Don’t be fooled by appearances

If you’ve met me, you might recognise that I generally look around 5-10 years younger than my age, I smile a lot, if I’m out and about I’m likely to have a rucksack on my back, and I tend to wear practical clothes rather than fashionable.

However, I’m also involved various businesses that continue to grow around the UK, that are currently turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds a year (and so of course spend quite a lot of money with a lot of different suppliers from around the UK), so when I buy things, I tend to buy in bulk.

My recent experience:

Very recently however, whilst walking around my new local town, I happened to notice a small independent interior designers.  Knowing that our new hotel is likely to be going through some significant internal renovations next year, I dropped in to have a look around, and discuss the potential of working together.

The lady in the store was already busy on the phone when I walked in.. so I didn’t rush her, but perused the small collection of fabrics and samples on display whilst waiting.

She didn’t seem like she’d be off the phone anytime soon, and hadn’t made any efforts to let me know she’d be right with me.

I then spotted a hardback interior design book on one of the chairs, so picked it up to get some further ideas to discuss.  Flicking through the pages, I then spotted something tucked into the book, which looked very out of place, and quickly spotted it was a printed boarding pass for a flight that month.  Trying to glance through to find out if this would be too late to get it to the owners (who must have left it by mistake), or whatever else I may be able to do to reunite it.

However, just then, the lady of the store (whilst still on the phone), snatched it out from my hands, told me not to touch it. She then quickly folded the paperwork back in half, and put it back in the book (by which time she’d also snatched this out of my hands).  She then put the book back on the chair, and then walked back into the rear of the store to continue her discussion on the phone (who I could work out was a long term supplier).

Not surprisingly, I left the store.

Realising that a lot of people don’t always get to know what they might have missed, I felt it important to let her know.  Therefore, with a smile in my step, and arms full of shopping I returned around 45 minutes later, sharing good news:

  1. I do own a small, local, luxury boutique hotel;
  2. We were looking to spend up to around £20,000 on some interior work (particularly on the design and finishing),
  3. And that unfortunately, due to the way I’d been treated by her a little earlier, there was absolutely no way I would now consider working with her or her company.

She was of course apologetic at this point, but it was too little : too late.

This incident is certainly not isolated.

A very succesful friend of mine had just been decorating her own new home, in a very expensive part of Guildford.  Still partially covered in clothes caked in paint, she tried to register with a very local but expensive private dentists.  The receptionist apparently wouldn’t even give her the time of day.  But upon returning later that week, this time on her return from work (in a tailored suite), they couldn’t sign her up quickly enough.

Similarly, a good colleague who now runs fleet services for a well known luxury car company:  shared with me a time one Saturday afternoon when a gentleman in casual jeans and a t-shirt turned up at the showroom and forecourt of the car firm, and was taking a good look around.  The high pressure sales guys at the time didn’t take long to assume he was just going to waste their time, so they sent over the Saturday kid (John) who was trying to learn the trade whilst washing the cars.  The gentleman had a few questions, that the kid tried to answer as best he could.  The gentleman then asked how he could go about ordering 14 of these for his business.

Not surprisingly, the Saturday kid didn’t really know how to proceed, so went back to asked the main sales guys what to do next.. on hearing the news, they elbowed their way into trying to get the commission, but the gentleman in question stopped them, explained that they had all dismissed him whilst he was walking around and whilst trying to ask questions, and so John (the Saturday kid) was the only person who should get the commission from the significant sale.

Incredible people:

Now being a hotel owner, I’m fortunate to meet many more incredible people from around the world who have come to stay with us.

Over the course of their stay, some of them are kind enough to share with me their background, and we do get all types of people.  Some are nurses, midwifes, and teachers, others are mutli-millionaire business owners, now expanding, retiring, or just keeping busy.  All of them look much the same, especially when they come down for breakfast in the hotel dressing gowns!

As the saying goes:

Apparently 40% of the decision to buy a book is based on its cover alone, but they do still say: “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

When it comes to people especially, basing your opinion on image alone, more than likely you’ll be completely wrong.

New Business Venture – Hotel de Vie

I’m very pleased to announce that today, we’re able to ‘go public’ that from the 31st August 2010, both myself and my wife Jolene, will be leasing a luxurious boutique hotel in Farnham, Surrey, called ‘Hotel de Vie‘ (Hotel of Life).

This is a venture we’ve been in discussions regarding, for nearly 9 months now.  The training is nearly complete, papers have been signed, and we should all be good to go in less than 3 weeks.

How did we do it?

I was fortunate to be speaking with the owner prior to the massive renovation project of the previously run down property.  After sharing a few ideas with them, and keeping in contact over the past few years, at the end of a recent visit the owners mentioned they were looking to potentially expand the business (subject to finding a new suitable venue), so were keen to find a suitable couple to run the existing one.

Both myself and Jolene excitedly discussed the idea at length on the journey home, and gave them a call back as soon as we were home, offering ourselves for the purpose.

The rest as they say, is history.

We’ll be adding a few things to the hotel website over the coming months, but do feel free to check it out anytime on www.Hotel de

Egg Free, Vegan, Moist Chocolate Cake!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Being a lacto-vegetarian for health reasons (I can’t eat eggs, or any of the meat/fish/poultry stuff), I’ve been on the lookout for a great chocolate sponge cake for a while.

