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MY FAVOURITE PLACES: Rachel Bavidge, actress

11 Oct

Rachel Bavidge’s acting career began at Oxford’s Pegasus Theatre when she joined Oxford Youth Theatre in the Nineties. Now a successful actress, she has most recently appeared in ‘Eastenders’, ‘The Shadow Line’ and ‘Law & Order’.  This Saturday evening (13 Oct 2012) Rachel will be joining Radiohead’s Philip Selway and Eastenders director Steve Finn for a reading of Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ at Pegasus.

The Ashmolean Museum

The Alfred jewel

I’ve always loved this place and got my first real job after college working here in the coin department.  My favourite object is ‘The Alfred Jewel’ which is a beautiful piece of Anglo-Saxon art.  No-one is certain what it’s for, but it’s inscribed with ‘Alfred ordered me to be made’ and was probably made on the orders of King Alfred the Great.
The Jericho Tavern, Jericho, central Oxford

I spent most of the Nineties hanging round here watching bands play, including my then boyfriend, a bass player in ‘The Bigger The God’ who played lots of gigs round Oxford. The bands around were ones like Ride, Supergrass, The Candyskins and Radiohead (On a Friday) and it was an amazing time for live music.
Oxford Playhouse , Beaumont St, central Oxford

I was a member of the Youth Theatre here and defected from the Ashmolean across the road to get a job as the Community Education worker.  It was always insanely busy but I loved going out and meeting new people and giving those who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre a taste of it.

Cowley Road
, Oxford

I spent many happy hours getting drunk in pubs along this road and having late night takeaways after dancing at the Zodiac, which is now The O2. The area has changed over the years but not too much, and it’s still a great place to hangout. Aziz Restaurant was a favourite and I think I was one of the few people to eat one of their meals on stage at Pegasus.  In the play I was in, called Steaming, the characters eat a hot curry, and the restaurant delivered this to us every night!  Cafe Coco and Uhuru Whole Foods were also big favourites.

Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry

I used to live around the corner from this church where CS Lewis is buried, and when I was having a bad time with life (as all teenagers do) I used to come and sit by his grave for some time out.  I used to love the Narnia books as a child, but also I was brought up in a big catholic family where faith and the struggle with it, was central to our home life. CS Lewis’s own story had certain resonances that made me feel a connection.


Planning officers in ‘Interesting House Building Consent’ shock!

3 Oct

At a time when planning officers are giving the go-ahead to thousands of identikit toy-town houses in villages and towns across the country, I’m delighted to say that this piece of gloriously bonkers architecture has been passed for construction.

Designed by artist Grayson Perry with renowned architects FAT and supported by the brilliant Living Architecture, this house was supported strongly by the local community in North Essex and should be completed in 2014 and available for holiday lets.

It’s part barn, part church, part gingerbread house; blending in with the environment yet making a statement with its decorative walls and rooftop orbs.

No doubt its green credentials are everywhere, from foundations to rafters, but most importantly for me it shows that there’s still wiggle room for creativity and personality in architecture.

Anyone know of anything wonderful or truly unique being built in Oxfordshire or Bucks at the mo?





Your social life sorted: The Muddy Guide 15 – 21 September

15 Sep

Sorrryyyyyy this is late. Having a crazy old time of things, what with the new Muddy Stilettos blogazine launching in two weeks (*squeak!*), trying to find time to talk to advertisers, chucking three kids in and out of school and trying to keep my alcohol consumption within moral limits.

Anyhow, here it is, in all its glory. Your social life sorted for the week. Have fun and please, if you do any of the things on this list, write and tell us about them in the box below this post. Mi comment boxa e su comment boxa and all that.

Edward Lear exhibition, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2o Sept 2012 – 6 Jan 2013

I confess that I didn’t know much about Edward Lear until a press release to this exhibition plopped into my in-box, but the Ashmolean’s brand new Exhibition Happy Birthday Edward Lear: 200 Years of Nature and Nonsense sounds captivating.

Lear is one of the most notable artists and popular writers of the Victorian period (I know, who knew?!), best known for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose, though he saw himself primarily as an artist.  I’ll be taking a sneaky pre-peek on the 19th so I’ll report back then but I’ve never had a less than interesting experience in the Ashmolean so I’m expecting great things. Frankly for £4 (and free for kids) you can afford to take a punt on it.

