture and just seven weeks after getting married, I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury after a cycling accident, where I fell off my bike, fractured my skull and suffered some bleeding and blood clots on the brain. Emergency surgery, 10 days in intensive care and a further 8 weeks in hospital followed and it was a full six months after the accident that I was able to return to work part-time. All plans for starting my own business were put firmly on the back boiler.I have now managed a full recovery, although have been left with epilepsy, which I understand is a fairly common side effect when the brain reacts to the scar tissue caused by brain surgery.

Who supported you at this difficult time?

My husband and entire family and network of friends were amazing during this time. My husband of course, bore the brunt of both the emotional impact of the accident and the practical aspects of visiting me in hospital (every day for over 2 months; not easy when you have your own company to run) and helping to ease me back into the pattern of everyday life when I was back home. My friends and family were also superb. The accident happened when we were down in Studland for a weekend of camping and I was initially admitted to Southampton Hospital. My husband and I live in Oxfordshire but some close friends living in Winchester, who were on holiday at the time, allowed my husband, parents (who live in Somerset) and another good friend to stay in their house for a couple of weeks to allow them all easier access to me in hospital. My sister-in-law is a senior nurse and was superb and cutting through any red tape we encountered in the hospital and just keeping everyone positive and well informed.

My friends rallied round, visiting me in hospital and back at home afterwards, but the big plus was that after months of negotiations, which had always ended in a firm ‘no’, my husband finally agreed to us getting a dog, so my fur-baby, Wilf the cockerpoo, came into our lives.

Tell us about your products and why you think they are special?

As a tall woman, I struggle to find ‘regular’ fit clothes on the high street to fit my proportions. It is not impossible, but it is pot luck. When you do find something that fits, you almost feel compelled to buy it just because it is such a rare find. Long Tall Sally is the only tall fit brand that most people have heard of (there are others, but I had never heard of them until I started to research this niche. The Tall Fashion Adventures blog has a good, international list (, which means that tall women have a fairly limited selection of clothing to choose from if they want something that is guaranteed to fit properly.I am also keen to use natural fibres as so much clothing is made from polyester, which isn’t breathable for your skin and is bad for the environment. So, we are about producing good quality garments that will last and are made out of natural fibres that are less damaging to the environment. This is an area I want to research further and do what I can to support.

For me, shirts and jackets have always been the hardest to find. I have tended to buy jeans from Gap tall section and Levis and can cope with a 34” inside leg as, with a straight or skinny leg jeans style, I don’t think it matters if they are a teeny bit cropped looking. But shirts and jackets are very hard to find. That’s why I wanted to start with these staples. I love a good quality jacket and am often frustrated that the tall sections often just carry the safest colours of black and navy. That’s why I decided that as well as the trusty navy and grey options, we would also do a hot pink and turquoise jacket for our launch so that tall women can have a choice of some fun colours for a change.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to come and see the clothes for themselves, we are taking a stand at the Rare Brand Market Christmas Market at Goodwood Racecourse from 22-24th November

Why is it important for women to invest in themselves when it comes to fashion and style?

I mentioned earlier that I was very self-conscious when I was young because of my height and I think this is a trait that is shared by lots of tall women. As children and teens we all seek to blend in and be part of the gang and often anything that makes you stand out is something you want to hide and change. This can be anything but speaking from my experience, height is one thing you can’t change or even hide. The answer is to wear it with confidence and dressing well and feeling good about yourself in your clothes is one way of doing this.

I don’t think this means making sure you are up to date with the latest fashions and trends, but by wearing clothes that fit you and suit your height, shape and colouring, you can feel good about yourself and have the confidence to perform at your best, be that in your personal or professional lives. This is not just a tip for tall women, but all women should feel they deserve to look their best to give them confidence in themselves.

If you could recommend ONE book to women, what would it be and why?

Testament of Youth is a book that affected me very deeply. It has become a classic so is probably already well known to many but it is the story of one woman’s experience of growing up in early twentieth century England and the restrictive Edwardian environment she longed to rebel against. She then endured the loss of her brother, fiancé and friends in the First World War and did what she could to support the British war effort, becoming a firm pacifist in the process. It is a moving and inspirational story of courage, learning, love and loss. It puts our present day comfortable lives into perspective.

