I don’t often write about places in Greenwich, the shiny neighbour of Charlton and Deptford. I figure it’s already a known tourist destination and doesn’t really need my tiny voice raising its profile. It has UNESCO’s world heritage imprimatur, after all.
But I was walking through the Greenwich Park Flower Garden the other morning and got all inspired. I’d just knocked back an excellent coffee from The Scullery and was on my way to work, quietly enjoying my caffeine buzz. I always go through the flower garden because I just love it. It makes me happy and that’s a good thing before eight hours in Canary Wharf. Anyway, I got distracted by all the beautiful floral displays. My mum would have done so, too, if she didn’t live 10,000 miles away. The difference is that she would know the names of all the plants, and her photos would be a lot better because she’s a gun at that sort of thing.
Because I’m me, and not my mum, you’re not getting stunning images and scientific knowledge. You’re getting my iPhone snaps and me going “oooh look at the pretty colours and shapes.” The only extra insight I can offer is that the gardens, which were first laid out in the 1890s, are absolutely stunning at the moment. Go there. Take a picnic or something. Have a saunter. It’s quiet and dreamy and perfect, and we probably all need a bit of that.
Hopstuff’s Emma Wheatley and James Yeomans are exemplars of the second category. Well, they only went and started up their own completely brilliant brewery, didn’t they?
But they’re not stopping at that. The next thing they’ve just gone and done is what I’ve been banging on about for ages: a farmers market for Woolwich, selling locally-grown and -made good stuff. Like several others, they initially contacted Greenwich Council about getting a venue and, like several others, didn’t really get very far. To another local (also keen to establish a market) Council had offered the desolate and wind-blown stub of disused road next to the now-buggered-off Marks & Spencers, near Powis Street. DEPRESSING.
Emma and James got a lot further, however, with Berkeley Homes. In fact, they got No. 1 Street, as much of it as they need, plus some promotional signage and kit. Berkeley welcomed the idea with open arms.
The market opens on Saturday July 11 (10am-3pm) and will then be held on the second Saturday of each month. The July 11 debut is perfect timing as the Good Food in Greenwich Summer Feast is on the same day, up in General Gordon Square, and both camps have been busily cross-promoting.The Royal Arsenal Riverside Farmers Market covers all the major food groups: Superb beer from Hopstuff, healthy-sounding biodynamic wine from L’Atypique, divine cheese from urban cheesemaker Wildes Cheese (who is bravely crossing the river to let us nibble his wares), Kent-grown and utterly fresh fruit and veg from Mike The Very Green Grocer, meaty delights from Drings Butchers, and HUGE sausage rolls from Flicks Fancies. There’ll also be freshly-baked bread from The Honest Loaf, tasty jams from Season, handmade pasta from Case Grande Organic Artisan Pasta, Greek food from Greekelicious, delish sauces from All Things Saucy, and juices from Thecherryberryco. Most of these suppliers are so local you could almost crawl to them.
Feeling peckish? I’ll see you there on Saturday!
I’ve lost 10 kilograms (or 22 pounds) this year and some people have asked me how I did it, so I thought I’d write this post. Disclaimer: this is not advice. I’m not qualified to offer it and I wouldn’t presume. I’m just sharing a few observations about what worked for me. Some of it may be helpful, but everyone’s different.
Most wars on weight start with an epiphany. For some it’s a bad photo, for others it’s being mistaken for being up the duff. Last year I was treated to both those edifying moments, but the turning point was climbing on the scales on January 2 and discovering I’d hit 80 kilos. According to the NHS, that’s at the very top of the healthy weight range for my height (178cm; the range is 63-80 kilos). One more late-night kebab and I would be officially overweight for the first time in my 47 years. Not on your nelly!
So I set a goal of losing eight kilos in 10 weeks, meaning one kilo a week with a couple of extra weeks to allow for slippages. I marked down my weekly goal on a calendar in good old analogue biro, counting down the Fridays to coincide with a trip home to Australia: 79, 78, 77, 76, 75, 74, 73, 72.
