Do you remember, as a child, that incessant need and burning desire to collect things? For me, it was Monster in my Pocket figurines, Premier League football stickers, Barbies and gel pens. Just focusing on the Monster in my Pocket for a second, there were literally hundreds of these little things to collect. There were different names, shapes, numbers, colours and associated myths/backgrounds. I’d be completely fascinated by the backstory of each monster and how it would differ to the others. I am convinced to this day that my love for these toys fuelled my now-wild imagination. Anyway, that’s not really the point of my blog. What I’m trying to get across is, that feeling of absolute joy and accomplishment when collecting different items, learning about them and then imparting knowledge to others.
This didn’t really go away as I grew older – what I collected just changed. It became more about shoes, nail varnishes, rare coins and DVDs. To be honest, I never expect this to go away, and I bet those who are reading this feel exactly the same way.
But why? As humans, we generally don’t collect for monetary reasons, but emotional ones. By collecting succulents, I get to relive my childhood – a time when worrying about health, money and work were not even on my radar. Collecting things can help ease insecurities and anxieties about losing a part of oneself. It’s also the thrill of the hunt that draws me in when collecting succulents.
Looking deeper, collecting items is considered a manifestation of the need for ownership and control, stemming back to when we were young and the trauma associated with toilet-training and first parting ways with one’s ‘possessions’ being flushed down the toilet. Not one to focus too much on Freudian opinion, I won’t elaborate on this in my blog, but I will say this: collecting items is as important and special to me now as it was when I was child, if not more as I’m older and have the ability to understand and appreciate how lucky I am.
I live in a part of the world where coming by rare succulents isn’t easy, mainly because of our climate and how the unusual ones can’t be kept outdoors to grow freely and multiply like in countries like Mexico, USA, South Africa and South Korea. Seeking these rare beauties out on the internet at an affordable price, when you love and appreciate the beauty of succulents as much as I do, can make you feel like you’ve struck gold.
If I’m brutally honest with myself, it’s a collection quest that I will never ever complete, but does that bother me? Not in the slightest. I don’t have the land, the greenhouses, the grow lights or the money to buy and house every single succulent type out there. I’m also a lot better these days at prioritising what I spend my wage on. I’ll only buy succulents for my personal collection after I’ve sold enough of the ones that I’ve grown myself so I’m not out of pocket. The great thing about building my own personal collection of them is that yes, I get to feed my succulent hunger but also, I can use them for marketing purposes.
I want others out there to know and understand the joy that these plants have brought me during a pandemic. They’ve given me focus and distracted my mind in a positive way when things got quiet, and I was left with just my thoughts and worries.
Working from home day after day, on my own for eight hours most of the time, I needed something. Being able to get up from my desk when my head would get too full and go outside to pot up some Sempervivums, remove leaves for propagation or just work on my @StaceysSucculent101 Instagram was my saviour. It gave me clarity, a sense of achievement and happiness bringing others joy when I sold a succulent.
My bottom line is this: collecting succulents gives you so much more than just a pretty living room…
The excitement of finding that Echeveria Rainbow online that you know your mum would really love is wonderful.
Creating that succulent fairy garden for your childhood friend’s daughter is just magical.
Growing your first rare succulent from a single leaf is incredibly powerful.
The whole succulent experience is amazing and why so many people throughout the world are becoming obsessed with collecting these amazing plants. I hope that I’ve proved that it’s not a bad thing or a ‘waste of money’ – as long as you’re sensible about it and know what you can afford. You don’t even have to go as far as where I’ve taken my hobby and make a business out of it, not at all. Just filling your house and garden with the beautiful and unusual is enough to bring you the joy and wonder you used to feel as a child.
So next time someone asks you why you’re buying another succulent, don’t let them focus on the money it’s costing you, but what it’s affording for your mental health and how you’re just addressing your basic human desire!
You can follow me on Instagram: @StaceysSucculents101.
