Education guide: Winter 2019

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School days are the happiest days of your life, right? Check out our education guide and find out how you can make them really top class including information on bird watching, how to choose the right school for you, adult education and work experience.

FLYING HIGH

As we enter a new year, Karen Neville teams up with the RSPB to encourage you and the schoolchildren in your family to spot local birds in your garden.

A staggering 6,764,475 birds were spotted during last year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, thanks in no small part to the thousands of schoolchildren who joined in. Youngsters spotted robins, starlings and blue tits among the millions recorded for the annual count.

And now it’s time to do it all over again to see which ones are thriving and which ones need your help to survive.

The house sparrow was the most common bird again in 2018, happy in both urban and suburban areas. Other birds flying high in the surveys included the goldfinch, long-tailed and coal tit while robins were down, largely due to the mild winter which made food more widely available in the countryside meaning the red-breasted bird didn’t have such a need to visit our gardens.

The birdwatch is 40 years old this year and has grown hugely since youngsters were given the opportunity to get involved in a simple winter activity.

From counting the birds in your garden to determine which are the UK’s top 10 most common species, the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has become one of the most participated in nature events across the country, enjoyed by young and old.

Only a few hundred children were expected to take part when it started in 1979, but thanks to Blue Peter, more than 34,000 surveys were completed and results gathered.

Now schools turn their classes into conservation zones and help track the ups and downs in bird numbers through a variety of fun activities before, during and after the Big Schools Birdwatch which helps youngsters develop an interest in wildlife and the world around them.

Simple survey sheets are a great way to get started, helping you to count the birds with colourful worksheets designed for three age groups – five to seven years, seven to 11 and 11 to 14-year-olds. Focussing on the most common birds likely to be seen, youngsters are invited to record how many of each one they see and to draw any not included as well as recording any unusual features noticed.

Why not feed the birds as you record them and perhaps even entice a few more into your garden or school grounds? The RSPB has a range of recipe ideas that you can make too – pastry maggots, pine cone lardy seed feeders and a suet and nut log are just some of the tasty treats to encourage feathered friends to feel at home!

Games are also a great way for pupils to learn about the birds around them and recognise them as they take part in the count – try matching pairs of pictures with a fun memory game or how about a “top trumps” game comparing your favourite feathered facts?

However you enjoy the Big Schools Birdwatch, your help is essential to ensure the birds in our gardens and school grounds are protected. The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from 26th to 28th January and you can submit your findings until Friday, 22nd February.

  To take part visit www.rspb.org.uk 

HAPPY FAMILIES

Choosing a school or nursery for your child can be a case of heart versus head…

At The Royal School, we understand choosing the right school for your child will be one of the most important decisions you ever make.

It is a decision that you will take with your head, having completed all the necessary research, but we know that you will really take it with your heart, based on your knowledge of your child and of his or her particular needs at any given time in their education.

There are many factors that a parent needs to consider. When seeking a nursery for your two-year-old, questions around sleep routines, food, toilet training and managing tears and tantrums will be high on the agenda. When seeking a primary or prep school, you will have questions about curriculum, homework, pupil-teacher ratio, friendships, lunches and wrap around care.

When it comes to selecting a senior school, considerations relating to the curriculum, examination results, behaviour management, ethos, class size, extra-curricular provision and the school environment will be on your mind. And when you are looking for a sixth form, you will want to know about university destinations, examination success, opportunities for the development of life skills and careers education. The list goes on…

Here in the south east, parents are blessed with a wide range of excellent schools and nurseries from which to choose and the choice can sometimes feel rather overwhelming, especially when friends and family also add their opinion into the mix. In the end, the decision is easier than you would think. Take time to visit the schools and nurseries in the area. Look beyond the first impression of bricks and mortar – is there a purposeful buzz of activity? Do the children or young people look happy and engaged? Do the teachers appear passionate about their subject? Is the head teacher approachable?

Choosing a school or nursery is rather like choosing a family home; it can all seem incredibly complicated, but ultimately, it is the one that has the right feel that will be the right choice. This is very personal; one size does not fit all!

By Mrs A Lynch, principal of The Royal School and Mrs K Daunter, head of the Junior School.

