Tag Archives: Wokingham

Nellie Knows : The Wokingham Paper : 27 March 2015


I was thrilled to be asked by the Editor if I would like to be a columnist for The Wokingham Paper, the new weekly paper for Wokingham.  Of course I jumped at the chance!  Here is my first column which was printed on Friday 27 March 2015.  The paper is now weekly and you can pick it up for 50p from shops and newsagents across the Wokingham Borough.


“It’s a time of new beginnings with a new paper for Wokingham, the clocks going forward, the Easter holidays are fast approaching and gardens all over Wokingham are showing signs of fresh new shoots and lush green grass. What’s not to be happy about?

We really are very lucky living where we do and Wokingham is often quoted as being one of the best places to live. Having lived in the borough all my life I will have to agree. I grew up in Hurst when Dinton Pastures was just fields which subsequently became gravel pits when the aggregate was used for the A329M, now it is a hugely popular country park that attracts heaps of visitors yearly. I moved to Wokingham 25 years ago tempted by the bright lights and by the time I realised the bright lights were infact the level crossing lights it was too late and I’d already put down my roots in the town and it’s where I am raising my family.

The town centre is going through many changes and I would urge you to get involved and have your say. I’m a big fan of independent shops that give a little bit more and I assure you the town IS still open, yesterday I spent 2 hours after school running errands in town and picking up bits, not only did the shopkeepers welcome thecustom they also gave the customers some good old fashioned customer service with a smile. And that to me means a great deal.”


Popped into John Wood Sports to pick up a stud spanner for one of the girls’ football boots, whilst there they asked about the football teams the girls played for and supported. One of my girls plays for Ashridge Park U14s and one of them plays for Wokingham & Emmbrook U10s and are undeniably proud of their clubs and their achievements. Back in the day girls didn’t play football so it is refreshing to see so many girls getting involved and my husband is often badgered to go into the garden (or next door to retrieve a ball) or the park for the girls to practice their skills.

Books and reading

One of the great pleaures of my childhood was reading. I grew up on a diet of Famous Five and Mallory Towers, then I started reading pony books and the Flowers in the attic series. I still read loads and review books for authors and publishers which has introduced me to many great authors. A number of our local book shops and libraries have author events which are hugely enjoyable and very popular. I regularly keep an eye on Wokingham Libraries, Bookends and Chapter One website and Twitter feeds to see who is coming along and over the coming months I will be arranging a number of events which you will be able to learn more about in this column.

One of my hobbies is shopping, not just for buying new things but also finding new things and am often asked where I find things. Quite simply there’s loads of places to look and in supporting local shops I am playing a small part in keeping our town centre alive. Sometimes it might be considered easier to buy something online because it could be cheaper but when you add in the P&P and the time spent finding out how to reclaim your parcel if you are not in then that all takes time. My children often (regularly) complain that I spend too long in shops but I like the personal touch.

Food and drink

According to my friend Fiona I cook like her Welsh Nana cooked, which is opening the fridge to see what’s there and then creating a tasty and wholesome meal for all the family. If she times it right I will send her home with a dish of food for which she is grateful for (funny how she always manages to time it right!). I’m a big fan of slow cooking and have known Netherton Foundry for some years, they have a great range of cast iron cookware which can be found in Robert Dyas as part of the Theo Paphitis SBS selected items. Just this morning I threw in some tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic and carrots together with some mince and seasoning so that by the time the children are home from school or clubs, the homework is done and the kit required for the following day is located I can just lift the lid of the slow cooker and supper is ready.


Maui Jim Open Day at Leightons Opticians, Wokingham


IMG_6121 copyOpen your eyes to a world ruled by the sun, sand and sea.  It’s a view you get used to.  It’s also a view worth protecting.  Here, your eyes need shielding from damage, fatigue and sensitivity  So you can take it all in.  And see things for the first time again.  Aloha, world.

Last week I got an invitation to the ‘Special Maui Jim Open Day’ at our local opticians Leightons.  Sadly I can’t go but if you are interested in hearing more then why not pop along to Leightons Opticians in Wokingham on Saturday 25 April between 1030 and 3pm.  There will be a signature glass of Hawaiian cocktail, ambient music, a photo opportunity with their 2015 Maui Jim sunglasses collection and a special Maui Jim goodie bag.  Not only that but if you pop in and try on a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses you will be entered into a prize draw to win a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses.

