Propstore - Southbank

My last two posts have been a bit like buses, but I couldn't resist quickly sharing a great find.

Whilst sauntering along the sunny South Bank during my lunch break, I came across Propstore, the National Theatre's new pop-up bar & cafe. 

This quirky little place is built from and furnished with scenery, sets and props from previous National Theatre productions.

Upon peaking inside, I was struck by the huge array of paraphernalia hanging from the bar and ceiling. 

The gorgeous weather today had coaxed all the punters outside, but the bar is open until 2am on the weekends and features DJs and live music.

I urge you to pop in and play 'spot the prop' over a drink and some grub.  I was enthusiastically presented with the goose puppet from War Horse by a very sweet member of staff, but there are others which aren't quite so obvious. 

Such a fun and novel idea - I look forward to returning to sample their wares soon. 

Run, fat girl, run!

Please don't be offended, I didn't mean you.  I was talking to myself - something I'm sure a lot of you do when out pounding the pavements, in an attempt to make time pass that bit quicker.

It happens every year.  I watch the London Marathon, feel exceedingly inspired by and in awe of all those taking part, swear I'll sign up for a similar challenge and then... that feeling dissipates and is replaced by the need for a glass of wine.

Well, not this year.  I’ve made an Olympic effort (sorry!) and signed up to a 10km and a half marathon.  I’m not a complete running novice, but it definitely wasn’t something I enjoyed and I really needed to dig deep to find the impetus to start and keep going.  That was until, I joined a running club.

A discount email popped into my inbox advertising 60% off 10 sessions with Run Club London.  
Now, I could claim that Run Club is a bit like ‘Fight Club’, given how much pain I was in the next morning, but then I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with you lovely people, so let’s scrap that assertion.

I meet Lizi, our trainer, in Wimbledon Park and it’s immediately obvious that she’s extremely friendly and super-encouraging as she asks about my previous running experience (nigh on zilch) and whether I have any events lined up, as I’m sumo-lunging my way around the periphery of the park cafe. 

The group, 9 of us this evening, is a mixture of newcomers and regulars and, as we set off for a lap of the park, I soon realise that there are varying levels of proficiency.  With my legs burning from all the lunging, I manage to complete the lap not too far behind the front runners and am feeling pretty jubilant until I realise that this is just the warm up.

Run Club
Now the real work begins, which comprises a series of tempo and agility exercises using cone markers to map out our course.  We’re split into two teams and start by ladder running, hopping over and weaving in and out of the cones and then running backwards to the starting point, repeating twice.

Next we race to complete a circuit of cone exercises and short bursts, which culminates in 3 sprints, each one about 10 metres further than the last, by the end of which my legs are screaming and my heart pumping furiously.  Then it’s onto our backs and non-stop bicycle curls until the last person in the team finishes the circuit.  Although the ground is wet and muddy I drop straight onto it, legs flapping in the air like a debilitated beetle, grateful to give them a few minutes’ rest, even if those minutes do involve ab work.

Our penultimate exercise is to try to complete as many laps of the green as we can in 4 minutes.  Lizi gives us our time for each lap and the intention is to use this as a benchmark that you aim to improve upon each session.  After a couple of minutes to get our breath back we go again and, strangely, it’s easier the second time around.  Maybe my legs are starting to get some of that muscle memory people are always talking about.

As we walk towards the steps to do some dynamic stretching and a warm down, I get chatting to a girl who’s signed up to do a half marathon at the end of the year.  We bond over the fact that neither of us actually enjoys running... yet...  but agree that if we keep up these sessions, that’s highly likely to change.  The combination of endurance, tempo and agility training, with a group for a whole hour, is so much more effective than anything I would push myself to do. 

I’m told by one of the regulars that the difference you experience in your running after a few sessions is considerable.  The main difference I experienced the day after was the inability to walk, but that can only show how hard the session must have worked me.  I'll definitely be keeping it up but the real test will be my first 10k in 3 weeks’ time.  I'd imagine it'll make Bikram feel like a walk in the park... well, maybe more like a jog.


