world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Category: GIFTS

Belmond British Pullman

I know I was utterly spoilt last year year for my FortyTen celebrations and in late October,  5 months in, those celebrations finally came to a close.
I was very generously gifted a voucher for the Orient Express group … Googling ‘book Orient Express tickets’ I was filled with images of a romantic trip  with Mr H and I channeling Agatha Christie and the diminutive Poirot, heading from Paris to Venice. Back to earth with a bump …. £500 will buy you a 2 hour journey with afternoon tea from London’s Victoria through the Kent countryside for two people.
Further exploration of itineraries and we decided to add some of our own coffers to opt for Belmond British Pullman‘s The Golden Age of Travel lunch.

Departing from Victoria Station, there is a waiting room exclusively for Belmond travellers with tea and coffee, a welcome warming drink before the off.

The excitement is tangible, the audience a mixed bunch, most celebrating the passing of milestone birthdays, engagements, marriages The average age is somewhat more than my own half century I suspect. Some have embraced the bygone era, tea dresses, the odd gentleman in black tie and one group who seemed to be wearing Lilliputian sized trilbys a in a nod to ….. Bugsy Malone?

A short wait and boarding commences, the cheery crew welcome you aboard with due reverence … A very different experience to the 7.26 Haslemere to Waterloo. Space and comfort are what greet you, high backed wingchairs set at beautifully laid tables with an overly ornate table lamp, with a shade something akin to a Victorian courtesans flouncy knickers. Beautiful crystal, fine china and flatware are far removed from the contemporary stemless glasses and heavy earthenware crockery of so many restaurants now.

Champagne is poured almost as soon as you are seated and the experience begins. It doesn’t take long to immerse yourself, talking in hushed tones and waving regally like a pageant queen to the passengers disembarking the normal service trains.

Amuse bouche followed by a soup starter served professionally by the steady footed crew, wine ordered – the journey begins out through a much graffiti’d South London and down to the Kent coast. It’s not the most interesting of vistas but Mr H and I enjoyed the food and each other’s company and shared juvenile humour at our efforts at sotto voce conversation in a bid to not disturb the library hush.

There is an opportunity to purchase souvenirs but I refrained from the branded sweater-wearing teddy and the other costlier Belmond ephemera. Our adjacent neighbours bought a rather overpriced Station Clock as their souvenir of the day … Mr H and I settled for a few photos on our iPhones and the memories!

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Two bottles of wine and an extra glass of champagne for the delay in leaving Victoria at the start of the journey coupled with the gentle tinkling of silver against chinaware leaves even the most seasoned of travellers in a soporific state. As we reached Broadstairs we were asked to disembark where we were greeted with another glass of wine and fresh local Oysters. Some of our fellow passengers were less than keen to partake of the crustaceans on offer (fools)  – all the more for us. A blazer-clad brass band was playing to add to the yesteryear ambience but it felt slightly awkward and contrived standing side by side on the platform –  needless to say there was one fellow traveller who threw inhibition to the wind and managed a sort of Charleston. We all dutifully congratulated her as we returned to our seats, homeward bound.

In essence it was a charming day out but given the cost I think we probably could have had an Air BnB weekend city break for the same price as lunch on the Belmond.  This trip is best suited to a more vintage traveller, a special older birthday or celebratory anniversary. My in-laws would have loved this trip as would any ferroequinologist* but perhaps Mr H and I should have saved this for our twilight years!

*trainspotter/anorak

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Literally Literary Lovely! Kindle Cover

  One of the loveliest and most thoughtful gifts I received for my FortyTen birthday was a Kindle cover by KleverCase in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ design. Those that read my blog regularly will know that this is my all-time favourite book and Atticus Finch is my all-time literary love!

Founder of KleverCase, Philip Bradburn is a true Entrepreneur. After starting out as an apprentice bookbinder in 1976, his Eureka moment came with the advent of e-readers and specifically Amazon’s revolutionary Kindle.  KleverCase was born out of his desire to keep old books alive and to produce high quality products using his experience and traditional skills as a bookbinder. You can read more of the history here.

The company upholds true values for craftsmanship and heritage – and an outstanding customer service department (Mo could not have been more helpful.   Loving your work Mo’!).  Each KleverCase is made at Manor Bindery in the New Forest and each one comes with a personal signature of who made it … in my case Lotty – thanks Lotty!

There are so many great gifts for book lovers available on the KleverCase website, even for those who won’t succumb to the Kindle (or any reading vehicle other than the printed tome!).  Check out their leather bound box files that look like library greats to store receipts, bills etc. The designers obviously have a sense of humour! Impress on the beach with Eintsein’s Theory of Relativity or a Penguin Classic in their iconic orange.  Not Another Trashy Novel brought a smile to my face too.  There are diaries, notebooks, phone covers and other gift ideas for those who love the traditional or literary based gifts.

Available from the KleverCase website, Amazon and NotonTheHighStreet 

Kitchen Gadgets – Spiraliser

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Do you have a cupboard full of kitchen gadgets that you never use? And don’t you love it when you find one that really does work and you actually use on a regular basis?

