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Saturday, 29 August 2015

Summer Holiday Narrowboating

When one of my sisters invited the entire family on a narrowboating trip this summer I was the first to say yes. I've always marvelled at canals and canal boats, but a week before, fear set in. We've never been on an extended family holiday and 11 of us were about to live in eachother's pockets in the most squashed conditions imaginable and hey this is Britain, rain was inevitable. All of a sudden I wanted to abandon ship before I'd even boarded - was this going to be the worst holiday ever?
With scenes this stunning...NEVER!
The week we picked was one of those magical summer weeks where England really is a green and pleasant land (unlike the conditions under which I am writing this - grey skies and it's tipping it down!)  
I felt at home straight away. Ok it was a bit rustic (we ran out of water twice, electricity also had a tendency to reduce in the evenings and the bed reserved for me was the kitchen table (which converted rather impressively)...but that stuff was minor when the rest of the experience was so much fun.
For a start I never knew cows drank canal water.....something you'd only know if you were living the canal life.
Other than having to moor up frequently as locks approached,
and having to open and close locks,
....there was nothing much to do other than relax.

Here's what we got up to whilst doing just that ...
Country walks
Lots and lots of geocaching
(Finding treasures like this)
Picking blackberries directly off the the canal route - (our version of foraging)
Which we turned into yummy dessert (ok, one of my sisters did - not me, I just ate it!)
I thought I'd knit more but actually the views were so incredible I was occupied just looking out and taking it all in.
We went on duck watch and duck count...
...make that dog watch too - there are so many dogs aboard canal boats.
On one of our stop off day trips we met a mini pig. 
Charlie our family monkey felt at home too and we  encountering quite a few of his relatives on route - turns out monkeys love canal holidays.
We also saw a few knitted Rosie & Jims - the ultimate canal mascot.
Played board games aplenty.
Found a secret garden,
and managed some outdoor fitness.
 I also lay on top of the boat one midnight and watched meteor showers - a seriously cosmic experience and something I'd never be able to do in London.

By the end of the week no one has killed eachother - (obviously there was the odd bits of annoyance but no major arguments.) It wasn't exactly 'family bonding' but it was nice to spend time together and not just the few hours at birthday parties, which we normally manage. I had a chance to talk to everyone - nieces, nephews, brother-in-laws, sisters....that in itself made the experience one to treasure.

As for how I feel about canals and narrowboating now...I love them even more. Not sure if I'll have the opportunity again (apart from holidaying in Kerala's backwaters which is on my bucket list), but it truly was a worthwhile experience and a fun summer holiday. 

We picked up the boat (from a company called Anglo Welsh) from Great Harwood and spent a week exploring the East Midlands, a part of the UK I've not been to before. We did the 'Out & Back' route, which meant we travelled a certain distance and then travelled back on ourselves, this was recommended for beginners (no one had driven a narrow boat before). It was a learning experience; the first thing you learn is that you won't get as far as you think you will - canal life is slow but that's something to embrace rather than stress about.

There were several bedrooms on board, two toilets, a shower, fully equipped kitchen, two areas that converted into beds, a TV, DVD and CD player, even towels so it's easy to feel at home. We cooked on board every evening and took picnics out at lunch . 

It was a holiday of simple pleasures but then simple things are usually the best.

Fancy trying a narrow boat holiday? I'm happy to answer any questions, leave me a comment or check out the company -we got our boat from here.

Happy August Bank Holiday everyone!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Working On The Greenwich Show

Filming in Greenwich with Cameraman Michael Cole & Presenter Robert Gray
Over the last few months I've been working on an exciting TV project - The Greenwich Show, a magazine programme about the local area I live in. I've been living in the London borough for over eight years and I am obsessed with the place. It truly is a unique area with so many stories, so it has been an honour to be involved in bringing these tales to the attention of the world (the programme airs online and on an actual TV channel.)
Director Ian Ramsdale with Presenter Robery Gray filming links on a rainy day
The show is the brainchild of these two gentleman, Ian the Director and Robert the main presenter. The show is significant because back in 1972, 'Greenwich Cablevision' became the UK's first local television service - it was history in the making - the first time there was local TV in the UK, as opposed to the normal terrestrial channels everyone had. In keeping with that theme, it's now the first borough to have a programme to be showcased nationally on - The Community Channel.
Ian briefing Robert
The whole series (and series one which was broadcast almost a year ago) is run by volunteers. Everyone involved including Ian, Robert, the rest of the team and me have given up our own time and resources because we are all passionate about wanting to create, and be part of something so special. In fact this series has been called #Series2MadeByYou because everyone who lives in the borough or has a connection to it, was invited to be part of it - from suggesting programme ideas to being in films and having their photographs and memories featured. 
Me, behind camera two!
I approached the team because I enjoyed watching series one and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to expand my television presenting skills, but I did more than just stand in front of the camera; I got behind it too and did research, scripting, running and even some filming. 

