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Question: What is your favourite genre? Answer: intelligent contemporary fiction that isn’t too sordid and depressing. So I don’t read chick lit, nor can I cope with Martin Amis (London Fields – aargh! Brilliant book but so grim). Q: Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century? A: Occasionally - usually foreign classics these days as I read a lot of British ones as a teenager. Recently tried my first classic Russian novel – Dostoevksy’s The Idiot and found it rather bewildering, like being surrounded by unpredictable people all talking and shouting across each other. (Felt better about this when I read Martha Gellhorn’s account of a visit to Soviet Russia. According to her, everyone shouting at once is normal behaviour in Russia.) Q: are you interested in thrillers? A: No, not at all. Stories that are supposed to thrill tend to alarm and disturb me and convoluted plots either weary or confuse me. Q: What about horror stories? A: No way! I’m something of a wimp and hate anything which disturbs my peace of mind. I don’t watch horror films either. Q: Do you read Science Fiction? A: No. I read H.G. Wells, John Wyndham and Arthur C. Clarke as a teenager, but these days sci fi doesn’t appeal at all. I prefer more realistic stories. I’ve also been put off sci fi by sharing a house with Star Trek nuts in the past. Q: How many Harry Potter books have you read? A: All of them, but although I enjoyed them I’m not a really huge fan. I borrowed other people’s copies – I wouldn’t have bought them. Q: Have you ever read and enjoyed biographies or autobiographies? A: I really like both biogs and autobiogs (unlike most of the other respondents to this challenge, it seems). They give you an insight into how other people have made sense of t
heir lives (or how they have muddled through, at least). And of course I can’t pretend that there isn’t an element of sheer nosiness – I love finding out the gory details of people’s lives. I particularly enjoy biographies of writers and artists who lived through the social changes and political turmoil of the 20s and 30s – and who tended to have colourful love-lives! Some of my favourites are ‘Lytton Strachey’ by Michael Holroyd (which was made into the film Carrington, starring Emma Thompson), ‘Virginia Woolf’ by Hermione Lee and ‘Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West’ by Victoria Glendinning. As well as the lives of celebrities, well-written biographies of ordinary people can be very inspiring. A great example is “Just Take Your Frock Off”, the interestingly-titled story of a lesbian called Barbara Bell. She was born in a northern mill town in the early C20th but seems to have suffered no particular angst about her sexuality. Her fascinating life included work as a model, a policewoman during the Blitz, and a teacher in Nigeria. I’d better stop enthusing now, but I will just add that the only drawback to this genre is – of course - that the main character always dies at the end! It’s also rather depressing when the subject of the book turns out to be rather an unpleasant person. Q: Do you remember any of the books you read and loved as a child? A: Of course! Winnie the Pooh, The Mouse and His Child, Enid Blyton, Chalet School, Narnia, Anne of Green Gables…For my favourites, see my Top Ten Children’s Books op. Q: Have you re-read these books as a grown-up? A: Yes. I sometimes retreat into children’s books when I’m down, though not only then. Pooh is just as enchanting to read now as it was when I was little. I’ve also re-read lots of my other old favourites. Sadly, I
found the re-visited Chalet School books appallingly written and horribly sugary and cliched. Q: Is there a book of which you can say it has influenced you? A: Embarrassingly, when I was a child I used to try to be as saintly as Katy in ‘What Katy Did.’ I think I might even have tried to be as nauseatingly good as Pollyanna! I used to read a lot of these old-fashioned classics - I can still hear Mrs Rachel Lynde and Marilla in Anne of Green Gables voicing their puritanical views - and they certainly reinforced my strict traditional up-bringing. I can’t immediately think of an adult book which has influenced me as strongly as my childhood reading. Since I’ve grown up there are so many more influences on me, whereas when I was a child and teenager we didn’t have a TV and my social life was pretty limited, so my reading had a huge impact. Q: Which are your favourite authors? A: It’s so hard to choose - Margaret Drabble, Anne Tyler, A.S. Byatt, Marge Piercy, Rose Tremain, P.G. Wodehouse…I’m sure I’ve missed lots. I used to read all of Margaret Atwood’s books until a collection of her short stories depressed me utterly. I’d like to include Hanif Kureishi, as I loved the Buddha of Suburbia, but I find his other novels disappointing. Q: Which book would you take with you on a desert island? A: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – very long, very absorbing. Q: What is your attitude towards translations? A: I like to read foreign novels in translation, as my only foreign languages are rusty O level German and A level French. I’m not equipped to compare the experience of reading something in the translation and in the original, although when reading books translated from French I do sometimes come across something that seems awkwardly expressed in English and, knowing a bit of French, I can vaguely recognise tha
t it has been too literally translated. Q: Do you buy your books/get them from the library/borrow them from friends/steal them? A: I’m a librarian who’s incapable of returning library books on time (I should be struck off) so I now buy my books – usually from discount book stores - or borrow them from friends and family. I wouldn’t want to read any of the books in the library where I work (‘The Law of Restitution’, anyone? ‘Halsbury’s Statutes’ in a mere 50 volumes? Or can I tempt you with Schofield’s ‘Laytime and Demurrage’?) Q: When you buy books, do you prefer hardcover editions or pocket books? A: Hardbacks are too expensive so I nearly always get paperbacks. Q: Have you ever tried Audio Books? A: Only when a friend brought some on a long coach journey (Pratchett, I think). They certainly helped to pass the time as we trundled from London to northern Italy (never again!), but I wouldn’t get them out of choice. I like to curl up with a nice solid book with pages to turn and imagine people’s voices myself.
