Saturday, 9 December 2017

Woodside is Watford

You have till the 11th December to make your voice heard

There are plans afoot to rearrange boundaries of our MP's constituencies. If you haven't heard then along with reducing the number of MP's the idea is that the actual constituencies become similar in size so that this is a fairer representation of the people. Whether you agree with this idea or not isn't the subject of this post... however... this effects a lot of people and many aren't happy with it!

Are you in Woodside, Abbots Langley or Kings Langley??

So the Liberal Democrats in particular have started a petition for those people affected in the Woodside Ward to be able to register their desire to stay in Watford. Basically the change means that people in Woodside (and Abbots Langley... and Kings Langley) will be voting for a different MP in a different area to the one they are now.

I personally grew up in Kenford Close which is one of the streets affected by these changes. This has always been a part of Watford and suddenly due to some figure manipulation in central government this apparently needs to change.

This is a question of Identity. People from Woodside belong to the town of Watford... not St. Albans. Everyone you speak to in Woodside identifies with Watford. So it is a nonsense that just because it makes the numbers look right that the people of Woodside suddenly start voting for an MP that represents a town they don't identify with at all.

Below an interview with the Deputy Mayor and local LibDem councillor Peter Taylor

You can register your dissatisfaction about these changes in two place but beware you have until Monday 11th of December to do so....

Watford Lib-Dems page Woodside is Watford Boundaries Commission Boundaries Commission page

For a look at how these Boundaries might affect you a screen shot of the Boundaries commissions proposed changes...

Basically... Watford will be delineated by the A405 and then the A41 where they conjoin down to the Hunton Bridge roundabout. Abbots Langley is hived off... along with WOODSIDE and even LEAVESDEN GREEN School ends up in St. Albans too! 

Please share this post with anyone you know who will be affected... serves no one but the politicians and does nothing for the people of Watford (or St. Albans for that matter)

Monday, 4 December 2017

Wellbeing Cafe collaboration with L4GSWHerts

Developing our local community through collaboration ... as we approach 2018, we extend a very warm welcome to the Wellbeing Cafe... 

There is a growing group of local businesses that are beginning to come together to create something really rather special.

There is little doubt that if we join forces and support each other we can achieve far more together than we could by just going it alone. With times being tough for all independent businesses and signs that this is likely to be the case for a while, there is no better time to vote with our feet and get busy co-creating and doing business with each other.

The Wellbeing Cafe in North Watford on Imperial way is in good company.  +The Kitchen Croxley, Perk Coffee (Carpenders Park), Villiers Coffee House (Bushey) and Flourish Artisan Bakery already work alongside Link4Growth by hosting both networking events and 'Learning Sessions'.

Nina from the Wellbeing Cafe is already hosting an open / inclusive networking event on the 3rd Friday of each month (the next one being a special on the 15th December) but is keen to open the doors and welcome a more diverse range of community and business initiatives at the cafe. After an extremely interesting conversation earlier this week and with so many common touch points, co-creation and collaboration was an inevitability. L4GSWHerts will provide support and assistance for the networking event on the 15th December and then we will begin to work more closely in the new year.

Help for the local 'Small Business' Community

During 2018 as part of the Business Development Network we are going to be expanding the popular Link4Help event and work towards offering a free, weekly (in different locations), business support service. 

This is already up and running at The Kitchen Croxley, on the last Friday of each month, and provides a space for those running (or embarking upon running) their own business, to get some independent advice, guidance, signposting and support from other local business owners. The Wellbeing Cafe will be the 2nd such venue to host a Link4Help event and further details will be available soon. 

Are you ready for the Business Development Network?

If you are in the SWHerts district (see list at bottom of the post) and are running your own independent business you will know how much of a challenge it is, and, the enormous list of things you have to consider nowadays. The list is quite simply endless.

However, we don't have to know it all... help is at hand, however, where are you at?  Do you share the thinking behind the items listed below? 

  • Supporting other local businesses and #BuyLocal wherever possible
  • Agree that collaborating and working together is much for effective than competing
  • That there is enough business for all of us... if we just get more organised
  • Help each other to succeed, and be happy to see others doing well
  • Share our knowledge, experience and expertise... we've all done so many things, and, we have far more to share than we give ourselves credit for
  • Connect people to our ever widening personal network
  • Share willingly and support others without expectation of return
  • Upskill ourselves so that we can participate fully both online and offline, supporting our fellow local business owners

If your mindset is aligned to the above... and you want to engage with others who have the same thinking, then please do get in touch (fill in the form). You can easily come along to any of the meetings (free events) or drop an email to (Chris Ogle)

Watford, Rickmansworth, Croxley Green, Northwood, Bushey, Oxhey South Oxhey, Carpenders Park, Kings Langley, Abbots Langley, Garston, Leavesden, Chorleywood and Harefield

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Local Bakery wins best loaf... September Baking awards

It is old news now that Cinnamon Square is a multi award winning local bakery... indeed back in September (2017) down in Park Lane, Paul Barker did it again with his aptly named Church Street Sour, a loaf that gets its distinctive sour taste from a 12 year old culture 'fermented' on the premises.

You can read the full story on the Baking Awards presented by Denise Van Outen in this link Cinnamon Square wins Britains Best Loaf award.

We caught up with Paul Barker the proprietor of Cinnamon Square in a recent interview (shown below). It is incredibly humbling to know that we have a baker who has dedicated almost his entire working life learning about the art of baking and everything that goes with it.

After the interview Paul shared with me some of his more technical knowledge (and there is a lot of it) about the art of baking. One thing that comes across clearly is Paul's passion for his craft. Cinnamon Square is no doubt the epitome of a first class local, community centric bakery and to be really honest we are very lucky to have such quality in close proximity. Paul and his team have 'infected' thousands of local people with the enthusiasm to try baking through classes and workshops held on the premises and they are as popular today as they have ever been.