If you could recommend ONE website to women what would it be and why?

I would recommend This is a fantastic resource for female entrepreneurs, sharing tips and events. It also has a really useful Facebook page where women can interact and ask for help and advice. The founders are very supportive as is the community they have established.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

It is never too late to start working on a passion project like starting up your own business. I sometimes think I should have started Allta when I was younger, living in London and had more energy, but now as I approach my 50th birthday, I have more money than when I was younger, I have a supportive husband, who didn’t come into my life until I hit my 40s, I have learned a fair bit about myself and my strengths and weaknesses, and I am not afraid to ask for help, which I may have shied away from doing when I was younger. If there is something you want to do but are waiting for the right time, it may never come along. Just do it, is my advice!.

DreamTeam Linky



One of things that struck me throughout my breast cancer treatment was what people said to me. I had an awful lot of very nice things said to me. Gorgeous, lovely, kind, supportive, empathetic, delightful, wonderful words spoken from the bottom of the heart. Words which made my heart swell, my face smile and which carried me through my treatment from the day of diagnosis to the end of a very difficult period of treatment. Words which continue to give me a warm fuzzy feeling and which help me now as I make my way through the tricky post-treatment period.


But then again, I was also struck by some of the other things that people said to me. Some of the not-so-nice things. To be fair, I expect that most of the time it was because they didn’t know what to say: they may have been uncomfortable around cancer; they may not have had any experience of talking to someone with cancer; or they may have felt awkward around a cancer patient. But, whichever way you look at it, I had some inconsiderate, stupid, insensitive, thoughtless things said to me. Some things I let wash over me with a roll of the eyes and a little sigh, whilst other things have stayed with me, nibbling away, clinging on and not letting go.

So, I have taken it upon myself to use every opportunity I am given, to give guidance to people about what, and what not, to say to their friend or family member with cancer.

Let’s start with the easy bit. There are three phrases that you can say, all with their own variations, but basically as follows:

1. “I am here to support you no matter what.”
2. “I don’t know what to say.”
3. “Tell me what I can do for you.”
Simple. Easy. Straightforward.

And now onto the things NOT to say.

1. ” My aunt/friend/neighbour had breast cancer … and then she died.”

I thought I would start with a popular one. I think this has something to do with the inane need in people to find something in common with whatever someone else is going through. Often, I think mouths work faster than brains. You can see someone’s brain catching up with their mouth at the point where they come to the death in the story: they realise that the story doesn’t have a good ending but they have got so far in the story that they can’t just stop mid-flow. Please think before you speak – we don’t want to hear these stories.

2. “If you had done X, Y and Z/ not done A, B and C then maybe you would not have got cancer.”

Actually, no, it doesn’t work that way. Yes okay, there are some types of cancer which are scientifically linked to certain lifestyles (like smoking and lung cancer) but on the whole, cancer is indiscriminate and down to bad luck. It is bad enough that us cancer patients constantly (but to no avail) feel guilty and ask ourselves these types of questions, we don’t need anyone else piling on the guilt.

3. “Eating A, B, C can cure cancer.”

NO. IT. CAN’T. Eating a healthy diet is incredibly important. But not because it can cure cancer. It can’t. Our oncologists, breast consultants, doctors and nurses are not giving us chemotherapy, radiotherapy and all the other treatments for the fun of it.

4. “If I was in your situation then I would….”

But (luckily for you) you are not in my situation so it’s probably best if you don’t try to second guess what you would do (unless of course, I specifically ask for your opinion where you would need to put yourself in my shoes).

5. “It’s only hair.”

Yep, you can say that because you haven’t had to go and shave all your hair off but losing our hair is incredibly traumatic for many reasons: there is an association between the baldness and death; it can mean a loss of our personal identity; we can no longer pretend that cancer isn’t really happening once we lose our hair; and baldness tells the rest of the world that we are sick. Some of us feel defined by our looks so that we feel the loss of our hair can change who we are. Whatever the reason, or reasons, losing our hair and going bald is a pretty big deal.

