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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Daniel Hersheson salon, Conduit Street





When I think of Daniel Hersheson I think of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the stunning model with gorgeous hair pictured in many of the adverts for this fabulous salon. Hairdresser extraordinaire, Daniel Hersheson has gained epic success thanks to his talent and entrepreneurial spirit. The Daniel Hersheson brand has become very highly regarded with salons in Conduit Street and Harvey Nichols, and several additional blow dry bars.

Feeling very insecure about the shade of my newly blonde hair, I went along to try out the smart Conduit Street branch for a luxurious colour makeover and blow dry. It was a beautifully sunny, crisp December morning as I walked along Bond Street, I was hugely excited to be visiting this famous hairdresser’s boudoir. It was the day of my Christmas party and so the pressure was on for my stylists to create a suitably pretty hairstyle and colour. Understanding my dilemma about the yellowy tint to my blonde hair, my lovely stylist talked through a few options. I had brought along a photo of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and asked her to recreate a similar honey hue for me.

To start, my hair was covered with a dark blonde semi permanent colour all over. This was washed out after twenty minutes and my stylist used a new highlighting technique to add a natural glint into my hair. Balayage (from the French meaning 'to sweep') is a revolutionary new method, abandoning traditional foils in favour of simply painting colour onto the hair, resulting in less noticeable regrowth and a more subtle result. The secret success of Balayage comes from fading in the colour at the root, making it heavier through the lengths and then saturating the ends, if you haven’t tried it, I can highly recommend it.

The blow dry was the best bit… each stylist has a young helper who stands beside them handing out the utensils and assisting, I felt very special being pampered by two stylists at once! After flicking through some magazines, and spotting a particularly lovely fashion shoot with none other than Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, I decided to go for a sixties look, with big luscious curls framing my face. The styling was gloriously glamorous - I walked out feeling so dazzling I’m sure I had noticeable bounce in my step.

Daniel Hersheson is a divine salon where the hairdressers are true artists. As I had my hair dried, I sat next to Daniel who was immaculately cutting a client's hair, it was amazing to watch. It became clear that his salons have become renowned not just because of his talent but because of his drive and expertise.

Visit the Daniel Hersheson website to book here.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Haunted Child, Royal Court

Haunted Child was a disappointingly poor offering from the Royal Court. Joe Pentall’s play is a very bizarre and flawed study of a fictional spiritual/ religious/ scientific cult. Before attending, I was terrified at the prospect of a ghost story about a child, a narrative that would usually deeply affect me, however this play lacks any kind of thrilling effects, and the play’s title bears little resemblence to the script and production.

A man, Douglas, returns home unexpectedly to his confused wife and son. He is disorientated and a mess, his teeth have been knocked out and his hair falls lank and dirty, worse still he cannot explain fully where and why he has been away, without word, for so long. His poor, anxious and upset wife, Julie is utterly bewildered and their son, Thomas very disturbed. Gradually details of Douglas’ new group become known, a ridiculous cult of students and mentors who camp in a disused building chatting about science and spirituality. Unfortunately the facts just don’t add up, and when Douglas begins insisting his son is in fact his reincarnated father, I couldn’t help but snigger in disbelief.

Sophie Okonedo is said to be a brilliant actress, indeed I’ve seen her on stage before and she impressed me, but here she falls flat, unable to muster any intensity in the role of Julie. I must admit however that I felt deeply unsettled by Ben Daniel’s portrayal of delusional dad, Douglas, and so here the acting should be given some merit. I felt angered and frustrated by this man, though the poor script sometimes made his character laughable and ridiculous.

I was tempted to leave at the interval, not because I hated the play, but because it entirely lacked believability, but I stayed desperate to see an improvement in the second half, alas it did not come. It is a sad, portentous play for Christmas, and not worth wasting the time to see.