Please do watch the video below... better still... go down there and pick up some of the finest bread available anywhere in the UK.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Face it

What do you see? Is this an old or a young woman?

What do you see when you encounter a rough sleeper? I wonder if you see a person?

I went into London this week for a business meeting. The meeting ended about 5pm and I headed off to meet my brother at Waterloo station…rush hour! No signal on the tube, so as soon as I got there I head outside to ring him and find out what we would be doing. 

I see the man with the obligatory cup and sleeping bag but wanted to make sure my brother wasn’t waiting somewhere else for me, so dropped him a quick text, before approaching.

Whilst texting, and in my peripheral vision, I became aware of a young woman walking towards the rough sleeper; her face frozen in a look of pure disgust. She practically stepped over him, like a pile of dog poo.

It would be fair to say that he didn’t look good. Everything was dirty; the colour of his clothing stained with that kind of greyish hue that comes from being outdoors a lot. He was bent forward, possibly asleep with one hand sticking out, half way through a cigarette. Gnarled, brown fingers poked out of the sleeves of his checked jacket.

“Are you alright lovey?" I enquired.

He looked up at me, with a grubby face, and teeth like tombstones.

“Ah yes, I nodded off…didn’t get much sleep last night.”

I sat on the floor with him and listened to his story – abridged here – but incredibly similar to the 
other stories I hear. He has lost contact (and doesn’t want contact) with his family over the years; he talked about his young daughter however, that he misses her, but the family feud is too nasty to risk getting in touch.

Me: “Do you like living on the streets?
Him: “Sometimes. In the Summer it’s ok…but when the weather turns it’s no good. I’m trying to get enough money to go to the night shelter.”
Me: “They charge?
Him: “£7.00 but you have to get there early.”

I explain about the provision in Watford, which is quite different. He tells me that London is an interesting city, he hangs out in libraries and McDonalds to keep warm.  They move him on if he falls asleep there, and sometimes he hasn’t got money for a drink in McDonalds to justify being there.

There is a school of thought about not giving to the homeless which I disagree with, if you give this guy money he is going to buy a cuppa and save for a night’s shelter! If he bought say, alcohol after that, do you blame him? Do you enjoy a glass of wine in the evening? What’s the difference?

It’s what we see; just for a minute looking at him as a person and not a ‘tramp’ can make a world of difference.

Make that difference to someone this week. Acknowledge the people on the street – what you think you see at first glance can be an illusion.

Ruth Lee

Monday, 6 November 2017

Small Acts of Kindness - Now not so small...

Back in January 2015 during the coldest few days of the winter Lynne Misner experienced the horror of living in a house without heating. 

Living in a house without heating turns a lovely warm home into a cold, grey and uncomfortable place. It's like going from a colourful world to a black and white one, where everything you do is tainted by the feeling of being cold and trying to stay warm.

In this heightened state of awareness Lynne caught sight of a newspaper article stating that many elderly people on a fixed income often have to make the choice between heating and eating. In the 21st century Lynne questioned why do we still have this going on?

Often from a place of discomfort we see and experience things differently and after scouring the Internet Lynne spotted an "unfulfilled need" and then got very busy.

Gift packs for anyone over 55 who was having to make the choice between heating their home or eating. 50 packs in the first year... 2,000+ in the second and 4,500+ this year...

What was a small act of kindness has now turned into a very large act of kindness and it is growing all the time. The initiative has led to a huge community of volunteers who help out with packing days and managing the logistics of what is now a substantial organisation.

Small Act of Kindness works with the council, local businesses, other community groups and charities... plus they connect together lonely and vulnerable people... working together this is the start of rebuilding community which is vitally important and sadly lacking in this busy busy world we live in.

Below is a short interview with Lynne... the passion and the energy is self evident. Amazing to hear how far this project has already come... there is more work still to do in Hertfordshire... and then? ... maybe supporting the initiative throughout the country? ... It would be a braver man than I to bet against it!

World Premature Day - Audrey Mitchell

This month of November is our month as we celebrate World Premature day!

Events are dotted around on our facebook page. We still would love to keep supporting others like us, so anyone affected by Prematurity please do to join us.

Christmas of 2010 was the worst time ever as a family, our daughter at one month had already had a major surgery to close the whole in her heart PDA ligation two days before christmas.

What should have been a celebration that she would be given a better chance of survival left us watching her go into renal failure post op and being transferred back to her unit, to wait and see on Christmas eve. 

From then on we realised the true meaning of life never to be taken for granted, and have realised the how to offer hope. Hence this Christmas we would like to give Hope to families who spend time during Christmas in NICU by giving them gifts of Hope! We can't do this without your help.

The Month of October saw the founders of HertsPrems Rebekah and Audrey nominated for the Woman of Purpose Awards at the London Docklands Double Tree Hotel on the 7 October (video below). This gave us recognition which we never thought possible, we are so grateful for this opportunity.

I had also been acknowledged in my day to day efforts ... this outlining HertsPrems work till now.

This month also sees the launch of the Gift of Hope Campaign which will initailly be for Luton and Dunstable Neonatal Unit where we had our baby girl in Nov 2010 (born at 23 weeks weighing 1lb3oz / 540g).  She is doing  very well, and we cannot thank enough the Neonatal Intensive care unit in Luton, who proved their worth over and over with their expertise and life saving interventions.

Please support me on my just giving page here

Post  by : Audrey Mitchell

Friday, 20 October 2017


It’s that time of the year…

Scratchy throat, blocked up nose, coughing…yep, we are into cold and flu season.

I often suffer from a cold when the weather turns cold; I don’t think I wrap up enough, or is it just the germs that the children bring to school?

