Friday, 29 April 2011

Get your passport and your bikini...

Go on, throw rotten tomatoes and swollen sponges of water at me... I am off on holiday. Again. Sorry... Just a quickie this time; a long weekend in Spain with NewMan (whose fault it is as he booked this as a half-surprise anniversary getaway).

Look after the Bush for me and I'll be back soon hopefully with a tan and not too much of a cocktail belly...

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Video killed the radio star?

Just saw this promotional video for Bushstock which amused me a little bit so I wanted to share.

I am now planning to compiling E-fits of all these people who claim to be "going to Bushstock" and if I don't see every single one of them there I'll be on to Trading Standards for false advertising. Not really. It's actually a nice little reminder that I am very much looking forward to. (It was also fun trying to work out where the videos were filmed; I spotted Ginglik and Notting Hill Arts Club - any others?) Word on the Bush-vine is that three more headliner acts have been confirmed and are being announced very soon. I also see that the event is now being sponsored by Vedett Extra Blond Lager - anyone know how drinkable this is?

For more information about the Line Up and tickets click here.

Love and Marriage

My kind of LOVE (Bird and Bird's food at Jamie's Italian, Westfield)

Ahhh help! Catch me! I'm falling into the trap of the royal nuptials and am blogging about weddings and marriage.

Well no, I'm not, it's more a climax of coincidental timing which has induced a strange need to write about marriage. I have been thinking about weddings and what it means to get married, yes, because of the royal wedding but also because this summer my brother is marrying his long term very lovely girlfriend; slowly but surely I have become caught up in something of a wedding whirlwind despite my cynical self.

I'd be lying if I said I'd never thought about marriage and getting married. Once upon a time at a younger more innocent age, I may even have conjured up long elaborate day dreams about my wedding day complete with a timeless frock based loosely on the wedding dress worn by Grace Kelly in High Society. In this daydream I am married in the beautiful church of Notre Dame in Marseille (obviously) and afterwards I celebrate by dancing to a swing band in the vineyards of Aix en Provence drinking pink champagne. I envisage 8 bridesmaids, 1 gay matron of honour and my Dad and I share many soppy Father of the Bride moments. My hair looks perfect, my teeth have been whitened, I am a stone lighter in weight and possibly one bra size bigger. However, for all my daydreaming there has always been one crucial element missing; my future husband.  For some reason my daydream edited out all the key moments when a man was required. Oh how daydreams often imitate life!

I now recognise that my future husband was faceless because for this particular daydream to come true he is actually completely surplus to requirements. Money permitting I can have the dress, go to lovely French churches and dance in vineyards with my friends. I could even get a boob job, and I will think about maybe going on a diet.Why wait for my wedding day?

My point is, a wedding is just a wedding. Yes tomorrow will be a big deal for Kate and Wills and my brother's wedding day will be a wonderful day for them. But it will be just a day. Getting married, and in particular staying married is about much, much more. This goes for those who choose not to marry, but to quite simply be committed to another person for a lifetime. It is about emotions, ideas and intentions that I'm not able to qualify or quantify in words. Maybe one day. What I can understand and appreciate is that it is importantly about finding and sticking with a very, very special other person.

Despite my lacklustre attitude towards tomorrow's royal wedding (I will be blissfully unaware and potentially already under the influence on a plane on my way to sunnier climes) I hope Commoner Kate and Prince William have found their very special other persons.

I await my brother's wedding day with much more emotion (I cried when I got the invite, ye Gods!!) and excitement, because they have found in each other a very special person and a very special love. They have a lovely day and a lovely marriage to look forward to. I am also going to be a bridesmaid and my dress is really pretty.

My brother and his very special person.

I couldn't help but end with a few quotes I found about marriage, starting with no less than the Grandfather of the Groom's take on it all: 

"When a man opens the car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife." Prince Philip

"Come, let's be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be, that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with."  Charles Dickens

"Husbands are like fires.  They go out when unattended." Zsa Zsa Gabor

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person." Germaine Greer

"The trouble with some women is that they get all excited about nothing - and then marry him." Cher

"Any married man should forget his mistakes - no use two people remembering the same thing." Duane Dewel

"Marriage is a wonderful invention: then again, so is a bicycle repair kit."  Billy Connolly

I think I like this the best:  

"Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths." Mark Twain

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Skinny Love

Dear Blog Readers, in my recent post about Goldhawk Road I admit I failed to include one of the road's most interesting and indeed recently famous buildings. I was rightly pulled up on this by one of my beloved Bush Twitterati and many other informative and interesting tweets ensued. The building and the subject: the skinniest house in London, and one that most long-term Shepherd's Bush residents will know about.

