News

Feast in the Woods May 29 2014

In a secret location somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a group of friends and I went back to basics with Pop-up Camping over the Bank Holiday weekend.  "Now what's this?" I hear you cry...  I'll tell you what it is, it was an incredible weekend called, "Feast in the Woods".

"Feast in the Woods" is a bespoke and rather intimate mini-festival for one weekend.  It's all about being at one with nature and mingling with like-minded strangers.

If you can't do without modern day technology, then this isn't for you because it's all about good old fashioned human interaction...

This brilliant idea was inspired by Rebecca Cork of HoneyWoods Camping.  I asked Bec how did she came by the idea and she said that she wanted to do something that she would enjoy going to and with her knowledge of event organising with a charity and her love of outdoors, Pop-up Camping was born.

Here, you can relax in a small community of 100 people and let your children run where wild things are.  You can even bring your dog (although spaces for poochies are limited).  It's a simple life of good food, fine drink, good food and more good food!  You can sit around the camp fire, chatting and sharing experiences with whoever you happen to be sitting next to or you can join in with the outdoor activities be it a dog competition, coffee tasting or playing Chinese Whispers... For which I confess...  It was me who changed it half way through and probably why I was picked to do a forfeit when someone else lost another game we played!  I think it's called Karma folks, ha ha!


Digby won 1st Prize in the Dog Competition - *And me having to do a forfeit! (*Courtesy of Amanada Thompkins)

And if you fancy a drink, you can stomp down to the Cider Barn and get some award winning cider down your neck by Virtual Orchard or for those of you who don't drink, some freshly pressed apple juice that is so pure and crisp, I can still taste it now.

The Cider Man

You can hire bell tents (sleeps 4 adults) or you can bring your own tent.  Space is limited so it's advisable that you don't bring a big tent.  You can set up your abode around the camp fire or in the wood itself.  You can also bring a camper van if you dare and park up next to the campsite.  There were three pristine VW Camper Vans all in pretty ice cream colours.

The first night was spent in a wonderful Indian marquee with a variety of curries bubbling away made by the fair hands of Indiana Joe Baba after an eclectic day of rain, thunder and outbursts of sunshine.  I was worried the food was going to be too hot and spicy for my pallet but it wasn't, it had a slight kick but it was all very delicious.

Having curry banquet fit for a King - And Indiana Joe "Chai Wallah, Chai Wallah" Baba

After, there was a short talk by Guyrope Gourmet on the history of food riots in England during the 18th Century.  I didn't even know there were any food riots in England, I'd only heard of one and that was in France where Marie Antoinette supposedly said, "Let them eat cake" and as a result, lost her head!

Even though I had a good sleeping bag and was sleeping on a camper bed, the night air was bitter and I was cold...  Even worse, I had to get up in the night and traipse across the campsite to go "The Bogs", shining a torch dressed in pyjamas, bed socks and Birkenstock sandals (mmm sexy) without tripping over tent pegs and string! As I found out the next morning, I wasn't the only one who had to get up and tackle the obstacle course in the night, my friend Zoe did too!

The Bogs! (Courtesy of Dave Brothers)

The next morning, the sun was shining and breakfast was being cooked for me by my besty Emma.  Eggs, bacon and fresh bread.  I had the idea of toasting the bread on the camp fire which was a bit difficult if you didn't like burnt toast.  After the washing and drying up, a few of us went to the marquee tent for a spot of Sunday morning coffee tasting with Arabicca and Robusta beans.

Breakfast Time

As lunchtime turned into afternoon, the sun was still on its best behaviour and stayed out to join us for a BBQ by a small lake nearby.  It was a beautiful sight to see, the BBQ sizzling away, a hill full of daisies and a lake with kayaks, children and adults laughing and swimming.  It was a beautiful day, spent with wonderful people.  My friend Dave said he wouldn't have missed it for the world and I think that just summed up the day.

Steak Kebabs with Halloumi made by Emma and me...

A lady offered me some Kangaroo meat that she'd just cooked on the BBQ...  I'd never had Kangaroo before so I was intrigued as to what it tasted like, it tasted just like beef.  Then a young lad offered me some Ginger Biscuit Tiramisu that his mum had made in their tent that morning and Chocolate Brownies that had gone gooey in the sun, all washed down with a cup of Indian Chai.  I don’t normally like Chocolate cake etc but by golly, these tentmade Brownies just tempted me onto the dark side and they were yummy, scrummy in my tummy!  Now that's generosity and getting into the community spirit!!