Feeling less than brilliant, I set off to Yoga. Just before the session I notice a rough sleeper under the tunnel nearby. I stop to chat, and explain that I won’t have change until after the class – she replied ‘cheers’ in a croaky voice – someone else who also gets unwell at the start of Autumn.

Q: “Why are you sitting under here though, in the shade? There’s lots of sunny spots?

A: “The police move you on, but it’s not just that, they can give you an ASBO.

I pause awhile to take this in. So, if she is hanging about in more visible areas she will be moved on and face a possible ASBO? Surely not, surely if she wasn’t begging (which she wasn’t, I just happen to know she sleeps rough and I like to help her out) or being a drunken nuisance…?

Apparently so. We, the people in "normal-land", with houses, cars and warm places to go do not wish to see grubby ‘poor’ people on the streets. Even though we are all just one pay cheque away from poverty ourselves.

This is why I can’t get rid of it, the weather…I can’t get completely dry so it just lingers on.

Imagine that. You have a stinking cold, coughing etc and not only do you have to sit in hidden spots under the underpass, but if it rains and you are caught in it, there is nowhere to warm up or put on new clothes. She did have a tent and outside equipment, but they were stolen a few months ago.

I stop feeling sorry for myself and carry on with my day; a day of cappuccinos, laptops, purring cats and friends.

Yes, I have a cold and it is rubbish. Compared to some, however I am very, very, blessed.

written by : Ruth Lee

Want to help? I gather stories from the streets and sometimes run fundraisers to help buy essentials for the homeless. If you would like to do something positive and practical to help, then please get in touch and drop me a line at :

Website :

Friday, 8 September 2017

Man's Best Friend

It’s the last day of the Summer holidays

One of those gorgeous pre-Autumnal days where the sun shines brightly but the gentle breeze cools. A great day for sitting and chatting.

Simon sits in front of the old BHS store with Bella, his dog. I notice his well-used Subway cup, a few 2p’s making dull shapes on the bottom of the white, waxy container. I immediately fuss his dog, as he feeds her snippets of a pie, and as I admire her beautiful tortoise-shell coat. She looks healthy and well looked after.

Looking a little tidier than some rough sleepers, I notice Simon wince in pain. He has a problem with his back, exacerbated by sitting on the floor. His bedding seems to do little to alleviate the problem.

Being a curious soul, I ask him how he got here and am pleased that he was willing to allow me to write down the gist of our conversation in this blog, providing that his identity isn’t shared.

A : “Six years.”
Q : “What’s that?” I enquire.
A : “Six years I’ve been on the streets now.”

All I could say in response was “Wow.” It sounds like a very long time.

He used to run a little business; he is an underfloor heating engineer. Living with his father and brother, he lost both family members in quick succession. Within a short period of time, his son also passed away and he “lost it all”.

Q :  “Why can’t you be rehoused?”
A :  “They won’t take the dog.”

As an animal lover, I can completely understand this, however it raises an interesting point. Why should service providers take on his dog? One of my dear friends has just rented an affordable flat which stipulates no animals…she would love a cat but accepts that she can’t afford a property that would allow this (i.e. renting a house/flat or getting a mortgage). She is sad but sees this as a choice.

I don’t know what the answer is. Animals can be every bit our best friends in the same way as humans can, and given the amount of loss in this man’s life, can you see why he wouldn’t want to let her go?

I thank him for telling me his story and drop some change in his cup. The rights and wrongs of giving to be discussed in another blog post.

An aside to that…people have asked, how do you know these stories are true?

I don’t.

I do however, have means of corroborating some of the stories, as I spend time regularly getting to know the homeless people of Watford. 

I’m undertaking this project with honesty, so if I find a few ‘tall tales’ retrospectively, I will add corrections in the next blog.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Watford Homeless Project and underwear...

I’m writing this while everything is fresh in my mind; just had an excellent meeting with Steve Devine and Ian Masters from New Hope Trust. We were discussing and collaborating about the imminent blog post with our rough sleepers. Whilst there, we also talked about the best use of the money which was raised recently, through our charity event for sleeping bags.

Rather than sleeping bags, the greatest need at the moment… is a stash of pants! Queue silly picture…

After having a shower, the guys just don’t have enough pants and socks. So, I am going to give £100 to buy these exclusively. I am quite passionate about the money going directly to the rough sleepers, one of the nice things about the New Hope Trust is that if you want to give money for something specific (i.e. it doesn’t go on running their organisation) then you can do that. The benefit for me is also that it avoids waste/time/effort e.g. “When I say pants, I do actually mean boxer shorts…and the socks, well we had a donation of really thick socks once that were just impossible to use!” said a staff member.

There are some practical aspects of support that are beyond my level of expertise! I’m keeping the other £100 in the kitty at the moment. I’m really struggling to find a pun that uses kitty and pants so am going to sign off here!

Any thoughts/comments/bad jokes are welcome:

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Random Cafe Watford - Part of the Real Junk Food Project

It was fabulous to meet up with Jane Johnson once more on Wednesday 23rd August. We were aiming to meet at D20 - Games Cafe in Queens Road however our early meeting at 10:00am meant last minute change of plans to Ocean Bells Coffee Company instead, another of our great local independent coffee shops!

Jane was a delight to interview as I know how passionate she is about 'taking action' in the community and this project really does demonstrate the kind of innovation and creativity that we're going to need in the coming years.

A project led by people in the community

Basically this is a people led project. Someone (Jane in this instance), saw an idea that really resonated with her... which is a way to 'feed people rather than bins'. Huge amounts of food stocked by supermarkets goes out of date or spoils and ends up in dumps. That's right... food that is still edible after all the money spent on growing it, shipping it, storing it, displaying it... all discarded as the food is fed to the bins.

