My Pitch to Enrich for Virgin’s #pitchtorich

 To find out more about the 60 Postcards journey so far, you can read a summary here.

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In my last post I introduced the concept of my new collective to you. As I confessed, I am spending time preparing and looking for as much help as possible in order to give this a real chance of long-term success. Richard Branson is a name we all know. Branson started his first business (a music magazine) at the age of sixteen. Now, of course, he is the famous entrepreneur who founded the Virgin Group. He has been through it all in business – the struggles, the trial and error, the highs and the lows – everything that has contributed to reaching the stage he is at now. With a wealth of business knowledge, Branson runs a competition called #pitchtorich which offers growing and new businesses the chance to win funding and guidance. I had to put the Tribute Collective forward…….

THE PITCH:

Tribute Collective

 Offering people an alternative way to channel grief through the creation of unique projects in memory of lost loved ones and providing a platform where stories can be shared and connections made. Join the movement.

Most people reading this will have experienced the loss of a loved one. It is something that we often feel like we have to deal with quietly, on our own.

Together, we can change that.

The Tribute Collective is inspired by the readers of the 60 Postcards project – a project where handwritten postcards in memory of a much-loved mum were scattered around Paris for people to find. The journey was documented in a blog and a book, and hundreds of people have been in touch – sharing stories and expressing an interest in becoming part of it. Every message received sparks the passion and drive to form a collective.

The collective will offer:

1) A website where people can share memories, seek guidance on creating their own personal tributes and connect with other users.

2) Workshops, talks and meet-ups for face-to-face help and interaction.

3) A Tribute Collective London HQ in the form of a creative café for the above to take place (long-term goal).

Postcard Photo Wall

Because it is:

UNIQUE – being the first collective of its kind.

FAR-REACHING – bereavement is a universal issue and we want to help as many people as possible.

ORGANIC – it all started with a personal tribute but developed very naturally through connections made and stories shared.

COLLABORATIVE – the word, ‘collective’, was carefully chosen. We want the people who join us to be a chorus of voices in our future business decisions.

ENRICHING – no one will ever be able to stop the inevitable, uncontrollable storms of grief but we hope that through this collective we can provide beautiful distractions while keeping memories alive.

LEARNING – we don’t know everything about business but that is why we would love to have the Virgin team guiding us, and giving the Tribute Collective the exposure we know it deserves.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

WHY I WOULD LOVE YOUR VOTE:

It always makes me cringe when you have to ask people to vote for something – I am going to be sharing this all over my 60 Postcards and my personal social media streams so be prepared!

The reasons are simple, though. You have been part of the 60 Postcards journey for a long time and, therefore, you will understand better than anyone.

The only chance to get shortlisted in this competition is by the amount of votes you receive. I have used up almost every single character of the word count allowance to get my message across on-screen, but what I really want is the opportunity to present my passion through pitching it myself.

If you believe in the idea, PLEASE VOTE HERE!

I will leave the last words to Mr Branson – words that reassure me of my mission:

Richard Branson

Have a top weekend,
Rachael x

Dad’s Story: Tower to Tower 2014

Bringing you news once a week on the ongoing 60 Postcards journey (you can read a summary of the story here), and on Friday I share a story of an inspirational person, project or cause.

Last weekend my Dad (along with five great friends) took on the brave and inspiring task of cycling 202 miles from London to Paris for Cancer Research UK, in memory of my wonderful Mum. I knew the journey would be full of stories. Who better to tell the tale of the Tower to Tower Cycle than my Dad himself. Paul – it’s over to you………….

(The Team – Cyclists: Paul Chadwick (Dad), Paul Nation (Nation), Tony Watson (Watto), Tom Nation, Gemma Nation, Adam Clark. Minibus driver: Jan Watson)

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And so, the moment had arrived. On Wednesday evening, Watto picked up the minibus with his wife Jan (who kindly agreed to be the driver) and loaded the bikes. We attended the Rising Sun garden for final arrangements and necessary hydration.

On 5:30am Thursday morning we made our way to Tower Bridge, met Rachael for photos and to collect the postcards and then we set off on our adventure. Two hours later we were somehow still well north of the river and the GPS device (which cost a fortune) was not working!

Finally we made it to Greenwich tunnel and while riding we all had to dodge and swerve to avoid something rather unpleasant on the ground. But, we then emerged the other side to see the splendid Cutty Sark. It was large, bold and striking – steeped in history. It was funny how Gemma missed it. She said it was because she was so focused, but somehow she had definitely not missed what was on the ground on the way through!

It soon became evident that the military style organisational skills of Nation and Watto were manifesting themselves. So many plans, so few conversations. So many ferries, trains and cabins booked which were cancelled then re-booked! I can see it now – ‘Watto and Nation Communication Company extraordinaires!’ We crossed over the M25 and felt we were heading south. Not before, however, Gemma had the first puncture very swiftly reported by Watto.

Then we really started spinning; Adam in his Yellow Jersey, Tom totally relaxed (covering ground effortlessly), Paul going for ‘Downhill Nutter of the Year’. Watto was getting his calves pumped and Gemma was gliding. Oh yes, and then me! To try to speed me up they had leant me Watto’s son Paul’s road bike. That was great – I appreciated that a lot. But, we didn’t quite manage to sort out the pedals in time. Road bike – yes. Pedals – not so much!

