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My little girl is gone and still I cannot believe it. From the day I brought her home, a terrified little bundle of feathers, Effie’s death was something I feared every day. Now that she has left me, I simply cannot comprehend it but must somehow learn to face life without her.

Effie’s tale is much documented – in this blog, in magazines and books and in exhibitions across the world, she became something of a legend. The little hen with the twisted neck (that gave her beautiful body her unique shape) who overcame physical and emotional traumas to find love and happiness in the Cornish sunshine with her beloved Miss Basket and then, with the tragic passing of Miss Basket, she learnt the wonders of motherhood with her three bantam babies. I have many, many wonderful memories of Effie in my head, my favourite is possibly the image of her, a new ‘mother’ standing in the coop at bedtime, her leg cocked in a most unladylike fashion, awaiting the three little feathery bundles who loved to tuck themselves underneath their new mum each night. Effie had a big, brave, beautiful and loving heart.

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

However, whilst my girl was enjoying every moment of her free range life, her precious body was slowly succumbing to the scars of her caged life.

She had been suffering from a suspected brain tumour for a while – the weeping ear a sign something sinister was lurking inside her beautiful head. In recent months she had increasingly been suffering from panic attacks and was generally slowing down. But about two weeks before she died, she suddenly went blind, or at least lost much of her vision. She was unable to judge distances and walked into objects. Knowing now, that the much dreaded end was in sight, we brought her inside the Human Coop – where she had been spending more and more time anyway with Lemony being broody. We adapted the Human Coop to her needs and she seemed to be coping well. The specialist vets assured me as long as her quality of life was good, then she would be fine. And Effie was happy in the Human Coop, she considered herself human anyway, and had come full circle. She started her life with us in the Human Coop almost four years ago, it seemed fitting it should be where she ended it.

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

For about ten days all was well, she ate, slept and pootled about the house, but then signs started to indicate that things were going downhill all too quickly. Always a girl who loved her food, suddenly her appetite wasted away to almost nothing and she started to be a little unsteady on her feet. You try and ignore these things, as they are indications of something too painful too comprehend, but then on the Tuesday evening she lost the ability to walk, she fell onto her face repeatedly, panicking and screaming. That all important quality of life was deteriorating rapidly. Knowing what awaited us on Wednesday I spent the night cuddled up with her on the sofa, calming her by talking to her, stroking her feathers and keeping her safe. It was the longest night, but also the shortest night. I tried to tell her how much she meant to me, to so many of us, and she heard me and replied with her gentle bwarks, but there would never be enough time to tell her how truly amazing she was. Our bond went beyond human and pet but was a meeting of spirits. She had been waiting for me and I for her. And now it was time for me to do the hardest but also the kindest thing.

An Effie cuddle was always an honour and a privilege but none more so than when I held her in my arms, as she passed away, slipping peacefully from this world. She died being told how much she was loved and that Miss Basket was waiting for her. And I find a little consolation knowing that Effie is now forever reunited with her beloved Miss Basket.

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

She was cremated the following evening, a garland of sweetpeas over her body and under her wings and a bouquet of sweetpeas on top of her pink shroud as her spirit soared skywards. In what was the darkest of days for us, a little ray of hope and love flickered in all the beautiful candle tributes people lit for her – not just in the UK but across Europe. We were unbelievably touched by such kindness.

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie's name linked to Miss Basket's with a heart

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie’s name linked to Miss Basket’s with a heart

No words I can write will ever do my Effie justice so I need to make her name and spirit live on to help other hens. Effie’s Garden (as it will forever be known) is already the garden for special hens that Effie had always planned it should be. People contacted me during her lifetime and more so since her death to say that she had made them view hens differently and that Effie’s story had inspired them to get their own hens. To think there are ex-battery hens enjoying a life of freedom today because of Effie, means my girl has left an amazing legacy. For myself I need to do something else for Effie’s memory, as yet I do not know exactly what, but it will come to me and she will guide me. The love and energy that was my little Effie will find a way to truly live on.