“A penetrating and stimulating oil” is aromatherapist Christine Westwood’s description of rosemary essential oil. According to her book, “Aromatherapy: a guide for home use,” it can be used to combat conditions from baldness and dandruff to Monday-morning feeling. A rosemary shampoo has got be good, then! The best thing about Weleda’s rosemary shampoo is that it makes my dark brown hair strikingly shiny. It doesn’t really make you smell like a leg of lamb, but has a clear fresh rosemary scent which helps wake you up mentally and physically when you use it. One wash is usually enough to leave my hair clean and glossy and I don’t need conditioner afterwards (though Weleda do sell a rosemary conditioner). As well as rosemary essential oil, it also contains rosemary tincture and lavender oil. The latter has countless therapeutic uses. Those which seem particularly relevant to hair products are headaches and baldness; it’s also a very soothing oil, both to the skin and to the nerves. Another aromatherapy book – Principles of Aromatherapy by Cathy Hopkins – recommends both lavender and rosemary for dry hair and normal hair, and rosemary for greasy hair, baldness and dandruff too. My hair is fairly problem-free, so I suppose it would be classed as normal. It does have a lot of nasty London grime to contend with though. Like almost all shampoos, shower gels and similar products, this shampoo contains less beneficial ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, which is known to chemists and complementary health practitioners as a skin irritant! It doesn’t seem to upset my skin, though. It is quite hard to find a shampoo which does not contain this chemical, though I have seen one in the organic supermarket chain Fresh and Wild, in London. I found this shampoo different in consistency to most. It is noticeably runnier, though it still has
much more of a gel-like consistency than a watery one. This isn’t a minus point, it’s just unusual. Another – possibly related - out-of-the-ordinary feature is that the instructions on the bottle actually tell you to shake the bottle before use, presumably to mix the ingredients up. I’ve grown to like the brief shaking ritual every morning during the 4 months or so that I’ve used it. In a strange sort of way it makes me feel like this shampoo is closer to a hand-made herbal concoction than a mass-produced run-of-the-mill product. Of course this is only a rose-tinted illusion, but anything that makes me feel better in the mornings is not to be knocked. My bottle of Weleda rosemary shampoo contains 250ml. It is made from opaque white plastic with a turquoise design. It looks completely different from the picture on this page, but it is the same product! I bought it in Sainsbury’s, where they had it in the new-ish “well-being” aisle with the organic herbal teas and gluten free bread. It can also be ordered online at http://www.weleda.co.uk/index.htm - £3.20 for 250ml. It says on the bottle that Weleda does not test its products on animals. On its website, the company asserts that “At Weleda we either prepare ingredients ourselves from plants which we grow bio-dynamically, or purchase from suppliers who give written confirmation that the substances have not been tested on animals after 1985.” Animal charities such as the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection recommend Weleda toiletries. Want to know more about Weleda? The company was founded in Switzerland in 1921 and opened its first UK base 4 years later. Their philosophy is to promote health and beauty in an eco-friendly way (although their shampoos now come in plastic bottles, this is apparently for safety reasons: glass bottles are not felt to be safe for the bathroom). Homeopathic medicines form a large
propo rtio n of their output. Weleda was a historically documented priestess of healing who lived in modern-day Germany at the beginning of the Christian era. One final point to note for fair-haired Dooyoo-ers: rosemary shampoo probably won’t give such a good shine to blonde hair. It certainly does wonders for mine, though!
