Message from Simone

I love it but have no time... no skills to give... I am working full time... Don’t be shy, give us a try!

We often hear these replies when we tell others about our wonderful community of givers and takers! Some people also have problems taking; believe it or not, you have to push them to accept the gems. As we have already explained before, if a gem stays unused in the jar it can deprive others of a chance to shine. If you are sceptical, read the Journey of a Gem! 

So I am writing this to encourage you to give it a go. You put in as much as you can, there is no pressure here to ‘perform’, we are all friends and we often meet socially. There are also interesting spins-off to this group... some of us are member of the University’s Newcomers and Visiting Scholars and Karina has now set up an Abundance blog if you fancy fruit harvesting as a social activity (no gems but plenty of fruit). Members share their interests and we also have a Craft Club, French-speaking meetups... We also go out to places in the evening to have a drink now and then.

Now let’s look at the skills... ‘Skills’ is a broad term in our group. We have some tech people who are happy to help with IT issues but most of us need everyday skills like ironing, walking pets, child-minding, cooking, doing some DIY, sewing, car lifts, gardening, cleaning... Surely you have one of these skills you can share?

We welcome you if you live near Victoria Road, Gilbert Road, Histon Road... we have an area limit as we want to keep the group close geographically and manageable. So don’t be shy, give us a try! We are free and friendly.

Thank you to Simone for organising our first garden party

I would like to say a big Thank you to Simone for organising our first Skills Exchange garden party.
Originally it was to introduce the group to our Danish skills exchange guests but they had a last chance to go to London before they had to leave again.

Due to their stay here, there has been a large amount of exchanges, injecting energy in our group.
the garden party was one of those lovely off shoots.

Simone had sent out an email to the group inviting us to a bring and share and shop and swap party.
People brought their favourite cakes, quiches, nibbles and drinks. The sun was shining and we all had a lovely time. 25 members showed up and Paola's guest, Eileen enjoyed it so much that she joined the following day. Her first exchange was taking the Great Danes to the station early in the morning.

A big thanks to Simone for organising it.

Elder Flower cordial worksho

After years of making elderflower cordial I decided to do a little workshop with the group. We had lots of fun on this lovely sunny June day. We picked the flowers, made the cordial and the day with the left over lemons and some of the syrup made some delicious Elderflower and lemon marmalade.


Harmony's picnic

Thanks Micheal I have my bread all safely tucked away in a bag ready for travelling and look forward to having it in a picnic later if the weather holds.


A Thank You letter from Gwendolyn

Hello all,

Thanks to the Skills Exchange, we have Michael coming over to help with some weeding, Karina to help with some cleaning, an inflatable mattress to borrow from Pavlina, and some babysitting from Harmony! 

Very grateful for this help at a particularly hectic time, and looking forward to earning those gems back sometime soon. 

Best wishes,

Washing and digging

Here is my compatriot Guido  hard at work this afternoon first washing my car, which really needed it, and then digging my raised beds. When he arrived he stayed with me for two weeks, was a very pleasant lodger and paid me in gems which is now earning back.
Thank you, Karina, for this really good scheme which you introduced about two years ago and is now growing from strength to strength! 
Long live the Cambridge Skills-Exchange!

What a lovely surprise

Earlier today Michael asked if he could surprise me with a meal for 2.
Well at 7.30 sharp the doorbell rang and Michael appeared with a gorgeous looking plate of sushi.
Last week he went to Seiko's sushi making workshop and I think his teacher can be proud.

The taste was divine too,  thank you for this great vegetarian sushi. Hope you can do this again for us Michael.

Another nice thing was that there was no washing up to do. Bliss.

Guido and Paola. a match made in... Garden Walk

Dear all, 

As you may know Karina’s son Michael and three of his college mates are  here in Cambridge until May 20th for a project they are doing as part of their studies in Denmark. 

