On the rink: Curling in Kent

‘Random’ can be an overused word – particularly by teenage ‘guyz’ who think everything is weird – but a trip to England’s only dedicated curling rink could justifiably be called random.

Did any of us ‘need’ to try curling that weekend? No. But a brilliant friend had a weird birthday wish that just needed to be fulfilled. Afterwards all of us were richer individuals for having shared the experience at Fenton’s Rink in Kent.

England's only curling rink

England’s only curling rink

Curling is an odd sport (but no odder than any other when you think about it). Its quirkiness and Team GB’s success adds up to the fascination it generates. It turns out curling should also not be underestimated – tiring on the thighs (and the mind) and you even have to watch a safety video.

Curling stones are ONLY made in Scotland, out of granite

Curling stones are ONLY made in Scotland, out of granite

Once everyone has the proper training, you are let lose on the ice, with groups getting full use of the rink and two coaches for support. Most people start off cautious and it is lovely to see everyone’s confidence and competitiveness grow.

Picture of people curling

The flags definitely fuel the competition

Kind of like bowling on ice, you have to get the shoes right. This aint no fashion show folks…

Image of black curling shoes

Ice shoes

To add to the quirks and charm of Fentons, it is set right in the heart of the Kent countryside and with a retro feel that transports you back to the time of Torvil and Dean. As they say, a change is as good as a rest, so while a trip curling might feel random, it might just make your weekend

The farm yard frontage adds to the mystery

The farm yard frontage adds to the mystery

So retro. So random.

So retro. So random.

Fentons Ice rink is open seven days a week and can be booked for two hour group sessions.

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.

An uptight person’s guide to attending festivals

Last year I lost my Festival V at V Festival. It was my first festival ever – on my ’30 before 30′ list –  which probably sums up my attitude to cutting loose.

2014-07-13 18.06.55

The Daily Mash’s recent article, ‘Nice girls pretending to look forward to Glastonbury’ resonated with me. Basically I am the “conventional, upbeat women” they describe “focusing on the practicalities of the weekend, like whether to bring an inflatable pillow, to avoid considering the hellish reality of survival in a massive ditch full of caners.”

Despite dry gagging at the stench of  the campsite; collapsing in the mud carrying four bags twice my body weight; trying to exist without sleep after our friends were robbed as they slept; and falling upon the kindness of strangers at 10pm to assemble our tent, V Festival was a great experience.

I watched Beyonce, along with (among others) Paloma Faith, The Vaccines  Ellie Goulding, JessieJ and Tom Odell and drank so much cider I decided I was ‘high on life’. Jesus.

Once I realised I could cope with the chemical toilets far better once pissed I totally let go…of reality, personal hygiene and my city- living-self. These are the ten things I learned to get you through:

  1. Carry hand-gel, toilet role and orange lipstick with you at all times – this will minimse self-loathing
  2. You will spend double your budget on booze and slices of pizza – this will all be worth it
  3. Allow (hell, encourage) people to plait your hair, adorn you with flowers and paint your face – this will make you feel younger, and given your biggest concern may become feeling like an octogenarian compared to the teenagers wearing neon crop-tops, this will help your self-esteem
  4. Don’t give anyone attitude, anything goes and this could  make the difference between them helping you carry your bags across a massive distance  or throwing their own shit at your tent
  5. If you decide against my advice and are going to give someone attitude (say for pushing in front of you to watch Beyonce when you queued to watch her for 5 hours)…at least recruit everyone else in the crowd to support the cause
  6. Invest in one of those custom-festival wheelie devices – you will come to hate everyone who was clever enough to buy one
  7. Drink through any moments of self-doubt when you question why you are there
  8. Sleep with your money in your sleeping bag
  9. Turn off your phone and only use it for emergencies – like taking photos at crucial points
  10. Don’t agree to go to the toilet with a girl you have only met once and let her guard you as you crouch. This will become awkward as you both sober up.

This summer, I’m learning from the above and tweaking the formula. I’m trying two different festivals Latitude and Wilderness, which to my naive mind will attract a slightly older, calmer crowd ( hoping to escape the 16 year-olds doing drugs off spoons at V).

I’m looking forward to the line-up and the broader arts/comedy offering at Latitude – Damon Albarn and Haim are on my list.

Whereas Wilderness sounds like a bloody mini break – set in the Cotswolds, I’m booked up for the The Lakeside Spa  and a five course lunch banquet by Angela Hartnett.

Who knows what the reality will be like, but I will report back. And in case anyone else is concerned about whether to bring an inflatable pillow (the answers is always yes by the way ) I will be sharing my ‘packing list’ in the coming days, so we can all bury our heads in pointless organisation to block out the reality of the chaos to come….