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Saturday, 26 May 2018

An Audience With Kevin Maguire

This was a fairly informal event hosted by The Word, library in South Shields, Tyneside on the 25th May, a date that had been firmly booked in my diary since early March. As I huge fan of this unflinchingly outspoken Trump-hating, anti-monarchist, politically opinionated but lovable “leftie”, this was one date I was not going to miss, even though it cost me a 300-mile round trip to be there!

I've met Kevin only once before, at the Hugh Cudlip lecture in London where he was chosen to give the presentation and after that encounter, I was hooked!

Our hostess for the evening was the very lovely, Anna Foster, from BBC Radio Newcastle and she certainly kept Kevin on his toes, but he answered all her questions with complete honesty and openness and more importantly, without hesitation and for once, it was nice to see him dressed down for the occasion, wearing jeans and trainers and looking very relaxed.

The evening began with questions about his early life and school days. One of six children born into the family, he never considered himself “special” in any way, but he enjoyed his early life and being at school, and considers himself lucky to have been selected to go onto university where he found out that there were definite “class” divisions. He earned himself a degree in Politics. Could this have been the beginning of his anti-establishmentarianism and Republican leanings?

Having his degree would, he thought, be a guarantee of work in his chosen field of journalism, but he was wrong. Having applied for 60 jobs which included one fruitless interview, he moved to London in search of opportunity and for a time was employed as a security guard. Frustrated, but undeterred, he then applied to Cardiff University for a place on a journalism course, and finally, his persistence was rewarded with a three-year job for a newspaper based in Plymouth.

Almost 40 years later, he is rarely off the television and in huge demand from many radio stations, but he admits that BBC Rado Newcastle is his favourite, no doubt because it is close to his beloved South Shields where, he says, his heart belongs. Although Kevin and his wife, the successful novelist, Emma Burstall, live in suburbian Kingston-upon-Thames, when asked if he had ever thought about moving back “home”, he replied that he had but his wife would probably never agree to it, because he would just go back to his roots and spend most of his time in the pub with his mates. So, for now, he visits as often as he can, up to twelve times a year, to catch up with his “mam” and family and friends. Watching him chatting with some of them in the pub after the event, it was very clear to me that this is definitely where he feels the most comfortable and “at home”.

During the course of his one and a half hours of intense scrutiny from Anna, he entertained us with anecdotes and personal recollections of some of the politicians he encounters in the halls of Westminster and the tales he wrote about in his book, “Great Parliamentary Scandals”, that he co-wrote with Mathew Parris, the Conservative MP. Well-known characters like Piers Morgan, Andrew Neal, Boris Johnson, John Prescott and even the new Countess of Sussex were all up for grabs, along with the Duke of Edinburgh to whom he refused, as a matter of principle, to bow, much to the disdain of the Duke. This disdain, is quite obviously mutual, with Kevin stating that they live in a world apart from the common man. “They know little of us, and they care even less”.

He talked about his late father, who was a miner, and the Durham Miner's Gala which is a regular annual jaunt for Kevin and a large number of Labour politicians, including, of course, Jeremy Corbyn. I got the feeling that Corbyn has gone up in Kevin's estimation in the past couple of years, especially after the relative success of the General Election 2017. When I met him in London, he was not sure that Corbyn was the right material for the Labour leadership.

Kevin also made his views clear on Trident – a waste of money, and Terrorism – don't give in to it. When asked if he had ever considered going into politics himself, he told us that Gordon Brown had once asked him to work for his government and that, in his opinion, the next Labour Leader would probably be a woman. Angela Raynor is his current favourite. One got the impression that he would rather be writing about it that actually involved in it.

He discussed his working relationship with his well-known colleague and nemesis, Andrew Pearce, and promised to try to arrange for him to accompany him should he ever come back to The Word for another session. They are obviously the best of mates off-screen despite their political differences of opinion.

Afterwards, I was delighted to come across him in the pub where he was as charming as ever, and although we didn't quite get to exchanging telephone numbers, I feel sure that our paths will cross again very soon. In summary, a very interesting and entertaining couple of hours in the company of an unassuming, highly approachable and “grateful” gentleman who, in his own words, got lucky.

