Us & Everything Else: A book review by Amanda Chalmers

Us & Everything Else: A book review by Amanda Chalmers

A LIFE well travelled – and a journey of self-discovery are at the heart and soul of Francoise Hélène’s poignant new poetry collection Us & Everything Else.

This evocative book tackles just about everything, from the rawest of emotions of pain and heartache to the most euphoric of joys and celebrations.

Us and Everything Else, poetry, Francoise Helene

Whether it’s exploring the beauty and pain that inhabits our days, the desire to give hope through hopelessness or spread joy in moments of deep sorrow, this moving collection is penned by an author who clearly wants the leave their reader feeling truly inspired to live their ‘most authentic life.’

The poems resonate most deeply with clear and important messages around diversity, practising self love, relinquishing negativity and encouraging us to share the beauty of everyday lives.

Born in New Brunswick, Canada Françoise Hélène was always seeking inspiration in everything, and in school she learned English and fell in love with music and song lyrics from an early age.

Francoise’s travels took her across the world to Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia and South America but it was London, where she finally settled and fell in love with poetry, inspiring the prose to flow.

One of the delights of this collection is its ability to connect to every reader, regardless of gender, status or standpoint.

Whether a lover or a fighter, a parent or a friend, a stalwart or a lost soul, there’s something for all to relate to at various levels and stages of our lives.

And it’s not afraid to take us to some darker corners where we may even discover we’re facing up to some harsh realities about our own journeys.

But then we’ll turn the page and, almost without warning, feel the warmest of embraces with poetic words championing love and reassurance through such topics as inner strength, self-belief, self-preservation and determination. Some of the poems are an eye-opener to see light in the darkness.

The book is a mix of short and long poems with even a few short stories thrown in for good measure at the end. Francoise’s passions of music nature, art and philosophy become familiar themes throughout her pages – alongside broken hearts, inner truths, loneliness, sacrifice and healing – but she is also adept at using humour to successfully convey a more lightened mood.

Us and Everything Else, poetry, Francoise Helene
Francoise Hélène

Personally, I believe Us & Everything Else is best summed up by one of the author’s own poems. . .

‘When the passion inside of you

Always burns for more

That is how you know

Not only it is part of you

But you were meant to be part of it.’

It is simply entitled Doing What You Love.

And there’s no doubting that Francoise’s deep adoration for her work is the secret to its success – she has already been recognised with an award.

This exciting poet lays everything bare between the covers of this book – and its raw honesty can’t fail but to empower its readers who will undoubtedly emerge from their own personal literary – and spiritual – journey of discovery.

A very interesting read.

You can find Us & Everything Else through the author’s website or here.

String of new enterprises inspired by the worst loss of all

String of new enterprises inspired by the worst loss of all

Sharon Luca-Chatha will boast to anyone who asks that she is a proud mum of two.

But there’s an unmistakable heartbreak behind her smile. Her first son Luca, whom she refers to as her ‘angel baby’, was stillborn at almost full term.

Sharon Luca-Chatha, The Luca Foundation, LK Eco Style, Angel Warriors, stillbirth
Sharon Luca-Chatha in her new clothing range

In a life plagued by trauma, including domestic violence in a previous arranged marriage and crippling illness which has left her unable to walk unaided, grieving for Luca is described by Sharon as her ‘darkest and most devastating time.’

But none of it has got in the way of her sheer determination to keep his memory alive. As well as changing her surname to Luca-Chatha, Sharon, from Coventry, has gone on to establish a charity in his name which has already raised thousands of pounds. And if that’s not enough, the busy entrepreneur is also about to launch two books and a new eco-friendly clothing line, all inspired by her journey with stillbirth and mental illness.

It’s agonising for Sharon and her husband Jas to know they’ll never have the answers they seek as to the cause of their son’s death eight years ago. But from that day on, they vowed to help other parents suffering the same tragedy.

The Luca Foundation, which counts among its ambassadors Poldark actor Christian Brassington, raises funds for the purchase and repair of refrigerated cuddle cots which allow grieving parents precious extra time with their ‘angel babies’ – time the couple desperately wish they themselves had had.

Sharon, 44, said: “A parent’s worst nightmare is to lose their child. We were beyond devastated, our world had fallen apart. From the moment he died on the Monday inside my womb, to the Thursday when I gave birth to him, everything was in a daze.