We got stuck in and racked up some miles in very hot weather and arrived at a pub for a pit stop. We promptly ordered thirteen pints of lime and soda. Well, they were gone in a very short space of time. I gave the Irish Bar man a postcard before we left.

A strange thing happened after lunch as we came to Lower Addlington. It was fine going down into it but coming out, oh my goodness. This was when we encountered ‘Beat Box Tractor Man’ (BBTM) which was a chav on a huge chunk of a bike with a beat box on board, who over took all of us on the way down. Watto, ready to take him on the ascent, was amazed as BBTM pulled away from him. At the top he was not even out of breath but wanted to join us on our trip to France. I only heard about this. I didn’t meet the guy as I was pushing my bike up the hill at the time. The only consolation for me was that I was catching Watto up (even though he’d managed to stay on his). We made it to the top and, back as a group, we were ready to go again. The next hours were tough as we made our way to Newhaven and it became apparent at this point that we were falling behind schedule.

undertheeiffelWhen we did arrive in Newhaven, Watto and Jan had to head off to Calais to go over in the minibus. We had a ‘Brewers Fayre’ beer and bite after changing at the Supermarket. We were finally on the boat. We had two cabins which we wanted to split fairly. Well, I ended up in one to myself and Paul, Tom, Gemma and Adam were in the other. (Paul has roomed with me before. He knows of my snoring!)

When we disembarked at Dieppe there was sight of the minibus but poor Jan and Tony had not slept at all. They’d had to catch a later ferry than planned. Things go wrong but you have to get on with it (Assembly #1 for next term!). And they were great – no moaning at all.

We were hit with a new sensation of cold damp mist in the air at 04:00am the next morning and off we rode down the impressive Avenue Verte. All six of us were spinning freely. We caught site of another cyclist and there was excitement in the air – on the horizon was a large man on a bike in a Heinz Baked Bean t-shirt! Middle aged, perhaps older than us – what the hell, we were going to take him! At breakfast, after seeing him a couple of times, we gave him a postcard and he had kindly handed us a tenner for sponsorship.

We later arrived at our destination town (can never remember the name of it) and had lunch and beer. We booked into our quirky hotel and all had a sleep before re-convening on the hotel patio for a pizza and a few bottles of Leffe (Watto loved those!). We met a man called Eric who was cycling from the middle of England to the middle of France. We handed him a postcard, naturally!

tourdefranceThe next morning it was off to Paris. It was a long cycle. We met Irish Paddy and Aussie Bruce who were very sociable and joined us for some cycling. We stopped in a town and Jan and Tony met a religious man who was travelling from the Czech Republic to Ireland just with a fold away bike and all of his belongings. We continued on with a few breaks along the way and eventually shared a meal with the whole group.

And so, to the final day. Watto looked the business initially until he put his flip-flops on his back and then he looked like he was going to take off! Paul had planned a route which kept us fairly clear of Paris traffic. The moment when the Eiffel Tower came into view was a significant one for us all. As we were cycling in, Watto and Tom ended up joining a Pelaton around the City of Love and we lost them for a while. But we all came together at the infamous Eiffel Tower. We were delighted that we made it! After a meal nearby we caught a spot to watch the cyclists in the Tour de France, showing us how it was done. What an incredible weekend!

Paul (Chadley Wiggins).

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Congratulations to Dad and the team. What an incredible challenge for a fantastic cause. Mum would be so, so proud.

I spoke to Dad about the postcards on the phone the other day. It really took me back to when I was waiting for my first response. I could hear myself through his words, ‘We haven’t heard from anyone yet, have we? That would really make it – getting a response to a postcard’. I explained that I’d had the same fears, that you have to trust that people will get in touch in their own time. Approximately 30 minutes after that call, I received an email. Two email responses now in plus an anonymous postcard finder donation! MAGIC! Look out for more about those on the 60 Postcards Facebook Page.

Enjoy your weekend, all!

Rachael xx

(It is not too late to donate a pound or two. JustGiving link. Thank you!)

My Favourite Spaces to Write in the Area of N1

60 Postcards: Create. Share. Inspire. Bringing you news once a week on the ongoing 60 Postcards journey (you can read a summary of the story here), and on Friday I share a story of an inspirational person, project or cause.

Note: I have made an adjustment to my blog posting timings!

As I said in my post, 25 Things That Any Writer Will Understand, writing is not an easy task and a big factor in determining whether you are able to get in the zone, is the environment you work in. I have touched on this before. I think I even said that I enjoyed having buzz and a bit of noise around me. But there is a fine line between ‘buzz and a bit of noise’ and hearing every single thing the people next to you are saying or trying to focus when there is music blasting out.

As I live in N1 and find myself working in the area a lot, I thought I would share a few of my faves with you (you may recognise a couple from previous ramblings!).

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Caravan 

Based in Granary Square, this delightful establishment is situated in what was once an old grain store. Many hours of writing have taken place here by myself where I sit to work at the large wooden table at the back enjoying the aromas of the freshly roasted coffee. Students from Central St Martins drop in and out and I enjoy the atmosphere in there. There are always smiles on that shared table, often as we take it in turns to use the socket to charge our laptops. The menu is a wonder, also.

