Friday 25 October 2013

Bush Hall Dining Rooms

I will admit straight away that four friends are involved in the Bush Hall Dining Rooms, a new stylish and friendly restaurant (it opened a few months ago) right next door to the Bush Hall music venue. I would go there anyway, as it's local to me, and a welcome addition to the mosque and middle eastern food shops along Uxbridge Road. It has a great atmosphere, and delicious food and is neither too big and noisy or too small and intensely intimate. They are offering a great half term deal, which you could use if you were shopping at Westfield, or traipsing around Holland Park, or on your way to the Bush Theatre or the Lyric in Hammersmith. Or you could just go.

Here is what Charlotte - my friend and wife of the talented chef - Tim, says:

Just to let you know that Bush Hall Dining Rooms will be offering their delicious milkshakes FREE this half term to any children that have lunch or supper in the restaurant! Together with the fixed price lunch menu (£7.50 for 1 course and £10 for 2) and the new £5.50 2 course kids menu it’s a great half term treat if you fancy a day off cooking or meeting up with school friends!
Call them on 020 8749 0731 to book or just pop in on your way down the Uxbridge Road.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

How To Academy (Shameless Self Promotion)

The How to Academy is offering a plethora of interesting courses from How to Make A Movie in a weekend, to how to Build a Bike in a morning to writing Modern Novels for Modern Women, a course taught by ME!  It's scheduled to take place on the 16th and 17th November at The Telegraph buildings in London and should be fun and informative.

If you want to write but are not quite sure how to start or finish then this course could be for you. Or perhaps you just need some help and encouragement. It's lonely writing at your desk, so it could be a good place to meet fellow writers and after the course continue to support each other in the long process of writing a novel.

I am currently on (what feels like a millionth) rewrite of my novel, Same As You. I've had notes from an editor, and am now attempting to incorporate some of her advice into the book, which is about estranged identical twins.

It took me all summer just to digest her notes, (as she has suggested some substantial changes) and I've already been working on the book for about two years! All part of the process which can be so hard, but so enjoyable and fulfilling too.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

I HATE bicyclists in London

I am aware that I may sound like a grumpy old woman (which I probably am) but I have been meaning to rant about the  subject of bicycles in London for ages. I am  aware that what I am going to say is probably quite contentious, particularly as Boris has been banging on about needing more bicycles  in London for a long time now. But in my opinion bicycles and cars don't mix in the urban jungle. I very nearly knocked down a man on a bike who was absolutely oblivious to the outside world recently. Not only did he have a small child on his handlebars who was not wearing a helmet, but he was also wearing head phones, and didn't even notice that I nearly collided with him. Combination (Earphones/child on handlebars =  Disaster. What an idiot.  And this is not the first time I have seen father's (yes it's usually father who ride with their small children on the handlebars)  and not the first time I have witnessed people on bicycles without helmets or wearing headphones. I was nearly swerved into a lout who was attempting to ride a bike while holding two beer cans, one in each hand and when I screeched to a halt to avoid knocking him over, he stuck his finger up and swore at me. 

Bicycle riders can't see what is going on behind them, so they need their ears and yet they listen to music. MAD. They also swerve into lanes without looking, go through red lights, meander this way and that. I HATE THEM. Why aren't there more arrests for dangerous bicycle riding?

Of course there are skilful and careful bikers out there too, but it's the dangerous, careless, ones that get noticed. I don't think we need bicycles in London, and if we do, we should one car-free day a week, in which bicyclists can use their bikes, but that's it.

I have to come clean and admit that about ten or fifteen years ago, I actually did knock a man off his bike. I was turning left in a car, and just didn't look as he biked up my inside. He was OK, thank God, but it could have been worse. It was obviously my fault for not looking properly, but people on bikes,should take more CARE and be more AWARE, and not act as though they are KINGS of the road. I have heard countless other stories of people opening car doors and knocking people off bikes.

Let me explain that I did once take a bicycling safety course and after completing the course, concluded that I still didn't feel safe enough to venture out of my own hood, into dense traffic. Perhaps all cyclists should be made to take a test. Not joking by the way. I am serious.