We were only in the opticians on Wednesday when Laree was told she didn’t need glasses, but following on from a chat with Mike of Myddfai (who used to be an optician, now lives in Wales and knows the Wokingham staff – small world!) I said I would pop in and say hello! In we went and Jackie the receptionist asked if I was coming to the event on Saturday to which I replied that I was unable to but I will tell everyone – hence this blog.

I’ve got 3 pairs of Maui Jim sunglasses, 1 I always wear, 1 in the drawer when I can’t find the other pair and 1 in the drawer that has a broken arm.  I wear them all the time as I can’t bear squinting and also I am big into eye care after I burnt myself badly when skiing years ago (before I found Maui Jim) and Big Welsh’s late sister had eye cancer.  I’m not bothered about the crows feet or facial wrinkles, wearing sunglasses is a necessity.  Mike told me “I swear by Maui Jim and wear them all the time due to their 100% UV A, B and C protection and fantastic polarisation, they’re great for skiing and as a keen fly fisherman I would’t wear anything else“.

I wear mine whenever the sun shines – in the garden, driving, skiing, walking – whenever and there’s 5 good reasons to wear sunglasses – because you’re exposed to more sunlight than you think (taken from the Maui Jim promotional material)


1.  UV Protection

The sun’s harmful UV rays can lead to serious and in some cases long-term health issues, including photokeratitis (sunburn on the eye’s surface, pterygium (growths on the eye), cataracts and macular degeneration.  Sunglasses that do not provide UV protection can cause more damage by shading the eye – causing the pupil to dilate and allow in more harmful UV rays.

2.  Skin Cancer

5% to 10% of skin cancer occurs around the eyes.  Always wear quality, protective sunglasses when outdoors – whether working, driving, running, playing or watching sports.

3.  General Eye Comfort

The sun’s brightness and glare interfere with comfortable vision and the ability to see clearly, causing squinting, eyes to water and possible headaches.

4.  Dark Adaptation

Spending even a relatively short time in intense sunlight can hamper the eye’s ability to adapt quickly to night time or indoor light levels and make driving at night difficult and even hazardous.

5.  Blue-light protection (HEV: high energy visible radiation)

Use outdoor lenses that absorb the HEV as accumulated exposure has been associated with AMD (age-related macular degeneration.

Wow, I certainly didn’t know all of that!

What I do know is I am very happy with my Maui Jim sunglasses.  They are warranted for two years from the date of purchase against any defect in the materials and workmanship.  Nose pads and temples are free for the life of the frame.  They’ll repair or replace (at their option) any pair of Maui Jims found to be defective – exclusive of damage caused by damage or improper or unreasonable use!  And now I know that they offer an unequaled repair service with fast, three day turnaround for most repairs I am even happier!

So I’m smiling and my eyes are protected.


Disclosure:  I have not been given anything to review for this blog post.  Regular visitors to my blog will know that Cancer has affected my family and friends.  As a result I am concerned about eye health and therefore appreciate the benefits of wearing sunglasses.

Commuter tales


Years and years ago I used to commute from Wokingham to London, first to Shad Thames and then to near Bishopsgate. We used to get on the train at Wokingham (smoking carriage as was back in the day) armed with The Wokingham Times, the Today paper and a book. It was like a travelling library as we all shared books and would ask for recommendations. After the initial morning greetings and bums on seats we’d settle into a routine of working, reading, applying make up, lighting up, chatting and mentally preparing for the jostle at the other end. 

Workplaces were varied and some would head off on the tube, drain, bus, walk or (if I was lucky and timed my arrival to coincide with the boss) taxi. Well there had to be some perks to leaving home at 715am!  Due to the fact we were smokers (and therefore social pariahs) we would sit in 1 of the 2 smoking carriages on the train and over the years built up quite a rapport, so much so we’d pick up books and belongings if anyone left them behind and would wake fellow commuters up if they fell asleep and were nearing their station. 

