Northern Girl on… Community Yoga

I thought I had done yoga before. I thought I was somewhat good at it so I decided to give community yoga a try and this is what I found…

  1. I am terrible at yoga
  2. I am not very flexible
  3. I’m determined to get better at yoga
  4. I live in an excellent community (but I knew that anyway)
  5. After 2 sessions my posture is amazing! 

What is community yoga? – Community (or fundraising) yoga is a concept set up in my local area by the wonderful Neha Kadiyala. It takes place in the Docklands Water Sport Centre twice a week (Mondays and Wednesdays 6:45pm-7:45pm). It is known as fundraising yoga as the participants pay £5 to take part with the money going back into the centre. 

(The official poster for fundraising group yoga)
Can anyone do it? – The short answer is yes, the sessions are mixed ability and the instructor will always give an alternative stretch for those who may be struggling – like me, each session I’ve done – or a harder stretch – definitely not me after 2 sessions, but I’ll get there!

Do you have to do lots of complicated breathing activities? – Absolutely not. There are obviously some breathing exercises to relax you but then it is all about matching the stretches to your natural breaths. You will simply be told what to do on each inhale, what to do on each exhale and how many breaths you are expected to hold the stretch for – great for shallow breathers like me.

Is the group cliquey/bitchy like some group classes I’ve experienced before? Again, absolutely not. Everyone I’ve spoken to before and after the sessions has been so lovely and there’s always someone new coming along to give it a try. The instructor herself is lovely, never once feeling like you’re not doing good enough; she’s encouraging and gentle helping you to develop your yoga rather than feeling like a failure.

Do I need a yoga mat? – Yes and No. Having your own is definitely preferred and you can pick them up at a reasonable price at sports direct (I’m eyeing up the patterned one for myself) but if you don’t have one/forget to bring one Neha has a small supply available for use during the session.

(starting to get the hang of it by session 2. Photo credit Christina Wildman Mullet)
I caught up with Neha before my first session to find out what drove her to create Fundraising Yoga.

Firstly you instantly realise just how passionate she is. Her enthusiasm for health and fitness shines through, as does her excitement and pride in what she has been able to achieve so far. She gushes about future plans including PT sessions in the local parks and even yoga on a paddleboard in the summer! So I decided to get to know a little bit more about her heath journey.

She moved to London from Dubai and found it extremely difficult to adjust to this new life until she hit rock bottom. Thankfully she turned to improving and prioritising her health and was able to save herself. She began to research what was available and found a distinct lack in her local community, she knew what she wanted to do but it wasn’t out there for her to just join already. A lesser person at this stage could have easily turned and said “oh well, I tried” but not Neha; instead she founded running group Walk, Jog, Run – a local group aimed at getting people out for just 30 minutes a day to walk, jog or run at their own pace. Pets are welcome, children are welcome, even new mums with pushchairs can join the group daily at Millwall Park. The group was a HUGE success and she started bouncing around the idea of a yoga group (hailing from India, Neha was already well versed with the wonderful health benefits of yoga) and the idea was met with enthusiasm.

That’s where we are today and already she is looking to the next thing (I don’t think this woman ever stops, she credits her boundless energy to the incredible benefits of aloe vera gel). She has just launched a creche facility as some of the people interested in yoga struggle with child care, she’s in the middle of organising an international food festival as well as fundraising for cancer research, setting herself a target of hitting 10K steps EVERY SINGLE DAY of March – impressive work. It doesn’t stop there, she has a Walk, Jog, Run 5k event in the pipeline and a deal with a local catering company not to mention her work with the sailing centre and as mentioned earlier the planned PT sessions.

It’s evident that Neha’s policy is pure inclusion and she buzzes off that community spirit and I’m proud she’s converted me to a fully fledged yogi. So don your favourite yoga leggings, get practicing your “ohmmmmm” and give yoga a try.