This project in simple terms, is to take this produce (from supermarkets and other sources too) and turn it into healthy, nutritious, tasty food for the community. Anyone can come along, have a delicious meal and then offer what they wish in return; 'Pay as you feel'. That might take the form of payment, services, support, publicity, referral, recommendation... or just plain old washing up!

We have seen how foodbanks have unfortunately become a vital part of food provision in our local communities, and this cafe is another project example of how when the community starts to come together we can do some pretty amazing things.

Come and get involved!

The Random Cafe starts off with a launch event on the 16th September at the Centrepoint Community Centre in Raphael Drive just off Radlett road. Others are also now organised at West Watford Community Centre in Harwoods Road.  The goal in time is to have a dedicated venue which will act as a centre for building community and that will serve food every day along with workshops and training on how to cook really nutritious food on a budget, making use of whatever is in season or available in the fridge.

What is really inspiring about projects like this and the Watford Homeless Project (Ruth Lee) is that they are not set up and controlled by the council, or the voluntary services sector... nor are they charities either. These are local people wishing to innovate and create alternative ideas for solving real problems they are passionate about... and then just getting on with the job! Judging by the volume of support and offers of help that Jane has already received she is not alone in being concerned about food, waste and sharing with others how to cook and eat better.

Projects like this have a way of spiralling into all sorts of avenues that were never envisioned at the outset. As people become aware and begin to collaborate, visibility in the community increases and others want to join in... either with existing projects like this... or go on to co-create other ideas inspired by the actions of others.

"There are so many different ways that people can join in, there really is something for everyone, it's totally inclusive", says Jane, "that's the real power of projects such as this, anyone who would like to participate and make a contribution, can".

Further information and Updates

Watford Observer story

Crowdfunding Page

Random Cafe Facebook Page
Random Cafe upcoming events

Email :
Twitter :

Monday, 21 August 2017

Overview of the 1st SWHertsPHS 'Open Evening'

The 1st of 3 open evenings took place at +The Kitchen Croxley on Wednesday 16th August 2017. Around 15 people were there to learn more about the People's Health Service. I had prepared a series of flipchart pages to provide a little structure to the evening. The agenda is to the right (or above).

The whole ethos behind the People's Health Service is that even though we have low fat food, we have sugar free products, we have supplements and allegedly people looking after our health we are a more sick society than ever before.

With levels of obesity, diabetes, chronic degenerative diseases, digestive disorders, breathing and respiratory issues at an all time high along with increasing occurrences of cancers and cardio vascular diseases we must surely begin to ask the question... what on earth is going on?

It doesn't matter what publications or messages the Government puts out there (5 a day / 10 a day) or what initiatives are in place to attempt to coerce people into living healthier lives the problem persists and continues to grow unabated. So what is the problem?

If we make information about how to take care of ourselves more accessible, through discussion and osmosis, health education will reach out to a wider audience by word of mouth. There is no shortage of people who are interested in finding out how they can keep themselves healthier and the benefit is we feel better and can do more with our lives... all good.

The health service is creaking at the seams. The reasons for this is not the purpose of this post, however, two things are true.

  1. We are an ageing population so more people will be making demands on the health service as the baby boomer generation gets older. 
  2. If we don't take time to take more responsibility for our own health now, we will be spending more of our time being unwell in the hands of a struggling Health service later... and contributing further to the demands being placed upon it.

It makes sense to look after our own health... why?

  • If this vehicle (our body) becomes seriously incapacitated life goes downhill very quickly
  • If you don't care about your health, then no one cares. People spend more time looking after their cars than themselves
  • It's more fun doing things being healthy and happy than being sick and static
  • It's no more difficult to take the path of eating healthily, exercising and looking after yourself than it is to take the path to an unhealthy lifestyle
  • You look and feel better and more opportunities and doors open

Why is it then, if it is so good that more people don't do it?

  • Looking after your health covers so many things, to many it's like a rabbit in the headlights, where on earth do you start... and it's so vast a subject that people keep putting off getting started
  • We want results instantly ... and if we don't get them, we give up
  • Many would rather not know about their own health
  • There's more to it that eating a few more veggies and fruits and doing a bit of running
  • The existing Health Services do not have the resources to sit and talk with people who aren't ill... but who want to stay that way
  • Limited access to people who know about all the different elements of 'staying healthy' as opposed to 'fixing things when you are already sick'
  • There isn't an identifiable, known, local service, that exists to help those that want to stay fit and healthy

Welcome to the SWHertsPHS - People's Health Service

The intent of our SWHertsPHS is :-

  1. To enable anyone in the community to be able to access information on any aspect of health and wellness. Both physically in their community 'Health Sessions' and online via a health support forum
  2. To be able to find, connect and talk to people who are offering preventative health services and alternative strategies for remaining healthy
  3. To get people talking about Health & Wellness and through Osmosis begin the trend to better health
  4. Build an exciting movement of people championing taking responsibility for our own health
  5. Take at least 10% load off the NHS
  6. Collectively reverse the downward trend of the nation's health
  7. Bring community together through Health & Wellness, we all talk about it and it effects us all.

Who is running this service and how is it to operate?

The SWHertsPHS is not a business, nor is it an entity in its own right. It is an idea to bring together all those with knowledge and expertise on the subject of Health & Wellness, to collaborate and co-create a 'staying healthy' ... health service. SWHertsPHS is just a label that applies to the idea and joins us all together with an INTENT.

Each person that wishes to contribute and participate on what happens next can do so. Each person will be afforded the opportunity to actively engage using their knowledge, experience, expertise and creativity, to co-create and collaborate on how best the PHS can achieve on its agreed objectives (first task).

Are there any rules? Who is in charge?