I offered to put up one of the young men and Guido, Italian like me, arrived on May 23rd. I hardly get to see him as he leaves at 8 am. and often doesn’t come home till I have gone to bed. On the occasions when we meet it’s nice for us both to talk about things Italian. 

The deal is that he gives me one gem for every night he spends at my house and I then pay hime in gems for chores he does for me. I didn’t think of taking photos, as others have done, of the various chores  Guido  did for me last Saturday  but would like to list them  here so that you know and he gets the credit: 

1. hung up my, very heavy, living room curtains which had come back from the dry cleaner 
2. swept the side passage clean 
3. brought my garden furniture, one table and 4 chairs, out of the shed into the garden. I can now sit outside, weather permitting! 

So now I have to think what else I can ask him to do… washing my car is definitely one of them! 

Watch this space! 
Have a good day 

Could we solve our parking problem?

Over the years it has become more difficult to park in our street as people use it as free parking to go into town and to work. Which means that many a time our cars end up in neighbouring street.
To try and get an idea of which cars belong to residents in this street, I thought of making some stickers.

As I am not very computer savvy and I noticed that Thomas needed to earn some gems, I asked him to come up with some ideas. I think they are pretty good. I will now see what the rest of the street things of the idea.  Fingers crossed.  Thanks Thomas for taking the time to design them.

Big Thanks to Thomas for mowing our lawn this afternoon. 

We had some friends over in the evening and we've spent a lot of time in the garden with the children which would not have been possible with the overgrown grass. It might be possible but it certainly would not look so neat. 

Thanks again Thomas for helping me to keep up appearances ;-) and the smooth surface for a game of pétanque. 


Aaron the decorator

Today, I went to meet our newest member Simin,
On the way there, I saw Aaron who was heading to my house to paint the outside back wall. Whilst Simone, Simin and I we had a lovely time with cake and Iranian tea, we chatted about the virtues of our skills exchange and how wonderful it is.

Well I did  not exaggerate as 2 hours later, I came back to a wonderfully painted house, with Mark and Aaron having a chat over a cup of tea.

The scheme is starting to do what it is meant to do. Bringing people together, sharing ideas, manpower and friendship.  I am over the moon.

May Day celebration

What a perfect way to celebrate May Day,  starting with  the arrival of Michael's beautiful fresh baked bread and sweet chilli Jam!  

May Day celebrations have deep roots in myth and  symbolise  the joy of  the reuniting of the Daughter and the Mother ( Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone) which gifts us every year with Spring!  Happy Day!
Many thanks Michael!
Pat C.

Thank you so much Michael.
I too received some delicious bread and chilli jam... Such a treat...and a great joy for May Day.
Carmen and Jon.

Bread galore

We know when Michael is back in town as that means the smell of freshly made bread.

This time, he made loaves for Agi, Seiko and my self. Thanks Mike for a lovely fresh loaf, I will enjoy it.

Here is a little write up from Agnes:
Dear All at Skills-Exchange,

Let me share with you our joy over a beautiful, freshly baked loaf of bread that has just been delivered to our door by Michael. 

Of course we have tasted it and of course it tastes as delicious as it looks. Still warm...on a day of snow and hail.

Michael, thank you very much for the bread.
Karina, thank you very much for the Skills Exchange.

Best wishes

Thank you Guido for cutting my wood

I would like to thank Guido for spending time this afternoon cutting up my long lengths of wood in more manageable logs for the new log fire.

Aaron answers Thomas' request

Thomas sent out an SOS that both his bikes had a flat tyre so getting to school was rather problematic.
As yet we had no bike repairmen in our midst until.... Aaron came to join us  and tackled the job on a cold Sunday afternoon.  Not only is Tom happy with his bike, but Aaron was given the chance to earn a gem, which he uses to give to Liz as a token of appreciation of given him accommodation.

Look what Pat made!

After an hour of chat and a little 'tuition' Pat left with two Puff pastry Christmas stars.
She served them later that night at her card club. Doesn't it look great?