Site  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

kingsplaceKings Place

The Rotunda cafe in Kings Place backs onto Regents canal and is the perfect spot on a sunny day. The only problemo of some writing time here is that you can’t get wi-fi. But then perhaps that is sometimes a good thing? I think that is something I should do a lot more – turn the phone off and give my Facebook and Twitter scrolling a rest for a while. Because there is so much going on in the way of arts and music here, it is sometimes best to go for a morning coffee to miss the crowds.

Site  |  Twitter

10526088_10152516482005873_7070674579996284910_nEuphorium Bakery 

I thought this bakery/cafe was small until I stepped into it for the first time. Loads of space, plenty of tables and there is even a room right at the bottom with some comfy sofas for a chill. The staff are super friendly and you don’t feel bad for settling in there for a few hours. Coffees are large and delicious and I always make sure I have a few to make up for the free use of the wi-fi. Tricky to avoid the temptation of the danish, though.

Site  |  Twitter

10544352_10152516481905873_4568021701487655560_n  Coffee Works Project 

This is a gem of a cafe on the Camden Passage in Angel. It’s trés trendy with school chairs, tables and benches galore for you to work on. Every time I have been I have seen a mixture of people hanging out, doing laptop work or studying away, and it feels immediately comfortable to get cracking (sometimes I find you have to get a feel for a place first before the Mac makes an appearance). The garden out the back is my favourite bit – you seem a million miles from the hustle of the London crowds. Oh and the coffee here is top-notch. Yum.

                                          Site  |  Twitter

10488056_10152516482525873_52777625013357148_n Tent 

Saving the best until last here. This is my first mention of Tent on my blog (not to many of my friends who have heard A LOT about it!) but I have been going there for a little while now thanks to the lovely Leanne. Leanne and I became friends through Beccy (Paris crew member who I used to live with) and after a chat we had about my struggle to find a routine she invited me along to this creative workspace. She knew I would love it. I walked in and within one minute, I loved it.

Tent is a collaborative co-working space that is used by a whole load of creative folk – film makers, comedians, writers, illustrators, start-ups to name just a few. Although it is within an office building the decor is quirky and cool – more warehouse than office, for sure. Monthly donations to work there go to the running costs and also to charities and local projects. The best thing about this place is the real sense of community. Super friendly people all wanting to help each other out. It has a wonderfully chilled vibe and I have felt more productive here than anywhere else I have ever worked.

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To give you an idea of the kind natured gang, just over the weekend many Tent members came together to help Leanne (who is a writer, actor and comedian) to film a new showreel. Ralph and Claire (who have been wonderfully welcoming since my first ever visit) directed the filming and others helped by offering to act, run – you name it, the whole production was created through a collaboration of kindness. I can’t wait to see the end result.

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I am so glad that I have a great space to get thinking and writing. Oh and planning. I’ve booked my next adventure. I feel I have a lot of unfinished business with New York City. Let the plotting and planning commence. (Excitable.)

Speak soon,

Rachael x

Do You Want to Escape the City?

60 Postcards: Create. Share. Inspire. Bringing you news every Tuesday on the ongoing 60 Postcards journey (you can read a summary of the story here), and on Friday I share a story of an inspirational person, project or cause.

How many of us leave school at the age of sixteen or eighteen and know exactly where we are heading career-wise? Some do, and I can only imagine how satisfying that must be – to have a clear sense of direction and certainty about what you will be when you ‘grow up’.

If you are anything like me though, you will have given several different answers to the question, ‘what do you want to do?’ over the years. When I was younger I would flit between interior design, teaching, starting my own business (of what, I never knew), TV presenting, writing, managing (what or who? Never knew that either).

I think that is difficult to determine which industry that you belong in without experiencing the world of work first-hand. In more cases than not, it will require some trial and error, a lot of networking and a great amount of time spent developing your skill sets before you find a role where you are finally able to say, ‘I love my job’.

I imagine that many people reading this post have felt trapped in a job before, or perhaps do now. It is a very topical subject amongst my friends at the moment, for sure. We have sat down over a drink and spent hours talking about what we really want to do. But in this economic climate the fear of jumping ship – to make a move or change industry completely – can be utterly terrifying. Those discussions will almost always centre around ‘security’. We need to pay the rent and the bills, right? And we are so busy in our current roles that we find it impossible to believe we can ever escape.

But escape, we can.

ESC“Many people dream of doing something different, but few actually do”, say Dom and Rob – founders of Escape the City.

Escape the City (ESC) is a platform for young professionals who want to move away from the corporate world but are unsure how to go about it. It is a global community and an extremely powerful movement. I have heard about them for a while and the more I read about it, the more I understand why it is so successful.

Dom and Rob (closely followed by friend, Mikey), were three guys working in the city feeling unfulfilled in their jobs. They felt ‘that’ fear of making a change and searched for help and inspiration, but there was nothing out there. Identifying a clear gap in the market, the guys decided that they would create the very service that they were hoping to find themselves. Escape the City was born.