£4/£3 concessions | Free to under-18s/

Julius Caesar, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, 19-22 September

The RSC’s acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar comes to Aylesbury straight from the West End, starring a whole load of buff men wearing not very much. See you in the stalls! Tickets £10-30

London Design Festival, until 23 September

Milk Concept Boutique’s exhibition Be Seated

Are you a doer-upper, Grand Designs voyeur or hardened interiors pro? There’s something for everyone at the London Design Festival, now in its tenth year. Furniture, lighting, ceramics, architecture, fashion, interiors, graphic design and crafts are all lovingly covered in over 300 events.  The organisers recommend planning your visit carefully before you go – great advice because the range of this festival is truly gobsmacking. It’s not easy though. I’ve just spent half an hour trying to choose one brilliant event over another and have basically decided to sleep in the Truman Brewery for the next week.

Keeping it Local, Oxford’s Castle Quarter, 15-16 September

Muddy Stilettos gets all warm and toasty about community spirit, and Keeping It Local has it in spades. Over 100 exhibitors, from makers and bakers, gardeners to performers, will come together in Oxford’s Castle Quarter to showcase the best Oxfordshire and adjoining counties haveo offer. As you’d expect, there’s plenty for kids to do from pony rides, story telling, animal petting and face-painting while you concentrate on the important stuff like heckling the Morris Dancers.

10am-5pm both days. 1p entrance fee per person.

Jazz at St Giles,  St Giles Church, fortnightly from Saturday 22 September

I’m loving the idea of these new fortnightly Autumnal jazz concerts held at the 12th century St Giles church in central Oxford on Saturday nights. Featuring top class jazz musicians performing two sets with a 20 minute interval (yes, refreshments are available, you old lushes) the concerts will raise funds for the church, proving the famous adage that ‘jazzliness is next to Godliness’.

Tickets are available on the door, or book online at .  Tickets £10/concessions £8. Doors open: 7.00pm
Performance: 7.30pm

Luminaries at LASSCO, Milton Common, Thursday 20 September

I love LASSCO Three Pigeons, the architectural salvage experts nestled on the edge of Milton Common, with their quirky treasure trove of Grecian pillars, stuffed animals, Victorian door knobs and glorious chandeliers.

In line with its classy but slightly out-there aesthetic, the company has introduced a’Luminaries’ series of evening talks, the first of which was about the Antarctic explorer Frank Wild (!), but the second of which, container gardening, has infinitely broader in its appeal. Paul Williams, former Head Gardener at Bourton House and now consultant, broadcaster and author, is dropping by on 20 September to spill his trade secrets. Apparently there’ll be practical demos with pots, plants, compost and ‘quite a bit of mess’ according to LASSCO’s gleeful owner Anthony. Bring your own trowel for acccurate mud-flicking.

£10, including a glass of wine. 6.30pm for a 7pm start. LASSCO Three Pigeons, London Road, Milton Common, Oxfordshire OX9 2JN United Kingdom Tel: 01844 277188.

Chilterns Countryside and Food Festival, Ashridge Estate, Berkhamsted, Sunday 16 September

Can you stomach another festival? This one has all the usual attributes of kids crafts, ferret racing and local produce stalls, but plays its trump card in its location – the Ashridge Estate, which is stunning even by Chilterns standards. When all the bushcraft, sheep shearing and traditional beardy weardy woodcarving gets too much for you, take a deep breath, step into 6 miles of glorious forest and remember what you’re really celebrating.

10-4pm, £3 adults, children free. Ashridge Visitor Centre, tel: 01442 851 227

YOUR SOCIAL LIFE SORTED: The Muddy Guide 30 Aug – 5 Sept

30 Aug

The Big Feastival, Kingham, Oxfordshire, 1 – 2 September
If your appetite for festivals and foodiness remains unsatiated after a summer of the stuff, I suggest you head over to the Big Feastival on Alex James’ farm in Kingham, presented by a certain Mr Jamie Oliver. Paloma Faith, Razorlight, The Noisettes, Gaz Coombes etc are all playing, Jamie and Valentine Warner are amongst the chefs tossing their pancakes and grimacing over their jus, and there’s the slightly cringey sounding ‘Little Dude’s Den’ to deposit your own mini Bodens to their fate of music, crafts – and slow food tasting (yeah, make the buggers try mussels and anchovies!). There are only 500 tickets left if you believe the website, so book soonish.

Wallingford Bunkfest, 31 Aug – 2 Sept

Feeling on a bit of a downer after the Bank Holiday weekend? This will cheer you up. The Wallingford Bunkfest, now in its 11th year, gleefully combines a beer festival, craft and food fair, music concerts, fun fair, and children’s extravanganza all-in-one, involving the whole town in its madness. Totally free, apart from the singing boat and steam train rides (yes, really), it’s a real community event with pubs, bars, the Corn Exchange cinema and loads of other venues hosting a massively diverse range of events. The weather’s looking up for the weekend so grab a bunch of friends and make a day of it.

