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Generic venlafaxine xrBuy vardenafil online ukAcyclovir buy online usa Between the tides festival

Through the magic of social media, I found out about the ‘Between The Tides’ swim-lit festival happening in Whitstable. It was a swimming literary festival, I had to go! 

Between the Tides logo

This festival helped me to put into words what I have been feeling about swimming for a while now and why I have made it a focus for my year. 

All of my experiences of outdoor swimming (aside from formal organised swims), have been with women. I have never part of a group of women before, aside from Guides a long time ago, but I think it is something I have always wanted and never realised. I have tried to join groups such as Red Tent, but found them to be too intense and delve straight into the deeps of emotions much more rapidly than I am comfortable with. 

For the most part these women are late thirties upwards, and it is deeply freeing to be with women who will happily strip off and get into the sea in their cossies. Not worrying about body hair, make up, hair or the shape of their bodies. 

This is deeply freeing. Since I became ill, I have been on a quest to accept my body more and more, which is rather difficult to do when it betrayed me one day and stopped being able to walk for no apparent reason and I had to use a wheelchair for a couple of years. 

Even before that happened, my body and I have had a difficult relationship for years, and part of the magic of open water swimming is the feeling that I suddenly love my body – look at what it can do! It can plow through the waves, in deep, rather cold water! There is a strong inner connection with myself which happens in open water, and especially the sea, which just does not occur in the pool. 

Listening to a variety of writers talk about their experiences, as well as those of the audience make me understand that many of us need this, and being with other women, being able to talk lightly about our every day lives, and being in the sea is fabulous. 

Katherine May, the organiser of the festival and writer of The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club, amongst others, said words along the lines of that she now feels she has a duty to have photos taken of her in her swimming costume as part of the press around this book and say – yes! This is my 42 year old body. This is what that looks like. 

Image from Katherine May’s Instagram

Yes! We need to be seen and accept our bodies as they are. There is a photo of me on Facebook in my swimming costume, from when I met up with Imogen who is doing 60 swims for her 60th year in 6 months. Somewhat of a step up from my 40 for 40. At first I was horrified and wanted to ask her to take it down, but I decided not to. I certainly don’t look comfortable and am gripping my tow float in front of me, but none the less I am in swimming costume. You can see me. But yes, this is my body. It does fantastic things, this is what it looks like. 

The whole festival was deeply inspiring, from meeting others, to listening to the authors and I took part in a creative workshop with Zoe Gilbert, which I greatly enjoyed and hopefully has encouraged me to get on with the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo quite a few years ago now. 

So many of us yearn to write, to share our stories, either as ’narrative non fiction’, memoirs or fiction, but we just can’t. Many of the women in the room had been through a period of illness and it had changed how they saw themselves and their bodies. 

I hope all of us in that session start writing and sharing our stories. And all of us above all, swim, accept our bodies and create community. 

This was an utterly wonderful festival, I enjoyed it greatly and I hope it returns for a second year.

40 swims for 40 years

I turned 40 mid June this year. I am very much seeing it as a cause for celebration, and my friends and family, especially my husband, have helped me a great deal in that. 

Recently I have been getting into open water swimming, I have always loved swimming and it has been instrumental to me geting my physical strength back after I got so sick I ended up in a wheelchair for a couple of years. I love being outdoors above all else, so it made sense to try to swim outdoor more. Before I got sick I was training for triathlons and was about to do a marathon after doing a half marathon, I had even done a 2.5 KM swim outdoors. Last year I did two outdoor swims and loved them a great deal. 

To challenge myself I want to do 40 swims in my 40th year, so before my next birthday I need to swim outdoors 40 times. The main reason for this is I want to swim outdoors all year round. I get such a strong feeling of joy and freedom from swimming outside, especially in the sea. I think the cold water boosts my mental health and immunity, there seems to be growing research to prove that. I am hoping it will reduce the inflammation in my body too, which I believe is one of the key causes for my pain flare ups.

What this is not is a way to beat myself up! I am not worried about distance, or even time spent in the water, this is just a way to keep me swimming all year round. Having said that, my health comes first, if I’m not feel well I will skip a swim, even if it means I don’t make my target. 

I also hope to use this to go to more places in Essex and the surounding areas, despite living here for ten years now I haven’t explored the county a great deal, and this is a wonderful excuse to do so. 

What ‘counts’? Anything I want! It doesn’t matter if I am in the water for 5 mins or 50, and as long as it is under the sky it goes in the diary. So lidos, lakes, ponds, rivers and the sea all count. I do have to be at least put to my waist in water though, a paddle doesn’t make the list. It is also fine if I keep going back to the same places. Due to my location there isn’t really anywhere to swim within a 45 minute radius. Even though the Thames is literally a five minute walk away, it is still in the industrial part, with large ships and no safe place to get in. It’s such a shame as that would be very convenient.

