Do you remember the famine in Ethiopia in 1984?

I was six at the time, but I remember seeing the coverage on the television. I remember too that my Auntie Jill bought me the Band Aid single for Christmas. What I don’t remember though is being able to connect the images I saw on the screen with actual people. The people dying were a thing, a concept, rather than individuals. At six years old exactly how would you get your head round it otherwise?

Of course the problem was that they were real people.

On Wednesday we drove around 350km north of Addis Ababa to the Antsokia Valley, where in 1984 around 15-20 people were dying every day because they didn’t have enough to eat.

Zewde Mulatu took her four children to a feeding centre in Antsokia in 1984. All of them survived.

Zewde Mulatu took her four children to a feeding centre in Antsokia in 1984. All of them survived.

Can you even begin to imagine how that must have felt? The initial unease as the rains fail to appear, a growing sense of panic about how you will feed your family, turning to hopelessness as you realise there is nothing. It’s impossible to imagine, with our supermarkets on every corner, being able to walk for miles and simply not be able to find food.

What’s amazing, if you think of the coverage of the famine, is that anyone survived at all. The pictures I remember seeing of children, skin and bones wrapped in dirty blankets, certainly didn’t inspire hope. Those affected at the time definitely weren’t hopeful. Thanks to aid organisations across the world though, most of those who experienced the food crisis, who could see no way out, lived to tell the tale.

Today we met with Aschalu, a daughter of Zewde, who was a child at the time of the food crisis. She was 10 she tells us, and is 35 now. It doesn’t quite add up, but then a lot of people in Ethiopia are hazy about their age as they’ve not been officially registered at birth. Amongst women particularly there in a tendency to lie – everyone wants to be younger. It seems some things are the same wherever you go.



Stepping into Aschalu’s beauty parlour is a bit like stepping into a sauna. The small shack is sweltering, the heat having built up over the day from the sun, the driers that stand against one wall and the two pairs of curling tongs that sit over an open flame. A woman sits in curlers under one of the driers and a young girl perches on a chair in the middle of the room, her bare feet dangling, steam rising from her unruly hair as it is straightened.

Aschalu's beauty salon

Aschalu’s beauty salon

I'm not sure what the Ethiopian equivalent is of 'been anywhere nice on your holidays?'

I’m not sure what the Ethiopian equivalent is of ‘been anywhere nice on your holidays?’

Tongs. Ouch.

Tongs. Ouch.

We sit in chairs along one wall, sweating quietly.

Aschalu tells us her memories of the famine of 1984. “I remember walking, looking for food,” she tells us, looking straight at the camera, her face passive. “Along the way many people were leaving their dead babies and children at the side of the road.” It’s an image I can’t bring myself to dwell on for long – families with no choice other than to simply throw their loved ones to one side. “I remember being fed with a spoon,” she tells us, “with porridge.”

Aschalu is just one of many people we meet in the Antsokia Valley who are proof that there can be life even after so much death – both in terms of people and the environment. When World Vision arrived nearly 30 years ago Antsokia was completely barren and dry. Nothing could grow and the land could not support life of any kind.

Now though, thanks to both aid and training and to the incredible determination and resilience of the area’s inhabitants, Antsokia is thriving. The local school teems with excitable, smiling faces. Local farmers have developed improved farming methods and irrigation systems, and women like Aschalu have created sustainable small businesses that provide an income for their families.

We know though that Ethiopians are nothing if not ambitious and Aschalu won’t be settling for one small salon. Like every single person we have spoken to so far, she has very clear hopes and dreams for the future, and Aschalu not only plans to expand her beauty salon business, but also wants to branch out into photography, opening a studio where people can come and have their portraits taken.

When you see the changes that have been made in the last 30 years, you can’t help but feel excited for the future of Ethiopia.

If you’ve been moved by this story, please consider signing up to support the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign – it only takes a minute.



This is one of my favourite pictures of the trip so far. It really captures the things I am growing to love about Ethiopia already – the colours, the smiling faces and the warm welcome we receive everywhere we go.


Yes we stick out like a bit of a sore thumb, but whereas in some places this might make you feel uncomfortable, here it makes you feel special – everyone really does want to be your friend.

Picture by Kayla Robertson, World Vision. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more photos and updates.


