Gala concert

no we are not going to be playing Frozen.

no we are not going to be playing Frozen.

This weekend Harmonie Concert Band is performing at the Basildon Towngate Theatre, celebrating 40 years of making music in the community.

I have blogged extensively here about how music has helped me to gain my health again, not least because it gave me something to focus on.

At the moment I am practicing about an hour a day for the concert, as well as studying for my grade 5 music theory exam, which is a whole blog post in and of itself. I love seeing and hearing how I am improving.

I realised yesterday during our last rehearsal before we sit on stage, that I now actually have a good position when I am playing the flute. I am able to sit upright and hold myself in the correct position. I wasn’t able to do this when I first started over a year ago, I could only slouch down and it very much looked like I was being pulled over by my flute. Which I was. I could barely make it through half a rehearsal.

I now have decent strength in my body again, as well as the energy (and lack of pain) to make it through a full rehearsal without it utterly draining me.

When you have a chronic illness it is easy to lose track of how far you have come and last night was a real revelation for me. I am well again. Yes, I still need to use a wheelchair if I am running a workshop all day, or I am out all day long, but I have a really good life. I go to tai chi and have a daily yoga practice, both of which have contributed to my strength immensely.

I love playing in the band, it gives me something to look forward to each week and I have made friends there who I see outside of the band too. Being self employed and working from home, it is nice to have a weekly meeting with people!

Playing music in a group is a wonderful thing, not only has my physical health improved, but my flute playing abilities have as well.

So, come along to the concert this weekend it’s on Saturday. Book tickets and find out more here.


I love Somerset, in fact most of the south-west. It’s so peaceful; I just have to get down there and I immediately feel more relaxed. A photo round up of our trip, I have to say there was a lot of time spent relaxing and reading, which doesn’t make for great photos!

If you hover over the photos you can see the captions, or you can click on them and enter into a slideshow

Blissful yoga

img_6770I have practiced yoga for over twenty years now, most of it at home on my own, sometimes attending classes and more off than on if I am honest. Since I got sick I have done yoga every morning as a way to help my body heal, gain strength and cope with stress, which has an enormous detrimental affect on me.

For the most part it has been quite difficult. Mornings can be tough for me and I am often incredibly painful and sore, getting moving is an effort of will and doing yoga would sometimes feel like it was something I had to force myself to do in order for my body to work and keep moving.

Sometimes I would sit on the mat and stare at the floor as I had to will myself to move into the next position.

I haven’t been able to go to class since I got ill, as I haven’t had the strength to keep up with the more advanced classes, and I even struggle in the restoration class. Which hurt my ego so damn much that I just wasn’t able to go. See the restoration class is full of old people or pregnant people and my brain kept telling me that I used to be really good at this and I should be able to BETTER YOGA than everyone else. Yep, I practiced competitive yoga. Which pretty much sums up how I lived my life before I got ill. Stupid huh? That might give you a bit of an indication as to how I got so sick so quickly and how my life fell apart.

At the start of this month I booked in a one to one class with my old teacher to see if she could help me out of my yoga practice rut that I had gotten myself into. And boy did she. About two weeks later I have practiced every single day and I am feeling so strong. Across my whole body, which is brilliant. Even more amazing is during this mornings’ practice I felt a deep sense of joy rush through my body and stay there for a good couple of hours. I enjoyed moving my body and feeling it flex and stretch, I have not felt joyful about my body for quite some time. It has been a bit of an adversary for me to over come, to fight back against, I have been working on that attitude for a couple of months now and this feels like a significant step forward.

It was a beautiful moment and I am so grateful to yoga and, of course, my teacher. More than that I feel like I have got my yoga mojo back and I will be able to start going to classes again soon. Regardless, I will book another session with my teacher for October to develop and stretch my practice even more.

I have often felt that yoga held a key for me and my life, but I just haven’t been able to get to it before now. I have been missing something, this morning I felt like I caught a glimpse of how amazing it can be in my life and I just need to keep on practicing.

Chalice Well


The peace garden; holding silence, stillness and
Sacredness. Heavy with prayer and time. A sense
Of being out of step with the world;
In another place. The well and its water drawing
People in to rest and heal in its tranquility.

-Jen Farrant


I have been coming to the Chalice Well, and the surrounding area since I was 17 and it holds a great deal of memories for me. Aside from my best friend from school, my oldest and longest standing friend lives here and I love this place.