(definitely still my favourite part – relaxing and reflecting at the end of a session. Photo credit Christina Wildman Mullet)

For more information on anything featured in this blog please use the links below or alternatively leave a comment with your question and your email address so I can personally respond. NG x

More information on the sailing centre can be found at www.dswc.org
Neha is a proud Forever business owner, more information about the work she does for community health and fitness can we found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/stayfitiodcw/
To sponsor Neha in her March 10k journey you can visit her sponsor page at https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/livehealthylovelife

REVIEW: Northern Girl reviews Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre

Ever since I found out Andrew Scott was playing Hamlet I knew I had to get my hands on tickets – I was on a train to Paris FYI – so when a quick google told me it was all sold out I was devastated. Now, had we have not moved to London that would have been the end of that but when we read in to it in more depth we were delighted to know that the Almeida theatre hold back a small quantity of tickets for sale on the day. Tom works shifts so lucky for us (mostly me) he was able and willing to stand in a queue on every available weekday off. Day 1 (Wednesday) he arrived a little after 10 with the doors opening at 11, we missed out. Thursday, he arrived at 9am and jackpot; 2 tickets please.

The reason I was so obsessed with seeing Andrew Scott was because I had fallen in love with the Sherlock TV series. Tom was already a fan but I had seen none so in anticipation of S4 I gave them a go. I was hooked. As a result, James Moriarty (played by Andrew Scott) is now my favourite TV/Movie villain of ALL TIME. For reference also up there is Tiago Rodriguez (Skyfall) and Darth Vader (I’m a massive star wars fan).

Now I knew nothing about the story behind Hamlet all I knew was that the role is so iconic that I wanted to see how the man who became my favourite TV villain would portray this legendary character in theatre – not watching him through screens (or at least not expecting there to be screens) but experiencing him being there in front of me as Hamlet.

Whilst all this excited me, I was extremely concerned that Andrew Scott was now Moriarty to me and there wouldn’t be a lot that could change that. There are certainly similarities to be drawn from the two character profiles and it may be more that director Robert Icke wanted Andrew for that reason. The dark humour and quick wit certainly would be welcomed by Moriarty but there is no doubt at all that when he is on that stage Andrew Scott is out and out Hamlet.

I have never felt chills quite like the feeling I got from Hamlet’s moments of anguish. Think the sensation you get when you hear your favourite song and you get goosebumps, now imagine that 100x more intense and you’re almost there. Andrew’s portrayal sees him pin point the exact moments to lash out vocally and with the use of camera trickery and electronics that give an experience like no other, I certainly jumped in my skin more than I perhaps would like to admit. Although that feeling may also have been intensified by the almost claustrophobic feel of the Almeida theatre but having experienced it first hand I don’t see how any other venue would have suited this adaptation.

What caught me off guard the most however were the moments I and the rest of the audience were laughing out loud. Be it the charming playfulness of Ophelia and Laertes in Act 1 or the way Hamlet tortures and humours Ophelia’s father the way a cat would with a mouse. 

Maybe it’s because I have never studied Hamlet, maybe it’s because I’ve grown up since hating Shakespeare during my English Literature A-Level or maybe it is the stellar work of the director and actor duo but the wonderful and famous monologues are no longer exaggerated versions of the script – something Hamlet is quick to shut down himself with the players – but are emotional, thought-provoking and incredibly easy to understand. 

The relevance to adulthood finally explains why my tutors were so enthusiastic about The Bard’s work. “To be or not to be” when put into the context that it is by Andrew Scott has never been more emotionally spellbinding and it is these moments of revelation that make us experience warmth and empathy for Hamlet. The emotions that these monologues take us through are suddenly relatable on a multitude of levels. Be prepared for this adaptation of Hamlet to take you to the very dark places you try to forget; be it family bitterness, coming to terms and struggling with grief, denying yourself love because of personal issues, loneliness, a volatile temperament or simply experiencing suppression in your youth, whatever is relevant to you will reveal itself here but the audience interaction the director has created will wrap the entire theatre in a blanket of togetherness as you go through Hamlet’s journey with him.

(Even the programme captions the emotion – and yes that is green paper, that runs throughout).