Source: Faded London
It took me a year or so to work out that this strange black thin door and modern-art-exhibit-esque window were not for a secret art gallery or late night cabaret-bowler-hat fetish club. In actual fact, and at the risk of letting down my overactive imagination, it is for a two bedroom terraced house. However, my fascination has remained and when at the end of 2009 the property was actually up for sale the national press picked up on the property's unique slimline dimensions and were given a behind the keyhole peek. I'm not sure how quickly it sold but I cherished the opportunity to nosey at some pictures of the inside of this property which at it's thinnest is less than 6ft wide, so thought maybe you'd like to see them too.

Aside from the bedroom (no room to swing a cat let alone a man!) I think the layout maximises the space there is and I love the impossible looking staircase. The house was reportedly on the market for just over £550,000, which is a lot of money for what I have been told was once upon a time just an alley way between the two adjoining shops. It is therefore testament to our ever expanding city, and indeed to the popularity of real estate in Shepherd's Bush, that this unique property is worth more than half a million pounds. That, and possibly the estate agent's crafty PR campaign!

Photos: Faded London and Daily Mail.

I really love your tiger feet...

This Saturday a group of QPR fans are walking 15 miles from Loftus Road to Watford Town's ground on Vicarage Road to (hopefully!) get there in time for the away game kick-off. With a promotion tantalisingly close, there is a real buzz around Shepherd's Bush at the potential prospect of hosting Barclays Premier League teams at Loftus Road and so this is the perfect time to promote some of the other achievements of QPR Football Club.

Registered charity QPR in the Community has the sole aim of using its power, reach and influence as a family and community football club to give back to and form strong connections to local residents and supporters. They should be proud to say that QPR won Community Club of the Year Best Disability Project in 2011 at the Football League Awards. One of their projects is QPR's Tiger Cubs. Set up in 2008, QPR Tiger Cubs provides weekly football training for youngsters with Down's syndrome, it is one of the only clubs in the South East offering this and it is for this very worthy cause that 30 people will be heading north to Watford on Saturday.

One of the Tiger Feet Walk organisers, James, told me that he was inspired to help Tiger Clubs after seeing them play during half time at a home game against Barnsley in 2009. He told me that he spoke with fellow QPR fan and friend Chris, whose daughter has Down's syndrome, about organising an event and impressively in April 2010 thanks to James' and others' hard work a very successful walk from Loftus Road to Selhurst Park raised over £9,600.

Thanks largely to the money raised last year QPR Tiger Cubs now holds a second branch of football training sessions in Brent and they also offer sessions in tennis and golf.

This is a project run by dedicated, enthusiastic members of the QPR community and I hope the support they receive reflects this.

You can sponsor the walkers by clicking here. They also have a facebook page here, which will feature updates and information.

James has also provided me with this link for those who want to see the route that they Tiger Feet will be marching along, click here. It's a long old way through Harlesden and up past Harrow includeing a photo stop at Wembley Stadium. They will definitely deserve a sit-down by the time they take their seats for kick-off.

They are setting off at 7.30am on Saturday morning (30th April 2011) from Loftus Road and any well-wishers who want to wave them on their way are more than welcome and their support will be much appreciated. I'm sure they'll also be easy to spot on the journey to Vicarage Road, so I hope they have many car horns and cheers of support from fellow Rangers to keep them going. Their walk ends with a well-deserved lap of honour before the match.

With QPR's destiny potentially being decided on the same day, who knows where they'll be walking to next year - Old Trafford??! Good luck Tiger Feet walkers!

A special thank you to James for providing me with photos and information. I look forward to hearing what the final sponsorship and blister count totals are!

Monday, 25 April 2011

All the small things: 8. Goldhawk Road

While Uxbridge Road, for me, provides a long strip of chaos, traffic (both on foot and vehicular) and randomness in and out of Shepherd's Bush, Goldhawk Road is a somewhat calmer yet equally random escape or introduction to the centre of the Bush, depending on which way you are travelling.

