Monday, 29 September 2014

A Marathon Challenge

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming.

Frank Shorter

This Saturday saw me, along with 17000 others, walk a charity marathon called the ShineWalk around London in aid of Cancer Research UK. The ShineWalk is a huge annual event and this was my first time.  In fact it was the first time I'd ever undertaken a physical challenge, never mind tried to raise a substantial amount for charity.

We started at 9pm in Southwark and the atmosphere was great - music, flashing lights and a gospel choir singing 'Proud' which brought a tear to my eye before we'd even left the starting blocks.  We were all feeling excited and cheery (well we didn't know quite what was in store!)

The walk took us along some scenic routes, including Tower Bridge and the Serpentine, but I have to admit after mile 15 I think I was just looking at the floor.  London is gorgeous lit up at night, but the sheer pressure of keeping moving for more than 7 hours is huge and every leg muscle starts to scream as you progress along the course.
There were plenty of pit stops to grab water or a banana and have a much needed stretch, but the novelty had well and truly worn off by mile 20 and the last 6 miles passed in quiet agony.
Along the way were hundreds of volunteers cheering us along and also loads of passers by stopped to congratulate us which felt a bit weird.  I can't tell you how good it felt to cross that finish line, all of us holding hands and have a celebratory picture taken.  We all immediately peeled off our shoes and socks and changed into flip flops for the journey home.  Already aching we tried to do a bit of stretching but I must admit that I'm not sure anything could have helped with the aches and pains I had the next morning.
On the super positive side, I made over £500 for Cancer Research, which I'm delighted with. (If you want to help click  So despite my blisters and inability to keep my eyes open I am chuffed to have done my bit in the fight against cancer.
Would I promise you now that I'll be there again next year? Let's see how long it takes me to recover this time first... 


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Choccywoccydoodah - chocolate mecca

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” 
― Linda Grayson

Finally I have entered the chocolate mecca that is Choccywoccydoodah.  It's been on my list for so long and with a friend visiting from out of town I thought it would be the perfect place for 2 chocoholics to catch up.

Sadly we had to queue for half an hour to get a table - not ideal, but as it was a dry day and we had 4 months of gossip to catch up on it passed quickly enough.  The kind staff also brought all waiting chocoholics mini cake bites to pass the time - can't argue with that.
Once seated upstairs by our friendly waitress, we ordered hot chocolates (with marshmallows and chocolate sticks) and perhaps foolishly a slice of chocolate cake too.

hot chocolate 
cake heaven on a plate from choccywoccydoodah
The milk chocolate hot chocolate is definitely a contender for best hot choc of my life.  Creamy, thick, extra chocolaty and topped with whipped cream; what's not to like?  The cake might have pushed us over the edge -3 layers of sponge, ice-cream, sauce, chocolate frosting was perhaps a bit much - I'm glad we ordered to share!
If I've got chocolate, i'm smiling!
The shop downstairs is a total visual treat, the gifts are not cheap, but they are different, inventive and eclectic -you can even buy a chocolate cat (if such things float your boat).  We stuck to giant white chocolate buttons as early Christmas gifts.
Cakes on display at Choccywoccydoodah

All in all a great afternoon in my favourite, London town.

Have you visited yet?


Saturday, 20 September 2014

London days- top tips

'Just touched down in London Town'

Living in London, it had never occurred to me to do a top tips for visiting my City- however, seeing the lovely Brooke's post over at inspired me to share my tested and tried tips for a weekend full of fun in the capital.  