I’d never been a gardener. I grew up watching my parents make a masterpiece out of theirs and have always thought, yeah, one day I’ll get into it, I’m sure. Up until now, I kept making excuse after excuse not to venture out the back. I’m too busy, it’s raining, I’m scared of spiders…
The very first lockdown, however, saw more and more people undergoing tasks they thought they would never do. I know people who taught themselves guitar, gave Welsh lessons to friends over Facebook Live and even creating stained glass windows! It seems solitude has the ability to spark our creative juices like never before. Really, it couldn’t be more British – making the best out of a terrifying situation!
Nevertheless, I needed a new hobby to keep me going so I donned my new gardening gloves in April 2020 and have never looked back! At the moment, I’m most proud of how far I’ve come in the world of succulents. In my new favourite magazine, Modern Gardens, (don’t judge!) juicy succulents were the ‘plant of the summer’ for 2020. I bought some hardy Sempervivums online and started potting up. Gardens centres were closed for a while so my PayPal account took a pounding as I ordered all the amazing colours and shapes that I could find that could live outdoors in British weather. Soon my entire garden became full of these gorgeous little ‘succas.’
Not to be classed as one-trick pony, I also planted some lovely wildflowers seeds I had left over from my wedding party favours along with tomato plants, cornflowers, calendulas and begonias. Finally, my garden was something that I could be proud of. I was, after all, going to be working from home for the foreseeable future and wanted a beautiful, serene environment to work outside in. When you’re in Comms, you thrive on regular inspiration and my garden gave me just that.
Throughout 2020, I rekindled my love for succulents that I had as a child and read every book and website I could find to increase my knowledge. My inner entrepreneur woke up and I decided to start a business in September 2020 called Stacey’s Succulents. By December, I had built my own website using the Wix platform and began selling via my online store as well as my Facebook Group and Instagram, @StaceysSucculents101. I have grown my stock from propagated leaves and very young plants and have built a network with fellow succulent sellers around the world in case I need to get my hands on some juicy rare ones or a particular order for a customer.
Three lockdowns later and my business is growing nicely. Yes, my long-term goal is to grow my business as a side-line to my day job, but I’d also like to share my love for succulents with the people around me and those online. It’s amazing how much joy these little babies can bring you when your husband is working long hours and you can’t go anywhere. There’re hundreds to collect from all over the world and I pride myself on my growing collection of rare beauties you can never find in a UK garden centre. I’ve made dozens of TikTok videos sharing my hobby for fellow enthusiasts and don’t plan to stop now.
If you’d like to get started, there’s no better time. I’ve just started planting my outdoor succulents in pots (the rockery is yet to be designed) now the weather is getting warmer. For outdoor succulents, I recommend ordering from YouGarden or any local garden centre. I started with YouGarden as they have more varieties, and are sent to you in safe, secure packages. Make sure you pot them in the write soil though. Succulent roots will rot quickly if drainage is poor. You can buy some of my Stacey’s Special soil mix from my website www.staceyssucculents.com or you can have a go at mixing your own with alpine soil perlite and horticultural sand. I tend to top them with aquarium gravelthen to keep the bottom leaves dryer when it rains.
To my ladies out there and all who identify as such, if you haven’t watched Moxie on Netflix yet, then you should make it a priority. Written by the talented and thoughtful comedic actress, Amy Poehler, and based on the book Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, this film is one that I threw on out of curiosity, with no expectation and certainly no idea of the fire it would light within me. No, that’s wrong, a flame has always been there, it just sprayed it with the aerosol it needed.
IMDB tells us: “Inspired by her mom’s rebellious past and a confident new friend, a shy 16-year-old publishes an anonymous magazine calling out sexism at her school.” I’m glad I didn’t read this before watching the film. To be honest, I didn’t even read the Netflix bio of the film before pressing play – I was just weirdly drawn to it. I’m glad though, because this movie gave me so much more than that. Being on the receiving end of sexist comments is something I’m quite familiar with. These are but three:
“Oh, you’re watching the cricket today, are you? Is your boyfriend playing?” (said to me as I was walking in to watch Glamorgan CCC play and to attend the commentary box with Radio Wales to discuss the Cricket book I’d just published).
“Oh, you’re Welsh! Thought you weren’t from London with that accent. Here to do some shopping are you?” (said to me by a taxi driver when I was on my way to my second BBC Apprentice audition).