6. “But breast cancer is a good one to get.”

No, it isn’t. No cancer is a good one to get. All cancers are life threatening, have horrible treatment and the chance of recurring or spreading (I won’t go into the statistics for someone with primary breast cancer developing secondary/terminal breast cancer – but let’s just say it isn’t a statistic that any of us are happy with). And it is not a who-has-got-the-worst-cancer-competition.

7. “You look well.”

Please don’t say this. I know you mean well and you are trying to make a positive remark in a horrible situation. But I am not well and the chances are that I don’t look well. And I really don’t want to have a conversation focusing on my looks when I look like a bald, eyebrow-less, eyelash-less, puffy, red-faced zombie.

8. “Sorry I’ve been rubbish and not been in touch” or, “Sorry I haven’t been here for you, but I have had [X/Y/Z] going on in my life and just been so busy”.

Have you been dealing with something as serious as a life-threatening illness and all the emotional and physical crap that a diagnosis and treatment brings? No? Well, I could have done with your support, maybe a text or a call or a note through the post. Something to tell me that you cared about me and that my existence matters to you.

9. “You will be back to normal soon.”

Unfortunately, no, although there is nothing I would like more, I probably won’t get back to “normal”. So much changes during cancer treatment: I look different, I feel physically different and I have changed mentally. Having faced my mortality directly in the face, I am not sure that there is such a thing as returning to normal. Yes, things will improve, a recovery of sorts will be made, but I’ll never go back to the way I was before. And that makes me really sad.

10. “If it was me, I wouldn’t want to be defined by cancer.”

I thought I would end on this belter of a comment. One that was said to me as we ate dinner around our kitchen table with friends. I had cancer. But I tend not to talk about it with family or friends. I don’t bring it up in conversations. However, cancer is a big deal. It worked its way into every single aspect of my life. I can’t help that. And because it was so awful, I decided to do something to help others who are going through breast cancer treatment by setting up my website and writing articles to help others who are going through the same thing. That doesn’t mean that cancer defines me. What defines me is that I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a lawyer, and now a writer, a blogger and someone who wants to help people who are going through breast cancer.

10 Things You Should Never Say To A Cancer Patient

Sara is the founder of, a website dedicated to helping people through their breast cancer treatment from diagnosis to living life to the full once treatment ends. Aged 42 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sara decided to set up the website to support those who do not know which way to turn for help after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis; those who are overwhelmed by the breast cancer resources online; those who may be scared to go online for fear of what they might find; and those just looking for a comfortable, safe, calm place to turn for help. The website provides practical advice for each step of the way, together with many links and signposts to other online resources.

Cuddle Fairy
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While 60% of Mozambicans live close to the ocean and most depend on it for their food and livelihood, many of them – and particularly girls – do not know how to swim. So, finding a young female surfer in the coastal town of Tofo Beach is a rare occurrence.


But Julia, 18, is a rather special young lady. Just a year after learning to surf, she has fallen in love with surfing and is now hoping to become an instructor. Mel spoke with her to learn about her journey.

How did you learn to surf?

I learned to surf in Tofo with Narciso Nhamposa, a surfing instructor from the Marine Megafauna Foundation. Before learning I was really afraid of the water, I didn’t feel safe and nobody could teach me. I never thought I would have the opportunity to be a surfer.

Why were you afraid?

I thought I would die if I fell,” she laughed. “But nothing happened. It was quite difficult for me to learn at the beginning but Narciso was a good teacher. It took me a few days to learn how to do it.

That’s really fast!

Yes. I was very scared on the first day but then the fear passed quickly and I grew to really enjoy it.

How do you feel when you surf now?

When I am surfing and catch many waves I feel really happy and it changes my emotions. It gave me a new way of life. I would recommend to any children, and more particularly to girls to try and learn.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope for a future where the surfing will not end. Now, I would like to be a professional surfer or a surf instructor and share my experiences, my past fears and my happiness. I want to be a surfer forever.

What is it like to be a woman in Mozambique?