Most of these sprang to mind effortlessly, proving the impact they had on me as I haven't read some of them for about 20 years. I’ve put them roughly in order of most suitable age group, youngest first. 1. WINNIE THE POOH by A.A. Milne. First published 1926. Now usually published together with its sequel, The House at Pooh Corner (1928). The Complete Winnie the Pooh is available on Amazon for £8.49. Suitable ages: from about 4 upwards. This book is enchanting, funny (on both child and adult levels), endlessly quotable and beautifully illustrated. I’m sure most people will need no reminding what Winnie the Pooh is about, but I have met one poor deprived person who had reached her late twenties without ever having read Pooh, so here’s a quick introduction just in case. The book and its sequel are both collections of short stories, which makes them ideal for young children. Winnie the Pooh is a teddy bear who lives in a forest (the Hundred Acre Wood) with his friends Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Tigger, Eeyore and Christopher Robin. Christopher Robin was Milne’s son and the animals were, of course, the little boy’s favourite toys. Pooh and the others have lots of escapades, such as getting marooned by floods and trying to collect honey by floating up a tree with a helium balloon. But the plots of the stories themselves aren’t the best thing – the engaging frailties of the characters and the way the stories are told are the things that really captivate the reader. Sadly, the real Christopher Robin was extremely unhappy about the Pooh books (there was a sequel in 1928). I believe the original toys are now held by a major U.S. library. I first fell in love with Pooh when my big sister used to read the stories to me, putting on different voices for each animal. My favourite was – and still is - the heffalump tale, especially the classic passage when a terrified Pigle t runs for help: "Help, Help! A horrible heffalump! Hoff, Hoff! A hellible horralump!….” The one where Piglet pretends to be Roo was a close second – I love the E.H. Shepard illustration of a wriggling Piglet having his face scrubbed by Kanga. I think the Disney versions of Pooh et al are far inferior to Shepard’s beautiful pictures. I find the Disney characters far too exaggeratedly cutesy and brightly coloured in comparison to Shepard’s lovely line drawings and watercolours. The Pooh stories have been translated into countless languages (in French, Pooh Bear is L’Ours Winnie and piglet is Cochonnet) and the shops are full of Pooh merchandise, both the Shepard and Disney versions. Amazon sell Pooh posters, sticker books, picture books, lift-the-flap books – you name it. Every child should be introduced to Pooh and the gang! 2. JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH by Roald Dahl. First published 1961. £4.79 on Amazon. Ages: 8-12. Another classic with a cast of mainly animal characters and wonderful illustrations – this time by Quentin Blake. I re-read James and the Giant Peach so many times as a child, fascinated by the weird world it conjured up, in characteristic Roald Dahl fashion, and enthralled by James’s adventures as he was carried across the Atlantic inside a peach. The story starts with a cliched children’s book situation: a child is orphaned and sent to live with horrible relatives, in this case the descriptively named Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. From there it just gets more and more fantastic, as James discovers a group of friendly talking creatures inside the stone of a gigantic peach and ends up inadvertently escaping from his wicked aunts when the peach breaks loose from its tree. I never thought I could feel fond of a spider, a grasshopper and a centipede, but these are some of the most memorable characters, who have an increasingly amazing series of
adventures in their travels with James. Few writers have such a child-like and unfettered imagination as Roald Dahl. Children love all his books. My niece’s favourite was Matilda when she was young, probably for the female protagonist. I must admit that the likely reason why James and the Giant Peach is my favourite is that it was the only Dahl book we had at home and it drew me in time and time again. The Quentin Blake illustrations are a lovely bonus. Earlier editions are illustrated by others, of course. The story is also available on audio tape and as a play. 3. THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis. First published 1950, the first in the Chronicles of Narnia series. £5.59 on Amazon. Ages: 8-12. A theme is starting to emerge here: I just love stories with talking animals! I guess all children do. Maybe it’s something to do with identifying with small vulnerable creatures (this doesn’t explain Babar’s popularity, however…) As a child I loved all of the Narnia books - except The Last Battle, which was too dark for me at the age when I tried to read it - but this one was my favourite. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is, of course, a well-known story. It was televised in the 1990s. (Does anyone remember the rather moth-eaten and hilariously clunky Aslan from the TV series?) When I read it I had no idea it was a Christian allegory about the fight between good and evil, with Aslan the lion representing Jesus, but my ignorance in no way detracted from my enjoyment of a captivating fantasy and adventure story, culminating in a nerve-jangling battle. Four children accidentally stumble into the mysterious land of Narnia through the back of a wardrobe and meet fauns, talking beavers and other endearing characters (the goodies) as well as the minions of the evil White Witch who has taken Narnia. It will always be dark winter in Nar nia until the White Witch is overthrown. Of course this is finally achieved in the end, after many twists and turns. One of the most appealing features to me was that while you are in Narnia time stands still in the real world, so a child can disappear into a world full of excitement and magic, without the grown-ups back home realising that anything untoward is happening! 