Dangerous Data and its Speedy Wheels

A man of many talents, our guest this morning John Stevens, furnished the Girls do Coffee show’s 54k listeners with a myriad of tales. Covering subjects such as racing photography and the dangers of standing with your camera at either Le Mans’ or Bahrain’s Formula 1 circuit edge, meeting the famous race-track faces plus Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Jackie Chan to the ease with which online search engines follow us and how data can be accessed proved very interesting and informative.


During the morning show with Dave Hailwood on www.ex-patradio.com Deborah @ReflectiveDeb, Liz @travelphotouk and Gwen @gwenjenner listened to John recounting the ins and outs of a sports journalist’s life on the race tracks. Things happened that we wouldn’t have considered, i.e., using almost all the European Le Mans Series. Round 2, Monza May 2017. Photo: John D Stevens.clothes he was wearing to protect the professional recording equipment from a sudden hailstorm to wearing a fireproof suit when pressing the button for a pit stop picture surrounded by unstable high octane fuel.

Life in France was a peaceful retreat from the frenetic world of data protection and worldwide travelling. The family’s Vislas, Gite guests, diving holidays, a veritable must for John and his wife Helen as qualified diving instructors not to mention taking their light aircraft out for aerial jNo50 LARBRE COMPETITIONaunts around France’s wonderful terrain gave us a glimpse into the Good Life.

We were glad to have had a fun morning asking about the thrill-seeking lifestyle and for those interested in finding out more about the photographic updates, products and services do take a look at: Sportscarglobal for all motorsport pics – Twitter: @sportscarglobal; Instagram: @sportscarglobaleditorial; email: pics@sportscarglobal.com; web:  www.sportscarglobal.com. For work/commissions etc. email:contact@johndstevens.co.uk, Twitter: @C6JDS Instagram: @vantagepix.

Gwen Jenner – www.gwenjenner.com


Instagram: @gwen_jenner

Twitter: @gwenjenner

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New Landscapes, New Eyes

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Deborah Alexander writes: I could be wrong. There might be scientists out there who are sent into transports of delight simply by looking at the periodic table. And why not? But, for me, it’s the map that combines practicality and imagination in such delightful unison.

No doubt for some, those lines on Googlemaps or Mappy do the job so why look for more? But for me it has to be the paper variety…the A to Z of London, the National Geographic fold-out special or, surely that great British favourite, the Ordnance Survey map. Who can resist the plethora of pathways, bridges and bridleways, rivers and ponds, the churches and chapels that the OS map offers up …all the while decoding the signs and symbols with the aid of the code-breaking legend at the bottom of the map, to find out if your church is with or without steeple. (Here in France, we have the OS equivalent, the IGN…originally l’Institut Géographique National, although it is now known as l’Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestière.)

deb alex3Many years ago, in a classroom far away, I distributed some maps to a class of ten year olds. I had hoped that that they would share my interest (apart from the fact that it was on the curriculum, so it was hardly a case of free choice) but I was delighted to find that their enthusiasm far outweighed my expectations. The twenty minutes allotted to looking at the maps came and went as they identified where they lived, found the recreation parks where they played and the canals where they fished. Their eyes travelled along every little pathway and cul-de-sac while grubby fingers jostled for position on the roads and streets of their home town. Half an hour went by and then an hour until, finally, their magnetic draw to the maps was only broken by the bell for break. They sighed in disappointment and reluctantly packed them away, as if I had called them back from embarking on a journey to far-off places. Hey…come back!

‘Can we do that again, Miss?’ one child asked. Of course he would do it again, over and over through his life, fighting the wind for control of the map as he tries to find a petrol station on the Yorkshire Moors, or sitting at the café in a French square, discussing with his girlfriend how to locate the museums and galleries of Aix-en-Provence, or standing at the kitchen worktop with his wife, working out the best route for travelling through Europe by camping car…or maybe by cycle, as in Andrew Bowie’s ‘Peloton of Two’, or even on horseback, like Mefo Philips and her sister in ‘Horseshoes and Holy Water’.

Maps spread out over the table, we smooth out the folds of their regular squares, notebook at the ready and guidebooks at hand, scanning the motorways that span the country from coast-to-coast, leaning in to trace a country lane or footpath or ….am I alone in finding almost as much pleasure in planning the route as in doing the travelling? For people like us, unfolding a map is like unwrapping a present. Who knows what we might find? Where we might go in our minds or in reality?

Maybe then we can sense a fraction of the enthusiasm of the map-makers and cartographers who, over the centuries, have attempted to capture and embody every geographical feature, every hill and valley, every river and ocean, packing them away into a paper version of what they have seen, making it accessible to even the most sofa-bound would-be traveller.

