Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tea and philosophy

I love a nice cup of good green tea (I've never been a traditional milky black tea fan). My latest discovery is organic Good Earth Tea (on offer at Waitrose at the mo', if you want to try it for yourself...). It's a slightly curious variant with mango, peach, pineapple, lemongrass, rose petals and chamomile... Not the best I've ever tasted (possibly too many flavours going-on) but each bag comes with a little saying attached. I loved the one I encountered earlier: "Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you..." (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Yes, you've spotted the theme of the moment... another gorgeous tree from Wisley's autumnal display, infused with the season's colours. Look closely at the fruits and flowers and you'd be forgiven for thinking them fake; they resemble mini bonbons, or man-made decorations, more than real berries. Captivating and alluring; to be admired but not for eating purposes...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tree of Inspiration

Autumn sunshine dappled through this beautiful tree, in Wisley's glorious gardens, on a happy Sunday afternoon...

A Visit to Wisley

Vast, beautiful and diverse, RHS Wisley is a natural haven of beauty - moments from the traffic-laden A3. Although the crowds are likely to stay with you, when you visit at weekends, it remains a garden of delights with space for tranquillity, contemplation and inspiration.

Find your favourite tree and relish the glory of its changing colours through all its seasonal guises. Explore and track down plants and varieties - new and old - to transform your house and garden.

If it’s convenient enough for you to get to on a regular basis, you’re likely to make new discoveries with each visit. Frequent visitors should take advantage of the Royal Horticultural Society membership scheme; if you join-up you’ll save the £8 adult entry price and can bring along a friend for free.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Taste of Autumn

It was sunny and windy, by turn, earlier today when I went to check-out Wisley's Autumnal delights. The tasting marquee was the packed focus of this seasonal festival and although verging on chronically overcrowded, it was well worth the effort.

The highlight of the tent's offerings - for me - was the wonderful table laden with plates of sliced apple varieties, for sampling and comparison. An amazing array, although sadly most will never have any presence on our supermarket shelves and truly put mainstream offerings to shame. The range of tastes, colours and flavours was impressive and deeply delicious. It was wonderful to see so many children relishing the crunchy samples.

In the gardens, outside the tent, autumn was on display in all her glorious colours. Sunshine dappled leaves, in all their rich, warm hues, made a beautifully memorable impression...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Autumn smells...

...wonderful! Who can fail to have enjoyed the glorious sunny, blissfully temperate weather we've been treated to in London over the past week (in spite of all the doom and gloom abundant in every news bulletin)...

I know I'm predictable (where the 'w'(eather) word is concerned) but the fabulous sunshine and warmth really do elevate my mood and energy levels - I can't pretend otherwise! So, I've been spending a lot of time out-and-about, revelling-in the beauty of nature, in the park and by the river.

As soon as I arrived through the gates of Richmond Park, mid-afternoon last week, the wonderful autumnal aromas enveloped me, enticing my senses. Deliciously warm, richly inviting scents palpably announced the change in seasons and made me want to inhale deeply, and powerfully, to better take-in and fully embrace the setting.

Interspersing walking with running, I relished the warm-hued, broad, beautiful perspective and alluring natural light caressing the verdant hills and bronze, golds, russets and sparkling browns of the leaves and trees. A truly autumnal treasure trove, a joy to behold and to reflect upon...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Brilliant Biba

original Biba Logo © Barbara Hulanicki

Ah, sweet memories... I watched British Style Genius, on BBC2, earlier this evening and it transported me, happily. Much as I don't believe in living in the past, it was wonderful to be taken back there, in vivid technicolour.

How I miss wonderful Biba; at school, a weekend highlight was to trek over there for a brilliant adventure. The huge store on the former Derry & Toms/Barkers site, on Kensington High Street, was unlike any other. It had a unique atmosphere; darkly-lit, you could wander in for an accessory (feather boa, anyone?); Sarah Moon poster; glorious, dusky, make-up; reels of haberdashery should you want (or feel inspired) to create, or customise, your own design classic.

As a young teenager, I was enamoured and recollect one of my favourite items being a floaty, empire line, russian-red jersey dress that had pointy-ended sleeves with a finger loop. Along with a pair of fabulous, plum, 40s-influenced, platform shoes - that I wore to death - with my fabulously-faded drain-pipe Levis. I still have one of my favourites: a plum jersey, short, stream-lined zip-up jacket, with a deep, soft fake fur collar. It still fits but seems too precious (or risky) to wear (just in case it might fall apart, if I did...) Bless Barbara Hulanicki! High Street Kensington has never felt the same since...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Vodka, again...

