Friday, 28 January 2011

Bye Bye Baby, Baby Bye Bye!

I am off snowboarding for a week. It's a sport I love and I have always felt very privileged to be able to afford to do it (on a good year!) and thus far have always walked away from it free of broken bones or worse.

I will miss blogging and the Bush but know you'll look after the latter and I will make up for the former in due course...

Ciao for now x

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Picture This: To market, to market..

As part of my Shepherd's Bush Market challenge I took some pictures and these were the best. I love the colours despite it being a typically grey day in Shepherd's Bush.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Do you come from a land down under?

Happy Australia Day!! Shepherd's Bush is well established as a home from home for Australians and so I wish all Aussies celebrating Australia Day the very best day (and night, as I'm sure we will all witness in your magical form of fancy dress).

Also I wanted to bring to everyone's attention that there is a fundraising event at the Shepherd's Bush Walkabout on Saturday 29th January in aid of the floods that have devastated Queensland and other parts of the country, so go along to celebrate and support if you can and of course if you don't mind your clothes (and integrity) being drenched in VB.

And finally I wanted to say a special Happy Australia Day and dedicate this video clip to NewMan; my most favourite Australian, after Kylie.

WARNING - this clip contains a fairly offensive gobby Australian woman (man, I love her) from one of Australia's finest exports Underbelly.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Keep on Running... Training Run 12

Distance UPDATED: Have re-mapped this including the ins and outs of Thames Path and the total distance was 6.4 miles aka MORE THAN 10k! Woo hoo! (Pass me the cake...)
Time: Forgot to time properly but it was agreed to be about (and certainly no more than) 1 hour.
Area covered: Shepherd's Bush - Hammersmith - Thames Path to Putney Bridge - Fulham Palace Road back to Hammersmith - Shepherd's Bush Road home to Bush Sweet Bush.
Weather: Nice and mild (unlike my temper!)
Playlist: "Sorry I'm going slow", "God I'm so unfit", "I really hate running", "Seriously, why can't I do this", "I fucking hate running!", "I'm not sure I can do this,", "Have we run 10k yet?" lyrics and moaning all by Bird in the Bush.
Comments: For some odd reason I have never liked running with people. So after years of on-off lone running and consistently avoiding taking a running partner, I have virtually developed a phobia of running with someone else. However I really need to get over this as I hope to train and do the race with some good mates. The first poor guinea pig in my running partner therapy was one of my new Shepherd's Bush twitter buddies Darren. He also happens to be a former semi professional athlete who regularly cycles 100s of kilometres and I have now learnt is certainly no snail when it comes to running either. He is also officially one of the most patient and pleasant people I have met. I cursed, complained and moaned most of the way; so much so that he very seriously asked me if I was going to hit him, twice. I didn't nor did I even actually want to. Even though I truly hated running with a very fit someone else at a different pace and on a different route (and with a new blister growing quickly on an old blister) I knew once it was all over I would feel good for it. This alone spurred me on and I "found another gear" for the last kilometre. And I do feel good for it. Thank you Darren, though I still can't believe you've agreed to come for another run with me!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Keep on Running... Training Run 11

Distance: 4.1 miles. 
Time: 35 minutes - ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!
Area covered: Shepherd's Bush - around Brook Green - back through Shepherd's Bush - St Petersburg Place - back to Holland Park roundabout.
Weather: Chilly but not too cold. 
Playlist: Kings of Leon, ABBA, Wayne Wonder (I have no shame), Chromeo, Aeroplane, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Jimi Hendrix, Shy Child.
Comments: After a rah-ubbish run on Friday night (it was a disaster from start to finish, including witnessing a cyclist get knocked off his bike in Holland Park) I dug out an old half marathon training program to try to resurrect some direction and focus. This program is dedicated to 3 short and fast(ish) runs and 1 long run each week. Although I'm not up to the long distances I should be doing I wanted to see if I could do the short fast ones so today my mission was 4 miles in 35 minutes. I am very, very chuffed that I achieved this. I am even more chuffed to have achieved this in my new running leggings which gave me a crotch lower than MC Hammer's. You can't touch this.

Don't you want to see these clothes on me?