I don’t know how to explain that exactly. Strangely, I think I find it easy to be a woman here. I think one of the things I find difficult in my life is the problem that I do not know how to write.

Is there anything you would like to change about life in Mozambique?

Yes. Lots of people come to Mozambique to scuba dive but it is very expensive so local people cannot dive. I would like to learn to be a diver. Also, there are very few medical people here. I think it would be good to have more nurses.

How would you encourage someone from overseas to visit your country?

Life is good here in Mozambique. The people get along well and we are happy so it is a nice place to visit. Also, it’s a great place to come on holidays because of the ocean – in Mozambique you can see lots of wildlife like whale sharks and dolphins!

The Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) has launched a new GoFundMe campaign for its flagship education programme, Ocean Guardians, which aims to inspire a new generation of marine conservationists in Mozambique. The initiative combines marine conservation education, life-saving swimming lessons and extra Saturday activities like beach clean ups and ocean safaris to teach young people how to live with and protect the ocean. For more information or to donate, please visit:

Mum Muddling Through

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Cuddle Fairy

After a disappointing home education day, we watched Suffragettes confident it would be great as it was presented by Lucy Worsley who we have seen on telly before.. We love history and like myself, my 14 year old daughter is vocal on women’s issues. To his credit, my husband watched the programme with us.

My daughter was quick to declare that in her opinion no major changes in history have happened without at least a degree of violence. Before the programme started, I mooted the point that the Suffragettes could be described as terrorists.

This programme was gripping. We loved how the real words of the key players were used and how Lucy appeared to be amongst them during the action. I also loved a certain glint in her eye almost as if she were encouraging viewers to conspire with her in a cause.

There were of course the suffragists who wrote letters and so on to try to get the vote for women. As Lucy explained how Parliament which was of course male-dominated played silly games to ensure things were not even debated fairly, I can absolutely see how frustration would mount leading to more violent lobbying methods. Why did women want the vote anyway? Well, there is the concept of equality and fairness but there is also the issue that they must have felt women’s lot in life needed to change generally. That makes me empathise with them as clearly so much still needs to be done despite recent changes and a spotlight on the abuse of women for example. Not surprising and very sadly, there were reports of women protestors and sexual assault at the hands of police and others.

So often us feminists are told we are daft and the battles are won. Yet I find it fascinating how little the Suffragette movement was covered in the schools of myself or my daughter. I remember a fancy dress celebration of 100 years of history and only one teacher and my daughter dressed up as Suffragettes.

To my absolute shame, I did not know the Suffragette movement spread across social classes always associating it with rich women. I also thought it began in London and not Manchester. I had no idea so many areas of the UK had Suffragette action.

I also did not know about the build-up of tools of the trade as time went on including bombs and riots.

I loved how skilled and instinctive the Suffragettes were at using marketing methods to present their case from photography to stunts like chaining themselves to railings. In a way they reminded me of how women bloggers have used PR and marketing methods to have their say and to campaign on some pretty vital issues. These are the bloggers I like – the ones who tell it like it is and don’t just keep touting out picture perfect images adding to the mental distress of others.

How the state dealt with these women was appalling and hard to watch particularly the force feeding when they went on hunger strike. The sending in of law enforcement from other areas reminded me so much of seeing those types of buses during the Miners’ Strike in the Eighties. As ever where there are two different viewpoints, the State started getting their message across with their own PR efforts.

My daughter enjoyed the programme but was saddened by the methods employed to try to silence women. She was clearly of the view that Winston Churchill should not longer be viewed as a hero. Her comments included: “There was no need for the Suffragettes if the Government had listened. If asking nicely does not work, you have to resort to more extreme methods for the greater good”

It made me reflect on my work as a blogger and writer. Words, so many words. Perhaps they don’t have a real impact. Perhaps deeds would be better.

So the film made us feel, think and quite possibly change. That makes it a huge success.

The film was written and directed by Emma Frank so I will be looking out for her work again. In fact with the written words by Emma and the delivery of words by Lucy, perhaps I should conclude by saying both words and deeds can make a difference.

So let’s resolve to always ask nicely and then kick ass if and when required.

Forget Love Island and watch on iPlayer

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