..Janice Issitt Life and Style..

travel, food, photography, home, crafts, personal style

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cats of Essaouira

I must have been a cat in a previous life, I’m sure, having rescued a number in the UK I seem to be finding my calling over in Morocco now, as have the amazing volunteers of HSAM, Help Street Animals Morocco.




here is one of the great ladies helping my Colin
Last time I visited Essaouira I thought the animals looked ok on the whole, most cats finding their own little territory in a square or alleyway where they occasionally get food and most often get a little plastic bowl of water. Relying on the kindness of strangers and some locals who can afford to share their meagre earnings, the street cats are part of what makes this fishing port wonderful.

On my last trip we noticed how they mostly had a bit of their ear missing, I wrongly assumed that this was due to either fighting or skin cancer, which I know can damage cats ears if they are in full sun everyday.  They do seem to like to sit in the sunny spots as well, and if lucky will get a lovely rug to lie on outside a carpet shop.  So the ears, well, this trip I found out that it’s an indication of whether they have been neutered or not, when the HSAM go round they take all those intact males and females,  spay and neuter in one day and return the cat to it’s exact location on capture, with a snip made on one ear to indicate that this animal cannot breed. 



The major difference between my last visit and this is kitten season.  Those cats who had evaded capture by the HSAM have bred and there are kittens everywhere.  A few problems here, the mother becomes quite poorly as there isn’t enough food to sustain a feeding mum, and many of the kittens are born with health problems which need attention.  So It’s no coincidence that the HSAM visit at this time, to ensure that those which have bred and the new babies all receive the necessary treatment.  Not only do they treat on the spot, by cleaning wounds and applying worm and flea treatment, but they also have a fortified milk for the nursing felines.  I’m sure that what I witnessed was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the team achieve.  

early morning rounds before the Saha Kfe opens

local cats to the square where the Saha Kfe is in the corner

if you are lucky he will move over so you can order some lovey food and juices

The volunteers from HSAM try to get familiar with the cats in their designated area, often helped by local shop keepers and cafe owners who have spotted this or that.  I found a male cat who had definitely been through the wars, bad wounds around his ears and scars on his face, I fed the poor little man until the ladies did their rounds and took him away.  When he returned the next morning, now called Colin, they told me how they had been looking for him for ages and back at the clinic they were delighted to finally be able to help him.  Colin lives around the square where the Saha Kfe is, so please look out for him if you visit, the ladies who work here not only serve brilliant food but have a little group of lovely cats which they monitor.  If you want to sit and share your space in a cat friendly cafe, please be sure to head over to Saha Kfe, near the clock tower, just up from Bab Sbaa gate. It’s in the corner of a square where there are carpets, clothes and a pharmacy, ( just round the corner from Villa Maroc). 

some of the regulars at the Saha Kfe

my boy Colin after his treatment from the HSAM
So back to the pussy cats, delighted by the help that little Colin received, I found somewhere to buy some cat food, this, of course,  made me very popular, and like the pied piper of Essaouira you could find me before breakfast, kneeling on the pavement dishing out food. I also became attached to a little girl cat and managed to point her out to the HSAM in the hope that they would find her after I left.



If you would like to support the HSAM, please find them on facebook where you will see daily updates, during my first week they treated 308 cats and were just moving onto dogs.
On the HSAM page you will find a link to donating, and every few pounds will go directly to some kind of medicine or food supplement, nothing is wasted.  Alternatively, you can sign up to volunteer.


They are grateful for any bit of help on the ground, so if you are in Morocco and you see the pale blue t-shirts bearing their logo, feel free to say hi to the volunteers who will explain what they are doing.  Cats often wander off and hide away so sometimes the more eyes on the ground the better.

SAHA KFE in the corner with the red umbrella, look for the knobbly trees and you are in the right place

poor old Colin with bad ears, the food has painkillers in  it
favourite drink containing avocado, dates and nuts.  My beautiful friend Anouk in the background


great breakfast and lunch here, please find this hidden gem


Facebook page with links to HSAM https://www.facebook.com/helpthestreetanimalsofmorocco/


Coming soon, more about best cafes and restaurants around Essaouira, great places to stay and visit and more general advice for visiting. 