Hello gorgeous girl xx

Hello gorgeous girl xx

For anyone who has ever had, and lost, ex-batts they will understand just how much these girls mean to you. There is something undefinably vulnerable and yet invincible about them. After the abuse they have suffered, still they have the heart to forgive humans, to love us and trust us. I never fail to be humbled by their humanity. And to me, Effie was the epitome of all of those emotions and characteristics. She was more than just a special chicken, she was a symbol of hope for every commercial hen across the world, every animal who suffers abuse at the hands of humans.

And she was my world.

But still, I cannot believe she has gone. Losing her has broken my heart. But the blessing of having known her and to have been the recipient of all the love a little chicken could give to a human will somehow hold my heart together and make me strong enough to face a world without her.

Your work here is done my darling, sleep well old friend xxxx

Beautiful Effie

Beautiful Effie

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Today has been a day of celebration, presents, party and cake! Misses Effie, Eliza and Flora-Jayne chickens all celebrated two years as free range girls!

My E girls arrived in the last big rehoming of barren caged hens. In December 2011, farmers throughout the UK were clearing out their barren cages to comply with the Jan 2012 cage ban. I brought home four poorlies who spent Christmas in the ICU (coalhole). Little Evie enjoyed a few months as a free girl until her beautiful heart finally gave out and our beloved Miss Basket passed away this summer, after eighteen months free ranging with her soulmate, Effie.

Effie

Effie

Eliza weighed almost nothing and her legs were so weak she could not stand up. However, a few days of rest and good food and she was up and about and causing enough mayhem to be allowed to go outside in the hospital coop with Evie. Food became a very Big Thing for Eliza and even now she can be very protective of her food. Understandably, considering she must have been starving in those cages. Very soon into her freedom, she discovered greens and her favourite pastime in the world is to munch on some tasty greens. When she finds other tasty morsels in her daily forages, she makes such a fuss chirping about them that by the time she has finished, someone, usually Flavia, has stolen the morsel from under her beak! She settled in with the Big Girls very quickly and swiftly rose to the rank of Bella’s lady-in-waiting. When we sadly lost Bella, I was a little concerned about Eliza’s ability to be Top Hen but she has risen to the challenge admirably and is now a very good Top Girl. After two years free, she has finally started to lay (?!) and can be found chirruping away contentedly in the bush by the pond (her secret laying place) laying her morning egg.

Eliza enjoys some post cake cauliflower!

Eliza enjoys some post cake cauliflower!

Flora-Jayne came to live with us only a few weeks ago. She was the last remaining ex-batt of a little flock and needed company. Amazingly, she came from the same rehoming as Effie and Eliza, and it was immediately obvious that she and Eliza remembered each other. Consequently her integration has been very easy! She still sleeps in her own coop (with Effie’s Malcolm) as Gracie Thug is still a bit territorial. However during the day, she free ranges with her new sisters. She is also a very clever girl and got the measure of me very quickly. Every morning I open her coop before the Big Girls’ and she runs after me to the greenhouse where she has a treat of mealworms in peace!

Flora-Jayne enjoys her cake

Flora-Jayne enjoys her cake

And then there is my darling Effie; the little hen with the broken body and the broken spirit who slowly learnt what it was to love and to be loved. As she slowly discovered her new free range life she found a friend, she found a family, she found she had a big brave heart and she found she could lead the life a little hen deserves to live. She has changed my life. Sometimes you connect with a creature, be they human or chicken, as though you were destined to be together. Effie and I are such a pair. She is my special girl and I am her special human. We understand each other, support each other and love each other. When her beloved Miss Basket died, I knew exactly how to mend Effie’s broken heart. And now she runs around her garden with her three bantam babies, who adore their Big Sister Effie, she tucks herself protectively over them at night, she watches over them by day and she shares her treats with them. Effie is a happy girl once more. On the night she arrived to live with me, I did not expect her to last the night, and now, two years later, I still cherish every day with her. She is the most precious of souls, she has changed lives, she has showed the world the traumas hens suffer in cages and she is the most perfect ambassador for her commercial sisters. I do not have the words to describe how much I love this beautiful girl.

