Sara Sheridan

My Celebrity Daydream

Posted by | The Retreat | 3 Comments

As many of you know, I’ve been getting treatment for breast cancer – last chemotherapy treatment was last Thursday (thank goodness – me and chemo really didn’t like each other), today I had a CT Scan in preparation for 3 weeks daily radiotherapy starting 23 July.  The past five months have been quite horrible and again and again I think of the kids and teens undergoing similar treatment, enduring similar and far worse side effects and knowing that some of them won’t make it and some who do make it have life long consequences.

I can’t cure cancer but I can, through it’s good 2 give, do something to make it a tiny bit better during treatment.

We hope to get building the Ripple Retreat very soon – inevitable delays but we are almost there!

I am busy working on a pledge book – you know, like buying a brick or roof tile except in our case it is pledging an item for the Retreat – like 4 mugs, the sofa, kitchen tools, plants for the garden.   Watch this space for news of that coming soon.

But as I was sitting getting last chemo I was daydreaming (anything to distract me from the stuff going into my vein) and wanted to share my mad wee day dream with you for fun.

So,picture the scene –

I am hosting a lunch and we are at the Retreat.  The food is cooked by   Ristorante Contini  and Cannonball House’s Suzanne, the Contini’s top chef and of course Victor and Carina are with us.


Organising the music is Grant Stott, of course, with help (because we would have vinyl as well as you know ipod stuff) Ian Rankin and maybe having a mini Zumba class would be Lorraine Kelly

Opening our bike track the one and only Sir Chris (yeah yeah it’s a teeny tiny bike track but hey it’s my daydream), Lynsey Sharp would organise a wee run, Sara Sheridan and Cathy Cassidy are in the library corner of the lounge sorting the books.  Dr Who is checking out the area for possible future episodes.

The tennis court is ready  and since it’s a daydream there is only one Scot who could possibly christen it and he shares a surname with me (well, my maiden name at any rate).  He brings his mum and bro along too of course.

Keeping an eye (in the nicest possible way) on the chef in the kitchen is our Ripple Retreat almost neighbour and celebrity chef Nick Nairn and he has brought his pal, Steven Jardine along. (he is also pals with Grant, Victor and Carina so it’s a jolly affair).

Sally Magnusson is popping by as (again, I say, this is my daydream so personal stuff is ok) I wrote to her when I started fundraising 10 years ago and she sent me a lovely letter with good wishes so I wanted her along to this lunch to see what it had all been about!

Live music is good too and out on the balcony taking it in turns to entertain – The Proclaimers, Red Hot Chilli Pipers (they might have to be down at the pier – they are quite loud), Eddi Reader, Paolo Nutini, Travis (I’ve actually met them and they were super nice)

We’d want a bit of a laugh too so Grant’s mates Andy and Allan would be there.

What do you think?  Sound like your kind of party?

Hey, I enjoyed it in my daydream…………

new note added 9 July – friends have commented and want to invite Ewan McGregor too!

and all will be transported there in our Lothian Bus!



26 stories of Christmas

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Welcome to our ’26 Stories of Christmas’ advent calendar!

We’re delighted to be involved in this annual project, which is the brainchild of writers’ collective ‘26’. What is it I hear you ask? Looks like a bit of poetry with a lovely picture but I promise you there is more meaning to it!

We asked some of the sick children  we provide practical support for (and their siblings) to draw us 26 inspirational Christmas images. As it turned out, the children themselves proved as inspiring as the Christmas trees, snowmen, elves, reindeer, stars and even Santa submarine they came up with. The pictures were teamed with 26 professional writers who used the images to inspire them. Some of the pieces they came up with are funny, some are downright childish, some are sad but they are all beautiful. Just like a real advent calendar one door will open every day from 1-26 December and reveal and picture and a poem. We’d love it if you’d click in every day to check them out.

It’s Good 2 Give’s part of the calendar starts on Saturday 14 December so do check us out!

And of course, we’ve added the ability to make a donation to  us at It’s Good 2 Give.   This will make your daily dose of 26 Christmas stories feel even better. If you are feeling generous already you are welcome to donate here!

Our very grateful thanks to our Patron, Sara Sheridan, for introducing us to the team at ’26’.

Click here to go to the beautiful website.

