Tuesday, March 31, 2009



I've been busy nosying around for details of this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I've never been and it sounds really exciting; the only problem is it's just so far away. Imagine my delight to discover that Oxford has its very own Oxfringe festival, and that it starts tomorrow! From April 1st to April 13th, Oxford will host a spectrum of musical, theatrical and literary events in venues around the city.

I don't know how I've managed to miss it in previous years; probably inconveniently timed holidays to exotic destinations (I wish!), but it's been running since 2007, albeit in a much smaller, more literature-focused form. Last year's event ran alongside the Sunday Times Literary Festival, which was spectacular, but being a bit of a literary geek, I didn't see the comedy and music events of the Fringe. This year, however, I'm informed, and I feel it my duty to pass on the info:

- For the programme of events, visit: http://oxfringe.com/programme/

- Events are spread throughout theatres in Oxford, including the Oxford Playhouse, Burton Taylor Studio, Old Fire Station Studio and the North Wall.

- Most events are pretty cheap and some are free.

- Check out the 'Oxfringe Outside' event this Saturday (4th April) from 10am to 4pm. There will be music, circus skills and performers, previews of some of the festival's shows and an assortment of market stalls, all in the dramatic setting of Oxford Castle.

- The headline performer is John Hegley, who offers an impressive combination of poetry, music and comedy. Sounds too intriguing to miss!

Oxfantastic Book Fair

Put aside all pre-existing negative ideas about charity shops and second-hand book sales, because both in Oxford are a little different from normal. Oxfam originated in Oxford and its standards are even higher than normal here. Its books are generally in very good condition and a whole lot more than the usual Readers Digest or Mills and Boon 20p offerings at church fairs. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit from a quick browse:

- Parents: pick up book for your children - old classics that you loved as a child, or modern books at a fraction of the price if bought new. And if they don't like it, you can always donate it back for the future.

- Students: you're probably well aware of how much academic texts can cost; Oxford is bursting at the seams with rare copies, specific editions, textbooks and literary guides. Old students have been donating books for years and you're bound to find something of interest here.

- Children: there will be lots cheap enough for pocket money, and a book's great for taking on boring car journeys or for holidays.

- Everyone else: cheap books of all varieties and you're helping save the world by buying them. Not bad for a weekend.

Here are the details:

Date: Saturday April 4th
Time: 9:30am - 5pm
Location: Wesley Memorial Hall, New Inn Hall Street

Hinksey Heaven

Now that the weather's getting nicer, there's only one place to be: Outside!

Oxford's a great place to enjoy the Great Outdoors without too much effort. Sure, there are the gloriously quaint and quintessentially British Cotswolds within easy driving distance, and the Chiltern Hills for more active pursuits, but there are also hundreds of parks. I've already given my low-down of the best parks to be in, but the one I feel the urge to discuss today is one with a rather special feature.

If you've not heard of this place, that's because those who have already visited Hinksey Park are either still there, enjoying themselves, or want to keep it a secret. I think, the more the merrier! This place needs all the publicity it can get.

So, what's so great about it?

Water! From the 'Splash' water feature, which is akin to running in a fountain or water sprinkler, to the heated outdoor swimming pool, this is the place to be. There are sun-loungers for those who prefer to make the most of being warm, and ice cream for everyone. When it's open in summer, the pool is free for under-17s and very cheap for everyone else.

If (as if!) you get bored of that, there's a lake with some unusual wildlife, tennis and lots of walks.

Bring on summer!

Monday, March 30, 2009

April Folly

It's nearly April Fool's Day! I shouldn't really be publicizing the fact, but I'm always a little over-excited by this most merry of days.

If you're planning on a prank, here are a few useful places to find props:

- Party Mania: a whole host of practical jokes, fancy dress costumes and silly toys.

- Ann Summers: for the naughtier pranks!

- Sainsburys: grab some food from the Basics range and have fun swapping ingredients at home. Salt instead of sugar never fails to get me.

