Wednesday, 5 July 2017

London Love & Happily Ever After

As is always my excuse when I haven't posted for a while, the past few weeks have been chaotic. I haven't had a chance to pause for breath!

Tis the season for lots of weddings, and I have reached that time of life where all my friends have opted for grown up-ness and started to create their Happily Ever Afters. This was very much the theme of the wedding I attended a few weeks ago. The bride was truly princess-like, and everything had a sprinkle of sparkle.

In amongst all the nuptials, I've been a busy bee. First stop, the Shard. I've had a want to visit the viewing platform at the Shard for a while, and I was lucky enough to be gifted the experience for Christmas. I decided to hold off booking until the weather was warmer (albeit still as unreliable as only British weather can be). It didn't disappoint. I managed to visit just on the cusp of the heatwave we have been experiencing. Azure blue skies and golden sunshine reigned supreme on the day we ventured up, up and away, and the view was breathtaking.

Completely worth the visit, if you haven't already done so, I urge you to go. Afterwards, a trip to Borough Market is a must. Despite the tragedy that befell the area not long ago, the atmosphere is fantastic, and there are so many sights, sounds and tastes to experience.

I was back into London this weekend, this time Hyde Park-bound for the British Summer Time event. Green Day headlined the Saturday session, and as a huge fan, it was obligatory attendance. This was my 6th time seeing the band, and I never get tired of it, it was amazing. Unfortunately their Glasgow gig was cancelled this week due to adverse weather conditions. To their Scottish fans, I'm so sorry you missed out. I'm sure they'll be back to entertain you soon.

I've managed to squeeze in a few walks and wanders here and there, taking advantage of the weather and the views. We found cherry trees growing near our house earlier this week, so took advantage of the abundance of fruit that was ready to pick.

I'll be snacking on a few of these, and possibly bottling the rest to make cherry wine. Remember, if you do go fruit picking, be responsible, and only take what you need and are sure you can use.

I'm waiting in anticipation of the blackberries ripening on the multitude of bushes surrounding where I live, and will be visiting the community orchard shortly to see how the apples and pears are coming along. In the meantime, more evening strolls around the local beauty spots will suffice.

I'll be back with another post soon, hopefully discussing more fab local businesses and days out!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Grenfell Tower Fire - How to Help

In light of the terrible situation many people are currently facing in West London, with the devastating turn of events at Grenfell Tower, I'm putting this post out with details of how to help, where you can find help, and what contact details you can use to track down loved ones. I never usually put this in my posts, but please share, by any means you have, in the hope that this list can assist in some way.

Tracking down loved ones

If you know someone who has been caught up in the situation, you can contact the Met Police Casualty Bureau to express any concerns you may have about their welfare. The number to call is 0800 0961 233.


If you live in the London area and are able to offer shelter and accommodation to those affected by the fire, you can register yourselves with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

There are also rest centres set up at Westways Sports Centre at 1 Crowthorne Road, W10 6RP, the Rugby Portobello Trust on Walmer Road, W11 1LU, Harrow Club, 187 Freston Road, W10 6TH and St Clements Church, Treadgold Street W11 4BP.


The fire has robbed many of everything they own, some left with only their pyjamas.

Donations of clothes, water, food, toiletries, toys, blankets etc can be made at several locations:

  • Fulham FC, Craven Cottage
  • Central Guruduara, 62 Queensdale Street, W11 4SG
  • Westways Sprots Centre, 1 Crowthorne Road, W10 6RP
  • Rugby Protobello Trust - the Trust are currently putting together a list of provisions required and will be publishing this shortly.
If you do not live in London but still wish to help, JustGiving pages have been set up in order to raise money to support those directly affected. You can decide which effort you would like to contribute to here.

If you are able to do anything at all, I'm sure it will be appreciated. Again, if you are able to share this post please do. I hope you're all safe today.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Eclectic tastes, spa dates and a bun race

It's been a busy few weeks recently, with no hint of slowing down in the near future. I've been here, there and everywhere! I've reached that age (which will not be disclosed here) where all my friends are having significant birthdays, getting married, buying homes and joining the parental ranks.