In some ways I failed in my Shepherd's Bush Market challenge. In other ways I think there were actually victories for more parties than just myself. I ended up buying three items for my Saturday night outfit from Shepherd's Bush Market that I had every intention of throwing together to create an outfit, however these three items (a hat, a neck scarf and a pair of earrings) sadly lacked enough flesh-coverage to be worn on their own. As for finding a whole outfit? Quite frankly the rest of the clothing stalls in Shepherd's Bush Market left me slightly uninspired and wanting to have a good wash. This is not a market to fulfil your fashion fix. However, it was a bloody good laugh trying to do so.

My favourite new hat - "Available in 55 colours, my dear" - £3.00 from Shepherd's Bush Market

As always the Shepherd's Bush charity shops came to my rescue and I managed to add substance and modesty to my outfit finding a cotton, red GAP dress, a vintage olive green faux-leather belt and a vintage (well past-season) Jigsaw handbag in Age Concern for a total cost of £18.00. 

I also had one of those rare but cherished moments when you find a true designer label bargain when I clapped eyes on a Massimo Dutti Women's black cord blazer in brilliant condition with a dress-size-reducing fit for just £3.00. 

By the time I landed in Fara I was on a crazy spending high and before coming down I purchased a Dallas-inspired 1980s patent plastic black and gold handbag (£6.00), of which I embarrassingly already have many. However I was restrained enough not to purchase a beautiful baby pink Cos cardigan in Fara and I didn't indulge in the now passing trend of velvet despite there being a number of very cool, very velvet, very vintage maxi dresses in all three charity shops. Flatmate Mo, who joined me and supervised the mission she set, was both impressed and slightly disturbed at my love for charity shopping as I nose-dived into each rack of clothes, but I must say she showed off some excellent skills herself when it came to identifying brilliant vintage home and kitchenware pieces. There was something quite exciting about all this charity shop shopping now that I have learnt more about the people who live in and around the Bush via this blog. I couldn't help but consider if anyone would recognise any of these items I've just bought?

Our Saturday night cocktails and dreams gathering went well and wearing most of my purchases I received no fewer than four compliments on my dress (including NewMan's "you look very nice" which is a very exciting progression from his usual "you look nice"). 

Then as I poured my 7th glass of homemade Pink Punch, my good mate JB's lovely girlfriend turned to me and said "Is that dress from Gap? And is it like really old? I think I've got the exact same dress. I wear it all the time,". Now then. I could have taken this as a loaded compliment, which insinuated that my charity shop choice was old and out-dated rather than re-loved vintage. Instead I chose to interpret it as a uncomplicated compliment; that I had invested in a reliable item of clothing, one that JB's girlfriend had loved enough to keep for many years. I chose to believe that this dress had served one person well and was to now serve me well. Furthermore the money I spent on it went to a good cause. When it comes to charity shop shopping, this is about as good as it gets.

It may not have been the precise mission I set out to achieve on Saturday but I'm proud to say there was at least one mission accomplished.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Living for the weekend

Thanks to a slow week at work, I have been on a steady countdown to these two days at the end of the week when I don't have to get up before I'd like to and I don't have to sacrifice time with my favourite things (writing, flat, friends and NewMan) for long days at work, long runs at dusk and admittedly this week, one long night out.

This weekend I am going to be happily pottering around in Shepherd's Bush. Mo and I have some friends coming over for cocktails and dreams at the flat tonight and during the week I proposed to her that we keep it all "Shepherd's Bush". No, not a bulk take-away from Dallas Chicken and keeping our guests' Martini glasses full with Special Brew: I have suggested that we go for a nice local lunch together prior to then buy all our cocktail and canapé ingredients from the Market or Uxbridge Road grocery shops, and then maybe hit (hopefully not literally) a local bar after we have drunk our flat dry.

Mo, knowing full well that this suggestion was blog-motivated, very politely agreed but then flip-reversed the challenge on me: "Ok, well then I challenge you to buy your whole outfit for Saturday from Shepherd's Bush Market? And wear it." 

If there was ever a challenge that had my name written all over it, this has to be it. Worryingly I even already have some ideas. I have negotiated with Mo that I can include the very fine Shepherd's Bush charity shops if Uxbridge Road is in our sights and I am still looking naked of ideas or plastic bags. However, I remain optimistic and excited. As one Bush tweetie-pie, Kerry, commented when I mentioned this challenge to her, I will at the very least look "flammable".