Filming a Food feature with Mike, The Very Greengrocer
My favourite aspect though, is being one of the show's Reporters. I present three short films which appear in episodes 2, 3 and 4. One of which is a fascinating look at the people who have food businesses or provide food services in the borough, including Mike, The Very Greengrocer.
Not just any old van, this is a travelling grocery store!
Mike is retired but spends his spare time helping others by providing a mobile food service. His van is packed with local produce that he delivers to people who are less mobile, such as elderly folk or those who simply don't have time to shop - delivering them fresh vegetable boxes.
Michael honing in on the veg
Adam from Season Etcetera showing us how he makes jam
There are four unique stories in the film, including Adam who makes and sells jams and chutneys alongside his day job, at local farmers markets. He let me and amazing cameraman Michael (who deserves an extra special mention because he worked super hard on the series), come to his house to watch the jam creation in action...
Strawberries on the boil
Straining the strawbs
Adam also makes tasty chutney
Taste-testing Adam's jam...this wasn't the only slice I ate!
See the full report in Episode 2! (Aug 30th)
Michael filming outside the famous Blue Nile Cafe in Woolwich
For Episode 3 (Sept 6th) we went to find out more about local restaurant The Blue Nile Cafe, which was named the best in London on website Trip Advisor, beating off competition from five star Michelin places headed up by famous chefs.
With owner Shewa
The Blue Nile is an Eritrean and Italian restaurant. The setting is as authentic as the food which is served up with love, something you really don't feel in the majority of places you eat out at. The homely vibe, affordable prices and great dishes has already seen me go back since filming there.
Delicious feast of Eritrean food
Discovering new flavours
And for the final Episode 4 (13th Sept) I got to talk craft, as we headed over to Greenwich's weekly knitting night at The Pelton Arms pub.
Filming at The Pelton Arms
Open to everyone and anyone, it's an informal meet up that was set up by local craft queen and knitting expert Susie Johns who is an absolute heroine of mine.
I love the decor in the Pelton
Knit night essentials
You can either turn up with your own project and work on that, or borrow some yarn and needles and get help learning.
One of Susie's knitted masterpieces
The Pelton have hosted the night for a few years now and they are ever so friendly, they sometimes even feed the knitters as they did on our filming night - yum!
Looking after the knitters with snacks
Knitting & nibbling at The Pelton Arms

The Greenwich Show kicks off tomorrow. Made with utter passion and positivity, I hope it gets the viewers it deserves and most importantly if we get lots of viewers, we'll attract more advertisers, which will help us make a third series. Plus there's nothing else like it on the TV at the moment, there's no reality/celebrity nonsense, just good old-fashion television.
Coming up in the first episode!

Tune into The Greenwich Show #Series2MadeByYou on The Community Channel - available at
Freeview HD 63, Sky 539, Virgin 233, Freesat 651

Episode 1: Sun 23rd August 2015
Episode 2: Sun 30 August 2015*
Episode 3: Sun 6th September 2015*
Episode 4: Sun 13th September 2015*
All episodes are repeated the following Wednesdays at 9pm and Fridays at 4.30pm. 

*these ones have my reports in! : )

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

London Indian Film Festival 2015 My Highlights

Memorable moments from LIFF
If I could combine all my favourite pastimes they would come together and create the week that was this year's The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (LIFF). An opportunity to lose myself in stories, meet inspiring people and get dressed up: it was as perfect as a week can get.

Red carpet launch night (Pic by Calvin Chinthaka)
LIFF showcases independent cinema with a South Asian theme by curating a series of events, talks, Q&As and film screenings. This year marked their 6th festival and there were 20 films screened over two cities (London and Birmingham).  The festival opened with a Red Carpet event attended by filmmakers and film fans as well as many of the people involved in the selected films such as actors, directors and producers. Spot my lilac mop in the crowd? I covered the event for Asiana.tv, which you can watch here in this rather neat little video. More on who I interviewed later in this post...first I'm going to take you through the films I watched and reviewed, the Q&As I led, then later, touch on the outfits I wore (the most important bit!)

LIFF Films

The settings, characters and situations I encountered during the London Indian Film Festival had me feeling engrossed, emotional, shocked, happy, sad..captured in my reviews:

31st October 
A haunting account of a families fight for survival. See review.

Dhanak A sweet and tender reminder of why you should believe in your dreams. See review.

Khwada Step inside a world of solitude and sacrifice. See review.

One Crazy Thing London love, captured with humour and heart. See review. 

Tigers A compelling real-life account of the Nestle baby milk scandal. See review. 