This is an adapted recipe from Lisa Glanville, but as she used eggs and cup measures, I needed to find an alternative way around, plus I use weights and ml. 🙂

This recipe has proved so successfully, it’s now available and rebranded as ‘metta cake’ (‘love and kindness cake’) after being picked up by one of the volunteers at the Vipassana training center.  So after 10 days of meditation, this is one of the items to help reground the participants.

N.B., don’t be put off by the fact it’s an egg free, vegan recipe.  Everyone I’ve had try it haven’t noticed, but they all comment on how deliciously rich, moist and delicious it is!

Printable PDF version

Makes 16 adult slices.


Main Cake:

  • 225g – Plain Flour
  • 75g – Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp – Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 4 1/2 tsp – Baking Powder
  • 275g – Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp – Vanilla Essence
  • 300g – Egg Free Mayo (ie Mayola by GranoVita)
  • 250ml – water


  • 250g – Icing Sugar
  • 4 tbls – Cocoa Powder
  • 100g – Vegan margarine
  • 1 1/2 tsp – Vanilla Essence

(you may want to multiply these icing levels, by 1.5 times, if you want to cover the cake fully more easily on the sides, middle and top).



Main Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to around 180 degrees Centigrade (350F)
  2. Prepare two non-stick 8 or 9 inch round cake pans (or grease and line if not using non-stick)
  3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and baking powder, and mix lightly. Then set-aside
  4. In a mixer if you have one, (or a large bowl if not), combine the sugar, vanilla essence, and tub of egg free mayo.
  5. Mix together for a couple of minutes (but don’t be put off by the strong mayo smell.. that disappears quickly with cooking)
  6. Add the sifted dry ingredients slowly, alternating with the water, into the mixer, and combine slowly but thoroughly.
  7. Pour into the two prepared cake tins (about 550g of mix per tin), and bake for 35-40 minutes (until a skewer inserted into the middle, comes out clean).  Try not to open the oven too early though.
  8. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, before turning out onto wire cooling rack.
  9. You can eat it without the icing, but if you do want the icing, wait until it’s almost cool before adding (otherwise it melts).


  1. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a clean mixing bowl
  2. Add the butter, and vanilla essence.
  3. Whisk thoroughly (ideally with an electric mixer on slow)..  It will seem too dry for a good few minutes, but keep with it, it will suddenly change to lovely smooth icing.
  4. Add about a third of the icing between the layers, another third on top, and the remaining icing around the sides.



  • This cake seems to last 3 days without any loss to taste or texture, if kept in under cover (ie an up-turned large bowl).  I can’t tell you how much longer though, it’s always eaten pretty quickly!
  • Don’t try and eat too much too soon. It’s surprisingly rich, and very moorish, but pace yourself!
  • You could also add some thick clotted cream or rich vanilla ice-cream when serving, but it works just as well without too.

150 press-ups every day, at 77 years old!

I had a very nice visit last week, from my Great Uncle and Great Aunt, Owen and Peg, who were over visiting from the USA.

It was great seeing them again (I’m sure it’s been over 15 years since the last time), and through finding out a little more about them this time, was amazed to hear that Owen (on the far right of the photo below), at aged 77, still does 150 press-ups every day!

Personally I think that’s very impressive (I think I might be able to do around 10% of that at the moment!), so if he can do that at 77, it gives me a great focus of what I should be able to do at 33!

Jason, Peg, and Owen

Many thanks guys.  Lovely to see you both again.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut squash risotto

Serves 3


This is one of my favourite risottos, it tastes very creamy, is extremely easy to eat (very morish), and seems pretty healthy too!

We make it with vegan margarine, but I know it also works just as well with proper butter.

Do sort out the squash first though, it normally takes longer than you’d expect to peel and chop!

This also goes very well with freshly made Garlic Bread.

Printable PDF version


  • Half a medium butternut squash, peeled and diced in small pieces.
  • One large onion, finely chopped.
  • 2 freshly crushed garlic cloves / or a good teaspoon of garlic paste (optional)
  • Approx 50g butter / margarine (or more)
  • 1.5pts (750ml) vegetable stock (make it as two veggie stock cubes disolved in 1.5 pts boiling water)
  • 250g risotto rice
  • A few shavings of Parmesan (if you’re not veggie), a vegetarian alternative to Parmesan if you are veggie, or omit the cheese bit entirely if you’re vegan (it’s still great as is)


  1. In a large saucepan, fry the onion for a few minutes with the butter, until very slightly browning, then add the crushed garlic (or garlic puree)
  2. Add the dry risotto rice to the fried onions & butter, and toss until mixed, then fry for a minute or two.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, mix, bring to boil.  Then add diced squash.
  4. Simmer until liquid has been absorbed (around 15 minutes), mixing occasionally.  Adding a little more boiling water as necessary
  5. Season to taste.
  6. Add the Parmesan if you have it.
  7. Enjoy.

My new personal blog

My new blog here at should hopefully give me the outlet to share various things that don’t seem too appropriate to update anywhere else!

I’ve just been updating the about page as I know a lot of people can get a bit puzzled by the various things I get up to during my 7 day working week.  (Thankfully though, because of the vocations I’ve chosen, very little of it feels like ‘work’ anymore!)

I’ve been modifying some lovely recipes over recent months too, so hopefully these will find a place to be shared soon.

A lot of people ask me about setting up their own business too, so hopefully this will be another area I’ll be able to share information on over the coming blogging period.

If you have any queries at any time, please just post a note beneath an associated blog, and I’ll try and get back to you!