Stretching from Stamford Brook on the cusp of Chiswick slap bang into Shepherd's Bush Green, Goldhawk Road is an admittedly shorter length of road yet as it nears the Bush it becomes very typically W12 with its nearly as busy entrance to Shepherd's Bush Market, its dated shop fronts, its ever increasing innumerable fabric shops and its position as arguably the best road to get a fry up on (I counted now fewer than four greasy spoons within a 100 metre distance). There are also more than enough pubs, take-aways (of varying standards) and of course some amazing (in Bird's opinion) restaurants; Patio, Rajput, Blah Blah Blah and Jasmine being just a thumbless handful.

In my previous Shepherd's Bush address I was further away from the Green and located almost mid-way between both Goldhawk Road and Uxbridge Road, yet because of my work commute and running routes I was always more inclined to pound the pavements of the former. As a single girl in love with a nightlife I couldn't have maintained (thank you NewMan!) I was also heavily reliant on the 24 hour 94 bus which ploughs down this road depositing drunks and late night workers from the West End. It remains one of my favourite buses.

Just like Uxbridge Road boasts Esarn Kheaw, the Bush Hall and being the gateway to Loftus Road, there are some hidden treats along Goldhawk Road; Nubian Taste, although often empty is a surprisingly good Caribbean restaurant (opposite the Goldhawk pub - review to follow soon!) with the best macaroni cheese I have ever tasted, the Goldhawk Road entrance to Ravenscourt Park takes in a charming Ecology area and Goldhawk Road tube is slowly but surely becoming renowned for playing commuter-calming classical music most days. Keeping up the Bush's creative and musical production links, Goldhawk Road was also the home of Townhouse Studios, which was established in 1970s by Richard Branson and incorporated Bush band The Who's Rampart Studios. It is on my list of "things to do" to establish what has now become of Townhouse Studios after it was put up for sale a few years ago, because from the outside little has changed and it would be a real shame to learn that it is a now unused and abandoned building.

As I chose my "favourite" Uxbridge Road shop, I will also chose my most favoured Goldhawk Road attraction. Aside from the never-changing (that much) Harris' Cafe Rest, A Cooke's Pie, Mash & Eels and the brilliantly named Irish Meat Market, I am a long time fan of the fabric shops. I can assure you that we Bush dwellers take this for granted and indeed probably scratch our heads wondering how many fabric shops can one road have, but as a very part-time dress-maker and slave to DIY fashion I regularly lust after the rolls and rolls of different prints, textures and materials.  Goldhawk Road remains the destination for London fashion students from north, south, east and west so that may explain why you see those trendy bendy East London types looking lost and a little horrified as they emerge from Goldhawk Road tube. That's not to say that regular off the rack ordinary Bush dwellers can't appreciate these shops; they do pretty much guarantee the best (a.k.a. worst) shop window displays.

Spot the "pop-up" street floor stall...
(in another of my photos you can see a PCSO moving the "stall" holder on, or trying to!)

So tell me, what makes Goldhawk Road golden for you?

My first Shepherd's Bush poser - on the left!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

I found a place, where we can boogie...

On Thursday night a group of unsuspecting Shepherd's Bush residents met up for a few drinks. A couple of hours later having graced two W12 pubs (Raving Buddha where we were beaten by a sauna-esque heat as well as bad singing by grown adults in cartoon-esque colourful costumes, and The Goldhawk where we enjoyed a more civilised open mic night and thankfully a normal room temperature), those still standing and lacking in better judgement headed towards Bar FM.

I could easily have written about Bar FM prior to this occasion but I was reluctant to because it has become a bit of a secret weapon in my knowledge and love of Shepherd's Bush nightlife. I'm never sure other people would "get it". Run by Filipino (I think?? Forgive me if incorrect) couple Freddie and Mylene (FM - geddit?), Bar FM is a late night bar that hosts live music, comedy nights, karoke and a lot of dodgy dancing. Open until 2am on week nights and 3am during weekends, despite burly looking bouncers and an eclectic mix of clientele, the atmosphere in FM is always relaxed, friendly and takes "anything goes" to new levels. This has nothing to do with any level of intoxication, honest.

