How to stay steady through the challenges of COVID 19. Includes resources for NHS staff and key workers

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As the Covid 19 impact continues into 2022, we find ourselves in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar and changing daily.

Key workers continue to work hard and NHS staff deliver expert care, working under immense and increasing pressures. An army of professionals and volunteers are working tirelessly to deliver the vaccine which is bringing hope for the future.

The rest of the country follows the constantly changing Government guidelines relating to different tiers and now a 3rd lockdown , in a combined effort to save lives

As well as a physical threat, many people are experiencing high levels of concern and anxiety about their own health and the health of family members as we deal with the uncertainty of this threat.

In the NHS many staff are again having to be redeployed, acquire new knowledge and learn new skills, making big changes in their working practices in order to care for patients and save lives.

All content in this article is relevant for NHS and key worker staff but some text which is italic is focused for them.

I worked for many years in the NHS, am proud to have trained and worked as a Nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and, after a clinical career in surgical nursing moved into Education, becoming a Senior Lecturer in Nursing and Psychology. In my coaching practice, I enjoy enabling people to boost their success and wellbeing in life. I have a special interest and expertise in mindfulness, NLP and wellbeing, and in helping people feel calm and confident in challenging times, hence this topic. Please follow me on Instagram for more daily tips and to stay connected. Let me know how you are doing.

Below  you will find 9 key tips  and useful links to help you be grounded and steady and to regain a sense of steadiness in moments where it may seem elusive.

Understanding that anxiety is a normal response to threat. A brief summary.

Firstly, it’s OK to feel what you feel. We can be accepting of challenging emotions without being overwhelmed by them. There are many tips below to help with this

Understanding anxiety and fear can be a powerful tool in managing and in grounding ourselves. When we human beings are faced with a threat, it is a natural and biological response for the brain to generate a “fight or flight” response so that we can be prepared to run or defend ourselves against danger. This can be lifesaving in some acute situations but with chronic levels of uncertainty and stress, as many are experiencing in the current global situation, the stress response, whilst logical, can be long lasting and thus unhelpful.

Feeling continuously anxious and frightened, undermines our health and wellbeing as well as our ability to function.  For those in the NHS , needing to focus or learn new skills,  and function at a high level, working through a busy shift is it essential for effectiveness and for wellbeing that you are equipped to take steps to care for yourselves and manage state.

Feeling steadier and more grounded.

So, what can we do to feel steadier over the days, weeks and months to come as Covid 19 continues to affect our lives, whether at work as a key worker or perhaps in isolation or with restrictions on everyday life?

Thankfully, as history has taught us, we human beings are quick to learn and adaptable. When equipped with the right mindset and strategies we can boost our ability to maintain our equilibrium and wellbeing, in even the most unusual and extreme situations.

“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf” Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Habits to develop

Read through the habits below. Celebrate what you are already doing and see where you can boost your wellbeing.

Focus your efforts on the habits where there is most work to be done or those that you feel will be most useful for you to develop.

1. Be self-aware and in tune with how you are feeling.

Knowing how you are in any given moment means that you can be proactive in using strategies to manage your mood and stay in control.

  • Stop and check in with how you are feeling.
  • If you feel unwell physically, follow current Government guidelines re testing and protocol, inform your employer if working, and get help from medical professionals.

If you feel uncertain, wobbly, anxious or overwhelmed, recognise that, don’t fight it but rather act as a kindly observer to your mood, as best you can and set a clear intention for how you want to feel moving forward. e.g. calmer, more confident, more in control, steadier, more grounded.

2. Be selective and limit your exposure to the news and social media and anxious conversations.

  • Choose a reliable and trusted source and check in once or twice a day as constant scrolling through varied news stories can lead to preoccupation and increase anxiety.
  • Limit social media use to that which is uplifting and positive. If it’s not, stop scrolling.
  • Be proactive in choosing which conversations you engage in. Focus on the optimistic and positive and on all that is being done to successfully fight the virus

3. Maintain and enhance your connection with others whilst you are at work, working from home, social distancing or in self-isolation.