I am beginning to learn that to be happy you have to decide what you want and put the effort in. I know being outdoors and swimming makes me very happy, and so I need to focus on making that a large part of my life, it doesn’t just happen and it is easy to have months slip by without doing the things which make your life what you want it to be. I love being outdoors and swimming above all else.

Returning to Paid Employment

Very recently I’ve made a big and scary step to going back to paid employment, rather than being a full time freelancer.

There is a lot of rhetoric out there that being self employed is the only way to be happy, the only way to have control over your life. I absolutely believed this, but I haven’t been happy as an arts consultant for quite some time now, not least because there is just not as much work as there was a few years ago, and all my fellow consultants are saying the same thing.

A long time ago I worked in IT, in the marketing and PR side of things to be sure, but there was a part of my job which involved developing and maintaining a website, before CMS systems like WordPress were in place, I had to hard code it all and update using an FTP client!

While I was in my first full time role I applied for IBM’s graduate programme, I had several IBM clients on my rosta at the PR agency. I didn’t get in because I totally messed up my A-Levels. But I had started to do a Maths ALevel before I swapped if for Theatre Studies. How different my life would have been if I hadn’t made that change.

To cut a long story short I have always been interested in IT, but very much on the sidelines. A couple of years ago I got a Raspberry Pi from my husband, I love messing about with a computer without worrying that I was going to break it. I started to learn to code online and loved that too. I realised quite quickly that I was missing a lot of foundational information about computing and IT, and so I started to do a BSc IT & Computing with the Open University.

That was in April last year. I had a plan. I would work on my degree while continuing to do arts freelance stuff as it came long, with the longer term aim of joining a technology company and becoming a software engineer. I started going to my local tech networking event, and helping at a coding workshop for young people. Then I saw a job being advertised at Spektrix, a software development company who provide box office software to the arts sector. I thought this would be a perfect company for me to work for.

And indeed I was right, in the middle of January this year I joined Spektrix. I love it very much, although it is rather jarring to be in an office four days a week, when I have been at home for six years. Becoming a Spektrixer has allowed me to jump my plan forward by severaal years. I’m working as a Support and Training Consultant, our clients are all arts venues, which means that they are lovely! Over time I hope to pick up more of the technical side of things, but right now I am learning an entirely new and large piece of software, which is taking up a lot of brain power.

This is a change in direction for me, I am no longer looking for any arts consultancy or photography work (although I am still taking on freelance writing), but I am focusing in on technology, through my job, degree and personal projects, as well as continuing to love playing and listening to music!

Capturing the creativity of schools

At the end of last term I was utterly privileged to be commissioned by the Royal Opera House Bridge to capture the creative essence of schools who are going to be featured in their book of best arts practice within a variety of schools. It was wonderful to go and see nine different schools from across Essex and North Kent, to understand how they implement the arts within their context.

This was an incredibly challenging task, taking photos of young people doing the arts is exciting and relatively easy, but capturing how the school has bought the arts into their values and changed how they work at a fundamental level was much harder!

The schools and ROHB have been very happy with the results.

“We asked Jen to photograph schools all across Essex and Kent for inclusion in a publication. She got some brilliant shots that really encapsulated the creative and cultural learning that goes on in schools and brought to life the individual nuances of each school”

Richard Speight – Royal Opera House Bridge.

One of the photos has been used in an article in the Times Educational Supplement website. The full article can be read here.

Interested in working with me to share the essence of your organisation? Get in touch on Jen AT jenfarrant DOT com.

Save Elm Road Open Space


My local park is under threat of being sold off to make way for a 900 student secondary school. This is in the middle of a warren of tiny residential streets, it is the only open space for quite a way and it is incredibly well used.

I am spearheading an apolitical campaign to stop this from happening, it is vital that we protect all green spaces, especially in built up areas.

Please join us on the website, Twitter, Facebook and if you are a Thurrock resident please sign the petition. I have been interviewed by the local newspapers and radio too. Due to the way social media works, we need as many follows and likes as possible, as this means it gets shown more too.