4. BALLET SHOES by Noel Streatfield. First published in 1936. £4.79 on Amazon. Ages: 8-12. A very girly choice, this. It’s a Puffin Modern Classic, so I can’t be the only fan. Stage school in, I think, London seemed so exotic compared with my suburban Nottingham junior school in the 1970s, where we just played rounders and learned about the Tudors. Again, the main characters are orphans: Pauline, Petrova and Posy. Their guardian found them on his fossil-hunting trips! They discover that they are very talented (of course), though Petrova’s vocation turns out not to be the stage. Streatfield communicates exactly what it feels like to be a child: the desperation not to be shown up in front of your friends, the longing to be special and successful, even the shame of having a stye on an important day! I empathised passionately with their ups and downs. Noel Streatfield wrote a whole series of stories on a theme: Tennis Shoes, Circus Shoes etc. They are a little old-fashioned, but I didn’t mind that at all when I was a kid. They are all a good read, but Ballet Shoes has to be the best of all. 5. MISS HAPPINESS AND MISS FLOWER by Rumer Godden. £9.25 on Amazon. Ages: 8-12. Rumer Godden is an unusually gifted storyteller for both children and adults. Her writing is extremely powerful and her style strikingly lyrical. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower is a gentle story about a little girl called Nona who is sent from her home in India to live with relatives in England (don’t any leading characters in children’s fict
ion live with their parents?) She’s miserably lonely, but things begin to change for her when she is given two Japanese dolls. Thinking that they must be cold and lonely too, away from the land of their birth, she sets about making the perfect Japanese house for them. The rest of the story is about the difficulties she encounters and her determination to complete the house. An unusual subject, but entrancing. 6. THE SAUCEPAN JOURNEY by Edith Unnerstad (translated from Swedish). First published in 1960; appeared in this country in 1962. £3-15 secondhand on http://www.abebooks.co.uk. Ages: 8-12 This seems to be out of print in the UK and US, though I haven’t got the resources available to confirm this. It’s not available on Amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or bol.com. I expect it’s held in some public and school libraries, however. Interestingly, Google The All-Knowing tells me it’s still on lots of US school reading lists (well I thought that was interesting, anyway). The Saucepan Journey is that apparently rare thing, a children’s book without orphans. It features an eccentric Swedish family with 7 children. They inherit two dray horses and carts, convert them into a sort of mobile home and set off across Sweden trying to sell the father’s new invention, a special sort of saucepan. Naturally they have lots of adventures and minor quarrels on their travels and meet all sorts of people. I loved the originality of this story and the depiction of a huge, rather poor but very loving family (including the horses) really appealed to me. 7. THE BUNJEE VENTURE by Stan McMurtry. First published i n 1977 (at last, a book that came out in my lifetime!) £4.50 on Amazon. Ages: 8-12. The adventure of two children who travel back to prehistoric times in search of their Dad who disappeared when his time machine malfunctioned (could happen to anyone really). They meet a lovable crea
ture called a Bunjee, who is a sort of woolly mammoth who can fly by inflating his trunk and walk up cliffs by making his feet sticky. He proves a useful ally when Dad-hunting. This is an exciting adventure story which pre-dates Jurassic Park’s mega-popularisation of dinosaurs and prehistory. There are some very funny passages which my sister and I, both thirtysomethings, can still quote. 8. THE MOUSE AND HIS CHILD by Russell Hoban. First published 1969. £3.99 on Amazon. Ages: 8 upwards. A dark, fascinating adventure story about a clockwork mouse and his child. One Christmas the poor meeces are cast out of their cosy toyshop and set off on a quest for a safe place to live. This remarkable book is full of original characters and – for a children’s novel – unusually profound ideas. At one point the two waifs meet a creature who lives at the bottom of a pond and spends its life trying to find The Last Visible Dog – he’s staring at an old dog food tin whose label depicts a dog holding a tin of the same dog food, whose label depicts the same tin……I loved it as a child and thoroughly enjoyed it when I re-read it as an adult. 9. I AM DAVID by Ann Holm (translated from Danish). First published 1963; appeared in this country in 1965. £4.99 on Amazon. Ages: 10 upwards. An extremely moving and thought-provoking book about a 12-year-old boy who escapes from a concentration camp and travels across Europe learning about life and about himself. He knows nothing about his family or himself, except his name, and because he has been imprisoned for so long he does not even know how to smile - nor does he initially realise that he never smiles. Much, much more than the average adventure/war story. Very sad, but ultimately positive. 10. GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM by Michelle Magorian. First published 1981. £4.79 on Amazon. Ages: 10-12. A very touching story about eight-y
ear Willie Beech, a World War Two evacuee from a troubled background, and grumpy old Tom Oakley, who takes him in. At first they don’t get on at all, but the story turns into powerful depiction of emerging love and trust between damaged people who are at least two generations apart in age. The vivid wartime background adds excitement and some scenes will make you cry. I believe Magorian won a prize for it and it was on television fairly recently with John Thaw as Mister Tom. So there's my top ten. If I had to narrow it down to three it would probably be Pooh, The Mouse and His Child and I Am David. Well this is four pages long in Word so I think I’d better have mercy on my readers and stop now. I’ve really enjoyed writing it – a lovely nostalgia trip! Hope you enjoy reading.
