Spring clean

Round & About

London

Everything in its place or life in chaos? Putney’s Victoria Nicholson tells Liz Nicholls how she discovered the joy of decluttering and helping others achieve the same…

Such is the chaos of my life that I’m both jealous of and intrigued by serenely organised people. So, after confessing my messy shame to Victoria Nicholson, founder of My Wardrobe Zen, I’m surprised to learn we have much in common…

“Growing up and as an adult I was really untidy,” she says. “I used my creative mind as an excuse and that there was much more to life than something as mundane as tidying. I’ve always been messy. It’s not that I didn’t want to be tidy; I dreamed of neat shelves and clean stationery… but no matter how much I tried, my mess was always shifted from one area to another.
“It wasn’t until the death of my parents when I had my ‘Eureka’ moment. When sorting through my parents’ belongings (there was a lot, in fact so much that we ended up on two episodes of Storage Hoarders), I had to get through everything in a short space of time so I scanned for items that I wanted to keep or that my sister would want. Everything else went in a big van destined for a women’s refuge centre.”

You might have seen the Netflix programme and heard of Marie Kondo’s bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying about identifying which items in your home truly “spark joy” and eliminating the rest. Victoria, a mum of one who has a background in hotel management and as an office PA, read it in 2015. “It resonated,” she says. “I’d tried traditional decluttering but it was always a quick fix and nothing stayed tidy.”

The KonMari™ method from Japan boasts a 0% relapse rate and has a positive, nurturing approach that Victoria wanted to share. Now a certified KonMari™ consultant and APDO member, she offers local residents a free 20-minute consultation.

“By having a place for everything, tidying up daily is much quicker and by keeping ‘like with like’ it’s easier to find things. It’s important if you’re sharing a home to also let them know where everything is and store items logically. When I completed my tidying marathon I had clarity. My husband asked me to help him too and loves the results – he says it’s like looking at a nice shop display every morning. It was amazing to meet Marie [pictured] at the London KonMari seminar last year. I knew she was petite but not until she glided in did I appreciate how delicate she is. Yet she commands a huge presence that exudes inner strength. I’ve yet to be shocked by a client’s mess – we all lead busy lives and I know how easy it is for things to get out of hand. In some cases fear of letting go of the past or fear of the future or change has an impact on our environment.”

Pictured: Victoria and Maria Kondo

Visit Victoria’s website www.mywardrobezen.co.uk

Bedded bliss

Round & About

London

Liz Nicholls goes undercover to help you create your dream bedroom and get a good night’s sleep in National Bed Month.

Creating the perfect boudoir is a labour of love. And this month is the perfect time to lavish love on your bedroom, and yourself, to get a better kip…

Delightfully for fans of 1970s decor such as myself, one of the hot trends of the year is a celebration of retro shapes, especially the lozenge, with glitz points ramped up even higher if it’s in velvet. For a sumptuous example, check out Danetti ‘s Rene king size bed in navy blue (pictured above right) or Living It Up’s Harmonia platform bed in emerald green (above). If you want to go “full princess” (I mean, who doesn’t?!), also check out the chic hotel-worthy beds and accessories from French Bedroom Company, including the plushious throw (jewel-hued velvet again). See our competitions page, too!
March is National Bed Month when bed brands, including many based in Chelsea’s buzzing design quarter, are offering advice and deals on new beds and bedding, to encourage us all to sleep more soundly and deeply. Check out And So To Bed, Sweetpea & Willow, Original Bed Company, Button & Spring, Button & Sprung, Feather & Black, Darlings of Chelsea and Made.

For all you fellow insomniacs out there, Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams is well worth a read. The bestselling author’s latest tome is helping debunk unhelpful sleep habits. Notably; keeping a regular bedtime routine (including evening meditation if possible, Calm and Headspace apps are well worth checking out) and avoiding caffeinated drinks after 12noon and naps after 1pm.
Don’t underestimate the power of a dark, cosy bedroom interior to lull your body into healthy circadian rhythms – this encourages REM-rich sleep to replenish energy levels. As you can see from the range of bedroom inspo pictures here, dark and moody colours are hugely on-trend at the moment. I’ve gone for Farrow & Ball’s Inchyra Blue on my boudoir walls, set off with a soft Middleton Pink on the ceiling and copper accents. It’s not as mad as it sounds – the effect is gentleman’s-club-meets hotel getaway. I can’t recommend a bold, dark hue highly enough – check out Annie Sloan’s new range.