Whether trudging through jungles, compass and notebooks in hand (such as Colonel Percy Fawcett portrayed in ‘The Lost City of Z’) or flying low over hills and plains, filming and noting en route (as my uncle did in Malaysia after the Second World War), or even driving through the streets of cities in the infamous Streetview vehicle, man does his best to record his surroundings. Back and forth, measuring and re-measuring the globe.

But even today that work is still not complete.

When earthquakes hit rural areas, such as Nepal in 2015, the lack of accurate maps suddenly becomes of life-and-death importance. Fortunately, there are people like Nama Budhatoki who saw this need and had already thought of a possible solution. A solution which could accord vital information when a crisis hit and emergency aid was needed in the right place in the shortest time possible. Just as anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, Nama realised that a similar system of open data and crowdsourcing could be employed in helping to map these vulnerable areas. He founded KLL – Kathmandu Living Labs – a non-profit organisation, and put out a call for help. Several thousand people responded and the work they did made a vitally important contribution in making areas such as Nepal accessible, something that is particularly valuable in times of emergency such as earthquakes or floods.

In this case, it was, of course, the electronic version of mapping that carried the lion’s share of the information, a system I can sometimes be guilty of sneering at, which would be utterly wrong as it not only helps and informs travellers but can be essential to their survival.

There is, however, a special place in my heart for the paper map. I have a drawer full of maps of a range of places from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of Sardinia, from Newport Pagnell to Prades and Perpignan. Not to mention the smaller maps, given out by the Mairie or the Office de Tourisme of each and every town or village that I pass through.

Calling into a Tourist Office for information with a friend on a recent visit to a town we knew quite well, we were offered a town plan.

‘I don’t think we’ll be needing that’, said my friend to the smiling assistant.

‘We might,’ I added, taking it and pushing it into the bottom of my bag, ready to add to my stash later on.

A previous boyfriend also had difficulty in understanding this obsession, as we settled into our hotel room… he occupied himself in sorting a week’s worth of polo shirts into colour order while I was scouring the OS map for oddities… ‘Look, there’s a chapel right on top of this mountain’… worried response ‘Were you wanting to visit it?’ But I am visiting it, for those few minutes (often more) that I have my head buried in a map, I feel that I am there, standing on that summit, walking alongside that river or admiring that ‘diverse place of interest’ or ‘notable monument’.

deb alex2‘Visiting’ from the security of my armchair leaves me open to ridicule, I realise that, but I feel that this form of touring has its own value…it can be a pre-cursor to an actual trip, a practical preparation or an appetizer to get you out there on the road. It can be a souvenir of trips past, looking back along the roads travelled and recalling the puncture in a rainstorm or that rainbow stretching over the moors. It can transport you to far-off places when you feel the need to escape. We all know that travel broadens the mind but the map plays an important part in that, in opening up both horizons and possibilities, extending a hand of invitation to come explore…with your feet or with your eyes.

As Proust said, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.’

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


Instagram: @alexander_deborah

Twitter: @ReflectiveDeb

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Charlotte Codrai

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On Girls Do Coffee, it was a privilege to chat with Charlotte Codrai, who is not only an accomplished Clairvoyant but also a healer, numerologist, palmist and tarot card reader. Many listeners will have already heard Charlotte on Ex-Pat Radio on a Tuesday morning and will be familiar with her fascinating experiences and insights into the spiritual world.

Charlotte has always had the gift. Even as a small child she considered living with spirits as being perfectly normal. She was first taught palmistry by her mother who subsequently encouraged her in mediumship. She has continued to study and has recently gained the Spiritualists’ National Union’s PAS (platform accreditation scheme) for speaking and demonstrating. She is an active member of the Spiritualist Church.

Charlotte is based in London but, thanks to Skype, her clients can be both local and international. She talked about the professional code of practice she adheres to when advising clients and the strict guidelines there are when working on television.

Tarot cards are an essential part of Charlotte’s expertise. Charlotte explained how, for her, purchasing a new set of cards cannot be carried out over the internet…she insists on buying them in person so that she can hold them in her hands and feel their energy. She went on to say just how they hold energy and how she cleanses the cards between clients.

We were curious to hear how Charlotte approached passing on different messages…. after all, it cannot always be good news….and it’s clear that good judgement and compassion are necessary skills. She is able to give evidence of an afterlife and bring comfort to her clients. It is evident that Charlotte loves her work and finds it rewarding.

Maybe having experienced difficulties in her own life has brought all the more compassion and understanding to Charlotte’s work.

