All the Hotel Is A Stage: The Townhouse, Stratford-upon-Avon

churchstreet__OH_003 [TIF 18942190804]In an archived statement from Shakespeare and Company, the scribe states: ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.’ And so we’re greeted as angels at The Townhouse in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

It ticks all the right notes from the off: it’s accessible by both train and car (with easy and discounted parking); the lighting is not electrifyingly bright; and the receptionist is friendly.

Located in the town centre, it’s a two minutes’ walk from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, five minutes’ walk to Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street and five minutes in the other direction to the Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare’s school, which is still open to young students today, rests beneath the hotel’s typically white façade.

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My partner and I recently stay over in one of twelve bedrooms, each offering super king sized beds, en-suite bathrooms, Nespresso machines, and complementary WiFi.

We’re not newbies to Stratford-upon-Avon – we’ve both visited as children with our schools. We know where to go and head to Shakespeare’s birthplace on nearby Henley Street maintained by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust (shakespeare.org.uk).

Here, on a beautiful spring afternoon we watch short outtakes from Hamlet played out by local actors (a man and a woman) in Shakespeare’s verdant garden. It’s camp. And fun, and witty too.

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That evening we take dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We’re told that all food is freshly prepared in the kitchen and the chefs work closely with local suppliers to source the best produce where possible.

Lunch is also available 12pm – 3pm in the restaurant, and dinner starts early for the pre-theatre crowd. There’s a pre-theatre set menu every day 12pm – 3pm & 5pm – 7pm with 2 courses for £12.50 and 3 courses for £14.50, too.

We take dinner at 8pm. I go with the Cotswold Mozzarella with Honey, Balsamic Figs & Prosciutto (£7) and the Cotswold Lamb Rump, Cream & Garlic Cannellini Beans, Red Wine & Anchovy Crumb (£17.50). The Cannellini beans are a highlight. My partner’s Todenham 10oz steak (£28) is very succulent, too.

There’s a great terrace out the back for a cigarette afterwards and a thin slice of coutyard with enough room for several tables and chairs.

Bed beckons, and we both sleep well.

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The following morning I am smoking in the terrace and see the fresh produce waiting outside for the kitchen.

After we have breakfast at 8am – my partner has homemade bread with butter and I take a full-English.

From arrival to departure, The Townhouse is delightful in that it brings to life some of the wit, charm and romance of Shakespeare. The view from the third floor where we stayed overlooks other Tudor cottages in their white with black striped get-ups. It’s hard not to feel some of the magic of a great writer of times gone by here.

The Townhouse is located at 16 Church Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HB. For more information or to book visit www.stratfordtownhouse.co.uk

A Culinary Tale in a Cute C17th Blewbury Inn

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Unlike the Thomas Hardy novel, Wessex Tales, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen located in the novel’s title is far from a tale of unrequited love. The home-made bread served at breakfast is in direct opposite to Hardy’s style – instead it’s full-filling, nurturing and satisfying.

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Dating from 1612, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen is a characterful and charming 17th century Inn with 3 rooms, hidden away in a quiet corner of the ancient village of Blewbury which lies at the foot of the Berkshire Downs in south Oxfordshire, also known as Wessex.

Chef and proprietor Phil Wild and wife, Arden, took over this dining pub a little over a year ago and re-opened in March 2016.

The menu for me is the clincher for a visit and this, without a doubt is a well-hidden food destination – a deserved hit among locals, yet to be discovered by tourists.

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“We didn’t want it to be over the top, but we have items on the menu that are quirky,” says Phil.

Take the Frog’s Legs as a case in point. A first for me, and astoundingly good. The starter is awash with a succulent and tasty garlic sauce and caper-combo served with the most delicate of green salad leaves.

My partner and guest for this trip went with the waiter’s recommendation of octopus and wasn’t disappointed either. Perhaps it’s something to do with the freshness as fish deliveries come to the Inn at 1am the previous morning, I’m told.

Service, like the food is impeccable.

The two staff (in smart uniforms) have been here for over a year and live on site. They’re professional and attentive without the over the top-ness that’s also avoided in the menus.

With original features, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen has been decorated using vintage, country antiques and quirky finds with just 3 beds completing the Inn for an intimate touch.