My mind then wondered and wandered on to consider other challenges I could attempt in Shepherd's Bush and blog about. I already want to do start a new feature I'm going to call BushTucker Trials (no brain cells were damaged in deciding that name), and Trial Number One will be a Falafel-off (try saying that before your morning cup of tea) in an attempt to identify my favourite falafel outlet in Shepherd's Bush. You also may or may not know I'm committed to a long term challenge of finding the best curry in W12, but I am always open to more challenges and ideas from fellow Bush-ites. 

The more I write this blog, the more I realise that we W12 (and periphery) residents share one very important quality: our sense of humour. I want us to share and enjoy this on this blog (yeah maybe exploiting it a little bit) but most of all I want to make sure that this shines through to those who don't "get" why we choose to live here, and enjoy doing so.

Friday, 21 January 2011

UPDATE: Saturday night at the movies

I just received an update from Open Cinema that they are holding a fund raising event next Thursday evening (d'oh! at the same time as an already arranged Bush gathering) and I have been asked to share the details with you. I'm going to spend the next few days working out if I can actually be in two places at once as it does sound like a very interesting, entertaining and even educational evening and let's face it, Shepherd's Bush night life doesn't always offer us that!

So if you're able to go please do, it will be a great way to support the Bush. You can then pop down to The Goldhawk feeling all virtuous. Here comes the press release...

On Thursday 27th January 2011, from 7.30pm, Open Cinema will be taking part in a special fundraising event for the St Stephen’s Film Club in Shepherd’s Bush – the newest addition to their nationwide network of community cinemas. Organised and hosted by the St Stephen’s Film Club, this event will feature a panel debate on the question “Can cinema be an agent of change?”.

Confirmed panelists include Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries; Oscar-nominated and BAFTA winning film producer Stephen Woolley, author and journalist Toby Young, and Christoph Warrack, founder and CEO of Open Cinema.

Tickets for the fundraiser are priced at £25, and include entry to the debate, canapés and drinks. All proceeds will go to the St Stephen’s Film Club, which plans to offer weekly film screenings and film-making projects for the local homeless and elderly communities in Shepherd’s Bush.

For tickets and further information, please contact 

ST STEPHEN’S FILM CLUB is a charitable non-profit organisation set up in association
with the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas to show films in their new church hall in
Coverdale Road Shepherd’s Bush. It is managed by the church committee, staffed by local
volunteers, and supported by Open Cinema.
OPEN CINEMA is a national network of film clubs programmed by and for homeless and
socially excluded people. Each week participants watch the best in contemporary cinema and
work with professional filmmakers to create films of their own. Open Cinema takes film to
people at the margins, and brings them and their aspirations to the centre of cultural life.
For more information about The Church of St Stephen and St Thomas, please visit
http://www.ststephensw12.orgFor more information on Open Cinema, please visit

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Keep on Running... Training Run 9

Distance: 6 miles 
Time: 58 minutes (Faster, if not Stronger or Better, though it is getting Harder)
Area covered: Shepherd's Bush - around Brook Green - back through Shepherd's Bush - Clarendon Place (halfway between Lancaster Gate & Marble Arch tubes) - back to the Bush
Weather: Nippy, in more ways than one. In fact it was very nippy in two specific ways.
Playlist: Possibly my most eclectic mix yet - Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga, 30 Seconds to Mars, Chromeo, (more) Grum, ABBA, 50 Cent, Phoenix, Jill Scott, Free, Empire of the Sun, The Clash, Soulwax, Kylie Minogue, Wu Tang Clan, Justice, Boy-8-Bit, The Foreign Exchange and the brilliant Jaguar Wright who I'm seeing tonight at Jazz Cafe.
Comments: My ITB is tighter than a nun's... sorry. Start again. My ITB is super tight and since Saturday's run, my knee has been hurting much more than I'd have liked so I was very anxious about last night's run. However with other people in my half marathon "team" now regularly doing more than 10km in their training runs I wanted to try to at least conquer that. Sadly it wasn't meant to be and after struggling up to Notting Hill (or Not-happening Hill as I've renamed it) and beyond, on the way back I knew I'd have to cut the full distance short so stopped just before the Holland Park roundabout to amuse motorists with my special ITB stretches and my all time favourite (for looking a twerp) windmill stretch.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Let's get together?

