Beautiful Days 2016 – an apology

 

I always suffer from post-festival blues after the Beautiful Days Festival, but for some reason have been moping about more than usual this year. As usual, we had a terrific few days down in Devon, watching  the hosts Levellers twice, drinking cider and dancing like loons.

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The line-up was phenomenal, but that of course means that you have to split yourself in half in order to see all of the bands whose stage times clash. Add in the necessity of one of us having to babysit a small child who just wanted to disappear and run and run and run and that meant that this year I MISSED: Leftfield, Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands, Funke, the Sweetchunks, the Selecter, Billy Bragg and the Damned at the very least.

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However, the acts we did see did not disappoint – James, the Proclaimers, Reef, Dreadzone, Terrorvision, the Coral, Bad Cardigan, the Wildflowers, Mad Dog McRea among others. The small ones LOVED the children’s area and for once we might have spent more time on the big wheel than in the beer tent.

 

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A cider-fuelled weekend always means there are apologies to make, and I have a list of people I need to say sorry to:

  1. Our neighbours in the campervan field for having to listen to and to watch us flailing around trying to put an awning up when we first arrived. Having only received the awning through the post on the morning we set off, we didn’t have time to do a practice run and putting it up was like a visit to Ikea. It was only successful when I located the ciders and read a book, leaving DH to put it up unencumbered by my helpful advice.

 

 

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2. Our neighbours on the other side. I told my dad that we had a white VW; failing to mention that these are not in short supply. On the Saturday morning, I saw him and my two nephews peering into the neighbouring van – quite a shock for our neighbours to see three unknown faces at the window like Dickensian orphans.IMG_20160820_212809.jpg

3. The lady in the lost children tent, plus anyone who heard me wailing when I lost small son. DH helpfully  told me to “stop overreacting”.  Small son did turn up a bit later wondering what all the fuss was about.IMG_20160821_200506.jpg

4. My friend who was sitting next to me when I tipped fish noodles everywhere, making her trousers look like they were splattered in vomit. This unfortunately was about ten minutes after we’d found small son; the people sharing the table with us looked over at me disapprovingly and asked me if “have you quite finished?”

5. The man in the campervan in front of ours. I accidentally flashed him when looking for my bra. I eventually found it on small son who was using it “as a holster”.

6.  Anyone who witnessed my dancing. Particularly when I thought it would be funny to emulate Tim Booth during the James set and nearly ripped my spine out of place.

7. The couple in the Hope Tavern who were quite put out when I thought they were brothers.

8. Our neighbours back home for arriving home at 2am and for doing 27 loads of washing the following day.

9. The Levellers for singing along so badly to all of their songs….  A big thank you to them to for putting on the very best festival in the world, unrivalled for integrity, line-up and friendliness. See you next year!

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Jubilee Pool, Penzance

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I remember looking longingly at the Jubilee Pool in Penzance, one early morning while rushing to catch the boat over to the Isles of Scilly.

While it’s long been on our list of things to do, plans to visit the pool were thwarted when it was severely damaged in storms in 2014. Previously threatened with closure in the early 1990s, the pool was saved by Friends of the Jubilee Pool who dived in to the rescue and raised more than £100,000 for an extensive renovation.

 

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The pool re-opened earlier this year and we’d been itching to make a pilgrimage down. We were very excited to turn up on a hot summer’s day ready to find it full. While parking is a bit of an issue, the actual pool is so vast that it can absorb lots of bathers, so there’s plenty of space for swimming, sunbathing and splashing!

The pool is stunning and blends beautifully into the sea. Built in the 1930s on a former bathing spot at the Battery Rocks near the harbour, it is elegant and reminiscent of being on board an ocean liner. You can really feel the history too – there’s something quite raw and authentic about this pool. Not only can you feel the seaweed on the walls and the rough concrete floor, but there are simple changing rooms (some doorless) that put you in mind of the long bathing suits and hats of those early swimmers in the 1930s.