Switching off electronic devices, especially blue-light emitters, is a must for a good sleep, as is avoiding clocks or looking at the time during a wakeful night. If our brains are over-saturated with artificial light, this disrupts the release of melatonin, so echew overhead lights in favour of lamps; we love the infinity star (£9.99) and more by Lights4Fun and dimmable options.

Research shows, too, that most of us set our bedroom temperature too high to help you drop off soundly –18C is ideal for most people.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of great bedding to help you get a good kip! Senso-Rex, the company behind www.gravityblankets.co.uk, was founded in 2013 and its products have recently been winning rave reviews for easing stress and anxiety. State-of-the-art gravity blankets are tailored to your height and body weight to provide the sensation of being hugged or embraced and ensure a dreamy sleep. The Snoooze travel pillow has also been designed to give you perfect comfort and convenience when travelling. This revolutionary travel pillow, with zip compartments which enable it to expand and create a soft, bouncy luxurious feel, comes with a 100% cotton pillowcase and its own bag for easy transport .

Sweet dreams! @LizxNic @randamag

The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair

Round & About

London

The winter edition of The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, the first of three in 2019, will welcome you to Battersea Park between 22nd and 27th January.

Inspired by fashionable 1950s and 60s nightspots, with a touch of deco glamour, the winter fair will showcase The Cocktail Hour as its foyer display – showing visitors how to create a contemporary space for parties or a modern club room vibe.

The Cocktail Hour will incorporate diverse seating, side tables, lighting and decoration of all periods for a fresh look, accessorised with 20th century cocktail sets and antique drinking paraphernalia. Bar carts and trolleys are still enormously popular, and stylish examples will feature, alongside cocktail cabinets, serving trays, champagne buckets and glassware. All items in the fair display come from exhibitors and will be for sale.

More than 150 dealers from the UK and Europe will take part in the fair, bringing a beautiful variety of antique and 20th century design drawn from sources around the world. Interior decoration dates from the early 1700s to 1970, by designers and makers from the British Isles, Europe, Scandinavia, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Furniture, lighting, textiles, ceramics and porcelain, glass, natural history items, architectural elements, and garden artefacts and seating are all on display. Works of art from all periods to the contemporary – paintings, prints and sculpture – are all in the mix.

The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair is also the perfect place to find a wealth of accessories, especially mirrors of every style, and lighting; from antique to mid-20th century table lamps, floor lamps, wall lights, modernist ceiling lights and crystal chandeliers.

Finishing touches can make all the difference and at the fair, buyers love the choice of collectables that work in decorative groups, often presented by dealers in an inspirational fashion on their stands.

A wealth of specialist dealers offer antique and vintage glassware and ceramics for everyday use, colourful Scandinavian glass vases, and collections that make wonderful “tablescapes”, eccentricities such as antique dog collars, brass candlesticks and sets of decorative antique books.

Visitors to the fair can also enjoy home-coooked food and baking at The Kitchen and while visiting the winter fair why not pop into the London Antique Rug & Textile Art Fair which is taking place on the mezzanine.

  For full details visit www.decorativefair.com

Local artist: Lizzie Butler

Round & About

London

You can admire local artist Lizzie Butler’s sky-filled landscapes and more thanks to a mixed show at the Russell Gallery in Putney until Saturday, 26th January.

Lizzie’s background in figurative landscape oil painting and life drawing has informed her current work, which is expressive and semi-abstract in style. She trained at London Fine Art Studios and begins her landscape pieces, which are always inspired by land sea and sky, “en plein air”, in the form of sketches, photographs or paintings. She works primarily in oil, with some etchings.

