Friday, August 29, 2008

More fun by the river...

One of the great joys in living on the edge of London is the easy access to Thames-side pleasures. Especially when the weather is decent (ok, when it isn't too horrid...) I love spending time walking, wandering, spectating, participating and making new discoveries.

If you fancy a walk by the river, it doesn’t have to involve an exhausting stint when you opt for the stretch from just past Charter Quay in Kingston heading towards Surbiton.  Created for Queen Victoria's pleasure, the pretty Queens Promenade is a delight to wander down, whether you're in the mood for a power walk or just a leisurely amble.

Along the way, you’ll see all kinds of boating activity from yachting to cruisers; dogs and their companions, roller-bladers, shoppers seeking respite in nature, cyclists and runners (although the distance isn’t really far enough to keep a dedicated runner stretched). Plenty of benches are available, if you want a seat to better take-in the scene. There’s also a little café, pretty floral displays and public loos. Bustling on weekends; more like your own private space during the week.

Post-walk, it makes sense to extend the pleasure and relish a waterside drink nearby.  I was thrilled at the transformation I discovered here. It’s been some time since I was last at Hart’s Boatyard on the Portsmouth Road; I’ve pretty much avoided it because my previous experience was so lacklustre and unappealing. Then, it was a rather 'blah’ local that was far from making the best of its great location.

Now, it’s a different story entirely, so much so, that I feel sorry I’ve been missing out! Enter and the pale slate floors and sludgy leather sofas - in shades of beige, pale brown and smokey grey - give a clean, modern, inviting welcome. The bar is attractive; the staff efficient, smiling, attentive, helpful and patient. Outside seating is plentiful (and popular) providing a great view, right on the water’s edge.

The drinks menu is impressive and might cause you to pause before deciding, such is the choice. Summer-time (what’s that?, I hear you ask…) offers a selection of four Pimms cocktails, including an elderflower variant and a pomegranate version. Eclectic beers are available from The Meantime Brewery (chocolate, raspberry, pale ale and union). Along with the more usual suspects and additional creative options. The dining menu is modern and appealing: from 'sharing plates’ through to a full three courses, by way of 'fired pizzas’, grills, risotto and organic salmon with wasabi mash. I didn’t eat-in, on my visit, a few days ago but as Arnie would say “I’ll be back”...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Supplement shocker

I recently discovered that I have osteoporosis in my spine. It's in the early stages and although I've had a couple of risk factors (anorexia and prescribed steroids when I was a teenager) it was something I hoped to avoid through good lifestyle factors and diet.

I'm definitely far from keen to take bisphosphonates so I've been sticking to my prescribed Calcichew Forte (calcium and vitamin D) supplement.   That was until the other day when I learned that they contained hydrogenated soy oil (the packs merely stated vegetable fat).  I've always done all I can to avoid this highly undesirable processed and altered ingredient, so to say it displeased me is an understatement.  

I feel angry - not just for myself - that a supposed health product has a 'hidden' component that could potentially do more harm than good. Supermarkets and food manufacturers are increasingly removing this unnecessary nasty from their product lines. I guess a healthy conscience is far from given when it comes to pharmaceutical companies.  My quest continues...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beauty Find of the Week...

If you enjoy the pursuit for the perfect mascara, your search might be at an end.  I acquired a generous sample of Chanel's latest Exceptionnel, a few days ago and feel obliged to pass on the's a pleasure to use, with impressive results. The brush is fat and multi-faceted, the distribution efficient - just enough and not too much. It's easy to apply: one coat gives you effective curl and attractively voluminous, upswept lashes.  If you hurry, your local beauty counter might still have a sample for you to experiment with. Try it for yourself, I doubt you'll be disappointed!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Arise, Sir Nils

Most of us are only too aware of bad news stories, on a daily basis. However, last week ended on a smilier note with the very cute, if slightly incredible story of the new Norwegian Knight, Sir Nils Olav. No aristocratic Scandinavian blond he - oh no! - rather a sleek black, white and yellow, long-billed male penguin, residing at Edinburgh Zoo.