Seed Balls - And Kayaking in the lake

A tray of seed balls containing wildflower seeds were being handed out.  They were made up of wildflower seeds, clay and compost all rolled up into one.  You take a seed ball, make a wish, then throw it into the wilderness so it scatters and wherever it lands, wildflowers will grow.  What a lovely simple idea to naturally brighten up the countryside.

The last night saw us all sitting around the now roaring camp fire.  I think I was sitting a bit too close as my face felt like the top layer of the skin had peeled off!  I shared Emma's homemade flapjacks with Britain's Fittest Fireman (he came 20th out of 6000!!!  Or so I was told, unless it was another Chinese Whisper!) and the very charming George from Bristol.

The evening ended giggling in the Cider Barn sitting on haystacks with Emma, Lou, Dave, Susan and Susan's son Ben.  Feeling rather weathered and very tired I think we must have all hit the sack before midnight!

Susan and Andy's tent could be seen from Space!

With a better night's rest, the last morning saw us all up bright and breezy packing up to go home before the threat of rain came.  Any rubbish consumed by campers had to be taken home and disposed of to ensure we kept Britain Tidy!  As we said our goodbyes to friends and strangers, friends Andy and Susan (Sandy) found they couldn’t move their car.  They had parked up on the grass when it was raining and consequently their car had got stuck in the mud!  No burley men were able to shift it but luckily Emma’s Freelander did.

From the moment of arrival, everyone's kids went feral and never seemed bored.  They climbed trees, threw sticks for dogs and searched for Fairies in the woods.  It was truly a magical time for them.

The Kids Play Area - *And the walk back to the Bell Tent Village (*Courtesy of Louise Barnett)

As much as I was looking forward to having a nice hot bath, I was going to miss the little Bell Tent Village that had become our home for the weekend.  Not only did I get to spend an incredible weekend with my lovely friends but I got to mingle with like-minded strangers who I didn't even know the name of and they didn't know mine...

There's a quote... "The older I get, the more I realise how rare it is to meet a kindred spirit."  Well, if you were there this particular weekend, you would've realised that this quote isn't quite true.  My friends and I are already eager to book next year so if this is for you, maybe our paths will cross and I’ll see you next year…

The lovely Bec of HoneyWoods Camping


Psychedelic Fun Run... Man... April 29 2014

 

Over the weekend, my bestfriend Emma and I did a fun run with a difference... It was neon lit at night! Fresh from the USA, the Electric Run has been taking the world by storm and its premiere in the UK was at London's Wembley Statium. Run it, walk it, the event was for Breast Cancer and participants were encouraged to sling on their neon outfits and have the whole world rubbing their eyes not quite believing what they were seeing.

 

 Not the most flattering of outfits, ha ha!

Entry fee was £30 early bird up to £50 last minute. Also, race packets (T-Shirt, race number, some glow items) had to be picked up on the Thursday/Friday before the event or for an extra £5 on the day (which is a cheek as they don't tell you that when you're registering only about a week before the event!) And if you ordered extra merchandise, like I did (LED glasses, glow necklaces, glow ring) you are given a ticket with your order and you have to queue again to get them, although the wait wasn't that long.

 

It was the most fun but most surreal run I've ever done. I can only describe it as going to a rave but without the drugs!!! With pumping dance music, glow in the dark everything and a view of the Wembley Stadium arch lit up, me, Emma and about 15,000 neon snappy dressers were raring to go. The atmosphere was electric, if you pardon the pun... I felt like I wanted to high-five anyone and everyone who had made the effort to dress up!!! Woo YEAH!!

Other glowing runners we got chatting to... Like you do!

As there were so many people, the starting line was staggered to prevent a mass exodus into the neon lit wild. The run was due to start at 8pm when the sun had gone to bed and we were due to go about 8.45pm. As we waited with other excited runners, the MC was throwing neon glow sticks into the crowd for them to carry on the psychedelic wonderland. Then came our official countdown, "10, 9, 8, 7..." And we were off...!

Emma and both found that right at the very start, people were already walking which made it frustrating and slow as we wanted to run! I think the big slope just after the start line had something to do with it but then I think a lot of people were there just for the experience rather than to run which is fine because it was a fun run all for charity.