“These by here are the wheels, love.” (said to me by a guy at the BMW garage when I took it in for a service, not realising that I designed that car myself online, right down to the M Sport brakes and variable sport steering).
I know I’m not alone in this and can guarantee that there are women reading this blog right now who have endured the same, if not worse. Yes, the world is changing for the better when it comes to equal rights but comments like this just prove that we still have so far to go.
The fact is, sexism shouldn’t be downplayed. It makes us feel less than who we are and that’s not okay. Sure, I snapped back at the men who made those comments, not in a rude way (I’ve never been a fan of confrontation), but in a way that hopefully educated them a little bit about women and how yes, we can like sport, yes, we can like cars, and yes, we can be ambitious.
International Women’s Day was this month (March), and I read so many inspiring quotes, stories and interviews with pretty amazing women. Women who I inspire to be like. But this is the sort of content I want to be reading every day. Hang on, not just reading, LIVING every day.
Ladies, why are we competing with each other? I see it all the time, and being completely honest, have contributed to the problem myself in the past. I don’t know whether it’s being in my thirties and being more confident and self-aware than I was in my twenties but I’m at the stage now where I don’t want to compete with other women, I want to collaborate with them. What was it that Mother Teresa said?
“I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. Together, we can do great things.”
This is one of my favourite quotes, and one I adopt whenever I can. We must be prepared to learn from the strong women around us. Don’t feel threatened by them, be inspired by them. Listen to them speak, attend their presentations, follow them on Twitter, write to them for advice, quote them on social media, BLOG about how they’ve inspired you.
If you are one of those strong women that people look up to? Forget the Queen Bee Syndrome – let’s all be Queens! Be approachable. Be aware of your position of power and don’t abuse it. Empower those ladies around you who are working hard to obtain the success you have. Send them praise. Coach them. Mentor them. Include them. Listen to them. Inspire them.
For the last three years, I’ve been in a role where I’ve had the absolute honour of working with so many strong, powerful and inspiring women, both older and younger. I get to meet with them regularly and plan communications and events with them. I share my ideas and listen to theirs – ones I would never have thought of myself. I learn from these women every day and my life is richer for it. How lucky am I?
I’m proud to say how much I love and support the women around me, in and outside of work. If someone is doing well, I don’t get jealous like I used to, I shout about it and send them messages of how proud I am of them. I want them to feel supported by me, not threatened.
Not to leave them out of this blog as they’re so important in our lives, but let’s bring men into this for a second. Michelle Obama once said:
“Strong men – men who are truly role models – don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.”
Thankfully, the men I’m surrounded by of a daily basis are these strong men. I’m lucky that I don’t have to endure daily bouts of casual sexism that some of my friends do in their jobs. What I will say though is that ladies, if you see this happening, whether it’s directed at you or those around you, don’t take it.
If someone tells you that you run like a girl, tell them that if they ran a little faster, they could too!
Girls, if someone tells you to marry a doctor, become one!
I could have gone so much deeper with this blog but it’s a Friday night and I want to keep it fairly light. I’m not here to preach but I’m here to hopefully light the same fire in you. Going forward, think about how you act towards women around you. I hope that you’ve realised that this blog is not solely about sexism, but how we treat each other as women.
Love the women around you. Work with them, collaborate with them, celebrate with them, inspire them and praise them. Let’s be Queen’s together!
Stacey. If only the space-time continuum actually worked the way I wanted it to and you were able to actually read this, 20 years ago…
Right now, you’re probably preparing for you’re A Levels – go easy on the volcano revision, hardly any of it comes up in the exam and you don’t end up becoming the Vulcanologist you wanted to be anyway! You also won’t become a tornado-chaser or Sky Sports presenter, sorry love.
I’m writing to tell you the things I wish you knew back then – the things that probably would have helped you stand a little taller. I also want to tell you about a global situation that you will not believe. Well, actually, the way your crazy imagination works, you probably will believe it!