Going into English teacher mode briefly, the symbolism of colour is very obvious. For a modern adaptation you will see very few primary colours, perhaps only really noticeably in Ophelia as the family conspire against Hamlet to seek out the source of his suffering. What you will notice however is the power of black and white. The first glimpse of this, though not really understanding until later on, is the Queen’s lack of white dress for her wedding (though this may also be used to reflect the fact that this is not her first trip down the aisle). It is also glaringly obvious when we see Hamlet in nothing but black clothing until Act 3 where he switches to white for a fencing battle and in Ophelia (also Act 3) as the colour white seems to epitomise her descent into a madness we have seen very similar before; perhaps caused by the exact same reasons.

It is without a doubt Hamlet deserves every single one of it’s stellar reviews. It is worth every single minute spent in a queue to get tickets and I only wish it was on longer so more people get to experience it. Hamlet has left me hungry for more Shakespeare and if like me, you fell out of love with him due to study, I would encourage everyone to go back and read his work as an adult (if you can’t make it to the Almeida Theatre before the 15th April).

Northern Girl on… Studio Recordings

  • Room 101 
  • That Thing on a Friday Night
  • Tim Vine Travels in Time 
  • Taskmaster 
  • Unspun with Matt Forde 
  • John Bishop in Conversation With… 
  • Jason Manford’s Big Heads 
  • Your Face or Mine 
  • The Unbelievable Truth 
You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d decided to list all my favourite TV/radio shows, but these are all the things I have had tickets to the live recordings of. They take place around various London locations and best of all they’re a great way to spend an evening in London without spending a penny.
(Meeting Ricky Wilson!!! at a Room 101 Recording)
How to get tickets?

A lot of the headlining comedians will post on social media when the tickets are available but there are certain production companies and dedicated sites that you can register for:
  • Hat-trick productions – producers of shows such as Have I Got News for You and Room 101. Visit https://hat-trick-productions.tickettext.co.uk/hat-trick-productions/ to apply for specific shows currently available and when first visiting, be sure to register to their mailing list for updates when new shows are released.
  • BBC Shows and Tours – shows such as Tim Vine travels in Time and A Question of Sport. Like Hat-trick productions, they have a dedicated page for all their current shows http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/ or you can also join the mailing list to get updates direct to your inbox when new shows are released.
  • SRO Audiences – shows such as The Last Leg, The Graham Norton Show and Bigheads. Tickets can be found at http://www.sroaudiences.com/ with each show listed individually or alternatively their mailing list can be found on the “Contact Us” tab on their menu.                     
Getting to the studios
  • Elstree studios (Room 101, Big Heads, Unspun with Matt Forde etc.). Thameslink run a direct train service from Blackfriars and London St Pancras to Elstree and Boreham Wood and the studios are only a short walk away from the station.
  • Pinewood (Taskmaster etc.). Pinewood is not so easily accessible, with the nearest bus stop still being a 20 minute walk away, they do however have vast parking facilities available on site.
  • The London Studios (Loose Women, Your Face or Mine, The Graham Norton Show etc.) – On London’s South Bank, the studios are a short walk to Southwark (Jubilee Line); Waterloo (Jubilee, Northern and Bakerloo); Embankment (Northern, Bakerloo, District and Circle) and Temple (District and Circle).
  • Broadcasting House (BBC Radio Theatre, The One Show etc.). As one of the BBC’s HQ’s, Broadcasting House is a short walk from Oxford Circus Tube Station (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines).
  • There are various other theatres and minor studios throughout London with short walks to the nearest tube. All this information will be provided when you receive tickets/confirmation of the shows.
Other tips

The shows are ALWAYS looking to fill the audience so you can guarantee that they will have allocated far more tickets than seats available. Even with a barcoded ticket you’re not always guaranteed entry. I would advise applying for as much as possible to give yourself options and remember, the tickets are free so whilst it is disappointing at least you’re not out of pocket!
The majority of studios will have security checks so pack light to ensure you get through quicker.
If your ticket has a ‘tickets validated from’ or ‘doors open’ time, aim to get there at least 30 minutes before that time, even if it seems like a long wait until the actual recording. Broadcasting House and Elstree both have onsite cafes/bars where you can get snacks and drinks and sit and wait for the show (you can even watch the BBC news room whilst you drink your coffee in Broadcasting House).
For tickets that are on first come, first served basis you will need to arrive at least an hour before the scheduled time.
If you do miss out, some of the shows such as John Bishop in Conversation With will allow you to re-register with priority meaning you are guaranteed entry to the next show of your choice.
(enjoying a coffee at Broadcasting House before Tim Vine)
NG x