- WHSmith: Post-It notes on someone's back...it's not big, it's not clever, but it's still rather funny!

I'm off to plot...


Remember playgrounds when you were a kid? Rickety old slides with all the legendary tales of what had become of kids who'd fallen off, a roundabout that you spun so fast it made you sick, and a see-saw that launched you 3 feet into the air... Those were good times. If only kids had such opportunities in today's health and safety obsessed world.

Hold on, though - maybe the outlook isn't so bleak. Oxford has its fair share of decent parks and some of them have some really fun things in them!

Here's my pick of the bunch:

Best view: South Park - a very photogenic view of Oxford, actually made better when it's slightly misty and the spires rise out of the cloud.

Best for young children: Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park - have a ride on the miniature railway followed by ice cream in the sun.

Best lake: Hinksey Park pedaloes are a brililant way to have fun with friends, and a whole lot easier than punting!

Best climbing frame: Florence Park has an excellent, health and safety denying spiders' web frame.

Best slide: Quarry Hollow - this still seems big to me, so imagine how big it must look for little children!

Best climbing: Yes, you read it right: there's a big boulder with a range of climbing problems at Frys Hill Park. It's low enough not to be dangerous, but watch out because there's sometimes broken glass and litter at the bottom.

Friday, March 27, 2009

On your marks...

It's that time of year again: the Oxford Vs. Cambridge boat race! Once again I'm not going to be there in London, but that doesn't mean I can't cheer along! There's bound to be a great atmosphere in Oxford, especially if the Oxford crew wins.

The race dates back to 1829 when Cambridge challenged Oxford but is nowadays one of the most widely viewed sporting events worldwide. Pretty impressive, considering it just involves two universities, rather than countries (although the crews are often quite diverse in terms of crew members' nationalities). The race should be on in every pub with a TV, and the radio in various cafes around town. The action kicks off at 15:40 this Sunday, and it's the 155th race this year.

If you're able to make it to London, you can buy all your Oxford-related paraphernalia from the tourist stand outside the Westgate Shopping Centre, or from The University Shop if you're after proper clothing. Oxford won last year and seem to have a good chance to win again and to even out the overall results (currently 79-74 to Cambridge).


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sunday Shopping

News is out today that the Covered Market will be opening on Sundays next month in a 3-month trial. It's only ever been open on Sundays over the Christmas period before, so this is a big change for it. Much as like the tradition of having a day of rest, I really do think this is a big step forward. Many's the time I've had the urge to wander around the traditional stalls and little boutiques on a Sunday afternoon, only to find the whole area firmly shut. In such a major tourist city, where the majority of businesses are open on Sundays, I really think it would be a great thing for the Covered Market to follow suit.

Of course, the decision wasn't taken in order to please me, but because of the financial threat facing many of the smaller businesses. A promised £50,000 from the council was cancelled last year, leaving important refurbishment still on the to-do list. Last year rent for businesses there went up extortionately and this year is hardly easy for businesses, especially those seen as luxurious and non-necessary, which pretty much sums up the Covered Market in today's cheap and convenient supermarket age.

I for one will certainly be making an effort to visit on Sundays. Let's hope it's a permanent change!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

It's that time of the year again, when everyone in the UK, Europe and even some parts of America unite to celebrate...being Irish. I don't know if it's the beer theme, the good luck or just the love of novelty leprechaun and four-leaved clover hats, but St Patrick's Day has really captured the public imagination.

Oxford is certainly no exception. Here's my pick of the top events:

Oxford Irish Society (Over-50s)

Where: Lord Nuffield Club, Cowley

What: Lunch of bacon, cabbage and apple pie, traditional Irish music and dancing.

Rosie O'Grady's

Where: Park End Street

What: Irish music from 2pm, with three bands playing. Special Irish food, including Irish stew and Ulster fry.
Rumour has it that Rosie O'Grady's will soon become an English pub, so make the most of it this year!