I know school isn’t great for you right now. You love to learn but you just don’t seem to fit in. Those bullies who ostracised you from the day they first looked you up and down, do not feature in your life. In fact, you will never see them ever again from the moment you leave Comp for good. Not even on social media – yes, this is a thing. Think MySpace but cooler and more addictive! I know they spent hours making fun of how short you were but chin up Stace, you do eventually grow to a solid 5ft 6”. In fact, all the abuse you took from them, you’ve turned into something greater. Never will you look down on anyone from any walk of life. You give them the respect that you longed for all those years in school. The emotional scars take time to heal, yes, but my goodness do they make you stronger and more resilient! One of them will even apologise years later when your paths inadvertently cross and tell you the humbling truth of why she was the way she was to you, and you will forgive her.
I know how you’re feeling right now. You’re nervous about leaving home and going to University. Well, don’t be. You get your grades and trot off to Cardiff for three years to study music and Welsh – perfect for becoming a Primary School Teacher (the more realistic choice than Vulcanologist!) Although you’ll come to realise that young children aren’t your favourite age group to teach and leave it for good, five years later! Keep pursuing it though, it’s definitely not wasted time. You take endless transferrable skills from the profession and will always be thankful for the resilience you built up whilst dealing with difficult parents of pupils! Do try to avoid racing with Mr Thomas in the school yard though, you go flying in front of 150 children and never live it down…
You’ll have a series of jobs, mainly in learning and development, PR and Communications and thoroughly enjoy them all. Be thankful, because that doesn’t happen to everyone. Be kind to absolutely everyone on your way, you never know when you might see them (or need them!) again. When you leave The Prince’s Trust (your longest job to date), your Director will call out your personality and tell you not to change. He’s right. Just do you. You are on your own mountain, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
Like everyone else, you’ll love people, and you’ll lose people. You’ll watch as people you care about are unfairly taken from this world and you’ll wonder why. I want to say it gets easier, but death becomes more terrifying as you get older because you see it more and more. But with bad, comes good. It makes you take notice and savour wonderful moments a lot more than you used to. Never wish time away as it seems to move faster the older you get.
Enjoy the interaction with people as much as you can. Embrace the ones you love and care about as much as possible because all that will be taken away in 2020. An infectious virus called Covid-19 results in a global pandemic. It turns people’s lives upside down and loved ones are lost to us far too soon. Lockdowns announced by the Government mean people have to stay at home and are unable to visit friends and family. Thankfully, technology has moved on since your time and you can see and talk to people through laptops. You can even work from home! Yes, it’s something you’ve always wanted to be able to do but you will miss travelling to the office and parking in the shared car park with your dad. After nearly four decades, you could finally go into work with him (last time you did this, you were a baby and were sick over his shirt in the office!). Thankfully, this hasn’t happened since…
Make an effort to speak to those who are lonely during this time. You live with your husband (who’s a copper by the way, so stop speeding!) on the same estate as your parents so you have a lot to be thankful for – just remember those who don’t have those luxuries. When you have a ‘bad day,’ don’t forget perspective!
Finally, on 10 June, 2010, you’ll have a gig supporting a Llanelli band called Sierra Alpha in The Bucket & Spade. Don’t be so shy, spend some time talking to their pianist – he’s the guy you end up marrying nine years later. I wouldn’t say this is a regret of mine, because I’m a strong believer in everything happens for a reason. Just give it a go, see what happens… you might get more time with him!
Anyway, ciao for now. Get your head down, dream big, don’t send your Geography teacher a Valentine’s card and keep smiling!
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Since I last blogged, it’s safe to say that life has changed somewhat.
I’ve become fully immersed in my now not-so-new job, got married, moved house and am now on the most impressive chapter of my life so far. If I was a J.R.R. Tolkien series, I’d like to at least think I was on Return of the King, the good bits, you know what I’m saying? I’m on Mount Doom. Sinister name aside, I think I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Strangely and unexpectedly, Mount Doom seemed to erupt with the giant pyroclastic cloud called Covid-19, and there’s probably no one in Middle Earth who doesn’t know what that term means. Five months ago, it was unheard of here. Four months ago, it was just labelled coronavirus. Now, it’s Covid-19 and has touched the lives of every single human being on this earth.
