Navy women.

Here’s the fourth batch of young women transforming in to naval officers at Dartmouth in early 1978.  We had just three months although many of the men took years.2 rows of women officer cadets plus their Divisional officers on the steps in front of the naval college

I remember the feet of the Special Duties Division (St George’s?) pounding in the cold dark hours of their early morning platoon runs – and their chorused shout of “Good morning, Talbot Division” under our windows to banish the last hopes of desperate sleep.  There must have been some confusion as to whether we were training as maids or officers: every minute seemed to be spent polishing (brass and shoes), ironing anything that could be worn and practising how to drink coffee without the regulation chocolate biscuit melting down the side of the cup.

There was lots of rushing about – but only in a very lady-like way – not much sleep and a wild fantasy that being able to “drive” the platoon around the parade ground was going to be career enhancing.

I found the very best refuge: warm, barely lit and with soft mats for a snooze.   It was the firing range so I became an enthusiastic rifle and pistol shot to the extent that, in desperation, they included me in the College team.  But, in those days, despite the Women’s Royal Naval Service having been trained at the College for over a year, the powers-that-be still hadn’t quite grasped that we wear different clothes.  The vaunted Dartmouth “Colours” came in the form of a natty green tie replete with the Britannia logo – just what I needed!

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

 

Clutch of different eggs for Easter.

Rodney (my builder) brought me four dozen eggs laid by the quails reared by his brother, Terry.  I’ve tried two recipes to get the best out of such a special gift:

 

Not-so-mini Scotch eggs – watch me make them on YouTube

Each quail egg in the middle of a crisp and spicy coat of sausage meat and black pudding.

Outstanding while warm from the oven and still delicious halved as canapés.

Don’t expect these oven-cooked Scotch eggs to look as dark brown as the deep-fried versions – although they are paler, less calories!

Oriental canapés – watch me make them on YouTube

These quail eggs marinaded in soy sauce with sesame seed dip are tasty nibbles to go with drinks.

As soon as the sesame seeds start making cracking noises in the pan, keep them moving and remove from the heat once they have started to give up their distinctive sesame smell.

The eggs make cracking noises as they cook which can seem quite alarming!

Soft-boiled quail eggs only need about a minute simmering if first covered by boiling water, about two minutes for hard-boiled.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

All the recipes are available at www.bakingblind.com

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Lamb and vegetable tajines.

Watch me make them on YouTube or download the recipes here

 

The quick vegetable version is just as full of flavour and satisfying as the slow-cooked lamb tajine.  Serve with couscous sharpened with lemon zest, slithers of cucumber for texture and chopped coriander for freshness.Penny softening peppers, aubergine and courgettes

Portions of GGG (garlic, ginger and green chilli) in the freezer make these easy and spicy dishes for a Middle Eastern feast.

If you don’t have authentic tajine dishes (or want to keep them just for serving), cook the lamb tajine in an ordinary casserole with a close fitting lid and a circle of parchment paper (cartouche) on top to retain the moisture.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

 

If you’ve got a long-term health condition or disability, what can you expect from your Jobcentre in the future?

Masses of people with health conditions and disabilities want to get back to work but help hasn’t always been right for them in the past.  The Government has been consulting on improvements and there are already signs of changes underway:

 Increasing understanding of disability in Jobcentres.

  • By august, local community organisations will be working with Jobcentres: giving expert knowledge, advice and support on disability issues to the Jobcentre staff and improving their understanding of the challenges disabled people face in getting and keeping jobs.
  • There will also be more specialist Disability Employment Advisers amongst Jobcentre staff to increase their colleagues’ disability understanding and help them better assist their clients.

 Additional support.

  • More people with health limitations for work can volunteer for Work Choice support (provided by various contractors).  Places have now been opened up for people who don’t have to be eligible for the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) element of employment and support Allowance (ESA) or the limited capability element of Universal Credit (UC).
  • 1,000 more people with mental health conditions can get up to 6 months help from the Mental Health Service to start and keep new jobs (for those on ESA WRAG and UC due to limited capability for work).
  • New Work and health Programme starts in November this year and will help those with health conditions and disabilities, alongside long-term unemployed people. This replaces the Work Programme which has just stopped taking on new people but anyone already on that programme will still get up to two years of their existing help.

 Increasing job opportunities.

In every Jobcentre area, there will be three specialist advisers targeting small local businesses with the “Small Employer Offer” – explaining what support is available when they employ someone with a long-term health condition or disability.  By building strong relationships with those employers, they’ll be able to give real practical help:   ensuring that people applying for jobs or work experience with the employer are a good fit and helping with claims for Access to Work (ATW).

 

Access to Work.