The whole idea of the SWHertsPHS like all the new initiatives that we will be helping to get started is that there is no one person in charge. The idea that a small 'think tank' of people is better equipped than a much larger group with more minds on the case is now a bit outdated. This can be replaced with the much more collaborative 21st century thinking. Life Skills 21 is underpinning this initiative... if you follow the link here you can download the handbook - How to Socialise in the 21st Century. This provides much greater detail on the subject.

But in order to introduce much greater levels of collaboration in a sustainable way, there has to be some principles and habits which govern the behaviour of those participating. Not onerous but... what they do is ensure that everyone who wants to be involved gets a fair crack of the whip, is heard, and is part of agreeing the way forward.

SWHertsPHS - Principles

Over on the right hand side (or above) you can see some of the principles that we discussed during the initial meeting. There are some really important messages here.
  • Everyone is free from the pressure to meet the needs or expectations of others. In other words. You can decide to follow, lead or find your own way. No judgement.
  • We are all progressing with this initiative without some master plan. There is vision, and there are ideas but... we are collaboratively journeying into the unknown with the spirit of adventurers... knowing that we are resourceful enough to find solutions to anything that comes our way... and that we are resilient to keep going collectively to achieve what we set out to do.
  • The only right way is that there is no right way... this ensures that we do not get wrapped up into the thinking that 'we alone are right, and that our way is the right way' ... the right way is whatever we co-create and agree on.
The SWHertsPHS will be facilitated by an approved LifeSkills21 practitioner. This is your guarantee that the above will be adhered to. You can read the 6 habits of a LifeSkills21 practitioner here (Community coach). If you would like to find out above acquiring the status of a LifeSkills21 practitioner please enquire here.

So where do we go from here...

There will be 2 more 'open sessions' similar to the one on the 16th August, later in August and in September too. Then we commence with the inaugural event to kick the whole SWHertsPHS off and to start putting things in place.

On the right (or above) some of the ideas that we will need to discuss. With such a collaborative initiative we will need to implement an online platform that enables us to store documents, minutes... ideas... reports... presentations... spreadsheets et al.

We will also need to easily add new people, provide access to edit / collaborate... and share information easily to the public.

We will need collaborative calendars that can be contributed too by many people... calendars that can be inserted easily on web pages and easily shared with those wishing to join in with the PHS and / or get along to health events to pick up information and connections.

A mini website will be put together for the SWHertsPHS which will make sharing the details included in this post simple so we can get the word out there and start to grow what we have begun.

How will the SWHertsPHS actually be delivered?

Some of the questions that came up during the session included

  • What will the SWHertsPHS look like? 
  • How will people engage with it? 
  • How can we actually begin to make things happen?
There has been a lot of preparation work that has gone before in pulling flexible collaborative co-creation projects together. It might seem as was mentioned on the 16th August that there is a huge amount of colateral, systems and infrastructure that needs to be put into place to support such a huge undertaking.

The good news is that we have been building a community support platform for the past 3-5 years and much of the backbone to get the project off the ground is already in place. The community hub which is where this blog has been posted brings together all elements of community... charities, local business, community groups, all into one place. Along with local events (calendars) and Video (SWHerts CommunityTV).

A key elements will be to host 'Health days' perhaps in local independent coffee shops where service providers can register to be present, and local people can come in to get information, advice, guidance and signposting.

One of the suggestions that came up at the meeting was that each person becoming involved do a short 3 minute video about yourself, this would help those that have not met yet to get to know others in the SWHertsPHS. This could be a FB live or... if you get in touch I will be happy to interview you. This video could then be posted into the FB Group and... if recorded separately it could also go on the local business channel on the SWHerts CommunityTV. Email me on if you would like to pursue that option.

What are the benefits to creating this SWHertsPHS?

For those offering Health Services?
  • Local Health & Wellness Service directory
  • Keep people informed with local updates and news
  • Participate in the SWHerts Health & Wellness TV Show
  • Video in the local Business / Health & Wellness TV Channel
  • Be a part of a new Health & Wellness phenomena working alongside other health professionals
  • Be part of the health evolution

For those in the community?
  • Become part of an exciting movement to 'take our life in our own hands' and consciously take responsibility for our own health 
  • A simple and easy way to begin to learn about Health & Wellness
  • Meet, talk, listen, learn, and connect with those who are specialists in a wide range of Health, Wellness and preventative techniques
  • Get answers to questions in a local dedicated health & wellness community
  • Discover and connect to people providing Health & Wellness services through a dedicated local Health directory

Final words...

There is no down side to co-creating the SWHertsPHS. We are tackling a major challenge of our time; the steady decline of our health. This isn't something that the Government can fix, it's too big a challenge... the Pharma companies can't participate because they are looking for solutions that can be proven to work according to strict laboratory conditions... the Health service is set up to deal with problems which require intervention... 

What the People's Health Service is about is keeping us healthy so our trips to the doctors or hospital become fewer and farther between. If we becoming more conscious and aware when things change we can perhaps seek out minor adjustments that enable us to restore the balance, whether this be in our mind or physically.

We, the people win with improved health... those providing Health & Wellness services get to help larger numbers of people... the NHS has fewer visits and can provide a better service to those in need... We the people operate the service free from the shackles of feast and famine funding, and the control of government or big business.

Watford Homeless Project

Holiday season… everybody is away and in no rush to chat. I’ve encountered more than a few obstacles with both the blogging project and fundraising.

Upon reflection, disappointment at times is inevitable. Whilst I know some of our rough sleepers, and can vouch for their characters, I do understand that other businesses (especially in the town centre) are focused on the disruption that they can cause. Hence the negativity when I have been out and about talking to shopkeepers recently!