I thought about my daily habits and what I needed to change. I made a mental commitment to walk from Woolwich to Greenwich every day, not just when I felt like it and not cheating by hopping on the 53 bus. I dropped sugar from my daily coffee. I started to count calories, aiming for no more than 1,200 a day. I did Dry January and made it all the way to the 20th, which I thought was a fair effort. Call it Dry Janu if you will. I weighed myself daily. The risks of doing this are widely chronicled, but this approach has worked for me. My bathroom scales go to one decimal place (the cruel bastards), so I’ve been able to observe the increments of my weight loss in tedious and sometimes heart-breaking detail. If I found that I’d put on half a kilo, I’d be upset for about 5 seconds then I’d think about how I could redouble my efforts for the day ahead. If I’d lost half a kilo, I’d let out a little squeak of glee, then think about how I could redouble my efforts for the day ahead. I wrote my daily weight on the calendar, so I could track how I was trending.
I lost three kilos in the first three weeks and felt pretty smug. Then some alcohol happened, my social life returned, and the battle started in earnest. I used up one of my spare weeks, readjusted the numbers on my calendar and took a deep breath. I cut down on wine. I shunned cheese and bread. I lowered my daily mid-week calorie intake to about 1,000. I avoided pasta and embraced fish and prawns.
That wasn’t enough. It felt like my metabolism was a lumbering, sluggish ship that I was trying to turn around in a sea of melted cheese. Previously, I’d have given up with a weary “sod it”. But vanity and fear and a keen desire to fit back into my wedding dress (I got married at 41 and wore a slinky black gown) drove me on. I upgraded my daily walk to a five-mile slog all the way from my front door in Woolwich to my office in Canary Wharf, via the Greenwich foot tunnel. I started going to the gym at least three times a week, burning off 200-300 calories per session. On some evenings, I even walked part of the way home with the makings of my vegetable-laden dinner in my backpack. I tried to burn off more calories than I took in, Sunday through Thursday, at least. Fridays and Saturdays were more difficult but a girl has to have fun.
This might sound naff, but I bought magazines like Women’s Health for inspiration. Most of the exercises looked impossible (all that leaping about…not with my rickety knees, sunshine) but I picked up some ideas. Stomach crunches from Brittany’s workout, foods that burn fat (cottage cheese, who knew) and that sort of thing. I learned about chia seeds and promptly bought a bag for sprinkling on my daily tuna and bean salad. The good ship Metabolism started to turn and I made it to the departure gate at Heathrow weighing exactly 72 kilos. I made sure I did a lot of walking in Melbourne (to balance 12 days of giddy indulgence with loved ones) and by the time I got back to London, after a side-step to Cambodia, I’d only put two kilos back on.
Phase Two was to reach 70 kilos by the late May bank holiday and wear a bikini in Barcelona. And I did: a lovely floral one from Ted Baker. Some may raise an eyebrow at the notion of someone just shy of 50 wearing a two-piece. Those people can do as they please with their eyebrows. Anyway, I didn’t go through four months of exertion just so my belly could get some sun. I did it because I want to feel more positive and powerful about approaching 50. I want to age gracefully and gratefully and turn all the above-mentioned into my “new normal”. I will ditch the bikini at some point. Just not yet! .
In my fantasy world, I live in nothing but five-star hotels. I wake up on the weekend, reach for the phone, dial ‘0’, and give Room Service my order: a fresh, soft bap filled with the best locally-sourced bacon and a glass of freshly-squeezed juice, please. Or perhaps a Full English and the papers?
Hannah, the owner and creative force behind new SE18-based business BednBreakfast, understands where I’m coming from. In her Shooters Hill home, she cooks delicious breakfasts to order. Her drivers then deliver the goods, still-warm and beautifully-packaged (the food, not the drivers) to SE London postcodes including SE6, SE10, SE18, and SE28 (for a full list see the website).