If I had a pound for every time I had used the word ‘amazing’ today I would be a rich woman, especially by Ethiopian standards. I actually used it twice in a tweet earlier today, which isn’t very clever, but the people I have met today really are amazing, so I make no excuses for the word.*

Today we went to visit an amazing** food project that has been supported by World Vision. The project is made up of around half a dozen women, all of whom were facing significant challenges when they started the group four years ago, including living with HIV and struggling as single parents to provide for their children on their own. One thing they shared though was ambition – a determination to makes their lives better.

The group were supported by World Vision and by the Ethiopian government to set up a business making the Ethiopian staple, injera. They wanted to do something that would provide an income for their families for years to come, a sustainable business that they could then grow into something much bigger as in turn their confidence and experience grew. View Post


While I’m entertaining you with stories, please don’t forget the reason behind the trip – to raise awareness of the Enough Food IF campaign.

There is enough food for everyone in the world if we share and use it wisely. Fact.

We took this gorgeous picture this week, and it would be brilliant if you could share it and help let as many people as possible know about what we are doing.

Thank you!


Find out more about the campaign here.


Living in one room with five other members of your family may not seem like exactly the lap of luxury, but when ten years ago you and your children were living at the side of the road under a plastic sheet, it’s actually something to get pretty excited about.

Hannah lives in Lideta with her husband, who is HIV positive, her three children, her niece and her grandson. With the support of World Vision, she purchased a washing machine to set up her own laundry business, and now takes in washing from her community. This is the family’s only source of income.

Despite having so little, Hannah is keen to share. She welcomes us into her home quite literally with open arms and enthuses about the support she has received from World Vision. “Take the kitten!” she exclaims, when we coo over her pets, “take me if you like! It is the least I can offer.”

She proudly shows off her store room, complete with supplies of injera that she has prepared over the last few days, and crouched in the narrow passageway that leads from the front door to the main room of the house proceeds to cook us a feast. Chairs are strung from the ceiling, pink lacy cloths cover her coffee table, and photos of her sponsors sit proudly alongside a photograph of her daughter graduating from school. View Post


We stepped off the plane at 6.30am Ethiopian time this morning after what couldn’t really be described as the most comfortable of flights.

Think Ryanair, but for seven hours. Then pick a seat against a wall that can’t recline. Chuck in pastries and tea at 2am and the worst film in the world being shown on a tiny screen, miles away down the aisle. Oh and then ask the chattiest man in Cameroon to sit down next to you.


That’s all nothing though is it? So I was a bit uncomfortable for a few hours. First world problems as Bee would say, and quite literally in this case compared with some of the challenges faced every day on Ethiopia. I feel a little bit pathetic complaining about eating and strange times. I should be grateful I have something to eat at all.

We can’t find our lift at the airport, so end up getting a taxi across town. It’s still only 8am here – although more like one o’clock if you use the Ethiopian system of counting the hours since sunrise – but the streets are already swarming with people. Men holding hands stroll casually into the street, accompanied by frequent beeping from cars and buses, but no one seems to be in a rush. Homosexuality is not allowed here, but people are generally affectionate and tactile, so it’s not uncommon to see friends walking hand in hand.

At our hotel, a nap is most definitely on the cards.


After a sleep and a little something from my flapjack stash, we head out for a bit of an explore, and stop for a visit at the Holy Trinity church. The building is relatively modern by UK standards – it was finished in 1944 – but the stained glass and the light inside is beautiful.





Just driving around is awesome and I’m hypnotised by the people, shacks and stalls that line the street. Today has been about settling in, but tomorrow I’m going to get to meet the group of HIV positive women who have started their own successful food business. I can’t wait.

P.S. I am blogging from an app on my phone due to a suspiciously unreliable ‘high speed’ internet connection so please forgive me if this post looks odd in any way – I’ve never app blogged before.


After a week of cacking my pants, and recurring dreams of not being able to find clean water and eating multiple bags of maltesers without washing my hands, I have woken up this morning totally wired and ready to go. I’ve been waiting all week for my passport, not really fully ready to let myself believe it is happening, so when it finally arrived last night it was the final piece falling into place.

Today then is about packing, preparing everything at home for the week, and dashing out to Tesco at the last minute for all the essentials I’ve inevitably forgotten about. I’ll be getting the train from Bristol at 3pm to Heathrow and by 8pm this evening I’ll be on the plane, ready to take off on my adventure.

Packing then.

I’ve made a list, which I think it a Very Good Start:

"Packing list"

I’ve also started gathering together essentials. This is basically everything I need surely?

"Things I need in Ethiopia"

I’ve also started writing in my head. I can tell when I’m properly excited about something as my head fills with ideas for things to say about it, and whole blog posts start composing themselves. Unfortunately this tends to happen late at night or in a dream, so by the time I get to actually write it down it sounds somewhat less eloquent. Never mind, you’ll just have to make do with this.