ADULT LEARNING

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Here are some reasons why learning in later life is beneficial!

Yes, young brains are most adept at learning languages and skills, but the benefits of taking up a new skill after school age are many!

For those who are recently retired or considering a career change, a lack of direction can be demoralising. Embarking on an adult learning course and picking up new skills can be incredibly rewarding, and fun too.

Signing up to a new course, trying out a new sport, learning a new language or experimenting with a new instrument can boost . It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time and apply yourself to something completely new. Lifelong learning helps you to continually grow and develop as a person and it’s good for your mental ability if you’re always putting your mind to something new.

Adult education courses significantly benefit learners, a survey by the Workers’ Educational Association suggests. According to the survey of 2,000 adult learners, education boosts confidence about finding employment and benefits local communities.

Of course, we’re constantly told that physical exercise is important for keeping our bodies in good condition, but it’s just as important to keep your mind active, too. Taking in new information helps to stimulate your mind, and studies have proven that this can help to reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

You’re never too old to learn, and with advances in technology making e-learning more accessible than ever, there are no excuses for not giving it a go.

   Visit www.wea.org.uk for more ideas and check out the University of the Third Age.

WORK EXPERIENCE

Don’t be shy of taking your first step into the workplace!

Work experience can be a daunting prospect when you’re in Year 10 and more interested in playing on the X-Box or the latest gossip. But it’s more important than just a week off lessons…

It’s a great way to find out whether a certain type of career is for you. You’ll get the chance to learn new skills, make contacts and experience what it’s like working a whole day.

But where do you begin? A good place to start is follow your passions. Try to do something you’re interested in – if, for example, you love animals, contact any zoos or animal sanctuaries. If being on stage or behind the scenes is your thing, try local theatres.

Once you have a general idea start checking out the businesses and companies in your area as well as speaking to your school careers adviser.

And don’t be disheartened if places you contact aren’t able to help; there are plenty of options. Some companies offer structured placements but competition can be tough so make sure you know what you want and how to ‘sell’ yourself. Many places will expect you to complete an application form too so double check your spelling and grammar when doing so.

Having gained a place, hopefully with your chosen employer, put your nerves aside – a tricky one – and remember to make contact ahead of your placement to confirm details such as times, dress code, what to wear etc and a bit of research on them doesn’t do any harm, either.

You’re now ready for your first proper day at work – make the most of it, you never know where it could lead…

Saving Sumatran orangutans

Liz Nicholls

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Lucy Radford of Abingdon charity Sumatran Orangutan Society explains more about the plight of and how to help this majestic endangered creature.

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, lush rainforests are home to orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. Hornbills fly over the treetops and troops of monkeys leap from branch to branch. The air is alive with the buzzing, shrieking and singing of thousands of animals, from minuscule insects to jungle giants. The rainforest is an amazing place to be, and it is vital for species such as the Sumatran orangutan, which is critically endangered in the wild. Tragically, Indonesia has the fastest deforestation rate in the world, and the threats facing species like the orangutan are intensifying.

Thousands of miles away in Abingdon, the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) works to reverse the fortunes of the orangutans, their forest homes, and the other animals living there. In collaboration with Indonesian NGOs, SOS takes a holistic approach to orangutan conservation. This means tackling the causes of deforestation, as well as trying to cure the symptoms.

Orangutan habitat is sometimes chipped away a few acres at a time by rural communities who grow crops where the forest used to be. In other cases, forests are cleared on an industrial scale. Of the crops grown on Sumatra, the most familiar to us in the UK is palm oil. Palm oil is found in a wide range of products, from cosmetics to chocolate bars, so the global demand is huge. Wildlife cannot survive in oil palm plantations – Sumatra has four times as much land cultivated with oil palms as there is habitat for orangutans.

Orangutans spend their lives in the trees, so protecting and restoring their forest habitat is crucial. SOS works with Indonesian non-Governmental organisations to protect Sumatra’s last forests and restore damaged ecosystems. The health and prosperity of the people of Sumatra are also linked to the fate of the forests, so SOS works closely with local communities to develop conservation projects including forest restoration, and sustainable livelihoods like organic farming that offer a real alternative to the destruction of forests. SOS also supports the only active orangutan rescue team in Sumatra. As well as evacuating orangutans from dangerous situations and releasing them into safe forests, they tackle the causes of human-orangutan conflict, providing training so rural communities can protect their crops without harming wildlife.