Head straight to Borough Market for a wander (and breakfast). Found under the arches of London Bridge this market is a haven for foodies and caters to every taste under the sun.
Borough Market
From there a walk along the Southbank to Waterloo, taking in the Tate (and having a drink in their penthouse cafe bar) or catch a train from Waterloo to Richmond for a stroll along the river and through Richmond Park to Twickenham for a different (and gorgeous) view of London.
Richmond Thames Path
In the evening I'd totally recommend a treat-yourself-meal at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London.  They do a great fish and chips - a staple English dish.  After dinner I suggest you get yourself to the Hippodrome Casino - catch a live Burlesque show, smoke some shish if it's your thing and definitely have a cosmo (or two) at the mezzanine bar, watching the gamblers below you.  You could always catch a West End show if you fancy a bit of culture (however the only true cut price booth in Leicester Sq is TKTS so beware of other places charging a premium).
Rules restaurant
Have a leisurely breakfast at The Breakfast Club - they have a few dotted around London, perhaps start in Hoxton.  From there wander either to Brick Lane or Spitalfields Market, both easy walking distance. Brick Lane is famous for vintage shops (and curry houses), Spitalfields houses an eclectic mix of stalls, restaurants and quirky shops.  They're both worth a visit at some point.  
Brick Lane, London
If you fancy a bit of greenery I'd head to Greenwich to see the meridian time line, the O2 arena and the Cutty Sark ship - you could definitely find somewhere yummy to stop for lunch, or have a picnic at the Observatory overlooking Greenwich.  If shopping's more your thing head to either Stratford or Shepherd's Bush to visit our shopping mecca - Westfield.  A shopoholic's dream for sure!

If you have any energy left after that you could head for a British afternoon tea at The Ritz, Claridges, The Savoy or I've recently discovered an Afternoon Tea on a London red bus which looks like a great idea to eat cake and see the sights all at once.
The Ritz hotel
What are your must-sees for London town?


Thursday, 18 September 2014

7 films from my youth

“I know the best moments can never be captured on film, even as I spend nearly half my life trying to do just that.” 
― Rosie O'Donnell

I've just got home from an exhausting training walk and have, by chance, turned on the TV to see one of my favourite films from childhood on Ch5 - Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  It made me think about how certain films fill me with memories of happy, younger times and no matter how many times I watch them I never tire of them.  I thought I'd let you know my favourites.

Annie- after appearing as Annie aged 7 at my local theatre, this film formed a huge part of my youth!  My Mum got me started on the musical films early.

Dirty Dancing - I definitely watched this, a lot, before I was probably old enough to appreciate it's adult themes.  The soundtrack was on repeat on my tape deck for many years. Jennifer Grey's career high was my teen dream.

Bugsy Malone - I fell in love with Bugsy Malone aged about 11 and watched it as often as I was allowed.  I so wanted to be Tallulah and the music is on my iPod still.

Death becomes Her - This is a firm family favourite. Again, perhaps a little grown up for my pre teen tastes but my siblings and I spent a whole summer quoting this film and even now, whenever it's on TV I'll get a text from one of them alerting me or quoting 'You pushed me down the stairs'.

Mrs Doubtfire - a great 90s film. I received this on VHS one Christmas and fell in love. Mara Wilson is the cutest and the Sally Field and Robin Williams magic is wonderful.

Miss Congeniality - Once I hit my late teens Miss Congeniality became my favourite film - I swear I used to watch it every day, a rom com classic. Sandra Bullock never fails as far as I'm concerned.

Willy Wonka - the whole inspiration for this post, Charlie Bucket and co made a huge lasting impression on me. The music is gorgeous, the story heartwarming and Gene Wilder is hilarious.  My best friend and I used to talk all the time about what a wonderful musical it'd make and then last year it opened in the West End! (also my nickname used to be Veruca Salt)

Other memorable films include Parenthood, Beethoven, Sliding Doors, Clueless and Beauty and the Beast, but we haven't got time to discuss all those too!

What are your childhood film classics?


(all pics from Google)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Shine Marathon is getting closer....

It always seems impossible, until it’s done. 
Nelson Mandela.

The charity marathon walk I signed up for four months ago is quickly getting closer and I'm starting to get nervous.  The Shine Walk is a huge deal for the Cancer Research UK charity and I really want to do my part, but as it gets nearer I'm starting to get the fear.
Last weekend we did almost 16 miles, from Richmond to Harrow which was an epic walk. I was pretty nervous before we started, but I have started to see a difference in my stamina (finally) and managed a half marathon before I started to hurt.
I'm using the NikeRunning app to chart my progress and it's very satisfying seeing the final results.

What I'm loving is that I'm exploring parts of London I've never seen before.  The 5 miles from Richmond through Twickenham and Osterley were so gorgeous I almost forgot what a mission we had to achieve.  I don't normally take pictures as I think they'll slow me down, but perhaps I should start taking more as the scenery is sometimes beautiful.

