Colors: Blue Color

Roving Chef for charity Vegetarian for Life, Alex Connell, has completed an epic running challenge, journeying ‘virtually' from Lands' End to John O'Groats, a journey of 875 miles.

Starting in Cornwall, Alex ran (and walked) the length of the country, briefly crossing the border into Wales then back to England, before crossing the Scotland border and venturing on to the final destination at the very top of Great Britain.

Alex said: "I wasn't actually in either Lands' End or John O'Groats - this was a virtual run. I certainly ran and walked the 875 miles, but only close to my home in Manchester."

"Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual running events have become popular. The basic idea is that you run or walk whatever the specified distance, time, or even elevation is. Distances are measured by apps on a phone or sports watch."

With running events all over the world cancelled this past year, including the 2020 Manchester Marathon, Alex was undeterred and decided to run his own marathon in his own garden. Seven hundred laps and 5 ½ hours later, Alex crossed the toilet roll finish line in first place.

Like his colleagues, Alex usually spends his time travelling around the country, visiting care homes, conferences and festivals, demonstrating and encouraging the adoption of meat-free dishes to those who cater for older vegetarians and vegans.

As well as for the personal challenge, Alex undertook the run to raise awareness of the charity and how it is reaching out to those in isolation or who are feeling lonely due to the pandemic.

He said: "We have a number of great schemes at VfL that can help those who are feeling a little lonely during these strange times. We have a Veggie Pen- and Phone-Pals Scheme, a new care home card-writing campaign, and can offer small grants to assist independent living. We're here for anyone that needs us."


Although Vegetarian for Life chefs like Alex are not able to visit people personally at the moment, they can tailor a cookery demonstration or a cook-along specifically for groups online. Like virtual running, virtual demos also come with added benefits, including the fact that you don't have to leave your own home to participate.

Lin Qi, a 26-year-old assistant project manager from Birmingham who works for HS2’s construction partner Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy joint venture (LMJV), is one of 16 ‘Railway Heroes’ chosen to star in a brand-new exhibition at the National Railway Museum to celebrate the vital role played by railway key workers during the pandemic.

The new exhibition launched online on Monday 15 February, ahead of the National Railway Museum in York and Locomotion in Shildon reopening their doors to the public. Lin’s story is one of the first to feature, charting the crucial role that she is playing in the delivery of Britain’s new low-carbon, high-speed railway, High Speed Two (HS2). Work to deliver Europe’s biggest engineering project has continued at pace during the pandemic and Lin’s role, managing the programme of a construction build, has been no exception.

Lin was part of the team that delivered the very first permanent infrastructure components for the HS2 project, which saw the installation of two giant modular bridges spanning the M42 and A446 in Solihull and Warwickshire. She studied architecture at the University of Bath ahead of joining Laing O’Rourke’s graduate scheme as a planner in 2017.

Her job within the engineering project is complex, but she likens it to constructing a bicycle – taking in all elements including the design, sourcing of materials, agreeing costs, making the components and then putting them all together. Her role encompasses all five elements to ensure the final product is assembled and delivered on time.

On being selected to take part in the exhibition, Lin said: “It was an honour to be asked to take part and fly the flag for LM and the region, and I hope to inspire more young people, particularly women, to consider a career in the construction and engineering industry. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be working in this sector and on a project the sheer scale of HS2, but I love being part of a big team and helping to deliver this unprecedented UK railway.”

Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said: “This exhibition is an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to the thousands of railway key workers who have kept the country going over the last year. The stories featured in the exhibition are an inspiration and fully deserving of wider recognition.”

Lin is passionate about the development of future talent and ensuring that young professionals chose to stay in the West Midlands to realise their career ambitions. Outside of work she’s heavily involved in Birmingham’s Professional Services construction industry committee, which is designed to nurture and retain local talent.

Simon Russell, Project Director at LMJV said: “Lin is part of a generation of bright and confident young people that are building their careers on this exciting project. She’s an excellent role model and we’re hugely proud of her achievements to date, and that she’s been chosen to be part of this exhibition, to demonstrate how we’re preparing the route for Britain’s new high-speed railway”.


Local mum Anita Raja will appear alongside TV star Ben Fogle in a new film about the life-saving research of charity Tommy’s, airing on BBC1 this Saturday having sadly found herself among the 1 in 4 parents who personally experience baby loss.