“We were not ready for the next blow – the limited time we had with him, knowing we would then never see him again. After holding onto Luca as long as we could – just a few hours – we had to hand him over to be taken to the mortuary. This caused us such trauma. We just cried uncontrollably.

“As I look back I realise that was the defining moment when I decided I wanted every parent to have access to a cuddle cot.

“The cot acts like a refrigerator so it keeps the body cold which allows the parents then to have up to a week with their baby and, if they wish to, even take them home with that equipment.”

Sharon added: “ ‘Growth restriction’ was eventually given as cause of death. When we got the post mortem results, I was hoping it was going to say they’d found some sort of defect that would have shortened his life and that he would have suffered – something to give me some sense of closure.

“We had exactly the same danger alert for our second son Ky who came up small on the growth chart at 24 weeks exactly as Luca had and that did scare us. But from then on I was monitored weekly and, on my persistence, he was induced early. I couldn’t bear the thought of him going past 36 weeks in the pregnancy because that’s when we lost Luca. He was delivered exactly a week before Luca’s birthday and the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, so if he had gone any longer he would have suffocated in my womb and we’d have lost a second child.

“I just know if they had done the same for Luca he would be here with us now.”

Sharon Luca-Chatha, The Luca Foundation, LK Eco Style, Angel Warriors, stillbirth
Sharon and Jas Luca-Chatha with their second son Ky.

Sharon fell pregnant with Ky, now seven, just a few months after their loss but she has made sure his big brother is still a feature of their lives.

“We toyed with the idea for ages. I just felt so empty,” said Sharon. My arms felt so empty, I felt like I had no purpose in life anymore. I was a mother but nobody saw me as a mother. I wanted a child here that I could nurse. We wanted to be parents to a living child as well.

“My dream was always to have two children which I do have, but one is not with me. It left me heartbroken really that Ky doesn’t have a sibling here. When I do see children with their siblings it tugs at my heart that we weren’t able to do that for him.”

While fundraising for the Foundation was halted by the pandemic, Sharon has been far from idle in lockdown, putting the finishing touches to both of her new books.

Angel Warriors, released on Amazon in October, is a touching and personal account of the past eight years, with plans to release an audio version of the book, spoken in her own words, by the end of the year, while Why Did Grandad Die? is an illustrated children’s book geared at helping three to nine-year-olds understand bereavement – and is inspired by Ky will eventually find its way into all schools.

One hundred per cent of the proceeds will go to the Foundation.

Sharon said: “We’ve always had photos of Luca in the house so even as a baby he would point at his picture and ask about him. I knew that day would come. We talk about him a lot and he’s a big part of our lives and he receives a present from his big brother every birthday and Christmas.”

She said: “I would like this to very much be a part of mental health awareness for children, especially with a lot of children having now lost loved ones through COVID-19. It would be a good form of illustration to say ‘there’s nothing to be scared of.’

“The title for Angel Warriors came to me while I was grieving for Luca. The definition of warrior is to keep fighting on and find your inner strength. My son up there in the sky is the angel and I’m the warrior down here having to live my life without him.

Sharon Luca-Chatha, The Luca Foundation, LK Eco Style, Angel Warriors, stillbirth

“We need such strength to get through the rest of our lives because we’ve gone through the most horrific kind of loss.

“This book took me about a year to write – I struggled to get through the first couple of chapters because they made me emotional.”

The couple’s hopes for a third child were dealt a cruel blow when Sharon was diagnosed with neurosensory disorder fibromyalgia following a car accident.

Despite battling with chronic symptoms including pain and fatigue, she is determined it won’t impede on her ambitious plans to continue to grow the charity – and business.

She said: “I was very active. I did boxercise, spinning classes, yoga and then the accident happened and everything stopped and changed our lives forever.

“It was really hard on Ky because he can’t understand why, all of a sudden mummy can’t pick him up and have cuddles or bathe him anymore.”

This week the entrepreneur turns her focus to the launch of LK Eco Style – her innovative new ethical clothing brand designed to complement the Angel Warrior book.

The Fair Trade range, for men, women and children, is UK-manufactured and supplied and made from recycled organic cotton and polyester with no toxins, chemicals or animal products – combining all of Sharon’s passions.