It’s understated here, warm and cosy.

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But you really should come here for the food and service, with the rooms being a comfortable place to rest your head (my partner and I slept very well here) and sundry to the dining experience.

Phil’s locally sourced, seasonally-changing menu is modern and unique. It features British dishes with French influences. There’s also a cosy, oak-beamed bar with additional dining space, a working Inglenook fireplace and flagstone floors. Outside, an orchard garden for summer dining and drink with views over neighbouring fields to complete your eating experience.

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The village of Blewbury is also well-known for its literary and artistic connections. Kenneth Grahame who penned Wind In The Willows was a regular at The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen. Barbara Euphan Todd writer of Worzel Gummidge, and the ex-jockey and thriller writer, Dick Francis also lived here, while Agatha Christie lived in the nearby village of Cholsey.

The bookishness is reflected in the snug while we take a night cap for the evening by the ample fire – there’s a full book shelve to peruse.

We take a spring stroll around the village before leaving. Daffodils jostle against a backdrop of thatched cottages and a church keeps compass for our freestyle trek as it’s centred in the village.

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With top-notch food and cosy rooms in a little known literary spot like Blewbury, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen is well-worth a visit and with room prices starting at £95 it provides value for money too.

Accommodation was provided by The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen, Chapel Lane, Blewbury, Didcot. For more information visit theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk or to book call 01235 850403 or email eat@theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk

Review: The Luminous LED Light Treatment That ‘Lifted’ My Mood

I always say that low-mood is the bread and butter of the schizo-spectrum diagnosis and it’s not uncommon for me to take a long time to complete simple tasks or to stay in bed for a few hours in the daytime.

So when I heard that EF MEDISPA’s ‘Luminous Lift’ could improve my mood my interest peaked.

It uses a rainbow of bright lights to improve skin-tone and lift your mood.

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So, I recently had a one-off treatment at the Kensington branch. While I didn’t notice any decrease in wrinkles or signs of aging, it did power me through a long weekend down in the Capital (I went on a Friday).

It was very relaxing as I lay under the treatment machine in a small and clinically-impressive room.

I couldn’t see the colours during the treatment but on the outside you could – perhaps like a disco for the mind.

The best colour that works on mood is the blue light which targets the Epidermis; kills infections; helps the healing process and helps combat symptoms of SAD – something I suffer from and which has been particularly bad this winter.

In just thirty minutes I experienced a warm, blushing feeling in my skin which gave me a boost whilst balancing that with the calming effects of having an expert facial.

There’s something about nurturing our appearance that always gives me a lift and I feel any one-off beauty treatment can be good for our mental health – whatever it is. It’s true what they say: “Look good on the outside, feel good on the inside.”

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The Luminous Lift gave my skin an instant radiance and, helped put a spring in my step.

Plus, it was a comfortable and relaxing experience, so it is particularly of benefit to people who are reluctant to use aggressive treatments or anxious about invasive procedures.

Of course, it didn’t cure my schizo-affective, and I’ll probably never stop taking my medication to stay well. But the LED Luminious Therapy got me out and about in London for the weekend, which is no mean feat.

Cost: One-off treatment: 150.00

Course of ten: £1,500  (with an extra 3 sessions)

For more information or to book, visit www.efmedispa.com

Guest Blog: Why Yoga Improves Your Mental Health

Yoga requires a few things that impact and reduce your stress level, says CHERYL MACDONALD, and the first stress-reducing component is breathing.

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When we become calm, this stabalizes the functioning of the mind. Many yoga styles have a structured breathing protocol. When you focus on your breathing, it automatically lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) and it lowers your heart rate.

Additionally, yoga requires great focus. Some poses not only ask you to hold your body in a balanced position, they also ask you to pay attention to your body and make slight adjustments to improve the pose. You’re looking inward and focusing solely on your body and the very moment you’re in. This focus reduces stress. It’s akin to meditation and it’s wonderful for the health of your body and your mind.

Top Yoga Tip: Take 10 minutes at the start of each day to focus only on your breath. Close your eyes and focus on the cool inhale and the warm exhale. If any thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them and then let them go.

