Hannah Seidl on the Beauty of Life

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One look at the hashtag on Hannah Seidl’s Twitter account says it all…#lovemyjob…and our chat with Hannah on Girls Do Coffee Ex-Pat Radio certainly confirmed that enthusiasm. When you see where Hannah works maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising that she loves her job so much.

Based in the Louvre in Paris, Hannah works as a part of their events and public relations team and, as such, is involved in activities such as the opening nights of exhibitions, the distribution of invitations and the organization of press conferences relating to events at the Museum.

Hannah’s love for her work and her surroundings is apparent from her vivid descriptions of the Louvre which, as the museum website reminds us (www.louvre.fr), was ‘for almost seven hundred years (…) one of the principal residences of the kings and emperors of France’. Hannah talks fondly of the terraces and courtyards, the larger-than-life statues, the lacework depicted in stone, reflecting on ‘the history played out here’ and it is clear that her heart really is in her work at the Palace.

Previously to working at the Louvre, Hannah brought her bubbling enthusiasm and highly-tuned motivation to her role as events manager for WH Smith, welcoming high-ranking authors such as Jonathon Coe, Douglas Kennedy, David Lodge and Anita Shreve (described by Hannah as ‘eloquent and generous’) to a range of book-related events in Paris.

Maybe it was this love of books which spurred Hannah on to gaining yet another feather in her cap, working as online community manager for U.S. crime author Harlan Coben in France. (http://www.harlancoben.com)

Coben’s novels (Just One Look, Fool Me Once, No Second Chance) have sold in their millions and have proved equally popular in France, with TV and film adaptations appearing on the mainstream French TV channel TF1. Fellow-presenter on Girls Do Coffee, Liz Garnett confessed to finding the film version of ‘Tell No-One’ ‘totally gripping’.

Hannah talked of author Harlan Coben in warm terms, commenting on his ‘authenticity with his fans’ at the Brussels Book Fair as he insisted not only on signing what must have been hundreds of books but also in agreeing to participate in much-demanded selfies with fans.

Listening to Hannah relate her experiences of living and working in the French capital for 17 years, it is of no surprise when she announces that ‘my true love is Paris’. Her affection for Paris, for the Musée Louvre, for the people around her, undoubtedly stems from Hannah’s ability to truly appreciate the intrinsic value of every moment. In her own words, she feels that it is essential to ‘take advantage of the beauty of life’ and that is a lesson that we can all take on board, wherever we live.

Deborah Alexander – www.reflective-writing-group.org


Instagram: @alexander_deborah

Twitter: @ReflectiveDeb

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Dress my Glory

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Gwen Jenner writes … Arriving at the salon, with my shapeless hairstyle insisting on a complete revamp, the busy girls enthusiastically welcome this owner of the now lack-lustre cut.

Haven’t we all sat in the comfy chair, twisting and wheeling it about in front of the mirror, craning our necks, whilst waiting for the hairdresser to attend to our dreams. Chez my local salon de coiffure it’s often a lottery as to how long the procedure will take. A walk-in establishment on the edge of town occasionally requires waiting; akin to an enforced meditation whilst watching the french social morays. This proves, more often than not, to be an informative experience. The variety of greetings, chit chat and self absorption give a peek into all manner of daily lives.

girls 2The mass of mirrors reflecting each customer along the infinite picture tunnels make you wonder …to whom … are you looking and smiling at. Briefly the memory of the fun fair’s hall of wiggly mirrors pops up where we’d giggle at our faces being stretched as big as a pumpkin and then squashed to the size of an ant’s head! In the salon might these glances confirm that all of us are either expectantly or masochistically being held here in the world of expert scissorhands?