We knew everyone. Lots of commuters had nicknames. There was Fluffy who was wildly good looking and had curly hair, Captain who was in shipping, looked like Captain Birds Eye and smoked a pipe, Jean who we called Jean Shrimptom for no other reason than we could, Fenchurch Annie who worked in Fenchurch Street, well you get the picture!

Birthdays were always good fun as we would have fizzy intoxicating liqueur on the way to work and then on the way home. If the trains were delayed we’d head to Bonapartes and drink ourselves stupid until the trains behaved. They were sociable days!

Catching the last train home was when we ran for our lives, no one wanted to be stranded at Waterloo!  As young twenty something girls we felt safe and looked out for. If some drunken driveller invaded our space there was always someone who would move to our rescu and be a buffer to unwanted beer breath. 

Some of the friends from the train are still friends years later, one is Mook’s Fairy Godmother, one had a wedding we all went to – actually her wedding was like a birthday journey minus the ticket collector. 

Travelling to London for Gavin Collinson’s book launch on Thursday reminded me of my commuting days and whilst it was lovely to be back in the throb and thrall of a commuter carriage I don’t miss those days, but I’m glad I met the friends I did on the 724. 

Memories of Dougie Thompson


Last Thursday at 3pm the phone rang, it was an unknown number and I toyed with not answering it. However I did.

Hello it’s Tim (my old sergeant).
Me:  Oh hello Tim, how are you?
Tim:  I’m good thanks, are you going to the funeral tomorrow?
Me:  Whose funeral?
Tim:  Dougie’s.
Me:  What time and where? I’ll be there.
Tim:  1130am at St Paul’s, the procession is leaving Corner Garage at 11am
Me:  See you there

You see I couldn’t not go as Dougie had been one of the characters from my youth, one of those people you met and never forgot.

Dougie was a local boy who was born in a cottage in what was once fields in Woosehill, he was related to William Charles Arthur Smith who later became town mayor and who Smith’s Walk was named after.  A close knit family with huge links to the community.

Back in the day Dougie was at Reading Collegiate and when he was offered an apprenticeship at a big garage in Reading he stayed loyal to his roots and worked in the family business.  Dougie had 2 sisters Mary and Henrietta and his father gave them each a plot of land where they built homes and raised a family. Dougie was married twice and I only knew his second wife Lorraine because they owned the field next to us in Hurst where they first kept goats and then ponies.

Imagine as a child meeting a man with flowing locks, sideburns and an ill fitting t shirt, in a field with his wife and small son, a blonde cherubic little boy whose eyes never strayed from his father when he was talking. Dougie was so unlike anyone I had or have ever met. He always had time for us. He would park his car in the drive next to ours and would always say how you getting on? He mended the fences that were beaten down by the golfers eager to retrieve their stray golf balls. One day he ran across the field with us children struggling to keep up with him and he shouted at the errant golfer, one such golfer had a hooped earring and he said that real men don’t wear jewellery. This from someone with a ripped and oiled t shirt.

As the years went by we spent less time hanging around in trees and ditches but Dougie was always there, he would greet us with a smile and tell us tales, reminding us of a slower pace of life.  I mentioned we had goats in the field next door belonging to Dougie to a friend who was a PC in Twyford and he said oh yes Dougie, everyone knows Dougie.

Everyone did know Dougie.

When I joined the police and a tow truck arrived to remove a vehicle out jumped Dougie, with his trademark smile and no nonsense approach the vehicle was loaded up and off it went. My crew mate asked who that was, my response was simple. That’s Dougie. Nathan his son joined the business in 1998 and in 2001 he became Dougie’s business partner. Father and son.

Over the years I heard news of Dougie but I didn’t see him much. When I was told by Tim that he moved to a residential home nearby I should have visited him, but I didn’t. When I was told he had died there was no way I could miss his funeral. I changed my plans and apologised to my daughter that we would still go out for lunch but it would be at 1pm and not noon. She nodded and said that’s ok knowing that my past is a treasured part of my life and ultimately shapes her future.