Special beer!

Witney's own Wychwood Brewery will be distributing 'Paddy's Tout', a special beer for the day. You can try it in pubs around Marston.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pitt Rivers Postulation

The Pitt Rivers Museum is currently shut until May 1st for renovation. A great disappointment if you were planning on going, but it's only a few months away, and it sounds like it's going to be a really exciting improvment.

The basic aim seems to be to bring the museum back to its original state after everything was moved around a bit in the 1960s:

- When you go in, you should be able to see right through to the huge totem pole at the back.
- Original display cases will be at the front.
- There will be new family acitivites and holiday workshops in the Lower Gallery.
- The entrance will be the same height as the Natural History Museum and there will be a big lift for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
- The shop and reception areas will be different.
- An environmental control system will be in place to help keep all the strange items in good nick and help to eliminate that rather stuffy museum smell (although I quite liked that!).
- There will be 8 new displays on painting, with items that haven't been on display for decades.

This is all costing around £1.5m - pretty impressive for a museum that's free to enter.

I'm looking forward to exploring when it re-opens!

Museums for le Monde?

I just heard on the news that the French president, Sarkozy, is bringing in a new law in April that makes all museums and 'monuments' free to under-25s. This got me thinking: what if Oxford did the same?! Imagine that; free education, culture and art for all young people. What a brilliant idea in a town so full of students.

Well, yes, then it occured to me that, actually, there are an awful lot of free museums in Oxford, especially if you're a student and have access to university buildings.

- Even for normal people, there are an awful lots of underrated college chapels, such as Keble College Chapel, with its famous artwork.

- There's Oxford University itself, which makes the town of Oxford into a living museum. Loads of lovely old buildings, gargoyles, cathedrals and the like.

- Not to mention the actual museums:
The Ashmolean
The Natural History Museum

- And the smaller, but equally interesting players:
- The History of Science Museum
- The Pitt Rivers Museum (currently shut until April)

Simply Sarnies

I just wanted to take a minute to praise the wonderful sandwich chain 'Mortons'. Okay, so it's not the cheapest place to buy a sarnie, but really, is it ever good value to buy a sandwich in a shop? When a loaf of bread costs around a quid (well, I'm going to stubbornly live in the pre-financial-doom days!), it's hardly good value to buy two slices that are filled for three or four times that...

But, oh, it's so worth it! Mortons doesn't just stop with sliced bread. Oh, no. It does baguettes, paninis, wraps and all sorts of different types of normal bread. Whoever knew there was so much choice?! The fillings are brilliant as well - enough variety and combinations to last a lot of lunchtimes, if you can get past your favourites. I just love the chicken and mango chutney baguette. It really shouldn't work, but somehow it does! The staff are always willing to personalise your sandwich a bit, so no worries about being fussy, and if you pick one of the eat-in cafes, you'll get a side salad and maybe even some nachos as well. Awesome.

And I haven't even started on the cakes! Just think: award-winning, chocolate, filling. Yum. Just don't eat them all before I've got there!

With several Mortons dotted around Oxford and even an office-delivery service, it's a lovely independent service that hardly fills a gap in the market, but shows why it's so popular.

Student Shennanigans

The Oxford student paper the Cherwell is in trouble again. I'm not sure why the local media is so interested in the student press, but I suppose it's always exciting when supposedly intelligent and well-educated middle-class students do something stupid or are in trouble. This time they've been forced to resign after a spoof copy of the paper was released with pornographic and racist images and comments. The website I read it on (as a cutting headline!) tells me that students' face were superimposed onto rather scandalous images and jokes were made about a busking bagpipe player (you know the one!).