Zitty sensitive skin? Give this a try. I was suffering from an outbreak of spots after indulging in too much pizza while on holiday. So zitty was I, that when I went into Lush the assistant took one look at me and offered a free sample of their Coal Face complexion soap. I appreciated her helpfulness and initiative, but it didn't feel entirely tactful... Anyway, I'd already decided to try Fresh Farmacy, after reading recommendations on DooYoo (DooYoo has been directly responsible for turning me into a Lush addict). I bought my bar on 9th September: for a change I was dead organised and kept the label, planning to write an op. about how I found it - that's how I know the date, as they print off a label for you and put it in a plastic bag when you buy an unpackaged product in Lush. The label also says it's "For problem skin - a wonderful soap with an antiseptic soothing effect" Just the thing for my angry, erupting face! The price they quote is £2.80 for 100g but the ready-cut chunk I bought cost £4.06. There's still about a sixth of it left so it's lasting well. Well how did I find it? I've been using it twice a day almost every day since I got it and the old complexion certainly seems to have benefited. Within about 4 days of use my spots were on the way out and I've had fewer outbreaks since. The best thing about it for me though is how pleasant it is to use. It feels so cool and calming on your skin and afterwards my face is really soft and silky. The bar doesn't actually look half as yukky as the picture, which seems to have distorted the colours considerably - it's quite a bit paler and doesn't look like someone's puked on it. The "garnish", dried marigold petals, is rather attractive in real life. The scent is very mild and I can't easily put a name or description to it but it's perfectly pleasant. The ingredients explain why it feels so lovely: ca
lamine powder, camomile, lavender and tea tree oils, rose and elderflower extracts... I can hear my skin saying "thank you, thank you!" Lavender and tea tree are both well known for their antiseptic properties and lavender also has a soothing, healing and antihistamine effect. Personally I think lavender essential oil is a miracle remedy. The only drawback I've found is that if I wash my face with it while wearing my dark work trousers, I get white splash marks on them, but maybe I'm particularly messy. The marks come out in the washing machine but they're a nuisance as they don't spot-wash very easily. Well I'm rambling now - forgive me, I have a head cold which seems to have dulled my brain. Perhaps I should be writing an op. about the wonders of Olbas oil.... I shall finish here before it degenerates further.
I didn't think miracle creams existed. It's what you always hope for when you buy a new beauty product - an instant and obvious effect. I know that eczema is a strange ailment which behaves differently in different people, so I wouldn't like all eczema sufferers to get their hopes up - but this cream has very nearly eradicated mine! I have only had eczema for two years, since my late twenties, but recently it had been getting quite bad. Both my shins were covered in a sore, itchy, bumpy red rash and infected pustules had begun to appear (hope you weren't eating...) I know that severe eczema is much worse than this, but still I found it uncomfortable and unsightly and was very keen to get it under control. I'd had hydro-cortisone cream from the doctor, but it only reduced the symptoms slightly and the pharmacist told me not to use it for more than a few weeks, which wasn't long enough to have much effect. Aqueous cream was slightly better, as could be used more often and for longer, but all it did was stop the rash getting much worse. I seemed to be stuck with two maddeningly itchy unattractive bright red patches. Then I happened to mention my eczema to a Lush shop assistant (one of a wonderful breed of friendly, patient, well-informed people). She recommended Dream Cream. I bought a pot, rubbed it on before I went to bed and the next morning my skin was transformed! I'm not kidding: it literally happened overnight. My shins looked like they were covered in skin again instead of an angry red mess! The bumps had gone and though the patches were still red, the redness had faded markedly and the skin was smooth, not scaly, and didn't itch at all. I was absolutely amazed. That was about 3 weeks ago and I've continued to use the cream 2-3 times a day. The eczema has almost completely disappeared from one leg and is hardly noticeable on the other. It hasn't cured it - I still get itchy occasi
onally - but it has brought about a miraculous improvement. None of the other products even began to approach the effect Lush's wonderful cream had. So what's in it? Oat milk, rose water, olive oil, glycerine and cocoa butter for starters; the most skin-soothing essential oils: chamomile, tea tree and lavender; tincture of benzoin (whatever that is), rose absolute and more! What's it like to use? It has a fairly thin, smooth texture and feels wonderfully cool and moist on the skin. The scent is hard to describe. Not floral - maybe herbal? It's not a strong smell at all. The cream is white in colour. Down to practicalities: Dream Cream costs £6.95 for 240g. I've used about a tenth of the pot in 3 weeks, so it should last for ages. The thin consistency means you don't have to use much. The design has changed since the picture on this page: it now comes in a black plant-pot shaped container. The pot has a push-on lid and doesn't have rigid sides so one of these days I know I'm going to knock it over when I'm trying to replace the lid, but so far I haven't. Lush has shops in all major cities. I've seen branches in Nottingham, Brighton, London, Canterbury and York. You can also order from their website at www.lush.co.uk, though I find the site rather slow to load and the shops are so lovely that I'd much rather go in person. I'm lucky enough to work 10 minutes' walk from the London Covent Garden branch (my bank manager doesn't agree that this is lucky). I wouldn't be without this product now. I always take it with me when I go away, even for one night, though the pot is quite heavy. On the Lush website, other eczema sufferers are quoted as saying that it really works for them; if you have eczema, I hope it works for you too.