Haunted Child continues until 14 January at the Royal Court, visit the website here.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown





The bright lights, the aroma of sizzling duck, the rowdy hordes of hungry tourists - most people visiting Chinatown wouldn't even notice the scruffy black door located inconspicuously at number 13A Gerrard Street. But those "in the know", the elite few, will know that behind that door there is a whole lot of fun to be had, behind the door of 13A is the Experimental Cocktail Club.

The whole experience is just like a scene from Harry Potter and I got a real thrill experiencing this special venue. The speakeasy is the trendiest variety of bar at the moment, they are plentiful in New York, but I have never seen prohibition style done so well in London, until now… the Experimental Cocktail Club is surely the most exhilarating hidden drinking club in London.

After climbing to the top of the stairs we were greeted by a hosting girl, who surreptitiously appeared from a little den, where I’m sure I spied a surveillance screen, perhaps there is a camera in the front door, vetting visitors before they even enter. Inside, the bar is opulent and lavish, dimmed lighting adds to the sense of mystery.

A menu was slipped into my hands and suddenly I was faced with the task of choosing a cocktail from the list of exotic recipes. Behind the bar a small crew of experienced and stylish barmen work their magic, making up unique concoctions, it is a chemistry lab of activity. Luxurious vintage cocktails use top-end spirits resulting in extreme prices of £150-250, for one drink! We opted for the more purse friendly £11 cocktails, using an equally unusual blend of ingredients, and yet managing to not get in the way of drinkability.

Here are the cocktails we tried and our thoughts:

SAINT GERMAIN DES PRES – Plymouth Gin, St Germain liqueur, Lime juice, Belvoir elderflower cordial, egg white, spiced Tincture & Cucumber juice £11.50

A spicy but refreshing drink. The taste begins with a sweet fruity cucumber flavour, then burns with a warm fiery pepperiness. The egg white makes this cocktail frothy and light.

NO NAME DROPPING – Reservas Amontillado Sherry, Kammerlings Ginseng Liqueur, cane syrup, Velvet Falernum & lemon juice £11

A very drinkable cocktail: a delicious hint of sherry mixes with the sweet and tangy lemon juice. The Ginseng hue is a soothing and unfamiliar flavour, but blends perfectly with the dry sherry taste.

OLD CUBAN – Havana 3 year old Rum, lime juice, ginger syrup, simple syrup, mint, Angostura bitters & top up with Billecart – Salmon Champagne £11.50

This was my favourite, not dissimilar to the mojito classic, this minty fresh drink is very yummy and more subtle in flavour than some of the other cocktails. The taste is predominantly sweet thanks to the fizzy champagne and syrup but the Angostura bitters gives the palate a tiny final kick.

The only way to ensure entry is to e-mail in advance, Tues-Sat before 5pm (reservation@chinatownecc.com); phone bookings are no longer taken.

Captivatingly unconventional, I was wowed by the Experimental Cocktail Club - £11 a drink plus service charge seems pricey, but for the experience and excitement I promise you it is so worth it.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Vimba Charity


Vimba is a small but dedicated charity that aims to aid and support people in Zimbabwe desperately in need of help. The charity was started in 2007 by a group of friends united by the same interest, and has since gained momentum, making a difference to many precious lives across the globe. It is certainly a very worthy cause to support.

I was invited to celebrate Vimba and Christmas at a festive evening a few weeks ago. It was amazing to hear a little bit more about the cause while seeing photos of those they have been able to help. Held in the hospitable Lodge Hotel in Putney, champagne and canap├ęs were served whilst guests chatted.

The Vimba team gave a brief but inspiring talk about the year's challenges and progress, highlighting particular volunteers and contributors who had donated and raised money for the cause through feats like running a marathon. The highlight and conclusion of the evening came from vocal duo sensation Aurora who performed four uplifting songs, including a powerful rendition of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma which delighted the audience.

I implore you all to look at this fantastic charity’s website here, and next time someone asks for a charity name to donate to, suggest Vimba!