Christmas star making with Pat, Paola, Seiko and Michael

After a successful evening at Bea to whom I brought a sweet and savoury puff pastry christmas star, I had some requests on how to make it.

Yesterday Pat, Paola, Seiko and Michael came to make some at my house and Seiko had another go at her house. The end result was great (see Pat's picture)

I earned 2 gems, which I gave to Michael as he had helped me dig over the garden the other day, resulting in a stiff back. He is now going to use the gem for a massage at Pavlina, the other has no destination yet (for as far as I know)

The Skills Exchange In a nutshell

After a few meetings about the Skills Exchange, people asked me if I had a leaflet to hand out.
Unfortunately I had not, so decided to get some input from our talented members to get some wording, marketing advise and graphic design done.

I would like to thanks Simone, Mill and Mark and members of the West Bridgford Skills Exchange for giving their time to come up with a concept.

The graphic design is based on the idea of Ying and Yang, Give and Take and helping hands as balance and caring is crucial in a group like ours.

Hope the wording will help you explain to  your friends and neighbours what the Skills Exchange is all about.

If you want to print one off go to the top of the blog on the 'leaflet page'

Our first social get together

Hello   everyone,

Having tried and succeeded to send a group  email yesterday I hope that this reaches you all.

I joined the skills exchange group a few weeks ago and have had an hour of gardening done for me in exchange for some reading support, it was a lovely afternoon.  I know some of you but thought that it would be nice for us all to have the opportunity to meet each other.

I would like to invite you to an ‘At Home’ on Tuesday 8th December for a glass of wine, soft drinks, coffee and nibbles.   This would be between 7.30 and 9.30 pm, please come for as long as you would like.  

I do hope that some of you are able to come and I look forward to meeting you.

All the best 

Next Pop up Bar - 27th November 6-11pm

Dear All

Last Friday about 14 of us turned up at the NCI Sports and Social Club on Holland Street. 
On arrival our members were given a sticker with their names on, to make it easier for others to identify a fellow Skills Exchanger and to start a conversation. I hope it worked in practice and that those who came enjoyed meeting each other.

Paul, the owner of Bacchanalia was very pleased with the turnout and would like to have another meeting like this on Friday 27th November from 6-11pm.

As the last one was a little spur of the moment and some of you could not make it, I thought, I’d let you know so that you can put this date in your diary if this is your sort of thing.  Normally you won’t see me in a pub, having said that, even though I don’t drink, the elderflower juice was lovely, the food delicious and the company fantastic. Will go again!

Maybe we will see one another before that, I know that Bea is hoping to arrange a get together at her house in the near future.

In the mean time,

Take good care of you and yours.

Best wishes


Agi's first impressions of the Skills Exchange

Dear All at Skill Exchange,

We have had a lovely first day with Skill Exchange today. Let me share the moments with you.

In the morning we had two hours of apple pressing at Karina's.  It was the first day of autumn break so I could go with my 8 year old daughter, Zsofi. We had a great time, gorgeous weather and some delicious apple juice to take home.
In the afternoon we visited Bea our very first exclusively Skill Exchange friend.  I had an hour of gardening while she was teaching Zsofi in a very fun way. We could also see her beautiful quilts and had a nice chat. 

I wish you all similar encounters and good luck with Skill Exchange.

Best wishes,

Thank you Estelle for helping me in the garden

For weeks I have been thinking of emptying my raised bed from Victoria Road garden and move it to my little garden on Garden Walk. The problem was that although not heavy, it was awkward to move and I needed an extra pair of hands to move it across.  I anticipated another few trips for the compost to be moved as well.

To keep the gems shining, I decided to put a request out to the group and Estelle very kindly offered an hour of her time. Saturday morning, before many others had come out of bed, Estelle and I moved the bed and some compost. Unfortunately I had run out of time as I had another meeting to go to, so Estelle finished it all off. Both gardens now look wonderful.

Thank you Estelle, you are a Gem!

New members this week

This week I was delighted to meet up with Amy and Sue hope you are able to meet them soon.