Fame and fortune apart. Mr Maguire is still very much “one of us”. Hopefully, one day he may get his wish and go “home” to South Shields for good, but I am sure he has many more places to visit and people to talk about before he finally lays down his notebook!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Local Hero Raises £800 For Eye Cancer Charity

On Saturday 5th May, from 12 noon until 12 pm, at The Plough, Chorley, a Charity “Dartathon” was held. The event was organised by Keith Thomson, a darts player for Chorley District Darts and Dominoes Singles League in aid of OcumelUK Patient and Family Support Group.

OcumelUK is a registered charity offering support to patients and families who have been affected by a rare form of eye cancer, ocular melanoma.

The event was supported by local businesses who donated raffle and tombola prizes and the generosity of personal and business sponsors. A total in excess of £800 was raised for the charity.

Keith, who personally scored five 180's and a 12 dart leg during the twelve-hour session, said, “We have had an excellent afternoon and evening. Andrea Brannelly, the landlady at The Plough, made it feel like home from home”. He is now planning to organise another fund-raising “Dartathon” on August Bank Holiday which will run for 24 hours, also to be held at The Plough.

Further information on the charity is available at  

CBD and Your Dog - Is It Safe?

Many people including some vets have recently said that CBD has had beneficial effects on dogs.

In the case of humans, we already know the benefits of CBD. Among others, CBD oil has been prescribed to help with conditions, for example, uneasiness, dependence, melancholy, incessant agony, joint inflammation, seizures, and the sky is the limit from there!

As we become acquainted with the benefits of CBD for humankind, we sometimes ask: Could CBD help our dogs? Logically, canines (and most well-evolved creatures) have comparable life structures to people. The endocannabinoid framework can be found in many warm-blooded animals. As CBD works within this framework, we should be able to assume that it will also work on our pets.

Early research and recounted tributes demonstrate that CBD has helped pets in a wide range of ways. Here's a preparatory rundown of different conditions that CBD has been found to help treat (or potentially cure):




Joint pain


Perpetual Pain

Weakening Quality of Life

Stomach related Problems




Irritable Bowel Disease


Joint and Mobility Issues

Fears (Fireworks, Thunderstorm)


Skin Problems

In more broad terms, input from pet proprietors demonstrates that CBD can be utilized to calm your dogs.

One of the greatest cases that veterinarians are starting to see are dogs with joint problems that have a tendency to get worse as they age. Hemp CBD has been discovered to be "helpful in treating intense infirmities like sprains and strains, torn tendons, bone breaks, and in helping to diminish swelling, torment, and solidness."

More than anything, the most encouraging part of utilizing CBD is the way that it could enable your puppy to get off manufactured medications, which can cause adverse reactions. Regardless of whether it can't completely supplant the customary medications, hemp oil could enable you to bring down the amount that the aminal needs to take.


Research on how cannabinoids (counting CBD) influence the human body has demonstrated that they mostly cooperate with our endocannabinoid framework, a sensory system that exists all through our body.

This endocannabinoid framework, additionally called ECS, has now been found to exist in all vertebrates, including warm-blooded creatures. Creatures, for example, canines were particularly found to share very nearly 70% organic homology with people. In this manner, it can be circumspectly reasoned that CBD connects comparatively in canines as it does in people. Like how CBD collaborates with receptors in our ECS, cannabinoids tie to receptors inside the canine's body. One examination specifically found that the CBD "ties to these receptors for a more extended length [in dogs], and brings out dependable remedial reaction without causing poisonous impacts."

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Starbucks - One of the Most Successful Brands Ever?