Visit the VIMBA website here.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Les Miserables, Queen's Theatre

I consider it a sin that I have never before seen Les Miserables, arguably the most famous and popular musical of all time. Walking down Shaftesbury Avenue regularly, it has always irritated me that Les Mis is one I have never ticked off my ‘to see’ list, and as an extreme musical theatre lover, it is just not acceptable! I remember so clearly, in my first ever singing lesson at seven years old how I sang ‘Castle in a Cloud’, the little girl Cosette's number, and I have since sung many of the other ensemble pieces in various performances.
Finally the opportunity arose to see this musical - my friend Fra Fee joined the London cast in the role of Marius (the young and strapping hero). Most of the time he performs a smaller part in the show, but occasionally he gets the chance to shine as Marius, and I had to be at one of those performances. Armed with presumptious flowers, I went along with a fellow singer to watch our boy take to the stage. Seated in the £12 seats (severely restricted view, you will have to lean forward), I beamed with pride and excitement.
The show is as epic as you’d expect: grand revolving set, glorious period costumes and an exceptional band in the pit. Where Les Mis really stuns is with the vocal expertise and virtuoso of the two older male leads, there is nothing like it in any other musical. You need a rare talent to be cast in Les Mis, the ability to bridge classical and popular styles of singing; and currently on stage are the best in this field, Ramin Karimloo as reformed criminal, Jean Valjean and Hadley Fraser as the stern police officer, Javert. Both men are astounding, rich strong voices that easily resonate through the great theatre, yet succeed in remaining hugely affecting and sensitive. I particularly loved Karimloo’s rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ sung almost entirely in his upper register - it is perfectly in tune, simple and beautiful. Fra is spectacular as Marius, just as expected he would be, bringing just the right mix of innocence and maturity to the part. His voice is effortlessly lovely with a unique and gorgeous tone.
Les Miserables is a spectacular show that has enjoyed many years in the West End, but seeing it somehow evaded me. To see Fra passionately perform such a vital role in the show made the experience very special. Still receiving a rapturous standing ovation after every show just proves how magical and memorable this show is, and now I can tick it off my long ‘to see’ list, at last.
Visit the website to book here.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Hot on the Highstreet Week 83: TOP BOXING DAY SALES


SELFRIDGES: massive reductions on designer goodies
visit website here: http://www.selfridges.com/
Open 9am-9pm Boxing Day

LIBERTY: the most beautiful sale
visit website here: http://www.liberty.co.uk/
Open 12pm-6pm Boxing Day

HARVEY NICHOLS: the boutique sale
visit website here: http://www.harveynichols.com/
Open 10am-8pm Boxing Day


The best online places to sale shop:

AMAZON - bargain books and dvds

FIGLEAVES - reduced underwear

ASOS - all kinds of fashion with slashed prices

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Paul Noble: Welcome to Nobson, Gagosian Gallery, King's Cross



The Gagosian Gallery is an epic franchise with branches all over the world. In London the gallery is based at 6-24 Britannia Street, just round the corner from King’s Cross Station on a strangely deserted street. I was delighted to be finally visiting this prestigious and trendy establishment. The space is clean and stark… a stern faced doorman lets you in, and then other security men stand guard at almost every picture, it is a little bit silly but certainly gives the gallery a very exclusive feel.

The current exhibition is called ‘Welcome to Nobson’, a collection of works by East London artist Paul Noble. The works illustrate Noble’s fictional world, Nobson, an odd and fascinating illusion conjured up in immaculate fairy tale detail in Noble’s most recent drawings and sculpture. The entrance is through a dangling curtain of black and white blocks, as you walk in the forms bash together, it is a very physical start. The vast graphite drawings are minutely detailed, delicate and decorative, carefully executed and apparently miraculously avoiding any smudges. Some show elaborate narratives, little stories woven through the lines and markings; you could examine each work for hours and still spot new things.