The one thing I will say is my disappointment (and Emma's too) in that I was given the impression that the whole 5k route would be lit up all the way (as I think most people were) giving a light show with music and although it was in some parts, a lot of the run was in the dark and silent... Not quite what I was expecting but it was still fun nonetheless and Emma and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The half way line was also a watering hole with neon coloured plastic cups with water. There were psychedelic lit up trees and screen projections, there was even a UV chill out area and a big blow up Battersea Power Station to run through.

As the end of the run was nigh and the finishing line was in sight, we ran through again, I felt it was all a bit of an anti-climax. I wasn't expecting Stars and Spangles but I thought they could have lit up the last 100 yards and have bubbles blowing from a bubble machine for a more grander finish but it really was something of nothing much.

 

For the hardcore, there was an after party with a DJ and stage light show for those who wanted to party on. There was also a food and drink area if you were feeling peckish after burning off those calories. Emma and I were hungry and opted to stop off for a Maccy D's in Brixton, not something I usually eat but our change of clothes were in the car and it was now 10.30pm and getting cold and re were hungry. Wearing a leotard and lace leggings with a tutu isn't the warmest of clothing!

All in all, I felt the whole experience was unique and had a festival atmosphere about it... And considering the amount of participants, the whole event was well organised although a little pricey.

If you're interested in doing this next year, it's not a race or a serious run, it's just a bit of fun to do with friends or even on your own but you to get to wear the most horrendous outfit without being arrested by the Fashion Police!!!

Psychedelic Fun Run from Betsy Blue on Vimeo.

 


Get the Gatsby Look May 26 2013

Seeing "The Great Gatsby" the other night has inspired me to write about how to replicate the glamorous fashion of the Roaring Twenties from from drop-waist tea dresses and head scarves to crisp bow ties and spectator shoes.  You don't have to dress head-to-toe in it, you could just pick out a few items that replicate the style of Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan.  Just mix and match, using items from a variety of lower-priced stores like H&M, Accessorize, Primark and eBay.  I picked up a lovely strand of knotted faux pearls from TK Maxx for £7 by the Danish jewellery makers "Pilgrim".

Lace Jacket - River Island Sale £10
Vintage Faux Pearl Necklace - Ebay £5
Vintage Box Bag - Present from my Mummy when I had Chicken Pox!
Turquoise T-Bar Shoes - Carvela Sale £15

 

You could also sift through secondhand shops and vintage fairs that evoke the era although, actual clothes from the 1920s will be expensive so try to replicate the look cheaply rather than spending a small fortune (unless you want to of course.)

You can easily pull together plenty of fashions and accessories that reflect 1920s glamour by just searching the racks of less-expensive clothing stores like H&M and Primark.  Half the fun can be in the treasure hunt.

Plenty of fashion stores offer such looks as drop-waist dresses in lace or embellished with sequins or beads and head scarves.  Accessorize are doing pretty turbans and embellished clutch bags that are very 1920s.

Looking for a strand of Faux Pearl and T-bar shoes with a small heel?  Shop at low-priced shops like Primark, you could easily pick up both a Faux Pearl necklace and a pair of shoes for about £15 or less!  Pin a Feather or Diamanté brooch to your turban and wrap a string of Faux Pearls around your neck and voila! you have my dahhling, the Flapper Girl look!

Beaded Bag - Accessorize

And boys, if you don't want to wear a Pale Pink suit like Jay Gatsby, you could wear a Pale Pink vest and matching jacket with a Beige pair drop-crotch skinny fit jeans with Slip-on Boat Shoes without socks.  Just don't roll the sleeves up on your jacket or you'll end up looking like Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice!  We're talking 1920s here not 1980s!

Betsy Blue has some beautiful decadent brooches for sale from the Art Deco period.   Art Deco is possibly my favourite era, I just love the smooth clean lines of the furniture and architecture and the glitz and glamour of the fashion from that time.  I am an old romantic at heart.  Here are just a few Art Deco brooches on the website..


I am not a Number... May 14 2013

No, this isn't a blog about "The Prisoner" and prisoner "Number Six" but if you add my entry number up, it comes to six!  Hence the title, clever eh?  No?  Oh okay, I'll move swiftly on... Over the weekend, my friend Emma and I went to Hastings where Emma’s Uncle Paul and Auntie Carol live to do a 5 mile charity run along the seafront.  To be honest,  I thought I was going to struggle as I hadn't really prepared for it because I had forgotten all about it… until 2 weeks ago!