After a successful first tweet up last month it's happening again. Please do come along and meet up with other local people who live and love (most of the time) Shepherd's Bush.

Date: Thursday 27th January 2011
Time: 8:00 pm and beyond
Location: The Goldhawk, 122-124 Goldhawk Road, W12 8HH - A small area has been reserved and, based on our last visit, the ale, red wine and nachos approved of.
Suggested initial topics of discussion
  • West12 Morrisons' unique level of customer service (again)
  • What do you consider to be the worst thing on W12 streets; chicken bones, dog poo or saliva?
  • Westfield: Friend or foe?
  • Goldhawk Road v. Uxbridge Road: Discuss
  • (Inspired by/robbed off @matsmithphotog) Boris bikes in Shepherd's Bush: Would they really be  more than just chewing gum receptacles, ashtrays and graffiti easels?
Bring any friends, lovers, partners or vague associates along. I am in the process of persuading Mo to join in so be gentle with her if she does show her lovely face. Any questions or if you need more information drop me an email.

See you next Thursday.

Bird x

Sunday, 16 January 2011

I hope you don't mind, that I've put down in words...

About a week ago I told NewMan about this here little blog of mine. At first he didn't want to read it, choosing the ignorance is bliss approach. I think he also assumed the worst as I had explained he was fast becoming a mysterious protagonist which would most certainly contradict his stubborn preference to avoid any online limelight; the freak of social networking nature is not even on Facebook!

One evening some days later, having totally forgotten that I'd come out, I received a text from him simply saying "Haha, NewMan." I took this as a good sign, whilst simultaneously logging on to Blogger in a panic to check all references to him were indeed positive (but of course not too positive). Our work and social schedules took over and it wasn't until this morning over tea and toast that we began talking about the blog and this secret life I have as the Bird in the Bush. I was shocked by his reaction. He was not only complimentary ("It's good. You're funny" - high and very wordy praise for NewMan), but also supportive and encouraging, despite also mentioning the dirty word "monetise" more than a few times.

I have always said that actions speak louder than words and so when he then found and guided me through the registration process, I didn't need much more convincing that not only did he approve of the blog, he was willing to do so for the immediate future. So thank you NewMan for my very own domain name, thank you for allowing me to continue to mention you, and thank you for agreeing to come with me as I try out more Shepherd's Bush bars, restaurants and shops ("Free food? Awesome."). But most of all, I thank you for effectively now publicly agreeing to be the best boyfriend ever or risk being named and shamed, logged and blogged faster than it takes an unprepared shopper in West12 Morrisons to lose the will to live.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Keep on Running... Training Run 7

Distance: 5.8 miles
Time: 59 minutes (I am still struggling to find 4th gear.)
Area covered: The Burbs - where I am for the weekend for Mum's birthday. More ups than downs geographically (and thankfully mentally!)
Weather: A cold wind was a-blowing, otherwise quite cool but not bitterly so.
Playlist: The Go! Team. Alphabeat (will feature a lot - I heart Scando-Pop), Temper Trap, (lots and lots of) Grum, Quincy Jones, Doves, Wham!, Drake,  Desmond & The Tutus, Passion Pit
Comments: This is the first training run I've done where I've felt fit. I may not look it, sound it or be it but I really did feel fit today. However my knee/ITB deficiency decided to re-introduce himself around 4 miles in, which is as frustrating as it is painful when I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere. It was bizarre not pounding the pavements of a W postcode and I missed the lack of familiar landmarks and sights (Somali men chatting outside cafes on Goldhawk Road, Middle Eastern men chatting outside cafes on Uxbridge Road, Posh people chatting outside cafes in Holland Park) and I have to say the streets of our fair Bush are much better lit than here in a Home County. After clocking up 18 miles this week I am unsurprisingly looking forward to a rest day tomorrow. What is more of a shock is that I'm then looking forward to getting going again on Monday.

Friday, 14 January 2011

All the small things: 6. Shepherd's Bush Empire

Shepherd's Bush Empire, or the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire as I should now grudgingly refer to it, is one of my favourite places in Shepherd's Bush, and in London. I love music and I really love good live music. It therefore follows that I save a little bit of my love for a good live music venue. In my opinion Shepherd's Bush Empire is a very good live music venue.

