The glow-down on Yoga

It is very vogue to be ‘into yoga’. The first question from peope is: ‘do you do Bikram Yoga?’ to which my answer is always  ‘no, sounds awful’. Any exercise where it is advised to stay in the room, to avoid throwing up or collapsing outside, doesn’t bode well.

But I do ‘do’ Yoga. Hatha Yoga apparently. And while it definitely hasn’t turned me into Gwynth Paltrow, I am grateful for the ‘gifts’ it has brought (if we are going all yogi).

Yoga

The big news is I can now touch my toes. And even more impressive, for an hour one evening a week I focus on something that isn’t electronic. My mind wanders. There is a bit at the end when we sit in eerie darkness, staring up a stained glass windows and our instructor tells us, in her slow, amazing voice that we must ‘let go of all emotions that no longer serve us’. What a fantastic phrase hey? I think she should make audio books or something. I once fell asleep in class and she had to wake me up. That was awkward.

There will be people who are expert on this ancient art, who can convey exactly how the body, working in harmony with itself,  benefits circulation, flexibility, muscular function and well being. But all I can say is I love it. Not because I know what I’m doing, not because I’m any good, not because my arms now look like Geri Halliwell’s when she released that DVD looking ‘worryingly toned’ (they don’t).

But because I leave feeling much lighter, rejuvenated, unburdened and  peaceful. I think everyone in the class does. Its nice to do something that doesn’t matter for a while – and somehow that becomes one of the most important rituals of the week.

My yoga instructor, the amazing Kasia Steyn’s 12 week yoga course has restarted now – but she will no doubt be offering courses again in April in Belle Vue Village. Check her out!

Namastay x

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Local London Christmas cards

I love the idea of sending Christmas cards. To the point that I think my friends slightly resent me for creating ‘Christmas Card Reciprocation Obligation/Guilt’. To be fair  it does take a bloody long time to write them – it has somehow taken me ALL DAY. (But don’t worry guys, I’ve also watched Home Alone 2, the Outnumbered Christmas special and eaten half a chocolate log, so its not been a completely wasted Sunday).

I found these cards in the Trinity Hospice charity shop in Wandsworth and really liked them because they feature some of my favourite places in London, which look especially beautiful at Christmas  – Albert Bridge, Sloane Square and Clapham Common.

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If you fancy sending a more personal card and donating to a good cause (all of the profits go to the local Trinity Hospice) these cards might make the idea of sending loads of Christmas cards more worthwhile.

Anyway – I need to crack on – another ten cards to go and we are getting to the juicy part in Home Alone where Kevin starts torturing Harry and Marv (when you watch it back, Kevin McCalister is actually pretty sadistic).

Merry Christmas x

Where to watch fireworks in London

I’ve never liked Halloween. I don’t understand the appeal of dressing up like I’ve been in a car crash and then trying to look a little bit sexy.

Bonfire night? That’s different. Fireworks, hot dogs and good clean fun is something I can get behind. I’ll happily park objections to the (equally weird) ritual of celebrating burning someone alive, for a spiced cider and everyone coming together.

Bang

Bang

So great is my nerdy nostalgia I invited friends over for a ‘firework themed lunch’ (which I know sounds like the start of an ill-fated episode of casualty, but don’t worry it was FINE). I even consulted Pippa Middleton’s suggestions for a bonfire feast in her much-mocked ‘party book’ Celebrate. I made her filled jacket potatoes, before moving on to my own honey and mustard sausages and a great toffee apple and blackcurrant crumble recipe I found. Unfortunately London was 30 degrees, so I really should have adapted and served salads and ice-cream.

I usually go to Battersea Park Fireworks – its amazing display, set to music in such regal and impressive surroundings – is one of the best ways to spend £10 in London. However this year, we headed up to North London (so far up I risked a nosebleed) to see what Alexandra Palace had to offer.

Whizz

Whizz

The first noticeable thing were the crowds – the display was delayed by half an hour to let everyone in. But once it started it was amazing and they chucked  everything at it. As my friend aptly put it, it was basically like watching exploding money.