This place lives up to its name: it's a beautiful, quiet, fragrant haven from reality. It's also women-only, so it could be seen as an escape from the male of the species...As soon as you go in the attentive staff make you feel special - even if you're a scruffy librarian after a hard day at work - and their therapists are excellent, especially the masseurs. I have truly never seen anyone look so relaxed and revitalised as my friend after her aromatherapy massage at the Sanctuary. She was incoherent with bliss and said she felt like she'd been on holiday for a week! There is a wide range of facilities, including whirlpools, steam room, sauna, the famous picturesque pool with the swing (which is also surrounded by fairy lights and tropical-looking plants) and a serious exercise pool. The main lounge area contains big pools full of fish, divided by walkways, with cushions, chairs and loungers dotted about to relax on. There is a restaurant which does very nice food - you pay extra for this though. I went on my birthday so I had wine - alcohol isn't banned. The treatments on offer include different types of facials, body wraps and scrubs, whole body massages, dry floatation, manicures/hand massages and pedicures/foot massages. One of my favourite treatments was the Turkish Rasul, a mud and steam treatment which takes place in an amazing small round Turkish-style room, with bit ceramic seats and a thing that looks a bit like an altar which puffs out steam. The ceiling is full of twinkly lights like stars and there are three different sorts of mud to rub into your skin. At the end, water comes pattering down from above, just like warm rain, to wash you clean. We were a bit surprised to have to take all our clothes off, but it was extraordinarily liberating. I have to say that I don't think it made much difference to my skin but it was brilliant fun! The main prices on the website (http:// www
.thesanctuary.co.uk) in Sept. 2002 are: One day, Sunday to Thursday: £60. "Select Day Membership" ,7 days a week: £70. I assume this means it's always £70 for a Friday or Saturday and maybe you get something extra if you have "select" membership on another day. Evening (Wednesday to Friday 5pm-10pm): £40 There are also lots of deals, e.g. 6 off-peak visits in a year for £324. Both the day and the evening membership include a free massage chair session which is very relaxing once you get used to being pummelled by a piece of furniture, though not as good as a massage by a real person. The well-endowed will find that it makes your boob leaps around at times! I'd recommend a day if you can afford it, as the evening goes far too quickly! You can book on the website (see above) or phone 08700 630300 (8.00am - 8.00pm on weekdays; from 9.00am - 5.00pm at weekends). The changing rooms are very well appointed, with the Sanctuary's very nice own brand of smellies to use: body lotion, shampoo, shower gel etc. Other tips: If you don't want to be naked under your robe, take 2 swimsuits so that you've got a dry one to change into. Otherwise you get a bit cold and damp sitting around after you've been in one of the pools. It can be a bit busy on a Saturday, but still lovely and very far from crowded. Book treatments reasonably far in advance to be sure you get the one you want. However, if you ask on the day you can sometimes be fitted in for something - I got a full body massage this way, but there was only one left.