Effie enjoys her cake

Effie enjoys her cake

Today started with a special breakfast for the special girls; each girl having their favourite treat with their mash – Effie had an egg, Eliza had cauliflower leaves and Flora-Jayne had mealworms. At lunchtime (the humans sneaked home from work for an hour) everybody had mealworm cakes with live yoghurt and sweetcorn topping, posed for photographs and we all sung a rousing chorus of “Happy Henniversary to you…” As befits her superstar status, Effie also had post from her admirers. She had a parcel from her lovely friend Megan which contained mealworms and treats and a card from her good friend Liz which also contained an award; the Effie Cross, awarded ‘for pluck.’ It is given for outstanding bravery and valour. Effie is its inaugural recipient and will wear it with pride.

Effie reads her card from Liz and learns she has been awarded the Effie Cross

Effie reads her card from Liz and learns she has been awarded the Effie Cross

As we are approaching the shortest day, an early night was in order and after the excitement of the day, nobody complained. Flora-Jayne tucked up with Malcolm, Liza is perched over her girls inside Henderlay and Effie is tucked up over her precious bantam babies.

Sweet dreams special girls xxxx

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Flora Day occurs on or around May 8th in Helston, Cornwall and celebrates the coming of spring with dancing, partying and an abundance of lily of the valley. However, here in Rosewarne, our Flora Day was celebrated today, 27th October, with the greatest storm since 1987 brewing in the skies, the dark winter evenings closing ominously in and rain, the like of which I have never seen before, blowing up the Red River Valley in menacing sheets of blackening doom.

But, in spite of all this autumnal ferocity, our Flora Day was alight with sun, happiness and joy (and an egg!).

Miss Flora Hen is an ex-batt who, until recently, has lived a very happy post-cage life in Marazion with her three sisters and two loving owners. However, her sisters have sadly all died and Flora was left alone. Her owners needed a new home for her so she could have hen company again and become part of another flock. There was a spare coop in our garden and it didn’t take long for Gary to get my (not so) subtle hints and suggest she come to live with us. So today Miss Flora arrived!!

Miss Flora-Jayne, a ray of sunshine!

Miss Flora-Jayne, a ray of sunshine!

After speaking to her, understandably upset, owners, we discovered Flora was part of the same rehoming as Evie, Eliza, Effie and her beloved Miss Basket. This means I may well have taken her out of her cage and it gives me a special affinity with this very pretty little hen.

She is now living in the Big Girls’ Garden, in her own coop and run, for a couple of weeks before introductions begin and I am amazed that Eliza ‘Give ‘em All Hell’ Chicken has merely come up to the wire fence and pecked at the grass that Flora is pecking at before wandering off. I know chickens recognise up to 80 other girls and I wonder if my most combative of girls actually already knows who this new hen is. Hens never fail to amaze me with their intelligence, empathy and compassion and I feel that my two remaining E-girls will recognise a fellow ‘survivor’ from their farm and offer her the wing of friendship.

Don't I know you? Flora-Jayne meets Eliza...

Don’t I know you?
Flora-Jayne meets Eliza…

But what of her name?? Flora?? Her name needs to begin with a J as fits my little system but a girl of two years free cannot have her name changed!! So we decided Flora-Jayne she would be! And it definitely suits her.

So far she had flown onto her coop roof, announced very loudly (and repeatedly) to the world that she is here, had her wing clipped amongst great protestations, shared a fence-limboing tuft of grass with Eliza (they do know each other I am sure of it!!) and laid an egg!!

Not bad for a first day!

If you are inspired by Flora-Jayne’s story, and you live in Cornwall and feel you can offer a loving home to some ex-commercial hens, I have a rehoming on 14th December in Camborne. Please visit the website to reserve your hens at www.freshstartforhens.co.uk or if you are tempted but unsure PLEASE email me for advice and information on cornwallgreenbean@tiscali.co.uk.

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Can two humbugs and a lemon drop mend a broken heart? Well, if they are eight-week-old bundles of feathers and mischief maybe…

Two humbugs and a lemon drop!

Two humbugs and a lemon drop!

With Effie suffering two sad losses recently, her little spirit was flagging. She was becoming very clingy, spending more and more time in the humans’ coop and she had taken to standing by the gate looking into the big girls’ garden. At night time, instead of being the top tier of a two hen pyramid, she discovered that being a one hen pyramid was a very lonely place to be.