Cathy Cassidy

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Good news for us that our Patron, Cathy Cassidy, was up at the Edinburgh Book Festival this weekend as it meant I could catch an hour with her.  I also had my first visit to the Book Festival and came away laden with books from the bookshop.  I LOVE the Book Festival.  The atmosphere, the coffee, the authors – as well as being a confirmed Bus Spotter now, I am also a keen author spotter in August.  And I thoroughly enjoyed name dropping in the Bookshop – telling the guy selling me the books that I was friends with Cathy (Cassidy), Sara (Sheridan) and Nicola (Morgan).

I went to the book signing tent after Cathy’s event and it was an hour later before she finished signing books for her young fans.  She had a wee chat with each and every one of them and it was lovely to see their faces as they had their photo taken with their favourite author.

I wanted to show Cathy the Caledonian Hotel where we are hosting an event with her on 10 November so took her over for afternoon tea.  Co-trustee Susan joined us and we had a great chinwag and loved the afternoon tea provided.  We were even able to show Cathy the Castle Suite where we will hold the event.   It is going to be soooo good.  I will have an outline of the event by end of next week but there will be a wee competition too so that three of Cathy’s readers can be guest interviewers at the event.  What a great opportunity!

An Afternoon with Sara Sheridan

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I don’t know where to start!

At the beginning, I suppose.  One of our Patrons is Sara Sheridan who writes historical fiction.   She very kindly offered to host an afternoon tea event and so we did.

The lovely folks at the Caledonian hotel were very supportive as ever.   Their refurbishment was to be complete by mid-September so we chose Sunday 23rd as the date for our event.

The Caledonian changed its name to the Caledonian – A Waldorf Astoria hotel, just a few days beforehand.

Did it live up to its new name?  You betcha.

The new lobby and chandeliers – wow.

The Peacock lounge – wow and transports me back to being a very little girl aged about 5 going into the Caley station with my dad and brother.  It seemed so big then of course and I remember the chocolate machine – put in sixpence and get a little bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, which I was allowed to eat for the rest of our walk home over the Dean Bridge.  I also remember a huge Christmas tree with a train set going round it.

Well, the Peacock lounge is in what was part of the station – the red sandstone walls are exposed and stunning and the Hamilton & Inches original clock back on the wall.

Anyway back to our event.

Sara’s new book is set in the 1950’s and she was talking about what it was like being a lady during that time.  I am glad to report that she reckons that all of us at the event are indeed ladies (not that I ever doubted it!)

Over 60 guests enjoyed the talk and the afternoon tea delights – little smoked salmon, ham and mustard, egg, cucumber sandwiches.  fabulous scones and cream.  tiny eclairs and other little tasty morsels of cakes.   And of course a glass of champagne.

We did a brisk trade in selling Sara’s latest book which she signed for attending guests and we persuaded her to sign a few more that we plan to sell at our Christmas afternoon tea event on 2 December.  (sorry , it’s sold out)

Such is the success of our Afternoon tea events we plan to put on one extra this year – a mother and daughter event –  the date for that is 18 November and  we are already almost sold out!  Full details will be posted on our events page very soon

Have a look at our photos – and do pop into the Caledonian, A Waldorf Astoria hotel, soon for a peek – I recommend afternoon tea.

An Audience with Sara Sheridan

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What?  Afternoon Tea with historical author Sara Sheridan

When?   Sunday 23 September 2012

Where?  Caledonian – a Waldorf Astoria Hotel,  Princes Street, Edinburgh

Time?  2-4pm

Cost?  £25 per person includes full afternoon tea and a glass of champagne!

Author (and one of our charity’s Patrons)  Sara Sheridan shares her thoughts on  being a Lady in the 1950’s (red lippy at the ready!)  and her new book, Brighton Belle, at this afternoon tea.

In fact if you want to dress  1950’s style  we will give a prize to the best.

The Caledonian is undergoing a multimillion pound facelift and will be a Waldorf Astoria hotel by September.  I have been lucky enough to see some of the photos and the hotel looks stunning.
We are always well looked after here and their afternoon teas are delicious!
Included in the price is a glass of champagne.
(Table sizes are 2 to 10.)

Sara’s new book will also be available to buy on the day and she has kindly offered to sign any that are bought at this event.

If you would like to come along please email Lynne or call her on 07901 555 352
In addition to paying by cheque you can now also pay by BACS or by credit card (over the phone or in person only at this time)

Quotes from guests at last year’s Afternoon Tea with Sara
“I wanted the afternoon to go on for longer – What a wonderful speaker Sara is!”
“Lynne’s afternoon teas are superb but this one beats the lot – cakes, champagne and Sara all in one – what a way to spend a Sunday”

Tickets are now on sale – contact us to buy yours.

