World Space Week

My topical article for October was about World Space Week. It was fun to research something that didn’t fall into a health or history category!

It was fascinating to learn about not just the work NASA is doing, but the work being undertaken by private companies determined to help humanity explore deep space, colonise other planets and benefit from the resources the universe has to offer.

In our lifetimes, we may see a team go into deep space on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle that Lockheed Martin is building for NASA – opening up the universe and its secrets for us.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s Space X company is already shuttling cargo back and forth to the ISS, set to add crew members to its manifest as early as next year. The reusable rockets it’s working on could revolutionise the way we see space travel by making it much, much cheaper and convenient.

And if Planetary Resources have a say in the matter, we may also see the production of rocket fuel in space (from water-rich carbonaceous chondrites) and the mining of asteroids for precious metals.

NASA itself is not idle, of course, intending to investigate the Kuiper belt and deepen our understanding of ice dwarfs and how they evolve.

As for me, I’m torn between thinking these billions could be better spent here on Earth and acknowledging that many technologies developed for space eventually benefit people right here – and that, with the state of the Earth already, perhaps planning for safe boltholes is an entirely sensible option.

If you’d like to delve deeper, why not visit the World Space Week website yourself, which has links to the projects and companies at the forefront of space technology and exploration.

This Month’s Health Column Sept 17

Long time no see, little blog, yet I have a host of unfinished posts lurking… never mind. I’m back with some brief news about this month’s health column. That’s the one published this month, not the one I’ve written this month. I work three months ahead on these, so sometimes I need to check what’s out at the moment!

This month’s column is on organ donation because Organ Donation week started on Monday the 4th and because organ donation is so tremendously important.

Want to know a horrible fact that really proves how shallow a race we are?

96% of us would take an organ if needed. Yet only 29% of us are on the Organ Donor Register.

It’s a little hypocritical, don’t you think? And yes, before someone shouts at me, I do know that a (very) small proportion of people can’t be organ donors. But even so.

Imagine, for a moment, getting the call that tells you someone you love has been in an accident and that they need a transplant – or visualize the scene in a doctor’s office as you’re told that you or a loved one has some dreadful condition for which the only permanent cure is a transplant.

Now imagine spending months in a hospital because there aren’t any organs available, while around you, every day, people with usable, healthy organs that could save the life of your child, parent or partner die, destroying and wasting those organs – all because they couldn’t be bothered to register as an organ donor. But of course, unless you were a registered donor yourself, you wouldn’t be in a position to wail and rail against the injustice of it all. The wheel turns…

So, if you’re not an organ donor, I urge you to not just think about it, but take action. In June 2017, when I wrote the article, there were 6342 people on the UK national transplant waiting list. Three people die every day in the UK due to a shortage of donated organs. Signing up many more donors may not eradicate that problem, but it could help.

Here’s a pic of one version of the published article and underneath, some info you might need if this has made you consider registering as a donor. Don’t forget that you can become a live donor too; there’s more info on that on the websites I’ve listed below.














How to Register as An Organ Donor

You can register online at You can also join the Register at your GP surgery or when you apply for a driving licence, European Health Insurance card (EHIC) or a Boots Advantage card.

Wales adopted a soft opt-out policy in 2015, which means that if you do not opt out of organ donor registration, you are presumed to have no objection to being a donor.

How to Donate Organs or Tissues as A Living Donor:

To donate organs,  contact the transplant centres. Numbers are available here

To donate tissues, Contact the National Referral Centre on 0800 432 0559 (Freephone) or Email:

For more information, visit: (Scotland) (Wales)

#Writer Beware: Not All Fame Is Good Fame

From time to time, people contact me to say how much they’ve appreciated one of my health columns. It’s nice to get those emails, social media messages or comments via the website; I like to feel the articles are being read and that they’re helping people. If one of my columns has been published in a local magazine, I sometimes get some rather lovely pleasant face-to-face feedback, too.