Yesterday I attended the council meeting. This is the first time I have been involved in local politics and I was utterly appalled at the behaviour in the chamber. There were blatent lies, rudeness and our campaign was treated as a political football, rather than an impassioned local movement


About six months ago I started to code. Or, more to the point, code again. I learnt to build websites over 15 years ago, well before WordPress or even any ‘what you see is what you get’ editors, it was in raw HTML code. I stopped when changed jobs and I no longer needed to maintain the website. I watched the launch of the Raspberry Pi with jealousy…and never bought one because what use would I have for it?
I decided a while ago to delve back into my techie, geeky self and start to learn to code. Amusingly I couldn’t set up a username on one coding site as it was taken. Jen Farrant is relatively unique name, I’ve always managed to get it as a username in the past, so after putting in an old, abandoned email address the account popped up. I’d set this up over six years ago. Hmm, if only I’d followed up on that whim at the time!
Like with everything I’m realising that to get good at code, you have to put the time in. Decide that’s what you want to do and then do it. I absolutely love coding and I am getting better at a steady pace, because I work on it every day (aside from Sundays, when I have a complete day off from all things digital and learning focused).
Whatever it is that is my core focus, music theory, Python, piano, I tend to do it first thing in the morning. I am definitely a morning person. That way, my strongest focus goes on the thing that is hardest and I have a fantastic sense of achievement to kick me off into the rest of my work.
As when I was learning music theory, I use a variety of methods. I primarily use Team Treehouse as an online academy, but I supplement this with various books, Codecademy (which is similar to Treehouse, but explains things in a different way), Google searches when I get stuck and I’m going to be studying Python with the Open University too, which will take a different approach again.
Learning new things is hard, there is no getting away from it. Few people sit down and discover THIS was what they had been born to do and are suddenly virtuoso at it. You have to decide this is what I want to do, then figure out the right habits, and environment, for you to keep turning up day after day after day to do it.
I love getting back to my techie roots – my first ten years of work were in the IT sector. Oh and the Raspberry Pi? My husband bought me one for Christmas and I’ve been enjoying building and coding with it. I wish I had done that years ago. I think this comes down to Liz Gilbert’s exhortation to follow your curiosity to find out what your passion is, rather than telling yourself not to be silly.

Having your own space

I am one of the few consultants in my field (arts & culture/not for profit), who has their own website.

I have love affairs with social media and then stop. I invest lots of time Tweeting and sharing links. I post lots of photos. And then stop.  I’ve had a lot of thoughts about Instagram, especially I love photography.  I used to post to Instagram very regularly. Then I did a course from a very well respected Instagram expert, which stopped me in my tracks.

That was mainly because I don’t want my feed to look like the feeds she promoted and I do not want to worry about a perfectly curated feed which needs planning in advance. Doing the course actually stopped me doing Instagram as I couldn’t and didn’t want to do Instagram like she did. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that I could do Instagam as I wanted.

At that time the accounts she promoted, or the ones that I followed made me feel really bad.

First of all there was the flat lay and floral contingency, feeds full of beautifully curated, perfectly laid out things, knick-knacks and colour coordinated gewgaws. Or peonies artistically arranged, in what I thought (naively) were perfectly beautiful houses, but were in fact backdrops and bits of wood, not people’s tables.

Those with perfect homes without any stains on the wall, all perfectly lit. I found out they all edited the photos to remove the marks on the walls and yes, they did indeed use lighting, it wasn’t that their houses were flooded with natural light.

Then there were the health accounts, the ones full of perfect bowls of super healthy food, or the yoga accounts of fit, skinny twenty year olds on California beaches. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for well over 20 years and I don’t look like those people. I live in an suburban, industrial/post industrial bit of England. My life is not lived on a Californian beach.

With my personal photography I don’t focus on things like that, but odd juxtapositions, which often don’t look like the standard definition of beauty.

But my biggest problem is that I am giving over the ownership of my work to Instagram. And at the end of the day I am building their business for them, they are making direct money off of the fact that I, and hundreds of thousands like me, give my work to them to use free of charge.

I haven’t been great at sharing my client photography work here on the site. I’ve done a shoot for Thurrock Council (the switching on of the Christmas lights), as well as working with local businesses, finding ways to explain their work through images. I’m currently working with Royal Opera House Bridge. I should upload them here. But because I decided not to Instagram them, I didn’t take the time to upload them to my portfolio.

Strange isn’t it? There is no doubt that it is more effort to share here, than through Instagram. But I am building on my land, rather than chucking my work out into the Instagram vast desert. And with my site, I don’t get sucked into hashtags, comments etc. I retain control – of my work and of my time.

My site adapts to me and what I do. I’ve lost track of the iterations of my start here there has been, and it expands and contracts as it needs to. Now my health is excellent, I no longer blog about disability and chronic illness, but those things still sit on my site, including my most hit blog post – the fight for a wheelchair. As my client offerings change, my site changes to reflect that. I maintain control of my site. If people sign up to the RSS feed, or email alerts (on the right hand side of the page) on new posts they get them directly, rather than my news being dependent on the Twitter/Instagram/next social media algorithm.


7 x 24 = 168

7 days a week
24 hours a day
168 hours in a week

On my war-board which sits behind and to the left of my desk, the centre currently reads


It’s there to remind me, every single moment I glance up and to the left (which is where I tend to look when I am thinking) that we all have 168 hours in a week.