  • We are social beings and maintaining social contact can reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety. This also applies to peers,  patients and relatives, for those in NHS settings.
  • If an NHS or key worker at work and busy, take time to pause and take breaks when able. If in PPE and communication is challenging, use body language, e.g. a thumbs up sign or a smile to connect with and support peers and patients. Check in on colleagues in between shifts to stay connected.
  • Stay connected with  friends and family through the wonders of technology.

Whilst in lockdown and when working from home:

  • Have a daily team video meeting and use video link to talk to colleagues during the day rather than emailing or messaging.
  • Plan in video chats with friends and boost your sense of connection with those you love.
  • Talk to your manager or to colleagues if you need support.

4. Be present and manage your thought patterns.

  • Our thoughts and the stories that we tell ourselves have a huge impact on how we feel and levels of anxiety tend to rise when we focus on possible difficulties or problems in the future.
  • Practice being an observer of your thoughts rather than getting caught up and carried away with them.
  • Notice your internal dialogue and be aware if you are using scary language, catastrophising or being overly negative in your thought patterns.
  • The more we creatively develop “what if stories” about problems that may arise, the more anxious we tend to become.
  • Remind yourself that these are stories and that more positive scenarios are possible.
  • Stay in the here and now as best you can and ground yourself in the present moment ( see below for a technique to help you to do this.
  • Be kind to yourself and talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend who needed reassurance and to feel calmer and more confident.
  • We can use mindful techniques to bring ourselves firmly back to the present moment e.g. feeling our feet on the solid floor or feeling the sensations of the breath, root us back in the here and now and help us to feel grounded.

5. Take a mindful breathing space when you need one and even if you don’t!

The Breathing Space is a key part of all mindfulness training. It is a very short (can be for 30 seconds or several minutes depending on time available) and helps to regain composure and a feeling of being centred and grounded.

For an audio recording of the breathing space from Oxford Mindfulness centre access

To create your own breathing space, follow these steps

Recognise that you need a breathing space

Step away from what you are doing if able or stand still with feet firmly planted on the ground.

Set an intention to be fully present 

Adjust and straighten your posture and notice sensations of connection to the floor or the chair supporting you. 

Do a quick sweep of what’s going on the inside, thoughts, feelings and body sensations e.g. tension or discomfort. As best you can be an observer of these rather than getting caught up in them. Have a gentle approach rather than judging… allow things to be as they are, kindly. 

Take 3 – 5 deep breaths in and out, or even just one if you are short of time.

Notice and track the sensations of the breath as it enters and leaves your body.

If the mind wanders (it probably will!) simply notice where it has gone and gently guide it back to the breath.

Expand your awareness to pay attention to the sensations of the body and boost a sense of grounding as you notice sensations of connection to the floor or the chair supporting you.

Notice the degree of calm and ease

Go back to what you need to do next, taking this feeling with you.

Another very quick way to gain composure and feel steadier is to set an intention and then focus all attention into the feet. The feet don’t join in story telling or experience anxiety, sadness, frustration or fear. Placing attention into the feet, noticing connection with ground is settling and steadying.

6. Be proactive, look after yourself and plan things that will lift your mood.

  • Be proactive in asking for practical or emotional support and help when you need it. This is a sign of strength and will give others permission to do the same.
  • Take charge of your internal chemistry. Boost feelgood hormones in the brain and body by doing things that make you smile: –
    • Get fresh air, take a walk in the fresh air or sit with a window open if unable to go out.
    • Eat a healthy diet
    • Stay hydrated both on and off shift if you are working.
    • Get enough rest. have downtime. rekindle or start hobbies. Use relaxation apps to help switch off.
    • If in isolation, start a project, read a book you’ve not had time to pick up.
    • Schedule calls with friends and family members who will help to boost good feelings.
    • Listen to music that lifts or calms you.

7. Tap into the many free resources available to help calm and manage your state.

There are so many. a few are listed below.

8. Practice gratitude.

There is growing evidence that gratitude aids wellbeing and happiness.

  • Keep a gratitude journal and write down at least one entry every day. Jotting this down before you go to sleep points the brain in a good direction for rest.
  • Stop for a moment and notice all the things that you appreciate that are still the same, unaffected by Covid19.