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Friday, 12 May 2017

The Menopause - my response to Caryn Franklin and Carol Vorderman


It pleases me greatly when any woman chooses to write about the Menopause, and while I feel both that it isn't talked about enough  and totally under-estimated in terms of lifestyle changes, I am glad to hear of any honest experiences, the more we hear the more we can support anyone going through this change.

Caryn Franklin is a woman of my generation, born the same year, but certainly a face I knew from the tv and whose opinions I respected, she crossed the bridge perfectly between intelligence and style, a breath of fresh air to balance all those page three girls who were so lauded back in the eighties.

So her article on the menopause found me, and I read it with great interest. Here’s the thing, like Caryn says, everyone has a different experience with it, mine is different from hers, although there are cross-over areas.  How the Menopause will affect you will totally depend on your genetics, somewhat on your lifestyle, and is pretty much completely out of your control, so be prepared. I want more people to write about it for this very reason, we need to hear all the stories.


I've heard that if you are slim then you might stand more chance of osteoporosis, but if you are overweight, you will probably gain more weight. These aren't scientific results by any stretch, my point being, that you just can't prepare yourself too much, there are so many different stories about how it affects people. Some have the theory that if you haven't had children it will be worse, your body getting it's revenge! 

Anyone who has had children, but not reached the Menopause, will know how your hormones gave you fluff for brains and a rollercoaster ride of emotions … well guess what, it’s all likely to happen again.  I’ve thought a bit about hormones, this invisible thing that controls us, and one which seems to leave most men completely baffled.  The problem with the gender divide on the hormone issue can also result in women having little support from the men they live with, being blamed for having mental health and mood issues, called crazy and unreasonable.  Oh I just wish we could show them one day of the torture, yes we know we are being illogical, trust me, I am one person who likes things to be logical, so to be having the argument with your own self is surely set to put anyone on the path of temporary madness, and bursting into tears at the drop of a hat isn't my idea of fun either.

Like Caryn, I too consider myself as someone who sees a problem and wants to fix it NOW.  What she says is oh so important here, you can’t get out of it, you just have to listen to it … it’s not called ‘the change’ for no reason, so get ready to change.

I would say for me, there was a long lead up, many years of peri symptoms, then wham, one (and a bit) full-on years of almost complete incapacity.  Caryn did not suffer so much from the physical affects, I however, had the complete opposite. Hot flushes, night sweats, complete lack of energy, aching joints, and depression, not surprisingly.  

While Caryn was self medicating with wine, I became completely intolerant to all alcohol, it made the night sweats worse, I felt sick, so one glass of wine just simply wasn’t worth it.  I get the impression from her article that her’s was more a mental change and that certainly has happened, although I wasn’t quite so aware of it until now.

Caryn says that ‘in menopause our body roars’ which I can relate too and that your new self after ‘the change’ is probably one, who like me, has much less tolerance.  Like Caryn I have made concerted efforts to cut the crap out of life as much as is humanly possible, this week I even hired cleaning ladies, finally! (Seriously I would rather starve myself for a day than clean the floor, my joints all ache).

The Menopause really is the time to re-assess, you are getting older love, give yourself a bloody break for god sake.  So cut back on the stress of numerous projects, quality over quantity, engage much less in unwaged work … thank you … collaborate more selectively.  Tick to all of those Caryn most definitely.

Appearance for me, like with Caryn (who not only worked in fashion but was on the t.v.) needed a review too.  A lot of older ladies are making the decision not to dye their hair, embrace the grey, but I have to say that with my skin tone that ain’t ever gonna happen, I would look like a corpse. As you probably know, I have had some cosmetic help to make me feel myself again, or at least, my new self. Not so much an attempt to look younger, but more to help with my re-invention.

As you may already know, one of my worst side effects was the weight gain around the waist, which I tackled with liposuction.  In menopause the body just decides to hold onto fat in all kinds of areas we would rather it didn’t, and there is pretty much little you can do about it. If your body shape and genetics has pre-determined that this will happen then … yeah, great.

I really like the way that Caryn explains that this withdrawal from the hormones which took us into adulthood makes the reverse from them a portal to selfhood.  It’s important to recognise this, something I didn’t, that choosing less stress, more sleep and supportive friends is crucial. Treat yourself with kindness, she says, and wait while the bio-chemical make-up of your body re-arranges itself.   Ok, my version of this was to stay in bed for a year while my other half shouted at me, not quite what I needed but I was so friggin’ tired I couldn’t do much else. Problem is that it doesn't just start and stop, it goes on and on for many years. On average 5 years for your brain to realise that your ovaries are not going to work.  