Unless you are agoraphobic or chained to your bed you cannot possibly have missed the fact that Starbucks Coffee houses are just about everywhere! For over 40 years Starbucks have been successfully building their brand all over the world and are probably one of the best known of all the “coffee-on-the-go” providers on the planet.Their mermaid logo is recognised all over the world even though it has changed four times over the years. 
So, where did it all begin and how have they evolved?
It all began in Seattle, Washington at 2000 Western Avenue, in 1971, where three friends, Jerry Baldwin, an English teacher, Zev Siegi, a history teacher and Gordon Bowker, a writer, opened their first store selling roasted whole green coffee beans. The name Starbucks was inspired by the name of the chief mate in the book Moby Dick.
By 1986 they had expanded to six stores in the local area and after selling the chain to one of their former managers, Howard Schultz, in1986, he further developed the brand and opened a total of 46 stores across the Northwest and Midwest of America by 1989. When floated on the stock market in 1992, Starbucks had 140 outlets worth $73.5million. 
In 1994, Starbucks bought The Coffee Connection and with it the sole rights to produce the Frappuccino beverage which accounts for sales of over $2 billion per year. 
In 1996 Japan was the first country outside America to have a Starbucks. It was located in Tokyo and followed quickly by the Philippines in 1997. They launched in the UK in 1998 with a takeover of the then Seattle Coffee Company and re-branded all the outlets as Starbucks.
In 1999, Starbucks entered the tea business by acquiring the “Tazo” brand for $8 million. Tazo was recently sold to Unilever for almost $400 million!   
In 2002 came Mexico which now has over 800 locations, and Peru, in 2003. Russia was next, in 2007, followed by Vietnam, in 2013. This also coincided with Starbucks launching their own mobile app and 10% of all sales worldwide came from customers using it.
In 2008, the company expanded to Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Portugal.
In 2009, they began adding healthy salads and baked products to their menu and introduced  “Ready Brew”, a line of instant coffee packets, and continued their expansion into Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden.
In 2010, Starbucks started selling beer and wine in addition to coffee in some of their USA stores, expanded into Hungary and ElSalvador. They also opened their first Starbucks at sea on the “Allure of the Seas” by joining forces with Royal Caribbean International. 
In 2011 they introduced their largest cup size, the Trenta, which holds31 ounces. They also began selling coffee in Norwegian food shops and opened their first Norwegian coffee shop. They opened in Beijing, China at the Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3 and this was their 500th store in China.  
Then, in 2012, they started selling iced beverages containing extract of green arabica coffee beans called “ Starbucks Refresher”, and also purchased the tea beverage company Teavana for $620 million.They also started selling espresso and instant chocolate machines called Starbucks Verismo. At this time they also opened in Finland.
In 2013, they began putting calorie counts on menus in US stores for drinks and pastries. In 2014, “Fizzio” handcrafted sodas were launched and in 2015, a slightly dubious “coconut milk” was offered as an alternative to dairy milk. A deal was also brokered with the biggest retail company in Denmark, DanskSupermarket. They also opened up in Bolivia and Azerbaijan.
In 2015 they opened up in Panama and expanded their openings in Walt Disney World to 9 locations including Disneyland, Paris. Guernsey was also opened. In partnership with the Finnish company, Kesko, a further three stores were opened next to K-Citymarkets and a further store opened in Kazakhstan.
In 2016, Starbucks Canada introduced EvolutionFresh cold-pressed juices. The company had been purchased by Starbucks in 2011 for a mere $30 million! Three stores were opened in Bratislava along with 2 in South Africa. 
By July 2016, Starbucks was in 6 continents and 75 countries and had total locations of23,768. It was also announced that Starbucks would be opening in Italy by 2017.
A limited edition of two speciality drinks came along in 2017, Starbucks barrel aged coffee. The unroasted Starbucks Reserve Sulawesi beans are aged in Whiskey barrels sourced from Washington D.C. Starbucks also announced that they would be opening up in Jamaica and they opened their biggest ever store in Shanghai, China.
As well as successfully building their brand, Starbucks has also embraced technology and in some of their outlets have installed automated drinks systems allowing users to choose from a possible 280 different drinks combinations. They also offer free Wi-Fi in most of their outlets and added mobile phone charging points for their customers and in partnership with Apple and Spotify, they offer music sales.
Keen to promote a “greener environment”, in 1995  Starbucks introduced a “Grounds For Your Garden” initiative offering their used coffee grounds to anyone who could use them in their compost. In 2005, they were awarded the National Recycling Coalition Recycling Works Award after they introduced 10% recycled paper into their beverage cups.
In the US, since 2010, they have been donating leftover pastries to local food banks and since 2016 have been donating 100% of this through a programme called FoodShare.
Now…anyone for coffee?

Fighting Lung Cancer with CBD Hemp Oil

I recently wrote about my 71yr old partner, Jim, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in January of this year.