This story shocks me in several ways. I'm not in the slightest bit surprised that students made a satirical paper. I'm not surprised that their company felt it best to chastise them, especially when it became public. What I am surprised about is that it's seen as something scandalous. Surely that's what students do; they do silly things, they joke around with their mates, and they're not afraid of being a bit non-PC. The other great surprise is that it came up on my search for Oxford news. Not university news, just general news for a city with lots going on. Surely a student prank should not take priority over more widespread news? Or has it really been such an uneventful week in Oxford?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


If you've been following University Challenge recently, you might have seen Oxford's Corpus Christi team with 26-year-old Gail Trimble blazing an incredible trail of general knowledge. It makes you wonder if Oxford makes you brainer. Obviously the university has a huge effect on the town, but I do get the impression sometimes that just living around here makes me smarter.

You can barely walk 10 metres down a street without seeing a poster for a special lecture or for a highbrow cultural event. Even modern shops are set in old buildings, so you feel like you're absorbing culture with every step.

Let's not even get started on all the bookshops! Even non-academic cafes are crammed full of people studying, reading and writing. There are academics wandering around deep in conversation, and you can bet some of those joggers in the park are listening to lecture notes.

If my theory is correct, and Oxford makes us smarter, all the more reason to not feel guilty about lazing around. Education!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Paper Chase

I've been thinking about the journalistic side of Oxford. Oxford's an eclectic mix of students, academics, inhabitants and industry. Lots of people commute to Oxford to work, lots of people go to school in Oxford and an awful lot of people live in Oxford. It must be pretty hard to get a local newspaper to fit such a range of audiences. I must admit, I normally buy nationals and only read the locals when I'm skimming the news in newsagents or waiting for a Chinese takeaway.

So, what have we got?

Oxford Mail

Oxford Eagle

The Oxford Times

The Oxford Star

These are all actually run by the same company, 'This is Oxford' hence the frequent repetition of stories. Perhaps surprisingly, some of them actually have the tone of a smaller town local newspaper, with stories of bin fires, lost cats and Boy Scouts winning awards. It's enough to bring a warm fuzzy feeling into the coldest of hearts. They've all got information on local events and so on, so it's really just a matter of choosing the writing style. The names give them away; think local version of the national equivalents to choose between the more tabloidy prints and the more broadsheety editions, although none of them are quite the Financial Times.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Impish Evenings

Have you ever seen the Oxford Imps perform? If not, why not? They're great fun, and it's a cheap night out. I first saw them at a ball and was much more impressed than I expected. The basic idea is improvised comedy. There are standard games or formats to some sketches, such as different people reacting to different words, or a rather amusing one where at all times one person must be standing, one sitting, one lying and one off-stage. It is genuine improvisation and they ask the audience to give names, words and other ideas to spark ideas. Sure, there are a few awkward moments and it doesn't always work, but it's very clever, and when it does work it is genuinely funny.

Catch them at the Wheatsheaf on Mondays 8-10pm: £3 entry. It's sometimes adult humour and it often seems a lot funnier after a few drinks. In case you're feeling like it might be one of those closet Oxford things, fear not: they've performed at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and in America, Bosnia and Holland!

Have a look at their website if you fancy joining them! They're a young, friendly and welcoming bunch, if a little eccentric!


"This is the best improvised comedy that I have ever had the pleasure to witness" Three Weeks August 07

"The Oxford Imps pull off something which is both very clever and very funny; with plenty of style, energy and not a little bravery, the effect is not only massively entertaining but also rather charming." Oxford Theatre Review May 06

"Genuinely funny, laugh-out-loud moments... it is a superb night’s entertainment" Cherwell June 05

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Public loos in Oxford...what a calamity! If you've ever been caught short in the city of dreaming spires, you'll be able to sympathise with my cross-legged crisis. Granted, public toilets are never particularly nice, but they certainly seem to be short in Oxford!

There are some incredibly dodgy looking underground offerings on Magdalen Street, but these are always shut when I go past and I certainly wouldn't want to attempt the leaf-covered slippery steps without at least three bodyguards! Who knows what creatures of the dark lurk down there!