When our ovaries stop working the brain continues to send messages to get them to work, its sends a hormone that consequently produces the sweats and hot flushes. It's impossible to say how long it will take for your brain to realise they don't work. Cognitive function is impaired with insomnia, anxiety, brain fog, depression and loss of concentration.  If you need to work when this is going on then you can imagine how difficult life will become.




Coming out the other side is quite liberating, and frankly, as soon as you start to feel ok again, it’s a huge relief, however, I have found that just when I think it's drawing to an end I will get a bout of problems again, increased depression, lack of energy and hot flushes.  

I like the idea that  female tribal elders should be respected and celebrated, not sure it’s going to happen anytime soon though, as most days it’s enough to just get noticed in the outside world. Age brings invisibility for some reason, a super power I once quite fancied but now one I positively resent.  While the world wants to brush this under the carpet, there are millions of women having real problems and trying to continue as normal.

One thing I would like to point out though, Caryn still looks amazing, as some women do particularly if they have been tall slim models in their youth, great cheek bones don’t appear over night, you either have them or you don’t, if you get my drift.  I’m starting to get pretty annoyed at the moment about the pressure from these new ‘older mavens’ who all look fantastic with their long grey hair, it really is like another sort of stress “oh look at Helen Mirren, if she looks great so should you”, and while they all spout about how one can grow old gracefully and still look fabulous, it really isn’t going to be that easy for some, and not what you want to hear when you are suffering.

A few articles from other women about how great it is to grow old doesn’t change a lifetime of seeing beauty as youth; no lines or sags, no rolls of fat, no bingo wings and cellulite.  Our mental conditioning of fifty years or more that we should look like this or that doesn’t disappear over night, I only hope that the new found confidence after the menopause can balance the inner critic. Put on top of this a crippling depression and you can see how that mental state can disappear up it's own arse with unhappiness.



Pleased that I am for the advanced style women modelling after the age of 55, I hope we aren't just making another bench mark for how we are supposed to look, as there will always some people who struggle to make the adjustment after the change. 

Recently in the news Carol Vorderman has opened up about the terrible depression she has been going through. So here's a fantastic looking lady, with everything going for her, intelligence, success, money, yet it doesn't keep the depression from hitting. Depression is not about that, it's about brain chemistry. She was going about with dealing with some physical side effects and wham,  it hit her including suicidal thoughts, and here's one phrase that goes around in my head a lot that she said "I didn't see the point in carrying on, I just don't see the point in life, I don't see it"

I believe that anti-depressants can help, however this still happens even when you are on them. It can be so quick to get into the mind set of suicide and so slow to get out of. Here's the thing with depression, when you most need the help you are most likely not to ask for it, but to cocoon yourself away and hide. Unless someone close can spot the signs and knows how to react you are walking a very thin line. The attitude of your support network saying 'pull yourself together' and 'what have you got to be depressed about' just makes it worse.

Depression as a topic deserves so much more than just a mention in a blog post about the menopause, but I'm so so thankful to Carol Vorderman for airing this side of her story. Carol says she didn't have the night sweats and other physical aspects, but 20 percent of women will get the full on severe whammy of everything.


Whatever your menopause brings or takes, I hope you make it out the other side with a positive attitude, I’m not totally sure that I'm there yet, I’m still working on it and will take Caryn’s attitude on board, I shall try with all my might to rouse my inner mystic, that's if I can get out of bed after my nap.

At the moment I'm really trying to find a way to get more exercise but I can't work out how to do that, the lack of motivation has become such a big issue, and I'm stuck in finding a solution. It's a whole other topic that needs to be addressed.

Last words, please support anyone you know who is in menopause, as much as you can, and let's get more people talking about it. 


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Friday, 5 May 2017

Button History with Vivienne Ridley

It is impossible to say who invented the button, but since it’s first appearance, this method for fastening our clothes has never been surpassed.   Now seen as a purely functional item, used without much thought, the humble button has an incredibly rich history.  And while the fad for Velcro may have come and gone, the button is still there, as important today as it was centuries ago.