“We are building ESC to match you with the opportunities, connections and inspiration you need to make the leap. You don’t have to work in a big corporate – if you want to find an exciting new job, start your own business or go on a big adventure – you are in the right place.

We see ourselves as a discovery engine. There are masses of people, opportunities and resources out there that you should know about but don’t. Our job is to meaningfully connect you with the information that will help you figure out what you want to do with your life.”

By signing up as a member, you are given the opportunity to attend several events in London, be part of The Escape School, you can receive informative newsletters and you can upload your CV where they can match your skills with relevant opportunities and employers.

Although this project began in London, it is now spreading globally with over 50% of their members and job opportunities outside of the UK. This is all thanks to an enthusiastic and passionate team, who are working so hard to help so many people to pursue alternative career paths.

ESCmanifesto

 

As you may know already, my personal 60 Postcards journey has encouraged me to change my career. I was working in the corporate world for an energy company until last year and although I worked hard and adored my colleagues, I did feel that something was missing. My heart was telling me that I should be doing something creative. I took a sabbatical from work to write the book and by the end of it I decided not to return – a decision that was driven by my family’s experience of life being too short and a new-found passion for doing what makes me happy. The leap was a scary one but I knew that it had to be done.

Now I have a CV that looks stranger than ever but no one should be afraid of that. I do feel very lucky to be able to say that I love what I do right now but I am still thinking about the next steps to take and I am definitely going to join the Escape the City movement and use the resources and network opportunities that they provide to guide me in the right direction.

So, if you feel like you are stuck in a rut or need some new ideas and inspiration, you should definitely check out the ESC site or follow them on Facebook and Twitter to find out more.

Maybe I will see you at one of their upcoming events? I hope so.

Enjoy your weekends folks.

Rachael x

The 60 Postcards Tower to Tower Cycle Challenge!

60 Postcards: Create. Share. Inspire. Bringing you news every Tuesday on the ongoing 60 Postcards journey (you can read a summary of the story here), and on Friday I share a story of an inspirational person, project or cause.

It brings me a GREAT amount of pleasure and pride to bring this post to you today. I may have put the postcards to one side for a while, but they are making a very big come back soon and there is a very strong link with my original journey (except I didn’t do it quite like this!).

My hero, Mr Paul Chadwick (Dad), has got a team together for a fundraising challenge with a twist. Dad along with Paul, Tony, Tom, Gemma and Adam are taking on the mammoth task of cycling all of the way from London to Paris – Tower Bridge to the Eiffel Tower! The Team will take four days to make their way over there and are hoping to raise as much money as they can for Cancer Research UK.

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They have been training very hard and the date for the ride is fast approaching. They set off from the Tower of London on the Thursday 24th July and head to Newhaven and catch the ferry to Dieppe. Then they follow the Avenue Verte to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, completely their mission on Sunday 27th July. Now cycling fans will recognise that date – it has been chosen for a very special reason. The final stage of the Tour de France is also on that Sunday! The 60 Postcards Tower 2 Tower Cycle team will be finishing when the City of Love is buzzing with more bicycles than ever.

There are six members in the team so this means that they will take ten handwritten postcards each (written by myself) and they will scatter them along the way at times they feel are right! I am already excited at the prospect of gaining more postcard finders!

I was able to interview the gang when I was last at home in Dorset and so I have created a video. It took me a very long time to put this together (mainly because I was laughing my head off at Dad)! Please take a look and share if you can!

You can visit the JustGiving page here. As Gemma has said on the page description, anything is appreciated – even a high-five!

I am so proud of this bunch and I absolutely cannot wait to be there at the finish line to see them in.

Paris really is becoming a place that will be held close to our hearts with two tributes for Mum now linked to the city.

Bon soir mes amis!

Rach xxx

 