I felt very frustrated and low. This is the rock that has been placed in my path…but if I can’t go through it, then will I go over it or around it! I was chatting to Neal Emery about the exciting project that Jane Johnson is working on with the Real Junk Food charity, and had a brainwave! I won’t go into that now, as this will go off my point, which is, what do you do when you encounter problems?

My solution was to use the Link4Growth network – just a chat with Neil – and I felt lifted. I felt I could carry on, and if some people are difficult, well, that isn’t a reason to stop. In fact, it is very much the proof that I need to continue with this project and work hard to turn around the negative opinions that society has of those who are without a home.

What I learnt from this is that nobody can ‘make’ you feel anything. It is about the self-talk and the way in which you frame your thoughts and experiences. Here are a few alternative positive responses (gleaned anecdotally and from the net):

  • When life gives you lemons…make lemonade.
  • If you encounter a problem, shout ‘Plot Twist!’ and focus on the rest of your ‘story’!
  • Don’t look back – you’re not going that way.
  • The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.

Mine is the ‘rock’ metaphor, but there are countless inspirational ways of changing your thinking. I must admit I bore of those images on Facebook, but, internalising some of the positive messages can only lead to better things.

Just don’t send me any with white swirly writing, a sunset and a couple holding hands please!! 😊

Friday, 18 August 2017

Who should we be voting for as Mayor for Watford?

Baroness Dorothy Thornhill
And so... the elected Mayoral position of Watford is up for grabs! After 16 years at the helm... Mayor Dorothy is stepping down to make way for a fresh face... but who?

Well it will be a fascinating contest won't it? It is very interesting in such a situation where the incumbent has presided for so many years. Over that time a lot of connections will have been put in place, relationships created and commitments made.

There are deep long relationships between the Mayor and huge numbers of 'council supported' services. These relationships are potentially all up for change during an election such as this. Concerns and worries over continued access to funds or resources comes under question, as the potential volatility of the future comes becomes apparent.

Peter Taylor (LibDem) Mayoral Candidate
What would happen if a Conservative, or Labour Mayor got in? There would certainly be a lot of very anxious people out there. I am sure over the past 16 years or so many have got used to the way things work and how Dorothy operated. Peter Taylor (LibDem Mayoral candidate) of course a local resident and an Oxhey councillor probably represents the path of least change. Working alongside Dorothy as the deputy Mayor he will be very aware of the current operation, all the discussions, commitments and the people involved. Maybe the best choice for the very many with 'closer' relations with the council.

As for the Conservative candidate... the Watford Observer ran a little story earlier in the month (August) on this candidate. A Mr. George Jabbour. George is an experienced campaigner for all sorts of roles around the country... not much experience in Watford though. Local blogger RunningOnEmptee had a few light hearted but appropriate comments to make...

Labour have opened the nominations process to select their candidate. Nominations close on the 24th of August... selection will be made towards the end of September. More information on the Watford Labour website here.

The role of Mayor of Watford is hotly disputed as 'is it really necessary?' by many, but for the moment, next May, the people of Watford get to decide, which flavour they would like to see ensconced up at the town hall.

Personally I believe an independent Mayor who is not afflicted by the Party political situation would be the optimum move. No sign of a candidate at present though. But many of the people I speak to would welcome a chance to have a 'real voice for the people of Watford' in the town hall... something many feel left the building a long time ago...

Monday, 14 August 2017

Kicking off the SWHerts - Peoples Health Service (PHS)

Are you involved in any aspect of Health and Wellness?

Do you believe that people could be much healthier if they had access to information that would enable them to make better choices?

Would you like to be part of an evolution of Health Service provision that focused on helping people to make adjustments in their lives so they stay fit and healthy for longer?

That is what the Peoples Health Service is all about... one more important thing... it is not a government or pharmaceutical led initiative... it is something that we, 'the people' are able to build ourselves.

On Wednesday 16th August at +The Kitchen Croxley 7pm we have the first of what it is hoped will  be replicated with similar events right across the country. An Open Evening to share the

  • The principles behind the initiative
    • No one is in charge
    • This is a co-create initiative
    • Facilitated by a community coach whose role is
      • Empower people to consciously choose between Follow, Lead, Find your own way
      • Take responsibility for the choices made
      • Everyone is free from the pressure to meet the needs or expectations of others
    • Make it up as we go along. Journey together into the unknown with the spirit of an adventurer
    • Understanding that as an interdependent initiative we can face all challenges through our collective knowledge, expertise and experience. Resourcefulness and Resilience
    • The only right way is that there is no right way
  • The tools that we might use to get organised
    • How to share information online
    • Calendars
    • Local community hubs
  • How it will be delivered - Open Health / Wellness days
    • Local coffee shops
    • Free information services
    • Preventative health care
    • Sign posting and connecting
  • Where to register as a SWHerts-PHS health practitioner (service provider / business)
    • Local directory for health & wellness service providers
    • Place to share updates and news
    • Public so that any local people can connect with those providing services
  • The SWHerts-PHS health forum (for everyone interested in health / Discussion forum) ... this area is for people to ask questions, and for people to respond... personal profiles only
There will be plenty of opportunity to Network and to discuss all of the above

Please do join us this Wednesday

This is a fabulous opportunity to get involved at the grass roots level and to turn the tide of public health. We all know it is a huge issue and the only way it can be effectively tacked is if we all begin to play our part.

If you know of anyone in the Health & Wellness sector from Nutrition to Yoga, fitness to acupuncture... or homeopathy to reflexology... all are welcome... 


This is something we must build, for ourselves. If you are passionate about Health & Wellness and would like to take an active role in changing how health is delivered in this country... this might just be the chance you've been waiting for...

Please visit the events page on Facebook and let us know you are coming along

See you there on Wednesday... 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Nascot Lawns Update

Following on from the previous post on the devastating situation with the intended closure of the Nascot Lawns childrens respite centre, below is a quick update and some links to further information.

