Halloween often leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I’m never entirely sure what I should be doing. I’m a little mature for trick or treating, but I still like to take part in celebrations in some way. I like getting into the spooky “spirit” – no pun intended. So this year I have made a conscious effort to search out my perfect Halloween night.
Many of the cities around the country are holding ghost walks or tours, which delve into the murky past of some of Britain’s oldest and supposedly haunted areas. I love a good ghoulish story so I was heartened to find that so many events are happening. Here are some of my favourites.
The Trial of Dr. Knox (from the Burke and Hare story) at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh .
Malloween at the Liverpool Malmaison, complete with monstrous munchies and creepy cocktails.
The Clink Prison, London, is Britian’s oldest prison and was a place of torture and suffering. Tour it if you dare.
Witching hour at Oxford Castle, home to a 900 year old crypt and a curse.
And if you’re slightly more faint of heart or have children in tow, the Halloween Disco and Ghost Tour for kids in Edinburgh may be more your thing? And if you’re anywhere near Cambridge, pop into Hotel du Vin for some pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon ice cream. The staff have a pumpkin carving contest between themselves and all the pumpkins will be displayed in the library and lit at night.
Perhaps you prefer to stay indoors and scare yourself with a movie.
Here are my top 5 films and top 5 dishes to get you into that Halloween state of mind.
- Halloween – setting the precedent for many horror films that followed. Still makes you shiver with the feeling that you’re being watched.
- Nightmare on Elm Street – Making the comfort of sleep horrifying
- The birds – maybe that’s where my fear of pigeons comes from!
- Final Destination series – turning every day happenings into terrifying events.
- Stephen King’s IT – Clowns. Need I say more?
- Pumpkin soup. After spending hours carving out a pumpkin, the least you can do with it is make a superb soup for those chilly nights.
- Spicy batwings. Chicken wings with a twist.
- Apple pie. All those bobbed apples have to go somewhere, right?
- Spaghetti. A worm inspired pasta main – not for the faint hearted.
- Risotto. A maggot like dish can easily be created here.
Do you agree? What’s your favourite scary movie and what will you be eating while watching it?
Whatever you choose to do, whether it’s dressing up as a pumpkin and dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or hiding in darkened room with a scary film, be sure to have a stupendously spooky time.
It is fair to say that the British climate is sporadic at best. A patch of warm weather brings a flurry of wardrobe rearrangements to find the summer dresses and bare leg exposing shorts. But it also gives the ideal temperature to sit outdoors, take in some fresh air and dabble in a little after work tipple or have a nibble on something straight off the barbecue. We are great fans of all things alfresco – Veuve Clicquot in the Courtyard Champagne Bar at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh, the garden at Tunbridge Wells or sitting under the sails at Poole with an ice-cold beer. There is something that makes you feel relaxed and free when you’re able to wine and dine outdoors, as if on holiday. We say bring on the Indian summer and plenty more balmy nights. Of course, if the sky looks temperamental we’d just head to Hotel du Vin York who are prepared for every eventuality to prevent dampened spirits with the brilliant installation of a retractable roof. Indoors outdoors or outdoors indoors, you choose. Just one question to ask – who’s up for a spot of alfresco?
You may have noticed the increased fan base of cycling these days. Whether it’s for recreation on a weekend, a cycling holiday like a tour of England’s vineyards with Love Velo at Tunbridge Wells or Henley-on-Thames, or commuting to and from work, there has been a visible climb in the use of two wheels rather than four. I must admit, the only bike I’ve ever owned was a little lilac girls number with stabilisers that i had when I was small. But even then I seemed to avoid passing my cycling proficiency test at school – does this mean I’m not road worthy?
On my daily work journey, a steady stream of cycles whizz past me in most weathers. Secure bike racks at train stations are now a regular fixture and fitting for cycling convenience. Tax free cycles for purchase and ‘cycle to work schemes’ are all the rage to encourage budding bikers to change their mode of transport to work in a cost effective manner. Benefits for the environment and health are both brilliant reasons to swap the bus for the bike. The recent flagship scheme sponsored by Barclays in London has already encouraged one million journeys and counting. Even the legendary Brompton folding bike is now up for hire in some stations.