I on the other hand feel relatively grown-up if I go on a night out without falling home in a stupor, and think I'm pretty fabulous for doing a load of washing without flooding my kitchen.

It does mean that there is an inordinate amount of events to attend in the coming months, meaning my diary is reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock effort. I spent last night gluing sequins onto a clothing item I wouldn't usually be caught in in prep for an upcoming hen do. I can't give the details away on the off-chance that the lovely hen reads this post, however I do promise at least one picture of said outfit. Needless to say, time is not something I have in spades at the moment.

But onto recent events. A few weeks back I went to the O2 to see Craig David. I have what would be described as an eclectic taste in music, and whilst I tend to favour rock and indie sounds, there was a time when I could be found doing the sniper pose to the latest Garage release. I still love it when out and the DJ jumps into a Garage set. It brings back great memories, and the music is great to dance to.

Craig David was my first gig at 14, travelling to Birmingham with one of my pals, and it was brilliant. He didn't disappoint all these years later. This time around, he sung for the first hour, old songs and new, playing to his new fans but keeping his older fans (i.e. me) happy. Once he got the crowd in the mood, he proceeded to play an hour-long DJ set, effectively turning the Arena into a giant nightclub. Needless to say my legs were feeling the burn the next day. It was an amazing night, and it's easy to forget just what a great performer he is. If you have the chance to get tickets for any of his upcoming gigs, go, you won't regret it.

A couple of weeks later, I went back into London for not just one, but 2 theatre visits. This weekend was a little more refined than my earlier trip!

I'd managed to get tickets to see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Harold Pinter, starring the wondrous Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill, alongside the great Imogen Poots and Luke Treadaway. I've wanted to see Imelda Staunton perform for longer than I can remember and she did not disappoint. All four actors exuded energy, the talent was raw and irrepressible. Imelda Staunton is a force to be reckoned with, and the 2 younger cast members did well to hold their own in the face of her undeniable talent. But it was Conleth Hill who really captured my attention. Quieter, more subtle in his delivery, but nonetheless equally present, he embraced his role, making you simultaneously pity and revile his lot in life. It was an astounding performance, and I'm forever indebted to my friend Chris for the recommendation.

There was barely a pause for breath once the show was over, as I had also secured tickets for Othello at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a wonderful recapturing of a Jacobean playhouse next to the Globe. Othello is a favourite of mine, and having had these tickets for a year, I couldn't wait to watch. I wasn't disappointed, it was fantastic. Funny and tragic, the production was everything I'd looked forward to. The setting itself did so much in creating drama and atmosphere. Lit entirely by candle-light, the players incorporated the candles themselves into the very fabric of the play, which worked beautifully alongside the acapella music provided on the balcony. It was magical and mysterious, a little like the playwright himself.

Easter weekend followed, with a trip to visit friends and their village's annual beer and bun run. I sampled the beer, I sampled the bun. I did not sample the run. The walk back to the car satisfied my exercise-related desires that day!

Easter Monday was spent in luxury thanks to my rather gorgeous best friend. We visited the Y Spa at Wyboston Lake for on of their sun-down sessions. Utter bliss, I haven't been that relaxed in a long time, and seriously considered taking up residence in their infinity pool, prune fingers be damned. The food was lovely, the surroundings beautiful, and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. I'm looking forward to going back!
Heated water beds are now a must in my life. See that face? Happiness personified!
There's so much going on that writing on here has become more difficult, but I'll do my very best to keep you all up-to-date, and let you know what lovely places to visit if you're ever in my neck of the woods :) 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Mothering Sunday at Browns

I decided to do something different for my mum on Mother's Day this year. Each time this day rolls around I buy her her favourite flowers (tulips and daffodils for those who wondered), a gift and possibly take her out for lunch to her favourite spot if our schedules allow. I frequently get told off if she feels I've gone overboard on the gift-giving (it's not possible to do so), but it's worth it to see her enjoy the day and be reminded of how much she is appreciated.