I loved the huge expansive drawing pinned onto the central wall, it demonstrates mind-boggling craftsmanship on a monumental scale, intricate and beautiful. Heaven (2009) and Hell (2009) were also favourites of mine – two adjacent drawings depicting fenced off areas - bizarrely heaven is a closed trapped space with sturdy brick walls, while hell has ornate pretty fencing with easy access to come and go.

I couldn’t decide if I liked the sculptures or not - Couple (2011) and Three (2011) are made from pale pink marble towering above the visitors on tall blocks; they are mysterious, ultra smooth surfaced and other worldly. To me they looked a bit like giant dollops of marshmallow on top of each other, though I’m not sure this was what the artist intended!

An absolutely stunning exhibition and entry to the Gagosian Gallery is free!

Visit website here.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Noises Off, Old Vic, Waterloo


Halfway through the performance I looked around - the audience, panting and wheezing, were delirious with laughter, it was hilarity beyond anything I have ever before witnessed at the theatre. I was at the press night for Noises Off, the very clever and very funny play by Michael Frayn. It was first performed in 1982 but feels fresh and exciting in this sparky revival. Having seen some of director Lindsay Posner’s previous work, I am not surprised to see him produce another hit show.

Noises Off is a play within a play, a small dysfunctional cast are putting the final touches to their production of ‘Nothing On’, a farcical comedy. The group are a mix of theatrical types including an unreliable boozer, a clueless young girl, a worrier who needs reassurance every line, and the infuriated director. Gossip is circulated while the cast rehearse the first act, the day before opening night. As the evening progresses, everything unravels and the situation becomes more and more disorderly and ridiculous. Frayn’s script is genius and comes across very naturally on stage, it is fast paced and fluent, Frayn seems to understand this kind of chaos and the piece never loses momentum.

The production is brilliantly executed, and rehearsed to within an inch of its life, each cast member giving a staggeringly precise and perfect performance, the actors are faultless. I recognised most of the faces: Robert Glenister, who I remember well from TV series ‘Hustle,' is fabulously exasperated as the stressed out director. Celia Imrie is wonderful as ever, fully immersing herself in the ditzy part of Dotty Otley. But the real highlight performance for me comes from Jamie Glover who excels in every comic conundrum, he manages to jump up the stairs with his shoelaces tied together!

Don’t blink or you may miss a moment of humour, Noises Off is honestly a laugh a second, and I felt exhausted by the final curtain. ‘Tis the season to be jolly in London… along with One Man Two Guvnors, our capital city is boasting the best crop of comic plays ever.

Continues until 10 March, 2012, book here.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Kitchen Sink, Bush Theatre, Shepherd's Bush


The Bush Theatre has moved to a gorgeous new venue on the Uxbridge Road, conveniently close to my house. I've never been before and was drawn by glowing reports from various friends about the current show, The Kitchen Sink. This new play from Tom Wells is acutely written, displaying wit and warmth in an endearingly modest fashion. It offers tenderness and hope and is the perfect play for Christmas.

Set in Withernsea, a crumbling seaside resort in Yorkshire, the action involves a normal family dealing with daily struggles; we follow them through the four seasons of a year. The father, Martin, is the most traditional member of the family, a good man turning sour as he loses his broken milk float and his livelihood slips away from him... he likes life plain and simple. His wife, Kath loves her family unconditionally, she is resilient and caring, the pillar of strength who everyone relies on. Their overtly gay son, Billy idolises Dolly Parton, and desires nothing more than to win a place at art college in London, though once he is there feels totally out of place among the pretentious arty types commenting, “I’m not wearing ripped jeans. For anyone. Life’s draughty enough.” Feisty daughter Sophie plans to qualify as a ju-jitsu instructor but her plans are scuppered after a mishap, punching her chauvinistic teacher landing him in hospital. She is entirely unresponsive to the timid advances of Pete, a nervous young lovesick plumber, who is forever hanging around to fix the faulty taps!

