Taking A Walk On The Wild Side


A few weeks ago we went along to Wilderness Festival in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire. One of the really unique things about this four day festival is the number of new and unusual activities you can try your hand at alongside taking in all of the music and entertainment during your long weekend in the countryside. From archery, wild swimming, wood carving, hot yoga - you name it, they quite probably have it on offer and ready and waiting for you to take part. 


One such activity that we decided to get involved in was an afternoon of foraging for wild food followed by wild canapes and cocktails in the woods. An afternoon organised by the team from East Sussex based company Hunter Gather Cook. Such a unique experience and a great way to spend time out in the fresh air, shaking off the stress of daily life. So I thought I'd share a few photos and a little bit about our experience here on the blog today.

Before I get started a little warning here I guess. One thing we learnt very quickly during this mini adventure was that there are a great deal of dangerous plants and other nasties out there that can do you a lot of harm, and I don't mean just make you a bit sick, I mean really nasty harm. So just a quick note - before you take yourself off outside and start picking wild flowers and mushrooms to add to your evening meal, make sure you take time to learn from an expert about exactly what you might be taking home with you. You really don't want to make a mistake when it comes to eating things found out in the wild - trust me! 


The afternoon was spent with our foraging guide Elliot as he took us on a tour of beautiful Cornbury Park and pointed out an array of plants, trees and other wild goodies that I'd never before noticed even though I've spent many years walking my dog around many different country spots. I certainly didn't know that so much could actually be eaten. From hazelnuts, burdock, nettles, spearmint - all sorts of wonders just at our feet or happily hanging above our heads.

Water Mint

Whilst a two hour beginners tour and introduction to foraging does not an expert make, I did learn some fascinating facts that I'd never previously have known. Things like all plants within the mint family have square stems. Now the amount of times I've picked this from the garden and added it to my new potatoes without noticing that fact I can't tell you. Next time you pick up a sprig of mint have a feel - it's totally square, such an odd little quirk of nature! For some reason I was also fascinated to learn that the peanut comes from the pea family. Pretty much nothing to do with nuts even though it's in the name. It actually grows underground and is considered a legume. Who knew!

Nature is endlessly fascinating and this short but really informative introduction demonstrated just how much there is out there to learn. I can certainly see why people find foraging so interesting and how it can become a lifelong past-time and learning experience. It's also such a great way to get out and about, keep active and take in some much needed fresh air and peace and quiet. A brilliant break from the usual hectic routine.

River View

As our two hour expedition came to an end we headed back to the woodland alcove where the team had set up an off grid kitchen and had been busily preparing us an array of wild canapes to tickle our tastebuds. Plus a bramble cocktail to which we added our foraged spearmint to give it a final flourish! With a little music, some fresh nibbles and a cocktail in hand, the afternoon concluded with an atmospheric cocktail party in the woods as we digested everything we'd learnt on our sunny exploration of the English countryside.

Wild Cocktail Reception Menu
Wild Canape
Venison Canape

If you're looking for a new activity to get you out in the fresh air and exploring then foraging could well be worth a try. I'd highly recommend giving it a go. Just (as mentioned above) make sure you go with someone who truly knows what they're doing as you get started! Hunter Gather Cook run regular seasonal courses at their East Sussex site and would certainly be a great place to start if you're tempted to give it a go.




Beauty And Power In The Spoken Word: Chill Pill

This past weekend I went along to an event called The Sunday Papers Live. To be honest I accidentally stumbled across it late on Friday evening, explored the website and line-up, watched a few videos from previous events and feeling intrigued, knew it was something I wanted to book. Luckily I was able to get two tickets last minute and off we strolled on Sunday to see what it was all about. Now this entire event in itself is well worth talking about so you'll probably catch me sharing more snippets over upcoming posts here on the blog. But for today I wanted to share one of my favourite findings from the day - Chill Pill UK.

Chill Pill UK At The Sunday Papers Live

Chill Pill UK are a group of up and coming, as well as long established, spoken word poets. Delivering quick witted, emotive and sharply crafted poetry that tackles some of the freshest issues of the day as well as tapping into topics that we can all relate to and find our feet with.

Quite honestly their work left me awe struck. There is something about the power of words that has always resonated with me and when I witness people bring spoken word together so sharply but in such a relatable way, about topics that I can understand and feel passionate about, well for me that is something really special. So sitting back as the sun drew in on Sunday afternoon, cold beer in hand, watching these guys deliver with such power was a real treat.