However, I was reminded recently that my control over how my humble Word documents are transformed into printed articles in magazines is limited – and that not all fame is good fame…

“They’re talking about your article!!” chirruped a Facebook message from a friend last month. I frowned at her link, which was to a post on the FB page of a local village. What was that image? Why were they laughing about my article? I squinted. Wasn’t that a picture of the short version of my article, printed in a local magazine?

I leaned closer. Why had somebody drawn a circle around th-


World Blood Donor Day Blooper

No. I don’t know how that made it to print, either.

I went straight on the internet to see if I could find digital versions of other print magazines in which it might have appeared.

Phew! Luckily, the article has appeared in other publications with a less embarrassing graphic. People in Birmingham and various parts of Yorkshire have been spared potential blushes, as have many others across the blood donor day 3

Unfortunately, people in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire weren’t so lucky. I would apologise, but honestly, that side of it is nothing to do with me!

The moral of this story? Never write an article with a title that could be turned into something dubious by a graphic designer’s one-letter typo. It’s certainly made me give my titles a second look…


I Know What I Wrote This Summer

Despite my current hankering for fiction and the fact that I’ve got a new novel on the go, I do still enjoy writing non-fiction – particularly when I get the chance to research topics that are new to me, or to delve more deeply into subjects I know little about. When the articles are diverse, it’s even more fun -and it’s good to not always write about health and wellbeing!

Over the summer, I wrote about all sorts.

Roger Bannister 1

Roger Bannister.

The Pomodoro Technique.

Granite (seriously. I called it Fourteen Gripping Facts about Granite, but they changed the title. You can read it here).  Various types of non-surgical cosmetic procedures.




Drones snip

The Honours List.

The Small Merchant Taskforce.

How businesses can go green. Why businesses should go green.

How business owners can avoid stress.




The WI Centenary.

I also edited a coffee table book on a company’s history and another about angels, and wrote articles for the winter about International Mountain Day and New Year traditions, as well as the usual health column offerings.




Tax and Formula One.
This week, I’ve written about Harry Potter and business broadband, and it’s only Tuesday.

That’s a good start to the week!



A Summer Full of Health (Articles)

Every writer likes a regular gig and I’m lucky to have a few. My regular health column is written for the Discover magazine group but syndicated all over the place, so I’m never sure where it will turn up – or when!Have a Healthy Holiday 1

This article on the right is from last year, but I notice it’s doing the rounds again this year. This makes no difference to my finances; once it’s gone and I’m paid for it, it’s gone, because that’s the nature of the deal I have. But it’s nice to see it about.

I write the column around 10 weeks in advance, so the articles that have appeared in the July, August and September magazines were all written in the spring.

Brace yourself pic

July’s column was on a topic I’ve written about before, and something I have experience of – orthodontic braces. In November my braces will turn three, and I’m really hoping they don’t make it to four! I’ve had some awful dentistry in the past, and eventually I was faced with either getting the damage fixed at huge expense and still having potential problems and crooked teeth, or having the damaged teeth removed and all the others moved so that the gaps disappear – for just a little more. I knew it could take two years, but three was more than I was bargaining for. It’s been worth it though, and the end is in sight.

However, this article wasn’t about my personal experiences. It looked at the advantages of orthodontics and the available options. The image on the left shows a shortened syndicated version with a truly scary picture (nothing to do with me!).

Why Breast is Still BestAugust’s title was ‘Why Breast is Still Best – But Not Compulsory’, timed to coincide with World Breastfeeding Month. I covered the benefits for both mother and baby – hopefully including a few that some people weren’t aware of – and looked at some of the myths and misunderstandings that discourage new mums from even trying it.

The longer version included a selection of personal experiences and comments that I gathered when surveying friends and friends of friends – it’s good to get a real-life perspective on these things!

sitting 2

Sitting down was the theme this month – but the article wasn’t about how dangerous a lack of regular exercise is (although of course, Exercise Is Good).