The picture below is of me and the two children a couple of years ago, biking along the canal from W12 to Camden. No danger of cars completely safe and fun. Sorry to sound smug.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

The Holidays

When the school holidays arrive, I am ready.  I’ve had enough of early rising, shouting and stressing, running up and down stairs looking for PE shorts that have gone astray and a clean school tie. No more making cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches for my daughter’s packed lunch at 730 in the morning, and peeling carrots that she will never eat.

Yes the holidays. Hurray! Lots of lazy mornings, al fresco dining, harmonious children, card games, cafes, craft, long walks, museum visits, a bout of baking.

In London before we go away, the reality is somewhat more mundane – the oven is broken, the cards are lost, it’s pouring with rain and my son only half enjoyed the visit to the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum. My daughter is doing holiday sports, which means many more cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, more peeling of carrots and dashing around looking for things. This morning for example we desperately dried her washed-but-not-dried sports shorts with a hair dryer as time was ticking away. She demands to know when the real holidays will begin (ie trip to the South of France).

I am aware that this era will not last and in a few years, they will be off doing their own thing in the holidays. Soon they won’t want to spend time with us preferring the company of their peers. It would be great to focus on this fact now, when I’m nagging my son to get off the x-box/computer/screen and shouting at my daughter to hurry up. This too shall pass and I will be left looking at my thumb nails nostalgically remembering the magical few days we recently spent in North Wales, where the children and their friend made a short film called, “Jessica Almost Blond” which included lots of running up hills and shooting each other, set against the back drop of the most stunning landscape. They edited it, added music and further dialogue. I loved hiking along coastal paths holding their still-small hands. Even the downpour of torrential rain on the last night was exciting. Who needs an oven?

Monday 20 May 2013

Clinique CC Cream

I was more angry this morning than I have been for years. The kind of anger that goes to your stomach and stays there swirling around. I almost had a cigarette and wanted to shout, but am pleased to report that I didn't do either. I won't go into details of what was wrong, but suffice to say, I have calmed down a bit now. Just a bit. Enough to brush my hair and try out for the second time, a light foundation from Clinique called CC cream. It's described as a "hydrating colour corrector" and that's exactly what it is. There are several shades to choose from and I chose medium. It is a tiny miracle in a bottle, transforming skin from it's tired Monday Morning dull, grey texture with a few sun spots under the eye to a more made up, together, groomed kind of person. I feel more like a ready-to-go-person, a woman who is not angry with a swirling stomach and a need to punch. For years I used to use Laura Mercier tinted foundation, which is good but doesn't go on that smoothly and then I recently switched to Liz Earle colour sheer skin tint, which is better, but again, doesn't go on quite as smoothly as the Clinique CC. It has a SPF of 30 - higher than the other two and exactly what I need, as I am too old to be dallying around with the sun on my skin. This is a product that I am reviewing, but I honestly think I will continue to use it as at £28 it's about what I pay for the other two.  It doesn't look as though my face is wearing foundation, and it feels light. The other day when I tested it out and I could swear people were looking at me on the street, and it was still good to go when I went to the Bush Theatre in the evening, where I saw one of the best and most thought provoking plays I have seen in a long time. Disgraced. Check it out.

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Friday 29 March 2013

The Odd Life of Timothy Green - Released Nationwide April 5th

We went to the preview of the new Disney film The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the other day at the Everyman Cinema in Maida Vale (a gorgeous cinema, with sofa style chairs and food delivered to your seat.) It's the story of a happily married couple, Jennifer Garner  -who is like a younger version of Julia Roberts and Joel Edgerton. They are desperate for a child, but have been told there is no way they will have one. At the beginning of the movie they are seen earnestly putting their case forward to adopt a child at an agency and as they begin to tell their story, we flashback to the day Timothy came into their lives.