This year, I opted to treat her to that most quintessentially British experience - afternoon tea. Who doesn't love a good cup of tea accompanied by dainty sandwiches and indulgent cakes?! A wonderful friend of mine works at Browns and suggested I take her there. Luckily I got our booking in early, the closer the day came, the increasingly busy they were beginning to look. After an hour (or 2) of mooching around the shops, (and possibly indulging in the purchase of a hat or 3), we pootled into Browns for our lunch.

The first thing to know about Browns (Milton Keynes branch), is that the staff are lovely. Every single person we came across gave us a friendly greeting, checked that we were ok, and offered to fetch us anything we desired. They could not do enough.

We were seated and told the options available to us - traditional, champagne or a most unusual afternoon tea - and our drinks were brought to the table. This was my mum's first afternoon tea experience (I know, I don't understand how either), so she opted for the traditional option, as did I.

We were then served our food, and it was just gorgeous. Tiny brioche rolls filled with salmon, cream cheese, chicken and avocado were accompanied by mini profiteroles, black cherry mousse, opera cake and scones. Everything was delicious, and my mum adored it.
Just looking at this picture makes my mouth water!

The atmosphere in Browns adds to the experience. It was incredibly busy, but didn't feel crowded or overly loud. Buzzy and social, the staff were busy but never too busy to help if you needed it, you barely waited for your food, and never once felt rushed to finish. It's light and airy, comfortable and welcoming. We had a really lovely time, and my mum thoroughly appreciated her Mother's Day treat.

I even managed to score a photo of my friend Stu rocking one of my new hats. I did threaten to add it to this post, but seeing as he and his staff took such good care of us, I'll be kind and omit it!

Browns is a chain brasserie, so if you fancy treating yourself and a close one to the experience, you'll be able to do so with ease. All locations can be found here. Also make sure to check out their menus, there is some seriously delicious things in there!

So, a thank you to all at Browns who contributed to my mum's lovely afternoon, it was very much appreciated! We'll definitely be back!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

My love of London

I've been struggling to find something to write about in recent months, I apologise for the silence. Nothing of huge significance has caused this, I have just had my mind on other things. I am intending to be more vocal, hopefully I'll find some inspiration in the coming weeks!

But I thought I'd write today in light of the attack on London yesterday afternoon. 

London has long been one of my favourite places. I live not too far away, and consider myself incredibly lucky as a result. I worked there for a brief period, have been visiting the theatre district for years, and have indulged in many of the wondrous activities on offer there. It, like everywhere else, is not perfect. London has its problems. But it is a diverse, living, breathing organism, full of life and vitality. It has opportunity, history, colour, sound, activity, a pulse. It is a place of inclusion and experimentation. London doesn't just belong to those who inhabit it, but shares itself with the world, inviting all to participate in its vivacity. 

Yesterday was a dark day in the city. But in amongst the tragedy, there have been shining examples of why this city is so bloody brilliant. From the bystanders dropping to their knees to assist the injured, the bravery and sacrifice of PC Palmer, and Tobias Ellwood, the MP who, without concern for his own safety, ran to his aid, to the hundreds of emergency service workers at the scene, putting themselves in harm's way to protect citizens and tourists alike. The school children trapped in Parliament who sang songs to keep everyone's spirits up. The overwhelming response for public support in piecing together what happened. These actions deserve to be recognised and remembered. We owe a great deal of thanks to those commissioned with protecting civilians. 

Those that choose to attack western cities, those that choose to kidnap young women in Africa, those who torture, maim and kill in the middle east, are weak. They seek to terrorise but only succeed in drawing us ever closer together. By trying to cause division, they achieve only in inflaming our spirit. They cause damage, yes, but they remind us why we must rally, must never give in to fear and must continue our way of living.

Today a vitriolic bottom feeder called Katie Hopkins announced to Fox News and the American public that British citizens are cowed and fearful, that we are divided. To that, I say 'Bollocks'. She does not speak for us, and her particular brand of spiteful bile is reviled by a majority of us here. I ask that you do not take her at her word. We are sad, we are angry, we are incensed. We are going about our day-to-day lives as normal. 

