Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Happiness is just outside my window...

I had yet another "should have done this sooner" moment in W12 last week as I was lying flat on my back in a darkened room with a man's hands all over me.

Before you think the worst (or best!) of me, I should clarify that I was in the middle of an exceptional massage by a man called Brett who is one of the talented masseurs who keeps many customers happy at The Happiness Centre, to be found just next door to Shepherd's Bush Market Hammersmith & City tube on Uxbridge Road.

Founded 8 years ago by Bush based ball of energy (not my words, though I agree completely!), Alexis, The Happiness Centre offers a number of different treatments, experiences and activities all aimed at making you, well, happy. From sports massage to reflexology, yoga to Neuro Linguistic Programming, you will find a real range of skills in the hands of Alexis and her team, literally.

Having recently had a lovely message by a lovely man at K West, I felt like I was completely overindulging when I was introduced to Brett. However, this was a very different massage; in fact it was more a consultation as Brett used a mix of sport and deep tissue massage combined with his (incredibly) vast experience in osteopathy, anatomy and physiotherapy to explore my body (stop sniggering in the back row!) and identify areas of tension or possible concern. Prior to the massage I explained to him my running injuries and following the massage Brett discussed a number of ways in which I could change my running technique to avoid aggravating my ITB. Over the last few months what with one life-changing decision or another I've had less time to run or exercise so it was nice to be reminded that starting again needn't mean a world of pain, just a lot of huffing and puffing. But on a serious note, if you have odd aches and pains whilst running, a nagging niggle in your neck or a plain old bad back I would definitely consider making an appointment at The Happiness Centre.

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing. Well I think it sucks. As I countdown to the time I have left until I exit the Bush stage left, the list of things I wish I'd done more lengthens and I have to say that a return visit to The Happiness Centre would be near the top.

There's more information about all the wonderful things available at The Happiness Centre on their website.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Guest post: It's the food baby!

I'm so glad I finally got a Common lyric in a blog post title.

Anyway, on to the next guest post by another local blogger, Iain. I met Iain and his lovely girlfriend Claire at Bush Festival and not only are they pretty passionate about all things Shepherd's Bush but they also have very cool hobbies; Iain is an exceptionally keen cook and Claire is very keen on knitting and crafting as was shown by the lovely things on her stall at Bush Festival.

Now over to Iain to explain more about his blog and a really great insight to the potential of local shops for ingredients and inspiration.

I am relatively new to the world of blogging. I recently started a blog called Food is the Theme in which I ramble on about many things - often related to Shepherds Bush (where I live) and food (which I like a lot).

I have had the pleasure of meeting Birdie in person recently and was delighted to be asked to write a guest post for her blog. When looking for inspiration for my post I thought about favourite blogs of Birdie's that I have read in the past, and the first one that sprung to mind was her Shepherds Bush falafel off. I have recently been mucking about trying to make healthy falafel recipe so it made sense to type it up, and it can be seen here.

To tie in with this recipe, I thought I would write about the excellent shops on Uxbridge Road where you can find all the ingredients you will need to make your own falafel.

Uxbridge Road has a smorgasbord of grocery shops of variable quality, including the world famous Shepherds Bush Market (unfortunately, the market's opening times and my shopping times rarely coincide.) But to keep this post to a reasonable length I am going to focus on the two I most commonly go to, Al Abbas and Damas Gate. These two shops, I suppose, would be the behemoths of the Uxbridge Road grocery scene and they are almost certainly my two favourite shops in the area.

I assume they must be each others' main rivals but I go to one or the other of them at least once a day and would be hard pressed to choose a favourite.  They are situated almost opposite each other a few hundred yards down Uxbridge Road from  the green. They aren't open 24hrs but they are open surprisingly late for grocers, especially Al Abbas which I think I have seen open as late as 11pm. 

Al Abbas is the first you come across on your right as you walk down Uxbridge Road with Damas Gate further along on your left. Both have an excellent selection of fruit and veg on display outside which adds wonderful colour to a walk along Uxbridge Road. I had always assumed that Supermarkets were cheapest for this kind of thing, which had led me to believe that bell peppers were expensive. At these shops you can pick up a bell pepper for a third of the supermarket price - about 30p for a red or green one or a bit more for a yellow one (not sure why!). Aubergines are also loads cheaper here than in supermarkets and don't even get me started on how much better the herbs are than the puny expensive packets you might pick up in Waitrose. There is also a wide range of chillies available for you hot heads out there. Not only are you helping out your local shops by shopping here but saving money too!