Back to the night the couple have been told they will never have children. They are drinking and we see them quite inappropriately dreaming up what their ideal child would be like - a scene that just didn't ring true. Their boy would be: honest to a fault, Picasso with a pencil, the boy who scores the winning goal etc. They then bury the bits of paper in the garden and...hey presto there is a terrible storm and Timothy appears at their door covered in mud with leaves growing on his shins. Despite this improbable start and the slightly too-sweet tone of this movie, it made me smile and indeed cry and there are a few twists and turns that are genuinely unexpected. The boy who plays Timothy is adorable, known only as CJ Adams.  The film is directed by Peter Hedges who directed one of my favourite films of all time, What's  Eating Gilbert Grape.
This is a sweet family film, that we all need after a bitterly cold and depressing winter. I defy you not to be just a little bit moved.

Thursday 21 March 2013

The Audience

A few weeks ago I went to see the dress rehearsal of the The Audience, a new play at the Gielgud Theatre starring Helen Mirren as the Queen. I meant to write about it straight away, but now it's out and has been reviewed extensively, but my draft is still here, so I'll go ahead. I was lucky enough to go the  very first performance in front of  alive audience, because I know  two of the three producers - Robert Fox and Andy Harries. I also used to go out with the writer Peter Morgan, who also scripted the film, The Queen.

The Audience is directed by Stephen Daldry who made a short appearance before the curtains went up to inform the real audience that the play was still a work in progress -the only sign of that being that Robert Hardy who played Churchill forgot his lines a couple of times, but he has since been replaced by Edward Fox because he fell ill. Apparently one of the Queens Corgis has been sacked for running off the wrong way every night!

The play imagines the weekly meetings between Queen and her Primeministers' over her 60 year reign, an extraordinary length of time to be in the same job. In the recent ITV documentary I was extremely impressed to discover that the Queen goes through her red box every single day of the year, except Christmas Day and occasionally (her private secretary added) on her birthday. She was also very involved in all aspects of her duties. Once scene showed her walking around the table before a state banquet (with a posse of four fawning courtiers)  to check that everything was in the right place and deciding that the pineapples had been placed too near the place mats.

Both the Queen and her primeminister are sworn to secrecy during the weekly meetings - so Morgan did a very good job imagining what goes on. 'The Queen' kept reminding us that her job is to support her Primeminister's, even when she doesn't agree with them. This  came across most vividly in the meeting between her and Margaret Thatcher over imposing sanctions to South Africa. The Queen was all for sanctions as she wanted to help her commonwealth subjects end apartheid.

Helen Mirren will win top prizes for her performance, quite frankly she is the Queen.  She ages and becomes young again in the most uncanny way, changing seamlessly on stage between the scenes which are not in chronological order. Wilson was played sympathetically by Richard McCabe, who according to the script was the Queen's favourite Primeminister, and the only one apart from Churchill who dined privately with the Queen. He was both funny in the role and particularly poignant when he steps down at the outset of alziehmers. The play is interspersed with scenes of the Queen as a young girl -played brilliantly by  Helen Baxendale's daughter the night we saw it - complete with highly posh 1940's accent -riding her bicycle through the set depicting Buck Palace with the use of clever perspective, making it look vast. The-Queen-as-a-young-girl-scenes  remind us that the Queen was born with her destiny already mapped out, and she has a much harder job than I had ever imagined. Definitely worth booking, if tickets are still available.

Monday 11 March 2013

Walking Around

We've had trouble with our car in the last six months, and recently we were without a car, for nearly two weeks while it languished in the garage, having it's automatic gearbox investigated. We had already spent over £2000 having a new one installed, but still the car was juddering.  It was an interesting experiment, because as a person who is relatively lazy about walking short distances, we were literally forced to walk. We also used trains and buses and tubes. Once I had got into the idea of walking everywhere, it suddenly seemed scandalous, to drive the 0.6 miles to school, which we sometimes do if it's raining or we are running late.  I am not into bicycling in London. I tried using a bike one summer, but don't feel that bikes and London traffic is a good combination. In fact as a motorist I hate bicyclists and a bicyclist I hate motorists.

