An Olympic Plea

Londoners, Your City Needs YOU!

I don’t usually make a habit of begging, but I’m going to now.  Just this once.

I’m going to because, despite the naysayers, the pessimists, the whingers, the doom-predictors, les miserables and those who really couldn’t give a tiny rat’s arse, the Olympic Games begin in T-2 days and they will be one of the biggest sporting events in our lifetime as Londoners.*

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the technical rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony last night, which was an incredible spectacle to say the least.  I have enough respect for those who have spent years organising it to #savethesurprise, but I will say that you are truly in for a treat if you choose to watch it on Friday.

Here are a few snaps inside the Olympic Park to whet the appetite.

Now, back to my plea.  Over the next few weeks I will be sporadically donning a bright pink tabard and taking to the streets to assist everyone who’s trying to make their way around London.  Yes, my name is Celine I am your volunteer Olympic travel ambassador.

I’ll admit, when I’m walking behind a tourist who stops suddenly to point, laugh at and then take pictures of a pigeon eating a Kit Kat wrapper, I have visions of bludgeoning them to death with their own camera.  I am, however, taking this opportunity to see our capital in a different way: through millions of fresh, excited and hopeful pairs of eyes.

My request (or challenge, if you’d prefer) to you is to go about your daily business with the same mentality.  Here’s what I mean:

- You’re a Londoner, you know your hood.  If you see anyone looking a bit lost or confused, take a minute to ask them if they’d like a hand figuring out where they want to go.  Get a warm, fuzzy feeling from helping someone before you’ve even had your first latte of the day.

- Dust off that GCSE French / German / Spanish and take a couple of moments to remember how to say  ‘you’re welcome’ and ‘good bye’ in a few other languages.  Use them.  It’s exceedingly funny watching a Frenchman drop his croissant in surprise when you make an unexpected effort in this way.

- Tell all tourists in central London to walk and to use the ‘Legible London’ maps to get around.  You know when people get on the tube at Covent Garden only to get off at Leicester Square?  Educate them on that.

- Carry a few spare tube maps in your bag and hand them out like some kind of be-suited map vending machine.

- Download some useful free apps onto your phone so that you’re prepared when someone asks you where the nearest loos are (ToiletFinder UK).

- Remember all of the many incredible things and places that you love about London and share them with anyone who might ask for a recommendation.

- Smile at people.  I know it's against our religion as Londoners, but do it.  Just this once.  You might even enjoy it.

This is not about the money that has been spent, the security debacles or the impact that it will have on the transport network.   It’s about the impression that the world and the millions of visitors during this period will have of London – our home - and what we can each do to feel like we had a small part to play in making it the best impression possible. 

I promise, when it’s all over, you have my express permission to tut loudly at anyone who is incapable of understanding why every other person on that escalator is standing on the right.

*I’m aware that I’ve mentioned the words ‘Olympics’ and ‘London’ numerous times in this post which, if you believe the reports, is likely to result in my hanging, drawing and quartering by the Brand Police.  So I might as well chuck in ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’, ‘Bronze’, ‘summer’ and 2012 to ensure a swift demise.  Oh, and I’ll sell you chips if you want – WITHOUT ANY ACCOMPANYING FISH!

It's Spritz o'clock

I love a Pimms No. 1 as much as the next woman.  Slightly sweet, refreshingly fruity and relatively low in alcohol, it's the perfect summer tipple (or session beverage, as the boys would call it).

But even during this miserable summer, I feel like I've OD'd on the faithful fruit cup.  This is where having a little sister who's taken up residence in Italy comes in very handy. 

On her last visit, the gorgeous girl presented us with this:

Snuggled up together in their shredded paper bedding were two best friends - Aperol and Prosecco.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Aperol, it's an Italian aperitif that's a less bitter version of Campari with a slight orangey flavour.  

It also forms the basis of Spritz, a wonderfully refreshing 'aperitivo'.

The classic mix is:

3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 splash of soda or seltz
Ice, half a slice of orange.

It's often served in a short glass with lots of ice; although I don't usually mess with Italian classics, this time I chose a wine goldfish bowl sans the orange slice.

I appreciate that it resembles a large measure of Iron Bru but, trust me when I say that once you try it, you'll be quaffing it for the rest of the "summer".

Plus it's more alcoholic than Pimms, so will turn that drizzly rain into a warm, fuzzy haze.

Enjoy with a bowl of queen green olives and pretend you're kicking back in the sunshine overlooking a Venetian piazza. 

