I had my Christmas post all written and ready to go, thinking that I was not going anywhere or doing anything out of the ordinary. Well, my meeting with my friend Anne Germain ( changed all that.  We went to Sergio in Great Titchfield Street which turned out to be a real find.

Anne had been contacted by a modelling agency and she had her photo shoot this week. I’ll be honest, modelling is not my specialist subject, in fact I know zip about it, so she knew there was no point in asking me for any help where that was concerned. Meeting for drinks and dinner after is, however, something I can manage.

I arrived a bit early to do a recce of the restaurants in the surrounding area. I haven’t been out in that particular road before so it was pot luck. Anne and I had both seen an Italian restaurant near to where she was doing her photo shoot so we plumped for giving it a try. And boy, am I glad we did!


The food was excellent, as was the service. Sergio is a family run restaurant, and has been there for about 20 years.  It’s one of those places where loads of famous people go, not that I’m really into celeb-spotting.


We were both really hungry so we asked for olives and and mixed Italian salami to share for starters. The portions were huge! I had the sea bass with prawns, courgettes and tomatoes, and roast potatoes for my main. Mmmmmmmm. Anne really fancied risotto but was concerned that they would put Parmesan in it but they didn’t so she chose the king prawn, thyme and brandy risotto. We were starting to regret having ordered a starter, but we did a pretty good job of finishing our food. I’m sorry I didn’t take any photographs of the food, but we were way too busy eating.


Our waiter was lovely, in fact everybody was lovely, and it was good to catch up with Anne. I have a feeling that Sergio may become a regular haunt for me, I’ve already told another friend about it.

To find out more, check out

And Happy Christmas to everyone!

© Susan Shirley 2015

Rockstar, RedE, Lidia

The other night I was invited to a designer bag sale at Rockstar Hubs.  My “date” had cancelled so I was free.  The designer was Lidia. The invitation said that there would be drinks and nibbles.  Handbags, drinks, food…   How could I refuse?

All photographs courtesy of the official photographer
All photographs courtesy of the official photographer

For those of you that don’t know, Rockstar Hubs is part of the Rockstar Mentoring Group and offers mentoring and office space, plus other services, to small businesses or sole traders.  The prescribed wisdom is that if you are in business, you need a mentor, and I’d say, with my limited knowledge, that’s true.

It’s also very useful to have access to office space, a receptionist and meeting rooms.  It’s far more professional than taking someone through your house to the garden shed that you use as your office.  Actually, in my case, my home office is a spare bedroom, so I couldn’t have business meetings in there.  It’s too small and I think it would send out entirely the wrong message.  I digress.


All photographs courtesy of the official photographer
All photographs courtesy of the official photographer

I first came across Rockstar Hubs earlier this year when I attended an event there in around February or March time.  It was one of those networking events I’m invited to from time to time since I joined the London Entrepreneurs Network.  That event was hosted by Matthew Black of Red E Ltd (ready, get it?), an entrepreneur who was a millionaire by the time he was in his early twenties.  Matthew is a compelling speaker, I make loads of notes whenever I hear him and I have recommended his company to a number of people who, like me, have no clue about starting up in business.  There is no shame in asking for help.

Back to the designer bag sale, they were still setting up when I arrived rather early, so I settled myself down to do some work.  Have computer will work anywhere.


All photographs courtesy of the official photographer.
All photographs courtesy of the official photographer.

As I was early, I was fortunate enough to be able to start talking to the star of the show herself, Lidia of L & E Bags London.  She gave me a guided tour of her bags, which were absolutely fabulous!  And yes, the take off of the TV programme is intended; Patsy and Edina would have been in their element.

Lidia told me how she’d worked for some of the big names in the fashion industry and did a lot of international travel, frequently going to meetings straight from the airport.  Appearances are important and they must be doubly so when you work in the fashion world.  Lidia said that she found it difficult to find a bag that did what she wanted it to do.  It’s true what she said: leather is lovely but it’s heavy and you don’t need excess weight when you are trying to look good. I know only too well how my oversized bag pulls my coats and jackets out of place.

So Lidia started to work on designs for bags that were practical but looked good.  She also wanted to work with sustainable materials, a subject very close to both our hearts.   A number of Lidia’s bags are made from cellulose – the very tough material that provides us with our food fibre in vegetables and fruit.  (I could write a whole blog post about cellulose, it is such an amazing and versatile material, found in cotton and wood, used in things like photographic film, cellophane, rayon and paper, amongst others.)

Lidia’s bags are extremely high quality.  One of the things that I always look for in bags is the finishing.  (Obviously a throw back to Miss Murphy’s needlework class at school, I still come out in a cold sweat if I don’t “finish off” properly when sewing.). Almost all of the bags have some sort of removable “organiser” with inserts for credit cards etc.

"The Morgan." Photograph courtesy of the official photographer.
“The Morgan.”
Photograph courtesy of the official photographer.

Lidia has designed a tote bag – the Morgan – that has a strap on the back that will slip over the handle of your suitcase, so that it actually stays in place rather than jumping down to attack you when you are travelling across the cobbles in the airport car park.  These bags have detachable inserts that can be used to store various items such as computers and umbrellas.  Very useful.

Matthew Black with the Aston. Photograph courtesy of the official photographer.
Matthew Black with the Aston.
Photograph courtesy of the official photographer.