A message from Amy

I’ve lived in this neighbourhood for 15 years now and value the community we are.

I would like to offer :
Family story massage sessions where parents/carers and children have the opportunity to explore storytelling with simple positive touch actions that are drawn (with hands) upon each others backs, through clothes.  It is a fun bonding activity with much creative potential.
“Nurture your feet” sessions with an Aromatherapy footbath, followed by an aromatherapy foot massage.  
Reflexology sessions. 
Aromatherapy Hand and feet Massage Sessions.
Bespoke Aromatherapy product blending, (where together we choose the essential oils right for you, and then I blend a massage oil or room mist spray and you pay for materials only).  

My website is  if you’d like to find out a bit more about me.

I am interested in evening child sitting services, advice on my garden design and some garden work, and probably lots more things after I’ve studied the list….

Thank you Karina for the time you’ve dedicated to initiating this community project in our area.  

Best Wishes, 

Gardening help within the hour!

Last week Michael asked for a lift to Stansted and received it immediately from Anthony.
Yesterday I needed someone to take a large package to the post office, Hugo  posted it within a few hours,
Carmen needed a responsible and reliably babysitter so Manon came up trumps
Bea was looking for someone to do some weeding, Agi who likes gardening replied and managed to do a straight swap with Bea as she will be helping Agi's daughter with reading.

Pavline mentioned that she was going to France and asked if anyone wanted something bringing back, looks like Anthony spent his gem from Michael to pay Pavline for some goodies.
This morning I sent out an SOS to have some gardening help to move an awkward raised beds and compost from one garden to another. I was so pleased that Estelle responded so quickly so that we can do this together. It looks like we are getting there.

25 members to date, so as before when I set up the Skills Exchange, that seems to be the amount of wonderful people in a very compact area you need to get together to start up a community building event like this.

Bea is going to organise a social so that we can meet each other over a cuppa or drinks and nibbles.

A great start. Long may it continue.

We are now looking for more skills like: Plumbing, Electrics, DIY, Health and Beauty, Alternative Therapies,  hairdressing etc

Thanks Kare for your wonderful talk: Now I know what we are. We are Opportunity Makers

So often people ask me: "What do you do?"
I give various answers, depending on how I feel. "Mother, Housewife, Carer, Community Builder,gardener, painter and decorator, Cook, Environmental adviser." It is true, I am all that but somehow it does not really convey what I think I am.

Then this morning I watched Kare's Ted talk   Listening to what she had to say revealed that us Skills Exchangers are "Opportunity makers".

If you truly understand the Skills Exchange initiative, where you find the strengths in people and let them shine  (hence our tokens are called Gems) and that you can help others by using your strengths, Then you too are a Opportunity Maker.

Have a look for yourself, I can thoroughly recommend this talk.  Get yourself a cuppa,  relax,enjoy it and think of all the opportunities you have created for others to shine and the others who allowed you to find your strengths.  I for one, am grateful for all you have done for my family and myself, the friendships that have been created and the generosity of spirit that has grown out these actions. I hope you feel the same.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

Keep up the good work

A message from Carmen

I asked Carmen how her party went, her answer:

Great party ..a 100 friends and family...great music and food ..tired but very happy.and feel full of gratitude!

Manon is the perfect babysitter..Sam slept through but she met him in the morning when she returned for her scarf.She is charming, reliable and considerate..we would have her babysitting any time

New members this week

I look back on this last week was with great warmth, joy and gratitude.

For a reason unbeknown to me, I received a number of enquiries from people in the area to join the fledgling Cambridge Skills Exchange.  I met many of them, was welcomed in their homes with gallons of tea, coffee, cakes, sweets and warm hospitality.

We have so many interesting, kind and caring people living in walking distance from our home, whose house I have walked past for the last year and have now got to know a little better.
People like Bea on Holland Road,  Liz and Christine on Garden Walk, Pavline on Stretten Avenue,
Sarah on Gilbert Road and Hugo and Thomas on Victoria Road.