Tamara Harvey directs this play beautifully and subtly, and designer Ben Stones has created a fully functional shabby kitchen for the play. It is lovely watching the family move about cooking, eating, drinking and washing up and the play works superbly well in the round. The acting is sublime, so believable and realistic we wondered, on the way home if they all had those particular northern accents or not, as they sounded so genuine, the dialect coaches must be congratulated. The characters are so likeable - by the end I felt I cared deeply for each of them, the five cast members produce such natural and fluent ensemble work, the parts seem written for these very people.

There are hilarious interchanges between husband and wife, Steffan Rhodri as Martin and Lisa Palfrey as Kath. Martin cannot understand it when Kath tries to spice up their lives a little by cooking couscous instead of potatoes or laying on an unconventional sushi dinner instead of turkey for Christmas. She gives him chocolate body paint for Valentine’s Day, they eat it on toast! Siblings Ryan Sampson as Billy and Leah Brotherhead as Sophie produce brilliant characterful performances, they are mesmerising to watch. But it is Andy Rush as Pete who caught my eye most, he is utterly convincing as the shy plumber boy, who after losing both his parents, must live with and look after his eccentric gran. Rush somehow manages to be both deeply touching and hilarious.

There are so many unrealistic sitcom type dramas about, it is wonderful to watch a genuinely moving narrative about a family who are just getting by; it is, after all, what so many people’s lives are like. As Kath puts it “All I want… is for the four of us to just: manage. That is all I want.”

Kitchen Sink is a poignant and utterly gripping play, definitely one of my theatre highlights of the year.

Visit the Bush website for more information here.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sinead Kelly, Hair Salon, Barnes




It is always a good sign when the people doing your hair have healthy shiny tresses themselves and at Sinead Kelly this is completely true of the lovely stylists. I was welcomed in off the cold street and taken care of wonderfully. Feeling pretty deflated about my blonde, dry hair, I was in desperate need of a moisturising treatment and refreshing blow dry.
Mandy (sister of the salon owner, Sinead) was my stylist for the day; super friendly and kind, she made me feel totally at ease - it was like chatting to a friend. After a brief talk about the treatment I would be receiving, I went through for a thorough hair wash and botox treatment. Yes, that's right, botox. I was initially scared that I would be receiving some hardcore injections and silicone... at 23 I feel I have a few years before sampling any of that! Botox treatment for hair is, in fact, the newest and trendiest thing to have done. A serum and conditioner is massaged through your hair leaving it glossy and thickened, ideal for hair suffering in harsh winter weather. The botox lasts for ten washes and results can be improved each time you have it done (Mandy recommended once a month if you have the time and money).
My hair was then blowdried and curled with tongs to create a messy, beachy look. It seemed to bounce with joy after Mandy's careful styling, it looked and felt much healthier. I left with a long list of helpful instructions about how to maintain my new look, always advisable to reduce post-hairdresser trauma, which I suffer from a lot! Mandy also offered me reassurance and advice about 'being a blonde' (she has beautiful ash blonde hair, but is naturally dark) and suggested a few brilliant ideas to make my locks look more natural. It gave me a massive boost of confidence.
I have not one bad word to say about the Sinead Kelly Salon, I had such a lovely experience there, I can't think of a lovelier place to get your hair revitalised.
Visit the Sinead Kelly website to book here.

The Nutcracker, English National Ballet, Coliseum


For me it doesn't feel like Christmas until I've seen the English National Ballet production of The Nutcracker. Since singing in this show as a child, it has become an essential part of my festive season, symbolising the start of Christmas.

Every year I notice something different about the production, a tiny detail that particularly delights me. Thanks to talented choreographer Wayne Eagling, the last few years of the ENB Christmas show have been unbeatable. This year I was amazed by the exceptional children, who seem to take on more ensemble and solo dancing than ever before and dance with a confidence and vivacity to rival the adults. Siblings Lowri and Rowan Shone take on the parts of young Clara and Freddie, and they are both wonderful actors, producing witty mock arguments and dancing well too.

