Monday, 29 October 2012

James Bond inspired travel destinations

There are a lot of spooks about at the moment, what with Halloween... And the new Bond film of course. So to get into the spirit of things (self-congratulatory chortle) I thought this week we should take a look at holiday destinations inspired by Britain’s favourite spy.

Sean Connery Dr No

Dr No


Sun, beaches, a relaxed way of life, this is where holidays were invented. It’s also where the Bond films made their debut, Dr No being the first, and where Ursula Andress became a screen siren after filming ‘that’ bikini scene. Ya man.

You Only Live Twice

Hong Kong

The ultimate of city shopping breaks for adults. And for children, there’s not only a Disneyland but also the very popular Ocean Park, a theme park/zoo where you can see pandas as well as go on rollercoasters. As an added note of trivia, none other than famed children's author Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for this, the fifth of the Bond films. Now you know.

On her Majesty’s Secret Service

Swiss Alps

Skiing, chalets, mulled wine…spies. The best thing about a Swiss skiing trip is that after an energetic day on the slopes, an indulgent cheese fondue is completely justified. And the earlier your kids start skiing the quicker they’ll pick it up and be shooting past you on the way to the black runs. Most resorts offer comprehensive lessons and care for little ones so you can apres ski to your heart's delight.

The Spy Who Loved Me


Although the film starts off in Austria (where the scene ends with Bond falling from the sky and opening a Union Jack parachute as replicated by Her Majesty in the Olympic opening ceremony) most of the rest of the film is set in Egypt. Pyramids, the Nile, and of course the beautiful beaches and fabulous climate makes this a perfect destination any time of year.

Tomorrow Never Dies


Have a bespoke suit or dress made in the tailoring capital of Hoi An, catch a water puppet show in Hanoi, or lazily glide through the floating markets on the Mekong Delta. Vietnam has something for everyone - history, culture, exquisite food and friendly people. You’ll no doubt find it as much of a thrill as Pierce Brosnan did.

Halong Bay Vietnam

Any other Bond trivia you'd like to share?

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Monsters' Ball - a Halloween-themed book review

I don’t like it when things go bump in the night. Or in the middle of the day for that matter. As was the case when the postie delivered my copy of Tamara Small and the Monsters’ Ball (not to be confused with the film or anything to do with Lady Gaga).  It landed with an ominous thud…and immediately I felt a creepy chill in the air (although I later discovered this was because the rest of the mail had wedged the post hatch open).

Thankfully Little Bean seems to be less of a wuss than her mother. The dark places under beds are hiding places for toys and her wriggly self rather than monsters, and she has no qualms about going to sleep in a dark room. This is completely opposite to her mother who needed a nightlight until eighteen, and only then did away with it because my uni roommate would have laughed at me.

So back to the book. It starts off scarily. On a dark and windy night, a seemingly nasty hairy monster sneaks up on the heroine, Tamara Small, and spirits her away to a dark and foreboding place. But there things start improving as it turns out to be the annual monsters’ ball and little Tamara has a dance with every dodgy character going. Morals? Face your fears and don’t make a swift judgement on appearances. So far, so Twilight.

If I’m completely honest, I did think the monstery bit at the beginning might frighten the more sensitive souls, but then I forget that I grew up on witches who kept little children in cages (Hansel and Gretel), Grandma-eating wolves (Red Riding Hood), and ‘chiddler’-eating giants (Roald Dahl's BFG).

All in all, I think this is a wonderfully colourful book with a positive outcome for both humans and monsters. A perfect little trick and treat for Halloween in fact - and less scary than a visit to the dentist after all the sweets.


Title: Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball

Author: Giles Paley-Phillips
Illustrator: Gabriele Antonini
Publisher: Maverick Books

*This book was sent to me for the purpose of review.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

If the shoe fits

What is it with shoes? She’s only just one and already my daughter is obsessed with them, pulling them out of cupboards, from under beds and even trying to pull them off my feet. And once she’s got hold of them what does she do? Eat them of course, what else? Very hygienic.  Is this preoccupation gender specific or do little boys do this too?

Now, that she’s almost walking, we succumbed and bought her her first pair of ‘proper’ shoes – apparently her sequin trainers and uggs do not pass muster. Already it seems she’s steadier on her feet and the ‘first steps’ seem like they may be a little closer. Let's see what happens....

These aren't the 'proper shoes' but couldn't resist.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Chocolate snobbery

It’s been a good confectionery week for me. I have Green and Black’s cocoa in the cupboard, a box of Hotel Chocolat on my desk at work and a bar of Lindt (seasalt flavour, my favourite in case you're taking notes) in the cupboard. The dentist will be pleased.
My chocolate taste is not usually so upmarket. Last week I vacillated between Snickers bars and Sainsbury's own chocolate digestives. I’d love to know if there are statistics available to prove that chocolate consumption goes up dramatically at this time of the year – I'm sure it's directly correlated to the cold weather rather than my greed - okay, maybe both. There also seems to be a fresh spate of advertising around at the moment – maybe it’s not just my sweet tooth behind my current chocolate craze?

I came across a really bizarre article the other day on a new chocolate bar Cadbury’s is introducing, aimed at women. It’s supposedly low in calories (i.e. small) and you can reseal the packaging so you don’t have to eat the whole thing in one go.

This puzzled me for days… I don’t think the marketing department has realised quite how ridiculous this is. Does anyone ever have only one Twix and save the other for later? Or have one square of chocolate a day? Gillian McKeith excepted of course.

What intrigued me even more is that it is aimed at the female market in an attempt to ‘entice women back’. I wasn’t aware we had left but apparently (despite my personal best efforts) there is a slump in the chocolate market.

When I first thought about gender specific advertising I liked to think it didn’t have an effect on me. I’ll happily indulge in ‘manly’ Yorkies and ‘get some nuts’ Snickers as much as Ferrero Rochers and Aeros. But when I thought about it some more I realised I was kidding myself. I’ll only indulge in a ‘man’ bar if I’m feeling hungry and am compensating for a small lunch or skipped meal.

I only hope that when Crispello makes its debut the advertising won’t be as awful as that Galaxy ad, or as insulting as the ones for Flakes. Women have a sense of humour too, you know. I love the Joan Collins Snickers ad for instance. If you have to make it gender specific raise the bar, please.

Right, must be off. We’ve got a birthday party to go to. Hope there’s chocolate cake… No snickering from the cheap seats. Ok, I'm going now.

Update: And now I've found out it's National Chocolate Week - how well-timed am I?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Too tired to get dressed

This week I've written a guest post for the lovely ladies at Wriggly Rascals. If you remember the days where you used to get to bedtime and realise you had not yet changed out of your pjs, it might be for you. Here's a taster...

I’ve just been to visit a friend of mine who has a five-week-old baby boy. I said I would come around eleven, not too early. Of course, if I think about it rationally, I could have gone round at six a.m. and it wouldn’t have made any difference to her. As you know, the first few weeks of parenthood are a blur and day and night really determine the colour of the sky outside and nothing else. Sleeping, eating, cleaning is one long repetitive cycle and if anyone had come to visit me at 2 a.m. when Little Bean was first born I wouldn’t have blinked an eyelid. And if they’d come bearing food and a cup of tea I would have asked them to move in permanently.

Read the full post here.

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