Having hosted innumerable bands, artists and other acts (and even soon Gary Barlow's 40th birthday party) in its lifetime, it has a capacity of around 2000 which makes it a comparatively small live music venue in London (the (HMV) Hammersmith Apollo holds just over 8000 and the (O2) Brixton Academy just under 5000). When it comes to live music venues I will always prefer smaller and more intimate spaces (which is why I probably favour Bush Hall over the Empire, just slightly).

Here comes the history bit. Built in 1903, unlike other London popular music venues, it was actually purpose built as a music hall as opposed to a cinema or theatre. It was designed by the same architect responsible for blessing our fair city with the Hackney Empire, London Palladium and London Coliseum. Many then popular music hall acts graced the stage in the first years including Charlie Chaplin in 1906. As with many buildings and areas around Shepherd's Bush and White City, the BBC inhabited the Empire and it became BBC Television Theatre in 1953. For nearly 40 years it was the home to a number of TV shows that are still fondly remembered by my generation; Jim'll Fix It, This is Your Life and The Generation Game. (More fascinating information about former BBC theatre/television studios can be found here - it really is quite remarkable how integrated the BBC was in and around W12 and W6.) The BBC and its cameras left in 1991 paving the way for it to become one of the most famous London music venues. Amongst the many bands to have played there many released very successful live albums recorded at Shepherd's Bush Empire including some of my personal (and my Dad's) favourites; local band The Who, local boy Gary Numan and the not so local The Wedding Present.

Now as a Shepherd's Bush resident it is impossible for me to walk, run or be bus-ed past Shepherd's Bush Empire without glancing over to see who is next to headline. It then follows that I curse myself because I have missed a band I love, or I realise that the Bush will soon be hosting an influx of (delete as applicable) over-excited teenage girls/metalheads/checked shirts/emo-fringes/rooting-tooting-country-music-cowboys (*delete as applicable) and I plan my escape.

Depressingly I have only been to Shepherd's Bush Empire on three occasions for gigs, with my first visit being embarrassingly recent. (It was about 3 years ago on a bizarre date with an Irish guy I barely knew and my brother and his girlfriend who I thankfully did know slightly better.) The band were the very brilliant and amusing We Are Scientists. My second visit was last year to see the delicious Paloma Faith with J of West Hampstead Life fame (I was also treated to a pre-gig kebab at Woody's Grill - a perfect Shepherd's Bush evening!). Ms Faith did not disappoint both vocally and visually with her stunning outfit choices. And finally I was there fairly recently with a bunch of mates to see a band I lusted after in my teens, Ash.

So far Shepherd's Bush Empire has treated me and my love of music well, but it is certainly a local venue I take for granted and one I want to frequent more often. I am now looking up up-coming artists. Though tempted by the likes of Europe and Shakin' Stevens (something for everyone!) and maybe too late for The Walkmen, I am tempted by Cee-Lo Green (someone who I've loved since his Goodie Mob days and pre Gnarls Barkley albums).

It did sadden me a little that there was only generic information on the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire website about its history and no reference at all to its worthy purpose as the BBC Television Theatre. I think it's important not to overlook the history of these places. I am reminded of how sad I was when it was decided to demolish the similarly sized venue London Astoria (RIP) a few years ago. It would certainly be heart-breaking, for both W12 residents and music fans alike, if the Empire was ever to face such a fate. I suppose then, I shouldn't be so quick to ignore the O2 in O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire if it is keeping a well-loved part of both a local community and a wider music community alive with the sound of music.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Keep on Running... Training Run 5

Distance: 5.1 miles. I haven't run that far in nearly two years.
Time: 55 minutes (Slow, but not as slow as I thought I was)
Area covered: Shepherd's Bush Green - Turnham Green - Acton Lane - Jizz-wick High Road - Hammer-time-smith Grove - Shepherd's Bush
Weather: Mild with intermittent and, quite frankly, pathetic rain.
Playlist: Isley Brothers, Elvis Costello, Black Kids, Mumford & Sons, Wouter Hamel, Cheryl Lynn, The Fray (yeah, I said it), Jarabe de Palo, Deadmau5, Ash, Jackie Wilson
Comments: I really didn't want to go for this run. I was tired and had dead legs from the 4 miles I did yesterday. Thanks to some encouraging words from flatmate Mo and the super lovely and seemingly super fit Bush Bloke Darren, I hit the streets and am sure once I eventually cool down I will indeed feel better for it, just like they said. On my run I was sad to see The Prince pub has now been replaced by a circa-2002-trendy looking "Raving Buddha" (contradiction in terms?). I also saw two women who could have been mother and daughter showing up for work at Secrets on Glenthorne Road, which was nice.