This is a local business that brings joy, relief, and medicinal bacon to people. People who, like me, have lain in bed of a weekend most of their adult lives just wishing they could get a bacon sarnie delivered.
Last Sunday, Hannah was kind enough to send a veritable feast to my front door so I could experience BedNBreakfast for myself. Disclaimer: I got it for free. However, I’d have happily paid and I look forward to becoming a regular customer.
After I’d tucked away a sausage, egg, and cheese bap, then a plate of mushrooms, fried egg, cheesy beans, and bacon, and THEN had a nibble on a mushroom and sausage omelette, I wanted to know more. I washed everything down with freshly-pressed apple juice first, then fired off a few questions to Hannah:
Hannah, please tell us a bit about yourself. Who does all the cooking?
How did you come up with the idea for delivering breakfast?
While living in Taiwan, for just under two years, I fell in love with the ease of the cooking and the fact that everything could be delivered to you, especially breakfast. I also learned to speak mandarin!
Can you tell me who some of the suppliers are? Your ingredients seem top quality.
Fantastic! It shows. And how do the drivers keep everything warm while it’s being delivered?
If people wake up on the day and want to place an order, what’s the latest they can do that?
I love going to football grounds. State-of-the-art stadiums are brilliant, of course, but I’m talking proper backstreets grounds that are laden with history, strewn with pie-wrappers, and fringed by houses.
I caught the bug from my partner, with his nostalgic tales of rainy, mud-spattered Saturday afternoons in Melbourne spent watching his Aussie Rules footy team kick a sodden bag of leather around. He took me on a tour of all the famous and faded suburban grounds. To Arden Street, where we could just make out the Dry Area sign. To Brunswick Oval, where his grandfather’s ashes were scattered (old Len had been a Victorian and Tasmanian champion). To the hallowed turf of Glenferrie Oval where his dad, just off the boat from Ireland, first saw Hawthorn play and started a family tradition that will last for eternity.
We even visited grounds with which we had no connection. We stood on a hill in South Gippsland and watched Poowong versus Kongwak (I didn’t just make those names up). Locals sat in cars behind the goals and honked their horns after every goal. We saw Harcourt play Trentham in Victoria’s Central Highlands, and felt a bit sorry for a kid called Russell. He was probably doing first year arts at Melbourne Uni and he definitely didn’t want to be out there. To add to his sulking pain, his nan spent the entire game yelling “have a bloody go, Russell!”
Now that we’re on the other side of the globe, the ground-seeking continues but the ball is round. We’ve seen the bubbles drift over the pitch at the Boleyn Ground, we’ve watch the millionaires trot about at Old Trafford, and we’ve held fatty Scottish pies in our wee frozen hands while Dundee lost to St. Mirren at Dens Park. We’ve enjoyed a rare burst of winter sunshine and three Leyton Orient goals at Brisbane Road. We took the Eurostar to Lille one January to soak up the minus 11 degree ambience of the giant deep freezer known as the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. Closer to home, we’ve taken the bus to Welling’s Park View ground to cheer the Greenwich Mariners to victory in the Woolwich & Eltham Sunday League.
All wonderful days out. But nothing quite compares to a day at the Valley.
We’d only been living in Woolwich (and indeed the UK) about a fortnight when we noticed road signs pointing to Charlton Athletic. We’d barely begun to understand where we were on the map, but that didn’t stop us heading down to the Valley for a Tuesday night game in February, clad in our woefully inadequate Melbourne coats. Over the past four years, we’ve been back quite a few times, drinking before (and usually after) at the Rose of Denmark. We’ve rubbed shoulders with the CAFC faithful, a knowledgeable, passionate, nattily-dressed, and storied lot. We’ve seen Charlton play like shit and play like champions.
The actual 90+ minutes of play aside, I love game days for how a suburb comes alive. Charlton is wonderful like this. I love the hungry queues outside Seabay Fish Bar and Charlton Kebab House. The away supporters loitering outside the Antigallican. The burger vans exuding aromas of fried onions and chips. The stalls hawking scarves and flags, and the folks selling programs.