Perhaps for some, and I know it to be so in this case, we’re awaiting a transformation from that rather uninspiring image before us into the magical pictures from the either accompanying magazines or red carpet beauties. Imagine if there was a band of stylists ready to mould yours truly into an elegant icon every morning or perhaps looking more civilized and functional at least. Surely those I meet would be happier to have their eyes tickled. Ha, what nonsense. The inside, our seemingly immeasurable characters are what matters even if our exteriors may reflect what’s happening internally. Still, I love the new hairdo created by the stylist, a middle eastern beauty. This hairdresser, with her long, coiled tresses framing an oval face that would grace a Syracusian mural from antiquity certainly made a customer happy.

girls 3It’s a million dollar feeling for a day or two. This’ll revamp the insides, keeping the crowning glory  shimmering temporarily atop high springing footsteps of delight.

As they say, beware a woman with a new hairstyle, ready to face life’s coal face, smile confidently and say yes to everything. Wonders will ensue and you’ll certainly hear them tuning into Thursday’s weekly  Girls do Coffee show on www.ex-patradio.com. Listen to Deborah Alexander, Liz Garnett and Gwen Jenner talk with Dave Hailwood and their guests to discover a multitude of stories amidst giggles and music.

Gwen Jenner – www.gwenjenner.com


Instagram: @gwen_jenner

Twitter: @gwenjenner

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Creative Coinage

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Deborah Alexander writes … The ‘Magic Penny’ song was a firm favourite at school when I was teaching primary age pupils. It was one of those songs that crept into your brain at assembly and then you just couldn’t shake it off for the remainder of the day.

Way back beyond those days, when I was around the same age and a pupil myself, we didn’t have songs like that. Our school was classic C. of E. so we stood up and sang ‘To Be a Pilgrim’ and ‘Glad That I Live Am I’. Or ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ if we really needed waking up.

But the Magic Penny song was from a broader church…it could apply to any child from any culture and its message was a positive one. Give love in order to receive love.

girls do coffee 6So what does this have to do with creativity? It’s something I’ve been giving some thought to for a while. You see, I’m writing a novel. I know, I know, everyone’s writing a novel. But I am. This is in addition to writing my own blog on Reflective Writing. Plus putting together guides for teaching English. Oh, and some poetry too. Then along came the Girls Do Coffee blog for Ex-Pat Radio. I started to panic … how can I keep coming up with ideas? I’m going to run out! But run out of what? Creativity? I realised that I was thinking of creativity as being a limited reservoir within and that, each time I wrote something, whether it was an article or a poem or a chapter of my novel, a little more creativity was leaking away.

But a strange thing happened. I realised that the more I wrote, the more I had to write. The more words and descriptions and characters poured from my pen, the more they popped to the surface in my brain. I wasn’t expecting this. But I should have done. Here’s what Maya Angelou has to say on the subject, and if you can’t rely on Maya Angelou for wisdom, who can you rely on?

‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’

Angelou’s words are as wise as you might expect from this revered author, but I have to say that they don’t have the earworm qualities of the Magic Penny song, written by Malvina Reynolds (yes, the very same that wrote ‘Little Boxes’ and ‘Morningtown Ride’, songs that were regularly heard on Family Favourites on the radio in the 1960s).

‘Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away,

Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t get any;

Lend it, spend it and you’ll have so many….’

I could go on. I still know it off by heart. You can find it on the internet if you really want to, but it comes with a warning … listen to this song once and you won’t ever be able to delete it from your memory bank. But then, with a message like that, why not?

When it comes to writing, I would like to suggest that the message could be just as relevant if we replaced ‘love’ with the word ‘creativity’. Obviously, it wouldn’t scan so well with the song. But hopefully you follow my meaning?

Saving up your ideas for that really important piece of writing (the best-seller!) is never going to work. It’s like never getting the bike out of the garage because you’re saving up your energy for the Tour de France. Just as the cyclist needs to get those wheels moving if he or she wishes to improve their speed or their mobility, the writer needs to keep getting those words out there, even if they are a little wobbly at first.

Before you know it, you’ll be sailing across the hills and valleys of a world of your own making, stories and poems, letters and articles flying by as you write.