Former Pakistan Television presenter Anita, 36, is now a GP in Yardley Wood – as well as being a mum of two, thanks to Tommy’s, the UK’s biggest charity funding research into why pregnancy goes wrong and how this can be prevented. After meeting her husband Nadir at medical school, the couple had a smooth pregnancy with their now 7-year-old son Nirvan but were then shocked to experience multiple miscarriages. In 2017 they were devastated by a particularly painful loss when Anita was 21 weeks pregnant, which led them to seek expert help from Tommy’s recurrent miscarriage clinic at Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

When they found out they were expecting again last year, their already high-risk pregnancy was made even more stressful by Covid-19; as well as having to attend hospital appointments alone, Anita was seeing patients in her GP surgery until 4 days before she gave birth to help the NHS cope with the pressures of the pandemic, while gastroenterologist Nadir was redeployed to intensive care in the fight against the virus. Extreme anxiety meant the couple kept their pregnancy a secret from almost everyone and say they couldn’t have survived without the reassurance and support of the Tommy’s team. Fortunately, their baby boy Rumi arrived safely in August 2020 and has been thriving ever since.

Anita said: “3 years ago, holding my new baby in my arms seemed an unattainable desire, a fairytale. I strongly believed that I wouldn’t make it – or even if I did, I’d never be my normal self again. Without Tommy's support, I’m not sure how bereaved mothers like myself would be able to face yet another uncertain pregnancy full of tribulations and distress.

“The whole process became so traumatic, physically and psychologically, I don’t know how I didn’t have a breakdown. I remember worrying about my unborn baby’s safety every single day. The pandemic, the lack of loved ones around you… I was lonely and the uncertainty really was scary. I am indebted and grateful to Tommy’s, and my research nurse, Oonagh; I couldn’t have imagined surviving those painful months without knowing I was under the care of the best clinicians.” Tommy’s has specialist research centres across the UK, such as the Birmingham clinic where Anita was a patient, where its ground-breaking studies are put into practice to make pregnancy safer for parents at risk of losing their babies.

Professor Alexander Heazell, who leads the Tommy’s team in Manchester and also appears in the new BBC film, explained: “For many years, the idea of baby loss as ‘one of those things’ meant no one asked why; that left us starting from basics, so research has a lot of catching up to do in comparison with other areas of medicine. In a way, the taboo is similar to that surrounding cancer 50 years ago – without discussion of signs and symptoms, people didn’t come forward early enough to save lives. Lifting that taboo is critical.”

Other families who share their heart-breaking stories alongside Anita in the new BBC film include broadcaster and author Ben Fogle and his wife Marina, who sadly experienced a miscarriage in 2008 and lost their son Willem to stillbirth in 2017. Like Anita, their personal tragedies led them to Tommy’s, and they’re all encouraging others to support the charity’s lifesaving work.

Ben commented: “1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth – and shockingly, most parents never find out why. The truth is that so much pregnancy loss could be prevented, but we need more research to improve care; that’s why I’m a huge advocate for Tommy’s and it’s a charity very close to my heart. Across the UK, Tommy's dedicated researchers, doctors, nurses and midwives are finding causes and treatments to save babies’ lives. More research will make pregnancy safer and healthier for everyone and save babies’ lives. Together, we can make it happen.”

Marina added: “I was lucky to survive the placental abruption that killed my son. While trying to recover emotionally and physically, I found exercising really cathartic, which is how I ended up running a half marathon for Tommy’s. As soon as I heard their ground-breaking research was already having a significant effect on saving babies’ lives, I had to get involved. I hope my support for Tommy’s will ensure that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren will become parents in a world where baby loss is extremely unlikely to affect them in the way it has me.

Opening up about their experience of baby loss, Marina went on: “I was 33 weeks pregnant when I suddenly fell ill. At the hospital, I started bleeding heavily, so I was rushed in for an emergency caesarean. Our son Willem was stillborn. Initially, I was in shock and very ill; I met our son, I held him, but I was feeling very numb. It was three or four days later that the tears came. It was incredibly sad, the realisation that the baby we’d prepared for was never coming home. It comforts me to know that, thanks to Tommy’s other families will not have to experience the heartbreak we did.”

The film will be repeated on BBC2 and available to watch all month on iPlayer.

Tributes have been paid to Sir William Macpherson, the judge who led the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, who has died. He produced the Macpherson Report in 1999 following the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 which described the Metropolitan Police as “institutionally racist”.

A statement on the Clan Macpherson website said that its 27th Chief, Sir William Macpherson of Cluny and Blairgowrie died peacefully at home surrounded by his family. It went on: “We were fortunate to have had his guidance, support and leadership for an incredible 50 years and the world will have benefited from his 94 years on this earth.

“His phrase ‘first amongst equals’ doesn’t even start to mark the presence he had.mThrough his work in law (what better epitaph could someone wish for than the phrase used by a journalist ‘He made Britain a better place for me to live’) to his leadership at the after-ceilidh-ceilidh he was a man who left his mark on those he met.”

