Archive | June, 2012

Chelsea Physic Garden – worth braving the rain for

25 Jun

I am only just beginning to realise how many wonderful green spaces London really has – you turn a corner from a main tourist thoroughfare and suddenly there’s this expanse of idyllic green land hidden away behind beautiful walls and intricate gates. The city is a treasure hunt of secret gardens.

The Chelsea Physic Garden is a real case in point. Just five minutes off the King’s Road with entry down the tiny Swan Lane, you could easily walk straight past. But what wonders you’d be missing!

Sie Hans Sloane

The garden was founded in 1673 by Sir Hans Sloane and is the oldest botanic garden in the city. It houses the country’s oldest rockery – built on volcanic rocks brought from Iceland in the 1770s – a fernery, a Victorian greenhouse of rare and exotic species, and over 100 types of tree. I went with two friends and we joined a guided tour when we arrived. For an hour our guide – Patricia, a volunteer – was absolutely captivating, taking us down meandering gravel pathways to explore beds and borders of wild meadow flowers, plants used in medicines and herbal remedies, and displays of the most intensely fragrant roses I’ve ever come across. The garden is a never-ending delight. We suffered one torrential downpour partway through the tour but nothing could have deterred us and, if anything, the rain only heightened the colours and aromas around us. Oh Chelsea Physic Garden, how have I not discovered you sooner?

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You know it’s Wimbledon when…

25 Jun

…cafes in London cover themselves with giant-sized yellow tennis balls – as seen at Bluebird on the King’s Road. Love it!

Pulled pork and whisky at Pitt Cue

24 Jun

Sushi club on Friday with B and C and we headed to Pitt Cue, 1 Newburgh Street (pittcue.co.uk), a trendy but good value place with a short and to-the-point menu of meat, mash, and bourbon. There’s a no reservation policy so with covers of about 30 people, expect to queue – but do; you won’t be disappointed. We decided to get three different plates to share so ended up with pulled pork, lamb brisket, and house sausage with sides of marrow mash, baked beans, and slaw – the picture below doesn’t do it justice! All the food comes served in blue-trimmed white enamel ware and there’s something quite satisfying about eating from a tray-like dish. The staff were friendly, efficient and couldn’t have been more helpful when it came to describing the menu. Better still, even though covers were limited and the place packed, we never felt rushed. The whisky menu is endless so I can’t wait to go back – M will absolutely love it!

Newburgh Street

Putney WI rocks!

19 Jun

Have you heard of Rock Choir? It’s this amazing singing movement and craze that’s sweeping the nation.

The brain child of Caroline Redman Lusher, she claims to be able to take any group of people and instantly be able to make them sing in harmonious union – and it works! Last night was our monthly Putney WI meeting (at the fantastic Tried & True, 279 Upper Richmond Road – Guinness and chocolate cake to die for!) and we were lucky enough to have Caroline attend. After a short introduction to Rock Choir – truly inspirational: Caroline started teaching a group of school children, then their parents, and now, after a record deal and performances at the Hammersmith Apollo and Wembley in London, Rock Choir has over 17,000 members around the UK – Caroline got our 30-strong group up on their feet to sing Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, complete with choreographed dance moves.

Now I can’t sing to save my life – growing up I wasn’t allowed to be part of the school’s choir – but somehow Rock Choir is different. I was up there singing with the rest of them and, to my surprise having fun. I even thought perhaps this is something I could do more often! Everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves too and I’m pleased to say it was another successful meeting. The numbers are continuing to grow – we have paid up members! – and it’s already such a fantastic and interesting group of women, I’m excited to see who’ll join next.

July’s meeting is on 16th and will see us learning the art of cupcake decorating – cake and the WI, who can resist?

rockchoir.com

Congratulations to all the Breast Cancer Care Pink Ribbonwalkers!

18 Jun

Saturday marked the last of this year’s Pink Ribbonwalks in aid of Breast Cancer Care – but it also celebrated the first Pink Ribbonwalk to be held in London.

The walks have been taking place for eight years at venues around the UK – Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire; Petworth House, West Sussex; Scone Palace, Perthshire; and Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire – but this year a new route was set up in London, starting and finishing at Marble Hill Park near Twickenham. Now, despite living just a few miles down the river, this was a part of the city I hadn’t explored – and do I need to come back! Marble Hill Park was beautiful with big open spaces stretching down to the river and Hampton Court Palace – another place I’ve never visited – a stone’s throw away. After taking part in the walks last year, I decided to support the cause as an on-site volunteer, helping with registration and marshalling cheering points on route.

