Beth Hollihead

Beth Hollihead

Tell me a bit about yourself and the work you do?

I’m Beth, a senior project manager at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. I work with a team of project support staff to manage global research consortia, who mostly research and test ways to strengthen health systems in resource-poor settings and for vulnerable communities. My work involves working with people around the world, which I love, and working in lots of different areas of administrative and financial expertise, which provides me with the variety and challenge I need.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh or feel really happy?

Last week was my son’s 8th birthday and my husband and I played to our strengths to jointly make an amazing birthday cake that looked like a (almost) real snake (my son loves the natural world, especially the natural world with teeth). I baked, my husband carved, I iced and my husband decorated. I took a ridiculous amount of time, but we had so much fun doing it, and it reminded me of the seven previous occasions we had baked together. It strikes me we should find a way to do this in between birthdays too!

What do you like to do in your leisure time? Do you have any passions or hobbies? What do you like about them?

I love to swim, and to read. Pre-family I would happily read three or four books a week. Now I get through fewer books, but I still love nothing more than a quiet moment on the sofa with an exciting or interesting read. My other passion is our local community farm, where we have an allotment to grow fruit and veg, and where I help to organise and run family events to raise much-needed funds for the farm. It is such a therapeutic environment for my whole family, we all love it. My husband loves the allotment, and also volunteers in the 16 acres of woodland. My son chases chickens and learns about wildlife, flora and fauna. And we all get fresh air, and good veg!

How do you relax or soothe yourself?

I use mindfulness and meditation techniques to relax, since I don’t find it as easy as I used to. I’m very tactile, so for me these are often about focusing on the physical sensations of relaxation, and imagining each part of my body loosening up, and physically relaxing. I’m peri-menopausal, and that has affected my mental health in an unwelcome way, so I find that this type of relaxation method can really help me get out of my own head.

Can you give us a recommendation for a good book? Why do you like it?

I recently really enjoyed The Man who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh. It is part romance, part mystery, part family saga, and while I wouldn’t usually read romance, I was completely engaged by this book. The storytelling is so clever, you almost live the romance and the mystery alongside the main character. Really recommended!

Do you listen to podcasts? Do you have any you suggest we try out? Why?

I haven’t been listening to podcast for very long, but came to the Standard Issue podcast via Sarah Millican. It is a witty, fairly mainstream female-friendly magazine style podcast, and I love a listen.

What’s your favourite smell? Why?

I love the smell of my son’s head. That is so sappy! But it’s true. I’ve always loved what I call “pillow smell” – the individual mix of smells that make a person’s individual smell. I always said I couldn’t marry someone whose pillow smell didn’t make me smile. Now my son has the best pillow smell I know. Also, he loves to smell me back, and describe my pillow smell. Sadly, he’s eight, so his description of a lovely smell (of me) often goes something like: you smell delicious mummy, like fresh rain and chicken nuggets.

Do you have a favourite song or piece of music that gets you singing and dancing?

I’ll sing along to almost anything, regardless of whether I know any words. Interestingly, I’m both a better singer AND a better dancer, when I’m sitting in the car. Really! My ultimate dancefloor filler is Dreaming of You by The Coral. Reminds me of great nights out with my best friend Sue.

What TV or film do you find entertaining? What would you recommend and why?

I don’t watch too much TV unless I’m binge-watching Rupaul’s Drag Race. I guess because of where I am in life, I’m drawn to kids films, so Sing! is a current favourite, since it’s like a karaoke film, with a feel-good message. Maybe that’s why I like kids films, they all come good in the end and even the baddies become goodies. If only, eh?

What’s your favourite meal? Why? Does it have any significance?

As a family meal, and because my sister has been making it for probably 40 years, lasagne. It’s never the same twice because I use up all the leftovers from the fridge, but it is never not nice. When I’m home alone though, roasted veg with halloumi. Because it’s cheese, and it’s squeaky.

Who would you recommend we follow on social media? Why?

Sophie Hagen. I’m following loads of body positive people on twitter and TikTok at the moment (tiktok is really cool for body positivity – check it out) and Sophie is just so funny she makes me smile every time I see her, even when she’s ranting.

What are you doing in your photo?

It’s me on the beach with Stu and Tom, in Wales, in the late evening. It makes me smile because we’d had a day of kayaking, swimming and crabbing, and then decided the evening was too good to miss – so we went back to a deserted beach and watched the sun go down. It was spontaneous, and wonderful

Do you have any tips for how we can spread more kindness and happiness?

I think we need to amplify the good stuff more. Its become unpopular somehow, being positive. I’ve even seen posts complaining about people using terms of endearment, for example on Mumsnet. So I am following positive posters, and sharing when I can. Amplify the good.

Do you have a particularly supportive colleague that you would like to celebrate? What makes them great?

I would like to celebrate my office mate, Russ, who is a feminist badass with a real skill in quick, critical thinking. He listens to me and supports me while also challenging me to think about why I’m reacting the way I am. He’s also partner to a friend of mine, and dad to two ace kids. He likes to analyse where I like to react, and as a team we work well, I think.