I had a plethora of defunct, aged kitchen paraphernalia .. the ubiquitous orange plastic Moulinex mandolin of the late 70’s, early 80’s, my chamfered knuckles a testament to the razor-sharp blade! And an orange enamel Le Creuset fondue set …. mostly sitting redundant, looking ironically retro in dog-eared boxes at the back of a kitchen cupboard.  I am usually gadget-averse, fearing further cluttering of ever more full kitchen cupboards. I rarely fall foul of wunder-gadget demos at food or home fairs (unlike Mr H who is a groupie for an y kind of exhibition demonstration!!).   I already have THE best peeler, (Good Grips), Zester (Ikea), Parmesan Grater (Microplane) and numerous sets of tongs (Ikea, Poundland, etc) and thought my gadgetry collection complete … until I discovered the Spiraliser, a genius hourglass shaped contraption with two blades (varying sizes for thick or thin spiralising!) and the gadget-de-choix of the carb-free, gluten-free, healthy-eater brigade.  There is a larger, more fancy-pants version by Hemsley & Hemsley but until you are sure you are going to use it I would stick to the one I have from Amazon here  for £13.95

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I have only used this on courgettes, (and a carrot for experimental purposes only)  I have made oodles of Zoodles (Zucchini noodles) and miles of Courgetti and as long as you don’t over cook it, it is ‘virtually’ indistinguishable from the real thing bar the fact that I am indigestion and carb-bloat free!

So this is my gadget go-to for now …. What next?

Top Tip … Don’t spiralise your fingers – I have – it hurts!

Wake up and smell the roses ….

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I have long read about and recognised the benefits of aromatherapy oils but had not realised how instantly soothing fragrances could be – until very recently, that is. Having lost my mother, feeling exhausted from grief, sleepless nights, mental note-making, eulogy writing, choosing music for the service and making sure that everything was right for the funeral, my head felt in a complete fug. Someone gifted me the most thoughtful ‘care package’ that included a delicious lavender body balm from Arbonne. Just opening the blue apothecary style jar and the waft of lavender eased my sore head and eyes. Whilst it is difficult to lift oneself from the melancholy of mourning, I was surprised at how much better I felt, instantly. The lavender really did soothe mind and soul.

Smells are evocative and can transport you to another time, delicious home-baking takes me instantly to my grandmother’s kitchen, the waft of the lightest rock cakes, sticky jam tarts with the shortest pastry cases, coconut dipped madelines and Sunday tea time.  Equally, so too  does the rather more unpleasant smell of boiled eggs! – I spent many an evening hand rolling boiled eggs in sausage-meat and then dipping them in egg and fresh breadcrumbs as part of a Scotch egg production line!  And worse still the embarrassment of carrying the sulphurous smelling eggs on the bus to my Saturday catering job in London’s Marylebone – as a teenager I lived in a permanent state of ‘blush’ and those eggs took my mortification to a whole new level.  So, the good and the bad – all from one kitchen.

Then away from the smells of home, there is fragrance, Aromatics Elixir was my mother’s signature scent and even now that heady combination of rose, jasmine, ylang ylang and vetiver brings her back to me – nestled up to her while she soothed my broken heart or coached me through my next job interview; road trips with her as driver and me as navigator,belting out Brenda Lee songs; the joys of pregnancy and motherhood and all the other occasions that she would hold me close to her.  I smell Aromatics and instantly see her gorgeous red hair and her beaming smile.  Even my children, when they were very small would be out and someone would pass wearing Aromatics or we would pass the Clinique counter in a store and they would say ‘I can smell Nanna!’

Like all the women in my family,  I am a serial monogamist in my relationships with fragrance.  My very first grown up experience with perfume was Anais Anais, sweet, pretty, feminine and perfect for a teenager.  Progressing by way of Trussardi and Claude Montana to Calyx by Prescriptives in the late 80’s.   I wore this on my wedding day and still, 25 years on, it is my favourite scent.  Despite Prescriptives being no more – thank the perfume Gods, Clinique relaunched Calyx early last year. In the interim I moved between Caleche for the Winter and Prada Infusion d’Iris in the Summer, both have Iris as their heart note and the same can be said of Calyx – this is the common denominator of all three scents, although they are very different.  I have a ‘type’ of fragrance, fresh, powdery and soft but distinctive. (The Trussardi and Claude Montana were a deviation from type, powerful, cloying, sweet, nausea inducing! but I can be forgiven as I was looking for something individual)

Which brings me to fragrance layering, one of the greatest compliments I ever receive is if I am told  ‘Ooh you always smell nice‘, I inwardly do a little jig … But of course when you become accustomed to a fragrance you often can’t smell it on yourself. I do have a propensity to ‘go mad’ with my spraying, so if you meet me and I knock your socks off with too much perfume – do tell me!   It helps to create that wafting quality when you use both bath and skin products before adding a final spritz of perfume – always on the skin not on your clothes (it will go stale and may also stain your clothes!) but using a combination of bath/shower and moisturising products will definitely get your scent to linger longer.

And then there was the Virgin Vie incident. Not normally a party plan kind of girl, I offered to help out a friend. As a party hostess you were ‘gifted’ something as recompense for plying your peers with copious amounts of alcohol and an adult crisp. I was rather stuck on what to choose, so they chose for me and gave me some bath products with an Oceanic fragrance.  My youngest son who had an olfactory awareness beyond his years came into the bathroom post shower declaring ‘Ooh mummy, can you smell fish?’  Perhaps more Oceanic than I was ready for!

Ever had any scent mishaps? and what is your favourite scent ever?

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