I remember first hearing about the ‘coronavirus’ on the news back in January/February. They said it started in a Chinese market in Wuhan where the virus supposedly jumped from a bat, to a pangolin, then to humans. There are so many theories but nothing is listed as fact just yet. All I knew was that it was infecting people left, right and centre. There are approximately 5,635 miles between Wuhan and Swansea, my home. That’s far enough away to be safe, right? My curiosity and addictive personality took over and I glued myself to Sky News. I found myself whistling the theme tune most days as it was the only music I was listening to at the time! I read every news article that mentioned it and worldometer.com became my go-to webpage. How many people were getting it? How quickly is it spreading? What’s the death rate? Are we safe?
Back in February, I found myself talking about it to anyone that would listen. People were starting to get sick of it even that early on. In true British style, most people I talked to brushed it under the carpet. Far too big a deal was being made out of this. More people die of flu every year. Shut up Stace. Sing a different song. Mostly, my concerns fell on deaf ears, which was actually strangely encouraging – perhaps I was over-reacting. I mean, was I?
I’m no scientist – I’m in Communications for goodness sake! I did have an app on my phone however – a game I had played for years and had become obsessed with, called ‘Plague Inc.’ On the face of it, the objective of the game sounds completely twisted, but boy, I loved it. You have to create your own disease, bacterial or viral etc. and infect a starting country. I’d always choose somewhere hot with an enormous population and good transport links – somewhere that was the perfect incubator for what was to eventually become a deadly, worldwide virus. The aim was to create a virus contagious enough that it would infect the whole world, but not too deadly that everyone would die before it had a chance to infect all seven billion people. I was fascinated by the science of the game and learned all about transmissions, infections, symptoms and research. After several months, I mastered it and succeeded in wiping out the human race with my homemade virus. Told you it was twisted! At this point I’m just going to put a little disclaimer – I have no secret fantasies about wiping out the human race, I just loved the science. Like when I go driving, I don’t lay banana skins on the road behind me or summon lightning to shrink the cars overtaking me like I do in Mario Kart – they’re just games.
The reason I brought this game up (which has since been removed from the Chinese app store I might add) is that it gave me an excellent understanding of what was to come. I knew from the news how infectious this was and the damage that it would cause if just one person brought it over to the UK. I immediately prepared myself for the worst. I can honestly say that I never panic-bought anything, I just started spending a little more in my weekly shop a lot sooner than the people around me. I told friends to do the same – not to panic-buy (that’s incredibly selfish) but just to make sure they had enough food for a couple of weeks in their houses instead of the usual week. That way, they could limit the amount of times they had to venture out which could put their lives at risk. Some did it but others didn’t. I remember having arguments with people and how frustrated I got when they didn’t take it as seriously as I did. In hindsight, I probably should have just accepted their differing views and let them tackle life the way they wanted to but all I could picture in my head was that game and the loud, terrifying noise it made when a new country was infected.
My work colleague and I started categorising people (it’s a comms thing!). Camp One knew that what was coming was bad and were getting prepared (this was us). Camp Two were the cynics who thought this was one big over-reaction. Camp Three were something else altogether – these were gathering two of every animal and preparing to never see loved ones ever again – think zombie apocalypse! Although I was scared and had an inkling of what was coming, I had faith in the human race and had every confidence, however bad it got, that we’d get through it. I had faith.
March arrived and so did the increased threat of the coronavirus, now named Covid-19. There were more and more local infections and worryingly more and more deaths. Suddenly, I was living the game I’d played for years. I was one of those people terrified that I would catch this disease or worst still, give it to a vulnerable loved one. When people were dying of this virus, this was no game, it mattered. They weren’t abstract – they were fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, cousins and children. I’m an only child and extremely close to my mother and father. They’ve seen me at my best and my worst and always have been my best friends. I couldn’t bear the thought of catching this virus and passing it on to them to deal with, not a chance in H.E. double hockey sticks. I knew then that the time would soon come that I, along with billions of others, would not be able to throw my loving arms around my parents the way I always did. I wouldn’t be able to catch up with my new in-laws… it was just us.
As time went on, the public started panic-buying left, right and centre. Toilet rolls, pasta and anti-bacterial gel become rarer than diamonds. My Sunday netball games were all cancelled and I knew I wouldn’t see my team, The Milkshakers, for a long time.
