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Helen Mort Off the Shelf

I was asked to interview Sheffield based author and poet Helen Mort for the Off the Shelf festival. It is my second year working for the literary festival and was an honour to speak to an award winning writer. Helen’s latest book is called Never Leave the dog behind and is an exploration of our love of dogs and of mountains.

The event was at the Crucible in Sheffield, a world renowned theatre that I have visited all my life in the audience. So it was such a thrill to be able to be on stage. Due to the pandemic, there were only a few tickets allowed to be sold though there were many more watching online at home.

Sam Cleasby and Helen Mort on stage at the crucible for the off the shelf literary festival in Sheffield

Helen’s book is a beautiful mix of poetry, personal stories and the history of the relationship between human and dog in the setting of nature. She read a section of the book talking about her first ‘dog companion’ Bell. In a room of dog lovers, you could feel the passion, joy and heartfelt reactions as we all could understand the special relationships we have with our dogs.

We had a chat about everything from the loss of a dog through to the way becoming a parent changes our interaction with adventure and nature. There were some great questions from the audience especially one asking about how Donald Trump is the first American president in over 100 years to not be a dog owner and what that said about him.

The evening ended with Helen reading a poem from her book, called The Dogs.

Some mornings, waking up between the sandy whippet

and the black – their breathing as slow as mine,

their eyes more sorrowful – I remind myself I’m not a dog.

It’s not acceptable to taste the grass or roll in moss until

I’m musked with it. There are deer in the woods I’ll never see.

My thirst discriminates. It does not have me bend

my grateful head to puddles, gutters, hollows

in the rock. I don’t track rabbits in my sleep.

I’ll not know love like theirs, observed in mute proximity

and if I sometimes sit bolt upright after dark, sensing

a movement in the yard, it’s only that I’ve learned

a little of their vigilance. I’m not like them:

one night I’ll set off past the meadow, down

behind the beck, beyond the blunt profile of Silver Howe

and nobody will call me back.

Helen Mort – The Dogs
Sam Cleasby and Helen Mort on stage at the Crucible for off the shelf festival

Helen’s book Never leave the dog behind is available to buy from Blackwells (along with some of her other books). You can find out more about Off the Shelf festival here.

If you would like to work with me for your event, you can use my contact page here. I have done live interviews at events, presented a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio Sheffield, taken part as a participant in radio and TV shows and done public speaking at events all over the UK and Europe. To discuss your requirements, please do get in touch.

Photography by Timm Cleasby Photography

Peace and love

Sam xx

Susie Dent – Off the Shelf festival

It is my second year of working with the Off the Shelf festival. Last year I interviewed Charley Cox about her poetry book Validate Me and Dr Clive Wynne about his book Dog is Love.

This year I am thrilled to be interviewing Susie Dent of Countdown fame and Sheffield poet Helen Mort about her book Never Leave the dog behind.

Susie Dent is Britain’s favourite word expert. She has recently celebrated 25 years as the resident lexicographer in dictionary corner on Channel 4’s Countdown. Her latest book Word Perfect is a linguistic almanac offering a word or phrase for every day of the year. It is described by Jo Brand as “a golden vaulted cave of fascinating and funny hidden gems.

It was a virtual chat with Susie about her newest book Word Perfect. And it was an absolute joy to talk to her about her book and her life so far.

The video of the talk is still online on the Off the Shelf website. Though I don’t know how long it will be online for so check it out sooner rather than later!

Thanks for all the kind messages I have already received, it means the world!

Peace and love

Sam xx

Best Blog 2020 – Crohns and Colitis

Thank you to Healthline for listing me in their Best Blogs of 2020 for Crohns and Colitis.

People ask me if things like this matter, and honestly they do. I started this blog seven years ago at a time when there were no bloggers talking about Crohns and Colitis or life with an ostomy. It was a scary thing to put myself out there and I love that there are now thousands of people talking about their health experiences.

I genuinely believe that sharing your story can change the lives of others and it is why I continue to do it.

So to be honoured with things like this feels like an accomplishment and it is just good to know people are still reading and enjoying what I do.

This year has been the toughest I have dealt with so far. This means that I have blogged a lot less than usual. The physical impact of my 9th major surgery was huge but even more so is the emotional toll it has taken on me. I have a love/hate relationship with blogging sometimes. I lose confidence in my writing and think why am I doing this? I hide my computer away so it isn’t a daily reminder that I am not writing and ignore it.

Then I pick it up and start to write and all those positive feelings come flooding back and Im like ‘Ohhhhh yes, this is it. This makes me feel better!’ Also every message and email I get from readers means the absolute world. To get a message saying I have helped someone through a tough time is the only reason I do this. So thank you to everyone who comments, messages or emails me.

