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Small City Life, St Albans
6 minutes | 4 days ago
Breathe. Walk. Relax. Repeat…
They say that a good walk in nature can cure many ills. How is it that such a simple act can clear the brain, seriously lower stress levels and induce a feeling of enhanced well-being within us all? Nothing could ever compare to feeling part of that inherent seasonal dynamism, that sense of the ‘now’ that we feel as we breathe in fresh air, take in the visual feast of ever-changing treescapes and the soothing resonance of birdsong.
8 minutes | 21 days ago
Shipshape and Bristol Fashion!
I was never one for housework. I find is so time consuming and not hugely rewarding. I love that famous Quentin Crisp quote: “There’s no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.” These days I can see the importance and satisfaction of having a clean, cosy and beautiful home. Yet, it can be time consuming and costly but in our troubled times, it can also be worth it, a place of comfort and repose; a much needed sanctuary.
7 minutes | a month ago
Treating myself at 66 Book Club
I enjoy reading many different genres and being at 66 Book Club in Hemel Hempstead was like going to ‘Book Heaven’. Upstairs, every single shelf within aisle upon aisle was piled high with pristine quality paperbacks. Down on the ground floor there were countless more books of all shapes and sizes. The question I had to ask myself was: “How much abundance of books can you handle all at once?” It was pure joy! Wild horses couldn’t have dragged me away, my mind was totally engaged. I left feeling over the moon with my box full of such generously discounted literary texts.
8 minutes | 2 months ago
Let’s get the show back on the road!
Lockdown has certainly reminded us about the importance of our individual freedom, and that our happy memories are made up of personal life experiences, not possessions. Something that I guess we had forgotten in pre-Covid times. As I wrote this piece, I felt an inner contentment and re-lived many wonderful ‘showtime’ experiences. It felt great to tap into that inner reservoir of theatrical adventures that I have enjoyed and that have expanded my sense of joie-de-vivre and general well-being. Those happy theatre memories are now part of ‘me.’ The most special thing about them was that I was able to live them and share them. I carry them within me and reflecting on them reconnects me to my positive emotions wherever I may be and whatever I am doing.
6 minutes | 2 months ago
A Tinned Food Renaissance
I found it hard to believe that a “Love Canned Food Festival” was taking place on Instagram last month over a four-day period. I enjoyed scrolling through countless colourful photos of luscious recipes mixing fresh and canned food together. March 2020 saw overall sales of canned food climb to over 70% and we are now celebrating its sheer convenience, year-round availability, and ease of recycling. Unlike the collective of Italian Mammas I have known over the years, I’m not really a tinned food snob. I actually think it’s unrealistic to eat fresh food every night. Every now and then, I can see no reason not to crack open a tin of Heinz beans with pork sausages heat it up, make some buttery toast and top it off with a fried egg after a stressful day at work.
6 minutes | 3 months ago
Along the Garden Path
I was amazed by this garden and got totally lost in its horticultural richness. Row upon row of Dahlias were thriving in all their glory. They had been so carefully cultivated by experts. Walking between the rows of such contrasting varieties had a dreamlike quality to it. The celebration garden was just as breath-taking with such a huge variety of ornamental grasses, herbaceous plants, and fruit trees. Here in St Albans we’re very lucky to be able to enjoy this Dahlia field and celebration garden on such a huge scale for as long as six months of the year and I can’t wait to go back in the Autumn and experience the Aylett’s pumpkin harvest!
7 minutes | 4 months ago
Camping in Norfolk
I wouldn’t regard camping as a holiday. It is more of a change of scenery really. It’s wonderful to get out of the house and forget about the carpet that needs hoovering and the mound of clothes that need washing. We didn’t go far, but going to a beach I’d never been to before, visiting an old 11th century Priory and enjoying being left alone to read on a camp chair was good enough for me. By the time we got home I’d learned how to set up a tent, I felt as if I’d had a good dose of vitamin D and I felt nicely recharged. The best parts were the wide open spaces, waking up to a sizzling breakfast and practicing Yoga under a sunset. Ultimately we gained a sense of disconnection from having been in lockdown.