The story originates in 1972 when a Lieutenant in the Norwegian King's Guard adopted a penguin as a mascot for the regiment, naming him Nils Olav.  When the original Nils died, an heir was found; the tradition and name continued.  Events culminated in the current descendant, 6-year-old Nils, being endowed with the high-ranking honour.   One, two, three: aaaah!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Coming-up roses

If you're a fan of glorious, full-blown traditional English roses and a natural beauty advocate too, it's possible to combine your two loves.  Once your favoured blooms are past their best, don't mourn them or throw them out, instead take action to extend their blessing.   Why not make your own rosewater?  (You're best to use pink or dark-hued blooms that come from your own or a friend's garden, that you know have been grown without extensive use of pesticide). It's easier than you might think...

Peel-off the petals and place them in a clean bowl.  Leave them to dry-out in natural sunlight. Once dry, transfer them to a steel saucepan, add water to cover (plus one to two inches).  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a slow simmer for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool, then strain through a sieve, into a funnel that you have placed over a sterile bottle (dark glass, preferably).  To use as a refreshing spritz for your skin, choose a bottle with a spray top.

For a lighter version, simply half-fill the bottle and top-up with distilled, or fresh, bottled water.  Unless you plan on using your floral water within a week or ten days, it's advisable to extend its life by adding one or two (no more) drops of essential oil, such as lavender (or even rose) which will help to preserve it.  Keep it in the fridge (and always out of direct sunlight); enjoy using it to refresh your complexion in the mornings,  as a soothing toner at night, after cleansing.  Brilliant for dry, mature or slightly sensitive skin types.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A modern dilemma

I had a curious experience yesterday evening that left me baffled. Walking along by the local library, I was approached  by a twenty-something man who launched into a rapid-fire conversation, in an eastern European language I didn't recognise. 

At first, I thought he was speaking to his female companion, until I became aware that his words were directed at me.  I looked at him and he continued to talk-away - rapidly - in his local tongue with his friend standing to the side, observing.  They were a reasonably well-dressed couple, with shopping bags, they didn't appear in distress.  I could only respond to the guy, in English, that I had no idea what he was talking about.

The incident kept me thinking.  Today, there are so many scams around, we often hear that the perpetrators are from Eastern Europe, so I feel obliged to keep my wits about me and have a wariness.  It's a sad reflection on modern society.  I like to think that I'm a kind, open-minded person but I've had to adjust my attitude lately and react more cautiously, or as life today would suggest - sensibly. I remain baffled though, curious to know what their situation was and what they wanted...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Not-so-sweet shopping aka candy-calling...

Have you ever woken in the middle-of-the-night with a food craving you just had to satisfy?  You're not alone... I read a story in The Times (London), yesterday, that almost defies belief.

Three-year-old, Max McGrath, woke from his slumbers, at his home near Preston, in Lancashire. It was 3am and he just had to have some sweets (candy). So, he decided it was time to shop.  Dressed in his pyjamas, he put on his older brother's (too large) shoes, took some money and the front door keys.  Off he went, walking for a mile and a half, until he arrived at the family's local supermarket. Sadly, it was shut so his craving had to go unfulfilled... Happily, a kind and alert newspaper delivery driver spotted him peering through the windows (he must have been rubbing his eyes in disbelief!) and was able to find out, from Max, where he lived.

James Brown, the delivery man, took him straight back home.  Unable to wake his parents, the police were called and little Max was returned safely to his bed.  What an extraordinary insight into the mind and abilities of a determined three-year-old! How many parents will have been set wondering and worrying about exactly what goes on in the minds of their little offspring? 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Going for Gold?

How do you feel about the Beijing Olympics?  I have to admit to an ambivalence and that I'm uneasy, hampering the enthusiasm I've had for previous Games.  For those of us with a conscience, it's hard to ignore the backdrop to this year's event.

Shocking stories of people who have been turfed out of their homes, to make way for the 'essential' building work - without proper recompense for having their ancient relic status property demolished - have been featured in the news, along with the phrase: "protest at your peril".  Human rights abuses abound.  Hardly a cause for celebration, however remarkable the opening ceremony.  The more serious impact on the lives of many of the country's residents detracts not only from the ethos and focus of the event but also from the humorous undertones in the recently published dress and behaviour codes for the Games. 

I'm still excited and thrilled for the UK's inspiringly delightful teenage sensation, 14 year-old diver, Tom Daley.  I'll be looking-out for Antonis Aresti in the Paralympic Games, as I recently met and interviewed his charming young coach, Efthymios Kyprianou but my enjoyment has been tarnished.