I was pleased to hear the snowflake chorus being sung live once more. Saving costs by not using a separate children's choir, the English National Ballet kids have to step up to the challenge, and though they look very pretty they don't quite reach the top notes securely.

Bridgett Zehr dances as Clara, her debut in this role. Zehr is a strong dancer, though her strained facial expressions often distracted me. She moves elegantly and eloquently on stage and as she dances the Sugar Plum Fairy her talent is evident. She makes a good foil to her partner, Nephew, danced by Esteban Berlanga. Together they produce some classic showy dancing, they make it look seamless and effortless and it was beautiful to watch.

The set looks even more spectacular than usual, with a mock ice skating rink, a growing Christmas tree, falling snow and flying hot air balloons... a dose of Christmas magic for children and adults alike, so imaginative and brilliantly executed that it makes you gasp when the curtain rises.

The orchestra seem to have a great time in the pit, you can tell they enjoy playing this annual piece of Tchaikovsky. Conductor Gavin Sutherland gives a sterling performance leading the troops, he puts his heart and soul into coordinating the musicians and dancers. My only quibble is that I think the orchestra could be a touch louder throughout.

As enchanting as ever, I am in no doubt that this is the Nutcracker production that best captures the essence of Christmas, and if you see any this is the one to pick.
Visit the website to book here.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Original Features, W11 Opera, Riverside Studios


City gents, women racers, flappers, psychics, bankers, agents, reporters, Charlie Chaplins and even pigeons all appear as characters in the latest W11 Children's Opera production, 'Original Features'. This year this young but exceptional opera company take on a specially commissioned piece, with music by Julian Grant and libretto by Christina Jones celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary.

Julian Grant comments that “fuzzy animals and keeping it cutesy doesn’t interest me”, instead with Original Features Grant has created a simple and believable story of love, art, family, guilt, betrayal and struggle… a fiercely real narrative that the children performing can relate to.

The Carrington children live in a beautiful old house, their lives enriched with the joy and vitality of colour and creativity, brought up by two artist parents. Unable to support the large family, the parents move abroad and the kids are left with unkind selfish distant cousins. The house is almost sold and the colour is drained from the children’s lives, when their parents return it is not the happy reunion we expect. 'Original Features' offers a bittersweet ending... three of the Carrington children are left unable to forgive their parents. No big finales and jazz hands this year, it is the melancholy taste of real life.

Grant’s score is challenging, with unusual harmonies, and unexpected but beautiful melodic sequences. The cast tackle it brilliantly, with a confident and tuneful rendition, and some particularly impressive solos. However the strength of W11 Children’s Opera is the ensemble work, and when this big group of young voices comes together it is spectacular. This year the set, by Neil Irish, was enchanting; I particularly loved the painting of the housekeepers - which came alive when lit up, the characters posed singing behind the screen… an inventive and magical idea. As ever the band was phenomenal, led by Philip Sunderland.

W11 Children's Opera is a one in a million company, and it deserves every bit of support it gets. Year after year they succeed in making operatic repertoire and new music accessible to children, and better still provide all the ingredients for a sensational production. The kids have the time of their lives - I would know I've been there and done it, eight times over and could never forget the magical experience.
Visit the W11 Children's Opera website here for more information.

Pipilotti Rist and George Condo, Hayward Gallery




The Hayward Gallery doesn't conform, and this winter presents a programme of weird and wacky artists on their grey brutalist walls: George Condo and Pipilotti Rist running in tandem in the Southbank venue.