Being seawater, it’s refreshingly cold and you can’t help but freestyle across it with a massive smile on your face. We spoke to a couple of ladies who told us they’d learned to swim here and they kept coming back decades later. The two little boys we brought with us loved it too – particularly the children’s pool tucked away in the corner.

It’s a very reasonable £4.75 to swim and you can stay all day. With lidos disappearing all over the UK and many under threat, it’s well worth a visit to see how it can work economically and more importantly, the happy memories that are being made.

http://www.jubileepool.co.uk

 

New sensory garden at Hungerford Resource Centre

Users of the Hungerford Resource Centre are now enjoying a new sensory garden where clients can enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of nature.

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Thanks to the team’s hard work which included fundraising by various means including a sponsored slim, the space has been transformed into a beautiful garden that offers a quiet place to sit. Karen Loughnane, who works at the centre and oversaw the project, said: “We decided that the space could be better used and so enlisted the help of staff, volunteers and local businesses.

 

“The garden looks fantastic and provides a lovely spot for people to relax. We are hugely grateful to everyone who helped us bring this to fruition and to the local companies who donated time, resources and money to support the project.”

If you’d like the project to win a donation from Waitrose in Newbury, you can currently vote for “Hungerford Resource Centre” with your green shopping token!

 

 

 

West Berkshire Mencap garden party

West Berkshire Mencap garden party.
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West Berkshire Mencap supporters gathered at a garden party on Monday to celebrate another year of the charity’s work in helping local children and adults with learning disabilities.

The event was held in the charity’s sensory garden and enabled West Berkshire Mencap staff, service users and volunteers to showcase the different kinds of support on offer. Guests included Mayor of Newbury Julian Swift-Hook; chairman of West Berkshire Council Cllr Quentin Webb, and Graeme Leech,  president of Newbury Rotary Club.

 

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As well as tours of the facilities, there was afternoon tea, musical entertainment from East Woodhay Silver Band and a chance to see the Playscheme in action.

 

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West Berkshire Mencap CEO Leila Ferguson said: “Thanks to incredible support, West Berkshire Mencap improves the lives of people with learning disabilities and their families. Our annual social gathering is our way of showing our gratitude to everyone for their hard work and support. Despite the rain, we had a great turnout and a lovely afternoon.”

Turkish cooking in Thatcham!

 

 

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With the calming melodies of traditional folk music, vibrant colourful crockery and the delicious aromas of exotic herbs and spices, the scene was set for our first-ever lesson on Turkish cooking

 

 

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Having left buying MrM’s birthday present until too late, Ozlem from Mezzeturca still somehow managed to get his voucher to him in time for the big day and also kindly (and bravely) invited me to come too to learn the art of “Mezze”. A bit like tapas, it’s all about fresh, colourful small dishes.

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We were now in Ozlem’s kitchen with Tupperware, aprons and high hopes ready to cook the dishes that MrM had chosen in advance. His selection looked intricate and hopelessly difficult to make, but after an interesting introduction to Turkish cuisine and its ingredients, we got started. Oz inherited her mother’s passion for cooking and imparted simple instructions with easy-to-follow demonstrations.

 

Our first dish was “Mercimek kofte” (red lentil koftes). Although I chopped the spring onions with the dexterity of Robocop, the dish was easy enough with Oz’s guidance and looked fantastic when served up onto a colourful Turkish plate and garnished with lettuce and lemons.

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Then it was onto “patlican salata” (smoked aubergine salad) which again proved an easy but delicious dish even though I inadvertently sabotaged this one too – this time by confusing the mixing bowl with the one for the compost, adding thousands of unwanted seeds to the mix. Still not having been ejected from the lesson, we then made “Kereviz mezesi” (celeriac and yogurt mezze) – an unusual choice apparently – especially in the summer, but it virtually made itself  – just a bit of grating and stirring and voila!

