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