Probably more than any other everyday object, the button has been collected either with purpose or out of necessity, snipped from clothes to re-use, the button tin gets passed from generation to generation, holding the family history and memories in it’s jumble of little pieces of perfection. What child hasn’t delved their hand into that box and run the buttons through their fingers, like jar of sweets, these little beauties hold an extraordinary amount of information.




For such a small thing the button must have more styles than any other practical object, the infinite variability of this simple and satisfying coin-like treasure can transport our minds to another time and place.  




The earliest know buttons were used more as ornaments than as a fastening, although the ornamental surface was something that stuck for many thousands of years.  The first known discovery came from the Indus Valley (Pakistan) and is a curved shell about 5,000 years old, consisting of a flat face that fit into a loop.  Reinforced buttons holes didn’t appear until the mid 13th century where they were placed as single decoration rather than sitting in a row.  The Romans used them to hold yards of cloth and these were made to be more substantial using horn, bronze, bone or wood.  



During the Middle Ages, around the 11th century, clothes became more close fitting so this fastening became integral to the design which followed the curve of the body and was often also used to accentuate lines.  The first button makers guild was formed in France in 1250, their work appearing in all shapes and sizes but mostly on a shank with a blank side free for decoration.  So prized as an object, they were a sign of status and wealth, sometimes used as a currency and following the trends of fashion through the Renaissance.  Made from every imaginable material depending on your pocket.

The 17th century saw them turn into real gems lasting until the last
quarter of the 18th century when the tide turned to functionality, however in 1854 the Japanese ports opened to trade and a wave of influences appeared, among which was the small porcelain Satsumas, Japanese laquer and silver enamel inlaid with mother-of-pearl.



The industrial revolution brought mass manufacturing to this industry as many others.  Engravers cut steel dies into the latest fashionable shape, while women and children covered them by machine.  Here is when we saw the more common style of four holes used in men’s dress shirts.

The Victorians really went to town with their variety of materials and symbolism, and these today are the most widely found of the intricate antique variety. The ‘Tussie-Mussie” was one type, picturing tiny bouquets of flowers holding a symbolic message. Queen Victoria started the tradition of mourning buttons, carved in black jet and the profusions of closely spaced buttons on boots also gave rise to the button hook, enabling the user to draw them through the holes more rapidly.




There is so much to talk about on this subject that button collecting is divided into many categories with the military button being a whole genre on its own, as you can imagine the insignia of regiments around the world is vast.

The most common categories you will find them categorized by are, Austian Tinies, Art Deco and Art Nouveau, Enamel, Silver, Cut Steel, Glass, Bimini type, pictures and plant life, decorative metal, rhinestones, mother-of-pearl and jet.  Other materials include bone, horn, celluloid, ceramic, fabric, leather, plastic and wood.

One of the most decorative are the Austrian Tinies from the late 19th century and early 20th century which can be identified by their construction of a pierced layer of metal over another material (like fabric or mother-of-pearl) and with a domed back, often 1cm or smaller.  Gilt buttons are also highly decorated as the brass or gilt surface lends itself to holding a lot of detail when cast.



While most collectors like to keep the buttons whole, there are some who like to give them a new purpose.  Vivienne Ridley is one such ‘reclaimer’, who now seeks out the prettiest buttons, cufflinks and medals to re-purpose into rings and necklaces. Her story of button love began, like us all, at that tin of Grandma’s snipped and saved ones for re-use.  Vivienne’s grandmother as typical of her generation was a magnificent sewer, having worked in an underwear factory in Wigan, she made all her families clothes from wedding dresses to school uniforms.  Hours would pass by gazing into that rich pile of oddments, while dreaming of diamond jewellery.


Since her degree at Sheffield, Vivienne has worked in many styles but it is the collectable buttons that have stuck with her and drawn so much attention from the public.  I caught up with her at the studio where she works, in the back of Brass Monkeys in Hove.  She explained her passion for the subject “I cherish the unknown history of the pieces I find and wonder about their past and the people that firstly made them and then those who wore them. I marvel at the craftsmanship and imagination that was put into these tiny treasures and fear that one day I will cut the back of one that is worth a small fortune!

We asked her how she finds the unusual buttons used in her jewellery, “I source the treasures from far and wide - my whole family know the drill if we go near an antique, junk or charity shop - the thrill of the treasure chase!