Thank you Healthline for your promotion of me, especially to be alongside people like nation wide charity Crohns and Colitis UK!

Peace and love

Sam xx

Henderson’s Relish – Strong and Northern

Henderson’s Relish is a Sheffield staple. It is a vinegary relish that goes on pretty much any foodstuff and beloved to the Steel City. They have just released their second cookbook – Strong and Northern and they asked lots of people who love Sheffield to be a part of it by sharing a little anecdote about Hendo’s. And I was proper chuffed that they asked me!

strong and northern cookbook Hendersons relish

The launch was last night and it was great to meet some of the Sheffield heroes in the book and hear speeches by Steve Edwards and Joe Scarborough.

Hendersons relish strong and northern cookbook

Sheffield is my birthplace and home and I am immensely proud of my city. To be a part of this book with so many amazing people is truly brilliant and I feel really honoured.

You can buy the Strong and Northern cookbook here from the Henderson’s Relish website.

Peace, love and Hendo’s

Sam xx

When do morals matter more than money?

You may have seen the queen that is Jameela Jamil calling out the Kardashian’s and other celebrities for their earning money from the promotion of weight loss products such as appetite-suppressant lollipops,meal-replacement shakes or “cleansing” teas that act as a laxative. Also her satirical video.

In response to Khloé’s promotion of Flat Tummy shakes, Jameela said “If you’re too irresponsible to: (a) own up to the fact that you have a personal trainer, nutritionist, probable chef, and a surgeon to achieve your aesthetic, rather than this laxative product…and (b) tell them the side effects of this NON-FDA approved product, that most doctors are saying aren’t healthy…then I guess I have to.”

Kim has said regarding her Instagram adverts “If there is work that is really easy that doesn’t take away from our kids, that’s, like, a huge priority. If someone was faced with the same job opportunities, I think they would maybe consider.”

No. Just no.

Momma’s gotta work

I’m a working mother living with chronic illness, I’ve got one kid going off to uni this year and a 14 and 16 year old who are all bloody expensive! If I can get work that is easy and doesn’t take me away from my kids then hell yes I’m going to consider it!!

But despite the fact that my family’s need for financial security is far more intense that the multi millionaire Kardashian’s, morals come first every single time.

If you are a blogger, an influencer, a public speaker, someone who has a following then you have a responsibility to use that privilege with care, sensitivity, thought and love. You have a responsibility to put your followers health before your own bank statements.

I have been offered money to advertise so many things; Diet shakes, miracle IBD cures, weight loss fads and more. Money that would make my family more financially secure, money that would cover the loss of earnings of having 8 surgeries in 5 years, money that would relieve some of the stresses of having to reduce my work hours because my body can’t keep up with the physical strain.

Ive been offered money by companies that may well believe in their claims that their products can reduce symptoms of IBD, but until I see doctors telling me that these things are safe, that they work and having the knowledge that they aren’t just out to make money from desperate patients, I ain’t going to advertise it!

Money and my blog

I run this blog because I care deeply about raising awareness of chronic illness and disability issues, because I love sharing my story in the hope of making just one person feel less isolated. And I do it for free and out of my own pocket.

I do take adverts, but each request is only taken if I truly believe in the company and can find proof that they are decent businesses providing something that I know at least some of my followers will have an interest in.

If you take into consideration the hours and money I put into this blog and the So Bad Ass social media, I run at a loss. This blog will always be free to access, I always want the support offered to be available to as many as possible and yes, I am trying to think of ways to bring in some revenue so I can keep it going.

You may notice I don’t have many ads, this is because I’m so careful at what and who I will advertise here because my blog matters to me, it’s my baby. And my readers deserve the best.

So forgive me for not shedding a tear for a multi millionaire who chooses to promote potentially dangerous and certainly questionable weight loss products to their audience because it’s easy money.

When do morals matter more than money in blogging and social media?

Every. Fucking. Time.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xxx

Big news! Nowt So Strange As Folk!

Some of you are listeners of my radio show on BBC Radio Sheffield, Nowt So Strange As Folk. I started last year and the past 6 months have been an absolute blast but now I have some big news!!

The show hosted by myself and co-host Leesh Desauzay is a modern family life show and we talk about everything from relationships, disability, food, kids and more and we love it so much!

Sam Cleasby BBC radio sheffield nowt so strange as folk

I’ve always been a talker! And I love chatting with people and hearing their wonderful stories and so being a radio presenter is just a dream come true.

And so I can’t believe that our Wednesday evening show is moving to Saturday mornings!

From Saturday 6th April, you’ll be able to listen in from 10-12 in the morning each week! Prime time baby!!!!