From the Chalice Well site:

Chalice Well is one of Britain’s most ancient wells, nestling in the Vale of Avalon between the famous Glastonbury Tor and Chalice Hill. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards it is a living sanctuary in which the visitor can experience the quiet healing of this sacred place. For over two thousand years this has been a place where people have gathered to drink the waters and find solace, peace and inspiration.

At present we work with the theme of ‘Many Paths, One Source’ to welcome all people of goodwill to the gardens throughout the year. We also mark ‘the wheel of the year’ at regular intervals with events of celebration, silence and meditation, and conversation. This includes an evening programme of music, poetry and performance throughout the summer months in our candlelit gardens.


I love the idea of many paths and one source, being open and welcome to all. I’m getting to the point where this is what I believe about religion and this is the light for me, the central source. People take different routes, with their own books, ceremonies and ways of doing things, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.


The water from here was used in my hand fasting ceremony (five years ago now), where my officiates mixed the ‘red’ water from here and the ‘white’ water from the White Spring just around the corner. The officiants talked about how the two waters couldn’t be separated, and like the water molecules we were now entangled. They went on to talk about entangled particles, because my husband is a science man and we are both very geeky.

Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance – instead, a quantum state must be described for the system as a whole. – Wikipedia definition

Isn’t that sweet? The theme for our wedding was robots and ivy, mixing the geeky and the spiritual! We were even featured in Offbeat Bride!


Chalice Well is beautiful, with many resting points for quiet meditation and contemplation. I wish I had the time to go back again while I was down here. Never mind, I am back in this part of the country in October and I am hoping I will be able to visit again.

Making conducting accessible for all


Most of the work that I do in the arts is on the management side of things, very rarely am I actually in the room when the work is being made. This May was different, I spent a week with Royal Academy of Music Open Academy students and the incredibly talented James Rose.  I wrote about the utter focus of these musicians here.

James has just released his video (which he edited) of this week.

I am so proud to be involved in this project, you can occasionally see me appearing in the film – the first time I have done so in my wheelchair. But my work is mostly off camera – I was interviewing all of the people, getting them to explain what the project was really like for them.

During the week I was responsible for tweeting, face booking and instagramming exciting moments as they happened.

Afterwards I wrote an evaluation report on the project as a whole, which ACE was impressed with!

James said:

Jen has done a fantastic job in capturing the project and in adapting to the unpredictable nature of it.  She had a specific and unique role as she also co-ordinated the commentary on social media for the project.  She has the ability to organise and adapt positively and I hope to work with her in the future.

Music has been really important for me in gaining my health, and it is something I am continually working on. My band has a really important concert coming up – celebrating its 4oth year and I am practicing hard for that (come and watch!). In addition I am working towards my music theory so that I can get on with my grades, the next one is grade 6. As such it is wonderful to be involved in finding ways that music can be made accessible to as many people as possible.

I really hope that James continues on his musical journey, both in terms of composing and conducting and I look forward to working with him in the future.



Going gluten and dairy free

Don’t worry this blog is not going to turn into a foodie blog, not least because I really don’t care about food that much, I hate cooking and quite frankly would rather take a pill than bother with eating. The idea of styling food to take photos of it is too dull for me to contemplate.

But! I really want to share this, in case it can make a difference to someone else.

My doctor told me to go gluten and dairy free in January and I gave myself a week to get prepared and eat up all the food in the house, since then, I haven’t eaten gluten or dairy.

The difference is amazing. My daily pain – which was very significant – has gone. This was the bone aching pain of being like I had been run over by a bus several times the day before. I still hurt when I injure myself (which is quite a lot), but the relentless pain has shifted.

The fog of fatigue has also lifted – this is where I felt like I had flu all day, everyday has gone. I still have to be careful with my energy expenditure, I can’t rush around like I used to and I have to pace myself still, but that deep, relentless, hideous exhaustion has gone.

The difference in my life is amazing. It is horrible feeling like you have flu all the time. Being in constant pain is exhausting in itself.

I  had a bout of flu in about March and it reminded me how I used to feel and how much better I am now.

Yes, eating this way is a bit of pain, I can’t just grab a sandwich when I am out and about, but the payoff is immense. I am also an all or nothing person, I find it relatively easy to say I’m not going to do x, but much harder to do x in moderation. Open packets of biscuits stood no chance once I have had a taste. But I can not eat the biscuits in the first place.

I think there are more things I can do with my diet to make it even better, but now with eight solid months of this way of eating under my belt (ha ha), I can start to experiment further.