Glenn Brown exhibiton at Upton House, Banbury, 2 September – 6 January 2013

‘The Shallow End’ by Glenn Brown

This is the first time that celebrated British painter Glenn Brown’s works will be on show outside the major city centres and international galleries and the National Trust-owned Upton House is a stunning venue for the exhibition. The display will include new works from the Turner prize nominee, shown in parallel with Upton House’s outstanding art collection which includes works by Canaletto, Hogarth, El Greco and Stubbs. Known for his technique of appropriating the images of other artists such as Rembrandt, Fragonard, Auerbach and Dali, Brown then transforms the images into something else entirely.
Entry to the exhibition free of charge. Normal National Trust charges apply.

St Giles Fair, Central Oxford, 3 – 4 September

I’ve never been to this but it looks really fun, especially as it’s in the heart of the city. The St Giles Fair has evolved from its 1625 origins as a parish wake to a toy fair in the 1780s to a general fair for children by 1800. Are you enjoying the history lesson children? Then I’ll continue. By the 1830s there were amusements for adults too and by the end of the Nineteenth century the prudy Victorians tried to close it down for being too rowdy and licentious. Now it’s a family fair with a mix of the traditional (coconut shy, vintage rides) and more modern white knuckle pleasures. There’s very little info on timings, so I’ll make some calls tomorrow and add them to the post then but I imagine it starts sixish in the evening.

Little Creatures Family Festival, ZSL London Zoo, 1 – 2 September

A special event for Under 10s, this family weekend at London Zoo offers up its full gamut of hairy, crawly and scaly inhabitants, with added kid-friendly activities, such as facepainting and sack races, egg and spoon and tugs of war, an adventure playground, giant slides and crafty bits, and a gourmet food festival thrown in for the adults. All that’s missing is some babysitting and Mr Tumble.
10am-8pm on both days. £23 adult, £17 child. Free to existing ZSL members though booking recommended.

‘Lawless’ film screening and Q&A with Nick Cave/ John Hillcoat, Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford, Wed 5 Sept

This film, a new collaboration between acclaimed director John Hillcoat and singer/songwriter turned scriptwriter Nick Cave has been well-received and worth cosying up to watch if you’re in an art-house mood.  Lawless is a tough Prohibition-set western about a family of hard-as-nails Ohio bootleggers at war with the law and rival gangsters. Muddy fave Tom Hardy (*sigh* – though stop eating all the pies Tom) stars as the monosyllabic heavy with a heart along Guy Pearce as the psychotic lawman Charley Rakes. After the film screening at Oxford’s bijoux Phoenix there’s a satellite Q&A with John Hillcoat and Nick Cave. Remember to ask Nick the important stuff like how does he keep his weight down? Where does he buy his necklaces? And of course, how the devil is Kylie? Vital stuff.
8.45pm start.

Looking for a British paradise? Hello West Wales!

4 Aug

Much as I appreciate the rugged beauty of Scotland and the romance of Ireland, in my humble opinion they don’t touch West Wales for the magical combination of pristine white beaches, beautiful castles and quirkily charming towns (cue angry comments – come on, let’s be having you!).

Last week I returned from a fantastic short break here, and the trip has inspired me to tell you a few places that you might want to put on your must-go list if you’re considering a British get away before the end of the summer.


Dylan Thomas’ home The Boathouse in Laugharne

Laugharne gratefully trades on its association with Dylan Thomas – he fell in love with the place he called ‘the strangest town in Wales’ and lived here with his wife Caitlin in the Boat House (above) for some years.

The small town is winning and comes complete with romantically ruined castle, an estuary-ish beach and a smattering of shops and bars. Browns Hotel, where the bad boyo used to drink is a real no frills local, with a raw, fun atmosphere on the night we stopped by. Laugharne is a good starting point to put you in spitting distance of the big attractions (it’s not enough to hold you for more than a day in its own right)  but not so far that you’ll fall asleep at the wheel from Oxon or Bucks.We stayed just outside the town in a sweet converted barn called The Cow Shed (see with stonking views, below.