The dawn chorus and birdsong… Nature, budding trees and emerging blossom…. friendship, colleagues, laughter, the love of those close to us and our love for them. Kindness , I’m so grateful for this … there are so many examples of this at the moment, music, great films and box sets.

9. If working from home, establish a routine.

This, it would seem, will be, for many, and for now,  the new normal.

Take control. Get dressed for work. Set up a workstation. Organise the family if more workspaces are needed. Take breaks. Plan in social contact. Have a defined beginning and end to the working day. Be kind and tolerant of others also working from home, you may have to share space. Check out additional tips here.

In conclusion

I hope that this blog  is useful in helping you find ways to feel more grounded and steadier as the coronavirus experience unfolds. Remember this is just for now and will pass. Whether you are at home, providing a vital service through your job or through a volunteer role my hope is that there will be something of help to you. Please share.

The people of this country are grateful for all of the dedicated work that key workers are doing in the NHS, in education, and in other areas of society. We also want you to take care of yourselves as well as caring for us all. Continue reading “How to stay steady through the challenges of COVID 19. Includes resources for NHS staff and key workers”

The movies in your mind : Tips on how to get your imagination to work for you, rather than against you through skilled and purposeful visualisation!

“Imagination is everything.

It is the preview of life’s coming attractions”

Albert Einstein.

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Are you happy to leave your unique “preview” unscripted and unrehearsed or worse, let your brain run amok and generate negative previews that leave you fearful and disempowered?

Maybe sometimes it is totally appropriate and refreshing to arrive at a moment or situation in life without preparation but, at times, it’s good to take control. Using visualisation purposefully and acting as both the director and the star of our own internal movies is a proven way of shaping success and enhancing wellbeing.

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How can visualisation help to build success?

Way back, before some of you who are reading this were born, in the 1970’s; the Soviets started to use visualisation as part of sports training for competition. The technique is now widely used in sports. Top athletes and other sports elite use visualisation routinely in training to prepare for success. A quick search on the internet will provide many examples of sports stars past and present who harness the power of visualisation to boost their success.

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp and clear picture of taking the shot in my head”

Jack Nicklaus, world champion golfer

Advances in neuroscience and modern scanning technology can give us a clear picture of what is happening in the brain when we visualise. When we visualise in an “associated” way (where we are experiencing the scenario as if we were actually there) and become skilled in the technique, activities in the brain mirror the activities that occur when we are performing the same activity in real life. Motor control, perception, planning, perception, confidence and focus can all improve through the skilled use of visualisation.

In effect, it would seem that the brain cannot tell the difference, between a real and an associated, vividly imagined experience. The same neural pathways operate in both scenarios.

Thus, through skilled visualisation, we can create pathways within the brain that can be used and strengthened when we come to perform for real. This works whether you are an elite sports person or someone who wants to improve their ability in business situations.

By mentally rehearsing in this specialized way, we create “memories” of the visualised experience. When we come to the real situation, the brain has already prepared pathways that can help us perform effectively.

Let’s use a common situation that many people find challenging and which can cause stress and panic, as an example;- Public speaking. This will help me to outline some pitfalls of unplanned visualisation and describe the way to use visualisation positively, within a context that will, for many, make perfect sense!

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Many people,  are TERRIFIED of public speaking and want to build skills so that they can present information or address others with confidence and enjoyment. If this resonates, read on. If not, feel free to superimpose your preferred scenario over the next sections of content.

We will firstly explore how fear and terror can be generated within the wonderful brain.

How the brain and visualisation can work against us.

I remember many clients who have worked with me to build confidence and to overcome a terror of public speaking. From those may experiences, I have created an amalgamated case study.

Meet Peter: –

man with hand on temple looking at laptop

Peter is a 36-year-old  Director who has developed a full blow horror of public speaking. He has “managed” his fear by delegating to junior team members and thus avoided doing presentations for around four years. Up until recently this has worked well as a strategy.

The company that Peter works for is hosting a client conference in four weeks’ time. Peter has been told that he must present at the conference as senior clients are expecting him to do so. His own colleagues on the Board are expecting great things (remember, they have NO IDEA about Peter’s fear or previous strategy of avoidance).