You enter the Pipilotti first... a collection of works under the title 'Eyeball Massage'. It is a sensory playpen, ethereal video installations and unconventional constructions to experience. Pipilotti invites the viewer to freely engage and immerse him or herself in her otherworldly creations - I found some of these pieces to be very disorientating. The exhibition brings together thirty works from the mid 1980s to the present day, including a vast new installation created especially for the Hayward. Pipilotti is interested in both magnified and micro worlds, and my favourite works were the miniature ones, tiny video screens arranged in handbags or shells, or even in the floor - they are captivating.

George Condo presents an equally eccentric collection of works; his retrospective is appropriately titled, ‘Mental States’. Condo hails from New York and is considered to be one of the most original and provocative painters of his generation. This exhibition includes work from the last three decades and is split into thematic sections: Portraiture, Abstract-Figuration and Mania and Melancholy.

It is an angry collection, Condo seems to have a lot of deep rooted, seething frustration and angst that he lets loose through his creations. I found the portraiture to be quite disconcerting, a strange mix of humour and disgust, a few of the cartoon like characters even made me laugh out loud. Some images reminded me of the crazy Dr Seuss books I read as a child, exaggerated bizarre characters that really stick in your mind, in particular I will retain ‘Red Antipodular Portrait’ and ‘The Butler’.

My favourite pieces were the Picasso inspired linear abstract paintings. Expansive canvases with confused but beautiful mind maps of shape, colour and figurative hints like the fascinating Fallen Butler of 2009. They are works created in the 1980s when Condo became preoccupied with depicting non-representational forms tightly packed and overlapped, the artist called them ‘drawing paintings’ because although they are on canvas they are drawn in charcoal, pastel and acrylic paint, rather than the more traditional oil paint.

Mania and Melancholy features the most grotesque of the lot, yet very intriguing to observe. Aggressive and upsetting paintings that ‘reflect the madness of everyday life’, apparently! The exaggerated features and frenzy evoked in these paintings is not dissimilar to traits found in Outsider Art.

I left the Hayward Gallery feeling dazed and bewildered by the two very different artists minds I had entered. Both are intensely imaginative individuals and I felt privileged to be welcomed into their worlds.

Pipilotti Rist and George Condo continue until 8 January, 2011.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Karine Jackson, Hairdressers, Covent Garden





Karine Jackson's salon is based just moments away from chaotic Leicester Square, and is a refuge for busy Londoners for a few hours of pampering. This independent salon has been awarded numerous awards and prides itself on giving a professional but personable service to all clients.

It was busy inside when I visited, I was soon seated and brought a cup of tea by a smiling assistant. I was booked in to have my hair coloured with Arash and blow dried by Emma, both whom I met at the start of my appointment. After discussing, in depth, the different options for my hair, we decided to go for blonde…which alarmingly meant a whole head of bleach. I was completely unaware about the process this entails, and would warn anyone that a brown to blonde whole head colour change is a massive job and a lot of strain on your hair.

My hair was coated in thick white bleach, that looked rather ominous, but I was reassured that it was all ammonia free. All the hair dyes used at KJ are from the range of Organic Colour Systems, impressively healthy colouring products. I was alerted to the fact that my scalp might itch or sting and this is normal for a first time bleacher. It worried me slightly that at this hair salon the stylists frequently conferred in the corner of the room, while glancing over at me. When the stinging and itching became unbearable the bleach was promptly washed off.

I don’t think it had gone quite to plan, and Arash had moved onto his next client, so I was left worrying in my chair, with only a cup of tea to console me. Another stylist eventually came over and reapplied bleach to the darker parts of my hair, and I was left for 30 minutes to stew in bleach. The second lot was washed off and then a toner applied, a colour Arash decided would work best. This then remained on my hair for a further thirty minutes… by this point I had been at the salon for nearly four hours! A final hair wash downstairs (with luxurious smelling products) and it was finally time for my blow dry.

Unfortunately no one seemed available to dry my hair, both Arash and Emma were with other clients and I was left feeling a bit sorry for myself in the corner. Another stylist came over and offered to ‘rough dry’, so I had to accept that.