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As a bonus dish, there was tzatziki too (known as Cacek in Turkish). Small son had almost polished this off with some pitta bread while we were distracted with the business of dessert – baklava. In all my years of marvelling at this and buying it from street stalls, it never once occurred to me to make it at home as I considered it too fiddly and the ingredients too difficult to source. Oz helped us make it in about 10 minutes- including oven time! Unbelievably, it’s eaten with clotted cream which pleased me no end, and Oz helpfully provided a shopping list of where to buy fresh but low-cost ingredients for all of the dishes we made.

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We were astonished at the selection of healthy and vibrant dishes we’d made and can’t wait for our next barbecue invitation!

Afiyet olsun! (bon appetit!)

 

 

 

Things to try in Hong Kong

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Whether you’ve been to Hong Kong a thousand times or have never set foot on this amazing island, you’ll know that there are certain sights that are essential viewing, such as the Peak, the Star Ferry and the Buddha on Lantau. There’s no denying that they are all breath-taking and I try to experience all of them whenever I’m in Hong Kong.

There are also a few other things help sum up the sheer intensity and craziness of living in Hong Kong: here are my favourites:

1. Mid-level escalators

Hong Kong is extremely hilly so naturally in the 1980s, the government decided that it would be helpful to install an outdoor escalator that takes people from the Mid-Levels down to the Central district in the morning. In the afternoons, it’s reversed and takes people up the hill, back home.

It’s absolutely free and a fascinating way to see the city – you can hop on and off and various points amid restaurants, bars and shops. Small son and I spent literally a whole day going up the escalator and then walking back down, through market stalls and the antiques area of Hong Kong.

 

  1. Yee Shun Milk Company

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This is a Hong Kong delicacy and comprises a chain of shops that sells steamed puddings in a variety of flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, almond milk and papaya. Their trademark offering is the double-skin milk custard pudding but I always have the ginger one as I’m convinced it clears the sinuses! In a place known for its food, I always find that Chinese cuisine lacks in the dessert department, so these little shops feel like a big comfortable hug.

 

  1. Tram ride

 

The cost of the trams shot up recently to HK$ 2.30 (for adults), making this less than 20p for a journey and therefore one of the best value forms of transport in the world. There are six main routes that more or less hug the front of Hong Kong island taking you all the way from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan and you can stop off at Central, Wan Chai or Causeway Bay amongst others, but why not stay on all the way across the island?

 

While there are a couple of air-conditioned trams, many of them are the old traditional wooden versions that haven’t changed since I was little, making it one of the most authentic experiences in a Hong Kong that is always modern and rapidly changing.

 

  1. A swim in an outdoor pool

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If you’re staying in a hotel, most of the big names have a roof terrace with scenic swims available. If you’re not, day passes are available from about £50 upwards for a day. However, I don’t mind visiting the municipal pools; most of the outdoor pools are 50m and set amongst tall residential buildings, making it a very scenic form of exercise. My favourite is the one at Lai Chi Kok which costs $17 (which is less than £1.50)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lai-Chi-Kok-Park-Swimming-Pool/164246453653149

 

  1. The beach

As a busy city, it’s easy to forget that Hong Kong has some beautiful beaches, although perhaps not always as clean as they could be. My favourites are Repulse Bay, Lamma and Shek O.

 

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Shek O

 

 

 

  1. The Peak

While the tram ride to the Peak is a must-do, don’t forget that there’s also the number six bus that goes up to the Peak which provides a more local experience and is much cheaper. If you close your eyes, it’s not far off a roller coaster ride and the views are incredible. Last time I was there, a group of schoolchildren bagged the front seats on the way up, and then proceeded to stare at their phones for the duration so I got this footage on the way back down again:

 

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An old Peak Tram
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Day turns to night at the Peak, Hong Kong

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22E5pu9o2T4

 

Make sure you get there late in the afternoon so you can experience the view as the sky gets dark and the city illuminates – it really is one of the best views in the world.  However, at $45 (about £4) for a scoop of ice-cream at the top, I’d recommend taking your own!

 

Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything! Clearly I need to return!