A local gem


Well, local to me, that is.  But I strongly recommend a visit if you're in or around SW19 - perhaps during a little-known tennis tournament hosted by the area in June?

Bayley & Sage is a neighbourhood food store that stocks an incredible array of fresh, seasonal produce, luxury artisan brands and products from independent local suppliers.  For those of you who know and love Wholefoods, it's a similar deal but, in my humble opinion, ten times better.

For starters, it's small but perfectly formed (this is coming from someone who has been lost in Wholefoods countless times, mind), thereby narrowing down choice and making the process of deciding what to have for supper a whole lot quicker and easier.  

Plus, there is only one store, so it feels like a true independent food-lover's paradise.  It's also within a stone's throw of Wimbledon common, so you can work up a real appetite with a brisk walk first and have even more of a reason to treat yourself once inside.

But that's enough talk from me - why don't I let some photos speak for themselves.  Happy salivating!

Fresh, fresh, fresh!


At last, somewhere I can buy handfuls upon handfuls of samphire as opposed to piddley little packets (this is obviously when I don't go foraging for it myself!)

Soooo many different breads and freshly made goodies.


Olives for every day of the week.

Breakfast cereals made by Bayley & Sage customer Kate Freestone - talk about supporting local producers.

At least 4 pigs' worth of gorgeous cured meat.

 One word, 'yum'.

 Say fromage.


Well, you can't have one without t'other!

A true local gem. 

Do let me know of any similar places near you that I can investigate (read: drool on the floor of) when around and about London town. 


Web Fuelled Business

"I love free stuff," says Doug Richard, ex 'dragon' from the den, entrepreneur and founder of the School for Startups, an enterprise focussed on teaching entrepreneurship across the UK.

I couldn't agree more, which is why I've come to the beautiful Union Chapel in Islington to attend a day's FREE bootcamp aimed at helping small businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers to get the most out of the web. 

Union Chapel
Web Fuelled Business is the brainchild of the School for Startups; sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Yell, it means that they can provide the vast knowledge and experience of an otherwise very expensive man for free - (not presuming that you can buy Doug - maybe just hire him by the hour!)

Doug takes to the stage in front of around 600 budding businessmen and women and proceeds to keep us interested, intrigued and entertained for the majority of the next 7 hours. 

He is genuinely one the best public speakers I have ever encountered, making you feel like you're simply absorbing the information and advice he imparts, rather than struggling to understand and remember it. (Rather like sleeping with your uni revision notes on top of your head, in the hope that something would seep in - or was that just me?!)

The day is split up into sections covering topics such as e-commerce, search engine optimisation (SEO) and using social media for business purposes, with a couple of networking breaks and lunch in between. 

Even though I like to think of myself as fairly web-savvy, I was furiously scribbling during the sections on SEO and learnt some invaluable points on exactly how Google (or the very clever people behind it) works.  For example, did you know that you can actually damage your Google rating by too much repeating of key words on your web pages, in a scatter gun approach to trying to improve your SEO?

Although I obviously can't rip off all of the very useful advice we received throughout the course of the day, I'm sure Doug wouldn't mind me sharing his top ten questions to ask yourself before going it alone - whether that involves starting a business, going freelance, or stepping into the world of part time e-commerce. 

1. What do we do that people need or want?
2. Who is our customer?
3. How do customers find out about our products?
4. What distribution channels should we consider?
5. How much is this worth to the customer?
6. What pricing model should we choose?
7. What kind of relationship do we want with our customers?
8. Who are we up against?
9. What do we have in common with our industry?
10.What must we be good at?

These focus the mind and encourage you to be completely honest with yourself.  Try them out and let me know how you get on - good luck!

Web Fuelled Business ran a number of bootcamps in various locations across the country during the first part of 2012.  This series of events has now finished but, fingers crossed, there will be more to come.  I recommend hopping onto their website to register your interest for future courses as well as snaffling a bit of free digital marketing advice - you can also follow them on Twitter