Turning up to the church in very good time the car park was full so I parked on the road. Walking back to the church car park I was met by people who were walking down to the Corner Garage. For Dougie. In the car park I met Tim and a number of long retired officers. As I stood in the car park with people who inspired me to join the police I felt a sense of community. We were all there for one reason. For Dougie. It was therefore a fitting tribute to Dougie that he had a police escort on his final journey, it was equally fitting that people stopped what they were doing to turn and watch this local community character on a stretch of road that he knew so well.

Walking into the church there was a sea of faces, some I knew by name, some I knew by face, some I had no clue who they were but like us they were there to celebrate the life of this unique man who had time for everyone. For Dougie. The order of service had photos of Dougie with his beaming smile and one with his trademark t shirt, the hymns were perfect All things bright and beautiful, Guide me oh thou great redeemer and Abide with me. When Nathan his son stood up to speak the congregation all turned to see him. I’d not seen Nathan for years and the cherubic blonde haired boy had been replaced by a proud man who so resembled his father and whose words said it all.

How you getting on?
The favoured salutation of an exceptional man.
A man who had NO acquaintances only friends, even if he hadn’t met them yet.
A man whose arms’ power could persuade the un-persuadable yet provide the warmest most gentle sanctuary for whomever needed.
A man whose mischievous behaviour proved most infectious. A man with hands big enough for his “thumbs up” to near rival the warmth and sincerity of his smile.
A man with devotion and loyalty to motivate risk to flesh to protect family or friend.
Infact a man with strength multiplied by the need or vulnerability he found himself witness to.
Step near this man and feel the warmth of the summer sun, realise then it is just the warmth of his compassion and this man shone brightest amidst the company he loved.
How you getting on?
The favoured salutation of my father. To hear him say it was to watch him glow, once in his company he’d beg “don’t go”.
How you getting on?
My father’s salutation – now favoured by many.
Yet my father favoured no valediction and I leave it so.
Dougie Thompson
A friend to all, a father to three, a brother to two others, a man to be admired and I’m so proud, all of those to me.

Nathan’s cousin Andrea also gave a tribute and I learnt more about Dougie. I never knew he had stood over the body of a dead girl to protect her from passing traffic. I have goosebumps writing that. That was just the kind of thing Dougie would do.

I left the church and headed home. Calm and grateful. When asked how the funeral had been I said it was beautiful. I couldn’t think of what else to say. Nathan had done his dad proud. The next day I sent Tim a text saying I wanted to write about Dougie and Tim sent me Nathan’s number. I duly sent off a text to Nathan and was thrilled when I got a reply. On Tuesday afternoon I went to the Corner Garage and chatted to Nathan for hours (we could have chatted more!). Nathan showed me old photos of Dougie, of Wokingham back in the day when the pace of life was slower, of Nathan’s ancestors, of the community we live in and yet for some have no idea how it’s all linked to in today’s fast moving world, of the field next to our house. I had no idea that Dougie’s family were such pillars of the community. Dougie was never boastful. Dougie didn’t demand respect yet everyone respected him.

I’m very privileged to have grown up in a community that had local characters like Dougie and I am honoured that Nathan has shared his photos and memories with me.  To me Dougie was a man who had the field next to our house, a man who everyone knew and a man who hundreds turned out to say their final goodbyes to and I am privileged to say I was there.

Thank you Nathan for sharing your photos and memories with me – your dad was a special man.

Gifts for mother’s day (and my birthday)


My mother likes to remind me that I was born in the late afternoon on Mothering Sunday and chastises me still (at very nearly 46) for keeping her waiting.  All day!  Well back in the day there wasn’t much on the telly box and maybe I wanted to appear in time for a nice cup of the and a sandwich spread samwich!  So arrive I did and as well as having my official birthday I also feel that I own a little bit of Mothering Sunday as well!

The lovely children of the house have been asking me what I would like for my birthday and I have to admit I am a little bit stuck between deciding what I would quite like and what I really need.  So far I have come up with a watch and a docking station/charging/alarm clock combo but there are some things that I do like and I am sure that some of these ideas could be on any mother’s list.