For those who have a more keen interest in cycling as a sport, and this is where Britain is most successful in Olympic victory, we have one of our most heavily supported and sponsored teams taking part in Tour de France – Team Sky. This year beginning Saturday 2nd July until Sunday 24th July, the 98th Tour de France is made up of 21 stages with the official start taking place at Passage du Gois.
We’re also in the midst of Bike Week - a national celebration of cycling with events throughout the country all this week for any level of cyclist from novice to pro. If the thought of hitting the roads on two wheels is a little daunting, have no fear. There is a heavy social side with groups such as Breeze: British Cycling’s network of social bike rides, just for women on this one, but this is just one of the groups who make it seem ‘like a breeze’ – a fun and friendly social way to cycle on local, accessible routes in small groups. A great way to feel more comfortable on residential roads or in parks and even stop off for coffee and cake.
For any tips and advice check out the British Cycling website for some fantastic notes on coping with rain, where to ride, storing your bike and even avoiding getting ‘helmet hair’ (very important for arriving into work looking acceptably smart).
Bringing back the bike has sparked an interest for me. I’ll never be a Mark Cavendish, but I’m thinking of looking into the two wheeler as an alternative transport – sans stabilisers. Now when will Chanel do a cycle helmet?
I’m organised for once. I’ve bought my card in advance. Isn’t this one of those dates to remember, that unlike Mother’s Day, often gets forgotten? I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the macho versus emotions thing. Well this year, I want to make sure it and he gets remembered. He deserves to be put on a pedestal. It’s the perfect opportunity (or excuse) to have a family get-together over dinner. I’m thinking of surprising him with a whisky tasting too. A bit of quality time over some quality drams. A little treat is the least I can do. He makes me laugh. He’s always in my corner on any of my battles and my biggest supporter in any of my achievements. He nurtures the most amazing plants with the greenest of fingers. Has the innate ability to fix a car over the telephone line. And he’s always made the most perfect boiled eggs with soldiers. And that just skims the surface of my appreciation. So here’s a little reminder for those who feel the same as me. June 19th let’s fly the flag for fathers and for all the loans, taxis, advice, laughs and dippy boiled eggs, take some time out to say thank you.
I should do this more often, Father’s Day or not.
One poignant moment comes and goes and we’re all asked – ‘Where were you?’, then shortly after comes another one. Life is a stream of decisions, moments and memories, so although you might not think it at the time, your choice of where to watch the Royal wedding, who to spend your 21st with, and what to wear on your graduation day for fear of tripping up on stage, are all decisions, that lead to moments, that lead to great memories that last a lifetime.
I’d like to say I cracked open the Champagne and celebrated my graduation with my friends and family, digging in to a good steak and swapping comments of thankfulness and hilarity that I was the one who tripped on the gown, but I sort of let the occasion go by without a sense of importance and without much appreciation to my family who had seen me through the long, long hours and mounds of drawing pads. Talks of drinks and meals with fellow graduates fell by the wayside and no-one really seemed too excited about yet another night at the Dog and Parrot.
In hindsight, if I were to do it again, I’d absolutely make more of an occasion of it all. I’d gather up all my loved ones and celebrate with them in style. Dressed in our finest I’d splash out and have the Champagne on ice, the chocolate strawberries in circulation and weather permitting, we’d be dining alfresco. I’d have definitely opted for the Champagne Afternoon Tea all round, which to me would have suited the occasion and the moment down to a ‘tea’, with delicate, delicious finger sandwiches, creamy scones (my father’s favourite) and sponge cake (my favourite).
Many, like me, may let the day drift by, or spend it in the ‘Dog’ without putting any great significance on the achievement. But having spent years of studying, striving and of test cramming, to set a platform for the future, I think a celebration with substance is the least the graduate and equally their nearest and dearest deserve.
And so, I’m gathering my family for that Champagne Afternoon Tea, even if I am a decade late, to toast to them, and to all those who support and nurture with love, humour and wise words. Thank you. To all those decisions, moments and memories. This time, no trip ups.