Merry Christmas with a #Smilebomb

imageHo, ho, ho! Who ate all the mince pies? Erm…. Seriously, will someone please hide all of the food in my sight. Every single year we dread returning from Christmas being the size of a house. Yes, I said ‘we’ – I am dragging you down with me, ha. ‘I’m going to get fit in January’. I’ve said that before. ‘ I think I will aim to lose about three stone in January.’ I’ve said that before. ‘ I am going to do all of the things that I have said I would do for the last five years, but have never done.’ Or maybe I will just see how it goes?….. So when we last spoke (sorry – when I last rambled to you), I was about to tackle the challenge of the first edit of the book. It went well. Looking it at with fresh eyes helped immensely and also made me laugh. Where was I going with that paragraph?!  We had a Christmas jumper soiree at our house in N1, when I took an evening off. In a last-minute panic, without a garish jumper suitable, I decided to put my Blue Peter skills to the test. I became a walking health and safety hazard as I threaded battery-powered fairy lights through a red jumper of mine. Don’t try this at home, kids. I really thought that I would be under dressed. That was until I found that the lights had settings. As the music picked up the pace, so did the speed of the flashing lights on me. I was a Christmas tree – a bit of a laughing-stock, admittedly – but confident that if Blue Peter does need a new presenter and is willing to look the other way over fire safety regulations – I’m in. When I handed that first edit in last week, knowing that my friend, Clare and husband, Tony, were over from Brunei and hanging in an apartment in Chamonix – I jumped on a plane to see them for a couple of days. (Who the hell do I think I am? I need to win the Euromillions – pronto.) I had been wrapped up in the book (rather than presents) – it was my first real taste of Christmas joy. I loved being in the snow, catching up with friends, drinking wine and sampling some fondu (yeh – I started the eating thing early). The day before I headed to the snowy village north of Mont Blanc, I received a tweet from someone called The Free Help GuyWho is this? I was completely intrigued and looked him up right away. And yet again, another human being blows me away. The Free Help Guy (let’s call him ‘TFHG’) posted an anonymous advert on Gumtree in March earlier this year to offer his services, simply, to help anyone free of charge. That alone is wonderful. But once he started, it snowballed into something far greater. He had six months between jobs and as the requests flew in, he decided to devote his time to helping others (still remaining anonymous to this day). “I’m doing this because, like you, I’m a simple feeling, thinking, living being who feels best when they’re making a difference.”  TFHG blogs about his experiences – from helping someone paint their house, finding someones’ father, reuniting a man with his camera memory card and he has guided a tourist around London for the day via twitter, to name just a few. I know – amazing isn’t it. So, wanting to be a part of this incredible do-gooding – I could wait no longer and as soon as I got home to Dorset, I was thinking about the task ahead…… “Dad, do you have any post-its?” “No, why?” “I need to smilebomb, obviously.” image #Smilebomb is one of TFHG’s most recent campaigns, which is ‘a public message left (on a post-it or such like) from one stranger to another with the intention to make them smile’. Simple and beautifully effective. This was a task that I could identify with, through message-scattering of my own. My postcards were left in memory of a loss, these are a message to create a smile but the link is in leaving them in public spaces. I assured Sarah, who I told was coming along with me to leave a #smilebomb in Wimborne, that as I had left 120 postcards in Paris and NYC and had shamelessly approached many a New Yorker asking them to hold an ‘I heart NYC’ sign (I know) and what inspired them – the little WHSmiths in our local village would be no sweat. It ended up being hilarious. The staff must have wondered what the hell was happening, as our hysterics were coming from the smallest photo booth in the world as we took a shot before we smilebombed in there. That shouldn’t have taken long but our money got swallowed, I got cramp in my leg trying to bend down in the shot (no it isn’t because I have hit thirty, urgh) and we were crying from laughter so much.

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And there we left our note for the next person that will visit that booth for their shots: ‘Smile 🙂 You look amazing, Merry Christmas! #smilebomb’ As I am writing this, it has dawned on me that you aren’t actually allowed to smile in passport photos. Screw it, hopefully they will smile anyway. But the thing that hit home most about this, is that the help came full circle – the TFHG had helped us. This is a sad time of year with Mum gone – but having the mission of leaving a note for a stranger, created a beautiful moment for my sister and I. Not only that, but my Dad has already told half of Wimborne about TFHG since I have explained what he is all about. Ever since I heard from TFHG, I have been reminded of Project Inspire which I started just before I embarked on my NYC adventure in April where I asked you to send a photo of yourself holding a postcard and to tell me what – whether it be an individual, group or project – inspires you. I still have some to post and please make sure to keep emailing them to me. Oh and smilebomb away – just send a photo of it to TFHG on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to include the hashtag. #Everyonelovesagoodhashtag I thought that Christmas eve was the perfect spot to share The Free Help Guy to you. This enigma of a man – returning answers, solving problems and helping others who need it – is someone whose journey I hope to follow for a very long time. What a legend. I am wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. And to those who have lost, I will be thinking of you. So much love, Rachael xxx image

Milestone Mania

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Hi, it’s me again.

I had a wonderful response to the last post from the London Loveiosa gang and rightly so – what an inspirational bunch!

Well, what a couple of weeks (and months) it has been, and the fun is far from over. It has been milestone mania!

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Milestone 1 – I had my first ice skate and mulled wine of the winter on Monday at Somerset House. It really doesn’t feel like tis the season to be jolly, until you are slipping around like Bambi with red stained teeth.

Milestone 2 – Ah the celebration of the year of my birth. It was a considerably large one, due to the fact that I hit somewhere in between twenty-one and forty years of age. (This is where you say, “No way – she can’t be.” Hey – crows feet and grey hair, or stress highlights as I like to call them, are all the rage.)

I had a shaky start, which is a given for all future Birthdays (any milestones, really) – knowing that there is a certain someone not here to share it with me. (Where is the card with the handwriting I know so well? Extremely sad face). I went down to the kitchen to be welcomed by a breakfast and coffee from housemate Beccy,  who was baking me a cake – what an absolute star.

I hadn’t had time, at this point, to sort out my outfit (classic me), and I made a dash to Angel to pick up the dress from Reiss that I had been eyeing up for the past week or so. I bought it (ignoring the money flying out of my bank account), ran (walked slowly) home, packed my overnight bag and headed straight for the Grange Holborn Hotel. I was so happy to be greeted by my Dad, two sisters and my brother in-law. I’ve missed those guys like crazy, even though it had only been a matter of weeks since I last saw their faces.