And if you're interested this is the song that made sure it was 5.1 miles not 5 miles. I have very fond memories of the music video as my Dad had a VHS recording of it (from MTV when it was re-released in 1986) that I would beg him to play-rewind-play-rewind-play-rewind. He's my hero.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Saturday night at the movies

Well Tuesday night actually. This is the plan for a potential new community project in Shepherd's Bush. Called Open Cinema, I picked up on their call for local W12 volunteers on Twitter and contacted the Volunteers Opportunities team. Eleanor promptly came back to me with the following information about them and about how we in Shepherd's Bush could help - I'm sure she won't mind me quoting her exact words here:

"Open Cinema is a non-profit social enterprise, and we run a network of film clubs all around the UK for marginalised communities. We've done a lot of work with homeless groups, partnering with hostels like St Mungos and day centres like The Connection at St Martins, but we've also started to partner up with community organisations who want to do something for people in their local area. You can read more about our network as a whole on our website:

In Shepherd's Bush, we're partnering with the community centre attached to the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas in Coverdale Road. They approached us about setting up a film club for the local area's homeless community and elderly local residents, and they want to run screenings for each group on alternative weeks (so one week homeless, the next elderly) with some general community events too. They've already found a coordinator to run the screenings and lead the volunteers, so we just need a group of volunteers to help him out with things like making tea, collecting donations of sandwiches and handing them out, helping to set up and tidy up the screening room (we use proper kit - projectors, surround sound, big screen...) and generally engaging with our guests, chatting to them about films and making the screenings a friendly and welcoming environment.

The night when the screenings will be hasn't quite been set yet, but we think it's going to be Thursday nights from 6-9pm, starting in early Feb. Volunteers won't have to come along every week, but 2 or 3 nights each month would be best as it helps us to establish a good sense of community. Prospective volunteers should have a strong interest in film (all kinds welcome... blockbuster action to art house indies and everything in between) and preferably some experience of voluntary work with the homeless, elderly or other isolated social groups. Shepherd's Bush locals are preferred too - we want this to be a community focused project."

For anyone who is interested I have Eleanor's contact details so please get in touch via the blog or drop me an email. I am going to sign up - so let me know if you are too!

When will I have my picture in the paper?

When, indeed? Well today it sort of kind of happened. The Guardian's Top-Top London Blogger, Dave Hill, featured Bird in the Bush as a Top London Blogger today.

Some of my favourite London blogs have featured on this list including the tirelessly brilliant (for "proper" W12 news as opposed to my ramblings about boys and frocks) Chris Underwood's Shepherd's Bush Blog, Annie Mole's Going Underground (as featured t'other day prior to me jinxing the Central Line) and my new friend (and super lovely) J's West Hampstead Life. It follows that I am just incredibly chuffed to have been spotted, added and received in exactly the way I intended to be; as a "conversational" blog about living in an area I love for all the right and wrong reasons.

So maybe tonight I will go out and walk down Uxbridge Road to get some fried chicken and then throw the well-gnawed on bones down on the pavement near some dog poo to celebrate à la real Shepherd's Bush...?? No. Of course I won't. That's not my style. I also see and believe that there is so much more to Shepherd's Bush than that. And this little bit of exposure just makes me all the more determined to keep writing about it.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Keep on Running... Training Run 2

Distance: 4 miles, around 500m of which was much slower due to NewMan (a.k.a The Pace Killer) calling.
Time: 41 minutes (2 minutes of which was panting on phone to NewMan ...not like that...honest)
Area covered: Shepherd's Bush Green to Lancaster Gate tube station and back again.
Weather: A nearly tropical 11 degrees, lots of "slippery when wet" pavements after a full day of rain.
Playlist: A-Trak, Milton Hamilton, The Jam, Mis-Teeq (Yep that's right, "M with the I with The S-T double E Q"), Marina & The Diamonds, Fats Domino.
Comments: Managed the uphill stretch to Notting Hill very well. Dead legs for last mile. Spurred me on seeing other people consuming (drinking, eating etc). Note to self - must stretch more or will lose my super bendy hip flexors.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Keep on Running...