Charlotte joins Dave Hailwood on his morning show on Expat Radio every Tuesday. She will be at Kempton Park on the 27 and 28 May where she will be doing demonstrations of mediumship and readings. Further information about Charlotte can be found on her website: www.clairvoyantlondon.com/.

Liz Garnett and Deborah Alexander

www.lizgarnett.com – www.reflective-writing-group.org

liz@lizgarnett.com  – debalex66@gmail.com



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The Sun Has Got His Hat On


The sun is shining and the birds are providing a calming backdrop with their song. There is the hum of a lawn mower in the distance and a breeze gently rustles the curtains in my office. The weather has warmed up the Kent countryside and it feels like summer.

Today I am working my way through the photographs I took on a walk at the weekend.

1S5A4494The weekend walk was on a route that I haven’t taken in a long time and it serves as a reminder to me to change my routine regularly. This gives me a fresh perspective and helps me to see my environment in a new way. In one of the Sunday newspapers there is an article about how the over 50s can improve their lifestyle and enhance their chances of living to a ripe old age. One point was that it is important to have a routine. Personally, I like to shake things up a bit as this enables me to see things anew. For example, it is so easy to take the same walk every day or every week and then you become blinkered to the world around you.  It is easy to stop seeing the beauty in the everyday.  Having lived in Kent for over 20 years it is so easy to miss the beauty of the countryside; the rolling hills; the buttercups in the field; the shape of a hill and its relationship to the world around it. How easy it is to miss the changing seasons. Oh to go back and stand in that field and feel the breeze on my skin and see the young wheat moving with the wind and the rolling Downs in the distance. This is a very green and pleasant land. It is the garden of England and I feel privileged to live here.

As a photographer I am torn between using my camera to document the world around me and my desire to be an artist. Sometimes I combine the two. Currently, I feel there is a more pressing need to document the Kent countryside in the way I do when I go to France as a travel photographer. Pretending that I am new in the area I stand and look around with fresh eyes. I want to show the world how beautiful Kent is and to question the folly of the government to concrete over this placid landscape.

Liz Garnett – www.lizgarnett.com


Instagram: @lizgarnett_art / @lizgarnett_travel

Twitter: @lizgarnett / @travelphotouk

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The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go

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Reading through the catalogue of Rosemary Bailey’s books one might come to the conclusion that it is she who is drawn to the mountains, in particular the Pyrenees, but this would not be the whole story.

Readers no doubt have their particular favourites … for me it is ‘Love and War in the Pyrenees’, the true story of a newly-married couple divided by war with perceptive insights into the suffering of a people living under occupation.

girls do coffee - roseFor others it might be the trials and tribulations involved in renovating a monastery in the hills of the Languedoc Roussillon, as related in ‘Life in a Postcard.’

Unfortunately, I have yet to meet ‘The Man Who Married a Mountain’ but following the conversation with Rosemary on Girls Do Coffee (Ex-Pat Radio), I will be hurrying to make his acquaintance in the very near future. Based on the real-life Victorian, Count Henry Russell, the story tells of his relationship with mountains, to the extent of taking a cello up onto the heights in order to play it amongst his beloved peaks. Or sleeping by a glacier in a sheepskin sleeping-bag, smoking a cigar and drinking a rum punch as a thunderstorm raged about him.

Rosemary showed a similar resilience as she battled the technical difficulties of an interview by Skype. Luckily, no cello or sheepskin sleeping-bag was needed, just a large dose of patience.

We felt it was well worth the wait as Rosemary gave us many personal insights into her work as an author, including revealing the huge amount of research required in assembling non-fiction tales such as these, followed by the most difficult task of dismissing much of this information and leaving it ‘on the cutting-room floor’ in order to present a neatly-edited and readable final product. (All writers know that you must, as William Faulkner and Stephen King say, ‘Kill your darlings’)

girls do coffee rose 2Rosemary’s soon-to-be-republished work ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ finds her much closer to home. This time it was her brother Simon who could be said to have had a mountain to climb. A priest with Aids could be expected to face extremely challenging times in terms of public and media reaction in the 1990s, and Rosemary’s book recounts not only the difficulties but also the somewhat surprising reaction of the parishioners in the mining village that her brother called home. To read Simon’s story through his sister’s eyes makes it especially poignant.

This is a story that deserves to be re-told, an issue that hasn’t gone away and an audience that may just be even more receptive this time around. The ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ that are worn by many in memory of AIDS sufferers all have a tale to tell and who better to tell this story than Rosemary Bailey?