I'll be heading into the city this weekend and I will go with the same enthusiasm as always. I'll think of those whose lives have been so drastically altered this week. And I'll go about my day normally, in their honour. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Autumn's arrival

At last it's here. Crunchy leaves under foot, steaming cups of tea, long scarves and warm jumpers. Just a few of the reasons I love autumn.

It's a beautiful time of year if you ignore the one or two damp days that accompany it. Even as I type, the view out of the window is stunning - blue sky, bright sunshine and burnished leaves. I've been going out and about recently, enjoying the scenery, and the benefits autumn affords us. Local to me is a wonderful community orchard, and the community is invited to pop by and help themselves to some of the tasty fruit on offer. I went there last week with the aim of filling my fruit bowl (and maybe making a crumble or two). Just walking to it is a pleasure, it feels like you're making your way to a secret garden.

I love the anticipation of what's to come when we reach this season, there's so much to look forward to. In the next couple of weeks we have our big annual beer festival happening, the Apple Day celebrations at Bromham Mill, film festivals, Halloween. you then have Bonfire Night to look forward to and then (whisper it) Christmas. Everybody else seems to see summer as their social peak of the year, but I've always preferred autumn.

I even broke out my slow cooker yesterday. It's great coming home to your dinner already prepared after work, plus my house smelt amazing! I love having friends over for dinner, so did just that last night, testing out one of my recipes on her. Luckily she seemed to like it!

Even the food and drinks available to us seem to be getting into the autumnal spirit this year. I know it's almost obligatory to drink nothing but pumpkin spiced lattes from September onwards, but now there's something better, pumpkin spice Baileys. And I have a bottle all to myself. Don't look at me like that, I'm an only child, sharing can be difficult for us...
In between all the fall festivities, this is the best time of year for reading that book you haven't quite got around to, or watching those movies you've had on your list for ages. So if anyone needs me, I'll be found curled up in a blanket somewhere with a good book and a cup of tea.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Soup in Summer

I'm that weird breed that constantly craves what I can't have. It's summer? I miss autumn. Tell me I'm gluten-intolerant? I want to mainline bread and beer. I can only buy brick-red lipstick? But I want oxblood. I can't help it, I'm bloody difficult. I also want things that are deeply inappropriate for this time of year. Boots, hats, but mainly soup. And none of that cold gazpacho. Hot, hearty soup.

Yes, yes I know it's due to be a scorcher of a week. The sun is bright, sky is blue, and the thermometer is edging towards 30. The normal among us will be sipping a cool drink and contemplating a salad (or a tub of ice-cream) for lunch in their quest to stay cool. Me? I want soup. The stomach wants what the stomach wants. Plus the sight of another lettuce leaf may just tip me over the edge.

I've been making a conscious effort to be healthy of late (ignore recent Instagram pictures, we're all allowed a cheat day), so I wanted to put something together that would be filling and satisfying, but packed full of nutrients, not calories. I also wanted to make something that would be accessible to as many as possible, so stuck with the vegetable variety, and what wouldn't cost a fortune to make. I took inspiration from the website Yummly - If you haven't got an account already, I'd suggest signing up. Free to use with hundreds of suggestions, you can't beat it. It's particularly good for those of us who are restricted in what we can eat. 

I found a recipe that utilised a slow cooker, so lessened the effort involved as you just bung everything in! It's a bulk recipe so make sure you have plenty of tubs to hand, or a large group to feed. But with it's lack of meat it should last for a few days, and the ingredients are robust so should freeze well too.

You need:
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I use Knorr, as all of their standard stock cubes are gluten-free)
  • A sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, diced (alternatively, a handful of shallots would be a lovely addition)
  • 2 tins of haricot beans
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Celery
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped (if you don't like spice just omit this. You can also replace with chilli flakes)
  • A pinch of allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsps paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
Prep all your vegetables and place in your slow cooker, along with the garlic, beans and tomatoes. Sprinkle over your seasoning and add the stock. Set the slow cooker to low for 7 hours. If in more of a hurry, set to high for approx. 4 hours.

The beauty of this is that you can throw anything in that you like. Have a play and see what you think!