My absolute favourite, though, was the Aston business folder, designed to take a 13” laptop, an iPad, a mobile and quite a bit of paperwork.  There is even room for the laptop cables.  I’m pretty sure I could fit in a couple of pen drives too, although I use Dropbox most of the time.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I went weak at the knees when I saw the Aston.  The rucksack I have been using is way too bulky, it’s old and designed for a bigger laptop.  I don’t generally travel light so something that was going to make my life easier and lighter would be worth its weight in gold.  Anyway, Tammy, she of the Devil Fingers (see last week’s post) thinks I carry way too much.  I placed an order for the Aston, which arrived within a few days, with a promise to myself that I will get at least one of the other bags very soon.

Lidia is a charming lady, and I was privileged enough to get to chat to her and one of her friends, as well as her PA, the lovely James. Everyone there at Rockstar is lovely, very helpful and friendly.  If you are starting up a business, I’d get in touch with them.

For more info about Lidia, Rockstar, and RedE, check out the following:

© Susan Shirley 2015




A short blog post this week – it’s been super-busy (not all pleasant) and I’ve been working on a couple of books.I also had a visit to my osteopath this week – Tammy, who is based in Wanstead, London E11.  She of the devil fingers.  Check her out at:

I went the long way, as I wanted to get some of my daily 10,000 steps in, and realised that it is actually quite a pleasant  part of London.  My experience of Wanstead before Tammy was the odd night out and the animal hospital here, where poor little Titan ended his days.

The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “settlement on a small hill.”  There are expanses of green land around here – Wanstead Flats, and Wanstead Park, which is part of Epping Forest, making it feel almost countrified in parts.  The photographs below are taken just off the main road.

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There was a Roman settlement here, with some sort of Roman Villa in Wanstead Park.  Subsequently, a manor house was built there.  The manor house went through a number of iterations until, in 1715, a magnificent Palladian style mansion was commissioned, intended to rival the likes of Blenheim Palace.  This was subsequently demolished to pay off debts.

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Some notable facts about Wanstead

 The George Public House stands in pride of place, opposite the tube station in the High Street.  There has been a public house on this site for hundreds of years although the current building is not that old.  However, there is a plaque on the outside believed to be part of an older building, which is said to relate to the theft of a cherry pie.  The culprits were caught and fined half a guinea – 52 and half pence, if I’m not mistaken.

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The Royal Merchant Navy School moved to Wanstead in 1862, where it remained the home for orphans of Merchant Navy seamen until it moved to Bearwood in 1921.

The Royal Commercial Travellers Schools were founded here in 1845.  They were for the children of Commercial Travellers who had either died or were no longer able to make a living for some other reason.

St Mary the Virgin Church, designed by Thomas Hardwick is now a Grade I listed building.  It was dedicated in 1791.

James Pound, the astronomer, became the rector of Wanstead in 1717.  He set up his telescope in Wanstead Park.  His work on Saturn’s satellites went on to inform Newton and Halley.


Famous people who have lived here include:

Actor Tom Watt (aka Lofty, from Eastenders).

Actress Jessie Wallace (aka Kat Slater from Eastenders).


William Penn, Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania.

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, favourite of Elizabeth I.


© Susan Shirley 2015













The Great British Business Show


My team and I have been exhibiting at the Great British Business Show at Olympia this week.  It’s the first time our team has done it, so I thought I’d write about the experience.

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The first thing to say is that Olympia is a MASSIVE venue, with very hard concrete floors.  At the end of both days, my feet were killing me.  My friend, Anne Germain, who was with me and staying with me, felt the same way.  We could barely walk.  Matt felt the same way at the start of day two.


I take my hat off to all the security guys, they were absolutely charming and helpful.  It was a mammoth task searching people going into that place, but quite right that they did it.

The history of Olympia is interesting.  It opened as an agricultural hall in 1886 and originally covered an area of four acres.  It now comprises a conference centre and four event halls.  It went on to become a temporary German prisoner of war camp during World War I and an internment camp during World War II.

Back to the show.  It’s a two-day event.  Our main aim in going there was to build the team, it’s a network marketing company after all.  What absolutely amazed me was the lengths that some people will go to in order to get a small cup of coffee for free.  And I mean small.  We were using espresso sized cups and yet one woman kept coming back for more and complained that on the first day she’d given a bigger cup!

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We learned by our mistakes on day one and stopped giving free coffee to all and sundry and only gave it to those who provided their contact details.  The coffee isn’t free to us; we have to buy it.  I’m sure that some of the people who provided details aren’t really interested in joining the company but at least they will have to put up with the contact calls.  I probably sound a bit churlish about this, but it was a business show, the clue is in the title.

Time wasters aside, we were happy with the way things went.  We all got a lot of contact details, and if 1% of them to sign up to the business, we’ll be progressing nicely.

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The other thing that we learned from day one was that it was easier to have someone dedicated to making the coffee – we had a pretty steady stream of people and it takes quite a long time to tell them about the product and the business.  Anne volunteered to do that job.  At a rough estimate, the team must have spoken to over 1000 people over the two days, which is a lot of advertising for the business, if nothing else.  A lot of people had never heard of the company, which is good for anyone joining now, it means that there is a whole untapped market out there.

Photo 03-12-2015, 11 36 03We certainly met some interesting people and I do hope that some of them join us in the business opportunity.  It’s not a get rich quick scheme, but it can be fun and with hard work and application can be a great way to make a second income.  Hopefully we will be at the Business Show again next December.


© Susan Shirley 2015