In the town centre itself, there are plenty of cafes and stalls, but unless you're actually sitting in a cafe or pub, it's a bit rude to pop in just to sneakily use the toilets. So what are we supposed to do?! Perhaps there are some public toilets I'm just missing. They're not really the sort of thing you notice unless you're desperate! Last time I was cut short, I ended up popping into Oxford Town Hall, where I at least discovered the lovely cafe there, but such a lovely old building really shouldn't be reduced to that sort of public facility!

I reckon somewhere like the Clarendon Centre should host a few toilets. Maybe it does, but I certainly couldn't find any when I was desperate! Or how about a few more underground offerings, but this time well-kept ones. I'm sure I can't be the only person to have had to cut short a shopping or culture trip for such an inconvenient reason.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year: a spectacular display of dancing, music, food and a gloriously colourful culture. Oxford's got quite a large Chinese population so you can guarantee there's lots going on for the celebration of a new year.

The biggie this year is going to be on Sunday 1st February 1pm-3:30pm in Oxford Town Hall. This is the 18th year that Oxford has officially gone all out to celebrate, and it's well worth going to.

Think: giant dancing lions, a capacity of over a thousand, new clothes (a traditional symbol of changing from old to new), a giant buffet and a whole range of cultural displays. Top tip: ‘Kung Hei Fat Choy’ (‘wishing you prosperity’) is the best way to say 'Happy New Year' to all you meet.

And just in case you need any more persuading: this year is Year of the Ox, which makes it even more appropriate to celebrate in Oxford!

It's going to be popular, so book your tickets in advance: 01865-204188 (Monday–Tuesday, 10am–4pm) or occac@dsl.pipex.com
Advance tickets are:
Adults: £7
Children: £4

Tickets on the door:
Adults: £9
Children: £6

Boogie on for Burns' Night

January 25th: Burns' Night!

Okay, so we're not in Scotland. But Oxford loves an excuse to party, and what better excuse than a day to celebrate everything Scottish and poetical?!

I love haggis, poetry, music and silly dances, so it's one of my favourite times of the year, even if I do usually forget about it until a couple of days before.

For those of you not in the know, Burns' Night celebrates the Scottish poet Robert Burns, the bloke who wrote Auld Lang Syne. It involves impressive feasts, complete with Scottish whisky and haggis (just don't think about what's in it!), a poem about haggis, speeches and often music and dancing. What could be better?!

In Oxford there are plenty of private parties and special formal halls at many of the Oxford colleges. Keep an eye out on restaurants with special Burns' Night recipes. My pick of the rest:

Oxford Caledonian Pipes and Drums Burns’ Night Ceilidh

This is actually on Friday 20th January, but hey, at least for most of us it means no work the next day! Tickets are a bargainous £8.50 and everything kicks off at 7:30pm at Cowley Conservative Club.

There is, of course, a feast of haggis, neeps and tatties (haggis, parsnips and potatoes), and there will be accordian music. Not quite the same as a ceilidh, but probably a bit better for digesting!

If you want tickets, give Ian Knight a ring: 01865 434887.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Whilst I do enjoy blogging about entertaining events and having the occasional lighthearted moan, I also feel like I should talk about more serious events.

Nobody can have escaped the Gaza crisis in the news, and regardleses or rights and wrongs or your views, there are lots of support groups and events in Oxford at the moment. I'll outline a few that have been particularly well publicised. If someone wants to add more, in support of whichever side, please feel free.

Oxford University protest

80 students entered the Bodleian library to persuade the university to produce a statement against the attack on Gaza, particularly the Islamic University there. The controversial Shimon Peres lectures were mentioned, as was Oxford University's funding of BAE Systems, which provides weapons for the Israeli military.

Result: an agreement was reached fairly promptly. Check out the Occupied Oxford Blog for updates.

Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign

To join in the nationwide protests, there was a protest on Saturday 17th January in Broad Street, with a march towards a rally in Bonn Square. The aim: to show discontent that Israel is attacking Gaza.

Result: lots of publicity.