7 minutes | 4 months ago
Rediscovering my Garden
I mentioned that I was gardening in late March on my Facebook page and received a few messages that made me smile like “Blimey Marisa you must be bored!” or “Are you okay Marisa?” Gardening was never really my thing. I was just dabbling in it here and there, then discovered that I now quite like it. The truth is, I always felt overwhelmed by the hard work involved, the weeding and the digging, then I felt despondent because it was quite a narrow patch of land that I didn’t really know what to do with. Lockdown has allowed me to slow down a little and face it. Thanks to the help and support of my mother-in-law who used to tend a lush one-acre country garden, I felt encouraged and enthused!
5 minutes | 5 months ago
‘Life is better around a campfire.’ So they say!
I wrote this while feeling sorry for myself and in dire need of a sun-kissed Mediterranean holiday. Camping is not really my cup of tea and I have been known to pack up in anger and book into the nearest luxury hotel for a night to get over a miserable soggy weekend on a campsite. Oh well, fingers crossed for this summer. Who knows! It is possible that the sun could shine and I might get to fly a kite, eat fish and chips and sleep under the stars. I’ll need to start working on my mind-set and bring along my little book of positive affirmations by Louise L. Hay, repeating a new one every morning: “I take a deep breath and allow myself to relax.” “I marvel at the beauty that surrounds me.”
7 minutes | 6 months ago
The Importance of City Allotments
I must admit I do envy people with green fingers whose mysterious abilities make everything grow in such abundance! How do they do it?! Their hydrangeas are always rich and sturdy, their camellias are always the pinkest and their vegetable patches are always bulging with goodness! Growing up in a city has its advantages but one thing is certain, I did not have that exposure to ‘the cycle of life’ that children who grow up in the countryside did, so city allotments and gardens serve a critical function in educating young Londoners. Last Christmas I received a few books on Nature writing. One of my favourites was a small almanac reconnecting me to the seasons, celebrating farming, gardening and earth’s celestial events. They were not only a pleasure to read but a huge education. Nature is there to be engaged with, celebrated and above all respected.
6 minutes | 6 months ago
Time for a new Personal Image!
We’ve all had a chance to pause and reboot over the last couple of months and have become aware of our inner feelings and certain aspects of our outer lives. Personally, I have reached a stage where I want to change my personal image or at least mix it up a bit. This has been triggered by my daughter taking a video or photo of me when I wasn’t looking. It was indeed a wake-up call! Although I’m excited by the technological possibilities of 21st century shopping, the thought of buying jeans online and not being able to try on ten pairs in a changing room fills me with horror! It’s fascinating to see how the fashion industry is creatively adapting and making huge changes in order to survive, and I’m looking forward to learning more about how it will continue thrive in innovative ways in the years to come!
6 minutes | 6 months ago
Missing my magical shopping trips under lock-down.
Although the lockdown has led to an increasing sense of introspection, I am missing those rejuvenating feelings that only those magical little shopping trips can provide. After reading online about the female evolutionary need to gather, I don’t feel like a shallow shopaholic. Meandering around Oasis, Neon Sheep and Neal’s yard is always a pleasure and provides me with comfort breaks from my daily humdrum commitments. It’s the little things that I’m missing like fresh cut flowers twice a week and coming home with a new scented candle from The White Company or a few chocolate bars on special offer at Wilkinsons.
5 minutes | 7 months ago
Earth is healing under lockdown
Over the past ten years or so I remember being aware that people were talking a lot about environmental pollution and the destruction of nature and animal habitats in relation to capitalism. I distinctly remember making a mental note that nobody was really engaging with issues around how humans were going to be affected in the long term. That always troubled me. We really do not own the place. This pandemic is waking us up to that. We’ve probably reached the point now where we need to go to Indigenous cultures, cap in hand, and learn how we can fix this. Of course, the big corporations are not going to like what they learn, but if they continue along these destructive lines, there will be no point in having a global economy because they’ll be nowhere to spend that precious money that they are so obsessively focused on making.
5 minutes | 8 months ago
Thank the Lord I never decluttered!