On game days, the normally sleepy streets around the ground team with kids, parents, grandparents, lads, lasses, everyone. For outsiders like us, a day at the Valley is a way to try and connect with our new surrounds, to feel in a small way that we’re part of the beating heart of a place and a culture that is so far removed geographically from Melbourne, yet so utterly familiar.
Game days are bloody great days!
For more about Charlton Athletic go to www.cafc.co.uk.
I am expecting a lot from January, as usual. I started the month as a blotchy, bloated and burned-out slug. A borderline overweight slug at that, according to the NHS chart. At this juncture (January 18), I plan to emerge from the cocoon of this most depressing month as a svelte, toned, and dazzling butterfly. I shall spread my lovely wings, and flutter off into the welcoming arms of summer.
Yeah, whatever. Anyway, the boiled down version of the above is that I want to lose a kilo a week over the next eight weeks. Why? Vanity and fear. How? By exercising and eating healthier, smaller portions. Seems to be the only way, sadly. I’ve been busily changing my habits so that I can achieve my goal. I am not joining a gym. There are plenty of ways to get fit in Woolwich without forking out money you don’t have for a gym you won’t visit, except to assuage your guilt. So, here are my top 10 tips:
1. Slog up Shooters Hill. Start at Woolwich Common or Herbert Road and power-walk up to The Bull (the top pub, uphill of the Red Lion). Find the likes of very long and steep Donaldson Road on your phone map. Start at the bottom of the road and walk to the top. I’ve done it (with a pause half way) and I can report that it’s better than any treadmill session. You can reward yourself with a visit to Severndroog Castle. Climb the castle’s stairs and burn some extra calories. The views are fabulous.
2. Ditch the bus. I’m one of the hapless users of the 122, which trundles up Woolwich New Road and then Academy Road whenever it feels in the mood. Its moods do not coincide with any known timetable or logic. I’ve replaced it by walking home, often with shopping bags and a backpack, starting at Woolwich DLR and ending near Woolwich Common. It’s a great walk: a good gradient that increases the heart rate without the punishment of Donaldson Road.
3. Be menu savvy. Okay, this is tricky in Woolwich. The no-go, here-be-dragons zones are pretty obvious (Sam’s Chicken, Kebab Kingdom, Maccas, Nandos, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts). However, places like Koffees and Kream, Cornerstone, Dial Arch, and Woolwich Equitable all have healthy options. My current dish of choice at Koffees and Kream is grilled salmon served with salad and peas. At Cornerstone I can vouch for the potato, fresh spinach and poached egg stack.
4. Take the Thames Path. Perfect for a long stroll or bike ride on the flat. For someone my weight (78 kilos but not for too much longer if I can help it), a two-hour walk at 3 miles an hour on the flat will burn about 500 calories or two large Pinot Grigios. Woot! Start at Woolwich Pier and go in either direction. I prefer out toward the Crossness Pumping Station (in the direction of Thamesmead) but heading in to North Greenwich is also pretty cool.
5. Explore the Green Chain. This network of hiking trails is superb. Unlike the Thames Path, it can get a bit muddy and hilly and rustic, so sturdy hiking shoes are preferable. I bought a pair of Quechuas (£40 on sale) and they are fantastic. I’ve walked 18 miles in a day in these babies and not copped a single blister. (See www.greenchain.com for details.)
6. Swim. The Charlton Lido, an outdoor 50-metre pool, is open to those who are braver than me. I have been (and remain) too soft and faint-of-heart to try this, especially at this time of year. I know some regular users, however, and they swear it’s well-heated and the showers are lovely and hot. You can also swim in the indoor pool at Waterfront Fitness and Leisure.
7. Visit the free Outdoor Gym. Apart from boasting the glorious Jacobean pile known as Charlton House, Charlton Park also has a free outdoor gym, called an adiZone. Adidas gave it to the park as a parting gesture after the Olympics. I walk past it most days, and quite a few people use it. It has been well maintained by the look of it.