I could really do with a new blender as mine is groaning under the weight of hearty soups I have recently been making, a whizzer or chopper would cut down on the time I chop but would involve more washing up and I would probably lose the whizzy bit so I will shelve those ideas for another time.  Besides Big Welsh has a birthday in a few months and maybe he would like them?  The wok I bought him for Christmas was a great success after all!

Mook asked whether I would like some flowers from Georgie, well yes of course!  Doesn’t everyone want flowers on their birthday?  I particularly like Georgie’s creations because she grows most of them herself, Common Farm Flowers is a small British business with a big heart and I do like to support my friends.


Having just spent the evening at Nirvana Spa with my stepsister as an early birthday treat I would thoroughly enjoy a day of pampering and relaxing, there are so many treatments to chose from and to be honest who wouldn’t want to float around all day in a nice big bath robe wondering which lounger to lie on!


I’m not really a bag person.  I’ve yet to find a bag that I will actually use and use and use but I am rather partial to the bags at Pioneros and Cloudberry who I found via Country Wives.  My Mulberry purse is now 15 years old and is looking tired so maybe a new purse?  But saying that I do have a lovely green Ted Baker one with bobbles somewhere and I can’t for the life of me remember where it is and it does contain my Cath Kidston family and friends discount card so I must make an effort to find it as I am rather partial to the bedding!

Notebooks are also another favourite of mine and my very clever crochet friend Prettybea has sent me some notebooks from Bread and Jam which I love, Katherina from Ella’s Kitchen Company gave me a notebook which I also love and I do enjoy perusing stationery companies.


Jewellery is always a nice gift, I particularly like Rococo in Wokingham and often nip in to see Juliette and ooh and aah over the displays.  Despite having my ears pierced years ago I don’t wear earrings much but I do like the simple ones from JojoJewellery.


Sending a food gift is always a winner!  I am more than partial to Gower Cottage Brownies, to be honest I don’t know anyone who isn’t – they’ve just not found them yet.  Kate is THE Brownie Queen.  Fact.  As it’s mother’s day the rule is that the mother should be treated to mugs of coffee at regular intervals to go with said brownies.


Then maybe a little glass of something with a fizz.  Last year Tiffinie came over for a fundraiser for The Brain Tumour Charity and HeadSmart and we sipped a dash of her Wiltshire Liqueur Blood Orange with Prosecco in the garden.


Or how about a fizzy red, yes you read it right fizzy red, I like the Vultu from Zotta Deli.


I’m very fond of the Gordon Castle Gin and Angus has suggested mixing it with Fever Tree tonic – what’s not to love?


I love giving books to people and equally love being given books.  As a supporter of small local independent book sellers I don’t mind being given a book token so I can go and choose a book myself.  I am not averse to vouchers as they are such a convenient gift to send and can bring hours of pleasure perusing and choosing what you would really like.

Books really are my thing and when I see a book I remember where I was when I was reading it.  Another way to hold memories is with a Treasure Pod from the amazing Jane Rafter.  I have one with a birth stones and charms.  What would you choose?


Smellies and candles are another firm favourite and the world is full of gorgeousness.  I love Jo Malone MBE’s new range Jo Loves and the fragrance discovery gift experience is an ideal gift, it is easily wrapped up and can be put in a pretty padded envelope from Hunter Gatherer.  I was fortunate to have facials over the years from Tracey Malone who started her own business called Lubatti which has the most glorious bath oils and skincare range.  Last year I found Noble Isle who have a delicious range of products that I am also fond of.

Being a spring baby I obviously feel the need for people to wrap up so have given a number of friends bobble hats from Forage Somerset as well as Powder gloves available from Ty Cariad in Brecon.

Of course keeping hands warm also looks after hands so I use Niki’s Warming Balm which is quite frankly gorgeous smelling and warming.

But what I love most about Mother’s Day and my birthday is that I get to spend it with the most precious people in my life


and I know that come what may I will always be there for them, laughing with them


and even though I might embarrass them


I will always love them and I will always be their Mummy.

Village life


I grew up in a village called Hurst, near Reading and Wokingham in Berkshire. Back in the 70s it had very few pavements and no street lights. Life was very easy then and it didn’t seem to rain.