One of the simplest ways you can help is to become a voice for orangutans: follow SOS online and share their news. The choices you make when you shop can have a real impact – look out for sustainable palm oil on ingredients lists and check for the FSC symbol on anything derived from wood. You can also donate to support the work SOS is doing on the ground or set yourself a fundraising challenge to raise money and awareness.

 For more information visit www.orangutans-sos.org

Dancing: Witness the fitness

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Strictly star Ian Waite’s life was changed by the joy of dance and you can channel the same benefits thanks to FitSteps…

Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in south Reading.

Following his parents’ divorce when he was ten, friends suggested his dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother. Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged 17. Now aged 47, Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life. He says: “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well.”

Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as The Ballroom Boys later this year. A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps.

This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes for all ages and abilities. “It’s so much fun that you don’t realise you’re getting fit!” adds Ian. He has many tales of people who have lost huge amounts of weight, including one who has lost almost four stone.

There are FitSteps classes across the UK including classes in Oxfordshire run by the friendly Debs. For more about her classes, please email deborahjanedavies@hotmail.co.uk or contact her on 07968 948007.

The “Joy of Dance” is something that completely changed Ian Waite’s life. Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in South Reading. Following his parents divorcing when he was ten, friends suggested his Dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother.

Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened-up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged seventeen. Now aged forty-seven Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life, as he says; “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well”. Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as “The Ballroom Boys” later this year.

A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps. This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of Ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes where you don’t realise you are getting fit, Ian tells of one person who lost between around four stone.

For more information please go to www.fitsteps.co.uk.

Best of British: Political cartoons

Liz Nicholls

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Liz Nicholls reflects on a tumultuous year in world politics, thanks to Tim Benson and the talented cartoonists who have depicted 2018 in satirical pictures…

Few people might have relished the political drama served up throughout 2018… However, by way of positive spin, it has been a gift to cartoonists.

“It’s been fantastic!” exclaims Tim Benson, editor of Britain’s Best Political Cartoons and co-owner of The Political Cartoon Gallery & Café in London.

“Over the last six years you couldn’t have made up the world events… For a cartoonist, it’s been like a daily treat. And the characters; from Jeremy Corbyn to Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson to Kim Jong Un… so many subjects to have fun with! No one knows what’s going to happen next.”

We’re just kissing goodbye to 2018; a feverish year in which Brexit got serious, football fever, a UK heatwave and royal wedding mania gripped us all and Trump got transformed into a giant baby blimp (see above, by Peter Brookes of The Times)…

Times of political turmoil test the mettle of our nation’s cartoonists – the best in the world. “We’re very lucky in this country, because cartoonists have more freedom here than anywhere else, which is something to be proud of,” says Tim.

A historian with a particular interest in 20th century political history, Tim’s PhD was on Sir David Low’s relationship with Lord Beaverbrook, his editor at The Daily Express. He began collecting political caricatures and has written several titles on political cartoon art, a vital form of satire, from 19th century etcher James Gillray via wartime master Sir David Low to today’s top draw. As a die-hard fan of newspapers myself, it’s cheering to read that it is also a media that works best in print.

Tim rejoices in the art form, pointing out that, while cartoonists might be the “canaries in the mine” when it comes to budget cuts, it has survived the industrial revolution, print censorship and two world wars. “And we still have a culture of daily political cartooning in the broadsheet press: Evening Standard editor George Osborne recently reinvigorated his opinion pages by bringing back the political cartoon after a hiatus of 13 years.”

Along with his partner Julie Dangoor, Tim has bought, sold and exhibited original cartoon art for 15 years. Their gallery is the world’s only venue dedicated to original political cartoon art, ranging from The Guardian’s Steve Bell and The Daily Telegraph’s Bob Moran to yesteryear greats “Vicky” (Victor Weisz) and Carl Giles as well as original gag cartoons from Punch and Private Eye.