Sara’s top ten Best……..

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Charity Patron, Sara Sheridan

The Best Things in My Life: My husband and my daughter of course. Doesn’t matter if it’s a good day or a bad day as long as they are in it.

Best decision: Deciding to switch from writing contemporary to historical fiction. That made a huge difference to me – I had to learn a whole new set of writing rules, but it was like coming home.

Best moment: Recently I recorded a From Our Own Correspondent for BBC Radio Four. I had been out in United Arab Emirates and I witnessed a couple of human rights abuses. It was wonderful to be able to do something about it and highlight the issue

Best Job: Writing! My friends thought I was a bit mad to throw in my administrative job and write a novel but I haven’t looked back!

Best weekend: Was spent wandering around Tallinn in Estonia – we were there in the summer and I’d love to go back to see it in the snow.

Best dinner/meal: On our honeymoon – we were in Nice – we walked into this very swanky restaurant (I don’t even know what it was called) and we were both blown away. It was late and we were tired and we just ordered comfort food – some pate and beans, steak and chips, but it tasted amazing!

Best gift: A friend gave me a voucher for some one to one Pilates. I now go weekly and it’s the best exercise I’ve ever had. I can touch my toes (I couldn’t even do that when I was a kid at school) Amazing!

Best advice: Be honest (most importantly with yourself) Saves a lot of time.

Best beauty tip  Eve Lom Cleanser. Oh my God! Definitely Eve Lom Cleanser!

Best lesson learnt: I once met quite a famous writer who said they’d help me with my career and then they didn’t come through with what they’d promised. I was gutted at the time, but within a few weeks I’d got to where I wanted to be anyway. Good lesson.

Lynne’s top twenty-ish christmas gift ideas

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It’s really 22 top christmas gift ideas because I am sneaking in

It’s Good 2 Give gifts –

how about making a small donation of just £1 or £2  for a message on our wishing tree – if you pay a wee bit extra we will even put it on our facebook page so you can share it with whoever you wrote it for!

or…..we have 2012 wall calendars with gorgeous photos of Scottish landscape scenes by Donald Ford – just £8 each or an insulated mug for these chilly mornings – £4 each.  Got a runner in the family?  Buy them one of our running vests – a great buy at only £12.

and if you like our events – how about buying a gift voucher for one of our afternoon tea events – £25 each and the recipient can choose from any of our 2012 afternoon tea dates once they are announced in January.  Email me if you’d like to buy one

Gift vouchers make splendid gifts – they are always welcomed and are easy to purchase (often possible to do online)

As you know, I love to promote local businesses  so, in no particular order, here goes-

1.   Hamilton & Inches, incredible jeweller in George Street.  Yes, they have utterly divine and expensive pieces of jewellery but they also have utterly divine and affordable silver jewellery – fantastic bracelets, earrings, charms, cufflinks.  And friendly, charming, wonderful staff.

2.   Renideo – what a wonderful gift to give or get – a voucher for time with Karen Finlayson a style coach who is, quite simply, fantastic and very interested in the self belief and self confidence of the person.

3.  Orocco Pier – great food and awesome views of the Forth Bridges

4.  Fifi Wilson – stunning clothes and accessories from this gorgeous boutique in the heart of Bruntsfield

5.  More gorgeous clothes – this time from Kakao by K inThistle Street

6.  All things kilt-y – and contemporary 21st century Kilts – just across the road from Kakao by K

7.  Food again – consider a voucher for one of the Fishers restaurants – Fishers, Fishers in the City or The Shore (my personal favourite is The Shore)

8.  Books your thing?  Consider a visit to the Edinburgh Bookshop at Bruntsfield – personal service and once you’ve been once or twice they will start to recommend books to suit you.  And if you need any recommendations for books – I thoroughly recommend Sara Sheridan‘s Secret of the Sands or The Secret Mandarin, Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand that First held Mine and for younger readers any of Cathy Cassidy’s books.

9.  Bruntsfield again (well it is a fantastic shopping area) – if you like Stollen then you must visit Falko’s bakery – and why not have a coffee while you are there.

10Craigie’s Farm has a huge range of products for christmas dinner and more.   Who wouldn’t like to receive a hamper as a gift?   Plus there’s the cafe too!