A still from Nachom-Ia-Kumpasar

The Q&A element of a film festival is what makes them such a special and unique event. It's one thing to watch a film, but something else, to hear first-hand about the filmmaking process. It's an amazing opportunity that few movie watchers get, and until now, I've been in awe of these sessions. It always leaves me inspired to hear from Film Directors, actors and producers - you discover such unexpected tales. So when I was asked to lead four Q&As for LIFF I was thrilled; I wasn't just one of the people sitting in the audience learning stuff, I was able to play a role in shaping the Q&As. Wow!

Nachom-Ia-Kumpasar won the Audience Award at LIFF and in the festival's history is the most popular film to have been screened with three sold out showings. The final one took place at Wembley Cineworld and was attended by the film's Executive Producer and his wife who flew in from France to attend the screening. The crowd-funded film is a celebration of the Goa jazz scene of the 1960s and it includes 20 hit songs in the Goan language of Konkani.

The movie's Executive Producer and his wife

The auditorium stayed packed for the Q&A, people stayed behind even though it was a Monday night and they had just sat through an epic 2.45 hour film. This was my view from the stage - it looks intimidating but it wasn't because I knew that everyone in the audience loved the film and with so much passion in the air, nothing could go wrong.

Full house for the screening and post film Q&A
Still from One Crazy Thing

The Q&A for One Crazy Thing was attended by lead actor Ray Panthaki and Director Amit Gupta. A British romantic comedy set in London town, my favourite part of this Q&A was that there were several people in the audience who had never heard of the film, they just turned up to watch it as it sounded like something different. This is the great thing about film festivals they bring films to new audiences who otherwise wouldn't watch. 
Me & actor Ray Panthaki
Director Amit Gupta
Chilling in the BFI Green Room

The experience I'll never forget though is leading the Q&A for documentary Meet The Patels with Director Geeta Patel at the BFI, the BFI....the actual BFI aka the British Film Institute. An iconic building in an iconic part of London, representing everything that's iconic about cinema in the UK, it's going down in history as one of the highlights of my life : )
A comedy-documentary, there was lots of laughter in the audience throughout the film which led to a fun and lively Q&A.
On stage at The BFI with Director Geeta Patel

Afterwards there was a chance to pose with the wonderful BFI LIFF team and Geeta, who flew in from the US just for the screening, and was shortly heading off to take the film about her family, to another international festival.


With cameraman Shevy Sandhu aka Team Green

I love a spot of Red Carpet reporting. It's mad, hectic, tiring but really fun as you never know who you'll get to speak to, when they'll turn up and how long you'll get with them. Best of all, the people who do speak to you are usually in really good moods. Having a cameraman and fellow #TeamGreen member (we co-ordinated as every great team should) who's cool, calm and collected like Shevy from Polar Bear Media helped too. 
The stars being papped on the Red Carpet
With Presenter and LIFF Ambassador Shay Grewal
A montage of some of the people I interviewed

The festival opened with the movie Umrika and I had a chance to speak to Director Prashant Nair and actors Suraj Sharma (best know for being the boy in The Life Of Pie) and Adil Hussain. The montage above shows some of the other  talented filmi peeps I also interviewed. Watch our video here. 

Festival Director and Founder Cary Rajinder Sawhney also guested on my radio show where we had a much more in-depth chat. The highlights of which you can read about here. 

The LIFF Wembley team

I love this photo. It's a reminder of the really lovely LIFF volunteers who help run the festival. Passionate about film and all so friendly, I had such fun working and chatting with them, especially the Wembley crew who I spent three evenings with.
With Fariha at the closing night for the screening of Death Of A Gentleman
Spotted! My hair twin, burlesque star Sukki Singapora


It's not like I need an excuse to dress up, I do it for most occasions (aka leaving my flat!) but having a specific occasion is always must more exciting so just like the LIFF team curated the event, I curated my LIFF attending outfits. Considerations included tights:

....nail and bangle combinations

And numerous dresses! This was my absolute fave below. It was the first time I've ever 'borrowed' a frock, and ahem...I returned it with as massive rip in it..oops!
Find out more about it here...(a blog within a blog!)

Totally in love with my dress from Girl Meets Dress
For the launch night I had my make-up done, always a most luxurious of experience, especially when the make-up artist travelled across London especially for me. Thank you Fatin from Nina Ubhi Beauty & Hair Academy.

Beautified by Fatin from Nina Ubhi Beauty & Hair Academy
The rest of the week, I kept up the peacock theme. 

In fact I bought a new eyeshadow that I ended up wearing all festival.

Another make -up look
Told you it was a perfect week! 

Thank you to everyone I met over LIFF and to all the people who were involved in any capacity. It's a brilliantly curated festival. The only trouble is, now I want to visit India. Sounds like another trip is on the cards soon...