Standing up to save The Buckle !

I am East Sussex born and bred  and traced my family back 300 years before records ran out, but there were Bretts  documented in the  County before that and I believe my name came here with my ancestors in 1066!

After a lifetime teaching in secondary schools in London and elsewhere, I wanted to return to my roots in the beautiful South Downs countryside and be close to my childhood haunts and memories.

I  had a weekend job in a Seaford Coffee shop in the 1960s and friends who lived here (wonder where they all are now?) so choosing to move here less than 2 years ago  to the sea and the big skies with their stunning cloudscapes was not difficult. It has taken me a while to find my feet and work out what is going on here but people are friendly and chat everywhere you go.

I have learned so much about the sad state of local politics in the last month and this week have begun to attend meetings in the town to find out more about what goes on and why so many people are dissatisfied with the work of Seaford Town Council.  I attended a Planning Committee meeting where I was taken aback by the lack lustre response of the members to challenge anything the District Council might then reject, and asked for information as to how our Neighbourhood  Plan is progressing as we desperately need one and it is quite a long and involved process.

This lack is now highlighted as recently Lewes District council published its plans for building more homes in the area. Like many other residents I was concerned as we do not have a good infrastructure here to support more residents, especially as regards NHS provision. However when I heard about the plan so sell off  The Buckle car park for an ‘iconic boutique  apartment development’ and use the money to provide housing (some ‘affordable’ allegedly )…elsewhere in the district- I was  not impressed. This car park is the only one at the far end of the seafront where fisherman, surfers, canoeists, walkers, cyclists and users of the nearby Bishopstone railway station can park. It also has a recycling area and a public toilet used by tourists and residents alike

IFS began a petition to try to stop this  and with the paper petitions I and others have been circulating in the town this week we now have over 1000 signatures from all sectors of the Community.

There are so many other questions about what is going on here and I plan to attend the first full council meeting of my life on Thursday, but not until I have done my stint at the polling station and hoping all four candidates from Independents for Seaford will be elected.  Then we will see some local Councillors who will not sit back and let the town I have already come to love and enjoy be destroyed.

I’m for Seaford!                               Read more here:    twitter @ifseaford


Walking with renewed purpose

On May 8th I woke up to find that not only did we have a Tory landslide and my local  Lib Dem MP Norman Baker had lost his seat, but as people had voted on national party lines so had my hard working Independent  local Town Councillor Sylvia Dunn. I wrote to Sylvia expressing my dismay and a few days later found myself in a  pub with Sylvia, Sarah McStravick another ex Independent  councillor from a different ward and a bunch of other locals who no longer thought national party politics should be running our Town Council. It seems we were not alone and as the week went on we discovered Frome in Somerset had completely taken over theirs in a few short years and  we read their book on Flatpack Democracy . As the week went on we discovered similar movements as far apart as Liskeard, Cornwall and Alderly Edge in Cheshire.

As a local by election would shortly take place owing to the death of a ward  candidate on the eve of the election, we had no time to lose. Within a few days Independents for Seaford was born as a minor political party and an amazing video produced along with election leaflets, posters, badges and key rings. All on a shoe string budget of donations of money but most importantly time and skills with the media needed by some very talented people.

We also had a website a twitter feed @ifseaford and facebook pages for local supporters

We now had 4 candidates all active in Seaford as there was 4 seats up for election this time.

Next of course the walking started for me ….Initially I went out with Sylvia , Sarah and other volunteers door knocking and talking to residents- very enlightening  and a  valuable experience though very time consuming.

The key thing  now was to get the leaflets out so that residents knew there was an alternative to the nationals.

So that is how I spent the next few days. Walking many miles with renewed purpose round the streets of Seaford in and out of little closes and fighting letter box draft excluders. I now have a new admiration for postal delivery staff…and then there are the dogs.

It is a  very long time since I was involved in any sort of politics so I have a lot more to learn about the workings of the Town Council. Watch this space as the next few months are going to be very interesting.

If we can do this is Seaford think what could be done nationally… have a look at our first press release if you are interested

My first Year with Fitbit

Last week  I received an email from Fitbit to tell me my stats for the past year.

My flexible friend was a Christmas Gift in 2013 and I knew I had walked over 1000 miles and worn out a pair of trainers but my stats were really quite surprising.

In 2014 I walked 1128 miles and 2552,528 steps.  Now when I was teaching I know I moved about 13,000 steps every school day and that would have been no surprise to me. Once I stopped that and life revolved around the home office and the garden I knew pretty soon I was in trouble. My stamina and endurance had gone and the pounds began to pile on. In late 2012 and all of 2013 I was trying to go for a walk every day and building extra walks into my daily life.

It’s true what they say about every little helping if you park the car at bottom of car park and get off the bus a stop early. I have even walked round the malls in Abu Dhabi to get my daily Fitbit fix (nice and cool in there). In fact the hotel manager was the first other person I saw wearing a Flex band!  I walked up and down the hill in my sister’s housing estate  in South Africa and along the pristine sand at Kersbosstrand.

