Croydon South London

I was brought up in Surrey, and went to school in Coulsdon.  As a teenager, I used to go out in Croydon (South London now but Surrey then) and Streatham, in South London, among other places.  (When I say, “go out,” I do mean when I went out clubbing.  Or what we used to call “going to discos.”   Croydon and South London was definitely the grown up place to be.  South Croydon was great for a place called Boobs, Central Croydon for Scamps…  The Cat’s Whiskers in Streatham (which had been, earlier, the Streatham Locarno, where my Mum and Dad used to go…).  Those were the days.


I hadn’t intended to go back to Croydon when Gianni and I took a trip to Brixton.  It was purely a recce of the area, to see whether it was somewhere that would suit her if she should choose to move that way in the future.  She told me that she knew a few bloggers who lived in Croydon, so that might be somewhere to investigate too.

“Do you know Croydon at all?” she said.

“Yes, I used to go to school near there.”  About a hundred years ago.

Coming out of Brixton station was great.  There was a chap singing some of the good old reggae hits and there was a real buzz to the area.

“One love, let’s get together and it will be alright.”

He sang with such energy; it was a joy to behold.  I hadn’t been to Brixton in about 15 years so wasn’t really sure of where to go anymore, and we hadn’t worked out a plan, so we had a bit of a wander.  I’d forgotten what fabulous architecture there is down there, even knowing that it used to be a very wealthy area.


A walk in one direction wasn’t leading us to where we wanted to be – a restaurant.  There were some great places to eat outside at Pop Brixton but it was windy and I like my hot food to be hot.  We walked the other way and didn’t find a restaurant that suited us.  (And let me be the first to say to all Brixton residents, we may not have gone to the right places.  We just expected a bit more of the high street.)

“Shall we go somewhere else?” said Gianni.

We toyed with the idea of going back to Central London, but didn’t want to be somewhere full of people.

“What about Croydon?  I have no idea how we get there from here, but I think we can get a bus.”

So we got a bus to Croydon.  The beauty of getting a bus is that you get to see some of the life of an area on the way, it’s a great way of learning what an area is like.  We got off the bus near to Fairfield Halls (how I remember seeing the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder there) and wandered down a side street.

Of course, by this time, we were both ravenous, and just happened to see a restaurant advertising itself as the “No 1 spot for Caribbean and Soul Food,” Caribsoul.  We stopped, looked at the menu and entered.

Mine host was a lovely gentleman who made sure we were seated comfortably and that our table was suitably clean.  He offered to help if we had any questions.

Choosing was hard, there were some of the good old Caribbean favourites that Theresa has cooked for me…. Will they be as good as hers I wondered?  In the end, I went for Jerk Pork with rice and peas and Cole slaw, with a side of Caribsoul calls “coloured greens” and Louisiana corn bread.  (What can I tell you?  I was hungry.)  It was all delicious, and they brought up some very good hot pepper sauce too, although the greens didn’t need it, they had hot peppers in already.

Gianni went for curried goat, with rice and peas and Cole slaw, Candied Sweet Potato Mash and Waffles.   There was too much for us to finish, so we sat there, drinking our wine, me picking on the corn bread.  It was like a sweet sponge cake rather than what I’d been expecting but actually rather nice.


We travelled back to Victoria on the train and went for a few drinks in the Brass Monkey in Vauxhall Bridge Road.   This pub used to be called the Lord Burleigh, but they’ve smartened it up a lot from the way I remember it from my shift—working days.  All in all, an enjoyable if nostalgic day for me.


© Susan Shirley


International Coaching Week


16 – 22 May is international Coaching Week, an international celebration of the coaching profession.

I’m celebrating International Coaching Week by updating my NLP coaching skills, making sure I am match fit.  Then so that I can start advertising my services.   I’ve referred to coaching in passing in a few of my blog posts, I thought it was time to write more about it.  Particularly as so many people get confused about the difference between coaching and mentoring.

So let’s dispel that myth straight away: Coaching and mentoring are not the same thing. Nothing at all wrong with mentoring, I qualified as a mentor many years ago with the National Mentoring Consortium.  I firmly believe it has its place.


There are definitely some similarities in the skills required for both coaching and mentoring (and counselling and psychotherapy but they are different interventions).

For example, both coaching and mentoring require good listening skills, the ability to get into rapport with the client, and the ability interpret the congruence between the client’s words and their body language.

Mentoring, however, in its broadest sense is a more experienced person assisting a less experienced person, usually in the same area of work. The mentor provides advice and guidance and can help their client (mentee) to develop their career aspirations. They should not be in the line management chain of the mentee. My first mentor was a chap who was the same grade as me who worked in corporate finance while I worked in local finance, back before the days I entered HR.

Coaches, on the other hand, do not provide advice, nor do they need to know about the work that the coachee carries out. Coaching is about drawing out the awareness in the client so that they can teach themselves, and encouraging the coachee to take responsibility for their goals. It’s a very goal oriented process, although, paradoxically, for the coach, it doesn’t matter whether the coachee actually attains their goal, as long as they learn in the process.