Of course, few writers can produce output without input. Where are these Magic Pennies supposed to come from in the first place? Interviews with authors produce a variety of suggestions as to where to get your ideas. Mine, I know, overlap with many of theirs. Read…not in order to steal ideas but to feed your own imagination, to learn about the different ways a writer lays a story on a page, to carry out research and uncover the facts, the experiences or the memories. Listen…the teenager at the bus-stop, the pensioner in the supermarket queue, the tourists on the train…they all have a story to tell. A scrap of conversation could so easily turn into a story with a sprinkling of ‘What if…?’ And we at Girls Do Coffee know from experience that a chat at the airport or over the internet can lead to a fascinating interview on air.

girls do coffeee image National Writing DayWrite…whether your preference is the pen or the keyboard, get the words out there …even if you return later in the day (or year) to re-write or refine, just get those ideas or images or dialogues written down.

For more news on writing I suggest you make a note in your diary … 21st June is National Writing Day … so if you are interested in writing, or if you would like to encourage your children or pupils in the field of writing, there are events taking place in many areas of the UK involving authors and communities. Also, their website (www.nationalwritingday.org.uk) is full of ideas for you to try out.


But most importantly, like the song says, don’t hang on to that Magic Penny … ‘spend it, lend it and you’ll have so many …’… so what’s keeping you? Get spending!

Deborah Alexander – www.reflective-writing-group.org


Instagram: @alexander_deborah

Twitter: @ReflectiveDeb

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Pedal Power!

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Dust off your bikes and shake out those lycra shorts…it’s time to get pedalling. Not for the first time, willing volunteers will be getting into the saddle in aid of an extremely worthwhile cause that goes under the name of Cancer Support France. Now in partnership with La Ligue, CSF provides an invaluable service to cancers sufferers and their families who live in France. As with many associations the SCF relies entirely on the goodwill and the donations kindly received from volunteers.

The Girls Do Coffee show yesterday focused on publicising the upcoming Cycle for Life which runs from Thursday 22nd June to Sunday 25th June 2017.

girls do coffee CSF-LOGOOur plans to chat with Penny Parkinson, current President of the CSF, went awry but previous conversations with Penny made it clear that no-one would put a spoke in the wheels of the bubbling enthusiasm of the CSF supporters.

girls do coffee image - Chris Dowd CSFPrize for the keenest participant looks likely to go to Chris Dowd, for whom a cycle ride from Carcassonne in the Aude to Sète on the Mediterranean coast of the Hérault simply isn’t enough. He will be starting off from his home village in the Hautes Pyrenees and joining the other cyclists at Carcassonne before going on to Sète, making a total trip of 400 kms.

girls do coffee 3The planned CSF route this year is a stunner, beginning in the historic city of Carcassonne, passing through Narbonne with the beautiful Canal du Midi before touching the Mediterranean at Gruissan. It then follows the coastline through Saint Pierre le Mer, Valras Plage, Agde and Sète.

girls do coffee 3The Mairie at Sète have announced their intention to organize a reception to mark the arrival of the CSF riders, who have an ETA of approximately 17:00h on Sunday 25th June.

Not only is it a great cause but it’s a great social event…if you would like to participate there are of plenty of opportunities…cycling all or some of the way, helping with the organisation at the cycling stops or simply cheering on the riders as they pass. Donating is simple too…just go to the CSF website where you can give via Alvarum, Pay Pal or using bank or credit cards.

If you would like to play your part, the CSF website lists the contact details of the associations in your area. See you there!

Deborah Alexander – www.reflective-writing-group.org


Instagram: @alexander_deborah

Twitter: @ReflectiveDeb

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First World Challenges


Having the water supply to the house cut off due to a mains leak recently got me thinking about how we take everyday services for granted. My immediate response was to investigate the problem, phone the water company and neighbours and then, in true British style, put the kettle on with the remaining water and have a cup of tea.