Broad Haven beach

Part New Zealand, part Thailand, and the rest unmistakably Welsh (you can see people walking the Coastal path all around the hills above), this beach is totally knockout with crystal clear waters and white sands. I took this photo myself – this is the real thing! National Trust owned, there’s good parking at the top, with toilet facilities and a kiosk for treats and ice creams. If you’re happy to walk further for your pleasures, the stunning Barafundle bay is a half mile along a cliff path from nearby Stackpole Quay and through a stone archway, and was voted Britain’s best beach by Time Out this year. Truthfully though, it’s an embarrassment of riches in this part of Wales. If the sun’s shining you’re onto a winner wherever you go.


Gorgeous multicoloured houses, lovely bays, touristy without being tacky, a compact town of total gorgeousness. When I was a little girl I spent a week here with my parents, staying in a B&B owned by Mr & Mrs Crumpet (you couldn’t make it up!), back in the day when fried bread was de rigeur over breakfast. The town feels a lot bigger now, with loads of restaurants, bars and shops, but it still retains a lovely quaint feel. Saundersfoot, down the road, is Tenby’s little cousin, with another lovely beach, more brightly coloured harbourside buildings, and seemingly fish & chips available on every corner.

4. Folly Farm

Can’t decide whether to go to the zoo, farm, or the fair? Folly Farm ingeniously delivers all three making it a brilliant, varied day out. Ideal for kids of all ages, we had a wonderful day here, with zebras, giraffes, pigs, goats, chickens, go-carting, helter-skeltering, JCB diggers, pirate outdoor play areas and vintage fairground rides like waltzers and dodgems all on the ecletic menu. Folly Farm has a Certificate of Excellence rating from TripAdvisor that says it all.

St David’s Cathedral

For the second time on a trip to West Wales, I ran out of time to make it to St David’s Cathedral on the far south west coast.  The smallest city in the world due to its cathedral, St Davids has been a popular pilgrimage destination since the middle ages (the cathedral dates from the 12th century), nestling amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in Wales. The ‘city’ is in reality a picturesque village, so if you can organise yourself better than me (not hard, let’s face it)  please visit and then taunt me with your photos.

And the Gold for Olympic excitement goes to…. LASSCO!

27 Jul

Finally, it’s here. Olympic Friday. Hurray for the opening ceremony (come on Danny Boyle, you can do it) and the prospect of a lycra-heavy August. Sod the double dip recession, let’s get behind our national triceps – I mean team – and enjoy the Olympics for the spectacle it is, haha!

To get you in the mood, here’s a great shot from LAASCO Three Pigeons (just off J6 M40) who are obviously feeling the Olympic love too. I drove past yesterday and loved their playful homage to the greatest sporting event on earth. As you’d expect from an architectural salvage business, there’s a story behind the wheels. These are actually the original oak bell wheels from Magdalen Tower, Oxford –  now surplus to requirements after the re-hanging of the bells there in the Spring and now finding excellent use as Olympic rings.

Bravo LAASCO. A clear podium winner!

PS Anyone else who sees something Olympically cool, take a pic and let me know. We could have some fun with this.

Patricia Hodge: My Favourite Places

10 Jul

Patricia Hodge is one of the UK’s best known actresses. Known most recently for her role as the eccentric mother in the BBC’s hit sitcom Miranda, she’s currently starring the national tour of the farce Dandy Dick (above).The play moves to the Aylesbury Waterside from 17-21 July.

Wendover Woods

I don’t tour very much so I don’t spend much time traveling around counties, but before I turned to acting, I was a primary school teacher and I spent a very happy year living in a farm cottage between Wendover and Chesham. Wendover Woods are  just lovely, really peaceful with or without kids.

The Bell at Aston Clinton

I’ve lived in West London for years now, but I remember in the early days before the food revolution in the UK, we would make the pilgrimage out of the city for a decent Sunday lunch and we’d always head to The Bell at Aston Clinton. It sounds like a lot of effort but it was always worth it.

The Bell, London Road, Aston Clinton, Aylesbury, HP22 5HP. Tel: 01296 632777


Coming from rural Lincolnshire I remember first setting eyes on Buckinghamshire and thinking it the most beautiful county I’d ever seen. It always seems so civilised to me, with all the lovely country pubs and architecture. I used to visit a friend who had a house in Quainton and I still love the village – so pretty and quaint with that lovely windmill.

Bradenham Beech Woods

My aunt and uncle lived in Bradenham (my uncle was in the RAF nearby) and we visited them regularly when I was a child. We would walk and play in these woods. They really are incredibly beautiful.  

Bekonscot Model Village

This is one of those places that everyone comes to with kids. I definitely remember coming here when I was young, and of course, I ended up taking my own children too. It’s a perfect morning’s entertainment for little ones.

Bekonscot Model Village, Warwick Road, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, HP9 2PL. Tel: 01494 672919

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