Both supermarkets have a butchers and in the case of Damas Gate it can get extraordinarily busy. If you're going to the butcher counter in Damas Gate remember to get a ticket to ensure you get a place in the queue! Also in Damas Gate it may sometimes seem like only speaking English puts you at a disadvantage but you will get used to it after a bit. If you want to avoid the whole ticket and ordering system, there is pre weighed and packaged meat stuffs at the end of the counter. 

In Al Abbas there is no ticket system, there is no pre packaged meat but this isn't a problem because it always seems quieter. Al Abbas also sells goat meat. If you're looking for pig, this is not the butcher for you as they only stock halal meat.

If you're looking for spices this is somewhere that both shops excel. particularly Al Abbas which has a very well organised and aesthetically pleasing spice section. You will save loads of money buying spices here rather than a supermarket. You can also buy in massive packets if you get through spices quickly enough. Pulses, both dried and tinned are also great purchases here. If you are looking for chickpeas for example, the tinned ones here are not only loads cheaper than a supermarket but loads better quality which is important if you want to save time by using tinned chickpeas (if for example you are making falafel) as they give a much smoother texture.

Dairy products from the Mediterranean are available in both and they have a good selection of olives.  Coming back to the point of this post and making your own falafel, let's have a look at the cost of some of the ingredients for the recipe that I posted earlier this week.

Chickpeas 3x 400g tins - £1 (we use 2 to make falafel, so 66p) 
Halloumi  - £1.69
Large bunches of parsley and coriander - £1.20 (half of each used, 60p)
7 Lemons - £1 (half a lemon used, so about 8p)
4 vine tomatoes - 42p (we used 2, so 21p)
5 Khobez bread - 59p (we used 2 so 30p)

Spices - ??p (we had all the spices in, and they would have cost literally pennies)

So with some rough maths, I reckon that meal cost about £2.00, with half the mix being saved for later in the week. The added halloumi bumps the price up slightly, but still represents excellent value.

To summarise, these shops add a lot to the character of the area but they are also a great resource for your daily groceries and certainly have more character than Tesco Express... Give them a try!

As a final note, if you venture in before the end of Ramadan and have a sweet tooth, they currently have a great selection of baklawa...

Thanks so much Iain! I hope you all have fun trying out his recipe for falafel. It's saved to my favourites already...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Guest post: Fun, fun, fun...

This is a special guest post featuring photos from Masbro Centre's Summer Party which was held on Friday 19th August 2011, when over 1000 people came together to share in lots of family fun and entertainment. This is twice as many people as they expected and rather than be overwhelmed it seems this only went further to demonstrate the centre's truly special way that it engages with and enables the local community.

Chief Exec of Urban Partnership Group, Andy Sharpe thanked all the volunteers and staff who made the day a success: "We are absolutely delighted with the turnout of over a 1000 people which has smashed all records for this event. The support of local families for the Masbro Centre is amazing. We are already planning next year’s summer party which will be held on Friday 17th August. 2012"

Thanks to Clint Heine who works at Masbro Centre who shared the photos with me.

See more of these fabulous photographs on the Masbro Centre's Facebook page.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Guest post: Paint your love all over my world

Shepherd's Bush has some exciting things to look forward to and OpenDoors is one of these. For the last few months local residents Tom and Katy have been working hard on a concept which aims to make art accessible and relevant to local people by hosting pop up art galleries in local homes. The art which will be on show will be by local artists inspired by the local area including what local people think about their local area. Katy has kindly written this guest post to tell you more and invite you to join in.

At the end of next month W12 will play host the first OpenDoors exhibition. We hope that by curating a selection of work that is both inspired by and relevant to the people living in the area, it might encourage people of all walks of life to walk through our doors and become interested by the art they see on the walls. 

Over the past two months artists have been producing work about W12 and the people who live there. Lurking in Shepherds Bush Library and sifting through online articles we gathered an amazing variety of stories that became the digital scrapbook. This has effectively become the artists’ brief for exhibition W12.

Information about Shepherds Bush can be traced back as far as the Romans. Goldhawk Road was built by Roman legions as an access route to the West of England. A 17th century historian records a Roman Sword being found ten feet below the ground. Shepherds Bush as its namesake suggests was a rural suburb of London, the last place shepherds could graze their fattened sheep before they were sold at Smithfield market. 

Much of our focus was on industry and buildings that have become iconic of Shepherds Bush; Wormwood Scrubs Prison, Lime Grove Studios, White City Stadium and Shepherds Bush Empire. The cultural history that surrounds these buildings is astounding and we are only scratching the surface. The Shepherds Bush Empire is the home of the ground breaking Custard Pie in the Face joke. Lime Grove Studios was where Prime Minister Anthony Eden broadcast to the nation that we were at war with Egypt. Finally completed in 1891 Wormwood Scrubs prison was built over 17 years using 35 million bricks. Whilst White City played host to the world in both the 1908 Olympic Games and two International Exhibitions.