“My love of painting comes from my father who was an architect,” says Lizzie “who etched at every opportunity he had, and my mother who was a fashion designer and colourist. I have always been drawn to landscapes and wide open spaces – big skies, the likes of which you find in Lincolnshire, where I spent all my childhood summers.

“I often begin my paintings ‘en plain air’ in Richmond Park, taking care to avoid marauding stags and hiding my lunch from enquiring dogs. If I am working from a photograph I’ve taken, this will be developed in my studio, in London, where many layers of oil paint are built up over several days, to create a depth and texture that achieve a different outcome to paintings created in a single day sitting in the open air.

“I was lucky enough to be included in a group exhibition entitled The Craft of Drawing and Painting, at the bewitching Leighton House Museum, in Kensington. Also, what has turned out to have become a pivotal moment for me, my work was hung in a joint exhibition with a friend, where we exhibited a series of sky paintings in Berkeley Street, London.”

Since then, Lizzie is in demand as a painter of skies whether they be in Lincolnshire or Cambridgeshire, “where the flat landscape lends itself to enormous, awe-inspiring skies. In my studio at the moment, I am working to complete a huge metre-square piece of a London sky!”

Trips to other parts of England are always an inspiration, too. The misty rolling hills of the Sussex Downs is another favourite location that has given rise to a series of paintings and etchings based just on this region.

  Find out more about Lizzie at www.artfinder.com/lizzie#

Magic for Maggie’s

Round & About

London

Maggie’s cancer charity invites everyone from the local community to enjoy its pop-up Christmas events here in Fulham.

Maggie’s West London centre is a haven of peace and support based on the grounds of Charing Cross Hospital on Fulham Palace Road, offering a wide variety of activities and support groups for anyone living with, or affected by, cancer.

This Christmas the Maggie’s team are holding two exciting festive events in Fulham, encouraging local residents to get involved with supporting their Maggie’s Centre. On Thursday 29th November at Fulham Library, an exciting “pop-up” fair will offer visitors an enticing range of crafts, gifts and artisan products, perfect for present ideas and stocking fillers. From 11am – 2pm the hall will be transformed into an arts and crafts haven, featuring Etsy suppliers and local London crafters, with donations to Maggie’s, and even mulled wine on offer!

Shortly after, on Monday 10th December, the charity is holding its second Carols by Candlelight concert at All Saints Church, from 6.45pm. This wonderful evening concert features not only The London Chorus, conducted by Ronald Corp, OBE, but also the wonderful Francis Holland School Choir – performing all of your festive favourites, as well as some more modern interpretation of Christmas classics.

Both events are generously sponsored by TWM Solicitors, and you can buy tickets for the concert at www.maggiescentres.org/westlondon (‘fundraising and events’). For more information call 020 7386 1750.

Wishful thinking: Richmond panto star

Round & About

London

Amid a star-studded cast that also includes Robert Lindsay and Rachel Stanley, comedian Jon Clegg plays Smee in Aladdin, this year’s Richmond Theatre pantomime. We ask him some questions.

Q. How did you get into acting and who were your inspirations? “I got into acting through pantomime! I was working as a stand-up comedian and was told I should give panto a try. I’ve always loved comedy actors – probably Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson were my first inspiration, and Laurel and Hardy!”

Q. What was the first pantomime you remember seeing, and where? “I didn’t go to a pantomime until I was a teenager – how deprived is that?! But then my first panto was in Redhill, Surrey, and starred the lady from the Shake’n’Vac ads.”

Q. What was your first panto role? “I played Wishee Washee in Aladdin, at the Tameside Hippodrome in Ashton Under Lyme near Manchester. I was alongside Hunter from the Gladiators [James Crossley], Irene from Home and Away [Lynn McGrainger], and the vicar from Dad’s Army [Frank Williams].”

Q. What do you enjoy about playing panto? “It’s great to work with a cast of fabulous actors – I do solo stand-up work the rest of the year. And it’s great fun, entertaining an audience full of beaming children is a real pleasure!”