And up until a week ago, Emma and I found out that her Uncle Paul was one of the sponsors so no pressure there then!

As we waited near the back for the race to start, it made me nervous seeing people looking professional and polished in their running attire, swinging their legs back and forth loosening their muscles with a pair of £200 running trainers on the end of each leg.

New trainers everyone??

"Linda, it's ALL for show." said Auntie Carol trying to make me feel a bit better.  "What, you mean all the gear but no idea?" I queried.  "Yes, pay no attention, you'll be fine." she said reassuringly.  "Just run at your own pace and enjoy it." said Uncle Paul who has run the London Marathon six, yes SIX times!!!  As I said, no pressure, walking any of this was not going to be an option!

Although the wind was pushing us back and hindering that day, the sea air seemed to help with my breathing giving me more oxygen than normal but it did nothing for the dreaded stitch I keep getting when I run.  "Just relax!" shouted a lady spectator at us. "That's all very well for her to say that when she's not doing the running!" a fellow lady runner said as she saddled up beside me.  She had a point, it is easy to say something like that when you're not battling against the elements over a 5 mile stretch and with a stitch (irritation of the diaphragm I'm told).  Anyway, I managed to run through the pain, how I don't know but I completed the 5 miles in 51 minutes and 11 seconds with which I was pleased considering the stopwatch started as soon as the gun went off and we were near the back and I got a stitch.  Did I mention I got a stitch??  Emma came in just before me at 50 minutes 46 seconds.  The fastest time was 28 minutes and 11 seconds, a whole 23 minutes quicker than me!  Well at least I didn't come last...

Both happy with our times and feeling good about ourselves, we guzzled a cup or two of water while admiring our shiny medals and Emma’s Uncle Paul rewarded us with an ice-cream each (you're never too old for an ice-cream) before heading back for a shower and a spot of lunch of roast chicken, chips, homemade coleslaw and a rocket salad mixed with grapes and tangerine, yum, it was delicious!

Me and a Banksy getting totally windswept on Hastings seafront

PS  A titbit for anyone who gets a stitch while out running... Put your hands on your head and keep on running.  You might look a bit of an idiot doing it but apparently it works.  Thank you Emma's Uncle Paul for telling me that...


Five go down to Devon April 12 2013

Early on a Grey cloudy Saturday morning, we set off from Bristol to Devon for a 5k Obstacle course at Escot Park in East Devon.  Now had you had told me how horrendous the whole experience was going to be, I definitely wouldn't have signed up for it but the Devil came and took me on this particular day when my friend Emma asked me if I would like to do it.  "Yeah, alright." I said enthusiastically, "It'll be fun...!" Famous last words...

For six months I trained, I ran 3 times a week, I worked on my upper, I was getting fit and feeling fitter too.  I'd even talked the girls at work into doing it with me, that's how good at selling I am!

The big day arrived and it had been raining non-stop for 24 hours...  Good start. Set in beautiful surroundings, Escot Park is a privately owned estate and Emma, Treena, Danielle, Jackie and myself were about to embark on something that I am not likely to experience ever again!

The warm up had us rolling around in mud with the Southwest Military Fitness shouting commands at us so we were covered in mud before we'd even started.  After the initial shock of the warm up, we were off on our little adventure across the wet, cold, rolling muddy countryside.  Are you getting the picture, I wasn't enjoying this?

Don't be fooled by the happiness on my face, behind that painted smile, I was crumbling! (And that was before the ice skip!!!)

For 1 hour and 33 minutes, I ran, swam, climbed and fully submerged myself in a skip of ice.  I was literally in the skip for seconds and already my body had gone numb and because of this, I was unable to lift myself out and had to be dragged out by Emma.  I was so cold I couldn't even string a sentence together, my speech was slurred.  Now I know why the people on the Titanic died so quickly in the water after it went down, it was awful!  I would have given up there and then if it weren't for my team giving me encouragement to carry on, I wouldn't have given up out of pride and stubbornness but I came close.

After rolling over 6ft hay bales and running over hot coals, as we were nearing the end of what I'd imagine Army Bootcamp to be, Jackie turned to me and said, "I tell you what Linda, never again."  And I managed to raise a smile only to be met by an 8ft wall to climb over at the finishing line! It was one for all and all for one as we all crossed the line together, no one better, no one worse than the other.  We showed strength and comradery that day, we were truly united as a team.

How many people does it take to get one person over an 8ft wall? Only one looking at him hopping over like it was easy!!