I am currently training for a half marathon. Having just returned from my first "official" training run, I am now sweatily aware that I am going to need more than a decent pair of trainers and some banging tunes to get me around 13.1 miles.

This won't actually be my first half marathon. Over the last five years I have completed the Reading Half and the Great North Run (2hrs15min and 2hrs6min respectively) and I have done a hat trick of 10 mile Great South Runs, the last one in all-in-one lycra with my wonderful friend, Bobby (see embarrassing evidence below).

I stopped signing up for more runs 18 months ago for two reasons; 1. I developed a persistently painful case of ITB syndrome and 2. I realised that I just don't enjoy running that much and would rather spend my time doing other things.

However a group of friends, including flatmate Mo, and the extra kilos I have gained since reducing regular runs have recently persuaded me to do the Reading Half Marathon... again.*

Seeing as this is my blog, I'm going to darn well use it; to track any kind of progress, to outpour my suffering and to give me another reason to run. So with 74 days to go here starts a diary of me, miles and my love-hate relationship with running. (NB I will not blog every run I do. I actually like my readers.)

Training Run 1

Distance: 3.2 miles
Time: No way brave enough to time this yet, but according to songs played on my Run Rabbit playlist, approximately 35 minutes (SLOW!)
Area covered: Shepherd's Bush - Hammersmith - Askew Road - Home-Sweet-Home.
Weather: Drizzle for shizzle.
Playlist: Friendly Fires, A-Ha, Miike Snow, Empire of the Sun, MSTRFRFT, Ben Westbeech, T2, The Futureheads.
Comments: Surprisingly comfortable most of the way round. Flashdanced over water leak on Shepherd's Bush Road. Wobbly pace on Askew Road. Small jog-asm near KFC on Uxbridge Road. Dreading upping speed and distance already.

* Having done all the aforementioned tortures, I mean, runs for Cancer Research or Marie Curie Cancer Care, I will definitely be running it for charity but to date we haven't all been able to decide on a cause as a group. I am therefore actually researching a local Shepherd's Bush project or cause that I can run for on me tod. Any ideas or suggestions would be gratefully received!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Love on the line

Ah how lovely... nearly two tube and work free weeks have gone by and how do TfL welcome us back? With a price increase of 6% or more and some delayed running services. This morning I paid my £106.00 with only a little gulp as this will not only cover a month of work journeys but also my numerous navigations across Zones 1-2 for various social callings. I know, however, there are many who do not benefit as much from their season tickets and no matter how many journeys you make £106 is still £106.

After living in and around London for most of my adult life I have learnt that there are those London residents who applaud London Underground, and there are those who abhor it. I am a member of Team Applaud. I believe London would be a drastically different place without it. I almost can't quite imagine a London with no Underground. Not only would we be lacking in hundreds of points of reference but I would go so far as to say the population would be greatly reduced (one point for the Team Abhor?) and our approach to travelling across our vast and overwhelming city very different and cumbersome. In brief, whether you like it or not, use it or not, London wouldn't be the London we know and love (most of the time) without the London Underground network thundering along under us.

I have previously blogged about the excellent public transport links in and out of Shepherd's Bush, but in my opinion our greatest transportation asset has to surely be the Central Line. Every morning on auto-pilot I join the herd who descend under Shepherd's Bush tube station to play seat-lottery and head east to jobs in the City or the West End. I have learnt that the very journey I do (Shepherd's Bush to Bank) was the actual original length of the Central Line or the Central London Railway as it was known when it opened in 1900. I am filled with a sense of nostalgia thinking that people have been making the same daily journey I do (to seek their fortunes as grumpy and glum faced as we are) for more than 100 years.

Considered one of the "Deep Level" tube lines it is the fastest on the London Underground network, for which I am very grateful as my average commute is a very civilised 35 minutes door to door. Every day as I alight the train at Shepherd's Bush, I observe the flock of people that come with me and am confident that many of them are West-East commuters like myself as opposed to East-Westfield shoppers.