Pop

Pop

However, one of the best things was discovering the aerial view of London on the viewing platform. Just stunning and my camera phone doesn’t do it justice.

What a view

What a view

So I’ll come back to Ally Pally – even if there are no fireworks. But Battersea Park’s display is scheduled for next weekend in case I’ve tempted anyone….

18 ways to survive autumn in London

Summer is ending. Raspberries are out of season and the nights and the spiders are drawing in.

OH WELL. I’ve already moved on to my new boyfriend – Autumn – season of opaque tights, stained red wine lips and double helpings of carbs.

London by David Holt

You do need a survival plan for this time of year in London though – or it gets depressing, in a ‘being soaked by a massive bus splash and then questioning the meaning of life’ kind of way – so here is my list of 18 things I plan to do in London in Autumn to *BASICALLY STAY SANE*. (Please note I make no apology that 80% of these things involve eating).

  1. Dinner at The Dairy in Clapham – supposed to be an incredible restaurant – and autumn is the  time to eat in incredible restaurants so you can order desert with custard with the excuse we need the ‘nutritional value/warmth to SURVIVE THE WEATHER’
  2.  Noodles at the newly reopened Pepper Tree in Clapham –  my secret restaurant when I lived in Clapham. Except everyone loved it too. I had a minor stroke when I thought it had closed down. But they were just renovating it. PAD THAI I’M COMING BACK FOR YOU.
  3. See Gone Girl at the cinema – remember the cinema? I know I haven’t been for months either. Gone Girl is blatantly going to be  insane.
  4. Buy a leather jacket and maybe a big tartan scarf and definitely also an aggressive new eyeliner – October needs confronting with a strong look
  5. Make a vat of chicken casserole and eat it whilst watching Homeland and Downton Abbey – Lady Mary and Carrie Mathison are survivors and inspirations
  6. An autumn walk to pick sloe berries and make sloe gin – sounds idyllic, probably will descend into stealing berries from bushes outside people’s houses in SW London and making some kind of weird poison but I DON’T CARE I WANT TO DO IT
  7. See the Constable exhibition at the V&A – because I’m embarrassed I’ve been living in London for 8 years and never been to the V&A
  8. Book to go to Harry Potter Land and see the snow scene – I make no excuses
  9. Plant spring flowers – I’m thinking bluebells? Keep meaning to get down to Battersea Flower Station for some ideas
  10. See Live at the Apollo – tickets aren’t for general sale but you can apply and potentially go for free *how amazing is that*
  11. Plan a firework party/trip to Battersea Park or Ally Pally – honestly one of the best things about living in London in November, love the feeling of layering up for some communal pyrotechnics
  12. Make a roast dinner for friends. With cauliflower cheese as a focal ingredient…Oh and crumble
  13. Brixton Vilage for dinner – because I haven’t been for months and I’m getting withdrawal
  14. Shopping at Bicester Village which is definitely a bad idea but so what…
  15. A night at The Dogs at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium – I mean it sounds kind of scary, but also I DO own a sheepskin coat
  16. Drink beer/tour at a London brewery – like Meantime in Greenwich or By the Horns in Earlsfield (see the nice write up on ‘Go Earlsfield‘).
  17. Curry in Tooting Broadway – the South West Brick Lane
  18. Book a winter holiday – I mean…all of this is great, but I’m not Jesus – there is only so long you can go without summer

The photograph in this post is London October 13 2013 015 Conkers Clissold Park Hackney by David Holt.

Five favourite things about Bellevue Village

I first stumbled upon the Bellevue Village Fair in 2012 and I’ve been going back ever since.

Its a funny place, this road. Despite being cornered by gridlocked city traffic, it has an ‘out of London’ feeling.