This financial help supports eligible people with long-term health conditions or disabilities to take up a job offer and keep existing jobs.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@laylands.co.uk

Indian feast: Chicken Tikka Masala, Masoor Dahl with Cumin Seed Tarka and carrots roasted with cumin.

The finished article on a plate Simple and classic curry that everyone loves with some different side-dishes.

A Quick meal: it takes about five minutes the day before and, while the chicken cooks, there’s time to make the sauce, dal, carrots, rice and any other side dishes.

Just pop the carrots in the microwave to par-cook.

Having frozen portions of GGG (crushed ginger, garlic and green chilli) in the freezer makes these dishes even faster.

Using a food processor or mill instead of grating onion and pepper is much easier and far less tearful!  Just chop both roughly and process for a minute or so to form a rough slurry.

Powdered spices in a storage facility that makes it easy for me to identify themMeasuring out all the spices is simpler if they are all kept together in separate compartments in a single tin – I have one for ground spices and another for whole.Whole spices in storage that makes it easy for me to identify them

Watch me make them on YouTube or download the recipe from www.bakingblind.com

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Calling cooks and chefs around the world: your help please.

I have this wonderful opportunity: to cook around the world and show that just being blind doesn’t hold me (or others) back.Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.com

As one of the 50 worldwide blind semi-finalists for the Holman prize, I now have about four weeks to flesh out my original pitch with a detailed plan and budget if I’m to reach the Final.   The prize commemorates James Holman who, like me, was blinded when serving in the Royal Navy.

probationery third officer melville brown WRNSI’m looking for people in different countries (whether chef or home-cook, sighted or not) willing to spend about half a day cooking with me – in cafes, restaurants, homes or anywhere else within reason!   These are the people who will make this whole adventure come alive: helping me bust myths about what blind people can do.    Together, we can capture some favourite and local recipes and share them across the globe through the Baking Blind YouTube channel, podcast, blogs and social media: there’s an example of me cooking with John and our sillier Comic relief fundraising episode.

My only concern is that the budget will probably be too tight for much travel away from main airports.  But I’m already trying to raise more funds and help-in-kind so that I can go further, meet more cooks and reach more people.

If you or someone you know could help, take part or would like to know more, just drop me an e-mail to penny@laylands.co.uk

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Can’t see but can cook and dream!

I’m Penny Melville-Brown and have been trying to push the disability boulder up the mountain of public attitudes for years.  So I’m delighted that Disability Talk has invited me to provide this guest blog.

Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.comIt all started over 20 years ago when I was still serving in the Royal Navy and my eye sight started to go.  They were very good: after being off-sick for a year and with just sight in one eye, I went back to work, got a promotion and carried on even while the other eye was failing. The Navy helped me with flexible hours, getting to work and magnification on my computer even though, like other parts of the military, they weren’t covered by the equality legislation.    When I was finally medically discharged, those years with all sorts of health difficulties gave me the confidence that being blind didn’t stop me working.

But trying to persuade future employers seemed a slim chance until I was lucky enough to link up with others equally passionate about making work a real prospect for disabled people.  So I launched Disability Dynamics: working on employment programmes, equality schemes and trying to change some of our public services.  Over the last few years, I’ve been heavily involved in self-employment as it can be ideal when employers are still reluctant and we may need to keep control of where, when and how we work.  There are some wonderful stories of how people have changed their lives – feeling better and happier.  We were just on the brink of more inclusive support for business start-ups when the recession hit and the Government changed.

Over the years, I’ve heard from lots of people who are hugely frustrated, depressed and isolated because their efforts to get a job just result in repeated rejections.  I’m convinced that there are millions of disabled people who would work if they could but haven’t had the help they need or the opportunities they deserve.  Just pushing them through programmes designed for other long-term unemployed people can seem more about a target-driven process than getting the best from this national resource.  There are still lots of questions  as to whether the forthcoming Work and Health programme will deliver the radically different approach we need – and demolish the ultimate barrier: employers’ attitudes.

With lots of help from those with specialist knowledge about disability and employment, we put together our Steps to Success and Sustainable work models that show that just one organisation will rarely have all the skills and capacity to provide every variation of support.    Our Help to Work partnership showed that multiple organisations embedded in the local community working together can succeed where parachuted national providers may not.

Along the way, there have been many more topics to debate from the disability perspective:

You can see my blogs with lots of images of my flower arrangements and some recipes.  The last gives a clue to my latest venture: Baking Blind.  The cooking videos and recipes are just another way of trying to show that having a disability isn’t the end of the world and that blindness or any other impairment doesn’t stop us doing most things.  I’ve rather optimistically entered an international competition to take the idea around the world.  And I’ll be blogging more recipes over coming months – and about how I’m bashing bowls out of pewter!  One of my taxi drivers has been teaching me some of his dishes and we have a whole range of great bakes for Comic Relief coming next.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com