I think this post has to make a special reference to the staff at Shepherd's Bush Central Line station who are mostly a great asset to Transport for London. My friend SJ has often confirmed this to me when she presents herself there as a VIP (visually impaired person ...AND very important person I like to think). In particular there is a very jolly man (I think he is called Martin) with a soul-warming Caribbean accent who I unashamedly make a bee-line for when queuing for my monthly renewal (another point for Team Abhor - the automated machines have let me down on more than one occasion). He is quick to chat, to joke and even to flirt a little which personally I think at 7.40 in the morning should always be applauded.

I know many will have a different opinion of the Central Line, the London Underground and Transport for London in general. Maybe it's because of my new year's resolution of seeing the cup and my life as half full, but I applaud the Central Line for 90% of the time getting me to and from work in a speedy, efficient and only occasionally crumpled and crushed fashion.

(I know that this blog will prompt reactions from both sides of the track (geddit!?!) so for Team Applaud it's worth taking a little time perusing this award winning very brilliant and insightful blog about London Underground)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Jamie, what are you doing now?*

Love him or hate him, Jamie Oliver must be doing something right. He was the recipe book Christmas top seller and he seems to be on television more than Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Lord Sugar put together. I even bought his recent scandal-making book for the virgin chef NewMan for Christmas. (Shock horror a man mis-times how long it takes to finish something!?! I am certainly counting on the recipes keeping NewMan busier for much longer than 30 minutes.)

The other week I went for lunch at Jamie's Italian with one of my best friends Bella, who has just recently moved back to UK after a few years in Africa. We had a lot to catch up on so we didn't mind waiting the necessary 30 minutes (!) for a table. It was the week after Christmas... I actually don't think our wait was that long but it's amazing how distracted I can get with a glass of Prosecco in my hand and a good friend by my side.

We were shown to one of the canteen-esque tables just to the side of the bar. It was neither uncomfortable or unpleasant but it wasn't the best table in the restaurant and I must admit a less metal chair and a lack of waiting staff running around us in all directions could have gone a long way. We shared a mushroom bruschetta as a starter which was exactly how it was described in the menu, though perhaps half the size of what I would like to pay over £5.00 for.

For a main course I wanted to try Jamie's Beautfiul Bucatini Carbonara, one of the most basic but trickiest Italian dishes to really master with flair, while Bella went for the Grilled Chicken with some Posh Chips. When making our order we also jovially enquired whether Jamie was sweating away in the kitchen that day awaiting our order. Our waitress informed us that he wasn't. Her polite yet patronising smile lingered a little too long.

My carbonara was more carborama, if I'm honest. The bucatini pasta was deliciously different but pretty filling and I could have done with more therefore being made of Jamie's additional touches. The "ribbons of leak" were more string like and I had to discreetly retrieve no fewer than five half-chewed pieces of pancetta from my mouth due to some nasty fatty gristle.

Bella, on the other hand, described and disposed of her chicken with considerable gusto calling it "soooo flavoursome" and "well lush". I passed up the opportunity to try it but did rob a few of her so-called Posh Chips. They weren't quite "insanely good" as no doubt one enthusiastic member of Jamie's team chose to describe them on the menu, but they were very good.

Our overdue catch-up must have been a calorie catalyst, as we fond ourselves ordering pudding, both choosing to go for some old school scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Old school was perhaps quite an apt description as they came out in little metal desert dishes like the ones I used to eat out of during primary school lunches. (Ahh so that's why he wanted to re-vamp school meals so he could steal all the retro receptacles for his posh restaurants!) Presentation aside, the ice cream was delicious and the honey comb and caramel sauce toppings a nice touch and a hint at Jamie's loyalty to tried and tasted flavours that will always work.

I think that's why I have never really minded Jamie, despite the OTT media circus that now follows his every splash of olive oil. Mr Oliver actually does know what works in cooking and rather than change it, his creativity is in adding to it or indeed in finding new ways to achieve it. With the occasional exception his recipes reflect this. Unfortunately I'm not sure the same can be said for his attempt at an Italian restaurant. Jamie's Italian puts too much focus on an elaborate and increasingly corporate image and brand (complete with a list of merchandise included in the menu). He's missed a real trick here as I do believe he's more than capable of delivering a wholesome, well-designed and lovingly cooked Italian menu, which is something, unlike possibly Jamie Oliver The Brand, that will never, ever be unpopular.

* An excellent song by the excellent band Weezer.