We had decided that Effie needed small hens as company. Young hens, so that she did not feel threatened or frightened. Seeing how calm she had been with little Izzy, it was certainly the right thing for her.

And then I heard that three little bantam chicks were ready for a new home. They had been hatched in the animal care unit at work and I had seen them at only a few hours old. My friend who had originally reserved three was unable to have them, so they were needing a home.

It was a sign.

On Friday afternoon these three bundles of mischief came to live in Effie’s Garden. India Lemon Drop is a lemon pekin bantam and the two little humbugs are Inca and Iona, partridge pekin bantams. India Lemon Drop is the naughty one but also the girl who does not quite trust me yet, Inca is the darker of the humbugs and is brave and inquisitive and loves cuddles (well, tolerates them) and little Iona is the humbug with the reddier, more Celtic colouring. She is sweet and gentle and also tolerates my cuddles!

Two humbugs Iona (left) and Inca

Two humbugs Iona (left) and Inca

India Lemon Drop

India Lemon Drop

They have their own coop and run for the moment and Gary, Effie and I spent the weekend building them a bantam-chick-proof run with a top on as we discovered very quickly that bantam chicks can easily clear a four foot fence! The cats were also quite intrigued so security was essential! In between her cuddles with Gary, Effie tried out the babies’ dustbath (it used to be hers in the ICU) and deemed it most suitable.

Gary and Effie take time out from run building for a cuddle and a snooze

Gary and Effie take time out from run building for a cuddle and a snooze

Effie is now rather taken with her new babies, although I am not sure she knows quite what they are. When India Lemon Drop did her Houdini act over the fence, she landed right at Effie’s feet. Effie just stared (in shock no doubt!) and made no attempt to attack her. And yesterday there was even some beak cleaning going on through the fence!

Meeting big sister Effie

Meeting big sister Effie

I am hoping that by the time these babies are big enough to meet the big wide world that is Effie’s Garden, Effie will have accepted them and she will have friends and company once more. No-one will ever replace her beloved Miss Basket in her eyes, or in ours, but our little humbugs and lemon drop may just provide the comfort our darling Effie needs.

Thank you Quolanta Arnold for the brilliant title to this blog xx

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Heartbroken of Cornwall: Recently bereaved little hen with broken heart is looking for gentle, loving companion for dustbathing, worm hunting, sunbathing and beak cleaning. Must enjoy treats, cuddles and two hen pyramid formation sleeping…

Little Effie is bearing up bravely to the loss of her beloved Miss Basket. She is having extra treats, extra cuddles and is spending as much time with the humans as possible. In the sunshine, we sit in the garden with her and feed her spinach leaves from the raised bed and in the wet weather she comes inside and snoozes on the sofa. At night time Effie tucks up to her fluffy duck. He has a warm wheatbag in his tummy and I hope she finds him a little comfort, but he is nothing compared to snuggling over her beloved Miss Basket and nestling her beak into her soft, downy feathers.

Effie needs a friend. No-one will ever replace the one little hen who took the broken spirit that was Effie under her magnificent wing and taught her to love and trust, but somewhere out there must be a loving hen who understands Effie’s complex emotional needs.

After some internet searching, asking around and general frantic posting, a little girl was found. She was a Silkie, so small and gentle. She was being attacked by her flock and suffering from depression and her lovely owner was desperately trying to find a special home for her. In short she needed a friend as well.

The only hitch was that she was in Somerset and Effie lives in West Cornwall.

But chicken lovin’ folk are fabulous folk, and some kind and wonderful soul came to our rescue. She was travelling past Somerset and was happy to pick up the little Silkie girl and bring her to Effie. An amazing lady who wanted to see two lonely hens find a friend.

So that is what is happening. On Friday our little Silkie girl will be arriving. She will spend a little time in a separate coop and run in Effie’s garden until the two girls become used to each other and then will be introduced to Effie very slowly and under supervision. If only I could explain to my girl that her new friend is in no way a replacement for Miss Basket, but is someone to help her heart heal.