All very different in one way but have in common that they love the idea that we are here to help each other by allowing others to shine as well as physically helping someone else. That it is as important to give as it is to take.  To understand what I mean, have a look at the journey of a gem,

Anthony comes to the rescue

After a lovely week in Cambridge it was time to get back to Denmark (until I am back home again at Christmas)  As I had earned 2 gems making sushi with Estelle and Manon, I decided to use them for a lift to Stansted Airport.

I sent out an email to the group and within no time, Anthony contacted me to say that he would get me there in style.  The next morning 8.30 a knock on the door of my personal 'chauffeur' Anthony drove me there without any problems and I had enough time to get checked in without any stress.


Thank you Anthony

International Sushi!

Michael was over from Denmark for a good week and wanted to get active in the Skills Exchange.
When he lived in Nottingham his Japanese friend showed him how to make Sushi and got hooked ever since.

When he joined he mentioned that he was willing to teach others basic sushi making skills so when Estelle and Manon heard about it, they signed up and the day after a large amount of sushi was made around Estelle's kitchen table.

They had great fun, walked away with a tupperware box of gorgeous samples, ready to be duplicated by themselves in future.

Michael was happy to the company of these lovely French ladies and earn 2 gems. How will he be spending them?

Look how beautiful are our sushis ! Thanks to Michael !

A message from Martha to the new skills exchange members

Dear All,

Once it became clear that I was setting up the Cambridge Skills Exchange, a friend from West Bridgford sent me the following words to you:

In my case I have found the SE exchange very  useful when writing CV's and supporting statements for jobs applications, having lifts to and from the airport, finding help with french lessons for my daughter GCSE's, help with my garden, borrowing bicycles and helmets for my  niece and nephews when they came to visit England,  they also had the opportunity to receive English lessons. This August was my daughters 18th birthday party and two ladies form the group help me with organizing the food. They were so helpful, I was touched by their willingness and efficiency helping.  There are so many things the skills exchange has done for me during the last 5-6 years that I cannot thank  you  enough Karina for having introduced me to such wonderful way of sharing my skills with other people. 

My regards to everyone at home wishing you are all in good health and happiness


A bit of history

About us:

In 1992 Chippers, a local trading system, was set up  in West Bridgford near Nottingham. It was a paper based system as not many people used email and the internet in those days. Initially centered around the Elm Tree Avenue area and later also included the Iona School in Sneinton.  It had 87 members who were fairly spread out (because of the involvement of the Steiner School which had not got a particular catchment area)
The tokens were called 'chips' as it was all about  friends chipping in and helping out.

In 1995 we moved to the Netherlands and the same system was set up there linking in with the local community and the Steiner School in Schalkwijk (Haarlem)

Our stay was temporary (only 2 years long), on arrival back in Nottingham, the Chippers were still running but less active than before.  Time for a break.

In 2009, The West Bridgford Skills Exchange was set up again as part of the Transition movement. This time we used the shared documents provided by Google to have a free online system where people communicated without the use of any intermediary.  The tokens were called gems, the essence of this scheme was to give people in your community the opportunity to shine.

Since then, various inquiries have come from Portugal, Turkey and Spain, especially when we saw the economic downturn where people with skills could not find work where they lived. The Skills Exchange created self motivation, self confidence and hope.

In May 2014 we moved to Cambridge for my husband's job.  Hopefully we will be here for a long time, but I have become aware that there are many other families who move to Cambridge on short term contracts. Becoming part of the local community for them is not that easy, especially for the partners who are not involved in a job .

A Skills Exchange could be the solution. An instant diverse community of like minded people (Open minded people who encourage each other to shine and let them show off their strengths,) creating time in the process. Time to do things you enjoy doing, rather than things you have to do.

If you believe that
1. everyone has got strengths and they need to be used,
2. you live in Cambridge in walking or cycling distance from Victoria Road,
3. you want to contribute and be part of a community where people share wisdom, interest and new outlooks.