Mostly though I just walk down the town and back via the beautiful seafront we are blessed with in Seaford or over the golf course into the South Downs National Park.  A trip to London or Brighton is a reason for a longer walk. Down to the station and back then London Park and city walks with a friend plus great conversation and coffee and lunch stops are my favourite easily clocking up over  6 miles in a day.

Tide Mills round walkstats

Tide Mills round walkstats

As a successful weight loss maintaining member of MyFitnessPal I was encouraged by  very active long term pal to join the monthly Move Your @ss Challenge  aka MYAC and over the year  have gradually increased my monthly goal (we only challenge ourselves so no major hassles there)

The Fitbit community itself was an eye opener. No sooner had I said hello in the over 60s section when I got loads of friend requests from people doing 20K plus steps a day. My 6k or 7k would leave me at the bottom of their chart and feeling superior so it seemed given they sent taunts! …so I soon knocked that on the head.

It seems there is a similar though younger element on UK Fitbit Fanatics on Facebook where up to 50K steps a day are being paraded by non runners. Sorry good for you, but I don’t find that very encouraging!  Another good thing though is there seems to be plenty of young mums pushing their buggies for miles.

I did discover a sensible shopping voucher earning system through that called and I have already earned £5 for doing what I do already. If you want to join use my code brett1102 to get a bonus and I will get one too. It connects to Runkeeper, MapMyWalk, Strava, Garmin  etc too and can be used in some gyms and strikes me as  a cost effective way to incentivise  and get the obese more active without costing the NHS more than the price of a Flex band. I mentioned this to the consultant at this week’s hospital appointment and she thought it was a great idea.

The Accuracy of all these smart devices has been called into question lately and yes there is a slight discrepancy between Mapmywalk and Fitbit with the former measuring distance as slightly longer; but my point is does it matter if it gets idle people like me moving?

The madness of Christmas Food shopping in the UK.

Its time for our Annual Feeding frenzy….


All week I have been reading from online friends how they hate the mad dash of the supermarket food shop and that many have done it early and are feeling pleased and relieved. The weather has turned stormy today and so many of us are now safe at home with well stocked fridges, freezers and larders.  I did my final supermarket shop in a quiet Newhaven Sainsburys  on Friday morning thank goodness and my main vegies last Wednesday to supplement the root veg  from Dymock farm shop safely stashed in the garage.

So when I woke up this morning and saw on TV that today is the day for the ‘big shop’ I began to think about why we put ourselves through it all? The supermarkets are closed for just one day and lets face it there will be convenience stores and garage shops open on the big day if anything has been forgotten. I have just been into Seaford to pay a bill and was amazed to see some of customers  struggling into  Morrisons today are the  elderly using walking trollies. I have to ask myself why they choose to go there today? Through the window I could see it was heaving with queues 10 deep by 11am.


There was even a queue at the local butchers –probably because people were collecting turkeys etc. I then realised why the butcher told me to go yesterday –a Sunday to collect my small piece of steak  and sausagemeat.  In fact many of the town shops were open yesterday even the charity shops so I hope they did well with last minute bargain hunters.




So after the frenzy of all this food shopping – I cant remember how many pigs in blankets they said on TV Asda alone were expecting to sell;  the nation will settle down to eat and drink their way through an excess of  food shopping. I hope that many of those shoppers will have put something decent in the Food Bank baskets that are appearing in most of the big shops now and spare a though for those with only processed food for their Christmas dinner or none at all.

Sadly on the day after Boxing Day , much of this food will be consigned to the bin uneaten along with the turkey carcass which is no longer made into soup or curry in many households (I can see my late dad doing that now and me sighing over the apple and sultanas that went into Anglo Indian curry!) A new frenzy will be in place – sale shopping- either online or another expedition to the shops. The following week the food buying frenzy  will all happen again as people restock up for New Years parties.

For me the key questions to ask are;

  1. Did I stick to the list and avoid the BOGOFs when I knew they would not get eaten?
  2. Did I plan the meals and only buy what we really needed?
  3. Did I spread out the treats throughout the week so nobody got indigestion and felt ill!?
  4. Is there  got nothing  left over or wasted?.
  5. Have I kept a record of the menus and shopping?- easy on OneNote or Evernote for future years?


I wish  this to be reflected across the nation  and  the true spirit of Christmas  food  sharing   to prevail.

Eat less Move more- Walking for Health


Back in August 2012 when I decided to do something about the weight I had gained this century and which was threatening to continue to increase now I was no longer running round after a bunch of school children all day; I knew I needed to do some exercise as well as reduce my cheese and wine intake.  Apart from dancing I have never enjoyed physical movement or sport and a brief experiment with Zumba the previous winter had shown me my  physical limitations. I hate swimming and would make sure I only walked to the village or post-box as little as possible.I turned 60 in March 2012 and no way did I want an unhealthy retirement. After all I am a baby boomer!

It soon became clear from the logs of my friends on Myfitnesspal  (MFP) that walking at a moderate to brisk pace was popular.  I was not the only one who did not want to go to a gym or start something I would not fit into my lifestyle for ever so walking was what I decided to do.  I knew that for heart health I should try to take 30 minutes exercise a day. So Initially I walked a one mile round trip to a farther postbox than usual and it took me 25 minutes. I would come back hot and exhausted and have to sit down for half an hour to recover .  Gradually I built this distance up until I was walking to the village via the nature reserve and finally I proudly made it to Sainsburys and back- 2 miles plus.