Using art we hope to encourage an understanding of our heritage, instilling a sense of pride & respect back into London Boroughs. Please email us with your stories of Shepherds Bush and

I strongly recommend you spend some time looking at OpenDoors website and in particular think 
 about giving Tom & Katy your opinions about W12. (I like how they make that W12 red and bold.)

You can also see some of the local artists' work which I've featured on Bird in the Bush previously 
but they've since updated and here are a few more I like.

by Faud Ali

by Joe Cruz

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A change is gonna come...

First sleepless, and now teary nights. Something must be amiss. And indeed it is. In less than two weeks time I will be leaving Shepherd's Bush.

I will be flying the Bush to live temporarily with NewMan in N1. I say temporarily not because I have already scheduled a U-Turn change of heart and triumphant return to the Bush, but rather because we will then both be flying the nest completely. We are leaving the UK to embark on some travels around Asia before heading "home", well for NewMan, to Australia where I will have a long overdue (first) meeting with NewMan's Mum before more travelling around Oz and New Zealand where I will meet more of NewMan's friends and family, and I will be reunited with some of my own Pom friends who have taken the brave step of moving over there.

This is not a step that we will be taking, at least I don't think so. It is tempting just so that I can keep being "Bird in the Bush", although it will be a very, very different Bush. Where we'll end up after our travels, I actually don't know; we have many ideas ranging from the bizarre ("Let's build a raft and find our own island!") to the ridiculous ("Are there hotels in space yet?") so we're just going to wait and see. I'm of course aware that we may also end up apart at the end of it, but having over analysed this for some time I have come to the conclusion that it's a risk worth taking.

If you don't mind I will keep my other reasons for the change, the move and the travels personal, but needless to say this was not a decision I took lightly and indeed it has broken my heart a little bit. (Here come the tears... and breathe.)

For over four and a half years Shepherd's Bush has been my home, my entertainment, my despair, my joy, my source of new friends, inspiration and love. It has also been the backdrop to many a treasured moment with friends, old and new, the backdrop to great dates and less great heartshakes and in many ways it's been the backdrop to falling in love with NewMan; who now ironically is one of the reasons I am leaving. Most importantly Shepherd's Bush gave me this blog, which has become such a wonderful part of my life.

I don't leave the Bush for another few weeks and so I will keep blogging until I'm dragged away kicking and screaming. I'm then not sure what will happen to it. As a heroine of mine once said, "I'll think about that tomorrow".

I will also try to grow my other blog "As the Bird flies" (the irony of the name I came up with many months ago now stings a bit) with the photos and stories of my travel adventures and I would be so happy if some of you checked in with it now and again, even if just to keep me updated on what's going on in Shepherd's Bush.

Having had an emotional week moving most of my belongings to local W12 charity shops/NewMan's place/my parent's loft and sharing the news with my employer and friends, I am now heading off on holiday for a week. I have arranged some more lovely guest posts to keep you entertained while I'm in the south of France with NewMan relaxing and spend some QT with one of my best friends Robin who flew the nest many years ago and hasn't looked back since.

Hmm. But what if I want to look back? And what if I want to come back? Because I do already.

Bird in the Bush x

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Guest post: Right people, right time..


Name that TV Theme song lyric!? Well if you don't know maybe it's time you checked out local Bush Bloke, Howard Bowden's social media project which is all to do with retro Shepherd's Bush. I made contact with Howard and asked him to explain all in a guest post:

I'm head of news at a PR agency in central London, and have been working in the industry for 15 years - before that I was a journalist on the Nationals.  And without wishing to state the bleedin' obvious, social media is becoming increasingly part of the PR landscape, pretty much on a daily basis - so if you work in PR you need to be totally up to speed on the subject!

This is why we had the rather smart idea of setting a three-month challenge for everyone in the company to create a Facebook page, Twitter feed and YouTube channel on a subject of their choice.  And as a proud resident of W12 for over 10 years, with a fairly obsessive interest in music, TV and film, something to do with Shepherds Bush and popular culture seemed the obvious subject.

I've always loved the fact that so much great stuff has come out of Shepherds Bush - I mean, this is where both The Who and Sex Pistols started off; beat that combo, everywhere else.   Then there's all the classic TV that's originated here, mainly thanks of course to the BBC - so everything from Monty Python to Morecambe and Wise.  Or if you turn on ITV4 you'll probably find an episode of Minder or The Sweeney taking place on Uxbridge Road.  Even growing up as a kid in Southampton, QPR always seemed the coolest London team.