Tim has edited six Britain’s Best books, published by Random House. “It’s fabulous because I get to play God,” he tells me. “Selecting my favourites is hard because there are so many good cartoons. As for depicting people, David Low called them ‘tags of identity’ and politicians often play these up – Theresa May’s leopard print shoes, Howard Wilson choosing a pipe even though really he was a cigar man… To be in politics you need the hide of a rhinoceros but the higher up the greasy pole you go, the more vain you can get… When Steve Bell got wind David Cameron was really irked by being depicted with a condom on his head, it felt like winning the lottery. Cartoons are a wonderful in the ‘now’ but also, when you put them into context, become a kind of commentary.”

We have a copy of Britain’s Best Political Cartoons 2018 to give away! To enter, click here or visit our competitions page.

The Political Cartoon Gallery & Café, SW15 1JP www.original-political-cartoon.com

Vegan virtues: January recipes

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Star chef Dipna Anand shares some Punjabi-inspired vegan recipes to warm the cockles as we enter a new year.

alu gobi

(Prep: 10mins – Cooking: 20 mins – Serves: 4-5)

Not only extremely popular across India, alu gobi has also made its mark in Britain. It’s a customer favourite, enjoyed with a naan or a chapatti as a main meal or even a side dish. If you are looking for the perfect Punjabi vegetable dish which is quick and easy to prepare then look no further; it’s what I call simple food – hearty and tasty at the same time.

Ingredients:

6 tbsp vegetable oil, two finger green chillies, finely chopped, one medium onion, finely chopped, 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste, 2 tomatoes, finely diced, 1 ½ tsp salt, 2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced into ½ inch cubes, 300ml water, 500g cauliflower florets, 2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, ¾ tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, crushed

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan for one minute.

2. Add the cumin seeds to the oil together with the green chilli and when the seeds begin to sizzle, add the chopped onions to the pan and cook for three or four minutes until the onions begin to colour.

3. Add ginger and garlic paste and cook for one minute before adding the turmeric, red chilli powder, diced tomato and salt and cook for one further minute.

4. Add the diced potatoes to the sauté pan with 150ml water, cover the pan and simmer on a low-medium heat for about eight to 10 minutes (mix occasionally).

5. Add the cauliflower florets to the sauté pan with the remaining 150ml of water, cover the pan and cook for nine or 10 minutes (mix occasionally, if more water is required in between and the alu gobi is drying out, add as needed).

6. When the cauliflower and potato are cooked, add the garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and fresh coriander to the pan and cook for a final one or two minutes.

7. Garnish with finely chopped ginger juliennes and chopped coriander stalks.

BEGAN BHARTHA

(Prep: 10 mins, Cooking: 20 mins, Serves: 6-8)

This is my mum’s version of the dish and it’s packed full of flavour yet does not use that many spices. Some recipes use a lot more ingredients and spices and complicate the method, yet Mum’s way is simple and straightforward and the result is hearty and flavoursome!

Ingredients:

Two large aubergines (800g), 4 tbsp olive oil, two finger green chillies, finely chopped, one medium onion (finely sliced), 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste, 3½ tomatoes, blanched, skinned and chopped 1 ½ tsp salt, 160g peas, frozen or tinned, 5 tbsp water, 2 tbsp fresh coriander (finely chopped) . Tadka (finishing touch!): ½ tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coarse black pepper, 1 tsp turmeric powder, ¼ tsp white pepper powder ¾ tsp garam masala. Garnish suggestion: aubergine skin, rolled into tubes and roasted in the oven for 10 minutes

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.

2. Cut the aubergines in half, length-ways, lay them flesh-side up and roast on an oven tray for 45 minutes. Once cooked, let them cool.

3. Using a spoon scrape out the inside pulp of the aubergine avoiding scooping out any of the skin and put the pulp into a bowl.

4. Cut the stem from the skin and mix with the pulp, leave the aubergine pulp to one side and discard the aubergine skin or save for garnish.

5. In a sauté pan, heat the oil, add the green chilli, cumin and coarse black pepper and onions. Fry the onions until golden brown and almost caramelised, this should take about seven or eight minutes on a medium heat.

6. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for two minutes.

7. Add half the chopped tomatoes and cook for four or five minutes.

8. Add the salt, turmeric and white pepper powder and cook for a further three or four minutes.

9. Add the peas to the masala and cook for 4-5 minutes.

10. Add the aubergine pulp and stems to the masala sauce together with the remaining tomatoes and water and cook for eight to ten minutes.