Ever since I found out about the trip, I’ve been anxious about really silly things – will I feel sick on the day long car journey out to the Antsokia Valley? Will it be too hot for me? What will I do if I get hungry? This morning though, all of those fears have disappeared. All I can think about is that moment of stepping off the plane into a country, a continent even, that I’ve never been to before. When I think about meeting Ethiopian mums who have started their own businesses, are battling HIV and are raising families against the odds, I get butterflies in my chest and can almost feel my eyes widen and twinkle a little bit.

I can’t even begin to imagine how I am going to feel, but I’m ridiculously excited to tell you all about it.


….Actual Ethiopia. Not just some trendy Bristol cafe that sells exotic meats – the actual country.

I’m going on Saturday as a guest of World Vision, to raise awareness of the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign and I will visiting all kinds of amazing people and projects, seeing first hand what World Vision have been doing to help Ethiopia develop over the last 30 years. I will be honest though and say I have mixed feelings about it at the moment.

"enough food if"

Let’s put it into a little bit of context.

It would be fair to say that I’ve led a pretty sheltered life when it comes to other countries and cultures. We never went on family holidays abroad as children, and my only flirtations with foreign travel were school exchanges. As these were often simply ten days spent living with strangers, not understanding anything that was happening and generally feeling terrified, they didn’t exactly give me a positive view of what travel was all about.

I had babies young, and money and time were always an issue – travel fell fairly low down on my list of things to do. I have tried harder over the last couple of years, but have still yet to explore any further than about Spain, and quite frankly that was too hot for me.

Ethiopia then. It’s going to be a little outside my comfort zone. About 3,000 miles outside it actually.

That’s not to say I’m not incredibly excited, and honoured to have been chosen to take part in the trip. I’m sure it’s going to be absolutely amazing, and I could never have said no, but if I’m totally honest, I am anxious too. Partly it’s just the natural trepidation that comes with doing something new, but I’m also worried about how I am going to react to the poverty we’re sure to see, and the struggles and challenges that women – essentially mums just like me – have to face every day. I cry at the VW ad where the girl grows up and her dad gives her a new car – how am I going to cope with seeing women and children effected by poverty, disease and difficult living conditions?

This is where you come in.

Obviously it would be great if you could give me a lovely virtual pat on the back and tell me how brave I am, but that’s not really what it’s about – how brave is it exactly just to visit for a week and then come back to my lovely warm house and comprehensive health and welfare system? Not very.

What I need is to know that I am making a difference. It might only be a small difference, but I need to know that something I do or say or write might make you stop and think, just for a minute, and perhaps make a little change in your own life. I’m not saying you have to abandon your home and dig wells, but perhaps reading about women setting up their own businesses, working hard to provide their children with enough to eat, might just make you think twice about binning those leftovers. Maybe knowing that there are farmers struggling to even get their crops to grow might help you make the switch to supporting your local farmers, rather than relying on supermarkets for everything.

Even if you just learn something new, or have a laugh at my expense when I make some horrible cultural faux pas like whipping out a Mars bar in the street because I’m peckish then that’s OK too. I am bound to do something crass like that.

So this is what I’d like you to do:

I’m flying out this weekend and will try every day, from Monday to Friday, to write about the people I have met and the amazing things I have seen that day. Please sign up to my mailing list if you’re not already, so you don’t miss my posts.

For each post, I then want to create a talking point or theme – something that just makes you think about something in particular, and consider how the people I’m meeting in Ethiopia might have an impact on your life. I will have a linky on each post so if you’re a blogger and feel inspired, you can right and share a post too. If you don’t have a blog, I’ll suggest one little thing you could do or change that could make a difference. It won’t be anything massive, but if we all do it, we can tun it into something positive.

We’ll also be on Twitter, using the hashtag #foodfrontline, so follow me or follow the hashtag and do help share our news if you can.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”


Have you seen Wreck it Ralph yet? You should. Wreck it Ralph is the new Disney film, released in the UK last Friday, and is everything you’d expect from Disney – fantastic animation, believable characters and a great plot to boot.

Wreck it Ralph is set in an arcade, and the imagination that has gone into creating each unique ‘world’ within each of the arcade machines in incredible. Here’s a little taster: View Post


Today is the day that we all truly put Christmas behind us and start thinking about our summer holidays. It may only be the first day back at school, but today is apparently the busiest day of the year for flight bookings, peaking at about 1pm as we all rush online in our lunch breaks, desperate to get away already after only a few hours back at work.