So while I've been doing the Facebook and Twitter thing for a while - I'm also @howardbowden while I do some tweeting for clients.  I have now set up a Facebook page, Twitter feed and a YouTube channel and this is a great opportunity to hunt around and discover stuff about the area. I never knew, for instance, that there was a Monty Python sketch called Climbing The North Face Of The Uxbridge Road - and I'm amazed how many tracks I keep finding that mention parts of Shepherds Bush; who else knew, for instance, that The Manic Street Preachers wrote a B-side called 'Askew Road'?

There's another two months of the competition to go, with prizes for the most successful - but either way, there's a certain inevitability that and @CentralLining will continue!

Thanks Howard! The facebook for this project is well worth checking out because as well as Howard's fascinating findings I love that other (and I assume local) people have started sharing their retro Bush knowledge and references. I'm off to hunt on Amazon for the book "White City Blues" and a copy of Tracey Ullman's Greatest Hits...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Guest post: It's the way, that we bring this sound to you

This week I have rather a lot going on which I will hopefully blog/bore you about tomorrow, but I'm also about head off on holiday and so as to keep the W12 love flowing I invited some of my readers and friends to write guest posts while I'm away sunning myself in the south of France with my two favourite men (after my Dad obvs) NewMan and GBFF Robin.

Kicking off a series of guest posts is my good friend Chris, a one time Bush resident until he moved up, or rather west in the world to Chiswick. Chris (@cpetzny on twitter) is a User Experience Designer and professional geek, who also has a soft spot for all things W12, even though he now lives in W4. He is passionate about food, drink and drum & bass and has his own, mostly work related, blog at

Well this feels odd. I'm neither a bird, nor do I currently reside in the Bush, but I am here because I want to tell you about a Shepherd's Bush event we are working on. It's called Urban Jungle and it's a one off, free, 90s drum & bass night, which will be held at the Raving Buddha on Goldhawk Road on Saturday the 15th of October.

The whole thing came about thanks to Twitter and a noisy neighbour. Not so long ago one of the Shepherd's Bush twitterati @NelsMels, had to contend with a neighbour repeatedly and loudly playing 'No Woman No Cry' late at night. @NelsMels suggested on Twitter that some old skool drum & bass might work as revenge a means of drowning out the offending tune. I added a few bass laden suggestions of my own, as did @chrishampson and before we knew it we were reminiscing about some of our favourite 90s drum & bass tunes. 

Then we thought we should get together somewhere, bring our favourite tunes and have an evening of drinks and drum & bass. As we discussed this idea, more and more W12 tweeters wanted to join in and since none of our places are exactly palatial, the idea of hiring a venue was born. @NelsMels used to DJ and even owned a couple of drum & bass labels, so she got on the case and before we knew it, the Raving Buddha was chosen and booked. 

So in the best 90s drum & bass tradition, we moved from front room to dancehall and this is now very real and the deposit has been paid. We have the following DJs lined up (provisionally) and we may even have a few surprise special guests:

XO (Last.Fm, Bassdrive, Dogs On Acid)
Tendai (Swerve, Groove Connection)
Nexxi (G2 & Gain Recordings)
Ben Kei
DJ Lync

The following tunes should give you and idea of what to expect on the night:

If you fancy coming along or if you just want to keep up to date, please look for #bushw12 #dnbnight on Twitter or follow @cpetzny, @NelsMels and @chrishampson OR 'like' our Facebook page.

Big thanks to everyone who has so far helped and encouraged our behaviour!

Thank you Chris! I can't wait for this night when I will get to reminisce my youth of dancing all night (unaided by more than a couple of beers I hasten to add) to the likes of DJ Marky and Patife; now where did I put my neon sweat bands and matching trainer laces?

If you feel inspired an
d would like to write me a Bush story, please do! Send me an email with as many words as you like (short and sweet is fine as is long and er.. sweet) and/or some photos by Wednesday morning please!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

So happy together!

This weekend I will mostly be spending lots of quality time with Shepherd's Bush, making home made pizza with Mo and messing about with my new favourite phone app "Wreck This App". It's a lot of fun and already I'm pretty bad at it - yay!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Friday, 19 August 2011

In the town where I was born...