8. Get a new coffee habit. There are about 130 calories in a latte with one sugar, but just 5 calories in an espresso. Woolwich has some good espresso options these days. Forget Starbucks and support local indies like Koffees and Kream, Cornerstone, and Coffee Lounge.
9. Jog on. I don’t jog but if I did I’d head straight for either the Thames Path or Woolwich Common for some traffic- and road-free paths to pound along.
10. Load up on fruit and veg. Avoid the snack machine and share a bag of easy-peel clementines with your work mates instead. Woolwich has loads of market stalls and shops selling cheap fruit and veg. Tray o’ bananas a pound? Or, contact Mike the Very Green Grocer and get a weekly box of healthy goodies delivered. He’s just up in Shooters Hill and delivers locally. You can also find him and his van on the Royal Arsenal every Saturday morning near the concierge (www.theverygreengrocer.co.uk).
As much as I love modern gizmos like the internet and the ring-pull can, I’m also quite enamoured of the olden days. Not the smelly, uncomfortable olden days, mind you. Just the rosy-cheeked, probably-never-really-existed, stuff-of-romantic-fancy ones.
You get my drift. I’m talking leather-bound classics, roaring fireplaces, household antiques, cosy candlelit corners, Chesterfield couches, quaint old prints in gilt frames, Charles Dickens sipping a snifter in a low-ceilinged tavern, and so on.
Which brings me to 23 Mayfield, a bed-and-breakfast establishment that has all of those things in spades (except for Dickens, obviously, although his collected works grace one of the well-stocked bookcases).
Put simply, 23 Mayfield gets every detail, and every big thing, absolutely right. Located on one of Edinburgh’s elegant streets, about a mile from the action and within a bull’s roar of Arthur’s Seat, the Victorian house is the perfect base for a weekend in the Scottish capital. (BTW if you’re an adult and have lived in the U.K. all your life and have never been to Edinburgh, consider yourself sat on the naughty step until you agree to buy a train ticket and go.)
We arrived on Friday evening on the midnight train from London, armed with the security code for the front door and clear instructions to ascend the second staircase and find our room (number 9, a very good ‘un as it turned out). But we were a bit pissed, thanks to East Coast Rail’s enthusiastic hospitality, so we clattered and giggled our way up the first set of stairs, reading out all the room numbers in stage whispers until we realised our mistake. Apologies to those we woke up. When we did eventually find our toasty-warm, plushly-carpeted, and soothingly-lit room, we were greeted by a friendly, handwritten note asking us to fill out our breakfast order and place it on the hall table, downstairs.
I could go on about the breakfast, but I’ll resist the temptation. You can peruse it yourself right here http://www.23mayfield.co.uk/edinburgh-guest-house/breakfast-menu.htm. The dishes are every locally-sourced morsel as fabulous as they sound, from the yogurt served with boozy fruits to the Full Scottish with haggis and tattie scones. Awards have been won, international accolades given, and I’m not at all surprised.
With breakfast done, you’re well set up for exploring all that Edinburgh has to offer. On the Sunday of our stay, however, it pissed with rain so hard we thought we’d stay in. As 23 Mayfield is the sort of place in which you can pad about wearing your bathrobe (supplied), we donned said robes, slipped into our house-trousers, made a cup of tea, and settled into the Chesterfield couches in the lounge for an afternoon of reading. We listened smugly to the wind, rain, and general bluster do their worst outside. If we weren’t “trying to be good” that day, we’d have been welcome to help ourselves to the liquid goodies in the honesty bar.
As it was just before Christmas, the main rooms were festooned with sparkly decorations, and Dean Martin and Bing Crosby crooned seasonal favourites softly in the background. In the summer months, I’m sure 23 Mayfield’s front and rear gardens come into their own, as does the hot tub out the back. We’ve booked for July, so we’ll find out soon enough!
Contact 23 Mayfield at www.23Mayfield.co.uk