Q. Is there a role on your wish list you would love to play one Christmas? “I love playing the comedy role in pantomime. Buttons was always on my wish list, and I have been fortunate to play that role three times now!”

Q. I imagine performing in panto can be quite intense, with a lot of days with more than one performance. How do you relax off stage? “It is intense, but it’s also incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. I enjoy long walks, eating out and watching sport when I’m not on the stage.”

Q. Is this the first time you have appeared at Richmond? “Yes, it’s my first time at Richmond. I came to see panto here 10 years ago, when I was in Brighton, as a friend was in the show. Paul Zerdin and Nigel Havers were the stars. They were brilliant, and two years later I worked with Nigel in Peter Pan at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley.”

Q. Peter Pan is set on an island. If you were stranded on an island which three people living, historic or fictional would you like to have with you and why?
“Firstly, my wife (of course!) along with Winston Churchill and Anthony Kiedis (lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers)”.

  • Peter Pan is on at Richmond Theatre between Saturday, 8th December & Sunday, 6th January. Other Christmas shows worth catching include Snow White at the Palladium and 42nd Street at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Squirrel Sisters: nutty and nice

Round & About

London

We talk to Fulhamites Gracie and Sophie – aka Squirrel Sisters – about their mission to bring their vegan snack bar start-up to the masses.

Q. You’ve both lived in Fulham all your lives – why do you love it here?
“We were born in Richmond but we moved to south-west London after university. Fulham is amazing because it’s so central and well connected with that buzzy London attitude at the same time as having a lovely village feel to it. You get the best of both worlds in Fulham.”

Q. Tell us a bit more about how you went about starting the business…
“Health, wellness, food and how it makes us feel has always been a passion of ours so we started Squirrel Sisters as a blog in 2014. Our blog gained a large following quickly; people connected with our mission and the fact we are two normal girls with a busy lifestyle who want to enjoy life while feeling great.

“With a growing following on our blog we saw an opportunity to turn our blog into a business so after much planning and preparation we launched our snack bars in November 2015, which we already had the recipes for [Gracie used to make them for Sophie due to her gluten intolerance.]

“We wanted to prove that healthy could be delicious and exciting so set off on a mission to help people make better and healthier choices more often. We wanted to help others believe that in treating yourself you can treat your health.”

Q. You’re stocked in an impressive range of places! Have you found it hard to break into the supermarket giants?
“We are extremely proud of our distribution – after two and a half years you can now find our products in more than 1,000 stores across the UK including Waitrose (you can find our cacao brownie and cacao orange flavours stocked in the Waitrose by Parsons Green), Morrisons, Boots, Whole Foods (all our flavours are stocked in the Fulham Whole Foods), Planet Organic, Selfridges, Ocado, Amazon and hundreds of independent delis, cafes and supermarkets.

“Launching into supermarkets is a challenge for a small company, especially if you haven’t had investment. We have won several awards for our bars (including three Great Taste awards) and we have great branding so this really helped with breaking into the bigger supermarkets.”

Q. There are lots of small, independent shops and supermarkets around Fulham. Do you think these are important as well?
“So important! In our first year we focused on all the independents and created good sales case studies that we could show the big supermarkets to prove how popular our bars were. We always make a conscious effort to support the smaller independent stores.”

Q. Which healthy cafes or restaurants do you like to visit in Fulham?
“We love Little H (especially because they stock our bars) on New Kings Road [www.littlehlondon.com], Esquires Coffee (they do the best avocado on toast) just across the bridge in Putney, Megan’s by the Green on Parsons Green Lane and Boy’s N Berry on Fulham Road.”

Q. And what are your plans for the future?
“We have big plans for Squirrel Sisters – we are currently in the process of securing investment, which will really take us to the next level. We want Squirrel Sisters to be accessible to everyone. We want to be a global brand that is known for its real, honest and exciting approach to health.”

Q. Anything else to share with our readers?
“We recently published our first cookbook, Naturally Delicious Snacks & Treats, which is available in all good bookshops and online retailers including Waterstones and Amazon.”