From what I gather there are many members of the Chill Pill collective of poets. On Sunday we were offered inspiration from Adam Kammerling, Mr Gee and Ben Norris. They delivered both established and new work of their own as well as creating poetry on the day in the form of letters, based on requests received earlier from members of the audience. Whether that be a poem on the stark reality of the life of an immigrant worker, a poem that truly depicts that feeling of inadequacy we can all relate to when we don't feel we can step out of the door in the morning, put on our mask and pretend to be confident in a world we feel everyone else understands and we don't, or a letter put together for a bride to be to her bridesmaid, describing the power and depth of their friendship in tales of nights on the town and tears around the toilet bowl! Each and every offering gave laughter, emotion, insight and a true grasp on the delicacy and intricacies of the human condition.

I've shared a couple of videos below for anyone intrigued about their work. These aren't from Sunday's event itself but they will give you a taste of what I'm talking about.

Chill Pill UK hold regular nights at the Albany, Arcola and Soho Theatres so keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for more details. Some of their poets will be taking part in Tongue Fu at The Roundhouse in Camden this Friday 3rd June and when I last looked there were still some tickets available. If you want to check them out then get yourself a spot - I'm pretty confident you won't be disappointed.

Oh and if you like the sound of The Sunday Papers Live (and you should!) their next session will be held on Sunday 28th August. Or if you're heading to Wilderness Festival this summer you'll be able to find them there.

This post isn't sponsored in any way. I'm sharing because I'm passionate about new experiences and great events that get you thinking and bring you joy. I highly recommend that you check these guys out if you ever get the chance.



Stationery Love And Dream Office Spaces!


This week marks National Stationery Week here in the UK. A week to celebrate the glory of all things stationery and also to highlight the importance of the hand written word - the fact that writing matters. In fact there is a huge connection between the act of handwriting and the influence this has on the rational adult mind. Anyone who journals will probably know how beneficial they find this for their wellbeing and for dealing with anxiety and stress. As a generation we all wrote so much as kids but now all we do is tap away at a computer, and future generations will likely not take pen to paper very much at all. This in itself is such an interesting topic and I for one still believe in the power and the benefits of the written word. Yet like so many of us, I now struggle to put to pen to paper and actually write more than just a few scribbled words on my shopping list! 

Interested in this topic? Read more here: Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard? via The Guardian.

Paperchase Blogger Event April 2016 Flat Lay

But the subject of writing and of journalling is one I'd like to come back to at another point in time! For today I'm thinking dream workspaces and the beauty of stationery, how it can make our spaces come to life and give us the inspiration and motivation that we need to get us through the day.

In fact just this morning as I walked across London with my other half we got to a discussion about the pros and cons of the current craze of hot desking or 'activity based workplaces' and it occurred to me that this too has a link to today's post. While many employers may be moving to embrace the hot desk mantra, often employees in this situation are left feeling disconnected at not having their own space in which to 'nest' and call home during their working day. Time and again I'm struck by how important the right space is for our productivity as well as our wellbeing at work.

What are your thoughts on the hot desk trend? Read more here: 'Hot Desking' Is A Big Trend - Here's Why A Lot Of People Hate It via Business Insider.

Last night I was pleased to have the opportunity to assist in leading a blogging event with Paperchase held in their flagship Tottenham Court Road store and we got ourselves involved in doing just that. Creating beautiful 'dream workspace' layouts, flat-lays using gorgeous stationery, motivational quotes and fun but functional office based essentials in a way that showed how creative and inspirational we can make our workspace. I was really impressed by the creative compositions that the bloggers so swiftly put together so I thought today I'd share some of my own thoughts on what makes a working space great. If you missed it you might also find my recent post on how to create a healthier workspace useful too.



1. Embrace Your Workplace Style

  • Decide what you want and need the space to do for you.
  • Consider what sort of style and trend appeals to you. Perhaps industrial, country, modern, classic?
  • What are you trying to achieve in your space? Are you in desperate need of a constant supply of inspiration, motivation, productivity? How can you bring this to the space?
  • Finally have a good think about the essential key things that you need to get the job done. Notebooks? Pens? Staplers? Paperclips?! How can you incorporate these in a fun but functional way?

2. Storage Matters

  • Bear in mind the practicalities of the space in which you're working. How can you style a smart, fun but also functional space? What storage might you need?

3. Consider Your Own Work Wellbeing As Well As Productivity Boosters

  • Keep clutter to a minimum, maybe implement plants for greenery (bring the outside in for wellbeing), keep things light and bright, will you need a clock for timing and ensuring you take regular breaks etc?

4. Visual Is Key

  • Inspire yourself with visual props. Perhaps motivational quotes, posters? What will keep you feeling creative? Keep these things in eyeshot to keep you feeling happy and motivated.

5. Play With Pops Of Colour Or Colour Themes

  • Will you opt for a one-colour theme? Perhaps keep it muted but with pops of different colour? Maybe calm? Maybe bright? What appeals to you?
  • Certain colours help with different things, blue is calming, yellow is good for creativity, green is good for longs hours and stress. Perhaps you want to bring this into your space if you have a particular need to address?