We shared a bottle of champers (whilst putting on some Made in Chelsea-esque accents), checked into our hotel rooms and chilled until my party in the Skybar on the roof. I had a few drinks, laughed and joked with my favourite people and, of course, it wouldn’t have been right without a postcard task involved. I asked people to write either words or a story that only I would understand and I have been giggling away at the messages – a collection of memories I can keep for life.

But the best thing about this thirtieth (who said that?), was that no matter how tough it was, I have the best gift imaginable with 60 Postcards on its way. Which brings me to my next point…..

Milestone 3 –  The first draft of my book has been submitted (which unsurprisingly, I think is simply not good enough), but at least the first step is complete. This past two months have really put my head and heart to the test – more than I could have imagined.

imageI have written all over the place (mainly Parisian and Laandan coffee shops), but for my last few days before I sent through the work – in a last-minute urge to escape the distractions of the City – I headed to my Godmother’s in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent. There, I was able stay in their cute and cosy caravan (which became known as the ‘Tunstall Tardis’) to write in my own little bubble. It was just what I needed. Aunty Tink (who is not my Aunty and was not Christened Tink!) and her family were just incredible. Tink is one of my Mum’s best friends and her gang have been such a wonderful support to me. Two of her children, Michael and Morwenna, were there and helped out by bringing me regular teas and supplies to keep me going. What a bloody kind family – they are certainly family to me and I love that I will always remember that time with them, during this challenge of publishing a book.

So, during this past few weeks of writing I have cried into my keyboard and I have laughed so hard it hurt. I  have experienced one panic attack, been a drama queen a few times and even thought about jacking it all in and running away to mexico – especially after I was mugged of my laptop, literally whilst writing.

But, and it’s a big ‘but’, I have been utterly content through doing what I love.

The funniest moment, which I am reminded of every time my ankle twinges, was when I hadn’t realised just how awkwardly I had been sat whilst working one quiet evening. I got up, noticed that my right leg was in fact dead, stacked it and then smacked my head on the wardrobe. Still chuckling about that one.

Next stage for the book is the second edit, some articles for book magazines, sorting the photos for the middle section, a few marketing and publicity chats and I’ve got to say – I am flipping excited. Waaah!

Finally, I am pleased to attach a (faded-and-not-very-clear-but-you-get-the-gist) photo of the final full cover of the book.

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With a rush to get the cover signed off, I had to send my author photo for the back sleeve. In a frantic glance at any shots of myself, I found there were very few that did not include either a silly face or a vino in hand – not ideal.

There was only one thing for it. Oh this is definitely something to tell the Grandchildren.

“Granny, how was that old photo taken?”

“With something called an iPhone – it’s a selfie.”

Oh lord – I’m not even kidding. (Thank goodness I have long arms.) I wonder if I should contact the Guinness Book of World Records? Because I am certain no one has been stupid enough to do that on the cover of their book – apart from me. Please can this be our little secret – thanks.

Have a festive-filled weekend all.

Love as always,

Rachael xxx

Ps Happy Anniversary to the Paris Crew – one year today we were embarking on our adventure where it all began……xx

The Sabbatical and an Email from Oz

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To follow the story from the beginning, click here.

A few posts ago I mentioned that from mid September I would be back in the blogging game, with more time to focus on 60 Postcards. I am back for good (Take That reference totally intended).

I have decided to take some leave from work to delve into my 60 Postcards world – to explore London town (with a potential a return to Paris too) – taking it all in, finding the best places to write and embracing a different challenge for a while. To say that I am excited is quite the understatement.

It was my first day yesterday and I am easing myself into it – I kept to my local Kings Cross hood. Caroline (who has recently embarked on her new life as an actor), joined me for some coffee and lunch – a good old catch up we had, amongst times of silence – learning lines for her, writing for me. A perfect day.

I have decided that whilst I am off – I am also going to be an unofficial PR rep for Kings Cross, ha. Seriously – you need to visit if you haven’t for a while. Granary Square is a gorgeous open space with spectacular fountains (lit up at night in a choreographed routine) – which is home to Central St Martins Art College and two of my favourite restaurant/bars, Caravan and Grain Store.

Daisy Lowe, English fashion model, sat down behind us at lunch in her perfect lace dress. I looked down at my outfit and felt immediately annoyed that I hadn’t put on something a little more smart. Or quirky. I suppose it was at least an improvement on last week where I managed to get to work and be sat at my desk for half an hour before I was told that I had my top on inside out.

Along with Daisy, a number of lip-stick wearing, long-legged, uber-cool beauties rushed into the restaurant for a bite. It didn’t take us long to realise that Fashion Week was hitting our lunch. Perhaps I should have gone for the salad option after all? Nah.

Outside in the square we saw a flurry of photographers papping away at fashonistas. Fashonistas that I probably should have recognised. Friend Inaki was on call to inspect my photo and has informed me that the fella in the photo montage below (the two photos on the right) is Justin O’Shea – the Style and Buying Director of MyTheresa.com. A little reminder that I need to get up to speed on these things.

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It was time to move on and I knew the perfect place (introduced to me by a new friend). The Booking Office Bar in the Renaissance Hotel is the perfect spot for a coffee or a cocktail. I find myself gazing out of the window there as it looks over onto the platform where people return from their Paris trips. I gaze for a little too long when I see people reunited. It’s fascinating! (Creep alert). But I think this may just be a perfect place for me to write.