You can find us on BBC Radio Sheffield, online or on the BBC Sounds app, id love to hear what you think! Have a listen and get in touch – Nowt So Strange As Folk 

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam x

A day in my life

I thought I’d give you a glimpse into a day in my life when I’m presenting on the radio for the BBC.

If you don’t know me, I have an ileostomy because of Ulcerative Colitis and two hernias, I’m awaiting surgery to repair these and it’s going to be my 8th operation.

I’m struggling a lot with pain and fatigue and so it’s tough to be working right now but I’m plodding through and I love being on the radio so much! I talk about managing fatigue, counting spoons and weighing up whether I can take painkillers or drive a car.

You can watch a day in my life here.

You can find my usual weekly show Nowt So Strange As Folk here and the show I covered here.

Enjoy!

Sam x

Never trust your fears, they do not know your strengths

Last year in August, my dreams came true when I was invited to present a show on BBC Radio Sheffield. For the past few months Nowt So Strange As Folk has been going out on a Wednesday evening from 7-9pm and it’s been an absolute joy!

Then at Christmas last year, I was called into see the boss along with my copresenter, after panicking we were going to be told off, we were asked if we’d like to stand in for the mid morning presenter whilst she was on holiday! We said yes immediately but over the past few weeks, doubts have been creeping in.

Those fears, insecurities and that nasty voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough have been poking and whispering to me that I’m not good enough to do it.

What if I messed it all up? What if everyone laughed at me? What if she actually meant to ask someone else and it’s all a big accident and then I turn up and she says “what are you doing here?! Of COURSE I didn’t mean you!!

I know I come across as a confident person, but believe me, these are the internal conversations I have most days!!!

But if I’ve learnt one thing over the past five years and seven surgeries, it is not to trust those fears.

I have been so fearful over my life, heading into surgery after surgery, losing my bowel and learning to live with an ostomy bag, having surgeries that didn’t work, being in HDU and spending weeks on end in hospital and months on end recovering. There have been times when the fears became too much, when they shattered my confidence and broke down my mental health.

There have been times when it all felt like too much, when I didn’t know if I was able to carry on. When it took everything I had just to get out of bed in the morning.

Yet here I am. Still standing. Still smiling. Still living.

And so I have learnt not to trust those fears, because they did not know my strengths.

And this week I have been on BBC radio on one of their most popular shows, I have presented for 3 hours a day, I’ve interviewed some amazing people including comedian Lucy Porter, ABC singer Martin Fry and the Sheffield branch leader of the Women’s Equality Party Charlotte Mead.

Ive had to learn new skills and how to go to news, travel and weather (with the fabulous Owain Wyn Evans!) It’s been challenging and at times scary but honestly it’s been the most brilliant experience and I feel so blessed and honoured to have done it.

Doing five shows this week plus our usual Wednesday evening show has been exhausting. I also had to rejig my work hours at Scope and work afternoons PLUS Timm and Thom came down with the gross sickness bug that has been going round. It has been a really tough week, one that at times I thought might be too much for me.

But I made it through! And it has been the most amazing experience. And more than that it has taught me yet again that I can’t trust the fears and need to remember that I have more strength than I know.

You can catch up on the mid morning shows here, check out the dates from the 14th to 18th January and you can listen to Nowt So Strange As Folk here.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xxx

I’m 37 and just figured out what I want to be when I grow up!

We ask kids all the time what do they want to be when they grow up, they may answer astronaut or doctor or teacher and some of they may mean it! We ask again when they’re about to choose their GCSE options, the lucky ones will have an aim and know which road they’re heading down.

But for so many of us, we have no clue! Or we have a million ideas but struggle to know which one is right.

When I was younger I wanted to be a midwife though my dream was to be a writer but I didn’t think someone like me could ever do that. I didn’t feel very suppported in making decisions and certainly university was never suggested as an option for me.

I worked for a telesales company, in a bingo hall, in a restaurant and a clothes shop but I was living in and out of the family home, on friends sofas, with my sisters, my aunty, in a shared house and a brief stint in a terrifying flat alone and so life was tough. I started a-levels twice but honestly, it was tough to concentrate on studies when I was working and had zero money and often was just fucking hungry!

I met Timm and then two years later we had our first baby together, for the first time I felt settled and like I had achieved something (even though I was judged for being a mum at 19). I stopped working to be a stay at home mum and then we had Eli two years later and Thom two years after that.

baby hendersons hendos sheffield

I absolutely adored being a stay at home mum and though sometimes it was tough, I revelled in it and I was damn good at it! When Thom was 2 I decided to train as a masseuse, odd choice maybe but I went with it and really enjoyed it. I worked in a salon and also at festivals providing massage for the bands and singers backstage. I had an absolute blast doing this but I knew it wasn’t my forever job.