None of this caused me to panic or to think the world was going to end because my routine had been disrupted or because of the inconvenience of having to buy bottled water to tide us over. I have survived far worse like having no hot water for a bath or a three day power cut in the depths of winter. These “inconveniences” just make life more interesting as they call upon my creative brain to think of solutions to the problem.

blogTake camping, for example. This form of holiday makes you truly appreciate everyday comforts. Particularly when you have a small tent and no fridge and the mercury has gone beyond 30°C. The skill here is finding meals to cook that don’t use a lot of pots and pans and can be created using a one gas burner camping stove. Not to mention buying food that won’t spoil in the heat. Then there is the washing and preparation of meat and vegetables and not having a sink close at hand. It is hard work but worthwhile as it makes me appreciate the creature comforts of home.

Of course there are more comfortable camping options like staying in a mobile home or glamping on campsites such as that of Jamie Fulton from La Vie en Rose. Jamie came on our show earlier in the year and told us about his luxury camping experience with proper beds and only five pitches on the campsite making it a very friendly and relaxing experience. The thought of a comfortable bed in a decent sized tent leaves me more than tempted to reach for the phone and book a fortnight.

blog 1For me, having challenges while we are on holiday make the whole experience an adventure and give us interesting stories to tell when we get back home. Yes, I do like to spend some of the time in a stress free environment like one of Jamie’s luxury tents but I also like to have the opportunity for things to go wrong. We now have stories to tell about a flooded tent; my airbed (which I was sure wasn’t my airbed) that kept deflating in the night; the brand new four person tent that was clearly only for two. What I have learnt from all of this is that when the chips are down we work incredibly well together, particularly when taking a tent down in the middle of a thunderstorm.

At the end of June we will be interviewing Andrew Bowie, author of Peloton of Two, about his book and cycle touring in France. This will be an opportunity to find out about Andrew’s camping experiences.

Liz Garnett – www.lizgarnett.com


Instagram: @lizgarnett_art / @lizgarnett_travel

Twitter: @lizgarnett / @travelphotouk

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What a Song and Dance!

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Who would have known? Tony Nyland, frequently on our screens in programmes such as Emmerdale and Shameless, and most recently as the postman in Coronation Street, has an alter ego of folk singer of some years’ standing. While Charles Hanson, real-life auctioneer and TV antiques expert from Bargain Hunt and Antique Road Trip, has a yearning for Strictly Come Dancing and has apparently attracted the nickname of ‘Twinkletoes’!

We were dancing with joy at the thought of entertaining both Tony and Charles on the Girls Do Coffee show on Ex-Pat Radio, and what a charming pair they were.

girls do coffee tonyListening to Tony Nyland’s new album, ‘Slowly to the Moon’, was like opening a picture-book of stories, taking us straight back into Tony’s Lancashire life, as youngsters picnicking by the river on sugar butties and ‘corporation pop’ (tap-water to the uninitiated!) or teenagers queuing up to get into the Buxton Pop Festival with their Party Sevens. Those stories, so ordinary and yet so extraordinary in their way, draw us all in as we identify with those iconic scenes which could be from our very own lives.

Brought up by his older brother after losing his parents at an early age could be deemed by some to be ‘a difficult childhood’. But Tony insists that this is not the case and his songs stand as witness. Tony writes and speaks with huge warmth and affection for his life past and present, and his songs resound with the same love of life.

Meanwhile, Charles Hanson took time from his busy life as auctioneer at Hanson’s Auction House to talk to Ex-Pat Radio by Skype. If you imagined that Charles spends every day touring the country in a vintage car and a snazzy blazer, then think again. His schedule keeps him very much on his twinkling toes but happily he enjoys every minute. His love of all things old comes across loud and clear, and has been in place for many years.

A childhood hobby of metal detecting in his parents’ fields turned up a silver coin from the reign of Charles I and turned our Charles into a life-long antiques enthusiast.