Understanding Peter’s strategy for fear…

On working with Peter, I needed to elicit his strategy for generating high levels of panic and fear. This involved negative, critical, anxious, sarcastic and judgmental inner dialogue (for tips on how to manage this well see link to previous blog)  The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…    Peter’s own internal voice, in a harsh and bullying tonality, was literally telling him that he was crap, ( with many more unpleasant expletives ) and that he would make a total mess of presenting. He naturally responded with aversion and fear.

He was not initially aware that he had been running an internal movie of the scenario but, we very quickly identified that he had, and he was shocked by it’s content. He had done an excellent job of scaring himself into full blown fear. Neither of us were surprised that he had avoided presenting up until now.

His imagination had, in fact, created a full-blown disaster movie.

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It contained minute details such as;- tripping on his way to the front, forgetting and stumbling over his words, messing up the use of technology, having a dry mouth , losing his way within the content and blushing profusely. The audience, in his imagination, was unengaged, whispering rude comments about him and were clearly bored and restless as he spoke in a quiet and faltering voice. He imagined that people asked him questions that he couldn’t answer and laughed openly when he got stuck. In his “movie”, he was small and insignificant and the audience members huge with jeering and cruel faces.

This then was his brain’s strategy to, very expertly, generate a fear response to the perceived threat involved in presenting.

The key word is perceived as there was no historical or factual reason to believe that presenting would generate a threatening situation. His brain had created that threat, all on its own and the fearful response was part of the normal “fight or flight response” to threat. Flight in this case = avoidance of presenting.

Moving to confidence and success

We dealt with the unhelpful internal dialogue The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice… and then turned our attention to creating and installing a feelgood movie in place of the horror film that his creative “internal studio” had produced. He enjoyed using his imagination to visualise in a new and purposeful way  the presentation was a huge success!

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Peter now seeks every opportunity to present. he looks forward to doing so with excitement and anticipation. Here’s what we did…..

I will take you through the stages that I use with clients, in the activity that follows:-

Activity :- Step by step guide to using visualisation skillfully.

  1. Think of the situation where you want to feel more positive and confident e.g. the presentation.
  2. Close your eyes if possible to minimize distractions or if tricky to do so – softly defocus your eyes.
  3. Give some thought to how you want the situation to pan out in real life. Sketch out the details as if creatively scripting a positive scene for a movie.
  4. Close down any anxious or negative thoughts and focus on the way you want to “direct” the scene that will give the best outcomes. LINK to past blog for detail on closing down unhelpful thought patterns.The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…
  5. Strengthen your emotional “state” ;- you can do this sitting or standing.
    • Adopt a positive posture with spine straight, head held high and feet squarely planted on the ground.
    • Smile! Or at least relax the face ( you may not have been aware of tension but it is good to let it go!)
    • Think of a time when you felt really confident. Bring this to mind and step back into that moment as if you were back there again, right now. ( this warms up your imagination and creativity!)
    • Enjoy and imagine doubling the confident feeling as you replay the memory.
    • Take a couple of deeper breaths and enjoy the centered and grounded feeling that you have generated.

6.  Now run the movie of the scene that you have decided to rehearse, in your mind’s    eye. Make sure all of the following criteria are covered:-

  • You are directing the movie according to the new script and scene outcomes so……… feel a sense of positive anticipation about how good it can be.
  • Imagine that you are both directing and starring in the scene and that it is an IMAX panoramic experience!.
  • Make sure that you are “associated” into the scene…..playing the role rather than watching yourself in the role – see through your own eyes, hear through your own ears and feel how good it feels to handle the situation JUST as you would dream to.
  • Make sure that the movie is in full and focused colour.
  • Add in sound – a personal power anthem works well in the background. Hear yourself speak and hear the positive responses and murmurings around you.

7. Have the scenario go really well with you being just as you want to be in that situation. Enjoy feeling confident and strong, capable and in control.

8. Then throw in a challenge and notice how you deal with it in this positive, confident and grounded state. It is important to throw in a challenge as your brain will learn how to deal with challenges should they arise. Brains generalize very well and whilst you can’t imagine every challenge, your brain will generalize the calm and confident way that you respond to them.