Then feel free to contact us:

Amazing bakers in our midst

A few weeks ago I had run out of time and asked Michael Wells to bake me some bread.
within no time 2 loaves of bread appeared, one for the freezer and one to eat immediately. MMM! nothing nicer than fresh, still slightly warm bread.

Then yesterday I had another of those days where I did not feel like baking but remembered that Paola enjoys making sour dough bread. I have not had any of this for many years so decided to enlist Paola the Queen of sourdough bread to make me a loaf for the coming week.

Well, it did not only look fantastic it tasted lovely.

I can well recommend both bakers.

For yeast bread, Michael is your man but for sour dough check in with Paola.

A Gem for knowledge

A gem for knowledge

I had several mushrooms in my garden and wanted to know if they were edible or poisonous.

Jacky came over and gave me a private lecture on British mushrooms!

She told me to be cautious but gave me plenty of tips. As advised, I will be researching some varieties a bit more before I dare eat them.

I happily paid my gem for this foraging knowledge.

Good beginnings

“ My experiences with the Skills Exchange have been very positive even if I haven’t had that many. My very first one was giving Karina a lift, then I have done some mending for Silvia Weihman and Michael Wells thus earning three gems in total. I have now given two of those to Michael Wells because he was very kind in getting me some special jam sugar when he was in Holland and also he made me some super scrumptious brownies a couple of days ago. I can totally recommend them. 
And, by the way, most of my friends would love to live nearer in order to be part of our Skills Exchange!
Paola White"

All change

On Sunday out of the blue, the carpet fitters arrived. I was pleased in one way but a bit overwhelmed in the other way. What was I supposed to do with the old carpets and off cuts as I no longer have the big car? I remembered that Helene had offered the use of her large car. So after a quick telephone call, all was sorted. Helene and her son came, loaded up the car and drove straight to the tip.

I am so grateful for their help. Hopefully someone if not me, can be of help to them in the near future.

Many thanks

Keeping it in the family?

On Monday, I went to help Karina trim overgrown trees and bushes with my trusty duo of lopper and secateurs. I had a headache from sitting in front of a computer all morning and I relished the idea of getting some fresh air while earning my first gem.

It was a very productive hour as we filled two green bins and made a pile for future disposal. The garden looked neater, more spacious and we got rid of some nasty brambles poking out of the flowerbed. After this garden tidy session, I picked up the jam Michael, Karina's son, made for me. He had generously thrown some berries in a batch of the jam, so I now have 10 apple and apple and berry jam jars.

The garden was cleared and my headache cleared off. I cycled home in a happy mood with the jars wrapped in bubble wrap and nestling in my pannier and rucksack.

Simone Castello

Window cleaning

The other day, Silvia wanted to have her windows cleaned. As I now have a wonderful window cleaning kit, I volunteered to help her out. An hour later, they has some shining windows, we had a lovely chat and I walked away with a gem that I will spend on a meal from Michael.  (I know he likes Silvia to iron for him, so he can do with a gem.

Thank you to Paola for giving me a lift to Aldi

Feeling a little off and tired, I was not looking forward to cycling to the shops to do my weekly shopping.
Whilst having a cup of tea at Paola it transpired that she was about to go that way anyway. She offered me a lift so we had company and I felt less exhausted. The gem Paola received was given to the person who watered her plants and looked after the house whilst she was away.

Thank you to Silvia for doing the ironing!

Although I am quite capable doing my ironing, the pile was growing and I was running out of time.
So I wasted no time, contacted Silvia who very kindly offered the iron the whole lot.

A few hours later, I came to pick up the basket with the most amazingly ironed clothes!
In the meantime I managed to cook some meals for the following days and baked some loaves of bread.
One was ordered by Karina, so when I dropped of her loaf, I received a gem and went straight to Silvia to give that gem in exchange for the ironing.

Thank you to Silvia for doing such a great job and to Karina for letting me bake for her.