He was told that it is approximately the size of a tennis ball and inoperable due to metastasis which means that it is seeding, or spreading, into his otherwise healthy lung. The only option, according to his oncologist, is chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy can be useful, when surgery is not an option, as it works on the whole of the body, seeking out and attacking cancer cells that appear in other parts of the body. The problem is that it also attacks good cells and in doing so can cause the immune system to fail, leading to complications and sometimes even death due to sepsis, which can cause the major organs to fail. There is a need to be extremely vigilant and if you start to feel unwell, for any reason, it may necessitate a short spell in hospital, where oral antibiotics can be given intravenously to fight the infection.

Many people diagnosed with various types of cancer have died, not from cancer, but from the complications caused by chemotherapy and immune system failure.

Jim does not want to be included in those statistics and so he has been trying to mitigate his problems by using hemp oil, or CBD (cannabinoid). For more information, you can read my blog on CBD here.

As Jim was a heavy smoker for 50 years, he opted to use vaping to get the CBD into his lungs in an attempt to stem the growth and metastasis on his cancer tumour, rather than opting for the chemotherapy, in an attempt to put it off for as long as possible. I should point out at this point that the type of cancer he has, is also NOT necessarily caused by smoking, as many non-smokers can also have it.

We did some research and noted that the legally produced and UK sold CBD comes in a variety of strengths from as little as 1.5%, or 150mgs, up to 3,000mgs ie.30%. We found 15% oil on Ebay, but this is only available in oral form.If you click on the link it will take you straight to the product. It is used as droplets, two or three per dose, administered under the tongue, a few times per day, so a little goes a long way. Jim decided to purchase and use this whilst continuing the search for a vaping oil of similar strength.

After a thorough search of the internet, we found a company called, based in Bath, UK. They supply top quality vapes, e-cigarettes and e-pipes along with a wide range of replaceable parts and accessories. They also produce high-quality e-liquids and offer free delivery.

A couple of months ago we ordered their maximum strength vape oil of 10% which arrived within three days, Jim starting using it immediately, completely replacing cigarettes, and properly inhaling the product. The vape oil comes in a variety of flavours including neutral which is extremely mild and very easy to inhale.

The benefits were astounding and virtually immediate. Along with his prescription Carbosystene, his lungs are almost completely clear of tar and he no longer suffers from the severe congestion that has plagued him in the past. His general sense of well-being has improved. He is much calmer and feels healthier than he has for a very long time. He can now take deep breaths without coughing and manages to take regular exercise in the form of walking, bending and stretching. He can hold his breath for up to 80 seconds which is excellent and helping to strengthen and increase his lung capacity. He is literally a changed man!

We know, from a recent x-ray, that he still has cancer and that his primary tumour has increased in size, very slightly. He has recently had a further scan and we are awaiting the results of this as I write. We are hoping that by using the vape, the metastasis will have reduced but only time will tell. In the meantime, Jim knows that he will probably have to receive chemotherapy in addition but we also know that the CBD will greatly assist in helping to mitigate the effects on his immune system and help with managing any side-effects, particularly nausea. As a more healthy subject, we are hoping that he will be able to better cope with his journey through the chemotherapy. I will, of course, keep you updated on this blog when we have more infomation to give you.

Meanwhile, if you, or anyone you know, is a cancer sufferer, please don't rule out the life-enhancing benefits of CBD and get in touch with the good people at They have an excellent website which if full of information and guidance and will be happy to help you choose the best product for your particular needs. Don't delay - your life is too precious and it really could make a difference!

For more information on CBD and it's wonderful healing properties check out Rick Simpson's video "Run From The Cure" on YouTube and decide for yourself if you want to at least take the opportunity to potentially improve your prognosis.