What am I going to do in that time?

1) There is only 168 hours in a week – I honestly can’t do everything that I want to do right now, what is my priority?
2) Is scrolling through Facebook/Twitter/Instagram AGAIN going to make my life what I want it to be?
3) am I focusing on what is scheduled in my calendar – working towards my long term aims?

This year I didn’t set myself goals to achieve, last year I had an extensive list. This year I have long term aims – the direction I want my life to be heading, along with monthly goals and daily Most Important Tasks, which get scheduled into my calendar hour by hour.

Working like this makes me feel good and my most important work gets done too.

Amanda Palmer makes me deeply uncomfortable

Amanda Palmer is a musician, writer and all round artist. Her relationship with her fans is legendary and intimate- she will sofa surf at her fan’s place and she was one of the first artists to fund an album via Kickstarter. Just do a quick Google search to see how contentious she is – she does tend to divide opinion. She is an avid user of Patreon and for a while I supported her through that, but I had to stop – primarily because she makes me deeply uncomfortable and I observed her output with my hands over my eyes, peeping through my fingers, figuratively speaking. I’ve written about her before, here and here.

I think there are several reasons for this – she is so open with her emotions, she wears her heart bleeding on her sleeve and writes so eloquently about it. She is explicitly political and doesn’t care who she upsets with her proclamations. She just seems to do what the hell she wants with her art and music, while at the same time supporting other artists through her Patreon.

She is clearly deeply passionate about life and art.

Maybe it’s because I am so damn British, reserved and deeply introverted that I find her uncomfortable.

I watch her videos and writing dumbstruck at her sheer effrontery and truth. Because she does seem (as far as I can tell without ever having met her) to be utterly genuine. She is who she is and doesn’t care what others think, while caring deeply about people and music. It’s an odd combination. I think she is essentially herself in all her glorious magnificence.

I think the uncomfortableness is jealousy and horror at the same time.

There have been huge gaps in my posting here as I struggle to find the right balance between personal and ‘professional’, whatever that means.

It is clear from her blog posts (and I no longer have access to the more intimate Patreon posts) that she feels everything deeply, that she is affected by everything that happens and her art work comes from that suffering and that she is driven to share it.

I guess it is interesting for me to think about why AFP makes me so uncomfortable, to see if there is anything I can learn. I really don’t want to start dressing like her, or living my life like her, but I would love to be a little freer in my writing, and photography and I’d love to hold my music less tightly and just enjoy it more.

Don’t get me wrong, AFP has had a lot of issues – like I said do a Google search, ‘most hated’ comes up more than once. I don’t think she would be upset at my blog post! Oh and the F in the middle of her name….. Fucking. Yep, she actually claimed that as her name. Astonishing.

None the less, I don’t think AFP should change what or how she does what she does. I think she is awesome, the uncomfortableness shines a lights on me and how I work…

A day with Nigel Hess

This weekend I was privileged to take part in a rehearsal day with the international composer and director Nigel Hess. My concert band does these sessions every couple of years, we then go on to perform the composer’s pieces in a special concert later in the year. I can’t remember the last time I had such a wonderful day. Nigel was incredibly generous spirited in his direction of the band. We are a community amateur band and he is used to working with professional orchestras. He was full of praise and encouragement, as well as getting us to play his pieces so much better than at the start of the day. I am certain that everyone else enjoyed the day as much as I did.

My band is a very important part of my life, and music generally.

When you play music you are actively creating. You are taking control of your life, not passively consuming, but making. When that is combined with taking part with other people that is a recipe for some feel good hormones being released through you body.

I have been quite open about my journey of learning to play an instrument as an adult. It is not easy. There are a million and other things I could be doing with my time. It’s not like I picked up the flute and suddenly started playing, that I was an undiscovered genius and just had to find the right thing. I work at this. I put the time in, practicing most days, and for extended periods of time now too. Sorry neighbours, especially when I’ve been learning new high notes.

When I passed my Grade 5 flute (and it is only ever a pass as I get incredibly anxious in exams), I was delighed, but had to do my Grade 5 Theory before I could continue any longer. The whole way through playing the flute I had been saying I didn’t want to do theory, I couldn’t see the point in it. Now I had to study them all in one go to get up to G5 standard. I’ve written about that here.

There are times when I am playing with the band, especially when we revisit pieces from previous years, when I suddenly realise how much I have improved. It gives me a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Days like yesterday make me want to practice more and get even better. Taking part in a hobby where you are being stretched, challenged and grow is incredibly positive for mental health. Being part of a community is good for your well being. Community music helps on both points! I also think creating, rather than consuming is also excellent for wellbeing.

My band is Harmonie Concert Band, and you can find a local band, orchestra or choir here.