This campaign has lots of up and coming events, including:

- A lobby of the council on Monday 19th January, outside the Town Hall.

- Oxford Students' Palestine Society: a talk entitled 'Stop the Massacre - Israel out of Gaza': Weds 21st Jan, 7:30pm Moser Theatre, Wadham College

- Socialist Workers Party: a talk entitled "Stop The slaughter in Gaza. How can Palestine be free?", Weds 21st Jan, 7:30pm,
The Mitre.

- Rally: "Israel out of Gaza", Thurs 22 Jan, 5pm-7pm, Cornmarket Street.

For more info and more events, see: http://www.oxfordpsc.info/2009/01/upcoming-events-oxonnational-tuesday.html

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Excitement

The big day is finally here! America's been preparing for months, journalists have been counting down, and if I have to see one more trailer for it on CNN I might just scream.

Who knows it Obama will live up to all the expectations; he's certainly got a lot on his plate. What I do know is that his inauguration day will mark the start of a change, and in a few years time, I want to be able to look back and remember where I was when I saw him taking over Presidency.

So, where's best to watch it in Oxford?

-Most of the pubs with big screens will have it on.
- The News Cafe is an obvious place, but head there early as it's bound to be popular.
- If you're after a longer-lasting event, check out the inaugration party at the Corner Club on Turl Street. Hosted by Democrats Abroad Oxford, the cost is £10 and includes canapes, champagne and full television coverage. Email oxford@democratsabroad.org.uk for more info. There's a dinner afterwards with a special two-course menu and wine for under £20
- If you can't get anywhere in the afternoon, there's another party in the evening at Brookes University, starting at 8pm. The Tommos will be providing live acoustic music and it looks set to be a great atmosphere.

In the meantime, the excitement continues: from Jan 12th-16th, Krispy Kreme are offering free coffee to anyone who says '"yes we can" at the till. A tad embarrassing perhaps, but definitely worth it if you like free coffee. Rumour has it there is a picture of Obama on the top as well...got to be seen to be believed!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vouching for Vouchers

So, hands up if you got an inappropriate Christmas present? And, no, I'm not talking about whips and chains or those naughty teddy bear models, I mean knitting needles for a teenage boy, or a giant box of chocolates for a strict dieter.

Personally, I'm a bit of a fluffy optimist and usually love all my presents, but I know lots of people who end up with piles of unwanted gifts, resigned to car boot sales, ebay or charity shops. Great as those things are, wouldn't it be great to just get good presents? The perennial fall-back option is cash, but this loses its appeal once the recipient has a few pennies saved up. That well-meant tenner ends up as just another slice of savings, going towards paying the window-cleaner or buying loo-roll.

So, what's the solution? I propose the good old underrated gift voucher. Everyone knows about book tokens (valid in Blackwells, Waterstones and more), but what about more store-specific vouchers for a bit of a change? You'd be amazed how many shops offer them, and they're increasingly becoming more convenient, with change (albeit often in voucher form) available and free gift cards to offer the vouchers in. Here are some of my favourites:

- Oxford Playhouse - let someone choose an evening of entertainment. Available at the box office or call: 01865 798600.

- Borders - very versatiles as they can be used on a whole range of media.

- Marks and Spencer - everyone can use an M&S voucher. There's something for everyone, ranging from the practical to the extravagant. If you don't have a clue what to get with yours, have a look at the cosy dressing gowns, or the hats and scarves.

- WH Smith - not as boring as it sounds: they stock stationery, calendars, magazines, chocolates and even CDs in some stores. You'll buy stuff here anyway, so why not have it as a treat paid for by someone else?

That's just the tip of the iceberg, but it's really well worth checking out which other shops offer gift vouchers, so next year even the most awkward person to buy for will be happy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Magnificent Monsoon

I love Monsoon!

I'm not often one to rave about one particular shop, especially not a clothes shop, but I just think it's fabulous, and it's good to talk about positive things on these bleak days.