6. Personalise With Individual Touches

  • Once you have pulled your main theme together, how will you add in a little bit of yourself and your own personality? Photo frames holding your favourite memories? Your favourite mug for your coffee break? Something fun that speaks to you and makes you feel at home in your space! 


What would you do if you had free reign to be as creative as possible with your workspace? Plus are you a stationery lover too? How do you use stationery to accessorise and perk up your space? 

Let me know your thoughts and happy National Stationery Week to all you fellow stationery fans out there!



A Seasonal Trip To The Opera: The Mikado

Recently I was very lucky to be invited to attend a performance of The Mikado by The English National Opera. As a lover of the theatre I've attended many a production throughout the years, from ballet, to play, to west end musical, but it's only very recently that I've started to enjoy going to, and experiencing a night at the opera.

2015 Production Shot: Photograph (c) Tristram Kenton 

2015 Production Shot: Photograph (c) Tristram Kenton 

It began back in January of this year when we took ourselves off to see La Boheme at the Sydney Opera House whilst visiting friends down under! To be honest our main drive for the visit was to experience a taste of the iconic opera house, but to our surprise we really fell in love with the production and the genre itself and vowed that it was something we should do more often. When the chance to see The Mikado came up I thought it would be a great option, both to experience and to share here on the blog for anyone else considering dipping their toes into the opera pool.

I guess Gilbert and Sullivan operas such as this can be considered a little lighter and more accessible than some other options. So for people just beginning to find their opera feet this is really a perfect choice. Plus I'd heard many great things about this famous ENO production so was looking forward to seeing what it was all about. 

2015 Production Shot: Photograph (c) Tristram Kenton 

2015 Production Shot: Photograph (c) Tristram Kenton 

This production was a joy. Directed by Jonathan Miller who first staged this particular version in 1986, setting it in an English country house in the 1920's rather than in its original setting of Japan. The ENO take on this famous comical opera is pretty much just as well known and well loved in its own right.

As well as the wit and humour of the lyrics, attacked brilliantly by the cast, there is crisp and comical choreography from the brilliant Antony Van Laast who's work I love and who musical theatre fans will know from shows such as Mamma Mia and more recently Sister Act on Broadway.

Watching Richard Suart as Ko-Ko is also pure joy, especially as he works his way through the famous 'I've Got A Little List' and the audience await expectantly to hear of the ones who won't be missed. Suart regularly updates the list himself adding a topical selection of current characters who are making headlines in the worlds news. In fact this article from the Independent was a great read ahead of watching the show. Worth a look if you're planning to go along and see it for yourself: Updating The Mikado's Little List

For anyone new to opera it's really a brilliant starting point. Sung in English, but with the surtitles still available above the stage, which actually come in very handy given the quick and witty lyrics and the operatic tone, this is a charming and thoroughly enjoyable performance. In fact so taken were we with the whole thing that we headed home and proceeded the next day to watch the 1999 Mike Leigh film Topsy-Turvy based on the work of Gilbert and Sullivan and the inspiration behind the writing of The Mikado. Long, but fun and well worth a watch.

2015 Production Shot: Photograph (c) Tristram Kenton 

2015 Production Shot: Photograph (c) Tristram Kenton 

I also really love the ethos of the English National Opera who firmly believe in making theatre accessible to everyone and not an expensive and elitist past time. With prices in the west end soaring beyond belief right now, it's encouraging to know that for every performance at the London Coliseum, the ENO's beautiful home, there are at least 500 tickets available at £20 or under. Meaning everyone can come along and get a taste of this beautiful production, as well as the many others in the ENO repertoire each season. It's definitely something worth putting on your to do list, especially if you've been thinking of embracing a bit of opera yourself. I highly recommend it.

On a last note, you also cannot beat the beauty of the stunningly restored London Coliseum. London has many very beautiful theatres to offer but this one is certainly up there as one of the best since it was beautifully brought back to life in 2004. It's a real joy to sit there eagerly awaiting the start of a performance gazing at its glory, so lovingly returned to its glamorous Edwardian best.

If you're looking for something a little different to do with your time this holiday season and have never given the opera a try then I urge you to give it a go. You can catch The Mikado up until the 6th of February 2016 or choose from a number of other productions coming up in the New Year. Go on try something different - I'm confident you'll be glad that you did. 

Visit www.eno.org for more information and details of upcoming productions.

Are you an opera fan? Any recommendations for a newbie like me? Or is opera something that you've never experienced, perhaps you're tempted to go along and give it a go? Let me know what you think in the comments below, and have a great day everyone!



Our tickets were complimentary as part of being invited along to review. My opinions are however 100% honest and completely my own. If I hadn't enjoyed it I wouldn't be sharing it here with you today.