I found that quite difficult to get my head around when I first started coaching, and frustrating too. But coaches are not meant to be judgemental, so it’s actually not their business whether the coachee achieves or not.

However, from the coach’s point of view, if they want to grow their businesses, they need to that if the client doesn’t achieve their goals, it will be the coach they blame, not themselves. So coach’s need to be choosy about who they take on as clients. Sorry, but that’s the truth. Anyway, there is something immoral about taking on a client you don’t believe can achieve their goals. As coaches, we need to believe in our clients and if we don’t we shouldn’t take them on. I think it’s called obtaining money by deception. Worth remembering if you are trying to get a coach, that they may decide that they don’t want to coach you.

If you are interested in being coached, contact me at

For more information about NLP and coaching see:

Welcome to the UK ICF Website

© Susan Shirley 2016

Walking in Islington

I haven’t been walking much of late, my working hours haven’t made it easy.  Not good for me in so many ways, so I decided to take myself off on a couple of guided walks to blow the cobwebs away.  I thought it would be a good choice after the glorious weather of last weekend, so I chose to go walking in Islington.


I’ve been thinking so much about Goa, I think I must have forgotten that I live in England, because when the day came, it was pouring with rain.  By the time I left home, it had stopped, but was still overcast, with the threat of more rain to come.


Take a waterproof jacket, thought I.  Waterproof jacket?  Waterproof jacket?  Water wings and a pair of flippers would have been more appropriate.  The heavens opened as soon as the first walk started and by the end, I, and everyone else, was absolutely drenched.  Of course, I was dry in the bits covered by my waterproof jacket, and my boots, but my legs were soaking.  It chose to stop raining when the walk ended, of course.  This isn’t Goa, it’s England.


I chose a Wednesday to go for my walks because, in my experience from the days when I was a shift worker, Wednesday is always the quietest day of the week to be out and didn’t fancy crowds.    Good choice.  The walks were off the main drag anyway but the streets were not too busy.


The first walk was entitled, “Six Islington Squares,” hosted by Rob Smith, one of the Footprints of London tour guides.  Regular readers will know about my love affair with this tour company and its guides, I think they are very good value.  I hadn’t previously done any of the Islington walks, so thought I’d go for it.


I thought I knew Islington pretty well when we started this walk.  How wrong I was.  (This is exactly the reason I haven’t published my second blog yet:  there is still so much to know to make it worthwhile.).  What became immediately apparent to me was the amount of research that Rob had done in order to ensure that his walk was both enjoyable and informative.  I mean that as a compliment to him because I love the research as much as writing and it’s important to give people the right information.  I have a huge respect for people who do their research thoroughly.


This walk took us to some beautiful buildings, and some not so beautiful buildings, but Rob really brought the story behind them to life and explained how the various squares grew and evolved over time.

The second walk of the day was the other side of Islington, around the Angel area and Exmouth Market, entitled Merrie Islington.  I didn’t have any idea that at one time there were a number of springs and spas in the area (no, I didn’t pick up the clue in the name Clerkenwell).  This walk was about the various forms of entertainment that used to take place in the area, from theatres to drinking establishments and the spas.


I think what I found most interesting was the changing fortunes of Sadler’s Wells, one of my favourite theatres (I saw my first modern ballet there, maybe the subject of a future post).

No spoiler alerts here, I would urge you to go on the walk to find out more.  It really is worth it.  Rob was a charming guide and I am sure that you will enjoy his walks as much as I did.


© Susan Shirley 2016

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal

 The name Blaise Pascal comes up a lot in coaching.  As well as being a mathematician and physicist who was also a philosopher who came up with a fair few useful quotes.


The one that probably comes up most frequently in coaching is:

“People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come in to the mind of others.”

This is the whole premise of coaching, that the client comes up with the answers themselves rather than the coach giving advice.


Pascal was born in France in 1623, one of four children.  Blaise was a child prodigy, educated at home.  His father didn’t teach him mathematics in the early days because he thought he’d get too engulfed in it all.  Of course, he hadn’t accounted for the curiosity of youth.  By the age of 12, Blaise had started to play around with geometry.  (Didn’t we all?)

In 1642, Blaise Pascal invented a calculator which was known as the Pasclaine, a calculator with movable dials, it wasn’t universally successful but it was a start.


After his father dies in 1651, he started writing about religion, philosophy as well as mathematics.  He died when he was only 39 years old, but managed to pack a lot in that short life.  Here are some more of his quotations:

“Evil is easy and has infinite forms.”

“Love has reasons which reason cannot understand.”

“Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons. Neither the offender nor the offended are any more themselves.”

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”

“Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything.”

“Man’s greatness lies in his power of thought.”

All quotations are taken from


© Susan Shirley 2016