Gin and good chat!

This week, following the excitement of the Royal Wedding, we had to find new amusements – never a problem in London! Two unusual fun things this week were an invitation to a gin tasting and the wonderful 5×15.

I was invited to the InterContinental Hotel on Park Lane for a gin tasting session and was a little concerned as I am normally a vodka drinker and not so taken with the gin. That’s before I met Stefano, their wonderful barman who expertly and with great charm talked me through and converted me to the wonders of gin. He is a master of gin and knows the history of the drink in amazing depth. I was keen to try Sipsmiths, the only gin distiller to set up in London, the home of gin, in 189 years and Stefano mixed their fine gin with basil, as the main ingredient, to make the wonderful Prudence and I also tried the Old Time Tipple and Poor Man’s Punch, which was quite ambitious! Other great names on their cocktail list are the Tuppence Duty and Mother’s Ruin all reflecting the history and myths surrounding this famous drink. They use a wide range of gin brands and mix them up to bring out the ‘botanicals’ in the gin as well as adding some fabulous dry ice.

The Arch bar at the InterContinental, which overlooks Wellington Arch, holds a daily gin hour (5.30-6.30) if you want to dive into the world of this up and coming spirit, or should I say, a spirit reclaiming its place at the bar. The photos show: the lobby at the Intercontinental; the Prudence; the wonderful barmen; the view out to Wellington Arch; the dry ice at work; and, a nice cup of tea (also known as Poor Man’s Punch)!



5×15 is a brilliant concept bringing us an evening of 5 speakers each allotted 15 minutes in which to regale us with tales of their lives and passions. There is a timekeeper who will not let them go over – well not too far over! Last week we were in for a treat and the evening kicked off with an introduction by Rosie Boycott, one of the founders. Our line up was: Mick Hucknall; Anna Pavord; Hugo Vickers; Melvyn Bragg; and, John Bird. Mick talked about his early musical experiences seeing punk bands for the first time and how this led him to set up Simply Red. Anna talked about how she came to gardening and how it has been at the centre of her life. Hugo Vickers told us about the Duchess of Windsor’s sad later years. Melvyn gave his impassioned case for the King James Bible and John Bird inspired us about the Big Issue. Look out for these evenings – this one was at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill – as it’s a great format and gives you entertainment and food for thought with 5 different great speakers each time. Photos of 3 of our speakers (Melvyn, Mick and John with the Big Issue) and Rosie:

It was a cultural week in Notting Hill as we also went to the Print Room, a local theatre set in a converted 1950s warehouse. They were staging Tennesse Williams’ Kingdom of the Earth, a 3 hander exploring many of Willliams’ favourite themes set in the deep south of America on a night of rising flood waters. It is a small theatre which has a imaginative approach to stage setting and this time we had most of the stage covered in a mound of earth which the actors had to climb up and across during the action. It was different and effective but rather hard to describe – you’ll just have to go! A trip to the bar opposite is part of the experience as the cast also go there for their post performance drinks so you can see them out of costume and have a chat.


Next week is shaping up really well already… so bye for now.




‘Twas the last blog before Christmas…

Nearly the end of the year and this is the last blog before Christmas, and depending on how the travelling goes next week, it could be the last of the year. England has had more snow than it can cope with on the roads, railways and at our airports which has been very sad for people trying to get home to be with friends and family for the festive period. I’m off to Kent first and then to Dartmouth for New Year so fingers crossed I get to both…. And I hope you get to where you want to be as well.

The last weeks of 2010 have been snow dominated which is really surprising for this time of year s we don’t usually get this much snow until February and it’s been colder than for many decades – global warning eh! London had a couple of major ‘dumps’ as they are called tho’ it seems an odd word to me. So of course here are a set of photos from my locality including the biggest bus queue in London where at least 12 number 52s were stuck due to the smallest hill – poor show! See if you can spot the snowman…

Some of the best exhibitions are the small ones and I visited the Courtauld Gallery to see the Cezanne’s Card Players series. He painted several of the same group in similar positions showing his appreciation of the peasants and their lives. It was wonderful and just this single room of paintings gave me a much deeper understanding of Cezanne. The Courtauld Gallery is a small gem which is packed full of great works and only ¬£6 to get in!It is known for the its collection of impressionist and post impressionist masterpieces, thanks to the collector Samuel Courtauld It is the front part, the entrance gate, of the Somerset House complex which houses an ice rink at this time of year in its beautiful courtyard. I dropped in during a snow storm and it was good to see that this did not deter the brave skaters.


It’s panto season so we booked into our local Notting Hill version of Sleeping Beauty which gave us the usual chaotic good fun show at the Tabernacle. It has plenty of improvisation (for which we mean – somewhat under-rehearsed!) and some great in-jokes and splendid acting from the tiniest of kids. We boo’d we hissed and chanted ‘behind you’ with the best of them and finished the show with full rendition of Slade’s ‘So here it is, merry Christmas’…. Very festive!
That’s all for this year except to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a great 2011.


Bye for now,

Rain and rainforests

I have to admit it does rain in London sometimes and this week was one of those weeks and some! So it was fitting that the rainforest came town in the form of the ‘Ghost Forest – from the Tropics to Trafalgar’ an outdoor exhibition which highlights the extent and danger of deforestation. Ghost Forest brought us 10 stumps of rainforest trees from Ghana filling up Trafalgar Square in an haunting and beautiful display of fallen giants. The square was well chosen as Nelson’s Column is about the height of one of the fully grown trees and we learned that Ghana has lost 90% of these trees in the last 50 years . I went to see them by night in the rain and by day in the sun, so I’ve posted one photo from each visit and you can see the trees against the backdrop of the square and the National Gallery. The trees are now off to Copenhagen for the climate change conference.






