Best of Bucks with Alexandra Lhomond

Liz Nicholls

high wycombe

Alexandra Lhomond, 28, marketing manager at Ibanista, tells us about swapping the Mediterranean for Bucks

Q. Hello Alexandra. How are you?
“Life’s a whirlwind of excitement! I’ve got my hands full at Ibanista, where we help expats navigate the currency landscape. I love helping people realise their dreams! My husband started the venture two years ago and I joined last year. But the real joy? My little boy, Lucas. He’s two and a half and has a knack for melting hearts with his bright blue eyes and blonde hair – the total opposite of me! And let’s not forget my cats, Sushi and Katsu.”

Q. Where do you live?
“In High Wycombe. I made the leap across the channel from the sunny shores of southern France seven years ago. Trust me, the transition was quite the change of scenery! I can’t help but miss the sea and sun, but there’s something special about the English countryside that’s grown on me.”

Q. What do you most love about where you live?
“I love that it’s so close to London, but also so close to nature. Bucks has the best of both worlds. I go on long walks and there are so many different routes here. We live across from The Rye Park, and every season I enjoy seeing the leaves change.”

Q. And what’s one thing maybe you’d change?
“It’s disheartening to see the town centre’s decline, with numerous shops and restaurants shuttered. I hope things get better.”

Q. What are your favourite local pubs or restaurants?
“The Beech House in Beaconsfield & the Wild Strawberry Café and Barn Kitchen at Peterley Manor Farm in Great Missenden are personal favourites – serving great food with a fantastic atmosphere. When guests visit, it’s a muse to treat them to The Royal Standard of England in Beaconsfield – one of England’s oldest pubs.”

Q. What about shops or local businesses?
“The Front Room and Django’s are my top picks for cosy vibes and delicious coffee. As for shopping, I love Søstrene Grene – I can spend forever just looking at everything.”

Q. What’s your local hidden gem?
“Our go-to spot on weekends is Black Park in Wexham. No matter how often we go, we always get lost in the forest! Another favourite is the serene walk along the Thames from Bourne End to Marlow.”

Q. What highlights are you looking forward to?
“Summer holidays for sure! I’m heading to the South of France to reunite with my family. It’s a time for beach days, sea breezes, and indulging in the simple pleasures of good food and wine. At Ibanista, we’re dedicated to simplifying foreign currency exchange, particularly for expats, with a focus on Brits or US citizens making the move to France. Our calendar is packed with exciting events, from engaging podcast episodes to webinars. Check out our blog, brimming with valuable resources for anyone considering a move abroad, investing overseas, or retirement overseas.”

Q. Are you a member of any local groups?
“When I was on maternity leave, I used to go to the High Wycombe Mums Meet-Up. It’s a really supportive and friendly group for new mums.”

Q. What would you wish for the world?
“Peace! With so much turmoil and conflict, my deepest hope is an end to wars and conflicts.”

Visit Ibanista | Personalised Currency Solutions for Expats

Help train life-changing hearing dogs

Karen Neville

high wycombe

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trains clever dogs to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds, including smoke alarms, intruder alarms, oven timers, alarm clocks and even baby monitors.

Its dogs also provide constant emotional support and companionship – helping deaf people to leave loneliness behind.

Deafness is on the rise in the UK; by 2035, it is estimated that one in five British people (over 15 million) will experience hearing loss, and the increase the charity is seeing in the number of people coming to it for help, reflects this.

The charity receives no government funding but is very fortunate to have the support of a network of committed volunteers.

There are two types of volunteer roles the charity urgently needs to fill: permanent puppy trainers, who will look after a puppy for the duration of its training (usually between 18 months and two years), and short-term trainers to cover times when other trainers are on holiday.

Linda Foster, who lives near High Wycombe, became a volunteer puppy trainer last year after retiring from her job as a personal assistant at an architectural practice.

“I started off by doing short-term cover when the other puppy trainers were on holiday. I also went along to puppy training sessions at The Grange, Hearing Dogs’ southern training centre. Then in April, I started looking after Lola, a gorgeous 13-month-old black Labrador puppy, on a long-term basis.  

“I’d actually never had a dog before, so it was quite a steep learning curve, but I had a lot of help from the charity’s trainers, and advice from other volunteers.  The whole experience has been very rewarding, and I’ve met some lovely people (and dogs) over the last year.”

Without volunteers like Linda, the charity would not be able to help anywhere near as many people with hearing loss reconnect with life.

Sixteen-year-old Zach Allen, from Chalfont St Peter, was diagnosed as deaf when he was just three years old. His mum Kirsty said: “Although we got support for Zach to attend a mainstream school, he still had challenges. He didn’t play along with other children’s games in case he misheard the rules and got them wrong. I saw him lose confidence as he got older. He was overlooked for games. He wasn’t invited to birthday parties. It was a very difficult thing for a parent to see.

“Then, when Zach was eight years old, everything changed because Echo the hearing dog came into our lives. Soon after Echo arrived, we took him into school so that Zach’s year group could meet him. As a teacher was about to tell the school about him, Zach stood up instead, and introduced Echo to everyone. He explained how Echo alerts him to sounds by nudging him with his nose. We all stood there open-mouthed at this confident child who had appeared from nowhere.”