Squirrel Sisters maple bacon popcorn

Recipe: bacon maple syrup

The ultimate sweet and savoury popcorn combo – you’ll make this again and again!

• 2 slices dry-cure smoked streaky (fatty) bacon
• A splash of olive oil
• 50g / 1 3⁄4 oz / 1⁄4 cup popcorn kernels
• 1 tbsp maple syrup
• 1⁄2 tsp sea salt flakes

Put the bacon in a non-stick frying pan (skillet) with a small splash of olive oil. Fry over high heat until crispy and golden all over, turning when needed so that it all browns evenly. Remove the bacon from the pan with tongs and leave to one side to cool.

Tip any fat left from the bacon into a large saucepan with a lid. Add the popcorn kernels and pop the lid on. Heat over high heat until you begin to hear pops. Keep cooking, shaking the pan frequently so that none stick and burn, until the popping subsides. Turn the heat off and leave it for another 30 seconds or so before removing the lid to make sure any late-popping kernels don’t fly out at you. Tip the popcorn into a bowl, discarding any un-popped kernels.

Once the bacon has cooled and hardened a little, put it into a food processor and blitz to a coarse powder.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the popcorn, stirring gently all the time so that it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle in the bacon powder and sea salt flakes, mix well and serve.

We have teamed up with Squirrel Sisters to offer a mixed box of bars and a cookbook to one lucky reader. Click here to enter

GINspiration

Round & About

London

Gin is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with a wealth of interesting spirits produced right here on our doorstep. We chat to some of the enthusiastic local producers and offer up our favourite tipples!

History of gin

Gin may be one of the most popular liquors in the country, yet the colourless spirit has had to contend with a chequered history since it first landed on these shores more than 300 years ago.

Originally gin was sold as a medicine, distilled and supposedly capable of aiding kidney ailments, gallstones and gout after Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius created genever. Brits were first introduced to it when the English soldiers assisted the Dutch against the Spanish in Antwerp during the late 16th century during the Eighty Years’ War.

The armies were known to drink genever before heading into battle, and it’s thought to be the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage”. William of Orange then arrived here to rule in 1688 and promptly relaxed laws on making spirits. Gin, which starts with a base of juniper berries, gained in popularity – among all classes – with the upper classes drinking genever and the working classes making do with a new, cheaper “imitation” gin, substituting the costly ingredients with such things as turpentine and sulphuric acid.

Subsequently, gin’s reputation took a turn for the worse. In London alone, more than 7,000 “dram shops” sprang up with an estimated 10 million gallons being distilled annually by barbers, grocers and market stall holders. Gin became increasingly cheap to produce, easily accessible, little duty was paid on it and some workers were even given it as part of their wages. The 1736 Gin Act forced anyone wishing to sell distilled spirits to take out a licence costing £50.

Only three such licences were taken, but gin’s popularity did not wane as “mother’s ruin” remained hugely popular, before a second act was passed in 1751, which raised duty, and prohibited distillers, grocers, chandlers, jails and workhouses from selling the liquor.

Thankfully this was the low point for gin and the spirit has rebuilt its once-tarnished reputation to become the UK’s most popular alcoholic drinks. Gin’s popularity has been helped by upmarket gin bars, ever-growing gin festivals and distilleries offering delicious varied botanical flavours.

Mr Fogg’s Residence

If you’re in the mood for boozing like a Victorian, there’s nowhere better than the illustrious Mr Fogg’s Residence club and cocktail bar in Mayfair. Inspired by Jules Verne’s well-travelled protagonist in Around the World in Eighty Days, you’ll find a magical parlour room filled to the rafters with Victorian bric-a-brac. Stuffed reptiles, suspended penny farthings, riding boots, part of a hot air balloon; it’s bizarre yet mesmerising.