She said: “The original idea was to create a T-shirt to complement the book so I designed a slogan which then started snowballing across a range of other charities, all based around mental health. It’s about getting children to understand that it’s cool to be kind and men to talk together in a sense of brotherhood.

“There’s a very strong market for eco-friendly clothing but it’s not readily available so I thought why not do all those things that are important, not only for our environment, but for people’s wellbeing, mental health and charities. I would love for LK to become a household name one day.”

Partner charities, including Samaritans, NSPCC and The Word Land Trust, will receive a 10% donation from the sale of clothing bearing their slogans.

Sharon has come a long way since her darkest days in the weeks following Luca’s death, which nearly led her to take her own life.

She tearfully recalls: “I planned it all out but what suddenly stopped me was the fact that Jas would find my body. I just broke down in tears and realised I couldn’t do that to him.

“I was so upset when he came home that day and he wanted to know why, so I was honest with him. He cried a lot and asked me to promise him I’d never do that.

She added: “I do often think I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Ky. I don’t think I’d live this life of pain and hurt and heartbreak if it wasn’t for my little son who looks up to me and sees me as a strong mother. I’ve got to be that strong mother so he’ll realise when he’s older, my mum’s gone through all of this but has carried on going. I hope when he has those ups and downs in life he’ll know to keep going so he can get through it, like I have.

“I want him to learn that it’s not the end of the world, that you can carry on but you have to find your inner strength.”

A cuddle cot

The Luca Foundation:

LK Eco Style:

Why Did Grandad Die? will be available from Amazon at the end of August and Angel Warriors in October, both £9.99.

UNVEILING: Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards. . .

UNVEILING: Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards. . .

A CELEBRATION of the best of Coventry and Warwickshire’s food and drink scene is at the heart of a new awards program designed to support businesses as they re-emerge from lockdown.

The first Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Visit Coventry, will culminate in a ceremony in May following a finalists’ night on January 25th at the city’s new Telegraph Hotel – opening its doors for the first time later this year.

Foodie Awards 2021, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith, Councillor Jim O’Boyle

Judges and public votes will decide on winners in several categories that focus on quality, service and innovation with an emphasis on farm to fork, including best artisan food and drink producers, farm shop, independent food and drink retailer, newcomer, street food trader and chef or cook of the year.

Three further special awards will also recognise the extraordinary efforts of businesses and individuals throughout the coronavirus pandemic – Food Champion, sponsored by The Leamington Courier Series and Rugby Advertiser; the COVID-19 Resilience Award sponsored by Visit Coventry and The Godiva Award, sponsored by Coventry BID.

The project brings together the creative minds behind Talk Business UK, Coventry BID and Visit Coventry, to champion the hospitality industry across the region.

Foodie Awards 2021, Jonathan Smith, Talk Business UK, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen
Jonathan Smith

Foodie Awards Founder Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”This will give a much-needed positive focus for the people in the Food and Drink sector across the region, delivering from farm to fork.

“With so many businesses hit by the direct and knock on effects of lockdown these awards will champion and celebrate the talent, passion, ingenuity and entrepreneurship of all those working so hard to grow, make, bake, brew, cook, host and serve their local communities. This awards program is for all of us to say thank you!”

Entries will open for nominations in a few weeks but sponsors are invited to get in touch via:

Sponsorship packages, which come with a whole host of benefits, are available from just £600 but the organisers would also like to hear from businesses that can offer partnership services.

Foodie Awards 2021, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith, Councillor Jim O’Boyle
Councillor Jim O’Boyle

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration said: “The last few months have been tough but as restaurants and bars begin to open their doors again, it’s a good time to celebrate the great range of food and drink on offer in Coventry and I am delighted that Visit Coventry is able to be a partner in these awards.

“We have seen a wide range of independent and well-known chains open in the city in recent years and these awards will give this sector a real boost.”


Trish Willetts

Trish Willetts, BID Director, said: “We are incredibly excited to be working with the team bringing the Coventry and Warwickshire Food & Drink Awards to the region. Coventry itself has a thriving foodie scene, with some great independent restaurants and bars in the city, and more to come later in the year.

“Whilst the last few months have been incredibly tough on the industry as a whole, things are slowly starting to get back to normal and a new chapter is beginning. The awards will be a fantastic way to celebrate this and give businesses the recognition they very much deserve.”