    • Have it go well.
    • Throw in a series of other challenges and meet each one with a calm, confident and positive response.
    • Play the scenario through right until the end in your imagination…… feeling positive and proud.

9. Think again about the situation you are preparing for…..

10. Notice what feels different and enjoy the differences that arise!

Repeat these 10 steps several times a day to build pathways and confidence and then enjoy the event when it happens in reality.

Moving forward

Using visualisation purposefully in this way helps to build confidence and wellbeing and is a routine practice for many successful people in the fields of business, sport, music and other performance fields. It can also be useful in family life as a rehearsal for situations where we want to be positively at our best.

Have fun, enjoy building your skills and please do let me know how you get on.

Please leave me a message if you have comments or requests for future blog content relating to building success and wellbeing.

Thank you

Bridget Clapham. Do visit my website and get in touch to share your experiences

Keeping Your Success and Wellbeing in Mind.

The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…

pexels-photo-164636.jpeg“The only tyrant I accept in the world
is the still small voice within me”
Mahatma Gandhi.

Maybe Gandhi “accepted” it because he realised that he had the power to change it…. Or perhaps he knew that he had the choice how much attention he actually paid to it?

So, what do we do with, if indeed we notice,  the still small voice within? Part of our development of EQ skills is to develop self awareness so, pay attention and notice your inner voice. Believe me, it is always with you!

Our inner dialogue or self-talk is hugely powerful and influences us in a powerful way, moment to moment. Our state in any moment is influenced hugely by what we are listening to and not just the words. The WAY we are talking to ourselves has more impact than the words we are listening to.

Years ago, when I was teaching communication skills to Health Care Professionals, I always emphasised the importance of tonality, pace, etc. as being crucial to the meaning of the message when communicating to another individual. When I began to run Corporate programmes about stress management and resilience, I did teach about self talk – and yet  I admit, initially, I focussed mainly on the what of what we are saying to ourselves. A little on the how, yet way too little.

It was, however, only when I sat in a room with several hundred others as an NLP Practitioner delegate, and learned from Richard Bandler about the power of submodalities, that the learning really took off for me!!

Those skill drills eliciting submodalities were so important. The exercises in changing them were truly lessons in driving the bus as Richard would say!

I am guessing that, at times, we can all identify with the tyrant concept that Ghandi referred to.

Sometimes that inner voice is anything BUT still and small. It can be downright loud, destructive, tyrannical even. It can certainly lead us to feelings of depression, guilt, anger, frustration, panic fear, anxiety and other states far removed from and overwhelmingly different from the happiness and freedom available within.

When we talk to ourselves in positive words matched with a positive tonality and get the pitch, volume and inner smile in the voice, boy does it feel different!

Much of my work with clients in and outside corporate land is around giving people tools with which to achieve more joy… one of those sets of tools is about managing their voice within!

Below is a summary of what they and I learn and practice!

Firstly to pay attention to and to notice how you are feeling and tune in to your inner voice as if tuning into a radio!!!

1. Notice the inner dialogue
2.  Pay attention to what it is saying
3.  Notice HOW you are hearing the voice, is it gentle soothing, encouraging and supportive or sarcastic, belittling, frightened or sad?
4.  Consider what that voice may be getting you to pay attention to and act upon? (Remember there will be a positive intention – tricky though it may be to discern!) .
5.  If the voice is useful and you are feeling great, keep going and do more of it! Ramp it up!
6.  If it isn’t getting you to feel the way you need to in the situation, take action.

After all, there isn’t really anyone there, just a set of neural pathways firing off – electrical activity represented as a voice.

For many clients, corporate and private, this image in itself is enough to get them to take control. They can picture a set off pathways and the electrical activity and imagine putting a block in, a “STOP” sign,  so that the pathway can’t fire off in the same way any more.


Easy to visualise and very effective.

If the voice persists, there are several techniques which, if you are a practitioner of NLP you will be aware of.

Case study

I often tell the story of a client called “Ryan” who learned how to have better conversations in his head with fabulous results for his happiness and achievement.

Ryan was 10 years old when I worked with him.