Two doormen, dressed somewhere between a dragoon and a Victorian butler, usher guests inside. A resident pianist sings as he plays. From the moment you step off Berkeley Square into this weird world of theatre and madness, Mr Fogg’s utterly engulfs you. Their tipsy afternoon tea is wacky and unexpected. A teapot full of Mr Fogg’s spirited teas is served first; choose from a variety of tea cocktails and tinctures, inspired from all corners of the world. A cake stand laden with fudgy brownies, Portuguese custard tarts and finger sandwiches follows. If you love gin, love cake and love something a bit different, pay Phileas Fogg a visit!

Kricket

Another place to indulge in a winter gin cocktail, paired with perfectly spiced food, is the newly opened Kricket restaurant in White City’s Television Centre in Wood Lane. Their Lucky Neem cocktail features Opihr Gin, sugar syrup and curry leaves; check out their Lucky Neem recipe.

Craft Gin Club

Jon Hulme, co-founder of the London-based Craft Gin Club says: “The rise in gin’s popularity is showing no sign of slowing down and at Craft Gin Club we’re tasting nearly 400 craft gins a year. We aim to reinvent the way gin-lovers discover and enjoy new gins, and so every month we send our members a bottle of craft gin from one of the world’s best distilleries. Each gin is paired with hand-chosen mixers, cocktail ingredients and foodie treats, along with our monthly magazine.”

Sipsmiths

Gin pioneers and childhood friends Fairfax Hall and Sam Galsworthy are behind Sipsmiths, the star producer based in Chiswick. Their journey began in 2009, in a tiny Hammersmith workshop where they set up London’s first traditional copper distillery since 1820. Their mission was simple: to bring London Dry Gin of uncompromising quality and character, back to the city where it first earned its name. Every bottle of Sipsmith is hand-crafted in small batches.

Side by side: Fulham Good Neighbours

Round & About

London

Chris Mikata-Pralat explains how Fulham Good Neighbours have been helping the community for over half a century – and how you can return the favour.

For those of us used to getting everything done via the multitude of apps on our phone, the idea of asking a neighbour for practical help might seem old-fashioned.

Many of us would like to know our neighbours better but do not know where to start. Fulham Good Neighbours is an award-winning local charity that has been linking people in need of help with those who can offer it for more than 50 years.

Those seeking support are usually members of the fourth generations: older people in their eighties and nineties. Those offering it come from all walks of life: from university students, via city professionals to retirees. What unites them is the desire to make Fulham a friendlier, more neighbourly place to live in.

Requests for help vary from changing a light bulb or putting together flat- pack furniture to garden clearances and decorating. The charity also offers befriending, digital inclusion and a range of relaxed social clubs to get local pensioners out of their homes. In recent years, they took over organisation of the annual Parsons Green Fair.

The work of Fulham Good Neighbours is possible only thanks to the dedication and support of nearly 100 volunteers, some of whom have supported the charity since the 1970s.

Whether you are a local business or individual offering or seeking help, contact them today to see how you could get involved and make Fulham a community where neighbours look out and care for each other.

Call 020 7385 8850, follow @FulGdNeighbours and FulhamGoodNeighbours (Facebook), email info@fulhamgoodneighbours.org or visit www.fulhamgoodneighbours.org

Skills school

Round & About

London

Following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry, the next generation of football superstars enjoy summer fun with Arsenal FC

Young football fans, aged seven to 12, attended a free summer Skills School at the Burlington Danes Academy in West London, during the summer holidays, under the official club coaches of Arsenal Football Club, with support from The Little Foxes FC.

The kids were put through their paces on a programme specially designed by the Arsenal coaches to develop their agility, control, speed and precision.

The Arsenal coaches heading up the Skills School were Tom Hartley, Jason Mason and Luke Addy.  Simon McManus, Head Coach, Arsenal Soccer Schools, said: “The Skills School programme provides young footballers with a great opportunity to train the Arsenal way in a safe, fun and friendly environment.”

At the end of the Skills School each child received a medal plus a goodie bag including: exclusive Skills School jersey, drawstring bag and water bottle.

This event was organised by Cover-More, the official travel insurance partners of Arsenal FC. If you are interested in receiving details for future Skills Schools, please register here: www.covermore.co.uk/arsenal-skills-school