Oh, just so you know, it doesn't taste the same if your ice cubes aren't shaped like tube signs. 


The Little Things: a Friday thought

Most mornings, on my way down the hill to the station, I pass a gentleman walking back up.  An elderly gentleman in his eighties, possibly even nineties.

I always wish him a good morning and, in response, he returns the greeting, gives me a twinkly-eyed grin and doffs his flat cap.
This brief interaction and act of – I’m not even sure what to call it – politeness, chivalry, manners, a bygone era, or perhaps mischievousness (well, he does still have that twinkle), makes me smile without fail.  In fact, it can keep me smiling throughout my entire commute and well into the morning.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s the little things that count… and that more gentlemen should wear hats.


Buddhapadipa Temple - Wimbledon

Close your eyes and inhale.  Can you smell it?  

That heady, muskiness of incense, the sweet tang of lemongrass and elegant jasmine.  

Now listen.

Birdsong is the only sound punctuating the tranquil air with a light breeze occasionally rustling the trees.

Open your eyes again.

No, you’re not on a remote hilltop in Thailand, but at number 14 Calonne Road, Wimbledon.


The Buddhapadia Temple is a Buddhist Thai Temple a stone’s throw from Wimbledon Common.  It was the first of its kind in London, originally established in Richmond in 1965 and moved to its current site in 1976.  Visitors can wander freely in the grounds during the week and inside the temple itself on weekends.

We pottered down on Saturday and spent some time admiring the impressive statues and carvings surrounding the building as well as the beautifully adorned exterior…

before taking off our shoes…

and following this lovely gentleman inside.

Photography is not allowed inside the temple building, the walls of which are covered with the most incredible mural depicting the life of Buddha.  It was hand-painted by a group of 14 volunteers and is a colourful, spiritual journey that you could spend hours marvelling at.

The gardens are a serene enclave filled with words of wisdom & positivity, numerous shrines and areas for quiet meditation. 

They were awash with colour when we visited. 

The temple runs a number of events, talks and classes throughout the year and regular meditation sessions too, however, I happen to think that walking through the grounds can be just as relaxing and equally as good for the mind and soul. 

If all the recent tennis drama has got you a bit worked up, stop by for a wonderfully different Wimbledon experience. 


L'Enclume Restaurant

Nestled in the heart of the southern Lake District is an enchanting medieval village called Cartmel. 

When exploring its charming lanes and stone passageways you may discover a babbling brook...

ancient country pubs with eclectic garden furniture...

whitewashed gates leading to diminutive cottages...

and, if you're really, really lucky, L'Enclume

You may be familiar with owner and chef Simon Rogan from his recent stint on the Great British Menu.  He has, however, been cooking up a storm in this beautiful part of the country for a good few years.

Simon uses seasonal, local, often foraged ingredients and turns them into some of the most innovative and exciting dishes I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

Seated in the conservatory, with a view onto the lush garden, we were asked if we would like the 5 course or the 16 course lunch - no menu, just those two choices.

Needless to say, we plumped for the 16-courser and what followed was a 4 hour feast that I will remember until my dying day.  In fact, I'd have happily carked it after coffee, safe in the knowledge that I'd just experienced a veritable food memory. 

Now, I'm no food blogger and I'm certainly not a restaurant critic, so this won't be a dissection of each course.  Instead, here is my best attempt at capturing each delectable dish for your viewing pleasure.

Oyster pebbles

Dock pudding with nettle emulsion

Cream cheese wafers

Asparagus with bay shrimp

Cod 'yolk', sage cream, salt and vinegar


Kohlrabi dumplings in Westcombe, hyssop and purple sprouting

Valley venison, charcoal oil, mustard and fennel

Sea scallop with spiced strawberry, grilled cauliflower and coastal leaves

Cucumbers, pineapple weed, lobster and rat tails

Eel smoked with wood sorrel, marrow and onions


Lightly smoked Bay bass, cockles, courgettes and cotton lavender

Reg's guinea hen and offal, turnip and elderflower

Iced chamomile, spruce, celery and black pepper

Cumbrian slate, gooseberry, apple and lemon verbena

Cherries with meadowsweet, hazelnut and apple

Gingerbread and iced watermint*

* which comes with a confession: I was so enraptured by the whole experience by this point, that I forgot to take a photo until I'd almost finished! 

With friendly and informative service and an excellent wine list, I would recommend making a detour to visit L'Enclume if you're ever in the North West... actually, it's worth a trip even if you're in NW London.