Walking wounded.

Over 3 months since nearly dying in a car accident, I’m just about back on my feet.

I think that they reckon one loses about 2% muscle mass for every week in bed so you can imagine that I’m now rather a weakling!

Each day is a struggle to master a new exercise, re-build lost muscles, get some better balance and achieve more independence.

It was thrilling to have a shower while laid out on the special trolley that has flip up sides to become a mini-bath   Penny's bateau used for her shower

But even better to be able to sit and then stand for a real shower – though still hanging on for grim death.

I don’t have to be hoisted out of bed anymore in the big bag but can now do it by myself.

I’ve progressed and can now stand up by myself, walk with just one hand on the parallel bars and even do a fairly quick dash down the corridor with a “walker” machine.  Every day includes over four hours physiotherapy so there’s a real risk that I’ll be fitter than before the accident!

The electric wheelchair is still my main mode of travel to the gym etc but they don’t let me drive it myself: I think that having some sight is really fairly essential as it can go pretty fast!

E-mails and phone calls, a bevy of Easter eggs, other delicious and thoughtful gifts from back home, lots of visits and great staff all make the rehabilitation process bearable – and there are lots of opportunities to share laughs with other patients as we struggle along.  I’ve been outside to enjoy that tiny bit of sunshine that managed to penetrate a very cold and wet Spring season.  My top ambition is to get back to all my Baking Blind activities in the next few weeks – even though I’ve managed a simple fruit salad, I can’t wait to be cooking again.  I’m making a list of everything I want to cook as soon as I’m able.  The food here is not so hot and is rather monotonous: never to see another piece of mini-pasta would be wonderful!PMB CHU CAPUCINS 2018-38

My thanks to San Francisco’s Lighthouse organisation for their patience while I make good my recovery to complete the rest of my Holman prize project: I’m sure that all the future videos and recipes will be worth the wait.




Baking Blind China visit inspires Toby’s exhibition.

My nephew, Toby, is a key member of the Baking Blind team: he is the videographer who has captured all the thrills and spills of my cooking adventure over the last year.  He was intrepid in accompanying me throughout the world tour and, as himself a professional freelance architectural illustrator, was inspired by China .  I am thrilled that the Holman prize (funded by San Francisco’s Lighthouse organisation) has produced this extra outcome – and am very humbled that he has dedicated the exhibition to me.


The debut solo exhibition by


22/03/18 – 28/03/18

65 Decima St, London SE1 4QR



​​Transformative artworks observe the troubling changes to communities in Uk and China. 

The project was inspired by a recent trip to China and an active study on the economic upheaval of cities; Chongqing and Shanghai. On returning to the UK, Toby was reminded of more familiar forms of displacement; the young unable to buy property and artists turfed out of studios due to high rents.

The resulting work is an attempt to observe the changes in our communities. Asking what should change and what should remain? Touching on gentrification, migration and preservation. This is a look at our current state and an acknowledgment that society is always in flux, always In-between.

On the Launch Night (22/03/18), the subject of transformation will be brought to life by 8 brand new drawings. Intricately detailed artworks that change under specialist lighting. In the adjacent room, risograph printed posters, celebrating the event will be on sale, along with a live draw, free beers and specially composed acoustics.

The following Saturday (24/03/18), budding creatives, (ages 6 to 15), are invited to the In-between Invisible Ink Workshop. An event in partnership with Little Architect. The afternoon will begin with a short presentation from Toby and Little Architect, followed by a drawing activity, where attendees will then be invited to consider their own surroundings, what it is they enjoy and what they’d like to change. Finally there will be a chance to create a mural which uses invisible inks to convey the transitory nature of the city. Little Architect is an education and learning platform for teaching architecture and sustainability in London’s primary schools led by the Architectural Association School of Architecture.

Toby is most notable for his intricately imagined responses to our built environment. Subjects range from maps to architecture, contexts range from animation to wall murals. He’s been commissioned by Nike, Architectural Review, Imperial War Museum and The Crown Estate.

“Complex, exhilarating, challenging and troubling, local and transnational. Toby’s work‚ 

In-Between, observes shifting communities and their displacement in China and the UK, across time and space, class, gender and ethnicity. Where are the boundaries between them?”

Harriet Evans University of Westminster/LSE. Prof Evans is a leading voice on contemporary Chinese culture.

In-between is dedicated to Penny Melville-Brown.

In 2017, Penny became a Holman Prize finalist, awarded by LightHouse, enabling a world tour of her YouTube cooking show Baking Blind. Toby joined her as videographer and assistant. It was during their time in China that Toby was inspired to begin this project. As a blind veteran who helps those with disabilities get into work, championing a much marginalised community, Penny is someone Toby values greatly. Visit her Baking Blind YouTube channel here.

Details & links

Further info and press images: Call Laura 07875653402 or email inbetweenpromo@gmail.com

In-between promo video link 

Launch Night 22/03/18, 7-10pm RSVP link

Invisible Ink Workshop 24/03/18, 3:30-5pm RSVP link

tobymelvillebrown.com   Instagram-@tobymelvillebrown   Twitter-@toby_mel_brown   #inbetween

Naval history still inspires.