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Village life in the big city

The fair is just one of my favourite things – mostly because you can pretend you are in the Cotswolds for the day, buying local beer (from the exciting Belleville Brewery), and everything from art and jewelry to flowers (I was *thrilled* to see the Battersea Flower Station, as have always wanted to visit). It goes without saying that the fair attracts a very well-heeled crowd which makes for great people watching – lots of beautiful parents, with beautiful kids and immaculately groomed dogs (there was a dogs show this time) – I was half expecting David Cameron to show up.

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The food is always a particular highlight – I stuck my face in an amazing hot dog and eyed up about 572 cakes before settling on a chocolate, orange and almond number from Dee Light Bakery. I also bought some marmalade from an incredible woman wearing an apron calling her a ‘Jam Tart’.

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The Bellevue Village Fair sadly only happens twice a year (the next one should be  Christmas *fingers crossed*) but they best things about Bellevue road are here all year round:

  1. The Althorp – amazing local gastropub looking out on the Common. Plays live music. Does a lush chicken burger.
  2. Jo Partridge – lovely hairdressers with the best shellac deal known to man – £35 for a manipedi – WTF?! They did my hair for the first time and for once it looks nice.
  3. The Good Earth – amazing Chinese restaurant. So good I wrote a blog about it.
  4. The Hope – another great pub (there’s a theme here). Iconic corner pub. The place to be on summer nights.
  5. Wandsworth Common – way classier than Clapham Common (i.e.s not full of gangs of 23year olds drinking cans and applying tanning oil like its Benidorm beach)
Dogs on wandsworth common

This year there was the first dog show on the Common at the village fair

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Oliver – the gallery – always does creative games for kids that I have genuinely joined in with

The best Chinese take-away in Wandsworth

Lately I’ve been exemplifying the kind of emotionally dependent relationship with my local Chinese restaurant that Sandra Bullock embodies at the start of ‘Two Weeks Notice‘.

Can I have a bite of your number 6 please Sandie?

I know things need to change. They know things need to change. But neither of us wants to stop.

So it goes on that I, exhausted at the end of the week, make the call and get them to hit me up with a Singapore chicken noodles,  beef in black bean sauce and an egg fried rice.

Yes I know that is two types of carbs and a really bad idea. Yes I know that Sandra is way thinner than me. Yes I also know that the amazing health benefits of Asian food are only really seen on a diet of sushi, tofu and miso soup, not white rice flash fried in oil. But can the world please stop judging me and take a mouthful of the black bean beef?!

I love The Good Earth, not just because the food is excellent, but because it provides the kind of singular comfort that nothing other than a bear hug with an elderly relative can deliver.

It is also well posh (its roots are in Kensington). You can have a takeaway at home and feel really swank over skank.

They have a really fancy restaurant that has gold padded walls, very efficient waiting staff and silent, automatic doors everywhere that lead to secret rooms. Plus they look after you with hot hand towels and after dinner mints.

Image of a clay pot being revealed

The big reveal

Here I am getting the fillet steak clay pot. That is the super attention-seeking meal they cook at your table and everyone in the restaurant gets jealous (see man in white shirt with the hilarious hungry eyes).

Image of fillet steak clay pot at the good earth

Divine

Chocolate mints in orange foil

Chocolate mints. Imported from the eighties. The very best way to end a good meal.

The Good Earth has selected restaurants across London, including a restaurant in Wandsworth Common and takeaway stations in Battersea and Wimbledon.

Classy cheap pizza

Franco Manca should probably charge more for its pizzas. It does REALLY good pizza. Like proper pizza. Sourghdough, wood fired,  all stringing,  flopping, bubbling cheese. Beautiful.

Franco Manca

And its reasonably priced. Like surprisingly priced. (I probably shouldn’t be saying this – perhaps they will read this and up the prices?! The horror.)

But lets face it, however much I love their pizza, 50% of the reason that I choose it for Saturday lunches with friends is because the pizza is nicely priced.

I genuinely did a double take on the Northcote Road, when I realised that one of my favourite restaurants has had the broadness of mind to move from the depths of hipster Brixton to the leafy Northcote road.

So in my view everyone should go to Franco Manca – but please don’t go there on Saturdays when I go because you’ll be taking my table…