The finalists’ night in January and awards ceremony – at a venue to be announced – in May, will both be presided over by MC Kirsty Leahy of Kirsty Leahy Productions.

The Foodie Awards, which will be raising money for The Trussell Trust network of eight foodbanks in Coventry and Warwickshire, are also being produced in partnership with journalist Amanda Chalmers of ChalmersNewsPR, based in Warwick and food blogger Ellen Manning, from Rugby.

For a full list of categories and all the information, visit

New business helps lift pandemic cloud

New business helps lift pandemic cloud

TWO Leamington friends are hoping their new enterprise will help boost local business efforts to re-emerge from the challenges of lockdown.

Carl Barlow, from Cubbington, established Fog surface sanitisation company this month after adapting his private jet and helicopter valeting business which was suddenly grounded by COVID-19.

Fog, COVID-19, lockdown, Carl Barlow, Barry Sant, Rise&Shine
L-R Carl Barlow and Barry Sant

Headed up by ex-RAF engineer Barry Sant, the pair, forecast Fog will help lift a cloud in the aftermath of the pandemic, also pledging to employ other financial ‘victims’ of lockdown in the process.

Carl, who launched Rise&Shine for the aviation sector 20 years ago, said: “Due to the virus, aviation has been very badly hit so my business needed to look to other fields to generate more income. As we were already providing a fogging sanitisation service to aircraft – and as we were starting to receive requests to fog jet centres and non-aviation vehicles, we realised there is a need for this outside the aviation industry as well.”

He added: “We are truly focused on employing within the local area, to people who lost their jobs due to the virus.

“And everything from vehicle graphics to clothing merchandise to print has been locally sourced to assist as many businesses as possible.”

The Fog machines are designed to thoroughly sanitise all surfaces in any space, by dispensing non-toxic and eco-friendly disinfectant in a super fine mist of protective particles.

And customers are warned not to be alarmed by the appearance of the ‘foggers.’

“We turn up looking like Ghostbusters! We only wear the full personal protective equipment because we’re working with it all the time and are following the product manufacturers’ recommendations. The product is completely safe due its non-toxic and eco-friendly properties,” said Barry Sant, who was recently reunited with his childhood friend after seeing an appeal on social media.”

The ex-RAF and civil aviation engineer is able to call upon his 24 years working in the aircraft maintenance when heading up the new operation.

Barry Sant, Carl Barlow, Fog, COVID-19, lockdown

Depending on which cleaning agent is used, it can provide protection against pathogens and viruses for up to eight, 10 or 30 days after each procedure.

He said: “A motor creates a high- pressure air output to produce a very fine fog to enable the efficient application of various disinfectant solutions to a variety of hard and soft surfaces that are active within five minutes.

“It can be used anywhere that you have customers, staff or the general public – pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, public transport, vehicles, gyms, shops etc. and is already used in hospitals and other healthcare settings as one of the products is certified as a class 2A medical device. All products are food safe and one is even Halal certified, in accordance with Islamic law.”

He added: “People have their own care and maintenance and cleaning regimes to complement the initial disinfection, such as further sanitisation of the common touch points like door handles and light switches.

“There’s no reason why people can’t do the fogging themselves, with the correct equipment and PPE and disinfectant, but most people want to leave it to someone who has got knowledge and experience in carrying out the procedure and not have to worry about the initial outlay of buying all the expensive equipment.

“Also, every time there’s a procedure carried out they receive the official certification which businesses need to produce.”

Barry Sant, Carl Barlow, Fog, COVID-19, lockdown

As demand in Fog’s services grows, the entrepreneurs predict a new shift towards the long term importance of surface hygiene post COVID.

Barry said: “I’d like to see the business grow and eventually become national because the issue with the COVID virus isn’t going away in the short or medium term. We’re all in for a long ride with this.

“The elephant in the room is obviously COVID-19 but when you go to shops on the bus, for instance, you’re also being exposed to many other micro-organisms/viruses etc. – they’re just not in the news all the time. You’ve got the potential to pick them up at any point at any time from anywhere so a regime that can initially have been put in place due to the coronavirus, could have a longevity because of the nature of what it actually does.

He added: “This is all very much a steep learning curve and educational process, not only for the businesses carrying out this nature of the work, but also for business owners and members of the public. We can help them find a way through.”