Life long Shepherd's Bush resident Stuart has quickly become the man I turn to for a bit more information about certain areas of Bush history. He is a passionate QPR fan, lovely bloke and I owe him a pint in the White Horse (long story). Those of you who follow him on Twitter may have seen some of the photographs he took recently of his walk around Hammersmith Park. If not, you are in luck as he has kindly allowed me to share some of these and other photographs which he takes of Shepherd's Bush including the recent Bush Festival, local buildings and beautiful sunsets.

Having grown up and lived in and around the borough all his life I find it particularly charming that Stuie still likes taking photographs of the area. If you are on Flickr you should make a point of linking in with him as his other photographs are well worth looking at.

I also loved spotting these few photos of Stuie as a baby on Devenport Road in the 1960s (late 1960s I hasten to add!). The houses look the same yet different, don't you think?

A while ago Stuart told me that as a child he used to gain access to his Nan's house on Loftus Road via the coal chute. It's apparently what all the kids in the area used to do if they weren't blocked up. Everytime I walk over a coal chute cover in Shepherd's Bush (or beyond) I always think of this and smile. So thank you for that story Stuart, and for letting me share these lovely photos.

You can see all of Stuart's brilliant photos on his Flickr.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Do you want more...

... family fun? Was Bush Festival not quite enough?

Well then get down to Masbro Centre on Friday afternoon (1.30pm until 4.30pm) to enjoy their family summer party.

Here's a message from the Masbro team with all the information about the day;

"500 people are expected at Masbro Centre's family summer party on Friday 19th August 1.30pm to 4.30pm in a children's extravaganza of entertainment. Youngsters will have the opportunity to win prizes in Masbro got talent dance showcase and hula hoop competitions.

Other attractions include a stilt walker, balloon bender, face painting, bouncy castle, party food, tattoos and bubbles. A Caribbean flavour will be added to the mix with some delicious curry goat and rice on offer at reasonable prices.

The event is organised by Urban Partnership Group who run the Masbro Centre. Over 20 volunteers will help including young people from the Masbro Youth Club who will run a smoothie stall, spin some tunes and take some pictures of the party.

The Masbro got talent contest will be run by Patten’s Dance Company. Sharon has been working with the Masbro for over 7 years and budding stars can come to her workshop which start from 12 noon at the Masbro dance studio on the day.

The hula hoop competition will be run by Philippa Berridge who successfully organised the second Bush Festival last Saturday.

Andy Sharpe Chief Executive of Urban Partnership Group adds "We are looking forward to a great occasion. The Masbro summer party has a huge loyal following and we expect the Centre to be packed to the rafters for this afternoon of children's entertainment."
Can you save me some curry goat, please?


One of the pictures that I took at Bush Festival which got the most reaction (mainly in the form of stimulating taste buds) was this one, of the colourful cupcakes by Queen of Hearts Cupcakes, a small Askew Road business run by a very lovely young woman called Valeri. I was lucky enough to be bought a cupcake (one of the blue ones on the far right of the photo) by local Bush Bloke Andrew (of rescuing a lost Shepherd's Bush cat fame) at Bush Festival and they really do taste as good as they look. It followed, being the nosey Bird I am, that I wanted to find out more about Valeri and Queen of Hearts Cupcakes.

Valeri is a paediatric nurse by profession but about 12 months ago she was encouraged to venture out doing what she loves, creating beautiful and tasty cakes, for a living and so she is currently balancing the day job with pursuing what has been a life long dream; to own her own bakery or pastry shop. As well as baking cupcakes and cake pops, she explained to me that her special and increasingly “edible bouquets” came about because she wanted to create and give an extra special gift to two people she calls her “2nd Mummies” as her family are all back in her native Philippines.  People were so impressed and receptive that she was encouraged to make more and eventually started selling bespoke bouquets far and wide. Valeri is currently preparing for birthday parties and weddings this year as well as providing the cupcakes for the Mad Hatters Tea Party at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park in December.

One of the things I liked about the Queen of Hearts stall at Bush Festival was that they really engaged with the community spirit at Bush Festival; they took pictures of their happy customers wearing the “Queen of Hearts” crown and they also gave a big box of cupcakes and cake pops to all the volunteers. Some of the photographs she took really sum up the mood and importance of the day.

Valeri also told me that she’s using her business to support a cause very close to her own heart. After previously looking after poorly children with cancer as a nurse at Great Ormond Street she supports the CLIC Sargent Charity selling flower pins on the same stall as her cupcakes.  After all this you may think Valeri would think about taking a break, but no she emailed me after Bush Festival asking if I knew of any other local events she could support. (If you know of any please let me know!) 

Here is a hard working, local, woman who is successfully combining focused ambition and honourable community intentions and what could taste sweeter than that?

Here are some photos of Valeri’s incredible and all edible masterpieces!