There are a lot of studies around inflammatory diet and the effect this is having on our bodies. If you want to investigate this way of eating check out Deliciously Ella – she has the same condition as I do, but she had the added complication of POTS and she had essentially eaten her way back to health.

OK in the interests of being totally honest  – one pizza one time, along with chicken nibbles and garlic bread but I’d had two car accidents in the space of a fortnight and I was feeling very sorry for myself.  I really enjoyed it. But massively regretted it for the next couple of days. Never again!

Everyone is unique, and responds differently to different things. I do not think that this is cure for EDS, it is genetic, until the clever scientists manage to even isolate the faulty gene the real research can’t even begin, however this has made a phenomenal difference to my life.

You might like to consider talking to your doctor if you are suffering from pain and fatigue to see if could make an improvement in your life.

If you have a chronic illness and want someone to talk to about getting a life back again, I offer coaching.

Kelvedon Secret Nuclear Bunker


tank under canvas


On our birthdays my husband and I normally take the day off of work so that we can go off for an adventure. for Gavin’s birthday we end up going to a military museum of some sort. While I am not keen on war, or the military I usually enjoy the day, at the very least appreciating how the curation has been put together, focusing on photography and looking for women’s role in war.

I also look for potential activities or displays that could contribute towards a young person doing their Arts Award in the museum. I always end up enjoying these visits to museums that I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for myself, until now.

This year we went to Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker. We really didn’t enjoy the experience for several reasons.


Shortly after entering there was a sign saying ‘no photos, you will be charged £5, we will be watching you’. The lighting in the bunker was strip lighting, which makes for poor photos, no-one could use the photos from inside the bunker for professional purposes without taking in an entire lighting rig. In which case, yes I could understand the museum wanting to charge.

This sign was repeated numerous times throughout the bunker. It shows a gross lack of understanding of how museums promote themselves these days, primarily through social media. Instagramming and Tweeting cool photos is a key part of a visit these days and most museums have embraced this, regramming/retweeting visitor’s images, and commenting on them.

There was a dress up area half way around, along with a camera and a sign saying ‘your friends will never believe you have been in the secret nuclear bunker unless you take a photo. Parents we are watching and if you press this button you will be charged £2.’ There was no information with the dress up area showing how to put outfits together, or details at all.

What really galled me was at the end there was a sign up saying ‘post your photos on Facebook/twitter and tag us’. I have to say that made me extremely angry.


There was a lot of ‘stuff’ in this museum and there was very little information about what was there. You had to take the audio tour along with a sign saying ‘we will see if you don’t have an audio tour – you must have one’. The audio was very long winded, and got rather tedious. I also don’t like learning by listening (unless I can take notes), I like to read and occasionally see diagrams, pictures etc.

There was a huge amount of rubbish around the place, often shoved into corners. There was a quantities of telephone banks, piles of Geiger counters, even at one point a pile of different mattresses.

It would have been better to have got rid of a lot of the stuff, restrict access and put more information and interactivity into it. There were many signs saying ‘do not touch – we are watching’.

Having rubbish that has clearly not just been dropped by a school party is unacceptable.

There were some very interesting films, not least the 1950s information videos explaining what to do if people hear the nuclear siren – if you are outside you should hide in a ditch, covering your hands and face apparently! These films could have been made much more of.


I understand a sub-terrain nuclear bunker is going to be impossible to make wheelchair accessible. However, there could have been seats (there were some in a couple of points, but there were films playing, some of which were quite loud) scattered around for people to rest in.

There had also obviously been a recent leak, with a huge puddle of water on the floor. There was a ‘caution’ sign up, but no attempt to mop up the water, or even catch it in a bucket – really not good.

With very little information provided about the bunker in any form other than the audio tour it was not very accessible to d/Deaf people, or even those who are hard of hearing.

We didn’t see a single member of staff until we got to the canteen, where we had to pay.


All in all, this was very disappointing. The continual signs of ‘we are watching you’ left a very sour taste in the mouth, not only did we never want to come here again, but we have told everyone NOT to go here. It’s certainly not a good way to run a business. It really felt like they didn’t actually want visitors to come here, that it was their private club and they had visitors on sufferance. Well that’s fine and your choice, but don’t charge people £7 an adult and put up with them, while making it very clear that actually they weren’t welcome.

The images here were taken outside, before I saw the ‘no photography’ sign.