Northern Girl… in the defence of fitness trackers and step counters

I’ve decided to take a slight change on my blog this week. So no Northern thriftiness here today…
You may have seen the various articles that have been making the news rounds slamming fitbit and other step counting apps and if you haven’t, have a delightful read of one here
I have been a very proud owner of a fitbit for 18 months now. At the time of purchasing I had cut down on my exercise substantially, a change in work location meant I could no longer put in a 4 hours solid dance student teaching after work. Where I lost hours in the studio I gained some exercise walking from Leeds train station to my office, purchasing my fitbit was my way of putting my mind at ease that I was doing enough exercise and that I didn’t need to spend a fortune at the gym and admittedly I followed the 10k rule that the media have so forcefully slammed today. However, not only did my fitbit make me feel I was doing enough, it drove a competitive edge in me, a determination that I was somewhat lacking before. I was far from obsessed and I didn’t choose to beat myself up if I didn’t hit 10k but I found myself actually going out at lunch to walk and choosing the furthest toilet cubicle away when making bathroom trips, I was also consciously drinking more water (the app can track that too) and reducing my amount of caffeine intake once I was logging the number of cups I was used to taking.
My Fitbit flex – a permanent fixture on my wrist
I got talking to a colleague about it and she too wanted in on the game. A year down the line and a new location for me and we’re still in contact daily through fitbit (and her family and friends, 7 in total who are all proud owners of a fitbit device.) It was a healthy obsession for both of us, she enjoyed it so much she literally couldn’t be without, she lost her fitbit once on a night out and rather than wait for her free replacement from fitbit she had to go out and buy a new one the following day, and whilst that sounds obsessive I can assure you it’s the healthiest kind of obsession. 
We would have a daily update about how we were doing that week and the more of our colleagues we talked to around the country the more we realised that there was a real fitbit motion going on so we decided to set up our weekly challenge, a little friendly competition among staff. 
We encouraged everyone to get involved even those who did not have a physical tracker could still join in just by downloading the app. This level of competition made it more exciting for us, we would fight over who would get the furthest cubicle on our way out, we would nearly always take the stairs and volunteer ourselves for tea runs just to see how much we could boost our score by. Like I said, 18 months since we both first purchased and we still run the same weekly group.
Since I’ve moved to London I have upped my walking game big time to the point where I have upped my daily target from the recommended 10,000 steps to 13,000 steps. Where I would previously have to drive to my nearest station in Wakefield, I walk to my nearest tube stop. When I’m not running late, I make the conscious decision to walk to my office from the next nearest station (Westminster, rather than getting off at St James’ Park) and when we’re not snowed under with work – and it isn’t snowing outside – I try and fit in a couple of laps of the park in my hour lunch break. My competitive streak also hasn’t stopped, since moving here I’ve taken up running and as I type this blog i’m in my running gear 1. Because I haven’t ran in a while and I’ve set myself a target of running my first 10k this year 2. Because I’m a little bit behind in this week’s competition. I’ve been known to take an extended route home because it would put me in front of my nearest competitor.
I honestly believe I wouldn’t do any of this without my tracker, well maybe the running but that’s only because I’ve caught the bug, and that’s why today’s article has hit me so hard. As far as I’m concerned I do not see anything wrong about walking round the park in my lunch break as opposed to sitting at my desk or extending my commute by a mere 10 minutes if it means i’m out in the open more. Thanks to my fitbit I can track my sleep so I know if my constant fatigue is due to poor sleep quality or something more serious and then there’s the food logging on top which I don’t even do! These apps can do it all and so much more and who doesn’t love some good statistics or charts? That’s why it pains me that there are people out there who may have been looking at investing in one of these trackers and are now actually put off by a sketchy article at best.
A snapshot of one of the charts fitbit produces 
I can somewhat understand the point they are trying to make in the lack of scientific evidence supporting a 10,000 recommended daily step target but that’s the key, recommended. The articles all seem to lack the key point that every single app out there allows you to personalise your goals. There’s no scary electric shock for wearers if they dare top 10,000 steps and there’s also no punishment for those that don’t quite get there. These app developers know that not everyone shares the same fitness goals and they have made allowances for this, the articles do not. 
I am far from the media’s biggest fan having recently boycotted the *Daily Fail* but it is honestly difficult to say who is at fault here. Not that long ago scientists and health researchers wanted the NHS to prescribe fitness trackers to obese patients, now the scientists say these apps are causing more harm than good? Is it simply our news outlets for putting a very very poor media spin on science and trying to scaremonger us all? Or are our journalists simply far too obedient to authority (Since this new health conscious information has come from a computer scientist no less?) It’s like bacon and roast potatoes causing The Big C, are we really subject to something new like this every month? In a dream world we could have someone like Dr. Ben Goldacre or a band of epidemiologists saying yes or no to what the media are actually allowed to publish when it comes to ‘science.’ Maybe that way we’d actually have peace of mind that everything is ok…

