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 Huge amounts of food stocked by supermarkets goes out of date or spoils and ends up in dumps.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.