Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When Karen met Callie

Behind every great book is another story entirely, and I thought you might like to hear ours. If I had a pound for everyone who has told me I really should write a book about their life, I would now be reclining on my superyacht in a Heidi Klein bikini in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

So when I took a call one sunny Sunday morning in June two years ago from my lovely and very well meaning mother in law about a new book idea she had for me, I was a little sceptical.

Jean volunteers as a community car driver, ferrying people who can't drive themselves to and from hospital appointments. She had been chatting to a lady called Julia as she drove her to hospital. Julia was talking about her grandson Deryn and the remarkable recovery he was making following several years of illness and how much his mum Callie would like to write a book about him.

'My daughter in law is a writer and journalist, she's just written a book, maybe we should put them both in touch?' Jean volunteered. Julia agreed that it was a great idea. Jean could hardly contain herself and told me it would definitely be a bestseller. We chatted for a while longer and when she hung up, I went back to devouring the Sunday papers.

I couldn't get Deryn out of my head however, so I started checking out his story online. Sure enough, it stacked up to an amazing tale, a real triumph over tragedy which had already attracted quite a few headlines in the local and national press. I emailed Callie that afternoon to ask if she fancied having a chat about the possibility of working together on a book. She was overwhelmed and told me she had been waiting for something like this to happen. It seemed almost too serendipitous to be true. We kept in touch, and planned to meet up later that summer while I was visiting family in the UK.

I'll never forget the first time I saw her. We had arranged to have lunch together at a gastro pub in a small village near her home in Watton. I didn't really know what to expect but I had a warm feeling inside when this exuberant yet nervous bundle of smiles with bright pink hair walked towards me. Several hours later, we were still sitting there, my dictaphone running as she relayed the most amazing story of Deryn's incredible battle for survival to me. It's fair to say I was hooked from that moment.

She took me to meet her lovely mum Julia and a somewhat shy but utterly charming Deryn, together with his little brother Dylan and I drove back to Jean's that evening feeling like something pretty momentous had happened that day.

Callie and I knew we had an amazing story to tell but we had no real idea at that stage just how much it would captivate the rest of the world. All we knew was that it needed to be told, frankly and fully with no punches pulled, and that it might, just might, change attitudes towards alternative treatments for pain relief and critical illness. It was a huge risk for her to tell the story as honestly as she has done but it was never an issue for her.

You will have read, heard and watched much over the last 12 days about Deryn's inspiring and courageous story of survival but there is so much more to the The Boy in 7 Billion than the headlines and news stories of the last week or two. It's on sale from today so if you happen to walk past a Smiths or Waterstone's, please pop in and take a picture of it on the shelf for me.

Serendipity, fate, a it what you like, one thing I can tell you is that this book will restore your faith in hope, human nature and the goodness that is all around us if you look hard enough.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Three shots a day keeps the doctor away

Happy new year! After eagerly blurting out that I was going to be blogging regularly every week, it’s with some shame that I notice the last time I posted here was nine months ago. Oops.

In my defence, I have been very busy with some amazing new projects, helping to edit a wonderful book called And Breathe with Rebecca Dennis, which is now in all good bookshops and currently flying off the shelves, as well as writing another book which is being published this spring…more on that to come soon.

Fresh from an amazing New Year spent in Vietnam en famille, I’m kicking off 2017 with a timely little heads up for anyone who is feeling the effects of too much carousing, drinking and eating over the festive season.

As we checked into our hotel on the beach in the glorious and unspoiled south of Vietnam a couple of weeks ago, I spotted the spa and hotfooted it over to check out the treatments before even unpacking my case. A daily massage was included – a choice of shiatsu with bamboo, aromatherapy, Thai tiger or hot and cold stone EVERY day – what joy!

Then I spotted a little wooden sign on the spa reception desk. ‘Pick up your daily three shots at My Soul spa before meals’, it said. Wow, this is a forward thinking spa, I thought, who knew it was good to neck tequila before being manipulated by the tiny but amazingly powerful and talented masseuses?

These shots are as powerful as any tequila but they are also a whole lot better for you. The Balinese spa manager Yoman makes up a potent cocktail of different shots every morning aimed at boosting metabolism, immunity and detoxification, combatting ageing, reducing inflammation, improving skin tone, digestion and bowel function. Yoman has spent years setting up holistic spas in Bali and Vietnam and what he doesn’t know about how to get your body working for you isn’t worth knowing frankly.

We all signed up on the spot as it is something the Vietnamese, and other Eastern cultures, have been doing since time immemorium to keep the doctor at bay naturally. My favourite was the ginger, turmeric and lemon shot. The apple cider vinegar and honey shot was an acquired taste but the ginger, lemon and cayenne was also quite palatable.

Within a few days, I felt energised in a way I didn’t expect, and my body seemed to be working at an optimum level, despite the odd cocktail or glass of bubbly in the evening. I wasn’t the only one to notice a difference. Everyone else reported feeling energised, with improved bowel and digestion function and this was after just a couple of days.

The trick is to stick to one type of shot all day and not mix them up, but you can make three in advance first thing in the morning and stick the other two in the fridge. Who knows if I will keep it up but even if I can do a three or four days a week, it’s got to be better than nothing, right?

You can see my efforts from this morning here. To make three ginger, lemon and turmeric shots, I blitzed three lemons, a large knob of ginger, two capsules of powdered turmeric and a tiny amount of water to loosen the mixture (if you can find fresh turmeric root, even better.)

Like tequila, it’s best knocked back in one go, with a small glass of water afterwards if you need it. Let me know how you get on!