We had scheduled an interview with Richard Harrington MP for Watford a couple of weeks back but this was unfortunately postponed as Richard felt that the interview might jeopardise the discussions being held with CCG and other authorities involved.

Here is the recent announcement made by Richard of his progress so far.

What is known so far having has a brief conversation with Marlene Rhodes is that not much has happened since the announcement. Preparations for alternative provision of services has not really moved from the starting line, and most parents haven't even had their 'assessment interviews' scheduled as yet. It is no real wonder that Richard has secured a 3 month extension of the closure date (October 31st orginally) to the end of Jan 2018. Anything less than a postponement would have proved a disaster for the families and the existing 'overstretched' community / health providers.

As stated in the last post on Nascot Lawns, no one has thought this through at all. It may well be that the Nascot Lawns site would provide a much needed one off injection of cash... but at what cost to the families who use the centre and to the social / care services that will have to pick up the slack? It smacks of ... "well that's off my budget, someone else can pick it up now... not my problem". Same old story of pass the buck until we're buried in bureaucracy, red tape, and endless fruitless discussions.

Surely finding an alternative site (on perhaps less desirable development land) to continue the service provision would be the most desirable solution. Perhaps some of the fund generated from this 'transaction' could be earmarked to do just that.

Let us hope for all concerned that Richard and the other MP's continue to pile on the pressure. A real chance to deliver what the people want here rather than what the 'numbers people' think adds up on a spreadsheet.

You can keep up to date with all the developments as they happen over on the Save Nascot Lawns Facebook page here... featured also on BBC Radio here.

The campaign recently had a supportive and much needed  Guest blog from Amanda Batten - CEO of Contact a Family.

Via the Facebook page is a petition to support the campaign if you haven't signed it yet please do pop over there via the link above and give your support. This campaign needs everyone of us behind it.

Monday, 24 July 2017

SWHertsPHS - The People's Health Service

How could we transition to a more healthy way of living and maybe avoid the blight of many of the more common ailments that appear all too frequently in our modern way of living?

Our health is the most important thing we have. Very often we only appreciate this when suddenly our good health is snatched away from us.

Many of us spend more time taking care of our car or house than we do of the only vehicle that really matters; our own physical body. Often we hear people say... my health let me down... really? ... or perhaps was it the irresponsible way we treated our body?

If we were able to
  • Notice when things were going wrong with our body
  • Become more aware of the needs of our body
  • Make simple adjustments to improve the performance and reliability of our body
The benefits to all of us (and to those dependent on us) is that we would have a better chance of living longer and being able to enjoy a higher quality of life during those years.

This SWHertsPHS is an initiative to empower us 'to be able to get good, relevant information' and perhaps make better health choices. It is not a replacement for the NHS or Medical services. When things have already gone wrong and we need medical assistance, then we are all grateful for the local doctors surgeries and hospitals... but what if we could avoid being sick in the first place? What if we started to build a whole preventative health care service? We already have many of the bits in place... perhaps all it needs a bit of co-ordination and collaboration to have a much greater impact.

What are the ambitions for the SWHerts PHS (People's Health Service)?

  1. Encourage people to take more responsibility for their own health 
  2. Prevention is better than cure. Reducing the burden on the NHS... a reduction by 10% would make a world of difference to the hard pressed health service. 
  3. Weekly Health Hubs. Meet specialists, get information, make connections and get signposted 
  4. Online Health Community. Meet practitioners and specialists, find out information, ask questions all from home or work.

How will it work?

Starting in September... initially bi-weekly... the South West Herts PHS (People's Health Service) will be operating in a local venue (TBA, but something like a local coffee shop). The idea is to make preventative care far more accessible to us all.

An electronic diary will be made available and shared so that specialists intending to make themselves available can do so. These will be hourly slots. People wishing to meet specialists can then come along at a time when they know someone will be there who can help them. All these information / signposting services will be offered for free.

We Need You!

This is a collaborative co-creation initiative. It's our chance to start helping each other. If you would like to get involved in helping this launch then please do get in touch via Email :

All those who offer services aligned to the Health & Wellness industry are invited to participate (contact will be made during August) with the initiative. If you want to make contact and get ahead then do Email : 2 dates will be announced during August where anyone interested to find out more can come along. Those dates will be announced very shortly.

Summary of Services

  • Regular meetings 'Get Health' days (weekly over time)
  • Connect with a wide range of local health professionals
  • Access throughout the day
  • Online community to continue questions and conversation

    For local health professionals
  • Raise the awareness of how your services can be part of preventative care in the community
  • Get Found: Local Health & Wellness services directory (free to use)
  • Chance to meet local people in a non-pressure environment

Additional Colateral

Special Services being made available

There are some 3 million diabetics in this country and a conservative estimate of 2 million+ walking around undiagnosed. HBA1C is the most effective test for Diabetes and also to monitor that the condition is being managed effectively.

HBA1C testing has been severely cut via the NHS with type 1 diabetes sufferers receiving only 1 test per year and type 2 patients even less.

As part of 'taking responsibility' for our health we will be offering low cost HBA1C testing with hospital quality machine and other tests (over time) right into the community at these events. This enables anyone with the condition to obtain tests when it suits them as often as they wish.

If you are involved in any of the areas below (not exclusive to these)... or any complementary area... then please do get involved...

Nutritionists, weight loss consultants, Homeopathy, Essential Oils, Acupuncture, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Energy workers (Reiki, Crystals, Sound, Magnotherapy), Massage, Amatsu, Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga, Pilates, Fitness, Exercise (Gyms / Spinning / Zumba), Hypnotherapists, Counselors, Psychiatrists, Life Coaches, First Aid specialists, Alexander Technique specialists

also... anyone involved in Charities such as Age concern, Alzheimers, Dementia, Stroke Support, Cancer, Diabetes, Heart, Disability, Family support, Children, are more than welcome to participate.