I'm not talking about Accessorize, which is great fun, but always so crowded (although isn't it great when they arrange things by colour?). No, I'm talking about the clothes. I first discovered it when I needed a dress for a wedding. It was blue, floaty and hideously delicate, but a flattering size* and reduced by 75%. It would have been rude to say no...And of course I needed a jacket to go with it, also conveniently reduced.

* The sizes are usually a bit 'off' here, but in the right direction - definitely worth a trip if you fancy a confidence boost.

Of course, if you'd asked me whether it was really a good decision a spillage, disastrous cleaning and hairdrying attempt later, I might have given different advice, but, impressed with the choice, I have kept Monsoon up there in my list of Good Shops. It's brilliant for ballgowns, cocktail dresses and really nice going-out clothes and smart casual outfits. Granted, it does have the occasional monstrosity, and there are a few dowdier things, but that makes it all the more fun searching for the good stuff.

I don't know why I'm telling you this really, while the sales are on...I'd better nip out and get that top I've had my eye on!

Brilliant Bicester

I found myself on the way to Aylesbury from Oxford with a bit of time to spare the other day, so I thought I'd pop into Bicester Village. It really is great, isn't it? It's really close to Oxford centre and if you don't have a car there are frequent buses:

Stagecoach X5: Click here for more info
Stagecoach X88: Click here for more info

Rumour has it there is even a train line, although I don't know anyone who's used it:


If you do have a car, you'll be able to benefit from one of the most efficient carpark systems I've ever had to put myself through. Yes, I know that sounds rather geeky, but it just works, and really that's how it should be. When you go shopping, you go for the shops, not for five consecutive tours of the carpark past badly parked Smart Cars or space-hogging 4x4s.

Bicester itself is a rather odd mix of the wealthy, tourists and bargain hunters. It mainly deals in expensive designer clothes that are significantly less expensive in outlet stores. It's certainly not got the (undeservedly) shameful connotations of bargan basements; this is still good quality stuff and still not too easy on the qallet. Rather, it seems a proud achievement to parade around with arms full of designer paper bags.

There's plenty for men as well, although not too much to keep children amused. You should be able to do everything you want to in half a day, unless you're a real fashion victim, in which case get there early and prepare yourself for the long haul!

My top shops:

- Monsoon - I just love it anyway!
- The North Face - if only it wasn't so small!
- Helly Hansen - great for ski clothes and baselayers for days when it's Just Too Cold.

Go along and check it out, although watch out for all the sales shoppers!

Friday, January 9, 2009


The world isn't in the best state at the moment. At times like this we seem to face two options: read the news twice a day and get sucked into the doom and gloom, or escape into less stressful releases. I'm sure there's a halfway point, but that lessons the impact of imagining the fun that could be had by escaping the real world...

So, books and TV aside (Waterloo Road anyone? Or the superb new version of Anne Frank's Diary...neither of which are particularly wonderful for escapism, come to think of it), what is there to whisk you away to an alternate world?

A Christmas Carol
(16 Dec - 20 Dec)
Okay, so this one's already over, but I had prepared to tell you about it before Ye Greate Internet Breakdown back in the stone age of 2008.
You know the story...but not in this guise...okay, so it's not Blackadder or the Muppets, but it's still a cracking yarn with a bit of a twist.
Old Fire Station Theatre

Hans Christian Andersen's Magical Tales
25 Nov - 17 Jan
Set in the intriguingly named vintage Mirror Tent, this is a fairytale fest in amazingly traditional style. Travel back in time and to a myriad of different fantasy worlds, all in the space of a couple of hours. See the Emperor bare all, the Princess's tantrum with her pea and the rather chilly Queen.
Where? The BMW Group Plant.
More info: http://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/shows_current.asp

Sleeping Beauty
5 Dec - 18 Jan
A traditional panto! Grab your granny, your 'it's behind you's and get your best sweet-catching hand ready!
Where: Oxford Playhouse