London Jazz Festival was in full flow this week – good indoor activities for rainy evenings! There was a huge range of artists in town for this and I chose to see the African Jazz Quintet at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. They were really good and for me the saxophonist was outstanding though my friend thought the guitarist was the star but the photo is mine so it’s of the sax guy! The music was full of melody and life and the band were clearly having a great time as well as the audience.




Another great escape from rainy days in London is the amazing variety of courses you can take. I treated myself to a one day on British cinema at the City Lit college and we watched clips and discussed how the cinema showed us the massive social change just after the 2nd World War (lots of great black and white movies) . Not everyone’s cup of tea but I thought it was fascinating and on that day the college were running everything from singing to keep fit to professional study. Afterwards we caught up on cinema as I’ve been a bit lax lately and went to see An Education which was really evocative of the 60s and had some great performances.


Restaurant update. In London you can get special deals through a website called OpenTable¬† and we picked up a great deal of 2 courses for ¬£14.95 at Brasserie St Jacques in St James’s. It’s a good quality French restaurant with excellent food and charming staff who were keen to tell us that on Tuesdays they will be bringing opera to diners at their tables, rather than the enjoyable background jazz we had. I’ve also been frequenting coffee venues in Notting Hill and can recommend Daylesford Organic and 202 on Westbourne Grove as this week’s favourites for meetings and catch ups. Good coffee but don’t expect it to be cheap!
My neighbour’s just turned up for coffee, so bye for now.






David Tennant!

My blog’s being posted a day late this week – sorry! I’m busy helping my mother move house and opportunities to get online have been a bit limited but we are nearly sorted – phew. Also means very few photos this week.

Last week was dominated by my excitement at seeing David Tennant! Anyone who knows me is well aware that I think he’s absolutely gorgeous so the chance to see him close up was not to be missed. I was at the London Film Festival catching a good Spanish film called ‘Three Days with the Family’ made with new actors and technical staff. I enjoyed this although I was hoping to get my ear in with Spanish and it was in Catalan so more difficult to follow. The London Film Festival is a brilliant event with hundred of films of all genres and nationalities packed into a few weeks in October. So many stars were in town there were red carpets rolling out all the time!

On the way out I came across a huge crowd waiting along the red carpet to see the stars of ‘Glorious 39’ arrive. Bill Nighy, Jenny Agutter, Hugh Bonneville came and went and then the screams started for David (not just me!) See photo for closeness but it’s a bit blurry due to all the other flashes going off….

The same afternoon I got ‘wristbanded’ as I was passing Leicester Square and gained access to the special night time party to celebrate the launch of the Michael Jackson film ‘This is it’ We saw videos of Michael’s career on the huge screens and all kinds of folk interviewed on stage as part of the red carpet – Westlife, Harry Connick Jnr, Scarey Spice, JLS, Diversity, Tao Cruz, Peter Andre…… More screaming but this time not from me.

Thursday saw this month’s Book Slam at Notting Hill’s Tabernacle and the star was undoubtedly Roger McGough with his witty, insightful and accessible poetry read with charm and warmth.

There’s not been too much time for eating out this week but I did spend a fun evening at the Chepstow in Notting Hill which is one of my favourite local bars. We had a few drinks and then got caught up in their weekly quiz and had we joined properly, might have done rather well but who knows…..

That’s all for this week.
Bye for now.

Summer came back and we loved it

What a glorious week and weekend for us sun lovers. Late September often brings a burst of sunshine and this year was a really good one. So, there was sitting out with Sunday papers, country walks and even some gardening.

The big events this week included Tent, an design exhibition which was part of the busy London Design Festival. Why ‘Tent’ you may wonder – Tent is an event consultancy and apparently the guys who run it, started off in a tent in the Kings Road. It was held at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in the East End (no longer a brewery tho’) and we had lunch sitting out at Patisserie Valerie on the way. Lots of groovy designs and new designers to chat with but not sure how much of the work would really suit my flat.

London has been jam packed with style this week as we’ve had London Fashion Week and the Design Festival, both with multiple venues and lots of press attention so there’s no excuse for frumpiness or ordinariness but it’s a bit hard to keep up with it all…. I’m told that the main fashion statements were ‘ big curly hair and expensive looking cardigans’ so let’s see what happens this autumn.

It was BookSlam at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill on Thursday evening with William Boyd reading a fun short story and from his new book, Don Patterson reading rather gloomy poetry(my view but some folk liked it) and Netsayi who is a great singer from Zimbabwe. The Tabernacle site is wonderful and their outside courtyard was humming before it started and here’s a photo of it. It’s the home of the Notting Hill carnival and is now hosting a wide range of cultural activities and is almost on my door step.

I spent the weekend in Bristol visiting friends, seeing a great up and coming jazz performer called James Morton at the Bebop club in Bristol and visiting the Georgian splendours of Bath. Bath is a lovely city and has wonderful surroundings including Prior Park Gardens where we walked through the dramatic landscaped grounds and sat in the hot sun. Bath is an easy trip out from London and rewards with its beautiful buildings made out of the fabulous golden stone, the Roman Baths which you can tour and then go the spa. There is also the Pump Room where Jane Austen used to take tea and where you can taste the spa waters – not very tasty unfortunately but I’m sure therefore that it does you good, but I just have a cup of tea instead, like Jane!

Bye for now.