Whether you’re going abroad or staying in the UK, deciding what to pack for your holiday can be one of the most stressful things about it, especially if you have young children. Before you start your holiday packing this year then, check out this little infographic to help you decide what’s a suitcase essential and what can probably be left at home with the kitchen sink:

Click here to view a larger version.

[Image provided courtesy of Center Parcs, specialist in family holidays.]

What are your holiday must haves? Funnily enough I don’t often forget to take my appetite with me, although I have been known to accidentally (on purpose) forget my swimming costume.



This is my 500th post.

I know right? Five hundred posts. That’s got to be at least 150,000 words, quite a lot of them a little on the dull side and many of them saying things like ‘I know right?’ and ‘So anyway…’

So anyway…

I thought it might be apt to make this birthday type post the post I use to tell you about our trip to Disneyland Paris, where they are currently celebrating their 20th birthday. We visited as guests of Disney, along with four other lovely bloggers –  Pippa, Sian, Rosie and Sophie – and were treated to an advance screening of the fantastic new Disney film, Wreck it Ralph, out in the UK in February.

We also got to stay in the Disney hotel, the one right by the park gates where Mickey casually strolls around the corridors. It was certainly different from when we went last year and stayed in the Santa Fe barracks.

Last weekend also happened to be the weekend that Disney were officially launching Christmas, so there was the odd bauble here and there, and I think I may have heard one or two Christmas songs quietly playing from time to time.* Fortunately I LOVE Christmas, so I was quite happy to have ‘Dashing Through The Snow’ stuck in my head for days.

We had such a wonderful time that I thought I’d sum it up in photos. A picture is worth a thousand words after all…

"Disneyland Paris rides"

Our favourite Disneyland Paris sign – ‘No doing the night fever dance on this ride’

"The Tower of Terror"

About to take a ride on the service elevator of DOOOOMMMMM!!!!

"Monsters Inc"

Belle is confirmed as officially loud.

"Disneyland Paris"

Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris!


Edible lolly table centrepieces

"Wreck it Ralph"

The Wreck it Ralph car made of sweeties

"Disneyland Paris"

Belle watching the after hours laser show


Bye bye!

*Massive understatement

Find out more by following Disney on Facebook or You Tube.


Before the summer holidays started, I sat down and had a little talk with Belle about the impending six weeks, and exactly how we were going to manage the whole work, fun, childcare balance. As much as I didn’t want to, I explained to her, I was going to have to do some work, and as useful for me as her week away with Gran was going to be, we needed to come up with something else too.

“Don’t make me go to Clifton College holiday club!” she wailed, a look of panic on her face.

“I won’t make you go there again,” I reassured her, “I promised didn’t I?”

She looked relieved.

“I don’t want to go to the holiday club at school either,” she pleaded, “they just make you decorate keyrings all day.”

“OK,” I said, rapidly running out of options. “How about sports?”

We were quiet for a moment, both thinking about the disaster of the two-day football camp the previous summer. Belle, as you may have worked out, is not a fan of the whole ‘wrap-around-care’ concept. For her, holidays and after school are for watching all the television she has been kept away from during school hours.

“Well then,” I said, laughing hysterically inside at the very idea that she would agree, “the only other option is a residential camp, where you go away for the whole week with lots of people you don’t know.”

“I’ll do that one,” she said, and turned back to MI High, the conversation apparently now over.

Well, that was a shock.

So, tomorrow, she’s off. Monday to Friday, sleeping in yurt dorms, wading through swamps, meeting red squirrels, and tagging crabs. She’s only going to be about an hour away, but I am so proud of her. She’s getting pretty excited about it, and this afternoon has been sorting out what she wants to take, and zealously labelling everything with her rather lovely personalised stickers, provided specially for the occasion by This is Nessie. This is Nessie do a whole range of gorgeous personalised stuff, so if you are a stationery geek like me, they are well worth a look.

"Personalised name labels"

Who do these belong to then?

In the morning, we’ll be up early, and by 9.30am I will be child free for five whole days, as Bee is away next week too, doing some very grown-up work experience.

Five whole days!

I’ve never actually been alone in the house for that long. What will I do? Who will I talk to? Looking at Belle’s programme, I’m quite jealous. I quite fancy a safari scavenger hunt. Bonfires, marshmallows, yes please.

Maybe I’ll book myself in…