James Holman was a truly remarkable man:  he was just a young Royal Navy Lieutenant aged 22 when he lost his sight.  Undaunted, he used his personal charm, charisma and determination to travel the world alone and become the most renowned travel writer of his generation.  Even more remarkable, he was doing all of this about 200 years ago and when blindness carried massive social stigma – our modern concerns with accessibility, discrimination and equality pale in to insignificance.

Visiting the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard gave me some clues to what his life would have been like.    I heard the waterfront and the sea shanties, the shouts and cries of bustling people, the creak of wood and rope in the wind.  The smells of hot coals on the brazier and food cooking mixed with the sea salt and ozone.  Underfoot, the cobbles were hard and the weather was icy cold with sea winds.  I could touch the hard metal of the cannons, the roughness of rope and the swing of the hammock.

James would have known HMS VICTORY as Nelson’s flagship (he’d joined the Navy around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar) even though the ship was already decades old and getting out of date.  During his life, conditions at sea would have gradually improved and HMS WARRIOR, the new iron-clad warship, was launched soon after James’ death.

He had joined the Royal Navy through the academy in Gosport – just across the Solent from Portsmouth – and the chances are high that he too knew many of the buildings that were also familiar to me from my own years of serving in the Naval Base.  So this visit was doubly poignant: echoing his own footsteps and re-treading some of the paths I’d trod nearly 20 years ago – all in this year of the Women’s Royal Naval Service centenary.

Both of us had careers that were cut short by blindness but we went on to carve out new futures – his was magnificently illustrious and I have just tried to follow his example.  But neither of us gave up to disability – perhaps our naval training gave us the competences, self-confidence and people skills to carry on?

You can see the adventures I’ve had as a winner of the international Holman prize run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind on my YouTube channel.


Penny with HMS Victory in the background

Deadly discrimination: because your skin is the wrong colour.

Our equality concerns in the UK pale in to insignificance compared with the terrors that some have faced in Africa due to their colour.

Last week in Malawi, I learned a little about the dangers that people with albinism have faced.  There are about 4,000 of them in a population of about 70 million.    Their lack of skin or hair pigmentation means that they stand out from others, often have visual impairments and have much higher risk of skin cancer.  But these are only part of the problems they face: women giving birth to a child with albinism have been accused of infidelity and abandoned by their husbands making life and finances even more difficult; people with the condition have struggled to be integrated in to their communities with disastrous consequences on their education and employment prospects.  Most sinister are the physical attacks – I was told that over 20 people with albinism have been killed over recent years –and three so far this year.  But death isn’t the end of it: some bodies are dug up and there is trade in their bones for ritual use in other countries.

I had an inspiring time with three people with albinism and some who support them as we all cooked local food together for a great feast.  The Government in Malawi is making progress: they are now making the special sun-screen available that will help give some cancer protection and have made the penal code tougher on such violence.  The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi  is supporting their members to create local self-support groups and is receiving help from overseas: you could donate glasses to correct short-sight to them for distribution.

Many people in Malawi are still close to their cultural and rural roots – I had an amazing experience cooking traditional food in one of the local villages and being invited to their dance celebration.  All this was arranged by Cephus Kadewere, the amazing head chef of the Latitude 13 hotel that hosted us.  He and General Manager, Mehul, were unstinting in their support and enthusiasm for the Baking Blind project:   we had some very special times together under the trees next to the hotel pool where Cephus shared some of his most popular recipes with me.

The Remembrance memorial in the centre of the capital, Lilongwe, is a massive construction marking all those who died in the two World Wars and other conflicts.  Perhaps we don’t pay enough attention to all those who fought alongside us in the past?  But it did strike the chord of how military service binds us together, from those who were commemorated there through James Holman who inspired the prize that funded my visit to my own time in the WRNS and Royal Navy.

Alongside all the progress and development being part-fuelled by overseas businesses and Governments, the sheer friendliness of the people of Malawi was the delight of the visit.  The people themselves make Malawi the true “warm heart of Africa”.

Now I’ve completed the second leg of my Baking Blind world tour thanks to the Holman prize run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind but there is still lots to do.  Over the next month or so, there are hundreds of hours of video to be edited, recipes to be written (www.bakingblind.com), more experiences to be shared and new cooking opportunities to be planned here in the UK and Europe.  Please keep watching and following to get the full story of my adventure.


Scallops the professional way.

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be taught by the BBC’s Masterchef Professionals 2013 winner, Steven Edwards.  He showed us how to deal with scallops that arrived in their shells and turn this delicacy in to an amazing starter with roasted cucumber and his own special marmite bread.

You can watch me make them on YouTube

He showed us how to prepare the scallops direct from the sea.  I found a long palette knife worked best: slip between the two shells opposite to the square hinge end of the shell and gently but firmly run down the inside of the flat shell.  This should loosen the scallop meat and enable you to separate the two shells.  Gently work the knife under the scallop away from the rounded shell.  You might be surprised at the amount of sand etc in the “skirt”.  Gently separate this from the scallop meat, pull out the “comma” shaped roe.  Throw out the sandy skirt.  Don’t let the scallops spend more than about 30 seconds in the water as you wash them – and change the water if necessary to get rid of all the sand.