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Now, you know I love a good story from abroad. Phil is a friend from school, who I keep in touch with on Facebook to hear about his utterly amazing job (and I bore him with my 60 Postcards chat, of course). Given that musicals have become a theme, Phil is the perfect person to get involved as he is part of the touring cast of Stomp. They have just been at the Theatre Royal, Australia, and Phil sent the following shots of him with a postcard in front of the Sydney Opera House and the cast on stage.

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Thanks to Phil and the group for the photos. I look forward to seeing him soon for a catch up on his next stop in the UK!

A couple of nights ago I went to see the new Richard Curtis film – About Time. Prepare to laugh, prepare to cry and prepare for it to make you think. It devastated me in some ways and absolutely enlightened me in others. I don’t want to give too much away but if you get a chance, I recommend that you take a look. If only we could all time travel….

It’s good to be back – I will be blogging later in the week from Dorset. It is time to visit the family. I cannot wait.

Night for now,

Rach xx

Letters from the kids:

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Francesca – that is so lovely. Thank you very much. 60 Postcards project is definitely going very well – I can’t wait to see where it takes me next :). I am glad that I am doing it too! Love, Rach x

Birthday Brunch and a Leading Lady…

To follow the story from the beginning – click here.

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It’s me – I’m back. Further apologies for my new-found sporadic posting style. I don’t think I even pre-warned you about this one – SURPRISE!!

Last weekend was a cracker. The main event was my housemate Beccy’s beautiful birthday brunch. We hit the Grain Store in Granary Square, Kings Cross. Yummy food, super staff and extremely naughty cocktails. I was introduced to the ‘Twinkle’ (not so little star FYI). Those naughty cocktails gave the illusion that it was slightly later in the day than it was – sneaky. Beccy’s fab family (Sue – Mum, Tony – Dad, Andrew – Bro), who have become an amazing support to me, were the secret guests. Beccy is one of my best friends who makes my house in London a real home. It was just such a happy moment to see all of her nearest and dearest there to celebrate her.

Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get more fun, yet another man on a piano steps up. His name was Nick. Now, he may be playing Sunday early arvo tunes but Becs requested something a little different. “Do you play any Beyoncé?” she asked. The best he could do was Independent Women (a Destiny’s Child classic) and the best it was. (See video on Facebook page.) He sang along – an unexpected and welcome occurrence. It was an absolute highlight of the day by far. And what I am most grateful for is that dancing to Destiny’s Child in a public place in broad daylight is no surprise to us. Life is just so darn short – why the hell not.

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From one musical moment to another, I will remind you of my post about postcard finder Rita. She works behind the scenes at a Broadway show and shared an incredible story about her Grandmother. I had a fantastic response to that blog post – a finder who was also suffering a loss and sharing their story. It was so special.

When I wrote on the NYC postcard that I wanted the finder to leave the postcard for someone else to find, it turns out Rita did just that!

What a response it is…….

“Hi Rachael from London!

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This is Christina from New York City. Your postcard found its way backstage at Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and into my dressing room here at the Foxwoods Theatre in Times Square! I wonder where it will end up next….”

I have no idea where it may end up next.

Christina is a Broadway Star. A REAL LIFE Broadway star. A leading lady of the musical! As I visited her site, I realised that her last show was Evita – playing along side Ricky Martin. ‘Un dos tres’ – It brings back such memories of my school discos. He was a legend, wasn’t he?

Given that I have talked so much about my passion for dance and the theatre, this yet again cements the fact that this story has naturally fallen upon a theme. From Stephanie (ballet dancer) finding a postcard whilst visiting her friend in West Side Story in Paris and now to people working and performing in a Broadway Show in NYC – I know that my Mum would absolutely love this. It would make her happy. It makes me so so happy.

The 60 Postcards Project and the amazing responses mean that my poor work girls have been subjected to a lot of postcard chat. But it has been such a lovely thing to gather around and discuss. It’s not just chat, my work team also give me all sorts of advice. They pick me up when I am down, they share thoughts and most of all – they get excited with me. I hope they know how much I adore them.

Here are two of them sharing their inspirations:

“Hey Rach,

Attached is me and my postcard in our lovely place of work ;-)!

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It doesn’t take me long to know what inspires me, but given the whole reason behind your project I can’t help but feel it’s a bit of a cliché! Either way it’s the truth – my mum is my inspiration. I have never met anybody as strong as her and just hope that I can grow to be half the person she is!

I’ve watched my mum go through a brain tumour and a heart attack and lucky enough to still have her here to tell the tale. What’s more is my mum didn’t just “survive” these events, she was simply incredible throughout them – I never saw her have a down day, an angry day or a sad day. She was always upbeat and I often saw her caring for others – making sure they were ok “under the circumstances”. I don’t think I will ever fully understand how she managed it; but the number of people who stopped me in the street to ask how she was or came by the house are a testament to her personality!

So, in short, my mum inspires me to be at least half the person she is.

Love

Becky

xxx”

“Hi Rach!

Here is me and my London postcard…as this is my first year living in London.