There are numerous other yoga health benefits: improved breathing, better posture, and weight loss are just a few more to consider. If you’re looking for a new fitness program to try, you just can’t go wrong with yoga.

Cheryl MacDonald is a yoga elder and founder of YogaBellies women’s yoga school. She has been practising yoga for 20 years and has trained hundreds of yoga teachers across the world. YogaBellies specialize in yoga for women of all life stages from puberty to post menopausal.

For a yoga class near you please visit www.yogabellies.co.uk/findaclass

Review: Image Skincare’s Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser

As an avid smoker of 20 years I’m all too aware of the negative effects my habit has – the yellow fingers, the bad breathe, the chesty cough and the pain it causes my wallet are all real.

It can also lead to premature wrinkling and aging and has, in the past, caused me to have a faded, grayish complexion.

Until now.

There’s a new product that’s actually changed the way my tired skin appears.

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The answer to my prayers has been Image Skincare’s Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser. It’s a pharmaceutical-grade, high potentency facial cleanser that gently removes makeup and impurities. All the essential antioxidants and vitamins it contains have smoothed my tired skin and given it the boost it needed.

It’s also paraben free.

To use: I dampen my face and massage the cleanser in for a few minutes, then wash off. As simple as that.

But it’s not just worked on my face, it’s also worked wonders on my body. You see, it’s universal – it can be used for both face and body.

It’s been a nice surprise to discover it’s also excellent for shaving sensitive skin – so, no more red, bumpy, itchy legs for me!

It smells heavenly too.

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(me after the treatment)

It works by quenching the skin with essential vitamins and gently removing makeup and my smoking residue from the skin, improving both texture and tone.

I know I have to give up my smoking habit at some point – but at least I’ve now been able to reverse some of the negative, aging effects it had on my skin.

Where to buy

Tel: 0345 504 0461 or email: info_uk@imageskincare.com for your nearest stockist

 

“Why moving out of London might be the best thing for your career and your life” my opinion piece in Metro

Why you don't need to live in London to have a successful career and be happy
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As someone who works in the media, and made the move from London to Stoke-on-Trent in 2009, I don’t think you need to be based in London to ‘make it’.

You can work outside the capital and still flourish.

‘There is a wealth of talent right across our country that all too often gets overlooked and Stoke-on-Trent is a prime example. We have a rich cultural heritage, a fantastic local workforce and we’re located right in the heart of the country,’ says Stoke-on-Trent North MP Ruth Smeeth.

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Is this really what you want from life? (Picture: Metro)

Since leaving the capital, I’ve been at the helm of a medical journal, written for most national newspapers as well as the Lancet, paid off my debt, bought a house with my partner and I am currently writing my first book.

Opportunity knocks on doors across the country.

John Lees, a careers expert and author of How To Get A Job You Love, tells me: ‘Jobs increasingly exist outside London, and often cost a great deal less in terms of housing, travel, and the wear and tear of commuting.

‘New technology is one key reason for this growing number of opportunities as we can now frequently work anywhere.

‘While these jobs can sometimes be harder to spot, for some, the rewards of finding the right role in a calmer and saner part of the country can be immense.’

I concur.

And there are thousands of success stories from people who have never lived in London.

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Could you be a digital nomad? (Picture: Getty)

Matt Timmins, CEO of Simply Biz, is one such example.

According to him: ‘Success in life depends on the journey you take and not the city in which you reside.

‘Personally, I never considered that I would need to move to London to ‘make it’ and I have no desire to live there.
‘My success allows me a happy and fulfilled life with my wife, daughter and our dog on a six bedroomed farmhouse set in 15 acres and we regularly enjoy sunshine breaks to our villa in Spain.’

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The office (Picture: Getty)

Some people find success after struggling in London and then moving elsewhere.

Jemima Lord lived in London in her 20s, working in fashion journalism.

The competitive nature of the industry meant she worked long hours, and the pay was restrictive, so she needed the financial support of her husband to be able to stay in the job.

They moved to the South of France when she was 30, and now live in a rural village near Uzes, a medieval town in Languedoc-Rousillon.

She said: ‘I now run my own business, Lord Vintage, creating handbags and jewellery using locally sourced vintage and antique materials.

‘I’ve also been able to take time out to train as a yoga instructor, and now teach several weekly classes.

