Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Mexican adventure in…Camberwell? Yes, really!

Camberwell…it’s not exactly high on the list of London tourist areas.

But I came across such a gem recently, that I couldn’t resist doing a writeup.

Everyone knows that London isn’t exactly cheap when it comes to spending the night among the hustle bustle of the bright lights.

So when I came to be on the hunt for somewhere that A. Didn’t break the bank. B. Had more personality than a TravelLodge/Holiday Inn and C. Wasn’t quite clearly an absolute fleapit or possibly a brothel, I knew it would be an ambitious ask.

I browsed rooms with grim looking shared bathrooms (no) and reviews that warned of stained sheets, hairy plug holes and stinking pillows (NO!), but eventually I came across the Church Street Hotel.

The price was right, and amazingly, when I put the name through the search engine, it came up favourably on everything from TripAdvisor to national newspapers. So I took a gamble.

And how it paid off.

A charmingly eccentric hotel, tucked in among grocers and betting shops just off Camberwell Green, it’s decked out in the jewel-bright hues of a Mexican casita.

The lady on reception couldn’t have been more helpful – and joy of joys, she had an upgrade waiting for us! Are there any holiday-related words better than ‘you’ve been upgraded”?

Our casita-style bedroom

Our casita-style bedroom

Showing us upstairs, our room’s walls were swished with glorious greens, an iron-framed bed overhung with a painting of a vintage Mexican señorita posing coquettishly with her guitar. A dark wood-framed doorway led into a brightly tiled bathroom, complete with delicious L’Occitane toiletries, books that you might actually want to read sat on a shelf, and top of the list (for us anyway) – as well as a munchy bar of Green and Blacks chocolate was a little pot of their fiercely hot trademark chilli sauce for us to take home.

Our prettily tiled bathroom packed full of soft towels and L'Occitane goodies...

Our prettily tiled bathroom packed full of soft towels and L’Occitane goodies…

The hotel is stuffed to the gills with quirks, charm and gorgeousness.  Where else, for example, would you find a 24-hour honesty bar (with a fine selection of complimentary tea and coffee to boot) where you help yourself to drinks and write what you had in a pad so you can settle up on your way out?

The bed was like sleeping on a cloud, the linen was soft and the room practically silent, despite facing out onto the main road. The shower was powerful, and there was really nothing else we could have asked for in terms of comfort and cleanliness.

Breakfast is a steal at £5, and served next door (although you reach it through the hotel) at the hotel’s sister-business, tapas joint Angels and Gypsies, which we will without a doubt be sampling on our next visit (and there will be a next visit!) The last time we paid £5 for a breakfast at a hotel, we were served a couple of slices of cold, overdone toast by the most sullen-faced man in London which we washed down with a cheap yoghurt  and a crap coffee having been kept up all night by the fact that our cramped room was above a noisy pub beer garden. But having been greeted by our effusive restaurant host, we were seated at a rustically decked out table with hand painted glass jars for our condiments, presented with the newspapers and brought delicious coffee before tucking into fresh smoothies and juice, flakey croissants, free-range eggs with in house-baked organic sourdough, Neil’s Yard yoghurt and organic muesli.

And if we’d been seriously hungry, we could have paid a very reasonable excess to pick off the bigger breakfast menu and made our choice from huevos rancheros, sourdough pancakes or a full English (with a Mexican twist of course). And of course, we smeared out perfectly cooked eggs with lashings of the house special chilli sauce (which has its own section on their website, and is utterly, utterly delicious).

It’s always a pain when you have to rush your checkout, but the lovely staff couldn’t have been more relaxed and accommodating. They even let me sit for a couple of hours in their lounge as I had some work to do and a later work appointment.

Seriously, you won’t top this place in London at these prices. We paid £145 for a superior king ensuite, although I notice prices have crept up slightly this year since our visit in December (I also notice breakfast seems to be included now though). You can get a single ensuite from £90 or if you’re not bothered about having your own bathroom, a single with a (very clean, I checked) shared one comes in at an unbeatable £70.

My one worry was transport, as its not exactly smack-bang central, but it’s still Zone 2 and Camberwell Green is so well-connected with buses, I don’t think it took us any longer getting into central London than it would from many other, pricier locations.

You can find all the details on the Church Street Hotel on their website here. 

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Tending your lady garden and staying babyfaced…literally…

I love the attitude of the Vagenda – with their snarky, clever, sometimes angry, often hilarious and always relevant posts. They range from everything from why the Evening Standard thinks its ok to use a woman’s body as a shoe rack to what to do when Marie Claire says you need to wax your lover’s initial or a seasonal symbol into your bikini line (OK, I wrote that one…tackling all the big issues here.)

For all the silliness, the best thing about the Vagenda is that its a space where heavyweight issues can be addressed – just not in an overly earnest way. You can poke fun, laugh, be angry and shouty or just shrug and point at how stupid stuff that’s aimed at women can be, and still have a solid point to the issue you’re raising.

Here are a couple of pieces I wrote for them. For some light relief with a heavyweight centre.

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Your Bikini Line, You Disgusting Hairy Beast

and

New Maybelline Beauty Ad Encourages Us to Make Like a Baby (and Shit Ourselves)

Enjoy!

maybelline-baby-skin-pore-eraser-L-BrxNID

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Artist? In a band? Theatre company? Read this…

imagesYou’ve got a show/gig/exhibition coming up and you want as many people to come to it as possible. Obvs. 

But you can’t afford snazzy press and publicity. 

What to do?

Tip number one: Don’t just send a blurred, out of focus, tiny black and white photo to your local paper with a brief line on how existentially challenging and ephemerally bodacious you/your show/your music is.

Read this instead (disclaimer: it’s by me):

How to write a press release – IdeasMag

When I headed up the arts section of a large local daily paper in Essex, I used to get asked for advice on how to promote yourself all the time.

I also used to get send blurred, out of focus, tiny black and white photos a lot as well accompanied by a few lines of tangled, overwrought blurb. Which is how I know how utterly useless they are.

I know first hand that there are plenty of musicians, artists, theatre and all round creative folk who really struggle when it comes to self-promoting and getting journalists the information they need.

But it’s not as hard as you might think putting together a decent, useful press release or pack. And it can get you valuable coverage and attention. If a journalist knows you’re reliable, quick off the mark and good at sending them what they need, they’ll recognise your stuff and be keen to feature you again too – so it’s an investment.