The biggest surprise was the change in my mind-set.  I began to purposely look for a reason to do that walk most days and made sure I needed something from the village. On days I did not I explored the private roads around my home and watched the building of several houses in the following months.  If one of my online pals logged she had done a walk that morning I was incentivised to do one myself and mid-afternoon off I would go. I explored paths I had never known about in the 10 years I had lived there. All through Autumn 2012 I was walking between 20-30 miles a month and I did some longer 5-6 mile walks round London with another RL  friend. When the weather got bad a  MFP friend told me about Leslie Sansone online walking programmes so I checked these out on You Tube. They are Ok when there is ice on the ground or torrential rain but I would rather walk outside.20131015_154518

By the time I moved to Seaford in August 2013 I was  walking most days. It might only have been a couple of miles but it all mounted up and most importantly it no longer felt like a chore- I really looked forward to it.  The 30-40 miles a month I had been walking earlier in the year had stretched to more than 50 and if I did not walk every day I felt something was missing.  3 months on I have some great new walking circuits established. Who could fail to be uplifted by the chance to walk by the sea? I have ventured further afield to the Cuckmere valley and there are many more great places here I can explore on foot.  My goal now is to increase my monthly distance beyond 60 miles a month and make sure I walk every day. The online distance  challenges my friends have introduced me too are helping enormously as is logging these walks with Map my Walk. I could never have imagined that I would have walked nearly 600 miles in 15 months.  I have more energy and stamina and  am so thankful to all those who have encouraged me.

Oh and did I mention I have lost more than 2 stone in weight? But that’s another story

Why is there such poor availability of Healthier Options in local supermarkets? rant!

My other half has been trying to get me to do a food blog for ages but I have always felt it was an overloaded l area on the web, however since moving to beautiful Seaford on the South Downs  of East Sussex UK   in August I am finally moved to share my frustrations.

As an older woman  I have been working hard since I left teaching  2 years ago to have a healthier lifestyle. I now walk by the sea or on the Cliffs nearly every day.  I have also managed to lose nearly 2 stone in weight  (thanks MFP but that’s another story) and get rid of most of my middle aged spread. My partner has also lost weight, changed his eating habits  and is no longer type 2 diabetic. He has long called me ‘The Food Police’

I was looking forward to being able to access fresh fish from the fishmonger (who is great and tells me good ways to cook it) , use a real butcher and  enjoy all my usual products and more at the enormous Sainsburys in Newhaven which is about 4 times the size of the old one in Warlingham. From my first visit to the latter I could not have been more disappointed and frustrated.

Where was my regular spaghetti ?– the Hi fibre  white (with oat fibre) that we use so much of to help keep our  cholesterol down. I spent time on the phone with their customer centre  but they did not seem to know what I was talking about.  Where were Blue Dragon whole wheat noodles and Alpro Unsweetened Almond milk about which I also wrote to the manufacturer.  The customer service desk said they have no power over what comes into the store – in fact I was told today they only stock what there is demand for.

Aagh if you don’t stock things they will not build up a following will they ? and how many customers just go elsewhere – I was told the Eastbourne Sainsburys is much better but why should I drive 15 miles how ecologically unsound is that?  Anyway this has turned out to be untrue because would you believe it about a month later I was doing my weekly shop and there they were- my spaghetti and my noodles- the following week the two hi fibre pasta versions appeared.  Next came Alpro unsweetened almond milk though I have to say this has not always been there since. Still no sign of the Sainsburys own brand plain passata jars though of course you can buy all sorts of pasta sauces with added  flavours sugar etc. The store stocks far more highly processed food  including endless cakes, biscuits and ‘snacks’ than I am used to seeing  on display which is a bit depressing in an area like this.

Seaford and Newhaven is a community where there are many older people  who  need to manage our modern day ills like type  2 diabetes and heart disease There is also a significant sector of low waged working  families and people living on benefits. Surely they  deserve the choice of  healthier options? My initial foray into Morrisons in Seaford filled me with dismay- such poor quality fruit and vegetables and you can’t even get  a couple of slices of  unpackaged cold cuts from their so called deli counter. They cut it and pre-package.  The less mobile  and  many of them  appear very elderly tend  to shop here and they are not well served as far as I can see.

So the straw that broke the camel’s back was yesterday when I went to get the Non dairy Koko milk with added calcium which I enjoy after my daily walk. The shelf was bare- was told they get one case at a time- 12 cartons and for the first time ever I actually ordered it meaning I had to waste time and petrol returning today to collect it.

It makes we so angry that the big supermarket chains who let’s face it have so much power over the growers, manufacturers and  consumers can’t even stock a few wholegrain staples like  large packs of plain brown rice, pasta and a wide range of vegetables both fresh and frozen. They have the chance to show social responsibility and promote these products instead of forever coming up with new pre prepared options. There  is a place for the latter in our busy lives but not  for everyday or at the expense of real food for good health.

 Does anyone agree?