On 23 March, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced he was putting the country on lockdown. An action taken by many countries by this point, including our immediate European families, France, Italy and Spain. Shizz just got real. I was sent home to work (which I was extremely lucky to do as so many people were about to become seriously, financially affected by this decision). Yes, I’d be home on my laptop with no one to talk to around me but I was safe. I had technology which allowed me to work and communicate with my colleagues and I could set up shop in my lovely, still new house. Being in the police force, my husband was considered a key worker and had to go into work every day as he always did. Every day I’d worry that he’d come into contact with someone with the virus and bring it home. It would make me sick to my stomach. I’d also worry about what he’d face – what if people start acting irrationally and violently in all their fear? I quickly dispelled those thoughts from my head – mainly because I knew we were in this for the long haul and I couldn’t live every day worrying about his safety. A change in mindset was needed. He’s well-trained, he’s got protection, they know what they’re doing. I chanted this over and over until I believed it.
As well as my family, I couldn’t stop thinking about our Health, Care and Emergency Services choir we both run, the Hospital Notes. These are a fabulous group of people we’ve got to know and love since joining as Musical Directors back in 2018. The sang at our wedding back in October 2019, a surprise that will go down as one of the best we’ve ever had.
All of a sudden, these weren’t just our choir and friends, these were the superheroes fighting the virus on the front line. Our friends were suddenly risking their lives every day to take care of the sick. What I quickly noticed was that not one of them complained about it, which says a lot about them as individuals. The worked long hours, sometimes stepping in to other jobs as numbers were needed. Every Thursday at 8pm, we would go outside and clap for our carers – this became a clap for all key workers as so many others had to risk virus exposure to keep everything running. I remember the first Thursday night as if it was yesterday. I stood on my drive with tears pouring down my face. Not tears of sadness or fear but tears of pride for our nation. For a few minutes, we came together to thank them all and there was no more powerful feeling. It’s something I will never forget and I’m sure one day, will tell my grandchildren about.
Fast-forward to now, week 12 of lockdown. Some rules have been adjusted to ease us out but not much. The threat is still out there and I’m still not allowed to hug my parents. You know what though? They’re still around. They’re still safe. My husband is still safe. Our families are fine. Our jobs are secure. Our house is still standing and our hearts still beat. I’ve saved a packet on petrol. I’ve got to know the area I live a lot more. I have a new hobby in gardening. I’m closer to my neighbours. The air I’m breathing feels that much cleaner. The world looks that much more beautiful. I have never felt more alive than I do now. Yesterday, I heard the sound of a baby crying for the first time in three months. Generally, it’s never a sound anyone wants to hear but boy, did it feel good – I had forgotten what new life sounded like!
Since lockdown began, we’ve grown our first plants, cooked our first Sunday dinner together, raised over £700 for the National Emergencies Trust by singing in our lounge and broadcasting over Facebook, run choir rehearsals via Zoom most Monday nights and checked in with our NHS friends, walked hundreds of miles around where we live, cycled together for the first time from our new home, got to know our neighbours’ cats really well, went viral on TikTok with a stupid video we’d made in the supermarket and the hubby even started a new job in the force.
The human race really is remarkable. We’ve lived through so much in our time on this planet. This was no ice age or world war, but it was still a world-wide threat, a global pandemic as named by the World Health Organisation. Days of standing in crowds at concerts and football matches seem a thing of the past already. As a species however, our ‘bouncebackability’ is second to none. We will bounce back from this. We are financially, the worst off than we have ever been. What’s worse though is that hundreds of thousands of loved ones have been lost to Covid-19 – some of these are family members of friends of mine – it’s so close to home, for everyone, and it’s devastating. This scar will be eternal and no doubt will be talked about for centuries to come – much like how we learn about the plague in schools today. This is one of the main reasons I’m writing this blog. I want to have something to reference when I tell my grandchildren of the heroism of their grandfather and my friends.
We lived through the coronavirus era. We probably wish we didn’t but really, we should be thankful that we LIVED through the coronavirus.