11. Add the final touches of garam masala and fresh coriander and cook for a further two or three minutes.

12. Serve with a fluffy buttered chapatti, spread like pâté.

• Dipna Anand is the founder of London restaurant Dip in Brilliant – visit www.dipinbrilliant.com

Wishes in the Wind

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A Christmas story

© Chris Meredith

It was deep mid-winter. Snow lay on the ground and barely a bird could be seen in the clear, blue sky.

Children were wrapped up in their hats and coats, ice drops appearing on their noses. Dogs were bounding after snowballs thrown high into the air. Adults were building snowmen, laughing, and chatting to each other as they returned to the joys of their childhood.

Soon the light faded, and the adults, children and dogs slowly and tiredly made their way home.

Silence – until the wind came.

The wind had travelled from oceans far away to be here, gathering speed and ferocity and anger. Static objects only mildly interrupted it. The next objects it encountered were a group of trees that still had bedraggled leaves clinging on for dear life on them.

The wind smiled as it raced to blow the remaining leaves off the tree. A huge puff should do it. Breathing in deeply, the wind blew its cold, wintry breath over the leaves. And within seconds, every tree branch became bare.

The wind stopped a while to catch its breath. As it did so, it noticed a beautiful robin sitting on one of the bare branches. The robin smiled and said to the wind; “You’re a bit of a bully, aren’t you?”

The wind, taken aback, started to blow fiercely at the little robin, making him fall off the branch and onto the white ground below. The wind towered over the robin and glowered at him. The robin simply fluffed his feathers and hopped and danced in a circle in the snow, not showing an ounce of concern.

“There you are, said the robin. You ARE a bully!”

The anger of the wind dissipated and he started to sob gently.

“I am sorry little robin, I know of no other way to behave. It is in my nature to behave like this”,  he explained.

The robin hopped on one foot, then the other and was deep in thought.

“Would you like to change your nature wind, the one that is angry sometimes?” he said.

“I would love to”, wailed the wind, “but I just don’t know how.”

The robin beckoned the wind to pick him up which the wind gladly did, asking, “Take me to that cloud you can see high.”

The wind was intrigued and gently carried the robin to the cloud.

“The cloud is called the wishes cloud and inside this cloud you will find the Christmas wishes of some of our human friends from Cleeve Lodge Residential Home. To see them you must softly breathe on the cloud.”

The wind followed the robin’s instructions and the cloud parted as he breathed onto it. All at once there appeared the faces of Ken, Mary, Elsie, Gordon, Dot, Lilian, Sylvia, and Tom. “Now”, said robin,  “please take me back to the tree where you first met me and then you must go and make their wishes come true. Can you do that?”

The wind nodded and smiled as he swept the robin back to the tree in one huge breath.

“Good luck” said robin – “God’s speed to you.”

The wind turned and moved quickly above the land and hovered above Cleeve Lodge.

He could see Mary and Ken playing out in the fields, knee deep in snow and laughing. Elsie was wrapping up Christmas presents, Gordon and Dot were singing Christmas songs. While all the other residents were tucked up inside, snug and warm.

With a shake of his head the wind rushed over the fields where Ken and Mary were playing and then rushed into an open window at Cleeve Lodge. He tore around the house, brushing the heads of everyone he touched. The care assistants rushed to close the window, but the wind swept through it and was gone.

The wind had what he wanted. He had gathered all the memories of the residents and raced to the wishes cloud. Once there he blew the cloud with all his might and the residents’ Christmas memories tumbled from him and into the cloud of wishes.

Their memories were from distant Christmases past.

Lilian was cuddling a baby doll named Lilly who was enjoying being fed with pretend milk. Mary was kissing a toy panda and pushing it in a dolls pram. Philip was kicking an old leather football, Gordon was pushing a train around a track, Ken was playing a musical instrument while Tom had an array of plastic farm animals. They were children, they were happy and carefree. The whole of their life stretched before them.

The wishes cloud recreated the toys they were playing with. The wind blew them towards Cleeve Lodge and magically wrapped them in Christmas paper as he blew.