A Judge of the High Court of England and Wales (Queen’s Bench Division) he served there as presiding judge of the Northern Circuit until his retirement in April 1996. Before his appointment as a judge he was a Queen’s Counsel practising in London and abroad.

Sir William served in the Scots Guards between 1944 and 1947, transferring to the 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Territorial Army) with whom he served until 1965 and served as the Honorary Colonel of the 21st SAS from 1983 onwards, according to the clan website.

Many public figures have taken to social media to pay tribute to him.

Tottenham MP David Lammy tweeted: “Sad to hear Sir William MacPherson has died.

“His seminal report was a watershed moment that unflinchingly raised the spectre of institutional racism in the Met police and across public services. Twenty years on and in the wake of BLM there is much more to do.”

Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, David Davis, tweeted: “He was a great man, and will be missed.” Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP tweeted: “Very sorry to hear of the death of my constituent, Sir William Macpherson, distinguished High Court judge, who led the Inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case.

“The challenge, rigour and humanity of his report was a product of who he was and he did much good locally in Blairgowrie.”

He was 94.

A 21-year-old swimming teacher has become the youngest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Jasmine Harrison, from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, set off on her 3,000-mile (4,828km) journey from La Gomera in the Canary Islands in December.

She docked in Antigua earlier, completing the journey in 70 days, three hours and 48 minutes. After arriving in the Caribbean she said the experience had been "amazing" and "everything I wanted it to be".

Ms Harrison, a part-time swimming teacher and bartender, decided to sign up for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge three years ago after watching the finale of the 2017 event. Asked about her epic challenge, she said it had been a mix of "good and bad memories", but said she had relished the chance to escape from day-to-day life. "There's nothing like it, actually getting away from everything - social media, bad news, from literally everything," she said.

Ms Harrison's crossing was not without difficulty and she capsized just two days before crossing the finishing line, injuring her elbow in the process. During the crossing, Ms Harrison would row for two hours and sleep for two hours on rotation. Despite being cut off from the world, she was still able to speak to her mother every day via satellite phone.

Asked what she was most looking forward to after stepping on to dry land, she replied: "Food, definitely food." As well as rowing into the record books, Ms Harrison has also raised more than £10,000 for charity.

The previous youngest female solo ocean rower was 22-year-old Katie Spotz from the USA who rowed the Atlantic east-to-west between 3 January and 14 March 2010. The youngest person to have made the crossing solo is student Lukas Haitzmann, who completed it in 2019 at the age of 18.

A revered and world-renowned Haringey resident is to have his lasting contribution to the anti-apartheid and equal rights movement recognised after Cabinet approved plans last night to rename a park in his honour.

Oliver Reginald Tambo (known as ‘O.R.’ to friends and colleagues) served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) between 1967 and 1991, with the majority of that almost-quarter of a century spent exiled in Muswell Hill with his wife, Adelaide, and their three children.

Thirty-one years ago tomorrow (11 February 1990), Nelson Mandela was released from prison, which was a pivotal step towards the end of apartheid in South Africa. Tambo returned that very same year to his homeland, where he passed away at the age of 75 on April 24 1993 before his close friend Mandela was elected as President of South Africa in 1994. In recognition of Tambo’s legacy to this locality and far beyond the borough’s boundaries, Albert Road Recreation Ground will now be known as O.R. Tambo Recreation Ground – a fitting tribute to a man who once lived within walking distance of the park.

Councillor Joseph Ejiofor, Leader of Haringey Council, said: “The decision to rename Albert Road Rec after Oliver Tambo is not only indicative of his long association with Haringey, but also reflects our borough’s culture, diversity and values. Haringey has always had a long-standing tradition of welcoming people from around the globe with open arms. We are a proud, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic borough that – for generations – has been a ‘home from home’ for people fleeing persecution from all over the world.

“We believe place names, street names and statues matter because it reflects the value we place on those people and the communities they represent. Furthermore, they can still act as role models for future generations, with their life achievements representing exemplary footsteps to follow for others.

“Oliver Tambo was an adopted son of Haringey. For a man who played a prominent role in the borough’s past, it’s only just that he should have a rightful place in our present and future.” The council is currently exploring ways in which it can also respectfully acknowledge and recognise the major contribution made by Oliver’s wife, Adelaide – both to local community life in Haringey and the global, anti-apartheid movement overall.

The requirement to highlight Adelaide’s own role was a recurring theme in many of the responses to the public consultation regarding the renaming of the park from Albert Road to O.R. Tambo. Meanwhile, as part of the council’s wider Review of Monuments, Building, Place and Street Names in Haringey, residents have until next Friday (19 February 20210) to have their say on the council’s proposal to rename Black Boy Lane to La Rose Lane.