It's your life, after all!.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Health Benefits of Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp”, a derivative of the cannabis or marijuana plant has been around for thousands of years and known to man for its medicinal properties. However, it is only now that mainstream medical organisations are taking an interest in Hemp Seed Oil commercially. In many countries, including the UK, cannabis is still an illegal drug and to those who know no better “hemp” is a dirty word. However, “hemp oil” is from the flower of the plant – not the leaf part that you can smoke.
What makes this plant so special is that it is so versatile and can be used for topical applications as well as being ingested and even vaped. By a process of washing, pressing and reduction, it is even possible to produce “hemp oil” at home or buy online from most reputable health-food stores. It can be bought in varying strengths from 1% right up to as much as 30%, which relates to the percentage of pure CBD, or Cannabinoids found in the resulting hemp oil, with CBD being the active ingredient. Commercially, available hemp oil contains none of the illegal hallucinatory THCs that make you “high”.
Hemp oil is truly a ‘superfood’! It contains amino acids, fatty acids, and globule edestin. It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is easily digested. Listed below are just some of hemp oil’s health benefits.
  1. As hemp oil contains both Omega 3 and Omega 6 as well as linolic acid it makes a wonderful, non-greasy, easily absorbed skin conditioner and is useful in the treatment of acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions.
  2. It also contains ceramides which can lock in moisture and so makes it also a brilliant hair conditioner. 
  3. When used as a hormone supplement, the gamma-linolic acid (GLA), also an appetite suppressant, can help reduce pain and cramp during menstruation and additionally can help you lose weight.
  4. Due to the high levels of fatty acids in hemp oil that contain endocannabinoids, the oil helps to balance the immune system.
  5. As a brain-booster, the fatty acids in hemp oil, when taken as a dietary supplement, help our bodies to produce myelin which acts on the central nervous system and neurons.
  6. Hemp oil can help us to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol and keeping our arteries clear. It also contains an anti-clotting agent so it could also be useful in helping to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
  7. Improving our immune systems using hemp oil also helps us to reduce pain from arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
  8. Hemp oil is rich in Vitamin E which helps to keep us healthy and feel young by reducing the anti-oxidants in our DNA.
  9. The Omega 3 and endocannabinoids in hemp oil can also produce beneficial effects for sufferers of bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression and anxiety.
  10. It has also been suggested that hemp oil can ease the symptoms of many other diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, asthma, epilepsy, atherosclerosis, and psoriasis.
By far the most controversial claims to date have been that hemp oil can potentially be used to cure certain types of cancer. It has been claimed to have cured many people with all types of cancer from skin cancers, brain tumours, breast and prostate cancers.

There is still much research to be done into this but even Cancer Research UK acknowledge that they “have funded research into cannabinoids in the past and if any future cannabinoid research proposals meet” their “high research standards then there is no reason why they would not be funded” but that, as yet, their “lab research conducted into cannabinoids have not been conclusive enough to say that they can effectively treat cancer patients at the moment”.
The debate continues but, having had personal experience of the effects of using hemp oil balm on external cancer, I can categorically state that it worked and significantly reduced the spread of the cancer cells.

As a food supplement, hemp oil contains a complete source of protein and is ideal for use by vegans and vegetarians. However what you might not know is that is it also a great lubricant and when mixed with lemon oil makes a fantastic varnish for wood!
With all of its wonderful healing properties, hemp truly is one of Mother Earth’s greatest gifts to mankind. As always, make sure you inform your doctor before taking this.
Affiliate link Buy Hemp Oils Here 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Remember the "cuddle hormone" for a good night's rest!

Research has shown that having a cuddle before dropping off to sleep really can guarantee you a good night's rest, but why is this so effective and what if you don't have a cuddle partner?

Well, it seems its all about the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin – also known as the “happiness hormone”. Cuddling makes us feel happy and relaxed and our brains release oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, all of which help to stave off depression and increase our feelings of well-being and enhance our connectedness to the person we are cuddling, improving our relationship with that person.

But even more beneficial, oxytocin also helps to increase our tolerance of pain, lowers our stress and anxiety levels, lowers our blood pressure and thereby the risk of heart disease and boosts our immune systems.

Pain reduction seems to come about from the pleasure experienced from touching and being touched during a cuddle. Swedish massage, a technique that used long gliding strokes along with firm kneading has been attributed to a lowering of cytokines that cause inflammation so it may well be worth incorporating this into your cuddle routine!

Stress and anxiety levels tend to reduce during cuddling due to the release of another hormone, cortisol from the adrenal glands. As our stress levels reduce, this in turn has a beneficial effect on our blood pressure, which is reduced, thereby taking away any strain on our hearts and thus decreasing our chances of incurring heart disease.

Our immune systems are boosted by the release of chemicals into our bloodstreams and this helps us to fight infection and stay healthier for longer.

So, for a good night's sleep, take time out for a cuddle before you go to bed and if you don't have a cuddle partner, then cuddle your pet dog or cat and if that's not a possibility, a massage or even a warm bath before bed can make a difference.

You know it makes sense!

Check out the range of "cuddle chairs" on eBay. Affiliate link here
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