No, I haven't been corrupted (yet) or turned into a lush but my recent brush with the Russian favourite has reminded me of further uses... If you're a fan of aromatherapy and fancy blending your own products (it's easier than you might think) vodka can play a subtle but starring rôle.

Triple distilled is perfect - it must be unflavoured - (for fairly obvious reasons); you simply add around a level teaspoonful (5ml) to your finished preparation. The reason it works so well is because it is so pure and unscented; it acts as the perfect (natural) preservative, protecting your product and prolonging its shelf-life.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bloggers drink-up aka smoothie update...

Luckily, I don't spend all my time seated at my desk - even writers have to get out-and-about, sometimes... The cocktail theme, that featured in Born in the Gardens was also significant, earlier in the week, when I was invited to Diageo's headquarters, in London's Henrietta Place.

Unsurprisingly, for eminent drinks producers, there was a truly stunning bar (for staff, or by invitation only). Expert mixologists were kept busy, creating variants on the renowned Moscow Mule, inspired by invited London bloggers individual preferences. Using the requisite triple-distilled Smirnoff Red vodka, ginger ale and lime - as a base - their creativity flowed, along with the cocktails...

My love for a berry smoothie didn't go unnoticed: an amethyst-tinged, alcohol-infused long drink appeared; the mule ingredients complemented by fresh 'muddled' blueberries, mint, coconut cream and cardomom syrup. Unusual, refreshing, quite delicious and many degrees more alcoholic than my usual fruity blend. Thank goodness for the inclusion of plenty of ice cubes...

Photo courtesy of Chris Osburn

Born in The Gardens

I had the good fortune to return to Kingston's Rose Theatre, last night, to see Artistic Director Stephen Unwin's latest production, Born in the Gardens. It was a celebrity-packed (d'un certain âge) event with Michael Aspel, David Jacobs and Director Emeritus, Sir Peter Hall, all keen to view playwright Peter Nichols revived four-hander.

In spite of the fact that the piece was written and set in 1979, it's very much alive-and-kicking, today. From the outset, the humour hits home as mother, Maud, talking with middle-aged son, Maurice, pats her curly 'do, telling us about her "aphrodisiac" hair.

Maud chats away, endlessly, with the silent characters (volume turned-off) on her tiny black-and-white TV; sharing the minutiae of her life with everyone who appears on- screen. All the while, her dead husband lies in his coffin - in the mock-Tudor sitting room they share - while Maurice (Mo) disappears to prepare the latest liquid concoction from their vast alcoholic archive. As they await the arrival of siblings Hedley and Queenie, for the funeral, we learn of Maud's penchant for 'last-minute' bulk-buying and the Tampax she stock-piles, in the freezer...

When the siblings join them, the depth of their dysfunction continues to unfold. Maud refuses to comprehend that Hedley is a Labour backbencher, firmly believing that it's a television subtitling error and that he's really a Tory. Queenie can't keep her hands, or lips, off her twin brother as she tries to lure him back to California with her. Hilarity ensues when Mo fixes Queenie's - vodka and consommé-based, Bullshot - post-funeral cocktail of choice. Maud is rapidly converted as she relishes her first taste and regales us with her enjoyment of the "Bullshit"!

Further punning gems lighten the darker undertones, as Hedley attempts to persuade Maud to move-into a new duplex, or a condo - according to Queenie. Unsurprisingly, we learn from Maud that she has no intention of moving-into "an abandoned condom" or an "empty, used durex"...

Stephanie Cole excels as mite-fixated Maud, Simon Shepherd embodies misunderstood Hedley; Allan Corduner and Miranda Foster perfectly portray painful, middle-aged twins, Maurice and Queenie. Powerful, hilarious and thought-provoking.

Stephen Unwin joined the cast, on-stage, after their first bows, to pay homage to Peter Nichols (seated in the front row) and to inspire, and implore, the enraptured (and captive!) audience to continue to support the nine-month old Rose - which receives no public funding. The production continues until the 11th October; I recommend you catch - and enjoy - it, while you can.