Welcome to Silvia and Tom

Today Silvia and Tom, from Garden Walk joined the skills exchange.

They can offer:

classes, advise and help on Biology (from a PhD in Biology)
German lessons (native speaker)
help with carpentry
professional advise on dog training
professional advise on intercultural subjects (e.g. preparing for longer stays abroad)
Tango dancing
Laundry (washing, drying, ironing)
help in harvesting

In return we wish for help with washing our windows (2-3 times a year), occasional babysitting for our 2 little girls and lessons in proper pronunciation of English and/or English conversation in general from a native speaker.

I am looking forward to seeing you again these days!
Cheers, Silvia

the First gem has been exchanged!

As the weather was so horrible, I decided to go out for the day to London.
Being cooped up in doors for another day, whilst London is now so close felt a good idea.
The only problem was to get to the station on time without getting drowned on the way.

I decided to phone Paola who lives only a few doors away to see if she happened to have some time to drive me there.
3/4 hr later, I was chauffeur driven to my destination. Not only that, I also received some invaluable information about discount rail cards (which I now possess), where to get the tickets from without having to be in a long queue and I still had time to jump on the train with a minute spare.

Thank you Paola, you are a real Gem!


Ciao Paola

Please let me introduce you to our newest member of the Cambridge skills exchange.
This is what Paola writes about herself:

Hi all,

finally set up my g.mail account….. What can I tell you about myself?

I can sew, knit, crochet and even make lace (tatting). I am quite good at turning up hems and trousers but draw a line at zips! Could use help in the garden and in the house sometime moving things which are heavy or reaching things which are too high up as I am rather small.

I like meeting people, going to the cinema, theater, gardening as well as cooking and love baking bread (without a machine). I speak Italian, German and French as well as English and am happy to offer translation services from those languages.

Have lived in Garden Walk, Cambridge for the last 27 years which is the longest I have lived anywhere, and in the same house, in my life.

Originally come from Florence but left Italy 49 years ago. With my husband, Roy, who was in the British Foreign Office, and our 4 sons we lived abroad (Senegal, Sweden and India) for 12 years. We were posted back to England in 1977 and decided to stay put. We settled in St.Neots - the boys, who had been at boarding school, went to the local school and then went on to University. I got a job in Huntingdon as a multilingual administrator and a similar one in Cambridge where we moved in 1987 which had been a dream of mine.

Unfortunately in 1988 the dream was shattered as both my eldest son, Mark, and my husband died within 8 months of one another. But I still love Cambridge and feel very privileged to have ended up here from Florence. Two of my sons live in England and one in Italy. I have three grandsons who are by now young men and all live in England.

I am a Christian and a member of Holy Trinity Church in the centre of town. My faith is very important to me but am a liberal at heart and have many friends with different religious views or even none!

I seem to have rambled on as I often do. Look forward to meeting you all personally and being part of this very good initiative. I include a photo of myself hoping to encourage others to do the same….


Well-kept garden, but help needed with house

I am an ex journalist (writing and editing). I now work in communications and digital marketing. I used to do a lot of crafts and DIY, so if I spot any request I can help with and it is not in my list, I will get in touch.

I am offering
  • business copywriting
  • marketing
  • proof-reading
  • internet research/general help/blogging
  • holiday services
  • garden maintenance + gardening as a group activity
  • translations (French/Italian into English).

My wish at the moment is help with cleaning, my kitchen and particularly the oven. Basically, I have a well-kept garden and a less immaculate house!


Make a wish

Dear All,
It has been a pleasure to have met you over the last few weeks and am really excited that a momentum is building.

Now we have about 10 people it might be nice to find out if we have people in the group who can help each other to kick start some inter action.
When one of the new members remarked that  he would like to see what others are offering, it sparked off an idea...
If everyone would think of one wish they might like to receive at this moment in time (even if it is not on the list as yet) it might be that people can still help you but had not thought of offering that particular skill.  It would be a lovely way to add some more skills to the list.
For  those who have not been able to fill in the list, just let me know and I will help you out.
My wish is:

Help with decorating in my utility room. (strip paint and repaint)
Can anyone make my wish come true?
Looking forward to hearing from you (with your wish)

This is Harmony, she has joined the Cambridge Skills Exchange today, she can help with  computer and internet, or finance and accounts related job. The things she most would like help with are housework and dressmaking skills such as pattern design.