Visit for further details.

Serving up the great outdoors in Hatton

Serving up the great outdoors in Hatton

THE owner of Hatton Estate has hailed the great outdoors and the Chancellor’s latest business support measures as a big step forward in the fight against ‘widespread carnage of the hospitality sector.’

Johnnie Arkwright, who runs Hatton Arms and Hatton Country World in Warwick, has welcomed the tax cut and meal voucher scheme as a saviour for many pubs, restaurants and cafes which continue to see a reduced footfall in visitors.


Hatton Arms, Hatton Country World, Hatton Shopping Village, garden bar, terrace dining, Johnnie Arkwright, Warwick
There’s a huge amount of space for a fresco dining at The Hatton Arms.

The Eat Out to Help Out registration service went live this morning on GOV.UK, allowing businesses to join the scheme, announced last week by Rishi Sunak.

Restaurants, bars, cafes and other establishments who use the scheme will offer a 50 per cent reduction, up to a maximum of £10 per person, to all diners who eat and/or drink-in throughout August.

Now, summer sunshine could hold the key to a return to business as usual with the completion of the Hatton Arms’ outdoor Terrace Dining and new Garden Bar and barbecue.

Hatton Arms, Hatton Country World, Hatton Shopping Village, garden bar, terrace dining, Johnnie Arkwright, Warwick
The new Garden Bar

Johnnie said: “The Government do appear to realise that with a population that has become used to dining at home and is nervous of confined spaces when going out coupled with the reduction of capacity levels because of the need to socially distance, the avoidance of widespread carnage in a hospitality sector that provides three million jobs is a big challenge.”

The popular country pub, which was forced to close its doors in March just one month after a refurbishment, is now inviting diners to make the most of one of the best views in Warwickshire – from its own back garden.

Johnnie said: “The countryside has to be the answer for leading us out of lockdown. At Hatton Arms, Hatton Adventure World and Hatton Shopping Village we are lucky enough to have loads of fresh air and bags of space. And that’s what all of us cooped up at home for months are looking for.

“At Hatton Arms we are lucky enough to have a large outside terrace and massive gardens overlooking Hatton Locks. Both, unsurprisingly, are proving really popular with their iconic views down the famous Hatton Locks, the longest flight of locks on the Grand Union Canal.

“The Government’s new voucher scheme is a really good initiative that Hatton Arms and Hatton Country World will certainly be signing up to, including the new café, Alfie’s, in the shopping village courtyard.

“And the reduction in VAT will help operators like us contend with the extra costs of introducing measures in line with Government Guidelines to maximise the safety of their guests and staff which is of course our top priority.”

Although weather dependent, outdoor seating is available on a first come, first served basis, between 5-8pm on Friday and Saturday and 12-8pm on Sunday. The barbecue will be serving between 5-8pm on Friday nights, 1-8pm on Saturdays and 12-5pm on Sundays. The popular takeaway service, introduced in lockdown, will also be continued and is available 1-8pm Monday to Saturday and 12.30-4.30pm on Sundays. Breakfast baps are also available from the garden bar from 9am-11am on Saturday and Sunday.

Hatton Arms, Hatton Country World, Hatton Shopping Village, garden bar, terrace dining, Johnnie Arkwright, Warwick
The now complete terrace dining area

For those who prefer to eat inside the restaurant, the team have also been working hard to make the space COVID-Secure, including sanitisation points, social distancing markers, a one-way system and track and trace measures.

Health experts say evidence shows coronavirus spreads much less readily outdoors because of the ventilation factor, which, according to Johnnie Arkwright is already enticing visitors back to both Hatton Adventure World and Shopping Village.


The Victorian farm buildings here house 20 independent shops including a garden centre and farm shop created by TV presenter Lottie Newitt, two jewellers, antiques and furniture barns, gifts and home accessories, electric bike shop, gin distillery and cafe – as well as a Hole in the Wall that serves pints and traditional ales alongside tasty hot snacks.

Johnnie said: “We’re all feeling for the small independent shops that had to close in March and, on re-opening recently, remain fearful for their livelihoods.

“But the pandemic has revived a real sense of community, that desire to help those who have been hit the hardest. And we can help by giving these small businesses our custom.

“What can be safer than all that fresh air and space to socially distance in the rolling Warwickshire countryside.”

Visit: and