The more information we can collate and make available through an easy to access online portal the better. People will be on hand during the PHS 'Get Health' days to share how to find the information / connections you need too.

Watford Homeless Project

There are so many good causes and charities… what makes helping the homeless one of my interests?

Many years ago, when I was training to be a teacher in Manchester, it happened to me. Luckily, the council were successful in forcing the landlord to overturn their decision, and, as it happened just before the Christmas holidays, my family could take me in while I found another flat for the next term.

I’ve always had asthma, and the damp and cold top floor of the townhouse in Heaton Moor was acerbating the problem. I love the vibe of Manchester, but anyone who has ever lived there will tell you that it never seems to stop raining!! The rest of the country will be in glorious sunshine, but not the Mancunians I’m afraid! In these conditions, I caught a nasty chest infection and, feeling weak and not having a telephone (this was in 1993, so no mobiles!) I considered walking to the telephone box 20 minutes away to make the call to my university, to explain that I wouldn’t be coming in.

The landlord had a phone on the landing, one floor down. I would certainly have asked permission first, but thinking that everyone was at work, I used their phone to make the call. The landlady (I think she was called Val, but it was so long ago I’m not certain) caught me in the act. She went ballistic and screamed at my partner and I, telling us to get out right away. Frightened, the two of us grabbed what we could and were literally thrown out on to the street.

It’s hard to believe, as the Ruth of today would not have been so easily intimidated! To cut what could be a long story short, the council intervened and explained to the landlady that she was breaking the law, that we had to be allowed to see out our tenancy and access our belongings.

When I see the rough sleepers of Watford, I can easily see how one or two wrong turns in your life can send you on to the wrong path. There is no doubt that I shouldn’t have used the phone without permission, and I’m sure that many homeless people would also recognise that they have made mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes snowball, one bad decision leading to another and another.

In my work with the Watford Homeless Project I have had the opportunity to hear their stories; sometimes stories that start out like mine, but these don’t have such a happy ending. Some of the community have had successful careers, families and the trappings of financial success. It is hard to comprehend, but that guy you see begging on the street in dirty clothes has at times run businesses, and could probably knock your maths skills into a cocked hat – even when he is blind drunk!

They all have an interesting story to tell. The next phase of L4G outreach work (Watford Homeless) is going to be to hear their stories, to listen, understand and hopefully through sharing and communicating with the community, to help them to heal. That said, not every rough sleeper is looking for change, to be fixed, or for charity; whilst I will continue with practical support (e.g. fundraising) I believe that this venture is about developing a mutual understanding between us all, and a different sort of change.

L4G’s strapline is ‘What if we knew you?’ What if we knew more about the people in society who only make themselves visible in shop doorways and night shelters? What if we knew their stories, your stories…. our stories? 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Amazing results in SW Herts for Park week with 11 Green Flags... BUT!

Woodside playing fields
We are blessed with having some amazing green spaces in our area. In recognition for keeping the parks in prime condition for the community to use there are awards. These are Green Flag awards.

This year we have received this prestigious award for 11 green spaces :-

Cassiobury Park, Woodside Playing Fields, Cheslyn House and Gardens, Waterfields Recreational Ground, Callowland Recreational Ground, North Watford Playing Fields, Oxhey Park, St Mary’s Churchyard, Goodwood Recreation Ground, Paddock Road Allotments and North Watford Cemetery.

Cassiobury Park - Water park & Community Hub
The reporting of this amazing achievement has been widespread (in the Watford Observer, and on the council's own website) The credit for the achievement has been awarded to two organisations. Deputy Mayor Peter Taylor (Portfolio holder for client services at the council) has congratulated the council (themselves) and their contractor Veolia for the outstanding work they had done (paid for work mind) that both these organisations have undertaken on our behalf.

It's great that these awards have been given and that our parks are of excellent quality for all of us to enjoy however... let us not lose sight of the fact that they are 'self congratulating' for actually doing their job. This is indicative of a much wider issue that we experience in many aspects of our lives today where we are pleasantly surprised and give awards out for people who actually provide the service they are being paid to do...

Sandy Belloni - cleaning the river in Oxhey Park
In two of the above situations namely Oxhey Park, and Paddock Wood... the most important contributor to the success has been sadly overlooked and omitted. That of the very humble +sandy belloni. Sandy is well known in the area for the tireless hours he puts in at Oxhey Park (with many local volunteers) and also as a key member in the Paddock Woods Allotment Association.

Sandy runs a Facebook Group Friends of Oxhey Park and you only have to look through the posts to see the tremendous energy, enthusiasm and commitment Sandy puts in... wait for it... for little or no reward whatsoever. It's easy to do a good job if you're being paid for it. Sandy does most of what he does for no money and... he helps local young adults gain experience through providing a valuable community service. Veolia would not be able to keep this park up to scratch if it wasn't for Sandy telling them what needs doing... where the graffiti is... what needs sorting out down there...

And yet... everyone knows what a contribution Sandy makes and no one even thought to mention him. This is not an over sight... it is much worse (in my opinion).

Peter Taylor (Deputy Mayor) wrote on the FB Group for Oxhey Park
You are right. I should have have thanked Sandy and the work of all our Friends groups. Apologies for any offence caused. I know that the Green Flag assessors were particularly impressed with the community involvement in our parks.
I for one am very pleased that the Green Flag Assessors were impressed with the volunteers... so impressed they never mentioned them at all...

It is this default mode of the council thinking we're here to give them position and power... rather than they are here to serve their community... that could be partially responsible for the mess we're in today.