‘Moving somewhere far less expensive than London meant that my husband and I could afford to buy a property and we were able to create work spaces for us both, including my atelier as well as a yoga studio.

‘Being somewhere quieter than London has also been perfect for bringing up our children, and our work-life balance is so much healthier than before.’

Street in wine-producing village of Chateauneuf du Pape, in Provence, France.
Maybe the perfect life for you is in a rural village abroad (Picture: Getty)

Sarah Twyman, an account director for a PR agency in Manchester did the same.

She explained: ‘I’m originally from Kent but I’ve lived in London on and off since I graduated in 2001.

‘In 2010 I met my boyfriend on a night out in Manchester and after doing the long distance thing for around nine months, I took the plunge and decided to make the move north when I was 31. It’s not a cliche that the people are friendlier.

‘I’ve since bought a flat in the Northern Quarter and had a baby.

‘The fact that I can still walk to work means that I get home in time to give Lily her dinner at 6pm and put her to bed.’

Personally, I think the notion of success being the reserve of ‘perfume bottle cities’ should be put to bed too.

Read it on Metro UK now and see what others had to say!

It’s time to get creative and make a film about mental health on Positively Scottish

 

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If you want to change how mental illness is seen and talked about – get into film.

Now’s your chance to steal the limelight in the International Film Competition for the 2017 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. Entries, which are open to global applicants, close on March 31.

One tip for this year’s entries, says producer and film festival curator, Richard Warden, is to capture hearts and minds.

“We’re particularly keen to see films addressing mental health with personality and verve – work that is brave, open, and takes chances. ‘Challenging but accessible’ is one way I put it. But we consider all engaging approaches.”

Now in its 11th year, the competition provides its award winners (and selected other entrants) with the opportunity to showcase their films to festival audiences.

With winning films screened during the Scottish festival in October 2017, and honoured at the International Film Competition awards ceremony, it’s the perfect way to get your work out there and seen by the right people.

Competition is fierce. Last year, the festival received 1600 entries from over 100 countries. Speaking about the mass of global entries, Richard says it’s one of many highlights of his work on the competition. “It’s a privilege to view compelling stories from around the world. We had to start programming beyond just the winners, as there was so much more we wanted people to see. ”

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But just by entering your film, you can also be part of the emerging, global discussion about mental health. Claire Lamond’s film All That Glisters won Best Animation in the 2012 International Film Competition, and Sea Front picked up the same award in 2014.

“It’s a fantastic forum to help film-makers and service users addressing important, sensitive issues and I can’t praise enough the political awareness-raising side of it,” says Edinburgh-based Claire (below).

“I know it’s said a lot but we need to talk about mental health: again and again and again and always. The stories that I am drawn to are about people striving to exist and making sense of the world around them. Wee stories about wider society. And this means that mental health often plays a part in the telling of them.”

Claire says film-making and studying creatively has helped her beat her own anxiety and depression; for a time she had to stop work. When she eventually began to recover, she attended Stepping Stones (now replaced by the Alma Project), an arts-based mental health project.

They had a film-maker in residence, Robbie McKillop, and with his support Claire made a feature that won Best Drama in the 2007 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. “As I recovered more,” says Claire, “the project supported me to go study and I found myself at Edinburgh College of Art.”

For Claire, to have her films recognised in the competition was personally very empowering. “For me it was a testament to the power of art in healing and a personal lesson in the incredible work that arts projects are doing in the area of mental health.

“The actual awards ceremony is an amazing night. It’s such a treat to get to meet a whole pile of film-makers, all with something important to say. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for escapist dramas but that’s not my place,” adds the winning film-maker.

SEA FRONT stillLast year’s winners were shown at the CCA in Glasgow, Edinburgh Filmhouse and other venues, and accompanied by post-show discussions which Richard says is another highlight of his work.

“These conversations can involve film-makers, film subjects, those with lived experience, mental health experts – the audiences are wide-ranging, and the forum is an open one. They’re an opportunity to witness the immediate impact that cinema can have.”

So, what are you waiting for? Go on, enter. Perhaps you too can be an award winning film-maker and start up important conversations about mental health that win hearts and minds across the globe.

For more details on the competition, go here

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