Check out the scallop meat: one flat side will be larger than the other.


Chefs and cooks champion diversity.

I set out to use cooking to change attitudes towards blindness and other disabilities – and China showed me how well this works.  Last week with aboriginal Fred, simply cooking a fish together was a bridge between our very different cultures.  This week, gastronomically diverse Melbourne showed that great cooks and chefs aren’t constrained by issues of race, nationality, ethnicity, disability, gender or other false barriers: food is all about generosity, sharing, learning from each other, crossing culinary borders and using the best ideas and ingredients, whatever their source.   The Greek “Euro Bites” eatery was a prime example (www.eurobites.com.au).

It was a special treat to encounter new ingredients and equipment:  gastronome Charlene (https://www.facebook.com/charlene.trist)  used smoked fresh eggs in both the pasta and the filling of her ravioli dish – these eggs have long shelf-life and would be ideal in a savoury soufflé, kedgeree and much more.  The Chef’s Hat emporium (www.chefshat.com.au) offered every sort of cooking equipment.  Food writer Dani (www.danivalent.com) introduced me to the widely popular Thermomix to produce fluffily delicious bread rolls in under an hour.    I’d been rather sceptical about the prospect of just filling an éclair until I spent time with Dre, an amazingly entrepreneurial pastry chef who is already expanding her patisserie and restaurant empire (www.bibelot.com.au).  Maribel, who is also blind (www.maribelsteel.com), was utterly inspirational: already a published writer and travel blogger, she is a wonderful cook, singer and champion for visually impaired people – you can hear her and partner Harry (www.springstudio.com.au) on the Melbourne video.













We were hosted by the Bostock family: another link to the Royal Navy and James Holman (after whom the prize that is funding me is named).  Former Royal Navy Commander Colin also arranged for me to spend a morning with the Australian Defence Force catering and hospitality trainees at Holmesglen college (www.holmesglen.edu.au) – another military reminder.  The Bostocks were unstinting in their generosity and friendship while daughter Sarah shared her knowledge on indigenous culture.

Following that trail, we moved on to Perth to meet up with Lynda, a former Women’s Royal Naval Service officer, who took us to the Maalinup aboriginal art gallery and bush tucker garden (www.www.maalinup.com.au) to meet artist PhilNarkle (www.philnarkle.com.au).  Now we have some small authentic artefacts to share with those who can only follow our adventures from afar.

And great news on the Australian equality agenda: a strong turn-out has just voted Yes to same-sex marriage: the people have spoken!

All of this is part of my adventure cooking around six continents funded by the international Holman prize run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind.  You can see the short composite videos we post at the end of each visit and, when we have had a chance to edit all the material back in the UK, we will be posting all the cooking sessions and recipes in the New Year.

Malawi next – if South African Airways can find an aircraft that works (we have a 24 hour delay in Perth)


Baking Blind in Africa.

Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, is my last stop on this year’s Baking Blind trip (Hello Lilongwe).  I’ll be flying from Melbourne in Australia via a one day stop-over in Perth to cook with another former WRNS colleague, Lynda.  Then back in the air to Johannesburg in South Africa before reaching Malawi.

Again, I was in South Africa years ago for yet another World Blind Union conference in Cape Town.  I have some wonderful ceramics and glassware from that trip so I am looking forward to exploring the arts and crafts of Malawi.

Visiting another African country is going to be a fantastic new opportunity and experience.  I’m being hosted by the Latitude 13 hotel  where their head chef is already planning a menu of dishes to teach me.  And there will be several chances to cook with local people including those with visual impairments.  Perhaps most important of the whole trip will be the group of people with albinism (which can also affect their sight) who face many other challenges too.







My impression is that many people in rural Malawi largely grow their own food.  After the last few weeks of more complicated cooking, it will be really good to get back to the basics of fresh home-grown produce.    Here, in the UK, we seem to have lost our connection with the soil and are struggling to re-capture the ethos of farm-to-table rather than flying in industrially-produced food.  There is much to learn from the approach in Malawi and the recipes will be on www.bakingblind.com

Meanwhile, Peter, who helps with my garden, has been telling me about Lake Malawi: apparently originally sea water and the home to the Malawi cichlids.  He’s been keeping tropical fish for years and these are amongst the most collectable.  They are “mouth-brooders” so the females, and sometimes the males, gather up the fertilised eggs in their mouths where they develop in a pouch near their “chin”.  When the baby fish are ready to hatch, they are blown back in to the water – but they can swim back in to the pouch if a predator is detected.  The adult fish can protect perhaps 200 babies in this way.

After Lilongwe, I’ll be back in the UK for Christmas, editing masses of videos with videographer Toby so that we can show you more of our trip.  But my time as one of the Holman prize-winners doesn’t end there: there will be more cooking in Hampshire and Europe in the new year which concludes in the autumn with a presentation to the prize organisers, San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  You’ll be able to see all of this on my YouTube channel.