We were up in our loft one recent afternoon. I rediscovered a set of wonderful coffee-top table books. I felt overjoyed, enthusiastic and excited about dipping into them again. Meanwhile, my daughter was marvelling at her old dolls and Pokemon cards and my husband was sitting there amused after discovering the pink RAZR V3 phone comparing how ridiculous it looked beside his current iPhone. I just think ‘decluttering’ needs to be done very selectively. Sometimes I think we’re all so hell-bent on moving on, but one thing I’ve learned from this lockdown is to cherish the wonderful times we’ve shared with others; and allowing ourselves to keep some of the possessions that are representations and timepieces of those precious memories.
4 minutes | 8 months ago
Let the social distancing commence!
I considered pausing my column in light of what has happened. It then occurred to me that these podcasts might give some amusement, comfort or distraction to listeners. I feel honoured to be able to share my daily life via these podcasts. We are without a doubt all in this together.
7 minutes | 9 months ago
Science Exhibition at St Albans Museum
I must admit that as a schoolgirl I would rather have had a tooth pulled out than have to endure a double Chemistry lesson on those Wednesday mornings, However, that was a long time ago. Now that I’m a little older, I like to learn about new things that take me out of my comfort zone and I actually enjoyed this recent science exhibition. We certainly have something to be proud about here in Hertfordshire, home to so much scientific research. Being confronted with our own ignorance is always a good thing as shows that we are learning and developing a greater awareness of things. To quote the American neuroscientist David Eagleman. “I think what a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”
7 minutes | 9 months ago
Tango has always been my favourite dance. I experienced (and very much enjoyed) my first one-to-one Tango class last Summer while on holiday. I had to really concentrate and do as I was told, but towards the end of the lesson, I was able to dance around the ballroom with my partner performing a few ‘Ochos’ and ‘Ganchos’. It’s quintessentially ‘Latino’; a dynamic form of self-expression, but I find it is also more elegant and sort of ‘classic’ and has greater emotional depth than many of the other dance forms such as ‘Salsa’ and ‘Mambo.’ It is also about connecting with a partner and creating a close and sensitive connection. I love the passion behind the dance structure and stylized sensual moves that it demands.
6 minutes | 10 months ago
I must admit that it was my older brother and sister that made me a bit ‘cool’ as I was growing up, softening my geeky tendencies with their love of fashion and vintage clothing. I’d often find myself in Kensington Indoor Market throughout the eighties surrounded by Punks and New Romantics. It was no place for a square teenager like me, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a more ‘alternative universe!’ Now that I’m all grown up, and have been exposed to an abundance of Vintage fashion, I am left with an inherent respect and a certain sensibility for that human need to stand out and express one’s individuality with originality and flamboyance.
6 minutes | 10 months ago
Books on the Hill
After graduating with a degree in Literature, bookselling seemed the obvious career choice given my passion for books and I got a job in Cecil Court selling antiquarian books. I spent many afternoons flicking through books like first edition Beatrix Potters and Alice in Wonderlands worth thousands! I just love being around books and now have my own library at home! ‘Books on the Hill’ is a well-run, local and somewhat “old school” bookshop where you can sit quietly and read a collection of poems in a big old armchair. How wonderful! I’m not a Luddite and I do buy books online, but sometimes booklovers don’t really know what they’re looking for. The very act of opening the door to a glass cabinet filled with vintage books then unexpectedly finding a fantastic book that you didn’t even know you wanted in some abandoned dusty corner is priceless.
4 minutes | a year ago
St Albans Vegan Fayre
The word Veganuary (trying a Vegan lifestyle throughout January) is now commonplace and more and more people are cutting down on meat and becoming vegans these days. I thoroughly enjoyed the festival and learned so much. I was glad I went with a particular friend who already knows a thing or two about being a Vegan. What surprised me the most was the shift not only in lifestyle but in mind-set required if you want to cut out meat and abstain from the use of animal products. By the time I left the fair I had not only learned about why it’s important to support various charities, but a little about the entire ethos behind ethical veganism. It was interesting to discover how it can greatly improve your health and how eating less meat can have a hugely positive impact on our environment.
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