Let’s hope my matchmaking works…

Hey Effie!

Hey Effie!

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Miss Basket was the most special of hens, a kind and gentle soul with a generous spirit and a big, caring heart. A free girl for almost 18 months, she was just two days shy of her 18 month Henniversary. She was such an important part of our lives I cannot quite believe she has gone. And Effie’s little heart is broken.

Her real name is Miss Eleanor Chicken but because she came to us with a blackened foot and unable to walk, she spent her first weeks nestled in a pink laundry basket. Consequently she became Miss Basket. I remember her first night of freedom when I tucked her into the basket, folding a soft blanket around her, she bwarked softly at me as if to say thank you. Every night when I tucked her in, she bwarked at me. She was safe at last.

Beautiful, photogenic Miss Basket, in her ICU and with her bad foot raised

Beautiful, photogenic Miss Basket, in her ICU and with her bad foot raised

With much care, love and daily bathes her foot healed and she learnt to walk by flicking it out in front of her. What started as a slow limp, soon quickened and she became as speedy as Effie across the lawn towards treats!! She just looked like she was skipping!

Miss Basket spent the next few weeks in the ICU with fellow sick girl Effie. During this time these two hens, who had been picked on all their lives because they were different and who had never known what it was to have a friend, started to form a careful companionship which slowly developed into friendship and finally into love.

Due to Effie’s issues it was not possible to have her with other hens so Miss Basket gave up her chance to live with the big flock in order to stay with Effie and care for her. Never was there a chicken with a kinder heart. Which is why she was awarded the much coveted surname of Goodchicken and became Miss Eleanor Goodchicken aka Miss Basket.

It was Miss Basket that gently led Effie by the wing into a free range world and these two girls’ first foray into free ranging is my cover photo on facebook. You can see Miss Basket’s early defining feature, her tail which hung at a jaunty angle, just like an Italian policeman’s hat. She lost it in her first moult and her patchy feathers were replaced by a splendid set of ginger feathers scattered with golden flecks. She looked magnificent!

Effie and Miss Basket

Effie and Miss Basket

Whilst it may have seemed that Miss Basket played Melanie to Effie’s Scarlet, Miss Basket was a star in her own right. Most notoriously being the Phantom Egg Eater of old Camborne Town!! Often to be found sitting in the nest box happily munching away on an egg. And who was I to deny her the spoils? She deserved her egg.

She appeared in magazines, in numerous articles and in books. And her story appeared with Effie’s in the museum exhibition, Uncooped, in Los Angeles. All to raise awareness of the plight of battery hens.

Miss Basket and Effie were just so happy together. They had freedom and they had love. Life is always so much better when you have a friend. They dustbathed together, sunbathed together, and ran the gauntlet to the kitchen door together. They dozed in the sunshine with their necks entwined, resting their heads on each other’s backs. They preened each other, they kissed each other. They also had their little quirks. Such as happily pecking away at the old ladder by the side of the house, why I have no idea. Or ignoring their lovely fresh water for a tub of old rainwater in the garden. Or running me ragged at bedtime. They were having far too much fun together to go to bed and I was outwitted on a nightly basis by a hen with a broken neck and a hen with only one good leg!

Miss Eleanor Goodchicken (Miss Basket)

Miss Eleanor Goodchicken (Miss Basket)

But when they went to bed they tucked up in a two hen pyramid. Effie on top and Miss Basket snuggled underneath. Every night the same postion. Peering through the door you could see one pair of legs and a two tier hen!

However, Miss Basket had started snicking occasionally, which was originally successfully treated with brief periods of tylan. However, after a little while her sneezing became increasingly frequent and rattly sounding. Cue more antibiotics, supplements and medication. She had twice daily steam inhalations on my lap and seemed happy in herself, skippity hopping round the garden with Effie. However, the day she ignored the egg in the nestbox was the day I knew she was getting worse. She went downhill very quickly and within a couple of days we were syringing liquidised food and critical care formula into her. She got so distressed at these sessions she was gasping for air. My poor girl was suffering so.

That night Effie and Miss Basket tucked up for what would be their final night together. Effie had curled herself around her beloved friend and I hope was whispering tales of their lovely life together and how happy they had been.