I have become increasingly fussy about the pieces I use, materials, scale, quality and colour all play a part. My ultimate aim is to take something of age and make it relevant to today, I keep the settings simple and clean to create a harmonious mix of old and new.
I also source from specialist sites and e-bay and am very lucky to have friends who are auction regulars they send me images of lots and ask me if I want to bid on them - they know my work so well sometimes they just go ahead - and I love a surprise!”

Button collecting really is an area where you can still find a rare treasure, just think of all those tins you see in charity shops.  Mostly on the hunt for single buttons means that Vivienne’s work is limited or single edition, she explains “I never get bored while I sit for hours at my bench, each pieces offers a new challenge and it also means my customers get something really special and unique to them. 


"I also do commissions - I am currently re working some stone set cufflinks that belonged to the customers grandfather and am setting them alongside some incredible ceramic and brass buttons, a dream of a job!”

Some of Vivienne’s finds have been so special she has cast a copy from the original, her large ‘Fly’ is available in both brass and silver (with diamond set eyes) and was taken from a 1940’s cufflink. 

Some are a mystery to her, like the round star ring that is probably a military or service button of some kind.  Pictured with a stunning Victorian enamel button ring in black and gold, a very high quality piece from around 1910.




Occasionally a medal without writing or engraving comes to light and Vivienne then engraves with a cheeky message of her own, like ‘rascal’.  She has also made a few unusual styles with a cufflink on one side and a stone at the other end of an open circle, looking when worn, like two rings in one.  The simple rub over style mounting is both smooth to wear and simple enough to enhance the antique find contained within.

At the studio shop (Brass Monkeys) in Portland Road, Hove, there are many other high quality British makers, individual in style and some using reclaimed items.  Rachel Eardley uses decommissioned coins and intricately hand cuts motifs like deer, she presents the necklaces in unique boxes with the history documented for the item. Others use pieces of old rulers and such.  It is an amazing shop so I urge you to visit. You can find Vivienne at http://vivienneridley.co.uk



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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Jessica Zoob Artist Preview

The paintings of Jessica Zoob are not something you can describe, I don't want to show you them in full, perhaps just hint at what you can expect to see if you visit her studio over one of the two open weekends coming soon.

I don't want to show you because I really want you to get the wow factor the minute you enter this large studio just outside of Lewes.
Your first visit will always be one to be remember, my breath was taken away by both the scale and the emotions that are evoked.





A small group of bloggers who are all huge fans of Jessica's work, myself included, travelled from every corner of the UK to be together for this preview of what will be available to see in May. Works in progress and finished pieces are all here. Don't feel under pressure to purchase, because Jessica is such a generous spirit that she just wants to meet you and share her work with everyone.  A lovely relaxed atmosphere, quite unlike your usual stuffy gallery.



good friend Tamsyn Morgans working her magic

Jessica and Georgie who put together this wonderful event
If you can get to the studio you will get the full experience of the impact that this abstract wonder can have. It is dreamy and romantic, striking and emotional, with an amazing eye for colour combinations, and it is impossible to pick which one is your favourite. 

The Lewes studio is at : 
May 6-7 & 20-21  11.00- 17.00  Private Previews from April 29th.
Banff Farm
Upper Clayhill
East Sussex BN8 5RR
Free Entry, Easy Parking

If you are heading into London however, there is also a very special selection of  Dreamscapes’ oil paintings in the HR OWEN Rolls Royce Showroom ,15 Berkeley Square W1J 6EG
May 23 – 30  Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm Saturday 10am – 5pm Sunday 11am – 4pm.


view from the Lewes Studio

bloggers going about their business

So, you know I said that Jessica is enormously generous, well, she has also said that my readers can win a print from her.  I will be running it as the prize for May's Be Home Free hashtag on instagram so watch out for that announcement.
I will attempt to choose my own personal favourite for you.

What I would like you to do is to go a bit abstract maybe this month, look for colours and impressions of the month of May, at home and outdoors, wherever, it is about freedom this tag, home and away.

If you hop over to https://www.jessicazoob.com/ you can see the beautiful smile of this welcoming and lovely spirit, where there is a feel for the process and prints available of the art.  

I urge you to take some time out to visit here, it really does lift the soul and is hugely inspirational.

Love and cake from Janice xx

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