This weekend we're aiming for 20 miles (route tbc) and I'm terrified!  With only 2 weeks left to go we need to break the 20 mile mark in order to feel like we're almost ready for the big night. Our team is raring to go and hope that the jellybabies can push us over the brink to success!
sweaty selfie
Wish us luck!


Saturday, 13 September 2014

7 tips for a novice boat passenger

“You can’t believe how bleeding scary the sea is! There’s, like, whales and storms and shit! They don’t bloody tell you that!” 
― Libba BrayBeauty Queens

Having returned from a successful sailing holiday in Turkey (surely 5 days at sea makes you a pro??), I thought I'd share my top 7 tips for a novice sailor.  I won't include the most obvious which is take someone with you (or hire someone) who can sail... I'll assume you're smart enough to know that's a necessity!

1) Leave your heels at home - I don't think I wore shoes for 4 days straight!  I practically lived in a swimming costume and a kaftan.  

2) Charge your phone, camera, toothbrush etc before you go - electricity on a sailing boat is a luxury that's not always available. (oh and be ready to miss days worth of Facebooking - there is no wifi at sea)
3) Pack light. I decided on a whim to take a carry on case instead of my normal big suitcase and I'm glad I did.  Storage is not often plentiful.
4) Seek the shade.  I liberally douse myself in Factor 50 on every holiday, but with little shade available when sailing you need to be extra careful. The water is reflective, you're in and out of the sea and it's easy to forget that you've been outside the entire day.

5) If you're feeling sea sick watch the horizon - it really helps.  We did one sail that was in 'moderate' wind.  It did not feel moderate to me!  Watching the waves move and the horizon bobbing about made my stomach settle even though I wanted to hide 'down below'.
6) Be ready to be brave if it's a new experience for you.  I had to really grit my teeth sometimes but I wanted to experience everything on offer.
7) Learn the lingo.  I feel like I've learnt loads about sailing, even just by watching my friends doing it for a few days. Knowing your 'tiller' from your 'cock pit' really helps when orders are being shouted along the boat during a sail.

I had such a great time - I'd definitely recommend it for an adventure. I won't lie, it's not always glamorous but it's an amazing experience and I'd happily do it again.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A trip to Turkey

When you spend money on a holiday you are essentially purchasing happiness: if you don't enjoy yourself you will feel defrauded.” 
― Alison LurieThe Last Resort

Last week I took a glorious four days off work and jumped on a glam Easyjet plane to Bodrum.  I have a close friend who, along with her husband, is sailing on a 30ft yacht around Greece and Turkey for 6 months.  What a crazy, brave thing to do!  They left the UK in April and have now journeyed across to West Turkey where I thought I'd join them for a few days of sailing.

Let me say now, I have a general fear of boats, water and heights, so sailing has never been top of my list but after attending their wedding two years earlier on a gullet I've managed to cure my fears a little and was looking forward to a relaxing break.
Sleeping on a rocking, very hot boat was my first challenge - I think the first night I probably got about 4 hours sleep and of course boats don't have hot water, or wifi, or microwaves... what they do have is AMAZING views, the clearest sea 'swimming pool' I've ever seen and if you're lucky some lovely company.
our neighbours
Turquoise seas in Turkey
After getting used to sleeping in secluded bays, rocking gently in the ocean open to the elements and having showers hanging off the back of the boat in my swimsuit, I decided I actually quite liked the low key vibe. I hardly looked in the mirror, didn't style my hair (there are no GHDs on a sailing yacht!), took no outfit shots and wore as little make up as possible. It was refreshing to just hit reset, chill out and fully relax.

We ate mostly on the boat, cooking in the tiny kitchen. It's amazing what you can rustle up with 2 hobs and a grill.  However we did have a couple of meals out, one which ended with a dingy ride back from the town to the boat in the pitch black (very scary let me tell you). It was really lovely to hang out with my friends and have some quality time chatting about nothing and making new memories.  One of my favourite moments was when a speed boat jetted into our bay which turned out to be an ice cream van - I was too busy running for my purse to get a picture, but you'll have to trust me that the double chocolate magnum went down a treat!
One day we decided to get up super early and watch the sunrise which was pretty amazing ( as soon as it was up we immediately went back to bed for a snooze).  I'll remember that morning for a long time.
6.30 am
Have you ever been sailing? Would you like to try it?