It was about the dangers of sitting for prolonged periods, regardless of whether you train for marathons in between those three-hour TV binges – because sadly those marathons mean very little if you spend hours sitting. Strange, unsettling, but true.

I was aware of some of the research, but looking into it more deeply certainly made me think about my work patterns. I go for at least one walk every day and subject myself to some form of torturous, thigh-killing exercise once or twice a week; but it’s very easy to sit at the computer for hours when you’re a writer, and working from home means you have to discipline yourself to take regular breaks and go walkabout. Nobody else says, “Coming for a cuppa?”

But of course, these articles have all begun to fade in my memory because in writing terms, they were over and done with long ago; October and November’s columns are already written, so Psoriasis and Movember are coming soon to a magazine near you.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for my editor to confirm which of my pitches she wants to choose for December’s column. Hmm… that’s a timely reminder that the month is flying by and I need to give her a nudge. December’s column won’t write itself, and it needs to be in Monday week… *scribbles note to self*

If you’re a writer, what have you pitched or published recently? Do tell! 🙂


A Fair Hearing in February

Apologies. The title of this post is a terrible joke based on two of my articles published this month. At least I presume they’ve both been published, because I can’t find one of them in any digital versions of magazines that usually publish me, but where they go is up to my Ed, so who knows :).

My health column this month was on tinnitus, because tinnitus awareness week was this month (2nd to 8th February). It’s a common misconception that tinnitus is ‘just’ an occasional ringing in your ears. Not so – it’s a lot more complicated and varied than that, and I wrote about it for three reasons. Firstly, Techie Husband suffered from it quite badly (not so much any more – I’ll explain why in a bit), as does Arty Daughter on and off; secondly, it’s a poorly understood problem that needs a higher public profile; and thirdly, I’d also recently gained a greater knowledge of tinnitus by pitching for (but narrowly missing out on) a contract to write three leaflets for the British Tinnitus Association aimed at children from different age groups.

Tinnitus pdf snip

Even though it’s still not fully understood, tinnitus appears to occur when our brain, used to filtering out superfluous signals (e.g. noise from humming refrigerators), finds itself not getting enough noise. It demands more information from our ears, and this is what triggers tinnitus. This phenomenon in itself can have other root causes, such as certain medications or illnesses. Of course, if your ears already don;t work as well as they should, your brain is aware that it’s not getting enough signals – and this is why people like Techie Husband, who have poor hearing, are more prone to tinnitus (particularly if, like him, they are missing specific frequencies or narrow frequency bands). Techie Husband has now had hearing aids for several months and it’s really made a difference. That’s great news because his tinnitus had been getting steadily worse, growing from a minor and occasional irritation into a major nuisance that made it difficult to relax.

So there’s the hearing reference. As for the ‘fair’… Fairtrade Fortnight is coming up soon. From 23rd Feb to 8th March there will be a host of events and promotions to spread the Fairtrade message, and to draw attention to this year’s specific theme – as I explain in this paragraph (from the short version of my article’.

This year, Fairtrade Fortnight’s nationwide ‘I See’ Campaign aims to ‘reinforce personal and emotional connections with Fairtrade’, making us more aware of how our shopping choices can have positive and profound effects on the lives of others, and helping us understand how Fairtrade benefits producers.
Claire Salundi, Project Manager for Fairtrade Fortnight, hopes the celebrity-fronted campaign will help consumers “understand more about what lies behind their everyday shopping and to make the connection between brewing a cuppa and someone’s son learning to read as a result.”


So I’ll leave you with this thought from my article:

The Power to Change the World Every Day’
By swapping your tea, chocolate or even your skirt for a Fairtrade alternative, you support farmers and producers in developing countries and Fairtrade’s campaign for a fairer, more sustainable food system.

“When you buy Fairtrade tea, I notice,” says Mario Mantagna, a Sri Lankan tea farmer. “Thanks to the premium price I get, we’ve been able to build a school in my village.” Proof enough that we really do – as Fairtrade says – have ‘the power to change the world every day’.