South Essex Arts Festival


I’m really excited to be taking part in my first ever exhibition – on this Saturday. It’s rather appropriate that it’s on my 5th wedding anniversary, I doubt I would ever had the confidence to explore my photography further, let alone enter it into an exhibition, without the never ending love, encouragement and support from my amazing husband.

So far I have shown myself to be a complete newbie at this, dithering so much about submitting my work description that I missed being in the programme and printing out entirely the wrong size photo for the frames that I had.

I think failing to submit my work description was due to a complete lack of confidence in myself as a photographer/artist and now I’m not in the programme, so my fearful self has more evidence to whisper into my ear. It is hard to get past fear, but my work will be there on Saturday, even if the mounts fail to turn up, I will just have to display my work unframed. Such is life.

I’m looking forward to this and am petrified in equal measures!

More information about the event.

Photography practice


My photography practice, which I do most days, is an act of mindfulness and gratitude. I look for the beautiful, unusual and notable in my daily life. Most days I’m at home and I go out for walks with my dog in the local area. I am not in fantastic photographic locations, just a rather run down bit of Essex.

But, looking for things to photograph means I am deeply engaged with the world every day. I’m actively looking for beauty, contrast or something different. These are often changes in nature, but also human interaction with the world – graffiti, unusual things dropped, abandoned or just odd juxtapositions.

Although I do venture out with another camera (and currently saving for a DSLR) my most used camera is the one that I always have with me, my iPhone 6S.

I’ve started a hashtag on Instagram BeautifulThurrock, because I am always looking for the beauty here. I would love for it to be picked up and used more widely.

You can read more about my photography, and see a small collection of photos here, join me on Instagram, or see my portfolio here.

The Ikea juggle


I recently was waiting in the car park of IKEA.

There were a lot of people juggling various flat pack packages and goodies from the marketplace, putting them in, taking them out, trying different angles, a different order and every permutation of getting things in the car.

We’ve all done the ikea juggle, we head up there for just a couple of bits and end up not being able to fit everything in the car. Maybe even contemplating leaving a family member behind to fit everything in, yes you would have to make the trip back again to pick them up, but at least it is sorted for the time being!

This is such a problem that IKEA now rents vans by the hour.

Is your life like this? That suddenly you look around and everything is being crammed in? You only intended to do a couple of things, but actually it is all too much? And you are constantly looking at your diary and wondering what you can leave behind, before deciding that you really can’t, so you cram it all in and your husband is left squished against the window like a cartoon?*

Simplicity is the power to reclaim our lives, but it is difficult. Not only do you have to really think about what is important to you, but also your family too.

What makes a big difference to all of you?

My main focus is my creativity, which takes different forms in different seasons, but is mainly writing, music, drawing and photography. At one point I was also sewing and knitting and trying to make many things. I realised this was silly as I didn’t even enjoy the last two projects. I finished up my husband’s Star Wars man sized quilt for his Christmas present (hand sewing the edging with a dreadful cold on Christmas Eve) and that’s it, no more sewing. I have given away the majority of my fabric stash, although I am still trying to figure out what to do with my Nan’s cast iron (that maybe a slight exaggeration) sewing machine. All my knitting stuff is going to head off to a local knit and natter group.

I quite like knitting, but I realised that I don’t have the precision required for it, and also I was knitting when I sat down to watch TV- it was a way of staying busy. I don’t need to do that. I don’t watch a lot of of TV, so it is nice to focus on in when I do so. And also, I can’t do everything – I have to make a decision and this is where I have decided.

My drawing is primarily focused on ink and watercolours, there are a lot of different techniques out there, but I can’t do them all, not least because I can’t afford it, and so I have decided to focus on them.

I need to stay fit and healthy, otherwise my illness creeps up on me, so I have focused on walking and swimming, and more recently tai chi, mainly as these are low risk of injury, but also because I have a dog, walking allows me to think and be in nature, which always feeds my soul, and I have always been good at swimming and it is nice to do something that makes me feel strong. Tai Chi is great for keeping me calm. All of these have very little in the way of equipment and are easy just to get on and do, it doesn’t need a huge amount of set up.

At all of these stages I have had to decide what I want to focus on, I just can’t cram everything in. That has been hard for me to learn and something I continually struggle with. What about you? Do you still try to fit all the things into your life?

If you want help in figuring out your creative goals, or how to simplify your life, I offer coaching.

*disclaimer – I have awesome packing skills, my husband has never been abandoned at Ikea, he may have been slightly squished though…