There are some nice touches about Bar FM too and I'm not just talking about the best organised karoke night in West London (there are no breaks in between songs as the MC, who has to be seen to be believed, calls out to ever-ready and ever-enthusiastic singers to take the microphone. Admittedly the levels of ability and musical accuracy vary.). I am referring to those muscle bound bouncers "shh-ing" people complete with finger to lips as customers leave the premises, asking us to respect the local residents as we stumble out and across to Woody's Grill (just me?). I'm also referring to seeing Freddie and Mylene there behind the bar each and every time I have been to Bar FM. They put in some hours and clearly care about the success of their bar. Oh and the third touch has to be their stock of all flavours of Bacardi Breezer, a drink I thought was long extinct.

Bar FM isn't going to compete with the best nightclubs or venues in London, though it's better than a few West End night clubs I've tragically been to. I'll never get those nights back. However, they don't seem to hold any grand illusions to want to. Bar FM is a unique little spot in Shepherd's Bush where you can carry on your night, should you so wish to without getting thrown around a sticky dancefloor by an Australian (I like to have a night off every now and again). The music is bad (sorry, but it is) but it is dance-able and they serve food throughout the night. Trust me, and you can also trust the others who descended there last Thursday, at the very least you will find yourself smiling bemusedly when visiting Bar FM, even if it is for both the wrong and right reasons. Yet another hidden Bush gem...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Live and learn...

Yesterday evening I popped down to the Masbro Centre, a community centre based on Masbro Road which offers local residents free and low-cost services, activities, classes and facilities. I first clapped eyes on the Masbro Centre when I went to The Bird in Hand, which is the pub nearly directly opposite. I am ashamed to say, however, that as I clocked the sign and saw some activity outside I wondered to myself "Don't I follow them on Twitter?" and then promptly went back to salivating for a glass of red wine. After a few months of more Twitter following and a little internet research I was very intrigued so I made contact and, ahem, invited myself along for a nosey.

So when I returned to the Masbro Centre yesterday I paused outside and took it all in, ignoring the calls of The Bird in Hand just behind me. Tucked away in the maze of streets found between Brook Green, Shepherd's Bush and Holland Road, the Masbro Centre is an impressive building and space. From the moment I was greeted by UPG full-time employee Clint and throughout my tour it was hard to ignore one thing: the energy. There are huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm coursing through the foundations of this centre and its operations. In this day and age of funding cuts snipping away at the public and voluntary sector, this is quite a thing to achieve let alone maintain.

The Masbro Centre is run by Urban Partnership Group, a UK registered charity whose overall honourable aim is to "build community involvement in economic, social and environmental regeneration in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and surrounding areas". They are funded mainly by the Council but also receive valuable support from central government agencies and programs as well as other charity funds and trusts. UPG works closely with local primary schools as well as the Council's adult learning team to maximise the Centre's services and purpose. The centre is also there to be hired and indeed this is a valuable source of income though for spacious W14 real estate the prices are very reasonable. There were more leaflets about activities and projects and events on the front counter than you find in a doctors' waiting room and unlike the latter, they looked more than half interesting and not at all embarrassing to peruse so I helped myself to a few as well as putting the Bush Festival 2011 date in my diary (6th August 2011).

Clint, who showed me around, and in himself was a ball of energy about the Centre and its work, is a Careers Advisor by trade and indeed that's what he was employed for when he joined UPG in 2008. He has many years experience giving good, practical advice to people about careers and employment and the Masbro Centre does this for free. There are some dedicated career drop in sessions but anyone who wants an appointment with Clint or one of his colleagues to seek careers advice just needs to pop in or call up to arrange an appointment. For more information on their careers advice have a look at the website.

Clint tells me, however, that the job and nature of UPG means that he pretty much has to turn his hand to anything and everything as required to keep the Centre running. He mentioned that most of the paid staff have to do this and that he is only one of "many cogs" which keep the Centre running. He made a special mention of his colleague Max who is the first people he turns to for help and to get things fixed. I bet every company would like to have a Max, or a Clint. Recently he has very successfully taken on raising the Centre's profile through social networking. He doesn't complain about having to be so flexible for a second, and instead seems genuinely very happy to do as much as he can. A Shepherd's Bush resident for most of the 8 years he has spent away from his native New Zealand, he appears very committed to the community telling me more than once "I love Shepherd's Bush". He jovially juggles talking to me about the adult art classes ("the Life drawing classes are always fun!") with telling me about where he gets his favourite Kiwi produce in the Bush. I always like seeing the Bush through someone else's eyes so thank you Clint for the Bush talk too.