11. Keen photographer?   I can highly recommend the Kolo range of albums available at 50% discount from me.  They are truly stunning albums – lots of different sizes and colours

12.  Personalised stationery – how decadent.  and luxurious.  And gorgeous.  And available from luxury online stationer Magenta Ink

13.  If  you have relatives visiting Scotland in 2012, Timberbush Tours has a huge range of tours they could go on and in luxurious style too.

14.  Maybe you need to get fit in 2012 (yes, I know that’s got to be top of my list with the Kilimanjaro trek coming up in 2013) – if you live north west edinburgh consider joining Curves Barnton gym.  if you live south east then consider contacting Pamela Stafford of Fitness Bodies and enlisting her help.

15.  We all love a bit of pampering so consider a voucher for a treatment at one of the Zest health and beauty salons – the treatment list is long and there is something for everyone, even teens.

16.  Talking of teens, how about a voucher for a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe in George Street, Edinburgh?

17.  More clothes talk – at the West End of Edinburgh we have two stores to highly recommend – Sam Brown in William Street and The Cupboard in Stafford Street.  AS well as amazing clothes the personal attention and service is second to none.

18.  Still at the West End, how about a voucher for a hair treatment -the fantastic Charlie Miller salon in Stafford Street though there are also salons at Ocean Terminal, Bruntsfield and South St David Street.

19.  What about stocking fillers?  Lily -Mo has a lovely range of bracelets and if you mention It’s Good 2 Give she will give a donation to us for each sale- she can be found on facebook or email her

20.  My ‘office in town’ and for me, the best coffee in town too.  (I’ve seen the hot chocolate and it looks sublime too) – Victor, Carina and their staff will make you feel like family.  Try Centotre in George Street and the Scottish Cafe at the Gallery on Princes Street.  Both well worth a visit.  You can buy a gift voucher for here too.  A pressie I would love.

21.  Last and certainly not least if you are in town around Frederick Street visit Dickson Reid hair and buy the lady in your life a voucher for a hair or beauty treatment or a set of GHD’s.  Super friendly and they are also promoting our Christmas Wishing Tree tags!

It’s Good 2 Give…. an extra hour

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Did you remember to turn the clocks back an hour this morning?

What a treat it seems – however I know by 5pm tonight I will be sorry.  I am not a fan of the dark evenings.

However there are lots of ways to enjoy that extra hour today

here are my top 5 relaxation tips

  • add four to six drops of essential oil into your bath – Aromatherapy Associates and Neals Yard do some of the most fantastic oils.  my favourite is deep relaxation by Aromatherapy Associates
  • make a chamomile flower tea – sit in your favourite chair – sip tea and read a book (i can recommend Sara Sheridan’s The Secret Mandarin or Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand that First held Mine)
  • go for a relaxing walk – so many to choose from around Edinburgh – I will share some of mine later this week
  • bake my fantastic golden syrup ginger cake – for a small donation (£2) I will share the recipe with you!
  • light a candle – at this time of year there is nothing nicer than a scented candle – Magenta Ink is my all time favourite but I also adore Diptyque candles.  (they aren’t cheap – but if you want something special for a birthday or xmas this is what to ask for!)  (ps never leave a lit candle unattended!)


Ailsa the literary elephant

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Introducing you to our Ailsa

Isn’t she gorgeous?  fluttery eyelashes, mischievous face – Ailsa has joined our elephant family recently.  She is not long back from Wigtown where she spent a lovely week sitting in the author’s retreat.  There was obviously a real wood fire nearby as she smells all autumnal and smokey.  We are very grateful to Anne and her team at Wigtown Book Festival for looking after her so well.  They also managed to persuade a fair few authors to sign her.   There is Fergal Keane, Janice Galloway – seen here signing her, Debi Gliori and Sarah Macintyre didnt just sign her – they did a wee illustration too!

yesterday she spent the night at Alexander McCall Smith’s house – I hope she behaved.  Certainly I was told that Augustus, Mr McCall Smith’s cat, was intrigued by the sight of this papier mache elephant in his porch!

As you can see we have this wonderful man’s signature promiment on Ailsa.

Project Ailsa is well underway – we want to get as many locally based authors as possible now to sign her between now and March 2012.    Ailsa is going to be auctioned at our inaugural Ball in March along with sets of signed books by some of the authors who have signed her.

If you can help – perhaps you know an author or ARE an author get in touch – we’d love to see Ian Rankin’s signature there, perhaps JK Rowling’s too!

Help us if you can.