We lived in an old forge, close to the pub (of which there were lots) with fields behind us stretching as far as the eye could see. We used to ride on the fields, part of which became a golf course and country park. When the fields were being dug up the lorries carrying the gravel to the A329M used to rattle past the house on a regular basis.

With no public transport we rode or cycled everywhere, carefree, we used to amble on horseback for hours or scuttle off on our bikes – no cycle helmets and flared dungarees flapping in the chains. Danger didn’t seem to exist in our childhood, all we knew was we needed to cross the B3030 or A321 safely, don’t talk to dirty old men with boiled sweets, be home on time and go somewhere safe if the Broadmoor alarm sounded and it wasn’t Monday at 10am. And the sun always shone.

The village had lots of large houses with sweeping lawns and grand driveways where we used to play with our friends or grandchildren of the owners, sometimes we would have to sit quietly whilst the grown ups chatted and drank tea out of dainty cups with tea leaves. Apparently famous people lived in the village but they were just people we knew and we were never star struck. A regular visitor to our friends was Christopher Biggins who we saw a lot of, his laughter filled a room. I remember the fist time I saw him on telly and was gobsmacked – there was someone I’d had lunch with and he was on the telly!

I went to the village school for a time and hated it. Maybe my experiences would have been different had my father not died when I was 9 and I was bullied for not having a father, who knows, but I did use my bullying experiences in the assemblies I gave when I was in the police. My brother went to prep school at the age of 7 and I missed him dreadfully, I wanted to go too!

My brother and I used to get into scrapes together and then lose our voices whilst staring at the ground. One day we were climbing over the hay bales and Amy from the pub came round to shout at Mum. Blimey she could swear and loudly. Mum stood by the fence with us either side, keeping us out of sight, whilst we were taking it all in. After that we were even more wary of Amy who could easily have been a Dickensian character.

There were 2 shops (Bagleys and the village shop), a butchers, another shop that became the newsagents for a while and a petrol station. And pubs. Lots of pubs! The Cricketers is now long gone but there’s still 4 left. Speaking of cricket there’s a cricket club where I met Big Welsh, we had joy we had fun, we had seasons in the sun! We got married at the village church where my father’s funeral was and where Mook was christened.

Shortly after meeting Big Welsh I saw the bright lights of Wokingham and before I could scuttle back to my childhood home in the village I had bought a house. It was only after being stuck in a traffic jam that I realised the bright lights were infact the level crossing, but too late I had swapped my small, sunny village life for a life in a market town.

What’s not to like?


I like nothing better than finding a shop or website that grabs my attention and makes me want to look inside! 

On one of my daily hourly checks on Twitter I found @2Littlebirdz with a lovely website showing lots of lovely things that I would like to buy, give away or keep for myself.

How can anyone resist this bio “Two Little Birdies are purveyors of lovely stuff old & new for the modern vintage home.  An inspiring online emporium filled with home decor & accessories”.  Clearly I couldn’t.


 I started with the photo frames, because it’s Christmas coming and there will be family needing presents, memories being made and places needed for cherished memories.  (Christmas this year will be more special because this year my step sister and her 2 children will be in the UK and I’ve not seen them for 10 years since we spent Christmas Day in Coffs Harbour – but that’s another story for another time!). 

I now have this frame on my bedroom wall with a very old photo of my lot, but it’s a fabulous photo and the the frame does it justice!



Of course I was also going to be drawn to the ribbon, every well dressed present needs to be finished off with ribbon – especially as it has Labradors on it!

The very lovely thing about Two Little Birdies is they are based in Wokingham and said they could deliver to me the next day, that’s what I call the personal touch!

At the appointed hour there was a knock on the door and the normal stampede to see who it was and who could open the door first, I think I won that round!

My shopping was so beautifully wrapped and presented that seemed wrong to unwrap it!  Froths of crisp white tissue paper tied up with string.  What’s not to love.

Of course you don’t have to just take my word for it, you could go and look at the website and drool for yourself!  Or you could sign up to their newsletter and follow them on Twitter, then you will know when their next open house is and you can see for yourself and meet my new friends!

Talking of their open house has reminded me that I must nip back with a bottle of wine and my credit card to pick up those bits I put by!