There were good points and not so good about not having a car in London:  I immediately noticed how expensive it is getting around day-to-day on public transport. Tubes and buses ate up my travel card, and instead of putting £30 on it, every two weeks, £30 would last me four days. And travelling on trains is time consuming and expensive too. Instead of taking an hour to get to my father's house near Newbury, the journey took two and a half hours and both ways the connection between two trains was either delayed or cancelled and involved rushing up platforms and over bridges and down again, lugging heavy cases.

But walking to the cinema with the kids through the park, instead of driving or taking the bus was great, and when we left them in the kids am movie (don't worry my son had his mobile) we walked all the way down the river to Chiswick House, stopped for a coffee the cafe, and then walked back to the cinema. It was a perfect morning. We walked as much as we could, which I enjoyed and was convinced that any superfluous wobbly parts were ebbing away with all the new exercise, but when  I stepped on the scales, nothing had changed.

We  considered making do without a car forever, which I would definitely go through with if we didn't have children. I looked into the idea of car clubs, but there are no cars situated near enough to me, to make sense. Maybe if the Boris Bike enterprise extended to cars more people would take up the option, to ditch the car, and join a car scheme. I never did get to the point of adding up the cost involved in keeping a car  - petrol, car insurance, servicing, parking permit, etc.) as opposed to renting one when it is needed, but someone else told my husband that it worked out cheaper for his family to ditch the car and rent on an ad hoc basis. London is over car populated, that is for sure, so let's make car club options easier to use.

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Friday 8 March 2013

My Name is Kate and I'm an Internet Addict

Last night, around midnight, my husband came to bed to find me browsing on my laptop. He accused me of being addicted to my ‘screen/internet. It’s not the first time he’s said it. We had a row because I was reading an article, which somehow did not feel like browsing the internet in a random manner, but he has a point. The truth is that since writing these last four sentences, I have already been on facebook, and then checked my emails. Facebook was to ostensibly check a post about another author who is addicted to the internet and checking email is just force of habit - I am expecting a reply from son’s school – well that is the excuse, that is what I believe.

Apparently some authors including, Nick Hornby and Sadie Smith use programmes such as Freedom to restrict their internet use while they are writing. I imagined cutting off my internet and shuddered with horror. What about all the research I need to do? The author of The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen once said, “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” I remember at the time it struck a cord, and it still does.

The fact is I finished my last novel in January, and have done nothing really about starting anything else – I do waste a considerable amount of time browsing - sometimes an hour passes and I’m not sure where the time has gone. I don’t want to go cold turkey but I must. Or I need the discipline to have a set time in the day to check emails and go online rather than cruising randomly  throughout the day.

 I have just downloaded the software to start this experiment. Perhaps I will at last be able to start my fourth novel. My new software is now installed (see I couldn’t wait to finish this writing before googling Freedom and installing it) It's installed for one hour (small steps). This feels rather liberating, although I had already planned to go out in fifteen minutes!

Thursday 7 February 2013

My Novel - Same As You

I have just finished a novel -well for the time being - and my agent is sending is out. In fact she may have already started to send it. Of the 5 novels I've written, 3 have been published, and this one, which is called Same As You, will hopefully be my fourth - the two central characters are identical twin sisters.

I'm not entirely sure how long I've been writing the novel for, but I've certainly been thinking about it for about four years and I've been at work on it for at least two.  Of all my books, this one has taken the longest for a few reasons. There was quite a bit of research to do about identical twins, talking to mothers of twins, reading about twins etc etc. Then through facebook I was in contact with my old school friends from boarding school, and they helped me remember some details of that grim place, where some of the action in the past, takes place.

I wanted to write a bit about the darkness of those days at school,(late seventies) and how cut off we all were from any kind of parental input/love/guidance. My particular school was a grim place, run by grim staff, and compared to today, the philosophy of teaching children was so different. I tried to imagine something terrible happening there, as it so easily could have done, because neglect and boredom bred rebellion.