They tumbled from the sky, down the chimney and rested under the Christmas tree.

Christmas Day came, and the residents eagerly opened the mysterious presents under the tree. As each one was opened, a special memory of childhood was evoked. All the residents remembered with glee the happy, carefree life they had many moons ago.

Chris Meredith is a writer based in Windsor with a passion for poetry.

He conducts therapeutic poetry sessions at care homes in Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire sharing his love of the form at weekends since 2015.

His first anthology Words of My Life was published in 2014 and is available through Amazon.

Chris has recently launched a website featuring his work, please visit chris-meredith.co.uk

Show you care this Christmas

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On Monday, St Christopher’s Fellowship launched its Christmas fundraising appeal. They’re raising £20,000 to help make sure children in care and young care leavers don’t feel lonely this Christmas.

St Christopher’s is a charity based in Putney that aims to create brighter futures for children and young people. They do this by providing fostering, residential homes and support services where children and young people can feel safe and cared for.

Their appeal puts a spotlight on the issue of young people’s loneliness. Last month a nationwide survey revealed that 16 – 24 year olds are lonelier than any other age group. This is particularly the case for young care leavers who find themselves living on their own for the first time. Some don’t have a family they can call on for support when they need it, and they may find themselves facing the prospect of being on their own on Christmas Day.

But St Christopher’s want to change things. With your help, this Christmas can be special for children in care and young care leavers. Your donation could buy Christmas presents and Christmas lunch for a children’s home. Or it could buy a train ticket so that a young care leaver can be at their children’s home for Christmas, so they don’t spend the day alone.

A young person who lives at one of St Christopher’s 16+ homes said: “I don’t know where I would be without St Christopher’s? It is like a family.”

Support the appeal today at www.stchris.org.uk/christmas

Self-care: granny knows best

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How do dadimas aka grandmothers self-care?

Can you remember the last conversation you had with a grandmother? What was their attitude towards stress, mental health and self-care? As part of my dadima’s (translated as grandmother’s) project, I’ve interviewed Indian grandmothers for my memoir cookbook, where ‘ordinary’ women (‘extraordinary’ in my view) share their culinary stories and life wisdom, along with some of the challenges they’ve faced. Over several cups of masala chai, and wholesome home-cooking, we talked about everything under the sun. Here are five of their inexpensive wellness tips, that I’ve found helpful in my life.

1. Frame your ‘problems’ through talking and listening
Grandparents can shed light to a ‘problem’, through simply sharing their life experiences. Inter-generational conversations have helped me to put my ‘problems’ into perspective, as the grandmothers had the benefit and wisdom of hindsight, even if their younger lives were very different. Talking and listening are free therapy.

2. Keep your mind calm by thinking good thoughts
Easier said than done, but the grandmothers stressed this. Even if someone had wronged them, they would wish them well, and see the experience as a valuable life lesson for the future. Several grandmothers shared stories of things ‘going wrong’ in life, and the effect of those on their mental and physical health. For example, their stories of migration from India to the UK.

3. Make time for gratitude, meditation, and stilling the mind. Whilst mindfulness, meditation, yoga and gratitude, have now become ‘trendy’ concepts, the grandmothers that I spoke to have practiced it for years. They were either religious or spiritual, and their faith gave them a sense of stillness. They focus on what they have, rather than the culture of ‘I want…’.

4. DIY beauty & wellness remedies
Ayurveda is said to be the world’s oldest, holistic healing system which originates from India. In recent years, it’s become trendy in the UK, in a culinary and wellbeing context (for example, with the popularity of turmeric). The Indian grandmothers I interviewed, are like walking encyclopaedias of wellness remedies, including face and hair masks, and cleansing drinks – tricks that I have grown up with, at a fraction of the cost of commercial products.

5. Make home-cooking a lifestyle
Cooked from scratch, using the best ingredients you can afford. They made the most from the ingredients they had, and made them go far – for example, a big pot of nutritious daal.
For them, home-cooking was a part of their lives. They are no Michelin-star chefs, but their cooking speaks from the heart and is real soul food. See my instagram page and cookbook, for delicious, heritage recipes and time-saving tips.