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I can’t pinpoint one person who inspires me as I am lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of amazing people. I get inspiration from them all as well as complete strangers who are brave or kind or change the world in their own little way.

My main inspiration in life is my dreams, what I want to achieve, what I hope to achieve or even dreams of the perfect shoes, the perfect date or the perfect holiday…these hopes and ambitions are what drives me in life.

And lastly anything that makes me smile :).

Lots of love

Charlotte xxx

Thank you ladies – let’s have a gass about this later :).

You may remember my post about the Sardinian wedding. Veronica is my next-door desk neighbour and gets the brunt of my 60 Postcard ramblings. Boy – does she deliver the goods. My sound board, my shoulder to cry on and she has ideas a-plenty.

I made a mistake when I said that all of these people were work friends. Forget the ‘work’ bit – they are true friends.

By the way – Veronica tells me (and now you) that we are in for 29 degrees today – do NOT wear a coat on the tube.

Whether you see a show, a musical, a gig or you just chill out with your friends/family/partner – have a great week.

Speak to you soon,

Postcard obsessive and believer in daytime dancing,

Rachael xx

Letter from the kids:

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Hey Connor! Yes, I didn’t want to keep my thoughts bottled up, which is why I started this blog. I was a bit scared but now I have heard from so many people who have related to it – I think it was worth it. I hope the new term at school goes well! Rachael :).

A Welcome Home, Photo Fun and the Modern Day Jester

imageTo follow the story from the beginning click here.

Saturday morning was a great one. Off I went to Gatwick, no hand luggage in sight. I was delighted to enjoy a drama-free tube journey too! Luckily it was early morning travel time and as I sat in my quiet carriage, I began my Blue Peter style ‘Welcome Home Dad’ sign. (Still awaiting Blue Peter badge).

On Dad’s return from his trip to Canada (with Mum’s brothers), he assumed only Sarah would be there to pick him up. Hannah and I had come along too. SURRRRPPPRIIIISSSSE! Not yet – we couldn’t even see exactly when his flight was coming in. A text from our Uncle Geoff then threw us even more (see video on my Facebook page!). We had many a minute wondering if we were actually at the right airport! Heathrow? Is this a joke? Thankfully Gatwick it was and we welcomed home a jet-lagged, slightly bemused and a very-excited-to-see-us Dad. It was a lovely moment. After the greeting we caught up over coffee and before long the gang were parting – they all headed back to Dorset as I skipped back to London Town.

On the Bank Holiday Monday I met my cousin and her daughter for a spot of lunch before they set off to Paris. Nicola was taking Amber on a girly trip for her 18th Birthday present. Before, during and after lunch with the ladies, I was bombarded with a large volume of pictures on a Whatsapp group named, ‘Funny photos.’ Oh, here we go. Sarah sis had come across some childhood photographs and they were more than a little bit amusing. I have done a little montage below of some that I have found. They make me so happy. My particular fave is the one of myself donning Dad’s balaclava. What the……! Back then folk wore them for cycling but perhaps I have always misunderstood? Cycling is when you borrow stuff from strangers houses without them knowing right?

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It made me realise that, especially with my bad memory, I am so glad that we can record the good times – the old times. Going through all of the photographs when Mum died was an extremely difficult task but one that really made me so grateful for my upbringing. Apart from a rare few where I have a face like thunder (this was probably due to the time of the morning that the photo was taken), I noticed that they were all full of grins and fun times. There has been a noticeable change to the amount of snaps I take since Mum passed away. I don’t want to miss a moment. I am almost certain some of my friends on good old Facebook will think that I put far too many albums up. Well I don’t think so. Unfortunately I realise that later on in my world, I have little of Mum and I together. I wish I’d taken so many more, but how was I supposed to know what would happen?! We have some great family shots though. I think this example below gives you a real insight into how serious we are as a family:

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Moving from photos to videos again – we are now back to the Monday arvo and meeting Nic and Amber before their Parisian trip ahead. (I can’t lie – I was SO jealous.) We were off through the station when we passed the piano. The piano that sits patiently and awaits a stranger to come and play it. I absolutely love wandering past and seeing a different musical maestro playing for St. Pancras station passers-by each time. The person I heard on Monday made me stop for longer than I ever have. He was not just passionately playing the piano – he was beat-boxing on top of it. I was completely in awe and recorded a video (on my Facebook page again).

I dropped the girls off at The Eurostar departure point and went back so that I could find out who he was – I had to. We only chatted for 30 seconds as I didn’t want to interrupt his flow. ‘Modern Day Jester’ is the name that he goes by and we have since been in touch about him being on here. I think he is even going to take part in Project Inspire which would be great because he really did inspire me.

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So there we have it – the importance of capturing moments by camera and video. Lucky that with our world of smart phones, it is just so easy to do. I can’t do anything about not taking enough in the past but I can definitely make sure I don’t miss a trick in the future.

Have a fantastic day – get snap happy.

Rach xxx

Keep your project inspires coming in – 60postcards@gmail.com.

Letters from the kids:

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Hi there Ethan! I am chuffed you think that I have a trait of my Mother. I would absolutely love to be like her. It is exciting to hear that you would like to become an author and that you are so keen to develop skills. Go for it! Thank you, Rachael 🙂