The boarding school days have been weaved into my novel as a sub-plot in the past, combined with  a story about the twin sisters, who are estranged (in the present) when the book opens. The novel is really a background of their estrangement- how it happened, and whether they can come to some kind of rapprochement in the present day, when they are brought together by the death of their father. The book delves back to their teenage years, when they both loved one particular boy, and were separated because of him - one going to boarding school and one staying at home. 

I have really enjoyed writing it and I hope you will all get to read it. Fingers Crossed. It's such a nerve-wracking time, and i've had to go through it a few times.

My problem now, is that I can't seem to get down to thinking about another novel to write. Ideas come and go but none seem quite right. I hope something will come soon, because I am bereft without a novel to be immersed in.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Ripleys Believe It Or Not

To be honest, I'd never heard of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not  Which is strange, because I have lived in London all my life and I am the mother of two children aged 8 and 11, and it is situated in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. It is  the largest of the 33 Ripley's around the world and has houses a collection of  more than 700 weird, wonderful and chilling artefacts. Piccadilly Circus, is however, one of my least favourite places in London- a tacky tourist mecca, complete with Macdonalds and brightly-lit advertising, and stalls selling extortionate mini Red London buses, and the ubiquitous Union Jack Tee-shirts, but Ripley's is  easy to find, right outside one of the Picadilly Tube Exits. Once you enter the lobby, and find the model of the tallest man in the world playing in a band, alongside a model of a three legged man, and a tiny man in a birdcage (who was apparently held captive in a birdcage after he'd been arrested for stealing something) you will have forgotten the tack of Piccadilly anyway.

My 11-year-old  son had read the Ripley annual at a friends' house and loved it. He and his friend (who we bought along) are the absolute ideal visitors to Ripley's. My eight-year-old daughter had decided that visiting Ripley's was going to be really boring, (rather like going to a museum) but her conclusion was that it was 'awesome.' My sons's favourite exhibit was a life size knitted Ferrari and all three children loved the holagram of Mr Ripley talking about his collection.

Mr Robert Ripley was born in 1890 in Santa Rosa California, and was apparently one of the most famous people in the world during the first half of the 20th Century. He was  a cartoonist, explorer,  reporter, adventurer, illustrator, collector and seeker of the odd and unusual. He explored India, but his favorite destination was China, and for several months after he first traveled to the Orient, Ripley signed his cartoons Rip Li. It was also during these travels that he picked up many strange souvenirs that were the first of his huge collection.


My son has asked me to add that the collection is not for the squeamish - there are some shrunken heads and a two headed lamb and a 'scary' man with crocodile teeth, who starts talking as you pass by (which made me jump and scream) and a model of  man being electrocuted - push the button and watch him fizz.  There are also models of the tallest man and the fattest  and one of the smallest road-worthy cars ever produced. The experience is like a kind of 3D Guinness Book of Records .

After looking at the exhibits, we all loved running and screaming through the Mirror Maze, which is a series of columns and arches surrounded by hundreds of mirrored reflections in every direction. The floor lighting enhances the "infinity effect" by giving the illusion of continuing hallways. It was fun  to be excited and silly, all too often I have watched on the sidelines as the children have a rip roaring time, so it was good to join in. They  found getting lost in the maze hysterically funny.

The absolute highlight for the children was the laser game on the ground floor. They had to race against  the clock, one at a time, ducking and diving so as not to touch the lazer beams.

For a family ticket you would normally pay over £80 for a ticket to Ripley's but if you go to the moneysupermarket site, you can find discounted vouchers for all sorts of experiences, including Ripleys. We were lucky enough to be given a family ticket to review it for you.



Opening Times Open 365 days a year from 10:00 AM –  midnight
Last entry at 10:30 PM

Address: The London Pavillion
1 Piccadilly Circus
Telephone: +44 (0)20 3238 0022

Prices for Ripley's Believe It or Not! London
(Ultimate Explorer tickets – includes Mirror Maze and Laser Race)
15% off price when booking online at
Adult Ticket: £26.95 per ticket
Child Ticket: £21.95  per ticket
Family Ticket: £87.95 per ticket (2 adults, 2 children)
Concession Ticket: £24.95 per ticket

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