Karine Jackson is a lovely salon, but I just felt a bit in the way on this busy December afternoon, perhaps I came at the wrong time to experience the true nature of the place. I left the salon a fully fledged blonde, ready to find out if blondes really do have more fun.

Visit the Karine Jackson website here.

Hot on the Highstreet Week 82


Christmas is all about memorable scents and delicious smells, aside from the Christmas dinner turkey, scented candles are a must around the cold winter season, and add to the decorations and sparkle during the festive season. I love the Diptyque candles, their scents are delicate, natural and lasting. I have one in my room, a pretty Tuberose scent, pale yellow in colour, it is a beguiling strong and sensual flowery scent, and always calms me when I light it in the evenings.

The Diptyque company was started in Paris in 1961 when three friends were united by a passion for creativity and design. They opened a shop at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain selling items from their travels and beautifully eccentric fabric designs. To match their fabrics the Diptyque trio begin offering coloured candles with added perfumed wax. The customers fell in love with the inimitable stylish fragrances leading to the introduction of the first Diptyque scented candle in 1963. Ever since they have been luring visitors in with their unique special scents and pretty packaging.

This December Diptyque have launched a lovely range of holiday fragrances especially for the festive season. The Epinette (spruced tree) and Perdigone (spiced plum) scents will bring a luxurious smell to any home while glowing in their red and green pretty glass containers.

The Epinette echoes the aromatic freshness of pine needles and the resinuous notes of pine cones while the Perdigone is a concentrate of warm and fruity notes around a spiced plum that deliciously perfumes the house, comforting in the depths of winter.

The mini candles of Epinette and Perdigone cost £25 each and promise to last 30 hours, they are the perfect stress free Christmas gift.


Buy on the Diptyque website here.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

QuickBliss Spa, Debenhams, Oxford Street




I was delighted with the results of my facial at the big Bliss Spa in South Kensington and so was excited to be visiting the younger QuickBliss area in Debenhams. This new addition to the Bliss family is pampering shoppers in need of a quick pick me up. The treatments are done in two reclining chairs on the shop floor, just behind the counter.

After you get accustomed to the blaring Christmas soundtrack and chatter of frantic shoppers around you these Quickbliss mini services are really relaxing and nourishing. Sometimes the faff of getting changed and ready for a beauty treatment can be frustrating and as a busy girl I like to get straight to it – Quickbliss is the perfect solution for impatient clients like me. My therapist for the treatment was Shen, a lovely and experienced beautician who is passionate and informative about the service they provide.

Taking inspiration from the extensive full spa menu, Quickbliss in Debenhams has compiled a shorter more precise list of facials, eye treatments, foot treatments, and special services all lasting less than an hour and costing £18 upwards. Here they are about efficiency – getting the best results in as little time as possible. I tried the Oxygen Blast, a shorter version of the spa’s most famous and popular complexion reviver facial. It lasts fifty minutes, and includes an intensive cleansing, exfoliating fruit acid wash, hydrating enzyme pack and vitaminized oxygen spray. It really is a breath of fresh air for your face.

I am wary of loading my face with product after product, but at Bliss you can feel the different lotions working on your skin… the exfoliator tingles, the oxygen spray tickles, they feel like active working products. I loved the machines Shen used during my facial, the porefecter gadget that finely vibrates to deep cleanse the skin and elimate blackheads, and a strangely surreal oxygen machine that blows cold fresh oxygen into your skin and leaves you feeling bright and beautiful. The best thing is – all the pampering products are available to buy.

As a parting gift Shen gave me a little pouch of goodies: Clog dissolving cleansing milk, lid & lash wash makeup remover and triple oxygen+c energizing cream, all to help me on my way with a more effective beauty routine.

Next time you’re having a stressful time shopping on Oxford Street pop into Debenhams for a blast of beautification - it is heavenly.