Victoria Leedham, Head of Volunteering at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, said: “Our dogs do so much to help deaf people – from alerting them to life-saving sounds, to providing emotional support and making sure they never feel alone – and the hard work put in by our wonderful volunteers is absolutely integral to that.

“Anyone who volunteers for us can expect to feel like part of our family. No previous experience is necessary, and volunteers will receive lots of support and training to ensure they feel fully equipped to care for one of our dogs.

“The charity will also cover all costs involved, from the moment the volunteer takes the puppy home, to when it is handed over to one of our deaf partners after its training is complete”, she added.

“These roles would be perfect for local dog lovers living in a home with a secure garden, and plenty of time to spare every day. We can really only consider applications from working people if they work just a few hours from home each week.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People can visit The volunteering team can be reached directly at [email protected] or on 01844 348129.

Sushi masterclass with Tomono Davies

Liz Nicholls

high wycombe

Tomono Davies brings an array of Japanese joy to parties in local kitchens with her sushi masterclasses. She’s on a roll – here’s why you should book in for a masterclass or work party

Lockdown was difficult for all, not least Tomono Davies who was unable to fly home to visit her family in her native Kochi, a sunny city between Shikoku Mountain and the Pacific Ocean. However, during this homesick period she put all of her energy into her business, which has really taken off over the past three years.

“I’m amazed how successful the parties have become,” she says in her own spotless kitchen in High Wycombe. “I tried to be strong and focusing on work really helped me.”

Since moving to the UK 26 years ago, Tomono has missed Japanese food hugely, especially sushi. Back then, Japanese ingredients had not widely crossed the oceans, so she began making it with local ingredients and without special equipment.

“Sushi is not typically made at home in Japan,” says Tomono. “It is something we used to have as take-away for celebrations or enjoy out at restaurants. But when you miss something and know there’s no access to what you miss, people will always invent something new! After many failed, I found keeping it simple and authentic is the best way.”

With Tomono Sushi Party she takes hands-on masterclasses, demonstrations and parties to workplaces and homes across south Bucks and north London. From rolling maki to forming little gunkan boats or hand-shaping temari, guests have given great feedback, which has helped her business grow by word of mouth.

“My mother used to wake up at 5am to cook us a fresh breakfast – obento – and if she had 30 minutes to spare in her lunch break, she would drive home to start preparing for dinner,” adds Tomono. “I never appreciated my mother’s passion for food but now I am a mother myself, this is a tradition I would definitely like to pass on to the next generation.

“Some people might find sushi intimidating, but it’s not; it’s 90% rice, after all. What’s been lovely is helping all the generations enjoy food and new flavours together and it’s great fun. I bring all the kit and also my kimonos which people love to try on for photos.”

“What’s been lovely is helping all the generations enjoy food and new flavours together.”

For those who aren’t fish-lovers, Tomono can offer delicious alternatives such as teriyaki beef and she caters for all dietary requirements such as vegan, kosher and even gluten-free.

Enjoy a Sushi Making Workshop at The Front Room in High Wycombe, 1-2.30pm, on Saturday, 9th September.

At the moment, Tomono is offering an earlybird offer for a corporate event for booking for Monday-Wednesday in November and December.

Visit Tomono Sushi Party

Making massage a regular, guilt-free treat

Liz Nicholls

high wycombe

We’re all up to our eyeballs in depressing news about the rising cost of living… But we also know how vital self care is for good mental health… So what’s a stressed out, strapped-for-cash girl to do? 🤔

As far as luxurious treats go, a great massage is top of my treats list. You’re either a massage person or you’re not. For me there is no other wholesome indulgence that quite hits the spot when it comes to topping up that mojo. Being a single mum, prone to life-ruining migraines and living with a non-hugging teenager, the prospect of some no-strings touching always appeals. 💆

So the ethos of The Massage Company, born in Camberley in 2016 and growing ever since while winning a few industry awards, really appeals to me. It’s a subscription-based service on a mission transform massage therapy from a “once in a blue moon occurrence” to a regular part of our wellbeing routines. This brings the costs down, and helps you enjoy a regular top-up just for you, so you can enjoy the benefits (better sleep, reduced anxiety anyone?) without feeling guilty or waiting for another birthday to roll round.

I popped into the High Wycombe branch and shared my goals with the friendly team. Although petite and dainty, Gabi the therapist was happy to indulge my “go-hard or go home” approach. Her Swedish style massage was expert, and incredibly relaxing, along with the calming fragrance ooozing out of the mister. You can also opt for deep tissue if you’re the hench type, or hot stones. I treated myself to an additional scalp massage which involved Gabi focusing on my temples and neck, gently pulling small sections of my hair which unleashed all sorts of weird & wonderful sensations elsewhere.

I wafted out into the real world feeling light as a feather and full of beans. And I was plagued by none of my usual headaches for more than a fortnight (and counting). I hope many more of these franchises spring up and urge everyone to put themselves first and treat themselves. We’re all cancelling treats and direct debits but this one should pay for itself.

*The Massage Company branches include Camberley and High Wycombe. To find out more, visit