Note: ‘The mountains are calling and I must go’ is a quote by John Muir (1838 – 1914), Scottish-born naturalist who moved to the US at the age of eleven

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


Instagram: @alexander_deborah

Twitter: @ReflectiveDeb

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Hope’s Balmy Scent

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It’s certainly been a week of Nature’s firm hand interfering with my poultry. It started with all of the chicks being nabbed when my head was turned. Then a few days later, early one morning, the cockerel and hens disappeared. The only evidence of the dastardly happening was one corpse and scattered feathers trailing next to the bushes and the stillness of course. Boy is it quiet in the garden now. The Orioles, Cuckoos, Woodpeckers and Hoopooes rattle on in the woodland amidst the usual throng of feathered inhabitants but I do miss the gossipy girls and Mr Tokkie’s rise and shine announcements outside my front door to start the morning.

girls do coffee chicken

After their 21 days of careful nurturing,  cracking out of their eggs and navigating the coop, grass and doorstep my Easter born chicks were a delight to behold. Everything changes. It changes with the seasons, with our view and demands. Yes the countryside, farmland, ancient woodland and waterways accommodate our expectations, supports us, frustrates and delights us all at the same time. Time to hug a tree for solace perhaps and listen to the musical chirpings on the radio. It would be a rather sad repartee telling my fellow presenters Liz Garnet, Deborah Alexander and the big cheese Dave Hailwood on Ex-Patradio’s Girls do Coffee show this week, as well as the multitude of world wide listeners, about my loss and Mr Fox’s gain.

Meanwhile the bleating sheep make noises that sound like members of the Darby and Joan club wittering on from behind the hedge. What have they seen that I missed? World Naked Gardening Day has already happened! The bullocks stare in unison whilst walking past with the dogs next to the freshly dug moles hills. Further along the water’s edge the green frogs plop into the millpond avoiding my oncoming footsteps. Water voles whizz expertly into the undergrowth not far from a big green lizard, with its springtime blue throat and bitten off tail, looking quizzically at this arcadia enveloped by the zipzipzip sound of crickets.

Spring is here, joy fills our hearts with hope, new green buds of love and growth all to be tempered by the dream-waking prod reminding us that where there is sunshine there is usually shadow. This sense of what’s, at times, unquantifiable reminds me of a memorable film.

 girls do coffee grass.jpgA Matter of Life and Death


First seen as a young teenager, it makes you wonder if perhaps we too can go up to the heavenly court and argue our case for an oversight made by, in this case, the character Conductor 71, played by Marius Goring. Every time the foppish frenchman visits the scent from his rose buttonhole alerts David Niven’s character Peter Carter to his presence. Ah the rose perfume wafts through the screen.

girls do coffee paintingBack to garden where the innocent  souls dart about my patch as well as creatures further afield seem oblivious to their beginnings and endings. We all have our beginnings and endings, with all the seasons stretched in between; dusted with an eternally springing hope for Nature’s next surprise. So it goes on and on.

Perhaps it’s best not to dwell too much and await a french perfumed rose. A bloom portending the likelihood of defying the fearsome unknown and stepping into my miracle.

Gwen Jenner – www.gwenjenner.com


Instagram: @gwen_jenner

Twitter: @gwenjenner

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Good Vibrations

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What a fun packed morning we had this Thursday thanks to our guest, Joanna Wady who has spent the last 20 years as a personal development coach. There was a serious side to all the frivolity and fun and Joanna commented on the good energy Deborah, Gwen and Liz brought to the show.

In discussing therapy and in particular Theta healing the girls decided that Joanna is the fairy godmother sitting on one shoulder while the Devil sits on the other. Through Theta healing Joanna can bring a turnaround in just one appointment with this grounding form of therapy. Combining talking with a meditative state to clear the body of past negative energy Joanna says that she is humbled by the effect this treatment can have on her clients.

Joanna’s visit was inspiring as different approaches to healing were discussed and the success of each one. She talked of how some people wish to remain in a place of known misery rather than unknown joy and how those of us who want to turn our lives around can do through choosing the right therapy.

Dave recounted his experience of Reiki healing when he was in a youth football team and how amazed he was that Reiki generated so much heat on his injured knee despite there being no hands on healing. Learning that Reiki can also be performed at a distance (many miles away) lead to Joanna telling us how she treats a number of clients via Skype.

We learnt of the secret of living a long life as Joanna told us the trick was to build rituals into our daily routine and bring joy into our lives. We should all be thinking of ourselves as worthy. With all Joanna’s advice the girls could still be doing Girls do Coffee in 50 years’ time!

Joanna is based in Maidstone, Kent, England but works worldwide thanks to the wonders of modern technology. If you would like to get in contact with her you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Liz Garnett – www.lizgarnett.com


Instagram: @lizgarnett_art / @lizgarnett_travel

Twitter: @lizgarnett / @travelphotouk

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