My tour took in both the Adult Centre as well as the Masbro Children's Centre. There are classroom areas, an art room, a gym, a very pleasant light indoor sports area and even a dance studio upstairs.

The Children's Centre was recently refurbished and boasts a very modern looking creche and play rooms. Clint proudly told me how busy it gets with the entrance hall becoming a car park of pushchairs. Clint also informed me with audible relief that they have maintained their Sure Start status and funding and though it wasn't said explicitly I got the impression that despite having to lose and reshuffle very valuable members of staff, the Masbro Centre feels very fortunate to still be going albeit with some programs reduced. Again it isn't said but I think both Clint and I were thinking about the other community projects, charities and organisations in the Bush (and beyond) which have been hit much harder.

I was very pleasantly surprised to hear the centre hosts an afternoon tea for nearby elderly residents and that this is virtually all run by volunteers. And as someone who always thinks it's never to late to learn, I was very impressed with the wide range of opportunities for adult learning. Their full program includes yoga, arts, maths and English. They proudly show off students' work throughout the buildings, and in particular in the front foyer where beautifully created pottery and paintings are for sale.

Energy is an infectious thing so it is unsurprising that I left the Masbro Centre feeling energised as well as very impressed with UPG and their achievements despite challenging times. There are people in Shepherd's Bush who really do rely on these type of centres and projects for learning, self-improvement, fun and perhaps most importantly a sense of community and inclusion. If only a brief visit left me feeling energised and enthusiastic, it becomes very hard summarise just how important the Masbro Centre is in our community. Bravo Masbro Centre! I hope you a force of energy in Shepherd's Bush for a long, long time.

A special thank you to Clint for showing me around and sharing a few Bush stories (he was a regular at the Bush Ranger - say no more!) and I have long admired your community spirit. (In his spare time Clint organises many other community events for his fellow Kiwis which included recent charity fundraisers for the Christchurch earthquake). You are a true Shepherd's Bush legend.

Thank you also to the Masbro Centre for the warm welcome and to the Youth Club for letting me take pictures of you using the excellent Masbro Centre facilities.

For more information about UPG and the Masbro Centre go to

One year ago...

On the 21st April 2010, NewMan and I had our first date. We’d met a few weeks previously snowboarding in the Austrian Alps, had a little bit of "fun", kept in touch and then finally sorted out a date, time and place to meet up again for more, er, fun.

The date was far from your typical first date. First of all we were not alone. NewMan’s Sydney based but ash-cloud-stranded brother was there as well. Not being on our own on our “first date” didn’t really bother me at all. I say this based on my feelings towards NewMan at the time; I fancied him lots but I had a strong suspicion that we had very little in common aside from snowboarding and there aren’t that many snowy mountains in London. I envisaged a few months of dating until the conversation dried up and we'd shake hands and move on.

One year on, the conversation hasn’t dried up and we're moving on together rather than apart. Though we may not have a million things in common we have a growing list of shared interests; Angry Birds, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, 70s/80s disco, French white wine, Aussie TV series Underbelly, the Canadian band Chromeo and long, hot, relaxing holidays. I'm sure successful relationships have been built on less.

I document our one year anniversary not because I am smug (believe me, I am more shocked and bemused than smug), but because I concede grudgingly that it is true what they say; love happens when you least expect it. It can also happen with someone you'd least expect it to happen with.

Happy one year NewMan x

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

In the summertime, when the weather is fine?

So is this it? Is this the start of summer already in Shepherd's Bush. The increasing numbers of string vests, flip flops and half-hearted picnics on the Green would seem to suggest it. Anyway, who really cares if this is as good as summer gets (a high of 26 degrees predicted today) as long as we try to treasure and enjoy it now.

After teasing my deficient levels of Vitamin D with a lunchtime walk around a sunny City, I was determined to enjoy the evening's sunshine so last night I left work on time and by 6.30pm I was on my balcony, in shorts and drinking a San Miguel.

Here is my balcony view in the early summer sunshine. Yes, early summer, I am ever the optimist.

This view is potentially boringly familiar to regular readers, but because it's one of my most favourite views and so much of it is Shepherd's Bush I have to share yet again.