As always it was a great atmosphere with over 700 women – and men – taking part to raise funds and awareness for the outstanding work that Breast Cancer Care does and with people finishing the course in record time (there are 10 mile and 20 mile options), I want to say congratulations to everyone who took part! Next year’s dates will be on the BCC website from November – I can’t recommend them enough and, from the smiles on the participants’ faces when they crossed the finish line, neither can they.

Open Garden Squares Weekend

9 Jun

Rococo Chocolates

Rococo chocolate

This weekend sees over 200 parks, gardens, and usually secret green areas in London open their gates to the general public as part of The London Parks & Gardens Trust’s annual Open Garden Squares event. It’s a rare opportunity to see inside the likes of Cadogan Place Gardens, Chiswick House Walled Gardens and even 10 Downing Street’s garden! I had my name down to volunteer and was lucky enough to be positioned at the delectable Rococo Chocolates at 5 Motcomb Street. As well as having an abundance of delicious handmade confectionary, which you can watch being made, and a never-ending menu of hot chocolates and bespoke coffee blends, there is also a cute Moroccan-styled courtyard garden, which offers great inspiration on how to make the most of the smallest of spaces. The event is running all weekend so there’s still time to explore parts of the city you’ve not seen before. Tickets cost £12 for an unlimited pass or £3 for a single garden, and National Members get all tickets half price. See which gardens are open near you at opensquares.org.

The WI meets again!

6 Jun

Now apologies! This meeting actually took place a couple of weeks ago but life seems to have been so frantic of late that I’m only just getting round to writing about it now. I’m sorry!

The third meeting of the Putney WI proved to be yet another success. Again, a healthy turn out and, now that the bank account is pretty much up-and-running, we were open to accept members! Hooray!

The speaker for the night was a lady called Sue Carless, who volunteers for The Shannon Trust, an inspirational organisation that helps people in prisons learn to read. She told us about the work the trust does, her role – instead of her being the teacher, she teachers in-mates to be mentors for each other – and she provided an eye-opening insight into prison life. She also flagged up an initiative at High Down Prison called The Clink. It’s a restaurant that’s open to the public and which is run (ie the food is prepared and served) by prisoners. I’ve added it to my list of places to go so watch this space – as soon as I’ve been, you’ll be the first to know.

shannontrust.org.uk and theclinkcharity.com

Salome at the Royal Opera House

6 Jun

Royal Opera House

Wow! That’s the one word I would use to describe the latest operatic powerhouse at ROH. In one intense act (no intervals here!), Strauss tells the story of Salome, step-daughter of Herod, who, on seeing John the Baptiste (imprisoned by her step-father in the palace), becomes so infatuated and obsessed that she’ll do anything to get just one kiss from him – even have him beheaded. It’s a story of lust, perversion, and manipulation, and one made ever more dramatic by the incredible performances from Angela Denoke (Salome), who literally leads the show. For not once does Denoke leave the stage or slip out of character but, instead, she is mesmorising, captivating, and, compelling, jumping from depictions of innocence to sensuality to pathos to violence with a skill that makes Salome’s actions almost understandable. With previous operas I’ve seen, it’s been all about the voice; with Salome, the acting is equally as important – and Denoke doesn’t (nor do any of the other cast members) disappoint.

The staging too makes this ROH production worth the ticket price. Es Devlin, mastermind behind the closing ceremony for this year’s Olympics, has crafted an incredibly simple, yet impressive set – I for one will never forget the symbolic ‘dance’ sequence between Salome and her step-father and, in regards to costuming, I’m not sure I’ll ever look at an ivory silk slip in quite the same way.

But words cannot do justice to what is a truly magnificent production. If you go to the theatre once this year, pay out for Salome.

Runs to 16 June, roh.org.uk

The post has come!

6 Jun

Hooray! M’s been away for nearly two months now (only two more to go 😦 ) and at long last the letters he’s been writing every week since he left, have arrived – all at once! I bought M the traditional airmail envelopes as a leaving present because we both thought how lovely it would be to be able to look back at handwritten letters in years to come and I’ve been checking the post eagerly awaiting the tell-tail flash of blue. I’ll be savouring each letter – after all, it could be another two months until the next batch arrives!

Happy Jubilee!

5 Jun

What a wonderful weekend of Jubilee festivities. I went home to Somerset for some much-needed TLC and what fun I’ve had! From quality time spent with mum and dad to watching the flotilla on the tele, and taking part in the village street party – it was the perfect getaway and celebration of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.