His father called me and told me that Ryan had a promising tennis career and yet had “lost all of his confidence”. He had become anxious, increasingly worried, and had become fearful about playing matches. Whilst he was fine in training, he had lost every match in recent weeks. Could I help?

I wanted first to elicit whether I was talking to a father who had sights set on a Grand Slam Title and whether Ryan was keen or reluctant to climb up the tennis ladder. A quick chat to Ryan convinced me. The young man LOVED his tennis and wanted to enjoy his matches and to win again.

Ryan and I worked together once and kept in touch by phone.

This young man had developed a very critical, frustrated, irritated, superior and aggressive inner voice.

“You are useless at Tennis, the other boy will be better than you, you will miss all your shots, you may as well give up, you’re a useless failure”

Those were just a few of the hypnotic suggestions he was bathing in on a daily basis!

He wanted to enjoy his tennis, feel happy confident and motivated to win with a lovely mix of excitement and anticipation before and during his matches.

He wanted the feeling of winning, success and celebration back!!

Mastering his inner voice was the key to him achieving his desired change. We did other things too yet the major shift came when he changed his inner dialogue!

I gave him several tools with which to do this. The one he liked best and used the most was imagining he was listening to a track on his Ipod and simply changing tracks!! After all, why would he listen to something that was making him feel bad!?

I then asked him to imagine tuning to a different track, an audio book yet that didn’t seem to help.

We had been talking about favourite Tennis players, TV shows, movies, etc., so I seized an idea (the client will always provide the answer!!)

I asked him to create his own inner confidence coachand to imagine what that person would say to him about his tennis… I suggested his favourite player and many times Grand Slam Champion (mistake Bridget, too directive, remember the rules!) and he said, very cutely……

“Do I have to have a tennis player?”

“No” I said, it’s your brain – you can have whoever you like.”

“I know who I will have,” he said suddenly and, as he did so his whole physiology changed. He sat up tall, smiled and I knew the change we were waiting for had happened!!!

“Who will you have then?” I asked.

“Mr T” he said!!! (What a fabulous coach strong, solid, confident and BIG!!!)

“Fantastic” I said – “A fabulous coach! After all he’s on the A team.”

Ryan who was on a roll then said “Is it OK if I have two?”

“Who else have you got on your team now then”I asked.

“Rocky“ grinned Ryan!!! And he got even taller – if that was possible!

I got him to close his eyes and imagine walking in court with Mr T on one side and Rocky on the other, with Eye of the Tiger blaring through the speakers and – job done!

We did some great visualisations, more work on building great states and then, off he went, head held high – and brimming with confidence and a great big smile.

He started to win his matches again and, whilst he may or may not become a Grand Slam Champion, he now has an idea and a sense of what it could feel like!!

Inner Tyrant to Inspirational Inner Coach in a short session!

Ryan’s story has inspired many of my adult clients both private, and at CEO and Director level in corporate land. Whilst the tyrant may well pop up from time to time, it’s good to remember who is in charge.

Is your own inner dialogue always helpful? If not, use the techniques I taught to Ryan and notice the difference. Message me about your experiences and do get in touch is you would like to know more.

Until Next time.


The birth of a blog! Really Useful Stuff!

Welcome to my blogging adventure, sharing really useful stuff to folks around the world!

Let me elaborate… In my work as a Coach, working with leaders and people at work, with private clients and with students I often send them stuff which relates to the coaching and which is intended to help them to live a happier, more successful and generally more positive life.

The “stuff” can take the form of my own thoughts and alleged wisdom relating to the coaching we have shared to video links, Ted talks, Images, quotes and articles to compliment the coaching. The usual response from my clients is to say:-

“Thanks Bridget, that stuff you sent was really useful.!”

Reflecting on this led me to think that over  the years I have amassed a wealth of resources, some ( lots actually!)  in my head and some in my PC! Why send stuff to just one person when it could be shared to a wider audience?

I will be honest with you folks. I haven’t a clue about how to make best use of the software resources designed to help me blog so I am on a steep learning curve. I invite you to join me and to support me as I build up an online resource of stuff. Who knows how really useful you will find it!

Until next time

Bridget Clapham.