I then trained as a doula which was amazing and also worked as a breast feeding support worker. This was such a brilliant and special time and I really loved it. Unfortunately I started with a flare up of Ulcerative Colitis and couldn’t get it under control. I found it very tough to carry on working whilst basically shitting myself a few times a day. Work wasn’t supportive and told me I needed to manage my time better…

In 2010 Timm decided to stop touring, he was a tour manager for arctic monkeys but was away for 9-10 months a year and life was pretty tough. He wanted to go back to his former love of photography and so we set up Timm Cleasby Photography and I worked with him on the marketing side of the business. I took my love of working with babies and even did a few baby photo shoots of my own.

Then everything went tits up in 2013 when I started with the worst flare up of Colitis I’d ever had. After 9 months of medication and being in and out of hospital I had surgery to remove my large intestine and got my first stoma.

stoma ostomy ileostomy colostomy ibd ulcerative colitis photo shoot

I started this blog because there were no uk based bloggers talking about it and after going on a marketing course by KeepYourFork I got the invaluable advice from Faye to write what I knew. It was never meant to be a business and I was totally shocked at how it took off. This filled my time whilst I was too ill to work and obviously I still adore it! I was approached by an agent who asked if I wanted to write a book and I felt like my dream to be a writer was coming true! Unfortunately it didn’t come off ( though I still want to make it happen!) but I did start writing for the Metro and magazines.

In 2015 I started working for Scope and I’m still there, I love my job, I feel like I get to make a difference every day and they are an amazing charity to work for. It’s perfect for me as I work from home and they not only accept my impairment and the effects of multiple surgeries but they embrace it.

Then earlier this year completely out of the blue I got a phone call that changed my life. BBC Radio Sheffield asked if I’d be interested in auditioning as a presenter and I leapt at the opportunity.

Nowt so strange as folk BBC Sheffield

I started my show with my cohost Leesh earlier this year called NowtSoStrangeAsFolk. It was terrifying at first! Not so much the talking but the technical side, I really doubted my abilities and wondered if I’d made a big mistake. But as I settled into it, it dawned on me. This is what I’m meant to do.

I cant even explain how amazing it feels, I adore it!!! I feel completely at home on the air and I’ve never felt so right, so comfortable, so me. I’m always doubting myself, I always think someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me I’m a fraud, that I’m not good enough. But presenting makes me so happy, comfortable and just right!

And at the grand age of 37, I finally feel like I know what I want to be when I grow up. Presenting is where I feel I should be, it suits me, it feels right and good and I’m starting to believe that I’m worthy.

I would still love to write a book and my blog will always be my baby and something that has my heart. But presenting for the BBC has given me the confidence to actually believe in myself and to dare to think that I can be successful in this.

Whatever your age, whatever your background, know you can make it happen. Believe in yourself and keep pushing, keep trying, keep moving forward. And if you don’t know what you want to do then try different things, you never know where every opportunity will take you.

I hope you’re enjoying the show, I’d love to know what you think so do let me know.

✌🏽 & ❤️

Sam xxx

I’m on the Disability Power 100 List!

I can’t explain how honoured I feel to be recognised on the Shaw Trust Power 100 list 2018. You can read more here http://www.disabilitypower100.com

The Shaw Trust Power List is an annual publication of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. Since its inception four years ago, the publication has gone from strength to strength. Over the years it has allowed Shaw Trust to encourage businesses, employers and other organisations to reflect on opportunities available for disabled people. The list plays a vital role in providing much needed encouragement to the young and talented leaders of tomorrow, allowing them to see that aspiration and ambition can be fulfilled regardless of disability or impairment.

I don’t do any of the blogging, speaking or activism for recognition but to help others. I remember how isolating and lonely it was when I was diagnosed and going through surgeries and treatment and all I ever wanted was to help anyone else feeling like this.

During my darkest times, blogging has helped me to find some light, knowing that I could use my experiences to help others got me through and I am so proud to have been able to support so many people over the past five years.

Disability power list 100 2018

Thank you to every person who has taken the time to read my blog, share it or reach out to me, it’s genuinely an honour and a blessing to be a part of your lives.

A very wise woman once told me that every person has a story and if you are privileged to hear those stories then be grateful and humble that you have that opportunity. And that’s how I feel every time I get a message from a reader.

Life can be short, scary and sometimes it sucks but count your blessings and try to use your time to bring goodness and kindness into the lives of the people around you.

Money, fame, accolade, they’re nice but what is important is love, caring and kindness. It’s what holds the world together.

Thank you so much for being part of my journey.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xxx