The next morning, Miss Basket could not stand up. For a girl who had come to us unable to walk, I knew how important walking was to her. It gave her dignity. As she struggled to stand up, she looked at me and I knew. Miss Basket was a gentle hen but a very proud one. She had had enough and did not want to be this way. I told her that she could go in peace now and assured her that I would take care of Effie.

Before we went to see Aunty Gina, we sat with her in the sunshine, surrounded by daisies and buttercups, and Effie gave her soulmate one last gentle preen and a little kiss. Gina discovered a tumour in Miss Basket’s abdomen, which was why she had not been responding to treatment. She died peacefully in my arms, all the while being told she was a good chicken.

We cremated her that evening, with sweet peas tucked under her wing. I chose ones with bendy stems to represent her beautiful bendy foot and leg. Miss Basket showed us you don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, you can just be beautiful for who you are.

Miss Basket - probably the kindest, sweetest girl ever

Miss Basket – probably the kindest, sweetest girl ever

As the flames burned, an image formed on the side of the oil drum. Two chickens, bottoms in the air, pecking at a delicious treat. My two girls still together.

Miss Basket and Effie were inseparable, their love for each other complete. It was such a deep, tender love that it reminded me of a film, Where the Red Fern Grows, based on a Native American legend about a red fern planted by an angel between the graves of two lovers, showing their eternal love. The two dogs in the film adored each other and when they died a red fern grew between their graves as a symbol of that love. That is the same depth of love that these two little hens shared.

Miss Basket was Effie’s guardian angel on earth and now she is her guardian angel in heaven.

RIP darling, darling Miss Basket. Fly high little hen xxxx

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The sun has got his hat on and all the hens in my garden are happy! Long, warm days spent foraging, dust bathing and dozing in the glorious Cornish sunshine are just what my special girls love most.

Young Hettie Hen is now a fully fledged ex-batt sister – well almost. She still sleeps with teddy in her own coop and has shown no inclination to sleep with the big girls. But that will come when she is ready. In the daytime, though, she pootles about with her big sisters who now accept her as part of their little flock. Her best friend is Bella Chicken and even though Bella is top hen, she gently cleans Hettie’s beak, lets Hettie share her food and lets her snooze next to her in the sunshine.

Hettie hanging out with her sisters!

Hettie hanging out with her sisters!

Greta Garbo has a new trick. She waits until I am kneeling down talking to the girls, then sidles up and swiftly pulls my beautiful badger earring out of my ear and runs off with it!! Little minx!

Miss Basket is still not 100% after her implant – she spends much of the day sleeping and is not eating very much. I think she is suffering from the heat as she is much perkier first and last thing, when it is cooler. She has been for a check-up with Uncle Jason and all is as well as can be expected. She has however, decided that Effie’s daily egg, which was up until now too precious to be eaten, is now fair game and tucks into it when my back is turned. Six days out of seven I just find the shell in the nest box and a nonchalant Miss Basket dozing in the garden, her crop full of egg! Still, she needs it more than I do.

Effie, in spite of the indignity of having her egg eaten, is happily tending to her beloved friend. She sits with her in the daytime, preening her gently and at night time snuggles on top of her in a two hen pyramid. They love each other very much indeed. For two little hens who had never known what it was to have a friend, to suddenly be sharing your days in the sun with your soulmate must be the stuff of dreams. So deep is their friendship, I do worry that one will not cope should anything happen to the other. I do have a plan, but Old Grumpy needs to be convinced…watch this space.

"Love you Effie." " Love you too, Miss Basket" xxx

“Love you Effie.” ” Love you too, Miss Basket.” xxx

And finally I am thrilled to say that the book is selling very well!! We have repeatedly been number one on the kindle and paperback bird charts and have five star reviews across the board! The more copies we sell, the more money we raise for hen rehoming charities. The book also featured in Your Chickens this month, as did Effie’s bi-monthly column telling of her rise to international superstardom!!

But all joking aside, the book, the column, this blog all have one purpose and that is to spread the word about the wonder that is ex-batts.

And there is more exciting news…but I will tell you next time!

Jo xx

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