London Fields - strange and seedy goings-on in the capital - Advantages: Unputdownable - fascinating plot, Very funny in places - Disadvantages: Overwhelmingly grim and apocalyptic, Don't read it if you're feeling down, The spoilt child character was overdone
I've still got some way to go, but I'm much happier than I used to be. I don't want to go into the whole story, but I've been suffering from depression since my early teens and I'm now 31. Clinically, it would probably only be classed as "mild", but for years I was plagued by suicidal thoughts and at its worst I was self-harming frequently and spent 4 weeks on a psychiatric ward. That was 7 years ago. I just thought it might be useful for me to list the things that have really helped me. I know it's different for everyone, but there might be some value in the exercise. 1. Counselling/psychotherapy (the obvious one). Have seen about six different people over the years, at school, uni. and during various bad patches. Most, if not all, GPs can now refer you to a counsellor and universities always have well-publicised counselling services. I now pay for psychotherapy twice a week. The NHS being what it is, it's almost impossible to get long-term treatment for free. I used to think that if it wasn't available to me on the NHS, then I didn't deserve it, but I now realise that NHS treatment even for the severely mentally ill is hard to get. I found psychotherapy very hard and sometimes extremely upsetting for the first year or so, but it's worth it in the long run. I've managed to face up to things that I was running away from and somehow just knowing that another human being knows almost every detail of my muddled thoughts is very comforting. Occasionally in a therapy session it's like something goes "click" and I magically feel like a burden has been lifted for ever. My sessions cost £35 for 50 minutes. It's important to feel comfortable with your therapist/counsellor. I used to see one who, though generally very sympathetic, made me feel like a naughty schoolgirl sometimes and seemed too traditional and old-fashioned for some of the things I wanted to talk ab
out. Most people in this line of work are totally unshockable and very warm people, though. (I was particularly touched by the gentleness of the male psychiatric nurses when I was in hospital.) 2. Getting 2 kittens! I'd never had pets before, but 3 years ago I adopted 2 stray kittens from the RSPCA and promptly fell deeply in love with them! They make me smile, they're incredibly affectionate (anyone who thinks cats are cold and aloof should meet my two!), they stop me feeling too lonely and give me a reason to keep going when things are tough - they depend on me (till they learn how to open a tin of Whiskas). Even when my flatmate has fed them, they come running to meet me when I get home from work. There's nothing more relaxing than stroking a purring cat! I once read an article where a mental health professional actually said that sometimes a simple change such as getting a cat can start a depressed person on the road to recovery. 3. Getting my own house. I'm very lucky to have managed to buy a small place in one of the cheaper areas of London. Somehow, having a place where I have a definite right to be made me feel much more secure. Whatever happens, I have my own place to return to. It's great to be able to paint it whatever colours I want and inflict my own taste on everything! 4. Medication. I'm still on Lustral and have been on various other things in the past. Anti-depressants helped me to feel that little bit better and more capable of tackling the deeper causes of the problems. Over the years the dosage has been reduced and I'm hoping to stop fairly soon. Sleeping tablets can be very valuable in the short term. As my doctor said, not sleeping becomes an ingrained habit and pills can break the cycle. The ones I took for a few months weren't addictive. Unfortunately I can't remember what they were called. 5. Talking to friends and family, esp. friends who've been throu
gh similar stuff. 6. Creative and/or peaceful pursuits - gardening and yoga in my case. I've created a lovely garden from scratch in the last 3 years. When I feel miserable (but not too miserable to do anything), I go to the garden centre and buy lots of beautiful plants. It always helps. Sitting in the garden on a summer evening watching the cats chase flies really soothes the soul! 7. Getting older! Hard to prove, this one, as therapy has changed me a bit too, but I'm sure that time and experience of life have helped to some extent. Like most people, I worry less about what other think of me now I'm in my thirties (though I still worry about it quite a lot!) and don't care as much about what I look like. Well I can't think of any other major factors. Don't know if this will be of any use to anyone, but you never know...
I've used this stuff a couple of times and was quite impressed. The top coat is hard to put on, though. It seems to be very heavy so it drops off the brush easily and runs down the wall. We did a pattern of blue and yellow tiles in the kitchen and blue paint ran down onto the yellow, but it wipes off if you notice when it happens. Using coloured paint is probably more work than slapping on white, unless you don't mind coloured grout. In the kitchen where we used 2 colours we used the white primer/undercoat to paint the grout white again afterwards which was rather fiddly; in the bathroom we just covered it all with white. When it's been on your brush for a bit it gets a rather sticky, which makes it hard to get a smooth finish, so you have to make sure you keep re-loading the brush (but if you put too much on your brush it falls off - can't win!) We got a bit tired and careless towards the end in the bathroom, so the coverage is a bit patchy in places but it doesn't show from a distance as the tiles underneath are mainly off-white (with a blue and apricot streak - yuk!) My only major reservation is that after 3 years the paint on my bathroom tiles is starting to flake where it gets wet frequently, but we only did one coat each of base and top coat so it's probably our fault... The flaking is very bad on the windowsill, presumably because it's the only horizontal surface that we painted, so water stays on it for longer. I'm not sure what to do about this: scrape off the very loose bits of paint and sand the edges, then re-paint, re-tile over the flaking paint (would the tiles fall off??), remove tiles and re-tile, or what? Any advice gratefully received!