Northern Girl on… My favourite apps/social media feeds

My social media feeds and phone notifications are a great source of inspiration for me to get out and explore. Just this weekend we were able to complete a treasure hunt inside a museum thanks to a post we’d seen online (I’ll be blogging about that later.) So I want to take you through my London apps and favourite social media pages that allow me to explore and keep costs down.

A screen grab of my “London” folder on my phone featuring my dedicated London apps

  • Citymapper – A must. A great little app to help you get about, even if you only visit London it’s a great way to easily navigate your way around The City with the added bonus that you can use it in other cities such as Paris, Berlin and Barcelona making it easier to deal with any language barriers!
  • Santander Cycle Hire – I’ll be writing a post later about my love of Santander Cycles but this app makes them so easy to love. It tells you where your nearest hire points are and how many bikes/free spaces there are currently. These bikes are so cheap and actually a lot of fun to ride around, especially in parks such as Hyde Park and Victoria Park.
  • Fever – It’s a great little app that can tailor ‘your London’. Tell fever what you’re in to and they’ll notify you when things are happening that you’re interested in; from discounted theatre tickets to offers on Brick Lane market stalls they have so much choice all heavily discounted (chocolate strawberries for a fiver on Brick Lane!)
  • Circle – A bit more of a safety conscious one than anything, circle allows you to add key contacts which you can instantly message with an SOS and your location should you feel in danger at any point.
  • Drinki – My favourite of them all! Drinki basically entitles you to free drinks at a whole range of London bars. My local is Rum and Sugar at Canary Wharf and with the app you get a free Strawberry Mojito. In the app, redeem code CSPACEY1 to get an additional free drink. The app refreshes every 14 days = free drinks every couple of weeks! (Samsung users, I recommend searching “Drinki London” in GooglePlay.)
The Drinki app – redeeming the code and an example of one of the free drinks

  • Blue Plaques – Great for if you’re heading out for a walk, you could even create your own walking route (see previous post Walking Tours) and try and hit as many of the Blue Plaques near you.
  • Time Out – I love the team at Time Out. They’re great at posting regular articles on some of best and interesting things to do in London. They do it on a weekly basis and special posts when there are events on at the weekend. Definitely worth having the app and them on social media so you don’t miss a trick.
  • Londonist – This was is a bit more fun than cost saving. Like Time Out it’s a great little way to find interesting things to do from the locations inspired by Harry Potter to the best coffee shops in London, they cover a range of things. They also post regular videos with interesting features/trivia about the City (great pub quiz knowledge.)

Social Media:
In addition to the apps listed above, there are also a few more things that populate my news feed that I couldn’t live without when living in London:

  • 10 ways to have more money as a student, without working (10 Ways for short) – These guys are brilliant at sharing/posting when offers are currently on-going; be it cheap lunches, bargain reductions at super markets or amazon sales and glitches. Perfect for keeping your eye out on your ‘need to have items’ and bagging them at their lowest price.
  • Stylist & The Debrief – I follow both of these for the same reason, not only do they post great articles – I am a huge fan of the style of writing at The Debrief – but they also post articles on saving money, cheap and easy lunches and how to do city breaks on the cheap.
  • Secret London –  Similar to both Londonist and Time Out London, Secret London updates their page with great articles with interesting and unusual things to do in The Capital, it was a post here that enabled me to discover the museum treasure hunts!