Anneeka Ludhra is the founder of dadima’s heritage food & lifestyle brand, and author of the dadima’s cookbook. Dadima’s celebrates culinary and life wisdom from elders – particularly grandmothers. Anneeka is looking to interview more grandmothers (and any interested grandfathers) for her 2019 dadima’s project.

Please contact anneeka@dadimas.co.uk if you are a grandmother or grandfather who would like to get involved.
Instagram: @_dadimas
Facebook: dadima’s
Website: www.dadimas.co.uk

Story lines: Anton du Beke

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Anton du Beke chats to Peter Anderson about writing his new novel One Enchanted Evening ahead of another UK-wide dance tour with Erin Boag in January.

London, 1936. Inside the spectacular ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them… captivate them… and sweep away their cares. However, accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.

Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small home town. She dreams of joining the dancers on the grand ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and discreet doors. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…

“I have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”

Book Mock-WEB

Throughout his career, Anton du Beke who lives in Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, has loved a good story, but up until now he has told it through dance or more recently song. Now, with One Enchanted Evening, his debut novel, Anton has put them into words. So, did all those years of characterisation in dances (and who hasn’t loved some of his creations on Strictly!?) help him with the characters in the novel? He says: “The novel’s characters are based on people I’ve met or stories I’ve heard throughout my career. There are plenty of stories – whether it is of the dance bands and those who loved them – or tales of evenings down the pub, where after the pints had flowed, it tended to be fists that started flying.”

I find it interesting that Anton’s novel harks back to the halcyon days of the 1920s when Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin represented a more avant-garde scene. He laughs. “That’s a connection I hadn’t made. But I loved stories that were based at a definitive period in history.” One of his favourite current writers is Berkshire-based writer Robert Harris whose novels once again are set during World War II.

I ask Anton whether he hopes to continue writing. “Well,” he replies, “there are certainly plenty of tales and adventures I still have in my head for the hero, and there is a second book in the pipeline. But just like my success – or lack of it in Strictly – how many books the publishers are keen on printing depends on the audience vote – and I just have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”

• One Enchanted Evening is published by Bonnier Zaffre in hardback, paperback and e-book and available from all good booksellers and online.

Look out for our January competitions online and in your local Round & About for your chance to win tickets to Erin & Anton’s show at a theatre near you!

Mr Tumble talks to us

Round & About

Featured

Peter Anderson chats to children’s TV star Justin Fletcher MBE, 48, ahead of another star turn delighting families as we hit pantomime season.

Q. What inspired you to go into acting? “I have always been interested in acting and drama, including making my own animated short films when I was younger with my dad’s Super 8 camera. I was born in – and have always lived in – the Reading area and went to drama school in Guildford. A chance meeting with Philip Scofield led me to asking him how I might get into BBC children’s television. He said ‘make a showreel’, and so I did! Having experience with the Super 8 was a great help. Now I have my own production company and am still loving my children’s television work.”

Q. Who were your inspirations? “One of the people I always wanted to appear with was David Suchet, whose career was also launched in Berkshire [at The Watermill in Newbury]. But one of my real loves – and obviously great for pantomime – is slapstick. I adore watching Laurel & Hardy and their looks directly to camera. I was blessed to have been taught slapstick by Jack Tripp, who is sadly no longer with us. He was considered one of, if not the best pantomime dame in this country.”

Q. How do you think children see your character within this year’s pantomime, at Reading’s Hexagon? “Although I am known and billed as ‘CBBC’s Mr Tumble’, I probably take on more than 20 roles across the programmes I make. But it is very important for the children to understand within the pantomime [Aladdin] who my character is. So, every performance we always have fun with the children about who I am as a character in the pantomime, and get them on-side to help me through the rest of the show.”

Q. Do you enjoy doing panto? “I always enjoy doing pantomimes, in the same way I enjoyed going to the Hexagon as a child in the 1980s to watch them. Aside from, as I said, slapstick being one of my favourite kinds of theatre, it is a marvellous way to get people – especially families – to go to the theatre. Pantomime is one of those things that can be enjoyed by the whole family, parents and children. Then if we can get them coming to pantomimes as they grow older they may wish to try other types of show.”

l Justin is patron of local charity Make A Wish foundation: www.make-a-wish.org.uk

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