Michael joined today

It was lovely to hear that Michael decided to join today. He has been involved in the Skills Exchange in West Bridgford from a very early age, as a teenager he loved helping out, so he helped weed Cath's garden, tidied up the wood shed for Simon and did some sushi making workshops for various people.
In return he received some lifts,  silver service tuition from John and Dianne made him a blind

Now he is independent and lives on Victoria Road, he would love to have a dog but due to renting the house he is not able, so dog walking, or dog sitting would be ideal for him. He is a great cook and bread baker. So if you are stuck for a dog sitter or dog walker, Michael is your man

For Sushi making, vegetarian or fish, Michael can make you a mean take away.

Helene and her family are the first to sign up

Now the  'website' is up and running I set off to meet Helene and her family armed with a 'gem jar'  with 10 gems.

They only live a little bit further up the road so very handy to pop in and help each other when needed.
She is setting up her googlemail account and soon I can let her share the shared document for her to fill in at her convenience.

Simone, another interested local lady has forwarded details of the Skills Exchange to her local residents associations so hopefully we have some more followers soon

"I love the idea of a local Skills exchange, but don't know what to give...."

Does this sound familiar?
Well, this must be the most frequent heard sentence when introducing people to the skills exchange.

If you would like to get some inspiration have a look at the West Bridgford Skills Exchange blog and see what people are doing there.

For more pictures click here

A wonderful Street Party in Garden Walk on Saturday 7th June

As the Skills Exchange is very much a local affair (walking and cycling distance from each other) it was fantastic to be able to meet my neigbours so soon after moving in.
Liz and Paul had organised the annual Garden Walk street party where I got to meet some more lovely people, 5 of whom have put their names down to join the Cambridge Skills Exchange, at the moment:

Colin, Helene, Paola, Silvia and  Audrey were the first to sign up for the Garden Walk group of friends in the Cambridge Skills Exchange

We now have interest from  Victoria Road,  Primrose Street, Garden Walk, Windsor Road,  Harvey Goodwin and Stretten Ave.

The Gems have arrived!

Thanks to our good friend John Stallard, we have now got our bright red Gems, to start trading once we have the group of 20 together.

The idea is that every member of the Cambridge Skills Exchange will receive 10 gems.
Each gem stands for 1 hour of work you have received. (or part there off. Always offer more gems and it is then up to the recipient to accept or not) 
So if you have received 1 hour of pilates lesson, you will give the teacher 1 gem.
Or if you have received a meal that took the cook 1 hour (inclusive of tidying etc) again you give them 1 gem.
Had some electric work done that took 1 hour and 10 minutes you offer 2 gems, it is then up to the electrician to either accept the 2 gems or just have 1. It is up to him.

The motto is to give generously and receive graciously. If everyone gives to the best of their abilities and offers only skills they are good at and enjoy doing this,  all should be well.

Under no circumstances should anyone feel that their hour is worth more than someone else's as otherwise inflation creeps in and grumbles will arise. 

The system is by no means perfect as you cannot 'trade' goods(*), this is just a way to help friends in the system and build community. If any costs arise (say someone puts in a radiator) you pay the cost price of the radiator and in gems for the time the plumber spent).

If and when you would like the Cambridge Skills Exchange, you are asked to hand back your 10 gems.

The idea is not to keep your gems sitting in your Gem Jar, but let them shine!
Give others a chance to do what they do best and enjoy doing, so that you to can enjoy your time with things you are good at and enjoy.

(*) If you like to trade goods, you might be better off joining Camlets as their Cams are more flexible to deal with, bartering is possible in that system.