Northern Girl on… Walking Tours

It’s no secret that the London Underground is a quickest and most convenient way to get around the city but it also means that it is far too easy to spend most of our time looking at tunnels under ground and missing everything that there is to see above it.

This weekend Transport for London teamed up with Walk London for their first weekend of free walking tours throughout the City in 2017. Me and Tom were fortunate enough to get ourselves booked on 2 of the 40 walks they were running this weekend.

The first one saw us all gather outside Bank station to follow a walk based on the Central tube line, starting at Bank and ending at Chancery Lane. The tour guide Mark was excellent at providing us with interesting information throughout the walk, stopping at various points of interest (including the story behind the golden pineapples at St Paul’s!) and it was great for me to see a part of central London I had never even been to before, I also found out why the Ministry of Justice’s logo is what it is and came away with some excellent quiz trivia. At the end of the walk Mark even signed a copy of his book “Walk the Lines” which we picked up for a tenner (bargain!)

Our signed copy of “Walk the Lines” following our Central Line Walk


After a quick coffee break near Chancery Lane, we hopped on the tube (it was raining by now) and made our way to Westminster for our second TfL walk of the day. We started just outside Westminster station and took in New Scotland Yard, the remains of Whitehall Palace and the beautiful Somerset house with trivia that took us through Harry Potter, Paddington Bear and The Savoy Hotel before finishing at one of our already favourite wine bars in the city (it’s also rumoured to be the inspiration for The Leaky Cauldron.)

Want to get involved?

TfL and Walk London organise these weekends of free walks 3 times a year with the next one scheduled for the 20th and 21st May and the one after that will be some time in September.

Can’t wait that long?

There are various other walking tours which offer different tours to suit different interests. http://freelondonwalkingtours.com/ have seven different tours from Royal London to Jack the Ripper and Soho and the West End and they are just one of many tour operators throughout the City.

Not one for mixing with a group/want to find your own way around?

The TfL website has loads of maps to cover almost everything there is to see in London, just click on the walking section of TfL website. They also provide a “walking tube map” an alternative to the conventional map which gives you the walking distances between stations, you’d be surprised just how short some of the distances are (Leicester Square and Covent Garden, I’m looking at you!) Or if you want a bit more direction but still explore on your own there are loads of walking books available on Amazon or able to pick up in stores such as Oliver Bonas.

We can’t wait to get out with our new book and explore just what else there is to find above the tube!

Introductions

It’s certainly no secret that the North/South divide is a “thing”, the location map for Waitrose will show you that, so when I proudly skipped around my hometown of Wakefield in October smugly revealing I was moving to “The City” I wasn’t surprised to be met with the “oh I could never move to such a large city.”

What I was surprised by was just how many people seemed shocked that a young couple (I moved for my boyfriend’s work) could afford to live in London. If I had a pound for every time someone said “you’ll never have any money for anything fun” we’d be living like royalty.

What these people seem to be forgetting to factor in is that when you’re brought up in the North you’re taught a little thing or two about being frugal and growing up with a mother who worked in a bank I had picked up a thing or two about money along the way. I certainly wasn’t worried about our move.

Fast forward a few weeks and we’d arrived in this wonderful city and going about our business enjoying what LDN has to offer. The usual post weekend chats in the office were filled with all the things we had been up to. 

What I hadn’t been prepared for was the shock of my colleagues when they’d found out what we’d done on so little money. Or when it came to buying new work clothes; just how little I was spending. It seemed this Northern girl hadn’t realised just how wide the North/South divide was when it came to budgeting instincts.

With every new cost saving, came more surprise to such extremes that my boss was convinced if I put all my tips in a book, it would be a certain bestseller! 

That is what sparked this blog, I will be using this space to share my best tips and tricks to making the most of your money when in London. I will be guiding you through eating out, weekend (and weekday) drinking, some of my favourite free weekend activities and many many more because whilst it’s nice hibernating and being a hermit to save money; she really is a beautiful, beautiful place to explore…

(captured during a Saturday sunset in Greenwich)