Describing himself as having been a rather a ‘lonely boy’ back then, this solitary figure has now found a permanent place in the hearts of us all. Who can resist the stories he weaves around the items that fall into his hands? It’s not just Charles’ toes that twinkle. His warmth and sparkling humour could persuade a recalcitrant Geordie with electric heating to buy a ton of totally unnecessary coal. We had so much fun chatting to Charles. I, for one, feel that some sequinned lycra from the Strictly set would fit him like a glove.

If you would like to hear Tony singing from his new album, ‘Slowly to the Moon’, he will be appearing at the White Lion in Swinton on Monday 4th June.

Charles is currently in talks with Ex-Pat Radio for an upcoming programme ‘Treasure Hunt’….watch this space!

Deborah Alexander – www.reflective-writing-group.org


Instagram: @alexander_deborah

Twitter: @ReflectiveDeb

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Chocolate Stiletto Party

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You too must have had that ‘deja vu’ feeling when particular festive days, in this instance, birthdays, come round again. Will it be different this year, how can I make it a memorable day for my friends or shall I just not bother with arranging anything. Rummaging in the memory locker recollections from decades ago pop up and you look at those instances with, at times, a calmer, more accepting eye or not.

In France birthdays dom’t aeem to be celebrated to the same extent as in Anglo Saxon countries. It may be on the basis, as I understand it, according to the church we were created in sin. Hence celebrating your saint’s day is more common. This though is altogether another story.

The week started with the anticipation of having a party to celebrate a birthday. Whilst still vividly remembering my sixth birthday party, the magician and his shiny top hat hiding the rabbit, the balloons, cake, school friends, treasure trove games, squeals around the table and garden, it was going to be a little different now.

Eek, this time I’d have to sort out the food, invitations, prizes and magician? Could have got a party planner she thinks! Too late.

Transported back to a school assembly when hearing the blackbird singing of a morning, the excitement of a six year old wasn’t going to get this party ball rolling. Who to invite, who’d want to come, what would they eat, would they get on with the others and we haven’t even mentioned either the weather or are there enough chairs?

A menu was planned, cheese croquettes with wild asparagus as a starter, roast lamb plus its accoutrements followed by a cheese course and pud. There was plenty of wine in the house, the balloons were inflated, with even a couple perched on the roadside house sign, and frivoulous streamers scattered from the beams. The household animals looked inquisitively at the goings on with the odd claw lunging out at the enticing curled paper frons plus a tug from underneath the heavily laden table cloth.

gwen 01The guests arrived with pressies and cakes and guess what the sun came out transforming the onerous grey limousin morning, what a joy. Everyone, in their best bib and tucker enjoyed meeting up with old and new acquaintances whilst the champagne bubbles and kitchen vapours whetted the appetites.

Admittedly, earlier in the day, there had been scenes in the kitchen à la Gordon Ramsay and now I was trying to transform myself into Nigella! The dogs had had a very close encounter with the croquettes, no not the bone shaped kind, and three of the red wines opened turned out to have been better used to clean the Ramsayesque engine room.

gwen 03We were all in full flow and having decided I could be six again the entertainment started with my painted donkey picture, pin the tail on his derrière, find the treasure on the map and guess the film from the drawings. Prizes were allocated throughout the evening, the guests’s wonderful offerings were unwrapped, jokes and squeals surrounded the table and yes it was magical. The ghost of the charmed rabbit was certainly present.

Close to midnight everyone tootled off home and I looked at the table ….. the last few decades came back with bump. What a pile of plates, glasses, sticky cake and stuff. By 1am this party girl was too tired to finish clearing up the last dregs. However, what a pleasure it was to have had such a fun evening and being able to make my guests happy. Putting away the plates, cutlery, wrapping paper and donkey settled the stories into their compartment ready for next year’s do. Call the party planner now perhaps?

Gwen Jenner – www.gwenjenner.com


Instagram: @gwen_jenner

Twitter: @gwenjenner

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