Like any self-respecting woman, I have a vast collection of lotions and potions on my dressing table and have been experimenting with different products since my early teens. However, I don't wear much make-up, only indulging in mascara and lip-colour about twice a year. Though I'm 30 I still get spots and blocked pores, so a lot are linked to this. These are my ten favourites: No.1 - Tea tree pure essential oil. Unless you have dry skin, why buy a spot cream where tea tree oil is only one of the ingredients? I nuke my zits with the pure stuff! Sometimes it makes them disappear overnight and if not it usually shrinks them substantially. Also very good for infected cuts. Don't try it on mouth ulcers or infected wisdom teeth though - it tastes disgusting! No.2 - Vaseline. What would we do without it? I love the dinky round blue and white tins - such simple style and portability! I mostly use it on my lips, finding it more softening and protective than normal lip balms (especially those that come in sticks and therefore have to be a bit waxy). It only costs about £1 and lasts for ages. I always have a tin in every bag and a big pot in my bedroom. When you have a bad cold, keep putting it round your nose to stop it getting sore from constant blowing - bright red-rimmed and flaking nostrils are not a good look! Can be used in small amounts to keep your eyebrows in place. Also not bad for softening cuticles. I use it with lip-liner to give a bit of natural-looking colour to my lips on special occasions (rub in a layer of Vaseline first, then colour in all of your lips with lip-liner and keep blotting with a tissue and blending with your fingers, adding more Vaseline and/or colour till you get the result you want). No.3 - Rimmel Hide the Blemish concealer stick. Good for broken veins and under-eye shadows as well as zits. For years I used Boots No.7 concealer but find the Rimmel one gives better coverage. No.4 -
Boots No.7 Ultimate light-diffusing foundation. Great natural-looking coverage in a convenient pump-action bottle. Lasts for ages. Once the pump-action failed after about a week and I couldn't break into the container whatever I tried, which was extrememly frustrating, but usually it works. £9.50 for 30 ml. No.5 - Nicky Clarke Colour Therapy shampoo. I don't dye my hair, but I do like to use this shampoo to enhance the colour - most of all though, I use it for the fabulous shine it gives my hair. There are versions for al different hair colours, including grey. I use the brunette's one, which is called Sweet Like Chocolate and does smell disconcertingly sweet. According to the website (www.nickyclarke.co.uk/colour.htm) the ingredients are milk chocolate (!) vanilla, mandarin and orange, along with geranium, rose, horsechestnut and rosemary. I'm not actually that keen on the smell but it's not objectionable and the result is worth it. No. 6 - lavender pure essential oil. As you can tell, I'm a fan of aromatherapy. My main beauty use for lavender oil is to speed up the healing of spots, so when they first appear I use tea tree oil and when they've dried up I put neat lavender oil on them once or twice a day. I accidentally did a test once where I had a lot of scratches on my arms and put lavender oil on some but not others and the ones with oil on them healed better and more quickly. It can also be used on itchy rashes as it seems to have an anti-histamine effect. As this is meant to be about beauty I won't go on, but it does have absolutely loads of uses for health purposes too. No.6 - Lush solid shampoos, esp. the one called Ultimate Shine. £2.95 for 55g. They last for ages, work really well, lather up instantly but wash out easily, smell delicious - and don't spill in your suitcase! No.7 - Body Shop tea tree oil facial wash. Good for zits (combating them, not causing them!) a
nd you only need to use a small amount at a time. No.8 - Body Shop tea tree oil body scrub. I use this on my chest to prevent spots and blocked pores and on my legs to prevent ingrowing hairs after waxing. It doesn't competely solve the spotty chest problem, but helps (If anyone knows a better treatment, please let me know - it's such an unglamorous affliction!) No.9 - Immac warm wax (NOT the roll-on, which is a nightmare to use). You heat it up in the microwave or on the cooker, which is a bit of a faff, but worth it because it works ten times better than cold wax strips. I don't find it that painful, but avoid doing your bikini line just before your period, or you'll pass out with agony! No.10 Boots Skin Clear spot stick. One of those little bottles of spot-taming stuff with an applicator. Keeps the little buggers subdued. Esp. useful for new eruptions which happen while you're out and about. Crumbs, it's taken me ages to do this - my longest opinion ever. I shall now go and have a well-earned choccy biccy... Hope it's useful!
The elastic attaching the buckles to my work shoes has perished completely after about a year of daily wear (if I could remember what make the shoes were I'd write an opinion about that, but I can't!) I can't be the only person to have shoes with elastic as an important component, but when I took them to Mr Minit it was as if I'd asked for an unheard-of service. I was brusquely told that they don't stock elastic. That would have been all the help I got, but I asked where else I could try and all they could offer was that I'd have to buy some elastic myself - and presumably mend them myself with a specially purchased heavy-duty needle. However, when I went to Sketchley's there was no problem at all - it seemed as routine as new heels. Previously I didn't even know that Sketchley's did anything but dry-cleaning, but now I'll bear them in mind for my future shoe repairs (and my local branch also has a Snappy Snaps franchise). Mr Minit are fine for heeling shoes, but I won't use them again.
I tried these things once. The reasons I haven't done it again are a) The price. I'm too puritanical to spend so much money on such a small aspect of my appearance! b) It wasn't wholly effective. I followed the instructions and didn't have any trouble peeling the strip off. It came away with lots of little long whitish things sticking up from it - the contents of my pores - yuk! However, there were still quite a few blackheads left behind. It seemd to work better across the bridge of my nose than in the creases round my nostrils (what is that bit of your nose called?). Unfortunately the worst blackheads are in the creases. Of course it's not surprising that it doesn't work as well here because it's hard to get the strip into the creases.